Once again, I should be grading. So here's what I've been squandering my time on instead.
- "The Great Lebowski Re-evaluation gradually took root among the youth counterculture after the goddamn plane crashed into the building—exactly 10 years after the Dude buys a carton of half-and-half in the opening scene of the movie," Benjamin wrote in an e-mail. And yes, it's true: That half-and-half purchase, soundtracked by a televised George H.W. Bush speech about aggression and the "Eye-rackies," gets paid for by a check dated September 11.
- The Hitchcock handbag -- they're quite fetishistic, vaginal things. I'm not the only one who's noticed this predilection and I don't find it a stretch. With all those crisp, snapped, soft or hard bodied rectangular satchels and muffs, Hitchcock's women clutched wombs of wonder that, like, many ladies obsessed with their handbags, seem to serve the purpose to only mystify men. Who cares so much about a damn handbag? Women do. And not just for fashion, as Hitchcock so astutely noticed, but for what Kier also so astutely pointed out. Organization. Organization in that chaotic organ that will spill out of your satchel in messy, sticky, dysfunctional passionate disarray. And purses, they always lose control.
- But as I reflect on what I could possibly say about a film that's been so closely analyzed, admired and adored, it seems like 8 1/2 calls for some kind of unique treatment from me. It's indisputably one of the great audacious salvage jobs of a man wrestling with creative blockage and artistic confusion, whose vision and scope had progressively enlarged with each new cinematic triumph, to the point where expectations had morphed into assumptions that the brilliance and magic would just flow unceasingly each time the Maestro called his cast and crew together. Of course, 8 1/2 famously draws us behind the curtain of that gruesome process by which the movies so many of us love somehow emerge from the clash of egos, the relentless criticisms and pressures, and the chaotic lunges from one crisis to another in the personal lives of the flawed and vulnerable humans who labor to get something tangible up on the screen. The film is a dazzling display of 20th century modernism, so self-reflexive and aware of itself as a phenomenon that it opens the doors of our perception to all the latent narcissism and willfully indulgent obscurity that eventually came to be labeled postmodernism. And it's also a beautiful portrait (as all of Fellini's films are, at least those I've seen) of ordinary people muddling their way through the plight of their lives with wit, confusion, dread and delight. There's a lot going on here, in this film, in the mind of Fellini as he made it, and in my own life as I watch 8 1/2 again and incorporate it into my own experience 50 years after it debuted. And today I'm just beginning the process of grappling with it all.
- GY: Can you talk about the song in this clip? How did you find this moment of synch sound?
PL: We spent maybe the first year of the project just figuring out what we were looking at and having these small victories. We were able to say, “Okay, we’ve figured out that this particular clip is Idaho Falls, Idaho.” And somehow we were able to figure out that it was roughly whatever month it was in 1971. Then we were able to go into the White House Communications Agency audio archive and scan for Idaho Falls. And because that clip has people singing, you knew that there’d be some way to find a synch. We were able to do that a few times, but this one was really great because we were able to use someone’s in-camera edits, and also someone else’s in-audio recorder edits. They’re totally unrelated; they just happen to be recording the same event.
BF: My best guess is that the song was written by a high school teacher, and that it was something the choral group learned for the event. It’s kind of incomprehensible what exactly it’s supposed to be getting at: “We are Americans, we hope that you are too”?
- The early eighties were a particularly fertile period in my cinephilia. Having just gotten both cable and a VCR, it seemed that, after years of reading about so many movies, now I could finally watch them. And I did, one after another, the VCR becoming my best friend. But also, like any teenager/twenty-something, I watched a lot of whatever was on cable. Again and again and again. Two of those movies were Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Taps. Now, had you asked me at the time, right then in 1982 when I was watching these movies on cable, who would become stars and who wouldn’t, I would have probably given the wrong answer on some, the right answer on others. Certainly Fast Times left me clueless. I found it to be dull, unfunny and shoddily put together. I probably would’ve said that maybe Jennifer Jason Leigh will go on to big things, and maybe her goofy brother, Judge Reinhold, but nobody else. Oh, I thought Sean Penn was good enough as Spicoli, it’s just that with nothing else to base it on, I couldn’t be sure if this was a performance or, like Pauly Shore later, this was all he could do. Eric Stoltz? I couldn’t even tell you what he did. Forest Whitaker? The football player? Doesn’t seem like he did much. If you told me at the time that both Penn and Whitaker would go on to be highly respected Oscar winning actors, I probably would’ve assumed you’d been smoking some of that Spicoli weed again. Oh yeah, and did I mention Nicolas Cage? That’s right, Fast Times at Ridgemont High had three future Best Actor winners in it. Holy cow.
- Drivers exiting the Skyway onto Stony Island Avenue may mistake the Avalon (later the New Regal) as a religious building, with its minarets and onion dome. When designing this exemplary piece of Atmospheric Moorish Revivalism, Eberson took his inspiration from an incense burner he discovered at an antiques market. The theatre’s 2,255 seats are enveloped in romanticized motifs suggestive of a Persian bazaar under a twilight sky. The Middle Eastern theme continues into the marble-tiled lobby, which includes three large carved wood murals set within massive arches. Soaring above is a flying carpet of sorts—the design of an Oriental rug painted on plaster and inlaid with patterns of cut-glass gems sitting within the recessed ceiling. Requiring minor touchups, this relatively well-maintained theatre is set to reopen in early 2013 as a live entertainment venue.
- Doughty reasserts many of Mitford’s 50-year-old claims; both the sentimentality of love and misguidance of morticians prompt mourners to spend too much on rituals they aren’t invested in or on unnecessary burial preparations. Doughty also shares Mitford’s disgust with the ghoulishness of many standard American practices. Though bodies are viewed in many societies’ funeral practices, “The idea of the open casket is pretty specifically American,” Doughty says. “And that really, I think, came with the body-as-product revolution of the embalmers. … One of the things that they were able to sell was the embalmed body. The idea that they were making this body beautiful and lifelike again, and preserving it for eternity. So that’s when it started to become, we’re going to create this ‘memory picture’ with this beautiful embalmed body and then put it in its casket and then present it to you.”
- Pay attention to the differences that make a difference.
Do not read about the object before you’ve completed your work. Let the link vultures quote you, not the other way around.
However, do not be afraid of the associations the object brings forth for you, especially from other art forms than the one at hand. And do your best to find the best in these affinities, these links, no matter how fanciful.
- Obviously much of the initial energy associated with blogging has now been redirected into other formats, especially social media such as Twitter and Facebook (often in ways that aren’t productive–especially on Facebook), but I still consider the blog to be an important part of my academic and professional work, a place where ideas can be developed and shared in an extended format that wouldn’t work as well on other platforms.
- Geoff Gilmore (Chief Creative Officer), Genna Terranova (VP of Programming), Frederic Boyer (Artistic Director) and Sharon Badal (Shorts Programmer) went to the Livestream studio to talk the Festival slate for 2013. Moderated by Slate’s Dana Stevens, the discussion shed light on the programming process, and the group highlighted several films that they believe are must-sees at this year’s Festival. [via Lindsay]
- "I'm used to catching some flak for ever daring to make drinking sound glamorous," Schaap admits. "And I certainly try not to diminish or make light of real issues involving drinking out there. But no one makes it look more glamorous than Nick and Nora do." The author particularly admires the moment in the 1934 film when Myrna Loy orders a row of six martinis ("Line them up right here"), as well as William Powell's method of shaking cocktails to ballroom-dance rhythms. "They're just having such a grand time, and their chemistry is so spectacular, and you can't help thinking that somehow all those martinis make that possible."