I meant to post a review on etsy of Some Notes of Film Vol.1, the zine edition of Tim Nicholas’s tumblr, but I didn’t get onto it quickly enough. Etsy gives you 60 days to review things, and it arrived in my mailbox long before that.
Nicholas writes smart and perceptive film criticism and uses tumblr’s spare interface to mix images and text to good effect. So, as the first essay in the zine asks, “why would someone just print out a blog?” Nicholas discussses permanence, attention, value, the relentless newness of blogs, the way that the physical zine provides a respite from the stream. For me, there’s also a real pleasure in holding something tangible. The saddle-stapled booklet is nicely produced, but not so lush that I’m afraid of chucking it into my bag to read on the bus. And there are footnotes.
The essays don’t aim for comprehensive analysis of a movie as a whole; instead they pick at a particular aspect of how a cinema does what it does and run with it. Nicholas looks at sequence from The Jerk an example of “comedy with heart”. He interrogates the internet-meme-ready quote from Peter Gabriel that artworks should be “triggers for experiences”. He cites the “baby shoe gag” in Altman’s The Long Goodbye as being a Bruegel-esque example of fleshing out the wider world of the film.
The last essay deals with the problem of how, in the 21st century, to depict action and events that take place on the computer screen. Nicholas takes his cue from journalist Quinn Norton, who observes that “going to war and filling out tax forms looks the same; it looks like typing.” Depicting action on screen that happens, well, on screen, calls for a number of strategies to make it not look too jarring or monotonous, but it remains a fundamental problem. How does this moving-image medium depict action that is mostly static? His analysis has me thinking about what I’m doing as I tap away at my desk, it reminds me of the Tony Zhou video essay on texting in film (something Nicholas picks up to discuss in a more recent post), and it makes me pay new attention to every computer-mediated scene I see on TV or film. When Nicholas speculates about “the return of the intertitle, only now integrated into the diegesis”, it’s something I’d really like to see. Sneakers meets Hannah and her Sisters.
This collection of essays is inquisitive and deft. In a culture where so much is free, buying a piece of online culture that you like is a great way to support it. Some Notes on Film Vol. 1 is available on etsy, and ships internationally.