Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Dennis Nyback Triple Play and FOFF's Bricks in the Wall

Dennis Nyback came to town in April. He screened five programs in five days. I was able to catch three of the screenings.

I watched two programs at the Red Vic.

Terrorism Light and Dark is a revealing program of cartoons, short films and propaganda clips displaying America’s schizophrenic view of terrorism before 9/11. It includes the Cold War US Government film, What You Need to Know About Biological Warfare and Buster Keaton’s Cops.

I Know Why You’re Afraid is Nyback’s program of educational films that should never have been shown to impressionable children! Included are the darkly hilarious bus safety film, Death Zones (1975), an excerpt from the drivers ed shocker, Mechanized Death (1961) and many more macabre films that does much to explain our culture’s paranoia.

I caught a third program at the YBCA.

So, You Wanna Fight! - Film archivist and raconteur Dennis Nyback returns to YBCA for his annual screening of weird and wonderful delights from the past. Today he'll present boxing films of the 20th Century from the teens to the fifties. Joe Louis, Jack Dempsey, Gene Tunney, Max Baer, "Jersey" Joe Walcott, Tex Avery, many others, plus the ferocious fightin' eight-year-old girl, Pam Sproul. Don't get too close to the screen or you might be splattered with blood.

Of the three, I enjoyed I Know Why You’re Afraid which closed with a fantastic 14 minute short film called Caught in a Rip-Off featuring a pitch perfect synthesizer soundtrack and Sam Peckinpah inspired slow-motion action scenes.

I sensed that Nyback was expecting more audience interaction than what occurred after the screenings I attended. I actually felt bad enough for him to ask a few questions since everyone else was reticent after Terrorism Light and Dark.

My favorite moment came after So, You Wanna Fight!. Nyback introduced the show by saying he had been asked in the past to create a boxing related program. Nyback said boxing never appealed to him so he would regularly throw out or give away boxing related films that were donated to his archive. For reasons which escape me, Nyback decided to program So, You Wanna Fight! when the YBCA asked him. After the program, a man in the audience asked Nyback if he had changed his mind about boxing after creating the program. Nyback replied that his opinion had not changed and he felt boxing was barbaric and should be banned. The questioner expressed his disappointment that Nyback could not appreciate finer points of the sweet science.

Caught In A Rip-Off (1974)

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Nyback also screened two programs at Oddball Film and Video which I did not attend. In fact, I've never been to Oddball. I'll have to get out there sometime.


I notice that the Film on Film Foundation's next event is at Oddball on May 15. The progam is titled Bricks in the Wall: Humans and Their Built Environment.

In this program we explore how we construct our urban milieu... and how it constructs us. It is said necessity is the mother of invention and the converse is just as true. We are shaped by and made dependent on the environment we build around us. First Lewis Mumford sets the tone with his as-relevant-as-ever views on urbanism. Then we examine methods of construction from the ultra-primitive to the super-modern. After a personal and poetic detour into lyrical city-history by future Oscar-winner István Szabó, we conclude with a couple of films delving (somewhat ham-fistedly) into the psychological fallout of our urban obsession.

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