Posts Tagged ‘Film Foundation’

This year, Martin Scorsese’s Film Foundation has added a new initiative to its The Story of Movies educational program: Portraits of America: Democracy on Film.  This eight-section curriculum was developed by the Film Foundation in partnership with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and with support from the Library of Congress.  Its modules include such themes as The Immigrant Experience, The American Laborer, The American Woman, and Politicians and Demagogues. Here are articles on the initiative from Indie Wire and Market Watch.

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X BelieveTruth in Fiction, Part 2:  A short while back, Google celebrated the major media event of the alleged Roswell UFO sightings with one of their undoubtedly best Doodles: here it is.   It’s a movie, it’s a game, it’s also quite subtly mesmerizing.

Contemplating the beyond, whether through sci-fi or speculative fiction or fantastical worlds, remains one of the most widespread areas of mainstream storytelling, but it continues to be one of the sparsest domains of exploration for reading in schools.  Or media literacy.  A few years ago, a superb series of media literacy materials for middle schools called The Story of Movies was created through a partnership between the Film Foundation, TCM, and IBM.  Of the three films for which they created useful study guides, one was for the science fiction classic The Day the Earth Stood Still.  

Gillian Anderson, David Duchovny,Meanwhile, one of the great Roswell-related events in American popular culture is presently celebrating a twenty-year anniversary: The X-Files.   The appearance at this year’s San Diego Comic Con of some of its principal figures, including creator Chris Carter, writer Vince Gilligan (of Breaking Bad), and actors David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson, provided an interesting forum for discussion of how a groundbreaking program can lead to new avenues of storytelling and media creation, and how shifts in cultural viewpoints can reflect the historical view of a movie or show.   Of particular note are the degree to which the alchemy of a leading duo was invigorated through The X-Files (in the tradition of the John Steed – Emma Peel Avengers, or Tara King too!), the questioning of authority embedded in the series evaporated within the following decade (particularly in the wake of 9/11; and which now returns with a vengeance), and, perhaps most importantly, the development of an intricately woven backstory and arcing universe of mythology now commonly feeds narratives of episodic series.  For use with Chapter 7 of Moving Images, a superb piece for screenwriting study is the award-winning episode Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose, written by Chris Carter and Darin Morgan.

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Peter O’Toole and Omar Sharif in David Lean’s newly restored classic “Lawrence of Arabia”

Just a couple of weeks ago, a newly restored version of David Lean‘s classic film Lawrence of Arabia was released on BluRay.  Here is an excellent article on the highly instructive story of its restoration.  This topic provides excellent examples and insights into the relationship of traditional celluloid-based moviemaking and digital media.

Here are some useful links on the topic of film preservation: National Film Preservation Foundation, Martin Scorsese’s Film Foundation (which always has wonderfully produced and informative clips streaming on their site), a Kodak page on movie archiving, and here is a clearinghouse page with lots of links to topics associated with film preservation and motion picture history.

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This fall, I was overjoyed to see the news that Frank Borzage’s 1932 film A Farewell to Arms would be released by Kino in a full, restored version on DVD and BluRay.  For me, this release holds special significance because it was during an amazing run of movies shown at the Wadsworth Atheneum in the 1980’s that I discovered the films of Borzage — relatively forgotten to the moviegoing public at that time, even cinephiles — along with so many other classics in programs curated by University of Connecticut lecturer Robert Smith.  Below is a excerpt of the program — Smith’s preface is a perfect introduction to the story of this version of A Farewell to Arms in the context of film preservation. Borzage films are highlighted in figures 4-21 and 4-22 of Moving Images  (“Storytelling with Light”) and I use A Farewell to Arms as an example in Chapter 5: Personal Expression and Studio Production.  Frank Borzage was a member of a large, close-knit Italian immigrant family and his films show consistent dedication to the ties that bind couples together and to roots in family and place. He began working in Hollywood as an actor and throughout his directorial career actors lauded his passionate support of their craft and his attention to their interaction.  Borzage was one of the most highly regarded directors of early Hollywood, and his works offer some of the richest examples of visual storytelling in the period of transition from late silent films to early sound.   While Borzage is certainly known for the deep romanticism of his films, I have found that the weaving of his tales of passionate love through finely detailed places and amidst contexts of everyday life and economic or familial struggles gives his stories more depth and grounding than they are generally given credit for.  In the 1990’s, the discovery and subsequent release of the silent film Lucky Star was a particular revelation (currently available in the beautiful box set Murnau, Borzage, and Fox); I was fortunate enough to see it at the Film Forum with live music and an enthusiastic audience.  Among Borzage’s sound films, I would highly recommend his movies Three ComradesThe Mortal Storm, and Moonriseand Joe McElheney’s article on Borzage is the finest recent scholarship on the director I have read.  Or perhaps some time before or after going to see the new 3-D release of Titanic, it would be a revelation to see Borzage’s History is Made at Night from 1937 — now that’s a movie about the Titanic that really gets the heart stirred! Here are the program notes from 1984, written by Robert Smith, for a double bill with Little Man, What Now? :  History is Made at Night is the Borzage film for everyone, with enough material for three ordinary movies.  Jean Arthur is absolutely radiant, transfigured by Borzage’s genius and his commitment to a redemptive vision of the world.  Mad love, insane jealousy, murder, and a giant ocean liner racing through the ice-bound darkness provide the mortal trial through which Jean and Charles (like all great Borzagian protagonists) demonstrate their spiritual and moral greatness.  Soon after their first meeting, Jean Arthur and Charles Boyer dance the Tango of the Roses in a deserted Parisian nightclub.  Arthur is dressed in a lace nightgown, and the image of Arthur’s exquisite naked feet peeking out from that swirling lace nighty as they tango in the darkness will haunt you the rest of your days – now that’s romance!”  … okay, does this sound familiar to anyone?  James Cameron, eat your heart out!

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