Thursday, July 30, 2020

"Top Coat": when staying at home, the simple things matter

Top Coat” is a 5-minute lesbian film about simple things, and its recent (May 2020).

The thumbnail is a piece of strawberry cake, like what Longhorn Steakhouse sells for takeout.  The headin picture is in black and white, even if the little things in the film are in garish color (like "The Gang's All Here").   There is a model flamingo, and then we see two young women (PoC) played by Jlouliet Amak and Alexa Mareka, the first given the second a nail manicure, a superficial top coat.

All this stuff moves inside during the stay-at-homes for the pandemic.
My own mother used to get her hair done, and then got permanents, sometimes within the same week (at least once), and they would take four hours.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

"A Day in the Life in Mexico City" (Eduardo Sanchez-Ubanell), maybe could wind up in the 2020 compendium

Angel de la Independencia Mexico City
Eduardo Sanchez-Ubanell offers the short film “A Day in the Life in Mexico City”, probably into the “A Day in the Life 2020” (or "Life in a Day") Project by Ridley Scott (see July 22, 2020).
He visits his parents in a high-rise in Mexico City (some of his earlier videos explain his background). Not a lot of businesses or attractions are open (this compares to videos by the Barrett Channel in China where pretty much everything is open but carefully monitored),  so then the film focuses on indoor exercise routines (with a trainer video playing on a laptop) and then homecooking delicious food from ingredients, which the film celebrates for its own sake.
 I’ve been there myself, once in 1974 (link).  I do remember the Zona Rosa, the Anthropology Museum, and the Metro -- and the National Palace as there was an outdoor ceremony there Sept. 1, 1974.  
Picture: embed from Wikipedia, click for CCSA attribution 

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

"Advocate": Israeli lawyer Lea Tsemsel defends Palestinians prosecuted probably for political reasons

Jericho from above

On Monday, July 27, 2020, PBS POV presented a slightly (85 minutes from 108, as originally released by Film Movement, from Home Made Docs) version of the documentary “Advocate”, directed by Rachel Lee Jones and Phillippe Bellaiche. The film is a biography of attorney Lea Tsemsel (1945-  ), who defends Palestinians accused of various crimes with often insufficient evidence, essentially political prisoners in the occupied territories.

The film goes back to the 1967 war, when she volunteered to soldier as part of the operation.  It tracks her work particularly in the volatile 70s and 80s.

Then it focuses on at least two cases, a non-fatal stabbing from a minor, and then a supposed failed attempted suicide bombing.

Lea explains her defending Palestinians as part of her moral responsibility as an agent of an occupying power. But at the end of the film, we are warned she will be prosecuted. 
The film is in Hebrew and Arabic. 

The PBS Video link is here.  
Picture: Jericho, from Wikipedia embed, click for attribution. 

Monday, July 27, 2020

"Mars in 4K": a 10-minute tour of Mars from the rovers in ultra-HD

Animation of Mars orbit around Earth

Here is “Mars in 4K” from Elder Documentaries.

The ultra high quality video (10 min) was compiles from Opportunity and Spirit footage, and processed in ultra HD.

The Namib Dune at the end, next to the rover, was spooky to look at.

This is the highest quality resolution of Mars I have ever seen.

From Wikipedia: GIF of Mars pseudo-orbit around Earth, click for attribution. 

Sunday, July 26, 2020

"Maxwell's Demon": Entropy, Time, and Information -- and why you exist

Arvin Ash presents “Maxwell’s Demon: The Stunning Link Between Entropy, Time, and Information”.

Entropy is a measure of the information in a system, the collection of states (vectors) of positions of all the particles in a system.  It goes up with temperature (heat, or injection of energy).  The Second Law of Thermodynamics insists that eventually the amount of “disordered” information increases, so conscious beings are necessary to give it direction (maybe that can become artificial intelligence).


The Second Law is essentially a stochastic or statistic law, not a deterministic one. Such laws explain how viruses can evolve that seem to target the way we live. I think they also explain why our lives bear more irony and coincidence than seems likely.

“Maxwell’s Demon” is a thought experiment that sounds a bit like lockdown or quarantine.

Ash uses the example of a refrigerator as how you manage “information”. That was the nickname of a famous NFL running back in the 1980s. 

Maybe this could explain reincarnation.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

"Green's Theorem, Explained Visually", and it encourages sci-fi animation indeed

Line integral of scalar field

Vcubingx does “Green’s Theorem, Explained Visually”. It's a great animation idea. 

I don’t recall encountering line integrals when I did my MA in Mathematics at the University of Kansas, 1966-1968.

But the concepts of line integral and curl definitely fit into science fiction, and even explaining how some space megastructures would work (maybe even O’Neill Cylinders).

So this little video actually helps with my screenplay.  A nice accidental find on a Saturday night after a day on the road.

Friday, July 24, 2020

"Scandal at Helix Academy": Alex Roman with gay prep school comedy

Helix Studios is back, with films in better definition.

In "Scandal at Helix Academy," (21 minutes, 3 parts) director Alex Roman sets up his rather obvious blackmail comedy. Doug Acre, a former graduate, has returned as an English teacher. One of his students comes on to him, and then there is a witness, and the love triangles start.

The students (whom we assume now have tested negative for Covid) all wear white shirts (no undershirt of course) and red, black and gray ties, which can get loosened.

The kids seem to believe that virtue is getting what you want. And not losing Daddy’s allowance.

I don’t know if this matters now, but there is no homage to casting diversity.

I could lose the scene in part 2 where one of the kids smokes.  The music score includes Beethoven Emperor Concerto and Symphony 1 and Mozart's Requiem. 

Picture: Mountain View CA, my visit, Sept. 2018 

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Will the big cinema theater chains come back after the pandemic? News about Sundance 2021

Will movie theaters come back?  Will larger films still continue to be made? (Yes, right now I hope to see “Tenet” in late August).

Alamo Drafthouse (Austin TX) has a complicated statement you can read.  I guess they aim for about Aug. 1 reopening in many areas.

Variety (Brent Lang and Elaine Low) talk about theater debt on Variety.  I haven’t tracked how well AMC Theaters is doing with its debt, but we’ll hear in due course.

(CNN video: Will People Go Back to the Movies after the Pandemic? June 2020) 

I will soon look for a drive-in experience and report on it.

I think that this raises good questions for people with screenplays they want to pitch or sell.  Maybe Tyler Mowery of Practical Screenwriting will talk about this in a video soon.  It also raises interesting questions for documentary.  For example, I can imagine Ford Fischer (who already has a project called “Trans Human”) editing a documentary feature (or maybe something like a Netflix series) on protest movements. (Title it just “Protesters”) based on News2share, Zenger, and other related video.

There are plenty of smaller films, including controversial documentaries, being offered by many theater chains online, and especially by smaller independent theaters like the Avalon in NW Washington DC.  Most screenplay projects are probably for “subject matter specific” micro-dramas that aim for the indie market.  But will the crowdfunding or investor money be there for online only? 

Sundance 2021 will play in at least 20 cities.  I am trying to see if the DC area is included (Brooks Barnes, New York Times, June 29).

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

"Life in a Day", 2020; You can be in it (for Sundance 2021)

Ridley Scott and Kevin Macdonald are asking the entire public to film themselves for one day, Saturday, July 25, 2020, for a compendium film “Life in a Day”, to be shown at Sundance in 2021.

It does not to be of high quality.  I don’t even have a selfie stick. But maybe for just a few seconds of footage I don’t need one.

Here’s the basic site

Yes, they showed a Black Lives Matter plaza.

Picture: Baltimore MD inner harbor, June 2020. 

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

"We Are The Radical Monarchs": documentary explores a POC group for girls in Oakland, and it is frankly identarian

We Are The Radical Monarchs”, directed by Linda Goldstein Knowlton (82) aired on PBS POV July 20, and had been an official selection for SXSW in 2019.  The production company is Ladylike films (like when they talked about Ronald Reagan in Christopher Street mag, “however ladylike his gams” in “Joh Loves Mary”).  The original film was produced with Latino Public Broadcasting. 

The film documents a group of young girls of color in Oakland CA, who sound like a more “radical” version of Girl Scouts or, particularly, Camp Fire Girls, which my own mother belonged to in the 1920s.

In an early scene, the girls are in a classroom and talking about Pride month in California.  There are questions about gender identity, and what “queer” and “gay” mean in children’s language.  A trans person does give a presentation.

The film picks up some speed as history progresses, and the group faces Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign and then life after his election.  They definitely see the world through an identarian lens, to be proud of being a (particular intersectionalized) POC group rather than just striking out on to the world on your own.  Doing the latter may indeed much be harder for members of marginalized racial groups (black and Latino and not gender binary) than for not only whites (this includes Judaism and much of Islam) but also many people from East Asia or from India.

At one point a teacher instructs about the value of the Black Panthers in the past and then what has been lost from their legacy.  The film moves on to support of the modern Black Lives Matter, and a presentation of Trump’s alleged hostility to their groups.

The film ends with a graduation ceremony, which seems to mock a real one.

Oakland neighborhood (Wikipedia).  My own picture is the Tenderloin in San Francisco, 2018. 

Monday, July 20, 2020

"Green Goo on the Moon" (it's not from aliens)


We Finally Know What the Green Goo on the Moon Was”, by Anton Petrov, July 19. 2020. 


This was a Chinese discovery which a rover has examined, and it seems to be an impact result, which gives colors detectable by image spectostropy.

But this video attracted my attention because I had read the screenplay “Blue Moon” which Tyler Mowery authored and posted on his channel Dec. 18, 2019, as an example of what he could get done in 48 hours (a screenwriting challenge rather than a group filmmaking challenge – the 48 Hour Film Project – which right now has a screenwriting challenge (during COVID quarantine) if you want to check it out.

But in his story, as I remember, there is an odd substance, related to panspermia bacteria, found in a cave on the Moon that the countries of the world (most of all China) want, when there is a pandemic on Earth. More and more, I’m running into young adults and teens who seem to sense in December (before the CDC did) that a pandemic was going to erupt.  How did they figure this out?

What if there is something we can make a pharma out of on the Moon?  In the meantime, remember that "gray goo" is a lot more dangerous than green goo because it can be the result of "strangelet" infection. 

Sunday, July 19, 2020

"What Is 2:1 Aspect Ratio?" from Studio Binder

Studio Binder offers “What Is 2:1 Aspect Ratio?

The ratio is a compromise between 2.39:1 and 1.85:1 that fits well on HD TV screens and allows minimal room for letterboxing. It has been advanced by Vittorio Storaro and is used by David Fincher a lot. It also was used by Netflix for entire series, like “House of Cards”.
Studio Binder offers video editing software and allows experimenting with different aspect ratios. 

Saturday, July 18, 2020

“Infinite Potential: The Life and Ideas of David Bohm”, special film on quantum theory and consciousness

Today I watched “Infinite Potential: The Life and Ideas of David Bohm”, directed and narrated by David Howard, from Imagine Films (72 min) and the Bruce Fetzer Memorial Trust, link here.  The panel discussion will be covered on a Wordpress blog.

David Bohn (1997-1992) was a major and unconventional physicist and philosopher who followed some of Niels Bohr’s ideas of quantum theory, and developed ideas of “nonlocality” and the idea of backfolding and unfolding of information with conscious entities. He also considered electricity in metals to be another form of plasma.

Bohm, early in his life, associated  with some people thought to be Communist and was investigated by the House Un-American Activities Committee and even arrested at Princeton, under the idea his appeal to the Fifth Amendment was illegal.  He went on to Brazil and teach in Sao Paolo

Thursday, July 16, 2020

"The Haunting of Pottersfield", volunteers are tested for the "immunity", so to speak

The Haunting of Pottersfield”, from Ousted Fox Films, directed by Andre Dixon, is offered on YT by Alter.

Volunteers find out of they are “immune” from hauntings as they spend the night in a haunted house, the Mary Wallace House, probably in Massachusetts. 

With Eric Frau, Erin Lea, and Lori Katz.

The haunter is indeed pretty brutal.

Old houses make places to cover up crimes.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

"Building a Roller Coaster that Literally Just Kills You" (and then make it a Mobius strip)

“RTGame” explains with animation (10 min), “Designing a Roller Coaster that Literally Just Kills You, in Planet Coaster”.

That's a game that ends in carnage. 

There is also a video by Brew, "Designing a Roller Coaster that Literally Just Kills You". (4 min) 

It is a series of loop-d-loops that keeps you at 10G for one minute.

Definitely fatal.

How about designing one that is a Mobius strip?  It would have to be self-propelled.  The picture above, of the green and yellow strip, shows one.  Try taking a toy car and manually "driving" it around the loop. It's interesting. 

No social distancing needed.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

"A Day at the Zoo", by Avi Schiffmann

The last times I went to the zoo were in February of 2014 (as I remember), and then March 2007, to Rock Creek Park in Washington.  In the more recent case it was to “meet” Ollie the Bobcat, who had escaped but returned on her own volition.

(Video link). 

So Avi Schiffmann (who set up the Ncov coronavirus tracking database, one of the world's largest) make a 3-minute short, “A Day at the Zoo”.  An early scene shows him driving an underpass in Seattle.  I remember driving that exact stretch two or three times in rental cars in the past.

“Zoo” is a metaphor.  When there were production problems in the IT workplace, we used to say “what a zoo!”. 

Picture above:  Orangutan at the Washington DC zoo, 2007. 

Here Avi looks at some of the more developed animals, like other primates. His film clips elsewhere online (like drone tours of his "home field advantage" area) are interesting.  There is some moog music in the background, but not Saint-Saens "Carnival of the Animals".  

Monday, July 13, 2020

"The City of Western Dreams: Shanghai, China" from the Barrett Channel; how China is humiliating the West with return to post-pandemic normal safely

Pudong district roads traffic skyscrapers, Shanghai

The Barrett Channel (Lee and Oli) presents, “The City of Western Dreams: Shanghai, China” (15 min).
Much of the film shows them having a dinner out in a hotel, after passing the temperature check (which seems to be on the back of the hand once, which does not make sense).

The official link from the Barrett Channel, July 13, 2020. 
The film (even through the video title) conveys the idea that in China, with its authoritarian lockdowns to contain the virus in January which were quite severe in their impact on ordinary people, now is back to normal with interesting, almost interplanetary life, why the U.S.A. and U.K. are struggling.
The film also shows a lot of the enormous Shanghai Metro.
Even outdoors, everyone wears a mask, even when not many people are around. 

 Note the embed from Wikipedia: the Shanghai stock exchange, although China regulates and inflates its stock market a lot more than western countries, a "People's Republic of Capitalism". 

Sunday, July 12, 2020

"Mommy", from ALTER, a very simple horror short about quarantine

Rod Blackhurst presents a horror short film “Mommy”, from “ALTER #ShelterShort” Created in Quarantine”.   This film has a very simple, unary concept.  It would fit a "48 hour film festival" contest. 

A woman (Gabriella Espinosa) chops vegetables for dinner alone while in quarantine from coronavirus (presumably.


(ALTER video link on YouTube). 

Then there is a visitor at the door, who turns out to be a ghost.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

"How I Make a Video from Start to Finish" from a professional YouTube educational channel in Dallas

I usually use Joe Scott on my TV reviews channel, but this is more like a 45-minute industry film showing you how to make a professional looking video that will be appealing to sponors.

On his TMI Channel he explains “How I Make a Video from Start to Finish” on his TMI channel.

He illustrates the process as he makes a video on String Theory, or “Theory of Everything”.

He explains that he uses Evernote to outline a script, and then sends it to a writer who writes the script. His team has several members, including an editor, who apparently is very skilled in Photoshop and YouTube Studio Editor (maybe Final Cut Pro, which I didn’t see him mention but is very popular on the Mac).

He records himself talking with a studio light, and a tripod, connected through USB I presume to his large Mac computer. He sits in a chair.

He lives near Dallas, where homes do not have basements, so the workroom/library appears to be like an extra family room or converted garage. It is common in Dallas for extra family rooms to be built behind kitchens and near carports or garages.  To do a professional job able to attract sponsors, you do need some space.

The whole process takes a couple days, so typically a YouTube science channel is like a small LLC company with several people or contractors.

Picture: Landing at DFW in May 2018.  Oh, those were the days, before Covid-19. 

Friday, July 10, 2020

"Why Travel Will Never Be the Same": The Economist

COVID-19: Why Travel Will Never Be the Same” with Leo Marini for The Economist.

Travel is down to less than 50% pre-pandemic levels everywhere, even more in Europe.

The speaker maintains that business travel subsidized vacation and personal travel. So the permanent loss of business travel for conferences and sales could greatly constrict personal travel, especially at holidays.

Some predictions say a sense of a new normal will not exist until 2023.

Carbon emissions have dropped during the pandemic, partly because of air travel drop.

I have wondered if individuals will be rationed in their travel or need some sort of permission at some point in the future.

Thursday, July 09, 2020

"What If We Built an O'Neill Cylinder?" or lots of them; Jeff Bezos wants to


What If We Built an O’Neill Cylinder?” asks the “What If” channel.

Jeff Bezos wants to build enough of them to house 1 trillion people.

They would be set a La Grangian points and be tethered in pairs, and be about 4 miles in diameter and 16 miles long.

The film shows planet of artificial cities, lakes and green mountains.

The film has a sequel, to be looked at later, about getting people there.

Tuesday, July 07, 2020

"Siren Head": short horror film illustrates use of "motion capture" technique

Siren Head”, a four-minute short film from “Shutter Authority”.

A young (black) man roams outdoors in a tropical beach location look for artefacts of alien encounters for some kind of film contest (like the 48-hour film festival).  He suddenly encounters a golem with two sirens in place of a head, which chases him to his death.  Police encounter the same at night.

The film then mentions “motion capture” and “smart suit” technology in digital filmmaking, which is very much worth looking into.  It would seem to supplement common digital film platforms, like Final Cut Pro and the like.

Picture: Cape Cod, MA, Aug. 2015 

Sunday, July 05, 2020

"The Mask", horror short made in mid 2019, seems oddly prescient now

"The Mask", from Garahisarliyin, made sometime in mid 2019, certainly anticipates COVID (5 minutes).

“The Mask”,from Garahisar

A young man (Aden Akyol) with no face wakes up, puts on a mask to look like a real human, and everyone ignores and bumps into him.

It’s as if he does not exist anymore, and lives only in a simulation. But for him a mask would give him an identity, not function as a symbol of vulnerability, 

Perhaps this is his afterlife, after purgatory, for all eternity.

Saturday, July 04, 2020

"Dark Passenger", horror short (derivative of "Taxi Driver")

Flickr - Duncan~ - Fox Trot

Willow Screen Productions presents Sean Kehoe’s “Dark Passenger” (2014).

In London at night, a taxi driver (Del O’Sullivan) picks up a “dark passenger” (Ted Conley), who is on a mission to do a kidnapping in a hotel bathroom with a poison syringe. It sounds like a hired hit from Vladimir Putin.

The director says this was made with “zero budget” and might become a feature.  I don’t see the existential compulsiveness in the DP character, however.

Wikipedia:  South London flats with a fox (click for attribution)

Friday, July 03, 2020

"Lockdown Lite: Sweden’s Model for Coronavirus Control", special documentary from ABC News

DIMG 5456 (4735649602)

Lockdown Lite: Sweden’s Model for Coronavirus Control”, from ABC News-in-depth, which now seems to be producing some festival-ready short film documentaries (like for 2021 Oscars, everything debuted online).

The film traces the “Guioco Piano” approach to controlling the pandemic, leaving things open, and up to personal responsibility. The result is six times as many deaths as in the surrounding Norway and Finland, with a very heavy concentration of deaths in homes for the aged.

The film presents  health minister Anders Tegnell, as well as detractor Stefan Hanson. 

The immigrant communities are particularly hard hit because they tend to live together in large extended family groups.

The film shows people, many of them immigrants, going into health facilities and getting antibody tests and being told that they’ve had it already.

Picture: Midsommar in Sweden (not the movie), click for CCSA attributes, Wikipedia.

Wednesday, July 01, 2020

"The Central Dogma of Biology", by Avi Schiffmann

University of Washington Quad, Spring 2007

Here’s a short film from June 2019 by Avi Schiffmann, then a sophomore in high school at 16, “The Central Dogma of Biology”, with Arman Azeem and Sean Roandson, and a cat.

With skateboards, old tires, and various other knickknacks around a Seattle high school’s grounds, the characters string together a hip-hop narrative of how viruses mutate.  There is mention of transcriptase, which would have come from HIV.

Yet, the film seems like a shocking prescience of the “gain of function” experiments done in the past with coronaviruses, which have led to Sars-Cov2. The style is pretty much pure David Lynch.

And Avid started working on his coronavirus tracker before Christmas 2019, before China admitted it had a problem (Dec. 31).  A teenager knew about this before the CDC did? (And then China covered it up for two deadly weeks, and then our own government fumbled it for two months.)

High school biology will never be the same.

And neither will “the Chaz”.

Picture:  University of Washington, Wiki (click for attribution).