Favorite Things, Life

Instagram Faves

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Acrylic on panel. 💐

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Movies, Reviews, Uncategorized

POV in John Cassavetes’s The Killing of a Chinese Bookie

I am currently making my way through the Criterion collection on Kanopy, and I came across an interesting film from 1978, called The Killing of a Chinese Bookie.

On paper, it’s a pretty standard mob crime story: the owner of a strip club gets in too deep with gambling debts owed to the mob, and is tasked with killing a rival bookie to pay off some of what he owes.

What makes it notable is director Cassavetes and cinematographers Mitchell Briet and Al Ruban’s choices in how they shot the film. At first glance, it seems amateurish. It looked like the sort of movie that a film student who watched too much French New Wave would shoot. The picture is often out of focus, pointed at nothing in particular.

It wasn’t until I got to the end of the film, when the camera is rock solid and the picture is almost impossibly crisp did I realize what was going on.

The cinematography was being used as an extension of the main character’s state of mind. The camera wanders with his focus.

When Cosmo is distracted, the camera itself is distracted, focusing on seemingly random parts of the scene, out of focus, and wandering through the set. But when Cosmo is focused, the scenes are shot crisply and simply, focusing on what Cosmo is currently working on.

When the movie ended I immediately started it over, and this new insight really made me more invested in watching the film. It also reminded me that any time I watch a movie, I need to be more cognizant of these tools in the filmmaker’s toolbox, especially if I’m resisting the film for some reason.

If you can find this movie (I watched it on Kanopy) I cannot recommend it enough. And I hope my little observation helps you appreciate it a little more.

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Movies, Student Resources, Uncategorized, Writing Resources, YouTube Film School

Video: Lessons From the Screenplay Talks about Annihilation

I am always astounded by the insights that Michael Tucker has in his Lessons from the Screenplay videos. It constantly challenges me to engage with movies and scripts in deeper and deeper ways.

This is a particularly good one that came out recently. If you like it, I encourage you to go to YouTube and watch more of his videos.

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Criterion Covers From 2018

I love the Criterion Instagram account. It’s constantly updating with beautiful images from Criterion films.

These posts are the covers from the films added to the Criterion Collection in 2018.

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2018 in Criterion covers, Part I ⚡️

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2018 in Criterion covers, Part II ⚡️

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2018 in Criterion covers Part III ⚡️

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Essays, Life

Trinitite: Beauty and the Bomb

I like to think I’m not someone who is easily frightened, but I do have one mostly irrational fear: atomic bombs. 

I have been told that this is silly, and I agree. It’s called an irrational fear for a reason. But I spend too much time getting elbow deep in Cold War-era spy thrillers to avoid the atomic fear echoing up out of the past. 

People my age, born during the fall of the Soviet Union, tend to laugh at the idea of “duck and cover.” Fallout isn’t death on the wind, it’s the newly anticipated video game from Bethesda. 

Trinitite, a.k.a atomsite, a.k.a Alamogordo glass, a.k.a atomic glass (via Wikipedia)

We’ve almost forgotten that atomic weaponry is a terrible thing. If you’re a Millennial or younger, I’ll just leave you with these links to read about Tsar Bomba, the Demon Core,* the aftermath of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the ongoing effect Soviet nuclear testing in Kazakhstan is having on the people who live there.

It’s strange to think, but even the beautiful things that arose from nuclear bomb detonations are tainted by their origins. 

J. Robert Oppenheimer and others studying the remains of an observation tower at the Trinity test site, via Wikimedia and this very interesting Project Gutenberg publication

Trinitite is a mineral found in the blast craters of the 1945 Trinity nuclear bomb tests in Alamogordo, New Mexico. It has a couple different names: atomic glass, Alamogordo glass, and atomsite. It’s a green glass created by the immense heat and pressure caused by the atomic blasts that fused the sand with radioactive materials and pieces of the bomb itself and surrounding structures.

When scientists went out to the test sites, they described the blast crater and surrounding area as covered in a sea of jade green glass. Even though the area was supposed to be heavily guarded and secret, samples of trinitite because appearing in mineral collections. It was thought at the time that there was no risk of harm from radiation since they thought trinitite was merely a heat reaction and not caused by any kind of nuclear reaction at all.

This was… not wise. While not really radioactive enough to cause immediate danger, trinitite was still radioactive. Trinitite was crafted into necklaces and earrings, and advertised to women.

This makes me nervous. While I can’t find any accounts of even the mildest case of radiation poisoning (and a display in New Mexico uses a Geiger counter to compare the levels of radiation between a sample of trinitite and some old school Fiesta cookware.) I can’t help but wonder if some doctor is puzzled about odd cases of thyroid or skin cancer popping up in fans of retro jewelry. 

Trinitite jewelry was also used for a more sinister purpose: as a misinformation campaign against the Japanese victims of the atomic bombs dropped by the U.S. at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. You see, if American women are parading around, sparkling with green jewelry created from a by product of nuclear explosions, how bad off could the Japanese be?**

Back in Alamogordo, New Mexico, the theft of trinitite was becoming a problem. The government banned people from taking trinitite from Alamogordo, and eventually the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission bulldozed over the site completely in 1953 to deter thieves and collectors. 

While samples of pre-prohibition trinitite can be found for sale online, the popularity of the mineral has caused faux-trinitite to be created and sold. While the process of making trinitite can be replicated, only true trinitite contains the radioactive traces that were produced in the Trinity blasts.

Though, if I’m going to choose… I might choose the less radioactive option.

*This is a future blog post unto itself. I have thoughts about the Demon Core. Philosophical and spiritual thoughtsThoughts I tend to think on a regular basis which keep me from sleeping. For another time, though…

**Seriously, this is an actual thing that happened. 

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Life, Student Resources

Graduation: The End is Nigh

This is a sad blog post to write, but my time as a student at Full Sail is coming to an end. In a month I’ll be walking across the stage. So I must begin a project that I have been meaning to put into motion for a while…

I have said month after month that I was going to put down on my blog the resources, knowledge and advice that I have to repeat every month to the class I help tutor, Writing Workshop I: Film. So, in my last weeks and beyond, I’m going to be writing blog posts about my experiences and what I’ve learned, so that I can continue to help my fellow students, even after I’m gone. 

I am going to be grouping all of these posts under the Student Resources category, so they will all be in one place. If you have any specific questions, or have a specific topic related to a class, you can send me a message through the contact page. 

If you enjoyed this post, please consider buying me a coffee by clicking on this link. Your donations go a long way to keeping this blog live, and I appreciate anything you can spare. Thank you!

Life, Uncategorized

The Possibilities of Augmented Reality

I recently found an early access app in the Google Play store called Assemblr. It’s a Minecraft-like sandbox where you can build in 3-d, then drop these creations into augmented reality or even VR.

I’ve been playing around with it, and while it is pretty buggy, it’s very feature rich. There a lot of pre-made elements that you can drop into a scene. You can also build with blocks or other assorted shapes for a real Minecraft experience. The skins and colors are customizable with detailed textures. I’m having a hard time getting the AR elements to work consistently, but I am going to be in contact with the developers because I really, really want this to work. 

The applications for a handheld AR platform are incredible. What if you could have a zero impact art installation in a local park? Or graffiti that is secret? Signage for local business could be revolutionized, especially in cramped, busy cities. You could leave messages in a bottle on the sidewalk that can only be read by people with a certain app. Or you could add to certain places, such as supporting your team by leaving a message at a sports arena up on the wall. Or glamming up a statue in a sort of digital yarn-bombing. You could interact with great works of art and remix them into something original.

But as someone who spends a lot of time at theme parks, I think this technology is a huge opportunity. One big criticism of theme parks is the manufactured nature of your environment. You don’t have much impact over the things around you. Over the years, these things have begun to change. I first noticed it in the immersive environments in the queues at Universal’s Islands of Adventure, where the now-closed Dragon Challenge coasters had a part of the line make it seem like there was a dragon on the other side of the wall ready to attack. Recently, the refurbishment of Disney rides means they have started doing the same, with games and touch screens to keep guests entertained while they wait.

What if, instead of just distracting guests while they wait in line, you build on that concept to build up the entire world of the park? You could have an augmented reality map, with a line guiding guests to their destination projected onto the ground. You could have AR experiences that enhance the settings of the different Kingdoms. A large pirate ship outside the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. Animated birds flitting around, tempting you to go into the Enchanted Tiki Room. A large billboard for space tourism outside of Space Mountain. Animated characters appearing in Fantasyland and Presidents hanging out outside the Hall of Presidents. A parade float with an augmented reality beacon could have a fire-breathing dragon on top of it. You could have information about different types of flowers in the landscaping during the Flower and Garden festival at Epcot. You could have extra content about the different animals living at Animal Kingdom. You could have AR backgrounds in pictures that can only be accessed by visiting a designated Photo Spot.

And the best part of all this is that it would be cheaper to create than actually physically refurbishing the entire façade of a section of the park. This would allow for the constant creation of new material, which would keep the experience fresh and relevant. Seasonal content could be the Hitchhiking Ghosts dressed up as carolers outside of the Haunted Mansion during the Holidays. It could also enhance the experience of other secondary experiences in the parks, such as the Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom game, with hints or bonus content hidden throughout the park.

I’m looking forward to seeing how this little app improves. Hopefully they develop a social media component, so you can drop augmented reality blips and have others visit them.

And if the Walt Disney World Imagineers happen to stumble across this and like what they hear, they can contact me using  this form.

Movies, Shorts


I am in love with this short!

The visuals are really effective. The color palette is classic for the types of movies that are being referenced. I like the practical puppet for the monster and how it interacts with the actors. The sound track is really good.

I find the idea that these guys are more freaked out by the idea of having a kid than the rampaging tentacle monster fascinating. And this guys isn’t rejecting the idea of children, but he’s having an honest discussion about how good a father he would be. His buddy doesn’t tell him to man up or abandon his girlfriend. Instead, once he sees how much this bothers his friend, he acknowledges the guy’s feelings and comforts him. This could have gone full on frat boy, with a real toxic interaction between these two men, especially when you learn that one of them doesn’t want kids. That would have been the easy way out.