Friday, February 22, 2013

Oscar windup; early Kodachrome films

Wouldn't you like to be a fly on the wall of this space when it's filled with the crème de la crème of filmdom? Designed by Madeline Stuart and inspired by art director Cedric Gibbons, it's the Architectural Digest's greenroom for the 2013 Oscars. A cat, a glass of wine, Mozart, and a book and I'd be in heaven on one of those couches.
"Here's a red carpet alternative: What are you reading?" That's the question posed by Robert Gray, an editor at the book industry blog Shelf Awareness. "After all," he writes, "book-to-film Best Picture winners have been commonplace in recent years: Slumdog Millionaire (2008), No Country for Old Men (2007), Million Dollar Baby (2004), The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003), A Beautiful Mind (2001).

 Five of the nine Best Picture nominees this year have a book connection, including Lincoln, based in part on Doris Kearns Goodwin's Team of Rivals; Life of Pi, adapted from Yann Martel's novel; Argo, inspired by events chronicled in Argo: How the CIA and Hollywood Pulled Off the Most Audacious Rescue in History by Antonio Mendez and Matt Baglio; Silver Linings Playbook, based on the novel by Matthew Quick; and Victor Hugo's book-to-musical-to-movie musical Les Misérables."
Sakai Hōitsu (1761 – 1828), The Poet Hitomaro (detail), first decade of the 19th century. Hanging scroll; ink and colors on silk, Berkeley Art Museum.
Lately we at Daedalus Books have been pulling our noses out of our latest acquisitions and putting some of our attention into finding kindred spirits on Twitter. (A bunch of us live tweeted the last episode of Downton Abbey, for example. You can follow us @daedalusbooks.) Boy, did I ever find a kindred spirit in Robert Gray, who is also a former bookseller. When I went to look at his Twitter page, I saw that he he had joined the literary magazine Spaces as an editor and written the most lovely post. Here is an excerpt from an essay on his work space that is so resonant for me, from the sentiments on reading to the love of Japan Society exhibits.
Sometimes–now, let’s say–I cocoon myself in this office for an hour or two and read whatever has drawn my attention to the bookcase nearby. Reading is the place where the world briefly makes a little more sense. Reading is my refuge. Reading is my best side.
Of the three books currently resting on this desktop, two are new: The Garden of Evening Mists and Silver Wind: The Arts of Sakai Hōitsu (1761-1828),” the catalogue for an art exhibit I saw last month at the Japan Society in New York City.
How does one capture stillness on paper? Not in an exhibition catalogue, to be sure, though the book sparks visual memories of the museum visit and the stunning works I encountered. If reproductions are a catalyst, so are the words: “In this large hanging scroll, Kiitsu depicts Japan’s tallest, most sacred peak as a majestic, gleaming vision, using only white pigment to define the mountain’s sharp-edged ridges, covered by snow and ice.”
Getting back to the Oscars, I wonder which of the films on this year's list will be revered, re-watched, and imitated in the decades to come? We're carrying two collections on films that have endured by writers whose opinions I've respected for a long time: Richard Schickel's Matinee Idylls: Reflections on the Movies and Gary Giddins' Warning Shadows: Home Alone with Classic Cinema.When all the carpets have been trod, the weighty statues clutched, and the glitterati all dispersed to their after-parties, it's not a bad finale to curl up with a book about movies.
From 1922, these tests of Kodachrome film stock from the George Eastman House collections are strangely entrancing. The first full length color feature film did not appear until 13-years later (Becky Sharp).

Actresses include Mae Murray, Hope Hampton (modeling costumes from 1922's The Light in the Dark, which contained the first commercial use of Two-Color Kodachrome in a feature film), and the Ziegfeld Follies' Mary Eaton.
Will you be watching the Oscars live? And is there somebody special you're rooting for?


  1. Mama Don't Take My Kodachrome/
    Mama Don't Take My Kodachrome/
    Mama Don't Take My Kodachrome Away!

    - Carrie Fisher's -ex-whatever his name

    And Speaking of Daedalus Books. JP?

    I've been there. Twice.
    The second visit reaffirmed the conclusion I reached the first go-round.

    Daedalus Books is merely the Best "Brick and Mortar" Book Store In The Entire World!

    The selection was sublime; moreover, the staff proved very welcoming, helpful whilst unobtrusive, and deeply knowledgeable.

    And if that weren't enough, this enchanting uber-site serves as the perfect "virtual" complement....Indeed, The Baron browses only two places on the Internet, for all the wisdom and Zeitgeist he needs:

    (1) Frank Rich holding forth at "New York Magazine" and
    (2) JP representing right here at "The Daily Glean"...

    B. Von Mugenhausen

  2. Awww shucks! Do tell more about what draws you to Frank Rich? I like the Daedalus store too ... besides the selection, the staff are fun and funny. They make cool videos and stuff. Speaking of Paul Simon's soulmates, we are getting a new CD by Edie Brickell and Steve Martin (Love Has Come For You) that is absolutely totally awesome! I just blurbed an advance copy.

  3. Hear, hear, Herr Baron!
    Where else would one encounter such diverse interests, so well presented!
    Re: the Kodachrome film test--it's a little like looking through the one-way mirror in the little girls' room.
    Not that we would know first-hand.
    I still have my Kodak Flashfun camera, which used to take nice pictures with great color.
    I haven't yet figured out the digital camera thing. Felixity says I'm inhibiting his future as a director of his own videos.

    1. "Re: the Kodachrome film test--it's a little like looking through the one-way mirror in the little girls' room."--well put! A lot of preening, but necessary I guess to test the lighting and colors that would look good. We await the debut of Felixity as auteur.

  4. "How does one capture stillness on paper?"

    I thought the problem with painting was capturing movement!

  5. I sent my words into the Infinite;
    I thought they would return after a spell.
    But picky Google meisters didn't find them fit--
    Somewhere in Google twilight they must dwell.

    The Google gods are right; they were unruly,
    Dishevelled and hastily conceived,
    But chil'len they are, though unnecessary,
    Please reveal their sorry fate to one bereaved!

    Henceforth, I will send only the ready,
    Politic, witty, and discreet,
    And reserve the lame, halt, and unsteady,
    For a place outside of Googleland-- a Tweet!

    gioconda via Salamanderheart ("Speaketh in verse or shut up.")
    in case multiple comments are frowned upon.

  6. I feel like I *neeeeed* to see the depiction of Japan's tallest, most sacred peak now that I've read that little excerpt.

    1. I tried to find it ... no luck w/in time frame i had. :(

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