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Yearly Archives: 2011
appreciating the endurance of a public work…
in the time capsule that is LAX Terminal 3, the mosaic was created in 1965 for TWA to entertain as people made the 400-foot trek to the exit door… the hall was featured in John Boorman’s noir masterpiece “Point Blank” and 30 years later in Tarantino’s “Jackie Brown”…
“The key image in Point Blank is massive Lee Marvin striding down the old LAX corridors like a robot on overdrive…” (Glenn Erickson)
“Point Blank” 1967 directed by John Boorman
“Jackie Brown” 1997 directed by Quentin Tarantino
another dispatch from the end of the world as we know it…
We might as well call it: Cinema as we knew it is dead.
An article at the moviemaking technology website Creative Cow reports that the three major manufacturers of motion picture film cameras — Aaton, ARRI and Panavision — have all ceased production of new cameras within the last year, and will only make digital movie cameras from now on. As the article’s author, Debra Kaufman, poignantly puts it, “Someone, somewhere in the world is now holding the last film camera ever to roll off the line.”
What this means is that, even though purists may continue to shoot movies on film, film itself will may become increasingly hard to come by, use, develop and preserve. It also means that the film camera — invented in 1888 by Louis Augustin Le Prince — will become to cinema what typewriters are to literature. Anybody who still uses a Smith-Corona or IBM Selectric typewriter knows what that means: if your beloved machine breaks, you can’t just take it to the local repair shop, you have to track down some old hermit in another town who advertises on Craigslist and stockpiles spare parts in his basement.
As Aaton founder Jean-Pierre Beauviala told Kaufman: “Almost nobody is buying new film cameras. Why buy a new one when there are so many used cameras around the world? We wouldn’t survive in the film industry if we were not designing a digital camera.” Bill Russell, ARRI’s vice president of cameras, added that: “The demand for film cameras on a global basis has all but disappeared.”
Theaters, movies, moviegoing and other core components of what we once called “cinema” persist, and may endure. But they’re not quite what they were in the analog cinema era. They’re something new, or something else — the next generation of technologies and rituals that had changed shockingly little between 1895 and the early aughts. We knew this day would come. Calling oneself a “film director” or “film editor” or “film buff” or a “film critic” has over the last decade started to seem a faintly nostalgic affectation; decades hence it may start to seem fanciful. It’s a vestigial word that increasingly refers to something that does not actually exist — rather like referring to the mass media as “the press.”
In May 1999 — a year that saw several major releases, including “Toy Story 2,″ projected digitally for paying customers — editor and sound designer Walter Murch wrote a piece for the New York Times headlined, “A Digital Cinema of the Mind? Could Be.” In it, Murch pointed out that only two major aspects of the analog filmmaking process had survived into the late ’90s, the recording of images on sprocketed celluloid film and their projection onto big screens by casting a beam of light through the images. Murch predicted that once digital projection became widespread, it would “trigger the final capitulation of the two last holdouts of film’s 19th-century, analog-mechanical legacy. Projection, at the end of the line, is one; the other is the original photography that begins the whole process. The movie industry is currently a digital sandwich between slices of analog bread.”
Near the end of 1999, my former New York Press colleague Godfrey Cheshire published a two-part article titled “Death of Film/Decay of Cinema“, which in hindsight seems eerily prescient. He predicted just about everything that would happen within the next decade-plus, including the replacement of old-fashioned film print projection by digital systems, the replacement of film cameras by digital cameras, and the near-total takeover of traditional cinematic language by techniques that had once been the province of television.
“Camera, projector, celluloid,” Cheshire wrote, “the basic technology hasn’t changed in over a century. Sure, as a form of expression, film underwent a radical alteration with the addition of sound, but that and other developments – color, widescreen, stereo, etc.–were simply embellishments to a technical paradigm that has held true since photographic likenesses began to move, and that everyone in the world has thought of as “the movies” – until this summer. […] For the time being, most movies will still be shot on film, primarily because audiences are used to the look, but everything else about the process will be, in effect, television – from the transmission by satellite to the projection, which for all intents and purposes is simply a glorified version of a home video projection system.”
Although I’ve become more of a surly classicist with age, I was an early defender of movies shot on video, and I really don’t see the point of doing a Grandpa Cinema routine, waving a cane and hollering that the movies somehow “equal” film. That’s silly. Cinema is not just a medium. It is alanguage. Its essence — storytelling with shots and cuts, with or without sound — will survive the death of the physical material, celluloid, that many believed was inseparably linked to it. The physical essence of analog cinema won’t survive the death of film (except at museums and repertory houses that insist on showing 16mm and 35mm prints).
But digital cinema will become so adept at mimicking the look of film that within a couple of decades, even cinematographers may not be able to tell the difference. The painterly colors, supple gray scale, hard sharpness and enticing flicker of motion picture film were always important (if mostly unacknowledged) parts of cinema’s mass appeal. The makers of digital moviemaking equipment got hip to that in the late ’90s, and channeled their research and development money accordingly; it’s surely no coincidence that celluloid-chauvinist moviegoers and moviemakers stopped resisting the digital transition once they realized that the new, electronically-created movies could be made to look somewhat like the analog kind, with dense images, a flickery frame rate, and starkly defined planes of depth.
But let’s not kid ourselves: Now that analog filmmaking is dead, an ineffable beauty has died with it. Let’s raise two toasts, then — one to the glorious past, and one to the future, whatever it may hold.
interview with director Alex Roman…
Some philosophies of aesthetics enumerate seven primary art forms derived from Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel’s “Lectures on the Aesthetics” and the writings of film theorist Ricciotto Canudo: architecture, sculpture, painting, dance, music, poetry, and cinema.
The order is disputed, and architecture is sometimes shuffled to the third position, as it was by aspiring filmmaker Alex Roman for the title of his breathtaking work in progress, The Third & The Seventh, an artful combination of photorealistic architectural renderings and stylish CG cinematography.
In Roman’s able hands, the combination is undeniably poetic. His reverence for light borders on transcendent, and his attention to detail is inspiring. We caught up with Alex for a little background information.
Justin Cone: Tell us a little about yourself. Who are you? Where are you from? What do you currently do?
Alex Roman: I was born in 1979, in Alacant (Alicante), a city in Spain. I would first like to say that my real name is Jorge Seva, but I use “Alex Roman” as an artistic alias for publishing independent work. After being trained in traditional painting at a few academies, I discovered this other world called CG. After school, I made the move to Madrid and began working at a visual effects company. That stint did not last too long due to the lack of demand for visual effects in the Spanish market at the time. It was then that I switched into the VIZ (architectural visualization) business. I have been working for several companies since. After that, I took a sabbatical year for to work on an “already-built work” visualization series, which will be stitched together into a short animated piece.
JC: Were you formally trained in architecture?
AR: Nope, never. But I was very interested in architecture since I was a child. Maybe it’s not too late.
JC: Can you tell us a little about the TheThird & The Seventh film?
AR: Well, after working in VIZ for years, I realized that there was a huge aesthetic difference between most clients’ commercial demands and photography of already-built structures. The lack of respect for the architecture itself in some “pure” commercial illustration was very frustrating to me. (Well, this is just my opinion, of course.) Then, I decided to start a personal journey: to experiment with a more cinematographic and/or photographic oriented point of view of some of my favorites architects’ masterpieces. Hence, the “The Third & The Seventh” project…
JC: After thumbing through a book of Frank Lloyd Wright’s sketches once, I chatted with an architect friend of mine about the art of architectural rendering. He told me that sometimes architects intentionally leave sketches vague or messy. It not only creates wiggle room when it comes to client negotiations, it leaves room for the imagination to paint in details. How would you respond to that idea?
AR: Well, there are of course several purposes behind computer graphics benefits. That “messy” representation style is very useful at a birth-idea/growing-process stages. Also, there are of course many architects that use CG as a sketching oriented tool… why not?
JC: Your sensitivity to light is amazing. How would you describe the interplay between light and architecture?
AR: Thanks! I think architecture is sculpting with light most of the time. There’s neither volume nor colors and materials without light and shadow. Like Kahn said once: “In the old buildings, the columns were an expression of light. Light, no light, light, no light, light, you see…”
JC: The level of realism in the The Third & The Seventh is stunning. Your render times must be incredible. What software and hardware do you use? How long is an average render?
AR: I use 3DS Max and Vray for rendering, Photoshop for texture work, AfterEffects for compositing and color grading and Adobe Premiere for edit it all. My desktop PC (i7 920) it’s now the only hardware i have. Every frame rendertime may vary from 20 sec to 1:30 hr (720p) It all depends on how complex the scene is. However, i invested a lot of time in scene optimization for rendering. I think it’s the key for a flexible workflow.
JC: How can we see the full The Third & The Seventh film?
AR: I’m finishing the latest shots, fighting with the music—the hardest stage for me—and editing at the moment. We will see it complete around the end of the summer of 2009. I really hope so!
“THE THIRD AND THE SEVENTH” 2009 directed by Alex Roman
tracking a character name through television and film…
new work by David Kramer opens this wednesday..!
When asked the proverbial question, “Is the glass half full or half empty?” David Kramer’s response is something along the lines of: “Why? Don’t we have any more?”
David Kramer makes art work that tells jokes and stories or creates visual puns all asking similar types of proverbial questions and then questioning why the stock answers never quite seems to fit. Using advertisements and lifestyle magazine images, often from his youth in the 1970’s, Kramer is on an eternal mission looking for clues as to the whereabouts of the “Good Life” and the American Dream often depicted in these pages. His own proverbial questions often shape up to questions of why hasn’t his own life lived up to the promises doledout by both Hollywood and Madison Avenue.
A boozy humor is at the center of Kramer’s work. He laughs at his own eternal optimism. He steadfastly plows forward, cataloging the good life and sprinkling on top of it his singular brand of humorous copyright which often sells the viewer on the joke that he knows we are all by now “in” on. The joke that the American Dream seems to be maybe not much more than just a dream, and that all of the rumors about the mighty American will to succeed has maybe turned the page to a more lazy and tempered success story. The Hollywood ending is better off left to Hollywood and forgotten a soon as the lights go on and we leave the theater.
For this exhibition, The Hangover, Too, his first with Mulherin + Pollard, Kramer has built a wine bar into the gallery surrounded with his paintings drawings and sculptures from the past year. The wine bar is part joke about the lamenting and whining artist who spends his time drinking away his valuable time medicating his state, and also a reference to what Kramer sees as the only viable industry left in the American cannon: building theme park type places of recreation to distract ourselves from the business at hand, to sustain the greatness and promise that this country continues to boast of long after the flame has turned to a flicker.
Also on view is a sculpture, Mexico City Highway, a miniature stretch of roadway that passes through the Favela. Kramer has provided in the sculpture a roadside billboard, which depicts an image of an obviously white couple of models feeding each other chocolates. A scene which he has translated from his own trip to Mexico City this year, where he saw a society that has learned to accept the idea that the riches of a nation could be rationed into the hands of a few while the masses are left to only desire what they are allowed to see in advertisements, but my never own themselves.
David Kramer was born in New York City where he currently lives with his wife Susan Mitchell, and their son Martin. He has exhibited widely around North America and Europe, including recent one person shows at Armand Bartos Fine Art (Seems like We’ve Down This Road Before: A survey of works 1987-2010) 2010, Aeroplastics Contemporary, Brussels (If you really Want Me To Go Away, Just Give Me What I Want…) 2010, and with Galerie Laurent Godin , Paris (…Because I Am Not Richard Prince) 2010. He is currently a Special Editions resident at the Lower Eastside Print Shop in NYC.
David Kramer “The Hangover…Too” 9.7-10.2.11 @ Mulherin + Pollard 187 Chrystie Street, NYC
opening 9.7 wednesday 6-9 pm…
on Jack’s imaginary world of sport…
Almost all his life Jack Kerouac had a hobby that even close friends and fellow Beats like Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs never knew about. He obsessively played a fantasy baseball game of his own invention, charting the exploits of made-up players like Wino Love, Warby Pepper, Heinie Twiett, Phegus Cody and Zagg Parker, who toiled on imaginary teams named either for cars (the Pittsburgh Plymouths and New York Chevvies, for example) or for colors (the Boston Grays and Cincinnati Blacks).
He collected their stats, analyzed their performances and, as a teenager, when he played most ardently, wrote about them in homemade newsletters and broadsides. He even covered financial news and imaginary contract disputes. During those same teenage years, he also ran a fantasy horse-racing circuit, complete with illustrated tout sheets and racing reports. He created imaginary owners, imaginary jockeys, imaginary track conditions.
All these “publications,” some typed, some handwritten and often pasted into old-fashioned composition notebooks, are now part of the Jack Kerouac Archive at the Berg Collection of the New York Public Library. The curator, Isaac Gewirtz, has just written a 75-page book about them, “Kerouac at Bat: Fantasy Sports and the King of the Beats,” to be published next week by the library and available, at least for now, only in its gift shop.
Mr. Gewirtz said recently that he had included much of the fantasy material in a 2007 Kerouac exhibition he mounted at the library, and had planned to add a chapter about the fantasy sports in the catalogue but ran out of space. “I’m glad I waited,” he said, “because it forced me to go into it all in much more depth.”
Among other things, Mr. Gewirtz has learned that Kerouac played an early version of the baseball game in his backyard in Lowell, Mass., hitting a marble with a nail, or possibly a toothpick, and noting where it landed. By 1946, when Kerouac was 24, he had devised a set of cards with precise verbal descriptions of various outcomes (“slow roller to ss,” for example), depending on the skill levels of the pitcher and batter. The game could be played using cards alone, but Mr. Gewirtz thinks that more often Kerouac determined the result of a pitch by tossing some sort of projectile at a diagramed chart on the wall. In 1956 he switched to a new set of cards, which used hieroglyphic symbols instead of descriptions. Carefully preserved inside plastic folders at the library, they now look as mysterious as runes.
The horse-racing game was played by rolling marbles and a silver ball bearing down a tilted Parcheesi board, using a starting gate made of toothpicks. Apparently, the ball bearing traveled faster than the marbles, some of which were intentionally nicked to indicate equine fragility and mortality. So the ball bearing became the nearly invincible horse Repulsion, “King of the Turf,” whose legendary speed and stamina are celebrated in Kerouac’s racing sheets.
A byline that frequently appears in the racing sheets and the baseball newsletters is “Jack Lewis,” an Anglicization of Kerouac’s French first name, Jean-Louis. Jack Lewis, you learn from a careful reading of the sheets, is also a “noted turf luminary,” an owner and trainer who happens to be married to a wealthy breeder and whose 15-year-old son, Tad, is “expected to become a greater jockey than his immortal dad.” In baseball, Jack Lewis is a scribe and the publisher of Jack Lewis’s Baseball Chatter, and he appears occasionally both as a player and a manager.
That Kerouac, growing up in Lowell in the 1920s and ’30s, would turn out to be sports-obsessed is not much of a surprise. His father was a serious racing fan who for a while supplemented his income by printing racing forms for local tracks. Kerouac himself was a good enough athlete to be recruited by Frank Leahy, then the football coach at Boston College. He picked Columbia instead, because he was already dreaming of becoming a writer and thought New York was the place to start.
And that Kerouac had an active fantasy life hardly distinguishes him from other teenage boys. What’s remarkable about his fantasy games, however, is their elaborateness and detail. The players all have distinct histories and personalities. A single season could last 40 or 50 games, with an All-Star game and a World Series, all painstakingly documented.
In an introduction to “Kerouac at Bat,” Mr. Gewirtz suggests that Kerouac was trying, in part, to escape the pain and confusion he suffered from the death of his older brother, Gerard, when Gerard was 9 and Kerouac just 4. But whether he knew it or not, the creation and documentation of fantasy worlds were ideal training for a would-be author.
The prose in Kerouac’s various publications mostly imitates the overheated, epithet-studded sportswriting of the day. “It was partly homage,” Mr. Gewirtz said, “and perhaps partly parody, but every now and then an original phrase leaps out.” For example, the description of a hitter who “almost drove Charley Fiskell, Boston’s hot corner man, into a shambled heap in the last game with his sizzling drives through the grass.
Mr. Gewirtz said, “I really like that ‘shambled heap.’ ” Another description he enjoys is one of an overpowering pitcher who after defeating the opposition by a lopsided score “smiled wanly.”
Kerouac wrote his last baseball account, two mock United Press International reports, in 1958, but he continued to play the game and to tinker with its formulas, making them more realistic, until just a year or two before his death in 1969. His friend the poet Philip Whalen was probably the only one of the Beats who was familiar with this side of Kerouac.
“I don’t think the others knew,” Mr. Gewirtz said. “Or if they did, they didn’t learn it from Kerouac. I think he was worried they might think it childish.” But in Mr. Gewirtz’s view Kerouac’s interest in playing and writing about this self-contained imaginary world goes a long way toward dispelling the familiar criticism of him as less a writer than a sort of inspired typist.
“I think Kerouac had a photographic memory — a visual photographic memory,” he said. “These games were real to him: he saw them in his head, where he was able to store everything. To me it’s another indication of the kind of mind that allowed him to be the writer he was.”