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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Top 5 Jesus Movies

So you're probably thinking: "Well this is not a very good subject for a Top 5 List! Just how many movies about Jesus (aka Iesus, aka Yeshua, aka Josh) of Nazareth are there to choose from? Heck, there can't be more than, like ... a half a dozen Jesus flicks altogether, right? I'm afraid I shall have to set your house on fire."

But after reading the following list of Top 5 Jesus Movies, you will be begging my forgiveness. But will I give it? Will I give my forgiveness? Maybe. Maybe not. What's in it for me?

In no particular order:

Jesus Of Nazareth (1977) - Franco Zefferelli shoots right down the middle and scores big-time with this miniseries. This is the Peter Jackson's "Lord Of The Rings" version of the Gospels - a big-budget attempt to illustrate as faithfully as possible the traditional conception of the Jesus story. Every first-rate actor in the Western World appears in "Jesus of Nazareth" and every one gives a fine perfomance. The casting choices themselves are superb - even down to Ernest Borgnine as The Centurion who, believe it or not, works perfectly. And the Maurice Jarre score is wonderful.

The Last Temptation of Christ (1988) - And on the other side of the coin ... Martin Scorsese finally realized his dream project, based on the novel by Nikos Kazantzakis (writer of "Zorba The Greek"), on a shoestring budget, to popular outrage. Young Marty had wanted to be a priest when he was a pale asthmatic Brooklyn kid, and the inevitability of sin has been a theme in virtually every one of his films. Despite our best intentions, our personal power, wealth, prestige - and no matter how cozy our relationship with God - we will still always go astray. The experiment behind "The Last Temptation" is, in part, to put our traditional understanding of the Jesus story on the other side of the looking glass. Up is down, black is white. The film opens with the crucifixion of a familiar-looking, bearded prophet, for whom the carpenter Jesus has fashioned a cross. This Jesus even assists in the man's execution. And we ask: "How can THIS chap be the Anointed One?" - which might lead us to another question, "How can anyone?" The Peter Gabriel score is superb.

Jesus Christ Superstar (1973) - People forget what a dynamite filmmaker Norman Jewison is ("Moonstruck", "Fiddler On The Roof", "Rollerball", "In The Heat Of The Night"). For my money, "Jesus Christ Superstar" manages some of the most emotionally powerful interpretations of the Jesus story in cinema. A musical - not to mention a rock musical - a rock musical by Andrew Lloyd Weber - can go places forbidden to straight drama. The relationship between Jesus and Judas is nicely drawn in the film. In fact, the performance by Carl Anderson - outraged, self-important, and at his core lost and frightened - may be my favorite Judas performance in film. The concluding rendition of the title song, with Judas and a host of sexy angels singing down to Jesus from the audience seats of a Roman amphitheatre, is terrific.

Jesus of Montreal (1989) - Denys Arcand's film is a passion play about a group of Montreal actors putting on a passion play. The home run of the movie is the French-Canadian Lothaire Bluteau, as an actor named Daniel who, in the passion-play-within-a-passion-play acts the part of Jesus. He mesmerizes as the compassionate Christ, whose heart seems ever on the verge of breaking at what he sees in the world around him.

Ben-Hur (1959) - It's iffy putting William Wyler's super-epic in the Top 5. Jesus appears as a secondary character throughout the film, but His face is never shown us. It's a simple, effective device, that engages our imaginations and keeps the character slightly beyond our understanding and experience. The story is about the spiritual awakening of a wealthy Jewish nobleman, whose life loosely intersects that of Jesus. So the Gospels are merely the scaffold on which the bulk of the plot hangs, but the movie is so solidly executed, that it stands out as one of the best screen depictions. Stories of a well-known figures are often best told through the point of view of complimentary or antagonistic characters, (i.e., the Mozart story presented as the story of Antonio Salieri in "Amadeus"). Examining the Jesus story through the eyes of one of his less renowned contemporaries is not a bad way to go about it.

Others: Of course, I bet Pier Paolo Pasolini's "The Gospel According To St. Matthew" (1964) should be on the list. Black and white, no professional actors. Must be art. But I ain't seen it yet.

Then there is Mel Gibson's "The Passion Of The Christ" (2004), but it is too much a mixed bag to make the Top 5. When it is good, it is genuinely revelatory, when it is not good, it's a little silly.

Avoid "The Greatest Story Ever Told" (1965) , except for the Herod scenes directed by David Lean.

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Saturday, October 27, 2007



Sauropod raking and hoovering
delectibles from the lakebed
making waves

Ceratops snipping sappy timbers
like copper cables - the sound
like a wrecked galleon's
masts cracking, knees popping.

Flatting Ptero knee-deep
draws hissing fry up
by the shoal. Sifts 'em dry.
Gullets 'em.
Would preen if it could.

And downwind, rapt by design,
two tri-talon feet
march in silent place
waiting for the light to change,
waiting for the go.

For more "Paleo-Poems" go to:



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Monday, October 22, 2007

Fox Redux in Oct

Our fox is back again this week, cheerful despite an abscess on his front paw.

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Sunday, October 21, 2007

Wrapping the Future in MXF

Turner's Steve Fish: Wrapping the Future In MXF
Neal Romanek

(originally published in August 2007 issue 
of TVBEurope magazine)

Turner Broadcasting has built its formidable media presence, in part, on its ability to handle and manage its assets. The purchasing of the MGM library in 1986 marked just one of the company's pioneering leaps in repurposing already existing material. It should be no surprise then that Turner should today still be at the forefront of asset management for the 21st century in the person of Steve Fish, VP of Engineering at Turner Broadcasting Europe.

At the Henry Stewart Events DAM conference at the Portman Radisson SAS in London this past June, Mr. Fish delivered a presentation called "The MXF Driven End To End Tapeless Production Proof Of Concept At Turner Broadcasting", about the MXF (Material Exchange Format) asset management standard. Looking, in his glasses, very much like a Steven Spielberg ca. 1975, but unspooling information like a university physics professor, even those of us still grappling with understanding the format, left substantially enlightened.

Turner is not the only company committed to MXF in its media management. Recently Warner Bros. studios adopted media storage solutions supplied by HP which will allow the movie studio to operate entirely within a 4K video environment. The HP system employs a primitive version of MXF.

In brief, MXF is a set of standards hammered out over the past decade by SMPTE (Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers) that describes the parameters of a specific variety of digital wrapper. This envelope can contain a broad spectrum of audio, video, and metadata. The core of the format is called SMPTE 377M, but over 25 additional SMPTE documents both describe and prescribe the various intricacies of the format, all of which are available for download on the SMPTE site (www.smpte.org).

Advantages to the MXF format include its keeping only unique items in multiple versions. If, for example, an additional soundtrack is required for a foreign version of a show, only that new soundtrack need be created for the foreign version. Other types of asset management might require duplicate files for every single different version, which quickly balloons into a massive – potentially absurd - storage problem. MXF also provides a method of putting description metadata into header tracks. One or more may be used and each can be labeled uniquely. A key upside to MXF is its platform-agnostic simplicity and the its forward-thinking design intended to make it a adaptable to future sound and image formats.

The MXF, like many industry standards, a work in progress, adapting to industry changes over time. Some of the original research documents were written as far back as 1997, but the work on honing and streamlining the standard is ongoing. Steve Fish is candid about describing the limitations of MXF. In fact, it is vital that the limitations are openly discussed if better solutions are to be found, particularly as the MXF enters the current period of transition from mere standard to practical deployment.

For one, Fish noted that MXF is still too complex with too many options. He pointed to MPEG2 as an example to learn from. MPEG2, in the early days of its usage, also offered many options and parameter, but ultimately only a few of them were useful and user-friendly for the industry. Such an over-flexible system also makes manufacturers wary of implementing it. Already they are threading the needle in trying to provide the exact technologies their customers want. Having so many options to choose from raises the stakes too high. Also at least 79 specification sets still need to be fixed. SMPTE, like any responsible standards institution, operates with great care and diligence – but not great speed. The fixes will not be solved in the next year, nor would any sane person expect them to be.

Steve Fish emphasizes a lesson learned and practiced at Turner: "Don't try to change the whole world at once. Don't try to solve the entire workflow." Throughout the DAM Conference different versions of this same statement were repeated. In the 1990's many people had dreams of digital asset management systems that would allow a single person to control an entire production from end to end. Now that we have come back to reality a bit, virtually everyone agrees that not only is it impractical to have a single, universal solution for all data problems in all spheres of the industry, but that such a blanket solution is unwise.

Fish has stated that the goal of MXF is "the creation of a simple system with the potential to be as ubiquitous as tape." At this year's NAB Convention in Las Vegas, he oversaw a tech demonstration, of an entire MXF workflow, which surprised even him in how well it worked. True ubiquity of MXF may be some years away, but if the industry does adopt the standard, it will have done so at the end of a lengthy, exhaustive trial period.

Recommended for those wanting to know more are "The MXF Book" the standard text on the format as well as membership in the Advanced Media Workflow Association (www.amwa.tv).


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Saturday, October 20, 2007

Flickr Flickr Flickr (and more Flickr?)

So it really, really is all about Flickr now.

I suppose.

Remember that brief - very brief - post from a year or two ago, "Buzznet vs. Flickr" Of course you don't. But since the post wasn't much more than the sentence "Buzznet or Flickr?", you may consider yourself has having read it, and remembered it.

I still post pictures on Buzznet. But Buzznet, in its mimicking of MySpace, has become increasingly saturated with teens posting pictures of their favorite bands. For a brief time, Buzznet was everything Flickr was not - but in a good way. Now, Buzznet is everything that Flickr (and MySpace for that matter) is not - but in a not good way.

Fortunately, a lot of the good photographers and artists I met on Buzznet have migrated - semi-permanently - to Flickr, so I don't feel like I'm leaving too many of the homies behind.

You may consider Flickr to be my official still image community of choice, until something better comes along - which won't happen in the next year certainly. Maybe even the next 3 years. Flickr isn't perfect, but it gets the job done consistently, without hitches or complications, and with the semblance of genuine respect for its members - no mean thing.

The next question: Do I dare get rid of nealromanek.com's own photography page and make Flickr my sole image host?

Dare I? Dare I?

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Sunday, October 07, 2007

This Is The Girl

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Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Our Star Blazers

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