Friday, January 30, 2015

novelty bias links

---The Bad Sleep Well (1960)--The Geometry of a Scene

---Smog Journeys

---"What makes Martin's study of mise en scène and film style is precisely its capacity to enrich an educated cinephile's cinematic experience by awareness of the stylistic elements and strategies employed to create any single film and the multiple ways those elements and strategies can be approached and expressed." --Michael Guillen

---The Oscars' Horrible Lack of Diversity

---Things Are Not What They Seem

---Altman TV

---"Around the world, instances of palpable, immediate environmental catastrophe and brazen, systematic oppression proliferated at a terrifying rate, which underscores a position we and others have taken of late: With such nightmares growing more real each day, where does dystopian fiction end and reality begin?" --Devon Malony

---one shot from Raid 2

---Children of Men Advertising and Propaganda

---trailers for Hard To Be A God, Kidnapping Mr. Heineken, Clouds of Sils Maria, H, Nobody Wants The Night, Nailed, Big Game, The Lazarus Effect, Eden, and Unfriended 

---Top 15 Mistakes Beginning Filmmakers Make

---"Daily / Sundance 2015 Index" by David Hudson

---"There is a certain seasoned impossibility to Rumsfeld—like an onion, if you pull back all of the layers, there is nothing but air. Because of this, there is a particular, almost vertiginous feeling when watching Unknown Known. In each exchange, Morris is always trying, and sometimes failing, to get the better of Rumsfeld. In this important sense, Unknown Known is fundamentally adversarial; we understand Rumsfeld’s decision-making negatively, because he never volunteers anything of himself. It is reveled through his misdirection and emphasis." --Juliana Cosma

 ---links to film magazines via Cinephelia and Beyond

---Annapurna Pictures: 2012 to the Present

---filmmaking tips from Mark and Jay Duplass

---"Multitasking creates a dopamine-addiction feedback loop, effectively rewarding the brain for losing focus and for constantly searching for external stimulation. To make matters worse, the prefrontal cortex has a novelty bias, meaning that its attention can be easily hijacked by something new – the proverbial shiny objects we use to entice infants, puppies, and kittens. The irony here for those of us who are trying to focus amid competing activities is clear: the very brain region we need to rely on for staying on task is easily distracted. We answer the phone, look up something on the internet, check our email, send an SMS, and each of these things tweaks the novelty- seeking, reward-seeking centres of the brain, causing a burst of endogenous opioids (no wonder it feels so good!), all to the detriment of our staying on task. It is the ultimate empty-caloried brain candy. Instead of reaping the big rewards that come from sustained, focused effort, we instead reap empty rewards from completing a thousand little sugar-coated tasks." --Daniel J. Levitin

---World's Most Generic News Report

---the opening title sequence of Do The Right Thing

---"When you shoot with an iPhone, are you losing some control over your instrument. Yes. Are you losing image quality. Of course. Does it matter? Maybe not as much as you think, considering the fact that The Hollywood Reporter described the look of Tangerine as 'crisp and vigorously cinematic', with 'an aesthetic purity that stands out in a field where so much indie filmmaking has gotten glossier and less technically adventurous.'"--V. Renee

---The Setpiece

---"How Wes Anderson's Cinematographer Shot These 9 Great Scenes" by Kyle Buchanan

---"Over time, however, consumers’ waistlines exposed the expensive storage costs that allowed the oversupplied corn market to function. Far from receiving nutritional benefits from the supersize revolution, consumers functioned as the new repositories of agricultural surplus. Consumers’ bodies became jam-packed silos, replacements for the federal repositories that had once helped stimulate scarcity by keeping excess corn off retail shelves. Consuming ever-greater quantities of calories each year, Americans became bigger and bigger." --Bartow J. Elmore

---"As Inequality Soars, the Nervous Super Rich Are Already Planning Their Escapes" by Alec Hogg

---A Diary by George Lucas

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Bugs in noir land: 3 notes on Paul Thomas Anderson's Inherent Vice

1) In comparison to the clarity of Boyhood, Inherent Vice is murky. It has an idealized romantic subtext with a long lost girlfriend Shasta played by Katherine Waterston, a fundamental division between the squares (Nixon, the FBI, the police) and the hippies in an early 70s Los Angeles milieu, the director of The Master with his actor Joaquin Phoenix playing Larry "Doc" Sportello, a grungy distracted private eye with mutton chop whiskers who constantly invites the viewer to wonder how a forgetful stoner could ever remember anything long enough to solve crimes, a convoluted Thomas Pynchon story line (I tried to finish the novel Inherent Vice twice but couldn't) with much skullduggery, secret organizations, heroin, pizza to help with the munchies, a kidnapped billionaire, gunplay, Benecio del Toro playing a lawyer reminiscent of both Savages (2012) and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998), Jena Malone, Reese Witherspoon, a lush neon-lit Rastafarian cinematography by Robert Elswit with lots of greens, reds, and yellows, and many characters asking Phoenix "What's up doc?" so that we can associate him with the trickster figure Bugs Bunny. Clear?

2) The movie seems written in a kind of code, not unusual with Pynchon, but it still left me wondering what Paul Thomas Anderson is saying. Even as it favors the hippie over the neurotic establishment types, Inherent Vice comes across as more serious than The Big Lebowski (1998). I was always bothered by the way the Coen brothers ultimately glorified Jeff Bridges' doofus central character as some sort of vessel of Zen wisdom, but Anderson seems to want Doc to cut both ways simultaneously. He is an anti-establishment authority figure, a sympathetic victim of police abuse, and a man capable of being quite astute in deciphering crimes with the boorishly humorous mega-cop Bigfoot (Josh Brolin with a buzzcut). In his recent films, Anderson likes to explore the various ways in which male authority establishes and undermines itself. In There Will Be Blood (2007), he diagrams the rapacious American capitalist mindset of Daniel Plainview, a man happy to seek profit absolutely regardless of the damage that it may incidentally cause to the people around him. With The Master (2012), Anderson ironically explores what little of mastery remains amongst con men, religious cults of personality, and damaged World War II vets.

3) In Inherent Vice, the only authority figure left is the freak with his John Lennon-esque military jacket, his granny shades, his sandals, and his long brown hair (at one point turned into a pseudo-Afro). One can see hints of Robert Altman's revamping of Philip Marlowe with a preternaturally nonchalant Elliot Gould saying "It's okay with me" no matter what happens (Altman's career seems like a good model for Anderson), but Inherent Vice's blend of social critique and slapstick satire makes it hard to know how to react. I get the feeling that the movie would benefit from the kind of slow, measured, note-taking viewing on Blu-ray that illuminates Scorsese's Goodfellas (1990).  In the meantime, much as Doc remains befuddled, I was often confused by Inherent Vice, perhaps because Anderson has conditioned me to look for Art when he was trying to be funny.  

Thursday, January 1, 2015

filmmaking links 2015

---"Ten filmmakers to watch in 2015"

---"Where to Find Film Work"

---Eduardo Angel's 20 best books on filmmaking

---Don't Worry About Your Gear: Casey Neistat's Guide to Getting Started

---5 Skills That Will Make You a More Valuable Filmmaker

---"Top 10 Screenwriting Blogs"

---"How Do You Make a Career in Independent Film in the Age of Piracy?" by Emily Buder

---What Is Composition?

---A Brief Look at Texting and the Internet in Film

---The Rules of Film Noir

---"The Evolution of Special Effects"

---"Team Top 10: The Greatest Working Cinematographers" and "21 World-Renowned Cinematographers Share the Shots That Heavily Influenced Their Work"

---learning from Reservoir Dogs

---Edgar Wright: How to Do Visual Comedy

---"The 30 Camera Shots"

----filmmaking tips from John Cassavetes, Shirley Clark, John Boorman, Lars Von Trier, Kentucker Audley, Alain Resnais, James Gray, Terry Gilliam, Frederico Fellini, and Joe Swanberg

---"The Essential Shorts"

---Evolution of the Dolly Zoom

---my December 2012 filmmaking links list (and the one before that)

---"7 Tips for Getting Great Footage on the Canon EOS Rebel T3i"

---Grip It Good

---The Art of the Close-Up

---"5 Essential Indie-Run Film and Filmmaking Resources"

---"The Filmmaker's Guide to Indie Festivals and Organizations" by Eric Escobar

---Kevin B. Lee's Transformers: The Premake"

---"50 Essential Feminist Films"

---"David Fincher: Into the Darkness"

---"25 New Faces of Independent Film" and "27 More Filmmaking Related Twitter Accounts You Should Follow"

---best title sequence website: Art of the Title

---Impossible Shots

---1000 Movie Snapshots

---"The 25 Best Films Directed by Female Film Directors"

---Nathalie of Mentorless looks back at 2014

---"How the Death of Mid-Budget Cinema Left a Generation of Iconic Filmmakers MIA" by Jason Bailey

Friday, December 19, 2014

jack links

---Blue Christmas

---"The Christmas Card" --Terry Gilliam

---"The Man from Dream City" by Pauline Kael

---a scene from Animal Crackers

---From the Journals of Jean Seberg"

---"the two most important movie events of 2014 weren’t movies at all, but rather what amounted to a pair of live-action trailers" --Mark Harris

---a video from Spike Lee

---Transformers: Age of Extinction and Gone Girl VFX

---"SILENT NIGHT! Endless night!
All is dark, there’s no light.
Cyclone clouds have blocked out the sky,
We’re almost out of our dry-meat supply.
Sleep in uneasy peace.
We may have to eat Aunt Bernice."

---The Hollywood Reporter director and actress roundtables

---"The Terminator Paradox"

---kissing for The New York Times

---Criterion Designs

---Anatomy of a scene: Wild, Interstellar, and Inherent Vice

---"The Year of Outrage"

---Zero Dark Access

---"Beards and plaid may well just look good, and I hardly think that the man wearing both while coding on a MacBook Air in a coffee shop is really attempting to sell anyone on the idea that he’s an authentic ‘jack." --Willa Brown

---2014: Year of the Iconoclast

---profiles of John Milius and Martin Brest

---"In Defense of The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, 10 Years Later" by Ryan Reed

---tips for documentary filmmakers

---filmmaking tips from Mike Nichols

---behind the scenes of The Two Faces of January and Selma

---trailers for Mad Max: Fury Road, Get Hard, EntourageTop Five, It Follows, The Walk, Knight of Cups, While We're Youngand others

---"Paul Thomas Anderson, like his L.A. forefather Robert Altman, embraces the sprawl. Why not tell several different stories with loose threads? Why limit yourself to one great performance in a movie if you can get 20? Why pick one genre when you can pull from everything and make movies that push the whole idea of genre to its city limits?" --Molly Lambert

---"You find actors often know gangsters — maybe they have a lot in common, when you think about it."  --Michael Caine

---Lucas's version

 ---a clip from A Most Violent Year

---Chernobyl by drone

Friday, November 28, 2014

ephemeral links

---"Black Friday, or the Circulation of Commodities"

---"Couples go to bed with individual iPads and matching headphones. Best friends sit next to each other silently typing out LOL (the irony!) Colleagues message instead of shouting across offices, and, in cities across the world, drones commute with cold faces trying to absorb emotional warmth from the glow of a smart-phone screen. Traditionally, when films have tried to represent the fact that basically everyone in the developed world comes complete with a phone attachment, they've failed miserably. Texting on film has almost always been painful."

---An Animated History of the Drone

---filmmaking tips from David Lynch and Jean-Luc Godard

---Nichols and May's 65$ Funeral skit

---"Total Mediocrity Award"

---“Never let people see what you want, because they will not let you have it. Never let anybody see what you feel, because it gives them too much power. You’re probably better off not showing weakness whenever you can avoid it, because they’ll go for you.” --Mike Nichols

---"Richard Scarry's 21st Century Busy Town Jobs"

---3 Reasons: L'avventura

---trailers for Pan, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Far From the Madding Crowd, Portlandia (Season 5), and Age of Adaline 

---"So I suspect that, as tired as I often feel these days, Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule will continue for the foreseeable future. As I approached this anniversary I couldn’t tell even myself whether or not that would hold true. But truth be told, as much as Facebook has usurped the immediate interactivity that used to be the domain of the blog, I remain addicted to having a place like SLIFR solely dedicated to expression of my thoughts on movies and whatever else in life that might be related to them."  --Dennis Cozzalio

---"A little Ferguson context . . . "

---Let Her Go

---Red: A Kubrick Supercut

---"It Happened One Night: All Aboard!" --Farran Smith Nehme

---“In the hands of carefully selected, disciplined, highly trained officers, sophisticated weapons and tactics can peacefully end situations that might otherwise end in bloodshed.”

---an analysis of the opening scene of Drive


Sunday, November 23, 2014

"Because survival is insufficient": Emily St. John Mandel's Station Eleven

More than once, I read the first few pages of Emily St. John Mandel's Station Eleven, and then placed it back on the shelf in our local Barnes and Noble. I didn't care much for the hook where a man expires on stage in the midst of a performance as King Lear. Then, after my wife obliged me to buy it, I finally read it quickly this past weekend, surprised by how much I enjoyed its vision of a massive pandemic wiping out 99+ percent of humanity. Mandel weaves together a narrative that jumps back and forth just before and after the collapse of civilization, and much of it struck me as being plausible. She's good at making the characters and situations compelling regardless of the disaster at hand, sometimes pausing to dwell on celebrity culture, a character's painstaking creation of a graphic novel inspired by Calvin and Hobbes' Spaceman Spiff, and the gradual conversion of a Michigan airport into a 20+ year sanctuary for a group of passengers who had their flight diverted. Here's a passage where two brothers hole up in a Toronto apartment soon after the plague arrives:

"'You've got to stop singing that song,' Frank said.

'Sorry, but it's the perfect song.'

'I don't disagree, but you've got a terrible singing voice.'

It was the end of the world as they knew it! Jeevan had that song stuck in his head for several days now, ever since he'd appeared on his brother's doorstep with the shopping carts. For a while they'd lived in front of the television news, low volume, a murmured litany of nightmares that left them drained and reeling, drifting in and out of sleep. How could so many die so quickly! The numbers seemed impossible. Jeevan taped plastic over all of the air ducts in the apartment and wondered if this was enough, if the virus could still reach them either through or perhaps somehow around the edges of the tape. He rigged Frank's bath towels over the windows to prevent stray lights from escaping at night, and pushed Frank's dresser in front of the door. People knocked sometimes, and when they did Jeevan and Frank fell silent. They were afraid of anyone who wasn't them. Twice someone tried to break in, scratching around the lock with some metal tool while Frank and Jeevan waited in an agony of stillness, but the deadbolt held.

Days slipped past and the news went on and on until it began to seem abstract, a horror movie that wouldn't end. The newscasters had a numb, flattened way of speaking. They sometimes wept.

Frank's living room was on the corner of the building, with views of both the city and the lake. Jeevan preferred the view of the lake. If he turned Frank's telescope toward the city he saw the expressway, which was upsetting. Traffic had inched along for the first two days, pulling trailers, plastic bins and suitcases strapped to roofs, but by the third morning the gridlock was absolute and people had started walking between the cars with their suitcases, their children and dogs.

By Day Five Frank was working on his ghostwriting project instead of watching the news, because he said the news was going to drive them both crazy, and by then most of the newscasters weren't even newscasters, just people who worked for the network and were seemingly unused to being on the other side of the camera, cameramen and administrators speaking haltingly into the lens, and then countries go dark, city by city--no news out of Moscow, then no news out of Beijing, then Sydney, London, Paris, etc., social media bristling with hysterical rumors--and the local news became more and more local, stations dropping away one by one, until finally the last channel on air showed only a single shot in a newsroom, station employees taking turns standing before the camera and disseminating whatever information they had, and then one night Jeevan opened his eyes at two a.m. and the newsroom was empty. Everyone had left. He stared at the empty room on the screen for a long time.

The other channels were all static and test patterns by then, except for the ones that were repeating a government emergency broadcast over and over, useless advice about staying indoors and avoiding crowded places. A day later, someone finally switched off the camera on the empty newsroom, or the camera died on its own. The day after that, the Internet blinked out."

Monday, November 17, 2014

notable film and media links

---Fellini's influence on Wes Anderson

---"Taxi Driver: God's Lonely POV"

---Scenery of the Soul: Siegfried Kracauer on The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari 

---"In the book, Graham compares software to Leonardo da Vinci’s portrait of Ginevra de’ Benci—noting the care with which da Vinci painted each leaf of a juniper bush in the background. 'Great software, likewise, requires a fanatical devotion to beauty,' Graham writes. 'If you look inside good software, you find that parts no one is ever supposed to see are beautiful too.' Nanis agreed with this assessment, and many of the 10xers seemed to appreciate the music world’s labelling of its stars as 'artists.' Nanis said that when he builds a Web site from scratch he has to go through a laborious creative process: 'When somebody pitches me a design spec and says, ‘I want this to work,’ there are no tutorials for making that M.V.P. There are a million ways to get there.' He said that it was like approaching a blank canvas."

---A Time-Lapse of the Sun

---The Seamless Look of Birdman

---the landscapes of True Detective

---Prince on SNL

---"It’s Monday morning and you’re preparing your first cup of coffee when the tanks roll into your neighborhood.

Phone lines are cut, curfew is activated, and doors are broken down. You sigh. It’s another “cleanout day” in the not too distant future.

The War On Terror has infiltrated every layer of society. Internet sites track the spread of extremism like the CDC tracks a lethal virus. The threat is pandemic and online news sources agree: In order to keep you safe, weekly cleanout campaigns must ramp up all across the nation – yet again.

Today you just happen to be in the red zone. The main annoyance about being in a red zone is usually the loss of your phone signal. But today is different. A close friend has gone missing – along with his past. Online he is linked to terrorist affiliations. The rest of his life has been erased.

You post a “WTF” remark on social media and 60 minutes later you hear a loud bang as the front door crashes in."  --Jann Wellmann

---the opening titles of Saul Bass

---"The Vanishing: The End of the Road" by Scott Foundras

---Playtime: Anatomy of a Gag

---"Edward Snowden not only told the world about US state surveillance of national and personal secrets, he reminded us that almost all the companies surveying us for commercial gain are American."

---trailers for Chappie and A Most Violent Year

---behind the scenes of Too Many Cooks

---The Math Behind Pixar's Animation

---"What is the value of the polar bear’s continued existence? I posed this line of inquiry to Adrian Ivakhiv, a professor of environmental thought and culture at the University of Vermont. In his response, he argued that companies should pay more for the use of endangered animals. 'I would say that the payment, or expectation of payment, for the use of endangered animals like polar bears as mascots be higher because the stakes are higher,' he wrote. '$2 million, by this standard, is not very much at all.'"