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Posts Tagged ‘film

“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

“It’s funny how the colors of the real world only seem really real when you viddy them on the screen”*…

 

 

The 70s began with a wave of dystopian sci-fi and culminated with Star Wars and the birth of the modern blockbuster. The British Film Institute has collected some of the decade’s most stunning posters; see them at “The Best 70s Sci-Fi Film Posters.”

(Then move into the 80s here…)

* “Alex” (Malcolm McDowell), A Clockwork Orange

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As we prop our eyes open, we might spare a thought for Vladimir Ivanovich Leventon– or, as he was better known, Val Lewton; he died on this date in 1951.  Having washed out as a journalist as a young man, Lewton wrote a best-selling pulp novel No Bed of Her Own (later used for the film No Man of Her Own, with Clark Gable and Carole Lombard.  He parlayed that success into a job at MGM, where he got close to David O. Selznick, working as Selznick’s assistant (and as an uncredited writer on Gone With the Wind).

But it at his next job, as head of RKO’s horror department (from 1942-46), that Lewton made his mark.  The job was well-paid, but came with three conditions: each film had to come in under a $150,000 in cost, each was to run under 75 minutes, and his supervisors would supply the film titles.  His first feature was Cat People, released in 1942 (and rooted in Lewton’s own gatophobia).  Directed by Jacques Tourneur, who subsequently also directed I Walked With a Zombie (loosely based on Jane Eyre!) and The Leopard Man for Lewton, Cat People cost $134,000, but earned nearly $4 million– the top moneymaker for RKO that year.

Lewton’s early horror films were artistic as well as commercial successes; they are now widely-admired classics– almost Jacobean in their skillful cultivation of tension and powerful use of off-screen menace and violence.  But he was a victim of his own success.  Pushed to move on to A films, Lewton floundered, never recovering the artistic (nor the box office) success that he achieved in the looser world of B movies.

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Happy Pi Day!… 

 

 

Written by LW

March 14, 2015 at 1:01 am

“In Hollywood, the real stars are all in animation”*…

 

Back in 2001, Terry Gilliam, a respected director who’d begun his career creating the animated opens and bumpers for Monty Python’s Flying Circus, named his list of The 10 Best Animated Films of All Time.  From Starewicz and Disney, through Svankmajer and the Brothers Quay, to Lasseter/Pixar and Parker/South Park, it’s a captivating collection.

Our friends at Open Culture have dressed the list, adding links where available…  so now readers can click straight through to many of Gilliam’s picks: “The Best Animated Films of All Time, According to Terry Gilliam.”

The photo above, sourced here, is a lift from a marvelous short: “Terry Gilliam’s Do It Yourself Animation Show.”

* John Waters, Crackpot: The Obsessions of John Waters

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As we celebrate cels, we might spare a thought for Hazel Inez Gilman George; she died on this date in 1996.  George held down two key roles at The Walt Disney Company:  she was the company’s (and Walt’s personal) nurse, and– as “Gil George”– the main collaborator and partner of Disney composer Paul Smith.  Indeed, she co-wrote over 90 songs for Disney. Her work included songs for films like The Light in the Forest, Perri, Tonka, Westward Ho the Wagons, and Old Yeller. She was also a frequent contributor to the television shows including the original Disneyland show, Zorro, and the original Mickey Mouse Club.

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Written by LW

March 12, 2015 at 1:01 am

“If you want to use television to teach somebody, you must first teach them how to use television”*…

 

Graph TV is a visualization tool which graphs tv show ratings by episode. Each season is assigned a different color and linear regressions are calculated for each season as well as for the entire series. Each point on the graph displays the episode title, rating, and other data. The data points are clickable and will open its IMDb entry. The graphs are also exportable for offline use…

Make informed viewing choices (with larger versions of the interactive charts) at Kevin Wu‘s Graph TV.

* Umberto Eco

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Before we begin to binge, we might spare a thought for comic genius Harold Clayton Lloyd, Sr.; he died on this date in 1971.  While your correspondent marginally prefers the extraordinary Buster Keaton, Lloyd has some real claim to being the finest physical comedian of the silent film era (even as his career extended to talkies and radio).  Like Keaton, Lloyd did his own stunts– many of them, breathtakingly dangerous.  Indeed, after 1919, he appears wearing a prosthetic glove, masking the loss of a thumb and index finger in a bomb explosion at Roach Studios.

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Written by LW

March 8, 2015 at 1:01 am

“In many of the films now being made, there is very little cinema”*…

 

METROPOLIS (1927) Shot by Karl Freund, Günther Rittau, & Walter Ruttmann | Director: Fritz Lang

 

Honoring cinema’s past, frame by frame: from @TheGeoffTodd, a Twitter feed that delivers “One Perfect Shot” again and again…

* Alfred Hitchcock

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As we contemplate composition, we might recall that it was on this date in 1939 that Stagecoach was released…

Stagecoach was a major shifting point both in terms of the careers of its creators and of cinema as a whole. Ford had long failed to get his adaptation of Ernest Haycock’s short story “The Stage to Lordsburg” off the ground because the studios felt that Westerns were purely B-movie fare, the sort of thing best left to Poverty Row. And while Ford’s name is now synonymous with the genre like no other director, he had in fact not made a Western since 1926. Stagecoach finally got made with the help of independent producer Walter Wanger, who suggested Marlene Dietrich and Gary Cooper for the leads. However, he ultimately bowed to Ford’s preference for Claire Trevor and a relative unknown (and friend of Ford’s) by the name of John Wayne. All the film’s elements – a smart script by Ben Hecht and Dudley Nichols, the striking setting of Monument Valley, a great supporting cast, the exciting action sequences, Ford’s skilled direction, Wayne’s potent presence – combined to make it a hit not only with critics but audiences two. The film grossed $1 million in its first year, and was up for seven Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director. From that point on, the Western became an important and respected element of American filmmaking, while Ford and Wayne would reteam many times to solidify their position as its seminal director and star. Stagecoach was also apparently used by Orson Welles as the blueprint of a “perfect movie” while making Citizen Kane, and it rightly remains a classic to this day.

Focus Features

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Written by LW

February 15, 2015 at 1:01 am

“I _am_ big. It’s the _pictures_ that got small”*…

 

Apple paid $10 billion to developers in calendar 2014– thus, iOS app developers earned more than Hollywood did from box office in the U.S.  Of course, Hollywood studios make money in foreign theaters, in cable, in home video, and in digital.  But, as Horace Dedieu observes…

Apple’s App Store billings is not the complete App revenue picture either. The Apps economy includes Android and ads and service businesses and custom development.  Including all revenues, apps are still likely to be bigger than Hollywood.

But there’s more to the story. It’s also likely that the App industry is healthier. On an individual level, some App developers earn more than Hollywood stars, and I would guess that the median income of app developers is higher than the median income of actors [a large majority of whom earn less than $1,000 a year from acting jobs]. The app economy sustains more jobs (627,000 iOS jobs in the US vs. 374,000 in Hollywood) and is easier to enter and has wider reach. As the graph [above] shows, it’s also growing far more rapidly…

Grab some popcorn and read the rest at “Bigger Than Hollywood.”

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

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As we disable in-app purchases, we might recall that it was on this date in 1931 that City Lights premiered.  Written and directed by its star, Charlie Chaplin, the film follows Chaplin’s “Tramp” character as he falls in love with a blind woman (Virginia Cherrill).  Though sound films– “talkies”– were the rage at the time, Chaplin produced City Lights as a scored silent– for which he composed the music himself.  It was a huge success on its release, grossing over $5 million ($730 million in 2015 dollars).  And it has grown in critical stature ever since:  In 1992, the Library of Congress selected City Lights for preservation in the United States National Film Registry; then in 2007, the American Film Institute‘s 100 Years… 100 Movies ranked City Lights as the 11th greatest American film of all time.  The critic James Agee referred to the final scene in the film as the “greatest single piece of acting ever committed to celluloid.”

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Written by LW

January 30, 2015 at 1:01 am

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