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Posts Tagged ‘film

“Life is a tragedy when seen in close-up, but a comedy in long-shot”*…

 

Keaton_1600x900

 

Before Edgar Wright and Wes Anderson, before Chuck Jones and Jackie Chan, there was Buster Keaton, one of the founding fathers of visual comedy. And nearly 100 years after he first appeared onscreen, we’re still learning from him…

 

 

Lessons from the best: “Buster Keaton- The Art of the Gag.”

* Charlie Chaplin

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As we mix marvel with mirth, we might recall that it was on this date in 1850 that photographer Frederick Langenheim was issued U.S. Patent #7,784 for “Improvement in photographic pictures on glass,” a process of rendering photographic images on glass plates– magic lantern slides.

Prior to 1850, most magic lantern slides were hand-painted on glass, or created using a transfer method to reproduce many copies of a single etching or print; the development of photographic slides created entirely new uses for the magic lantern, from university lectures to amateur family photo shows… to “Coming Attractions” advertisements in theaters in the silent film era.

Lang source

 

Written by LW

November 19, 2019 at 1:01 am

“Here’s to alcohol: the cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems”*…

 

Beer

 

Of all the substances people intoxicate themselves with, alcohol is the least restricted and causes the most harm. Many illegal drugs are more dangerous to those who use them, but are relatively hard to obtain, which limits their impact. In contrast, alcohol is omnipresent, so far more people suffer from its adverse effects. In 2010 a group of drug experts scored the total harm in Britain caused by 20 common intoxicants and concluded that alcohol inflicted the greatest cost, mostly because of the damage it does to non-consumers such as the victims of drunk drivers…

No Western country has banned alcohol since America repealed Prohibition in 1933. It is popular and easy to produce. Making it illegal enriches criminals and starts turf wars. In recent years governments have begun legalising other drugs. Instead, to limit the harm caused by alcohol, states have tried to dissuade people from drinking, using taxes, awareness campaigns and limits on where, when and to whom booze is sold.

The alcohol industry has pitched itself as part of the solution. In Britain more than 100 producers and retailers have signed a “responsibility deal” and promised to “help people to drink within guidelines”, mostly by buying ads promoting moderation. However, if these campaigns were effective, they would ruin their sponsors’ finances. According to researchers from the Institute of Alcohol Studies, a think-tank, and the University of Sheffield, some two-fifths of alcohol consumed in Britain is in excess of the recommended weekly maximum of 14 units (about one glass of wine per day). Industry executives say they want the public to “drink less, but drink better”, meaning fewer, fancier tipples. But people would need to pay 22-98% more per drink to make up for the revenue loss that such a steep drop in consumption would cause.

Health officials have taken note of such arithmetic. Some now wonder if Big Booze is sincere in its efforts to discourage boozing. In 2018 America’s National Institutes of Health stopped a $100m study of moderate drinking, which was partly funded by alcohol firms, because its design was biased in their products’ favour. And this year the World Health Organisation and England’s public-health authority banned their staff from working with the industry…

alcohol

Governments are growing more suspicious of Big Booze: “Alcohol firms promote moderate drinking, but it would ruin them.”

See also “How much beer does your state drink? In the thirstiest, about 40 gallons a year per person,” source of the image at top.

* Homer Simpson

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As we muse on moderation, we might recall that it was on this date in 1944 that Harvey, a play by Mary Chase, opened on Broadway.  It ran for 1,775 performances and won the (1945) Pulitzer prize for Drama.  The story of a care-free dipsomaniac named Elwood P. Dowd, whose best friend was a “pooka” (an imaginary rabbit named Harvey), it was directed by Antoinette Perry– the actress, director, and co-founder of the American Theater Wing, for whom the Tony Awards are named.  It’s been regularly revived on-stage, and was adapted into an Oscar-winning film that starred Jimmy Stewart as Elwood.

220px-Harvey-FE-1953 source

 

Written by LW

November 1, 2019 at 1:01 am

“Why should things be easy to understand?”*…

 

Lee-Smolin_2K_02

 

The universe is kind of an impossible object. It has an inside but no outside; it’s a one-sided coin. This Möbius architecture presents a unique challenge for cosmologists, who find themselves in the awkward position of being stuck inside the very system they’re trying to comprehend.

It’s a situation that Lee Smolin has been thinking about for most of his career. A physicist at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Canada, Smolin works at the knotty intersection of quantum mechanics, relativity and cosmology. Don’t let his soft voice and quiet demeanor fool you — he’s known as a rebellious thinker and has always followed his own path. In the 1960s Smolin dropped out of high school, played in a rock band called Ideoplastos, and published an underground newspaper. Wanting to build geodesic domes like R. Buckminster Fuller, Smolin taught himself advanced mathematics — the same kind of math, it turned out, that you need to play with Einstein’s equations of general relativity. The moment he realized this was the moment he became a physicist. He studied at Harvard University and took a position at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, eventually becoming a founding faculty member at the Perimeter Institute.

“Perimeter,” in fact, is the perfect word to describe Smolin’s place near the boundary of mainstream physics. When most physicists dived headfirst into string theory, Smolin played a key role in working out the competing theory of loop quantum gravity. When most physicists said that the laws of physics are immutable, he said they evolve according to a kind of cosmic Darwinism. When most physicists said that time is an illusion, Smolin insisted that it’s real.

Smolin often finds himself inspired by conversations with biologists, economists, sculptors, playwrights, musicians and political theorists. But he finds his biggest inspiration, perhaps, in philosophy — particularly in the work of the German philosopher Gottfried Leibniz, active in the 17th and 18th centuries, who along with Isaac Newton invented calculus. Leibniz argued (against Newton) that there’s no fixed backdrop to the universe, no “stuff” of space; space is just a handy way of describing relationships. This relational framework captured Smolin’s imagination, as did Leibniz’s enigmatic text The Monadology, in which Leibniz suggests that the world’s fundamental ingredient is the “monad,” a kind of atom of reality, with each monad representing a unique view of the whole universe. It’s a concept that informs Smolin’s latest work as he attempts to build reality out of viewpoints, each one a partial perspective on a dynamically evolving universe. A universe as seen from the inside…

Lee Smolin explains his radical idea for how to understand an object with no exterior–imagine it built bit-by-bit from relationships between events: “How to Understand the Universe When You’re Stuck Inside of It.”

* Thomas Pynchon

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As we muse on monads, we might send delightful birthday greetings to Fernando Arrabal Terán; he was born on this date in 1932.  A playwright, screenwriter, film director, novelist, and poet, Arrabal co-founded the Panic Movement with Alejandro Jodorowsky and Roland Topor (inspired by the god Pan).

Early in his career, he spent three years as a member of André Breton’s surrealist group and was a friend of Andy Warhol and Tristan Tzara.  Later (in 1990), he was elected Transcendent Satrap of the Collège de  ‘pataphysique (following such predecessors as Marcel Duchamp, Eugène Ionesco, Man Ray, Boris Vian, Dario Fo, Umberto Eco, and Jean Baudrillard).

And throughout, he was very productive: Arrabal has directed seven full-length feature films and has published over 100 plays; 14 novels; 800 poetry collections, chapbooks, and artists’ books; several essays; and his notorious “Letter to General Franco” during the dictator’s lifetime.  His complete plays have been published, in multiple languages, in a two-volume edition totaling over two thousand pages. The New York Times theater critic Mel Gussow has called Arrabal the last survivor among the “three avatars of modernism.”

200px-Fernando_Arrabal,_2012 source

 

 

Written by LW

August 11, 2019 at 1:01 am

“The act of a pro is to make it look easy. Fred Astaire doesn’t grunt when he dances to let you know how hard it is. If you’re good at it, you leave no fingerprints.”*…

 

 

Overbey-Rothman-Lillian-Ross

Lillian Ross was a journalist and author who was a staff writer at The New Yorker for seven decades.  Her novelistic reporting and writing style, apparent in early stories about Ernest Hemingway and John Huston, is widely understood to have been a primary influence on what would later be called “literary journalism” or “new journalism.”

Novelist– and one-time Ross friend– Andrew O’Hagan offers a remembrance on the occasion of the republication of Ross’s Picture, her account of the making of John Huston’s screen adaptation of Stephen Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage [she’s pictured above, at work on the piece]…

I’ve never met anybody who hated as many people as Lillian Ross did. She would count their names off on her fingers, regularly within spitting distance of them, and her voice wasn’t quiet and she wasn’t shy. Bending back each digit and making a face, she’d offer a defining word after each name:

Gloria Steinem – phoney
Janet Malcolm – pretentious
Renata Adler – crackpot
Susan Sontag – nobody
Nora Ephron – liar

Other hand:

Kenneth Tynan – creep
Truman Capote – leech
George Plimpton – slick
Tom Wolfe – talentless
Philip Roth – jerk

It was a mercy she only had two hands…

Great reporting isn’t usually harmed by the reporter having a poor character. It may even be improved by it. Lillian just happened to be hard-bitten in the right way. Her pieces relied on a ruthlessness, sometimes a viciousness, that she didn’t try to hide and that other people liked to comment on. She talked a lot about not being egotistical and so on, but reporters who talk a great deal about not obtruding on the reporting are usually quite aware, at some level, that objectivity is probably a fiction, and that they are most present when imagining they’re invisible. (Lillian was in at least two minds about this, possibly six. One minute she’d say a reporter had to let the story be the story, the next she’d say it was ridiculous: a reporter is ‘chemically’ involved in the story she is writing.)…

More on the complicated question of character and and the work that it produces at “Not Enough Delilahs.”

{Image above: source]

* Lillian Ross

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As we consider the source, we might send delightful birthday greetings to Sir Tom Stoppard; he was born on this date in 1937.  A playwright and screenwriter, he has written prolifically for TV, radio, film and stage, earning acclaim for such plays such as Arcadia, The Coast of Utopia, Every Good Boy Deserves Favour, Professional Foul, The Real Thing, The Invention of Love, and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, and for the screenplays for Brazil, The Russia House, and Shakespeare in Love; he has received an Academy Award and four Tony Awards.

220px-Image-Tom_Stoppard_1_(cropped) source

 

Written by LW

July 3, 2019 at 1:01 am

“Celebrity is the chastisement of merit and the punishment of talent”*…

 

people map

 

A People Map of the US, where city names are replaced by their most Wikipedia’ed resident: people born in, lived in, or connected to a place…

From our friends at The Pudding, a chart of our crazes– zoomable to reveal much more detail: “A People Map of the US.”

* Emily Dickinson

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As we obsess on obsession, we might recall that it was on this date in 2009 that Kodak ceded the victory of digital photography and announced that it would discontinue the production and sale of Kodachrome print and slide film, a repository of “precious memories” since 1935.

source

 

Written by LW

June 22, 2019 at 1:01 am

“Without libraries what have we? We have no past and no future.”*…

 

special collections

The Special Collections Room, University of Pittsburgh Library [source]

I travel a lot for work, and sometimes I travel to cities where I don’t know a lot of people and there’s not a lot of tourist stuff I want to do.

When I’m traveling and am at a loss for how to spend my time, I look up as many libraries I can in the area I’ll be traveling to, and I check to see if they have special collections. Then I make an appointment with the library to visit those special collections, and usually it means I get to spend a day in a quiet, climate-controlled room with cool old documents. It’s like a museum but with no people, and where you have to do all the work, which is honestly my idea of a perfect vacation.

I will sometimes mention this to people and they respond saying “Okay that sounds great but I wouldn’t know where to even start.” So this post outlines the nuts and bolts of setting up this kind of thing for yourself.

Broadly, the steps go:

  • find some libraries
  • check out their special collections on their website
  • use a finding aid or whatever other information is there to figure out what you’d like to see
  • read the rules of the special collection
  • make an appointment and submit a request

Just in time for vacation planning, Darius Kazemi explains “How to be a library archive tourist.”

* Ray Bradbury

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As we unearth gems, we might recall that it was on this date in 1913 that cartoonist John Randolph (J.R.) Bray first exhibited his animated film, “The Artist’s Dream” (later reititled “The Dachshund and the Sausage” for reasons that will be obvious).  Bray was not the first animator; indeed, he was following purposefully in the steps of fellow cartoonist Windsor McCay, who had added animations of “Little Nemo” and “How a Mosquito Operates” to his stage presentations.  But Bray earned a place in the history of the art by being among the first– arguably the first– animator to organize his work and his studio according to the principles of industrial production (that’s to say, with division of labor)– an approach that has survived to this day.

 

Bray source

 

“Dying is easy, comedy is hard”*…

 

neighbors-keaton

Neighbors. Dir. Edward F. Cline/Buster Keaton. Perf. Buster Keaton, Virginia Fox, Joe Keaton. Metro Pictures, 1920.

 

As he migrated from vaudeville stage to movie set, [Buster] Keaton realised the comedy itself did not need changing, though the opportunities afforded by the camera could extend the world in which the spatial interplay he had developed since childhood took place.

“…the greatest thing to me about picturemaking was the way it automatically did away with the physical limitations of the theatre. On the stage, even one as immense as the New York Hippodrome stage, one could only show so much. The camera had no such limitations. The whole world was its stage. If you wanted cities, deserts, the Atlantic Ocean, Persia, or the Rocky Mountains for your scenery and background, you merely took your camera to them.”

Keaton’s comedy derives largely from the positioning —and constant, unexpected repositioning— of his body in space, and in architectural space particularly. Unlike other slapstick performers who relished in the close-up and detailed attention to the protagonist, Keaton frequently directed the camera to film with a wide far-shot that could contain the whole of a building’s facade or urban span within the frame. Proud of always carrying out his own (often extremely dangerous) stunts, this enabled him to show the audience that his actions were performed in real-time —and real-place— rather than simply being tricks of the camera or editing process. It also allowed him to visually explore the many ways in which his body could engage with the urban form…

An appreciation of that greatest of all silent comedians: “Buster Keaton: Anarchitect.”

* variously attributed to actors Edmund Keane, Edmund Gwynn, and Peter O’Toole

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As we take the fall, we might send delighted birthday greetings to Stanley Donen; he was born on this date in 1924.  A Broadway dancer (who befriended a young Gene Kelly), Donen followed Kelly to Hollywood as choreographer, then a director– of such classics as On the Town (1949) and Singin’ in the Rain (1952), both of which starred Kelly who co-directed.  Donen’s other films include Royal Wedding (1951), Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954),  Funny Face (1957), Indiscreet (1958), and Charade (1963).  Credited (with his rival, Vincent Minelli) with having transitioned Hollywood musical films from realistic backstage dramas (a la Busby Berkeley) to a more integrated art form in which the songs were a natural continuation of the story, Donen is highly regarded by film historians.

One might note a kinship between Keeton’s astounding physical relationship to his surroundings and that of Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor, and Fred Astaire in Donen’s films…

Stanley_Donen_(cropped) source

 

Written by LW

April 13, 2019 at 1:01 am

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