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Caught up in an information culture.


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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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Paper sculpture maps reveal the history of cities

Detail of Matthew Picton's map of Dallas, showing the route of the Kennedy assassination.

Detail of Matthew Picton’s map of Dallas, showing the route of the Kennedy assassination.

The Atlantic Cities takes a pictorial stroll through Matthew Picton’s paper sculptures of cities, combining their streetmaps and their history in a way that quickly conveys geolocated information about major events.  The Atlantic’s Mark Byrnes says:

“In his series “Paper Sculptures,” Picton creates hand-cut and folded paper 3D street grids. He also incorporates art, text, or even special paper to evoke something specific about the city (often, a historical event or time period). So, for example, Picton’s London “Great Fire” of 1666 map depicts burned illustrations of 17th century street life. In the case of Las Vegas, Picton uses neon green paper decorated solely by the words from Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.”

While these are primarily positioned as art, and deservedly so, I like the concise and subtle information design, communicating the damage done by the French invasion of Moscow or the progress of the Kennedy motorcade in Dallas with tremendous economy.


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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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