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Viral Video: An online clubhouse for Northwest film nerds

From mainstream to esoterica, the Seattle Channel's broadcast of Northwest Film Forum cinephiles dissecting movies is worth the occasional awkwardness.

Okay, so you’re assuming Framing Pictures is a series of videos explaining what to do, finally, with all those Ted Nugent blacklight posters cowering in the wilderness of your attic like so many white supremacists.

NO! Framing Pictures is the Seattle Channel’s live-to-tape (or live-to-digital camera card) broadcast of the quasi-monthly discussion of current and past films held at Northwest Film Forum.

The series is hosted by Robert Horton, the Where’s Waldo of Northwest film critics, who's popping up at the Everett Herald, KUOW, MOHAI, SAM and as a contributor to several film magazines. Horton is joined by former Film Comment editor —  and my UW cinema studies professor back in the blacklight poster days — Richard Jameson; MSN.com critic Kathleen Murphy; and the occasional guest commentator. The two-year old program is as high-concept as an Adam Sandler comedy and about as fast-paced as a Béla Tarr retrospective. (Look him up.)

Horton tosses out the evening’s topics, which, along with current releases, might also include a discussion of the above-mentioned Tarr, the even more obscure comic auteur Pierre Étaix or the long-awaited DVD release of John Cassavettes’ much revered final film, "Love Streams."

At first glance, Framing Pictures appears to be a tough sit. One can’t see the whole audience, but you get the feeling the critics are playing to a near empty room. The discussion begins haltingly, and there’s a tendency, at first, for these esteemed cinephiles to deliver generic, favorable pronouncements on popular new theatrical releases. Sometimes they do — with their arms crossed, a Miss Manners no-no when trying to engage viewers.

But after awhile, deeper, esoteric trenches are dug, and the critics opine on the specifics of framing, screen space, mise en scéne and a particular director’s oeuvre. I stopped wishing for a warmer, more inviting setting — and perhaps a more energetic back-and-forth — and settled into the realization that for movie lovers (such as myself), this was a rare chance to appreciate unfiltered film criticism from experts, rather than rants from the Rotten Tomatoes crowd. 


Rustin Thompson is a filmmaker, film critic and indie radio deejay. He enjoys strong coffee, red wine, IPAs and his wife and grown children. He is comfortable with the fact he will never be rich, but grows petulant if he thinks too much about it.

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