Jan 10

The Naked City – Williamsburg Bridge 1948

The film “The Naked City” is a 1948 black-and-white film noir directed by Jules Dassin. The movie, shot in documentary style, was filmed on location on the streets of New York City. It is known for having one of the more famous quotes in movie history. “There are eight million stories in the Naked City; this has been one of them.” I actually watched this entire film just to hear this quote in context after hearing it out of context my entire life.

One scene that I took note of during this film was the final chase scene on the Williamsburg Bridge. The transformation of the Williamsburg Bridge from then to now is pretty fascinating. The West bound side has incoming and outgoing traffic, and the current eastbound side has a stairway that leads to the walkway. The most striking difference is how folks back then (Assuming that this portrayal was true to life.) utilized the Manhattan side walkway as a park. You can see kids rollerskating, jumping rope, playing marbles, etc. The only bridge in NY that bears any resemblance to that now is the Brooklyn Bridge. However the Williamsburg Bridge 1948 seems to have been a playground for locals as opposed to the tourists who cross the Brooklyn Bridge now. Also fascinating is how little Delancey street has changed. Haha.

Another interesting note about this film. The visual style was inspired by the New York photographer Weegee who published a book of photos of New York life entitled Naked City (1945). Weegee was known for his stark black and white street photography. Check out the embed below that has both the Williamsburg chase sequence and the famous quote. And if you get a chance see this film by all means do. It pops up on TCM every now and then or you can order it on Netflix.

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

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.