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  • feedwordpress 08:01:38 on 2018/09/05 Permalink
    Tags: , cruise ships, cruising, , film, , Iwerks, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, show business, ,   

    “There’s no business like show business”*… 

     

    entertainers

    I’m on my first-ever cruise because I wanted to see how the entertainment world’s 99 percent, as Bernie Sanders might say, work for a living. The comedians who don’t film HBO specials; the magicians who aren’t David Blaine; the variety acts who don’t just disappear after their fifteen seconds on America’s Got Talent. These entertainers are struggling to compete with everything from YouTube phenoms to Netflix and Spotify. In Vegas and Times Square, small clubs and homegrown acts are getting squeezed out by arenas, superstars, and global brands, like mom-and-pop shops bulldozed by Walmarts.

    But maybe smaller acts aren’t dying. Maybe they’ve just gone on vacation, since cruises need entertainers now more than ever. The $38 billion cruise industry has boomed with Boomers, growing from 17.8 million passengers in 2010 to 25.8 million passengers in 2017. The Regal Princess is one of more than four hundred fifty active cruise ships, and each is a floating entertainment district. It typically employs a six-piece party band; a seven-piece house band; a jazz quintet; a DJ; a piano-bar lounge singer; and seventeen singer-dancers who rotate through stage shows, including two created exclusively for Princess by Wicked’s Stephen Schwartz. (Other lines feature partnerships with outfits like Cirque du Soleil, Second City, and Blue Note Records.) Last year, Kaler and his team booked four hundred sixty-eight different headliners, from “a cappella” to “xylophonist.”…

    Welcome to the new vaudeville circuit, where live entertainment hasn’t died—it’s just gone to sea: “Inside the delightfully quirky, absolutely fabulous, and utterly exhausting world of cruise performers.”

    * Irving Berlin

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    As we enjoy the show, we might recall that it was on this date that Universal released “Trolley Trouble” from Walt Disney Studios.  The first Disney cartoon to spawn a series, it featured Oswald the Lucky Rabbit (the creation of Walt’s long-time collaborator Ub Iwerks).  Oswald featured in 27 successful animated shorts– but Disney lost the rights to Universal.  So, he and Iwerks created a new featured character, Mickey Mouse.

     

     

     
  • feedwordpress 08:01:12 on 2018/09/04 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , film, , , stop motion, Švankmajer,   

    “Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it”*… 

     

     

    Keat urn

    A tracing of an engraving of the Sosibios vase by John Keats

     

    At least as far back as the ancient Greeks, poets and philosophers have struggled to define the nature of beauty. More recently—that is, for the past 150 years—psychologists have joined the effort to discover why we find certain sounds and images aesthetically appealing.

    Answers remain elusive, and a new analysis in the journal Current Biology helps explain why. It finds some preferences—including our inclination to favor curves over angles—appear to be universal.

    However, New York University psychologists Aenne Brielmann and Denis Pelli report that individual differences “outweigh general tendencies in most aesthetic judgments. Even for faces, which are popularly supposed to be consistently judged, individual taste accounts for about half the variance in attractiveness ratings.”

    To a large extent, beauty really does seem to be in the eye—and brain—of the beholder…

    A new analysis finds a few widely shared aesthetic preferences, and a whole lot of individual and cultural variation: “Beauty is, mostly, in the eye of the beholder.”

    * Confucius

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    As we examine the exquisite, we might send intricately beautiful birthday greetings to Jan Švankmajer; he was born on this date in 1934.  A self-proclaimed surrealist artist who has worked in many media, he is best known as a filmmaker, more specifically, as a stop-motion animator whose works have influenced Terry Gilliam, the Brothers Quay, and many others.

    Here, his first film:

     

     
  • feedwordpress 08:01:49 on 2018/08/15 Permalink
    Tags: film, , , , music festivals, , , Woostock   

    “Interpretation reached such proportions that the real vanished”*… 

     

    Acid in movies

    Just one of the wonderful GIF’s and YouTube clips collected by author Dennis Cooper at “Some films (1966 – 1974) that either faked ingesting LSD or did.”

    * Erich Auerbach

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    As we mind the drop, we might recall that it was on this date in 1969 that “An Aquarian Exposition: 3 Days of Peace & Music” opened in the Catskills in New York State.  The organizers of the Woodstock Music and Art Fair– or Woodstock, as it is remembered– had hoped to sell 50,000 tickets; but by the week before the event, had moved 186,000.  A last-minute change of venue presented them with a hard choice: hastily erect more/stronger fences and install additional security on the new site (the now-famous Yasgur’s Farm) or offer the event for free.  The night before the event, with attendees already arriving in huge numbers, the promoters cut the fence.  Ultimately an estimated 400,000 people enjoyed a (somewhat rainy) weekend of performances from 32 acts.  It was, as Rolling Stone opined, a defining moment in Rock and Roll… and one at which scores and scores of trips were taken.

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:14 on 2018/07/15 Permalink
    Tags: , cinema verite, , direct cinema, , film, , , Pennebaker,   

    “And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music”*… 

     

    dance

    Someone went through a great deal of effort to stitch together a montage of dance scenes from some 300 feature films…

     

    More (including a list of all of the films featured) at: Dancing in Movies: A Montage of Dance Moments from Almost 300 Feature Films.

    * Friedrich Nietzsche

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    As we tap our toes, we might send closely-observed birthday greetings to Donn Alan “D. A.” Pennebaker (or “Penny” to his friends); he was born on this date in 1925.  A documentarian, he was a pioneer of direct cinema and cinema verite.  While his dozens of films have touched on a wide variety of subjects, he has a long– and very influential– suit in music: starting with his portrait of the young Bob Dylan, Don’t Look Back, and continuing through Monterrey Pop, Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, and Woodstock Diary, he was instrumental in creating the modern “rock doc.”

    220px-D_A_Pennebaker_2_by_David_Shankbone source

     

     
  • feedwordpress 08:01:36 on 2018/03/29 Permalink
    Tags: , , film, , magic lantern, , , , ,   

    “The most beautiful sight in a… theater is to walk down to the front, turn around, and look at the light from the screen reflected on the upturned faces of the members of the audience”*… 

     

    The magic lantern was basically a seventeenth-century slide projector: a light source (a candle), an image (a piece of painted glass), and a lens. It was an ever-evolving object, and revolutionized the way pictures were seen by an audience. It is often called a precursor to cinema, but it might better be characterized as an enabler that paved the way for film and gave rise to its own powerful visual culture. Many technical devices that explored projected imagery and the persistence of vision are sought, researched, and discussed by lantern aficionados…

    The remarkable Ricky Jay [see here and here] remembers two departed friends, and ruminates on the lost art that paved the way for motion pictures even as it created a visual culture all its own: “Farewell to Two Masters of the Magic Lantern.”

    * Gene Siskel, quoting Robert Ebert’s report of an observation by François Truffaut

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    As we accede to awe, we might recall that it was on this date in 1959 that Some Like It Hot, starring Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, and Jack Lemmon was released by United Artists.  Directed by Billy Wilder [see here], the film is widely considered the funniest comedy ever made (e.g., on the AFI’s list of 100 Greatest Films and the BBC’s poll of film critics around the world).

     source

    Oh, and of course, it also featured Marilyn Monroe singing…

     

     
  • feedwordpress 08:01:25 on 2018/03/23 Permalink
    Tags: Boston Morning Post, film, , , , , OK, trailer, , Wes Anderson   

    “Create your own visual style… let it be unique for yourself and yet identifiable for others”*… 

     

    Before you see the latest animated feature from your barista’s favorite director, relive his meticulous works from the past that made you kind of happy, kind of sad, and kind of unsure – It’s Every Wes Anderson Movie!

    * Orson Welles

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    As we celebrate symmetry, we might recall that it was on this date in 1839 the “OK” entered the English language when it was printed in The Boston Morning Post….

    Meant as an abbreviation for “oll korrect,” a popular slang misspelling of “all correct” at the time, OK steadily made its way into the everyday speech of Americans.

    During the late 1830s, it was a favorite practice among younger, educated circles to misspell words intentionally, then abbreviate them and use them as slang when talking to one another. Just as teenagers today have their own slang based on distortions of common words, such as “kewl” for “cool” or “DZ” for “these,” the “in crowd” of the 1830s had a whole host of slang terms they abbreviated. Popular abbreviations included “KY” for “No use” (“know yuse”), “KG” for “No go” (“Know go”), and “OW” for all right (“oll wright”). [Think LOLZ, OMG or NBD today…]

    Of all the abbreviations used during that time, OK was propelled into the limelight when it was printed in the Boston Morning Post as part of a joke. Its popularity exploded when it was picked up by contemporary politicians. When the incumbent president Martin Van Buren was up for reelection, his Democratic supporters organized a band of thugs to influence voters. This group was formally called the “O.K. Club,” which referred both to Van Buren’s nickname “Old Kinderhook” (based on his hometown of Kinderhook, New York), and to the term recently made popular in the papers. At the same time, the opposing Whig Party made use of “OK” to denigrate Van Buren’s political mentor Andrew Jackson. According to the Whigs, Jackson invented the abbreviation “OK” to cover up his own misspelling of “all correct.”  [source]

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  • feedwordpress 09:01:41 on 2018/03/09 Permalink
    Tags: , , Bumps Blackwell, Classical Gas, Dan McLaughlin, film, , Mason Williams, , ,   

    “Art is not what you see, but what you make others see”*… 

     

    Mason Williams recalls…

    CLASSICAL GAS was written in August, 1967; recorded for THE MASON WILLIAMS PHONOGRAPH RECORD album in November, 1967; released as a single in February, 1968, and became a hit six months later in the Summer of 1968. It was also one of the earliest records that used a visual to help promote it on television, which probably qualifies it as one of the earliest music videos.

    During the time that CLASSICAL GAS was a hit I was also the head writer for THE SMOTHERS BROTHERS COMEDY HOUR on CBS. I had seen a film titled “GOD IS DOG SPELLED BACKWARDS” at The Encore, an off beat movie house in L.A. The film was a collection of approximately 2500 classical works of art, mostly paintings, that flashed by in three minutes. Each image lasted only two film frames, or twelve images a second! At the end of the film the viewer was pronounced “cultural” since they had just covered “3000 years of art in 3 minutes!”

    The film was the work of a UCLA film student named Dan McLaughlin. I contacted Dan and told him that I was interested in the idea of using his film as a visual for CLASSICAL GAS to air on THE SMOTHERS BROTHERS COMEDY HOUR. (His original sound track had been Beethoven’s 5th Symphony.) THE COMEDY HOUR offered him the money to finance a new film he wanted to make in exchange for the right to change the original soundtrack from Beethoven’s 5th Symphony to CLASSICAL GAS and air it on the show. As a “music video” it was first shown on THE SUMMER BROTHERS SMOTHERS SHOW (Glen Campbell was the host) in the summer of 1968.

    The impact of the film on television opened the door to realizations that the viewer’s mind could absorb this intense level of visual input. It was a double shot of a hundred proof music and video that polished the history of art off in three minutes! It was also the beginning of the fast images concept now called kinestasis (a rapidly-moving montage technique set to music) that has over the years been exploited so effectively by television commercials, documentaries, etc. As a result of the response to the CLASSICAL GAS music video, in September of 1968 I wrote up a piece for The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, projecting the idea that someday VJ’s would be playing hit tapes on TV, (as well as DJ’s hit records on radio), a prophesy of what was, 13 years later, to become MTV…

    [Dan McLaughlin went on to become head of UCLA’s animation program.]

    * Edgar Degas

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    As we bathe in beauty, we might spare a thought for Robert Alexander “Bumps” Blackwell; he died on this date in 1985.  A bandleader, songwriter, arranger, and record producer,  he was probably most impactful in his work overseeing the early hits of Little Richard, as well as in grooming Ray Charles, Quincy Jones, Ernestine Anderson, Lloyd Price, Sam Cooke, Herb Alpert, Larry Williams, and Sly and the Family Stone at the starts of their recording careers.

    Blackwell, seated, with Rich Hall (of FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals) and Little Richard

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  • feedwordpress 09:01:10 on 2018/02/23 Permalink
    Tags: Abar the First Black Superman, , Comic book, , film, , Little Lulu, Marjorie Henderson Buell, ,   

    “There is no ‘ordinary person’”*… 

     

    Tobar Mayo in Abar, the First Black Superman

    As Black Panther continues to slay at the box office, a look at one of that blockbuster’s less well-known– indeed, virtually anonymous– antecedents…

    Abar, the First Black Superman is truly a cinematic marvel. It has its heart in the right place and fumbles spectacularly in every way possible—the painfully preachy dialogue, the scrappy special effects, the too long running time. But even if it’s not anywhere close to the achievement of Black Panther, it’s a fascinating product of the time and more proof that black superheroes have long existed outside the Marvel universe. And just like Black Panther, their superpowers are almost always political…

    An extraordinary story: “One of Cinema’s First Black Superheroes Is Not Who You Think It Is.”

    * “The disciplines of physical exercise, meditation and study aren’t terribly esoteric. The means to attain a capability far beyond that of the so-called ordinary person are within the reach of everyone, if their desire and their will are strong enough. I have studied science, art, religion and a hundred different philosophies. Anyone could do as much. By applying what you learn and ordering your thoughts in an intelligent manner it is possible to accomplish almost anything. Possible for an ‘ordinary person.’ There’s a notion I’d like to see buried: the ordinary person. Ridiculous. There is no ‘ordinary person’.”   – that most super of superheroes, Ozymandias, in Alan Moore’s Watchmen

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    As we don our capes, we might recall that it was on this date in 1935 that America was introduced to Little Lulu (in the February 23 issue of The Saturday Evening Post), appearing as a flower girl at a wedding and mischievously strewing the aisle with banana peels.   Created by Marjorie Henderson Buell (whose work appeared under the name “Marge”), Little Lulu ran as a regular panel in the Post through 1944; then as a comic book and a comic strip into the 1980s.  She also appeared in a series of animated theatrical cartoons and in a number of TV series and specials.

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  • feedwordpress 09:01:06 on 2018/02/09 Permalink
    Tags: , Ed Sullivan Show, film, , , , smell-o-vision,   

    “First they moved, then they talked– now they smell”*… 

     

    In 1959, influenced by [Aldous] Huxley, two American films were made… introducing smell to cinema. The poster for one proclaimed: “FIRST They moved (1893) THEN They talked (1927) NOW They smell (1959).” The films premiered in December 1959 and January 1960, and the press dubbed their rivalry “The Battle of the Smellies.”

    The redolent story of Smell-O-Vision: “Cinematic Airs.”

    * Smell-O-Vision tagline

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    As we hold our noses, we might recall that on this date in 1964, the Beatles made their U.S. TV debut on The Ed Sullivan Show, performing “I Want To Hold Your Hand” (#1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 at the time) for an estimated 73 million Americans.

     

     
  • feedwordpress 08:01:01 on 2017/08/17 Permalink
    Tags: , , film, , , Mae West, sex symbol,   

    “The truth is far more frightening – nobody is in control”*… 

     

    It’s the conspiracy theory to dwarf all conspiracy theories. A smorgasbord of every other intrigue under the sun, the Illuminati are the supposed overlords controlling the world’s affairs, operating secretly as they seek to establish a New World Order.

    But this far-fetched paranoia all started with a playful work of fiction in the 1960s. What does this tell us about our readiness to believe what we read and hear – and what can the Illuminati myth reveal about the fake news and stories we continue to be influenced by today?…

    What the myth reveals about how fake stories spread today and about the psychology of their fiercest proponents: get illuminated at “The accidental invention of the Illuminati conspiracy.”

    * Alan Moore

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    As we believe that the truth is out there, we might send sultry birthday greetings to Mary Jane “Mae” West; the actress, singer, playwright, screenwriter, comedian, and sex symbol was born on this date in 1893. Known over her seven-decade career for her lighthearted double entendre and breezy sexual independence, she has been named 15th among the greatest female stars of classic American cinema by the American Film Institute.

    Among her memorable mots:

    Too much of a good thing is wonderful.

    When choosing between two evils I always like to take the one I’ve never tried before.

    To err is human, but it feels divine.

    Between two evils, I always pick the one I never tried before.

    I generally avoid temptation unless I can’t resist it.

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