Selective Viewing

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

Tag: essay

Dog Movies For Adults


Dogs have appeared on the silver screen since the dawning days of cinema, when their tails wagged silently but joyfully in front of audiences, making viewers laugh, cry, and clap with delight. Dogs are our closest animal companions, and many hours of footage have been devoted to them – on smartphones, movie cameras and everything in between. Nearly as long as humans have walked upright, dogs have padded alongside, too often paying a steep price for this proximity through abuse and neglect. These animals arouse our empathy, but they are subjected to our exploitative nature all the same, a reminder that humans are just animals, fighting to live, sometimes at any cost. Dogs are fodder for rich, emotional stories, but these tend to be aimed at children rather than adults. However, there is the rare film that examines the relationships between dogs and people with an eye to more universal themes. The results range from heartfelt to horrific but are always provocative.

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Slasher movies: some rules of the game

Texas Chainsaw Massacre and the formation of genre rules

A cannibal family dinner in Texas Chainsaw Massacre

A cannibal family dinner in Texas Chainsaw Massacre

As I was watching Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) for the first time, it reminded me of Wes Craven’s Last House on the Left (1972). What is ominous about both these movies is how intimate the terrorized victims become with their killers. Subsequently, the viewer also becomes familiar with them. This differs dramatically from a film like Halloween (1978), where Michael Myers/the Shape terrifies because he is an entity of pure evil, remaining unseen until it’s too late.

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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 »