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Posts Tagged ‘film

“Appear weak when you are strong, and strong when you are weak”*…

 

The Boeing airplane factory in Seattle got the “fake neighborhood” treatment. The women shown are walking on a suburban landscape made of chicken wire and planks, positioned over the roof of the factory. Underneath, B-17s were being built for the war effort.

Military forces have used camouflage of one sort or another since antiquity.  But with the advent of the airplane and the rise of aerial warfare, camouflage (to hide targets) and decoys (to draw fire away from real targets or to intimidate the enemy) became bigger and bigger: “Massive Wartime Decoys and Camouflage Operations.”

Sun Tzu, The Art of War

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As we misdirect, we might send convincingly animated birthday greetings to Raymond Frederick “Ray” Harryhausen; he was born on this date in 1920.  A visual effects pioneer, he became a writer and producer of films featuring the stop-motion model animation technique, “Dynamation,” that he developed.  He is probably best remembered for the animation in Mighty Joe Young (1949, with his mentor, King Kong animator Willis H. O’Brien), which won the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects; The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958, his first color film); and Jason and the Argonauts (1963, which featured an amazing sword fight between Jason and seven skeleton warriors).  His last film was Clash of the Titans (1981).

Harryhausen and one of the skeleton warriors from Jason and the Argonauts

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Written by LW

June 29, 2015 at 1:01 am

“I find it soothing, the thought of a movie theater”*…

 

 

Saubine Haubitz and Stefanie Zoche are intrepid photographers of thought-provoking things.  Here, they discuss their series on movie theaters in India…

In three journeys between 2010 and 2013 we have photographed movie theatres from the ‘Thirties to the ‘Seventies in South India. The photos of these buildings give eloquent testimony to the rich cinematic culture of those times. We are particularly interested in the culturally influenced reinterpretation of modern building style apparent in the architectural style, which displays an unusual mixture of Modernism, local architectural elements, a strong use of colour and, in the case of some older cinema halls, of Art Deco…

Many movie theatres in South India are left in their original state. Nonetheless, remodelling into multiplex cinemas is already underway, in particular in major cities, and will result in these buildings’ disappearance as witnesses to their times. The photographs document a part of cinema culture that has already largely vanished in Europe and the USA, and is increasingly being supplanted by commercial interests and technical developments in India, as well.

Take the tour at here.

* Theophilus London

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As we lounge in the loge, we might recall that it was on this date in 1915 that Vitagraph released Miss Jekyll and Madame Hyde, a retelling of Stevenson’s famous tale in which Helen Gardner played the lead role(s).  Ms Gardner, whose career consisted mostly of portrayals of strong women (Becky Sharp in Vanity Fair, Cleopatra, et al.) was herself a formidable player in the film industry, one of the first actors to form an independent production company (The Helen Gardner Players).

Helen Gardner, c. 1912 (the time of her break-out role, Becky Sharp in Vanity Fair)

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Written by LW

June 19, 2015 at 1:01 am

“All they had to do was put my name on a marquee and watch the money roll in”*…

 

From a Tumblr teeming with treasures…

Movie Marquees

* Gloria Swanson

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As we peruse the posters, we might recall that it was on this date in 1948 that David O. Selznick and RKO Pictures released Mr. Blandings Builds his Dream House.

The film was adapted from Eric Hodgins’ 1946 novel of the same name [illustrated by Shrek! author William Steig], a comic yarn for the public, and pure therapy for Hodgins. In 1939, to cap his professional success as the publisher of the newly formed Fortune magazine, Hodgins and his wife found a lovely plot of land in Connecticut and went to work. By the end their $11,000 dream house turned into a $56,000 nightmare, nearly bankrupting them. Only writing about it saved him, as the book became a bestseller and the movie rights sold for $200,000. The film also turned hardship into triumph by translating a national anxiety into box-office gold. As Bosley Crowther wrote in his New York Times review, “If the much-talked-about housing problem could be as happily resolved for all as it is for those fortunate people who watch Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House.” The waves of soldiers returning after the war found no place to live, and the film happily demonstrated the perils of home ownership as well. As our preoccupation with real estate continues, so has the lure of the Hodgins novel, being updated in updated in 1986 as The Money Pit and in 2007 as Are We Done Yet?. And in the midst of rising foreclosures and a slumping real estate market, that 1948 movie seems more prescient than ever.

Focus Features Flashback

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Written by LW

June 4, 2015 at 1:01 am

“Chance is the pseudonym of God when he did not want to sign”*…

 

This infographic from printerinks (via Electric Literature) takes a look at literary pen names through history:

 click here for larger version

* Théophile Gautier, La croix de Berny (Paris: Librairie Nouvelle, 1855)

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As we speak freely, we might recall that it was on this date in 1959 that Warner Bros. released Tom Graeff’s epic film Teenagers From Outer Space.  The movie failed to perform at the box office, placing further stress on an already-financially-burdened Graeff; and in the fall of 1959, he suffered a breakdown, proclaiming himself to be the second coming of Christ. After a number of public appearances followed by an arrest for disrupting a church service, Graeff disappeared from Hollywood.  His film however lives on:  featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000, Elvira’s Movie Macabre, and Off Beat Cinema, Teenagers From Outer Space is the final prize in the action-adventure game Destroy All Humans, unlocked when a player wins.

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Written by LW

June 2, 2015 at 1:01 am

“Myth is much more important and true than history. History is just journalism and you know how reliable that is”*…

 

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Alien and Star Wars art director Roger Christian was given £25,000 by George Lucas in 1979 to make a 25-minute medieval B-feature called Black Angel. This spiritual tale of a knight on a strange quest was inspired by Christian’s near-fatal fever when he fell ill in Mexico making Lucky Lady. Black Angel made a huge impression, not least because it shared the dark tone of Empire Strikes Back. John Boorman showed it to the crew of Excalibur as a template for how he wanted his film to look, and Black Angel went on to influence films such as Dragonslayer and Legend throughout the 1980s and beyond. But it has not been seen by anyone since ‘Empire’ finished its theatrical run. Two weeks ago Roger Christian unearthed a print of a film that was thought lost forever, and in this interview he talks about Black Angel, and provides the only picture from the film that has ever hit the Internet.

– Via Slashdot (2010)

As obvious above, Black Angel is now on YouTube.  What was once thought lost is found.  Enjoy.

Joseph Campbell (one of George Lucas’ most important influences)

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As we transport ourselves to a time a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, we might recall that it was on this date in 1999, after 22 years, that Star Wars officially returned to the big screen with the release of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, the first of three prequels to the extremely successful original Star Wars trilogy.  Despite mixed reviews and much fan criticism of the character of Jar-Jar Binks, The Phantom Menace was a massive box office success, earning over $920 million on a $115 million budget.

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Written by LW

May 19, 2015 at 1:01 am

“Inspiration is hard to come by. You have to take it where you find it”*…

 

Dan Wieden explains how the infamous Gary Gilmore inspired him to create what is probably the most famous ad tagline ever:  “Nike’s “Just do it” slogan is based on a murderer’s last words.”

* Bob Dylan

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As we go for it, we might send cinematic birthday greetings to Shelton Jackson “Spike” Lee; he was born on this date in 1957.  The creator of 35 films (and counting), he is an acute observer of race relations and the role(s) of the media in contemporary American life.  One of his best-known films is Do the Right Thing.

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Written by LW

March 20, 2015 at 1:01 am

“We may brave human laws, but we cannot resist natural ones”*…

 

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The very first motion picture filmed underwater, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is a 1916 silent film adaptation of Jules Verne’s novel of the same name, as well as incorporating elements from his The Mysterious Island. Directed by Stuart Paton, the underwater scenes were not actually filmed using underwater cameras but rather a system of watertight tubes and mirrors which allowed the camera to shoot reflected images of underwater scenes staged in shallow sunlit waters. Made by The Universal Film Manufacturing Company (now Universal Pictures), not then known as a major motion picture studio, it was incredibly expensive to produce and, according Hal Erickson [bio here], put “the kibosh on any subsequent Verne adaptations for the next 12 years”…

Public Domain Review

* Jules Verne, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

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As we dive, dive, dive, we might recall that it was on this date in 1963 that Peter, Paul, and Mary released their third single, “Puff, The Magic Dragon.”  Their most successful release to date, it reached No. 2 on the US singles chart. (And in a poignant reminder of how unifying a cultural force pop radio was in those days, this softest of soft folk tunes also made the top 10 on the R&B charts.)

The music was written by Peter (Yarrow), to lyrics by a 19-year-old Cornell student, Leonard Lipton, a friend of Yarrow’s housemate at the time.  Lipton, visiting when Yarrow was away, had typed the poem on Yarrow’s typewriter and left a copy behind by accident.  Yarrow searched for Lipton in order to share the songwriting credit, and found him (serving as a camp counselor).  Lipton, who went on to great success as a filmmaker and inventor of stereo-optic and 3D film techniques, still receives royalties on the song.

Beyond its appreciable success, the tune is noteworthy as the song that ushered in the age of veiled (or not so veiled) drug references in pop music… though Yarrow always insisted that it’s about the passage of time and the loss of childhood innocence.  More at MusicFilmWeb… or readers can judge for themselves:

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Written by LW

March 16, 2015 at 1:01 am

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