Bill Morrison on ‘Decasia’

For the past twenty years, Bill Morrison has been mining film archives, resurrecting decaying nitrate that would otherwise have been discarded and then editing it into new narratives. Released in 2002, Decasia helped Morrison reach a wide audience. Tied to a hypnotic score by Michael Gordon, the 67-minute feature explores many levels and meanings of decay, from the physical aspects of nitrate decomposition to the ruminations on nostalgia and memory. Decasia started out as a commission by the Europaischer Musikmonat for a symphony by composer Michael Gordon, a co-founder of Bang On A Can. Along with artistic director Bob McGrath and visual designer Laurie Olinder, Morrison was a member of Ridge Theatre, which had been staging Bang On A Can … More

Early Cartoon Masterpieces Screen in New York City

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences continues its five-part series on animation with The History of Silent and Early Sound New York Animation on Tuesday, May 19, at The Academy Theater on East 59th Street in Manhattan. Historian and collector Tommy Stathes, a specialist in early animation, hosts the program, which features cartoons from as early as 1900. The evening’s final film, 1928′s Steamboat Willie, introduced Mickey Mouse to the world. Movies like J. Stuart Blackton’s Humorous Phases of Funny Faces (1906) were made in New York City because that’s where the motion picture industry was concentrated. A vaudeville performer, Blackton would go on to head Brooklyn’s Vitagraph Studios, one of the most successful of the early production … More

Celebrating Animation from Its Beginnings

For the next five weeks the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will be spotlighting animation in a series that stretches from the form’s early beginnings to one of this summer’s most eagerly awaited releases. An Animation Showcase: From Celluloid to CGI will take viewers from trick films made at the turn of the twentieth century by J. Stuart Blackton to a sneak-peek screening of Inside Out. “This celebration of animation is really just the beginning of what I hope will be an ongoing series on filmmaking crafts,” according to Patrick Harrison, the Academy’s Director of New York Programs and Membership. “The Academy gives out awards in 24 categories of filmmaking. We have an opportunity to educate both the … More

Accidentally Preserved: Ben Model Helps Save Rare Films

Pianist Ben Model has been accompanying silent films for almost thirty years, including a few of my National Film Registry screenings. Along with film historian Bruce Lawton, he launched the Silent Clowns Film Series in 1997, which this spring will focus on features and shorts by Harold Lloyd in screenings at the Bruno Walter Auditorium at New York’s Library for the Performing Arts. Model has helped bring back to the public several long-neglected comedians. He’s also uncovered films so obscure that no one even knew they were lost. In a new DVD, Accidentally Preserved, Model is making some of these films available again. Here are the titles: The Water Plug with Billy Franey (1920) Cheer Up with Cliff Bowes (1924) … More