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  • feedwordpress 08:01:45 on 2019/04/13 Permalink
    Tags: Buster Keeton, , , , , , movies, , Stanley Donen,   

    “Dying is easy, comedy is hard”*… 


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    neighbors-keaton

    Neighbors. Dir. Edward F. Cline/Buster Keaton. Perf. Buster Keaton, Virginia Fox, Joe Keaton. Metro Pictures, 1920.

     

    As he migrated from vaudeville stage to movie set, [Buster] Keaton realised the comedy itself did not need changing, though the opportunities afforded by the camera could extend the world in which the spatial interplay he had developed since childhood took place.

    “…the greatest thing to me about picturemaking was the way it automatically did away with the physical limitations of the theatre. On the stage, even one as immense as the New York Hippodrome stage, one could only show so much. The camera had no such limitations. The whole world was its stage. If you wanted cities, deserts, the Atlantic Ocean, Persia, or the Rocky Mountains for your scenery and background, you merely took your camera to them.”

    Keaton’s comedy derives largely from the positioning —and constant, unexpected repositioning— of his body in space, and in architectural space particularly. Unlike other slapstick performers who relished in the close-up and detailed attention to the protagonist, Keaton frequently directed the camera to film with a wide far-shot that could contain the whole of a building’s facade or urban span within the frame. Proud of always carrying out his own (often extremely dangerous) stunts, this enabled him to show the audience that his actions were performed in real-time —and real-place— rather than simply being tricks of the camera or editing process. It also allowed him to visually explore the many ways in which his body could engage with the urban form…

    An appreciation of that greatest of all silent comedians: “Buster Keaton: Anarchitect.”

    * variously attributed to actors Edmund Keane, Edmund Gwynn, and Peter O’Toole

    ###

    As we take the fall, we might send delighted birthday greetings to Stanley Donen; he was born on this date in 1924.  A Broadway dancer (who befriended a young Gene Kelly), Donen followed Kelly to Hollywood as choreographer, then a director– of such classics as On the Town (1949) and Singin’ in the Rain (1952), both of which starred Kelly who co-directed.  Donen’s other films include Royal Wedding (1951), Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954),  Funny Face (1957), Indiscreet (1958), and Charade (1963).  Credited (with his rival, Vincent Minelli) with having transitioned Hollywood musical films from realistic backstage dramas (a la Busby Berkeley) to a more integrated art form in which the songs were a natural continuation of the story, Donen is highly regarded by film historians.

    One might note a kinship between Keeton’s astounding physical relationship to his surroundings and that of Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor, and Fred Astaire in Donen’s films…

    Stanley_Donen_(cropped) source

     

     
  • feedwordpress 09:01:51 on 2018/12/21 Permalink
    Tags: Around the World in Eighty Days, Christmas movies, Die Hard, , , , movies, ,   

    “Now I have a machine gun. Ho ho ho”*… 


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    121214-bruce-willis-die-hard-christmas-mn-1435_a4aad44d627fd4dbaa0ec5480cfa35dc.fit-2000w

    Ok, enough bickering and fighting. Let’s settle this once and for all in the only way I know how – going into a topic in way too much detail.

    As we prepare to enter the year 32 ADH (a.k.a. After Die Hard), the world is gripped by a constantly nagging question.

    No, it’s not “Why does everyone call Hans Gruber and his gang ‘terrorists’ when they were clearly bank robbers?”

    Today we’re going to use data to answer the question “Is Die Hard a Christmas movie?”

    Along the way, we’re going to test Die Hard’s Christmas bona fides against all movies in US cinemas for the past thirty years, using a variety of methods…

    Stephen Follows tackles a perennial poser: “Using data to determine if Die Hard is a Christmas movie.”

    [Image above: source… which also weighs in on the Die Hard question.]

    * Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman), reading what John McClane (Bruce Willis) had on a dead terrorist’s shirt

    ###

    As we just say Yippie-Ki-Yay, we might recall that it was on this date that Phileas Fogg completed his circumnavigation of the globe in Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days.  (As the book was published in 1873, the putative year of the journey was 1871 or 1872.)

    In 1888 American journalist Nellie Bly convinced her editor to let her attempt the feat.  She completed her round-the-world journey in 72 daysShe completed her round-the-world journey in 72 days.

    220px-Verne_Tour_du_Monde

    First edition of Verne’s tale

    source

    Your correspondent is headed into his annual Holiday hiatus; Regular service will resume on or around January 2…  Meantime, many thanks to all for reading– and Happy Holidays!

     

     
  • feedwordpress 09:01:54 on 2018/12/17 Permalink
    Tags: aspect ratio, Catullus, , , , movies, Saturnalia, , widescreen   

    “Movies started out as an extension of a magic trick, so making a spectacle is part of the game”*… 


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    terminator2_super_35_exampl

    Widescreen feels cinematic. When black bars come down and a show goes into widescreen, it feels more like a movie. More intense. More epic. The shape of a screen changes how we feel about it, and wide just feels different.

    But that feeling is an invention. We had to be taught it. And really, we had to be sold it.

    Quartz’s Adam Freelander does a deep dive into movie history from Thomas Edison to Cinerama and Pan-and-Scan to “TV Safe” Shooting (or Open Matte, Shooting Flat, etc) and back to the very device that you are watching this video on — the entire aspect ratio explained…

     

    [image above: source]

    * Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu

    ###

    As we let them entertain us, we might recall that today is the first day of Saturnalia, a Roman holiday first celebrated on this date in 497 BC on the occasion of the dedication of the Temple of Saturn in the Roman Forum.  The poet Catullus called it “the best of days” – Saturnalibus, optimo dierum!

    Originally only a day long, it grew to three days, and persevered as a practice into the 4th century AD.  It opened with a sacrifice (usually a pig), followed by a public banquet, then lots of private merriment and the exchange of presents… indeed, it is believed by many to have been the model for Christmas festivities.

    Tavares.Forum.Romanum.redux

    The remains of the Temple of Saturn in the Roman Forum

    source

     

     
  • feedwordpress 09:01:39 on 2018/11/13 Permalink
    Tags: , , Herbert E. Ives, , movies, Romaine Fielding, , ,   

    “I am big! It’s the pictures that got small.”*… 


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    Romaine Fielding

    Romaine Fielding got famous making a bunch of films in nothing flat—something like 100 films in just four years, from 1912 to 1915. Some of the films were probably awful. Others were showered with critical praise. Film was a fledgling medium still trying to find its voice, still battling to evolve from novelty to art. But Romaine rose above the melodramatic din of the silent film era. He was, by some accounts, America’s first movie star and, by even more accounts, among the medium’s first true visionaries…

    Romaine had already lived a lot of life when he began making films in 1912. There were only a dozen film companies in Hollywood. The magazine that would launch our nation’s rabidity for celebrity culture, Photoplay, had just published its first issue. Romaine was 43 and on his fourth name by then: baby William Grant Blandin became Royal A. Blandin became Romanzo A. Blandin who made the leap finally to Romaine Fielding at the dawn of the 20th century.

    There are lots of reasons for adopting pseudonyms and these include shame or aspiration or fear of legal recourse or extralegal recourse or confusion about identity or certainty about identity or general restlessness and for some it is all of this plus the usual feeling of fraudulence and an overdeveloped flair for the dramatic. In 1867 Romaine was born out of wedlock in an Iowa that wouldn’t stand for it and so his first name change was the projection of others’ shame. For the rest of his life he layered on identities, ever grander, though never entirely disingenuous…

    After the success of The Toll of Fear (one of the first great psychological thrillers, made in 1913) Romaine made the cover of Motion Picture Magazine. He was voted America’s Most Popular Player by the magazine’s readers, snagging over 1.3 million of the 7 million votes cast by film buffs.

    This award was a remarkable accomplishment in the pre-Oscars era. He beat out Mary Pickford, an early cinema powerhouse and eventual cofounder of the famed United Artists studio. He beat out Bronco Billy, who had starred in The Great Train Robbery (1903), arguably the first ever Western film…

    The genuinely remarkable tale of an American original: “The Lost Apocalypse of Romaine Fielding.”

    * “Norma Desmond” (Gloria Swanson) in Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard

    ###

    As we see stars, we might spare a thought for Herbert Eugene Ives; he died on this date in 1953.  A scientist and engineer who headed the development of facsimile and television systems at AT&T in the first half of the twentieth century, he is best known for the 1938 Ives–Stilwell experiment, which provided direct confirmation of special relativity’s time dilation (though Ives himself did not accept special relativity, and argued instead for an alternative interpretation of the experimental results).

    But relevantly to this post, Ives also led AT&T’s development of video and television. His 1927 transmission–  of images of then-Commerce Secretary Herbert Hoover, from Washington, DC to New York– was the first successful long distance demonstration of television. Two years later, he achieved the first successful long-distance transmission of color images.

    220px-Ives_3819812229_f084c217d1_o source

     

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

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


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    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

    ###

    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.

    source

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

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


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    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

    ###

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

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


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    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

    ###

    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 09:01:49 on 2017/02/16 Permalink
    Tags: , found footage, , , movies, Selznick, Thalberg,   

    “A lot of it just has to do with luck, serendipity”*… 


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    The Found Footage Festival is a one-of-a-kind event that showcases footage from videos that were found at garage sales and thrift stores and in warehouses and dumpsters across the country.

    Curators Joe Pickett and Nick Prueher take audiences on a guided tour of their latest and greatest VHS finds, providing live commentary and where-are-they-now updates on the people in these videotaped obscurities. From the curiously-produced industrial training video to the forsaken home movie donated to Goodwill, the Found Footage Festival resurrects these forgotten treasures and serves them up in a lively celebration of all things found…

     

    Explore the wonders at the Found Footage Festival.

    [TotH to my friends at the always-illuminating Recommendo]

    * Emmanuel Ax

    ###

    As we watch, wide-eyed, we might recall that it was on this date in 1933 that David O. Selznick accepted a job offer from his father-in-law, Lewis B. Mayer, and joined MGM as a Vice-President of Production.

    Selznick has worked worked briefly at MGM earlier in his career, but had gotten momentum working at RKO (where he oversaw such hits as A Bill of Divorcement and King Kong).  At MGM, he created a second “prestige production” unit, parallel to that of the powerful Irving Thalberg (Fitzgerald’s model for The Last Tycoon), who was in poor health.  Selznick’s unit prodcued Dinner at Eight (1933), David Copperfield (1935), Anna Karenina (1935), and A Tale of Two Cities (1935).

    In 1936, Selznick left to create his own production company.  His successes continued with classics such as The Garden of Allah (1936), The Prisoner of Zenda (1937), A Star Is Born (1937), Nothing Sacred (1937), The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1938), The Young in Heart (1938), Made for Each Other (1939), Intermezzo (1939) and Gone with the Wind (1939), which remains the highest-grossing film of all time (adjusted for inflation). Gone with the Wind won eight Oscars and two special awards– and Selznick won the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award that same year.  In 1940 he produced his second Best Picture Oscar winner in a row, Rebecca, the first Hollywood production for British director Alfred Hitchcock.

    While the rest of his career contained a number of successes (Spellbound, Since You Went Away, Duel in the Sun), it never again reached the heights he attained in 1939-40.

    Selznick was himself an inspiration for an Academy Award-winning film: the “Jonathan Shields” character in The Bad and the Beautiful is partially based on him.

     source

     

     
  • feedwordpress 09:01:15 on 2016/11/21 Permalink
    Tags: , Candide, , , Francois-Marie Arouet, movies, , ,   

    “Truth at 24 frames per second”*… 


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    Freedocumentaries.org streams full-length documentary films free of charge, with no registration needed. For several films, we even offer the ability to watch trailers or to download the actual film.

    The films are gathered by our researchers as we scour the web for well-produced videos and present them to our viewers. We adhere to all copyright laws and honor the wishes of the producers.

    We created Freedocumentaries.org because we wanted to find an easy way to bring thought-provoking, educational, and entertaining documentaries to anyone with a high-speed internet connection. We believe that the mainstream media increasingly practices self-censorship, and that it ignores many opinions and historical events. With the media distorting or ignoring information, it’s often very hard to get an accurate picture of a problem, even while watching the news. Sites like Freedocumentaries.org are a much-needed counterbalance to corporate media: an industry dominated by special interests. Even though every dollar we make via advertising or donations is critical, we do not let any advertisers have any influence over which films we play. We would rather lose that money than lose our independence. And the fact that we won’t shy away from controversial films is one of the things that makes us unique.

    While some of the films on our site have widespread distribution, others are created by independent filmmakers who depend on sites like ours to get their information to the public. The amount of work that these producers have put into making a 90-minute film is astounding. Different films create different reactions among different people.

    There will be aspects of the films in which you may disagree or agree. After watching you may cry, become inspired, or you may get angry; in any case the films will get you thinking. We are proud that in the last two years, we have helped share these films with countless people that would not have seen the movies otherwise. We believe that we have made the world just a little better by doing so.

    We are proud to help these independent filmmakers. We encourage you to visit their website and donate so that they can continue creating great films. If you haven’t done so yet, please watch a film. And if you enjoy the experience, tell your friends!

    Over 450 choices, across an extraordinary range of topics, at Freedocumentaries.org.

    * “The cinema is truth 24 frames-per-second” – Jon-Luc Godard

    ###

    As we lean in to learn, we might send philosophical birthday greetings to Francois-Marie Arouet, better known as Voltaire; he was born in Paris on this date in 1694.  The Father of the Age of Reason, he produced works in almost every literary form: plays, poems, novels, essays, and historical and scientific works– more than 2,000 books and pamphlets (and more than 20,000 letters).  A social reformer, Voltaire used satire to criticize the intolerance, religious dogma, and oligopolistic privilege of his day, perhaps nowhere more sardonically than in Candide.

     source

     
  • feedwordpress 09:01:15 on 2016/11/10 Permalink
    Tags: Abel Gance, , , Essanay, , , , montage, movies, rejection letter,   

    “I think all great innovations are built on rejections”*… 


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    Screenwriters sending scripts to Essanay Studios, a Chicago company that produced silent films between 1907 and 1917, received this form rejection letter in response to their submissions. Here Essanay identified several common problems with scripts; some (“Too difficult to produce”) were probably more helpful to aspiring writers than others (“Not interesting”).

    Essanay, named after the initials of its founders George Spoor and Gilbert Anderson, made Westerns and comedies from its Uptown Chicago headquarters and in California. (Its specialty in the Western explains the use of a stereotyped “Indian chief” head as logo.) Charlie Chaplin was a contract player for the company between 1915–1916 and made The Tramp while he was there. Chicago Tribune reporter Michael Wilmington suggests that Chaplin’s departure for a more lucrative contract in 1916 “hastened Essanay’s demise,” causing “a fatal rupture” between the two founders struggling with a sudden loss in income…

    * Louis-Ferdinand Celine

    ###

    As we inoculate our egos, we might spare a thought for Abel Gance; he died on this date in 1981.  While Essanay was developing the comedic form, Gance– a French film director, writer, producer, actor, and theorist– was working across the Atlantic to lay the foundation for cinema as we’ve come to know it.  One of the first to employ close-ups and dolly shots, he was instrumental in developing both the theory and the practice of montage as it came to be employed in film editing.  He is probably best remembered for three major silent films: J’accuse (1919), La Roue (1923), and the monumental Napoléon (1927).

     source

     

     
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