Friday, December 30, 2022

Media Funhouse episodes on the Net

Back in August, just as the Media Funhouse TV show was about to enter its 30th year on the air (the show debuted on September 30, 1993), the cable access organization that airs the show, Manhattan Neighborhood Network, moved its HQ from 59th Street and 11th Ave. to 38th Street and 11th Avenue. At this point the live streams of MNN channels went dark and a third party organization began airing their shows — in a bizarre twist, the Standard Definition shows began airing in HD (and within an odd onscreen pattern of a letterbox-within-a-windowbox).

The last-mentioned aspect (and many other daily grinds) has kept me so busy that only now — now in a week when the live streams are in fact BACK ON-AIR (!) — have I had the chance to find a suitable “platform” to host a Media Funhouse online “channel” of the recent episodes that no one outside of Manhattan could see. (I take my viewership outside the borough as seriously as the ones inside the borough.) is the site of choice, since Vimeo demands cold hard cash for every bit of space it allots a videomaker, the workings of DailyMotion are a puzzle, and YouTube has various wondrous stumbling blocks — most of them “international bans” — in place for those who create video montages. is the “YouTube of Russia.” To those who might think that “I’ll be *watched* if I go to that site!” I have a fast newsflash: You’re being watched on YouTube. You’re being watched (especially!) on Facebook. Your social media is being registered and logged everywhere at every time. Unless you go “off the grid” entirely, as long as you have an active presence online, you’re being watched. From your desktop computer, your work computer (again, especially), and most definitely your tablet and phone, you’re being watched. (And I've "unlocked" the embeds from below, so you can click them and watch the videos through this blog entry.)

And, as for YouTube, the clips that were the points of contention were fascinating. The films of Bob Rafelson that everyone knows — his early work for BBS (his company with Schneider and Blauner) — were fine with YT. It was his later movies that are owned outright and that no one can EVER post sequences from. And with Godard it gets even hairier.

Godard mixes three overlaid
images with (at least) two audio tracks
in Histoire(s) du Cinema.
Uncle Jean (as I like to call him, based on his role in the film Prenom Carmen) was a “mix-master,” a sampler of longstanding. He used words from other writers, images from painters, and music from classical composers in his Sixties films, and by the Eighties was crafting video essays that were composed almost entirely of others’ work, reassembled by his hand (one of his first notable articles was called, “Montage, My Fine Care”). 

However, since he was using other people’s work so heavily, when you post HIS work on YouTube, you find that the original sources are banned — most notably, one German classical CD label does not want to monetize your clip (or, more accurately, Godard’s clip) with their sounds on it, they want you “banned” outright.

Godard also worked actively at one point with a record label that released the soundtracks of his films (complete, with every sound, every newly spoken word, and all the thousands of sounds he had taken from other sources on their discs). This has caused his “late-period” masterpiece Histoire(s) du Cinema to have its sound banned entirely from YouTube — at the moment you post a video including a clip from his video epic, you are “internationally banned” for using JLG’s sound (his name appears as the copyright owner), even though he was fond of putting “No Copy Right” at the end of his video essays and he publicly supported (to the tune of donating 1,000 euros!) a downloader who was under indictment, saying “There is no such thing as intellectual property.”

After facing this obstacle, there was only one way to go: away from U.S. video platforms. truly fits JLG’s dictum and thus has not just hundreds, but thousands of films on it. It now has the “missing” episodes of my cable-access series, and I can think of no better company to be in than a crazy digital library of thousands of films. Here is the link to the Media Funhouse channel

Now, onto the shows:

I have new episodes paying tribute to Godard in the works, but first of all wanted to reshow older Funhouse eps in which I focused on his films. Firstly, there is part one of my interview from 2004 with Colin MacCabe, the film historian who wrote the first English-language biography of Godard.

MacCabe discusses his book in this interview but also answers questions about broader concepts in Godard’s work. He also in this episode discusses what it was like to work with Uncle Jean, as the producer on three of his video essays (and yes, I ask him about clearance of film clips!).


Moving back to the “consumer guide” aspect of the Funhouse, I also reshowed this episode, which found me reviewing and showing clips from three new releases: the Eclipse box of films by Godard’s one-time “Dziga-Vertov group” collaborator Jean-Pierre Gorin, and Godard’s own Film Socialisme and the mighty, mighty Histoire(s) du Cinema.


As for “unseen” Godard, I also have done various episodes on his video essays. I am quite proud of having shown Funhouse viewers one of his most beautiful short creations, “De l'origine du XXIe siècle” (2000) in its entirety in this episode. I include clips from other essays, but “origine” is a most exquisite view of the 20th century that proceeds backward chronologically, mixing newsreels of the realest atrocities with the most fantasy-based images from fiction films, concluding with perhaps the perfect metaphor for a century in which the action never stopped: the dance with the can-can girls in Max Ophuls’ Le Plaisir. (Godard leaves in all the spinning around, but cuts just as the hero falls down while dancing.) 


Another absolutely gorgeous Godard short is “Puissance de la Parole” (1988). Godard counterpoints a couple’s emotional breakup over the phone — with dialogue from James M. Cain’s The Postman Always Rings Twice — with an older man and a young girl discussing mankind’s need for knowledge — with dialogue from Poe’s prose poem “The Power of Words” about two deities (or angels, if you prefer) conversing about mortals. 

It’s a stunning work in terms of both its magical inscrutability (the Poe side) and its earthy humanity (the Cain breakup dialogue). Even more stunning is that this work of raw emotion and aesthetic beauty (which ends with the mingling of classical music with songs by Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan) was commissioned as a commercial for a phone company. (Thus, the breakup over the phone.) 


The episode that I’m most proud of in this batch on is the second part of my interview with Colin MacCabe, discussing various aspect of Godard’s work. Firstly, I remade this episode entirely — I edited from the original interview tape, leaving all of what MacCabe had said (I had initially cut a now-fascinating bit about Godard surely opposing the neo-liberalism that runs through current European politics) and using better copies of the film clips I had initially included in the episode. 

Secondly, there is the range of topics we covered in a short amount of time. They include the viewer’s response to Godard’s use of so many references (MacCabe’s answer to this is very instructive; it gives Godard fans an answer to those they may know who remark that Godard’s work is too layered to be comprehensible), Godard’s then-current political position, the use of autobiography in Godard’s essays and fiction films (including his appearances as “Uncle Jean” the crazy filmmaker), the seminal importance of Histoire(s) du Cinema to his output during the late Eighties and Nineties, the themes in his transitional work In Praise of Love, and, not forgetting, Godard’s much-ignored (or misunderstood) sense of humor.


I saluted Bob Rafelson first on this blog and then did three episodes on the show about him. The first episode covered his best-known period, in which he made films for his mini-studio BBS, aka the House The Monkees Built. Thus, we begin with Head and end with his non-BBS Stay Hungry.


The second episode in this series of shows covers his next three films, which came out at intervals (by this point, Rafelson had burned some bridges in the film industry, and he was also pursuing his biggest interest, traveling). So, we begin with his “comeback” in 1981, The Postman Always Rings Twice, and end with the film he proclaimed his favorite, the adventure saga/character study Mountains of the Moon (1990).


The third and last of this series of episodes covers Rafelson’s last four works for hire. These range from the screwball comedy Man Trouble (1992) to his underseen, terrific last film, No Good Deed (2002), starring Samuel L. Jackson. 


The next show focuses on a French romantic comedy-drama that hasn’t ever been available in the U.S., Adorable Liar, directed and cowritten by Michel Deville. The most intriguing thing about it is that the two very cute lead actresses later worked for Godard (whereas Deville had just worked with… Anna Karina!): Marina Vlady and Macha Meril. 

It’s a cute, slight film about two sisters from the provinces in Paris. One of them (Marina) lies to men a lot, to the extent that when she finally meets her true love — well, he just doesn’t believe her. Among the cast are two Funhouse faves when they both very young men: Pierre Clementi (in his movie role) and the great Michael Lonsdale. 


I was very pleased to interview Balthazar Clementi, the son of the actor-filmmaker Pierre Clementi, when he was in NYC promoting his father’s films as a director (plus the U.S. publication of his dad’s memoir, A Few Personal Messages). 

In this episode (the first of a projected three), we discuss his father’s filmmaking, which works as both a diary of his very busy life in the Sixties and Seventies (with his friends — Nico, Jean-Pierre Kalfon, Tina Aumont, Viva — and his costars — Deneuve, Piccoli, Klaus Kinski, Udo Kier — showing up in various candid moments) and avant-garde meditations on the periods in which the footage was shot. 


The final new episode (barring an Xmas show that isn’t good to post, for another year at least) was a discussion of, and scenes from, a lost major-studio film that was yet another fascinating failure from the era in which the major studios (MGM, in this case) were all trying to reproduce the success of Easy Rider.

The Magic Garden of Stanley Sweetheart (1970) is an incredible mess, but one of those messes from that insanely productive period in which even the failures make for compelling viewing. Here, the film boasts (besides wonderful NYC location footage) two items that make it one-of-a-kind: the first are two supporting players (folk singer Holly Near and psychedelic frontman turned gay standup comic Michael Greer) who are so good in their roles that they steal the film away from its lead, Don Johnson (in his first film role).

The second amazing aspect of the picture is the score. Certain “hard” bands were signed to MGM Records, so their music fits with the plot and images, but the light, bubblegum sound of the Mike Curb Congregation is also heard. Their cover of “Happy Together” is just lame, but the fact that the catchy-as-fuck “Sweet Gingerbread Man” (by Michel Legrand and Marilyn & Alan Bergman) is used in trippy, sexy scenes (including one right after Johnson has had a threesome with two his hippie girlfriends) is a mind-blower. The song would be better suited for Willy Wonka or Doctor Dolittle, but it wound up in this film and thus made for sublimely silly musical interludes. 


Again, the Media Funhouse channel on can be found here.

As it currently stands, MNN has reached its new HQ and has put back into action its live streams. This is great news for me, as I welcome every like-minded viewer we can get in “the tent.” As of the day this blog post goes up, the streams at are back up and working. The one that airs Media Funhouse at 1:00 a.m. late Saturday/early Sunday can be found here.

I have been informed that they are still fine-tuning these streams, but they look delightful as of this writing, so I can only hope they will remain up and working for a long time to come….

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

The annual viewing of Robert Vaughn mocked by clowns (A Thanksgiving ritual)

I have introduced this clip for nearly 30 years now, on the Funhouse TV show (which celebrated its 29th anniversary back in September of this year) and also on this blog. This year, we have emerged from on-again, off-again lockdown status to be where most of us knew we’d be back in 2020 — just getting on with our lives, with COVID sticking around basically forever, as plagues brewed up by man are wont to do. 

America’s economy is in a mess, there are various forms of crime on the streets, and people are diverting themselves at this minute by discussing a social media platform as if it is the end-all, be-all of human communication. The proxy war (between light-skinned foreign people) isn’t as news-worthy as it was, so pundits are busy wondering if the 2024 presidential election will simply be a do-over of 2020, with two deranged, empty old white guys battling it out. Our Gerontocracy = No. 1! 

Surely, the only way to deal with the abovementioned problems is to simply bask in the holiday glow of the former “man from U.N.C.L.E.” being mocked by clowns as he reads the U.S. Constitution at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1986. By this time, I’ve seen it so many times I begin to simply look at the clowns rather than the rapidly-more-irritated Big Bob V. Watch as someone in the studio tries to “save” him by putting his head in the upper corner of the image and showing us a different image in the center of the screen. 

If anyone knows anyone who worked on the shoot for this parade, or who can tell us how angry Vaughn was when the segment was over, please get in touch. In the meantime — enjoy!