Norman McLaren


The big movie this weekend is Neighbors, starring Zac Efron, Rose Byrne and Seth Rogen. This makes it the perfect time to watch another film called Neighbours, starring two Canadian animators and one particularly pesky yellow flower. After all, they’re basically the same movie. You can also consider it your personal celebration of the National Film Board of Canada, which celebrated its 75th anniversary this week. Norman McLaren‘s Oscar-winning 1952 short is a classic of stop-motion animation. And, like Nicholas Stoller’s new comedy, it is about two next-door neighbors who just can’t get along. The conflict in the new one is a bit more complex, framed as an inter-generational war between a married couple with a young child and a college fraternity. The 1952 Neighbours is just about two nondescript guys, almost exactly alike. They sit next to each other peacefully on their front lawns, reading newspapers that mirror each other. They’re dressed in the same conservative 1950s style. The only significant difference is that one of them has a mustache.


Why Watch? For starters, today begins the 2013 Cannes Film Festival and this trippy short won the short film Palme d’Or back in 1955. Blinkity Blank is one of Canadian animator Norman McLaren‘s more charismatic experimental works, designed to play with persistence of vision. He scratched all of these strange little images directly onto black film leader, and accompanied them with scratches he added to the film’s optical soundtrack. Those odd noises were then added to Maurice Blackburn‘s experimental jazz soundtrack. The colorful shapes resemble abstract forms as well as the occasional bird, a favorite subject of McLaren’s. There also a number of blank frames, which he described as “sprinkling on the empty band of time.” Sometimes the shapes combine and grow, sometimes they erase one another. This fluid and immaterial rhythms of light grab fleetingly at the eye, and haunt your vision quite literally for the slightest of instants. Turn off the lights, full-screen the video and give it a shot. What Will It Cost? About 5 minutes. Keep Watching Short Films


Movie Camera Technology

James Cameron is always on the brink of revolution. Really, the dude needs to take a breather. At this year’s CinemaCon, the tech-centric director couldn’t shut up about 3D, faster frame rates and improved camera systems while everyone around him was salivating for a detail or two on his plans for the Avatar sequels. Forget that — there are shutter speeds to be discussed! We’re all about Peter Jackson hyping The Hobbit shooting 48 fps on RED digital 3D and legendary effects guru Douglas Trumbull heading back to directing with a tech-first approach, but at some point, isn’t the equipment standing in the way of great storytelling? We’ll give the benefit of the doubt to these three men, but whether any of their advancements are really “the future of movies,” won’t be known for a few years. Unfortunately, just because you’re brilliant and you say something is awesome…doesn’t mean it’s awesome. Here’s a look back at some of the other “game-changing” inventions that were supposed to change the way we watch movies, but never really picked up steam.


Culture Warrior

Synesthesia (syn-es-the-sia, Brit. syn-aes-the-sia): “The production of a sense impression relating to one sense or part of the body by stimulation of another sense or part of the body.” Synesthesia is a neurological disorder in which the experience of one sense motivates an involuntary association with another sense. Those who experience synesthesia, known as synesthetes, are able to either perceive letters or numbers as inherently colored, hear movement, or – in probably the best-known cases of the disorder – see music in the form of colors and/or associative shapes. Now, cognitive sciences seem, on the surface, to have little to do with the study of cinema, but the topic of synesthesia can be particularly helpful in understanding the way in which we interpret the interaction of the two senses most available in watching movies: the aural and the visual.

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published: 01.28.2015
published: 01.28.2015
published: 01.28.2015
published: 01.27.2015

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