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Posts Tagged ‘film

“Films are 50 percent visual and 50 percent sound. Sometimes sound even overplays the visual”*…

 

Though routinely credited, as above, as “Film Editor,” Tregoweth Edmond “Treg” Brown was the genius sound-effects wizard responsible for sound editing the Warner Brothers’ Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons starting in 1936…

His musique concrète artistry worked directly in conjunction with Carl Stalling‘s hyper-active left-field orchestral scores to create the soundtrack to generations of kids lives. So many of these sounds are completely ingrained into our collective pop-culture (un)consciousness. So much so, that reviewing some of the old Looney Tunes cartoons as an adult, you tend to ignore how utterly ridiculous the doinks and twangs are, for they sound totally natural in context—a testament to Brown’s flawless editing of sounds demanded by the images.

In addition to his incredible sound design which won him a Sound Effects Oscar in 1965 for The Great Race, Brown is also credited with giving legendary Warner Brothers’ voice actor Mel Blanc his big break…

More at “The Sound Effects Madman Behind the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies Cartoons.” And much more– with wonderful examples– in this short documentary (part 2 here):

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* David Lynch

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As we perk up our ears, we might send melodic birthday greetings to Jerrald King “Jerry” Goldsmith; he was born on this date in 1929.  One of film and television”s most accomplished composers and conductors, Goldsmith scored such noteworthy films as The Sand Pebbles, Logan’s RunPlanet of the Apes, Patton, Papillon, Chinatown, The Wind and the Lion, The Omen, The Boys from Brazil, Alien, Poltergeist, The Secret of NIMH, Gremlins, Hoosiers, Total Recall, Basic Instinct, Rudy, Air Force One, L.A. Confidential, Mulan, The Mummy, three Rambo films, and five Star Trek films– in a career during which he was nominated for six Grammy Awards, five Primetime Emmy Awards, nine Golden Globe Awards, four British Academy Film Awards, and eighteen Academy Awards.  In 1976, he was awarded an Oscar for The Omen.

While presenting Goldsmith with a Career Achievement Award from the Society for the Preservation of Film Music in 1993, fellow composer Henry Mancini (Breakfast at Tiffany’s, The Pink Panther) said of Goldsmith, “… he has instilled two things in his colleagues in this town. One thing he does, he keeps us honest. And the second one is he scares the hell out of us.”

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Written by LW

February 10, 2016 at 1:01 am

“When I consider Life, ’tis all a cheat; Yet, fooled with hope, men favour the deceit”*…

 

A picture, supposedly of Poyais, fabricated by Gregor MacGregor

In October 1822, Gregor MacGregor, a native of Glengyle, Scotland, made a striking announcement. He was, he said, not only a local banker’s son, but the Cazique, or prince, of the land of Poyais along Honduras’s Black River.

A little larger than Wales, the country was so fertile it could yield three maize harvests a year. The water, so pure and refreshing it could quench any thirst – and as if that weren’t enough, chunks of gold lined the riverbeds. The trees overflowed with fruit, and the forest teemed with game. Painting an exotic, Edenic vision of a new life abroad, his proposal offered quite the contrast with the rainy darkness and rocky soils of Scotland.

What Poyais lacked, he said, was willing investors and settlers to develop and leverage its resources to the fullest. At the time, investments in Central and South America were gaining in popularity, and Poyais appeared to be a particularly appealing proposition.

Scotland didn’t have any colonies of her own, after all. Could this not be a corner of the new world for her own use?…

MacGregor designed currency that was supposedly used in his fictional land

Gregor MacGregor’s massive fraud and how he brought it off: “The con-man who pulled off history’s most audacious scam” (excerpted from Maria Konnikova’s The Confidence Game).

* John Dryden

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As we demur from accepting wooden nickels, we might recall that it was on this date in 1922 that Los Angles police were summoned to the home of silent film director William Desmond Taylor by a call about a “natural death” that had occurred the night before.  When they arrived they found actors, actresses, and studio executives rummaging through the director’s belongings… and Taylor lying dead on the living room floor with a bullet in his back.

Mary Miles Minter, a teenager, had become a star in Taylor’s films and had fallen in love with him– much to the dismay of her mother,  Charlotte Shelby.  After Taylor’s murder, a love note to Taylor from Minter was found in his home, along with her nightgown in the bedroom.  Then other damning facts came to light: Minter had once tried to shoot herself with the same type of gun used in Taylor’s murder; Shelby had previously threatened the life of another director who had made a pass at her daughter; and most portentously, Shelby’s alibi witness received suspiciously large sums of money after the murder.  Still, no one was ever prosecuted for Taylor’s death– the case remains officially unsolved.

Mary Miles Minter and William Desmond Taylor

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Written by LW

February 2, 2016 at 1:01 am

“I like physics, but I love cartoons”*…

 

From “Shitty New Yorker Cartoon Captions“…

“An imbecile desperately tries to win the New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest”– many more at “Shitty New Yorker Cartoon Captions.”

* Stephen Hawking

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As we chortle, we might send scathingly funny birthday greetings to William Claude Dukenfield; he was born on this date in 1880.  Better known by his stage name, W.C. Fields, he was first a successful vaudeville juggler, then a film and radio comedy star famous for his misanthropic wit.  Instantly recognizable both visually (his face was one-of-a-kind) and audibly (his drawl and grandiloquent vocabulary were trademarks), he became everyone’s favorite scoundrel.

Check out a trio of his short films here; then the last feature film that he wrote and headlined, Never Give a Sucker an Even Break.”

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Written by LW

January 29, 2016 at 1:01 am

“Movies are a fad. Audiences really want to see live actors on a stage.”*…

 

The lights begin to dim, ambient noises fade away, suddenly there is a burst of light overhead and you are transported… this is the premise of [photographer and one-time trial attorney Rick] Finkelstein‘s newest body of work: Sitting in the Dark with Strangers. In this latest series Finkelstein uses miniature figurines and meticulously fabricated sets to compose his images and explore the experience of the movies…

Sitting in the Dark with Strangers is on display at Robert Mann Gallery in New York City through the end of this month.

More images (and background) at “Artist Spotlight: Richard Finkelstein” (from whence these images), The Mann Gallery’s site, and “Photos of the Cinema-Going Experience Capture the Magic of Movies in Miniature.”

* Charles Chaplin (before he became famous as Charlie)

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As we salt our popcorn, we might that it was on this date in 1941 that Paramount Picture’s released Preston Sturges’  Sullivan’s Travels.  A picaresque satire that celebrates that movies, it has been selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress, named one of the “Greatest Movies of All Time” by the American Film Institute.

The filmmaker was already on a roll. Not only had he been granted the honor of being one of Hollywood’s first writer/directors, but his last two films,The Great McGinty and The Lady Eve, were critical and commercial hits. Given as much creative freedom as a studio like Paramount could offer in 1941, Sturges crafted a smart, original fable about a comedy film director (Joel McCrea) who takes off to suffer in order to gain the experience necessary to make an “important” serious drama, Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? (a title later appropriated by the Coen brothers). Along the way, he teams up with “the Girl” (Veronica Lake), an aspiring actress who brings a dose of reality to the director’s noble aim. But just as soon as he learns his lesson, he’s robbed, thrown on a train, then arrested and put in prison in the Deep South. Sturges, who’d wanted to satirize contemporary high-toned depression dramas, was inspired by the tales of John Garfield living as a hobo in the 1930s. Towards the end of the film, Sullivan, who is taken with his prison chain gang to an African-American church, learns the real power of comedy when a Disney carton comes on the screen. This scene, often cited in reviews as demonstration of Sturges’ deft mix of social realism and mad comedy, in many ways accomplishes what Sullivan set off to do by paradoxically dismissing the importance of such social realistic filmmaking. What people in poverty and injustice need is a good laugh. But the scene has resonated for others in far different ways. The secretary of the NAACP wrote Sturges a letter praising his “dignified and decent treatment of Negroes in this scene.” On the other hand, the U.S. government’s Office of Censorship refused to approve the film for export, claiming that its portrayal of a chain gang, showing “the brutality and inhumanity with which the prisoners are treated” might serve as enemy propaganda. Most Americans, however, just found it hilarious, making the film Sturges’ next big hit.

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Written by LW

January 28, 2016 at 1:01 am

“I don’t understand how anyone can become a director without learning the craft of cinematography”*…

 

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Because…

* Nicolas Roeg

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As we noodle on the nanny-cam, we might recall that it was on this date in 1934 that Samuel Goldwyn acquired the film rights to L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.  The novel, published in 1900, had become an instant classic, spawning sequels (that continued under the direction of Baum’s widow after his death in 1919), a long-running Broadway musical, and several silent films.  Goldwyn’s version, released in 1939, had modest success at the box office (though it did garner several Oscar nominations–including a Best Song win for “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and a special award for Garland as Best Juvenile Performer). Then, in 1956, an estimated 45 million people tuned in to watch the movie’s television debut on the Ford Star Jubilee.  Countless TV airings later, The Wizard of Oz is one of the best-known– and most beloved– films of all time.

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Written by LW

January 26, 2016 at 1:01 am

“It’s kind of pretty”*…

 

Fans of Quentin Tarantino might have noticed that items branded “Red Apple” have appeared in every one of his films since Pulp Fiction.  For The Hateful Eight, he turned to designer Ross MacDonald

Much of the action in Quentin Tarantino’s latest movie The Hateful Eight takes place in an 1870 Wyoming trading post called Minnie’s Haberdashery.  While you’re viewing it – either in glorious 70mm or regular format – look past the cracking dialog, flying bullets and spraying blood.  There – in the background, on the shelves, and occasionally in the character’s hands – you may glimpse a few cans and packages and other general store stuff.  For a few months last winter, I was lucky enough to help create a few of those things…

The story– and beautiful examples of the work– at “Hateful Eight & Red Apple.”

[TotH to J.J. Sedelmaier]

* John ‘The Hangman’ Ruth (Kurt Russell), The Hateful Eight

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As we roll our own, we might recall that it was on this date in 1940 that MGM released The Shop Around the Corner, the romantic comedy by Ernst Lubitsch.  While it did reasonably good business in it run, it has become classic, landing on most “100 Best” lists, scoring a rare 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, and earning a berth in the National Film Registry.  But perhaps its highest accolade came from Lubitsch himself: the creator of Trouble in Paradise, Ninotchka, and To Be Or Not To Be called The Shop Around the Corner “the best picture I ever made in my life.”

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Written by LW

January 12, 2016 at 1:01 am

“Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain”*…

 

The Wizard of Oz, alphabetized.

* The Wizard of Oz

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As we strive for order in all things, we might recall that it was on this date in 1714 that English inventor Henry Mill was granted a patent (UK #395) for an apparatus “for impressing or transcribing of letters singly or progressively one after another, so neat and exact as not to be distinguished from print, very useful in settlements and public records”– generally agreed to be the first description of a typewriter, the device that revolutionized the ability of creative minds worldwide to put their thoughts into print.  Mill never actually manufactured a typewriter for sale; in fact, it took many years to develop a truly functional prototype– the first of which was probably built by the Italian Pellegrino Turri in 1808 for his blind friend Countess Carolina Fantoni da Fivizzono.  Indeed, most early typewriters were aimed at giving the blind a means of communicating in print.  It wasn’t until the late 19th century (and the introduction of a QWERTY keyboard design as a standard) that typewriting became a wide-spread practice.

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Written by LW

January 7, 2016 at 1:01 am

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