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Posts Tagged ‘film

“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

“I think an interview, properly considered, should be an investigation”*…

 

Kurt Vonnegut wrote novels, of course, but also short stories, essays, and — briefly, suitably late in his career — correspondence from the afterlife. He did that last gig in 1998, composing for broadcast on the formidable WNYC, by undergoing a series of what he called “controlled near-death experiences” orchestrated, so he claimed, by “Dr. Jack Kevorkian and the facilities of a Huntsville, Texas execution chamber.” These made possible “more than one hundred visits to Heaven and my returning to life to tell the tale,” or rather, to tell the tales of the more permanently deceased with whom he’d sat down for a chat.

Vonnegut’s roster of afterlife interviewees included personages he personally admired such as Eugene Debs (listen), Isaac Newton (listen), and Clarence Darrow (listen), as well as historical villains like James Earl Ray (listen) and Adolf Hitler (listen). Other of the dead with whom he spoke, while they may not qualify as household names, nevertheless went to the grave with some sort of achievement under their belts: Olestra inventor Fred H. Mattson, for instance, or John Wesley Joyce, owner of the famed Greenwich Village literary watering hole The Lion’s Head. Only the Slaughterhouse-Five author’s courageous and impossible reportage has saved the names of a few, like that of retired construction worker Salvatore Biagini, from total obscurity…

Hear Kurt Vonnegut Visit the Afterlife & Interview Dead Historical Figures: Isaac Newton, Adolf Hitler, Eugene Debs & More (Audio, 1998)

* Errol Morris

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As we take the guided tour down memory lane, we might recall that it was on this date in 1926 that Buster’s Keaton’s masterpiece, The General, was released (in the U.S.; for reasons lost in the wastes of time, it was released 5 weeks earlier in Japan).  Keaton starred in and co-directed the film, which was a based on a true story from the American Civil War (adapted from the memoir The Great Locomotive Chase by William Pittenger).  A financial disappointment at the time, it’s now widely-considered one of the finest motion pictures ever made.

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Written by LW

February 5, 2017 at 1:01 am

“Don’t be tricked by the verisimilitude into forgetting this is fiction”*…

 

Stranger Things

Thanks to obsessive online forums that pore over a production’s every anachronism , [the entertainment industry]  requires increasingly discerning and dedicated prop hunters. Nowhere is this more apparent on set than with the technology that surrounds actors. Mad Men inspired its dedicated watchers to complain that the Sterling Cooper office’s IBM Selectric typewriters were a year ahead of their time, and the numerous period-specific shows that followed have only had to be more diligent.

Now, as television is trending toward ’80s-era creations like Stranger Things, The Americans, Halt and Catch Fire, and The Goldbergs, decorators are finding it increasingly difficult to fill their sets with gadgets that won’t cause persnickety fans to froth at the mouth. It’s a very first-world Hollywood problem, but a fascinating one. The breakneck pace of consumer technology development — the same thing that has brought us generational inside jokes and those viral “Kids React to Old Computers” videos — is trailed by landfills full of mass-produced gadgets. They are not made of metal or wood, but a beige and flimsy plastic that tends to yellow over time. As the production designer for the first two seasons of The Americans, John Mott, put it, the ’80s “were also a time where design had kind of lost its way.” As a result, gadgets from that era don’t tend to be on most collectors’ radars, even if they’re in high demand in the entertainment industry…

It can’t just be a computer from the ’80s — it has to be THE computer from the ’80s: “How Hollywood Gets Its Old-School Tech.”

And for more on the viewer-side energy driving this, see “The Internet Is Spoiling TV.”

* Sha Li

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As we aspire to accuracy, we might recall that it was on this date in 1970 that Gimme Shelter was released.  A Maysles Brothers documentary edited by Charlotte Zwerin and produced by Porter Bibb (with incidental assistance from your correspondent), it chronicled the last weeks of The Rolling Stones’ 1969 US tour, which culminated in the disastrous Altamont Free Concert.

One of the most immediate and compelling documentaries ever committed to celluloid, it was released twelve months to the day after the era-defining tragedy that it depicted. Before directing Gimme Shelter, Albert and David Maysles had made vérité documentaries focusing on celebrities such as Marlon Brando, Orson Welles, Truman Capote and the Beatles and it was the latter experience that convinced Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones to invite the brothers and their creative collaborator Charlotte Zwerin to film the free concert they were headlining at the Altamont Speedway. The concert was attended by an enormous 300,000 people but the free love party was so large that the Hell’s Angels motorcycle gang were recruited in the last minute to act as security for the event. Rather than being a West Coast version of Woodstock (which had been held earlier that summer) Altamont instead became infamous for the death of Meredith Hunter, an 18-year-old African-American man, stabbed to death by the Hell’s Angels after drawing a long-barreled revolver. Amazingly, the Maysles caught the incident on film, turning Gimme Shelter into, as Amy Taubin succinctly put it, rock ‘n’ roll’s answer to the Zapruder footage of JFK’s assassination. Not only does the movie feature the fatal incident but, even more compellingly, in one scene we see a clearly affected Jagger watching the incident again as the Maysles edit the footage. A great concert film as well as a hugely important cinematic document hugely altered the trajectory of the Maysles’ career and remains, along with Don’t Look Back, one of the most important music docs ever made.

Focus Features

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Written by LW

December 6, 2016 at 1:01 am

“There is in souls a sympathy with sounds”*…

 

We know that there is sound on planets and moons in the solar system – places where there’s a medium through which sound waves can be transmitted, such as an atmosphere or an ocean. But what about empty space? You may have been told definitively that space is silent, maybe by your teacher or through the marketing of the movie Alien – “In space no one can hear you scream”. The common explanation for this is that space is a vacuum and so there’s no medium for sound to travel through.

But that isn’t exactly right. Space is never completely empty – there are a few particles and sound waves floating around. In fact, sound waves in the space around the Earth are very important to our continued technological existence. They also they sound pretty weird!…

More– including another, different opportunity to listen in and info on how you can help– at “What does empty space sound like?

* William Cowper

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As we prick up our ears, we might recall that it was on this date in 1956 that American International Pictures released Shake Rattle and Rock!, a comedy-drama (featuring the music of Fats Domino) directed by Edward L. Cahn, who went on to notoriety, if not fame, two years later with It! The Terror from Beyond Space, the film that inspired the 1979 film Alien.

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Written by LW

December 1, 2016 at 1:01 am

“Truth at 24 frames per second”*…

 

Freedocumentaries.org streams full-length documentary films free of charge, with no registration needed. For several films, we even offer the ability to watch trailers or to download the actual film.

The films are gathered by our researchers as we scour the web for well-produced videos and present them to our viewers. We adhere to all copyright laws and honor the wishes of the producers.

We created Freedocumentaries.org because we wanted to find an easy way to bring thought-provoking, educational, and entertaining documentaries to anyone with a high-speed internet connection. We believe that the mainstream media increasingly practices self-censorship, and that it ignores many opinions and historical events. With the media distorting or ignoring information, it’s often very hard to get an accurate picture of a problem, even while watching the news. Sites like Freedocumentaries.org are a much-needed counterbalance to corporate media: an industry dominated by special interests. Even though every dollar we make via advertising or donations is critical, we do not let any advertisers have any influence over which films we play. We would rather lose that money than lose our independence. And the fact that we won’t shy away from controversial films is one of the things that makes us unique.

While some of the films on our site have widespread distribution, others are created by independent filmmakers who depend on sites like ours to get their information to the public. The amount of work that these producers have put into making a 90-minute film is astounding. Different films create different reactions among different people.

There will be aspects of the films in which you may disagree or agree. After watching you may cry, become inspired, or you may get angry; in any case the films will get you thinking. We are proud that in the last two years, we have helped share these films with countless people that would not have seen the movies otherwise. We believe that we have made the world just a little better by doing so.

We are proud to help these independent filmmakers. We encourage you to visit their website and donate so that they can continue creating great films. If you haven’t done so yet, please watch a film. And if you enjoy the experience, tell your friends!

Over 450 choices, across an extraordinary range of topics, at Freedocumentaries.org.

* “The cinema is truth 24 frames-per-second” – Jon-Luc Godard

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As we lean in to learn, we might send philosophical birthday greetings to Francois-Marie Arouet, better known as Voltaire; he was born in Paris on this date in 1694.  The Father of the Age of Reason, he produced works in almost every literary form: plays, poems, novels, essays, and historical and scientific works– more than 2,000 books and pamphlets (and more than 20,000 letters).  A social reformer, Voltaire used satire to criticize the intolerance, religious dogma, and oligopolistic privilege of his day, perhaps nowhere more sardonically than in Candide.

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Written by LW

November 21, 2016 at 1:01 am

“I think all great innovations are built on rejections”*…

 

Screenwriters sending scripts to Essanay Studios, a Chicago company that produced silent films between 1907 and 1917, received this form rejection letter in response to their submissions. Here Essanay identified several common problems with scripts; some (“Too difficult to produce”) were probably more helpful to aspiring writers than others (“Not interesting”).

Essanay, named after the initials of its founders George Spoor and Gilbert Anderson, made Westerns and comedies from its Uptown Chicago headquarters and in California. (Its specialty in the Western explains the use of a stereotyped “Indian chief” head as logo.) Charlie Chaplin was a contract player for the company between 1915–1916 and made The Tramp while he was there. Chicago Tribune reporter Michael Wilmington suggests that Chaplin’s departure for a more lucrative contract in 1916 “hastened Essanay’s demise,” causing “a fatal rupture” between the two founders struggling with a sudden loss in income…

* Louis-Ferdinand Celine

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As we inoculate our egos, we might spare a thought for Abel Gance; he died on this date in 1981.  While Essanay was developing the comedic form, Gance– a French film director, writer, producer, actor, and theorist– was working across the Atlantic to lay the foundation for cinema as we’ve come to know it.  One of the first to employ close-ups and dolly shots, he was instrumental in developing both the theory and the practice of montage as it came to be employed in film editing.  He is probably best remembered for three major silent films: J’accuse (1919), La Roue (1923), and the monumental Napoléon (1927).

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Written by LW

November 10, 2016 at 1:01 am

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