Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘film’

23 JANUARY, 2012

Tango: The First Polish Short Film to Win an Oscar, 1980

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Everything that could happen in a room, happening.

You might recall Blok, a wonderful 1982 experimental Polish animated film, using a single continuous shot to take a voyeuristic tour of the different apartments in a building. From the same era comes Tango — a clever and spectacularly executed 1980 film by director Zbigniew Rybczynski from Polish short-film studio Se-ma-for. The cinematography, capturing multiple events taking place simultaneously in a closed space, was so complicated and required such precision that Rybczynski worked on the film for nearly a year, eating and sleeping on the set.

In 1983, Tango became the first Polish film to win an Oscar.

Tango appears on the altogether excellent two-disc DVD Anthology of Polish Animated Film.

Thanks, Mark

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20 JANUARY, 2012

The First Kiss in Cinema: How Thomas Edison Scandalized the World in 1896

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How Thomas Edison made the kiss Hollywood’s favorite audience-courting device.

Thomas Edison is responsible for some of the most significant technological innovations of modern history, and is even credited as the inventor of the movie industry itself. But besides his visionary take on technology, he also had a keen eye for what audiences wanted, from his YouTube-like 1984 boxing cats to his 1901 footage of legendary aerialist Charmion’s trapeze strip-tease. It comes as no surprise, then, that Edison is also responsible for the very first on-screen kiss in cinema, featuring Canadian actress May Irwin. A mere 23 seconds in length, it was filmed in his Black Maria studio in New Jersey in 1896., at a time when public kissing was greatly frowned upon by Victorian society. In that era, the act of kissing was referred to as “sparkin'” if it took place indoors, usually the parlor, or “spoonin'” when performed outdoors, in a secluded spot far from the public’s eye.

This footage is often confused with another kiss scene, mistakenly credited by some as cinematic appearance of a kiss — it was, however, filmed in 1900 in Edison’s new glass-topped studio in New York City, and was quickly banned in most theaters. The two lovers remain anonymous.

For more on the evolution of kissing, see Joanne Wannan’s Kisstory: A Sweet and Sexy Look at the History of Kissing. For some scintillating science, see the evolutionary biology of why we kiss.

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13 JANUARY, 2012

A Beautiful Animated Adaptation of Bukowski’s Poem “Bluebird”

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Visual whimsy to make Bukowski’s magic shine.

Charles Bukowski’s poem “The Bluebird,” originally published in his 1992 anthology The Last Night of the Earth Poems (public library), is a quietly profound meditation on an all too familiar facet of the human condition — our compulsion to conceal and stifle our most tender and vulnerable selves underneath tough, controlled, meticulously architected exteriors.

This mesmerizingly beautiful animated adaptation of the poem by Cambridge School of Art student Monika Umba is the perfect piece of visual whimsy to bring to life Bukowski’s magic.

there’s a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I’m too tough for him,
I say, stay in there, I’m not going
to let anybody see
you.
there’s a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I pour whiskey on him and inhale
cigarette smoke
and the whores and the bartenders
and the grocery clerks
never know that
he’s
in there.

there’s a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I’m too tough for him,
I say,
stay down, do you want to mess
me up?
you want to screw up the
works?
you want to blow my book sales in
Europe?
there’s a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I’m too clever, I only let him out
at night sometimes
when everybody’s asleep.
I say, I know that you’re there,
so don’t be
sad.
then I put him back,
but he’s singing a little
in there, I haven’t quite let him
die
and we sleep together like
that
with our
secret pact
and it’s nice enough to
make a man
weep, but I don’t
weep, do
you?

Complement with Bukowski on the ideal conditions and myths of creativity and his magnificent letter of gratitude to the man who helped him quit his soul-sucking day job to become a full-time writer.

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12 JANUARY, 2012

The Hidden Beauty of Pollination

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We’ve already marveled at the macro beauty of pollen, nature’s love-making mechanism. From Louie Schwartzberg’s film Wings of Life — an homage to “the love story that feeds the Earth,” inspired by the worrisome vanishing of the honeybees, nature’s irreplaceable Cupids — comes this stunning montage of high-speed images, revealing the intricate beauty of pollination:

Schwartzberg contextualizes the footage in his talk from TED 2011:

For a related moment of humility, treat yourself to Schwartzberg’s moving and rewarding TEDxSF talk on gratitude — it gets truly extraordinary at around 3:55:

You think this is just another day in your life. It’s not just another day — it’s the one day that is given to you, today. It’s given to you, it’s a gift. It’s the only gift that you have right now, and the only appropriate response is gratefulness. If you do nothing else but to cultivate that response to the great gift that this unique day is, if you learn to respond as if it were the first day in your life, and the very last day, then you would have spent this day very well.”

HT Smithsonian Retina

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