Monday, February 25, 2008

Oscar notes

I did predict one of the short film winners -- "Peter and the Wolf." I loved that when the filmmaker went on stage to get his Oscar, he brought a little statue of Peter and his pet duck.

It will be on Great Performances on PBS -- on March 26 in NYC, but check the link for the dates elsewhere.

I didn't expect the other winner, "The Mozart of Pickpockets." If I had ranked all five of the live-action shorts in order of probability of winning, I would have put "Pickpockets" last.

As for the feature-length films, the only ones I've seen so far among the winners are "Atonement" and "There Will Be Blood."

I'm glad that "Atonement" won for its music, which was an important part of the experience of the film. Too bad there wasn't an award for Best Sounds of a Manual Typewriter Clacking. And I wish "Atonement" had won for Best Costume Design, solely on the basis of the green dress that Keira Knightley wore, which is one of the most beautiful dresses I've ever seen.

While I was looking on the web for a picture of the dress, I found out that it's actually for sale. It's being auctioned off for charity -- the high bid right now is (gulp) $10,000, with 4 days left to go. (Update: the dress sold for $46,000!)

I haven't seen "No Country for Old Men," and I'm not sure I want to, given the subject matter. I loved "Raising Arizona" and "Fargo" -- but "The Man Who Wasn't There" and "O Brother Where Art There," not so much.

I read this morning that the Coen brothers are going to be making a movie of Michael Chabon's book "The Yiddish Policemen's Union." Interesting. The last third of the book is already quite cinematic as written and should be easy to film. It even has chase scenes! But what about the beginning, which is slower and takes place a lot more inside someone's head? And the language? Will they trim down the Yiddish slang? Will they use subtitles? Can this book really be turned into a mass-market film? I'm looking forward to seeing it, but with fingers crossed.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Oscar-nominated animated shorts

I went to see the animated shorts this time. There were five films, all using inventive and interesting animation techniques, including 3-D animation, watercolor, and puppets. But three of them had storylines I wasn't that crazy about.

The two films I liked the best were "I Met the Walrus," which had witty line drawings illustrating, extending, and sometimes punning on the words of a 1969 interview with John Lennon, and "Peter and the Wolf," which was set to Prokofiev's music and had wonderful portrayals of several animals, including a charming pet duck, which unfortunately got eaten by the wolf. "I Met the Walrus" was very short, so I don't think it will win. "Peter and the Wolf" might. The other film I think might win would be "Madame Tutli-Putli," which was visually quite interesting, but left me saying "Huh?" at the end.

Both programs of shorts will be playing in S.F.'s Embarcadero theater at least through Thursday (the runs may be extended if there is still demand). A list of other theaters where they are, or will be, playing around the country is here, and a list of all the films in both the animated and live action programs, along with brief descriptions, is here. A DVD will also be released at some point.

Recommended. Although I liked some of the selections more than others, I enjoyed both the live-action and the animated shorts programs, overall, more than any regular-length feature I've seen recently.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

God drafts "State of the Union" speech (satire)

This won Honorable Mention in the 1/21/08 contest:

Thank you, humans, flora, fauna, bacteria, viruses, blue-green algae, and distinguished guests.
Continued ...

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Dorothea Lange event at the library

The San Francisco Public Library put on a program about the photographer Dorothea Lange tonight in the auditorium at the Main.

They showed a film, Dorothea Lange: A Visual Life, which displayed many of Lange's photographs, accompanied by her voice (mostly from interviews that had been conducted earlier by KQED) discussing her work and her life, along with interviews with her sons and her assistants.

Lange had started as a society portrait photographer who felt she wanted to do more. Her chance came when she was asked to document the life of field workers during the Depression in what became her most famous work. She went on to photograph the Japanese-American internment camps during the war, people in Utah and Ireland for Life Magazine, and later people around the world and, in a situation that provided different kinds of challenges, her own family.

After the film, the filmmaker, Meg Partridge, came out, along with her sister, Elizabeth Partridge, who has written biographies of Lange, and their father, Ron Partridge, who had been Lange's assistant and talked at length in the film about his experiences with Lange while she was taking her Depression photos. He is also the son of Imogene Cunningham. They talked and answered questions for about half an hour.

As I was leaving, I heard the man at the book table in the back saying this was one of the most enjoyable events he had seen there, and he wished it had continued longer.

I agree.

The image at the top of this post, "Migrant Mother," is from the
Library of Congress.

Although Ron Partridge emphatically stated that photography is not art, it's journalism -- I'm still including "art" as a tag to this post.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Went to see a program containing all the Oscar-nominated live action shorts yesterday.

What I would like to see win: the hilarious Il Supplente (The Substitute). What I think will win: At Night, a memorable and well-made, but extremely depressing story about three young women who are dying of cancer.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Nina Simone - My Baby Just Cares for Me

I found this while reading the Echidne of the Snakes blog. The name Nina Simone is vaguely familiar to me, but I don't think I've heard her music before. Glad to discover this song. Wonderful animation in the video too:

Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong -- Summertime

I just realized I could find songs on YouTube that were recorded long before personal computers existed.