Posts tagged film

“So, ‘Slacker’ or ‘Clerks’?”

We had spent dinnertime watching the trailers for the movies I had in my computer. I was at my friend’s in Lisbon, and since she was feeling a bit sick I decided to stay home with her and watch some film together. We had already spent some time pitting trailer against trailer, and by then already crossed off the list films such as Brazil, Son of Rambow, Mister Lonely, and a few other still unwatched movies I had ripped to my laptop while packing for my six-day trip down south. In the final round we had Richard Linklater’s first feature versus Kevin Smith’s. Her pick.

“‘Slacker’”, she said.

Best film choice of the year. We watched it and after it was over we went silent for a while, perhaps letting out a timid “Wow”. It’s easily the most influential thing I watched in a long time, and I just couldn’t believe I hadn’t watched it before. Especially since it turned out you can watch the entire film for free on YouTube.

Later the same night I watched Clerks. Not quite the same thing.

A two-minute minidocumentary about the Big Bang. Personally, it’s thrilling to see the short-form science doc evolve. But seriously: magenta?

As you probably know, since the 50s that most films are shot for a 1.85 or even narrower (2.2, 2.35, 2.85, etc) aspect ratio, meaning an image much wider than the 4x3 (1.33) aspect ratio of ordinary television sets. So while films on television should obviously be letterboxed (meaning the addition of black padding outside the film frame), stupid viewers everywhere (I’m sorry, there’s no other way to put it) demanded the ‘stolen’ area of their TV sets back, which gave rise to the practice of doing ‘pan and scan’ reedits of the films, with the frames (and many times the actual editing) readjusted for 4x3 screens.

I absolutely hate watching pan-and-scan films. You keep all of your TV set’s pixels in use and instead it’s the actual film that’s being stolen (as if advertising breaks weren’t annoying enough). This video pretty much explains it all.

Location, location, location

Google recently unveiled Street View for both Porto and Lisbon. Privacy concerns apart (I actually believe Street View fits nicely in a discussion of photographers’ rights, in which my personal view is that public spaces are precisely that — public), I think Street View might actually be quite an interesting tool for scouting locations for indie films. Of course, it’s insane to go shoot somewhere without checking it out for yourself first, but SV does allow me to see if there are interesting streets worth a visit in person, besides being very useful in checking out details that might have been missed.

I take pride in trying to know as many places here in Porto as I can, but a certain shyness of taking the camera to the streets prevents me from being less conservative in the street locations I choose for my short films. I always try to be aware of lighting conditions, parking, and the residents’ nosiness towards people with video cameras (to prevent the type of situation which really ruins my day, such as having an actor giving a great performance while some old bastard across the street decides to stop and stare at the camera). Shame that Street View can’t help you with that.

I’ve watched the entire series of Tim Hunkin’s The Secret Life of Machines (page includes torrent links, you can also stream it here). Not only it is a example of really good television that is entertaining and educational, it’s also a reminder of a simpler, gentler era when TV documentaries could be concise, without all those constant “later on… but first”, “after the break…” that are the scourge of cable television documentaries. Despite being twenty years dated, SLOM does a great job at explaining the fundamental building blocks of today’s technology. When technology is deliberately mystified and made to seem like magic (I’m sick of those docs that promise to tell you How It’s Made and then just show you some assembly line without explaining much), The Secret Life of Machines may very well be essential viewing. 

I’ll now watch Why Things Go Wrong, which also seems pretty interesting.

One Hundred Years of Visual Effects.