Author Archives: jen

CinemaScope: Billy Wilder’s The Apartment screening at BAM

Image via Film Flammers

Image via Film Flammers

Over the next two weeks, New York City’s BAM is showcasing some of the best-looking American black and white film in its series Black & White ‘Scope: American Cinema. “Scope” in this sense refers to “CinemaScope” which was a type of lens commonly used at the time for shooting wide screen movies. Essentially, these lenses made it possible to compress a wide-angle panoramic scene into a smaller typical 35mm frame. When these images were then projected through a companion lens, the image was presented in its original panoramic, wide screen glory. The origins of CinemaScope are simple; in the 1950′s, the film industry was starting to feel pressure from a new competitor for their audiences’ time: television. There was definitely a feeling that audiences would stop going to the movies if they could just want programming on their television sets instead.  Continue reading

The Hollywouldn’t-ness: Latinos on Film

Image via ScreenRelish

Image via ScreenRelish

The 87th Academy Awards aired last night and the lack of diversity in the industry seemed to be in the front of everyone’s minds. Many were already on edge regarding the perceived snub of the film Selma. Patricia Arquette proclaimed it “time for women” in her acceptance speech (while simultaneously ruffling some feathers in other under-represented groups in Hollywood). And then later, in presenting the top honors of Best Picture to the film Birdman, Sean Penn made a seemingly unfortunate green card joke about director, producer and co-writer of the film, Alejandro González Iñárritu, who happens to be Mexican.  Continue reading

Prince of Darkness: Cinematographer Gordon Willis Retrospective

Still of Woody Allen and Diane Keaton in Manhattan (1979) via iMDB.com

Still of Woody Allen and Diane Keaton in Manhattan (1979) via iMDB.com

When most people think of filmmaking, they often think of actors, writers and directors — and sometimes exclusively in that order! As I’ve written about here before, it is more accurate to say it takes a village to make a movie. It’s pretty obvious that you need actors to appear in front of the camera and writers to figure out what they will say when they are in front of the camera, but you also need a cinematographer to ensure they look good in front of the camera. Good is relative as, with a grittier text, the director may want a less polished look. The cinematographer works to help set the scene for the story the director wishes to stage.  Continue reading

Breaking Down the Oscars: Best Picture Nominees and Their Budgets

Photo by Martin Scali - (c) 2014 - Fox Searchlight Pictures via iMDB.com

Photo by Martin Scali – © 2014 – Fox Searchlight Pictures via iMDB.com

With the 87th Academy Awards right around the corner, now is the time for critics and movie lovers to start making predictions about which films will win big and which may go home empty-handed. While there is actually an accounting firm enlisted to tally up the votes by the Oscar voters (who, by the way, are about three-quarters male), the votes cast represent a qualitative approach to measuring the success of a film. By qualitative, I mean subjective; the voter’s enjoyment of the film (or not) is pretty much the criteria for whether he or she may vote for it to win Best Picture. But rarely do we look at these films in a quantitative way based solely on their profitability (box office take relative to production budget).  Continue reading

John Carpenter Tribute at BAM

Image via BAM.org

Image via BAM.org

As we’ve noted this week, John Carpenter is an iconic director who may be underrated given that most are only aware of his association with the Halloween franchise. However, Carpenter is truly a legend; in fact, the New York Times touts that he is “one of the greatest horror directors of all time.” Aside from his work in the horror genre, he has also dabbled quite a bit in sci-fi and action (sometimes at the same time). And, oh yeah, did we mention Carpenter is also an accomplished musician?  Continue reading

Judging Art: It’s Awards Show Season

Image via Contently.com

Image via Contently.com

Last Sunday marked the telecast of the 57th annual Grammy Awards. While usually the topic of conversation in the days following is focused on best and worst dressed celebrities, this year’s post award show commentary had a slightly different slant. Kanye West managed to turn attention back to himself in what can best be described as an unfortunate display of friendship. He jumped on stage during the acceptance of the Best Album award by Beck in an expression of his disbelief that Beyonce did not win this award instead.  Continue reading

Athena Take the Wheel: Celebrating Women Leaders

2014 Athena Film Festival banner at Barnard College via athenafilmfestival.com

2014 Athena Film Festival banner at Barnard College via athenafilmfestival.com

As we’ve discussed here before, women are decidedly underrepresented in many fields — including film and television. While organizations such as the WFPF exist to preserve the legacy of women in the field, there’s a need for an infusion of new talent to keep that legacy afloat. Not surprisingly, it is sometimes up to women to help promote the talents of other women to buck industry notions that women on screen don’t sell even though that’s been debunked time and time again.  Continue reading

What’s In a Frame?

Film Still from Psycho via RogerEbert.com

Film Still from Psycho via RogerEbert.com

While watching movies or television, most people are looking for a story and themes around characters and how they interact. However, what you see is often times just as important as what you hear. What a character is wearing, down to even how their hair is styled, can tell a lot about what kind of person they are or what they are up to during that scene. Similarly, the objects you see around characters can be very meaningful in the same way as they give you more insight into plot lines without saying a word. In short, anyone who creates an image is purposefully composing that image whether you notice all the disparate elements or not.  Continue reading

Highlighting Women’s Cinema at MoMA

Portrait of Alice Guy Blaché via Filmmaker Magazine

Portrait of Alice Guy Blaché via Filmmaker Magazine

As I’ve already written about before, while women are so prominently featured in front of the camera, the roles are still very sparse behind the camera. That said, the amazing work that has been produced by those women directors who manage to break through deserves to be upheld for future generations. In direct response to this need for preservation, the Women’s Film Preservation Fund (WFPF) was started. The WFPF was created by New York City’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and the New York Women in Film and Television (NYWIFT) in 1995 and remains the only program with a focus on the legacy of women in the industry.  Continue reading

It Takes a Village: Maintaining the Public Domain

Public Domain photo of Lee Sherman, Radio City Music Hall, New York, NY circa June 1947 via Pond5.com

Public Domain photo of Lee Sherman, Radio City Music Hall, New York, NY circa June 1947 via Pond5.com

Today in the United States, there is far more visibility into the right to use or exhibit certain content. The rise, and subsequent fall, of Napster for music downloading taught many of us lessons around intellectual property rights. Some people who illegally downloaded a song or two, and then distributed these songs via file sharing networks, became unfortunate pariahs subject to litigation from the Recording Industry Association of America. However, not everything is illegal to download! In fact, there are many pieces of content that are completely legal to use and distribute that are within what’s called “the public domain.”  Continue reading