Congratulations to my art house alma mater, the Brattle Theatre, on its successful Kickstarter campaign. Pictured is Major Strasser getting the full rear-projection treatment.
Another alum, A.S. Hamrah, shut award season down over at N+1 with his 2013 Oscar preview. As usual with Scott's writing, I find myself with too many favorites to excerpt, so you should just read the whole thing, OK? Because it's all as good as this:
I went to the Sunday matinee of Life of Pi, in 3D, at the Regal Union Square Stadium 14 and paid my $18.50 to get in. Since it was Sunday morning I had stopped on the way and bought a large coffee at a café across the street to drink while I watched the movie. As I approached the escalator to get to the floor where the movie was playing, a ticket taker stopped me and told me I could not go in with coffee. If I wanted to see the movie, I would have to finish it before I went in or ditch it. I asked why. He said it was the theater’s policy. I suggested that since the cineplex was almost empty because it was 11 in the morning, he might just look the other way if I brought the coffee in. No way, he said, they watch me on cameras. So I went back downstairs and got my money back. Sorry, Ang Lee. That coffee was more important to me that morning than seeing a movie in 3D.
The ability to create a meaningful, visceral, powerfully edited soundtrack (and working with songs so damn perfectly and often songs not usually heard in movies, like the not one, but two songs by the band Love in Bottle Rocket, or Dignan running from the cops, tuned perfectly to The Stones' "2000 Man") is a specific talent that, thanks to Music Supervisors and the editors and directors who work with them (*note: a good question a commenter raised is, based on the collaborative nature of the process, who would win the award?) has created moments in movies so iconic, that we often can't imagine the song without the scene.
NOWADAYS, IT IS POSSIBLE TO BECOME A DIRECTOR WITHOUT KNOWING TOO MUCH ABOUT THE TECHNICAL SIDE, EVEN THE CRUCIAL FUNCTIONS OF PHOTOGRAPHY AND EDITING. AN EXPERT PRODUCTION CREW COULD PROBABLY COVER UP FOR A CHIMPANZEE IN THE DIRECTOR’S CHAIR. HOW DO YOU TELL THE GENUINE DIRECTOR FROM THE QUASICHIMPANZEE? AFTER A GIVEN NUMBER OF FILMS, A PATTERN IS ESTABLISHED.
IN FACT, THE AUTEUR THEORY ITSELF IS A PATTERN THEORY IN CONSTANT FLUX. I WOULD NEVER ENDORSE A PTOLEMAIC CONSTELLATION OF DIRECTORS IN A FIXED ORBIT
Stephanie Zacharek reviews the latest book by Jeannine Basinger, whose refreshingly lucid prose in A Woman's View [perhaps wrongly] convinced me there was room in the academy for writers who could express themselves without jargon. What? I was young.
Jeanine Basinger pinpoints the problem in her perceptive and nimble book I Do and I Don't: A History of Marriage in the Movies. Making movies that are truly about the state of being married has always been a thorny proposition. "Marriage, after all, was the known, not the unknown: the dull dinner party, not the madcap masquerade," Basinger writes in her introduction. (She doesn't say anything about toilets, but then, she doesn't have to.) "Worst of all," she continues, "marriage had no story arc. It just went on, day after day, month after month, year after year. Marriage took time, and movies had no time to give to it. A good story was usually a story in a hurry—good pacing being one of its best characteristics."
One thing I like to imagine when thinking about a film I really enjoy is what the side characters do in their spare time, that is, when they’re not busy propelling the story of the main character before us. And I don’t mean what are they doing in this particular scene when they’re off-camera, I mean, “What is their life like outside of this story?” And it’s not like a find the main character dull, it’s just that sometimes that side character is so interesting I can’t help but want some more....
The first comes from All About Eve and it’s Phoebe. Played by Barbara Bates in a wonderfully drawn bit part, Phoebe is, we are led to believe, the next Eve. But Phoebe is so much more than that. In just that tiny little scene, she shows more nerve, more gall, more brass than Eve ever did. Eve sat outside in an alley night after night and played demure as long as she could until she could make her way into the world of Margo Channing and take over. But Phoebe? She just shows up at the door, busts her way in, grabs Eve’s award and admires herself in front of the mirror. Eve’s mirror! Phoebe isn’t the next Eve, Phoebe is a force of nature and somebody could make a damn good soap opera out of her ruthless exploits.
Truly amazing memories of Orson Welles from the daughter of Todd School headmaster Roger Hill -- a must-read:
My parents enjoyed visiting with him. His visits were a daily occurrence. Here was a boy who could have a discussion about China, Europe, Toulouse Lautrec, Renoir, Mozart, Hugo, Voltaire and Shakespeare and many, many others. I was furious! Why would my parents spend hours with Orson, when they wouldn’t spend much time with me?
One day I tore into Orson, telling him just what I thought of his behavior, which was certainly very negative, He looked at me with a condescending, supercilious smile and said “Joanne, everyone has their little idiosyncrasies” and marched off. I had no idea what he meant and dashed off to find a dictionary. I know he was right but he had more than most....
During the festival, Orson met Virginia Nicolson She had enrolled as a student. At the end of the summer they got married with the help of my parents. It was also during the festival that a student, William Vance, brought a camera to the campus. Orson with Virginia, Paul Edgerton, other students and Blackie O’Neal produced a ridiculous, meaningless film they called “The Hearts of Age.” It made no sense. Orson was just trying to discover the workings of a camera.
Finally, Max Goldberg speaks with Ernst Karel for Moving Image Source. [Fun fact: Before P.O.V. would air Sweetgrass, the sound of sheepherders pissing in plein aire on the range had to get turned way down.]
I was really surprised when people writing about Sweetgrass would comment on the sound as being somehow remarkable. To me, it was as straightforward a way of dealing with sound as I could imagine. We weren't doing anything tricky. There are no effects. A lot of it is sync sound, but I think it is something like what you just said, where the sound is allowed to intrude upon what's going on more than might otherwise be the case. For a lot of documentaries, the sound is reined in. It's especially exaggerated when you have a voiceover. Whenever that voice comes in, the sound mysteriously vanishes or gets shifted way down. Sound becomes an optional component of the image when it can suddenly come down for no reason other than someone wants to talk over it.