Film

Josie. Portra.

Josie (2017). Canon EOS-1v. Portra 400. Self-processed.

I don’t shoot a lot of color film, but I put a roll of Portra through the 1v today and processed it in the JOBO using six-month old C-41 chemicals. Seemed to work well enough.

The Lost Picture Show

The Lost Picture Show: Hollywood Archivists Can’t Outpace Obsolescence

The most chilling prediction I heard came from a top technician at Technicolor. "There's going to be a large dead period," he told me, "from the late '90s through 2020, where most media will be lost."

This sort of thing terrifies me. I still feel that film stock has a much better chance of survival than digital files, especially for the creators who can’t afford to constantly migrate to newer formats ever few years.

“We know how long film lasts,” says the USC archivist Everett. “And archives were designed to store things. They’re cool, they’re dry, and they have shelves. Put the film on the shelf, and it will play in a hundred years.”

“Put the film on the shelf, and it will play in a hundred years”. It may not be easy to maintain the shelves, but at least it’s feasible.

Snaps From My Dad's Birthday

I shot a roll of Tri-X with the F3 at my dad’s house while celebrating his 76th birthday.

Dad. Nikon F3.

Crystal and Tillie. Nikon F3.

Dad and Jess. Nikon F3.

Mom. Nikon F3.

Darkroom Underground Magazine

Tim Layton:

Whether you are a traditionalist like myself or a hybrid photographer, The Darkroom Underground publishes a balance of technical and creative articles in every issue along with featured photographers and some of their best artwork

I’ve subscribed. Film-focused photography resources are becoming less rare. This is a good thing.

Kodak's 2016 Earnings

Kodak:

Consumer and Film Division (CFD) revenues for the fourth quarter were \$45 million, down from \$63 million in Q4 of 2015. Operational EBITDA declined from \$14 million to negative \$2 million.

For the year, revenues for CFD were \$216 million, down 18 percent from \$265 million, driven primarily by a \$32 million expected decline in consumer inkjet revenues. Operational EBITDA for the division was down \$36 million for the year, driven by the reduction in consumer inkjet as well as investments supporting the KODAK Super 8 Camera and future camera platforms.

I’m rooting for Kodak, so this doesn’t look like the best possible news. I’m hanging my hopes on the word “investments”.

Canon Auto Zoom 814 Electronic Super8 Film Camera

There is something special about 8mm movie film. First, it’s wonderfully retro. Beyond that, it’s fun to occasionally load into a projector and show on a big screen. And of course I love the permanence of it. Also, it’s fun.

I bought a cheap Super8 camera a year ago and I like watching at the first reel I shot with it, shown here…

I thought I’d try shooting more movie film, so I bought the above Canon Auto Zoom 814 Electronic. It was cheap, solid and more than sufficient for my needs. I’m maybe half way through my first cartridge. I can’t wait to finish and have it processed. The nice part about this camera is that even if it stops working, it looks cool just sitting on a shelf. I hope that doesn’t happen, of course.

Leica M6

My first Leica was an M6 TTL. I sold it in the mid-2000s and have since gone through a number of Leica bodies, from an M3 to an M8. For the past several years I’ve used an M3 and M4. I love them, but I sometimes missed having a meter in the camera rather than on the camera.

So I bought an M6

It’s the perfect M6 for me. It is one of the last 10 “Classic” M6 bodies ever produced (1998). It has had the finder optics upgraded to the flare-free “MP” version. The only framelines displayed are 28, 35, and 50mm. This makes for a bright, beautiful, clutter-free viewfinder.

I chose the M6 “Classic” version because they are generally less expensive than the newer TTL models, with no real disadvantage. I prefer the direction of the shutter dial to be the same as my older bodies.

I’ve put one roll through it, and it’s just as smooth and solid as the M3 and M4. Don’t let the forum trolls convince you otherwise.

As handy as having a built-in meter is, I found that I spent more time obsessing over the meter’s lights than I did looking at the subject. I didn’t expect that. I also ended up with a few badly-exposed shots due to a backlit subject. I would normally have just guessed the exposure. Instead I listened to the meter. I’ll have to re-learn when to stop trusting it!

Here are a few shots from the first roll. It’s Tri-X, shot at 1250 ISO and developed in Diafine, then scanned on the Pakon.

Steve (2017)

Ed (2017)

Shoes (2017)

The Lomo'Instant Wide Camera

A photograph becomes real only when it’s printed. I love photographic prints of all kinds. This is why I’ve loved the Fuji Instax cameras. All you get is a print. No muss no fuss.

The Fuji Instax210 has been fun, but let’s face it, it’s kind of ugly. The later versions are better, but still not great. I loved the Lomo’Instant Wide the moment I saw it. Especially the “Central Park” version, so I bought one.

It’s great. Here’s why I like it (compared to my old Fuji):

  • It looks great
  • Zone focusing on the lens rather than via menu
  • Controls are on the back, and are buttons and led indicators. No LCD.
  • The lens cap doubles as a remote shutter release. Genius!
  • Comes with various lens attachments (Close-up, super-wide, etc)
  • It’s plastic, but not as “plastic-ey” as the Fuji
  • There’s a PC sync port. I can use an external flash!

Super fun, cute, and more versatile than the one it’s replacing. I’m happy with it.

Selfie (2017). Instax. Lomo'Instant Wide

Ektachrome is Back

Ektachrome

Film Is Not Dead:

We are very much pro film, in favour of film! Film is our heritage and we’ll continue to look at these opportunities and the one we can look at today is Ektachrome. — T. J. Mooney, Kodak Alaris

I haven’t shot any color reversal film since Kodachrome went away, but I may have to dust off the JOBO and mix up some E6 chemistry soon. This is good news.

Cecil

Cecil (2016). Nikon F3. 105mm f/2.5. Tri-X in Diafine.

I get to watch Cecil for the next couple of days. He’s such a cute dog.

I’m trying Diafine again, because I like the idea of shooting Tri-X at 1250 and not worrying about temperature, accurate timing, etc. This roll ended up with some spotty areas, so I’m not sure what happened yet. I’ll try again.

Leica: To M-D or not to M-D? - Adam Singer

Adam Singer - 35mmc:

The new Leica M-A puts you squarely at the cutting edge of 60-year-old technology, as to all intents it’s the same camera as the 1954 Leica M3, but 60 years of constant technical development, has given the M-A a slightly more cluttered viewfinder and a marginally less precise rangefinder.

It’s completely irrational to want an M-A, but I can’t stop thinking about it. I mean just look at it. How could you not want one?

Leica M-A

Vise

Vise (2016). 4x5 Speed Graphic. HP5+ in R5 Monobath

There’s something wrong with my process or my equipment. I took this photo of a bench vise today using the Speed Graphic. It was lit using the Foldio, shot on HP5+ and processed in R5 Monobath from New55

I metered carefully, but it still ended up underexposed. What’s worse, is that the right one-third of the image is darker than the rest, and slightly discolored. I corrected for the coloration problem, but something is still wrong. I don’t trust the R5 developer. I’ll try again using D76 and see where I get.

Selfie

Selfie (2016). Olympus Stylus Epic. Tri-X.

Using up the last of the roll in the little Epic.

Sage and Portra

I put a roll of Portra through the Canon 1v. I haven’t shot much color film lately, so this was fun. The roll was processed at Meijer and scanned using the Pakon.

Sage (2016). Canon EOS-1v. Portra. Pakon scan.

Sage (2016). Canon EOS-1v. Portra. Pakon scan.

Sage (2016). Canon EOS-1v. Portra. Pakon scan.

2016 Roll-026-32 Captain Sundae

Captain Sundae (2016). Olympus Stylus Epic. HP5+ in D-76 1:1

Captain Sundae (2016). Olympus Stylus Epic. HP5+ in D-76 1:1

One from the latest roll. Taken after enjoying some delicious ice cream at Captain Sundae

Nikkor 28mm f/2.8 AI-s

Nikon 28mm

Nikon Nikkor 28mm f/2.8

I tend to avoid wide lenses. I find them difficult to shoot. Robert Capa said, “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.” and getting close enough is a challenge for me.

Using an iPhone has helped train me to get closer and better “eyeball” a scene for wider shots, so I picked up a 28mm lens for the Nikon F3. Here are a couple from the first roll. I’m going to need some practice, but it seems like a very fine lens.

Jessica. Nikon F3. Nikkor 28mm f/2.8. Tri-X in D-76 1:1

Jessica. Nikon F3. Nikkor 28mm f/2.8. Tri-X in D-76 1:1

Jess, Dad, Brandon, Kelly golfing.  Nikon F3. Nikkor 28mm f/2.8. Tri-X in D-76 1:1

Jess, Dad, Brandon, Kelly golfing. Nikon F3. Nikkor 28mm f/2.8. Tri-X in D-76 1:1

 

Dogs on Super8

I shot some Super8 (Tri-X) and finally got the processed reel back. The above is from a Retro-8 scan and quick edit. It was a bit underexposed so the corrections amplify the grain, but I still like how it looks.

I told myself I was only going to shoot a couple of reels just to say I did, but after watching it a few times I’m starting to think about trying more of it. The look of 8mm film can be faked, but cannot be replicated.

Katie is 18 years old

My dog Katie turned 18 this week. Every year we say, “This is probably her last birthday” but here we are again. She’s missing an eye, nearly all her teeth, and her hearing. She has trouble getting around and cannot manage even a single stair.

But, she’s happy and seems to enjoy living so we’re thankful for that. This year, we took her out for some ice cream to celebrate. She loves ice cream.

Jess and Katie. Katie's 18th Birthday. Nikon F3.

Jess and Katie ordering ice cream for Katie's 18th Birthday. Nikon F3.

Jess and Katie. Katie's 18th Birthday.

Jess and Katie. Nikon F3

Jess and Katie. Katie's 18th Birthday.

Jess and Katie reviewing the selfies. Nikon F3

Jess and Katie. Katie's 18th Birthday.

Katie enjoys her ice cream. Nikon F3

The Nikon Nikkor 105mm f2.5 AI-S

I just bought one of Nikon’s classic lenses : The Nikkor 105mm f2.5 AI-S.

Nikkor 105mm f2.5 AI-S

Nikkor 105mm f2.5 AI-S

For some background on this lens, here are a couple of links:

The 105 has been described as the “perfect portrait lens”. I don’t know about that, but I’m sure it’ll be good enough for me. At around $200 it’s hard to complain.

The all-metal lens feels great and balances nicely on the F3

Nikon F3 with 105mm f2.8 AI-S

Nikon F3 with 105mm f2.8 AI-S

I’m looking forward to making some portraits with this lens. I ran a quick roll through it yesterday. Here are a few examples from that roll.

Bryan

Bryan. Nikon F3. Nikkor 105mm f2.8 AI-S. Tri-X. HC-110

Tri-X and Leicas

Tri-X and Leicas. Nikon F3. Nikkor 105mm f2.8 AI-S. Tri-X. HC-110

Leeloo. Nikon F3. Nikkor 105mm f2.8 AI-S. Tri-X. HC-110

Leeloo. Nikon F3. Nikkor 105mm f2.8 AI-S. Tri-X. HC-110

Katie

Nikon F3. Nikkor 50mm 1.4. Tri-X in HC-110. Pakon scan.

Nikon F3. Nikkor 85mm 1.8. Tri-X in HC-110. Pakon scan.

Just plinking around in the back yard with the Nikon F3 today. I took the MD-4 off and while it makes the camera much smaller and lighter, I think I prefer it with the drive attached.

Leica M3 vs Nikon F3

Leica M3 and Nikon F3

Leica M3 and Nikon F3

 

The Leica M3 and the Nikon F3 (with motor drive) are the two cameras I’m working with at the moment. Both are over-engineered and delightful to handle. Both are iconic. When you see a camera represented generically it’s usually based one of these two.

They are somewhat different cameras.

  • The Leica was made in 1960 and the F3 in 1983.
  • The M3 is uses a rangefinder for focusing while the F3 focuses through the lens
  • The M3 is entirely mechanical (no batteries) while the F3 has a meter and automatic (aperture-priority) exposure
  • The M3 has a mechanical cloth shutter, the F3’s is electronically-controlled titanium
  • I paid $1000 for the M3 and under $300 the F3

They have different strengths, and I enjoy them both very much. Right now the Nikon feels fresh and exciting. This is not only because the Nikon os brand new to me. It’s also because it has automatic exposure and a built-in meter. I sometimes forget how convenient that can be.

The motor drive is cool, too. If someone asked you for a “camera sound effect” the F3 and MD-4 would be what they meant. The Leica’s nearly-silent snick is completely different. Both sound great.

Loading film in the M3 requires that the bottom be removed, the film loaded onto a fussy separate take-up spool, then carefully reassembled. With the F3 you just open the back, stick the leader into a slot, close the back and go.

Both systems can use lenses dating back to the 1950s. Both are manual-focus cameras. both are built like tanks. Both are awesome.

Nikon F3 First Impressions

Nikon F3 HP and MD-4 Motor Drive

Nikon F3 HP and MD-4 Motor Drive

The Nikon F3 has been high on my wish list for a long time. I finally pulled the trigger and am the happy owner of an excellent copy with motor drive and 50mm 1.4 Nikkor AI lens.

In production from 1980 until 2001, the F3 was a professional workhorse for more than 20 years. Can you imagine any consumer item being in production, relatively unchanged, for 20 years? Seems so weird now.

It’s a gorgeous camera. With the MD-4 Motor Drive attached it’s no less beautiful, but much heavier. Still, it handles so well I may keep the drive attached.

I put a roll through it immediately (dogs in yard, of course) and everything worked perfectly.

The viewfinder is wonderful; big, bright, and simple. I tried both the standard and High Eyepoint (DE-3) finders and both are fine. The DE-3 allows me to see the entire frame with my eye slighly away from the viewfinder, which is nice when wearing glasses. It also means that, being left-eyed, I don’t need to mash my nose against the back of the camera to see what I’m shooting. I didn’t find the standard finder to be a problem though. I do like the slightly higher magnification of the DE-2, so I’ll keep trying both and see where I land.

The camera handles exactly as a camera should. Everything is where I would expect it to be. It feels substantial, robust, and inspires confidence. While I love cameras that require no batteries, I’m not concerned about the F3’s reliance upon them. The motor drive uses 8 AA Alkaline batteries. When attached, the drive will power the camera’s meter and electronic shutter and wind/rewind somewhere approaching 150 rolls of film.  That’s over 5,000 exposures. Even with dead battery the camera will fire manually at 1/60th of a second. I don’t think I’ll need to worry about batteries.

It’s new, so of course I’m enamored with it, but my initial impressions of the Nikon F3 are that it could stick around for a long time.

 

Snapshots with the Hasselblad

Katie (2016). Hasselblad 503CXi. HP5+

A Hasselblad 500-series camera is not suitable for snapshots, but I keep taking snapshots with them. This photo of Katie was taken using the 503CXi with the 150mm Sonnar. She’s 17 years old but never seems to stand still, so I had to follow her around and wait for a break in the action. This is the best I could do. Still, I love the way the lenses render. And I love the square format.

Apple IIc

Apple IIc. Crown Graphic 4x5

Apple IIc. Crown Graphic 4×5

This is a working Apple IIc that I keep in my basement for no valid reason other than it’s neat to look at.

I don’t know what happened with this image. Probably a bit over-exposed. Putting a beige subject on a white background wasn’t a great idea either.

Crown Graphic 4×5

f/22 for 1⁄3 second

HP5+ in D76 1:1 for 13 minutes

4x5 photo of 8mm Projector

8mm Film Projector (2015). Crown Graphic. HP5+ in R3 Monobath

I’m still testing the new Monobath developer from New55. My first attempt didn’t go terribly well but this one looks much better. The projector was shot on HP5+ using a Crown Graphic. Exposure was f/5.6 for 1/10th second.

I would love to continue using the Monobath developer, as it’s so easy to use.

New55 1Shot

Jess and Katie. Crown Graphic. New55 1Shot.

This is my first exposure using New55’s 1Shot 4x5 Negative film.

1Shot comes packaged as individual negatives in “Readyload” type sheets. They’re meant to be used with the Polaroid 545 film backs. The film is New55’s “Atomic-X” which they describe as:

This 100-speed panchromatic black and white 4x5 sheet film offers a classic tonal range from deep blacks through sublime mid-grays to soft and striking highlights.

Of course I had no idea how to use the things so I botched it. Here is the full negative.

Whoops

I grabbed it by the metal tab and accidentally pulled the backing away. Whoops! I quickly slid it back in but the damage was done. Live and learn.

As a backer of the original New55 Kickstarter campaign, I’ve been rooting for them. I bought the 1Shot as part of their fundraiser so paid quite a premium. I couldn’t justify shooting regularly at that price.

While writing this I discovered that New55 is selling Atomic-X in boxes rather than as 1Shot holders. It is much more affordable so I bought a box. I’ve never shot 100-speed film so this will probably need to wait until the weather improves.

The above image was processed using New55’s Monobath developer as well. I had some troubles with it earlier but the new formulation seems to have worked them out.

Large format photography is slow, expensive, and can be frustrating, but I’m learning to enjoy it.

Using Flash with the Hasselblad

Kelly Photobombs (2015). Hasselblad 503CXi

Kelly Photobombs (2015). Hasselblad 503CXi

Carrying around a Hasselblad and flash unit makes for a cumbersome kit.

"Hasselblad 503CXi with D-Flash 40

"Hasselblad 503CXi with D-Flash 40

See what I mean? It’s a monster. Shooting handheld with a big camera in natural indoor light makes for a nearly impossible situation. Using a flash dramatically reduces the number of blown shots and with medium format film the higher the hit rate the better.

While the rig is bulky, it’s also dead simple to use. The Hasselblad 503CXi offers TTL metering when used with the D-Flash 40 so the whole thing ends up being sort of a giant point-and-shoot. I just set the shutter speed to 160 and the aperture to f/8, focus and shoot.

Dad-splaining (2015). Hasselblad 503CXi with D-Flash 40

Dad-splaining (2015). Hasselblad 503CXi with D-Flash 40

First attempt using New55's R3 Monobath Developer

Rawscan0001

That didn’t go well.

This was my first time using the R3 Monobath Developer from New55. Other people have great results with it but I’ve obviously done something wrong.

The image above is a scanned 4×5 negative (HP5+) shot using an ancient Crown Graphic. Many things can fail when shooting large format film that I’m certainly not ready to blame the developer. I’ve never seen this sort of ghosting effect before so it’ll be fun tracking down what went wrong.

Another thing I learned is that I’m finally going to need an exhaust fan in the darkroom. The R3 contains ammonia and phew it’s strong. Probably not good for me to stand there for six minutes in the dark just breathing it all in.

I love the idea of a monobath developer, especially for large format so I’m going to keep trying.

Around the yard with the OM-2n

I was cleaning out a closet and found my bag of unused Olympus gear. I couldn’t remember why it was unused so I grabbed one of the OM-2n bodies with a “silver nose” Zuiko 85mm f/2.0 and shot a roll of Tri-X. I’ve found the 85 to be a bit prone to flare. Like this…

Demonstration of flare with Zuiko 85mm f/2.0. Leeloo (2015)

Demonstration of flare with Zuiko 85mm f/2.0. Leeloo (2015)

Generally, though, I still like the OM-2n. My favorite is the OM-1n but auto-exposure sure can be handy. Here are a few other images from the roll (scanned on the Pakon and basic curve adjustment in Lightroom).

I prefer the imperfect

20090216 38 edit

Woman's legs near snow. (2009)

The above image is poorly-focused, improperly processed, and full of dust spots. I love it anyway and wish I could make more like it. It also reminds me to stop worrying about technical perfection and to focus on images that I simply enjoy looking at. That’s what counts.

Cheap Film

For 35mm color negatives, I’ve always shot either Portra 400 or Fuji Pro 400H; both great films. Also,  at between $7.50 and $10.00 per roll, they’re expensive. And let’s face it, I’m shooting fast and loose, taking what most would call snapshots. It’s not art, that’s for sure.

Kodak 400 and Fuji 400 consumer films

Kodak 400 and Fuji 400 consumer films

Since I’m not creating art, I thought I’d try some cheaper films. I’m going to give the “consumer” films from Kodak and Fuji a try. I’m told both scan very well on the Pakon. At around $3.00/roll it’s worth testing. I’m expecting to not see a significant difference, which could save me a lot of money.

The Kodak Pakon F-135 Plus Scanner

I’ve always hated scanning color 35mm film. It’s fiddly to work with and no matter what I’ve tried the color is always off. Then I met the Kodak Pakon F-135 Plus Film Scanner.

Kodak Pakon F-135 Plus Film Scanner

Kodak Pakon F-135 Plus Film Scanner

I started to see mentions of this scanner on various forums recently. Seemed too good to be true. The claims were that it could scan an entire, uncut roll of color 35mm film, with Digital Ice, in 5 minutes. That and the colors were supposed to be nailed right out of the box. Originally, the F-135 Plus sold for $8000 (in 2007-ish). Word was I could get one on eBay for around $300. I was sold! I won an eBay bid for $330. The risk was that the units were listed “As-Is” with no returns allowed. A week later the scanner arrived, and I got to work.

The scanner requires proprietary software and only works with Windows XP. I read that some folks were doing this successfully on Macs via Parallels. After a couple botched install attempts, I got everything working and scanned some test strips. The maximum resolution of the scans is 3000×2000. That’s fine for proofing and small prints, so I wasn’t worried about it.

Whoa! It’s so fast! And they were right, the colors looked as good as I’ve ever been able to manage. I have no idea how I didn’t know about the F-135 before. It completely changes the game for me when it comes to scanning 35mm film. No more fiddling around trying to get things flat and lined up in the V750’s flimsy holders. No more swearing at Vuescan or Silverfast and manually setting scan settings and cropping. No more hours wasted trying to get colors to look even close to realistic. I love this thing.

It turns out that I’m not the only one. There was a run on them happening. The same company that sold me mine for $330 was selling the same units just two weeks later for over $800. As-is for $800! The reason I know this is that mine fried itself the night I got it, and I was out my $330. I loved it so much that I wanted a replacement immediately. Not so easy.

I finally found a dealer who had taken over servicing the Pakons for Kodak. He had 56 refurbished units a month ago and was down to 4 when I called, so I paid $950 on the spot, and the replacement arrived today. It works perfectly and is very clean. The consensus is that hundreds of them became available when CVS shut down their film labs, and one company was setting prices at around $300. And they ran out. That pricing wasn’t sustainable, and now everyone is scrambling. Prices are over $1000 today and climbing.

That seems crazy but if you’d shown me one before I’d seen the “old” price and told me it cost $1000 I’d have happily paid that amount. Painful timing, but it makes me excited about shooting color film again. And I’ve only scanned one roll. The image below is from my Olympus Stylus Epic (Portra 400) right out of the scanner and shows Steve looking almost as happy about finding some KBS at Founders as I did about finding the Pakon F-135.

Steve with KBS

Steve with KBS

Movie Club Transfers

When my grandfather left me the entire Grand Rapids Amateur Movie Club library I promised I would work to preserve them and some day transfer them to digital. As you can see, there are quite a few films, in both 8, Super 8, and 16mm formats.

Cabinet containing most of the GRAMC films

Cabinet containing most of the GRAMC films

A few years ago I made my first attempt at transferring them using movie mode on a digital camera pointing at a projection screen. This worked in that it created a digital version of the films but the quality was of course terrible.

I then tried a local company which did conversions. The quality was somewhat better but it took them too long and the cost was too high. I could send them out to something like ScanCafe which does a great job. The trouble with that is I don’t believe they return the films on the original spools, which is a requirement. They are cheaper, but transferring everything would still be expensive. Besides, I kind of want to handle everything myself. These films are important to me.

While researching Telecine options I ran into the Retro-8 frame-by-frame scanner from MovieStuff. I’ve decided that this is the way to go. I have a unit ordered and should have it in 60 days or so.

Retro-8 by MovieStuff

Retro-8 by MovieStuff

The plan is to get everything transferred and resell the unit. The problem with that plan is that if it works well I won’t want to sell it, even when all of my films have been transferred. I will probably want to transfer films for other folks who are in the same situation as me. Preservation of family and other histories is important and this is something that could help. Yes, I’m rationalizing a purchase, but my intentions are good!

Slow going this year, film-wise

I haven’t shot a single roll of film in 2014. Must be the terrible weather is slowing me down. Still, not a good sign. Speaking of terrible weather, we’re about to get another 8-10 inches of snow today.

With that in mind, here’s a photo of my dad flying a kite on the beach.

Ron Baty. Hobe Sound, FL (2013)

Walking around with the M3

I hadn’t shot a deliberate photo in a week, so I grabbed the M3 off the shelf, loaded it up with some HP5 and started walking. The goal was to keep going until the roll was used up.

2013 Roll-037_17-editB.jpg

2013 Roll-037_22-editA.jpg

2013 Roll-037_24-editA.jpg

2013 Roll-037_30.jpg

2013 Roll-037_34-edit.jpg

2013 Roll-037_05-edit.jpg

2013 Roll-037_09-edit.jpg

2013 Roll-037_13-edit.jpg

I was thinking of it as more of a sketchbook of my walk, so I underexposed and overdeveloped a bit. Then boosted the contrast even more, just to prove a point. I like the results and it was a great exercise – in more ways than one.

Now, about that 35mm film…

My recent foray into large format has made me consider abandoning 35mm film. This started years ago when I began shooting medium format, but I’ve never really come close to giving up on the smaller format until recently.

The idea is that for "real" photography I'd use medium or large format film and for everyday snapshots I would use the X100 or even the iPhone. Both of them make perfectly fine images. I'll just sell the film SLRs, of which I have very nice copies from Nikon, Canon, and Olympus. The little point-and-shoot Ricoh GR and Stylus Epic won't be necessary in this scenario so those can go too. No more tiny little negatives to curse when they curl up like a spring. What a relief!

This is a perfect plan, but it falls apart as soon as I pick up one of the old Leicas.

Leica has developed a reputation in recent years of selling over-priced neck jewelry to dentists. This may not be entirely unwarranted, but if you've ever shot with something like an M3 you'll understand why there's more to it. A Leica film camera is a wonderful tool to use. I could give up even the Leicas, especially since I find it increasingly difficult to carry a camera everywhere. The iPhone is always handy so it's convenient just to use that. On the other hand, I find that every time I do carry either the M3 or the little IIIf, I'm glad I did. The reason I'm glad is that I end up with something the iPhone or Fuji can't give me, and that's a black and white negative I can process and print in the darkroom. Turns out that's rather important to me.

So, although it makes complete practical sense to abandon 35mm film, I can't do it. I'll have to just deal with those fiddly little negatives a while longer.

Stocking Up

Too often lately I read about the demise of yet another film. Prices keep going up as availability goes down. In order to help stave off any imminent film shortages, I've begun stocking up on my favorite emulsions. 

I'm not in a hurry, since I think we've got a few years yet before things really start slimming down, but I do want to start planning. What I've done is given myself a monthly film budget. I spend the same amount on film each month regardless of how much I've actually shot. The budget is higher than my burn rate so I net out with more than I started with each month. Over time this will provide a freezer full of film that should last a lifetime. My lifetime, anyway. 

My life with large format photography so far

I'm wrestling with an old shirt in the wind as a focusing cloth while using the loupe to view the ground glass and trying not to drop the loupe when I discover I left the film holders in the bag so I stuff the loupe uncomfortably into my pocket, wipe the sweat from my eye and almost choke myself when the strap from my meter catches the tripod as I reach for the holders and now the t-shirt has blown away and so on oops I forgot to pull the dark slide.

 

Large Format Color

Ron Baty (2013). Crown Graphic. Self-processed.

It’s nice that my family puts up with my requests for them to model all the time.

After making a number of successful black and white photos using the new Crown Graphic I finally had the nerve to try some color. The above image of my dad was shot on Kodak Portra 400 and processed in the JOBO using the JOBO C-41 Press Kit and scanned with the Epson V750 and SilverFast.

I really like how the 4×5 negatives look, but I’m still struggling with color rendition. Scanning is hard, especially with color. Epson Scan’s color came out all washed-out cyan. Vuescan was closer, but still a bit weak. SilverFast did the best overall job but it’s still off somehow. I don’t have a great eye for color so I find it difficult to judge the output on screen.

But it’s a lot of fun. Processing color is not terribly difficult, and I have been surprised by how much I enjoy color images. They’re so, uh, colorful. I hope to shoot more, but with the cost per 4×5 exposure pushing $5.00 it’s not something to take lightly.

Printing practice

I’m still trying to get a handle on making prints in the darkroom. It’s not easy. Last night I tried printing this image of a dandelion.

It was shot using the Hasselblad 500C/M, 80mm lens with an extension tube, handheld in a slight breeze. By some miracle the image was focused precisely a the edge of the flower and quite sharp. The problem was that it was underexposed a little. This meant that I had to crank up the contrast filter to get a good black, but that also muddied up the flower. I made a little dodge tool out of a piece of index card and dodged the flower and stem while giving the background an extra dose. The first time I dodged too large an area so the edge of the flower lacked contrast. After a few more tries I think I came pretty close.

It’s not a great photograph, but it’s one of the first that went from camera to print looking exactly as I originally intended. Felt good for a change.

 

Delayed gratification shooting film

Many people feel they need to see their photos immediately after taking them. Digital photography solves that problem nicely for those people. Personally, I don't understand that need and I prefer the delay that shooting film introduces into the process.

The above photo was taken this past winter while driving during a snowstorm. The gentleman in the photo wasn't phased a bit by the fact that he was waiting at a red light on his bike while snow began to pile up around him. He was probably tweeting about it. 

I just had the roll processed today, and was happy to discover images taken during an entirely different season. The pleasure of the surprise makes the slower process of shooting film worth the wait.

Canon AE-1 Program as Nostalgia

When I think of my introduction to photography, the Canon AE-1 Program is what I remember. It was my first real camera. I received it as a gift from my parents at my high school graduation in 1982. I loved that camera. First thing I did was load it up with Kodachrome and take a photo of a flower. As one does. I believe this next photo is the first taken with the camera

First photo taken with my Canon AE-1 Program (1982)

First photo taken with my Canon AE-1 Program (1982)

Then I decided to try some meaningful self-portraits. This next one shows me using the new camera. 

Self-portrait (1982)

Self-portrait (1982)

I kept and used the AE-1 for years. I couldn’t afford much film, so there aren’t as many photos around from that period as I’d like. Here are a few of those I still have. Without these, I’d have nothing but my aging memory.


Jack and Liz (1985)

Jack and Liz (1985)

Honda Civic


Graduation at Holland State Park (1982)

Graduation at Holland State Park (1982)

Car repair with friends (1983)


My old bedroom (1982)

My old bedroom (1982)

Art on pier (1982)

1979 Datsun 280ZX (1983)

Friends at the beach house (1982)


Triple Exposed Self-portriat (1982)

Triple Exposed Self-portriat (1982)

Nostalgia got the best of me recently and I finally bought a “new” AE-1 Program. Same 50mm 1.8 lens as my original. 

Canon AE-1 Program

Canon AE-1 Program

I don’t know how much I’ll use it, but just having it around makes me feel good. 

First shot from the Canon AE-1 Program

I quickly ran a roll through my new Canon AE-1 Program SLR just to make sure everything worked. Exposures seemed close, and the camera handles exactly how I remember it (from 30 years ago anyway). I grabbed the photo above from my car window while waiting for a light.

Keep the Nikons or the Canons?

I find myself with a collection of some of the finest film SLRs ever made (and one really nice Digital). 

Nikon F6, Canon EOS-1v, Nikon F100, Canon 1D Mark III

The problem I’m having is that I really shouldn’t keep both systems. Why not? It’s a matter of desire. By having really good Canon gear available I’m always on the lookout for a nice new (or old) lens or maybe another flash. Same goes for the Nikons. The F6 is great but I don’t have a good Nikon flash. Should I get an SB-800 maybe? And that Canon 70-200 2.8L that I used to have was fantastic. I should keep my eye out for another, right?

And so on. I have been unable to commit to a single system and it’s driving me nuts.

Part of me wants to give up 35mm film photography altogether and stick with Digital for the smaller format. Many of my favorite photos the past couple of years have been taken with medium format cameras. And now with the fun I’m having with 4×5, not shooting 35mm film wouldn’t be a huge sacrifice, would it?

Yes, it would. Besides, I still have a number of 35mm rangefinders and compacts that I still love using. Killing 35mm film just isn’t going to happen 

So, Canon or Nikon for the SLRs? To help me decide I’ve started to list a few pros and cons of each below. I hope this helps me to decide on a winner.

Canon

My digital SLR is a Canon 1D Mark III. It’s pretty great when paired with the 24-105L. Without this camera I would be left with the little Fuji X100 as my only digital camera. Not quite willing to go there yet.

The EOS 1v is awesome. The canon bodies seem to fit my brain and hands better than the Nikons and the 1v is about the best there is.

Flash works better. I’ve spent a lot of time with Nikon’s much-loved CLS flash system and we just never got along that well. I used to have a Nikon D700 and SB-900 and for the life of me could not figure out how to get the best of them. I put a 580 EX II on the Canons and somehow the flash just works. I don’t frequently use flash, so simple and working is what I prefer. Canon surprisingly wins here.

My AE-1 Program only uses the older FD lenses, so it’s almost like having 2 different systems. That is unfortunate. Also, there are very few older Canon bodies that I’m interested in trying.

Nikon

The Nikon F6 is arguably the finest film SLR ever made, or that ever will be made. It truly is a fantastic camera. The meter is nearly flawless, it focuses fast as anything I’ve used. Oddly, although it feels wonderful in hand, it just doesn’t “fit” me the way the 1v does. I can’t explain it, but I get more of a charge out of picking up the 1v than the F6. One little thing that bugs me is that with my eye to the viewfinder, my nose pushes the focus point control and moves the focus point inadvertently. I have to lock the control, making it pretty useless.

I also have a Nikon F100 which is nearly as good as the F6 and cost about 1/6th as much. They feel and behave the same, so it’s easy switching between them, and I’m not as  afraid of something bad happening to the F100.

Lenses for the Nikon are everywhere. Old, manual focus AIS lenses work as good as the latest auto-focus lenses.

Some day I want to try an FM3a or an FM2n or an F5 and would benefit from already having lenses I can use with those older bodies.

I have friends with Nikon digital systems, so that makes a few other lenses and accessories available to me. No small advantage, that.

Can you see the problem? They’re both awesome systems and I have just enough invested in each that it could go either way.

Crystal's Birthday with the Dogs

My house was being taken over by a bridal shower, so my sister Crystal was nice enough to invite me and the dogs over to celebrate her birthday. 

Crystal has 5 pugs so that makes for a total of 8 dogs between us.  It was a busy afternoon. I did have time to put a couple rolls through the trusty Leica M3. (Above all using M3 and 9cm Collapsible Elmar with Tri-X and processed in XTOL.)

Large Format Practice

Everything about making a photo with the 4×5 camera is harder. but that doesn’t mean it’s not fun ! I’ve been walking around shooting handheld and zone focusing, which I imagine to be how these “press” cameras were originally used. I have a new level of respect for the folks who were asked to “go and get the shot!” and then handed a case with one these and a stack of film holders.

 

I have yet to take a photograph I like. One that stands on its own beyond the fact that I took it with my new camera. Here’s a photo of the dogs. Again, taken handheld and pre-focused. I framed it using the wildly inaccurate little top-mounted viewfinder.  

It’s still fun trying. 

Why I keep making photos of my dogs

It seems like I post a photo of one or more of my dogs every week. This is not because I think my dogs are especially interesting or photogenic (although they are that,) but rather it’s because I can’t think of anything else to photograph.

Some days I walk around the house or neighborhood looking for things that might make interesting photos. Nothing. Then I play with the dogs. They’re so energetic and fun that I’m reminded how much I enjoy photographing them. Out comes the camera. Yesterday, it was the Hasseblad, which is the worst camera I own for taking photos anything that moves, but I still love the way it renders.

A Studio in my Garage

Studio photography has never really interested me. I take mostly “situational” photographs which require no setup or planning or, frankly, skill. Recently, however, with my continuing move to medium and now large formats, adding a little control to the process seems like a good idea.

As a baby step, I set up a “studio” in my garage. It consists of a backdrop, one strobe, and a small window.

Once I get the 4×5 camera rolling, I plan to try a few portraits here. Nothing fancy, obviously, but it’s a start. Here’s a test shot of my dad. I’ve got work to do, but it’s fun.

Going a little bigger with 4×5

If I were making lots of huge landscape prints, having a 4×5 camera would be an advantage. I’m not making huge prints of any kind, so having a 4×5 camera is entirely unnecessary. With that in mind, I just bought a Burke & James 4×5 Speed Press. As you do.

I have film and a JOBO. All I need is a few 4×5 film holders and I could actually use the thing. Can’t wait.

The Origin of my Avatar

I was buying some old camera gear from a gentleman when I noticed a small pile of negatives on his kitchen table. I asked about them and he said that he’d bought them some years before at a garage sale. My nostalgia meter redlined so I asked if they were for sale. They were.

The negatives were simple family photos from the early 1900s. One of my favorites was of a man with a pipe wearing overalls pushing a woman in a wheelbarrow. I love the photo. They both are laughing, and the man’s laugh looks so genuine and comical that I now use it for my avatar. It makes me happy.

EpsonScan08501

2012 Photo Album

Work on the 2012 photo album continues. I say “2012” as if there have been others. There have not been others, but I hope there will be.

Each page contains a photo, printed traditionally in my darkroom, and a hand-written caption. I started with 5×7 prints, which fit nicely along with an index card for the caption. I’m finding I don’t like printing that size, so I’ve switched to 8×10 prints instead. I’m making it up as I go.

A Photograph of a Shoe

Spending time with a copy of Edward Weston: Life Work has been inspiring. I’m normally not interested in still life photography, but Weston’s photos are so good and the book’s reproductions are so well-done that I’m thinking still life is worth considering. 

Above is the result of deliberately setting up a “scene,” fixing the Hasselblad atop a tripod,  and carefully metering before each exposure. I normally do none of those, so this is new to me.

It’s no Pepper No. 30 but it does nicely document a pair of shoes I wore for years, and which I bought under duress from my daughter, who at the time was still thinking she could make me cooler. 

 

Edward Weston: Life Work

Edward Weston: Life Work is a beautiful book filled with wonderful photographs. I’m beginning to appreciate the beauty of a well-seen and beautifully executed still life. 

I have never owned  a photography book as nicely made as this one. Lodima Press really put some effort into the production. For example the book is printed using two types of paper, each appropriate to  Weston’s style and printing preferences at the time the original photo was made. The photos are represented beautifully. Perhaps not the same as a true print, but still very nice. I could sit here for hours and just explore it. 

I didn’t know that Weston printed his own work, and was apparently very good at it. This resonates with me since I’m struggling to print well in the darkroom myself. It’s easy to make a mediocre print, but another thing altogether to create a “fine” print. I’m not talking about the subject matter, but of the print itself. When done well, there is nothing like it. The following paragraph in the book describes what looking at a fine print feels like.

How great it would be to create something that could be described like that!

Replacing my Olympus Stylus Epic

You will almost always find an Olympus Stylus Epic on or near my person. The unassuming little Stylus Epic is in my opinion the best compact film camera for carrying everywhere. It easily fits in my pocket, is weather resistant, has a very nice f/2.8 lens, a spot meter, and goes from pocket to photo about 25 times faster than my iPhone.

I’ve been carrying an Epic for about 10 years now, and the second one I’ve owned finally stopped working consistently. Occasionally it just doesn’t fire, and there’s a hairline crack somewhere which affects the top center of every frame. Not ideal, so I began looking to replace it.

Today on Craigslist, this showed up…

Olympus Stylus Epic

Olympus Stylus Epic

A nifty, like-new condition Stylus Epic Deluxe. In the box with all original paperwork, case, strap, etc. It’s not black, but the champagne color is pretty nice.

I paid $10. How great is that! This is undoubtedly the best ten dollars I’ve ever spent on photography gear.

Leica IIIf

I’ve always wanted a “Barnack” Leica, if for no reason other than the nostalgia of using a piece of photographic history dating back to the mid-1930s. I’m not a (deliberate) collector, so condition and rarity weren’t important to me. I ended up with a “user” IIIf.

The camera is not really a IIIf but rather a IIIc built in 1946 then later converted by Leica into a IIIf. It came with a lovely chrome Canon 50mm 1.8 LTM lens, which was a nice bonus, since prices on the Canon LTM lenses keep going up. When this photo was taken, I was trying the 28mm Voigtlander Color-Skopar and 28mm accessory viewfinder. The Leica IIIs were made with a 50mm lens in mind, so I’ll probably keep the Canon on it most of the time. I’m also looking for a nice post-war 50mm collapsible Summicron, since that would be a great fit.

After two or three rolls of film I can say that it’s a delight to use. By “delight” I don’t mean that it’s easy or convenient. It’s neither of those.

To visualize the photo, you look through the left viewfinder for focusing, then you need to switch to the right window for framing. Both are quite tiny and not nearly as bright as the later M cameras that I’m used to. The film is advanced by turning a knob and it is rewound using another knob. No sir,  none of those newfangled levers on this camera. None of this can be done quickly.

Loading the film is even more awkward. The leader must first be trimmed manually with scissors so that it doesn’t get jammed between the shutter curtain and plate. The trimmed leader is then connected to a separate take-up spool. The final assembly is then carefully pushed up into the bottom of the camera, making sure the sprockets on the take-up spool are engaged with the film leader. (I missed that last part with the first roll and ended up shooting the entire roll without the film advancing. Not good.)

There’s of course no meter, so exposure must be set manually. I don’t mind that, since I shoot other meterless cameras.

All of this sounds rather cumbersome, and it is – a little. But the camera feels wonderful in my hand. It’s a precision-engineered mechanical marvel capable of making fantastic images. It just won’t do it quickly. I read somewhere that each camera took 40 man hours to build. A little patience is a good thing. 

Below are a few images from the first practice roll.

Mamiya 6

I love medium format film. The big negatives are so much nicer to work with than 35mm. I’ve been shooting with a Hasselblad 500C/M for a couple of years and the images thrill me. I also love rangefinders. Using a Leica M camera is wonderful and focusing with the rangefinder is fast, easy, and accurate.

How to combine the look and handling of square 6×6 medium format film with the ease and speed of shooting with a rangefinder? I’ve decided that the answer is a Mamiya 6.

I chose the 6 over the 7 because I prefer the 6×6 format. Also, it was less expensive. I’m starting off with only the “standard” 75mm f/3.5 lens. I’m told the 50mm is outstanding, and if I like the camera well enough I’ll probably end up with that also. Wider lenses have been growing on me, so having the 50mm would be nice.

I’m not sure what to expect, really. I bought a Leica M7 recently so I could have a meter and aperture-priority auto exposure when I’m feeling lazy. The Mamiya also provides those conveniences, so I suppose it’s possible this new camera could supersede the Leica. Time will tell. I’m excited to find out.

The camera is on its way from a gentleman in Denmark and I can’t wait to run a few rolls through it.

Zim with the Hasselblad

The Hasselblad can be a pain in the ass to use. Focusing on a moving subject is impossible, and unless I’m using the prism finder, everything in the viewfinder is backwards. I swear a lot when using it.

On the other hand, I just love the way the Zeiss lenses render. And I love the square format.

Leica M7

I had a long talk with myself after somehow acquiring no fewer than 4 Leica M bodies. That’s beyond what even I can rationalize. During the talk, I asked myself, “What if you could keep two of them?” The answer was that I would need to buy an M7 in order to keep just two. See how that works? I can explain. 

The M3 I bought recently is perfect. I love it. It’s beautiful, legendary, and built better than any camera I’ve ever seen. It has an amazing viewfinder and is generally awesome. Put a 50mm lens on it and I’m good to go. Good to go until I’m feeling lazy, that is. Sometimes, using a completely manual camera with no built-in meter is discouraging. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does I start thinking about digital, and I don’t like when I start thinking about digital.

How might I solve the lazy problem? I solved it by buying an M7. The M7 has aperture-priority auto exposure, quicker loading, and a built-in meter. It makes everything easy.

So, I’ve put the “extra” M3, the M4, and the M6 up for sale, and picked up a beautiful M7 to compliment the remaining M3. You’ve heard it before, but if I’m right, this should take care of the camera problem for quite some time.

Leica M3

A funny thing happened while I was waiting for my new M3 to ship from Japan. A nice user sample with a recent CLA showed up on the local Craigslist. No harm taking a look, right? I couldn’t resist, and bought it at a fair price.

My fear with the M3 was that the viewfinder’s frame lines would be difficult to see while wearing glasses. Lots of people claim to have trouble with the .91 magnification of the M3’s viewfinder and 50mm frame lines. I’m happy to report that I can see them just fine. I do have to sort of press the camera into my face a bit, but it works. 

The viewfinder is as amazing as they say. Bright, clear, wonderful focus patch. It’s perfect for 50mm lenses, which I use 90% of the time. The film advance is like butter and the shutter makes a fantastic, very quiet, “snick” sound. 

I’ll have to get used to loading it. Getting film onto a separate take-up spool and lowering the whole assembly into the bottom of the camera is a little tricky. And it takes forever to rewind the film after exposing the roll. I’m usually not in a hurry, so this doesn’t bother me.

Just LOOK at it! I’ve never seen a better looking camera. It’s a work of art. I hope so, because I’m about to have 2 of them. This is a dangerous hobby.

Color Film Photography Isn't Worth The Trouble

Tractor. Kodachrome

Tractor. Kodachrome

I just don’t get on well with color film photography. Getting color right is hard. There are so many pieces to getting a good color image that I’m considering giving up on it altogether.

Availability

The first and most enjoyable color film over the past 70 years has been Kodachrome. Transparency film in general is fun and vivid and interesting, but only Kodachrome looks like Kodachrome. And now it’s gone. Same for Polaroid. Same for my long favorite Kodak Portra NC. And so on. With the fun emulsions disappearing, so is my interest in color film photography

Processing

Minilabs are disappearing faster than film stocks. The quality of the few that remain is so hit and miss that it’s generally better to ship color film off to a pro lab. Pro labs like Dwayne’s or North Coast or any number of others do a great, consistent job. The problem is cost and timing. If I wanted to see my photos _right this second_ I’d shoot digital, but waiting 10 days or more is not something I enjoy. Figure in the cost of shipping and it gets expensive pretty quickly. If I were more patient and cost was no object, I’d ship everything to a pro lab and have them do high resolution scans for me. Processing black and white film at home is so easy I can’t figure why more people don’t do it. To be fair, color processing doesn’t look terribly difficult, but I haven’t been motivated enough to try it.

Scanning

Speaking of scanning. Scanning sucks generally, but scanning color film sucks hardest. None of the software is anything but horrible to use. This makes getting consistently decent scans impossible. I’m sure others have figured it out, but I’m never happy with my results. Between iT8 targets, color profiles, and horrible software, I’ll take a pass. Scanning black and white negatives is more a matter of watching shadows and highlights. That I can usually manage.

Printing

Inkjet printers are damn good these days. Getting good color out of them is still too hard. I don’t want to spend time calibrating monitors or finding custom RIPs or buying ridiculously over-priced inks. Even if I get it right, it’s still a computer-generated image on inkjet paper. I’m old-fashioned and a real wet print made with light and chemicals, by hand, is much more interesting. Color printing in the darkroom isn’t worth the trouble to me.

Aside from the above, I rarely find that color adds much to most images. Unless the image is _about_ color, I say leave it out.

Favorite Movies of 2009

Here’s a quick list of my favorite movies from the past year.

The Hangover

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Saw the poster for The Hangover while seeing another movie. Made a mental note to avoid it. I was wrong. Funny from start to finish.

The Class

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Should have been cliché, but wasn’t. It was quiet, real and moving.

The Hurt Locker

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Devastating, tense, thrilling. A character study rather than a “war movie.”

Up!

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The first 15 minutes of Up! prove once again that animation can be deeply emotional and SQUIRREL!

Zombieland

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Who know the zombie genre had so much life left in it. Also includes the best cameo ever.

Inglourious Basterds

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Brad Pitt’s over the top character was fine, but Nazi Colonel Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz) walked away with every scene he was in. I don’t automatically love everything Tarantino does, but I loved Inglourious Basterds.

Goodbye Solo

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Quiet, understated, touching. I was completely engrossed from start to finish.

Anvil! The Story of Anvil

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You don’t have to be a Metal fan to enjoy watching Anvil! The Story of Anvil. It’s touching, sad and hopeful and funny.

In The Loop

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Fast, hilarious, vicious political satire. This is how wars are made.

World’s Greatest Dad

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This dark, perverted, and very funny movie by Bob Goldthwait took me completely by surprise. I’ve grown to expect less from Robin Williams, but he’s terrific here. I guess a little autoerotic asphyxiation brings out the best in people.

The Self-Manufacture of Megan Fox – NYTimes.com

NYTimes on Megan Fox:

Fox has a quality that sets her apart: Fox is sly. Canny. A devoted student of stardom, past and present, she knows how to provide her own color commentary — a narrative to go with the underwear.

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Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin for The New York Times

NYTimes

I have such a crush on Ms. Fox. I know it’s wrong, but I just can’t help it.

Max Payne (ful)

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I can’t remember the last time I saw a movie this bad. Poor Wahlberg just can’t catch a break. He sure can scowl though. Painful.

Review: The Band's Visit

An Egyptian police orchestra ends up lost and spending the night in a small Israeli town. That’s pretty much all there is to The Band’s Visit. Do not miss it. It’s quiet, charming, funny, and one of the best movies I’ve seen in a while.

Review: Rogue

Giant crocodiles terrorizing a group of tourists wouldn’t normally warrant a rental, but “Rogue”:http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/1173563-rogue/ got good reviews, and I’m in a B-movie sort of kick so I gave it a shot. Glad I did. Nothing groundbreaking, but things moved along nicely without too much over-the-top silliness to ruin it. Recommended.

The prescient politics of The Big Lebowski

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My first time watching _The Big Lebowski_ was a terrible disappointment. I hated it. This came as a shock to me as I’d loved every other Coen film so much. Surely something was wrong. About a year later I gave it another shot and that was all it took. It’s now one of my favorites. Strange how that works.

As much as I enjoy watching it, I’ve never really dug too deeply for any sort of meaning in the film. David Haglund has. From “Walter Sobchak, Neocon”:http://www.slate.com/id/2199811/…

bq. Is this eerie foreshadowing of the second Iraq war coincidental? Not entirely. The Coen brothers created a character with traits that run deep in American culture: unflinching righteousness and a tendency to violence.”

The Dude abides.

Ebert asks himself the question.

If you’ve not been reading “Roger Ebert’s blog”:http://blogs.suntimes.com/ebert/, you should. He writes well, writes passionately, and best of all, writes about things I’m interested in.

In his latest post, “What’s your favorite movie”:http://blogs.suntimes.com/ebert/2008/09/whats_your_favorite_movie.html, he asks himself that very question. His answer? La Dolce Vita. Great, great choice, but his reason for choosing it is less about the film than it is about himself. That seems fair.

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Mine? If I had to answer right now, I’d say Dr. Strangelove. Too bad Anita Ekberg isn’t in it though.

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A String of Bad Movies

The better part of a day, wasted. That’s how much time I’ve spent over the past couple of weeks unintentionally watching terrible movies. I say unintentionally because they should have been _good_ movies. They weren’t. This is different than watching a movie you know is awful, just to kill time while ironing or reading feeds. I do that even more frequently, but that isn’t wasting time, it’s spending time.

I’ll list the crappy ones here so you won’t suffer the same fate.

h3. Hancock

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I’m pretty much done with Will Smith. Between the forgettable _I Am Legend_ and _Hancock_ there’s not much left to like. Hancock should’ve been great. Cool ideas wasted with more drama than necessary. It tried to be every movie ever made – all at once. Even the astonishingly beautiful Charlize Theron couldn’t save it.


h3. Savage Grace

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Based on a true story: An awful, boring, completely uninteresting story. The movie doesn’t help.


h3. 11:14

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Good enough to almost like. Clever, but ultimately it seemed like nothing more than a gimmick leading nowhere.

I think Hillary Swank should find a new agent. It was kind of nice to see Patrick Swayze again, though. And what’s with the string of severed penises lately?


h3. Smart People

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New rule, if it stars Sarah Jessica Parker, avoid it. Think of Smart People as a not-pregnant Juno (yes, it’s Ellen Page) with parents just as smart and cocky as she. Except not funny. Are all smart people really assholes? All of them? The best reason to watch it is Thomas Haden Church, who I can’t get enough of.


h3. Bank Job

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I have to admit not finishing this one. It was turning out to be the same heist movie we’ve seen a hundred times. Jason Statham wasn’t going to save it.

Wanted

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Two words: Angelina Jolie. Finally, she’s back as Fox; exactly the type of too-hot bad-ass she was born to play. As for the rest of Wanted, just sit back, put your mind on hold and prepare for gorgeous, non-stop over-the-top action from start to finish. And for the ladies, McAvoy is almost as ripped as Jolie. This movie is why they coined the phrase “Summer blockbuster.”

I still don’t get the whole bullet-bending thing, but I don’t think that even matters. Recommended.

Teeth

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The movie Teeth, about a young woman with teeth in places no one should have them (vagina dentata) was funny, gross, interesting and terribly, terribly disturbing.


Dr. Jones

Indiana Jones premiered today at Cannes. Reviews are trickling in, and they’re pretty much as expected. Mixed. I don’t care, I can’t wait to see it. The photo below was taken back stage at the original Disney World Raiders show.

Kubrick on 2001

The whole idea that a movie should be seen only once is an extension of our traditional conception of the film as an ephemeral entertainment rather than as a visual work of art. We don’t believe that we should hear a great piece of music only once, or see a great painting once, or even read a great book just once.

Movie City Indie: Throwing bones in the air as 2001 turns 40:

Movie: Death at a Funeral

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I seem to have a weak spot for rude British humour. I lost nearly an hour laughing uncontrollably watching Death at a Funeral. It’s probably not that funny, but who cares, it felt great anyway.

The King of Kong

How is it that a documentary about the race to top the world record Donkey Kong score can be an edge-of-your-seat thriller? Not sure, but that’s exactly what The King of King: A Fistful of Quarters is. Intense rivalry, disappointment, intrigue, redemption: it’s all there.

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Shoot ‘Em Up

Shoot ‘em Up is awful. It’s nothing but one over the top gunfight after another, without even a hint of plot. Over the top is not the right phrase. Ridiculously over the top is closer, but still doesn’t quite describe it. Really terrible, if you think about it.

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So don’t think about it. Just sit back and let it do what it does. If you do that, you might just find that it’s not just awful – it’s deliciously awful. I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I thought it was fun. Paul Giamatti has so much fun being evil, and Clive Owen just walks around killing people with vegetables and muttering one cringeworthy quip after another. Oh, and there’s Monica Bellucci, so it has that going for it.

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If you see it, you’ll want about 50 of the 82 minutes of your life back, but don’t blame me if you have a little fun along the way.

Juno

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Must be my week for Movies. This time it was Juno. Funny, sweet, honest, whip-smart and completely lovable. Ellen Page is fantastic as Juno. She plays a sarcastic, too-smart 16 year old dealing with a surprise pregnancy. Ms. Page has unbelievable comic timing. We follow her throughout a hilarious and sometimes very touching nine months. It’s wonderful to watch. I didn’t want to leave.

At first I’d thought that one particular scene with Mark (Jason Bateman) and Juno was a misstep, but after thinking about it a little more, I think it belonged exactly as it was. I know people who would have behaved exactly as these characters did in the same situation.

Juno’s parents were an absolute blast. Mac (J.K. Simmons) as dad delivers some nice lines, and sort of let’s us know that as independent and scruffy as Juno may be, she’s grounded well. Allison Janney as Juno’ mom Bren was perfect. She gets what might be the funniest two lines in the movie.

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I saw Juno in the theater. I almost never go to theaters. It played in the big theater #1 and was sold out. I’d forgotten how nice it is to enjoy the shared experience of a great film with that many people.

Anyway, you get the idea. Go see it.

Once

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There’s nothing better than knowing, in the first few minutes of a film, that you’re about to see something wonderful. It just happened to me with Once – a documentary style, sparse, completely fantastic musical. Seriously one of the very best movies you’ll see this year. Or wait a couple of days and it will be one of the best movies you’ll see next year. I fell in love with it. Bet you will too.

Rescue Dawn ***

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Rescue Dawn has all the right things. Christian Bale, The Great Escape, Steve Zahn, Werner Herzog, 91% Tomatometer.

I didn’t like it much.