The announcement of a pristine, digitally enhanced Blu-ray release of Edgar G. Uhlmer's grimy 1945 noir "Detour" got me thinking in granular terms...
The first CD I ever bought was Ennio Morricone's soundtrack to Sergio Leone's "Once Upon a Time in America." I had hundreds (thousands?) of LPs by that time, but it was the first thing I got on CD -- because of the dynamic range of the music and the recording, and the really quiet passages that always showed off the flaws in the vinyl pressing (rumble, ticks and pops from imperfections, static, scratches, dirt, etc.), no matter how careful you were with the record. There was a vinyl shortage in the 1970s, and most American records sounded terrible. Vinyl was mixed with cheaper plastics and additives (don't get me started on RCA Dynagroove), LPs got thinner and less uniformly flat, contaminants (like bits of label from recycled records) got pressed right into the grooves... I got used to the idea that I'd have to take back one out of every three or four records I bought for audible -- and often visible -- defects.
Q. On a recent "Siskel & Ebert" program you showed Hollywood's frequent use of scenes where characters outrun shock waves from blasts. There was a true-life instance of this, the day Mt. St. Helens erupted, and trees were felled like match sticks for miles around. At the moment of the blast there were two cars driving near each other and away from the volcano. One was a station wagon and the other a Jaguar (I think). When the volcano erupted the station wagon accelerated to about 80 mph and reached its limit. The Jaguar accelerated into the 100's. The station wagon was knocked off the road; the people in the Jaguar escaped. (David Shapiro, Libertyville, IL)
Q. I'm a photographer, and have been wondering--who started the Orange and Blue Movement? All those movies where each scene has to have something blue and something orange in it? A good example would be "Trading Moms," with Sissy Spacek. There are lots of others in the last two years. I think it began with night city scenes mimicking neon reflections on faces. The actor usually has an warm (orange) main light on his/her face from a 45 degree angle, and has a cold (blue) kicker light skimming the shadow side of his face. Warm colors appear to move forward and cold colors recede, so it adds depth to an object. Someone grabbed this theme of color and a movement began. (Jim Langley, Phoenix, Ariz.)
Q. I recall a rumor that "The Exorcist" used subliminal messaging to affect the audience. When I saw it on its initial theatrical release, I passed out at one point--and I don't faint easily. It was early in the film when she was having her brain x-rayed: The scene showed Regan with a needle on the end of a tube stuck in her neck, and there's a gyrating X-ray machine and the machine-gun-like sound of sheets of film rapidly advancing. I recoil at the thought that a movie could have such an impact on me without some kind of unfair advantage. Maybe the hype surrounding the film and the crowded theater set me up for it. When I came to, I noticed that I'd slumped down and jammed my shins against the metal edge of the seat in front of me. They were cut and bleeding. Probably one of the few times that watching a movie led to physical injury. (Tom Norris, Braintree, Mass.)