Get Caught Up in Minutiae or See the Texture

Get Caught Up in Minutiae or See the Texture

"When we get caught up in the minutiae, the details that make us all different, there's two ways of seeing that. You can see the texture of that person, the qualities that make them unique. Or you can go to war about it – say, That person is different from me, I don't like you, so let's battle."

~ Mahershala Ali

Cinematic Attention for a High-Def Life

Cinematic Attention for a High-Def Life

Any perception you can observe directly in real time can be used to train a variety of attention-related skills.

I like to make a game out of turning ordinary activities into opportunities for practice.

There are a number of exercises I use when watching a film — whether it’s one I enjoy, dislike, or have seen before.  

Powerful Empathy Machine

Powerful Empathy Machine

"Movies are the most powerful empathy machine in all the arts. When I go to a great movie I can live somebody else's life for a while. I can walk in somebody else's shoes. I can see what it feels like to be a member of a different gender, a different race, a different economic class, to live in a different time, to have a different belief."~ Roger Ebert

It's Not Language that Governs the Connection Between People

Bérénice Bejo and Tahar Rahim in The Past (Photo by Carole Bethuel, Sony Pictures Classics)

Excerpts from "Oscar-Winning Filmmaker Asghar Farhadi on Making Movies in Iran," KCRW's The Business, Dec. 23, 2013:

Kim Masters: The film is almost entirely in French. How did you manage that [since you don't speak French]?  

Asghar Farhadi: I moved with my family and we lived in France for two years. I set aside a great deal of time to become acquainted with the melodies of the French language. I tried to become familiar with the daily details of life there, with the way people behave. I had numerous French friends and they were invaluable. But what helped me the most was the fact that the story I had was one that was structured on the basis of the similarities of our cultures, not the differences...

I had several people who acted as my voice. There was one of them who accompanied me constantly, who not only interpreted the words I spoke, but who shadowed me in gesture. When I would move my hands, he would also do the same thing. When I raised my voice, he too would raise his voice. Gradually I began to feel that he was my voice. He was closer to who I was. I remember the day when I said something and then I walked over to the table to pick up a cigarette, and he started interpreting and walked over to the table and picked up a cigarette...

But after a while, I discovered that it's not language that governs the connection between people to the extent that we imagine it does. When people grow close to each otherthrough their eyes, through a kind of an exchange of energythey can grasp a great deal about each other.

With Bérénice, with those children, I discussed matters of great delicacy and intricacy that even in Persian would be difficult to convey.   

The Living and the Dead

wake from Sternthal Books on Vimeo.

"Filmed at the Carnegie Natural History Museum in Pittsburgh, The Wake explores issues of life and death, imprisonment and freedom, and sleep and dynamic reawakening. For this video, Dana Levy released one hundred monarch butterflies and filmed them among the museum’s specimen drawers, cases, and cabinets, creating a haunting tension between the living and the dead."

Stories We Tell

Sarah Polley in conversation with Elvis Mitchell on KCRW's The Treatment about her new documentary Stories We Tell (May 22, 2013):

There were so many moments, I think, where I wanted to back away from it for all of the sane reasons why someone would, and not the least of which was [while] many documentaries people make about their families or personal documentaries are fantastic and enlightening and insightful, so many of them are totally narcissistic and self-indulgent and I felt that this film was absolutely in danger of those same problems. 

I think, for me, what kept me going was I was so actually fascinated myself in like What is it about us as human beings that needs to tell stories? Why are we so desperate to have narrative? Why is it so impossible for us to live in the mess?

We have to create this kind of neat arc of storytelling around the events in our lives, otherwise it's just too much. It's just too bewildering. 

As If The Intention Of What You Are Doing Has Left

Make-up artist Lois Burwell, on the process of transforming Daniel Day Lewis into Abraham Lincoln (The Business, December 10, 2012): 

"Part of the process we used is called stretch and stipple. You actually need four hands, not two, because you want to hold the skin, paint it, and then use a blow dryer -- on cool so you don't bake him -- to speed up the process. But you actually need four hands. But also you make it efficient and speedy, but we had to learn how to do it together so that there wasn't a feeling of two hands on the face moving separately from each other rather than in conjunction.

If you think of the difference between a massage and two people having a go separately, how that would feel. That's really distracting. So we actually practiced. It's rather like some strange, hip-hop handshake is the only way I can describe it. Doing a make-up simultaneously.

And of course we were in silence, so we mouthed to each other -- eyes, mouth -- you know, just mouthing it...To be perfectly honest, I actually quite like making up people in silence, if I'm really truthful. And fortunately, with Daniel, that is what he liked. So we dovetailed. I don't want to sound pretentious, but the only way I can describe it, is when your hands are working on a face, after a period of time, it's as if the intention of what you're doing has left you -- and the thought process -- and the hands [are] doing it by themselves. So you lose yourself in it. So someone asks you a question, you're sort of broken from it. And it's really hard then to find where you were and begin again. "

Eyes that See

“Most of us go through the world never seeing anything. Then you meet somebody like Herb and Dorothy, who have eyes that see. Something goes from the eye to the soul without going through the brain.” 

Richard Tuttle

See also:


No Longer Divine

A TAG film production.

Pity the Beautiful
by Dana Gioia, from Pity the Beautiful

Pity the beautiful,
the dolls, and the dishes,
the babes with big daddies
granting their wishes.

Pity the pretty boys,
the hunks, and Apollos,
the golden lads whom
success always follows.

The hotties, the knock-outs,
the tens out of ten,
the drop-dead gorgeous,
the great leading men.

Pity the faded,
the bloated, the blowsy,
the paunchy Adonis
whose luck’s gone lousy.

Pity the gods,
no longer divine.
Pity the night
the stars lose their shine.

To Be Good at Feeling

"We exist in a time where technological change is taking place so profoundly that as human beings reared on the 20th Century paradigm there is little way we could possibly keep up. Think for a second about the effect this must have on our emotions. Though Beginners weaves a simple narrative about a man and his relationship to his father, his girlfriend, his dog and his work, there is a bigger story at play. Some people draw well, some people play music well, some people make films well, but how many of us actually feel well? I'm speaking of 'well' in the sense of being able to feel with talent…to be good at feeling. To act and live within the full expression of the word and to accept all the responsibility that it entails. Perhaps, even if we have to approach this journey as beginners, this is a proposition worth considering."

~ Aaron Rose, excerpted from The Art of Feeling Well in Drawings from the Film Beginners

See also:

Mystery is the Catalyst for Imagination

"One of the things that I bought at the magic store was this: Tannen's Mystery Magic Box. The premise behind the mystery magic box was the following: 15 dollars buys you 50 dollars worth of magic. Which is a savings. Now, I bought this decades ago...I don't keep everything, but for some reason I haven't opened this box...And I started thinking, why haven't I opened it?

The price of mystery has risen a bit since 1976.And I realized that I haven't opened it because it represents something important -- to me. It represents my grandfather...[and] it represents infinite possibility. It represents hope. It represents potential. And what I love about this box, and what I realize I sort of do in whatever it is that I do, is I find myself drawn to infinite possibility, that sense of potential. And I realize that mystery is the catalyst for imagination. Now, it's not the most ground-breaking idea, but when I started to think that maybe there are times where mystery is more important than knowledge, I started getting interested in this."

~ J.J. Abrams, from "Mystery Box," TED, March 2007

See also:

Prayer About Everyone and Everything

Prayer About Everyone and Everything

Terrence Malick's film is a form of prayer. It created within me a spiritual awareness, and made me more alert to the awe of existence. I believe it stands free from conventional theologies, although at its end it has images that will evoke them for some people. It functions to pull us back from the distractions of the moment, and focus us on mystery and gratitude…" ~ Roger Ebert

We Will Protect What We Fall In Love With

“I've been filming time-lapse flowers 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for over 35 years. To watch them move is a dance I'm never going to get tired of. It fills me with wonder, and it opens my heart. Beauty and seduction, I believe, is nature's tool for survival, because we will protect what we fall in love with. Their relationship is a love story that feeds the Earth. It reminds us that we are a part of nature, and we're not separate from it.”

~ Louie Schwartzberg, from “The Hidden Beauty of Pollination,” TED, March 2011

How Is It That the Innocent Survive

Excerpt from "Wicked’s Gregory Maguire on What Turns a Story into a Fairy Tale":

You might say that every fairy tale at its heart is the story of growing up, of a protagonist successfully navigating the treacherous path through the woods from innocence to experience without being eaten by the wolves. For children a fairy tale is about hope. They don’t yet know if they are going to make it. They read fairy tales as being about what might happen, that they might have the strengths to make it through the woods and fight the dragons, and end up in the castle with the princess or the prince. Adults look at fairy tales differently, because, if they are adults, presumably they have made it to that safety zone of having survived their childhoods. They look back at fairy tales with a combination of nostalgia––because don’t we all love something about our childhoods anyway, including the mystery of what was going to be on the other side of childhood––and a sort of clinical curiosity. We want to know how is it that the innocent survive when they are really so clueless. We love to read about how people became who they became, how Picasso became Picasso, or how Elizabeth Taylor became Elizabeth Taylor. As adults, let’s face it, even if we have make it to adult life, we are still not sure exactly who we are. To look back at the story of a fairy tale, which is to look back at the story of a path from cluelessness to potency, can continue to give us courage.

Erik Christian Haugaard, a Danish writer who is now dead, said in a speech once, “The Fairy tale always takes the side of the weak against the mighty. There is no such thing as a fascist fairy tale. A fascist fairy tale would be an absurdity.” There is something essential about that fact. The protagonist can’t be dominating or mean or the bully of the playground. There might be new fairy tales, but there are some eternals that have to exist. If they don’t exist, what we see is not a fairy tale––it is something else. The absolute requirement of a fairy tale may be that the protagonist has to be in some way less strong and more humble than other people in the story. But as long as that is in existence than the form of a fairy tale can change infinitely and it will always be recognizable by anyone who hears the words “once upon a time.”

See also: Director Joe Wright explains the surprising five films that inspired the making of Hanna.