Tag Archives: David Bordwell

The last big thing

When the first of three films based on The Hobbit opens in about two months, a certain number of theaters will show the movie at a speed of 48 frames per second — double the current standard of 24 frames per second. A preview of the 48-frame print drew a mixed response, though the problem could simply have been that the preview was too short to give eyes and minds the time to adjust to the higher resolution of the image. At any rate, I’ll be curious to see the new technique in action — though only after I’ve seen the film in the standard format.

Some of you may be old enough to remember Cinerama, a film technology introduced in the late 1950s that provided an overwhelming, immersive viewing experience. I’ve never seen a Cinerama film. I have vivid memories of seeing 2001: A Space Odyssey during its initial late 1960s run in a cavernous New York theater. Though billed as a Cinerama show, the screening was actually in single-screen 70 mm instead of the three-screen process used for true Cinerama shows. I couldn’t have cared less at the time: 2001 in 70 mm blew my mind in every conceivable way. Seeing it in true Cinerama style probably would have altered the cellular structure of my brain.

Film historian and blogger David Bordwell talks about Cinerama in connection with the new Flicker Alley DVD release of This Is Cinerama, the demo film used to tout the wonders of the new technology. Film aficionado David Frohmaier has apparently come up with a display technique called Smilevision that puts across the three-screen effect while cleaning up some of the bugs that led to its abandonment.

Funny thing — one of the early shots in This Is Cinerama is a trip on a rollercoaster filmed from the front car. That reminded me of Brainstorm, a largely forgotten 1983 science fiction film directed by Douglas Trumbull, the magician behind the startling visuals in 2001. (It’s mostly remembered as Natalie Wood’s last film — she drowned during the production, and Trumbull had to fight to get the redone film released at all.) Trumbull had conceived the film, which is about the invention of a device that records thoughts and memories so others can experience them, as a showcase for his own Showscan technology, which would have projected the image at 60 frames per second. When the inventors prepare a mental “demo reel” of their own, it starts with a rollercoaster and other images that may have been Trumbull’s inside reference to This Is Cinerama. Talk about an in-joke! 

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Friday finds

Proportion Wheel

Illustrator blog site Drawger presents The Museum of Forgotten Art Supplies, some of which I still use regularly. (You can take my Rapidographs when you pry them from my cold dead fingers.) Others bring back dread memories of the days when newspaper pages were assembled on flats, with stories and veloxed photos printed as blocks and strips of paper and fed through waxers by pasteup artists. This hand-held waxer, for example, was enough to give Torquemada nightmares: that little red plug was often loose or missing entirely, allowing hot wax to splash across the hand of an unwary paster-upper. How about this Freddy Kreuger manicurist set used to cut and transfer itty-bitty strips of type? Hard to believe I used to enjoy working with this stuff — I even became quite a dab hand with the proportion wheel pictured up top.        

David Bordwell has some advice for scholarly authors.

Where would Pulitzer Prize-winning music writer Alex Ross go if he had a time machine?

The bus ride up is not for cardiac patients. I nearly shat myself four times in 20 minutes, what with the switchbacks and the crumbly one-lane roads with buses running two directions. Several times we inched painfully close to the ravine to allow another bus to pass, and I could stare straight down several thousand feet at the rusting carcasses of previous, less lucky buses. I can only hope the folks aboard died on the way down.”

Author and cult figure Ayn Rand was a huge fan of Charlie’s Angels. In fact, she wanted Farrah Fawcett to play Dagny Taggart if a movie version of Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged ever got off the ground. 

Frederik Pohl on the hazards of chemically assisted writing.

“Photographs of the novelist Kingsley Amis, taken between his fiftieth Kingsley Amisbirthday in April 1972 and his death in October 1995, sometimes show a resplendent sheen on his forehead, nose, and cheeks. This is what some people call ‘sweat alcohol,’ a common problem among heavy drinkers of shorts and beer. On both of the occasions on which I had the pleasure to meet this funny and distinguished man, he drank whisky throughout lunch and by the afternoon was wearing that slightly bewildered, slightly aggressive, slightly penitent expression known as the ‘Scotch gaze,’ a look familiar to all who have walked the streets of Glasgow or Aberdeen at closing time on a Friday night. It is an expression curiously unique to whisky drinkers. You can often tell a man’s tipple just by looking at him.”

Now that you know what bully sticks are, how do you feel about giving one of them to your dog?

Hanif Kureishi on the rigors of adapting his second novel, The Black Album, for a stage version.

Are you a female debut author whose book will be released from a major publisher between September 2009 and September 2010? Then you might want to join The Debutante Ball class of 2010.

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