Category Archives: Abject Geekery

e-Cahiers, Hidden Iraq, and Movie Locations on Google Earth

Sweeeeeet. The “e” stands for “electronic” as well as for “English”. Mais oui. Now I don’t have to keep typing sentences into translate.google.com and hitting just to figure out what those crazy French critics at Cahiers du Cinéma are on about this month …. Google Video has Iraq: The Hidden Story, an utterly engrossing hour-long piece from Channel 4 on the difficulties television journalists are having getting the real story out of Iraq — as well as the general squeamishness of television producers in the U.K. and the U.S. when it comes to airing graphic war-zone footage (some of which is included here, so be warned) that could influence public opinion of the current military escapades in the Middle East …. If you’re like me (and you have a decent computer and a fast Internet connection), you’ve already loaded up and become mesmerized by the globetrotting wonders of the Google Earth software. Well, Google Earth became a huge time sink for me over the Presidents Day weekend as I found this old post at WFMU’s Beware of the Blog in which DJ Mark Allen discusses various film locations that can be viewed from a satellite’s eye using the system. I was most fascinated by the overhead images of the park from Blow-Up, but he has instructions for finding locations from La Dolce Vita, Heathers and even Friday the 13th. A category search for film locations at Google Earth Hacks turned up more time-wasting goodies, including the houses from E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial and Poltergeist. (I am a child of the 80s. I can’t help it.) The dudes who wrote Deja Vu totally had a copy of Google Earth loaded up — I actually started getting frustrated that the system wouldn’t let me move forward and backward in time.

A brief tour of Deep-Focus.com

Here are the top 20 search terms that led people to deep-focus.com and the Deep Focus Weblog this month, linked to the pages they’re likely to lead to in a Web search. I don’t believe any further comment is necessary on my part.

1) nipples
2) “howard stern”
3) emanuelle
4) destricted
5) “private parts”
6) “funny games”
7) rent
8) “world cup death watch”
9) “don’t look now”
10) titanic
11) “scarlett johanson”
12) “breaking the waves”
13) videodrome
14) brown bunny sex scene
15) dunst
16) “wings of desire”
17) “larry clark impaled”
18) “requiem for a dream”
19) “sony lincoln square” offline
20) “tongue tornado” 

New Rules (Oscars Edition)

Those who follow this sort of thing might be interested to know that the Academy has tweaked a few of its Oscar rules this year. First, this will be the first year that New York Academy members will have any chance to influence the final five in the best foreign-language category — after the L.A. committee (which watches all 60 submitted films, a task that represents no small time commitment) narrows down a nine-film short list, the process will enter “Phase II,” in which a new committee consisting of 10 members of the original L.A. committee sit down with 10 L.A. Academy members who were not on the original committee as well as 10 New York members to pick the five nominees that will appear on final ballots.

Got it?

Essentially the Academy is trying to get some members involved in the process who haven’t the time, inclination and/or geographical proximity to commit to 60 non-English-language screenings. It’s hard to tell what effect this might have on the final list. Even if New Yorkers have substantially different tastes from their L.A. counterparts, they’ll only make up a third of that second committee. More likely to make a difference is the fact that two-thirds of the decision-makers in the second phase will be more casual viewers — maybe they’re less enthusiastic about unknown quantities, or maybe they’re enthusiasts who are just too busy to make 60 consecutive dates with Oscar. Anyway, whether this ends up making the picks more adventurous or less so, someone in the Academy decided the change was needed.

Gone this year is the requirement that a submitted film must be in an official language of the country submitting it. “So long as the dominant language is not English, a picture from any country may be in any language or combination of languages,” the Academy said in a press release. Any relaxation of arbitrary rules in this category looks like a good thing to me, but I’ve got one question about the “from any country” language above — does this mean the U.S. gets to submit a film? (Hell-o, Mel Gibson’s Apocalyptico?) Or should this more accurately be described as the award for best foreign-language non-U.S. feature film?

The Academy also tightened up some of the docu requirements and knocked the number of films nominated for sound editing from three to five. You can read the full release at the Oscars Web site.

The color of Hard Candy

Being a big ol’ geek, I was immediately intrigued by the presence, right up there in the opening titles, of a screen credit for the “digital colorist” on Hard Candy, one Jean-Clement Soret. Fortunately, I get paid to be a big ol’ geek — so I got Soret on the phone and asked him to describe the digital-intermediate process. The resulting interview, which discusses a post-production workflow, is mainly of interest if you happen to be contemplating a DI on a project you’re working on. But I got Soret to talk a little about Danny Boyle’s upcoming science-fiction film, Sunshine, which already has an interesting Web site.

The flashy credit boils down to Soret having worked successfully with director David Slade on commercials and music videos and therefore willingly taking on Hard Candy‘s DI for a much smaller fee than the work would normally demand. It’s both a thank-you for that and an indicator of how important Slade thought the digital grading process was to the film’s impact. I expect to see more of this kind of recognition in the future, as the colorist becomes a higher-profile collaborator with the director and/or cinematographer on any given shoot — I’m not sure whether I’d really look forward to the era of the celebrity colorist, but I also don’t expect it to go quite that far. (I’m mixed, by the way, on the merits of Hard Candy itself — but more on that later in the week.)

Oscar Bombs

728_8-women.jpgAfter seeing The Piano Teacher on Sunday night and the terrific 8 Women on Monday, I’ve decided to call 2002 a wrap and start formulating a top 10 list. I didn’t mean to send off the year with an Isabelle Huppert double-header — didn’t even realize she was in 8 Women when I sat down to watch it — but seeing these two back-to-back really made me appreciate her skills as well as the very different types of performance that Haneke and Ozon elicited from her.

Continue reading

10 Movies that I would watch, like, tonight, if only their respective rights holders would deign to release them on DVD

The Butcher Boy (Jordan, 1997)

(i remember liking this an inordinate amount in theaters and would appreciate the opportunity to check myself if only warner would release the bloody thing to dvd. was pressed on laserdisc in a tiny quantity and i held one in my hands at the virgin megastore but passed in favor of making rent for the month so my loss i guess)

The Double Life of Veronique (Kieslowski, 1991)

(though this is a miramax property it is available only from paramount in an ugly pan-and-scan version i mean what kind of idiot pans and scans art films anyway)

Gun Crazy (Ulmer, 1950)

(a low-down low-budget classic and maybe my favorite film noir ever)

Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (Akerman, 1975)

(it’s utterly crazy that a movie so revered is so completely unavailable on tape or disc anywhere in the world)

Cold Water (Assayas, 1994)

(ditto, plus the added spectacle of virginie ledoyen at 17)

Out of the Past (Tourneur, 1947)

(robert mitchum gives one of the great performances in film history in maybe my favorite film noir ever)

Persona (Bergman, 1966)

(yo mgm: this thing was recently restored for distribution in the u.s. but the only decent video version is almost 10 years old and missing shots from the opening montage so get off your collective ass and do bergman proud before the man dies for christ’s sake)

Prospero’s Books (Greenaway, 1991)

(the image laserdisc was a terrible botch with a cropped picture and truly bad sound)

Sunrise (Murnau, 1927)

(this was released by fox on laserdisc for about 20 minutes at the end of 1997 when i was poor and couldn’t afford to buy it)

Until the End of the World — super-extended version (Wenders, 1991/6)

(i skipped this when it showed at the director’s guild theater in manhattan mainly because i didn’t feel like having my ass pinched for five hours, but also because wim wenders told me himself, to my face, more than two years ago, that it was coming out on dvd. thanks bud.)