Small-run theater raises questions: can film stick around?

Over the summer, we put most of our 16mm film collection into storage. Some might argue that film is a richer and more expressive medium than video, but you don’t have to be plugged into the industry to realize that digital video is quickly replacing film. Movie theaters remain one of the last bastions of … Continue reading “Small-run theater raises questions: can film stick around?”

Over the summer, we put most of our 16mm film collection into storage. Some might argue that film is a richer and more expressive medium than video, but you don’t have to be plugged into the industry to realize that digital video is quickly replacing film. Movie theaters remain one of the last bastions of projected film reels. But given the expenses of producing a degradable film reel versus streaming a digital copy, major studios are soon to cease production of film too.

It might be cost-saving in the long run, but some projectionists aren’t too happy. The News-Sentinel from Fort Wayne, Indiana tells the story of Cinema Center, a small arthouse theater that has not yet updated to digital projectors and is struggling with the transition both financially and sentimentally. There’s a lot in the article about the shocking price of a 35mm film (upwards of $1,500), but the most interesting anecdotes come from the theater-runners lamenting the switch. Film projectors, they argue, don’t need constant expensive upgrading and can still show the same films that came out decades ago. The push to switch is universal: even the director of another niche local theater – the type that plays live music along to silent films – admits that the switch to digital video is inevitable.

It will be worth seeing if film-projecting theaters still have an audience in coming years as fewer and fewer stick around. The medium is changing, so is there still room for a niche business that does it the old-fashioned way?

Oscar Cleanup Giveaway

We’ve been excited about the Oscars for a while, and now that they’re over, there’s sort of a big void left. What better way to fill that void than to give away some Oscar-nominated movies? We’re giving away six Oscar-nominated movies: The Artist Argo Flight The Iron Lady Pulp Fiction Sting For a chance to … Continue reading “Oscar Cleanup Giveaway”

We’ve been excited about the Oscars for a while, and now that they’re over, there’s sort of a big void left. What better way to fill that void than to give away some Oscar-nominated movies?

We’re giving away six Oscar-nominated movies:

  • The Artist
  • Argo
  • Flight
  • The Iron Lady
  • Pulp Fiction
  • Sting

For a chance to win, leave us a comment telling us your favorite movie from 2012. We’ll pick 2 or 3 winners from our blog, Facebook, Twitter, and in-person entries to take home their choice of one of these great movies.

Good luck!

It’s the Oscars!

The Oscars are tonight! After weeks of buildup, speculation, and the most use of the word “Argo” on record, the Academy will reveal the results of the most prestigious and contentious film awards ceremony at 8pm in the Dolby Theatre. We’re very excited in Media Services, if you couldn’t tell from our weeks of Academy … Continue reading “It’s the Oscars!”

The Oscars are tonight! After weeks of buildup, speculation, and the most use of the word “Argo” on record, the Academy will reveal the results of the most prestigious and contentious film awards ceremony at 8pm in the Dolby Theatre. We’re very excited in Media Services, if you couldn’t tell from our weeks of Academy Award-related posts.

Naturally, many of the films nominated for awards are still in theaters, so we can’t really advertise them in our collection. But now is as good of a time as any to look back at big winners from previous years. Our Pinterest page has a list of all the Best Picture winners in our collection, with only a few missing (some of the older winners have not been released on DVD). Everyone’s immediately familiar with The Artist and Slumdog Millionaire given their recent wins, but have you seen The Sting or Midnight Cowboy lately?

We’ll be around all evening. If you don’t feel like watching the ceremony or need to detox from the awards season, come grab one of the 82 winners in our collection. (Or 83 if Argo wins!)

The New York Times breaks down Oscar trailer timelines

The art of the crafting a movie trailer has recently become a science. Every smash cut, cliffhanger, fade to black, and fancy shot of an actor’s name has been reduced to a formula that seemingly every studio follows. The New York Times adds a new wrinkle to that analysis by splitting apart trailers for this … Continue reading “The New York Times breaks down Oscar trailer timelines”

The art of the crafting a movie trailer has recently become a science. Every smash cut, cliffhanger, fade to black, and fancy shot of an actor’s name has been reduced to a formula that seemingly every studio follows.

The New York Times adds a new wrinkle to that analysis by splitting apart trailers for this year’s Best Picture-nominated films based on when its scenes appear in the movie. A basic formula seems to exist: follow the movie chronologically to introduce the characters and plot, then end with a series of quick cuts through the middle and end to show the major action. With some variance, Silver Linings Playbook and Beasts of the Southern Wild follow this outline fairly closely.

Then there’s ones like Lincoln and Amour that skip around wildly with seemingly no attention to the film’s timeline. Stephen Garrett, a trailer producer that the Times interviewed, suggests that these trailers focus less on the plot than the tone of the movie. They don’t need to follow the plot order if they’re just suggesting a mood.

It’s interesting to see how filmmakers choose to portray their works. Argo is about a story. Amour is about a feeling.

Celebrating Petro Vlahos, father of modern visual effects

Petro Vlahos, an unheralded genius of modern filmmaking, died yesterday at age 96. Though not a household name in special effects like James Cameron, Peter Jackson, or Michael Bay, Vlahos laid the foundation for all future filmmakers. Vlahos invented bluescreen (“chroma key”) technology, first used in 1940 for The Thief of Bagdad and still used … Continue reading “Celebrating Petro Vlahos, father of modern visual effects”

Petro Vlahos, an unheralded genius of modern filmmaking, died yesterday at age 96. Though not a household name in special effects like James Cameron, Peter Jackson, or Michael Bay, Vlahos laid the foundation for all future filmmakers. Vlahos invented bluescreen (“chroma key”) technology, first used in 1940 for The Thief of Bagdad and still used today in nearly every film with a visual effects shot.

Vlahos’s initial uses of the bluescreen were fairly tame, allowing Charlton Heston to race chariots in Ben-Hur or letting Dick Van Dyke dance with animated penguins in Mary Poppins. Nowadays, entire sets are constructed from chroma key backdrops, and most video editing software supports some form of greenscreen technology. Vlahos’s work has been improved over the years but remains conceptually unchanged from his original idea 73 years ago.

It would be ridiculous to list every movie that uses some form of Vlahos’s chroma key technology, as it would probably include every major film of the last half-century. Instead, here are a few movies to which Petro Vlahos directly lent his visual effects wizardry. Each one of these won the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects.

Ben-Hur – HU DVD 3857
Mary Poppins – HU DVD 7850
The Thief of Bagdad: An Arabian Fantasy – HU DVD 8101

Non-news of the day: Palestinian director Emad Burnat detained 90 minutes at LAX on his way to the Academy Awards

Burnat’s film Five Broken Cameras has been nominated in the Best Documentary Feature category. While in detention Burnat texted Michael Moore for help. Moore tweeted about it and all was good. The immigration folks hadn’t been briefed on what an official Academy Award nomination looks like. BTW we recently added Five Broken Cameras to the … Continue reading “Non-news of the day: Palestinian director Emad Burnat detained 90 minutes at LAX on his way to the Academy Awards”

Burnat’s film Five Broken Cameras has been nominated in the Best Documentary Feature category. While in detention Burnat texted Michael Moore for help. Moore tweeted about it and all was good. The immigration folks hadn’t been briefed on what an official Academy Award nomination looks like.

BTW we recently added Five Broken Cameras to the Media Services collection so come on by and check it out.  DVD 10914

Palestinian co-director of ‘5 Broken Cameras’ detained at LAX: Moore

Hot Docs: Kansas vs Darwin

Hot Docs highlights interesting new documentaries we’ve recently added to our collection. Kansas vs Darwin (DVD 10562) addresses the ongoing argument between the theory of evolution and intelligent design by focusing on a specific, famous battle with the Kansas State Board of Education. In 2005, the school board considered requiring teaching intelligent design to be … Continue reading “Hot Docs: Kansas vs Darwin”

Hot Docs highlights interesting new documentaries we’ve recently added to our collection.

Kansas vs Darwin (DVD 10562) addresses the ongoing argument between the theory of evolution and intelligent design by focusing on a specific, famous battle with the Kansas State Board of Education. In 2005, the school board considered requiring teaching intelligent design to be taught in schools alongside the theory of evolution. The measure eventually failed, but not before unleashing a political and cultural battle on the scale and madness of the Scopes monkey trial. Kansas vs Darwin examines this heady, frenetic clash from both sides, painting a full picture of a fight at the epicenter of debate over science in education.

Official description from the film’s website:

Kansas vs. Darwin takes you inside the hearings to meet the characters who captured the world’s attention: school board members who believe their literal interpretation of the Bible trumps modern scientific evidence, and members of the Intelligent Design Network who believe mainstream science is conspiring to suppress evidence that would overturn evolution. You’ll also get face to face with an organization of Kansas scientists, educators, and citizens that organizes a worldwide response to put an end to what they see as a religiously-motivated kangaroo court.

Kansas vs. Darwin is a heady, absorbing swirl of politics, science, religion, education and emotion in which the filmmakers unflinchingly race from one, compelling point of view to its polar opposite in order to challenge the viewer’s own opinions. Audiences may experience discomfort as they plunge to the heart of one of mankind’s most central questions of existence – and to the epicenter of the American culture war.

Burning question: Does Best Picture matter?

With all the Oscar hullabaloo (of which we’re guilty as well), it’s easy to accept that the Oscars matter, that the acting winners represent the fines that Hollywood offers, and that an institution as venerated as the Academy is the official tastemaker. Take a step back and read this interesting and controversial opinion from Rob … Continue reading “Burning question: Does Best Picture matter?”

With all the Oscar hullabaloo (of which we’re guilty as well), it’s easy to accept that the Oscars matter, that the acting winners represent the fines that Hollywood offers, and that an institution as venerated as the Academy is the official tastemaker.

Take a step back and read this interesting and controversial opinion from Rob Lowman of the L.A. Daily News. Lowman rightfully argues that past Best Picture winners have not stood the test of time and greatness compared to other nominees. Everyone has an example they can point to. 2001: A Space Odyssey, for example, was not even nominated for Best Picture and lost to a largely forgotten Oliver Twist musical. Lowman calls out Rocky – a fine film – for beating legendary directors Sidney Lumet and Ingmar Bergman for Best Director.

Awards voting is always subjective, and Lowman seems to have a particular axe to grind with Oscar frontrunner Argo, but his point is valid. Flavors of the moment and popular consensus do tend to cloud judgment, and the Academy’s track record is spotty. But the Academy gets it right more often than not: there’s good reason Patton won over Love Story.

Even more short films screening in DC

Continuing yesterday’s theme, there are more and more opportunities to see what’s new in the burgeoning short film scene. This weekend, DC Shorts will present a series of award-winning short films, including previous Oscar contenders (and some of this year’s nominees). The hour-and-a-half showcase costs $12 and runs twice daily throughout the weekend. Take advantage … Continue reading “Even more short films screening in DC”

Continuing yesterday’s theme, there are more and more opportunities to see what’s new in the burgeoning short film scene.

This weekend, DC Shorts will present a series of award-winning short films, including previous Oscar contenders (and some of this year’s nominees). The hour-and-a-half showcase costs $12 and runs twice daily throughout the weekend.

Take advantage of this exciting film opportunity in DC! Each showing includes a different set of rotating films, so you might even want to go to more than one.

Watch Academy Award-winning short films right now

The 85th Academy Awards kick off one week from tonight. We’ll have plenty of lists of past winners and nominees in the coming weeks, but for now, let’s direct attention to the lesser-heralded short film catagories. Since 1932, the Academy has honored short films in a number of categories, including documentaries and animation. Though they … Continue reading “Watch Academy Award-winning short films right now”

The 85th Academy Awards kick off one week from tonight. We’ll have plenty of lists of past winners and nominees in the coming weeks, but for now, let’s direct attention to the lesser-heralded short film catagories.

Since 1932, the Academy has honored short films in a number of categories, including documentaries and animation. Though they have never received the same critical acclaim as Best Picture hopefuls, Short Film and Short Subject nominees are as creative and worthwhile as they are comparatively brief.

Pop culture aggregator Flavorwire recently compiled a short list of Oscar-winning short films that are available for free to watch online. If you have half an hour to spare, sit down and watch a few of them to get an idea of what some of the less-heralded Oscar categories hold in store.