What do you make of "Her?"


poster

I think my favorite aspect of Spike Jonze’s film "Her" was that it provoked me into a web of questions, arguments, and rumination on the definition and qualities of personal relationships.

My take.
For me, "Her" demonstrates that relationship has far more to do with imagination (in monologue and dialogue form) than with the actual exchange of words and actions. That doesn't make it less compelling - in fact, I'll bet many great relationships thrive on cooperative imagination. Much like taking up the company or school motto, we take up the mottoes of our various relationships. The possibilities are endless.

  • Other questions that popped up:
  • Are electronic devices eroding personal relationships?
  • Are they reflecting a pre-existing erosion?
  • Does the film suggest a reclaiming of solitude in our hyper-connected culture?
  • What else?

What's YOUR take?

Click on the
poster to watch an excerpt.

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How to Break into Film Editing? — Send a Telegram.


telegram

I was stuck with it. A giant stack of triplicate paper with tear-away, sprocket-hole perforated edges. Rather broke at the time, I bought the cheapest paper around that would work with my clunky printer so I could send my resume out to every film editing company in Manhattan. I found out that employers wanted you to send a videotape reel of your work, but I didn't have any material, so I just sent out the cover letter and resume on my awkward paper to about 50 places.

Weeks went by. I followed up with phone calls. No response. Despair set in. Now what? Those were rice and beans days, so I wasn't in the market for fancy Crane's stationery. In my exhaustion, I chided myself for sending out letters that looked like Western Union telegrams from a 1940's Hollywood film. And then it came - a sideways shift in perspective. I decided to send about a dozen companies a fake telegram issued as a warning to them that a person of my description was currently in New York trying to break into the world of film editing. If they had any contact with me, they were to report my whereabouts immediately. This faux telegram (complete in crispy triplicate with tear-away edges left intact) was peppered with various pranks. Like a drunken night in a French bar where I challenged a German traveler twice my size to an arm wrestling match — it ended unbelievably in a tie. Also mixed in were my actual credentials and work experience as an assistant to a tv commercial film director. It was a blast to write, and believe me, I felt I had nothing to lose.

About a week later, I got three job interviews followed by three offers. My first week as an editing apprentice, an assistant asked me which relative had gotten me into the business. "None," I told him, to his utter disbelief since the business was so closed to outsiders. I remember feeling really glad I didn't know THAT at the time I had gotten the inspiration to go with the telegram.

Got your own job break-in story? I’d love to hear it. (leave a comment)

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The String's the Thing - the Birth of Movies

muybridge
In film history, we hear a fair amount about the French Lumiere brothers and George Meliès for their pioneering work in motion picture film. But for me, the original hero of movies was master photographer Eadweard Muybridge of California. His still photography of Yosemite National Park have stood the test of time. Yet the real master stroke of his career came when he was asked by a client to help him clarify an important question about the stages of a horse's gait while galloping: is there any moment in which all four hooves are off the ground?

To find out, Muybridge had a rider gallop a horse down a straight track lined on one side with evenly spaced cameras to take a shot of the horse as it passed each camera. Did he have a person at each camera on the ready to snap the picture? Certainly not - that would be too imprecise. Instead, he ran fine strings from each camera's shutter arm across the track so that the horse's hooves would break the string and trigger the taking of the picture. The answer to the "flying horse" question is answered by looking at Muybridge's photos above. Muybridge, focused purely on a question of motion using pictures, did nothing further with this application except to apply it to the gaits of other animals such as buffalos. However, a magical spark was ignited, and he inadvertently gave birth to a technology and art form that have mesmerized us for over a hundred years.

Watch an animation of
Muybridge's photos here.
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Meeting Grandpère

r_corvol1Robert Corvol

Image one: Paris. 1967. I’m four. Grandpère, a raconteur, is holding court at the large family lunch table where about 12 people listen with quiet attention.

Image two: I want to speak. He frowns at me and warns that I’m to remain quiet. He goes back to telling his tale.

Image three: I peep up again. He glares and raises a finger. He continues his story.

Image four: He is pulling me by my left ear, from my seat, around the table, and through the swinging door into the kitchen where I get surprised looks from Yvette, the angelic housekeeper and Hector the grouchy cat. Apparently I’ve broken the silence again.

Years later as a teenager, I learn that he died of a “massive” heart attack in 1968. Obviously, I think, he was always “mad,” so he must have conniptioned his way to death. So goes the unchecked imagination of a frightened child.

With time, I’ve heard more stories, and the image of this complex character becomes less ghoul and more grandfather. Here was a French journalist who after managing to get out of a German prison during several months of World War II, reappeared at home quite suddenly one day announcing to his wife and five children “Me voilà!” (“here I am!”) He also published a few books, including “La Côte d'Azur à la Belle Epoque,” of which I guard my immediate family’s only copy. I’ve toted it to each new place I’ve lived. I really will read it one day.

Having just that one brusque memory of him at the Boulevard Henri IV apartment, I never saw him telling jokes to a charmed group of friends or expressing sweet nothings to his children and grandchildren. My repeating story is the lunch table yank-out. My mom’s repeating story to me is how he looked at me as an infant one time and proudly asserted “Il a des yeux de biche.” (“He has the eyes of a doe.”) A detail about his life slips from my mother’s lips on rare occasions, and the ghost keeps taking on more flesh.

On a 1987 bicycle trip through France, I spent two idyllic days at the home of Yvette and her husband in Saint-Benoît, eating eggs and vegetables from their small farm, and drinking way too much of their home made hard apple cider. She was my hero in that luncheon tale. Yvette had no recollection of my expulsion from the lunch table, but ever the gentle soul, she conceded that grandpère could lose his temper from time to time, poor chap.

Image five: as the spirit of story next presents it.

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Release Me (Guest Blogpost)

gazzara by Brian Mills
A review of director Joseph Rezwin’s “Gazzara,” from Brian Mills’ “RELEASE ME” series,
in which he reviews films that did not get distributed.

The first time I became aware of this film was when I was scanning the screening schedule of the Locarno International Film Festival and I immediately e-mailed director Joseph Rezwin that this film had to be distributed world-wide as a tribute to Ben Gazzara. The documentary allows us the viewer to eavesdrop on an absorbing conversation between Joe and Ben as they walk together, a fan and his muse. The film is a candid portrait of the man by a man who admired him from a distance after they first met on the set of John Cassavetes’ “Opening Night.” Gazzara’s life, on and off screen, was as rich and deep as his voice. Here we shadow Ben and Joe’s steps as they retrace some of the actor’s favourite haunts from his early beginnings: the influence of the Actor’s Studio, visiting the magnificent Radio City Music Hall. Interspersed are clips of some of Ben’s movies that resonated a lot with me, having screened many as a projectionist. But what really stood out were the unexpected interruptions by passers-by on the street that stopped Ben to shake his hand and tell him how they loved him ... those memories, like this movie, are priceless.

Thanks Ben for the memory.

Thanks Joe for capturing it.

I never got to meet Ben Gazzara, but I felt I knew him like a brother. Our relationship was via the silver screen, treasured moments of time. He died on February 3rd, the same date as his dearest friend John Cassavetes. One could imagine the laughter and tears that reunion would have brought in a starry heaven.

From his meteoric debut as Jocko De Paris, the sadistic military cadet sergeant in “The Strange One,” his silver screen lineage has been impressive: “Anatomy of a Murder” opposite James Stewart, where he played army Lieutenant Frederick Manion charged with murdering the rapist of his seductive wife. He was behind bars again in “Convicts 4,” a film that had not been released on video until only a few years ago. Ben was memorable as John Resko, a convicted murderer who became an artist. His supporting players were Sammy Davis Junior and Rod Steiger. Ten years later Ben made the first of three films with John Cassavetes. “Husbands” was about three friends, away from their wives. The film, because of money difficulties, nearly never happened, but John’s ingenuity convinced backers. It formed a strong relationship between Ben and John off screen and on. “The Killing of a Chinese Bookie” and “Opening Night” followed. Ben also was memorable in “Saint Jack” and “They All Laughed,” both directed by Peter Bogdanovich. Whatever part he played Ben had style.

Brian Mills, a British film writer based in London, fell in love with movies at age four. This and other articles are available on his web magazine “Movies by Mills.”

See
the magazine Movies by Mills here.
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Editing Analysis: Triumph of the Unusable

conrad_birdie_smConrad Birdie, THS 1979

At first, it felt like trying to make a soufflé with tofu. (sorry, vegans)

A few months ago, my charming music impresario friend
Elizabeth Dworkin contacted me about pitching in for an upcoming event at our Alma Mater in New Jersey, Tenafly High School. “What’s it for?” I asked. “To raise money to refurbish the theater auditorium and to support the arts program, of course,” she replied. How could I refuse? She told me a couple of Tenafly alums in the biz would record a little video that I could edit into a “trailer” for the event. I was poised to receive some glorious, clean HD video.

It turns out that
Wally Marzano-Lesnevich (you’ll love his comic delivery) had to shoot the piece right on his computer, and it looked, well…pretty scratchy. Could he re-do it, I asked? Nada. Harumph. I showed the footage to my girlfriend and moaned, “How can we excite people with footage that looks like fugitives on a surveillance camera?” I’ve encountered these editor’s conundrums many times, so I just threw up my hands and slept on it. Much to my glee, the next morning a little voice suggested, “Ok, go with it. Make the fuzzy video appear to have been done on purpose!” From there, it was just a creative chuckle. It’s one of those things that makes storytelling video editing such a joy. I didn’t need to somehow spit polish the footage. A shift of context can make just about anything workable and relevant.

Ever been in a similar creative situation? Please share your comments below.

See the THSStars video here.
Learn about the event at THSStars.com.
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Riding as the Story (Guest Blogpost)

Becoming the Story - guest blogpost from actor Dirk Keysser. Read More...
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Michelangelo, Editing Mentor

Inspired by Michelangelo’s trust of the medium - thoughts on filmmaking creativity. Read More...
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Grandma Miracle

A gift from my French grandmother creates a timeless memory. Read More...
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Bill's Recording Studio: A Boy's World Bursts Open

A life in the film arts is sparked in a Midtown Manhattan jingle studio. Read More...
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The Intimacy of Open Space

Discovering the closeness achieved by framing far away. Read More...
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In Memory of Roger Ebert

from a chance encounter with Roger Ebert Read More...
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