Prompted by encountering the above images on Fette, this post kicks off with a brief reminiscence of a conversation on the lawn between screenings at the Flaherty Seminar. Apparently, toning down the sound of shepherds pissing was a necessary tweak prior to the PBS debut of Sweetgrass.
Top, screen capture from Woody Allen: A Documentary, 2011, directed by Robert Weide, which aired on PBS November 2011 and featured an excerpt from Everything You Want to Know about Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask), 1972, directed by Woody Allen, in which the 4000 X-sized breast terrorizing the countryside had been pixelated. Via. Watch the uncensored breast. Bottom, uncredited photograph of Woody Allen, giant breast, and crew on the set of Everything You Want to Know about Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask). Via.
Two excellent film history posts by David Kalat, both on TCM's Movie Morlocks.
Giving it up for cinema originator Louis LePrince: "Some of Louis Le Prince’s films from 1888, three years before Fred Ott sneezed, still exist, and his designs for a camera and a projector also exist, as do some of the actual machines. However, his sudden disappearance from the scene in 1890 removed him from the game."
Setting the record straight on the persistence of vision: "There is a neurological phenomenon that could be termed “persistence of vision,” but it has nothing to do with how we perceive movies. After a visual stimulus, like a flash of light, the retina does produce an afterimage—but this retinal afterimage is not triggered immediately. It does not continue from the original retinal reaction, as is presumed by the “persistence of vision” theory, but actually kicks in a little more than 1/50th of a second later. As we have already seen, in the span of 1/50th of a second, the image has been removed and replaced at least once already, before the retinal afterimage has even had a chance to be involved in the process at all. Furthermore, there are two retinal afterimages, the second of which is a negative version of the first—and both afterimages are sized differently from the original stimulus. If the positive retinal afterimage had anything to do with the illusion of cinema, the negative one would surely cancel it out and ruin the effect.
Put simply, the conventional explanation for how movies work is just wrong."
Chris Fujiwara focuses on the zoom lens in a great piece that originally ran in Hermenaut 13 back in 1998:
The institutional use of the zoom in documentaries and TV news mirrors its underground use in home movies/video and pornography. Filmmakers zoom in on event-fields not subject to their prior control, like sporting events and impromptu encounters with politicians, celebrities, and suspects on live cop shows. But the opportunism with which the zoom greets reality is also a subjection, a submission. In zooming, the filmmaker confesses a powerlessness to intervene other than optically in an event whose flux s/he is doomed merely to follow. The filmmaker always lags behind the event: The zoom compensates for this delay, but it also registers it.
Matthew Battles on "Naming the Cinema," including these sweet column inches [above] from the NYT in 1898.
Gustavo Turner calls shenanigans on Sundance's decision to enshrine 1994's Reality Bites as an "indie classic."
It's interesting that Sundance, the ultimate example of an art organization co-opted by corporate media, will try to revive Reality Bites as an indie classic, not only because it's neither really indie nor, arguably, a classic, but also because the movie is so ostensibly critical of artists being co-opted by corporate media. The conflict between maintaining personal artistic integrity and selling out is at the core of Reality Bites from its opening scene. It's also at the core of the film's behind-the-scenes story. In fact, a probing, warts-and-all documentary about the making of Reality Bites would be a much better time-capsule artifact for the Sundance project than the film itself.
Sounds like a case for the Zigzigger's Michael Z. Newman, whose Indie: An American Film Culture I fondled at the MLA book exhibit in Seattle last week and fully intend to have our library order from Columbia University Press [excerpt here]. Go, thou, and do likewise.
Since J. Ho's shit-canning was announced, I've kept a tab open with Matt Singer's post on the lessons for film critics from his class with Hoberman. [The cinetrix also studied with the man, albeit not film criticism. Which means, if you'd like to know what it's like to watch Dances with Wolves and The Doors simultaneously, say, or about the myth of the spat-upon American soldier, I can regale you, thanks to Hoberman.] Some of the ones I especially liked:
Palate cleanser! The New Girl and Jean-Ralphio sing "Tonight You Belong to Me" from The Jerk. Don't hate.
O.G. book blogger pal Sarah Weinman cuts through the Kael kvelling of late and brings us the other New Yorker film critic of that era, Penelope Gilliat:
But history, with its typical capriciousness, edited out some deeper truths: Gilliatt was a fine writer in her own right, her voice distinct but nothing like her co-critic’s. Where Kael forever showed how she “lost it at the movies,” delineating her taste with unbridled passion, Gilliatt's enthusiasm came through in elegant turns of phrase crafted with the same care she took with her fiction. To crib from the screen, Gilliatt was Glenda Jackson to Kael's Barbra Streisand, and their two wildly contrasting approaches to film criticism made the magazine a must-read in a way that Kael couldn't sustain by herself. Kael’s heyday came when she was sharing a chair with Gilliatt, and the magazine’s film section suffered from the younger critic’s controversial 1979 departure.
Wim Wenders plays Cinephile Supermarket Sweep at Criterion's offices.
Mark Olsen looks past Midnight in Paris to 1988's The Moderns [currently streaming on Netflix]:
Instead of idealizing the past from a contemporary point-of-view, The Moderns uses the past to point to the present. In only a single shot (given a certain emphasis from its inclusion in the film's original trailer), the camera moves across a crowd of nightclub revelers to land on a bar populated by totally-'80s punk rockers in leather jackets, and rockabilly kids with clothes trimmed in Day-Glo. Just as Sofia Coppola included a quick glimpse of modern-day Converse high-tops in a montage of 18th-century shoes in Marie Antoinette, The Moderns looks to draw a line of continuity forward to what would have been the film's contemporary subcultural demimonde, as a way of saying, "This is about you, too."
Philly-based film pundits [including FOC Matt Prigge] take to the You Tubes to tackle the burning question, "Who is the meanest film character you've ever rooted for?" Well?
The preliminary program for the SCMS convention in Boston this March has been posted, if you're into that kind of thing. I, for one, am counting the days until I can dine with my fellow panelists at Wahlburgers.
Finally, Sam's Myth has "been posting some favorites and some mixes over at Cinema Sound, culminating in a two-part mix of 2011 film music. Part One is mostly ambient/electronic, to be enjoyed at night on a drive or while working or relaxing. Part Two is mostly orchestral in nature."