Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Blogosphere Multiplex: The Panopticon

The movie-centric blogger interview series continues... Today's victim is Frank who writes a prominent knitting blog, the Panopticon. But fear not: you don't need to knit to enjoy Frank's witty voice. I don't knit personally. How could I? My eyes are required for the screen and my fingers for the typing! Despite my yarn ignorance, Frank's imaginative relationship with his chosen hobby feels familiar to me. Consider his meeting with Dolores or his freak accident with a shawl --it reminds me of my own free associative movie loving/living.

So I slipped movie questions Frank's way and he stitched and back looped his way through the interview (no, I don't know what the hell I'm talk about either) ~ Enjoy.

10 Questions with Frank of The Panopticon

Nathaniel: How often do you go to the movies --and what's the biggest draw for you?

Frank: Let's get this right out in the open: when it comes to movies I'm a snob with shockingly limited taste. I love period pieces to the exclusion of just about everything else; and the more hyper-intellectual they are, the more excited I get. Angels and Insects, for example, sent me into fits of ecstasy. It put everybody else I know into a coma. I also have a fondness for odd documentaries like The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill.

Given that, it probably won't surprise you to hear that I only watch four or five movies a year in a theater - usually without a date.

Nathaniel: So I take it then that your film intake is of the DVD variety... or do you just sit at home and knit? Please don't tell me you do both at the same time!

Frank: Oh, but I do. Within limits, of course. I'm not one of the sure-fingered experts who never have to look down at my work, so anything with subtitles is out of the question. Bergman and lace charts do not mix. But some movies are absolutely made for watching while knitting. The Women, for example. With all the gossip and drama flying around it plays like a typical Stitch and Bitch, minus the needles and yarn. No, wait. Come to think of it, Rosalind Russell actually does knit during the fashion show sequence.

Nathaniel: Oh Roz... That eye dress haunts me.

Oh and now you know someone who loves Angels & Insects. I do too. Kristen Scott Thomas is so delicintense in that movie. And the costumes alone *swoons* so let's go back to costume dramas for a second. Who's your favorite corset queen: Bonham Carter? Winslet? someone less expected?

Frank: Pick a favorite? Oh, not easy. I have the typical male fear of commitment. I must admit nobody works a bustle like Helena, and she has the proper curves to pull off a period gown.
Probably the best period performance I've ever seen is Mieko Harada as Lady Kaede in Kurosawa's Ran. She absolutely masters those huge kimonos and uses them amplify her character. Hot stuff.

But honestly, I can have just as much fun watching an actress who can't handle all that fabric. Winona Ryder is a repeat offender: Dracula, Age of Innocence, and Little Women. She just shambles around like she's in pair of old jeans and flip flops. Feh.

Nathaniel: I'm glad you said it. I'm too hard on Noni in general here but I am horrified (horrified!) every time I manage to forget to forget that both of her nominations are for period work and she's just not good at it. Her nominations should've come from work like Heathers and Reality Bites instead. No shame in doing soulful comedic contemporary work --well maybe it's shameful to the Academy voters but not to me.

While we're on the topic. Are you an Oscar fan? Do you watch every year?

Frank: The Oscars are such a guilty pleasure for me. The films that I like never win much, but I can't resist the parade of emaciated actresses and I love the cheese. Or what's left of it. There's such a slick earnestness about the Oscars lately. They run on more or less on time, people behave themselves, and they cut the production numbers. Oh, how I miss the production numbers. I want to see Angelina, Lindsay, and Bai Ling doing fan kicks and singing "There's No Business Like Show Business" while dressed as Roxy usherettes. Come back, Debbie Allen, come back.

Nathaniel: I don't think the world's eyes would ever recover. While we're on the subject of weird: what's the oddest thing that's ever happened to you at (or on the way to or from) the movie theater?

Frank: When Titanic came out I was completely uninterested in seeing it but got dragged along by a couple of friends who had been once already and said I would enjoy the costume-and-fine-china aspects of the production. Unfortunately, I'm such a pedant that the anachronisms in the visuals and the dialogue set my teeth on edge.

But there was somebody in the audience who must have been tripping on something, and about ten minutes into the show he started commenting (loudly) on the action from the fifth row. Stuff like, "Wow! Big big big hat!" when Kate Winslet made her first appearance. Security took at least half the film to throw him out, and I have to say I found my viewing experience greatly diminished after his removal. If they'd hired him to do an audio commentary on the DVD I might have bought it.

Nathaniel: Popcorn or candy?

Frank: One treat, and one treat only: Peanut M & Ms. A big bag, preferably.

Nathaniel: Yum. Though candy sometimes reminds me of product placement in the movies. Does that distract you in movies? Or if not which products do you wish would get placed?

Frank: You don't get a whole lot product placement in the Indie or period costume pictures I like to see, but sometimes I rather wish they'd make it possible to buy the stuff on screen. I always came away from Merchant/Ivory productions with a desperate longing to buy an Edwardian tie-press or mother-of-pearl opera glasses.

When I do find myself at some blockbuster full of placements for Coca-Cola or Nike or whatever, it just reminds me why I usually skip those movies. I don't like being marketed to in a ham-fisted manner, at the movies or anywhere else.

Nathaniel: Aside from aforementioned period opulence & costumes what (or who) is your favorite eye candy in movies?

Frank: Tough question. To purloin an expression from Gilbert and Sullivan, my loves in that regard have usually been vegetable. Meaning, I very seldom get hot and bothered over people on screen the way I do over a really nice fauteuil. Somehow movie actors just seem too remote and unreachable to bother over. The first crush I can remember was Gene Kelly in An American in Paris (I was five), then there was Olivia Newton-John in Xanadu (I was eight).

Then, a long dry spell until Shakespeare in Love, when Joseph Fiennes went running in his little Elizabethan breeches and the sight of his tuchus compelled me to rip both arms off my seat. But there I am again, probably lusting as much after the costumes as the person inside them.

Nathaniel: What's your take on the state of queer cinema?

Frank: Well, given the arrival of I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry my impulse to say it's probably dead. Maybe I'm the wrong guy to ask. Oddly enough, I've never felt much connection to queer cinema. I'm not a pretty boy, I don't live in New York or Los Angeles, and most of my friends are straight, so the stories in gay films have never felt especially relevant to me.

The last queer flick I sat through, aside from Brokeback Mountain, was probably Trick. I thought it was interesting that when the shy, self-conscious, "average" guy took his shirt off in the disco he had perfect abs. That seems to be what most of what gay culture is about: 1,001 ways to display perfect abs.


Nathaniel: Fair enough. Last question: They make a movie of your life. Tell us about it... what's it called, who plays you, who directs, who designs the costumes, what's the MPAA rating?

Frank: Jesus, talk about a niche market picture.

Given that my signature blog image is a chorus line of dancing sheep and sock yarn, I think it's going to have to be a musical. And Busby Berkeley is the only person capable of handling the sheer spectacle. "All singing! All dancing! All knitting!"

I want Edith Head to do my costumes, but Dolores will probably insist on gowns by Adrian. Yul Brynner, of course, will play me; although Ben Kingsley and Vin Diesel will both lobby ardently for the Oscar-bait role. It'll be Rated NC-17 for the leather bar sequences and constant use of foul language, and be called Follow the Fleece.

Of course, the whole thing will be overshadowed by the scandal that erupts when I'm spotted going topless on the beach at Cannes.

Nathaniel: You think of everything.

Thanks again Frank


If you're visting the Film Experience for the first time please look around
and see what we do here --there's movie obsessiveness from the serious to the silly

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Anonymous said...

A man who knits, who speaks comfortably of lace charts and leather bars (not in the same breath, of course) and LOVES period films...the heck with gender or orientation, that IS seriously sexy.

Very smart, fun interview Nat - thanks!


Marius said...

Anyone who loves Angels and Insects as much as I do gets a gold star from me. Great Interview!

Neel Mehta said...

No offense to your other interview subjects, but Frank's given us your best installment yet.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with you on that account, Neel.

Actually, The Film Experience has been very "inspired" lately - sometimes jaw-dropping in its chutzpah, silliness, wit and sheer creativity.



awww that's sweet. i appreciate it. it's not as easy at it looks. and sometimes i feel that i'll never have another coherent thought or new idea again.

now if only it could make my fame and fortune (sigh)

but yes, i like this interview too. Frank was fun... though knitting still freaks me out --way too intricate for me. i can barely tie my shoes

TurnipToes said...

That was a great interview.

I am a long-time reader of Franklin's and it is fun to see what you pull out of him. I think you were able to capture the fun, quirky essence of him that his readers love.

Who knew anyone loved the odd documentary about wild parrots like I did?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your valuable contribution!

Anonymous said...

The usual intellectual snobbery that marks out his blog.

Anonymous said...

At first I thought that this was all said in irony, but on a second read through I realise that you are being serious....It works better as irony, a very long and tedious "Spinal Tap" moment