the candler blog

The New Digital Hub

Technology

Very cool piece by Glenn Fleishman (which I came to by way of John Moltz) titled “iWatch, iHub.” Here’s the key line:

The Watch is the digital hub around which everything rotates in the new Apple universe.

For a refresher, here’s Steve Jobs introducing the “digital hub” strategy, the engine that continues to drive Apple, way back in 2001. The short of it: as you life goes digital, the Mac (and later the iPhone) should be the central repository for all your stuff.

Fleishman envisions a future Apple Watch with its own radios and GPS (the forthcoming inaugural models require an iPhone to connect to the web) and how it will be the key to your digital life. The most interesting (to me) idea he mentions with what to do with such a wearable is this:

The entertainment hub for your car, which no longer needs a radio/receiver unit at all, but just a surface-mounted magnetic charging dock against which you place your Watch while driving.

That reminded me of the opening scene of Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive, in which Ryan Gosling’s meticulous “Driver” ties a watch to his steering wheel so he can time a heist underway. (You get five minutes with The Driver, then he’s gone.)

I actually only recently started wearing a watch again, in part to gauge how much I like having something on my wrist should I take the leap and get an Apple Watch. On the drive in to work this morning I happened to test checking the time on my wrist. It’s silly since I have a clock on the in-dash stereo as well as next to the speedometer.

I was left wondering: why on earth would I want to look at my wrist while driving? Where would the Apple Watch go? Fleishman’s idea sounds like a good one.

And if we need to stoke the flames of the Apple Car rumor, this is kind of a fun place to take things.

Local

Movies, Short Films

LOCAL is a very cool short skate film by Sean Slobodan.

The film’s description of how they got the closing shot of the moon is great:

I was shooting from a little over a mile away in massive field. Because this was just on the top of a dirt hill we had to build about a 100 foot track made out of plywood for Daniel to skate on. … Ultimately there were probably 20 people who helped make this shot possible.

How Birdman’s Colorists Pulled Off the Film’s Look

Link, Movies, Technology

Bill Desowitz at Thompson on Hollywood goes into the nitty gritty of how Technicolor pulled off the invisible cuts in Birdman:

Stepping out of their comfort zone, the Technicolor DI team had to disregard where the official editorial cuts were located, and instead, subtly insert cuts designed specifically to meet their own needs as it related to the color grading process exclusively. This was a process that Technicolor eventually came to refer to as subtly “stitching” color-corrected sections together.

Desowitz really goes into the weeds on how they did it; a video showing the process would be nice, and maybe coming one day down the line.

I work with AutoDesk’s tools (the piece metnions Lustre; I use Flame, which as I understand it has subsumed Lustre’s toolset) and I can attest to the fact that what they’re talking about here sounds like a nightmare. Many, many moving parts, which is to say many points of failure. The end result is seamless though, and it plays much better than Hitchcock’s hiding cuts in opaque objects.

The “stitching” technique reminds me of the “Camera Pan From Hell” in this Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind VFX reel (at about 2:14):

I can’t wait until a Birdman VFX reel surfaces. Glad to see the work of those ususally left out of Oscar plaudits get some love.

Update February 24, 2015: Thanks to Neil Cronin on Twitter for pointing me to this video that features some visuals as well as an interview with colorist Steve Scott.

(Also, that this video is from November kind of throws cold water on the aforelinked piece by Desowitz, which plays up the idea that Technicolor is revealing something new in light of Birdman’s Oscar win. Ah well, interesting stuff nonetheless.)

Make a Film with iPad

Movies, Technology

Apple’s new ad, set to premiere during the Oscars, features high school students making films with iPads under excerpts of Martin Scorsese’s 2014 NYU Tisch commencement. Oh also it was shot entirely on iPads.

Called it. Well, almost. I never anticipated that the iPad would be powerful enough to shoot and edit a movie on. A lot can change in five years.

Party Like a President

Books

A few celebratory links for my pal Brian Abrams whose book, Party Like a President: True Tales of Inebriation, Lechery, and Mischief From the Oval Office, came out last week.

Helluva week, Brian’s having. For one, his book holds the top two positions in Amazon’s “Party Cooking” rankings (and the number three spot in “Culinary Biographies & Memoirs”). On Wednesday, Jimmy Fallon name-dropped the book to set up a so-so joke. Hopefully the exposure will help him knock Anthony Bourdain off his Culinary Biographies & Memoirs throne.

The highlight for me, though, was Brian guesting on the Filmdrunk Frotcast. Honestly I haven’t listened to the show in a few years even though I subscribe to it. I’m glad Brian gave me a kick in the pants to queue it up again. It’s excellent. Note that your monocle may fall out if you’re opposed to naughty language and lots of talk about butts.

Brian talks with Vince Mancini and the gang about bacchanalian presidents, the German film Wetlands and even the future of media on the web. Seriously. Give the whole thing a listen.

Mazel tov to Brian on publishing a book on dead trees. Order Party Like a President on Amazon and I’ll get a little kickback. I’ve been flipping through it and can confirm it’s full of hilarious bits. (I haven’t read it cover to cover yet; what am I, a professor?)

Oh and while you’re on Amazon maybe give his book a review. This one star review is something special:

I don’t know if it’s the misspelling of “its” or the affected, bubbie-like phrasing of “caused me such nausea” that cracks me up more.

This 1926 Film Review Sounds Familiar

Criticism, Movies

You really should be following The New York Times’ tumblog, The Lively Morgue.1 Every few days they publish photos from the paper’s massive collection.

This week saw the surfacing of a photo of John Barrymore on the set of the 1926 silent Moby-Dick adaptation, The Sea Beast. The film is not readily available save for a few clips on YouTube2 (there is a single DVD copy going for $150 on Amazon). Lucky for us, though, the Times’ review survives.3

Photo: The New York Times

This is the first I’ve ever read the criticism of Mordaunt Hall. The first thing that stands out to me is the lasting value of published criticism. The Sea Beast, some ninety-years old, may not survive intact, but Hall’s 1926 experience of it is as vibrant today as it was when it was originally published.

There are a few notable things about Hall’s review. By 1926 cinema had a working language, but some of the terminology was still up for grabs. Hall refers to the film as “the picturization of ‘Moby Dick,’” for example. Today we say adaptation, which perhaps tempers expectations of textual consistency.

“Picturization” feels so dated because the movies have since come into their own. Time was a book could be, theoretically, transplanted onto the screen. Of course, that was never accurate (and I’m overstating things a bit here), but it goes to show the ways in which how we talk about movies has changed over the years.

Hall is impressed by the photography, but not the editing:

The turbulent seas and the sights aboard the vessel are particularly well pictured, but the constant glimpses of a miniature to show the vessel plunging through the angry water are shown too frequently. In fact Millard Webb, who directed this production, often spars for suspense and misses it, and frequently loses his dramatic value by long close-ups, first of one person and then of another. For this reason the production drags quite a good deal.

It looks good, but it’s boring.

I also love that the modern complaint, “too much CGI,” is almost as old as the medium, in a different context of course. Here’s Hall:

There are scenes supposed to be in New Bedford in 1840, and others in Java. It would have been preferable if [director Millard] Webb had decided to forego the use of a property moon in one setting, as it is by no means realistic, any more than some of the backdrops.

It’s unendingly fascinating to me that, at this juncture in film history, a critic would call for more realism. I’m not sure I even understand Hall’s complaint. The moon (which was likely impossible to expose for alongside actors; it’s not much easier today for that matter) looks fake: so what?

This is a good production and one which contains much interest, but it is not a great photoplay.

Sounds like a summer blockbuster.

  1. I’ve mentioned them before.

  2. The linked video appears to be a condensed home movie edition of the film; IMDb pegs The Sea Beast’s run time at 136 minutes.

  3. You must be a Times subscriber to see more than the abstract.

Kickstarter Archives

Crowdfunding, Link, Movies

Kickstarter set up a page for projects aimed at preserving works, including a few films:

Join us as we highlight creators who are doing valuable work in looking back and shining a new light on lost or forgotten works through preservation, restoration, remastering, reprinting, etc.

Some very cool projects listed there. Oscilloscope Laboratories is $3,000 and eight days shy of restoring Kelly Reichardt’s 1994 film, River of Grass. Interesting rewards, too, like a LaserDisc chosen at random from the company’s screening library. They know their audience.

(via Indiewire.)

The billionaire’s typewriter

Design, Link, Writing

Matthew Butterick:

As a writer, the biggest poten­tial waste of your time is not ty­pog­ra­phy chores, but Medium it­self. Be­cause in return for that snazzy design, Medium needs you to re­lin­quish con­trol of how your work gets to readers.

Tempt­ing per­haps. But where does it lead? I fear that writ­ers who limit them­selves to pro­vid­ing “con­tent” for some­one else’s “branded plat­form” are go­ing to end up with as much lever­age as cows on a dairy farm.

I wanted to kick myself reading this only a few moments after publishing “Is Medium What Comes After Blogs?” on (where else?) Medium.

Butterick1 rather elegantly states thoughts that have been in my head for over a year. Yes, I’ve been writing on Medium, but I’m also acutely aware of the issues raised in Butterick’s piece. For example, it smarts that when linking to an article I wrote The Dissolve referred to me as “Medium’s Jonathan Portisky.” I don’t work for Medium.

Or do I?

These thoughts are swirling around my head and require a deeper dive. It’s coming. Hopefully here, on the site I own and control.

Accidental Love Review

Link, Movies

Mike D’Angelo reviewing the recently released on VOD Accidental Love at The Dissolve:

Accidental Love famously started out, way back in 2008, as Nailed, David O. Russell’s intended followup to I Heart Huckabees. After production was shut down multiple times due to financing issues, Russell quit the project—“Screw this, I’m gonna go reinvent myself as a prestige filmmaker and score three Best Picture nominations in a row,” he reputedly yelled on his way out the door—and Nailed languished in limbo for years, unfinished and apparently unsalvageable. Somebody finally managed to cobble together a semi-coherent version, and the film is now being released with a new, VOD-friendly title (not many words come before “accidental”) and the credit “directed by Stephen Greene.”

Can’t believe they didn’t Alan Smithee this. Every last thing about this film sounds bonkers. And I don’t use that word lightly.

Accidental Love is available for rent today on iTunes, Amazon or wherever you go for streaming oddities.