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Posts Tagged ‘movies

“Yes, and imagine a world where there were no hypothetical situations”*…

 

From Les Maîtres du Temps (1982)

If the Universe came to an end every time there was some uncertainty about what had happened in it, it would never have got beyond the first picosecond. And many of course don’t. It’s like a human body, you see. A few cuts and bruises here and there don’t hurt it. Not even major surgery if it’s done properly. Paradoxes are just the scar tissue. Time and space heal themselves up around them and people simply remember a version of events which makes as much sense as they require it to make.
― Douglas Adams, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency

Interstellar has made quite a stir, and occasioned hosannas for its originality.  But as the British Film Institute reminds us, it comes on the heels of a long line of time-travel films…

…from the arthouse masterpieces (La Jetée, 1962), the slacker comedies (Bill &Ted’s Excellent Adventure, 1989), the canny satires (Groundhog Day, 1993), the conundrums (Donnie Darko, 2001), the nostalgic fantasies (Midnight in Paris, 2011), and the high-concept thrillers (Looper, 2012) [to] the comic-book escapades (X-Men: Days of Future Past, 2014)…

Find a more complete (and completely fascinating) history, and a list of worthy, but under-appreciated options at “10 great lesser-known time-travel films.”

* Jasper Fforde, First Among Sequels

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As we check our watches, we might recall that it was on this date in 1884 that Levant M. Richardson was awarded the first U.S.patent for the use of steel ball bearings in roller skate wheels– which reduced friction, creating wheels that allowed skaters to achieve previously unreachable speeds.  Indeed, in 1898 Richardson started the Richardson Ball Bearing and Skate Company, which provided skates to most professional skate racers of the time.

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Written by LW

December 9, 2014 at 1:01 am

“‘Evil Dead 1′ was never supposed to have a sequel”*…

 

The powers that be in Hollywood have been working overtime and turning the crank on the sequel machine for decades. Sometimes it’s hard not to be cynical about a part two when many movie follow-ups are made simply for the money. But what about a sequel that fans actually want? Enter iam8bit’s latest exhibition, Sequel — part tribute to the cult movies we love, part commentary on Hollywood’s obsession with sequels…

The West Coast gallery invited more than 40 artists to imagine movie sequels that never were. If you’ve had your fingers crossed for another Goonies, Blade Runner, or Labyrinth, then this is your happy place…

The show is open in Los Angeles now, and prints of the one-sheets are available.  More at “Exciting Posters for Cult Movie Sequels That Never Happened.”

* Bruce Campbell

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As we meet at the multiplex, we might recall that it was on this date in 1988 that Frank Drebin (first) foiled an attempt to assassinate Queen Elizabeth II: The Naked Gun premiered.  The father of two sequels, the film was itself a sequel– its full title was The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!– a feature-length riff on writer-directors Zucker, Abrahams, and Zucker’s earlier– and (too-)short-lived– television series.

http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8064/8232986495_6cef8561f8_o.jpg source

Written by LW

December 2, 2014 at 1:01 am

“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

“Don’t pay any attention to the critics – don’t even ignore them”*…

 

It is no surprise that critics and viewers alike agree that The Godfather is the “best film” among the ~2600 films considered on Rotten Tomatoes, with a 100% score among professional reviewers and a 98% score from the audience.  It is perhaps somewhat more surprising to learn which films divide those two groups; thanks to Benjamin Moore, we can contemplate that…

“Overrated” and “underrated” are slippery terms to try to quantify. An interesting way of looking at this, I thought, would be to compare the reviews of film critics with those of Joe Public, reasoning that a film which is roundly-lauded by the Hollywood press but proved disappointing for the real audience would be “overrated” and vice versa.

To get some data for this I turned to the most prominent review aggregator: Rotten Tomatoes

On the whole it should be noted that critics and audience agree most of the time, as shown by the Pearson correlation coefficient between the two scores (0.71 across >1200 films).  [But] using our earlier definition it’s easy to build a table of those films where the audience ending up really liking a film that was panned by critics:

Here we’re looking at those films which the critics loved, but paying audiences were then less enthused:

Explore an interactive version of the chart at the top of this post here; and read more of Moore’s methodology and findings here.

* Samuel Goldwyn

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As we think for ourselves, we might recall that it was on this date in 1932 that New York City Mayor Jimmy Walker”s “We Want Beer” parade was held. Prohibition was in it 12th year; and while that abstemious regime intended to end alcohol consumption, it had succeeded simply in pushing into speakeasies and other illegal settings.  Government officials like Walker watched as gangsters got rich, while city and state tax coffers shrank. (The blow had been softened at the Federal level by the introduction of an income tax.)

Walker positioned his “legalize and tax beer” pitch as a stimulus package:  increased tax revenue would mean more jobs.  And in the depressed economy of the times, the argument resonated : an estimated crowd of 100,000 marched, pining not only for a cold one but also for for employment and an end to the violence and corruption borne of Prohibition.  Similarly large crowds protested in Chicago and other major cities– all rallying behind a “Beer for Prosperity” battle cry.  Soon the voices of the unemployed drowned out the buzz-and-revenue killing voices of the “drys.”  Franklin D. Roosevelt’s election later that same year paved the way for The 21st Amendment, repealing Prohibition; it was passed the following year.

Beer March images

 [A portion of this post first appeared on Boing Boing, where your correspondent is a contributor]

“In a World…”*…

 

email readers click here for video

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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