Phil Blankenship likes nasty films

Liars' favourite midnight cinema programmer and noise-label boss chats from LA

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For Liars’ Selects, we meet their old friend Phil Blankenship. Blankenship pulls a day shift at the iconic Amoeba record shop in Hollywood on Sunset Blvd. By night, he curates daily midnight double features on 35mm at Cinefamily and runs Troniks/Pac-Rec Records. In the words of the Liars, ‘Phil has taken his B movie film expertise and enthusiastically shares it with audiences at Cinefamily these days. Normally those with his encyclopedic knowledge of obscure and mind-blowing cinema keep it to themselves. Now, anybody in Los Angeles can enjoy his knowledge on the big screen at midnight.’ Blankenship recently spared a few minutes to tell us about his film curation process, his top film picks and his passion for felines.

DD: What do you think makes LA special?

Phil Blankenship: I know we often get a bad rap but there a lot of passionate people working hard. There are so many creatives in town that it's a big melting pot of ideas. Being so close to film studios allows a wide variety of theaters to be successful with more access to archive screening elements, filmmakers themselves, as well as an audience open to the possibilities.

DD: Selecting a different film for every night of the month must be trying. How does a film make the cut?

Phil Blankenship: With so many movie possibilities, print availability and general scheduling, it's been a wild ride but I'm extremely happy with how it has turned out. First we had to wrap our mind around just how to present everything to an audience and we came up with a Nastiness Scale. We went through the complete video nasty list and rated each film, from the relatively vanilla Night Warning to the truly sick Italian gutmuncher Cannibal Holocaust. We'll be screening the films in ascending order of extremity. Sure, you may have been able to make it through tonight's movie but tomorrow? Tomorrow's movie is even more fucked.

DD: What are your top 5 favourite films of all time?

Phil Blankenship: I watch too many movies and am always discovering new treasures; I could never come up with a ‘definitive’ list. However, 5 films that I could not live without:

1. Heavenly Bodies (1984)
2. The Zero Boys (1986)
3. Thunder Warrior (1983)
4. Thunder Warrior 2 (1987)
5. Beyond The Black Rainbow (2011)

DD: Name three things you can’t work without.

Phil Blankenship: VCR. There are thousands of video store classics that have yet to hit DVD, let alone Blu-Ray. My VCR is always spinning. My cat. Can you imagine working in a world without cats??? Vegan pizza. It's pizza that I can eat!

DD: You also run a record label. What upcoming releases are you excited about?

Phil Blankenship: Troniks is a noise/experimental label for the mentally deranged. I just released a new John Wiese solo CD as well as my first spoken word disc, a recitation of the complete lyrics to the Red Hot Chili Peppers' Blood Sugar Sex Magik. I'm close to hitting my 300th release milestone but will keep that one a
surprise...

[Amendment – the orignal text read that Phil worked at the The New Beverly Cinema. That was incorrect –he programmes at Cinefamily alone]

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