In February 1934, something called the 'Motion Picture Ball' was held at New York's then rather newish Waldorf Astoria Hotel and the Fox Movietone sound cameras were there to capture the event. I don't know what the hell the purpose of the ball was but it brought out a heavy duty crowd of 'swells' who, from appearances, seem wildly untouched by the great depression that was then raging just outside the doors. It feels rather like a scene you'd find in 'My Man Godfrey'--fat balding men in evening clothes, fat stuffy wives on their arms. The announcer appears to be the person that inspired Jackie Gleason's Ralph Kramden voice. For seven minutes we watch as a cascade of long-dead people enter an unseen room as the announcer names names, cracks wise etc. The boredom of the shot becomes mesmerizing (for me anyway). At seven minutes or so in, we cut to the actual ball itself. The band is playing 'Wonder Bar' (the movie had just been released) and a cascade of balloons is released upon the dining/dancing area. They don't come apart easily and for a long, uneasy moment we realize that people are trapped underneath them. Finally the seas part, the dance continues, the Motion Picture Ball goes on, the humanity continuing it's relentless march toward ultimate extinction only to be preserved by this film time capsule...

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Meet Harry Rosenthal. He was a silent film piano accompaniest who later became a movie-score conductor due to the fact that his first career was phased out of existence when talking films phased out silents. In 1930 he made the above Fox Movietone short film demonstrating the quite fascinating technique of adding music 'on the fly' to a movie being projected. The end of this specialty act came two years or so before this demo film was made. Synchronized music scores, however, first came about in 1926 with Warner Brothers 'Don Juan' starring John Barrymore, though that film was still mute as far as dialogue goes. Imagine the advent of a symphonic score against picture being a sufficient enough novelty to be cause for a billboard like the one pictured below? Yes, in fact, I can. The reason that I'm posting this at this particular moment is that I'm sitting in a sound mix and marveling how much a great score can elevate a movie. Many thanks to the mysterious YouTube artist Guy Jones for restoring and posting another invaluable Fox Movietone artifact.

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Last week we recorded ADR (Additional Dialogue Recording) for my movie 'Stano'. I am no fan of this process as I can almost always tell, while watching a movie, when it's been done. Even well performed and well-mixed ADR never quite sits realistically for me and actor's performances are rarely improved by asking them to stand in a recording studio, stare at themselves on the screen and attempt to fit dialogue into their on-screen mouths in precisely the right rhythm so as to achieve 'perfect' lip sync (and somehow act at the same time).  Some actors don't mind doing it, some hate it. The only actor I've ever heard of who demands to ADR his whole performance is Al Pacino. He claims it gives him a second chance at improving his performance. I can't imagine his first pass is in need of this tune-up but who knows? Perhaps his performance actually is better, though I think it might be safer to say that its a bit different.

I generally only re-record lines that are clearly damaged by severe background noise and am usually pleasantly surprised at how well most actors do with it, even the ones who don't like doing it. But I still can tell when I'm seeing it in a movie, even if it's well done. And when it's not well done, as in the above clip from 'The Great Gatsby', it's an atrocity. As seasoned an actor as DiCaprio is, he either didn't give a crap about doing a better job or didn't have time...or just isn't that good at it...or protested the need to do it by intentionally funking the job. Was Baz Lurhman not there on the day? Perhaps the two weren't speaking. Or perhaps they were just no longer creatively in sync. Har. Get it?

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After a private screening last night of 'Ed Wood' (which is, for my money, the best film ever made about the life of an artist), my son and I spent some time on Youtube finding the original film clips and trying to compare them with the fastidious recreations. What was I thinking? There was already a perfectly accomplished split-screen version of exactly what I was taking way too much time trying to do on my own. So I posted it above. Enjoy nine or so minutes of 'Ed Wood' and...Ed Wood.

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Here's another stupid Korvette's commercial (see yesterday's post for the cheapo Julie Newmar spot) which, if nothing else, provides some nice glimpses of period 1970s stereo receivers and turntables. This commercial is thirty seconds longer than the previously posted commercial and the faux-musical number contained within its structure seems to have actually been prepared, rehearsed and planned. Did they simply spend too much money on this ad and decide to cheese-out when doing the Newmar ad? Or did Julie's presence bust the budget and thus require a serious pullback on production values? I hope it was the later, for Julie's sake. And I hope they provided her with a private car to and from the set to ease the disgrace of having to do the ad at all. Though somehow I think they tried to palm off a bus pass on her...

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