This Week You Will Get Whiff Of:
- Women in animation
- “Photography of the grotesque”
- A National Pastime past its time?
- More from our sci-fi overlord
- Cold TV contestants
Thanks to Conor Crockford, scb0212, Casper, Guillermo Jiménez, and Miller for sniffing these gems out this week (and/or recent past). Send articles throughout the next week to ploughmanplods[at]gmail, post articles from the past week below for discussion, and Have a Happy Friday!
At Cartoon Brew, Vincent Alexander has a huge rundown of women who helped (re)define animation and art:
‘American artist Mary Ellen Bute was one of the first woman experimental filmmakers, creating purely abstract shorts that she called “seeing sound” films. She wrote that the goal of her work was to “bring to the eyes a combination of visual forms unfolding along with the thematic development and rhythmic cadences of music.” More bluntly, a 1936 newspaper article about her work carried the headline, “Music made visible in weird movie.”’
Various critics contribute to GQ‘s list of sex scenes that get horniness right, from Don’t Look Now to 120 BPM:
[I Am Curious (Yellow) (1967)] The film’s embattled release proved its own countercultural thesis, previously posited by Orwell in Nineteen Eighty-Four, that the ungovernability of fucking represents the sole true threat to a society bent on maintaining its hegemonic status quo. The fascists in Massachusetts weren’t scared of sex, they were scared of losing their chokehold on a public getting new ideas about power and authority. All of a sudden, to the squares’ great horror, a touch of perversion made a person appear sophisticated and with-it; Johnny Carson talked about buying a ticket, and Jackie O. judo-chopped a paparazzo snapping her photo outside of a screening. (In Mad Men, we can tell Megan’s cool because she brings Don to see it.) The goalposts of taste have shifted, but the teams remain the same. The enemies of personal freedom will always treat the unruliness of genitals as a rebellion to be crushed.
At MUBI, Z.W. Lewis looks back on the “photography of the grotesque” in the work of William Mortensen and its influence on films by DeMille and Browning:
A cursory glance at a work by Mortensen may trick the eye into first seeing a sketch, especially in his 1927 Off for the Sabbot where a witch hovers over a small hamlet in nonchalant free-fall. Her relative size to the frame is small for a Mortensen subject, but her ecstatic posture creates a dynamic shadow across her body like ink on paper, and his signature texture screen turns the “ink” of the shadows into charcoal marks. His straightforward photographic portraits have no background in order to emphasize the outline of the subject as in his Circe (1930), or they may be bordered by a superimposed title as in Johan the Mad (1931). Scratch marks become more obvious when the subject is closer to the lens (or if the viewer simply gets closer to the photo) just as Ben-Day dots appear in old comics—this works both as a technical illusion and places the subject into an impressionistic reality far away from the sharp-focus world of Group f/64. These collective techniques, rather than Mortensen’s usual occult subjects, are what incensed Adams to famously label the artist “the Antichrist.” This war nicely parallels with a similar scuffle in cinema history in which the Lumières of realism (later the Bazinian realists) are often pitted against the Méliès of artifice and editing (later the Eisensteinians). Mortensen was not necessarily a partisan in his camp, but he was feverishly devoted to spectacle. Naturally, he would take his talents to the kingdom of American spectacle: Hollywood.
On the week of opening day, The Guardian‘s Noah Gittell wonders, whatever happened to the baseball movie?
It’s for this very reason, however, that Major League Baseball should be on the phone to Hollywood right now, ginning up opportunities for collaboration. “A thriving national pastime requires good movies to support it,” according to Joe Posnanski, an award-winning sports journalist and author of The Baseball 100. “If you asked a casual fan for the 10 greatest moments in baseball history, they’d have Roy Hobbs hitting it into the lights and Kevin Costner playing catch with his dad, or Dottie Hinson dropping the ball. Those moments are more famous in some ways than Kirk Gibson’s World Series home run or the Shot Heard ’Round the World.” Even in this down period, the baseball movie is still what real-life baseball aspires to. That’s why fans continue making videos of their favorite baseball moments set to the score from Moneyball, like last fall’s playoff home run by Bryce Harper or the recent grand slam by Trea Turner in the World Baseball Classic.
He’s back! Brandon Sanderson gives another interview, this time to Adam Morgan at Esquire, as his fantasy empire expands unchecked:
“This is my dream,” Brandon Sanderson says. We’re 30 feet beneath the surface of northern Utah, in a room that feels like a cross between a five-star hotel lobby and a Bond villain’s secret base. My ears popped on the way down. Sanderson points to the grand piano, the shelves filled with ammonite fossils, the high walls covered in wood and damask paneling, and his pièce de résistance: a cylindrical aquarium swirling with saltwater fish. “George R. R. Martin bought an old movie theater. Jim Butcher bought a LARPing castle,” he says. “I built an underground supervillain lair.”
Survival reality show Alone comes to Australia! The Guardian gives behind the scenes on the new season shot in Western Tasmania during the polar blast. A Drunk Napoleon cameo is not confirmed but pointedly is not denied:
The contestants are expected to file at least five hours of footage a day and are not allowed to tape over or delete anything. (Both are disqualifiable offences.) The producers have no idea what’s being filmed until each contestant gives their gear back. “You’ve handed over complete control of the show’s content to 10 people, some of whom have only just learned how to use a camera and a microphone,” Daher says. “I still can’t believe I worked on a show where the end date is set by the participants. That is insanity.” Her parting advice – or plea – to many of the contestants as the boat left them on shore was: “Don’t fuck it up.”