Thursday, April 28, 2005

All About Region Codes

Recently, I received my first magazine writing assignment; my task being to write about an upcoming showcase of contemporary Mexican films at my local museum. In preparation for my article, I received dvd "screeners" of the films included in the showcase. Unfortunately, most of the dvds came from Mexico and were coded as "Region 4"--and unplayable on my dvd player.

I only knew the vagaries of region coding, basically, that dvds from other countries cannot play on my "Region 1" dvd player. After a quick search, I found this informative article that explains region coding and why the system is in place, as well as details who benefits (movie studios) and who gets screwed (consumers) by this arrangement. You can read the full article here.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Cannes Lineup

The New York Times > Movies > Critic's Notebook: Cannes Selection Full of Favorites

Today, the organizers of the Cannes International Film Festival announced the official lineup. The above article provides an overview of this year's competition along with the list of official selections. Cannes, one of the world's premier film festivals, will begin on May 11.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

The Hollywood Production Code: The Full Text

When I first wrote about the Hollywood Production Code last July, I lamented the fact that I could not find the full text of the document on the internet. Recently, and kind and anonymous reader sent a link to The Code from Wikipedia.org. You can read more about the draconian document along with its full text here.

One of my new year's resolutions was to make this blog more user friendly, and sadly I have not made much progress on that front. The reasons range from not being technically savvy to pure procrastination. While I struggle to work on this site, please know that if you have any questions, an e-mail address is in my profile (another area that needs a lot of work!).

Again, thanks to the reader who sent the link!

Sunday, April 10, 2005

The Golden Age of Hollywood Portraiture


Clark Gable and Joan Crawford Posted by Hello

On a recent trip to Austin, I stopped by the Harry Ransom Center on the University of Texas campus to see the exhibit SHOOTING STARS: THE GOLDEN AGE OF HOLLYWOOD PORTRAITURE, 1925-1950. It was a small jewel of an exhibit, featuring 80 black & white photographs of such legendary stars as Greta Garbo, Carole Lombard, Rudolph Valentino, and Cary Grant, among others.

In the exhibition overview, the curator notes, “Studios discovered the importance of amplifying a performer’s presence, popularity and money-earning potential by making them ‘stars’. The photograph was one of the main elements used in the image-generating process.” In the earliest days of Hollywood, stars such as Mary Pickford would use their own money and hire independent photographers to create images to distribute to fans and the media. As studios gained more power, they sought more control over the images of their stars. To this end, the studios hired their own, in-house photographers. These photographers, through the use of lighting, props, backgrounds, fashions—and yes, retouching—created “lush images of glamour”, iconic imagery of “the Hollywood star”. These manufactured images had a profound effect on the cult of celebrity, and many photographic motifs created by these studio workers are still employed today in the realms of celebrity and fashion photography. While many of the studio photographers toiled in anonymity, some did achieve acclaim for their work, such as George Hurrell and Clarence Sinclair Bull, both represented in the exhibition.

One of the interesting bits of information I learned from this exhibit pertains to the role of the HOLLYWOOD PRODUCTION CODE in the creation of the images. The Code, a censorial set of rules governing motion pictures (discussed at length in an earlier entry) also applied to still images and advertising. The most worrisome for movie censors was the “2-shot” photo. Since many of the films had a romantic plots, studios would often request images of both the leading man and lady together—or the “2-shot”. The Code spelled it out clearly: Salacious poses are not allowed. Photographers had to take into consideration how a man held a woman, making sure there was no appearance of impropriety. No cleavage or navels could be shown, and “excessive and lustful kissing, lustful embraces or suggestive postures and gestures” were strictly verboten. The image above of stars Clark Gable and Joan Crawford by George Hurrell, for the 1936 film LOVE ON THE RUN, was considered a safe image to release to the media.

To see more classic examples of celebrity portraiture from George Hurrell and his contemporaries, check out the site HurrellPhotos.com

Sunday, April 03, 2005

11 Rules for the Box Office, According to Preston Sturges

Preston Sturges (1898-1959) is one of the all-time great comedic filmmakers, with such classics as THE LADY EVE (1941), SULLIVAN'S TRAVELS (also 1941) and my personal favorite, THE PALM BEACH STORY (1942), to his credit. Before finding acclaim as a director, Sturges was a highly respected screenwriter. The Film Forum in New York City is presenting a showcase of Sturges' written works entitled THE EARLY STURGES: PRESTON STURGES SCREENPLAYS, 1930-39. This article thakes a look at these early films and provides an overview of Sturges' body of work.

Around 1941, when Sturges began directing hit films, he made this cheeky list of eleven "rules" for good box office:

1. A pretty girl is better than an ugly one.
2. A leg is better than an arm.
3. A bedroom is better than a living room.
4. An arrival is better than a departure.
5. A birth is better than a death.
6. A chase is better than a chat.
7. A dog is better than a landscape.
8. A kitten is better than a dog.
9. A baby is better than a kitten.
10. A kiss is better than a baby.
11. A pratfall is better than anything.