Sunday, April 27, 2008

How To... How To...

Cooking Frozen Beef - USDA
Shows housewives how to cook frozen beef (steak, beef rib roast, hamburger patties, stewed beef). Narrated by a faceless self-assured woman who we can only assume is our nation's Home Economist General.

How To Get Cooperation (1950) Coronet Films
Explains the need for a variety of methods of securing cooperation. Shows how desired ends can be reached more easily with cooperation of others. But I really like this film because it centers on recruiting members for the student audio-visual engineers club (a.k.a. a/v geeks!). Ed is so excited because the new 16mm projectors have arrived, but he has a lot learn about recruiting. The physics teacher helps Ed figure out that the soft approach works best than a blunt one.

How To Be A Friend (1977) Alfred Higgins Films
Friendship requires an active process of involvement and growth because it involves trust, respect, and sharing. It requires effort to make friends, to keep friends, and above all, to be a friend. Explores qualities which help to create rewarding friendships, such as trust, shared interests, supportiveness and candor. Lots of girls with wings and each scenario in the film is punctuated by a Judy Collins-esque two line song about friendship.

How To Conduct Yourself In School (1985) Sandler Films Inc
Depicts consequences of careless behaviors in school and at play. Two student ambassadors very dryly inform us to behave in school, and whatever you do, DON'T DAMAGE SCHOOL PROPERTY.

Talking with Your Teenager about VD (1974) Glen West Films
Shows parents effective ways of communicating with their children. Includes teenagers discussing communications with adults in general and the subject of VD in particular. Features a leading public health official who presents information about venereal disease. The film is an encounter group with teenagers talking about how they can't communicate with their parents. This group is very awkwardly inter-spliced interview with a doctor who awkwardly describes VD transmission, symptoms, treatment. For example, the doctor points to an illustration of a woman's reproductive organs "This is a woman who has been cut in half."

The Shoplifter (1964) Highway Safety Foundation
Shows in detail techniques used by amateur and professional shoplifters and explains how alert employees can prevent thefts. While this film was made for retail employees, the film really is a how-to for potential shoplifters. The biggest hauls are made by women who can carry up to 25 pounds of meat, cigarettes, typewriters or shoe polishers under their dresses. If you are a store owner, its hard not to watch this without assuming that everyone is your store to steal from you...

How to Build an Igloo (1951) National Film Board of Canada
A demonstration of igloo building in Canada's far north, showing how the site is collected and how blocks of snow are used. Presents a step-by-step demonstration by two Eskimos of how to build an igloo, showing how the site is selected and how blocks of snow are used to make a snug shelter against the Arctic cold. Explains why the snow must be carefully chosen, why the blocks are built up in a spiral and how an igloo is ventilated. An awesome film! Available at the National Film Board site.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Films on 4/20/08

Paris (1952) United World Films/Castle Films
A travelogue of Paris with all the postcard scenes of Paris. Everyone was confused by the adult content in the film (lots of French drinking and smoking). I reminded everybody that Castle Films distributed films primarily to homes with 16mm projectors.

Magicians of India (1947) Official Films
Pictures a series of strange feats performed by the fakirs or magicians of India. Includes the Indian version of the shell game, a snake charmer, a trained goat and a man who lifts a stone with his eye-lids. I've got a pretty jaded bunch that watch films and they weren't buying most of these magic tricks. The best scenes were the trained goat that balanced on a tiny peg that was probably three inches in diameter and the guy who lifted stones with his eyelids. This reminded me of a great Penn and Teller DVD, Penn & Teller's Magic and Mystery Tour, were the duo watch street magicians in China, India and Egypt.

Lost in the Mish-Mosh (1972) Davidson Films/Xerox Films
Tells how a famous detective (a Sherlock Holmes knockoff) selects the appropriate unit of measure in order to save a kidnapped professor. I was hoping that this film would be as good as "Weird Number" - a great film about fractions by Davidson Films. What a let down. Everybody hated the animation and the story was muddled like many math films. Alas...

It's A Cat's Life (1957) Frith Films
Presents information about cats and kittens, such as their habits and how to care for them. Josh pointed out that the camera work was a little lazy and amateur. Emily Frith was an amateur filmmaker who marketed her films to schools in the 1950s and 1960s.

Debt to the Past - Language and Communication (1962) Moody Institute of Science
Depicts such varied means of communication as spoken, unspoken and written language. Presents the pictographic, ideographic and phonetic stages of written language. Discusses the history of the alphabet and demonstrates the power of language for good and evil. I co-wrote an article about the Moody Institute of Science with NCSU film professor "Something Different in Science Films", so there is a lot to say about the company and their controversial films. MIS released many visual stunning films with science content and a religious hook ending ("could this complex biological system haven happened by accident") taking a jab at evolution. This film is not quite as controversial since it deals with the history of language, it does talk about how the Bible got its name - from Byblos. One theme I've seen in other MIS films did seem to carry is the use of language irresponsibly - to perpetuate evil (we see scenes of Hitler). Some of MIS's science films caution about using science responsibly - a big fear in the post-Abomb world.

P.E. - Lever to Learning (1969) Stuart Finley
Discusses how specially organized physical education programs can be most productive both physically and mentally. Wow, besides using the outdated term "retarded" about two hundred times, we were shocked to see how dangerous some of the P.E. activities were. Refreshingly dangerous. Lots of horse play, obstacle courses, climbing a high boundary fence. It was reminiscent of the basic training scenes from Full Metal Jacket. There was even a scene with kids playing with logs a la Ren and Stimpy!

Sound Fields in Rectangular Enclosures (1978) John B Ochs/Penn State Univ
Early vector computer animation on a very dry subject. John B Ochs narrates, bless his dry monotone heart.

The Naughty Duckling (1970) Omega Productions/Encyclopedia Britannica
Uses puppet animation (similar to Ray Harryhausen's early work) to present the story of a naughty duckling who wants to be independent but who must learn that assuming independence before being prepared to handle it can lead to trouble. The story seemed somewhat unresolved. Germaine was sad that the fox that grabbed the duckling was caught in a trap. Right off the bat, I doubt that this film was made in 1970 and that it was made in the U.S. I'm guessing an Eastern European or Japanese animator did this film. Omega Productions did make other educational shorts - included some animated films. I'll have to get back you on this one.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Films on 4/13/08

Got to get into the habit of posting to this blog and documenting some of the films from my collection (part of my "irrational passion"). Here's what we saw tonight along with some random thoughts:

Americans At Work: Barbers (1959 circa.) AFL-CIO/Norwood Films
I showed this in honor of Roxxi Dott visiting from LA. She's a hairstylist for the stars and recently a member of the hairstylist union. Anyhow this film was made for TV distribution. I got it from someone who had a closet full of films from WUNC - the local public television station. Rick Prelinger has the film in his online collection at the Internet Archive (embedded to the right). It's also available on my On The Job DVD. The film is part of a series by the AFL-CIO on a variety of occupations, this film shows us how valuable the hairstylist and barber are to the American family. Films like this were part recruitment for the field, but also a reminder to the public to frequent unionized barbershops. The best scene is the father and son loitering outside the beauty salon, waiting for the mother and daughter to get "beautified". Dad smokes while he waits and you can tell they're waiting a while since he's stomped out three cigarettes. Also, we are reminded that ""If attractive people are the leaders of society, then barbers and beauticians are the molders of leaders."

Food 1, 2, 3, 4 (1976) Handel Films
Designed for young kids, this film introduces us to the four food groups circa 1976. Each food group has a different song (the milk group tune was particularly catchy). Best scenes - to illustrate that snack foods are bad, a bowl of soda pop and milk are placed in front of a dog. The dog (who is sporting a San Fran Police Dept collar), of course, goes for the milk (but is cow milk really good for an adult dog?). Then the viewer is shown a series of food choices - a snack and a healthy alternative (candy bar vs. banana, cookies vs. walnuts, candy vs. raisins, soda vs chocolate milk, etc). The camera zooms to the healthy alternative without any narration. My AV database describes the film "Explains the simple and easy ways of obtaining proper nutrition, using a subliminal approach. "

Saying No - a Few Words to Young Women about Sex (1982) Crommie And Crommie
We see a couple making out and the guy is trying to convince his girlfriend to "make it" with him. She isn't convinced. The rest of the film presents young women talking about their personal decisions regarding sexuality, how they have been affected by their decisions, and how they respect themselves for having the courage and will-power to abstain from sex. It's interesting because it gives teenage girls some things to say when pressured to have sex. Crommie and Crommie made another great film for woman (VD and Woman) which tells women to bring their own condoms, since the guys probably wouldn't have them - a great tip which I've never seen in any other sex-ed film. Lots of hair with Farrah Fawcett wings and IZOD shirts in this film.

Comparative Tests on a Human and a Chimpanzee Infant of Approximately the same Age, Pt 2 (1932)
Winthrop Niles Kellogg
I was alerted to this experiment by Carrie Mclaren of Stay Free. She wanted to know if I had any films about Kellogg. I didn't but about a month later this film shows up on Ebay. Essentially, Kellogg raised an infant child and chimp together and this film shows how the two's responses differ in various tests. Without any background on the experiment, the tests seem insane -including hand preference, startle reaction time (to a pistol being discharged), delayed reaction, cap-on-head (the chimp hates this), detour, tickle, tasting ice (the child hates this) and rotation tests. This had us laughing hysterically while being baffled and unsettled by what we were watching - always a great sign for a classic film. Hope to get this one online and on a DVD soon...

The Great Silence (circa 1976) Paul Ritts Production
This film seems mildly apocalyptic as puppets tell us about the day when, suddenly (after what looks like a flash from an atomic blast), people can no longer talk. The puppets (an ostrich, a giraffe, a chipmunk, a crow, etc.) all stirred something in my memory. I vague remember seeing them on TV - in a PSA or something. After doing some Googling, I found this clip to the right and I'm sure I saw them on the Pink Panther Show. I'm probably going to have to do another puppet film show just to highlight this film.

Step Lightly (1968) Countryman-Klang, Inc
While this film was made for the U.S. Public Health Services, it seems like it was sponsored by the Reflective Material Trade Association. Walking at night? Even wearing white clothing isn't good enough if you get hit by a car speeding down a dark road (as illustrated by some great scenes of crash dummies getting hit by cars a la UCLA). Solution - strips of reflective materials on your coat, umbrella, shoe heels, pants cuffs, etc.

Dead Birds, Reel 3 (1965) Robert Gardner
There is the perpetual stack of films next to the couch (something I'm always meaning to move to film shelves, but new films come in and keep replenishing stack). Todd jokingly comments about the three reels of Dead Birds and that we should watch reel 3. So I put on Reel 3 and warn audience "You asked for it..." Yikes! Reel 3 starts with the ritual of a New Guinea boy's funeral - where a pig is slaughtered and the boy's body is burned in a pyre. We learn that the boy had been killed by an enemy tribe and about the main tribe's eventual retaliation. A pretty powerful film that won a bunch of awards back in the day.