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A scrapbook of stuff I'm reading / looking at / listening to / thinking about. Ask me anything you can't Google.



Posts tagged "documentaries"

Sep 19, 2014
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Pablo Picasso draws a chicken

A scene from Henri-Georges Clouzot’s The Mystery of Picasso:

NYTimes:

At Clouzot’s invitation, Picasso made a series of works in a studio in Nice, using ink markers designed to bleed through the surface so the strokes are visible from behind. Clouzot and his cinematographer, Claude Renoir (a nephew of the filmmaker Jean Renoir and the grandson of the painter Auguste), using a time-lapse camera, filmed from behind the easel as the artist worked on the pictures, which were destroyed at the end of production. When the film is projected, the paintings magically emerge from the void onscreen. For collages and canvases painted with standard oils, a stop-motion camera was used: the canvas was photographed from the front after each brush stroke, again giving rise to the illusion that the artwork generates itself as we watch.

The chicken painting scene from above was a last-minute addition:

”I’m enjoying this — I could keep going all night!” the painter exclaims when Clouzot asks him if he’s up for painting a quickie using the five minutes’ worth of film that remains in the camera. Thus begins the most entertaining segment of the film, in which Picasso paints a bouquet of flowers that he spontaneously reconceives first as a fish, then as a chicken, while Clouzot counts off the remaining time as if he were the announcer on an artistic version of ”Iron Chef.”

(Source: youtube.com)

Sep 04, 2014
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May 29, 2014
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Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon

I’ve written before about the unsung importance of managers, so I can’t wait to see this:

In his directorial debut, Mike Myers documents the astounding career of Hollywood insider, the loveable Shep Gordon, who fell into music management by chance after moving to LA straight out of college, and befriending Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix. Shep managed rock stars such as Pink Floyd, Luther Vandross, Teddy Pendergrass and Alice Cooper, and later went on to manage chefs such as Emeril Lagasse, ushering in the era of celebrity chefs on television. Stuffed with fantastic archive footage the film traces Shep’s transformation from the 1970’s hedonist to today’s practicing Buddhist yearning for a family of his own.

I laughed at this:

The three most important things a manager does:

1) Get the money

2) Always remember to get the money

3) Never forget to always remember to get the money

At one point in the trailer, Gordon says, “There’s nothing about fame that I’ve ever seen that is healthy…it’s very hard to survive.”

Myers talks more about it in his recent GQ interview:

Supermensch is about family. That one of the things that we all seek is sanctuary…. I call fame the industrial disease of creativity. And it is. Fame can be so toxic that it has reproductive harm. From day one in talking to Shep it’s been family family family, and interviewing him it became clear that everything for him has been a search for that family… Shep truly does not see kindness as weakness; he doesn’t see love as a faulty business plan.

It’s funny how much buddhism pops up in certain figures I admire who have been able to survive any kind of brush with (even minor) celebrity.

Also funny that mensch is a word my (Jewish, practicing Buddhist) agent taught me. Ha!

(Source: youtube.com)

Oct 05, 2013
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Stories We Tell a film by Sarah Polley

“When you are in the middle of a story it isn’t a story at all, but only a confusion; a dark roaring, a blindness, a wreckage of shattered glass and splintered wood; like a house in a whirlwind, or else a boat crushed by the icebergs or swept over the rapids, and all aboard powerless to stop it. It’s only afterwards that it becomes anything like a story at all. When you are telling it, to yourself or to someone else.”
—Margaret Atwood, Alias Grace

This movie looks fantastic.

This movie is fantastic. Highly recommended.

Filed under: my watching year 2013

(Source: youtube.com, via austinkleon)

May 11, 2013
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Stories We Tell a film by Sarah Polley

“When you are in the middle of a story it isn’t a story at all, but only a confusion; a dark roaring, a blindness, a wreckage of shattered glass and splintered wood; like a house in a whirlwind, or else a boat crushed by the icebergs or swept over the rapids, and all aboard powerless to stop it. It’s only afterwards that it becomes anything like a story at all. When you are telling it, to yourself or to someone else.”
—Margaret Atwood, Alias Grace

This movie looks fantastic.

(Source: youtube.com)

Apr 23, 2013
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Sound City

I loved the first 2/3 of this, and kind of glazed over during the last 1/3. (It’s the curse of feature documentaries — most have about 60 minutes of great material, but are fluffed out to feature length.)

The first 2/3 is about Sound City Studios , a dumpy studio in LA, where Fleetwood Mac, Tom Petty, Neil Young, and Nirvana recorded some of their greatest albums. The studio is most notable for the sound of the live room (especially the drums) and the Neve 8028 analog board.

The last 1/3 is about how Grohl bought the Neve console and moved it to his own 606 studios.

The documentary is mostly about the human element of music — the messy serendipity of getting a bunch of people in a room and making noise and then recording that noise. (And how that element has slowly faded as young musicians make more and more music by themselves in their bedrooms on laptops.)

I was most interested in the producers who helped get a lot of this stuff to tape — they had interesting thoughts on how you take the raw material of a band and craft it into hit records. At one point, Rick Rubin says, “Everything I try to do is from a fan’s perspective,” and as much credit that’s given to analog tape and the Neve console, you also get the feeling of the producer as translator, or medium, between band and listener.  Keith Olsen notes, “What you have to do is get the listener to claim what you’ve done as yours.”

Artists are not always the best judges of what’s working, or, at the very least, what’s commercial. (There’s a great story about how Rick Springfield didn’t think much of “Jesse’s Girl,” but Keith Olsen heard the demo and liked it immediately — the first check from Warner Bros. was  $1,000,000.)

Anyways, if you’re a music geek, you’ll like it.

Sound City

I loved the first 2/3 of this, and kind of glazed over during the last 1/3. (It’s the curse of feature documentaries — most have about 60 minutes of great material, but are fluffed out to feature length.)

The first 2/3 is about Sound City Studios , a dumpy studio in LA, where Fleetwood Mac, Tom Petty, Neil Young, and Nirvana recorded some of their greatest albums. The studio is most notable for the sound of the live room (especially the drums) and the Neve 8028 analog board.

The last 1/3 is about how Grohl bought the Neve console and moved it to his own 606 studios.

The documentary is mostly about the human element of music — the messy serendipity of getting a bunch of people in a room and making noise and then recording that noise. (And how that element has slowly faded as young musicians make more and more music by themselves in their bedrooms on laptops.)

I was most interested in the producers who helped get a lot of this stuff to tape — they had interesting thoughts on how you take the raw material of a band and craft it into hit records. At one point, Rick Rubin says, “Everything I try to do is from a fan’s perspective,” and as much credit that’s given to analog tape and the Neve console, you also get the feeling of the producer as translator, or medium, between band and listener. Keith Olsen notes, “What you have to do is get the listener to claim what you’ve done as yours.”

Artists are not always the best judges of what’s working, or, at the very least, what’s commercial. (There’s a great story about how Rick Springfield didn’t think much of “Jesse’s Girl,” but Keith Olsen heard the demo and liked it immediately — the first check from Warner Bros. was $1,000,000.)

Anyways, if you’re a music geek, you’ll like it.

Apr 14, 2013
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Dec 07, 2012
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Tchoupitoulas: a film by the Ross Bros

My friends The Ross Brothers (their first film was the great 45365) are celebrating the theatrical release of their movie (after a successful Kickstarter campaign to finish it) which is getting insanely great reviews.

NYTimes:

“Tchoupitoulas,” a heady hybrid of documentary and dream, is a movie by and about brothers… It is alive with the risk and curiosity of youth, and unapologetic in insisting that the pursuit of fun can be a profound and transformative experience.

Popmatters:

…a portrait of New Orleans that is by turns poetic and poignant and rapturous.

I saw the film at SXSW last year, and had mixed reactions, but the images and the fantastic soundtrack have stuck with me. Like a lot of great work, it stirred my guts a bit because it was so different than anything I’ve ever seen before. It’s not a documentary — it’s a portrait of a place painted with real people but collaged together from different periods of time into one seamless night:

The Rosses take “documentary” to mean the documenting of an experience, and are more open about the misrepresentation of space and time for the good of the film than most other practitioners of their craft. Here, in what is no doubt a “documentary,” the filmmakers pass off more than half a year’s worth of New Orleans street life as the adventures enjoyed by three young boys over the course of a single night out.

I’m looking forward to seeing it again. These guys are on a roll.

Watch a clip then see if it’s playing in your town!

(Source: vimeo.com)

Nov 01, 2012
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Beauty Is Embarrassing

I loved, loved, loved this movie. It’s a portrait of the artist Wayne White — whose credits among many include the original puppets for Pee Wee’s Playhouse and music videos for Peter Gabriel’s “Big Time” and Smashing Pumpkins’ “Tonight, Tonight.”

If you’re interested in art, humor, and family, you must see it. Buy the film DRM-free for $7.99 or rent it for $3.99 on Amazon→

(Source: youtube.com)

Oct 01, 2012
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The People Vs. George Lucas

It suffers from being just a tad too long (it’s a rare movie that needs to be more than 90 minutes, and it’s a very rare documentary that needs to be more than 60) but I liked this documentary quite a bit. Here’s The Atlantic:


  The central question is this: What does a creator owe his fans, and what do the fans owe the creator in return? […] Does Lucas have the right to go back and change his films, and then make the originals more or less unavailable? At what point do creative works become more the domain of the public than the creator?


As a casual fan of Star Wars, I actually learned a lot about Lucas.  For instance, I didn’t know he was in a car crash as a teenager, and that was a major event in getting his life on track: “I thought, well, I’m here now, and every day now is an extra day.”

While I despise the existence of the prequels and the tinkered-with versions of the original episodes, I also found myself really sympathizing with Lucas. (He is, after all, the man who created Han Solo, Indiana Jones, and my beloved LucasArts game company.) Lucas started out as a film student who wanted to make personal, experimental films. In a lot of ways, Star Wars is the worst thing that could’ve happened to those ambitions. This idea is most clearly expressed by Francis Ford Coppola, one of Lucas’s oldest friends:


  The great success of Star Wars didn’t leave to the [independent films] and the personal filmmaking. George never made another film after that. Instead, he became a producer and an entrepreneur…We were deprived of those films that he was going to make and might have made. And instead we have an enormous industrial marketing complex…. No matter how many billions of dollars Star Wars could earn, no matter how valuable that franchise is, it isn’t worth a tenth of what he’s worth as an artist and what he’s capable of doing.


There’s a ton of things Lucas’s story makes me think about: the perils of success, how often worldbuilding and merchandising go hand-in-hand, the importance of constraints, criticism and collaboration, how the auteur theory can spin out of control, knowing when to quit and be finished…

Well worth a watch.

The People Vs. George Lucas

It suffers from being just a tad too long (it’s a rare movie that needs to be more than 90 minutes, and it’s a very rare documentary that needs to be more than 60) but I liked this documentary quite a bit. Here’s The Atlantic:

The central question is this: What does a creator owe his fans, and what do the fans owe the creator in return? […] Does Lucas have the right to go back and change his films, and then make the originals more or less unavailable? At what point do creative works become more the domain of the public than the creator?

As a casual fan of Star Wars, I actually learned a lot about Lucas. For instance, I didn’t know he was in a car crash as a teenager, and that was a major event in getting his life on track: “I thought, well, I’m here now, and every day now is an extra day.”

While I despise the existence of the prequels and the tinkered-with versions of the original episodes, I also found myself really sympathizing with Lucas. (He is, after all, the man who created Han Solo, Indiana Jones, and my beloved LucasArts game company.) Lucas started out as a film student who wanted to make personal, experimental films. In a lot of ways, Star Wars is the worst thing that could’ve happened to those ambitions. This idea is most clearly expressed by Francis Ford Coppola, one of Lucas’s oldest friends:

The great success of Star Wars didn’t leave to the [independent films] and the personal filmmaking. George never made another film after that. Instead, he became a producer and an entrepreneur…We were deprived of those films that he was going to make and might have made. And instead we have an enormous industrial marketing complex…. No matter how many billions of dollars Star Wars could earn, no matter how valuable that franchise is, it isn’t worth a tenth of what he’s worth as an artist and what he’s capable of doing.

There’s a ton of things Lucas’s story makes me think about: the perils of success, how often worldbuilding and merchandising go hand-in-hand, the importance of constraints, criticism and collaboration, how the auteur theory can spin out of control, knowing when to quit and be finished

Well worth a watch.

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