Posts Tagged ‘Movies’

MOVIES – THEN AND NOW A Star is Born Part 2

April 22, 2019

Part 1, I compared the production techniques of three of the four versions of “A Star is Born.” My cliffhanger at the end was the promise that I would compare acting techniques in Part 2.

First, for folks too young to remember the movie serials, I’ll explain the term “cliffhanger.” Each chapter of the serial ended with a “cliffhanger,” which meant it would end with something terrible happening to the protagonists. You had to watch the next chapter to see how they escaped destruction.

Now, back to comparing acting styles.

In the 1937 version with Janet Gaynor and Frederick March, the acting was just a shade less than stage acting, which requires projecting not only of dialogue, but of facial expressions and gestures because audiences are at distances from the actors. In movie acting, the camera can come close so that speech and bodily expressions need to be “natural.”

What’s interesting is that in one scene a producer, defending Esther Blodgett’s screen test by noting her acting was “mild.” He pointed out that might be a good thing, that perhaps movie acting would become more “natural” in the future.

Indeed it would. That trend actually started when sound was introduced in the late 1920s. Hollywood had to start hiring stage actors who were vocally trained because many silent movie actors had heavy foreign and/or regional accents and squeaky voices. The problem with the stage actors was they were trained to project voices and bodily expressions. So, they were instructed lessen their projection.

They did, but not to the degree that would come later. The 30s acting was more realistic than the 20s, and the trend continued through each decade. Many movie historians believe the big change in the 1950s when “method” acting took hold with stars like Marlan Brando and James Dean.

Frankly, the effort to make acting totally realistic has often gone too far with actors mumbling to the point they are not understandable. I suppose the trick is to come across as being “natural” while speaking distinctly enough there to be understood.

As far as “A Star is Born” is concerned, the stars performed more naturally with each new version that I saw, it appears to me. Still, my favorite version was the 1954 version with Judy Garland and James Mason. I missed the Barbara Streisand and Kris Kristofferson version.

I know this is too long, but I didn’t want to take time to make it shorter.

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Nate Gross

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Movies, Then and Now

April 3, 2019

 

Deciding on watching something new, we rented the latest version of “A Star is Born,” released in 2018, the 3rd remake. I had seen the original 1937 version with Frederick March and Janet Gaynor on TV and the 1954 version with Judy Garland and James Mason, but missed the 1976 one with Barbara Streisand and Kris Kristofferson. Of those I saw, my favorite is the 1954 version. Being 23 years old when I saw it in 1954 at a theater at Augusta, Georgia — I was serving in an Army band at Fort Gordon then — the music in it was the popular music of my youth. That’s probably one reason I liked it best.

Another would be the different shooting techniques. The 2018 version was shot in cinema verity style, which is all right for documentaries, but, for me, not in dramas. Cinema verity uses handheld unstable cameras, which makes the audience aware of the camera. Millions of feet of World War II combat films were shot by U.S. Army Signal Corps photographers using 16mm handheld cameras. Most dramatic films are shot in the direct style, which uses stable cameras with the idea being that it’s best that the audience is unaware of the camera. In the direct style, actors are instructed to never look directly at the camera lens. The 1937 and 1954 versions were shot in the direct style

How does Lady Gaga compare with Judy Garland and Janet Gaynor and Bradley Cooper with James Mason and Frederick March? Stay tuned for part two of Movies , Then and Now.

How Long Should a Novel Be?

July 25, 2017

When David O. Selznick produced Gone With the Wind, some Hollywood movie moguls told him it that was too long.  Running time is 3 hours 46 minutes. It has an intermission. His response was that the answer to the question of how long should a movie be, was reportedly, “As long as it is good.”  I would say that reasoning also applies to novels.

I just finished two critically acclaimed novels that some probably feel are long, but, to me, they were not longer than they were good. Compared to two of the greatest novels ever written, Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind and Tolstoy’s War and Peace, both running more than a thousand pages, A Gentleman in Moscow, hardcover at 462 pages,  and All the Light We Cannot See, hardcover at 522 pagesare really not all that long.

Both are excellent reads. If I had to rate them, I’d list Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See first.  To me, it has greater emotional depth. It’s historical background is World War II. Towles’  A Gentleman in Moscow is, in a sense, more entertaining. It has a lot of laughs, even if its background is the reign of one of the most notorious dictators of all time, Joseph Stalin. The “gentleman” is Count Rostov, who was sentenced to house arrest at the Metropol Hotel in Moscow.  I recommend both if you’re into historical fiction.

 

The NIM Giant Screen Laser Projector Experience- Part Two

June 23, 2017

A Look at the National Infantry Museum’s State-of-the-art Giant  Screen Laser Projectors – Part Two

70mm IMAX film is fed from a revolving platter to the IMAX projector.

Not only was the 70 mm IMAX picture on the huge screen, one of the largest in the Southeastern United States, an impressively immersive experience, the projection booth was also big and elaborate.  The two IMAX 70 mm film projectors filled the largest projection booth I have ever seen.  Now, the theater is showing a huge picture on the Giant Screen that is, in my view, just as good, or in some ways even better, with projectors that that don’t come near filling up the booth.

Giant Screen Christie Laser projectors use hard drives, DVDs, live digital presentations, anything on a computer instead of film.

 

Theater Technical Manager Brad Skipwith said that instead of spending a lot of time loading the 70 mm film, the operator just inserts a hard drive and pushes a button.  He said, “The picture quality is a lot better. It’s way more sharper than film. It’s a lot more crisp.” When I pointed out that film resolution is still higher than 4K digital, he said the reason laser projection is clearer because laser light is brighter, especially when running 3D movies, and that “When the film runs over and over, you, of course, start seeing lines, you get dust. You get none of that with lasers.”

Another plus, he said, on the laser side is that 4K Xenon lamps last about a thousand hours, whereas laser lights will last ten years or more.  That’s one reason that the National Infantry Foundation decided the laser system would provide longer life and lower cost of ownership. Also, going totally digital saves thousands of dollars in shipping charges.  Film and film canisters are quite heavy. Hard drives and DVDs are not.

Now, all the theater needs is YOU.  The last two times I went, the theater was almost empty. That’s hard to understand because the documentaries that are being shown on a regular basis are really worth seeing in my view. Fortunately, the free movies shown in the summer for the kids draw good crowds. The museum comes out ahead on them because the concession stand does well.  Movies and popcorn go together.

 

 

The NIM Giant Screen Laser Projector Experience – Part One

June 22, 2017

A Look at the National Infantry Museum’s State-of-the-art Giant  Screen Laser Projectors – Part One

The sea change in cinematic theatrical projection is the relatively recent switch to digital  systems. Just as the way film systems evolved technically, digital is doing the same thing.  Film went from grainy black and white flickering silent cinema to sound on film and color and from almost square screens to widescreens that got larger and larger.  Digital has gone from 2K definition which allowed some pixels to be seen to 4K which solved that problem and from and from light bulb to laser lights.  The National Infantry Museum has one of the very few theaters in the Southeastern United States with state-of-the-art Giant Screen laser projectors.  The museum’s theater also has one of the largest screens in the Southeast.

70 mm IMAX film projectors took up a lot space in the large NIM IMAX Theater projection booth. I took this photo in 2010.

Up until last year, the NIM still used  IMAX 70 mm film  projectors. IMAX 70 mm was as good as it got in theatrical projection until digital laser came along. When IMAX switched to digital laser, the museum dropped IMAX and switched to Christie 6P laser projection, and changed the name of the theater to Giant Screen.

When I saw the new documentary “Aircraft Carrier,” I was so impressed with the experience I decided I wanted to learn more about the Christie laser projectors. I wondered why the huge picture on the screen seemed so much more vivid and immersive than the one produced by 70 mm film projectors.  I was able to take a look at the projectors and get an interview with Theater Technical Manager Brad Skipwirth.

I’ll take you inside the projection booth in my next post.

 

 

 

 

What Does it Take to be Best Actor?

January 3, 2017

We’ll learn February 26th, 2017, who gets this year’s Academy Award for Best Actor, and, of course, who gets one for lots of things. But, acting is what I’m discussing here.

What does it take to be a good actor?

I am no expert on the subject, but I have done some amateur acting. My first role was Santa Claus in a play I wrote in 1942 in the 7th grade at Eleventh Street School in downtown Columbus.  We performed it for the 6th and 7th grades. You can read about it and a lot more in my memoir The Newsman: a Memoir.    I also did a part in a play in 1943 at Columbus Junior High School, then one at Teen Tavern in Columbus when I was a teenager. I played Petruchio in Taming of the Shrew for Columbus Little Theater, which was morphed into the Springer Opera House after that, and I acted in a number of plays for the Springer and for Theater Atlanta in the late fifties and sixties.  Theater Atlanta exited the stage  before the Alliance Theater  came into being.

Considering all that, maybe I can say what it takes to a be good actor with a thimble of expertise. First of all, learn your lines.  The drama professor at Agnes Scott said she was so happy that I would act in some of the school plays because she knew I would learn my lines. Just that accounted for a lot she said. She said nothing about the quality of my acting that I can remember. Some of the male teachers at Agnes Scott, a women’s college, would help her from time to time, but she had to go outside the school had to ask male amateur actors to participate in school plays. I think I did minor parts in two plays for her.

Second suggestion: concentrate. The Springer’s first director Charles Jones emphasized that a lot. He said it’s really important in everything you do. I agree.

Third suggestion: learn how to ad- lib when other people forget their lines and you have to reply to the lines they made up. Often when the other actor forgets his lines, the audience thinks you are the one who forgot his lines because there is a pause while you are waiting for your cue which is never delivered. That happened to me more than once. Once when that happened, Charles complimented me on my improvising a line when the lead forgot his and ad-libbed something that  didn’t make much sense. He said, “Thanks for bringing him back into the play.”

O.K., now here’s what some experts reportedly said about acting.

“Talk low, talk slow, and don’t talk too much. ” — John Wayne

“Never get caught acting.” – Lillian Gish

“Without wonder and insight, acting is just a trade. With it, it becomes a creation.” – Bette Davis

“With any part you play, there is a certain amount of yourself in it. There has to be, otherwise it’s just hat you ust not acting. It’s lying.” – Johnny Depp

“Suit the action to the word, the word to the action, with this special observance, that you o’erstep not the modesty of nature.” – WIlliam Shakespeare, Hamlet

And Orson Welles said, “The essential is to excite the spectators. If that means playing Hamlet on a trapeze or in an aquarium, you do it.”

Now, if we really want to get serious about this we could discuss the different schools of acting, things like method acting, naturalism, non-naturalism., realism, and romanticism.  I don’t want to  get that serious.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some May Just Like Symphonic Music and Not Know It

September 5, 2016

CSO OScars

Symphonic music is highbrow, stuff for the snooty social elite, some think. For an example of that not being the case, look no further than movie music.  D.W. Griffith’s 1915  silent blockbuster Birth of a Nation  featured a symphonic score played by a live orchestra. Like many film score composers, Joseph Breil adapted some classical music for the film, using, for instance, passages from Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6 and Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries.

For a modern example,  composer, conductor, and pianist John Williams wrote symphonic scores for Jaws, Star Wars, Superman, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Indiana Jones, Schindler’s List, Jurassic Park and three Harry Potter films.

It’s impressive on the big sound systems in movie theaters. But, to me, better when played by a live orchestra. The Columbus Symphony Orchestra demonstrated that last year with its highly successful John Williams concert. The orchestra is going to give us more memorable movie music this year. CSO at the Oscars features such blockbuster scores as James  Bond, Out of Africa, Lawrence of Arabia, and many more including a repeat of the John Williams’ Star Wars composition.

CSO AMerican Icons

The other pops concert this season will be American Icons: Words of our Nation. Musical tributes will be paid to the flag, jazz, bluegrass, baseball, cowboys, and the Grand Canyon and, iconic Americans like Martin Luther King, Jr,  John Wayne, Lincoln, and Elvis, featuring the music of Aaron Copland, John Williams, Ferde Grofe, and others.

The season will feature great classics also. The opener on September 17th is Beethoven’s Fifth, which also features his Piano Concerto no. 3 in C Minor, Op. 37, and Consecration of the House Overture, Op. 67.

There will also be concerts featuring the music of Mozart, Chopin, Brahms, Saint-Saens, Strauss, and Prokofiev and others.

So, join me at the River Center for a super CSO season.

For more info go to www.csoga.org.

 

 

“Florence Foster Jenkins” is Laugh-out-loud Hilarious and Sad

August 13, 2016

Critics aren’t being kind reviewing a movie that isn’t that doesn’t portray them as a kind lot.  When informed that  the review in Friday morning’s Ledger–Enquirer  panned “Florence Foster Jenkins,” I informed my informers that a critic’s review is simply one person’s subjective opinion.  I can judge for myself whether I enjoy a movie or not. I found the film very entertaining.  A friend who I ran into in the theater after the movie said he didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. I told him I did both. He admitted that he did, also.

Meryl Steep being in a movie is enough to get me in the theater. And she didn’t disappoint in this one about a wealthy Manhattan socialite who a 1944 New York Post critic called the “world’s worst singer.” Streep, Hugh Grant, and Simon Helberg all turn in the great performances.

Not only did I get caught up in the emotions of the film, I found the depiction of 1940s Manhattan very entertaining. I love really good period pieces, especially ones using a lot of antique autos.

Do I recommend it? Definitely.

Oh, and we enjoyed the recliner seats Carmike has recently installed in some of its theaters.

Symphonic Music for Everyone

November 12, 2015

It’s good to see that the Columbus Symphony Orchestra is playing symphonic music that everyone can enjoy. I like a lot of the classics, but a good way to get the general public to become symphonic music fans is to play new, popular movie scores like the ones featured Friday evening in the Bill Heard Theater at River Center. Maybe it would be a good idea to do more pops concerts during a season. This one starts at 7:30. Hope to see you there.

Cameron Bean, Executive Director of the orchestra, says now is a great time to pay a tribute to John Williams because more of his musical masterpieces are premiering this year, “Jurassic World” and “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”  “We thought it would be fitting to celebrate his works with a pops concert for the whole family to enjoy.”

Also, there will be a costume party before the concert.  Sounds like a winner to me.

 

A Columbus Film Society?

July 1, 2015

Anyone interested in restarting a film society group in Columbus, Georgia?  I don’t know what happened to the one that existed at one time, but I think it would be fun to have one now.  After all, the Screening Room at the Ritz 13 is showing a Carmike Classic every Tuesday night at 7.  All seats $5. Not bad.  We plan to make the next one and hope to see you there. We saw “Raging Bull” last night. Robert De Niro turned in an incredible performance as Jake LaMotta.

220px-BriefEncounterPoster

This Tuesday, July 7, it’s David Lean’s (yes, the fellow who directed “Lawrence of Arabia”) production of Noel Cowards “Brief Encounter.” It is indeed a classic.