Open Notes: Great American Directors

I had a brainstorm this morning (slightly foggy with a 15% chance of bitter recriminations) and decided that (why not) I should start putting class notes up online. There aren’t a lot of classes here for which I take really detailed notes, but one for which I do is Tom Pope’s fantastic series of Great American Directors classes, which started last semester with the 1930s and Frank Capra, this semester will cover the 60s and 70s, and next semester will cover the 80s to the present.

I cannot speak highly enough of this class, and the few months that I’ve spent in it have immeasurably broadened my horizons and turned me on to such amazing movies as George Stevens’ A Place In The Sun. So if you can understand the notes (sometimes incoherent and peppered with bizarre comments like “DAMMIT STAN, THERE IS ANOTHER WAY”), I’d say they’re definitely worth a read, if only as a list of recommended viewing.

Go to for a list of all the notes, downloadable in rich text format. A new director will be added every week this semester. New this week: Stanley Kubrick! Dr. Strangelove! 2001! violence and depravity and self-destruction! Wheee!

Here are links to the directors that we have covered in class so far:

Frank Capra
Howard Hawks
Orson Welles
George Stevens
John Huston
John Ford
Michael Curtiz
Billy Wilder
Gene Kelley & Stanley Donen – The American Musical
Alfred Hitchcock
Joseph L. Mankiewicz
William Wyler
Elia Kazan
Martin Ritt
Stanley Kubrick

Go nuts!

He still has a pony

“I’m addicted to placebos. I could quit but it wouldn’t matter.”

I know I don’t usually do this and I apologize in advance because this post has very little to do with filmmaking, but… well… I guess I can make a case for it being somehow related. My grandmother occasionally asks me where I get my ideas from, and I never really know the answer. But they come about when I am in a particular mindset, and I can be reliably transported there by Steven Wright, a man with whom I am honored to share my birthday (not like that discombobulated no-account Dave Brubeck), a man who is one of the few remaining true American geniuses. To call him a stand-up comedian seems to somehow diminish him. Instead I prefer to think of him as a surrealist Robert Frost, or possibly Salvador DalĂ­ on horse tranquilizers.

“…I said ‘take off your shoes’ and he said ‘what do you think?’ and I said ‘I don’t know, I’ve seen bigger feet on a bird.’ Then he started dancing really fast and whistling really loud. Then I left.”

Steven Wright put out his first album, I Have A Pony, in 1985. Befitting his comic timing, he put out his second album, I Still Have A Pony, 22 years later. I’m listening to I Still Have A Pony right now, and it is perhaps the funniest thing I have seen, heard, or read in years. Remember that weird guy you saw on the bus the other day? Imagine what it would be like to sit down next to him and have a conversation about birds and hitchhikers and lighter fluid and canned peas, and that should give you a pretty good idea of what this album is like to experience.

But why not just experience it yourself? Now is a perfect time to try out Amazon’s new music download service, because you can get the entire album in high-quality DRM-free MP3s for nine dollars right here.

“If worst comes to worst we’re screwed.”

Fun fact: Steven wright is perhaps the most unlikely Oscar®-winner in the history of the Academy. He won for co-writing and acting in the 1989 short film The Appointments of Dennis Jennings. He also wrote and directed the poetic, funny, sometimes-macabre short film One Soldier (1999), which is itself packed full of terrific lines like, “I hope I’m not dead because I have a lot more woodworking to do.”

The Fountain Press Conference

First off, please tell me if this is a re-post. It may be, and I forgot about it.

This is a link to an iKlipz video of a press conference for the film, “The Fountain.” I’ve never seen the press conference, and it truly changed how I view the movie. It’s a bit boring, but only if you aren’t interested in the movie.


Martin Luther King day

Today is Martin Luther King day. Take an hour today to listen to his mountaintop speech. No, that isn’t too much to ask.

I am so very glad he didn’t sneeze.

…and bacon!

Wow… that was intense. By far the most (and longest) comments I’ve ever gotten on a post. I never know what is going to set you people off.

Anyway, I have a little gift for you today, something that will I think only serve to reinforce the idea that not only have I gone bonkers, but that the entire process of making movies is totally whacked out. The following audio clip is lifted from a recording session. That’s all I’m going to say about it, other than that it is integral to the post-production process on 16 Heads and Counting:

Here it is.


"It's such a sadness"

David Lynch has a habit of saying exactly what I’m thinking, but saying about a hundred times better than I ever could. Exhibit A:

David Lynch talks about watching movies on the iPhone

Even if you don’t like his movies, you have to admit that when he’s right, he’s right. [Via BoingBoing]

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