The Hollywood Theatre

FILM REVIEW: “Tickled” is no laughing matter

This unpredictable documentary follows a New Zealand journalist as he investigates a bizarre tickling-video subculture

It’s hard to think of a more thrilling cinematic experience than watching a movie narrative constantly evolve and change shape. That’s even more true in nonfiction, where a filmmaker may start with a simple premise or subject, then realize, typically through sheer coincidence and dumb luck, that they’ve stumbled onto a much larger or weirder tale than they could ever have imagined. “The Imposter,” “Exit Through The Gift Shop,” “My Kid Could Paint That,” “Capturing The Friedmans” are a few great examples of truth being far stranger than fiction; they start as one thing and became something else entirely by the end.

A similar mutation occurs in “Tickled,” a new documentary opening at Hollywood Theatre on Friday, July 8, and if these kinds of movies are your cup of tea, look no further. Surely you won’t see what’s coming.


Dance Weekly: Dance through the sorrow

Risk/Reward opens, Rejoice! Diaspora Dance Theatre gives a Ted Talk and more

This has been a horribly sad week. Another mass shooting has occurred, and this one has hit the LGBT community hard—a community that is integral to the dance community worldwide. Without the contributions of LGBT dancers and choreographers throughout history, I really don’t know what dance would look like today. This shooting makes me think about the AIDS epidemic and how it destroyed a whole generation of artists, artists we will never know and whose impact on the world we will never see. There are now 49 more people that we will never know.

Emmaly Wiederholt who has a blog called Stance on Dance wrote in response to the Orlando shooting a piece called On Guns and Dance. In it she says, “The fact that the victims of this horrible shooting were dancing, in essence trusting one another to be uninhibited in what they assumed was a safe space, makes this shooting all the uglier. I consider it one of the most egregious breaches of morality to strike violence when people collectively have their guard down. They were dancing, drinking and flirting, for goodness sake. They were cavorting on a Saturday night during Pride month when the LGBTQ community has much to be proud of and celebrate.”

So in response, I say, let’s dance. Let’s dance in solidarity with the LGBT community and the victims and survivors of the Orlando shooting. Let’s dance as a political act against the oppressive forces of the world. Let’s dance to process our collective grief and to feel joy and ecstasy. Let’s dance for love and because we can. Let’s dance.


Transcendent “Baraka” on the Big Screen

The gorgeous visual doc screens this weekend, along with "Lifeforce," on 70mm at The Hollywood Theatre

After a lengthy and extremely successful 70mm run for Quentin Tarantino’s “The Hateful Eight” earlier this year (during which the director even stopped by to talk about the film before and after a screening), it’s safe to say the gorgeous analog projection system is here to stay in Portland, at least at The Hollywood Theatre. No further proof is needed than a glance at their schedule for this coming weekend, which sees two films on the grand format screening for audiences.

“Baraka,” a visual poem/doc from 1992, shows at 7:00 p.m. this Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are still available for all shows, and highly recommended. 1985’s “Lifeforce,” from Cannon Films and director Tobe Hooper (“The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”), shows once at 9:45 p.m. Saturday, but it is sold out already. (I’ve yet to actually see that film, which is why I’ve already got my ticket to see it, natch.) It’s apparently about a bunch of space vampires who attack London, so we’ll see. Should be fun.

Gary Busey stars in "Baraka." Sorry, my mistake, that's actually a Japanese snow monkey.

Gary Busey stars in “Baraka.” Sorry, my mistake, that’s actually a Japanese snow monkey.


FILM: Hollywood Theatre will get ‘Hateful’ this Christmas

The landmark Portland theater is already prepping its 70mm presentation for Quentin Tarantino's new film

As soon as the brand new lenses arrived in the mail there was a rush of excitement. Then came the anxiety. Hollywood Theatre head programmer Dan Halsted, already a near-mythological Portland celluloid purveyor, has been through this before. The theater’s brave, forward-thinking decision years ago to install 70mm film protection capabilities in its large downstairs screen, despite the format being near-death after the seismic industry shift to digital, has already borne three separate successful exhibitions with “2001: A Space Odyssey,” “Vertigo” and, just recently, “The Wild Bunch.” Even still, Halsted is nervous for the Hollywood’s upcoming two-week exclusive early run of Quentin Tarantino’s latest opus, “The Hateful Eight.” For starters, he needs to test out those new lenses.

To accommodate the unique release and specific technical specifications to show the film properly, Boston Light & Sound made new lenses for every theater showing it on 70mm. Known as Ultra Panavision 70, and constructed for a unique look—the widest standard aspect ratio used today is known as scope, or 2.39:1; ‘Hateful Eight’ will be shown in 2.76:1, making the image significantly wider than it is tall—they were used occasionally in the ’50s and ’60s, on films like “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” and “Ben Hur,” but had to be made new because parts are more difficult to come by now. The lenses arrived at the Hollywood just last week. The film itself, one of some 100 prints struck anew on 70mm (the widest release on that format in more than 20 years), is not yet there. While Halsted and co. eagerly await its arrival, some other prep can begin.

these new lenses are much larger than normal

above: one of the new lenses from the Hollywood. They’re much larger than normal

To make use of the glorious large format (a subject that I’ve written about for OAW here and here), the Hollywood expanded its screen more than a year ago. All the better to make use of the high resolution, immersive depth, and gorgeously grainy imagery the format yields onscreen. But it will be re-formatted specifically to fit ‘Hateful Eight’s extreme wide picture, which, based on footage from trailers, Tarantino and regular DP Robert Richardson look to have taken advantage of its capabilities. Maybe even more impressive than the imagery, though, is the dynamic and layered sound found on 70mm presentations. The Hollywood will be the screening the film exactly as Tarantino intended, which can’t be said for most theaters in town in an era where multiplexes rarely even staff projectionists.

The ever chatty and controversial director (who’s been in the news of late attracting some cop hate for attending a rally where he spoke out against police brutality) essentially used his clout and ever-increasing box office success (his last two films, “Inglourious Basterds” and “Django Unchained” were box office behemoths) to convince the Weinstein Company to release his latest on 70mm. Tarantino’s long been a proponent for shooting and projecting on celluloid, and the inspiration to release “The Hateful Eight” in this manner came from Paul Thomas Anderson’s and Christopher Nolan’s resuscitating of the format for “The Master” and “Interstellar,” respectively. These directors are film fetishists to be sure, but the way they’ve used their individual and collective power in the industry to keep it alive is to be commended. We should be so lucky as moviegoers to see more specialized presentations like this that remind why cinema is at its best in a big, dark room shown on a giant screen with the sound cranked up. Much as I’ve really come around on DCP projection, 70mm film projection is still the gold standard, no-doubt-about-it best way to watch a movie.

hateful 8 70mm

“The Hateful Eight” is another Western from Tarantino. He’s assembled a dynamic cast, most of them a who’s who of Tarantino regulars (Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Michael Madsen, Tim Roth, Zoe Bell, Bruce Dern, Walton Goggins) and a few newbies (Jennifer Jason Leigh, Demian Bichir, Channing Tatum). Not much is known yet about the finished film beyond some enticing details: the run time will be about three hours, with an overture and intermission (the 70mm version of the film will also have 6 additional minutes of footage); genius Italian composer Ennio Morricone, who scored “The Good, The Bad and the Ugly” (Tarantino’s favorite film of all time), made a new original score for the film; it’s set in one location, a haberdashery, where most the action takes place. It appears to be a nice bridge between the indie sensibilities of his early work like “Reservoir Dogs” and the big budget size and epic scope of his more modern work.

Any time Quentin Tarantino releases a new film it’s cause for celebration. But this special 70mm engagement, which will run two full weeks before opening wide in theaters across the county (mostly projected on digital by then), really gets to what he’s about as a filmmaker. Deeply nostalgic for bygone, lost eras of cinema—a time when people used to go out to the movies for their evenings, not just use it to kill two hours before moving on to the next thing—it’s exciting to see him double down on a near-dormant technology with the hope of giving it a life. It’s a risky proposition for him and theaters like the Hollywood to invest in a technology that’s been passed by and almost left for dead. Especially in this era of simplified, faster and cheaper digital presentations.


But that’s why going to the Hollywood is really the only place you should see “The Hateful Eight” come Christmas time. Why see it any other way? We’re lucky enough here in Portland to have that option, and to see it there well before most the country gets a chance. Take advantage of it, and see what all the fuss is about. If “The Hateful Eight” is a success (Halsted hopes to keep the print at the theater after its run, to revive through the years and continue showing the way it was meant to be seen and heard), maybe this long thought dead way of showing films can come back, even in a niche way.

Or maybe it’s already happening? King Vidor’s “Solomon And Sheba” was the first 70mm presentation screened at The Hollywood Theatre back in 1959. Thankfully, “The Hateful Eight” will not be the last. 2016 will be the Hollywood’s 90th anniversary, so the plan is to show many more classics on 70mm. “Baraka,” a visual nonfiction work from 1992 that’s a stone-cold masterpiece, will screen there in April. And look out for much more next year: Halsted is hoping for new restorations to happen, but also plans to show “The Sound of Music,” “Lawrence Of Arabia,” “West Side Story”—he’s even looking for “Die Hard,” which would just be amazing.

This is why it matters where you decide to see a movie. If you see “The Hateful Eight” this Christmas, choose wisely.

Celluloid Resurgence: Film is not dead after all

The unique release of Christopher Nolan's epic space tale "Interstellar" has our critic reevaluating the digital vs. film divide.

Actual, physical celluloid has been on the endangered species list for more than a decade. Surely you’ve already heard about it. Death to cinema they’ve been saying! Digital projection, “that’s just TV in public,” says Quentin Tarantino. You know, typical over-the-top, sky-is-falling bloviating from the sometimes tragically nostalgic cinephile crowd. Admittedly, I am one of them, but these days find myself more in the middle of this seismic change in movies. When a situation is this complex, it’s the best place to be. It’s where optimism is earned.


However, before satisfaction would be mine… first things first: Christopher Nolan has a new film out, called “Interstellar.” You’ve no doubt heard about this too. Nolan is one of a handful of big name directors whose name even average moviegoers know. His place in the pantheon of great modern auteurs is well-earned. He consistently makes good, sometimes great, cinema (there’s even a masterpiece or two in his filmography). He is a bastion for going out to the movies, no mere conjurer of cheap tricks but one who instills all his work with honest-to-goodness movie magic.

I’d love to wax-poetic about “Interstellar” (believe me, I really could), but that’s not what I’m here to do (besides, everyone and their mother has already reviewed the damn thing, so there’s plenty of opinions to sift through). In short—set your hyperbole and critic-speak tolerance to high, please—I found it to be immensely enthralling and easily Nolan’s (a chilly director) most emotionally satisfying film to date. I laughed, I cried, I was honestly blown away at times. It’s a more complete, far greater accomplishment than even his last two (very good) movies, “The Dark Knight Rises” and “Inception.” I can’t recommend enough seeing it on the biggest screen possible, to take in the vastness of its vision.

The question becomes: in what format will you be seeing “Interstellar?” For those who don’t know—or much more likely just don’t care—Nolan has been a big proponent of shooting and projecting his work on film. He’s used his clout in the industry, of which he has a lot (thanks to an impressive box office run of massive hits), to ensure that folks in cities where cinemas still have working film projectors can see “Interstellar” on film, be it on the former standard 35mm or the gloriously huge 70mm IMAX. Most will see it on the new standard, DCP. In the end, all that truly matters is that people see it, feel something (good or bad) and hopefully are moved by the picture.


Re-Examining ‘The Texas Chain Saw Massacre’

Why the newly restored 1974 shocker is even more relevant today

By critical acclamation The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is unquestionably a masterpiece. That much, after 40 years of existing in the world, seems to be a simple undeniable fact. Though I wonder…do you love its pulpy horror or does the thought of watching it make you recoil? Either reaction is understandable and, maybe, even both at the same time.

For many cinephiles, critics and scary movie fans, the original 1974 Massacre, directed by Tobe Hooper (who went on to make Poltergeist under Steven Spielberg’s supervision but never achieved these heights again) is the ne plus ultra of horror cinema. Yet it long ago transcended its genre. So, a print has been enshrined in the permanent collection at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, and in the most recent Sight & Sound critics poll, it was voted one of the 250 greatest films ever made.


But I want to argue that it deserves even more respect—and dare I say, your respect. If you’ve never had the stomach to watch it, you really should. You owe it to yourself to see what the best of the genre looks like. If nothing else, take it as a challenge, but not as some of kind of crude test to see what levels of cinematic extremity you can handle. It deserves to be wrestled with, thought about, discussed. It should scare the living crap out of you, but leave you nourished after its vise of terror loosens its hold on your psyche.

The sole intention of a typical, good horror film is to scare an audience. When this happens, fans of this kind of cinema—often unfairly marginalized and seen as bloodthirsty gorehounds, much to their (our!) chagrin—delight in the sheer visceral experience. That is, more often than not, enough, and by that measure, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is great cinema.

Titles don’t get much more bluntly evocative than those five words, stitched together like one of Leatherface’s freaky masks made of human flesh and yet able to roll off the tongue with an ease befitting some sadistic poet’s best work. They promise the audience scares, buckets of blood and a relentless, inescapable nightmare. That the film not only delivers on that vow, perhaps even more so today, is one of its many enduring strengths.


“When I was 14 I saw The Texas Chain Saw Massacre… I saw that film was an art form, meaning that I saw subliminal images. That’s when I realized the power of art: it’s not what you see, it’s what you think you see… That’s when it penetrates an audience. That’s when it goes deep. On the surface you watch like a brain, [and] you understand. But with subliminal images, or the thought of subliminal images, [that’s] when it has penetrated and the art has taken over your body.”

-Nicolas Winding Refn (The Treatment,Oct. 14, 2009)

Danish filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive, Only God Forgives) speaks often of his love for the film. In the above video clip from this year’s Cannes Film Festival, it’s hard not to find his admiration for the film, and its director, Tobe Hooper, endearing as all hell. Look beyond his palpable enthusiasm, though, and you’ll find an insightful, rich reading of the film. “Subliminal images” do abound in Texas Chain Saw Massacre. See it and you’ll you swear you witnessed graphic, gory violence. But did you?

At the beginning of the second act, a character is impaled on a large meat hook, left to suffer and dangle like a helpless fish snatched from the river. While this is happening, the film’s main villain, Leatherface, begins cutting up another victim. You think you see all of this happening; gore, blood and viscera splattering. You’re sure you saw it. Look closer at the scene, though, and it’s quite remarkable how little is violence is explicitly shown. It’s a sublimely constructed sequence, and not the only one. In fact, the titular cutting tool is never shown touching a person, save for Leatherface’s accident at the climax. Hooper mentions in the DVD commentary that he’s argued with countless people over the actual content of the film, to no avail.

TCM hook

This is evidence of the way Refn says those images “penetrate an audience” and the art takes over your body. There is real power in Hooper’s skill as an image maker. He grabs the audience by the throat, never relents and forces the audience to experience his vision, for better or ill. Whether or not you enjoy the act of watching the film is purely subjective, but it’s hard to argue against the objectively effective craft on display from Hooper and his entire cast and crew.

In his 1974 two-star review, Roger Ebert attempted such an argument, stating that it’s “without any apparent purpose, unless the creation of disgust and fright is a purpose.” And yet, several times he grudgingly acknowledges that it’s well-made: “In its own way, the movie is some kind of weird, off-the-wall achievement. I can’t imagine why anyone would want to make a movie like this, and yet it’s well-made, well-acted, and all too effective… All of this material, as you can imagine, is scary and unpalatable. But the movie is good technically and with its special effects, and we have to give it grudging admiration on that level, despite all the waving of the chain saw.”

Laughably, Hooper was actually attempting for a PG-rating for the film, even asking the MPAA film board how he could attain that rating  AND still portray a woman hanging on a meat hook. As absurd as this sounds, it does explain the film’s lack of explicit violence. The horror and murder is obscured and mostly bloodless. Classy is not the right word, but compared to most horror movies, it’s pretty damn close.

There are other techniques worth mentioning. The editing by Larry Carroll and Sallye Richardson plays a big part in sustaining the growing sense of fear and anxiety. It’s all about misdirection. Cuts often happen in the middle of an action, not the norm, giving the viewer a subconscious feeling of discomfort. The raw, grimy beauty of Daniel Pearl’s cinematography was born from his naiveté and inexperience (he was still a college student when the film was made). The most gorgeous shot in the film comes when the camera tracks behind soon-to-be victim Teri McMinn as she approaches Leatherface’s house, going under a bench to follow her as the house gets larger in the frame. The shot was improvised on set.

TexasChainsawMassacre house track


 Though TheTexas Chain Saw Massacre is probably best appreciated as a sensory experience that takes advantages of cinema’s many unique tools, arguments have been made for various thematic and intellectual readings. What’s remarkable is how many of these particular readings by various scholars and critics are even more relevant today than when the film was released in 1974.

For example, Hooper apparently stopped eating meat while making the film and saw the crux of the film as being about meat. There’s something to be said for it as a pro-vegetarian film. There’s the sense that Leatherface’s murderous, cannibalistic clan is a scathing parody of modern American families gone awry. Existentially, it’s hard to escape the notion that the film is about the absurdity of life, random and seemingly without meaning. And it resonates politically: America was in a dark place during the film’s initial release, with racial tensions, a struggling economy, Vietnam and Watergate, and the apparent passing of the counter-culture, to name but a few issues. It’s fair to say things have only gotten more complicated and confusing, yet no horror filmmaker today has been able to capture so much of this complexity and fear as well as Texas Chain Saw Massacre.

The best evidence of this may be the odd sense of sympathy for the film’s killers you have as the film unwinds.. After all, their piece of the American dream was taken away when their jobs at a slaughterhouse were rendered obsolete by technological advances. Who in this modern age of high unemployment and an intimidatingly fast devolving/evolving job landscape can’t understand that? There’s political satire buried in the subtext, where it belongs in a horror movie, and it makes for a rich experience beyond simply being scared.



Citizen Kane is perhaps the one American talking picture that seems as fresh now as the day it opened. It may seem even fresher.”

-Pauline Kael (Raising Kane, 1971)

Is it crazy that Refn (again, from the Cannes clip above) mentions The Texas Chain Saw Massacre in the same breath as Orson Welles’ masterpiece? Both films, in their way, have endured through so much cultural, political, moral and cinematic change yet still remain fresh as ever. The years have been kind to both.

Why did Ebert feel he had to grudgingly admit his admiration for the film in that original review? As he stated, there’s “no motivation, no background, no speculation on causes is evident anywhere in the film. It’s simply an exercise in terror… What we’re left with, though, is an effective production in the service of an unnecessary movie.” Films by Lars von Trier, Harmony Korine and Gaspar Noe, to name a few, often receive this kind of half-hearted, faux-praise. There’s something dishonest about it. I’d rather the critic just toughen up and say they hate the damn thing. After all, how can a film be unnecessary if it’s well-made and effective? And for that matter, “unnecessary” to whom?

Ebert grew into a critic who appreciated a film for what it was doing compared to others of its type. But many mainstream critics fall into this trap all too easily. Pauline Kael, in her wonderful 1969 piece for the New Yorker entitled Trash, Art and the Movies, put it perfectly: “When you clean them up, when you make movies respectable, you kill them. The wellspring of their art, their greatness, is in not being respectable.”

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre fits neatly into a throughline of the best and/or most shocking horror films in film history. Start with Hitchcock’s Psycho, move to Romero’s original Night of the Living Dead and Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby, then it’s on to Craven’s Last House on the Left and Friedkin’s The Exorcist. Once you arrive at Hooper’s film, you see the influence of those forebears had on him. Yet it’s undeniable how influential and copied Massacre has become.

The idea of the slasher movie as we still know it today truly started here, as did the idea of the final girl. Without it, we wouldn’t have Alien, Halloween or Nightmare on Elm Street, and so many others, not as we know them today. Its documentary rawness gave it a realism which in turn led to a new sub-genre known as found footage. During the opening credits of Massacre, a narrator claims the film was based on a true story (it wasn’t, though like Psycho and Silence of the Lambs, it was inspired by serial killer Ed Gein). In 1996, the Coen Brothers received a lot of press (and a screenplay Oscar) for their similar, “original idea” regarding Fargo. Sorry Coens, I love you, but Hooper did it first.

Back to that Ebert review: in his closing paragraph, he writes,  “Horror and exploitation films… provide a good starting place for ambitious would-be filmmakers who can’t get more conventional projects off the ground. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre belongs in a select company of films that are really a lot better than the genre requires. Not, however, that you’d necessarily enjoy seeing it.” He’s right that it’s much better than the genre requires, but he’s wrong that nobody would enjoy watching it. The only proof of that needed is the reason this article was written, because the film is still showing at movie theaters in 2014. That’s worth celebrating, and experiencing the terror all over again.


The new 4K digital restoration of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre screens for a weeklong run at The Hollywood Theatre starting today. For more information, check the Web site.

The Best Film You’ve Never Seen

An interview with the writer of a must read new film book

A killer with black leather gloves. Death by meat cleaver. A beautiful reporter. Poorly dubbed audio. Goblin’s amazing throbbing score. A famous psychic. And a terrifying ventriloquist dummy.

No, I’m not referring to Christmas with my family. The Hollywood Theatre is bringing back more grindhouse goodness with another early gem from giallo master Dario Argento. This coming Tuesday, a 35mm print of “Deep Red” will be shown at the theater.

In the annals of once great filmmakers who’ve now seemingly lost their mojo, Argento is the Italian equivalent of John Carpenter. For both filmmakers, once known innovative horror films, their best days waved bye-bye a long time ago. But forget about the embarrassingly terrible and schlocky recent efforts of “Mother of Tears” and “Giallo” and go back to a better time, a time when Argento was the man for moody, violent horror. “Deep Red” is insane and inventive as hell, but that’s not all that’s in store for the evening.

Before the film starts, there will be a reception, book signing and Q & A with writer and cartoonist Mike Russell and Robert K. Elder, the author of the fantastic new book, The Best Film You’ve Never Seen. Elder, a U of Oregon grad whose work has appeared in The Oregonian, went to the school on the advice of Ken Kesey after he interviewed Kesey for his high school paper. Now he calls Chicago home, but will be back in Portland to talk about his book, Argento and attempting to rewrite film history.

That was the impetus for his latest book, a quasi-companion piece to his 2011 effort The Film That Changed My Life, a series of interviews with filmmakers who discuss the film that inspired them to make movies. “The Best Film You’ve Never Seen” is ambrosia for voracious cinephiles always looking for that next meal, a hidden delight, or a filmic treat that was destroyed during release by critics and poor box office. The book collects 35 directors— including Edgar Wright, Guillermo del Toro, John Waters, Danny Boyle, Peter Bogdanovich, Richard Linklater—who passionately defend their choice for the best underrated movie you probably haven’t heard of and should do everything in your power to see and/or reconsider.

In the spirit of the book, here’s an edited transcript of the interview I conducted with Elder recently.

Q: What are your thoughts on “Deep Red” and Argento?

Elder: Argento is a deeply interesting character. “Deep Red” is his most Hitchcock-like film. And it’s also one of those that I think most…how can I say… most boldly underlines the problems he has with women that pop up in all of his films. It’s a good pairing, a difficult pairing [with his book]. More challenging perhaps for those who are a bit squeamish and don’t know Argento at all. I think most people in America after a certain age know his daughter [Asia].

Q: Well, since it’s playing at the Hollywood you’ll be in the perfect setting to show and talk about that film. That theater has changed quite a bit in the last few years.

Elder: I’m glad to hear that. I lived in Oregon in the late ‘90s and I spent a lot of time in Portland. I covered music, interviewing everyone from Henry Rollins to Marilyn Manson. When I was reviewing film for The Oregonian at that time, I think the theater was in turnaround so I’m really excited to see what they’ve done with it.

Q: For the book, which took you more than seven years to complete, did you start with a long grand list of directors you wanted to speak with and whittle it down?

Elder: I had a very strict criteria: people who said yes. They had to be people I respect and had an interesting body of work. For instance, Henry Jaglom, who’s had a long, storied career. His taste is not my taste, but that made for a really great interview. He defends Orson Welles’ “F For Fake,” which may be my favorite film in the book. He’s also the only director who doesn’t play ball with me. I’m supposed to play devil’s advocate, supposed to say, listen, this film is dismissed for these reasons. He would have none of it, didn’t want to hear anything that would diminish [the film] in his eyes.

Q: You mentioned in another interview that you argued with Kevin Smith about his choice for the book, “A Man For All Seasons,” since it won six Oscars including Best Picture in 1966. But the choice I found most interesting was John Woo picking “Le Samouraï.”

Elder: I think film nerds know who Jean-Pierre Melville [who directed “Le Samourai”] is, almost anybody else, no. Yes it has its own Criterion disc and I’m happy to have that, but he is not as well known as Truffaut or any of his other contemporaries. I didn’t make John defend that. There’s a sliding scale. Everybody knows who Orson Welles is, but not everybody knows what “F For Fake” is. Melville just doesn’t have the esteem in popular readers. I wrote this book not for film geeks. I wrote it for a more general audience. I chose to let these directors talk about what they considered obscure and what they thought needed attention.

Q: Many of these filmmakers willfully admit the faults of the films they’re championing. Even in the general audience today there seems to be an embrace of the so-bad-it’s-good phenomenon, with screenings of “The Room” and “Troll 2” for instance.

Elder: It isn’t ‘Mystery Science Theater.’ We’re legitimately trying to rewrite film history because we think these films have been lost. The fact that I push them and ask why did it fail and they’re willing to acknowledge some flaws, it’s like saying, ‘you might have some reservations about this.’

Q: Another thing I really admire about the book is that it goes beyond the simple good/bad paradigm of discussing films. It’s hard for some people to understand that a film can be great even though you can admit it’s flawed, perhaps very much so.

Elder: A film critic friend of mine contends that a flawed film can still get four stars, and I agree. For example, look at “Apocalypse Now.” It’s disjointed and has an unsatisfying ending, but it is one of those movies that sticks to your spine.

Q: Any filmmakers you were hoping to get for the book that eluded you?

Elder: I have been chasing Quentin Tarantino for years. But he kind of does this already. He is the guy who changed my life. When I saw “Reservoir Dogs” and the commode sequence happened, that was the first time I noticed the director’s fingerprints on the filmmaking process. Eventually I want to track him down. Sadly Robert Altman agreed to do the book but then he passed away. Same for Robert Wise. There were a couple chapters cut for space. Ondi Timoner (“Dig!”) chose this lost Robert Frank documentary on the Rolling Stones called “Cocksucker Blues.” It’s such a legally touchy film I think you can’t show it publicly unless Frank is there. After seeing it, you wonder why. It’s less about the Stones than all the bad behavior of the people around them.

Q: Since things move so fast in the culture now and we’re quick to dismiss something without really considering it properly, do you think it’s harder for underrated films released now to be discovered later?

Elder: I don’t think so. For so many years you had no way to see a film once its theatrical release was done. Now with all the various home formats there’s so many more ways for a film to find its audience than ever before. Now’s the time to have these conversations and praise them while they still have an economic life. Richard Linklater talks about in the book these different lives a film has: how it did at the box office, what the critics thought about it, and then there’s its true life. How it holds up, how it’s remembered.

Q: What’s something you’ve seen recently that feels destined to be another Film You’ve Never Seen entry?

Elder: I’m a tiny bit biased because I’m from Billings, Montana. It’s not a recent film, but I did just revisit Robert Redford’s “A River Runs Through It” and I always thought it’s just amazing. When it came out, it got mixed reviews. It has an early Brad Pitt performance. I think Redford captured not only that time and place but also that relationship in that book. If people haven’t seen it, it’s about more than just fly fishing. Another one with Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Jeff Daniels before they were in “Looper” together is “The Lookout.” It’s this tightly wound little film. I really recommend that one as well.

-Listen to an extended audio version of this interview over at Adjust Your Tracking
-The release of the movie coincides with Goblin’s first ever US tour. The band will appear at the Hawthorne Theatre October 19 at 9 p.m.

Oregon ArtsWatch Archives