Alcatraz: America’s Toughest Prison (1977)

Alcatraz: America’s Toughest Prison unfolds the fascinating history of this legendary federal prison established to house the nation’s most notorious criminals. Situated on an island surrounded by the shark-infested waters of the San Francisco Bay, the facility incarcerated 1,545 men from 1934 to its closing in 1963. This documentary looks at some of the celebrity criminals who were housed at Alcatraz, including gang leader Al Capone. Capone spent more than four years in Alcatraz cells. Another famous resident, Machine Gun Kelly, remained at Alcatraz for 17 years. Inmate Robert Franklin Stroud, known as “The Birdman” of Alcatraz, developed an international reputation while imprisoned. The violent Stroud received his nickname for his devotion to his hobby, the study of birds. The film also features interviews with ex-cons and actual footage of the 1960s takeover of Alcatraz by Native Americans. ~ Sally Barber, All Movie Guide (movies.nytimes.com)

See also: Parts 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7.

A Trip Down Memory Lane (1965)

In 1965 Lipsett filmed a series of psychology lectures at McGill University in Montreal (25) and directed A Trip Down Memory Lane (1965). A surrealist time capsule combining fifty years of newsreel footage, A Trip Down Memory Lane was Lipsett’s first pure collage film, composed exclusively from stock image and sound. Continuing his process of excavation, mediation and transformation, the film constitutes a brief audiovisual tour of the post-war technocracy. In his notes “for [producer] Donald Brittain in order to communicate to him some basic thinking” on the film, Lipsett writes “As science grows, religious belief seems to have diminished”, adding that, “The new machines (of every description) are now invested with spiritual qualities. They have become ritualistic implements.” (26) Working from a by-then familiar repertoire of images, A Trip Down Memory Lane pieces together footage of a beauty contest and a religious procession; failed airflight, automotive and science experiments; callous animal testing; skyscraper construction; military paraphernalia; John D. Rockefeller and scenes of leisure; Richard Nixon and scenes of war; blimps, hot air balloons, a sword swallower. (Senses of Cinema)

GRL Laser Graffiti

Defense contractors say that within the next 10 years they’ll have a solid state laser mounted on a Hummer that can put a hole in sheet of metal from several miles away. Well Dutch graffiti writers can pretty much do that now with this Hymermobil rocking a GRL L.A.S.E.R. Tagging System.

Find out from Agent Watson how this big fucking laser works and download the open source code (built in C++ using Open Frameworks).

When the Pentagon finally does get those hand-held lasers I know a few writers in Holland who will be the first to rack them: F. Lady, BIC, Dask, Walk, NW, WLC (Berlin), Oles, Lastplak, Baschz, Evas, El Pussycat, EVK, Losers, TM, Curry, Ros, Raid, Guilty, LRK, VEV, GPS and ERAS. Thanks to everyone and all our love to Rotterdam (bring an umbrella).

A production of the GRL, Agent Watson, Bennett4Senate, and Huib Van Der Werf. This Weapon of Mass Defacement brought to you by the rouge nation of the Netherlands and the Atelier Rijksbouwmeester. (Graffiti Research Lab)

A Call to Action

A passionate call for a general strike in the US this November 6:

Of all the various depredations of the Bush regime, none has been so thorough as its plundering of hope. Iraq will recover sooner. What was supposed to have been the crux of our foreign policy—a shock-and-awe tutorial on the utter futility of any opposition to the whims of American power—has achieved its greatest and perhaps its only lasting success in the American soul. You will want to cite the exceptions, the lunch-hour protests against the war, the dinner-party ejaculations of dissent, though you might also want to ask what substantive difference they bear to grousing about the weather or even to raging against the dying of the light—that is, to any ritualized complaint against forces universally acknowledged as unalterable. Bush is no longer the name of a president so much as the abbreviation of a proverb, something between Murphy’s Law and tomorrow’s fatal inducement to drink and be merry today. (Harper’s)

Tangible User Interface

vaucelle

The cumbersome process of capturing and editing becomes fluid in the improvisation of a story, and accessible as a way to create a final movie. It was shown how a graphical interface created for video production informs the design of a tangible environment that provides a spontaneous and collaborative approach to video creation, selection and sequencing. (Architectradure: interaction design and ambient intelligence)

21-87 (1963)

For Canadians, one scene in Star Wars is of particular interest. As the movie’s hero, Luke Skywalker, prepares to rescue Princess Leia from the Death Star, the roguish Han Solo informs him where she is to be found in the bowels of the space station’s prison. “We gotta find out which cell this princess of yours is in. Here it is: 21-87,” the mercenary pilot of the Millennium Falcon barks. (CBC News Indepth: Star Wars: the Canadian Angle)

Few films are as movingly bleak as Arthur Lipsett’s little-known 21-87 (1963). This stunning evocation of dehumanization juxtaposes found footage from several cities. Cuts between images that don’t match – crowds seen from different camera angles or under different light – subtly express alienation. The editing also creates surrealistic illusions – for example, jumping from a man looking upward to an image of a monkey. Shots of anonymous crowds are combined with shots of people playing roles central to the era – models at a fashion show, a man in a space suit, kids shaking like automatons to (one assumes) rock ‘n’ roll. Such identity-alternating roles steal the idea of the soul; everyone in the film seems tragically removed from any possible authenticity. Lipsett uses sound ironically; at midpoint and again at the film’s end a voice seems to declare that everyone is proud to have a number rather than a name, announcing, “Somebody walks up and they say, ‘Your number is 21-87, isn’t it?’ Boy does that person really smile.” The fear of being reduced to a number was more intense in 1963 than today in the age of PINs, and the voice on the sound track equates identity with a number that’s as arbitrary as the rag-and-bone shop footage from which Lipsett assembled his film. Not surprisingly, the Canadian Film Board, for which it was made, hated it and later threw most of the prints in the garbage. Lipsett committed suicide in 1986. (Ubuweb: Arthur Lipsett)

Las Hurdes (1933)

“Do you see this wonderful valley?” director Luis Buñuel asked his crew as they began filming this documentary; “well, this is where Hell begins.” Buñuel had long displayed a love/hate relationship with his native Spain, and his bitterness rarely flowed with greater force than in Las Hurdes. While the Spanish valley of Las Hurdes Bajas is green and beautiful, the mountainous region of Las Hurdes Altas is mired in economic and cultural poverty. As captured on film by Buñuel, Las Hurdes Altas is a land of flinty soil where few if any crops will grow. Bread is a rare luxury that must be brought in from the valley. Many of the residents subsist on pork, and most suffer from dietary deficiencies. The village’s only salable export is a bitter variety of honey, and the Catholic Church has all but abandoned the region; the single teacher at the village’s tiny schoolhouse is the town’s sole contact with the outside world. Intermarriage among the families in the village has left many of the children retarded or handicapped, and the children who are born healthy often succumb to starvation and common illnesses. And Las Hurdes is a place with no art, culture or music; intellectually, the village is as barren as its soil. While it was Buñuel’s sole documentary, Las Hurdes is thematically consistent with his other films; its fascination with insects, unblinking look at human cruelty, subtle but clear disgust with the Catholic Church, and moments of jet-black humor mark it as the work of Spain’s greatest surrealist filmmaker. Las Hurdes was also embraced as an attack on Franco’s regime; a British leftist group screened it in the United Kingdom as “The film that answers Franco.” ~ Mark Deming, All Movie Guide (movies.nytimes.com: Las Hurdes)

See also: L’âge d’or

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