With occasional reflection on the perpetual absurdity/intrigue of life and society in general.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Hank Hill - Quote for the Day

Season 8 » Episode #02 - Reborn To Be WildFirst Aired: Nov. 09, 2003

Summary: Bobby starts to hang out with a Christian Rock group. Hank is okay with it, but reconsiders when Bobby's attitude changes. 

Context:  First, note the aired date and try to remember (however painful) the scourge of christian "rock" bands that were hijacking the airwaves - weirdest and most uncomfortable rock trend ever, particularly when aligned with "new metal" (the second worse).  
Hank confronts Pastor K (covered in christian skin-art, long black hair, black/triangle soul patch, leather pants, and wailing god-praise from behind a screeching guitar) when he becomes a negative influence on Bobby and delivers this brilliant line:

"Can't you see you're not making christianity better, you're just making rock n roll worse."  - Hank Hill

I Laughed furiously upon hearing this for the first time recently, and highly encourage all christian rock bands to take note - great wisdom lies here.  And, I get the feeling that this is one of those pieces of dialogue that is directly from the mind of Mike Judge.  
Mike Judge has long had my full respect, since the earliest days of Beavis and Butt-Head and on through King of the Hill and his feature films.  However, upon moving to Austin TX, somehow King of the Hill has become twice as funny and satirically relevant.  Now I know why those Whataburger signs in the background are so hilarious. Oh yeah, Mike Judge is from Austin and the show is about as Texas suburbia perfect as it gets.

Bressonian Quote #18 - Notes from a Master Filmmaker

"The photographed theatre or CINEMA requires a metteur-en-scene or director to make some actors perform a play and to photograph these actors performing the play; afterwards he lines up the images. Bastard theatre lacking what makes theatre: material presence of living actors, direct action of the audience on the actors." 
 - Robert Bresson

Monday, February 7, 2011

NASA Provides First Continuous Look At The Sun In 3-D Report by NPR

An artist's concept of STEREO surrounding the sun.

A 3-D Video Of The Sun

Rotating solar sphere made from a combination of imagery from the two STEREO spacecraft, together with simultaneous data from the Solar Dynamic Observatory.
For the full report, follow the Link:  NPR's News Blog

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Cure: Fire in Cairo - A Song for Today


#BBC Radio 1 - John Peel Session #1

1. Killing An Arab
2. 10:15 Saturday Night
3. Fire In Cairo
4. Boys Don't Cry

Thanks to my good friend Brent for bringing this my way.

Why 3D doesn't work and never will. Case closed. ROGER EBERT'S JOURNAL - A Letter from Walter Murch

Walter Murch
By Roger Ebert on January 23, 2011 
I received a letter that ends, as far as I am concerned, the discussion about 3D. It doesn't work with our brains and it never will.
The notion that we are asked to pay a premium to witness an inferior and inherently brain-confusing image is outrageous. The case is closed.
This letter is from Walter Murch, seen at left, the most respected film editor and sound designer in the modern cinema. As a editor, he must be intimately expert with how an image interacts with the audience's eyes. He won an Academy Award in 1979 for his work on "Apocalypse Now," whose sound was a crucial aspect of its effect.
Wikipedia writes: "Murch is widely acknowledged as the person who coined the term Sound Designer, and along with colleagues developed the current standard film sound format, the 5.1 channel array, helping to elevate the art and impact of film sound to a new level. "Apocalypse Now" was the first multi-channel film to be mixed using a computerized mixing board." He won two more Oscars for the editing and sound mixing of "The English Patient."

"He is perhaps the only film editor in history," the Wikipedia entry observes, "to have received Academy nominations for films edited on four different systems:
• "Julia" (1977) using upright Moviola
• "Apocalypse Now" (1979), "Ghost" (1990), and "The Godfather, Part III" (1990) using KEM flatbed
• "The English Patient" (1996) using Avid.
•  "Cold Mountain" (2003) using Final Cut Pro on an off-the shelf PowerMac G4.

Now read what Walter Murch says about 3D:
Hello Roger,
I read your review of "Green Hornet" and though I haven't seen the film, I agree with your comments about 3D.
The 3D image is dark, as you mentioned (about a camera stop darker) and small. Somehow the glasses "gather in" the image -- even on a huge Imax screen -- and make it seem half the scope of the same image when looked at without the glasses.
I edited one 3D film back in the 1980's -- "Captain Eo" -- and also noticed that horizontal movement will strobe much sooner in 3D than it does in 2D. This was true then, and it is still true now. It has something to do with the amount of brain power dedicated to studying the edges of things. The more conscious we are of edges, the earlier strobing kicks in.
The biggest problem with 3D, though, is the "convergence/focus" issue. A couple of the other issues -- darkness and "smallness" -- are at least theoretically solvable. But the deeper problem is that the audience must focus their eyes at the plane of the screen -- say it is 80 feet away. This is constant no matter what.
But their eyes must converge at perhaps 10 feet away, then 60 feet, then 120 feet, and so on, depending on what the illusion is. So 3D films require us to focus at one distance and converge at another. And 600 million years of evolution has never presented this problem before. All living things with eyes have always focussed and converged at the same point.
If we look at the salt shaker on the table, close to us, we focus at six feet and our eyeballs converge (tilt in) at six feet. Imagine the base of a triangle between your eyes and the apex of the triangle resting on the thing you are looking at. But then look out the window and you focus at sixty feet and converge also at sixty feet. That imaginary triangle has now "opened up" so that your lines of sight are almost -- almost -- parallel to each other.
We can do this. 3D films would not work if we couldn't. But it is like tapping your head and rubbing your stomach at the same time, difficult. So the "CPU" of our perceptual brain has to work extra hard, which is why after 20 minutes or so many people get headaches. They are doing something that 600 million years of evolution never prepared them for. This is a deep problem, which no amount of technical tweaking can fix. Nothing will fix it short of producing true "holographic" images.
Consequently, the editing of 3D films cannot be as rapid as for 2D films, because of this shifting of convergence: it takes a number of milliseconds for the brain/eye to "get" what the space of each shot is and adjust.
And lastly, the question of immersion. 3D films remind the audience that they are in a certain "perspective" relationship to the image. It is almost a Brechtian trick. Whereas if the film story has really gripped an audience they are "in" the picture in a kind of dreamlike "spaceless" space. So a good story will give you more dimensionality than you can ever cope with.
So: dark, small, stroby, headache inducing, alienating. And expensive. The question is: how long will it take people to realize and get fed up?
All best wishes,
Walter Murch
Walter Murch is also author of a preeminent guide to film editing theory - In the Blink of an Eye (with a foreward by Francis Ford Coppola).  In lecture style (and a relatively short read), he offers seemingly simple conceptual guidance that proves as invaluable wisdom to the film editor as well as all filmmakers. I highly recommend the book to anyone aspiring to understand the essence of filmmaking.

Roger Ebert's Journal - Sun-Times 
NPR Audio Interview - Walter Murch
Sound Doctrine - An Interview with Walter Murch
In the Blink of an Eye - A Book Review

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

2011 Sundance Film Festival - Awards, Information, and Commentary

2011 Sundance Film Festival Award Winners:  

Happy, Happy, Hell and Back Again, How to Die in Oregonand Like Crazy Earn Grand Jury Prizes Audience Favorites Include Buck, CircumstanceKinyawarandaandSenna to.get.her Awarded Best of NEXT! Audience Award

The Grand Jury Prize: Documentary was presented to How to Die in Oregon, directed by Peter D. Richardson. In 1994 Oregon became the first state to legalize physician-assisted suicide. How to Die in Oregon gently enters the lives of terminally ill Oregonians to illuminate the power of death with dignity.

The Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic was presented to Like Crazy, directed by Drake Doremus; written by Drake Doremus and Ben York Jones. A young American guy and a young British girl meet in college and fall in love. Their love is tested when she is required to leave the country and they must face the challenges of a long-distance relationship.

The World Cinema Jury Prize: Documentary was presented to Hell and Back Again, directed by Danfung Dennis. Told through the eyes of one Marine from the start of his 2009 Afghanistan tour to his distressing return and rehabilitation in the U.S., we witness what modern "unconventional" warfare really means to the men who are fighting it. U.S.A./United Kingdom

The World Cinema Jury Prize: Dramatic was presented to Happy, Happy (Sykt Lykkelig), directed by Anne Sewitsky; written by Ragnhild Tronvoll. A perfect housewife, who just happens to be sex-starved, struggles to keep her emotions in check when an attractive family moves in next door. Norway

The Audience Award: Documentary was presented to Buck, directed by Cindy Meehl, for her story about the power of non-violence and master horse trainer Buck Brannaman, who uses principles of respect and trust to tame horses and inspire their human counterparts.

The Audience Award: Dramatic was presented to Circumstance, directed and written by Maryam Keshavarz,in which a wealthy Iranian family struggles to contain a teenager's growing sexual rebellion and her brother's dangerous obsession.

The World Cinema Audience Award: Documentary was presented to Senna, directed by Asif Kapadia; written by Manish Pandey, about legendary racing driver and Brazilian hero Ayrton Senna, taking us on the ultimate journey of what it means to become the greatest when faced with the constant possibility of death. United Kingdom

The World Cinema Audience Award: Dramatic was presented to Kinyarwanda, directed and written by Alrick Brown, which tells the story of Rwandans who crossed the lines of hatred during the 1994 genocide, turning mosques into places of refuge for Muslims and Christians, Hutus and Tutsis. U.S.A./Rwanda

For a complete listing of the Awards follow the Link.

It seems that I have neglected to post updates on the Sundance Film Festival 2011 which just wrapped a few days ago - one of the U.S.'s largest film festivals. I usually try to include regular postings and updates from the major independent film festivals and realize that I have been remiss in reporting on Sundance this year, somewhat intentionally and somewhat by cause of a saturated, ridiculous award season. Let me explain, as typically I am a great proponent of the festival circuit.

It is true, I tend to neglect the "red carpet" season of pointless Hollywood dribble, gratuitous PR/politics, excessive fashion, and the cattle herding of "fame" and leisure class industry darlings that honestly appear to be vacuous puppets on a string - I would rather watch some quality stop motion animation (maybe Team America - "America, F@#% yeah"). Sadly, there are many legitimate artists and industry outsiders thrown into this mix by default (and the monopolization of Studio interests), and the atmosphere is even less flattering to them. They usually seem a bit uncomfortable and degraded by the senseless surroundings, while others swallow it whole as they do their rounds from camera to camera and Seacrest to Seacrest-look-a-like. All i can ever think is, wow, imagine how much philanthropy and causal success could be achieved with the funding that flows into these relatively banal award ceremonies - but most would rather wear the 6-digit monkey suits and dresses and merely mention these causes as they glorify themselves and thank god for their achievements. Now, I love actors (as all directors should), real actors, but some sense of perspective is necessary here - you are actors and filmmakers (mostly mediocre) and some artists - not gods, idols, or golden cows (well, maybe in a metaphorical sense).

I had the pleasure of meeting Zana Briski shortly after she received the 2004 Best Documentary Academy Award for Born into Brothels (an exceptional film by an exceptional woman and artist). She came to one of my classes in Film School for an intimate Q&A and was more honest and introspective than I ever would have imagined. To the bewilderment of many of the young film students with stars in their eyes that asked, "what famous people did you meet?"- she responded, with an obvious internal sadness, that such things (fame and leisure) were of no interest to her and refused to drop names - this is a real artist, a real human being. The class, excluding me and my professor, were disappointed. She went on to say that it was one of the most awkward, uncomfortable, and unrealistic environments that she had ever participated in and that she had no desire to repeat the affair. She held true to her promise as she retreated back to her work - you can follow the link for an update on the photography and minimal filmmaking that she has pursued since - it is honest art.

On a similar note, and with great admiration, Marlon Brando refused to accept his 1972 Academy Award for Best Actor in The Godfather as a statement on Native American rights - with a written rejection delivered by a young Native American activist that stated disapproval of the depiction of their culture in Hollywood cinema.

Unfortunately, it seems like every year more of these endless televised events seem to pop up, one after another - the Golden Globes (the worst of the bunch), SAG Awards, and of course the Academy Awards - I can't even remember the rest. I truly have very little time for any of them, and sadly (and perhaps partially unfair) I tend to throw Sundance Film Fest into this mix as the sweet "indie" darling of the market - though it actually hasn't been "indie" since the 90's when the word actually meant something - just another red carpet affair. Now, good films do come out of Sundance and old Redford seems to be making attempts to bring it back to credibility, but the industry grasp is tough to break.

So, to compensate on some level, and with all respect to the many valid independent artists that receive notoriety and opportunity from the event, I have at least posted the awards from the 2011 Sundance Film Festival and encourage all to delve further to find a few gems. There are always some impressive works that come to light due to the festival, so perhaps I shouldn't be so harsh on the event. Follow the Links below for more information and, please, don't ever misperceive the mainstream awards ceremonies as a comprehensive collection of the year's best and most innovative cinema - they get a few right, but we must dig a little deeper to find many of the innovators and ground-breakers. If you are just catching that cinephile bug, Sundance isn't the worst place to begin. Above is a list of the awards.

Sundance Institute
2011 Sundance Film Festival Awards
Zana Briski.com

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Arizona Gun Control? - Image of Interest... reflections and observations

People shoot their guns at a shooting range near the Crossroads of the West Gun Show in Tucson, Ariz., on Jan. 15. - image by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Curious thoughts jangle through my head - thoughts of reason and ration and basic human comprehension and simple civil deduction and sympathy and heartache and bewilderment and the horridly painful, hopelessly burdensome desire for us to be just a little bit better, a little bit smarter, as the human race, as a community, as a collective of communities, as a species... And this image, in conjunction with its location, transforms into a landscape of absurdity - and my head hurts.
I'll leave you to your own deductions and considerations...

NPR - Obama Pushed To Address Gun Control
The Atlantic - The Geography of Gun Deaths (this article provides some intriguing, and disturbing, regional statistics and charts)