Jan 10

Why Watch Watchman? Well…

The most endearing thing I find in Superhero movies is the vulnerability of the characters. The fact that Heroes have to deal with the everyday problems that plague us all makes it easier to suspend our disbelief. Movies like “Spiderman”, “The Incredibles”, “X-Men” and more recently the television series “Heroes” have all made vulnurability an integral part of their plots.

One film takes the cake when it comes to this portrayal. Watchman is set in an alternate-history 1985 at the height of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union. It received mixed reviews but there was one part of this film that was universally praised by critics and fans alike. That was the opening sequence. This sequence was effective in portraying these Heroes as gifted individuals grapling with problems of the time. Not only was this sequence technically masterful, but it had a quirky element that was endearing. My favorite clip in this sequence is the one where Neil Armstrong lands on the moon and you can see a reflection of Dr Manhattan in his visor taking his photograph. The question arises… How does a being like Dr Manhattan with the power of God himself get an assingment like taking photos? What I also found very peculiar about this shot was that you can also see the credits in the reflection of the visor. Something I did not pick up until much later. A very interesting quirk that added to the appeal of this montage. The Bob Dylan track “Times Are A Changing” is also very appropriate addressing the topic of “change” while simoultaneously enhancing the mood of this montage.

Compared to other Superhero films I found that these Heroes were portrayed with even more more human qualities than what I have become used to. This montage embodies this sensibility. Check out the clip below and then watch the movie whenever you get a chance. It’s currently playing on HBO. If you don’t have HBO do the Netflix thing.

I had to upload and embed video to thenewpop site because youtube would not let you embed this clip. Sometimes youtube just doesn’t play well with the Fair Use act. Enjoy.

Jan 10

Sky Captain to Avatar to PopBot

I saw Avatar this week and like just about everyone else I was blown away by the motion graphics and 3D animation. The story line was a bit simplistic and predictable, but because of it’s eco-friendly message it worked in spite of this. Technically speaking, it was the most imaginative movie I have seen to date. What made this movie so incredible was how realistic the CGi technology blended with the human actors.

This got me to thinking about another little known film that revolutionized blending CGi actors with humans. Do you remember the 2004 film “Sky Captain And The World Of Tomorrow”? Well it was one of the first films to be shot entirely on a digital backlot. Soon after that films like “Sin City”, “Immortal” and “300″, followed suit. I remember a couple of years earlier I came across this graphic comic called “PopBot” by the Australian artist Ashley Wood. This comic had an irreverent quality that mixed these sexy robots with journey man heroes and Pulp like characters. I loved everything about it, even the title which utilized my favorite word “Pop”. When Sky captain came out with it’s vintage stylized feel I got so excited that I saw it a couple of times. Up until then the only popular use of this technology was for the Star Wars prequel “Phantom Menace.” The “Sky Captain” movie was more sophisticated, more sexy, and I believed “PopBot” would be even more so if it were made into a film. I imagined it being a CGi cross between “Pulp Fiction” and some sexy arthouse French film. “Sky Captain” didn’t quite achieve that balance but it was one step closer. Critics loved “Sky Captain” but the film lost money at the Box Office. Anyway you should definitely order this on Netflix if you get a chance. I posted the trailer and some images from the PopBot comic below. Coincidently both “Avatar” and “Sky Captain” featured Giovanni Ribisi in a supporting role. Enjoy.

P.S. I heard they are going to adapt “PopBot” into a film so look out.

Jan 10

Some Revolution!

My girlfriend Sylvie Sunshine bought me this cool book for Christmas called “Free Press Underground & Alternative Publications” It contains a collection of images dating from 1965 – 1975 from strange small-run newspapers, zines, flyers, mags, etc. I was thumbing through it today and this image stood out. I’ve seen it a dozen times but for some reason this time I stopped and took notice. This image takes aim at the “Hippie Revolution” in the late 60′s early 70′s and it’s from a publication called OZ. I think it is as relevant today as it was 40 years ago. The caption reads:

He drives a Maserati
She’s a professional model
The boy is the son of the
Art Editor of Time Magazine:
Some Revolution!

Jan 10

Fiction Meets Fact. “E-Paper”

There is this clip from Minority Report (one of my all-time favorite films) where Tom Cruise’s character tries to flee capture by casually strolling on a metro train. Just then an image of him pops up on a E-Newspaper being read by a fellow passenger. It was one of the more memorable scenes from this movie that made me say, wow!!! I thought how cool it would be if someone were able to invent something like that. Well 8 years later it looks like someone is getting ever so close. Yesterday I ran across this really cool post on HypeBeast about this cool new device that just might revolutionize and save print. Its from Bonnier and it is what a true Digital Magazine should look like.

Check out the two clips I posted below. The first is the short clip from Minority Report that I mentioned above. The second is a feature on the prototype from Bonnier. Maybe one day you will see TheNewPop published on one of these babies

Mag+ from Bonnier on Vimeo.

Jan 10

iPhone Camera Flash

As you guys know I love taking photos and video with my iPhone. Capturing cool moments with something as convenient as an iPhone is the dream of every documentarian. The one problem is that the little bugger does not have a flash. Adding a flash is not something to be taken lightly. Hear me out. One major reason we all love the iPhone and the Mac brand is because of their cool and functional industrial design. Mac products are among the most beautiful ever made. Adding a flashbulb to something as cool as the iPhone is not something that you would do without great thought. Done wrong and you could go the way of the Zune MP3 player. Done right and you add to the mythos that is the Mac brand. I always suspected that cautious approach is the main reason the iPhone did not have a flash. I mean something so seemingly simple should be a cake-walk especially when you consider the other revolutionary features incorporated into this “phone”. Its like inventing a flying car, but not adding a rear view mirror.

Today I saw an ad for the new Google phone that highlighted the flash as if to say we got one and MAC does not. So it got me thinking about how would Mac incorporate the flash without messing with its sleek aesthetic. I looked at the phone and I thought to myself, self, why not turn the cool Apple logo into a flash? Genius!!! In less than two minutes I had solved one of the major challenges in modern corporate design. I would be worshiped by Mac users world wide and hailed the saviour. I considered writing Steve Jobs himself, not to ask for millions in compensation, but just a free iPhone with the flash and recognition for my heroic achievement. That’s all I wanted. I would be the noble genius who embraced the inventors mantra of doing it for the love, not for the money. It was one of those glorious moments one has in one’s own head knowing that reality is just one google search away. Sure enough I googled “iphone apple logo flashing camera,” and what I found was a host of people with the exact same idea. Here is a video from a couple of Russian iPhone fans who replaced the Apple logo on the back of an original iPhone with an eye-piercing, glowing version. Below that is a mockup image of what this phone would look like with a flash. All done by folks like me who just love the iPhone. I hope Apple incorporates the flash soon. Its reason enough for me to buy a new phone.


Jan 10

Putney Swope, Corporate power and Race.

Putney Swope is a 1969 film written and directed by Robert Downey Sr. and starring Arnold Johnson as Swope. Swope is the only black man on the executive board of an advertising firm who is accidentally put in charge after the death of the chairman of the board. Renaming the business “Truth and Soul, Inc.”, Swope replaces all but one of the white employees.

I caught this on TCM the other night. According to Wikipedia “It criticizes and plays with black militant rhetoric, the portrayal of race in Hollywood films, the white power structure, and nature of corruption in any struggle for power.” What compelled me to watch this was the fact that Robert Downey Sr. directed it. Yes he is the father of actor Robert Jr. I had seen the movie “Tropic Thunder” where Downey Jr. plays a white man in blackface bringing up issues of race in Hollywood. Hearing that his father also dealt with the subject of race in this film peeked my curiosity. This film deals more with race in the corporate structure than Hollywood.

This film is not really well acted or well shot, In fact Robert Downey Sr. had to redub all of Arnold Johnson’s lines because Johnson could never remember them. There are some funny moments and if you are a fan of vintage movies dealing with Mod Fashion and Black Exploitation you may find this as interesting.

The two clips I added below deal with the shift in the power structure in Black and White America, a topic that is very relevant today with the election of the first Black President. I will deal with this issue in more depth in future postings. The second clip is a bit funnier to me personally because it deals with freelance artist relationships with the corp structure. And more specifically negotiating of ones rates which for the most part is completely arbitrary. If you’ve been in this situation you will take comfort in being able to laugh at it since you probably did more than enough bitching by now. The final clip is just a goofy ad from the “Truth and Soul” agency. The gimmick was that Truth and Soul, Inc were such a novelty that everyone wanted them to shoot their ads no regardless of wether they made any sense at all. The satire in this film is an accurate commentary on Madison Ave and Pop-culture today.

Jan 10

Who Are You, Polly Magoo?

The 1966 French film “Who Are You, Polly Maggoo?” is a satirical art house movie spoofing the fashion world and its excesses. It stars native Brooklynite Dorothy McGowan as supermodel Polly Maggoo who is being followed by a French television crew. I caught this on TCM one night and was drawn in by how it poked fun at the cool mod style of the late 60′s. The director William Klein is a well known photographer and one of my inspirations. The asthetic beauty in this film, balanced with the cutting satire intrigues me. It draws many parallels to the world I work in today. Beautiful, inspiring and cool, while hilarious, silly and superficial. The difference with this film and a film like Zoolander, is there is a insiders perspective and reverence that acknowledges that there is something to love about this world. Zoolander tosses it all aside as fodder for laughs. Don’t get me wrong I love Zoolander, but “Polly Maggoo” deals with the dichotomy of that love hate relationship in a serious way without fishing for the big laugh.

The first clip is the opening scene from the film. It is a fashion show where the “clothes” are so outlandish and impractical that the models are cut by the material and the designer has to make modifications with a wrench. It illustrates just how silly the fashion world can be. The second is a trailer just in case you were thinking of renting or buying it. There isn’t much substance in terms of storyline, but if you are intrigued by cultural commentary about the super cool today, tomorrow, or 40 years ago, I would say go for it.

Jan 10

Le Mans 1971.

Caught the movie Le Mans on TCM yesterday. The movie starring Steve McQueen is about 24 Hours of Le Mans and was filmed on the circuit during the 1970 24 Hours of Le Mans race. What makes this race unique is instead of focusing on the ability of a car company to build the fastest machines of the time, the 24 Hours of Le Mans would instead concentrate on the ability of manufacturers to build sporty yet reliable cars and the endurance of the drivers. But what I found compelling about this movie was the culture of sophistication surrounding this event. How true to life this is then or now I don’t know. I am well aware of how easy it is for filmmakers to present things as they see it, but since this was filmed in part at the actual event and not entirely staged I am less cynical about it’s accuracy. The vibe felt more like a Polo match than what I have grown to expect from car racing. I suspect the European sensibility about art and culture that seems to permeate everything they do has allot to do with this. Especially when the two main cars involved were Porsche and Ferrari.

The clip I embedded below is a conversation between Mcqueens character Michael Delaney and Elga Andersen character Lisa Belgetti. After a serious accident that involved Lisa Belgetti lover she asks Michael why do men risks their lives for sport? Michael responds with the following famous movie quote. “A lot of people go through life doing things badly. Racing’s important to men who do it well. When you’re racing, it… it’s life. Anything that happens before or after… is just waiting.” This is followed by a beautiful montage that illustrates the subtle and not so subtle beauty of the sport, focusing not only on the cars, but on the faces in the crowds, and the lifestyle that surrounds this event. It is a beautiful piece of filmmaking. This all takes place in the first 4 minutes so don’t let the 9 min duration discourage you from viewing the clip. And if you ever get a chance to watch the entire movie or if you have a Netflix account, you should give this film a chance.


Jan 10

“Elvis was a hero to most…” Suspicious Minds

Yesterday was Elvis’ 75th birthday. I have never really been a fan of Elvis myself. After all I grew up listening to Public Enemy. The track “Fight The Power” taught me that “Elvis was a hero to most/But he never meant shit to me A straight up racist, that sucker was/Simple and plain Motherfuck him and John Wayne”. The feeling among many folks was that he stole from Black culture and became hugely popular because he was a novelty. I am not sure if this qualifies him as a racist, or just a smart and talented showman. (More about this topic in future blog postings).

Anyway yesterday I was channel surfing and I ran across two documentaries on TCM about Elvis. If you didn’t know during his lifetime Elvis was the biggest thing on the planet, and this is back in the days before paparazzi was paparazzi, the days of 7 channels and no internet. So big was big. But I never really got it. Even as an adult who tries to view things as objectively as possible I just didn’t get why people thought he was so great, until last night. One of the documentaries I watched was pretty much a live recording of a 1970 vegas show. It was called “That’s The Way It Is” and I suggest you watch it if you ever get a chance along with “Elvis Presley On Tour 1972″ Anyway in “That’s The Way It Is” his performance of “Suspicious Minds” was one of those rare glimpses into what a real superstar is and to me is the definition of Stage Presence. He was anything but “Simple and Plain”, He was a megastar and I saw it. I won’t bore you with any more with my attempts to describe the indescribable just watch.


Jan 10

Cool Hunting Video: Nike Flagship Japan

So when I launched Thenewpop back in 2005 the folks at coolhunting.com were the only other website I could find who were also doing video blogging. It was comforting knowing that I was not the only independent voice forgoing traditional visual media to tell my stories online, but it also was intimidating because they were so damn good. Since those early days of vlogging many have hopped on the bandwagon, some good, so many bad. Through it all I still check the coolhunting website on a regular basis for inspiration and information. Check their latest video about Masamichi Katayama who designed the interior of the Nike Flagship store in Tokyo.