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Entries tagged movies

Holiday Consumption Guides

Posted December 5, 2013

I am wary of purchasing unnecessary objects for myself or others, but there are several really good gift guides making the rounds that have objects I desire. Also, they are really well made! If you’re going to buy things for people this year, I suggest you refer to these:

The Gifts We Want to Give in 2013 by the Wirecutter

While they typically focus on tech, this has a lot of other great stuff for walls, your person, and your brain. My favorite items were the Kaufman keychain set and a lovely National Parks Print.

NPR’s Book Concierge

NPR has collected 200 books and filed them under 20+ categories that you can cross-reference. For instance, here are short books for art lovers.

The NY Times Gift Guide 2013

There are hundreds of options here and a great source of inspiration for holiday gifts. It’s also by far my favorite browsing experience. I want these Pop-out and Play Safari for the nursery we’re putting together (yep, baby on the way in March).

The 25 Best Films of 2013: A Video Countdown by

This is really pretty and a great way to browse some of the better films to come out this year. If you don’t have 11 minutes to kill right now, there is a list of the films on Letterboxd. (via kottke)

Why to Kickstart

Posted July 22, 2013

Today, Spike Lee became the third celebrity to fund a film on Kickstarter and it’s highly likely people are already complaining. “Spike Lee is rich! He doesn’t need my money.” Actually, he does! Art isn’t free and that’s okay!

In two parts, I’m going to try and explain why it’s okay for celebrities to ask for your money and why you’ll be happier giving it to them over TMZ or MGM.

Art and Business

When you see that Dark Knight Rises cost $230 million to make, it’s easy to think that $1 or $2 million is not a lot of money. Why can’t Spike just finance it all himself? He could, but he didn’t get this far without learning a little bit about balancing art and business.

When making a movie, you’ve historically had to sacrifice creative control in order to get the damn thing made. Sometimes the balance of a big studio budget and a director with vision goes swimmingly (see: The Avengers); fans love the movie and it makes a huge pile of money. But most of the time, you end up with a cookie-cutter movie that might turn a profit or a creative mess that loses a ton.

And yet, even if it often results in a watered-down mess, successfully pitching a movie to a studio provides validation. It’s no longer just a good idea, but an idea that experienced studio executives think will be well-liked. If Spike Lee were to just throw his money at this idea, he’d have no idea if people thought it was any good until the money was spent. That’s either shitty risk management or insane hubris, but it would definitely be a bad idea.

With Kickstarter, filmmakers have a newfound option of retaining complete creative control while raising enough capital to finance a low-budget film. In an ideal world, the fans get a Spike-Lee-ier Spike Lee joint and Spike Lee gets the validation he needs.

Sooner or later, a celebrity’s $1 million+ project will fail and it will be a good thing. Either the size of support won’t match up with the required budget or someone who drank their own kool-aid will be knocked down a peg, but the system will work.

Why You Should Back

It’s really simple—back a project because you want it to exist.

It could be because you think it’s the best idea ever or because you want to support someone you like/trust/share DNA with; but it really doesn’t matter why. If you don’t want the thing to exist, don’t put any money towards it.

When you do support a project, you get to give your money directly to the artist. I really enjoyed Garden State and watched Scrubs for years, so I was happy to back Wish I Were Here. I’m a huge Spike Lee fan and want to see him make this movie. Even if these films flame out and never see the light of day, I’ll be okay with it.

Of course, I hope they get made and are fantastic, but I know that any failure would be their own. There’s no middle-manager in marketing who cut a misleading trailer or sold a heinous product placement spot. If these movies suck, I’ll feel better about “wasting” my $25 contribution than I would spending $25 on a ticket and a soda at the theater.

But here’s another good reason to back one of these big budget movies: you can get some really awesome shit! Fandom varies in size, but I elected for the behind-the-scenes-posting level of support for Wish I Was Here and it’s great. I’m essentially getting the DVD extras before the movie comes out. It’s icing on the cake, but I already feel like I made the right choice in supporting the project.

The Loop is Tightening

Kickstarter isn’t a silver bullet for the movie industry, but it provides a new way for supporters to give a greater percentage of the rewards to the people who are making things. Fans get direct access to the makers and the makers get pure validation. As the loop tightens and capitalism does its thing, we should have less drek and more gold, which is something I’m looking forward to.

Using Eye Tracking for Films

Posted February 19, 2011

eye tracking screen capture

David Bordwell invited Tim Smith to his blog to discuss how people watch movies. This is not an anthropological study, but one of empirical psychology. They used an eye tracking device as people watched There Will Be Blood.

In a previous post (which I suggest you read first), Bordwell discussed how director Paul Thomas Anderson is able to influence eye movement in a long shot using only staging. In one scene from TWBB, Bordwell discusses how Anderson focuses attention away from a map.

Many directors would have cut in to a close-up of the map, showing us the details of the layout, but that isn’t important for what Anderson is interested in. The actual geography of Plainview’s territorial imperative isn’t explored much in the movie, which is more centrally about physical effort and commercial stratagems.

This is backed up nicely by the eye tracking data provided by Smith.

The map receives a few brief fixations at the beginning of the scene but the viewers quickly realise that it is devoid of information and spend the remainder of the scene looking at faces. The only time the map is fixated is when one of the characters gestures towards it.

There’s a lot more of this and it’s terribly fascinating. I also learned a lot about how our eyes work. I had assumed some of these concepts based on my extremely limited knowledge of the brain, but it’s useful to hear them explained.

The most striking feature of the gaze behaviour when it is animated in this way is the very fast pace at which we shift our eyes around the screen. On average, each fixation is about 300 milliseconds in duration. (A millisecond is a thousandth of a second.) Amazingly, that means that each fixation of the fovea lasts only about 1/3 of a second. These fixations are separated by even briefer saccadic eye movements, taking between 15 and 30 milliseconds!

Looking at these patterns, our gaze may appear unusually busy and erratic, but we’re moving our eyes like this every moment of our waking lives. We are not aware of the frenetic pace of our attention because we are effectively blind every time we saccade between locations. This process is known as saccadic suppression. Our visual system automatically stitches together the information encoded during each fixation to effortlessly create the perception of a constant, stable scene.

It’s pretty amazing that we intentionally go blind to avoid overloading our brains with information. Finally, I found the way in which the experiment was run to be interesting.

We presented the film on a 21 inch CRT monitor at a distance of 90cm and a resolution of 720×328, 25fps. Eye movements were recorded using an Eyelink 1000 eyetracker and a chinrest to keep the viewer’s head still.

I wonder if the results would have been significantly different, even if it’s likely to be technically impossible, had the subjects been in a crowded movie theater, at home with their family, or on a first date. I’d also love to see this data split out by demographics or geographics. I’m sure I and a teenage girl in Germany watched There Will Be Blood in much different ways.

Fuck You, 3D

Good news everybody! You can now buy some of your favorite films in THREEEEE DEEEEE. Here’s some info about costs, etc. from Gizmodo.

Avatar, the most wanted 3D movie of all time, is only available in a $300 “starter bundle” from Panasonic that includes two rechargeable 3D glasses. How to Train Your Dragon is in a “starter kit” from Samsung for $280, which includes two 3D active shutter glasses. What happens if you already have one type of TV and just want the other type of movie? Looks like you get two pair of glasses that you can’t use on your set.

Oh, hrm. That’s frustrating. Well, at least some movies don’t require you to pay so much money, right?

Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs and Coraline are only available if you buy a Panasonic 3DTV. A TeeVee! And Bolt, which I’m sure is a fine dog movie in the realm of dog movies, is only gettable with Sony TVs. Same with Michael Jackson’s This Is It.

Okay, that sucks. It looks like those pushing 3D know it is not going to take off anytime soon, if ever, so they decided to confuse, frustrate, and overcharge their customers. It’s not a new approach, but I’m amazed that they still think this will work.

20101222jeanluc.jpg The Typography of Jean-Luc Godard

During the process of redesigning this site, I was looking for a bold, yet soft, sans-serif; something that made a statement and then wanted a hug. I should have looked to Jean-Luc. I’ll just watch some movies instead. [via youngna]

The Winklevoss Twin

I’ll admit, I didn’t realize until well after seeing The Social Network that the Winklevi were actually one person. I felt dumb. Just showing one twin at a time is easy, but I still didn’t understand how they did two. Then I searched around it’s kind of mind-blowing.

Hammer played the main twin in each shot. For shots that included both twins at the same time, Pence stood in for the second twin; Hammer later went into a studio, where he strapped his head into a harness to film that twin’s face and voice, which was then digitally superimposed over Pence’s face in the film. The result is a sort of hybrid actor with Hammer’s head and Pence’s body.

That sounds creepy and entirely unnecessary. Apparently David Fincher’s exacting detail went beyond just clothing. On the other hand, reading this quote makes me realize it’s not the easiest of tasks.

For a long time, I held out for this idea that we were going to find two 6’5″ 220-pound scullers who were going to be able to act.

Fine, you win this round Fincher, but it doesn’t make up for the ridiculous CGI sequences in Panic Room.

Doc Brown is the Villain

Gene Newman explains to us all why Doc is the evil mastermind of Back to the Future. Here’s a small snippet:

Even if everything went according to plan, Doc still contaminated a mall parking lot with plutonium, poisoning a helpless community for decades to come. You really think those thin hazmat suits or plutonium chamber in a jury-rigged DeLorean are safe protection against nuclear fall-out? Well, they’re not.

This article proves that writers are willing to put fictional worlds at risk in order to move the plot forward. For. Shame. [via sippey]

Hi Sally

Sally Menke, a film editor who was a close collaborator with Quentin Tarantino, was found dead today in LA. Dave Itzkoff wrote about her passing and her contributions to the film community.

This video is an extra from the Inglorious Bastards DVD. Tarantino liked when people would say to Sally before, during or after takes. It’s certainly no retrospective, but a sign she was well loved. [via Neven]

The Coen Brothers' True Grit

This is the first trailer for their new movie with Damon, Brolin and Jeff Bridges and it doesn’t show a whole lot. It’s a remake of the book, not the film. IGN had an exclusive interview with the Coen’s last year. Joel said:

I don’t actually remember the movie too well, but I do remember it as being much more of a standard western, and the book is just an oddity. It’s a very odd book.

Interest level: piqued.

Update: When you’re done watching the trailer, you should watch John Wayne accepting the Oscar for the original True Grit. Bonus: A young Barbara Streisand presents the award!

The Village Voice's Review of Babies

I love babies, but was unsure how I’d feel about this movie. This review pushed me over the edge. He really brings it together near the end.

Roger Ebert's Best Films of 2009

Just added half of these to my Netflix queue (and he's also posted his best films of the decade)

Quentin Tarantino's top 20 movies

Some surprises, but overall a list of movies a love. Jason has the video and a text list of the twenty films.

Traier for Antichrist

Lars von Trier's new film looks terrifying. Can't wait to see it.

2012: It's a Disaster

Posted July 16, 2009

To be honest, I didn't really want to see 2012, but this remix of the trailer may have changed my mind. While it's far from official, if more directors were so transparent about their films I think people would be less critical. Put your ego aside and admit this is a movie about blowing shit up. Crank: High Voltage did just that and it was fucking awesome.


The Fall's Title Sequence

This is breathtaking and I just added it to my queue as a result. While I'm add it, here's the title sequence for Ginger Snaps, one of my favorite horror movies.

40 Inspirational Speeches in 2 Minutes

Quick editing makes for a fun pastiche of powerful, or at least memorable, moments in film. [via waxy]

Please Movie Industry, Don't Do It

Posted March 13, 2008

The studios seem to be playing the cash grab game and it's making me nervous. It wasn't pretty watching the music industry go down the tubes, but I'm not terribly concerned about it. Self-producing and releasing music is relatively cheap these days and, while this may be hard to believe, I won't shed a single tear as the major labels go down with the ship.

The movie industry is another story. No, I don't have a personal attachment to any of the studios, but making movies ain't cheap, so we kinda need them. This is why I'm disappointed to see them shift focus to 3-D films. There are a bunch of 3-D releases on the way (including Toy Story 3) and the studios just announced an offer to convert 10,000 theaters to 3-D, which the exhibitors have yet to accept. I'm definitely in favor of improving the movie-going experience, but do you really think the Hannah Montana movie was a success because of an additional dimension? (Actually, a lot of people say it was just savvy marketing.) I would think there is more money to made pumping movies directly into all those new home theaters, but I guess that's not as flashy.

Compared to IFC's recent deal with Blockbuster, 3-D seems completely innocuous. The deal gives Blockbuster 60 days of exclusive access to rentals and downloads before any retail copies can be sold and three years of rental exclusivity. So if you use Netflix or an independent store, you won't be able to rent any future IFC release until 2011 at the earliest. This has caused problems in the video game world — I wrote about Madden and EA a while ago — and will only confuse and frustrate movie fans. As the Reeler points out, this is not terribly independent of IFC.

My biggest fear is that the movie industry learns nothing from their audio-only brethren and continues to make it difficult for me to spend money. The 3-D issue seems misguided, but I may just be suffering from fuddy-duddy-ness. Signing exclusive deals seems like just another reason for consumers to find the quickest path to a movie without regard to legality.

Crazy NYT Graphic of Box Office Revenue from the Last 24 Years

A lot of fun to browse, but I'd really like to zoom in to explore the less successful films [via kottke]

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