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Posts from the ‘Articles’ Category


The Death of Film, Pt II

When I first started teaching at UCLA in the late 60’s, Eastman Kodak made the film stock that was used in every academy award-winning film, as it had since 1928 and would continue to do until 2008. It made 90% of all film shot in the United States and 85% of all cameras sold here. It is hard to think of another American company that such total control of the U.S. market.

The article linked below, translated from the German newspaper, Der Spiegel, talks about what led Kodak to declare bankruptcy a few months ago, and makes the point that the digital camera was, in fact, invented at Eastman Kodak, but not developed there.

The reason for that is a familiar and pretty consistent one: they were afraid of cannibalizing their existing product line. Like so many other companies that have followed a similar trajectory, they knew the good old days were going to end, but they were going to hold on to what they had as long as they could. A sort of controlled suicide.     Read more »


The Death of Film Pt I

The biblical book of Ecclesiastes famously declares there is “nothing new under the sun,” and for most of human history, including our own time, that has been generally true. The one great, ever-increasing, and ever-more-important area of life in which this is not true is technology.

However, where there is the most creation there is also the most death. The faster new technologies are created, the faster older technologies die.

We are living through a historic period in film history. Film, the medium that has been used as a recording and distribution medium for 110 years, is right now going the way of wax cylinders, vinyl and wire recordings, black and white television, audio and video tape, laser discs, and other forms of recording media.

The article linked below deals with the death of film as a medium of distribution and, the article predicts, a thousand existing theaters in the U.S. will not be able to afford to convert from film to digital.          Read more »


“Nobody knows anything” Pt. II

“Those whom the gods wish to destroy,

they first make mad”

… ancient Greek proverb

 I would add my own corollary to this: those whom the Gods would destroy, they first cause to believe they are gods.

I assume you’re getting tired of reading about John Carter, so I promise this is my last commentary on the subject. The press and the web are full of people trying to explain why the film failed. There’s an article in today’s Los Angeles Times “Calendar” section titled “Crash Landing” (online, the title was changed to “Why did Disney’s ‘John Carter’ flop?”) that focuses on studio leadership – or lack of it.

Yesterday’s New York Times Business Day section had “’Ishtar’ Lands on Mars” that splits its focus between the executives and Andrew Stanton. The web site has what I thought was the most interesting of the three articles, “The Inside Story of How John Carter Was Doomed by Its First Trailer” and focuses much more on Andrew Stanton’s role in dooming his own film.

I’ve thought further about my comments in an earlier blog in which I referred to that Great Hollywood Copout, “Nobody knows anything.” If that’s what you really believe, who does know something? Well, the gods of course.  Read more »


“Nobody Knows Anything”

As much research has demonstrated, creativity in the arts seldom consists of producing something entirely new, but in putting together two or more elements that had not previously been brought together. A very large percentage of the elements in film storytelling are to a large extent based on what has come before.

But this does not mean you can willy-nilly combine elements in any which way The New York Times article linked below refers to the 1912 source material, A Princess on Mars (notice the gender shift in the film’s title), as “a bewildering mash-up.” Having now seen the film, I’d say that, if you don’t concern yourself with plot, character, and dialogue (something large portions of foreign audiences without a strong command of English don’t) and just surrender to spectacle, the film is often entertaining.   Read more »



Future historians may write that this month the Walt Disney Company finally jumped the shark.

The phrase is increasingly used in the film and television industry to indicate that something has reached its creative peak and henceforth will inevitable go downhill from there. The phrase comes from a September, 1977, episode of the long-running tv series, Happy Days, when “The Fonz,” in his identifying leather jacket, performs a stunt in which he is pulled by a speedboat over a penned-in shark near the Southern California coast.

The series continued on for nearly five years, so “jumping the shark” doesn’t mean it’s the sign of the end; it means that something or someone has run out of creative ideas, and it’s going to be downhill from there on. Rush Limbaugh in September, 2011, said Michelle Bachmann had jumped the shark with her story of a woman (who could not be found) who told her after a presidential debate that her child suffered from “mental retardation” after taking a vaccine that was being hotly debated. While it would be five months more before Bachmann dropped out of the presidential race, it was clear even to Limbaugh that it would all be downhill from there.    Read more »