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Thumbnails 7/20/20

A glimpse at Izzy, the creator of Be Kind Rewind. Illustrations by Alex Kittle.

Thumbnails is a roundup of brief excerpts to introduce you to articles from other websites that we found interesting and exciting. We provide links to the original sources for you to read in their entirety.—Chaz Ebert


"Judy, Marlene and the Elusive Oscar: A Chat with Izzy, the Creator of Be Kind Rewind": At Indie Outlook, I interview the woman behind one of the finest video essay series I've seen (you can visit her channel on YouTube here).

“[Indie Outlook:] Why do you count Dietrich among your designated ‘goddesses’? [Izzy:] ‘I think I owe her for everything. I decided early on that I wasn’t going to choose film as a major. I thought that it was a hobby because it didn’t seem very practical. So I spent all of my spare time thinking about movies and watching old movies while feeling very underwhelmed with political science, which is the major that I had chosen. When I decided not to pursue political science almost immediately after graduating, I knew that I wanted to do something with video but I didn’t know what. I was in Berlin at the time, and decided that since I didn’t know very much about Marlene Dietrich, I should watch all of her movies. I ended up becoming obsessed with her, and did tours around Berlin looking at the various sites where she previously had been. Then I went to the Berlin Film Museum [Deutsche Kinemathek], and they basically have all of her stuff. There is an entire floor dedicated to her costumes and props and things like that. It was the first time that I had been in a physical space—as opposed to just being online—where I realized, ‘Oh my god, other people are interested in this. It’s valid to want to talk about it and preserve it.’ I realized there are jobs I could find that would actually allow me to be passionate about cinema and survive. Because of Dietrich and my experience of being in that space devoted to her work, I realized that I needed to try making something of my own. It was about a week later when I came up with an idea for creating the Be Kind Rewind videos, so to me, Dietrich was the genesis of everything.”


"Chicago Man Brings Smiles During Pandemic With Lockdown Puppet Theater": A wonderful report from CBS Chicago (the above photo is by Armando L. Sanchez of the Chicago Tribune).

On a leafy Chicago neighborhood street, Matthew Owens’ voice has been breaking the silence of social isolation. It comes from the Lockdown Puppet Theater on Owens’ own balcony, as CBS News’ Adriana Diaz reported. Owens’ day job was crafting nature-inspired toys for zoo animals. He has offered his services to the Disney Animal Kingdom, San Diego Zoo, Cincinnati Zoo, Atlanta Zoo, and other institutions, and had been working at the Brookfield Zoo. But he was furloughed and left with an excess of creative energy, so he dusted off an old hobby. In April and May, Owens produced 35 puppets – initially with one puppet performing each night with a spotlight from the window of his apartment. Owens wrote that he started making more puppets – with a circus theme and later a murder mystery developing. ‘It takes about a day to make each one,’ Owens said of the puppets. He sculpts the faces out of clay.”


"Appreciation: 'A Fistful of Dollars' to 'The Untouchables': Ennio Morricone made music a movie star": According to Justin Chang at The Los Angeles Times.

He was a notorious outlier on, of all things, Sergio Leone’s ‘A Fistful of Dollars’ (1964) — ‘the worst film Leone made and the worst score I ever did,’ he once said of the work that vaulted him to international stardom and made his orchestrations all but synonymous with Clint Eastwood’s squint. The consensus description for movies like ‘A Fistful of Dollars’ — and the pictures that followed it, like 1965’s ‘For a Few Dollars More’ and 1966’s ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’ — is ‘spaghetti westerns,’ a term that Morricone notably loathed. I’d object to it mainly on the grounds that even the tastiest spaghetti seems like too one-note a metaphor for Morricone’s wild musical fusion cuisine. Whatever your preferred term, to revisit those Leone-Eastwood westerns is to hear an entire film subgenre being defined by the most indelible music imaginable, if also, at times, the most counterintuitive. What was Morricone thinking, you may wonder, when he introduced the whistle of an ocarina, or joined it to the portentous chants of a choir? Did he know, when he wrote that famous ‘wah-WAH-wah’ for ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly,’ that he was composing one of the most intensely evocative and ripe-for-parody flourishes in film music history? (I’m pretty sure the first time I ever heard it was in a milk commercial — a dairy western.)”


"Blood Nose, Empty Pockets": Bill Ross IV and Turner Ross' acclaimed film is given a must-read review by Michael Smith at Cine-File.

“‘Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets’ is an exceptionally beautiful film, a tough but empathetic portrait of working-class American life that Charles Bukowski would have loved. Among the many memorable moments: A Grizzly Adams-looking bartender serenades the room with a surprisingly poignant cover of Roy Orbison’s ‘Crying’ on an acoustic guitar; a woman proudly bares her ’60-year-old titties’ to the stranger on the barstool next to her; a cake, emblazoned with the words ‘This Place Sucked Anyways’ in frosting, is consumed; Sergei Eisenstein’s Soviet Montage masterpiece ’The Battleship Potemkin’ shows on a television monitor while country music incongruously fills the air; and the kids out back smoke weed while discussing the amount of Plutonium required to change the earth’s balance. There is nothing on screen to suggest that there are fictional elements, or filmmaking trickery of any sort, present—so revelations that the film's cast was actually found after a nationwide audition process and that the bar’s interiors were shot in New Orleans (over a span of two 18-hour days) then cut together with exteriors of Sin City, has rankled some critics and viewers who claim to feel duped by the filmmakers’ supposed dishonesty. But combining documentary and fiction techniques is as old as the cinema itself and, in the end, what matters is not how the thing is done but why. I would argue that, by presenting The Roaring 20s as a kind of microcosm of contemporary America, a space filled with a multiracial cast of self-medicating ’99 percenters,’ the Ross brothers have created an indirect critique of late capitalism that feels more truthful than what could have been achieved through traditional documentary means.”


"John Lewis's Legacy and America's Redemption": An impassioned tribute penned by David Remnick at The New Yorker. 

“Too often in this country, seeming progress is derailed, reversed, or overwhelmed. Bloody Sunday led directly to the passage of the Voting Rights Act––and yet suppressing the Black vote is a pillar of today’s Republican Party strategy. The election of the first African-American President was followed by a bigot running for election, and now reëlection, on a platform of racism and resentment. The murder of Jesse Thornton has its echoes in the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and many others. Indeed, to this day, the bridge where Lewis nearly lost his life is named in honor of Edmund Pettus, a U.S. senator who was a Confederate officer and a Grand Dragon of the Alabama Ku Klux Klan. And so there were times when Lewis, who died on Friday, at the age of eighty, might have felt the temptation at times to give up, to give way. But it was probably his most salient characteristic that he always refused despair; with open eyes, he acknowledged the darkest chapters of American history yet insisted that change was always possible. Recently, he took part in a Zoom town hall with Barack Obama and a group of activists, and told them that he had been inspired by the weeks of demonstrations for racial justice across the country. The protesters, he said, will ‘redeem the soul of America and move closer to a community at peace with itself.’”

Image of the Day

At Medium, President Barack Obama published his official statement on the passing of John Lewis, the towering civil rights icon and U.S. Representative, who passed on July 17th at age 80.

Video of the Day

Izzy's latest episode on her YouTube channel, Be Kind Rewind, dissecting the year that Bette Davis lost the 1963 Best Actress Oscar, which was accepted by her rival Joan Crawford on behalf of an absent Anne Bancroft, is a triumph (as is Part I).

Matt Fagerholm

Matt Fagerholm is the Literary Editor at and is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association. 

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