Posted by mike in Film,News at 5:21 pm on July 31, 2007

Yesterday the world lost not just one, but two of the most influential film directors in history. Sweden’s Ingmar Bergman is dead at 89, and Italian Michelangelo Antonioni is dead at 94. Both had a profound effect on the history of cinema, and contributed greatly to shaping film into the art form we know it as today.

Roger Ebert wrote a nice memorium of Bergman, and also compiled a compendium of thoughts from other directors on his passing. Face to Face is a good overview of his life’s work. His most notable and popular films were Wild Strawberries and The Seventh Seal, both released in 1957.

The L.A. Times chronicles Antonioni’s life’s work in their story about his death from today. He was most well known for his masterpiece, Blowup. I love the quote from the late auteur on how he went about filming a scene:

It’s only when I press my eye against the camera and begin to move the actors that I get an exact idea of the scene. It’s only when I hear dialogue from the actor’s mouth itself that I realize whether the lines are correct or not…. Screenplays are on the way to becoming actually sheets of notes for those who, at the camera, will write the film themselves.

That reminds me of how Hitchcock made films–he was almost never given a writing credit despite the fact that he had at least as much to do with the scripts of his movies as the screenwriter did, and usually more. (Although Hitch would have typically mapped out how he was going to shoot a scene in his mind before stepping on set, as opposed to Antonioni, who was much more spontaneous.) It’s also an interesting contrast to a writer/director like Tarantino, whose screenplays usually read like a shot-by-shot and word-for-word transcript of the finished product.

Although both Bergman’s and Antonioni’s best days were behind them–both in terms of their health as well as their filmmaking–their deaths are major losses in the world of cinema. So it goes.

Update: Ebert today has a nice memorium of Antonioni. Glad that neither director’s death has overshadowed the other’s.

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Posted by mike in Annoyances,Entertainment,Sports at 10:01 pm on July 10, 2007

The arrival of another Mid-Summer Classic brings with it the annual reminder that the worst sports broadcasting network is the one that carries most of the major national baseball telecasts. This is the same channel that features freakin’ robots shooting laserbeams at each other as a means of delivering the score to you during the NFL season, but I actually think they’re topping themselves tonight. I’m just going to laundry-list this one (in my best Jackie harvey impression) as I watch:

  • There’s a ridiculously loud microphone right by home plate, such that every pitch makes a comically loud noise as it hits the catcher’s mitt or is struck by a bat. You’d think that this microphone’s placement and absurd amplification would backfire on them by picking up a very loud “Shit!” from at least one player after popping up a would-be base hit (as was the case at least once), but apparently Fox isn’t worried about that.
  • When a player slides into a base, Fox actually adds a cartoonish sound effect. How this enhances the presentation I have no idea.
  • The aforementioned faux reverence (mostly from Joe Buck) for God Bless America during the 7th-inning stretch.
  • Tim McCarver.
  • Every single thing that takes–whoosh–place with the–tweet-a-loo–on-screen graphics has an accompanying (and–swooooosh–annoying) sound effect to go along with it. These are at approximately the same volume level as the “home plate mic” and the “slide sound effect.”
  • Joe Buck keeps making awkward pop culture references in what can only be assumed to be an attempt by one of the stiffest people on TV to try to come across as “hip.”

So here’s to dreading another post season performance from Fox. I can only hope that I’ll be interested in the post season enough this year for the distractions inherent in their broadcast to piss me off even more than usual (meaning maybe the Cubs will actually have a shot at the Wild Card–I still think the Brewers will win the NL Central). They’ve got the World Series at least until 2013, so I assume we can only look forward to the situation getting worse in the foreseeable future.

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Posted by mike in Entertainment at 8:59 pm on July 10, 2007

It took a couple of episodes to get going, but now that it’s really hitting its stride, I have to say I’m really enjoying John From Cincinnati, HBO’s new series that got placed in the recently vacated (and highly coveted) Sopranos time slot. The show is an eclectic look at a surfing-obsessed southern California community, its first family of surfing, and an enigmatic visitor whose arrival heralds the beginning of a trend of paranormal occurrences. While I obviously don’t know where the storyline is headed, I can say that it has a very Twin Peaks-esque feel thus far: there’s a great mix of mystery, quirkiness, and drama with just the right amount of humor thrown in–not to mention a bit of supernatural intrigue sprinkled on top.

What really makes this show, though, is the cast. While several of the primary characters are relative unknowns, about half of the cast is comprised of some really fine actors from the I wonder what happened to… file. From Rebecca De Mornay as a feisty 50-something grandmother to Luke Perry as a scheming surfer agent, there’s some great almost-forgotten actors giving terrific performances week in and week out. Ed O’Neill, though, really steals the show. He began the series as a quirky minor character, but has quickly grown into a pivotal (and very welcome) part of the developing story arc.

The show also features a couple of my favorite modern-day character actors, Luis Guzman and Willie Garson. Among the unknowns, I find myself very intrigued by and attracted to Emily Rose (who looks like she might be Elisha Cuthbert‘s older, better-acting sister–though she’s not) and the punky Keala Kennelly.

HBO continues to be one of the best reasons to get cable, and I’m looking forward to seeing where this series goes.

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