Zeros and Ones

Written by Alexander Reams

34/100

There are few filmmakers with as big of a head-scratching filmography as Abel Ferrara. A man who broke out into the industry with his highly controversial and provocative Bad Lieutenant, with Harvey Keitel as a coked-up, corrupt, detective. Why? Well to quote the great Joe Swanson “Are you asking an Irish Cop why he’s corrupt”. Ferrara has always been a filmmaker that seemingly makes films by the mantra of “Because we can, and if we can, we do”. (Paraphrasing from Peaky Blinders).

Ferrara’s latest attempt to be politically relevant employs Ethan Hawke as not one, but two characters, identical twin brothers. One is a military man, one is an anarchist/revolutionary. The military man is J.J., arriving in Rome after a terror attack on the Vatican, where everyone is- and tell me if this sounds familiar- wearing masks, overly sanitizing everything, streets are barren of people. Why? It’s not specified, all we know is the terror attack on the Vatican. This is just the beginning of the nonsense. 

Ferrara is known for his very, let’s call it “stylistic” (and not pretentious for pretentious sake), films. From the coked-up insanity of Bad Lieutenant to his most recent collaborations with Willem Dafoe, what I have dubbed “Abel Ferrara’s The House that Willem Built”, a trilogy of films that include Pasolini, Tommaso, and Siberia. All of which center around Ferrara following Dafoe around in whatever character he is playing, some sort of weird elements, and cinematography that, while beautiful, can be visually confusing. An aspect that plagues Zeros and Ones like the supposed sickness that plagues the Vatican. 

The best aspect of this film is Ethan Hawke. Fully immersing himself in both roles as much as he can. He gets the idiosyncrasies of both characters down to a T. Hawke did not fail Ferrara, Ferrara failed Hawke. The script he procured could’ve used a lot more work, fleshing out the characters and the world that Ferrara wanted to create would’ve helped the film work overall. Ferrara failed to lead his technical team in every sense of the word. He took the fantastic cinematographer that is Sean Price Williams and turned his work into an incoherent, ugly mess. This film not only disappointed me but also frustrated me. Instead of trying to be relevant to the times, Ferrara should’ve instead focused on crafting a better film. I truly believe he could’ve made this great, but instead chose to rush production.

Zeros and Ones Trailer

Zeros and Ones is currently available to rent and purchase on most major VOD platforms.

You can connect with Alexander on his social media profiles: Instagram, Letterboxd, and Twitter. Or see more of his work on his website.

The Projectionist

Written by Patrick Hao

52/100

The Cinema Village is one of the last great independent movie theaters in New York. From its famous triangular marquee jutting out between gentrified buildings to its dated decor that has probably seen more horrors than anyone can imagine, Cinema Village represents a period of time in New York that feels lost. That is why it is great that its owner Nicolas Nicolau, and his career as a movie theater owner, is the subject of Abel Ferrara’s loving documentary The Projectionist

I recently attended a screening of The Projectionist at the Cinema Village with Abel Ferrara as special guest. This screening coincided with a special retrospective of Ferrara’s career and to commemorate the recent reopening of the theater, which had been closed during the COVID-19 pandemic. At this particular screening, Nicolau was there acting like a nervous host during an important dinner party. He walked up and down the aisle of the nearly sold out theater (tickets were free) asking if he could get anyone concessions. Before the movie started, he even began to hand out bags of free popcorn. 

Ferrara, the iconoclast independent New York filmmaker known for Bad Lieutenant and Ms. 45, was as rambunctious as his reputation suggests. As the trailer for his retrospective began playing, you could hear him in the hallways outside the theater screaming for the projectionist to increase the volume in colorful expletives. A real New York independent movie experience if there ever was one. 

The film itself was middling. Nicolau, an immigrant from Cyprus, is an interesting subject for a film. Nicolau’s exuberance for cinema and his career as an exhibitor comes through as the film chronicles his experiences working as a ticket taker at art house cinemas and porn houses to owning several theaters across New York City. Some of the more interesting aspects of the film exhibiting business – the collusion of the conglomerate movie chains with film studios to prevent allowing the exhibition of their films in independent theaters – is only briefly touched upon.

Ferrara kept undercutting the pacing of the film by instilling film clips that lasted far too long and had little relation to what was happening in the documentary. At the Q&A, Ferrara complained that the film originally had even more film clips but he could not secure some of the film rights. And like the Q&A, the film can meander on Ferrara’s amusing tangents. At one point, Ferrara begins asking some of Nicolau’s patrons why they would want to see It and becomes preoccupied by their Egyptian heritage.   

There is an interesting film here but Ferrara is far more interested in celebrating a New York that is slowly fading away. He revels at the section where Nicolau recounts the various movie houses across Manhattan that he worked in. As Ferrara stated in the Q&A, this film is using Nicolau’s story as a medium for Ferrara’s own autobiography. Many of these theaters are the same haunts that he attended which helped develop his unique taste and style.

In the end this film is an ode to a New York that feels like it is slowly disappearing. There are not many people like Nicolau anymore who are happy to forgo profit in order to keep affordable cinema for people. He and Cinema Village are worth celebrating, even in a messy uneven film. 

As Nicolau spoke upon during the Q&A, last year, with Covid-19, he was very close to losing his theater because of the loss of patrons and no reprieve on property taxes. But, he is happy to be able to reopen and is excited to introduce a new batch of truly independent films to the public. I implore anyone who is in the New York City area to visit the Cinema Village. At the very least, support your local independent cinema.

The Projectionist Trailer

The Projectionist is currently available to buy and rent from multiple storefronts and is streaming on Kanopy.

You can follow Patrick and his passion for film on Letterboxd and Twitter.

Episode 92: Sportin’ Life / The Dark and the Wicked / Network

“I don’t know how to choose work that illuminates what my life is about. I don’t know what my life is about and don’t examine it. My life will define itself as I live it. The movies will define themselves as I make them. As long as the theme is something I care about at the moment, it’s enough for me to start work. Maybe work itself is what my life is about.”

Sidney Lumet

Links: Apple Podcasts | Castbox | Google Podcasts | LibSyn | Spotify | Stitcher | YouTube

This week on Drink in the Movies Michael & Taylor discuss their First Impressions of Let Them All Talk & Pieces of a Woman. Followed by the Titles: Sportin’ Life, The Dark and the Wicked, and Network.

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Streaming links for titles this episode

You can watch Sportin’ Life here.

Network is available on Hoopla

The Dark and the Wicked is currently available to rent or purchase

You can read Michael’s review of The Dark and the Wicked here.

You can read Taylor’s review of Pieces of a Woman here.

Episode 84: VIFF Kickoff / The Devil All the Time / Sibyl / Siberia

“Life is what happens when you’re doing other things, right?”

Abel Ferrara

Links: Apple Podcasts | Castbox | Google Podcasts | LibSyn | Spotify | Stitcher | YouTube

This week on Drink in the Movies Michael & Taylor discuss their First Impressions of: The Trial of the Chicago 7 & Shithouse. Followed by The Devil All the Time, Sibyl, and the VIFF 2020 Official Selection Siberia.

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Streaming links for titles this episode

The Devil All the Time on Netflix

Siberia is currently seeking distribution

Sybil is currently available to rent from multiple sources.