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Posts Tagged ‘film

“There is no end. There is no beginning. There is only the infinite passion of life”*…

 

From The Great Train Robbery, 1903

In 1888, Thomas Edison wrote that “I am experimenting upon an instrument which does for the eye what the phonograph does for the ear, which is the recording and reproduction of things in motion.” The system was comprised of the Kinetograph, a motion picture camera, and a Kinetoscope, a motion picture viewer, and was mostly created by Edison’s assistant, William Kennedy Laurie Dickson. (The system was likely inspired by the zoopraxiscope created by photographer—and murderer!—Eadweard Muybridge to show off his motion photographs.) Early films from the Edison Manufacturing Co. showed off “actualities”: celebrities, news, disasters, and expositions. But later, the company switched to creating narrative films more in line with what we watch at the movies today…

These earliest films, often a minute or two in length,  could be purchased for $6.60 (about $169 in today’s currency).  But readers can see a selection of Edison’s early essays, streamed for free, at “10 Early Films Made by Edison’s Movie Company.”

* Federico Fellini

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As search for the concession stand, we might recall that it was on this date in 1732 that Louis Timothee (sometimes rendered “Lewis Timothy”) became the first salaried librarian in the American Colonies. A printer and protégé of Benjamin Franklin’s, Timothee served as the part-time librarian for the Library Company of Philadelphia, one of Franklin’s first philanthropic projects, from its founding on July 1, 1731.  As the project took hold, Timothee’s position was elevated to a full-time, paid position.

The Library Company of Phildelphia

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Written by LW

November 14, 2014 at 1:01 am

“Is that a pistol in your pocket or are you happy to see me?”*…

 

Dirty Harry is the 1971 crime film that introduced the character of “Dirty Harry” Callahan to movie audiences. Clint Eastwood stars as SFPD Inspector Callahan, who is assigned to head up the investigation to catch a serial killer who calls himself “Scorpio” and who threatens to kill a citizen of the city each day until his ransom demands are met. Dirty Harry was the first in the film franchise and introduced the now iconic .44 Magnum Smith & Wesson Model 29.

More on Harry’s hardware– and guns in hundreds of other films– at IMFDb, The Internet Movie Firearm Database.

* Mae West

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As we take cover, we might recall that it was on this date in 1969 that Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid was released.  Written by Wiliam Goldman, directed by George Roy Hill, and starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford as the titular outlaws, the film was a commercial and a critical success: it was the top-grossing film of the year (with a box-office of over $100 million) and was nominated for seven Academy Awards, of which it won four.

The film prominently featured the Colt Single Action Army, the Winchester Model 1873, the Winchester Model 1895, and the Winchester Model 1894.

 

 

“Coming soon!”*…

 

The tag line explains the concept of this 1918 movie, which was an anthology of clips from the films Chaplin made for the Essanay Film Manufacturing Company.

(R)D has explored the history of movie trailers.  Now, from the remarkable Rebecca Onion, a look at their pre-history…

In the silent film era, these colorized lantern slides were the equivalent of previews or trailers, alerting the audience to the theater’s upcoming schedule. Blank spaces in the slide’s design allowed for a small degree of customization by hand.

Films tended to be short by modern standards, so audiences would watch them in batches, rather than seeing one at a time as we do today. Film scholar Lisa Kernan writes that these magic lantern slides were “projected between features, much like today’s slides of local restaurant advertising and movie trivia quizzes.”

The famous feline, who starred in multiple short cartoons between 1919 and the early 1930s, had a reusable slide that could be repurposed when new installments came out.

Even at the time the slides were in common use, Kernan writes, some theaters experimented with showing short bits of film to advertise coming attractions. By the 1920s, a company called National Screen Service was making trailers for major studio films using moving footage; by the 1930s, studios began to make their own, much more sophisticated preview trailers.

These lantern images were collected by W. Ward Marsh, a movie critic for theCleveland Plain Dealer from 1919 until his death in 1971. The Cleveland Public Library holds Marsh’s movie memorabilia and has digitized almost 700 examples of these slides…

A 1919 version of the L.M. Montgomery novel, starring prolific child actress Mary Miles Minter, was the first of many such adaptations for the big and small screens.

Read and see more at “The Lantern Slides That Advertised Coming Attractions in the Silent Film Era.”

* ubiquitous line in movie trailers

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As we take our seats and silence our phones, we might recall that it was on this date in 1967 that “La Bateau,” a 1953 paper cut by Henri Matisse was hung in New York’s Museum of Modern Art…  upside down.  It remained on inverted display for 47 days.  Genevieve Habert, a stockbroker, noticed the mistake (by comparing the hanging to the photo in the catalogue).  As it was a Sunday night and there were no curatorial officials on duty, Habert informed the New York Times, which in turn notified Monroe Wheeler, the Museum’s art director… who had the piece rehung correctly on Monday.

Matisse’s cut-outs are back at MoMA… right-side up, one trusts.

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Written by LW

October 17, 2014 at 1:01 am

“He moves with such naturalness in the room of dreams”*…

 

From Tarkovsky’s 1979 film Stalker

Andrei Tarkovsky (1932-1986) firmly positioned himself as the finest Soviet director of the post-War period. But his influence extended well beyond the Soviet Union.  The Cahiers du cinéma consistently ranked his films on their top ten annual lists. Ingmar Bergman went so far as to say, “Tarkovsky for me is the greatest [director], the one who invented a new language, true to the nature of film, as it captures life as a reflection, life as a dream.” And Akira Kurosawa acknowledged his influence too, adding, “I love all of Tarkovsky’s films. I love his personality and all his works. Every cut from his films is a marvelous image in itself”…

Now one can watch Tarkovsky’s features (and a trio of shorts) online– and for free.  Find the links in this chronological listing or among Open Culture’s collection, 700 Free Movies Online: Great Classics, Indies, Noir, Westerns, etc.

* Ingmar Bergman on Andrei Tarkovsky, in Laterna Magica (The Magic Lantern : An Autobiography).

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As we slip into the dream state, we might send mysterious birthday greetings to Robert Bruce Montgomery; he was born on this date in 1921.  A respected composer of “serious” of vocal and choral music and of film scores under his own name, he is perhaps better remembered by his pen name, Edmund Crispin.  As Crispin (a name he took from Michael Innes’ Hamlet, Revenge), he wrote nine marvelous mystery novels and two collections of short stories, all featuring amateur detective Gervaise Fen, an eccentric Oxford don.  Your correspondent’s favorite is The Moving Toyshop– but they’re all a treat:  a mixture of Innes**, John Dickson Carr, and the Marx Brothers.  After retiring from whodunits, Crispin edited several mystery collections and science-fiction anthologies– with no apologies or excuses for presenting SciFi as a legitimate form of writing– an iconoclastic attitude in the 1950s.

** “Michael Innes” was itself a pseudonym, the pen name of Oxford literary critic and scholar J. I. M. Stewart

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Written by LW

October 2, 2014 at 1:01 am

“Words, words, mere words”*…

 

Email readers click here for video

Welcome to Star Wars as you’ve never seen it before. Arst Arsw takes every English word from George Lucas’ classic movie and rearranges them alphabetically. If you can make it past the 201 “a”s that start the video, you’re in for a treat, as long sequences of words are punctuated up by oddly therapeutic and memorable words from the movie. The eighth “battlestation” is especially rewarding.

The video’s maker, Tom 7, provided some interesting facts garnered while cutting Arst Arsw manually. A total of 1695 individual English words are uttered in Star Wars, the most common of which is “the,” with 368 mentions. The word “Lightsaber” is only said aloud once (at 19:20 in Arst Arsw).

Watch every word from ‘Star Wars’ sorted from A to Z.”

Special lingui-bonus:

letters_brown_words_15

Click here for background (and larger version of chart): “Graphing the distribution of English letters towards the beginning, middle or end of words”:

*William Shakespeare, Troilus and Cressida, Act V, Scene 3

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As we hope that the Force is with us, we might recall that it was on this date in 1914 that Wyndham Lewis published the first issue of Blast, a literary magazine championing Vorticism, a movement related to Futurism and Cubism in painting and to Imagism in literature, chiefly concerned to extoll the virtues of mechanization and the machine.  The inaugural number was edited and largely written by Lewis with contributions from Ezra Pound, Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, Jacob Epstein, Spencer Gore, Edward Wadsworth, and Rebecca West, and included an extract from Ford Madox Hueffer’s novel The Saddest Story– better known by its later title The Good Soldier (published under his subsequent pseudonym, Ford Madox Ford).   The second issue, which was publish a month later, had more work from Pound and two poems by T.S. Eliot.  But at about the same time that issue came out, Britain entered World War I.  Several of the Vorticists were called up; and machines– deployed all too lethally in the conflict– lost some of their romance.  The Vorticist movement did not survive the war.; still, it is remembered as a seminal step in the evolution of 20th century Modernism.

The cover of Blast #1

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Written by LW

June 20, 2014 at 1:01 am

“Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable”*…

 

Readers will know that (R)D delights in the works of Banksy.  So it will come as no surprise that your correspondent has a warm spot in his heart for Jeff Friesen.  An award-winning photographer, Friesen is also a dedicated dad who makes LEGO dioramas with his daughter June.  Their latest project:  a series of meticulously-constructed homages to the great street artists himself…  a series that Friesen and June call “Bricksy.”

See them all at “Bricksy: LEGO Banksy.”

[TotH to My Modern Met]

* Banksy

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As we resolve, with Banksy, to “speak softly, but carry a big can of paint,” we might recall that it was on this date in 1892 that Australia’s first real film production house, The Limelight Department, was set up by the Salvation Army in Melbourne.  In its 19 years of operation, the Limelight Department produced both evangelistic material (from the simplest lantern slides to Christian epics of redemption) and secular documentaries commissioned by private and government contract.  In all, the operation created about 300 films of various lengths (making it one of largest film producers of its time) until it was summarily closed by a new Commander, a puritanical Scot who “protected” Salvationists from films for many decades.  Sadly, the Limelight films were destroyed in the 1950s.

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Written by LW

June 11, 2014 at 1:01 am

“In a World…”*…

 

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Looking back on the evolution of the movie trailer we must consider the evolution of how we watch movies. Unlike the multiplexes we’re accustomed to today, the first movie theaters in the 1910s had only one screen. You would pay the admission, say five cents, and you could sit in the theater for as long as you wanted. Show times weren’t precise – a feature length movie along with a short films and a cartoon would play in a continuous loop and you could watch it as many times as you wanted.

1913 would be what many historians consider year zero for the movie trailer. In New York City, Nils Granlund, advertising manager of Marcus Loew theaters, made a short little promotional film for the Broadway play “Pleasure Seekers” showcasing actual rehearsal footage. The idea of showing ads between films was a hit – at least to the movie theater owners – The practice of creating and splicing in promotional pieces into the screening rotation was quickly implemented by the Loew theater chain as well as others.

Around the same time in Chicago, Col. William Selig, one of film’s earliest pioneers, would engineer another way to get audiences to the movies. Selig noticed the popularity of print serials in newspapers so he approached the Chicago Tribune, a newspaper embattled in a circulation war for who could be the most sensationalist, to adapt a film version of a print serial. The result was a 13 episode serial entitled “The Adventures of Kathlyn”.

This wasn’t the first film serial, it was actually the second; but it introduced a new device to film marketing. You see, each week a new installment would debut along with an article in the Chicago Tribune that continuing the story. What made “The Adventures of Kathlyn” different was at the end of each installment something would happen to put the characters in some sort of peril – a cliffhanger often with a title card inviting patrons to come back the following week to see what happens.

So Thus the idea of the trailer was born – and so too the term – as these promotions for upcoming attractions would play at the end of the film – hence trailer.

Most of these promotions were produced by the theaters themselves but by 1916, the movie studios themselves began officially releasing for upcoming movies. These first film trailers were pretty basic – they generally consist of snippets of film with some text overlay such as the cast of stars…

email readers click here for video

Learn how gentle enticements like these grew to become the better-and-louder-than-the-actual-film extravaganzas of today in the video at the top of this post and at “The History of the Movie Trailer.”

 Don LaFontaine, the voice of hundreds of thousands of TV spots and more than 5,000 times in movies and movie trailers

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As we  contemplate coming attractions, we might recall that it was on this date in 1927 that the first organizational meeting of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was convened by Louis B. Mayer, the head of MGM.  The 230 charter members elected Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. the group’s first president. Mayer’s original intent was to provide a forum for labor mediation and to improve the industry’s image; the first of those goals never got traction, so the second– the burnishing of Hollywood’s star– became the group’s primary focus.  By 1929, the AMPAS had established the Academy Awards, and had joined with the University of Southern California to create the first film school.

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Happy Mother’s Day! 

 

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