Selective Viewing

An exploration of film, video and other media by Kate Blair

Category: Uncategorized

Guest appearance on Director’s Club podcast


I recently joined my super smart and sweet friend Jim Laczkowski on his excellent Director’s Club podcast for a conversation about Alfred Hitchcock. You can listen to it here, on iTunes, through the Podcasts app on iPhone, or whatever other way people access podcasts these days.

We covered a lot of ground during our conversation, including The 39 Steps, The Lady Vanishes, Shadow of a Doubt, Notorious, Strangers on a Train, Rear Window, The Wrong Man, Vertigo, Psycho, and The Birds. If we skipped over your favorite, never fear, there will be a follow-up episode.

Jim has graciously invited me back, so stay tuned for more of my voice coming at you through your various devices and, of course, more movie chatter.


Animal behavior: Creatures on film

au hasard balthazar bresson donkey

Making sense of our animal companions

I’ve been wanting to write something about animals on film for a long time now. I’m not talking about kids-oriented, Air Bud– or Homeward Bound-type fare – not to knock either of those movies, because they’re not un-related to the ones I’m going to discuss, nor are they bad. However, whenever I bring up this topic, these are typically the examples I hear. When you do think of animals on film, it’s striking that they appear most frequently in either children’s movies or documentaries. We either revel in their otherness, or turn them into humanized talking beasts. Not surprisingly, both iterations of the animal are loved by viewers of all ages.

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Intricacies of Infection:

Brandon Cronenberg’s Antiviral and Shane Carruth’s Upstream Color 


Caleb Landry Jones as Syd March, employee at the Lucas Clinic, and obsessed fan

Infection in a digital age

I happened to watch two movies streaming on Netflix over the last couple of days, and they shared an interesting  preoccupation with infection. Funnily enough, I have never encountered anything about either of these movies when I wasn’t online (granted, I’m not lucky enough to be able to attend many film festivals, or have access to a New York Times subscription). It seems to me that both achieved a sort of grassroots popularity through sites like Tumblr. In a way, that kind of digital connectivity is at the root of the body horror that is the focus of both films. Even in this new digital age, the visceral, organic nature of the human body is a horror that technology still cannot transcend. The body eventually revolts and falls apart. Therefore, that great modernist preoccupation is still very much with us—no matter what social technology intervenes, we still worry about what it truly means to connect with the people around us, and whether that is ever truly possible. Cronenberg and Carruth engage with this contemporary zeitgeist by contrasting intense, visceral images of the human body, against the mores of social and emotional attachment. Read the rest of this entry »

Welcome to Selective Viewing


Pipilotti Rist, Zimmer –Interactive video art installation, 1994/2000/2007.

I used to maintain a blog called The Celluloid Phantom. After going back to school, I put that project on indefinite hiatus. Now I’m ready to start anew. New platform, new content, new everything.

When I decided to call this blog “selective viewing” it was really a play on “collective viewing,” which dominated the film viewing experience up until the last few decades. For most of the 2oth century, a movie meant something you went out to see. Paradigmatically, this meant sharing a dark, voluminous theater with a multitude of strangers. I grew up in a time when movies were readily available to watch at home, or on a computer. Growing up, movies didn’t necessarily signify “theater” to me. While going out to the Multi-plex to see a movie was still an exciting event, I didn’t necessarily have to leave my living room to see a movie. I definitely didn’t have to encounter anyone outside of my family unit. I might leave the lights on, or pause the movie to heat up some leftovers in the microwave which was mere feet away. As I’ve grown older, this has become increasingly the case, particularly as the demands of impoverished student life have affected my entertainment budget. Read the rest of this entry »