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Archive for the ‘Chapter 5’ Category

Today marked the passing of a director whose career was undoubtedly one of the most interesting and unique of the past several decades: Jonathan Demme.  This fine obituary by Bruce Weber for the New York Times provides a strong overview of Demme’s career; for Demme’s impact on collaborators and friends, this article from Variety provides many moving testimonials, in addition to these words from director and actress Jodie Foster.  From among his works, my favorite will remain Something Wild, undoubtedly one of the most original works of its decade (with a killer soundtrack and as-always-stellar work from sound designer Skip Lievsay) and a movie that would certainly stand alongside Melvin and Howard in demonstrating Demme’s strengths as a chronicler of American society, a great director of actors, and a man with a musical soul.  It should also be noted that while he is justifiably celebrated for directing the Talking Heads concert movie Stop Making Sense, his beautiful video for New Order’s The Perfect Kiss is also an absolute treasure.

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In our series of posts about Women Pioneers of the Cinema, a few years ago we highlighted the work of one of the most important filmmakers in movie history: Alice Guy Blaché.  For some further information about this groundbreaking creator and studio head, you can check out this brief piece with video links from Open Culture.  Or, you can go straight to this short but informative video.  It is titled “The First Woman Filmmaker Nobody’s Heard Of” — well, that might be the case unless you learned about filmmaking and media literacy from Moving Images and mediateacher.net.  

And do you want an exciting piece of news?  There is a documentary in the works about this inspiring pioneer: Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blaché, directed by Pamela B. Green.

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A moviemaker who blazed many trails, some of which that led to false paths and others that seemed to meander through Indiana Jones-styled jungle thickets or lost treasure labyrinths, Orson Welles continues to provide many lessons to directors, editors, sound designers, and everyone else involved in moving image creation.  Here is a highly recommended article on a lesser-known ahead-of-its-time innovation in his work: the video essay, as seen in F for Fake.  And the tale of rediscovering and rebuilding one of his “lost temples” of filmmaking (which was reported on in this blog a couple of years ago)— The Other Side of the Wind — goes on.   In a perfect 21st century twist worthy of the director of Citizen Kane, Netflix is the studio that has stepped in to finance this elusive, decades-old project through to fruition.

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screen-shot-2017-02-28-at-6-50-48-pmThis article by Google (about their own initiative) highlights interesting work in technology applications used to study and evaluate gender roles onscreen in film and to use data to analyze screen time by gender in a variety of movies.  This resource can be of value in media literacy work that explores gender bias and social implications of media messages.  For further research, there are many resources available through the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media.

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the-white-stripes-city-lights-video-640x470Michel Gondry, one of the most inventive and utterly unique motion picture wizards of our time, has delivered again.  In an original gesture, he went and made a video on his own for the White Stripes song “City Lights” as a gift to Third Man Records (having made a number of legendary music videos together, including the Lego classic “Fell in Love with a Girl” and the Meg White-inspired masterstroke “The Hardest Button to Button“).  Lessons to learn from his music videos in general: a hefty dose of vision; planning, then planning and practice and planning; and execution.  And throw in a few dashes of visual and sonic magic.

mondo_microbe_and_gasoline_1600x1200_86d7a1ee-2ea0-4e41-a3b3-8990a90e4185_1024x1024Gondry’s book The Be Kind Rewind Protocol is great food for thought for filmmakers and educators alike, and of course there are his movies, notably that one featuring Mos Def, Jack Black, and Danny Glover; Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, his exceptional collaboration with screenwriter Charlie Kaufman (and which I feel gets even better with age); The Thorn in the Heart, a documentary that grew out of a family story; an episode of Flight of the Conchords; and the mix of music videos, shorts, commercials, and odds and ends that have made up his twisting and turning career.

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Yes, the title of the movie being projected here is "Cock of the Air," a rediscovered Howard Hughes production from 1932. (Photo: Emily Berl for The New York Times)

Yes, the title of the movie being projected here is “Cock of the Air,” a rediscovered Howard Hughes production from 1932. (Photo: Emily Berl for The New York Times)

In a series of articles on mediateacher.net, the importance of how, where, and why media artifacts are accessed and preserved has been discussed from a variety of angles, not only in terms of films from the early years of cinema (or more recent examples like Lawrence of Arabia or the efforts of Christopher Nolan) but also related to students today and their own productions.  An article in today’s New York Times —The Race to Save the Films We Loveprovides a current update by Manohla Dargis on the state of film preservation, which includes topics related to economics, sound recording, chemistry, digital technologies, and a variety of other issues.

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Squad Goals: ya better nail this one or else! Exec. Prod. and UPM of Suicide Squad on set.

Squad Goals : ya better nail this one or else !     Exec. Prod. & UPM of Suicide Squad on set.

Quick little follow-up to this week’s theme of summer blockbusters: what will be the latest flavors and trends to super-hero movies when Suicide Squad splashes (or maybe splatters) onto screens this week?  Batman v. Superman may have hauled in some cash, but it was quite roundly vilified by critics – check out this selection of quotes from reviews by major critics (and reviewing director Zack Snyder’s Watchmen, A.O. Scott commented “brutality is not merely part of Mr. Snyder’s repertory of effects; it is more like a cause, a principle, an ideology” — a cause to which the director applies himself in movie after movie, apparently).  It will be interesting to see how the reception of Suicide Squad plays itself out and impacts the ever-expanding D.C.-verse in moviedom, with Marvel watching from across the street (and next summer’s Guardians of the Galaxy waiting in the wings).

P.S.: A week later, the reviews are in.  Not a big surprise, but still… it is rather funny.  Joe Morgenstern’s review for The Wall Street Journal is worth quoting: “In a word, Suicide Squad is trash. In two words, it’s ugly trash. Maybe no more words should be wasted on a movie that is, after all, only a movie, not a natural disaster or a terrorist attack. Still, movies contribute to the collective awareness. They can color the way we feel about the life around us. This one deserves further attention by virtue of its exceptional cynicism and startling ineptitude. Suicide Squad amounts to an all-out attack on the whole idea of entertainment.” Or the title to Michael O’Sullivan’s for The Washington Post: ‘Suicide Squad’ is as bad as you’ve heard.

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