Archive for August, 2008

NETWORK

August 31, 2008

NETWORK  1976   (121 minutes)    D:  SIDNEY LUMET    W:  PADDY CHAYEFSKY   AUGUST 30th to September 4th   7:00 and 9:15pm, also Saturday and Sunday at 4:30pm                                                            Nominated for 10 Oscars, it won 4, 1 for Best Screenplay.  (HELL YES!)

There ar so many reasons why you should see NETWORK, it’s impossible the list them all.  Social commentary, that famous phrase, Oscar-winning performances, and the fact it’s one of the best damn written films EVER!  So I’ll tell you some unique reasons why it’s important to see.  The clothes.  Yes, you heard me right.  There are films that changed the course of fashion history, and this is one of them.  Glamour magazine devoted an entire page to “THAT white blouse” Miss Dunaway wore in the film, calling it the “must have” item of the year.  Plus profiling the rest of her wardrobe as what the well-dressed woman should be wearing.  I myself was blown away by the clothes, being partial to the sleek menswear influence reflected in their style.  And they totally reflected her character (just think of the famous words she utters after having sex with William Holden for the first time!)   In fact Miss Dunaway has been a fashion icon that inspired many of the fashion-changing films over the years, Bonnie and Clyde and Chinatown to name but a few.  Often overlooked/under considered, what characters wear in film tell us a great deal about their character’s identity and motivations.  (I have a half-hour lecture I give to my film classes about how the colors and accessories Edith Head has the characters wear in VERTIGO (& NO i don’t mean the Carlotta necklace!) tell you the outcome of the film long before it ends.)  So watch it for the clothes–ask yourself–what is the color palate?  Why was it chosen?  How does it fit in with the Production Desgn?  How well do the clothes coordinate with the makeup & hairstyles and how do they also reflect the character?  How does their total appearance fit in with the plot and time period the film is set in?  It’s one of my favorite things to do when watching ANY film, and to my mind really enriches the viewing experience.  Watching the fashion changing clothes is yet another reason to see this masterpiece!

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CONSTANTINE’S SWORD

August 30, 2008

CONSTANTINE’S SWORD:  2007  (95 MINUTES)  D: OREN JACOBY ; W: JAMES CARROLL AND OREN JACOBY; PLAYS AT NWFF 1515 12TH FROM AUGUST 29TH TO SEPTEMBER 4TH:  7:15 and 9:15pm, plus 3:15 and 5:15pm on Saturday and Sunday.

(The title refers to the conversion of Emperor Constantine to Christianity. In a dream he was told that if he marched his armies behind the symbol of the cross he would be victorious.  So he converted a great deal of Europe by the tip of his “Christian” sword.  As there were very few Christians at the time, this is looked at as being the founding of The True Church.)

Frankly, this film left me feeling confused.  I enjoyed it very much, but it’s like there’s SO much information, (enough to make 3 films, in my opinion), too loosely tied together, to make it truly coherent.  The themes that stood out (confusingly) to me  were:  First, the incident that was presented as the impetus for the book and film, Evangelicals and Air Force Officials trying to almost forcibly convert students (and persecute those who didn’t, esp. if they were Jewish) at the local Air Force Academy. (The Evangelical pastor, who was later involved in one of the juiciest scandals in the history of pastoral hypocrisy–& only admitted his “sin”  because the reporters were only hours away from breaking the story, is so fun to watch once you understand who he is!  You KNOW he’s a hypocrite, NOBODY has teeth that white!).  Second, the anti-Semitism inherent in almost all Christianity, specifically in reference to the Catholic Church.  And third, the incredible life of the author/co-writer/subject, James Carroll.  Being the co-writer I felt he either wrote too much or too little about himself, being a son of one of the most important figures in the history of the Air Force, an ex-priest, family man and author, he truly deserves his own film!  His life is fascinating, but I fail to see what his relationship with his father and the Vietnamese war protests he was involved with, have to do with Catholic anti-Semitism, which is the focus of most of the film.

I loved the historical examples, the film travels around the world, talking to families of all different cultures about how their relatives were deeply, and sometimes tragically, affected by the Church’s intolerance of the Jewish faith.  All of these experiences are important to learn about, esp. as our lame duck president (pause for joke…………..) brought “faith-based initiatives” with him to the White House.  My frustration with the film is then, that’s it.  I felt there was no ideas as to action, no correlation between the information we are given and how to apply it to our daily lives.  (Though it is nice to see that the Air Force Academy situation did get resolved).  See it and tell me where I went wrong–Errol Morris and Albert Maysles loved it, and they know a helluva a lot more than me!

Legacy of ’68 at Bumbershoot

August 27, 2008

Following on the heels of our weekend series Summer of ’68 Revisited, the legacy of the global protests of 1968 will be explored at Bumbershoot.  Underground restauranteaur Michael Hebb of onepot fame has installed a 40′ table at Bumbershoot, and is making a huge meal each night.  He’s asking Bumbershoot artists and festival goers to show up with writing, song, artifact or other memorabilia from 1968, and share in the cooking, eating toasting and singing.

Northwest Film Forum is helping with documentation and editing of the event, which sould be really great.  As always, with Michael Hebb, it’s very high concept.  Join us and find out how it is realized.

Burn After Filming… Coen Bros Disappoint at Venice

August 27, 2008

Apparently the word out of Venice about the new Coen Brothers film isn’t too good. Here’s a report from Ronald Bergan of the Guardian.

“Burn After Filming, more likely. Opening the Venice Film Festival tonight is another attempt by the Coen Brothers to enter the mainstream, trying to live down the time when their films were more personal, quirky and less commercial. Here the starry cast does their one-dimensional turn: George Clooney is the skirt chaser, an uncharming Cary Grant, Brad Pitt plays a bubble head gum-chewing gym trainer, John Malkovich is his irascible self. The women come off worse. Tilda Swinton and Elizabeth Marvel play two coldly intellectual cheating wives, a doctor and a children’s author respectively, and Frances McDormand, the most irritating character, is so dumb she doesn’t know the Cold War is long over. It seems that the Coens had so little confidence in their own convoluted plot, involving the CIA, that they make fun of it when an agent tries to explain the intricacies of the happenings to his superior. Despite some attempts at contemporary relevance, it really is a very old-fashioned juvenile farce, with elements of the 70s paranoia films, which except for the stream of “fuck”s, could have been made a few decades ago.”

And then this from Variety’s Todd McCarthy

“[T]he Coen brothers revert to sophomoric snarky mode in Burn After Reading. A seriously talented cast has been asked to act like cartoon characters in this tale of desperation, mutual suspicion and vigorous musical beds, all in the name of laughs that only sporadically ensue. Everything here, from the thesps’ heavy mugging to the uncustomarily overbearing score by Carter Burwell and the artificially augmented vulgarities in the dialogue, has been dialed up to an almost grotesquely exaggerated extent, making for a film that feels misjudged from the opening scene and thereafter only occasionally hits the right note.”

Even though I generally like the Coens and their work, I’ll go into a viewing with low expectations.

TO THE LIMIT

August 26, 2008

While watching this film, the first thought that came to mind was “Thank God Germany has excellent health coverage!” I didn’t even KNOW that there was such a sport as “Speed Mountaineering!” Nor do I actually think it’s such a great idea. (The only coordination I have is in my clothes, however.) But it is amazing to watch those that do practice their sport with such timing and precision in one of the most beautiful places in the world, Yosemite Valley. Which happens to have some of the most climbed peaks in the world. The film also documents an attempt to traverse mountains and icebergs in Patagonia. The camera crew are definitely just as athletic as the climbers, (really, their shots make the movie), getting shots that seem impossible, and are just gorgeous. They refreshingly document the failures as well as the successes, and the philosophies that motivate these uber-athletes to continue to climb. While the rest of us are happy we can come out of the film (in a country with worse health coverage) injury-free!

Like After Effects, for the I-Movie Set

August 24, 2008

Though the intro line “coming soon for home videos” raises some red flags, this pending editing tool sounds pretty promising and exciting…

Realistic special effects coming soon for home video

  • 11:17 21 August 2008
  • NewScientist.com news service
  • Colin Barras

Digital photographers are used to tinkering with their photos at home. Now, amateur video makers can create movie special effects thanks to prototype software from Microsoft.

Their application, called Unwrap Mosaics, makes adding a moustache to a family member in a video as easy as scrawling on a digital picture. A video (right) shows it in action.

For example, drawing a tattoo on a person’s arm requires editing only a single image. The programme makes the change throughout the video, making it ripple realistically with their skin.

Easy editing

A video is simply a sequence of still images that capture the movement of objects over time. But editing the appearance of objects in even a short movie is difficult because every frame shows objects differently and must be edited separately.

“We thought it would be good if you only had to draw your edit once and [the software] propagate the information from that single edit through the whole video,” says Alex Rav-Acha at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel.

Rav-Acha and colleagues at Microsoft Research in Cambridge, UK, have done just that. Editing objects using their software is a one-step process.

Special effect

Unwrap Mosaics was developed by Rav-Acha, Andrew Fitzgibbon, Pushmeet Kohli and Carsten Rother. It virtually strips the skin from a selected object in a video, producing a 2D surface that can be easily edited using photo-editing software.

Rav-Acha likens that surface to a tiger-skin rug: a flat surface that once covered a 3D object. The software reverses the process after any edits are complete, wrapping the edited skin back around the 3D object. Because the edits are attached to the skin, they then move with the object throughout the movie.

The 2D skin has to capture every inch of the 3D surface for edits to match the object when it is wrapped up again. For example, an “unwrapped” face must include information from both sides of the nose so that changes to the nose remain realistic even when the head turns from side to side.

To fully unwrap an object the software tracks 5000 points spread evenly across its surface, making sure that all of those points are present in the final 2D skin.

Reverse unwrap

That means the final unwrapped skin contains more information than any individual video frame. For instance, if the video shows a person’s head from the front and then turning to the left, the unwrapped skin contains a full view of the ear as well as a forward view of the eyes, nose and mouth.

The user makes their edits to the skin before the unwrapping process is reversed to send those changes throughout the final movie.

Rav-Acha and his co-workers have successfully tested their software on a range of videos. “There are professional tools that can do these kind of edits but it’s an incredibly skilled procedure,” says Fitzgibbon. “We believe that with this procedure anyone should be able to edit video.”

Alex Rav-Acha’s team presented their work at the SIGGRAPH conference in Los Angeles last week.

Manny Farber, 1917-2008

August 21, 2008

 

Manny Farber

Manny Farber

In about 1977, I met Manny Farber in a funky little cinema in La Jolla. Jacque Demy’s Peau d’Âne was on screen. My nascent punk rock sensibilities precluded a heartfelt enjoyment of what would later become one of my favorite Demy films, but Farber generously included the handful of folks who had gathered that evening in a lively discussion of this sweet film. And that discussion probably turned my head around in regard to appreciating the film.

By that time, Farber had more or less retired from film writing to devote his energies to painting at teaching at UCSD. Recently published at that time was his seminal collection of writings, Negative Space, which still is a cogent and wonderful (re)read after all these years.

Farber’s love of what he termed as “termite art” led him to become a champion of B movie aesthetics against the likes of “art-infected” filmmakers like Orson Welles or Hitchcock – “the water-buffaloes of film art.” He was an early and important defender of the likes of Sam Fuller and Nick Ray.

“A peculiar fact about termite-tapeworm-fungus-moss art is that it goes always forward, eating its own boundaries, and, likely as not, leaves nothing in its path other than the signs of eager, industrious, unkempt activity,”

His film writing veered toward an equally unkempt vision embracing formalist critiques, his own particular take on film, and huge breadth of film and art history that allowed him to make brilliant connections between avant garde and commercial filmmakers, popular and art-critical aesthetics, and a messy holistic vision of what film art should and could be.

Arguably, Farber may have been the greatest critical mind writing about film in America in the 20th century (he started writing in 1942). And though he was relatively inactive in publishing for many years, his classes at UCSD were somewhat legendary, influencing a newer generation of filmmakers and film-thinkers. After many years of being unavailable, Negative Space was republished 10 years ago.

RIP

Links

Ray Pride’s appreciation of Farber at MovieCityIndie

Jonathan Rosenbaum on Farber

Paul Schrader’s short film Untitled: New Blue – a meditation on Farber, looking at one of his paintings

San Fran Film Society absorbs Film Arts Foundation

August 20, 2008

The latest in a series of changes for independent film, San Francisco’s Film Arts Foundation was absorbed today by the San Francisco Film Society. What’s fascinating is that cities like San Francisco, unlike Seattle, seem incapable of sustaining independent film programs. If you look at the landscape here, there’s now The Grand Illusion, SIFF Cinema, Central Cinema, and us. Somehow the space for all of us to remain competitive in the marketplace exists. Its actually rather congenial here in Seattle, at least as far as the year round programs go. But this absorption seems to have some clear benefits for the San Francisco filmmaking community, mainly the new remarkable Herbert Filmmaker Grants.

Here’s the article on Film Arts Foundation demise:

San Fran Film Society absorbs Film Arts Foundation

As part of a massive expansion, the San Francisco Film Society will become stewards of the Film Arts Foundation, a move which pushes the film society toward filmmaker services and doubles its membership. The initiative saves many assets of the troubled FAF, the Bay Area’s long-standing nonprofit dedicated to assisting filmmakers.

Whiling stopping short of calling it a “merger,” SFFS exec director Graham Leggat said the org will take over such FAF services as education, career development, fiscal sponsorship, grantmaking and information resources. “It makes us a real film society instead of just a producer of the San Francisco Film Festival,” said Leggat. “We will now offer a full suite of filmmaker services. The transition for current FAF members will be seamless.”

Leggat also announced the creation of SFFS FilmHouse Residencies in partnership with the San Francisco Film Commission. The program will offer production offices free of charge to Bay Area filmmakers.

“We are delighted to partner with the Film Society to make production space available to local independent filmmakers,” said San Fran Mayor Gavin Newsom. “FilmHouse has all the makings of a dynamic new hub for independent filmmaking in San Francisco.”

Other items in the SFFS remodeling:

  • Herbert Filmmaker Grants totaling $25,000 for Bay Area filmmakers for project development.
  • The creation of an advisory board of established local professionals.
  • The SFFS Film Arts Forum will be the org’s monthly screening and networking event.
  • A full-service fiscal sponsorship department to aid filmmakers in obtaining grants. SFFS will take over all existing FAF sponsorship agreements.

While the SFFS will not continue the FAF’s production equipment rental arm, it will incorporate the foundation’s educational info into a greatly expanded website that includes a digitized archive of Film Arts/Release Print back-issues, once the FAF’s national magazine.

The move comes at a troubled time for nonprofit filmmaking orgs who are forced to adapt to a changing indie marketplace. When New York’s Association of Independent Film and Video recently shuttered for lack of cash, many in the industry faulted the grassroots org for failing to expand.

“As opposed to the AVIF, the Film Society is better financed and has much greater reach,” said Leggat. “There are more opportunities for different revenue streams. If the AIVF did was Renew Media accomplished, by situating itself under a bigger organization [Tribeca Film Institute], than the AIVF would still be around.”

It’s Fall!

August 15, 2008

On our webpage, at least. Check out our offerings for this coming September – November. Tickets will become available soon!

And check back in, oh, about 2 weeks. The website will be looking remarkably different (and hopefully much better) by then…

Baldwin Interview on siffblog

August 14, 2008

Steve Fried interviews Craig Baldwin here.