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Posts Tagged ‘film

“Besides black art, there is only automation and mechanization”*…

 

THE AUTOMATIC MOTORIST, a British short film from 1911, wants you to avoid self-driving cars at all costs. In it, a robot chauffeur is developed to drive a newly wedded couple to their honeymoon destination. But this robot malfunctions, and all of a sudden the couple is marooned in outer space (and then sinking underwater, and then flying through the sky—it’s complicated)…

More on the film and its maker at “This Bizarre 1911 Film Warns of the Perils of Self-Driving Cars.

* Federico Garcia Lorca

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As we keep our eyes on the road, we might recall that it was on this date in 1873 that Samuel Clemens (the author known as Mark Twain) received a U.S. patent, his second, for a self-pasting Scrapbook (No. 140,245).  His creation used a dried adhesive on its pages so that users need only moisten a page in order to attach pictures.

In 1871, Clemens had scored his first patent, for “an Improvement in Adjustable and Detachable Straps for Garments”–an adjustable strap that could be used to tighten shirts at the waist that was later used on women’s corsets, and is considered by many to be the precursor of the adjustable bra strap.  He earned his third patent in 1875 for a history trivia game,“Mark Twain’s Memory-Builder Game.”

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Written by LW

June 24, 2017 at 1:01 am

“If commas are open to interpretation, hyphens are downright Delphic”*…

 

The tilde is 3,000 years old, but is there any grapheme that’s more ~of the times~? The little traveling worm, originally designed to convey approximation (and used in Spanish and Portuguese to denote certain sounds), expresses so much more: strangeness, emotional and physical distance — but perhaps most importantly, sarcasm…

The twisted mark’s twisted story in its entirety at “The Internet Tilde Perfectly Conveys Something We Don’t Have the Words to Explain.”

– Mary Norris (the New Yorker‘s “Comma Queen”)

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As we move our fingers to the upper left of our keyboards, we might send rib-tickling birthday greetings to Moses Harry Horwitz; he was born on this date in 1897.  Better known by his stage name, “Moe Howard,” he was the de facto leader of The Three Stooges, both on stage and off.

Moe, flanked by Curly and Larry, in The Three Stooge’s classic “Disorder in the Court

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Written by LW

June 19, 2017 at 1:01 am

“Art requires philosophy, just as philosophy requires art”*…

 

Bento (Baruch) Spinoza was excommunicated from the Portuguese-Jewish community of Amsterdam in 1656, when he was still a young man. He would go on to become the most radical and controversial thinker of his time. In his treatise Ethics (written in the 1660s), he rejected the providential God of Judaism and Christianity as a figment of the imagination. God, he claimed, is just Nature, and everything that happens follows with absolute necessity from Nature’s laws. In his Theological-Political Treatise (published anonymously in 1670), Spinoza claims that miracles are impossible, that the major organized religions are nothing but organized superstitions, and that the Bible is just a “corrupt and mutilated” work of human literature. One overwrought critic called it “a book forged in hell […] by the devil himself.”

Heretics! The Wondrous (and Dangerous) Beginnings of Modern Philosophy is a graphic history about Spinoza and the other thinkers of the 17th century who refashioned the way we think about the cosmos, the world around us, and ourselves…

More (and larger) excerpts from Heretics! at the LARB.

* “Art requires philosophy, just as philosophy requires art. Otherwise, what would become of beauty?”- Paul Gaugin

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As we emulate the Enlightenment, we might recall that it was on this date in 1959 that the short film Pull My Daisy was completed. Co-directed by painter Alfred Leslie, and photographer Robert Frank, it was adapted by Jack Kerouac from the third act of his play, Beat Generation.  It features poets Allen Ginsberg, Peter Orlovsky and Gregory Corso, artists Larry Rivers and Alice Neel, musician David Amram, art dealer Richard Bellamy, actress Delphine Seyrig, dancer Sally Gross, and Pablo Frank, Robert Frank’s son.  Kerouac provided improvised narration.

It premiered the following November at the San Francisco International Film Festival; then, in 1996, it was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress (which choses films that are “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”).

 

Written by LW

June 14, 2017 at 1:01 am

“Observation is a dying art”*…

 

Alice in Wonderland (1951)

Jason Shulman captures the entire duration of a movie in a single image with his series Photographs of Films.

There are roughly 130,000 frames in a 90-minute film and every frame of each film is recorded in these photographs.

More examples, and the backstory, at “Final cut: films condensed into a single frame – in pictures” and here. See Shulman’s other work here.

* Stanley Kubrick

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As we enjoy our popcorn, we might recall that it was on this date in 2002 that the Cannes Film Festival employed a specially-empaneled jury to judge films from 1939, the planned first year of the festival (which was postponed due to World War II).  The retrospective Palme d’Or went to Union Pacific.

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Written by LW

May 26, 2017 at 1:01 am

“Drive-ins were actually playing a difficult game from the start; the economics of the business were counterintuitively awful”*…

 

Photographer Lindsey Rickert was just seven or eight years old when she went to her first drive-in movie. Looking back now, what she remembers most is magic of the experience itself, “laughing and playing with my friends under the big screen as the cloak of darkness surrounded us and the screen above illuminated our playground.”

Those experiences came flooding back after she chanced upon the 99W Drive-In in Newberg, Oregon, a few years ago. First opened in 1953, the 99W still shows two features a night during the warmer months, and often sells out on weekends. But it has been more fortunate than almost all of America’s other drive-ins. In June 2016, the United Drive-In Theatre Owners Association estimated there were just 324 drive-ins still in operation—down from more than 4,000 in the late 1950s.

Rickert’s chance encounter with the 99W sparked the idea to photograph drive-in theaters across the country. She spent a year planning the trip and raising money on Kickstarter before she hit the road: 12,022 miles across 32 states in 65 days. She hit 28 theaters in total—both abandoned and still in operation—and had encounters with former employees, braved bad weather, and learned why it’s important to wear boots in the tall grass. We spoke to Rickert about her ambitious project and resulting book, Drive-In America

More of the back-story, and more photos, at: “A Photographer’s Quest to Find the Last of the Drive-In Theaters.”

* Kerry Segrave, Drive-in Theaters: A History from Their Inception in 1933

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As we roll down the window to mount the speaker, we might send cinematic birthday greetings to Roberto Gastone Zeffiro Rossellini; he was born on this date in 1906.  Perhaps most widely known in the U.S. for his then-scandalous relationship with Ingrid Bergman in the 50s, Rossellini was was one of the leading directors of the Italian neorealist cinema.  His 1945 film Roma città aperta (Rome, Open City) and the other two entries in his Neorealist Trilogy (Paisà [1946] and Germany, Year Zero [1948]) are widely considered classics.

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Written by LW

May 8, 2017 at 1:01 am

“A lot of it just has to do with luck, serendipity”*…

 

The Found Footage Festival is a one-of-a-kind event that showcases footage from videos that were found at garage sales and thrift stores and in warehouses and dumpsters across the country.

Curators Joe Pickett and Nick Prueher take audiences on a guided tour of their latest and greatest VHS finds, providing live commentary and where-are-they-now updates on the people in these videotaped obscurities. From the curiously-produced industrial training video to the forsaken home movie donated to Goodwill, the Found Footage Festival resurrects these forgotten treasures and serves them up in a lively celebration of all things found…

 

Explore the wonders at the Found Footage Festival.

[TotH to my friends at the always-illuminating Recommendo]

* Emmanuel Ax

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As we watch, wide-eyed, we might recall that it was on this date in 1933 that David O. Selznick accepted a job offer from his father-in-law, Lewis B. Mayer, and joined MGM as a Vice-President of Production.

Selznick has worked worked briefly at MGM earlier in his career, but had gotten momentum working at RKO (where he oversaw such hits as A Bill of Divorcement and King Kong).  At MGM, he created a second “prestige production” unit, parallel to that of the powerful Irving Thalberg (Fitzgerald’s model for The Last Tycoon), who was in poor health.  Selznick’s unit prodcued Dinner at Eight (1933), David Copperfield (1935), Anna Karenina (1935), and A Tale of Two Cities (1935).

In 1936, Selznick left to create his own production company.  His successes continued with classics such as The Garden of Allah (1936), The Prisoner of Zenda (1937), A Star Is Born (1937), Nothing Sacred (1937), The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1938), The Young in Heart (1938), Made for Each Other (1939), Intermezzo (1939) and Gone with the Wind (1939), which remains the highest-grossing film of all time (adjusted for inflation). Gone with the Wind won eight Oscars and two special awards– and Selznick won the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award that same year.  In 1940 he produced his second Best Picture Oscar winner in a row, Rebecca, the first Hollywood production for British director Alfred Hitchcock.

While the rest of his career contained a number of successes (Spellbound, Since You Went Away, Duel in the Sun), it never again reached the heights he attained in 1939-40.

Selznick was himself an inspiration for an Academy Award-winning film: the “Jonathan Shields” character in The Bad and the Beautiful is partially based on him.

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Written by LW

February 16, 2017 at 1:01 am

“I want to be with those who know secret things or else alone”*…

 

Few people ever saw the images of china girls, although for decades they were ubiquitous in movie theaters. At the beginning of a reel of film, there would be a few frames of a woman’s head. She might be dressed up; she might be scowling at the camera. She might blink or move her head.

But if audiences saw her, it was only because there had been a mistake. These frames weren’t for public consumption. The china girl was there to assist the lab technicians processing the film. Even though the same person’s face might show up in reel after reel of film, her image would remain unknown to everyone except the technicians and projectionists.

For many years photo labs would produce unique china girl images; around a couple hundred women, perhaps more, had their images hidden at the beginning of films. As movies have transitioned from analog to digital, though, the china girls are disappearing.

China girls went by many names—leader ladies, girl head, lady wedge—but they were almost always images of women, and those women were almost always white. They were meant to show the person developing a film that everything had gone right technically; if it hadn’t, the china girl’s skin tone would look unnatural.

More lore at “The Forgotten ‘China Girls’ Hidden at the Beginning of Old Films.”

* Rainer Maria Rilke

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As we hunt for Easter eggs, we might send frightening birthday greetings to Lon Chaney, Jr.; he was born on this date in 1906.  Christened Creighton Tull Chaney, he took his famous father‘s name when he became an actor.  While he is probably best remembered for playing Larry Talbot in the 1941 film The Wolf Man and its various crossovers, and Count Alucard (son of Dracula) in several horror films produced by Universal Studios, he was cast in a wide variety of roles (including Lennie Small in Of Mice and Men) in career that spanned four decades.

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Written by LW

February 10, 2017 at 1:01 am

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