Apr 29, 2014

Handling Controversial Material: BRICK MANSIONS and Its Careful Marketing Plan, by Roger Mancusi

Going off of last week’s discussion of “controversial” material, I wanted to point to a recent example of how a distributor was able to avoid controversy while publicizing a film that could potentially be upsetting to its target audience. While promoting Brick Mansions, Relativity Media had to find a way to release a completed film following the death of its star, Paul Walker, without offending the family and fans of the popular actor. Release the film too early, and the audiences are still in shock from the star’s passing and will not attend. Too late, and the film opens up wounds that have already begun to heal. However, by pushing the release back just two months and correctly handling the marketing plan leading up to opening weekend, Relativity found the right balance of respectful silence and cinematic celebration that navigated the potentially controversial situation Brick Mansions presented.
            If you look at the marketing material for Brick Mansions leading up to its release on April 26th 2014, you will notice that Relativity respectfully left out any mention that this was Paul Walker’s first cinematic appearance since his passing on November 30th, and rightfully so. Had the marketing plan utilized the film’s biggest talking point—that Walker’s tragic and untimely passing occurred between the finishing and the releasing of the film—fans might feel as if their emotions were being monetized and taken advantage of by the distributor. Instead, by pushing the film’s release from February to April, it allowed audiences a necessary grieving period and opening them to the possibility of seeing Walker again on screen. Additional, the Walker family was consulted on any material released using Walker’s image, an ‘in memoriam’ section was added to the credits, the money intended for a glitzy film premiere was donated to Walker’s charity Reach Out Worldwide, and fan club advanced screenings replaced a city-to-city promotional tour. These intelligent moves positioned the distributor against any allegations that they were unfairly benefiting from Walker’s passing.
When reviews of the film hit newsstands, nearly every critic lauded the film, despite its other shortcomings, as an unintended memorial to Paul Walker and his love of acting. In spite of what could have been a disastrous calamity to the film’s release, Relativity was able to handle the tragedy in such a manner that the release did not seem insensitive to Paul Walker’s estate or legacy. Instead, it paid him homage and even earned a reasonably successful opening weekend, bowing to 9.6M in a crowded box office field. With the foreign box office reports still rolling in, and with Walker’s strong international profile likely to draw in those audiences, the film looks to be on track to recoup its costs over the next few months. However much the star’s passing will remain the unintended footnote for how this otherwise B-rate action flick will be remembered, Relativity Studios should nonetheless be commended in how they went about contributing to this memory without offended or abusing the Paul Walker image.

Apr 25, 2014

Comment on Richard Brody’s article by Pamela Vizner

Comment on Richard Brody's article

by Pamela Vizner


After reading Richard Brody's article "Don't Worry About the End of Film" I couldn't help noticing the distinction he makes between "film" and "video". I have to admit I was a bit confused about it. Correct me if I´m wrong, but it seems that his idea of video is what we normally call digital film. To be completely accurate, that's what digital film is: a digital video. However, I believe that in people´s mind the word video triggers some undesirable ideas of low image quality and amateur recording. I can't imagine a movie trailer saying "new Universal video production coming soon". But at the same time we shouldn't call it film, because it isn't. But what do we call it then? Which leads me to the following and persistent question: what is film?


At this turning point of shift from analog to digital, I believe that last question is more important than ever and specially when talking about preservation. What is it that we are preserving? Is film ultimately the cinematic experience? According to Brody there's more to it than that because "it certainly is a good idea for movie lovers in the age of digital projection to know what film projection looks like" with its flaws and imperfections. However, I can't help but wonder how many people really notice the difference of a film projection versus a digital projection and how much of that awareness is our responsibility as preservationists in educating people, especially when participating in restoration projects. I agree with Brody when he says "restorations of classic films, while offering the pleasure of visual clarity, often feel denatured". How will we preserve film and the film experience if we don't keep the material's inherent imperfections? I believe that film and its looks can be preserved even when shown as a digital file by undertaking restoration projects that are respectful of both the content and the media.


Finally I think that when Brody says "ultimately, what matters is not film or video but the idea", I think that a distinction must be made. This statement is valid for new productions; film is not better than video if it helps you achieve your aesthetic goals and a convincing narrative. But careful when saying that in a preservation environment; still video is not better than film, but it's certainly different in terms of preservation source and/or target medium.

Apr 19, 2014

Do I have Cinephilia? A rant by Ashley Morton

When we discussed in class whether the term “cinephile” was really accurate, or even useful anymore, it got me to thinking: am I a cinephile? To us, the word seems to be attached to a lot of historical context and it isn’t somebody who just watches movies a lot, but someone who insists on seeing them in specific settings and formats.

Out of curiosity, I did a little cursory Internet search. According to Wikipedia “Cinephilia is the term used to refer to a passionate interest in cinema, film theory, and film criticism”, Urban Dictionary defines one as “a film or movie enthusiast.” Use in a sentence? “A lot of cinephiles enjoy Pulp Fiction.” Merriam-Webster Dictionary simply says that a cinephile is “a devotee of motion pictures.” Dictionary.com: “a devoted moviegoer, especially one knowledgeable about the cinema.” Passionate, enthusiastic, devoted, all of these terms seem to be on the same page as our definition, but despite the appearance that all you need to do to be a cinephile is love movies, when we were discussing the word in class we could not shake the thought that to be a true cinephile one had to care not just about seeing films, but how ones see them.
If I had read all of those definitions, and had no other preconceived notion of what the word meant, I would have said that yes, I am absolutely a cinephile. I love movies. But, in class, I was hesitant to describe myself as such.  I am very much a modern day filmgoer. While, admittedly, I care a little bit more than maybe the average viewer—I don’t like to watch movies on my phone, or other tiny screens (but, then again, if I am on a bus from New York to Boston or back and that is the only option, get that Ipad out), I prefer to watch something in HD if that is the option, and I squirm when I have to watch a film without my Bose speakers, so yes, there are little details I care and can be absolutely snobbish about—I don’t think I have ever refused to watch something because it wasn’t in its original 35mm format.

Perhaps I am not a cinephile in the way we want to define it in class. But, if that is the case, if cinephile is a dated concept, something that is dwindling more and more with the invention of Netflix, Bluray, and IMAX, we have to find a new term for ourselves.
When I really turn it over in my mind, and consider what makes me different from someone who just casually watches films, I sometimes want to call myself a DVDphile. But that word is both horrible, and not quite accurate. I’m not in love with DVDs: I throw it out there because I hate streaming films. I love getting DVDs and Blurays because they offer something that no 35mm or Netflix instant movie can offer me: Extras. I love love love DVD extras. Commentary, behind-the-scenes, bloopers. I miss the days of VH1’s popup video. When I watch a movie I don’t just watch it, I wonder about how it was made, what the actor was thinking at that moment, whether the director liked how that scene came out, what inspired the film, how it was cast, in short, the entire process behind what I just saw. I can watch a movie and if I love it enough I will rewatch it the same day with the commentary. And then I will watch it again to pay attention to the set design, the costumes, and the guy in the back of the scene that is clearly a first-time extra. I love imdb and any other site that can give me fun movie-trivia. I have never called myself, but am often referred to as a "movie buff." And if I have the choice to see a film in theaters instead of my living room, I will go, because I think that that is still the best way possible to see a movie.

So I do have requirements, and I do approach the way I view a film differently than someone who hasn't been to a theater in years except to see the Hangover movies. My requirements and my approach is just different from how it was in the 60’s or the 70’s and so on. Am I a cinephile? After this long rant, I really want to say yes, just maybe a more modern version of one. Because at the end of the day, I am, most assuredly, devoted to, enthusiastic over, and passionate about the movies.

The End of IMAX 70mm

The End of IMAX 70mm
by Benjamin Peeples

For the past six years, I've had a growing interest in large format filmmaking and projection. 70mm, VistaVision, and Cinerama all have a technical prowess to them that digital technologies are still a long way from equaling. IMAX in particular kicked off this interest. Sure, I’d seen some of the documentary films at museums, but it was seeing The Dark Knight (2008), the first narrative feature to utilize IMAX cameras, at the Lincoln Center IMAX theater that made it apparent just how much better of an image large format offered.
For those who don’t know, IMAX cameras run 70mm film horizontally, for an image that is 15 perforations across (regular 70mm is five perforations running vertically), with a 1.44:1 aspect ratio (IMAX blow-ups are letterboxed to fit the dimensions of the screen). The resulting image is enormous, full of depth and vivid color, and the screens are built to take advantage of the viewer's peripheral vision.
Now The Dark Knight is a 153-minute movie, and only 30 minutes of it was actually shot in the IMAX format (mostly the key action sequences and helicopter shots of the city), with the rest being a blow-up of 35mm anamorphic footage. Regardless, it was its own special kind of experience, and made me interested in seeing as much large format projection as I feasibly could, even if it was films that didn’t originate in large format.
Only four other films were partially shot in IMAX after The Dark Knight: Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (2011), The Dark Knight Rises (2012), and Star Trek Into Darkness (2013) and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013). I made sure to see each one in 70mm IMAX and they were indeed great viewing experiences.
Although it wasn’t shot with IMAX cameras, Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity was being aggressively pushed as essential to see in IMAX 3D. Opening weekend (October 2013) I went and immediately was very confused by the way it was being projected. Instead of extending to the left and right of the screen, the projection was window-boxed for the entirety of the movie. I later found out that only two movies were getting IMAX prints for the rest of 2013:  The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug. The Lincoln Center IMAX, one of the real flagship IMAX theaters, had installed a digital projector so they could play Gravity and a couple of other big end-of-year releases that no prints were being made for.
And that brings us to 2014. There is only one IMAX release getting an actual print as far as anyone knows: Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar, coming in November, and supposedly its going to be the very last narrative feature with an IMAX print.

Although filming narrative features partially in IMAX will have been a very short-lived endeavor should Interstellar truly be the last one, it is going to present a very unusual problem to future film preservation as to what elements will be preserved, and as to how one might project these films properly if the projectors are no longer in use.

Apr 9, 2014

The Enclave by Richard Mosse
Exhibited at FOAM (Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam), Netherlands

by Pamela Vizner

During our trip to Amsterdam for the Orphans 9 film symposium, some students decided to go on a visit to the FOAM Museum (Photography Museum Amsterdam), as a way to experience moving image curatorship in Europe. Please don’t be confused with the name; FOAM is much more than photographs, video and other types of installations are also an important part of their exhibits, as well as supporting new international artists.

Our main destination was the video installation The Enclave by Richard Mosse, of which we heard very good comments before our visit. This work was the Irish representative for the Biennale di Venezia and it is a 6-screen installation that represents the war conflicts in Congo. The films were shot on 16mm infrared stock – normally used for camouflage detection during WWII – which detects infrared light, invisible to the human eye. This technique gives the films beautiful and intense red and magenta colors in high contrast with blue and blacks. The artist explains that, for him it was a metaphor: to show the invisible, in the same way the conflicts in Congo are invisible, hidden or ignored to the eyes of the international community.

The production started in 2012, with the help of Trevor Tweeten and Ben Frost. The three of them went to the most remote and hidden places in the jungle, infiltrating rebel forces in the heart of the conflict. The Congolese conflicts have extended for several years and have caused death and displacement of millions (just by 2008 5.4 million people died for causes related to the war).

The installation was placed on the second floor of the museum. As you enter the second floor, the first information about the art piece is a description on the wall of the staircase: big enough to catch the visitor’s attention. Continuing though the hall, the visitor could find the exhibition space: a dark and carpeted room with six screens, two of them hanging from the ceiling in the middle of the room. The screens are situated low enough, so people can actually walk around them. This created two different reactions: people would stand at the entrance, afraid of blocking the projections; or they would come in and sit on the floor in the middle of the room (clearly the best place to experience the work). While we were there, most people sat, which in my mind created a strange but comfortable feeling of unity and community.

The images, bright and surreal, also contrast with a very organic sound track: sounds of nature, wind, water and people mixed at times with a very subtle electronic music. The images are strong, but balanced, revealing the beauty of the jungle and the tragedy of war. The feeling of distress that they cause surprisingly doesn’t come from the violent images, but rather from the peace and serenity of the fields in the wind and the sound of the river.


The installation is completed with an exhibition of photographs taken from the films, again bright red landscapes, and an interview with the artist, which can also be seen here: http://www.foam.org/visit-foam/calendar/2014-exhibitions/richard-mosse-the-enclave

Technically speaking, the exhibition is very well presented. The low-height screens and the small area in which it is situated create an intimate space that helps appreciating the beauty of the landscapes as well as exposing the cruelties and inequities of war. The photograph exhibition – although it shows very beautiful images - seems to lose the strength and context of the video installation. The interview, on the other hand, is a great source of context, which provides an insight to the artist intention, much needed when dealing with complicated subjects. In a post-visit conversation with my classmates, we all seemed to miss some important information about how the production was made possible, mainly regarding the way how the team was able to reach these areas and armed groups and how they create (or not) relationships with these people, something that seems quite evident after experiencing the work. Other than that, this installation is a well-exhibited and touching piece of artwork.

Installation at the Biennale di Venezia, http://www.artandsciencejournal.com/post/55350818604/making-the-invisible-visible-there-is-no-shortage

Placing a Number on the Contemporary "Decay of Cinema" By Roger Mancusi

Writing in the New York Times in 1996, Susan Sontag couldn't help but notice the shift in filmmaking, and film watching, tendencies that came along with 1990's American cultural shifts. Looking at the film industry, she penned "The Decay of Cinema," underlining the increasing influence of capitalism, a "ubiquity of screens" in popular society, and the power of the industry's dollar conscious executives that, she believed, was leading to the death of cinephilia in American culture. If she could see the ubiquity of iPhone movie watching on the subways nowadays, her head might explode.

Speaking then, in 2013, Steven Soderbergh weighed in on this topic when delivering his speech "The State of Cinema" at the San Francisco Film Festival. The filmmaker, known for films of various sizes and scopes, used the podium to go beyond simply preaching about the days of yore when filmmaking was Filmmaking, and the dichotomy he makes between "cinema" (which is a process) and "movies" (which is "something you see") becomes more substantiated when he delivers the financial numbers to back up his theoretical claims.

To Soderbergh, the expanding economic expectations Sontag harped upon in '96 are now the dominating approach major film executives take to greenlighting projects. Soderbergh even boils it down to an algorithm, which he refers to as "running the numbers." Essentially, the point of entry for film distribution, he believes, is $30M. Therefore, film executives project production costs and add $30M to see what the starting price is domestically. Overseas distribution is another $30M, and with exhibitors taking 50% of box offices, studio executives are now looking at a $120M total box office just to make their money back on distribution. This number is staggering, and it keeps a lot of good films from ever leaving the starting gate.

Now, with unpredictable tracking technologies, under-educated executives, and an audience willing to attend films of lower artistic, but higher production, quality, this algorithm leans towards high budget, high octane, mass-marketed action, sci-fi, or travel films. Not the ambiguous, thematically exploratory films Soderbergh or Sontag had in mind when describing cinema or cinephilia. 

Finally, Soderbergh outlines the market share that is making it increasingly difficult for independent films to recoup their costs at the box office. According to Soderbergh's math, in 2003 there were 455 films released: 275 independent and 180 studio releases. In 2013: 677 films were released: 549 indie and 128 studio. However, even though there was a 28% decrease in studio films, they took home 76% of the box office revenues in 2013, compared to 69% in 2003. Clearly it is not only more difficult for independent filmmakers to finance the films they want to make, but audiences are less supportive of these efforts on top of that.

So as Susan Sontag noticed that cinephilia was dead, or dying, in 1996, Steven Soderbergh similarly realized that the trend in filmmaking and film watching is towards blockbusters and away from films that might confuse or upset viewers. Studio executives are wary, unimaginitve, and all too conscious of the bottom line for a wholly creative film medium to exist. To quote Sontag's closing lines: "If cinephilia is dead, then movies are dead too.. no matter how many movies, even very good ones, go on being made. If cinema can be resurrected, it will only be through the birth of a new kind of cine-love." She seems to be right, but Soderbergh, and the American pop-culture machine, is having a hard time deciding in which direction that cine-love will take us.

Watch Soderbergh's full speech here: http://vimeo.com/65060864

Susan Sontag's "The Decay of Cinema" here: http://www.nytimes.com/books/00/03/12/specials/sontag-cinema.html

May(sles) is not...whatever, you want it to be(?)

by Amani Jordan

from Blacks in Experimental Film (Part 2)
Maysles Documentary Center 

I could smell the gentrification and old-people smell from the subway. I figured it was in Harlem so it wouldn't be that bad....right? I mean Black film in a historical Black neighborhood? But then again, everything changes in thee city at a rapid pace....I suppose I was the one left behind, in this 'NEW' urban landscape.

I exited the station on 125th(1/2/3) [ because I know that line very well due to my time at the greatness known as G-Ho(tel)]].  I see Sylvia's Bright ass lights to my right as I make my way up the avenue known as Lenox or better yet : MALCOLM X BOULEVARD. Hmmm....gentrifyers must not like publicizing the fact that they  used to live near a radical? 


Anyways, despite the dumb address choice. I am interested by the fact that as I make my way to the smallest (and only?) indie 'documentary center in Harlem? I shall note this fact in my journal....seek out other documentary film programming in Harlem; A Black neighborhood with a truly rich history, must have good cinematic programming(?) I was proven oh so very wrong.

As noted, there is a $10 suggested donation. First of all.....I did not even see 10 bucks of donations when I stepped into that small ass lobby area. Like c'mon though....you got a random kodak projector with the Pan-African flag in it? Is that supposed to attract the niggers on the street or something that don't even have enough money to pay for  their fines that are delivered by the new york city pigs department? Am I bugging out though?

Amani Jordan
RALI Programming Activity

2. Residents(10-20) will come together in small groups to compete, using their advanced collegiate vocabularies in this enjoyable word game. Insomnia Cookies platter will also be served.
3. Late September; Residential Lounge
4. Expand minds and vocabularies of residents; Allow residents to naturally make connections amongst themselves; Relieve academic stresses at the beginning of the semester.
5. Acquire 5  sets of the [] game, available at bookstores; Reserve lounge 2 weeks in advance; Create an attractive poster to hang in the lobby; Post information about the event on social media pages of the Res Hall & answer any subsequent inquiries; Order Insomnia Cookies platter at least 6 hours in advance; Lastly, set up lounge for the event in the lounge.

This project is about self-documentation and what I did not see when I went to this particular society of greatness. Not to say that there wouldn't be anything...but my expectations were quite low....and what happens when a place like this, a place OF and not truly OF my people? I get frustrated of course.

yeah that was me. just chilling. like what is exactly going on right now? But I mean they did the most with what kind of space they had. i should have planned out this assignment better because I feel as if now I'm realizing that that experience I had near Sylvia's and gentrified buildings actually did me some good. I got to see film for another time and place....from another time and place from the perspective of another type of folks. They definitely

need projection work by the way. They started pretty late...but then again it was raining. 

Microcinemas Up-Close: SPECTACLE

by Curtis John

One of the things that I’ve become silently obsessed with since the beginning of the Curating Moving Images class is how microcinemas work. It is a term I had heard before, and was aware that there were a decent amount of in the New York City area, but it was not until recently that I got a chance to actually visit one. 

Our reading of the journal Incite (vol. #4 – Exhibition Guide) and the visit from its editor Walter Fosburg was the impetus for this new fascination.  While I had slightly researched a few of them prior to the reading, it is the commitment that so many of these microcinema owners and programmers possess toward ensuring that their audiences and the public-at-large should be exposed to film and works that they otherwise would probably never see that compounded my interest.

Prior to my visit to Spectacle  I had been invited to one microcinema (whose name I can’t remember), attended another (UnionDocs), and last night realized I regularly went to yet another that was moreso dubbed a ‘gastropub theater’ as it was behind the restaurant/bar ReBar (reRun).  The latter was a cool space that after becoming rather popular grew unfavorable to many after its initial curator left.  UnionDocs I consider to be exactly how they describe themselves – a center for documentary art that “promote[s] marginalized stories, under-represented facts, and interdependent networks,” though they are classified as microcinema in Incite and multiple other places. The first place was in Crown Heights and I looked it up when I was invited and just considered it way too grimy for a good cinematic experience.

Spectacle is an odd combination of the three.  A new friend invited me there for a screening of his short film and as I’d wanted to see the space, I doubly agreed to attend.  An hour before the screening Spectacle was closed and no signage or schedule on the front door made me triple-check if I was in the correct place.   Only past program posters (among multiple other oddities) glued to the windows confirmed this was indeed Spectacle.   Forty minutes later we returned and other than the co-owner/projectionist, were the first to arrive; the curator of this particular series arrived two minutes.  As my filmmaker friend was from London and I from a more organized programming world, we were both clueless to this culture of lateness that seemed to be normal to the Spectacle world.  The programmer was really cool though and with her cute British accent assailed my fears of this being a bad event.  As other guests trickled in the programmer went to the bodega to get beer and Pepsi for a select few.
The inside of Spectacle was better than its exterior. Though it maintains a (hopefully) deliberately grimy appearance, the seats were old cinema style and most likely from a recently renovated school auditorium – uniform in appearance but tight in feeling – falling within its film charter of “lost and forgotten.”  I didn’t do an official count, but I’d say it fits about 45-50 people in the main section, with extra folding chairs on the side in case of packed house, which this very much was. 

About forty minutes later the program began, and while the homemade (and lengthy) trailer put the shorts to be presented in context – the first film, my new friend’s film, had no audio.  As they scrambled he reminded me how nonchalant the programmer was when I asked about a ‘tech test’ and I mentioned during my film presentations I always have backups upon backups as technology is as hindering as it is helpful.  Almost ten minutes later I suggested to them to use a different video player (RealPlayerSP) and the film finally had sound.  I also told my friend to always bring a backup DVD of his film).  In spite of the time and technical fumbles, which I highlight for story functions not through any judgmental reasons (as they have happened to me as well), the program was pretty excellent. The Q&A morphed into a post-talk on sex trafficking and the feminine voice/gaze, a heavy mix of the personal and political. 

And despite my initial displeasure, upon leaving I realized that Spectacle is a pretty remarkable place.  The loose atmosphere, apparently a tenant of their charter or just a general rule-of-thumb (and the spirit of which was gleaned from the Incite profile), allows for an open exchange of work and ideas which as an artist is usually very welcome.  One can feel the community-oriented vibe of the bustling microcinema, one that if you are willing, you can fit right into it.  

Apr 7, 2014

Fwd: Invitation to NYU Symphony Concert: FRIDAY

from the NYU Film Scoring program. 

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Ron Sadoff <rhs6@nyu.edu>
Date: Mon, Apr 7, 2014 at 1:45 PM
Subject: Invitation to NYU Symphony Concert: FRIDAY
To: John Canemaker <john.canemaker@nyu.edu>, Joe Pichirallo <joe.pichirallo@nyu.edu>, Mary Schmidt Campbell <msc1@nyu.edu>, Dan Streible <dan.streible@nyu.edu>, Sheril Antonio <sheril.antonio@nyu.edu>, John Tintori <jt42@nyu.edu>

Dear All,

Please join us for this Tisch-Steinhardt extravaganza on Friday evening!

Best wishes - Ron

We are thrilled to invite you to the NYU Symphony's annual concert embodying a collaboration between the NYU Orchestra Program, NYU Steinhardt Program in Scoring for Film and Multimedia, and the NYU Tisch Maurice Kanbar Institute of Film and Television.  The concert will be held this Friday, April 11 at 8 PM. 

For the first time, this concert will take place at the Peter Norton Symphony Space located at 2537 Broadway at 95th Street and will be conducted by celebrated Maestro Jens Georg Bachmann.

The program will feature film scores by the 2014 Steinhardt Film Score Composition winners, played in tandem with Tisch student animations, as well as the 2014 Steinhardt Composition Competition winner Vincent Calianno's work The Facts and Dreams of the World According to Michael Jackson. Completing the program are Bernard Herrmann's Suite from Vertigo and Antonin Dvorak's Cello Concerto in B minor, with the 2013 Steinhardt String Competition winner Emirhan Tunca.

The concert is free, general admission. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reply to this email.

We hope to see you there!

Ronald H. Sadoff, Ph.D.

New York University

Assoc. Professor & Director

Dept. of Music & Performing Arts Professions

35 West 4th St, Suite 777D

NY, NY 10012