1. “A Raised Voice.” How Nina Simone turned the movement into music.
“Simone’s explosiveness was well known. In concert, she was quick to call out anyone she noticed talking, to stop and glare or hurl a few insults or even leave the stage. Yet her performances, richly improvised, were also confidingly intimate—she needed the connection with her audience—and often riveting. Even in her best years, Simone never put many records on the charts, but people flocked to her shows. In 1966, the critic for the Philadelphia Tribune, an African-American newspaper, explained that to hear Simone sing ’is to be brought into abrasive contact with the black heart and to feel the power and beauty which for centuries have beat there.’ She was proclaimed the voice of the movement not by Martin Luther King but by Stokely Carmichael and H. Rap Brown, whose Black Power philosophy answered to her own experience and inclinations. As the sixties progressed, the feelings she displayed—pain, lacerating anger, the desire to burn down whole cities in revenge—made her seem at times emotionally disturbed and at other times simply the most honest black woman in America.”
2. “This day 15 years ago changed the future of American horror movies.” Todd VanDerWerff on the legacy of The Blair Witch Project.
“Artisan exploited this real/not real divide for all it was worth that summer. Yes, if pressed, the studio would grudgingly admit the film wasn’t real. But it really hoped potential viewers would think it was. The mythology surrounding the titular witch that the directors came up with felt so tangible and plausible, like a small-town horror tale glanced barely out of one’s peripheral vision. The tie-in book and Sci-Fi promotional show were pitched at the tone of Unsolved Mysteries or In Search Of, infotainment aiming to playfully deceive. The Blair Witch didn’t actually exist. But the promotional materials seemed aimed at getting viewers’ collective unconscious to make her real. And particularly when combined with the film’s Internet presence, the campaign created an appetite for untrue truths that the ’net was particularly well-suited to sate. Want to read more about the Blair Witch? Just click on the links. Want to tell your own stories about her? Well, why not. Want to create your own monsters? All the same, really.”
3. “Extracting audio from visual information.” Algorithm recovers speech from the vibrations of a potato-chip bag filmed through soundproof glass.
“Researchers at MIT, Microsoft, and Adobe have developed an algorithm that can reconstruct an audio signal by analyzing minute vibrations of objects depicted in video. In one set of experiments, they were able to recover intelligible speech from the vibrations of a potato-chip bag photographed from 15 feet away through soundproof glass. In other experiments, they extracted useful audio signals from videos of aluminum foil, the surface of a glass of water, and even the leaves of a potted plant. The researchers will present their findings in a paper at this year’s Siggraph, the premier computer graphics conference. ’When sound hits an object, it causes the object to vibrate,’ says Abe Davis, a graduate student in electrical engineering and computer science at MIT and first author on the new paper. ’The motion of this vibration creates a very subtle visual signal that’s usually invisible to the naked eye. People didn’t realize that this information was there.’”
4. “Why True Detective’s Nic Pizzolatto Is Not a Plagiarist.” Because if he is, says Greg Cwik, so is Steven Spielberg.
“As Quentin Tarantino once said: ’If it’s done well, it’s homage, but if it’s done badly, it’s just plagiarism.’ The library of films that have ripped off other films is vast and deep. Some filmmakers, such as Tarantino (of the VHS generation) and Spielberg (of the network-TV generation), amalgamate their influences to engender their own style; you know a Tarantino film or a Spielberg film when you see it. They have distinct personalities, laced with self-awareness and spurred by the commingling of established film styles, and have since been rip-offed themselves. Tarantino in particular lifts from obscure films that inspired him, and he’s been extremely open about it. He doesn’t just cobble together some hodgepodge vanity project and call it a day. Of course other filmmakers do just that, suffusing their films with so many references and allusions to other films they start to resemble an Ouroboros, a fat entity stuffed with pop-culture knowledge chocking on its own ass. (See: Kevin Williamson, struggling to recapture the brilliance of the first two Scream movies and failing ungracefully.) But Pizzolatto is not Kevin Williamson. He’s more akin to Tarantino.”
5. “Bombast: It’s War.” A few words by Nick Pinkerton on Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and war movies.
“Regardless of the admitted impossibility of the task, Fuller wasn’t dissuaded from portraying war. His breakout movie, 1951’s The Steel Helmet, was one of the first to depict the ground soldier’s experience in Korea—in fact, Los Angeles’s Griffith Park—and time and again his films would return to the heat of combat, or to the immediate aftermath of struggle and strife. While operating from the same assumptions, Fuller and Marker embody two opposite tactical approaches to representing the unrepresentable: one between the eyes, the other abstract, esoteric. When Fuller, an American Jew who was present at the liberation of the Falkenau concentration camp, wants to show the horror of the Holocaust, as he does in his 1959 Verboten!, he has an adolescent German Nazi sympathizer (named Franz Schiller!) made to sit in on the Nuremberg Trials, where he must bear witness to real images from the camps, the eyes of the persecuted, taken from stock footage, boring into actor Harold Daye, who is seen in a series of sweaty, oppressive close-ups.”
Video of the Day: The spectacularly treacly trailer for The Theory of Everything:
Links for the Day: A collection of links to items that we hope will spark discussion. We encourage our readers to submit candidates for consideration to firstname.lastname@example.org and to converse in the comments section.