Oregon Movies, A to Z

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Chumming With Chipmunks (1921)

March 16th, 2012 by Anne Richardson · 1920's, Oregon director, Oregon film, Oregon film new definition, Videos

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In 1921, William and Irene Finley pulled out a camera and documented their friendship with a hungry campsite visitor.

Here’s the filmmaker:

Finley was an early conservationist. Oregon’s first fish and game commission was set up in 1911, following his recommendation. You can visit William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge, named in his honor, just south of Corvallis.

Here’s how short Oregon’s history is.

William Finley was born in Santa Clara California, on Aug. 9, 1876. That’s one month after Custer’s Last Stand. His parents, John Pettus Finley and Nancy Catherine Rucker, had traveled west by covered wagon. His uncle, William Asa Finley, was the first president of Oregon State University.

William himself was one of the first presidents of Audubon Society of Portland. Notice the birds on his head! He made this film the same year Rudolf Valentino appeared in The Sheik and Charlie Chaplin appeared in The Kid.

At the time Chumming With Chipmunks was made, all feature films were preceded by newsreels. So although William Finley’s chipmunk film did not win the international accolades which later came to Perri, an Oregon film with a similarly wild cast, it was seen by movie audiences across the country.

I hereby claim Chumming With Chipmunks as an Oregon film, based on the Oregon citizenship of the director William and camerawoman Irene.

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Oregon Cartoon Institute Public Meeting @ 5th Avenue Cinema/Sunday, Feb. 12, 2012/2:00 PM/FREE

January 26th, 2012 by Anne Richardson · News

Oregon Cartoon Institute is holding its second public meeting on Sunday, Feb. 12, at 2:00 PM at 5th Avenue Cinema.

All friends and fans of Oregon Cartoon Institute are invited. If you think you might belong to this group, you do.

The agenda includes a brief introduction to the all volunteer Institute, and a discussion of what is up next. We’ll have announcements from the Mel Blanc Project and the Homer Davenport Project, some proposals to consider, and some hand outs to take home.

Reminder: last time the Institute met, Dennis Nyback supplied home made refreshments.

This year our featured attraction is a rare screening of The Little Baker, a stop motion animation short by early Portland filmmaker Lewis Clark Cook (1909 – 1983). We will also screen a ten-minute profile of Cook, made for OPB in the early 1980’s by Portland artist Jim Blashfield.

Michele Kribs, who was trained by Cook to succeed him as head of Oregon Historical Society’s Moving Image Archive, will be in attendance.

In the photo above, use of which was generously made possible by the Oregon Historical Society, Lew Cook is 15 years old. That is his own 35mm camera. A doting aunt, knowing that he was in love with the movies, bought it for him. He quit selling newspapers and went to work as a newsreel photographer.

Top Four Reasons You Might Want To See The Little Baker:

4. Cook made his living as an independent filmmaker using more tricks than you can imagine. Just as Bill Plympton turned down Disney, Lew Cook turned down Warner Brothers. He chose independence. Besides Plympton, the other Portland filmmakers who followed Cook’s lead include Homer Groening, Will Vinton, Joan Gratz, Jim Blashfield, Gus Van Sant, Rose Bond and  Joanna Priestley.

3. The Little Baker was made “in the 1920’s” which means Cook could have made it anywhere between age 11 and age 20. Come help us sleuth out clues as to whether this is the work of a hard working child or an uninhibited adult.

2.  No one else you know has seen this film.

1. Although you may think The Little Baker inspired Will Vinton to consider clay animation, what actually happened was that Will saw it after he had made his start with Closed Mondays. Nevertheless, there is some powerful history here. Who knows what it will inspire you to do!


This event is a partnership between Oregon Cartoon Institute, Oregon Historical Society and 5th Avenue Cinema.

Thank you to Kerry Tymchuk, Michele Kribs and Scott Rook of Oregon Historical Society.

Thank you to Heather Petrocelli of 5th Avenue Cinema and PSU’s Public History Interest Group.

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Handy Guide To Growing Independent Film Outside of LA & New York: What Portland Did Right

November 16th, 2011 by Anne Richardson · Handy guide series

Pittsburgh has George Romero, Baltimore has John Waters, and Boulder has the memory of Stan Brakhage.

Portland has Gus Van Sant, Bill Plympton, Matt Groening, Mike Richardson, Jon Raymond, Aaron Katz, Chel White, Jacob & Arnold Pander, James Westby, Jim Blashfield, Joan Gratz, Joanna Priestley, Matt McCormick, Rose Bond, Vanessa Renwick and Will Vinton.

Ever wonder why?

For cities wishing to replicate Portland’s densely populated cinematic scene, here’s a handy “how to” guide.

1.  Start early.

As soon as people were making films in New York and Fort Lee, they were making them in Portland. Portland’s first film studio, American Lifeograph, opened in 1910. That’s the same year movies came to Hollywood.

2. Have a show business friendly mayor.

During the 16 year tenure of theater-owner-turned-mayor George Baker, downtown Portland was wall to wall theaters. John Gilbert, Clark Gable, William Powell, Edward Everett Horton and Eugene Pallette are some of the actors who jumpstarted their acting careers on the Portland stage, some of them in Baker’s own stock company. It was Baker who renamed Seventh Avenue “Broadway”.

3. Support innovation.

Oregon’s oldest source of print media, The Oregonian, responded to the puzzling new medium of radio by setting up a station, KGW, right in their own building, the Oregonian Tower. Radio later served as an Early Warning System to identify the talent of Portlanders-gone-Hollywood Mel Blanc, Suzanne Burce (renamed Jane Powell by MGM) and Johnnie Ray.

4. Grow your own film processing lab.

After WWII, Portland inventor Frank Hood went to work for a brand new electronics firm (originally conceived as a radio supply store) named Tektronix. He processed films he made for them, after losing patience with the delays of sending films to out of town labs. Eventually, he went into business as Teknifilm Lab. A filmmaker himself, he acted as teacher and mentor to customers. More important to the development of independent filmmaking in Portland:  Hood’s lax attitude toward payment schedules, which subsidized generations of Oregon artists working in film.

5. Provide a home for an exiled Hollywood film scholar.

Andries Deinum came to Portland during the blacklist. His vision of film as a mode of social discourse laid the groundwork for PSU’s Center For The Moving Image, housed in Lincoln Hall. Jim Blashfield, Bill Plympton, and Matt Groening were among the faithful attendees of the Center’s influential screening series, run by the Portland State Film Committee.

6. Provide a day job for the guy who wants to mentor the guy who wants to revive the archaic art form of stop motion animation.

Homer Groening led a dual life – ad man by day and experimental filmmaker by night. He had a family, a home, and his own business doing what he loved – and he did it all without leaving Portland. Aspiring filmmaker Will Vinton paid attention, and followed suit. His career, like Groening’s, would encompass both television commercials and art house films, but on a much larger scale.

7. Work with, not against, a pair of cinema addled students who want to start a regional film center.

When Sheldon Renan succeeded in persuading National Endowment for the Arts to seed regional filmmaking, they went looking for the right person to submit a grant for a film center in Portland. They were pointed to Brooke Jacobson and Bob Summers, members of the Portland State Film Committee. Brooke and Bob wrote the grant, Portland Art Museum acted as fiscal sponsor, and the Northwest Film Center went into business. This year marks its 40th anniversary.

8. Work with, not against, a visionary film preservationist who wants to create a moving image archive.

Lew Cook was trained as a newsreel photographer by the first generation of Portland filmmakers. His stop motion film, The Little Baker, made circa 1925, proved prophetic when it came to Portland’s future claim to cinema history. He and Thomas Vaughn conceived Oregon Historical Society’s moving image archive, and Cook personally trained the preservationist, Michele Kribs, who currently presides over it.

To re-cap: by the end of the 1970’s, Portland had a film program at Portland State University, a film archive at Oregon Historical Society, and a regional film festival (now the NWFF) located at Portland Art Museum. That nucleus of film creativity on the park blocks was balanced by a film processing lab, an emerging animation studio, and a warehouse waiting to be filled with  filmmakers’ offices over in northwest Portland. No one entity owned the scene – the infrastructure and the support system served all comers.

The following timeline concentrates on factors which contributed to a culture where independent filmmakers supported each other in Portland. It does not address the important role played by Hollywood productions shooting in Oregon. The symbiotic role of Hollywood and the Indies in Portland is embodied in the career of Gus Van Sant who slips and slides with ease between these two worlds.

A timeline:

American Lifeograph founded 1910

Lewis Moomaw makes The Chechacos 1924

Lew Cook makes The Little Baker c1925

PGE makes It Can Be Done c1936

Tektronix founded 1946

Frank Hood founds Teknifilm Lab, early 1950’s

Andries Deinum arrives 1957

Homer Groening starts his own ad agency 1958

Center For The Moving Image founded 1965

Bob Summers and Brooke Jacobson found Northwest Film Center 197o, with a push from Sheldon Renan

Tim Smith and Matt Groening make Drugs: Killers or Dillers 1972

Ron Finne, Tom Taylor and Brooke Jacobson found Northwest Media Project 1974

Will Vinton and Bob Gardiner make Closed Mondays 1974

Don Zavin makes Fast Break 1977

Penny Allen makes Property 1977

Rose Bond makes Gaia’s Dream 1982

Gus Van Sant makes Mala Noche 1985

Bill Plympton makes Your Face 1987

Matt Groening makes The Simpsons 1987

Jim Blashfield makes Leave Me Alone 1988

Joan Gratz makes Mona Lisa Descending A Staircase 1992

Gus Van Sant makes Good Will Hunting 1997.

Vanessa Renwick makes The Yodeling Lesson 1998

Miranda July makes The Amateurist 1998

Chris Eyre makes Smoke Signals 1998

Will Vinton makes The PJ’s 1999

Travis Knight makes Coraline 2009

Jon Raymond writes & Neil Kopp produces Meek’s Cutoff 2010, one of five Oregon films at Sundance in 2011.

This post is dedicated to Portland filmmaker/film writer David Walker, who inspired it by raising the question “how rare is regional filmmaking, anyway?”

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Carrie Brownstein’s Portland Posse Of Cinema Matriarchs (And A Supplemental Chorus Of Blondes)

September 19th, 2011 by Anne Richardson · Side Notes

Five years after Sleater Kinney disbanded, all three members continue to make music.

One decided to supplement her music career by becoming a television writer-producer-actress. If you decide that you would like to follow in Carrie Brownstein’s footsteps, I recommend that you live in a city which provides you the following role models.

#1. The Oscar winner. In Portland, this is Joan Gratz.

#2. The Pathbreaker. In Portland, this is Penny Allen

#3. The Visionary. In Portland, this is Rose Bond

#4. The Wise One. In Portland, this is Ursula LeGuin

To keep yourself from becoming discouraged/taking yourself too seriously, its always good to have the wisecracking Best Friend Who Has Been There Already And Survived. Portland provides young female artists with a wide assortment of these.

For example:

#5. The Crazy One. In Portland, this is Courtney Love. (OK, so Courtney’s not here any more. Mary’s Club, where she got her start, still is.)

#6. The Self Deprecating Funny Bisexual One. In Portland, this is Storm Large

#7. The  New York Times Best Selling One. In Portland, this is Chelsea Cain

Q: How many female role models does it take to achieve gender parity in the entertainment business?

A: As soon as we achieve it, we’ll know.

In the meantime, Carrie looks very at home in the spotlight at last year’s Portlandia premiere in Manhattan.

This post is the promised second installment to the first, which addressed the Portland peer group role models which might have helped influence Carrie Brownstein.

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Next Top Five Movies To See After Visiting Oregon Rocks @ Oregon Historical Society

September 16th, 2011 by Anne Richardson · Oregon musician, Videos

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6. A Date With Judy (1948) Jane Powell

Elizabeth Taylor tries to steal all her scenes by wearing a slight mustache, but Jane Powell, Taylor’s best friend and a fellow MGM starlet, is the star of this peek into America before Elvis. Powell (born Suzanne Burce) arrived in Hollywood at age 14. She would have preferred to stay in Portland, because she was looking forward to going to Grant High School, but it was not to be. Portland radio made a star out of Suzanne Burce. Joe Pasternak made a star out of Jane Powell. She made 14 features at MGM, and was the lead in all of them.

7. What’s Opera, Doc? (1957) Mel Blanc

“This afternoon Melvin Blank, a boy with a good voice, will sing a number of solos, accompanied on the piano by his brother.” Mel Blanc’s first write up in The Oregonian gives little indication of what was to come. Portland is where Mel Blanc learned to play the violin, the ukulele, the sousaphone and the stand up bass. Portland is where he became, at age 23, the youngest bandleader on the West Coast. Mel Blanc soaked up everything the Rose City had to offer him except a high school diploma. “I loathed school” he wrote in his autobiography. He  left in 1935 for Hollywood, where he would become the Man Of 1,000 Voices, one of which was Bugs Bunny.

6. Sleeping Beauty (1959) George Bruns

Here’s a music history scavenger hunt for you. Go to the Oregon Historical Society’s  Oregon Rocks exhibit and find George Bruns. He sits holding a trombone in a group photo of a 1940’s Portland jazz band. You’ll have to ID him by his signature because you have never seen his face. You have heard his music. Bruns was Oscar nominated for three of his many film scores: Sleeping Beauty 1959 (his first), Babes In Toyland (1961), and The Sword In The Stone (1963). The Ballad Of Davy Crockett , his first gig for Mr. Disney, sold more that 10 million records. That’s only a small fraction of the take generated by Yo Ho, Yo Ho, A Pirate’s Life For Me, another Bruns composition you might possibly recognize. George Bruns was born and raised in Sandy, Oregon.

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9. Don’t Look Back (1967) Derroll Adams

Born and raised in Portland, Derroll Adams dropped out of Reed to follow his banjo. A senior statesman of the 1960’s folk scene, he famously provided Bob Dylan’s introduction to his British counterpart, Donovan. Well, someone had to do it! D. A. Pennebaker was there to catch it on film. Adams remained in Europe the rest of his life, playing folk music and teaching banjo. That’s him in the foreground at the beginning of the clip.

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10. Good Will Hunting (1997), Elliott Smith

Did Gus Van Sant cut Good Will Hunting in Portland? Or was he in LA, playing Elliott Smith in the editing room because he was homesick, when it slowly dawned on him  ”Hey I think we’ve got something here…..” ? The soundtrack for this odd little blockbuster about a neurotic orphan with a Robin Williams sized hole in his heart includes Angeles and Miss Misery, which was Oscar nominated.  The Dandy Warhols also show up on the soundtrack. Van Sant is himself a musician. Like Smith, he arrived in Portland during his high school years. Unlike Smith, he basically never left.

Bonus film:

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11. Wildwood (2014), The Decemberists

I’m just guessing here. Laika is planning a stop motion adaptation of Colin Meloy’s and Carson Ellis’ book. They may need some music, and Colin might have some ideas about where it should come from.


Miss the first installment? The first Top Five Movies To See After Visiting Oregon Rocks can be found here.

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Top Five Movies To See After You Get Back From Oregon Rocks @ Oregon Historical Society

September 13th, 2011 by Anne Richardson · Oregon musician, Videos

The curators of the new Oregon Rocks exhibit at Oregon Historical Society knew they could not cover all Oregon music history, so they concentrated on the history of Oregon rock. Where did Courtney Love and The Dandy Warhols come from?

Go find out.

When you get back, here’s some movies which feature Oregon musicians:

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1. Whoopee (1930) George Olsen and His Music

Born and raised in Portland, George Olsen was discovered in 1923 and brought to Broadway where he wasted no time becoming a huge star. How huge? Whoopee, an early color film and an early sound film, was such an enormous financial gamble that Samuel Goldwyn had to make sure he had a sure fire draw on the soundtrack. His solution was a one two punch: Eddie Cantor PLUS George Olsen. It is Olsen’s band you hear all throughout Whoopee.

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2. Three Little Pigs (1933) Pinto Colvig

Pinto Colvig’s early career as a newspaper cartoonist kept getting stalled because he was prone to leaving with the circus every time it came to town. Born and raised in Jacksonville, Oregon, Pinto had his own career as an animator before going to work for Disney. He is sometimes given credit for helping write “Who’s Afraid Of The Big Bad Wolf?”, the song which got the country through the Great Depression. Everyone agrees that he sang it, as the voice of Practical Pig.  Like Mel Blanc, Pinto Colvig’s first identity as an artist was as a musician. He is most famous for providing the voice of Goofy.

3. Born To Dance (1936) Del Porter

Del Porter, born and raised in Newberg, Oregon, was a singer, composer and arranger. He came to Hollywood as a member of the stupendously well behaved, ocarina playing quartet, The Foursome.  In Born To Dance, they back up Eleanor Powell. He left Hollywood as a founding member of Spike Jones’ musically anarchic City Slickers. Del Porter belongs on this list not because of the size of his contribution to Hollywood, but because of the size of Hollywood’s contribution to him. If he hadn’t gone to Hollywood, there would have been no City Slickers. And he might have spent his entire life playing the ocarina.

4. Gone With The Wind (1939) Louis Kaufman

Louis Kaufman’s parents were so disoriented by the prodigious gifts of their musical son that they sent him out on a six month tour of the vaudeville circuit at age ten. They came to their senses and sent him to Julliard three years later. Kaufman moved to Los Angeles because he liked the sun, and thought he would make his living teaching violin. Hollywood had other plans for him, and you can hear him now in over 400 classic Hollywood films. That’s him playing Tara’s Theme. Louis Kaufman was born and raised in Portland, Oregon.


5. There’s No Business Like Show Business (1954) Johnnie Ray

Much to his own astonishment, which he does little to conceal, Johnnie Ray’s film debut took place alongside Mitzi Gaynor, Marilyn Monroe, Ethel Merman and Donald O’Connor. Awestruck and ill at ease, he looks exactly like what he is, a singer waiting, waiting, waiting for a chance to sing. Hollywood took note and never asked him to than play anything other than himself, ever again. Born in Dallas, Oregon, and raised in Hopewell and Portland,  Johnnie Ray crossed racial lines to embrace rhythm & blues, and in so doing paved the way to rock. A colossally original talent, Ray was partially deaf, and performed wearing his hearing aid.

Want more? Next Top Five Movies To See After You Get Back From Oregon Rocks @ OHS

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Sam Adams Clears Entire Wall To Make Room For Portland Directors Hall Of Fame

April 17th, 2011 by Anne Richardson · News


Mayor Sam Adams added to his collection of original portraits of Portland filmmakers last week, unveiling a brand new painting of Todd Haynes by Jasper Marks.

City Hall custodians grumbled about the amount of work they face – Portland’s active film scene means the entire wall will soon be filled. The Mayor did not announce whether Marks, who moonlights in another profession under the name Steven Cohn, would be asked to paint the entire series. Some people believe Arnold Pander may be approached to help out.

Here are the names of some of the directors who, taken in conglomerate, represent Portland’s cinematic wealth:

Aaron Katz

Brian Lindstrom

Chel White

David Weissman

Donal Mosher

Gus Van Sant

Irene Taylor Brodsky

Jacob & Arnold Pander

James Westby

Jim Blashfield

Joan Gratz

Joanna Priestley

Lance Bangs

Larry Johnson

Marilyn Zornado

Matt McCormick

Michael Palmieri

Mike Shiley

Peter D. Richardson

Rose Bond

Sue Arbuthnot

Vanessa Renwick

Will Vinton

It is because Sam Adams is only Mayor of Portland, and not Governor of the State of Oregon that the following filmmakers will escape inclusion on his Hall of Fame:

Alex Cox

Bruce Campbell

Bill Plympton

Chris Eyre

Matthew Lessner

James Ivory

James Longley

Shelley Jordon

Susan Saladoff

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Oregon Post Illahee: Bi-Culturality In Our DNA

April 6th, 2011 by Anne Richardson · Oregon actor, Oregon musician, Oregon writer, Oregonians as inspiration, Side Notes

Gray H. Whaley’s brand new guide to the first five decades of European American presence in Oregon uses the Chinook concept of “Illahee” (homeland) as a counterbalance to the American concept of “Oregon”, the idea of an empty, fertile wilderness bequeathed directly to settlers by God. The title of the book,  Oregon and the Collapse of Illahee: U.S. Empire and the Transformation of an Indigenous World, 1792-1859, uses words which imply the erasure of Native American culture: “collapse” and “transformation”.

However, in real life, in the Oregon I live in, erasure is not the right word for what happened to the First Oregonians.

Testimony to that could be seen on stage and screen last month.

Matt McCormick originally imagined Carrie Brownstein in the role he eventually gave Renee Roman Nose in Some Days Are Better Than Others. Roman Nose plays a woman who in the course of her work sorting donations to Goodwill discovers a funeral urn filled with the remains of a human being. McCormick didn’t write his screenplay with the goal of balancing his tiny cast racially, it just happened in the casting.

Umatilla musician and music historian Thomas Morning Owl, Jr co-wrote the stage musical The Ghosts Of Celilo with Marv Ross over a period of ten years. The Ghosts of Celilio is based on true events which occurred when The Dalles dam inundated a ten thousand year old fishing village in 1957. Morning Owl Jr has appeared in both Portland productions of The Ghosts Of Celilo, playing the heavy.

The ghosts of Celilo also haunt Chief Bromden, the character played by Tim Sampson in Portland Center Stage’s production of Dale Wasserman’s adaptation of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. Sampson is the son of Will Sampson, the actor who made his debut playing the same role in Milos Forman’s 1975 film. Wasserman’s stage treatment preserves the centrality Ken Kesey’s novel assigned to Bromden, a bi-racial, self elected mute whose stream of consciousness narrates the action.

In Meek’s Cutoff, Rod Rondeaux plays the Cayuse Indian who crosses paths with a hopelessly lost, and perilously thirsty, wagon train. Screenwriter Jon Raymond based his script on an actual event, recorded in an 1845 pioneer diary.

All four stories – Meek’s Cutoff, Some Days Are Better Than Others, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, and The Ghosts Of Celilo – seamlessly incorporate  European American and Native American characters. Meek’s Cutoff and The Ghosts Of Celilo were based on historic events; Some Days and Cuckoo’s Nest based on imagined ones.

Whether the events were real or imagined, all five Oregon writers – Jon Raymond, Matt McCormick, Ken Kesey, Thomas Morning Owl, Jr. and Marv Ross –  tell stories set in biracial worlds because that choice most faithfully reflects the world in which they live.

When did Oregon writers start exploring the bi-culturality of our state ?

1873: Joaquin Miller writes Life Amongst The Modocs: An Unwritten History

1883: Sarah Winnemucca writes Life Among The Piutes: Their Wrongs and Claims

1890: Frederick Homer Balch writes The Bridge of the Gods: A Romance of Indian Oregon

1901: C.E.S. Wood publishes A Book of Tales: Being Some Myths of the North American Indians

1902: Eva Emery Dye writes The Conquest: The True Story of Lewis and Clark, with Sacajawea at the center of her narrative

1940: Yellow Wolf dictates Yellow Wolf: His Own Story to Lucullus Virgil McWhorter

1960: Don Berry writes Trask

1962: Ken Kesey writes One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest

1983: Ron Finne makes Tamanawis Illahee: Rituals and Acts In A Landscape

1987: William Kittredge writes Owning It All

1993: Elizabeth Woody writes Seven Hands, Seven Hearts

1995: Craig Lesley writes Winterkill

1998: Chris Eyre makes Smoke Signals

2000 Marv Ross and Thomas Morning Owl, Jr begin writing & composing The Ghosts Of Celilo

2010: Matt McCormick makes Some Days Are Better Than Others

2010: Jon Raymond writes Meek’s Cutoff

In Meek’s Cutoff, the wagon train has to decide whether they want to kill the one human being they have found in the desert or entrust their lives to him. Oregon literature has been grappling with the repercussions of that decision ever since.

The above book list is not comprehensive! I am not covering all related works of art, nor all artists. Please feel free to add names/titles I have omitted.

For people who would like to know more about the books on the list — several are on Walt Curtis Recommends: Top Nine For Oregon Bookworms. Another great list can be found on the Oregon Cultural Heritage Commission website.

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Carrie Brownstein’s Cinematic Sisterhood: Vanessa Renwick, Miranda July & Marne Lucas

January 24th, 2011 by Anne Richardson · Side Notes

Its hard out there for most retired rockers, even for Carrie Brownstein, who spent her years post-Sleater-Kinney reinventing herself as a writer-actor-producer. Not that she had to build her new career from the ground up : Carrie’s greatest gift has been an ability to lose herself in performance.

And she brought this with her to Thunderant, her webseries with Fred Armisen.

But Carrie’s considerable talent is not solely responsible for her success tonight, as Portlandia premieres on national television. Art takes strength. An independent filmmaker has to have the heart of an Alaskan sled dog and the stamina of a long distance runner. You have to see what no one else can see and  believe it can happen. How is this ability nurtured?

Miranda July had the idea that the reason there were no women filmmakers was that there were no women filmmakers. No role models, no company, no mentors = no women in film. Carrie arrived in Portland just as Miranda was getting her anti-isolation Miss Movieola project off the ground.

Ten years later, writer-director Miranda is at Sundance with her second feature film, and writer-actor Carrie is on national television. Perhaps Miranda was onto something.
When Miranda directed Carrie in Sleater-Kinney’s Get Up music video in 1999, she chose Vanessa Renwick as DP. During the intervening years, while Miranda moved to LA to begin making feature length narrative films, and Carrie briefly relocated to New York to write, Portland remained Vanessa’s home base, even as her work traveled around the world. A prolific cinematic Wild Child, Vanessa never showed any interest in narrative feature films or television.

The third member of Carrie Brownstein’s Cinematic Sisterhood of Portland Peers, Marne Lucas, made a prizewinning film her first time out and then placed her full attention on still photography.

That’s Marne in a self portrait taken at the Hall of Northwest Coast Indians at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, where she now lives. I believe Marne, retired from indie filmmaking by the time Carrie arrived in Portland, still counts as a member of her support team because of her legendary skepticism when it comes to the fanfare of success, and her disciplined focus on creating new work.

Miranda July, Vanessa Renwick and Marne Lucas are three Portland contemporaries Carrie Brownstein witnessed up close and personal, staying the course, exploring their gifts as artists. I’ll save for another post the longer history, and deeper roots, of women in film in Portland.

We’ll let Carrie play us off…..

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Walt Curtis Recommends: Top Nine For Oregon Bookworms

December 26th, 2010 by Anne Richardson · Oregon poets, Oregon writer, Side Notes

For Oregon newbies who want to get to know their new home better, here’s some advice. You can’t go wrong going straight to the source, and reading Oregon authors. Even where they do not take Oregon as their subject  (but choose, say,  Pancho Villa), much is revealed about the regional character just in the way they write.

Walt Curtis compiled this list of his top recommended Oregon books originally for the Clinton Street Quarterly. It is still the best list I have ever seen: direct, pure, idiosyncratic. Just like Walt.

Walt Curtis Recommends

1. Far Corner: A Personal View Of the Pacific Northwest by Stewart Holbrook. Debunking and delighting, the Portland historian writes of the Wobblies, Erickson’s Saloon, Aurora Colony, logging, and the myths and symbols of our region of the U.S.

Anne’s commentary: Stewart Holbrook cast a long shadow. Brian Booth edited a collection of Holbrook essays, Wildmen, Wobblies and Whistle Punks, and spoke about Holbrook at a recent Dill Pickle Club meeting. John Daniels chose The Far Corner as the title for his most recent collection of essays as a tribute to Holbrook.

2. The Selected Poems of Hazel Hall is the crippled seamstress’ marvelous work. Beth Bentley introduces this only volume of Hall in print, which needs to be amplified. An early feminist, her distinguished poetry deserves national attention once again. She is as good as Emily Dickinson.

Anne’s commentary: As Walt predicted, a second collection of Hazel Hall’s poetry did find its way into print. John Witte published a collection with OSU Press in 2000. Oregonian film critic Stan Hall, no relation to Hazel Hall, named his daughter after this forgotten Portland poet.

3. The Distant Music by Harold Lenoir Davis. This chronicle of the Mulock family and their relationship to the land is Davis’ last novel. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 1936 for Honey in the Horn, Davis wrote as well as anyone in the Pacific Northwest, including Ken Kesey. He has justly been compared with Faulkner and Twain.

Anne’s commentary: Walt’s contrarian choice, to list a lesser known work by Davis rather than his Pulitzer Prize winner, means there must be something to The Distant Music. I have not read it but this year I will.

4. The Conquest, or the True Story of the Lewis and Clark Expedition by Eva Emery Dye. Dye popularized the expedition, creating a memorable feminist heroine in Sacajawea. She is the Northwest’s finest historical novelist, readable, upbeat, well researched. Her books should be brought back into print so school kids can get a sense of Northwest history. The Oregon Trail and all of that! Go to the library to read her work.

Anne’s commentary: Eva Emery Dye uses dialogue in a way which astonishes modern readers — putting words in the mouths of all her historical figures – but what a storyteller!  Read her (out of print, as Walt noted) novels for a still vivid portrait of a community trying to balance their ideal of a democratic society where all men are equal against their own historical record of  displacing the First Oregonians.

5. Life Among The Modocs: Unwritten History by Joaquin Miller. A seventeen year old boy went to live with gold miners and Indians near Mt. Shasta. From his experience would come an American classic. Miller himself would become the archetype of the Western man, making Buffalo Bill jealous.

Anne’s commentary: Joaquin fights both for the Indians and against the Indians, ping ponging from one side to the other. He knows exactly who he is and where his primary allegiance lies — with himself. The self portrait of a scoundrel in love with language. Is this the blueprint for future Oregon wildmen Ken Kesey and Gus Van Sant? Written in 1873, when Joaquin Miller was a lionized poet living in London.

6. The Bridge Of The Gods, a Romance of Indian Oregon by Frederic Homer Balch is reminiscent of Nathaniel Hawthorne. The missionary Cecil Grey has been drawn to the Northwest by a vision of the bridge and a need to convert natives to Christianity. Himself a melancholy preacher, Balch died tragically at age 29 of tuberculosis.

Anne’s commentary: Walt has been after me to read this 1890 novel for as long as I can remember. I promise this year I will repair to Cascade Locks to sit and read this book within view of the steel cantilevered Bridge of the Gods which replaces the land bridge commemorated by its title. I will do this as a tribute to Walt, and despite the great misgivings I have about works of art created by melancholy preachers. Available on Google Books.

7. Heavenly Discourse by Charles Erskine  Scott Wood. Can you imagine someone’s life spanning the era from the days of Chief Joseph to the bombing of Pearl Harbor? Wood’s satirical sketches, disgracefully out of print, would rock conservative minds even today. Intelligent, classical, radical, libertarian, “Ces” Wood is the patriarch of Portland arts and letters.

Anne’s commentary: Walt is right. C. E. S. Wood is the patriarch of Portland arts and letters. He commissioned the Skidmore fountain, helped found the public library, worked as a corporate lawyer for lumber companies by day and as an essayist for radical East Coast magazines by night.  A litmus test: You’re not a real Oregonian if you don’t know who he is.

8. Insurgent Mexico by John Reed, the Northwest’s most internationally acclaimed author! What do we gringos know of the history of Mexico, our closest neighbor? John Reed was there, riding with Pancho Villa in 1913. Raw, passionate, poetic, the great journalist gives us a visceral, unforgettable account.

Anne’s commentary: Another contrarian choice by Walt, since Reed is more famous for writing Ten Days Which Shook The World, his eyewitness account of the Russian revolution.

9. The Singing Creek Where The Willows Grow : the rediscovered diary of Opal Whiteley by Ben Hoff . This rediscovered diary and biography is a standard for the re-issuing of Northwest classics! Opal is the “flower child”, charismatic and schizophrenia, who captivated readers of the Atlantic Monthly in 1920. She grew up in a Cottage Grove lumber camp, and is still alive in a mental hospital in London. Fascinating story!

Anne’s commentary: Since Walt wrote this, Opal Whiteley died. I belong to the camp which classifies her early childhood literary achievements as fraud. Hoff takes the opposing view. Her story, real or no, is part of Oregon history.

Walt’s original list, written for the Clinton Street Quarterly, was a full dozen titles. The additional three were by Washington State writers.

Here again is Walt:

1. The Egg and I by Betty MacDonald. Life on a Puget Sound chicken ranch. Ma and Pa Kettle are their closest neighbors! This book is still a bestseller. A housewife’s eye-view of geoducks and other curiousities peculiar to our landscape, including the people.

2. Paul Bunyan by James Stevens. In a literary manner, Stevens popularized the mythical logger of American folklore. Stevens also co-authored Status Rerum, a manifesto on the deplorable state of Northwest letters, with his close friend, H.  L. Davis.

3. Skid Road by  Murray Morgan. The first skid road, logger’s Valhalla or bowery was located in Seattle. Where the human and wood debris were dumped in the bay! Ox teams skidded logs to Yesler’s mill. Doc Maynard took over and the red light district became legendary.

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