September 26, 2014

Owens Valley - 1940

Owens Valley 1940 from the film Brigham Young

In the 1940 Darryl Zanuck film Brigham Young, the Owens Valley in California played the role of the Salt Lake Valley in Utah as Brigham Young first saw it and announced "This is the place." The film showed Brigham Young (played by Dean Jagger who himself was baptized a Mormon in 1972) striding across this grand view of the Valley shot from the Sierra mountains above Lone Pine and the Alabama Hills, but I've edited it to remove the church leader from the scene.

Dean Jagger playing Brigham Young in the Sierra above Lone Pine
Dean Jagger as Brigham Young looking down on Owens Valley from the Sierra

Owens Valley 1940 from the film Brigham Young (2)
The other Mormons taking a gander

The movie itself is a moderately fictionalized version of the trek from Nauvoo to Utah which received the full endorsement of the Church of Latter Day Saints. From listening to the commentary on the DVD, I learned this expensive film was considered a Really Big Thing at the time, comparable to The Grapes of Wrath, but it lost money and over the years lost its fame. I think I probably heard about it during my visit to the Lone Pine Film History Museum.

Zanuck intended the persecution of the Mormons to be seen as a metaphor for the German persecution of the Jews (this was 1940). Apparently most people understood it that way too, even though the film had to be bit light-handed in suggesting that metaphor, since it simultaneously suggested the non-Mormon Americans were in the role of the Nazis. Early in the film Brigham Young delivers a fictional speech in which he expounds on the freedoms guaranteed by the first amendment from a 1930s point of view. In the 1840s it was yet to be settled whether the Bill of Rights applied to the states as well as the federal government.

The film includes scenes of the cricket invasion and seemingly miraculous appearance of the seagulls. Those scenes were shot in Nevada during a genuine cricket invasion where seagulls really did show up to complete the verisimilitude! In the commentary on the DVD it is said that the gulls did not show up until after the official church liaison to the production prayed over the day's shooting.

The film used some other beautifully mountainous area of the west to represent Council Bluffs, Iowa, and the area that would become Omaha some day. I'm not going to bother with that. I'm sure it brought much amusement to the residents of that area during the dark days of the early 1940s.

permalink | September 26, 2014 at 10:31 AM | Comments (3)

September 11, 2014

Hurricane Marie

I'm sure my east coast friends were filled with sympathy and concern when they learned that Hurricane Marie would be hitting southern California. Here we are having to deal with wildfires and earthquakes, when nature piles on with something that really only Florida deserves. Here, then, is a video documenting the force of Marie as she slammed into Malibu:

Oh, the humanity! Here the LA Times reports on the loss of historic structures in the area, especially the Point Mugu lifeguard station built in the late 1950s. It was used as a location in the film Hitchcock.

permalink | September 11, 2014 at 05:34 PM | Comments (0)

July 12, 2014

If Only They Had Done This In "Rebel Without A Cause"

Auto racing

But then nobody would have heard of James Dean.

permalink | July 12, 2014 at 05:59 PM | Comments (0)

June 13, 2014

Burning Man 3D

Coming to an IMAX near you, maybe.

Lots of other people said they saw the crews out there with their exotic 4K 3D camera systems shooting Burning Man last year, but I didn't. It's a big city. But now, a little bit of their video (in flat 2D) is available via their IndieGoGo campaign (ah yes, money). The director speaks with a French accent and they started with a grant from the French Film Commission, so I'm going to go out on a limb and call this the French IMAX 3D Burning Man movie. You know how that French Film Commission is - never enough money, so they are seeking another $83,000. The film will focus on the arts and artists at Burning Man...but that's no guarantee that you won't see a naked guy on a bike in the background in the finished film.

permalink | June 13, 2014 at 12:33 PM | Comments (0)

June 3, 2014

AMPAS & LACMA Come To An Agreement

CicLAvia Wilshire - Oscars (1640)
The former May Co. department store adjacent to the LACMA campus

The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art have come to an agreement in which the Academy will lease the May Co. department store building from LACMA for $36.1 million, payable in advance. The rent is due October 1, 2014, and is good for 55 years. It breaks down into $28 million for the building and $8.1 million for adjacent land where the Academy will build a movie museum, for which the Academy is raising $300 million.

Academy Movie Museum
It's planned to look something like this.
Scheduled to open in 2017.

permalink | June 3, 2014 at 02:54 PM | Comments (0)

May 24, 2014

Probably Not A Coincidence

Patrick Bateman (NSFW)

Elliot Rodger - boring, except for that music.

permalink | May 24, 2014 at 05:04 PM | Comments (0)

May 6, 2014

How Many Times?

How many times must the Golden Gate Bridge be destroyed before we learn the error of our ways?

permalink | May 6, 2014 at 02:24 PM | Comments (0)

April 27, 2014

Netflix Roulette

Too tired, lazy or intoxicated to fire up the necessary brain cells to select something at Netflix to watch? Netflix Roulette to the rescue.

  1. Select movies, TV or both.
  2. Select a genre, or not.
  3. Select a range of ratings (1 - 5 stars), or not.
  4. Click "Spin."
  5. One title is displayed. If you want to watch it, click "Watch On Netflix."
  6. Otherwise, spin again or just go to bed.

Netflix Roulette doesn't ask for access to your account, which is good for privacy, but it means it may show you movies you've already seen. But what do you care? You're tired. It also doesn't let you filter on MPAA ratings, but that's critical only if you have kids in the house and kids don't need Netflix Roulette to pick a movie. "Let's watch ___________ again!"

permalink | April 27, 2014 at 10:28 AM | Comments (0)

April 26, 2014

"Koyaanisqatsi in 5 minutes"

For those who have never been able to commit 86 minutes of their life to watching the full movie but were curious about the visuals, here ya go. It seems to include all the scenes in the film, but that is not the soundtrack...although it is by Glass.

You can hear the original soundtrack here.

Inexpensive digital photography and remote control copters have made many of the effects seen in this film almost ubiquitous. The film was released in 1982, shot entirely on film (what else?) and no CGI. At the time, there was nothing else like this of similar length.

permalink | April 26, 2014 at 12:04 PM | Comments (0)

April 11, 2014

Charles Busch on Baby Jane


Charles Busch introduced Whatever Happened To Baby Jane on TCM and was interviewed by Queerty revealing a little bit of the gay agenda in the process.

Why does this film have such enduring appeal for gay audiences?

It’s one of those handful of movies you have to see to get your gay card. There’s All About Eve, Auntie Mame, Sunset Boulevard, Valley of the Dolls, Mommie Dearest, The Women… Here, you’ve got bigger than life actresses, fabulous bitchy dialogue that’s like a big juicy steak both actresses are tearing apart with their bare teeth. [Laughs] It’s about the movies. I don’t know why, but often gay people have an interest in Hollywood of the past. Traditionally, it is one of the classics of gay cinema. It’s interesting that all of those movies, except for The Women, were directed by very heterosexual men. The two real totems are Sunset Boulevard and All About Eve were both written and directed by very straight men.

permalink | April 11, 2014 at 11:56 AM | Comments (0)

March 26, 2014

"From Ukraine To United Arab Emirates"

And now Los Angeles! But not what you think. It's the return of Odorama! It will make its American re-debut at Regal Cinemas L.A. Live Stadium 14 this summer.

The technology comes from a Korean company. I notice that one of the functions seats will have is called "Heave." I'm afraid they did not hire enough English majors for their website...or maybe, OTOH, the description is entirely accurate.

permalink | March 26, 2014 at 05:37 PM | Comments (0)

March 14, 2014

Rose McGowan In DHS

I admit I had to look her up. I don't think I've seen any of those productions in which she has appeared, except maybe Nip/Tuck, if it was the 2009 season I watched. I don't recall. But all that matters is that a lot of people love her and she recently visited Desert Hot Springs (maybe she's still here).

On Instagram:
Rose McGowanin DHS
"Desert hot springs with my spiritual brother"

On Facebook she shared a montage of scenes from her trip, including several more of the spa where she stayed, but here's the best shot of all (IYAM - if you ask me).
Rose McGown At Roses Pet Grooming
click for the whole montage.

permalink | March 14, 2014 at 09:38 AM | Comments (0)

March 11, 2014

Visitors At Cinémas Palme D'Or

10:45 AM every day until...? Who knows, maybe only a couple more days. Probably not 4K, but if you go see it get back to me about that.

The video above is only 480, so you're getting less than one-eighth of the data. It's like the visual equivalent of Cliffs Notes.

permalink | March 11, 2014 at 04:51 PM | Comments (0)

March 7, 2014

GoPro In A Real Movie

Cinematographer Shane Hurlbut discusses the use of GoPro cameras in the shooting of Need For Speed ("one beautiful work of art" according to Mr. Hurlbut). You can watch the trailer for Need For Speed at that link and enjoy the rather obvious homage to Thelma and Louise, which I guess is not the end of the movie in this case. (Oh, wow, I hope that wasn't a spoiler for anyone who hasn't seen Thelma and Louise.)

But whacha really wanna see is this short video in which Mr. Hurlbut identifies all the cameras used. Boy, I'd like it if every cinematographer did something like this. You will see the GoPro comes in for only two quick shots.

GoPro in Fast and Furious

Mr. Hurlbut says their goal was to use no CGI, no green screen. He doesn't say how successful they were at achieving that goal. In this article he shows how they attached GoPros using Gorilla Tape rather than gaffer tape. So maybe that Chevy will have tape glue left on it, but at least they didn't lose very many cameras.

"What inspired me about the GoPro is that we could not kill it. I mean, we went to extremes once we saw how powerful this tool was becoming — lighting them on fire, throwing them off bridges, grinding them into asphalt and dirt," he says. It had not occurred to me to try to burn my camera. Maybe at Burning Man this year there will be an art project that involves burning a lot of GoPro cameras while they are shooting. Then we'll see how rugged those microSD cards really are.

permalink | March 7, 2014 at 12:32 PM | Comments (0)

February 28, 2014

I Demand Literalness

Noah, The Movie will have a disclaimer saying it is not a verbatim re-telling of the Biblical story. I'm so disappointed. We finally have cinematic technology that will allow a depiction of the story as written. I want to see a boat built to the exact dimensions and then packed with more biomass than could be held in a hundred such boats. Either all the living stuff will have to be crushed to the density of a black hole, or it will all be stacked on the top deck to such a height that there is no way the boat could stay upright. Details on where they got the meat to feed the carnivores and the sanitary measures on board would really help the verisimilitude, too.

There are 8.7 million species of animals. Subtract those who live in water.

permalink | February 28, 2014 at 12:29 PM | Comments (0)

February 26, 2014

Dinah Shore Estate

The Dinah Shore estate in the Las Palmas neighborhood has sold for $5,230,000 to Leonardo DiCaprio.

The 1.34 acre estate, in the heart of the fabled and celebrity-pedigreed Old Las Palmas 'hood, was custom designed as a series of glass-walled pavilions and built in the mid-1960s for the late and legendary singer/actress Dinah Shore by prominent mid-century modern architect Donald Wexler, now in his late 80s, who in his professional heyday plied his trade predominantly in and around the Palm Springs area.

She adds that all parties were required to sign confidentiality agreements.

permalink | February 26, 2014 at 01:58 PM | Comments (0)

February 25, 2014

He's Back!

Bryan Cranston! Also, in a supporting role, Godzilla:

permalink | February 25, 2014 at 11:24 AM | Comments (0)

February 24, 2014

Intrepid Explorers Discover Moviefone Is Not Really Quite Extinct - Yet

I can vaguely recall trying to use Moviefone via a real telephone many, many years ago. I was very surprised to read that the telephone version of Moviefone is still going, but will soon be killed off. AOL bought the company in 1999 for $388 million and then did a Yahoo! on it: allowing it to languish so that it would become a money-losing relic. Now AOL plans to drop the phone service and revise the internet service to either transform into something wonderfully new and useful, or just throw good money after bad. Anyone taking bets?

permalink | February 24, 2014 at 08:58 AM | Comments (0)

February 16, 2014

Visitors in 4K

Yesterday I saw Reggio's Visitors and am happy to report that it is much more than faces sliding across the screen, right to left. There are images of urban structures, nature scenes, a cemetery, crowds of people and the moon. I missed whatever credits that might have explained the source of the moon segments. Did Reggio (or one of his many producers) pay to have a 4K camera mounted on a lunar orbiter?

There might have been only a dozen people in the theater, but no one got up to leave when the credits started rolling. I don't think I've seen that at any other movie unless some celebrity was there to speak to the audience afterward.

The NY Times loves it with 5 stars. Roger Ebert liked it enough to give it 4 stars, but he needs to wipe his glasses. He thought the crowd scenes showed "a rush-hour crowd in a major metropolis." The scenes were shot in a studio and the clue to that is the people in the crowds are the very same people we see in individual close ups. Ebert also thought he saw "An inflatable dummy flops around on fan exhaust, presumably stationed outside some car dealership or strip mall lot." It was a crash test dummy that was being shaken around...probably in a studio. The background for all the studio scenes are solid black. The LA Times was not impressed and gave it 2½ stars. Calum Marsh at the Village Voice hated it so much he spent the first four paragraphs of his seven paragraphs re-reviewing Koyaanisqatsi which he also hates. Possibly Marsh was traumatized as a child while viewing Koyaanisqatsi and hasn't gotten over it. "Visitors is a dull etch of digital blacks and grays." I did notice one credit for a "Colorist" at the end of the movie. I guess making sure your black & white is perfect would also require a least in Hollywood. There probably is no separate category for a "Grayist."

4K resolution in Visitors is like taking the very best black and white photos you have ever seen that were shot by experts using a medium or large format film camera (I'm talking like Ansel Adams or the photography in National Geographic or some photos in old Life magazine) and then you blow those photos up to cover an entire wall and new detail appears to you. Early in the movie individual faces gradually appear in a slow fade up (is that the right term?) from a solid black screen. Gradually each face becomes completely clear and you think you're there...but a few seconds later you realize the image is getting still more clear as smaller and smaller details emerge. It's like somebody wiped the dust and grease off your HD TV screen and you realized you had been missing half the picture.

This Youtube video purports to be available in 4K, but you need a 4K monitor to appreciate it. And even then it will have undergone some compression, I'm sure, before becoming available on Youtube. Or, you can buy Timescapes. Soon 4K streaming will be available from Netflix for those who have 4K TVs and a 15.6Mbps connection. The video on the film's official website is far short of 4K.

Visitors is at the Landmark NuArt Theater in L.A. until Thursday February 20. It will continue to be shown in the U.S. until as late as the end of April 2014 in Williamsburg, Virginia. After that, maybe you'll have to wait for Netflix to stream it.

permalink | February 16, 2014 at 10:46 AM | Comments (0)

February 3, 2014

Effects Of LED Street Lighting In L.A.

An article at Curbed Los Angeles about how the new LED street lights in Los Angeles will change the look of future films. If you watch for accidental anachronisms in movies, this will be one more thing to look for.

permalink | February 3, 2014 at 02:20 PM | Comments (0)