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Reading Around on December 29th

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Some additional reading December 29th from 17:09 to 23:39:


“The Philip K. Dick Collection” (Philip K. Dick)

  • Gregg Rickman- The Nature of Dick’s Fantasies – –None of Dick’s 1974 letters to the FBI appear in any of the FBI’s files on him (in Los Angeles, San Francisco, or Washington). He received a polite brush-off response to his first letter, of March 20; it is likely that the FBI ignored his later letters entirely.–There is, moreover, good reason to doubt that many of these letters were ever sent. According to his wife at the time, Tessa Dick, “Phil told me he’d only sent the first three or four letters, and he stopped mailing them, because the FBI had lost interest (or perhaps never had any interest) in the case…” (letter to author, 6/6/91). Asked why, if this were so, so many letters existed not in originals but in carbons, she replied that Dick’s procedure was to “write a letter, address and stamp an envelope, go out in the back alley, and drop the letter in the trash bin.” Dick’s reasoning was that “The authorities will receive the letter if, and only if, they are spying on him”
  • Total Dick-Head: Merry Christmas To Me! – As a scholar I think these letters are a bit dangerous (as is any piece of evidence however small and seemingly innocuous in the Case of Philip K Dick); as they are the ‘Selected Letters’ I wonder who selected them (that’s probably in an introduction I skipped), what was left out, and why. I have lots of questions, like why does Phil refer to Tessa in one letter as Leslie? Who exactly is ‘Kathy’? And why in the world did PKD write that letter to the FBI about Disch’s Camp Concentration?
  • Transcript: Climbing Mount Criterion – Roger Ebert’s Journal – I’m extremely lazy in my film reviews, but Matthew Dessem is not. His blog is in-depth reviews of every Criterion Collection film released. Roger Ebert interviewed him: Here is the complete transcript of my Q&A with Matthew Dessum, in which he goes into much greater detail about his adventure that I had room for in the paper. The photo is by Yasmin Damshenas
  • Is aviation security mostly for show? – CNN.com – “Security theater” refers to security measures that make people feel more secure without doing anything to actually improve their security. An example: the photo ID checks that have sprung up in office buildings. No one has ever explained why verifying that someone has a photo ID provides any actual security, but it looks like security to have a uniformed guard-for-hire looking at ID cards. Airport-security examples include the National Guard troops stationed at U.S. airports in the months after 9/11 — their guns had no bullets. The U.S. color-coded system of threat levels, the pervasive harassment of photographers, and the metal detectors that are increasingly common in hotels and office buildings since the Mumbai terrorist attacks, are additional examples.

Written by swanksalot

December 30th, 2009 at 12:00 am

Reading Around on November 26th through December 1st

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A few interesting links collected November 26th through December 1st:

  • Movie Review – Gomorrah – Lesser-Known Mobsters, as Brutal as the Old Ones – NYTimes.com – A snapshot of hell, the film takes its biblically inflected punning title from the Camorra, or Neapolitan Mafia, the largest of Italy’s crime gangs, with 100 barely organized, incessantly warring clans and some 7,000 members. Based in and around Naples, the Camorra (it means gang) smuggles cigarettes, drugs, guns and people, polluting the province with fear and worse. Unlike the better-known Sicilian Mafia, which took root in America in the late 19th century and in Hollywood thereafter, the Camorra has never had a significant presence in this country, pop cultural or otherwise. Until now, its reign of terror has been largely in reality and not on the screen, which explains why the world in this film can feel so alien: the movies haven’t yet imagined it.
  • Gomorrah :: rogerebert.com :: Reviews – The film is a curative for the romanticism of “The Godfather” and “Scarface.” The characters are the foot soldiers of the Camorra, the crime syndicate based in Naples that is larger than the Mafia but less known. Its revenues in one year are said to be as much as $250 billion — five times as much as Bernard Madoff took years to steal. The final shot suggests that the Camorra is invested in the rebuilding of the World Trade Center. The film is based on fact, not fiction.
  • This Progression of What – I’ve been writing
    These poems every day
    For many months now.
    Even though I haven’t been paid
    A single cent, I’d rather be remembered
    For this, these words,
    Over being recalled
    As an efficient
    Account executive
    Any day.

  • “Trouble in Paradise – Criterion Collection” (Criterion)

  • Trouble in Paradise :: rogerebert.com :: Great Movies – The sexual undertones are surprisingly frank in this pre-Code 1932 film, and we understand that none of the three characters is in any danger of mistaking sex for love. Both Lily and Mariette know what they want, and Gaston knows that he has it. His own feelings for them are masked beneath an impenetrable veneer of sophisticated banter.

    Herbert Marshall takes ordinary scenes and fills them with tension because of the way he seems to withhold himself from the obvious emotional scripting. He was 42 when he made the film, handsome in a subdued rather than an absurd way, every dark hair slicked close to his scalp, with a slight stoop to his shoulders that makes him seem to be leaning slightly toward his women, or bowing. His walk is deliberate and noticeably smooth; he lost a leg in World War I, had a wooden one fitted, and practiced so well at concealing his limp that he seems to float through a room.

Written by swanksalot

December 1st, 2009 at 1:00 pm

Reading Around on November 22nd

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Some additional reading November 22nd from 19:57 to 20:01:


  • “The Friends of Eddie Coyle” (Peter Yates)

  • The Friends of Eddie Coyle:They Were Expendable – From the Current – Politeness and bonhomie are strictly provisional, and everybody knows it, which is what gives this film its terrible sadness. In the miserable economy of power in Boston’s rumpled gray underworld, Eddie and his “friends” are all expendable, and the ones left standing play every side against the middle, their white-knuckle terror carefully concealed under several layers of nonchalance and resignation. There’s not a punch thrown, and only two fatal shots are fired, but this seemingly artless film leaves a deeper impression of dog-eat-dog brutality than many of the blood-soaked extravaganzas that preceded it and came in its wake.

    The Friends of Eddie Coyle is, in many ways, an inside job. Meaning that there’s not a minute spent orienting the view

  • Movie Review – The Friends of Eddie Coyle – ‘ The Friends of Eddie Coyle’ Is a Good Tough Movie – NYTimes.com – Eddie is not very imaginative, and he’s not a tragic hero, but as played by Mitchum he has wit and a certain dignity. In the end, even the dignity is taken away from him.

    “The Friends of Eddie Coyle” is so beautifully acted and so well set (in and around Boston’s pool halls, parking lots, side-streets, house trailers and barrooms) that it reminds me a good deal of John Huston’s “Fat City.” It also has that film’s ear for the way people talk—for sentences that begin one way and end another, or are stuffed with excess pronouns. “What you don’t know, it don’t bother you,” a friend might say to Eddie

  • The Friends of Eddie Coyle :: rogerebert.com :: Reviews – The movie is as simple as that. It’s not a high-strung gangster film, it doesn’t have a lot of overt excitement in it, and it doesn’t go in for much violence. He gives us a man, invites our sympathy for him, and then watches almost sadly as his time runs out. And “The Friends of Eddie Coyle” works so well because Eddie is played by Robert Mitchum, and Mitchum has perhaps never been better.He has always been one of our best screen actors: sardonic, masculine, quick-witted, but slow to reveal himself.

Written by swanksalot

November 22nd, 2009 at 9:01 pm

Posted in Film,Links

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Reading Around on November 15th through November 18th

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A few interesting links collected November 15th through November 18th:

  • Apocalypse Now /Redux :: rogerebert.com :: Reviews – In a note released with the film, Coppola emphasizes that this new material was not simply shoehorned into the original version of the film, but that “Redux” is “a new rendition of the movie from scratch.” He and his longtime editor Walter Murch “re-edited the film from the original unedited raw footage — the dailies,” he says, and so possibly even some of the shots that look familiar to us are different takes than the ones we saw before.
  • Smithsonian: Making Sense of Sustainable Seafood | Food & Think – Chilean seabass from Whole Foods, courtesy Flickr user swanksalot
  • Patagonia Toothfish

  • I’m Belle de Jour – Times Online – Revealed: the woman behind the Belle de Jour blog

    She’s real, all right, and I’m sitting on the bed next to her. Her name is Dr Brooke Magnanti. Her specialist areas are developmental neurotoxicology and cancer epidemiology. She has a PhD in informatics, epidemiology and forensic science and is now working at the Bristol Initiative for Research of Child Health. She is part of a team researching the effects of exposure to the pesticide chlorpyrifos on foetuses and infants.

    From 2003 to late 2004, Brooke worked as a prostitute via a London escort agency; she started blogging as Belle de Jour — after the Buñuel film starring Catherine Deneuve as a well-to-do housewife who has sex for money because she’s bored — shortly into her career as a call girl, after an incident she thought funny enough to write down.

Written by swanksalot

November 18th, 2009 at 7:00 am

Alfred Hitchcock – The Masterpiece Collection

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“Alfred Hitchcock – The Masterpiece Collection” (Alfred Hitchcock)

Hmm, Amazon.com is currently selling this boxed set of 14 Alfred Hitchcock films for $54, or $3.85 a disc. Not all of the included films are masterpieces, but there are several which are good enough movies for multiple viewings. Seems like a pretty good deal, actually.

With 14 films, each supplemented with numerous documentaries, commentaries, and other bonus materials, Alfred Hitchcock – The Masterpiece Collection will be the cornerstone for any serious DVD library. Packaged in a beautiful, conversation-starting velvet box, the individual discs inside come four to a case, decorated with original poster art.

No doubt opinionated fans will argue about what should fall under the rubric of “masterpiece” in Hitchcock’s body of work, but with the bona fide classics Vertigo, Psycho, and The Man Who Knew Too Much, there’s plenty of timeless movie magic here. Eye-popping transfers and gorgeous sound make this set one of the must-have releases of the year.

Should the Hitchcock fan have the energy for more after imbibing on the movies themselves, a bonus disc provides additional documentaries. These include a revealing interview in which the master of suspense discusses, among other things, how much he dislikes working with method actors, going so far as to name names (we’re talking about you, Jimmy Stewart and Montgomery Clift). In an American Film Institute lifetime achievement ceremony, the master of suspense is praised by the likes of Stewart and Ingrid Bergman, and seems to be suffering from severe boredom as celebrities pile on the flattery. Then Hitchcock opens his mouth to accept the award, delivering an endlessly witty stream of perfect bon mots that prove once again that he was a master of high comedy as well. Revealing documentaries about the making of Psycho and The Birds round out the feast of extras. The 36-page booklet, filled mostly with stills and poster art, provides little new information about the films

These are the included films

Saboteur
Robert Cummings stars as Barry Kane, a patriotic munitions worker who is falsely accused of sabotage, in this wartime thriller from Alfred Hitchcock. Plastered across the front page of every newspaper and hated by the nation, Kane’s only hope of clearing his name is to find the real villain. The script as a whole is a clever one–Algonquin wit Dorothy Parker shares a screenwriting credit, and her trademark zingers make for a terrific mix of humor and suspense. Saboteur is a pleasure whether you’re a die-hard Hitchcock fan or just someone who likes a good nail-biter. –Ali Davis

Shadow of a Doubt
Alfred Hitchcock considered this 1943 thriller to be his personal favorite among his own films, and although it’s not as popular as some of Hitchcock’s later work, it’s certainly worthy of the master’s admiration. Scripted by playwright Thornton Wilder and inspired by the actual case of a 1920’s serial killer known as “The Merry Widow Murderer,” the movie sets a tone of menace and fear by introducing a psychotic killer into the small-town comforts of Santa Rosa, California. Through narrow escapes and a climactic scene aboard a speeding train, this witty thriller strips away the façade of small-town tranquility to reveal evil where it’s least expected. And, of course, it’s all done in pure Hitchcockian style. –Jeff Shannon

Rope
An experimental film masquerading as a standard Hollywood thriller, Rope is simple and based on a successful stage play: two young men (John Dall and Farley Granger) commit murder, more or less as an intellectual exercise. They hide the body in their large apartment, then throw a dinner party. Will the body be discovered? Director Alfred Hitchcock, fascinated by the possibilities of the long-take style, decided to shoot this story as though it were happening in one long, uninterrupted shot. Since the camera can only hold one 10-minute reel at a time, Hitchcock had to be creative when it came time to change reels, disguising the switches as the camera passed behind someone’s back or moved behind a lamp. James Stewart, as a suspicious professor, marks his first starring role for Hitchcock, a collaboration that would lead to the masterpieces Rear Window and Vertigo. –Robert Horton

Rear Window
Like the Greenwich Village courtyard view from its titular portal, Alfred Hitchcock’s classic Rear Window is both confined and multileveled: both its story and visual perspective are dictated by its protagonist’s imprisonment in his apartment, convalescing in a wheelchair, from which both he and the audience observe the lives of his neighbors. Cheerful voyeurism, as well as the behavior glimpsed among the various tenants, affords a droll comic atmosphere that gradually darkens when he sees clues to what may be a murder. At deeper levels, Rear Window plumbs issues of moral responsibility and emotional honesty, while offering further proof (were any needed) of the director’s brilliance as a visual storyteller. –Sam Sutherland

The Trouble with Harry
A busman’s holiday for Alfred Hitchcock, this 1955 black comedy concerns a pesky corpse that becomes a problem for a quiet, Vermont neighborhood. Shirley MacLaine makes her film debut as one of several characters who keep burying the body and finding it unburied again. Hitchcock clearly enjoys conjuring the autumnal look and feel of the story, and he establishes an important, first-time alliance with composer Bernard Herrmann, whose music proved vital to the director’s next half-dozen or so films. But for now, The Trouble with Harry is a lark, the mischievous side of Hitchcock given free reign. –Tom Keogh

The Man Who Knew Too Much
Alfred Hitchcock’s 1956 remake of his own 1934 spy thriller is an exciting event in its own right, with several justifiably famous sequences. James Stewart and Doris Day play American tourists who discover more than they wanted to know about an assassination plot. When their son is kidnapped to keep them quiet, they are caught between concern for him and the terrible secret they hold. When asked about the difference between this version of the story and the one he made 22 years earlier, Hitchcock always said the first was the work of a talented amateur while the second was the act of a seasoned professional. Indeed, several extraordinary moments in this update represent consummate filmmaking, particularly a relentlessly exciting Albert Hall scene, with a blaring symphony, an assassin’s gun, and Doris Day’s scream. The Man Who Knew Too Muchis the work of a master in his prime. –Tom Keogh

Vertigo
Although it wasn’t a box-office success when originally released in 1958, Vertigo has since taken its deserved place as Alfred Hitchcock’s greatest, most spellbinding, most deeply personal achievement. James Stewart plays a retired police detective who is hired by an old friend to follow his wife (a superb Kim Novak, in what becomes a double role), whom he suspects of being possessed by the spirit of a dead madwoman. Shot around San Francisco (the Golden Gate Bridge and the Palace of the Legion of Honor are significant locations) and elsewhere in Northern California (the redwoods, Mission San Juan Batista) in rapturous Technicolor, Vertigo is as lovely as it is haunting. –Jim Emerson

Psycho
For all the slasher pictures that have ripped off Psycho (and particularly its classic set piece, the “shower scene”), nothing has ever matched the impact of the real thing. More than just a first-rate shocker full of thrills and suspense, Psycho is also an engrossing character study in which director Alfred Hitchcock skillfully seduces you into identifying with the main characters–then pulls the rug (or the bathmat) out from under you. Anthony Perkins is unforgettable as Norman Bates, the mama’s boy proprietor of the Bates Motel; and so is Janet Leigh as Marion Crane, who makes an impulsive decision and becomes a fugitive from the law, hiding out at Norman’s roadside inn for one fateful night. –Jim Emerson

The Birds
Vacationing in northern California, Alfred Hitchcock was struck by a story in a Santa Cruz newspaper: “Seabird Invasion Hits Coastal Homes.” From this peculiar incident, and his memory of a short story by Daphne du Maurier, the master of suspense created one of his strangest and most terrifying films. The Birds follows a chic blonde, Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren), as she travels to the coastal town of Bodega Bay to hook up with a rugged fellow (Rod Taylor) she’s only just met. Before long the town is attacked by marauding birds, and Hitchcock’s skill at staging action is brought to the fore. Beyond the superb effects, however, The Birds is also one of Hitchcock’s most psychologically complicated scenarios, a tense study of violence, loneliness, and complacency. What really gets under your skin are not the bird skirmishes but the anxiety and the eerie quiet between attacks. Treated with scant attention by serious critics in 1963, The Birds has grown into a classic and–despite the sci-fi trappings–one of Hitchcock’s most serious films. –Robert Horton

Marnie
Sean Connery, fresh from the second Bond picture, From Russia with Love, is a Philadelphia playboy who begins to fall for Tippi Hedren’s blonde ice goddess only when he realizes that she’s a professional thief; she’s come to work in his upper-crust insurance office in order to embezzle mass quantities. His patient program of investigation and surveillance has a creepy, voyeuristic quality that’s pure Hitchcock, but all’s lost when it emerges that the root of Marnie’s problem is phobic sexual frigidity, induced by a childhood trauma. Luckily, Sean is up to the challenge. As it were. Not even D.H. Lawrence believed as fervently as Hitchcock in the curative properties of sexual release. –David Chute

Torn Curtain
Paul Newman and Julie Andrews star in what must unfortunately be called one of Alfred Hitchcock’s lesser efforts. Still, sub-par Hitchcock is better than a lot of what’s out there, and this one is well worth a look. Newman plays cold war physicist Michael Armstrong, while Andrews plays his lovely assistant-and-fiancée, Sarah Sherman. Armstrong has been working on a missile defense system that will “make nuclear defense obsolete,” and naturally both sides are very interested. All Sarah cares about is the fact that Michael has been acting awfully fishy lately. The suspense of Torn Curtain is by nature not as thrilling as that in the average Hitchcock film–much of it involves sitting still and wondering if the bad guys are getting closer. Still, Hitchcock manages to amuse himself: there is some beautifully clever camera work and an excruciating sequence that illustrates the frequent Hitchcock point that death is not a tidy business. –Ali Davis

Topaz
Alfred Hitchcock hadn’t made a spy thriller since the 1930s, so his 1969 adaptation of Leon Uris’s bestseller seemed like a curious choice for the director. But Hitchcock makes Uris’s story of the West’s investigation into the Soviet Union’s dealings with Cuba his own. Frederick Stafford plays a French intelligence agent who works with his American counterpart (John Forsythe) to break up a Soviet spy ring. The film is a bit flat dramatically and visually, and there are sequences that seem to occupy Hitchcock’s attention more than others. A minor work all around, with at least two alternative endings shot by Hitchcock. –Tom Keogh

Frenzy
Alfred Hitchcock’s penultimate film, written by Anthony Shaffer (who also wrote Sleuth), this delightfully grisly little tale features an all-British cast minus star wattage, which may have accounted for its relatively slim showing in the States. Jon Finch plays a down-on-his-luck Londoner who is offered some help by an old pal (Barry Foster). In fact, Foster is a serial killer the police have been chasing–and he’s framing Finch. Which leads to a classic Hitchcock situation: a guiltless man is forced to prove his innocence while eluding Scotland Yard at the same time. Spiked with Hitchcock’s trademark dark humor, Frenzy also features a very funny subplot about the Scotland Yard investigator (Alec McCowen) in charge of the case, who must endure meals by a wife (Vivien Merchant) who is taking a gourmet-cooking class. –Marshall Fine

Family Plot
Alfred Hitchcock’s final film is understated comic fun that mixes suspense with deft humor, thanks to a solid cast. The plot centers on the kidnapping of an heir and a diamond theft by a pair of bad guys led by Karen Black and William Devane. The cops seem befuddled, but that doesn’t stop a questionable psychic (Barbara Harris) and her not overly bright boyfriend (Bruce Dern, in a rare good-guy role) from picking up the trail and actually solving the crime. Did she do it with actual psychic powers? That’s part of the fun of Harris’s enjoyably ditsy performance.

[Click to continue reading Amazon.com: Alfred Hitchcock – The Masterpiece Collection: James Stewart, Kim Novak, Karen Black, Bruce Dern, Barbara Harris, William Devane, Grace Kelly, John Forsythe, Shirley MacLaine, Edmund Gwenn, Teresa Wright, Joseph Cotten, Alfred Hitchcock, Alec Coppel, Alma Reville, Anthony Shaffer, Arthur La Bern, Arthur Laurents, Ben Hecht: Movies & TV]

A good edition to any film-lovers library, in other words, with a few throw-aways included.

Written by Seth Anderson

October 28th, 2009 at 10:56 am

Posted in Film,Suggestions

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Reading Around on October 6th through October 13th

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A few interesting links collected October 6th through October 13th:

  • Army of Shadows :: rogerebert.com :: Great Movies – “The members of this group move between safe houses, often in the countryside. When they determine they have a traitor among them, they take him to a rented house, only to learn that new neighbors have moved in. They would hear a gunshot. A knife? There is no knife. “There is a towel in the kitchen,” Gerbier says. We see the man strangled, and rarely has an onscreen death seemed more straightforward, and final.”
  • 1000 Constellations » Blog Archive » Together In Transit – I realized yesterday While riding on a train Crammed full of people That we never really get Second chances. What we truly get Are first chances Over and over Again.
  • The Footnotes of Mad Men. Betty’s Euro Look was based on Brigette Bardot – RESOLVED: Betty’s Euro look was based on Brigette Bardot: the 26 year old ‘sex siren’ of France. Here’s my favorite work from the Bardot cannon. The movie — by Godard, set in Italy, released in 1963 — is not only super slick but it also spawned, I believe, the greatest trailer of all time. I’ve been aching to link to this.

Written by swanksalot

October 13th, 2009 at 9:00 pm

Posted in Film,Links

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Reading Around on September 29th

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Some additional reading September 29th from 11:32 to 20:54:

Written by swanksalot

September 29th, 2009 at 9:03 pm

Werner Herzog Interviewed by Rocco Castoro

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“Conquest of the Useless: Reflections from the Making of Fitzcarraldo” (Werner Herzog)


“Herzog on Herzog” (Werner Herzog)

As always, Werner Herzog has interesting things to say. And this makes me laugh, since whenever I watch a Herzog film1 I turn on the Director’s Commentary. Sometimes, if the film is a little slow, the commentary is much more enjoyable, and his accent is fun to emulate.

RC: In Grizzly Man, like most of your documentary films, you provide the narration.

I grew into this somehow. In the old days I had the feeling that, yes, I should do it, because I wouldn’t know of anyone who would be as credible as my own voice.

RC: It does seem like the best person to narrate a documentary would be its maker.
It’s a question of credibility, and I don’t care how bad my German accent is. I make myself understood anyway.

[Click to continue reading WERNER HERZOG – Vice Magazine]

Indeed you do, Mr. Herzog, indeed you do.

Also, he is allegedly starting his own film school.

I will be starting my film school very soon, and I will make a point about a sense of literature for young people who want to step into filmmaking. One of the prerequisites will be that those who apply have to read this, this, and this.

RC: It’s amazing that you’re starting a film school. Can you give me a sampling of what will be on your syllabus?
For example, Virgil’s Georgics. They don’t have to read it in Latin, but there are some good translations around.

Oh, and of course, Bad Lieutenant: New Orleans Port of Call

There’s been quite a bit of controversy around that film and no one’s even seen it yet. Abel Ferrara, the director of the original Bad Lieutenant, was outraged that you were doing what he considered to be a remake. But you steadfastly deny that it’s a remake and claim to have never even seen the original.
I don’t need to see the film that was made sometime in the 90s. Mine has a completely different story and a completely different setup. Basically what happened is that one of the people who had produced the first Bad Lieutenant held rights to the title, and they were hoping to establish some sort of a franchise. I don’t mind, I can live with the title, but I always felt it had to be something else. I tried to call it Port of Call New Orleans, but I couldn’t prevail. So now it’s Bad Lieutenant and then it has the subtitle of Port of Call New Orleans.

Footnotes:
  1. I’ve seen about a third of his films, but will eventually see most []

Written by Seth Anderson

September 18th, 2009 at 6:36 pm

Posted in Film,Suggestions

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Reading Around on August 14th through August 15th

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A few interesting links collected August 14th through August 15th:

The El Capitan stopping at the train station in Chicago 1939.jpg

  • Atm Skimmers: ATM Skimmer Ring Hits Chicago Suburbs – Reader Kellie reports being the victim of an ATM skimming scam in the Chicago area. Mostly, she was amazed that the thefts weren’t reported in the local media, and she asked bank employees why. Here’s what they told her
  • PRESS NOTES: GODARD X 2 (OR 3) – From the Current – Two of Godard’s most breathlessly awaited sixties classics—Made in U.S.A and 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her—are now available on Criterion DVD, and for the New York Press’s Armond White, it’s not a moment too soon. “They provide a refresher course in movie aesthetics: something desperately needed this summer,” writes White. “Both these widescreen spectacles can help remind moviegoers how important it is to appreciate movies as a visual art form that represents the world and the imagination with creativity and integrity.” In Black Book, Edmund Mullins also can’t quite contain his excitement: “If you don’t think this is cause for celebration, you haven’t seen the films… [T]hey collectively represent one of the more thrilling moments in Godard’s constantly evolving canon.”

    Michael Atkinson singles out Made in U.S.A in a review for IFC.com, calling the film “one of the fifteen essential rockets Godard launched that made the decade his and his alone.”


  • “2 or 3 Things I Know About Her (Criterion Collection)” (Jean-Luc Godard)


    “Made in U.S.A. (Criterion Collection)” (Jean-Luc Godard)

  • Chaihanna | Suburbs Northwest | Polish/Russian/Eastern European | Chicago Reader – Chaihanna, often spelled choyhona, means “teahouse,” and in Uzbekistan the teahouse is the center of social interaction…

    Along with the majority Uzbeks, minority Russians, Tajiks, Kazakhs, and Tatars have overshadowed smaller but significant groups of Bukharan Jews (who emigrated en masse after the fall of the USSR) and even Koreans who were forcibly settled there by Stalin in the 30s. . The cabbage, carrots, and tomatoes aren’t predominantly spiced by chiles, though they’re heavily impregnated with other flavors–cumin, clove, garlic, dill

Written by swanksalot

August 15th, 2009 at 10:00 pm

Posted in Film,Links

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Reading Around on August 1st through August 3rd

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A few interesting links collected August 1st through August 3rd:

  • The Unofficial Thomas Pynchon Guide to Los Angeles – Little known fact: Thomas Pynchon, the paranoid poet of the information age, is LA’s greatest writer. To be sure, Los Angeles—whose aerial view he likened to a printed circuit board—has always been central to the elusive writer’s weird weltanschauung, his hallucinogenic stir-fry of Cold War hysteria, high tech anxiety, and low-brow pop-culture references. But did you know he actually lived there in the ’60s and early ’70s, while writing Gravity’s Rainbow, the Moby-Dick of rocket-science novels? His latest effort, Inherent Vice, is an homage to those bygone days, plus something no one expected from the notoriously private author: a semiautobiographical romp. Set in the twilight of the psychedelic ’60s, Inherent Vice is stoner noir, a comic murder mystery starring a detective who—like stories of Pynchon himself—smokes bales of weed, obsesses over unseen conspiracies, and relishes bad TV. And if you map the novel against Pynchon’s life in LA, it really does tie the whole room together.
  • Las Vegas 1953.jpg
  • Roger Ebert’s Journal: Archives The Greatest Movies Ever Made – But to quibble with specific titles, as I said, is a waste of time. We look at these lists for what we find on them, not what we don’t find. That’s why my Great Movies have never been a ranking, but a Collection, assembled in no particular order.

    Any list of great films helps breaks the hammer-lock of box office performance that grips too many American moviegoers. I can’t tell you how many people responded to my attack on “Transformers” by telling me how much money the movie was grossing, as if that had the slightest relevance. A great movie acts like a window in our box of space and time, opening us to other times and other lands. The more windows we open, the better.

    leary_psychedelic_0430.jpg

  • If Charlie Parker Was a Gunslinger,There’d Be a Whole Lot of Dead Copycats: Seminal Image Friday #1:Frames Within the Frame (Part One) – some great images here. Cinematography is an art form worth celebrating

Written by swanksalot

August 3rd, 2009 at 7:00 pm

Posted in Film,Links

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Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid

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“Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid” (Bob Dylan)


“Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (Two-Disc Special Edition)” (Sam Peckinpah)

Finally got a chance to see this film a year or so ago. Watchable, not spectacular. The story behind the movie sounds more interesting. [Netflix / Wikipedia / IMDb

When Bob Dylan learned that Rudy Wurlitzer was penning a script focusing on the Bonney-Garrett legend, he tracked the writer down and requested a meeting.

“The script was already written when Bob came to see me in my apartment on the Lower East Side of New York,” Wurlitzer recalled earlier this month from his getaway home, a cabin in his beloved Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. “He said that he had always related to Billy the Kid as if he was some kind of reincarnation; it was clear that he was obsessed with the Billy the Kid myth,” a notion that was validated 34 years later in Todd Haynes’ multi-persona Dylan movie biography I’m Not There (2007). In the film Richard Gere assumes the Dylan shape-shifting persona of Billy, a bespectacled, enigmatic outlaw.

Initially, Wurlitzer suspected that the elusive singer wanted to contribute an original tune to the score of the film but Dylan had other plans – he wanted to be in the movie, despite having no acting experience whatsoever.

Wurlitzer continues: “I called the producer (Gordon Carroll) who was thrilled that Bob wanted to be in the movie and then I wrote the part for Bob off the cuff in New York. We flew down to Durango, Mexico, to see Peckinpah – who had no idea what was up – and we found him in his house, drunk and half-naked, shooting at an image of himself in the mirror. When I told him I had written a part for Bob Dylan and ‘here he is’, Peckinpah turned and after a long pause, said to Bob, ‘I’m a big Roger Miller fan myself’.”

From that moment on, the author remembers, “Dylan followed Sam around like he was one of the last real outlaws, which, who knows, he probably was, at least in my partial experience.”

[Click to continue reading Rudy Wurlitzer, Bob Dylan, Bloody Sam, and the Jornado del Muerto < Columns | PopMatters]

Making the film was a long, drawn out process:

In a 1982 feature for Rocky Mountain Magazine titled Last of the Desperadoes: Dueling with Sam Peckinpah, journalist and Elle magazine advice columnist (Ask E. Jean) E. Jean Carroll summed up the experience in a colorful and breathless single adrenaline-rushed paragraph that reads like a passage from a later Peckinpah film, Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia:
Peckinpah wants to shoot in New Mexico for authenticity. Metro wants Mexico to cut costs. He loses. Peckinpah wants a Panavision repairman in Durango, Mexico, to fix the cameras. The studio says nothing doing. The first footage is sent to L.A. to be processed. The lab calls Peckinpah. Says the film’s out of focus. Panic in Durango.

Downtime. The camera is fixed and the paranoia sets in. The actors get sick. The crew gets sick. Peckinpah is puking every day. They fall behind schedule. James Aubrey, president of MGM, wants to save time and forbids Peckinpah to shoot a raft scene. Peckinpah shoots it. The scenarist, Rudy Wurlitzer, starts complaining. Says Peckinpah is rewriting the picture with the help of his old TV scripts. Jerry Fielding, Peckinpah’s music composer can’t work with Bob Dylan and quits.

Dylan’s unhappy. Kris Kristofferson (the Kid) says Rudy’s dialogue is corny. Rita Coolidge (Maria, the Kid’s lover) says all that remains of her role thanks to MGM is that of “a groupie.” James Coburn (Garrett) says Peckinpah is a creative paranoid who generates tension to give everyone the same experience to feed on during the film. A fight breaks out one Saturday night.

Two guys. One is on the phone ordering a couple of gunmen to Durango. Wants the other guy killed for threatening Peckinpah’s life. Whitey Hughes, Peckinpah’s stunt man, says they always have a good time, but on this film they aren’t having a good time. The hit is canceled at Peckinpah’s insistence. Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid is brought in 20 days over schedule and $1.5 million over budget.

MGM’s building a hotel in Vegas and needs cash. The studio moves the release date up and gives Peckinpah only two and a half months to edit. On the sly MGM duplicates the work print and employs another cutter. Peckinpah’s version runs between 122 and 126 minutes. The studio’s runs 106. The producer, Gordon Carroll, negotiates day and night. Gets nothing restored. The picture’s released. Peckinpah sues for $1.5 million. Orders all the cuts put back or his name taken off. Nada. Nada. Nada.

[Click to continue reading Rudy Wurlitzer, Bob Dylan, Bloody Sam, and the Jornado del Muerto < Columns | PopMatters]

And of course, the Bob Dylan song, Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door becomes a big hit, and is oft covered by others, including Dylan1. Now that I think about it, I saw the original studio version of Pat Garrett, not the so-called Special Edition. Maybe I’ll watch it again, sometime.

The soundtrack was also haphazardly recorded:

As Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid neared completion, Dylan held a recording session on January 20 at Columbia’s recording studio in Mexico City. Filming had been so difficult, both of the film’s stars and Wurlitzer accompanied Dylan out of Durango. Wurlitzer said at the time, “Sam knows he’s losing to Dylan…but I don’t care, man. I’ve got to get away.”

Backed by local Mexican musicians and members of Kris Kristofferson’s band, Dylan had difficulty recording a satisfactory take of “Billy.” Eventually, he began paring down the arrangement, and by the last take, he was backed only by bassist Terry Paul. This final take was used for the film and later included on the soundtrack album as “Billy 4.” A brief instrumental, “Billy Surrenders,” would also be featured in the film. The session would continue until 4 a.m., but it would not produce anything else that would be considered usable.

Meanwhile, Peckinpah hired Jerry Fielding to advise Dylan on his work. Fielding was experienced in film scoring, but he held very conservative views regarding popular music. Dylan was fully aware of Fielding’s opinions regarding his work (“a lot of nonsense which is strictly for teenyboppers”), but he did not resist Fielding’s recommendations on how to score the film.

On Fielding’s advice, Dylan sang “a relevant verse” of the “Billy” ballad “as it fit the story at [four] separate points throughout the picture.” Fielding had also heard Dylan’s new composition, “Goodbye Holly,” which was written for an important scene involving the character, Holly. Fielding recommended dropping this song and writing a new one for a scene involving the death of Sheriff Baker.

“I set up two dubbing sessions,” recalls Fielding. “Dylan had this song [‘Billy’] he’d written for which he had a limitless number of verses that he would sing in random order…So I had to tape Dylan’s song, because he had nothing written down, and have it transcribed…At the same time I asked that he write at least one other piece of music because you cannot possibly hope to deal with an entire picture on the basis of that one ballad. So finally he brought to the dubbing session another piece of music – ‘Knock-Knock-Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.’ Everybody loved it. It was shit. That was the end for me.”

Dylan recorded the final version of “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” at a session in February, this time on Warner Bros. Records’ soundstage in Burbank, California. “It was very early in the morning,” recalls drummer Jim Keltner. “I think the session was 10 a.m. and again it all fell into place…There weren’t any overdubs on that, the singers were singing live, little pump organ, Roger McGuinn I think played [guitar]. This was for a particular scene in the movie when Slim Pickens is dying and that’s the first time I ever cried while I played. It was the combination of the words, Bob’s voice, the actual music itself, the changes, and seeing the screen…In those days you were on a big soundstage, and you had this massive screen that you can see on the wall, [with] the scene…running when you’re playing. I cried through that whole take.”

The sessions at Burbank lasted several days. Though they were much more relaxed and amiable than the Mexico City session, the process was still irritating to Dylan. At one point, he told producer Gordon Carroll that “this is the last time I work for anyone in a movie on the music. I’ll stick to acting.” Though Dylan would produce his own films and later contribute songs to other soundtracks, he would never take sole responsibility for an entire soundtrack again.[Click to continue reading Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid (album) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia]

Though of course, Dylan won an Oscar decades later for Things Have Changed. [YouTube of his acceptance speech]

Footnotes:
  1. when Dylan sings out of his vast songbook, he usually “covers” himself, i.e., makes new interpretations of the original song. Sometimes similar, more often radically different []

Written by Seth Anderson

July 31st, 2009 at 7:56 am

My Dinner With Andre

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“My Dinner with Andre (Criterion Collection)” (Louis Malle)

Saw this last week for the first time in ages, what a great film. It had been unavailable for quite some time before the Criterion Collection geniuses put out a new 2 disc edition

Wally and I would get quite upset because wherever we went people were saying, “It’s one of my favorite movies.” It’s one of Barack Obama’s favorite movies. He says he’s seen it eight times. So there was something very sad about the fact that it had disappeared.

[From ‘Andre’ inspires talk almost 3 decades later]

On the surface, sounds like a boring film, two guys yammering at dinner, but it isn’t.

Roger Ebert added it to his Great Films collection:

Someone asked me the other day if I could name a movie that was entirely devoid of cliches. I thought for a moment, and then answered, “My Dinner With Andre.” Now I have seen the movie again; a restored print is going into release around the country, and I am impressed once more by how wonderfully odd this movie is, how there is nothing else like it. It should be unwatchable, and yet those who love it return time and again, enchanted.

The title serves as a synopsis. We meet the playwright Wallace Shawn, on his way to have dinner with “a man I’d been avoiding, literally, for a matter of years.” The man is Andre Gregory, a well-known New York theater director. Gregory had dropped out of sight, Shawn tells us, and there were reports that he was “traveling.” Then one evening recently, a friend had come across him in Manhattan, leaning against a building and weeping. Gregory had just come from an Ingmar Bergman movie, and was shattered by this dialogue: “I could always live in my art, but not in my life

Like many great movies, “My Dinner With Andre” is almost impossible to nail down. “Two men talk and eat (in real time) at a fancy New York restaurant,” writes CineBooks. Wrong, and wrong. Not in real time but filmed with exquisite attention to the smallest details by director Louis Malle over a period of weeks. And not in a New York restaurant but on a studio set. The conversation that flows so spontaneously between Andre Gregory and Wallace Shawn was carefully scripted. “They taped their conversations two or three times a week for three months,” Pauline Kael writes, “and then Shawn worked for a year shaping the material into a script, in which they play comic distillations of aspects of themselves.”

Comic? Yes. Although the conversation is often despairing (Gregory speculates that the 1960s were “the last burst of the human being before he was extinguished”), the material is given a slight sly rotation toward the satirical. There is a lot to think about in the torrent of ideas, but also a saving humor. Gregory plays a man besotted by the ideas of the new age; he almost glows when he tells Shawn about an agricultural commune in Britain where instead of using insecticides, “they will talk to the insects, make an agreement, set aside one vegetable patch just for the insects.”

[Click to continue reading My Dinner With Andre :: rogerebert.com :: Great Movies]

Luckily, you can rent the film from Netflix, or purchase your own copy. It is one of those films that rewards multiple viewings, so owning your own version is not a bad idea.

At The Criterion Collection’s website, Amy Taubin writes, in part:

The idea for My Dinner with André originated with Shawn. For several weeks, he and Gregory recorded their conversations about the strange extended episode in the latter’s life when he went in search of the miraculous. The script made its way to Malle, whose enthusiasm for the project might have had to do with the challenge of making two men talking over dinner into a compelling cinematic experience. That is to say, it was a perfect fit for a seriously eclectic career. As much as Steven Soderbergh today, Malle seemed determined to try something new with every film.

He had made his mark, as part of the French New Wave, with an anxiety-ridden, noirish quartet of character studies—Elevator to the Gallows (1957), with its smoldering Miles Davis score; The Lovers (1958), which established Jeanne Moreau’s reputation as the thinking person’s sex symbol; the borderline nihilistic The Fire Within (1963); and Le voleur (1967), starring Jean-Paul Belmondo in what could be viewed as a rejoinder to Godard’s Breathless. He punctuated these walks on the dark side with the dazzling proto-pop-art ode to the city of Paris Zazie dans le metro (1960) and the somewhat less successful romp Viva Maria! (1965), which teamed Moreau and Brigitte Bardot. Despite his great talent for directing actors, Malle then undertook, as his filmmaking second act, a series of documentaries, notably the epic Phantom India (1969) and its devastating spin-off, Calcutta (1969). Malle’s third act took place largely in the United States, where he tried his hand at studio movies. In the strongest of them, Atlantic City (1980), Susan Sarandon and Burt Lancaster give performances that are both emotionally true and larger-than-life. But the American films that embody Malle’s understated mastery of cinematic pace and rhythm and his skeptical humanism are his two collaborations with Gregory and Shawn, My Dinner with André and, thirteen years later and just a year before his death, Vanya on 42nd Street.

In addition to the challenge of making a film that was literally all talk and no action, Malle must have been excited by the mix of fact and fiction in My Dinner with André (that’s true of Vanya as well), and by André’s descriptions of his far-flung journeys, which echoed aspects of Malle’s own travels in India. And there is also the matter of the Holocaust, the nightmare that haunts André’s quest for enlightenment. Wally is clearly embarrassed by these references—perhaps he thinks André is being excessive or flip when he says that sometimes he feels he should be “caught and tried like Albert Speer,” or that he imagines an SS officer identifying with Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s The Little Prince, a book that has great significance for him. The references are so casual that you can’t quite believe you’ve heard them, but they gather as the film goes on to become a dark subtext and suggest something that André never articulates: that in his travels, he was fleeing the horror of the past as much as he was pursuing the pure light of cosmic consciousness. Shawn and Gregory come from families of Jewish descent. Malle does not, but his traumatic childhood in France under the occupation became the subject of two of his most painful and personal films, Lacombe, Lucien (1974) and Au revoir les enfants (1987).

[Click to continue reading My Dinner with André:Long, Strange Trips – From the Current]

Until I watched the new edition, I didn’t realize who Louis Malle was, even though I really enjoyed Elevator to the Gallows [also available via Netflix]. I just added a bunch more of his films to my over-stuffed queue.

Written by Seth Anderson

July 7th, 2009 at 9:54 am

Posted in Film,Suggestions

Tagged with , ,

Reading Around on June 29th through June 30th

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A few interesting links collected June 29th through June 30th:

  • Matt Taibbi – Taibblog – On giving Goldman a chance – True/Slant – I intentionally put a lot of yes/no questions on that list. If the underlying thinking behind any of those questions was faulty, it would have been easy enough for them to say so and to educate us as to the truth. Instead, here is the response that we got:

    “Your questions are couched in such a way that presupposes the conclusions and suggests the people you spoke with have an agenda or do not fully understand the issues.”
    …That this is a non-denial denial is obvious, but what’s more notable here is that they didn’t stop with just a flat “no comment,” which they easily could have done. No, they had to go a little further than that and — and this is pure Goldman, just outstanding stuff — make it clear that both I and my sources are simply not as smart as they are and don’t understand what we’re talking about. So the rough translation here is, “No comment, but if you were as smart as us, you wouldn’t be asking these questions.”

  • Dean W. Armstrong: The intersection of the online/sharing culture, copyright, and photography – The issues are completely muddy and complex–as a photographer, for instance, I feel I should be compensated for my work. Websites like say Chicagoist or Treehugger use flickr CC shared images to illustrate their stories. In the traditional media, the photographer would be compensated for their work, either by being employed or by a fee. This is not being done at all for most of the non-traditional sites on the internet. It is also a truth that these sites probably couldn't afford the going rate for photographs. Getting your image out for people to see for a photographer is a very important thing, but is it driving the image creation business out of a profession and into the hands of casual photographers? (The latin term amateur is perfect for here but misused–these photographers love what they do and are often just as good as a pro, but the amateurs are not paid).
  • My Dinner With Andre :: rogerebert.com :: Great Movies – Someone asked me the other day if I could name a movie that was entirely devoid of cliches. I thought for a moment, and then answered, “My Dinner With Andre.'' …impressed once more by how wonderfully odd this movie is, how there is nothing else like it. It should be unwatchable, and yet those who love it return time and again, enchanted.…
    We listen with Wally as Andre tells of trips to Tibet, the Sahara and a mystical farm in England. Of being buried alive and conducting theatrical rituals by moonlight in Poland. Of being in church when “a huge creature appeared with violets growing out of its eyelids, and poppies growing out of its toenails.'' After this last statement, Wally desperately tries to find a conversational segue and seizes on the violets. “Did you ever see that play `Violets Are Blue'?'' he asks. “About people being strangled on submarines?''

    Like many great movies, “My Dinner With Andre'' is almost impossible to nail down.

Written by swanksalot

June 30th, 2009 at 4:01 pm

Netflixed My Man Godfrey

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“My Man Godfrey – Criterion Collection” (Gregory La Cava)

William Powell cracks me up

A high-society scavenger hunt leads to levity when scatterbrained socialite Irene Bullock (Carole Lombard) stumbles upon an erudite vagabond named Godfrey (William Powell) living in the city dump and offers him a position as the Bullocks’ butler. As it happens, the seemingly bankrupt bum is, in fact, the heir of a well-to-do family. While Godfrey sets out to teach the pampered Bullocks a few lessons, Irene conspires to capture his heart. [From My Man Godfrey]

Netflix didn’t ship the Criterion Collection version because this print looks a little faded1, am still anticipating watching this film. I do wish that Netflix indicated whether a film was a Criterion version or not, makes such an enormous difference.

Director Gregory La Cava deftly balances satire, romance, and social comment in this 1936 classic, which echoes Frank Capra in its Depression-era subtext. The Bullocks are a well-heeled, harebrained Manhattan family genetically engineered for screwball collisions: father Alexander (Eugene Pallette, of the foghorn voice and thick-knit eyebrows) is the breadwinner at wit’s end, thanks to his spoiled daughters, the sultry Cornelia (Gail Patrick) and the sweet but scatterbrained Irene (a luminous Carole Lombard), his dizzy and doting wife, Angelica (Alice Brady), and her “protégé,” Italian freeloader Carlo (Mischa Auer). When Irene wins a society scavenger hunt (and atypically trumps her scheming sister) by producing a “lost man,” a seeming tramp named Godfrey (William Powell), all their lives are transformed. With the always suave, effortlessly funny Powell in the title role, this mystery man provides the film’s conscience and its model of decency; the giddy, passionate Lombard holds out its model for triumphant love. In a movie riddled with memorable comic highlights, the real miracle is the unapologetic romanticism that prevails.

Footnotes:
  1. I haven’t started watching, but popped the disk in to check if the scratches were too deep []

Written by Seth Anderson

June 4th, 2009 at 7:45 am

Reading Around on June 2nd

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Some additional reading June 2nd from 10:55 to 18:58:

  • Craigslist’s Forced Censorship of Erotic Ads Saves Journalism Industry | Threat Level | Wired.com – Craigslist’s new policy barring the publication of erotic ads has not only saved lives and stopped prostitution, it’s also saving the dying newspaper industry.

    After the site announced last month under pressure that it would no longer publish erotic ads, sales of erotic ads in local alternative weekly newspapers have soared, according to the Washington City Paper.

  • Good Luck With That – “There are commercial websites, not even bloggers, necessarily,” Bridis added, “that take some of our best AP stories, and rewrite them with a word or two here, and say ‘the Associated Press has reported, the AP said, the AP said.’ That’s not fair. We pay our reporters. We set up the bureaus that are very expensive to run, and, you know, if they want to report what the AP is reporting they either need to buy the service or they need to staff their own bureaus.”

    Bridis did acknowledge the importance of fair use. “Because we do it too, necessarily,” the AP news editor conceded. “If the New York Times has a story, we may take an element of it and attribute it to the Times and build a story around it.”

  • Marilyn Monroe – MARILYN: Never-Published Photos – LIFE – August 1950: A 24-year-old Marilyn, wearing a simple button-down shirt monogrammed with her initials, leans against a tree in Los Angeles’ Griffith Park for LIFE photographer Ed Clark. The negatives for these photos were recently discovered during our ongoing effort to digitize LIFE’s immense and storied photo archive, including outtakes and entire shoots that never saw the light of day. Click through to see more stunning shots of Marilyn, plus the reason why they may never have been published…

Written by swanksalot

June 2nd, 2009 at 7:00 pm