Category Archives: Film

A fascinating conversation with Oliver Stone


Few American filmmakers arouse more controversy than Oliver Stone, both from his eclectic choice of subject matter to the content of the films themselves.

In his 1986 film Salvador, he explores a repressive regime through the eyes of a U.S. photojournalist drawn to Latin America in hopes resurrecting his fading career. In the much more financially successful Platoon, released in the same year, he captures the deep systemic corruption of a war that would tear two nations apart through the eyes of a naive young solider. In JFK he captures the dark uncertainty at the heart of an epochal event still shrouded in uncertainty.

Most of his other films are similar dissections of the American psyche and the contemporary Zeitgeist, ranging from with two Wall Street films, to Nixon, W, Natural Born Killers, The Doors, Any Given Sunday, and Talk Radio.

His newest film, slated for release 16 Star, is Snowden, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the title role.

In this, the latest episode of Conversations with History, Harry Kreisler, Executive Director of UC Berkeley’s Institute of International Studies, conducts a fascinating conversation with the director, with the topics ranging form Stone’s approach to the cinematic arts to his own views of the American system.

It’s well worth your time.

From University of California Television:

Movies, Politics and History with Oliver Stone — Conversations with History

Program notes:

Published on May 23, 2016

Conversations host Harry Kreisler welcomes filmmaker Oliver Stone for a discussion of his career as director, screenwriter, and producer. Stone describes formative experiences, talks about different aspects of the filmmaking process including working with actors, writing screenplays, and postproduction. He focuses on the themes that have drawn him, and emphasizes the distinction between a historian and dramatist who works with historical materials. He concludes with a discussion of recent works including Alexander and the 10-part documentary on The Untold History of the United States.

Headline of the day II: More cinematic sexism


From the Independent:

Iron Man 3’s female villain got axed over fears of poor toy sales, director claims

‘We had finished the script and we were given a no-holds-barred memo saying that cannot stand and we’ve changed our minds because, after consulting, we’ve decided that toy won’t sell as well if it’s a female’

Inspirational: Movie house air mirrors viewer moods


Our language is filled with metaphors for breathing: Conspiracy ion the Latin means literally “breathing together,” just as inspiration means breathing in.

In recent years we’ve learned that plants communicate by airborne signals, most notably when an injury to one plant triggers defensive reactions in other nearby plants a process some scientists are hoping to thwart through genetic engineering.

And then there’s this 2007 report from the University of California, Berkeley:

Just a few whiffs of a chemical found in male sweat is enough to raise levels of cortisol, a hormone commonly associated with alertness or stress, in heterosexual women, according to a new study by University of California, Berkeley, scientists.

The study, reported this week in The Journal of Neuroscience, provides the first direct evidence that humans, like rats, moths and butterflies, secrete a scent that affects the physiology of the opposite sex.

“This is the first time anyone has demonstrated that a change in women’s hormonal levels is induced by sniffing an identified compound of male sweat,” as opposed to applying a chemical to the upper lip, said study leader Claire Wyart, a post-doctoral fellow at UC Berkeley.

And a 2015 report from Indiana University:

A new study from Indiana University provides evidence in mice that males may play a positive role in the development of offspring’s brains starting before pregnancy.

The research, reported June 30 in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences, [$29.25 for access — esnl] found that female mice exposed to male pheromones gave birth to infants with greater mental ability.

“This is the first study to show that pheromone exposure exerts an influence across generations in mammals,” said Sachiko Koyama, an associate research scientist at the IU Bloomington Medical Sciences Program and visiting scientist at the IU College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, who led the study.

“We found that male pheromones seem to influence the nutritional environment following birth, resulting in changes to the brain that could extend to future generations,” she added.

And now we’ve got all that out of the way, consider the implications for whta you’ve read when you peruse this report from the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry:

Tapped Cinema air: Thomas Kluepfel installs a tube into the ventilation system of a movie theatre in the Mainz Cinestar to through which the exhaust air is directed into a mass spectrometer. This analysed the air during numerous screenings in 30-second intervals. Especially suspense and funny movies leave a unique chemical signature in the air. © MPI for Chemistry

Tapped Cinema air: Thomas Kluepfel installs a tube into the ventilation system of a movie theatre in the Mainz Cinestar to through which the exhaust air is directed into a mass spectrometer. This analysed the air during numerous screenings in 30-second intervals. Especially suspense and funny movies leave a unique chemical signature in the air. © MPI for Chemistry

It is now possible to determine whether a movie scene is full of suspense, funny or somewhat boring, using chemistry. The Mainz researchers investigated how the composition of the air changed when an audience watched movies from different genres such as comedies like “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” and “Buddy”, or fantasy movies like “The Hobbit” and the science-fiction thriller “The Hunger Games”. The researchers determined how the audience reacted to individual movies on a scene-by-scene basis. Using their analyses, they were also able to reconstruct which scenes were playing at the time. The chemical patterns are best defined during suspense or funny scenes.

“The chemical signature of ‘The Hunger Games’ was very clear; even when we repeated the measurements with different audiences,” says Jonathan Williams, group leader at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry. “The carbon dioxide and isoprene levels in the air always increased significantly as the heroine began fighting for her life,” the atmospheric chemist continues. Williams and his team are more usually involved in the measurement of gases from the Amazon rainforest. Isoprene is one of more than 800 chemical compounds typically exhaled by healthy persons in tiny amounts in addition to carbon dioxide. However, it is not yet known what physiological processes are causing the formation of the molecules.

One explanation for the increasing carbon dioxide and isoprene levels, according to the Mainz researchers, is the fact that moviegoers tense up, become restless and breathe faster when watching scenes of suspense. Funny sequences consistently resulted in different molecular traces in the air than moments of excitement or suspense. “We can clearly differentiate the mass spectra,” says Williams.

There’s lots more after the jump. . . Continue reading

Mike Luckovich: Graduation present


From the editorial cartoonist of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

BLOG Lucko

The image is drawn from a famous movie poster for a 1967 classic that may be unfamiliar to younger viewers, co-starring the spouse of Mel Brooks and with a sound track that includes a Simon and Garfunkel hit song later covered by everyone from Frank Sinatra and Chet Atkins to the Lemonheads.

BLOG Graduate

And now for something completely different. . .


How about a 1970 mockumentary from Canada, one that offers an alternative explanation for a phenomenon that will be familiar to viewers of the 1994 film Forrest Gump.

Form the National Film Board of Canada:

Doodle Film

Program notes:

This short mockumentary explores the life of chronic doodler David Watts. Taking himself very seriously, the film’s narrator traces the history of Watts’ problem back to a second grade notebook cover and follows it through to its natural end – a man who covers every available surface with doodling… including his wife.

Directed by Donald Winkler – 1970

And now for something completely different. . .


Would you believe a prescient animated documentary from the early 1970s warning us about the dangers of global warning, environmental pollution, overpopulation, and so many of the other worries dominating our thinking a half-century later?

Even better, it’s done in classic psychedelic style, drawn by artists from both sides of the Iron Curtain, executed at the height of the Cold War, with a narration by a grooovvvy Canadian professor sporting an oversized yang/yin medallion.

Yep, it’s another classic from the National Film Board of Canada.

So turn up the resolution to HD and turn off the animation slider to rid your screen of an annoying logo, then site back, relax, and enjoy:

Man: The Polluter

Program notes:

This feature-length animation is a richly illustrated cartoon film with an environmental message: how much longer can humans foul their own nest ignore the consequences? Made by a joint team of Canadian and Yugoslav animation artists, the film transmits its warning with unflagging humour, imagination, movement and design. In between animated sequences, Dr. Fred H. Knelman, Professor of Science and Human Affairs at Montreal’s Concordia University, comments on the importance of what is shown and on what lies in store if more responsibility is not taken on a global scale to conserve what is left of our vital resources.

Directed by Don Arioli, Zlatko Bourek, Hugh Foulds, Chuck Jones, Wolf Koenig, Boris Kolar, Frank Nissen, Kaj Pindal, Pino Van Lamsweerde, Milan Blazekovic, Nedeljko Dragic, Aleksandar Marks, Vladimir Jutrisa, Dusan Vukotic & Ante Zaninovic – 1973

Headline of the day: The medium is the message


From the Guardian:

No female film directors from two major Hollywood studios through 2018

Paramount’s last film by a woman was 2014’s Selma while 20th Century Fox has not released a female-directed movie since 2010, investigative report found