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Posts Tagged ‘movie

“Acting is all about big hair and funny props… All the great actors knew it. Olivier knew it, Brando knew it.”*…

 

* Harold Ramis

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As we dress the set, we might that it was on this date in 1983 that Prince played a 75-minute benefit concert for the Minnesota Dance Theatre at the recently re-branded First Avenue club in Minneapolis.  It was there that the budding pop star debuted many of the Purple Rain album tracks, and recorded the versions of “Purple Rain,” “I Would Die 4 U,” and “Baby I’m A Star” heard in the film and soundtrack.

Screen shot taken from video of Prince and the Revolution’s debut performance of Purple Rain, August 3, 1983

The night also included performances from the company, including a piece choreographed to Prince’s “DMSR.”

More on this extraordinary evening, including a set list, here.

 

Written by LW

August 3, 2017 at 1:01 am

“Nyuk Nyuk Nyuk!”…

 

* Curly Howard

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As we celebrate the silly, we might recall that it was on this date in 1948 that Columbia Pictures released “Hot Scots,” the 108th short film featuring The Three Stooges.  The Stooges try to get jobs with Scotland Yard after graduating from a correspondence detective school.  They end up as “Yard Men” picking up trash and pruning the hedges.  They inadvertently get their chance to crack a case when– dressed in kilts and talking in phony Scottish accents– the Stooges (as McMoe, McLarry, and McShemp) are given the task of guarding the prized possessions of The Earl of Glenheather Castle.  The castle staff ransack the castle while the boys sleep there, though of course they eventually arrest the thieves.

The comedians released 190 short films for Columbia between 1934 and 1959.

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Written by LW

July 8, 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

“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

“The purest and most thoughtful minds are those which love color the most”*…

 

A hand-colored explosion from INVENTOR CRAZYBRAINS AND HIS WONDERFUL AIRSHIP (1906)

At the turn of the 20th century, a color revolution was sweeping across Europe and North America. The invention decades earlier of aniline dyes, synthesized from coal tar, had made pigments cheap and colorfast, fueling an explosion of brilliantly hued goods. Tinted stage lights and hand-dyed “magic lantern” projector slides illuminated vaudeville performances, variety shows, and traveling fairs. Vibrant clothes and dye-printed advertising posters emblazoned city streets. Vivid wallpapers, photographs, and trade postcards decorated the walls of homes while color-printed illustrations adorned women’s journals, children’s books, and dime-novel covers. Suddenly, the world looked like a fantastic, varicolored dream.

Out of this chromatic fantasia emerged the first colored motion pictures. Decades before the Technicolor wonders of The Wizard of Oz (1939) and Gone with the Wind (1939), filmmakers experimented with a variety of techniques for dyeing 35mm black-and-white prints. Colorists, primarily women, learned to paint these silent films with delicate brushstrokes, meticulously carved stencils, and chemical baths that washed entire scenes in icy blues, resplendent greens, or fiery reds.

These innovations mark a technical highpoint in filmmaking. This was the moment when the gray shadows of the silent screen burst to life with the wondrous and shocking vivacity of color…

More on the silent screen’s explosion into color– with glorious examples like the one above– at “The Phantasmagoria of the First Hand-Painted Films.”

* John Ruskin, The Stones of Venice

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As we peer through rose-colored glasses, we might recall that it was on this date in 2000 that John Travolta’s passion project, the feature film Battlefield Earth, was released. Based on (the first half of) Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard’s novel of the same name, it was an epic failure, both at the box office and with critics, and was nominated for nine Golden Raspberry Awards (a record, until 2012).

It has, of course, become a cult film…

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Written by LW

May 12, 2016 at 1:01 am

“I don’t understand how anyone can become a director without learning the craft of cinematography”*…

 

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Because…

* Nicolas Roeg

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As we noodle on the nanny-cam, we might recall that it was on this date in 1934 that Samuel Goldwyn acquired the film rights to L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.  The novel, published in 1900, had become an instant classic, spawning sequels (that continued under the direction of Baum’s widow after his death in 1919), a long-running Broadway musical, and several silent films.  Goldwyn’s version, released in 1939, had modest success at the box office (though it did garner several Oscar nominations–including a Best Song win for “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and a special award for Garland as Best Juvenile Performer). Then, in 1956, an estimated 45 million people tuned in to watch the movie’s television debut on the Ford Star Jubilee.  Countless TV airings later, The Wizard of Oz is one of the best-known– and most beloved– films of all time.

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Written by LW

January 26, 2016 at 1:01 am

“Math is sometimes called the science of patterns”*…

 

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From Katie Steckles, help for the Holidays…

Special Holiday bonus:  the story behind those massive bows that bedeck cars given as Holiday presents.

* Ronald Graham

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As we fold with care, we might recall that it was on this date in 1937 that Walt Disney released the first full-length animated feature film produced in the U.S. (and the first produced anywhere in full color), Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

The original theatrical one-sheet

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Written by LW

December 21, 2015 at 1:01 am

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