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Posts Tagged ‘movies

“Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here! This is the War Room!”*

 

Dr S 1

 

In “Dr. Strangelove Dr. Strangelove,” Kristan Horton imitates the glorious satirical film Dr. Strangelove, using common household objects to re-create the world created by Kubrick—silverware become an airplane, plastic and coffee grounds become the sky…

sky

Dr S 3

radar

The sublime, recreated with the mundane: “Dr. Strangelove Dr. Strangelove,” via the ever-illuminating The Morning News.

See also the “3-D Rooms Project.”

* Peter Sellers as President Merkin Muffley, one of three roles he played in Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, produced, directed, and co-written (with Terry Southern, very loosely based on a novel by Peter George) by Stanley Kubrick

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As we ride it down, we might recall that it was on this date in 1883 that the volcano at Krakatoa (Krakatau) erupted with full force.  The sound was heard over 2,000 miles away (that’s over 7.5% of the earth’s surface– the equivalent of an explosion in New York City being heard in San Francisco); tsunamis caused by the great blast killed 36,000 people in Java and Sumatra.

But there was another sense in which Krakatoa was importantly “the sound heard ’round the world”:  While news of Lincoln’s assassination (only 18 years earlier) had taken almost two weeks to reach London,  Europe and the U.S. knew of Krakatoa in about four hours.  In the years between 1865 and 1883, there had been three interrelated developments: the global spread of the telegraph, the invention of Morse Code, and the establishment of Reuter’s news agency… and the world had become much smaller.  (C.F., Tom Standage’s marvelous The Victorian Internet for the details– both remarkable and altogether resonant with today.)

As big as the explosion was, it was not the biggest in history: experts suggest that Santorini’s eruption in 1628 BCE was three times as powerful.

300px-Krakatoa_eruption_lithograph source

 

Written by LW

August 26, 2020 at 1:01 am

“Strong minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, weak minds discuss people”*…

 

the_news_junkies_of_the_eighteenth_century_1050x700

Interior of a London Coffee-house, 17th century

 

Picture someone who spends hours each day debating politics, indiscriminately consuming serious news and dubiously sourced gossip, yet takes no part in actual political action. That might describe many twenty-first-century Twitter users. As philosopher Uriel Heyd writes, it’s also how satirists depicted obsessed news consumers in eighteenth-century Britain.

The turn of the century brought a flourishing of print media, Heyd writes. By the 1710s, artisans and shopkeepers filled coffeehouses, discussing and debating the events in political and foreign affairs that they had read about in the day’s papers.

Soon, satires appeared in theaters, depicting regular citizens absurdly focused on the political sphere, to the detriment of their personal lives. In the 1711 play The Generous Husband, a woman dismisses a news-obsessed man as “a walking News-paper: his Head is the very Emblem of the dirty Houses he frequents, full of foul Pipes, News, and Coffee—Foh, methinks I smell him hither; he stinks of Tabacco like an old Gazette.” In the 1769 comedy The School for Rakes, a female character asks to have newspapers and magazines sent to her: “My mental faculties are quite at a stand—I have not had the least political information, these four days.”…

Hooked on viral news (or is it gossip?), today’s Twitter hordes owe a lot to history’s coffeehouses: “The News Junkies of the Eighteenth Century.”

* Socrates

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As we watch what went around come around, we might send insinuating birthday greetings to Louella Parsons; she was born on this date in 1881.  In the movie business from its earliest days (she supplied a script to the Eassanay Company before they discovered Charlie Chaplin), she became a film columnist in 1914– and a few years later, became the lead gossip columnist for the Hearst papers.

There was persistent speculation that Parsons was elevated to her position as the Hearst chain’s lead gossip columnist because of a scandal she did not write about. In 1924, director Thomas Ince died after being carried off Hearst’s yacht, allegedly to be hospitalized for indigestion. Many Hearst newspapers falsely claimed that Ince had not been aboard the boat at all and had fallen ill at the newspaper mogul’s home. Charlie Chaplin‘s secretary reported seeing a bullet hole in Ince’s head when he was removed from the yacht. Rumors proliferated that Chaplin was having an affair with Hearst’s mistress Marion Davies, and that an attempt to shoot Chaplin may have caused Ince’s death. Allegedly, Parsons was also aboard the yacht that night but she ignored the story in her columns. The official cause of death was listed as heart failure…   – source

In any event, Parsons became an influential figure in Hollywood; at her peak, her columns were read by 20 million people in 400 newspapers worldwide.  She was the unchallenged “Queen of Hollywood gossip”… until the arrival of the flamboyant Hedda Hopper, with whom she feuded for years.

LouellaParsons source

 

 

 

“Hollywood is a place where a man can get stabbed in the back while climbing a ladder”*…

 

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Cartoon of the brothers Warner drawn by Faulkner for his daughter Jill. Early 1940s. Center for Faulkner Studies, Southeast Missouri State University

 

William Faulkner disparaged his two decades of work in film, even though he spent the equivalent of four years in Hollywood and worked at MGM, Universal, Twentieth Century-Fox, RKO, and Warner Bros. Biographies of Faulkner treat his film work as more or less ancillary to his life and fiction, but in fact his screenwriting transformed his conception of himself and his writing. An understanding of the man and his work changes when his contributions to cinema are integrated into a capacious conception of his career…   – “The Cinematic Faulkner: Framing Hollywood

Jill Faulkner Summers found the screenplay for the vampire film Dreadful Hollow among her father’s papers in 1999.  An adaption of Irina Karlova’s lesbian vampire tale of the same title, it remains unpublished (except for excerpts) and unproduced… but not unstudied:

The screenplay is an important contribution to Faulkner scholarship in particular and film adaptation studies in general because the script has not been altered or edited in any way by anyone other than Faulkner. Because the film has not been produced, the multiple script revisions that usually occur when a film goes into production have not happened.  The script is completely Faulkner’s own and reading the screenplay allows a rare glimpse into Faulkner the screenwriter after he had been at it in Hollywood for over ten years. This essay provides the first thorough analysis of Faulkner’s unpublished screenplay for Dreadful Hollow. The first section gives an overview of how the script came to be, Hawks’ attempts to get the film made, and a detailed summary of the screenplay with new plot details not mentioned in earlier published summaries.  The second section focuses on the screenplay as a vampire narrative that borrows conventions from earlier vampire texts and catalogues the significant changes Faulkner made to the vampire novel on which the screenplay is based.  Faulkner chose to emphasize the vampire’s lesbianism to a greater extent than any earlier female vampire text, which is all the more striking because a female vampire film had not been made since Dracula’s Daughter (1936).  He also added details and made filmic changes to the story that cause the vampire’s destruction to appear as a rape or lynching and a revenge response to her lesbianism.  Finally, the essay shows how Faulkner reworks the novel’s conventional detective narrative for the film by including his own specific interests in crime narratives to give Hawks another vehicle for his vision.  He was rewriting the detective stories, “Knight’s Gambit” and “An Error in Chemistry” for publication while working on the screenplay and had just completed the screenplays for To Have and Have Not (1944) and The Big Sleep (1946) for Hawks…

Faulkner wrote Dreadful Hollow immediately following To Have and Have Not and The Big Sleep, and so it should be read along with those two films as indicative of the kind of work he produced for Hawks at the time. The screenplay reveals Faulkner’s approach to adaptation was to add elements that could deepen an audience’s appreciation of a form. In doing so, he resists the Hollywood Studio system’s tendency to whitewash corners and soften the shadows of source materials, something that would have been appreciated by his friend and sometimes employer, Hawks. Because the film has not been produced, the multiple script revisions that usually accompanied any script Faulkner wrote for a studio have not happened and the script is completely Faulkner’s own. The screenplay reveals him to be a serious and focused screenwriter with a wide knowledge of early film narratives and techniques who by 1945 had become quite good at his trade. Faulkner stamped the screenplay with his signature multiple times and so it contains large traces of his more canonical work. These echoes serve to further blur the lines between his “literary work” and his “commercial work” and suggest, instead, that for Faulkner, the distinction was perhaps not as clear as scholars have made it out to be. It therefore, should be considered a supplement to his more literary work. I wholeheartedly agree with Kawin’s 1977 assessment of the script: It’s Faulkner’s best screenplay and it deserves a place among his better-known and published work…

Grateful TotH to friend CE…

For a review of Faulkner’s entire career as a screenwriter, visit the essay cited at the top: “The Cinematic Faulkner: Framing Hollywood.”

* William Faulkner

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As we reframe fame, we might spare a thought for Martin E. Segal; he died on this date in 2012.  A Russian emigre to the U.S., Segal built a successful international human resources and employee benefit consulting firm.  But he is much better remembered for his passionate support for the arts– perhaps most particularly, as a champion of Lincoln Center and as the co-founder (in 1969, with William F. May and Schuyler G. Chapin) of the Film Society of Lincoln Center, and as its first President.  Now know as Film at Lincoln Center, it hosts The New York Film Festival and (with the Museum of Modern Art) the New Directors/NewFilms Festival.

As The New York Times noted in its obituary, while Marty “was generous with his money, he was perhaps most admired for the donations he managed to extract from others. He used to say he had no trouble giving people the ‘opportunity’ to contribute to the causes he cared most about, whether it be Lincoln Center’s redevelopment project, which updated the campus; Public Radio International [now PRX], of which he was a founding member; or the Library of America, a nonprofit publisher dedicated to publishing, and keeping in print, editions of America’s most significant writing.”

sub-segal-obit-superJumbo source

 

“This page contains material that is kept because it is considered humorous. It is not meant to be taken seriously.”*…

 

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A cow with antlers atop a pole. Wikipedia contains other images and articles that are similarly shocking or udderly amoosing.

 

Of the over six million articles in the English Wikipedia there are some articles that Wikipedians have identified as being somewhat unusual. These articles are verifiable, valuable contributions to the encyclopedia, but are a bit odd, whimsical, or something one would not expect to find in Encyclopædia Britannica. We should take special care to meet the highest standards of an encyclopedia with these articles lest they make Wikipedia appear idiosyncratic. If you wish to add an article to this list, the article in question should preferably meet one or more of these criteria:

  • The article is something a reasonable person would not expect to find in a standard encyclopedia.
  • The subject is a highly unusual combination of concepts, such as cosmic latte, death from laughter, etc.
  • The subject is a clear anomaly—something that defies common sense, common expectations or common knowledge, such as Bir Tawil, Märket, Phineas Gage, Snow in Florida, etc.
  • The subject is well-documented for unexpected notoriety or an unplanned cult following at extreme levels, such as Ampelmännchen or All your base are belong to us.
  • The subject is a notorious hoax, such as the Sokal affair or Mary Toft.
  • The subject might be found amusing, though serious.
  • The subject is distinct amongst other similar ones.
  • The article is a list or collection of articles or subjects meeting the criteria above.

This definition is not precise or absolute; some articles could still be considered unusual even if they do not fit these guidelines.

To keep the list of interest to readers, each entry on this list should be an article on its own (not merely a section in a less unusual article) and of decent quality, and in large meeting Wikipedia’s manual of style. For unusual contributions that are of greater levity, see Wikipedia:Silly Things.

At once a delineation of the frontiers of canonical (vs. valuable but off-beat) knowledge and a rabbit hole down which it’s eminently amusing to descend: “Wikipedia:Unusual articles

* Notice atop the Wikipedia page “Wikipedia:Unusual articles

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As we forage on the fringe, we might recall that it was on this date in 1975 that then-27-year-old director Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of Peter Benchley’s best-selling novel Jaws premiered.  Released “wide” (to 500 theaters at once, as opposed to rolling out in a few theaters first, as was then customary) and backed by a (then substantial) $700,000 marketing campaign, Jaws grossed $7 million in its opening weekend (on its way to over $450 million worldwide).  Prior to Spielberg’s triumph, summer had been the studios’ dumping ground for their weaker films; Jaws ushered in the era of the summer blockbuster.

source

 

Written by LW

June 20, 2020 at 1:01 am

“The purpose of a writer is to keep civilization from destroying itself”*…

 

Chiang

 

Traditional “good vs. evil” stories follow a certain pattern: the world starts out as a good place, evil intrudes, good defeats evil, and the world goes back to being a good place. These stories are all about restoring the status quo, so they are implicitly conservative. Real science fiction stories follow a different pattern: the world starts out as a familiar place, a new discovery or invention disrupts everything, and the world is forever changed. These stories show the status quo being overturned, so they are implicitly progressive. (This observation is not original to me; it’s something that scholars of science fiction have long noted.) This was in the context of a discussion about the role of dystopias in science fiction. I said that while some dystopian stories suggest that doom is unavoidable, other ones are intended as cautionary tales, which implies we can do something to avoid the undesirable outcome…

A lot of dystopian stories posit variations on a Mad Max world where marauders roam the wasteland. That’s a kind of change no one wants to see. I think those qualify as doom. What I mean by disruption is not the end of civilization, but the end of a particular way of life. Aristocrats might have thought the world was ending when feudalism was abolished during the French Revolution, but the world didn’t end; the world changed. (The critic John Clute has said that the French Revolution was one of the things that gave rise to science fiction.)…

The familiar is always comfortable, but we need to make a distinction between what is actually desirable and what is simply what we’re accustomed to; sometimes those are the same, and sometimes they are not. The people who are the happiest with the status quo are the ones who benefit most from it, which is why the wealthy are usually conservative; the existing order works to their advantage. For example, right now there’s a discussion taking place about canceling student debt, and a related discussion about why there is such a difference in the type of financial relief available to individuals as opposed to giant corporations. The people who will be happiest to return to our existing system of debt are the ones who benefit from it, and making them uncomfortable might be a good idea…

How we may never go “back to normal”—and why that might be a good thing– Halimah Marcus‘ (@HalimahMarcus) interviews the estimable Ted Chiang.  Read it in full: “Ted Chiang Explains the Disaster Novel We All Suddenly Live In.”

* Albert Camus

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As we put it all into perspective, we might recall that it was on this date in 1977 that Star Wars was released.  An epic space opera directed and co-written by George Lucas, it was both a box-office and critical success.  The highest-grossing film ever at the time (until the release of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial in 1982), it is, when adjusted for inflation, the second-highest-grossing film in North America (behind Gone With The Wind).

The film won 6 Oscars for a variety of technical achievements.  As film critic Roger Ebert wrote in his book The Great Movies, “Like The Birth of a Nation and Citizen Kane, Star Wars was a technical watershed that influenced many of the movies that came after.”  It began a new generation of special effects and high-energy motion pictures.  The film was one of the first films to link genres together to invent a new, high-concept genre for filmmakers to build upon.  And, with Steven Spielberg’s Jaws, it shifted the film industry’s focus away from the personal filmmaking of the 1970s and toward fast-paced, big-budget blockbusters for younger audiences.

The film has been reissued many times and launched an industry of tie-in products, including novels, comics, video games, amusement park attractions, and merchandise including toys, games, and clothing. The film’s success led to two critically and commercially successful sequels, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, and later to a prequel trilogy, a sequel trilogy, two anthology films and various spin-off TV series.

220px-StarWarsMoviePoster1977 source

 

 

Written by LW

May 25, 2020 at 1:01 am

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