(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘movies

“Visualizations act as a campfire around which we gather to tell stories”*…

From home ownership to digital media consumption, climate change to job growth– more, with commentary, at: “10 Charts That Capture How the World Is Changing,” from @rex_woodbury.

Al Shalloway

###

As we ponder patterns, we might recall that it was on this date in 1940 that RKO released Walt Disney’s animated musical anthology Fantasia— eight animated segments set to pieces of classical music conducted by Leopold Stokowski. First released as a theatrical roadshow held in 13 cities across the U.S. between 1940 and 1941, it was acclaimed by critics. But it initially failed to turn a profit owing to World War II’s cutting off distribution to the European market, the film’s high production costs, and the expense of building Fantasound equipment and leasing theatres for the roadshow presentations. That said, since 1942, the film has been reissued multiple times by RKO and Buena Vista Distribution (with its original footage and audio being variously deleted, modified, or restored in each version). To date, when adjusted for inflation, Fantasia is the 23rd highest-grossing film of all time in the U.S.

source

Written by (Roughly) Daily

November 13, 2022 at 1:00 am

“Would you like your money starched, sir? Box or hanger?”*…

Xizhi Li pioneered a new method of money laundering that enriched Latin American drug lords and China’s elite; Sebastian Rotella and Kirsten Berg explain…

In 2017, Drug Enforcement Administration agents following the money from cocaine deals in Memphis, Tennessee, identified a mysterious figure in Mexico entrusted by drug lords with their millions: a Chinese American gangster named Xizhi Li.

As the agents tracked Li’s activity across the Americas and Asia, they realized he wasn’t just another money launderer. He was a pioneer. Operating with the acumen of a financier and the tradecraft of a spy, he had helped devise an innovative system that revolutionized the drug underworld and fortified the cartels.

Li hit on a better way to address a problem that has long bedeviled the world’s drug lords: how to turn the mountains of grimy twenties and hundreds amassed on U.S. streets into legitimate fortunes they can spend on yachts, mansions, weapons, technology and bribes to police and politicians.

For years, the Mexican cartels that supply the U.S. market with cocaine, heroin and fentanyl smuggled truckloads of bulk cash to Mexico, where they used banks and exchange houses to move the money into the financial system. And they also hired middlemen — often Colombian or Lebanese specialists who charged as much as 18 cents on the dollar — to launder their billions.

Those methods were costly, took weeks or even months to complete and exposed the stockpiled cash to risks — damage, robbery, confiscation.

Enter Li. About six years ago, federal antidrug agents in Chicago saw early signs of what would become a tectonic change. They trailed cartel operatives transporting drug cash to a new destination: Chinatown, an immigrant enclave in the flatlands about 2 miles south of the city’s rampart of lakefront skyscrapers.

Agents on stakeout watched as cartel operatives delivered suitcases full of cash to Chinese couriers directed by Li. Furtive exchanges took place in motels and parking lots. The couriers didn’t have criminal records or carry guns; they were students, waiters, drivers. Neither side spoke much English, so they used a prearranged signal: a photo of a serial number on a dollar bill.

After the handoff, the couriers alerted their Chinese bosses in Mexico, who quickly sent pesos to the bank accounts or safe houses of Mexican drug lords. Li then executed a chain of transactions through China, the United States and Latin America to launder the dollars. His powerful international connections made his service cheap, fast and efficient; he even guaranteed free replacement of cartel cash lost in transit. Li and his fellow Chinese money launderers married market forces: drug lords wanting to get rid of dollars and a Chinese elite desperate to acquire dollars. The new model blew away the competition.

“At no time in the history of organized crime is there an example where a revenue stream has been taken over like this, and without a shot being fired,” said retired DEA agent Thomas Cindric, a veteran of the elite Special Operations Division. “This has enriched the Mexican cartels beyond their wildest dreams.”…

The fascinating– and chilling– story in full: “How a Chinese American Gangster Transformed Money Laundering for Drug Cartels,” Part 1 of a series in @propublica; Part 2: “The Globetrotting Con Man and Suspected Spy Who Met With President Trump,” a portrait of Li’s colleague Tao Liu and his separate (but related) crimes.

* Mohsin Hamid, Moth Smoke

###

As we clean currency, we might recall that it was on this date in 1956 that Mike Todd’s adaptation of Jules Verne’s classic Around the World in 80 Days was released. Directed by Michael Anderson from a screenplay by James Poe, John Farrow and S. J. Perelman, the movie starred David Niven, Cantinflas, Shirley MacLaine and Robert Newton, and featured cameos from Cesar Romero, Charles Coburn, Peter Lorre, Red Skelton, Frank Sinatra, Buster Keaton and Glynis Johns. Its six-minute-long animated title sequence, shown at the end of the film, was created by award-winning designer Saul Bass.

The film was shot in just 75 days, in England, France, India, Spain, Thailand and Japan, using 680,000 feet of film that was edited down to 25,734. The cast included 68,894 people (wearing 74,685 costumes and 36,092 trinkets) and 7,959 animals.

The movie was nominated for eight Academy Awards and won five: Best Picture, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Music and Best Screenplay-Adapted.

source

Written by (Roughly) Daily

October 17, 2022 at 1:00 am

“Tragedy is a close-up; comedy, a long shot.”*…

A consideration of the GOAT…

It always feels like an appropriate moment to talk about Buster Keaton, if only because talking about him leads naturally to watching his films and experiencing again the shades of awe and amazement they reliably awaken.

For all his fertility in superbly improbable inventions, what counted for Keaton was a sense of realness, an avoidance of the “ridiculous,” an adjective by which he indicated the disconnected gimmicks and anarchically unleashed aggression typical of Mack Sennett and Keaton’s own cinematic mentor, the ill-fated Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle.

He insisted on gags that evolved logically, story lines “that one could imagine happening to real people”—imagine being the appropriate verb, and the logic in question being of a peculiar sort unique to Keaton. The predicaments of his heroes were made to seem not only plausible but inevitable, even when they involved being chased over hills and valleys by a mob of women in wedding gowns (Seven Chances, 1925) or guiding a herd of cattle through the traffic-clogged streets of Los Angeles (Go West, 1925).

The pursuit of realness was carried to extremes in the epic proportions of the landscapes he sought out, the use of actual ocean liners and railroad trains as comic props, the execution of stunts like making an eighty-five-foot jump into a net in The Paleface (1922) or standing motionless in Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928) while the façade of a building falls on him—he is saved only by a conveniently placed window opening. (“We built the window so that I had a clearance of two inches on each shoulder, and the top missed my head by two inches and the bottom my heels by two inches.”) Magic act merges with cinema verité in films that become documentaries of the impossible. The fantastic structures and machines have the stark authenticity of the handmade. Most authentic of all is Keaton himself, continually testing the limits of the body’s capacities, not with bravado but with a demeanor that could pass for self-effacement…

Geoffrey O’Brien‘s illuminatingly-appreciative consideration of two new biographies of Keaton (the wonderfully complementary Buster Keaton: A Filmmaker’s Life by James Curtis and Camera Man: Buster Keaton, the Dawn of Cinema, and the Invention of the Twentieth Century by Dana Stevens)– and of the genius himself: “Keep Your Eye on the Kid,” in @nybooks.

* Buster Keaton

###

As we marvel, we might recall that it was on this date in 1936 that Keaton’s The Chemist was released. A short from Education Pictures (which is remembered not only for its Keaton comedies, but also as the studio that introduced Shirley Temple), it was directed by Al Christie, who was Mack Sennett’s great rival in the silent era.

While it’s not of the same stature as Keaton’s self-directed silent masterpieces, it’s a treat:

Written by (Roughly) Daily

October 9, 2022 at 1:00 am

“Take this job and shove it”*…

Chauncey Hare, “Self Portrait at EPA” (1980)

Chauncey Hare hated his job, so he captured the drudgery of office life in order to protest it…

Photography started as a hobby for Chauncey Hare. For 27 years, he worked as a chemical engineer at the Standard Oil Company of California, using his camera to escape the tedium of the office. By 1977, he couldn’t take it anymore. But before he declared himself a “corporate dropout” and committed to art full-time, Hare trained his camera on the world he hoped to leave behind…

“Head of Female Worker Seen Over Office Cubicle, Standard Oil Company of California” (1976–77)
“Office worker seated at a desk, ‘Standard Oil Company of California refinery, Richmond, California’” (1976-77)

Paradoxically, the same medium that once served as a respite from the banality of Hare’s professional life soon came to feel oppressive in its own right. In Quitting Your Day Job, a forthcoming critical biography of Hare, the scholar Robert Slifkin connects Hare’s sly, arresting portraiture to the artist’s critiques of capitalist power structures, including the cultural institutions that embraced him. (Hare won three Guggenheim fellowships, an honor shared only by Ansel Adams and Walker Evans.) The photographer went on to disavow “official art” and accept a part-time job at the Environmental Protection Agency to support himself. A self-portrait from that time [the photo at the top]shows Hare back in an office environment, where a poster hanging on a cubicle wall poses a question that its surroundings implicitly answer: What’s bugging you? By 1985, Hare had given up photography altogether and become a therapist specializing in “work abuse.”…

More of Hare’s remarkable work, and of his equally-remarkable story, at “Under the Fluorescent Lights,” by Hannah Giorgis. See also “These Photographs Were Made in Protest.”

* songwriter David Allan Coe (made famous in a recording by Johnny Paycheck)

###

As we gag at our gigs, we might recall that it was on this date in 1911 that the first motion picture “stunt man” was hired, when Lt. Henry “Hap” Arnold, a pioneer military pilot, was brought onto director William J. Humphrey‘s production of The Military Air-Scout to do stunt flying for the film; the two-reeler was released the following December.

Lt. Arnold went on to become an Army General (head of the Army Air Corps) and then the commanding general of the U.S. Air Force; he remains the only person every to hold a five-star rank in two different U.S. military services. On retirement, he helped found both Project RAND, which evolved into one of the world’s largest non-profit global policy think tanks, the RAND Corporation, and Pan American World Airways.

“Hap” Arnold, stunt pilot

Written by (Roughly) Daily

September 30, 2022 at 1:00 am

“He, indeed, who gave fewest pledges to Fortune, has yet suffered her heaviest visitations”*…

As Zachary Crockett explains, taking the kids to a baseball game, a movie, or Disneyland is a bigger financial commitment than it used to be for middle-class families… a much bigger commitment…

In the 1950s and ’60s — the so-called Golden Age of American capitalism — family outings were within the realm of affordability for most median income earners. Many blue-collar workers could afford new homes and cars and still take their kids to Disneyland.

Despite rising wages, many of those same activities are now out of reach for everyday Americans.

The Hustle analyzed the cost of three family activities in 1960 vs. 2022:

1. A baseball game

2. A movie at a theater

3. A one-day Disneyland visit

We found that these family outings have increased in cost at 2-3x the rate of inflation — and that, in order to afford them, today’s American families have to work up to 2x as many hours as they did 60 years ago…

The painful details at: “America’s favorite family outings are increasingly out of reach,” from @zzcrockett in @TheHustle.

* John Maynard Keynes

###

As we rethink our plans, we might recall that it was on this date in 1951 that Disney’s Alice in Wonderland had its American premiere (in New York, two days after premiering in London). The average price of a movie ticket that year was $0.47 (or $4.53, adjusted for inflation); popcorn was 5-10 cents per bag.

source

Written by (Roughly) Daily

July 28, 2022 at 1:00 am

%d bloggers like this: