Sunday, February 1, 2009

Notable film and media links--February 1, 2009


---After hearing of John Updike's death, I realized that I took his presence in the literary landscape for granted. He was always one of my favorite writers. I especially liked seeing Lorrie Moore and Richard Ford (not to mention Zadie Smith, Joyce Carol Oates, Dr. K, and Movieman) pay tribute to his talent and good influence on the world of letters. To give a sense of Updike's devotion to his craft, here's a passage from his preface to The Early Stories: 1953-1975:

"[These stories] were written on a manual typewriter and, beginning in the early Sixties, in a one-room office I rented in Ipswich, between a lawyer and a beautician, above a cozy corner restaurant. Around noon the smell of food would start to rise through the floor, but I tried to hold out another hour before I tumbled downstairs, dizzy with cigarettes, to order a sandwich. After I gave up cigarettes, I smoked nickel cigarillos to allay my nervousness at the majesty of my calling and the intricacy of my craft; the empty boxes, with their comforting image of another writer, Robert Burns, piled up. Not only were the boxes useful for storing little things like foreign coins and cufflinks, but the caustic aura of cigars discouraged visitors. I felt that I was packaging something as delicately pervasive as smoke, one box after another, in that room, where my only duty was to describe reality as it had come to me--to give the mundane its beautiful due."

---For Spectacular Attractions, Dan North explores the way the special effects industry keeps coming up with virtual actors that threaten to become indistinguishable from real ones. As he writes:

"Look at the Curious Case of Benjamin Button. The stated aims of the film, in which Brad Pitt’s character ages “backwards”, might be to integrate visual effects so seamlessly that they don’t distract from the character-driven, Oscar-baiting emotional truth of it all, but there’s no getting away from the fact that, by centralising the concept of a spectacular body like Benjamin’s, a magnet for diegetic and extra-diegetic curiosity, the film can’t help but draw attention to the visual effects used to achieve the concept’s visualisation. Pitt’s body becomes a laboratory for all kinds of tricksy bits of CG animation and performance capture, and there’s a complex connection between the fascinated gaze that attaches to the character’s condition, and the one that fixes on the image of a movie star transformed into a recognisable but fundamentally changed series of physiques by means of cinematic tricks. When Benjamin strikes muscleman poses in the mirror, it’s as much about technological display as it is about his own narcissistic enjoyment."

---For TechNewsWorld, Renay San Miguel wrote about journalists switching over to online media, including Sharon Waxman of The Wrap.com:

"Waxman's reasons for leaving The New York Times were personal and professional. She was supposed to move her family back to New York last year, but `I looked around at the landscape, the signs we're seeing -- very obvious now -- but all of us in our business have seen the signs for two years now. Newsrooms and newspapers have become very unhappy places to work. I had to think very carefully about whether I wanted to move my family across the country at this stage of my career, or whether I wanted to pursue something challenging and exciting and join the digital age.'

She says since TheWrap's launch she's fielded a lot of calls from professional journalists -- employed and recently unemployed -- wondering about job opportunities, so she knows she's made the right decision for her. `I believe there is a need for professional journalists to transform themselves in the age of the Web, and become the kind of reporters and writers that the Web demands and that people demand. There are some reporters who won't adapt, but there's a remarkable number of journalists who want to change, who want to transform themselves. But they're stuck in organizations that are not able to be flexible, small, like us. We all know what our job is and we're pulling in the same direction.'"

---I also liked CEO Mort Zuckerman's comment that "The print publishing business is an oxymoron. It is no longer a business. It is an advertising-driven business and advertisers have driven elsewhere."

---How much is The Reader, (an excellent film, by the way), part of Kate Winslett's cynical agenda to use Nazi pathos to get an Oscar?--"I don't think we need another film about the Holocaust, do we? How many have there been? We get it. It was grim. Let's move on. I'm doing it because I've noticed that if you do a film about the Holocaust, you're guaranteed an Oscar. I've been nominated 4 times. Never won. The whole world is going--Why hasn't Winslett won one? That's why I'm doing it. Schindler's bloody List. " Thanks to Nick Schager of Lessons of Darkness.

---Finally, somebody came to the defense of Wanted, one of my favorite summer films. Thanks, Flickhead.

---T.S. of Screen Savour continues to share his expertise with Hitchcock in this week's Vertigo post. I especially liked the way Hitchcock's strange working relationship with Kim Novak found its parallels in the film:

"Most production accounts of the shooting of Vertigo make clear that Novak and Hitchcock never got along. She disagreed with many of his decisions (most notably, she didn't want to wear grey), and she sought counsel and advice from Stewart regularly because she didn't receive the feedback she wanted from Hitchcock. Years later, she said wasn't sure he really liked her. Those on the set with Hitchcock in other productions knew how much he could dote on the men and women he loved, and accounts indicate that attitude was not present for Novak. But her performance in Vertigo is one of the chilliest from a Hitchcock woman: she is a world-class example of restraint, broken and tormented just below the surface. Perhaps not surprisingly, Hitchcock worked her to this successful degree, and in a great coincidence of life-reflecting-art, for the role of Madeleine, Novak was dressed against her will and forced to carry herself in a certain way. If there ever proof needed that Hitchcock thrived on a sordid vicariousness of what the men in his films did, and what the camera was able to capture, it was on the set of Vertigo, where his own treatment of Novak eerily mirrors Scottie's treatment of Madeleine."

---Erik Davis of Cinematical found a fun stop-motion music video entitled Her Morning Elegance by Oren Lavie.

---Lastly, I'm looking forward to Coraline's release later this month, in part due to this pleasantly sinister trailer starring the original book's author Neil Gaiman.

3 comments:

Skye said...

Dearest Doctor, if I may, I'd like to provide you with a link in return.
Hopefully you haven't heard of this blog. Interestingly enough, one of the authors maintains a movie-themed webcomic online and releases regular podcasts in which he discusses movies with two other movie-themed webcomic authors.

http://moviemakeout.com/

Flickhead said...

Thanks for the shout out, doc! Wanted rules!

FilmDr said...

Skye,

Thanks for the link.

Flickhead,

My pleasure. It's about time for a critical reappraisal of Wanted.