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Caught up in an information culture.


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A Very Calvin & Hobbes Christmas (2011) + Making Of

Still from A Very Calvin and Hobbes Christmas (2011).

Still from A Very Calvin and Hobbes Christmas (2011).

Wonderful homemade homage to Calvin and Hobbes.  The guys who made it talk a little about how it was done over at Friends in Your Head.  You can make great stuff on your kitchen table with sugar and play doh. Continue reading

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Weekend Longform Video: Screenwriting Lecture by Abi Morgan of “Shame”, “The Hour”

Still from Abi Morgan's lecture on screenwriting for BAFTA Guru.

Still from Abi Morgan’s lecture on screenwriting for BAFTA Guru.

Abi Morgan is one of the best writers out there, equally solid in television, film, and stage.  I’m incredibly impressed by the writing for The Hour: dense writing makes it light and fast-paced without being staccato or rushed, and the characterizations are incredibly rich.  In a large ensemble cast, every character is treated with great respect and shown as terrifically human, flawed and also wonderful.  (I’ve been thinking about how it’s done all week.  I’d love to see those scripts, but, man, try googling “scripts the hour”, and watch utter keyword failure in progress.)

In this video, she speaks about screenwriting in a talk for the British Academy of Film and Television Arts.

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The Cricklewood Greats (2012), Peter Capaldi’s Love Letter to British B-Movies

Still from The Cricklewood Greats (BBC, 2012).

Still from The Cricklewood Greats (BBC, 2012).

To round out my recent film history kick, we have perhaps the greatest documentary ever made on the history of British B-movies: The Cricklewood Greats, directed and hosted by Peter Capaldi, and written by Capaldi and Tony Roche of The Thick of It, Veep, and Holy Flying Circus.  A masterpiece.  A veritable masterpiece, sending up both British classic film and television documentary at the same time.  No, I’ll go further: a veritable masterpiece whose truthiness is capped off with a frothy Terry Gilliam confection, made up of documentary footage, all-too-painfully-true satire, digs at Thatcher, and the best worst only joke made at the expense of continuity girls in the history of comedy.

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Alice Guy-Blaché, the forgotten first female filmmaker

Alice Guy-Blaché, the first female filmmaker.

Alice Guy-Blaché, the first female filmmaker.

I think I’m on a film history kick here.  Filmmaker Magazine writes today about a Kickstarter-funded documentary on early filmmaker Alice Guy-Blaché:

Alice Guy-Blaché wrote, produced or directed nearly 1,000 films over her 20-year career. She directed one of the first films to have an all-Black cast of actors. She was also a savvy businesswoman, opening her own film studio, Solax Films in the U.S., becoming the most financially and technologically successful film studio at the time on the East Coast. Alice also pioneered the first uses of synchronized sound and image manipulation/superimposition, among other things.

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Lantern is a search portal created by the Media History Digital Library and the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Communication Arts to search a digitized collection of early industry periodicals from 1867 to 1978 relating to film, television, and radio broadcasting, with the bulk of them in the 1920s-1940s.  Among the titles that can be searched are Variety, Photoplay, the Journal of the Society of Motion Picture Engineers, Movie Makers, and the utterly brilliantly named Motography, International Projectionist, and Talking Machine World.   (I think I’m going to spend the rest of the week struggling not to write a screenplay called “Talking Machine World”.)

(via Kottke)


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Weekend Longform Video: The Bakery Girl of Monceau (1963)

Barbet Schroeder and Claudine Soubrier in Eric Rohmer's The Bakery Girl of Monceau (1963).

Barbet Schroeder and Claudine Soubrier in Eric Rohmer’s The Bakery Girl of Monceau (1963).

The Bakery Girl of Monceau is the first of Eric Rohmer’s series of Six Moral Tales, wherein a series of young men in pursuit of one woman become distracted by another.  Bakery Girl stars a very young Barbet Schroeder, founder of Films of Losange, the production company behind many films of the French New Wave, and later a director of narrative and documentaries.  Eric Rohmer was one of the oldest directors of the French New Wave, after an unsuccessful directing career in the 1950s.  Here, in the short form, he’s experimenting with editing and story before the mostly feature-length later instalments in his series.  The film is both a low-key slice of life, and fresh-feeling.  Criterion describes it as “Simple, delicate, and jazzy… shows the stirrings of what would become the Eric Rohmer style: unfussy naturalistic shooting, ironic first-person voice-over, and the image of the ‘unknowable’ woman.”

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Interview with Eric Rohmer (1981)

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“It started raining as the sequence in the park was finishing.  I hadn’t predicted the weather we would get as we’d be leaving the park.  So I said to myself, ‘Why not shoot in the rain, since our equipment is light?'”

Eric Rohmer’s films are deceptively simple, and usually the result of painstaking pre-production and agile improvisation by both cast and crew on set.  I like his films for thinking about process, because there’s a certain transparency to them: his films feel stripped down to the sparest collaboration of word, image, and sound, leaving the thought process of the filmmaker quietly visible on-screen.  Here his discusses his process varying over several of his films, in an interview recorded for France Culture in 1981. Continue reading


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Night Lights: The Black Marble (NASA, 2012)

Still from NASA's Black Marble animation.

Still from NASA’s Black Marble animation.

From the NASA Earth Observatory comes this animation of city lights at night, composited from 2.5 terrabytes of images taken by the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership satellite during 312 orbits of the Earth during April and October of 2012.  “Nothing tells us more about the spread of humans across the Earth than city lights,” says NOAA scientist Chris Elvidge.

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Kudos to IndieWire for turning an eye not just on women directors, but on a largely invisible demographic: older women.  Their article, “Heroines of Cinema: 15 Female Directors Who Made Their First Feature After Turning 40“, looks at women who started their careers at an age when they’re working against the stereotype of the next rising young star.  A commenter mentions a practical issue that I was glad to see raised: women tend to self-deprecate where men self-promote, leading women of the same skill level to be judged differently during hiring, promotion, and grant applications in male-dominated fields.  Anecdotally, older women tend to push back against that social norm a bit more, which ironically might give older women an edge over younger women in getting their first film made.