New Documentaries on Filmmakers

Two new documentaries about Hollywood craftsmen opened in Los Angeles this week: Something’s Gonna Live and Cameraman: The Life and Work of Jack Cardiff (already on DVD in the UK). Both focus on likeable professionals and are brimming with movie clips, making them compulsive viewing, but I ultimately found the former much more compelling than the latter.

In some ways, Something’s Gonna Live is an expansion of director Daniel Raim’s 2001 Oscar-nominated short, The Man on Lincoln’s Nose, which focused on production designer Robert Boyle (who died last month). Raim’s new feature expands his focus to include Boyle’s associates: …

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Upstream (1927)

Yesterday, I attended the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ preview of the world re-premiere of John Ford’s Upstream (1927), which screens for the public tonight. “Re-premiere” because the film was long believed to have been lost before it was rediscovered last year in the New Zealand Film Archive; the film is part of 75 American silent films that are currently being brought to the U.S. under the guidance of the National Film Preservation Foundation (NFPF).

In addition to the NFPF and the New Zealand Film Archive, the re-premiere is possible with the cooperation of the Academy Film Archive, …

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The Reel Thing XXV

I was invited to attend this past weekend’s 25th edition of “The Reel Thing,” the annual technical symposium for the Association of Moving Image Archivists (AMIA). The event offered an impressive line-up of some of the top film restorationists and preservationists working today, who presented their work and discussed problems and solutions they encountered. It provided a potent mix of film history, technology, and genuine concern for the past and future of the art form that was positively infectious.

One of the best aspects of the symposium was its cinematic egalitarianism, with attendees offering equally rapt attention to the finer …

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MUBI and Film Comment updates

For the past few weeks, I’ve been attending screenings and watching screeners from the Los Angeles Film Festival, and my summary of most of the eighteen films I’ve seen has been posted at MUBI today.

Also, the new issue of Film Comment is coming out, and it names me as two of the Top Film Criticism Sites on the web for Film Journey and Masters of Cinema, the latter less a news source now than a specialty DVD label, but in its unfunded, pre-Web 2.0 days, it was something I was proud to edit.

Paul Brunick’s article prefacing …

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Stranger on the Third Floor (1940)

LACMA is halfway through its series devoted to cinematographer Nicholas Musuraca, one of RKO’s prime cameramen in the 1940s and ’50s, and thus one of the key strategists behind the shadowy “noir” look in films such as Cat People (1942), The Seventh Victim (1943), Out of the Past (1947), and Clash by Night (1952). But for me, the big discovery has been Stranger on the Third Floor (1940), a movie that has managed to completely escape my notice over the years despite the fact that it’s sometimes credited as being the first American film noir.

I write “American,” because …

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Predicting Your Taste

One of the freelancing hats I wear these days is graphic design for the California Institute of Technology’s award-winning Engineering & Science magazine, and its latest issue contains a really fascinating article on the Netflix Prize contest (2006-’09) that awarded a million dollars to the person/team who best improved the company’s algorithm for predicting its user ratings.

I’m sure most readers here have received their fair share of movie predictions from any number of websites, ranging from the accurate to the absurd. A few months ago, actually sent me this email: “As someone who has purchased or rated The

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