film

Best fascist propaganda film ever

Red Letter Media does a good recap of Starship Troopers on the 20th anniversary of its release. Many audiences at the time panned it as a predictable rehash of old sci-fi military stories, but in time more people noticed the film was a subversive satire of fascist propaganda, one that never stoops to wink at the audience, but maintains its facade through the last frame.

I was particularly taken by the notion that director Paul Verhoeven purposely cast actors with a wooden, cheesy delivery to emphasize the heavy-handed presentation of the film's ostensible themes: that might ultimately makes right, and all citizens have the duty to endorse state-sponsored violence. Even Neil Patrick Harris, who has gone on to bigger and better things, was best known at the time as the boy doctor, Doogie Howser. He was the perfect pop-culture boy-nerd for the film. By the end, of course, his transformation into what looks like an SS officer is all the more appropriate. Only the shallow and compromised characters survive.  

Talk is cheap

I never really thought I was interested in filmmaking, but the secret mechanisms that drive movies are endlessly fascinating. This video has an acute exposition on dialogue, which I found equally applicable to written works.

I particularly liked the suggestion that characters need not just talk to each other the way they do in real life. Allowing dialogue to advance plot without characters' exchanges bogging down into the mundane is one my current struggles. 

Less about living and more about waiting

If you're a serious, serious film aficionado and have about seven hours to kill, check out Anders Weberg's trailer for his new film Ambianc√©. 

It's only a trailer, of course. Weberg's full film, set for release in 2020, is 30 days long, and was filmed in a single take. 

More about the film and the "slow cinema" movement in The Guardian.

PS - I crunched the numbers, and the duration of the trailer is roughly analogous to the length of the teaser trailer for "The Force Awakens" compared to the duration of the movie. In other words, the action in this seven hour trailer is about equivalent to the 90 second Star Wars trailer compared to the full feature film. 

Oh what a feeling when we're

Seventeen years before Kubrick rotated a set to simulate a zero-gee walk in 2001: A Space Odyssey (and decades before Christopher Nolan's monstrous rotating corridor achieved the effect in Inception), Fred Astaire blew audience's minds by dancing up walls and on to the ceiling. Animator Galen Fott created a tweaked view of the scene that allows us to see how it worked. 

Astaire sets up the effect with a magician's flair: he performs a few dance moves that almost appear to defy gravity before the room ever rotates. They both foreshadow the effect and desensitize us to it, so when he suddenly transitions to dancing the wall, it's an even more magical moment. 

It's also worth reading Fott's description of how he created this view, and his insights into some of the key moments, when you realize just how much effort went into creating this dance number. 

Visual Composition

This is a neat piece on how visual composition is used in film. Isn't it great that we live in a world in which someone can produce a sort of short-form documentary slash illustrated lecture and make it available to anyone interested in the creative process behind filmmaking? I wish the world were as great in other ways as it is in its provision of technology for the privileged. (That last sentence almost reads like parody to me, but it's entirely true.)

This comes via the esteemed kottke.org.

The illusion of cool

"We" love guns. We must love them - they appear in an overwhelming number of our films and television shows. And when they appear, they're framed in such a way to emphasize their power and coolness. Maybe you, like me, never paid much attention to the way that these objects are handled, the way that actors' bodies move around them, and how they are focal points for the energy and drama of the shots in which they appear. 

No matter how you feel about guns, it's worth understanding how they're being framed in popular culture.