Matt writes: I just returned from covering the 53rd Karlovy Vary International Film Festival in the Czech Republic, where I saw some excellent films, and got the chance to meet many extraordinary people. The full table of contents contains links to my conversations with Terry Gilliam, Richard Linklater, Barry Levinson, Caleb Landry Jones, Anna Paquin, Stephen Moyer, Denis O'Hare and "Leave No Trace" star Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie. You will also find reviews of such unmissable titles as "Cold War," "Putin's Witnesses," "Girl," "Winter Flies," "Crystal Swan," "Museum," "Moments" and more.
Marie writes: There's a glorified duck pond at the center of the complex where I live. And since moving in, my apartment has been an object of enduring fascination for Canadian geese - who arrive each Spring like a squadron of jet fighters returning from a mission in France, to run a sweeping aerial recon my little garden aka: playhouse for birds... (click to enlarge)
My friend Billy Baxter passed away in his sleep, early on the morning of Friday, Jan. 20, 2012. He was 86. His son Jack wrote me:
"He didn't suffer. I was with him when he was taken to the hospital by ambulance on Wednesday. He died in his sleep early this morning. His wake is Monday, January 23, at Barrett Funeral Home, 424 West 51st Street, from 2-5 and 7-9. His funeral mass is Tuesday at 10am at St. Paul the Apostle, 405 W 59th St, New York, 10019. He is being cremated."
It's the player piano roll, the 8-track cartridge, the Apple Newton, the Microsoft Bob (or Microsoft Sidewalk) of its day -- the 1981 RCA SelectaVision Capacitance Electronic Disc! Basically, it looked like a grooved black vinyl LP in a plastic sleeve, but it played video instead of music: "The magic of the RCA VideoDisc, a simple, affordable record that, like magic, can bring not just sound, but sound and pictures -- clear, beautiful pictures -- right into your living room! A record that can bring you 'Casablanca'... or Miss Piggy... or Woody Allen... or 'The Godfather'..." My favorite moment in the promo above is when Jesus approaches Rod Steiger and the chorus sings: "Bring the magic home -- with R-C-A!" Remember, too, RCA was the company that brought you the [ahem!] miraculous new Dynagroove and Dynaflex long-playing record formats.
Like its flat circular competition, the silvery 12-inch pre-CD/DVD optical storage disc systems known as DiscoVision or LaserDisc, you also had to turn it over to play, say, the "second side" of a feature film. Discs cost $15 and players between $299 and $500. Sans remote, apparently. None of these new LP-sized disc systems quite caught on with the general public. Soon, Compact Discs would set the standard for optical storage at a diameter of 122 mm (about 4.72 inches), which would also be used for CD-ROMs, DVDs, and DVD-Rs. The question of why digital information of any sort should be encoded onto a cumbersome physical object (requiring needlessly complex delivery systems including shipping, packaging, storage space, a player/recorder separate from the media itself...) is the a technological challenge "home entertainment" companies are still trying to figure out.
View image "Our master video tape has gone to Mastering Control..."
The above is a six-minute overview ("Bring the Magic Home" -- look for the trademark skip/stutter in the "Lady Sings the Blues clip), archived by databits, who offers quite a collection of ancient technology guides and promos at YouTube. To watch a guided tour of the SelectaVision production process (including a peek inside the lab with a guy in a shower cap), you can (as they used to say in the early days of the World Wide InterWebs), click here (for Part 1) and here (for Part 2).
"To the people behind the scenes, the people at RCA, it begins with raw materials as pure as those used in medicines -- plus a myriad of parts and procedures."
Q. While the film "What the #$*! Do We Know?" parades itself as a tell-all about quantum physics, it turns out that it's actually a 111-minute infomercial for ... that's right, the Ramtha School of Enlightenment. In fact, the three filmmakers, [William] Arntz, [Betsy] Chasse and [Mark] Vicente, are all devotees of Ramtha.
1924: Born April 3, in Omaha, Neb., of Dutch-Irish descent, the youngest of three children of a salesman and an amateur actress. 1938: Enrolls in Libertyville High School as a freshman. 1944: Makes his Broadway debut as the teenage son in the hit "I Remember Mama." 1946: Is named Broadway's most promising actor after he plays a World War II veteran in "Truckline Cafe." 1947: Creates his landmark portrayal of Stanley Kowalski in Tennessee Williams' "A Streetcar Named Desire" on Broadway. 1950: Makes his film debut in Fred Zinnemann's "The Men," as a paralyzed war veteran. 1952: Receives his first Oscar nomination for "A Streetcar Named Desire" (1951). 1955: After losing three consecutive Oscar bids ("Julius Caesar" and "Viva Zapata!"), finally wins for "On the Waterfront" (1954). 1961: Makes his directorial debut on "One-Eyed Jacks," widely regarded as a disaster at the time. 1963: Participates in civil rights march in Washington, D.C., with Charlton Heston, Harry Belafonte, James Baldwin and other luminaries. 1966: Buys a private island off the Pacific coast and lives there off and on for the next three decades. 1972: Is forced to audition for the role of Don Corleone in "The Godfather" because of his diminished reputation in Hollywood. It would become his defining performance. 1973: Rejects the best actor Oscar for "The Godfather" (1972) to protest the treatment of Native Americans and sends Sacheen Littlefeather to the ceremony to make a speech on his behalf.
Lew Grade, a titan of the British entertainment industry, died Sunday in London at age 91. For many years, he was a colorful fixture at the Cannes Film Festival, where after the box office failure of his film "Raise the Titanic!" he held a press conference to announce, "It would have been less costly to lower the ocean."