Robyn Miller is one of the most interesting people I know. I first learned of Robyn in 1993 when I was an editor at Wired and I received an early review copy of a spooky and beautiful puzzle adventure game called Myst, which Robyn and his brother Rand created (Robyn also created all the ethereal music for Myst and its follow-up title, Riven). Myst subsequently became the best-selling adventure game of all time. (Read Jon Carroll's 2004 Wired article, "Guerrillas in the Myst," about Rand and Robyn, and check out Rand's successful Kickstarter for Rand's new adventure game Obduction.)
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A September report from the Library of Congress's National Film Preservation Board called The Survival of American Silent Feature Films: 1912–1929 [PDF] paints a dismal picture of the archival record of silent movies. In all, "14% of the 10,919 silent films released by major studios exist in their original 35mm or other format," although some of the missing items are extant in lesser transfers and foreign editions. But in all, "we have lost 75% of the creative record from the era that brought American movies to the pinnacle of world cinematic achievement in the 20th century."
It's a sobering reminder of the fragility of even relatively recent media, and the need for preservation. An appreciable slice of the missing archival materials are still in copyright, with attending difficulties in clearing them for the purpose of striking and circulating new prints. As we close in on 2018, the date at which materials from 1928 onward will begin entering the public domain again, this is an important reminder of what can happen if we let the profitability of a tiny slice of commercially viable ancient materials trump the preservation of the vast bulk of cultural materials.
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Christine Fox, the former mathematician at the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar who inspired Kelly McGillis's character in Top Gun, has become the first female Deputy Secretary of Defense, the number two role at the Pentagon. Fox will serve in an "acting capacity" until a permanent person is confirmed for the job by the Senate. (CNN)
Eye Sea Posters sells vintage 1960s and 1970s Polish film and theater posters that embody what I love about avant-garde illustration and design of that era. I want them all. (Thanks, We Buy Your Kids!)
I saw All is Lost a couple of weeks ago. It reminded me of Gravity in a way - both movies are about trying to survive on a damaged vessel. (I liked All is Lost a little more, mainly because it didn't have a wisecracking George Clooney.)
Because All is Lost has hardly any talking in it, the sounds of the water, the weather, and the ship are very important. This excellent short film has comments from All is Lost's re-recording mixer, sound designers, supervising sound editor, and the music composer.
The Sound of All is Lost
Zack writes, "Here's your chance to own the stuff that dreams are made of when one of two known lead statuettes from 1941's THE MALTESE FALCON go on the auction block from Bonhams in New York on Nov.25. The 45-lbs. statuette has been confirmed by a Warners archivist and comes with documentation to this effect, though it likely does not contain gold and jewels beneath its exterior. Additional movie memorabilia in this auction series includes Jack Nicholson's Joker outfit from 1989's BATMAN and Michael Keaton's Batsuit from BATMAN RETURNS. It is unknown if the other statuette will turn up, say, a year from now, but if you fail to win this auction and you've been trying to win this bird for, say, 15 years, getting the other will only require an additional expenditure of time of five and fifteen-seventeenths percent. Or you could just buy a cheaper replica off of eBay. They add character to your fireplace mantle.
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Cullen writes, "There is is a special screening this Sunday 11/17 at 5PM Eastern by Demand Progress of Terms And Conditions May Apply, a New York TImes Critic's Pick documentary about how governments and corporations are tracking your every online move. The first 3000 people to visit the online screening can watch the film for free. Afterward, there will be a Reddit AMA that focuses on the issues raised by the film, including how to rein in the NSA's surveillance. The film's director, Cullen Hoback, will be joined by several privacy experts including the ACLU's Ben Wizner, who's responsible for coordinating Edward Snowden's legal defense in the US."
Peter Bebergal points out the uncanny similarity between this panel from Jack Kirby's The Eternals #1 (1976) and the fossilized "space jockey" in Ridley Scott's Alien (1979). I have a feeling Kirby was inspired by the Mayan space jockey image that Erich von Däniken touted as proof of alien visitation in his crackpot science classic, Chariots of the Gods (1968)
Valentin Squirelo and friends at HackerLoop built a miniature model of the flying house from UP! outfitted with a Raspberry Pi computer and floated it above Paris where it posted live photos to Instagram. This was particularly interesting because generally photos can only be uploaded to Instagram via the official iOS or Android app. HackerLoop worked around that limitation. HackerLoop's #Upstagram
Guillermo Del Toro's Cabinet of Curiosities is a new, huge, beautiful look at his notebooks, scrapbooks and sketches. Flavorwire has a bunch of excerpts from the book that are quite fetching and wonderfully gruesome. Some of my favorites are below.
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Star Wars: Episode VII will be released December 18, 2015.
"We're very excited to share the official 2015 release date for Star Wars: Episode VII, where it will not only anchor the popular holiday filmgoing season but also ensure our extraordinary filmmaking team has the time needed to deliver a sensational picture," announced Walt Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn over at StarWars.com.
JJ Abrams is of course directing and also writing the script with Lawrence Kasdan (Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi.) Importantly, John Williams will score the new film!
Four Swedish movie theaters have started publishing gender scores for the movies they exhibit, based on the films' ability to pass the Bechdel Test ("must have at least two named female characters who talk to each other about something other than a man"). A surprising number of movies fail this test. The initiative is supported by the Swedish Film Institute, a government agency that represents a major source of funding for Swedish film, and one of the region's cable operators is devoting a Sunday to movies that pass the test, which comes from Alison Bechdel's excellent comic, Dykes to Watch Out For.
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Souris writes, "Scriptura Vitae is the directorial debut of New York-based artist, designer and filmmaker Aerosyn-lex Mestrovic. Having collaborated with the likes of Kanye West and KENZO, Mestrovic's latest venture is an ambitious three-part journey into the unknown that showcases Lex's haunting ritualistic calligraphy, alongside stunningly choreographed Japanese Butoh performances set to a score which features original music by the Grammy Nominated DIPLO. The film stars famed Japanese actress Miho Nikaido, best known for her role in the cult-classic and previously banned film Tokyo Decadence which was written and directed by lauded novelist Ryu Murakami. The effects in the film are visually striking, combining modern compositing with in-camera painting to devise something wholly unique."
◢ SCRIPTURA VITAE † A FILM BY AEROSYN-LEX MESTROVIC ◣
The dueling banjo scene in John Boorman's Deliverance (1972) is one of my favorite musical moments ever in a film. It's simultaneously delightful, funny, and deeply creepy. I watched the clip recently and decided to find out who played Lonnie, the young inbred fellow picking opposite Ronny Cox. The actor is Billy Redden from Rabun County, Georgia who was 15-years-old at the time. Redden was "discovered" during a casting call at his school in Clayton, Georgia. Special effect makeup was used to augment Redden's already-unusual features. He didn't actually play the banjo. According to The New Yorker, "Boorman had had to deploy another boy to hide behind the swing and slip his hand through Redden’s sleeve to finger the changes." Redden wasn't a fan of Burt Reynolds: “Burt didn’t want to say nothing to nobody,” Redden told The New Yorker years later. “He wasn’t polite. And he made us look real bad--he said on television that all people in Rabun County do is watch cars go by and spit.”
Redden's IMD profile says that for a time Redden gave "Deliverance Tours" along the Georgia river where the film was shot. After Deliverance, Redden didn't appear in another movie until Tim Burton's Big Fish. Burton located Redden working in the Cookie Jar Cafe in Clayton, Georgia. Since then, Redden had a bit part on Blue Collar TV as an inbred car mechanic who played the banjo.
Below, a video interview with Redden from last year.
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