Jun 12, 2015

Memories of Orson Welles

A still from The Third Man of Orson Welles (Courtesy of Rialto Pictures/Studio Canal).

New York City's Film Forum will be screening a restored print of Carol Reed's The Third Man (1949) later this month. The script was by Graham Greene, and the movie stars Joseph Cotten, Alida Valli and the incomparable Orson Welles. While I am hard-pressed to pick my favorite Orson Welles movie, in this one he makes his best grand entrance. And, The Third Man is a terrific example of British noir. Thinking about Welles led me to recall our trip to Morocco . . .

. . . where my husband and I embarked on a long drive to El Jadida in order to see the locations used in his Othello (1952), namely the Portuguese Cistern and the Fortress of Mazagan. Welles's version of the Shakespeare tragedy, which he adapted and directed, and in which he played the title role, is one of the best film adaptations of that play. (Those who like the play and Welles's portrayal should screen Laurence Fishburne's performance in Oliver Parker's Othello, 1995.) Here are a few photos that will illustrate Welles's wonderful choice of location for Othello.

Dropbox and the Snake Oil Sales Model of Tech Firms

I hope you will all indulge me in one last rant about Dropbox that seems to have nothing at all to do with film or art, but with capitalism, and the pernicious form of that economic system that has been allowed to grow with the advent of technology and the Internet.

Dropbox followed the "get rich" technology growth model, what I think of as the Snake Oil Sales Model, that leaves behind those of us who are not in marketing or business. Dropbox began with the offer of a free product, one that many writers and artists and photographers need—a digital storage room. Since most blogs do not support PDF files for print articles, writers use Dropbox to give their readers (and editors who may want to pay them to write) access to print articles they have written that are not on the Internet. We all know, when we sign up for a service like Dropbox that, in a few years, when the company has built a user base of a few hundred thousand people, we will have to pay a fee in order to continue using it. That is the Snake Oil Sales Model: Take it for free, try it, and get hooked. (Drug dealers apparently use the same model.)

If you are under 40, you are so accustomed to this model that you do not even give it a second thought. But Dropbox has done something even worse that is generally reserved for companies like Microsoft and Apple. They have discontinued the service—read as "app" or "program"—they originally offered, that of a free storage room to which anyone can gain access. Now they have a fee-based "share" model for businesses. That's it. So, users like me who have depended upon the service, and expected at some point to be asked to pay, are being harassed so that they will drop out and leave gig space for the businesses. If you are snickering at this point, pause for a moment and think: Do you want a fee-based Internet for the 1% or the Wiki model—and the Blogspot model that you are reading right now, neither of which charges a dime?

Here is Dropbox's response to my e-mail about my pre-2012 account which should allow completely free access to my Public Folder, and has for the last three years. That means the many links that exist on this page to PDFs stored in my Dropbox Public Folder should work without you having to use your Dropbox log-in to read them. Below is what a response looks like in the Snake Oil Sales Model, a "fix it yourself" for something that cannot be fixed—unless you are a hacker.

Dropbox Support, Jun 12, 12:03 AM:
Thanks for writing in. While we'd love to answer every question we get, we unfortunately can't respond to your inquiry due to a large volume of support requests. Here are some resources for resolving the most common issues:

Restore files or folders - https://www.dropbox.com/help/969
Reset your Dropbox password - https://www.dropbox.com/forgot
Reset/Disable two-step verification - https://www.dropbox.com/help/364
Learn about sharing files or folders - https://www.dropbox.com/help/category/Sharing
Learn about Dropbox's desktop app - https://www.dropbox.com/help/category/Desktop
Learn about Dropbox's mobile apps - https://www.dropbox.com/help/category/Mobile
Ask a Community expert on our Forum - https://www.dropboxforum.com
For all other issues, please check out our Help Center - https://www.dropbox.com/help
We're sorry for the inconvenience,
The Dropbox Team

Needless to say, none of these links have anything to do with the recurring problem, which is that readers of this website must now use their own Dropbox log-in to get to my public folder.

Jun 10, 2015

Dropbox Dropping the Ball, AGAIN

For the second time in a month, Dropbox is not working. If there are broken links to any articles you wish to read, please send me an e-mail. Thank you.

Human Rights Watch Film Festival 2015

The Wanted 18 is a film about a herd of cows that provided "Infitada milk" for a West Bank town. (Photo courtesy of HRWFF.)

The Human Rights Watch Film Festival opens tomorrow in New York City, with a slate of 16 feature-length documentaries screening at the IFC and Walter Reade Theaters (http://ff.hrw.org/). From the deserts of Southern Sudan to the Gaza Strip and to our own domestic human rights issues, this year’s slate is outstanding. Among the best documentaries are Stanley Nelson’s The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution, a comprehensive and balanced chronology of that political party, and Laurent Bécue-Renard’s Of Men and War, which follows veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as they participate in group therapy sessions at a residence for PTSD sufferers.

My interview with Bécue-Renard appears here: http://www.filmjournal.com/human-rights-watch-festival-men-and-war-examines-psychological-toll-returning-veterans. A review of "The Black Panthers" is here: http://www.filmjournal.com/asserting-power-new-doc-chronicles-history-black-panthers.

Hajooj Kuka’s Beats of the Antonov takes us to Southern Sudan, and depicts the Sudanese government’s racial cleansing campaign there—and the native people’s surprising response to it. Amer Shomali and Paul Cowan’s The Wanted 18, through interviews and stop motion animation sequences, tells the story of a herd of cows in Beit Sahour in the West Bank that were declared a threat to national security by the state of Israel. Joshua Oppenheimer’s The Look of Silence (a follow-up to The Act of Killing) takes us to Indonesia, and follows an optometrist who confronts the men who killed his brother during the Indonesian genocide of 1965-1966.

Ayat Najafi’s No Land’s Song is about Sara Najifi’s efforts to stage a concert in Tehran with solo female singers; women vocalists are prevented from performing as solo artists by Iran’s clerics. Mr. Najafi is this year’s Nestor Almendros award winner, the festival’s cash prize named for one of the founders of HRWFF. My interview with him may be read here: http://www.filmjournal.com/finding-voice-%E2%80%98no-land%E2%80%99s-song%E2%80%99-protests-repression-female-singers-iran.

My Interview With Cristina Comencini for "Latin Lover"

This still from Cristina Comencini's Latin Lover is courtesy of the Film Society of Lincoln Center.

My video interview with Italian writer-director Signora Comencini (in English and Italian), for her new film Latin Lover, is now on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yHDtKkP5Dug&feature=youtu.be. It is the newest entry in my series on Women Filmmakers. (Links to others are to the upper right of this column.)

Latin Lover screened at The Film Society of Lincoln Center’s annual festival of Italian films, Open Roads: New Italian Cinema (June 4-11). A delightful comedy, and a wonderful celebration of women, it features Virna Lisi in her final performance as the first wife of the “latin lover,” actor Saverio Crispo. In the movie, she and the other wives and lovers, and their children and grandchildren, gather for the 10th anniversary of Saverio’s death, their memories and rivalries intact. 

Signora Comencini (far left) at FSLC's Open Roads Festival opening night party. (Image is my snapshot.)
Although not well-known in the United States, Signora Comencini has made 16 films, and is an Oscar-nominated writer-director in the Foreign Language category for The Beast in My Heart (2005). That film and When the Night, nominated for a Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival in 2011, were adapted from her novels. At this writing, the expertly written and directed Latin Lover does not have a U.S. distributor.