Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for the ‘Movies & TV’ Category

“Blinkety Blank” from the National Film Bureau of Canada

leave a comment »

From an Aeon article by :

The celebrated Scottish-Canadian animator Norman McLaren (1914-87) was known for experimenting with visual perception via film. In this short animation, which won the Short Film Palme d’Or at the 1955 Cannes Film Festival, McLaren plays with ‘persistence of vision’, or how the human eye retains an image for a short period of time even after a stimulus is removed. The optical illusion explains why we don’t experience total darkness every time we blink – our brains retain the visual information for a fraction of a second, giving us the impression of continuous light. McLaren’s Blinkity Blank pushes this concept in fun and inventive ways by alternating between the celluloid film’s empty black leader and abstract animations that have been hand-scratched onto the celluloid itself. Sporadic imagery resembling birds and fireworks are accompanied by an experimental, symphonic soundtrack by the Canadian composer Maurice Blackburn, as well as audible scratches made to the optical soundtrack by McLaren. The result is an audiovisual experience that’s sure to leave an impression – if only for a fleeting moment. For more inventive visuals from McLaren, watch Around Is Around.

Written by Leisureguy

18 October 2021 at 12:13 pm

Posted in Art, Movies & TV

An interesting interview with Dwayne Johnson

leave a comment »

Dwayne Johnson on screen is appealing, and apparently he’s the same in real life. Chris Heath has a lengthy interview/profile in Vanity Fair. It begins:

During one of our last conversations, Dwayne Johnson’s five-year-old daughter, Jasmine, comes into his office to ask, a little impatiently, when he will be available to eat some lemon cake with her. She has walked into the middle of a discussion about whether her father truly has presidential ambitions. Earlier this year, after a poll suggested that 46 percent of Americans have some enthusiasm for this recurrently floated idea, Johnson responded on Instagram (where he currently has 270 million followers, the second most of anyone on the planet): “I don’t think our Founding Fathers EVER envisioned a six-four, bald, tattooed, half-Black, half-Samoan, tequila drinking, pick up truck driving, fanny pack wearing guy joining their club—but if it ever happens it’d be my honor to serve you, the people.”

Johnson and I go back and forth on this strange subject for some time as he tries to honestly describe where he stands. He explains that he finds the idea humbling, concedes that he has talked to people in politics and done “a small amount of research and analysis to see where this comes from and to see what it could look like in the future,” and adds suggestively that “indicators are all very positive—in, for example, 2024, and in, for example, 2028.” He is not, he confirms, ruling the possibility out. But then he loops back to this: “You know, at the end of the day, I don’t know the first thing about politics. I don’t know the first thing about policy. I care deeply about our country. I care about every fucking American who bleeds red, and that’s all of them. And—there’s no delusion here—I may have some decent leadership qualities, but that doesn’t necessarily make me a great presidential candidate. That’s where I am today.”

This is when Jasmine appears to declare her more-lemon-cake-related agenda.

“As soon as I’m done, I’m going to come out and see you, okay?” her father tells her, gently. Then he asks her a question: “Do you know what the president of the United States is?” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

13 October 2021 at 3:05 pm

Jazz Origins of James Bond

leave a comment »

Great clip, eh? It’s from an interesting post by Ted Gioia that begins:

A few minutes into the new film No Time to Die, Daniel Craig’s final outing as James Bond, our gallant superspy flirtatiously comments to actress Léa Seydoux: “We have all the time in the world.” That may seem like just one more come-on line in a movie franchise built on pick-ups and hook-ups, but seasoned jazz fans recognize something more in the phrase.

Back in 1969, Louis Armstrong’s rendition of “We Have All the Time in the World” was featured as part of a romantic interlude in the James Bond film “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.”

The context was much more than a one-night stand, but rather the extraordinary moment when James Bond courted his wife, the Contessa Teresa di Vicenzo (aka Tracy Bond)—soon killed by a Bond villain’s bullet. Her tombstone even reads: “We Have All the Time in the World.” 

So Louis Armstrong helped bring agent 007 a short taste of marital bliss, you might say. But the jazz connections of James Bond run much deeper than that.

Ian Fleming, who introduced the Bond character in his novel Casino Royale, back in 1953, was a devoted jazz fan. His tastes were a bit old-fashioned, but he was hardly the only British writer to prefer traditional jazz even in the face of bebop and other modernist movements. Philip Larkin, as esteemed as any British poet of that era, even took a side job as a jazz record reviewer, where he fought valiantly for the honor of the old New Orleans and Chicago players. Novelist Kingsley Amis, Larkin’s friend and fellow jazz connoisseur, revered Sidney Bechet, Pee Wee Russell and Henry ‘Red’ Allen, preferring them over more up-to-date exponents of the idiom. Eric Hobsbawm, the influential British scholar, also wrote about jazz, but under the pseudonym Francis Newton, and again favored the older sounds, which he viewed as a kind of vernacular soundtrack for his populist concerns as a Marxist historian.

Fleming’s jazz tastes were hardly so sophisticated. When he appeared on the BBC show Desert Island Discs in 1963, he said that his favorite song was “The Darktown Strutters Ball” by Joe Fingers Carr, a rough-and-rowdy example of honky-tonk jazz. (By comparison, his favorite book was War and Peace by Tolstoy—what a contrast!) This is a step below Armstrong, maybe several steps, but it revealed a taste for brash sounds and lively syncopation.

It’s clear that Fleming had music in mind when he created James Bond. In two different Bond books, Fleming notes that his secret agent looks like jazzy songwriter Hoagy Carmichael. In Casino Royale (1953), a character describes Bond in these words: “He is very good-looking. He reminds me rather of Hoagy Carmichael, but there is something cold and ruthless in his. . .” The sentence is never finished, but you get the idea. In Moonraker (1954), Fleming further emphasizes the resemblance, when fellow agent Gala Brand remarks: “Rather like Hoagy Carmichael in a way. That black hair falling down over the right eyebrow. Much the same bones. But there was something a bit cruel in the mouth, and the eyes were cold.”

Hoagy Carmichael must seem an unlikely role model for a superspy. He came of age playing ragtime and jazz piano in the Midwest, and eventually fell under the influence of the great Chicago players of the era, especially Bix Beiderbecke. But Carmichael would achieve even more success as a songwriter, and composed some of the most popular hits of the 20th century, including “Star Dust,” ‘Georgia on My Mind,” “The Nearness of You,” “Skylark,” and “Heart and Soul.”

In this clip, from the 1944 film To Have and Have Not, he even gets the attention of Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall.

What does this have to do with espionage? I suspect that Fleming was especially attracted to the paradoxical nature of Carmichael’s demeanor, which seemed both rugged and romantic—with each of those two qualities reining in the other. He learned all this from Chicago jazz, where so many of the key elements we associate with this music also describe agent 007. Like James Bond, that music is tough-minded and spontaneous, passionate without falling into mere sentimentality, heartfelt but never losing its ironic or humorous touches, capable of elegance but never allowing you to forget the intensity lurking just below the surface.

Fleming’s books don’t tell us much about James Bond’s musical tastes, but there are hints in the movies. There’s a brief interlude in The Living Daylights where Bond listens to jazz in his Austin Martin . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

11 October 2021 at 1:59 pm

Posted in Books, Jazz, Movies & TV

Mac Miller “Colors and Shapes”

leave a comment »

Written by Leisureguy

30 September 2021 at 12:44 pm

Posted in Art, Movies & TV, Video

“Count Me In” on Netflix: If you like drums and rock & roll

leave a comment »

Count Me In is an interesting and highly dynamic documentary.

Written by Leisureguy

29 September 2021 at 2:48 pm

Posted in Movies & TV, Music

The Most Important Device in the Universe Is Powered by a 555 Timer

leave a comment »

I love the kind of technical shop talk exchanged among people familiar with some line of country remote from my knowledge. Such talk is studded with things I don’t know, though I can follow the trend of the conversation. It’s like a stream: I follow the overall flow, but there are occasional boulders sticking up out of the water.

It has some of the same appeal in certain kinds of science fiction, where the writer has begun in media res and uses casually words whose referents the reader is expected to figure out as the story progresses. This is a common technique (cf. William Gibson, Charlie Stross, et al.), and for me it works well, keeping me alert for clues that will explain the terms, which may refer to culture, dress, devices, or whatever.

A recent post at Hackaday.com is full of that, but also provides an entertaining look at prop construction and usage in science-fiction movies and TV — the short clip at the end is a must see, and the comments also are worth reading.

Written by Leisureguy

24 September 2021 at 11:08 am

The hypnotic beauty of money

leave a comment »

One of my favorite lines, in the movie Heist (2001): Danny DeVito’s character Bergman says,

Everybody needs money. That’s why they call it “money.”

Written by Leisureguy

16 September 2021 at 12:29 pm

“Galaxy Quest” from a Don Quixote perspective

leave a comment »

I have seen Galaxy Quest before — an excellent movie, particularly for Star Trek fans, which stars Alan Rickman, Sigourney Weaver, Tony Shalhoub, Sam Rockwell, and Tim Allen. It’s currently available on Netflix, and having just been discussing that thinking about Don Quixote, I saw it through that lens — and it works.

If you’ve read Don Quixote, watch Galaxy Quest with Don Quixote in mind. It enriches the movie immensely.

Update: For example, the aliens took the TV series as historical documents, but then they make the fictional real.

Written by Leisureguy

10 September 2021 at 10:14 pm

Posted in Art, Books, Movies & TV

Kayfabe Ascendent

leave a comment »

Two very interesting videos:

Written by Leisureguy

3 September 2021 at 6:13 pm

The Art of the Focus Pull

leave a comment »

Written by Leisureguy

24 August 2021 at 1:34 pm

I just watched “Chef” again

leave a comment »

It’s on Netflix. I really enjoy that movie. Chef was written and directed by Jon Favreau, released in 2014. Starring Favreau, Sofia Vergara, John Leguziamo, Dustin Hoffman, Scarlett Johansson, Robert Downey Jr. , Bobby Cannavale, Oliver Platt. A feel-good movie for foodies. Good soundtrack, too.

Written by Leisureguy

27 July 2021 at 10:15 pm

Posted in Business, Food, Movies & TV

Raymond Scott’s bizarre but intriguing ideas

leave a comment »

Being ahead of one’s time is a serious curse. Ted Gioia has a most interesting column that begins:

Background: Below is the latest in my series of profiles of individuals I call visionaries of sound—innovators who are more than just composers or performers, but futurists beyond category. Their work aims at nothing less than altering our entire relationship with the music ecosystem and day-to-day soundscapes.

In many instances, their names are barely known, even within the music world. In some cases—as with Charles Kellogg, recently profiled here—they have been entirely left out of music history and musicology books.

In this installment, I focus on the remarkable legacy of Raymond Scott. During the coming months, I will be publishing more of these profiles. Perhaps I will collect them in a book at some point.

The Secret Music Technology of Raymond Scott

Unfortunately, I need to start this article by talking about Porky Pig.

Raymond Scott deserves better. He never intended for his legacy in music to depend on cartoon animals. But his largest audience, as it turned out, would be children who laugh at Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig and the other animated protagonists of the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons released by Warner Bros.

Scott didn’t write cartoon music—at least, not intentionally—but his music appears on more than 100 animated films. For that give credit (or blame) to Carl Stallings, who needed to churn out a cartoon soundtrack every week, more or less, while under contract to Warner Bros. Stallings found a goldmine in the compositions of Raymond Scott, whose music had been licensed to the studio. These works, which straddle jazz and classical stylings, possess a manic energy that made them the perfect accompaniment to a chase scene or action sequence or some random cartoon-ish act of violence.

Scott called his music “descriptive jazz”—his name for a novel chamber music style that drew on the propulsive drive of swing, with all the riffs and syncopation of that dance style, but with less improvisation and proclaiming a taste for extravagant, quasi-industrial sounds. It was like techno before there was techno, but with a jitterbug sensibility.

When I first learned about Scott, I was taught to view him as a music novelty act, akin perhaps to Zez Confrey or Spike Jones, and the most frequently cited examples of his work (to the extent, they were mentioned at all) were these cartoon soundtracks. But Scott had higher ambitions. He was, after all, a Juilliard graduate, with a taste for experimental music, and worldview more aligned with Dali and Dada than Daffy Duck. But Scott also wanted to be a technologist—his early aim had been to study engineering. He dreamed of combining these two pursuits, and gaining renown as one of the trailblazers in electronic music.

Under slightly different circumstances, he might have become even more famous for music tech than for his cartoon music, as well-known as Robert Moog or Ray Dolby or Les Paul or Leon Theremin. But those dreams were all in the future, when he picked the name “Raymond Scott” out of a phone book—because he thought it “had good rhythm.” . . .

Continue reading. It gets stranger and stranger. He invented a music synthesizer, for example, hiring Bob Moog to design circuits for him. (Moog later made his own synthesizer, of course.) Amazing story.

There’s an old country song called “Pictures from Life’s Other Side.” This whole piece reminded me of that.

Written by Leisureguy

21 July 2021 at 3:03 pm

A clip from “Yes, Minister”

leave a comment »

I very much like two series with the same characters (and actors): “Yes, Minister” and “Yes, Prime Minister.” Wonderfully literate writing and witty dialogue. (You can stream both on BritBox.) Here’s a clip from “Yes, Minister,” Season 3, Episode 6 in which the Minister has just learned that the UK is selling arms that end up in the hands of Italian terrorists. He’s speaking with Sir Humphrey, his chief of staff (a civil-service position, so it serves various administrations) while his assistant Bernard listens.

Written by Leisureguy

9 July 2021 at 12:11 pm

The Quiet Skill of Mass-Market Novels

leave a comment »

I like the thrust of this article: to read thoughtfully the novel in front of you as though it’s a blind audition. Orchestras at one time comprised almost entirely white men, chosen from open auditions (where the musician performed in person before the judging panel). Orchestras some time back moved to blind auditions, in which musicians performed out of sight, behind a screen. The same panels found that they were suddenly selecting quite a few muscians who were women and/or minorities. No one was acting in bad faith, but the unconscious shapes our perceptions, including of what we hear.

So read a novel iitially without seeing the cover or knowing the author’s name, and see what you make of it. After forming your judgment, see who wrote it. That can often add depth, if you’ve read other novels by the same writer (though in that case you probably will have figured out who wrote it).

Katfe Cray writes in the Atlantic:

In dozens of novels written over a decades-long career, the romance writer Jackie Collins sharply observed the role of sex and power in Hollywood. She wrote incisively about abuse in the industry and empowered female characters who found liberation in a male-dominated world. She was brilliant and prescient—and overlooked in literary circles by those who wrote off her work as trashy airport smut.

Like Collins, many authors who write mass-market novels—especially those whose readers are predominantly women, and even more so those whose readers are Black women—are discounted despite their wide appeal. Take Sister Souljah’s influential book The Coldest Winter Ever, which sold over 1 million copies and was beloved by a generation for its nuanced depiction of its protagonist’s community. Today, the work is relegated to the realm of “street lit” and rarely discussed as a classic of American literature. Or, look at the work of Jennifer Weiner, a masterful storyteller, whose books are often dismissed as lacking artistic value. Critics have even attacked the literary merit of Donna Tartt, who has won a Pulitzer Prize, on the basis of her popularity. A few crowd-pleasing authors do escape this trap. Elena Ferrante is perhaps the most notable example, drawing intense loyalty from fans, who sought to defend her name several years ago after her publisher released ironic “chick lit”–style book covers for her works. But many more popular writers are derided than defended.

To take a genre or mass-market work seriously means recognizing the quiet skill in its pages. Books by Collins and Sister Souljah, for instance, slyly analyze the very institutions that aim to undercut them. The romance author Eric Jerome Dickey took a lighter approach. His novels craft vivid portraits of Black women experiencing love and desire and joy.

“To read a [Jackie] Collins novel, as roughly half a billion of us humans have, is to know that sex and power are inextricable. No one mined the dynamics of both as astutely in the late 20th century as she did.”

📚 Hollywood Kids, by Jackie Collins
📚 The World Is Full of Married Men, by Collins
📚 Lucky, by Collins
🎥 Lady Boss: The Jackie Collins Story, directed by Laura Fairrie

Literature’s original bad bitch is back
“Sister Souljah’s books pose a challenge to readers and critics invested in a specific vision of literary ‘Black excellence.’ Some Black authors and booksellers have bristled, at times infamously, at the mass-market appeal of novels like hers.”

📚 The Coldest Winter Ever, by Sister Souljah
📚 Life After Death, by Sister Souljah

When women’s literary tastes are deemed less worthy
“Many novels that do sell well are mass-market genre reads—romance, mystery, and the like—that travelers pick up in airports or shoppers grab off of discount tables at Walmart. Many novels that don’t sell well, meanwhile, are the kind argued over in highbrow publications.”

📚 The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt

The subtle genius of Elena Ferrante’s bad book covers
“While Ferrante’s covers are definitely trite, there’s little about them that’s actually patronizing. There are no flowers or martini glasses or shopping bags on Ferrante’s covers, no high-heeled condescension. There are just images of women doing things that women, in fact, occasionally do: standing still, holding children, being on the beach. And yet, the very image of women doing things now strikes even women readers as unliterary.”

📚 My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante
📚 The Story of the Lost Child, by Ferrante
📚 The Days of Abandonment, by Ferrante
📚 Fly Away Home, by Jennifer Weiner
📚 The Mare, by Mary Gaitskill

Eric Jerome Dickey made Black women feel seen
“Dickey’s characters—bold, smart women oozing sexuality and vulnerability—navigate interpersonal conflicts using dialogue that crackles with authenticity … In casting the struggles of his characters as valid, he affirmed that the struggles of the mostly Black women reading him were also valid.”

📚 The Son of Mr. Suleman, by Eric Jerome Dickey
📚 Sister, Sister, by Dickey
📚 Friends and Lovers, by Dickey
📚 Cheaters, by Dickey

When I was in the Writers Workshop at the University of Iowa, I took one class from R.V. Cassill, a good novelist and a good teacher. He told of writing some potboilers, so called because they provided food money along the way. He wrote one about love relationships among college students, and he titled it Wound of Love, a phrase that he thought would be racy enough for the bus-station crowd but with a literary appeal as well. (This sort of novel was published as a mass-market paperback, often found in spinner racks in bus stations at the time.)

He was rather proud of that title, but the publisher already had a list of titles, and the novel came out with the title Dormitory Women. 🙂

Written by Leisureguy

2 July 2021 at 8:13 pm

The making of “Independence Day,” now 25 years old

leave a comment »

Still an enjoyable movie, though now streamed only through Disney+. But a good article.

Written by Leisureguy

2 July 2021 at 7:40 pm

Posted in Movies & TV

I just had a new insight re: “Groundhog Day”

leave a comment »

I just watched a clip of Groundhog Day and saw something I had not realized. What triggered the transformation of Phil (the Bill Murray character) was that he got to know — really got to know — the people around him, the sort of knowledge and understanding that implies he spent hours of talking with them and listening — really listening — to them. Those people were to him no longer ciphers or strangers or simple transactional relationship, but rather people he now understood: they have depth and experiences and lives and dreams and regrets of their own. He obviously had stopped thinking only of himself and looking at others only as they affected him, but had grown in understanding and compassion. The connections he made with them are what transformed him. I had not seen that before.

Here’s the clip:

Just yesterday I read that the single most important factor in a long and happy life is having a variety of close and strong relationships — more important than genetics, more important than money, more important than any other single thing.

And in thinking more about it,  I realized that the things Phil knew about those people, from previous conversations, could come only from listening to them and not judging them, just getting to know them. And once you know and understand other people (as individuals), you generally will have good feelings toward them because you understand why they do what they do — that takes the judgment out of the equation, in a way. To understand is to forgive, because when you understand you see the mechanisms that drive the behavior.

Written by Leisureguy

2 July 2021 at 3:42 pm

An Oral History of ‘Terminator 2: Judgment Day’

leave a comment »

Read this terrific article in Ringer about the making of Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Totally fascinating for anyone who likes movies, and particularly those who have seen the movie (and their number is legion). In the article there’s a mention of ADR that’s a link. By all means click the link and watch that video — also fascinating. And some of the video clips used in the article end with “also watch” links. Here’s one:

Written by Leisureguy

1 July 2021 at 2:09 pm

‘We Are Lady Parts’ Is Brash, Brilliant, and Revolutionary

leave a comment »

Chelsea Steiner writes at The Mary Sue:

As film and television slowly becomes more inclusive, there continues to be massive cultural blind spots in representation. And few marginalized groups have been as ignored in popular culture as Muslim women. Too often Muslim women are cast in the same patronizing archetype: the meek, submissive woman oppressed by her religion, her culture, and her family.

And when these women are the focus, their stories tend to fit the traditional child of immigrants narrative, i.e. a young person desperately fighting against the rigid mores of their culture (Think Bend it Like BeckhamDouble Happiness).

It’s a story well worth telling, and its been told many times. But there are SO many more compelling and innovative stories to tell. Stories like Nida Manzoor’s We Are Lady Parts, a brilliant new six-episode comedy series about a five-woman Muslim punk rock band in London. The series centers on Amina Hussain (Anjana Vasan) a nerdy microbiology PhD student who is desperate to find a husband. Amina teaches guitar to children, and remains haunted by a middle school talent show performance that ended with her vomiting on the front row. According to her best friend Noor (Aiysha Hart), Amina must suppress her more independent traits to nab a husband.

Across town, punk rock band Lady Parts is realizing that their sound needs something extra: a lead guitarist. If you’ve ever seen a movie about bands, you probably know where this is going. But We Are Lady Parts brilliantly subverts its traditional story structure with rapid-fire dialogue and wonderfully developed characters.

The band is made up of hot-tempered lead singer and guitarist Saira (Sarah Kameela Impey), who works in a butcher shop and struggles to commit to her boyfriend. There’s confident and badass drummer Ayesha (Juliette Motamed), who uses her handsome brother Ashan (Zaqi Ismail) to lure in Amina. Bassist Bisma (Faith Omole) is an earth mother and actual mother, who draws hilariously violent feminist comics. And finally, there’s mysterious band manager and lingerie saleswoman Momtaz (Lucie Shorthouse), who vapes thick clouds of smoke from underneath her niqab.

All five women have distinct personalities that are brought to life by authentic, lived-in performances. They are united in their feminism, love of music, and their complex relationship to faith and family. It’s a radically nuanced (and frankly long overdue) portrait of the dichotomy facing many modern Muslim women.

The wickedly funny series delves into the surreal, thanks to Amina’s elaborate fantasies and day dreams. The five women share an easy, warm chemistry, which comes through in their music. Songs like . . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

The Younger Daughter told me that one can view the first episode free and then binge the remaining ones during a 7-day free trial.

Written by Leisureguy

20 June 2021 at 11:56 am

Posted in Movies & TV

The Pulp and Pleasure of ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark,’ 40 Years Later

leave a comment »

In The Ringer Brian Phillips has a nice look back at Raiders of the Lost Ark and its ancestral works in pulp fiction — and how tropes were adapted. He writes:

For me, it’s not the boulder, it’s the book. Anyone who loves Raiders of the Lost Ark can probably name the moment early in the movie when they realized what they were watching. Maybe it’s the hand darting through the crack to grab the fedora. Maybe it’s the smirk on Indy’s face when he thinks his sandbag trick worked, right before the temple—whoops!—starts to cave in. Maybe it’s Belloq waiting outside to relieve Indy of his hard-won treasure, the twist that teaches you the crucial early lesson about what this adventure is going to be like—that the hero is smart and resourceful, but not invincible. He can take hits. He can lose.

Whatever your moment is, it’s the one when you first start to notice the low-key inner glow that tells you this is not just another action movie. It’s the moment you know you’re in for something special, a story where every scene, every set piece, every throwaway line, every happy accident of filmmaking, are going to conspire together in the interest of sheer delight. Consider: Raiders features the greatest movie star of his generation working with the greatest blockbuster director of his generation working with the greatest pop world-builder of his generation; all of them, in their own way, supreme and uncompromising weirdos. It would have been so easy for their quirks and temperaments to blow each other up, like the scenery in one of the movie’s Rube Goldberg action sequences. Instead, the lit match of Harrison Ford’s jadedness somehow did not ignite the spilled gasoline of Steven Spielberg’s ego just as the runaway fighter plane of George Lucas’s imperiousness rolled into it. Raiders is not a perfect movie—more on that later—but if you’re on its wavelength, there’s very little that can rival it as a pleasure-delivery device. Everything just works.

You feel it, when you’re watching a movie like that. It’s like watching someone on an incredible run at a casino; everything that’s supposed to be hard and unpredictable suddenly feels easy and assured. It’s a kind of magic you can settle into, one that elicits a feeling of lucky surrender: Ahh. In all of film history, Raiders may be the one in which the audience is most completely, and in every sense, along for the ride.

Anyway: There’s a moment for everyone when that ahh hits them, and for me, as I said, it’s the book. Indy is back on campus, in his wire-rimmed glasses and his tweed suit. He’s explaining to the Army intelligence men about the Ark of the Covenant, that maybe this is what the Nazis are looking for in the desert; this is what Abner Ravenwood was researching before he disappeared. If you love the movie, this stuff is as familiar to you as your childhood phone number. Lost City of Tanis: check. Staff of Ra: check. The Well of Souls: check. Then one of the Army intelligence guys goes, “What does this Ark look like?” and Indy replies, “There’s a picture of it right here.”

And he puts down this book. It’s a huge, old-fashioned, leather-bound volume, the sort you need a key to open, just the tome you picture a professor-adventurer consulting in front of a roaring fire, in a tufted leather chair, while sipping a glass of port. The book, in other words, is a shameless pulp artifact, and it’s because of that—because we’re happily ensconced in pulpland already—that we don’t even blink when Indy opens right to the page and says, “That’s it.”

Again: He has the book right there. It’s, conservatively, 1 million pages long. He opens to the picture of the Ark in less than two seconds. This is a tiny, almost unmentionably trivial detail; at the same time, I’m positive that nothing more delightful has ever happened in a movie. As delightful? Maybe. But more? The book tells us several things, quietly, all at once. First, it tells us that even more than the worlds in most movies, this is a world in which reality will always furnish whatever is the most atmospheric thing for any circumstance. Need to chase a train through the desert? Here are some beautiful horses. Need to steal a plane from the Luftwaffe? Oops, there’s a 7-foot Nazi beefcake shirtlessly guarding it. Are you in a North African bazaar? Have an adorable, mischievous, superintelligent monkey. I’m convinced that this, the ready availability of the coolest thing for any moment, is what makes the famous scene where Indy pulls his gun and shoots the sword-twirling assassin, so indelible. It extends a logic that’s been part of the movie’s ground rules from the beginning. You expected something good? Here’s something better.

The second thing the book tells us is . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Written by Leisureguy

16 June 2021 at 1:33 pm

The value of imitation in the arts

leave a comment »

Interesting quotation from David Perell’s newsletter:

I once met a painting coach who tells students to copy their favorite artists.

At first, students resist.

In response, the coach tells them to listen for friction. “Do you hear that resistance? It’s the whisper of your unique style.”

Through imitation, we discover our voice.

Written by Leisureguy

15 June 2021 at 7:28 pm

%d bloggers like this: