When people watch a movie together their brain activity is, to a remarkable degree, synchronized. It’s a slightly creepy thought. It’s also a testament to the captivating power of cinema, says Uri Hasson, a psychologist at Princeton University.
"The whole trick of film making is hacking those parts of the brain that keep people entertained,” Iron Man director Jon Favreau told the crowd.
Not sure who the inventive showman William Castle was? This two-minute video will give you a fun primer. Then see some of his films during our Let There Be Fright tribute every Friday in September at the Bing Theater of LACMA.
At a recent event hosted by the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences, neuroscientists and cognitive psychologists got together with film makers to discuss what both groups have learned—-the scientists through painstaking experiments and analysis, and the film makers by intuition and experience—-about the mechanisms of attention and perception.
“Everything you’re looking at is real, and everything you’re not looking at is fake,” Iron Man 2 director Jon Favreau told the audience.
CUE THE MUSIC: CELEBRATING THE BLACK MOVIE SOUNDTRACK
Next month, the Academy is celebrating The Black Movie Soundtrack at the Hollywood Bowl on September 3rd at 8pm with special guest performances and screen clips honoring the multidimensional influence of music and movies. To celebrate this event, we have highlights of some select recordings from the Margaret Herrick Library’s Brad Bennett collection of soundtracks and the Music and Recorded Sound collection, featuring songs that defined a film and the music that transformed films into classics. In a nod to movie music nostalgia, here’s a curated vinyl jukebox of the Academy’s holdings dedicated to the black movie soundtrack.
Sometimes sound surpasses the visual, turning films into a powerful experience. Consider the revered anthem of Shaft, the emotional shading of the The Color Purple’s score, and the musical gem of 20th Century Fox’s Stormy Weather, whose use of dance and music brought a new vitality to the art form.
Strong, dynamic vocals were the centerpiece of 1995’s Waiting to Exhale. Soundtrack producer Babyface assembled artists such as Aretha Franklin, Patti LaBelle, Whitney Houston, and Chaka Khan — the film and its music came to embody female empowerment.
Music producers often have the vision to tie disparate songs into a cohesive theme, elevating a film’s soundtrack to cult status. Producer Quincy Jones’ soundtrack to the musical feature The Wiz enhanced the original Broadway score with imaginative compositions and the accompaniment of New York jazz musicians. Here’s the cover of a highlights album performed by the group Studio 79.
Curtis Mayfield’s classically soulful Super Fly masterfully complements its energetic storytelling with irrepressible melodies.
And not to be forgotten, “The Godfather of Soul,” James Brown crafted his meticulous vocal and instrumental soundtrack around the plotline for the 1973 crime drama Black Caesar.
In 1985, Prince won an Oscar for Best Original Song Score for Purple Rain at the 1984 (57th) Academy Awards. The soundtrack produced by Prince and the Revolution was simultaneously eclectic, stylish, and enigmatic; the music did not escape its R&B roots, and its appeal crossed over to pop, rock, and heavy metal genres, achieving both critical and commercial success.
A pioneering and inventive artist who helped craft the visual language of film, Oscar-winning cinematographer James Wong Howe contributed a wide variety of valuable material from career to the Academy. His career in Hollywood began as a janitor in Hollywood, cleaning out the camera room at Lasky Studios in 1917.
He remained active until 1975, earning Academy Awards for photographing The Rose Tattoo (1955), seen above during production with Tennesee Williams and Burt Lancaster, and Hud(1963), with an additional eight nominations. Other highlights include The Thin Man (1934), Kings Row (1942), Picnic (1955), Sweet Smell of Success (1957), Seconds (1966) (seen below), and Hombre (1967).
The James Wong Howe papers span the years 1915-1991 and consist of scripts, correspondence, article manuscripts, an oral history, radio broadcast transcripts, biographical and publicity material, scrapbooks, and photographs. The Margaret Herrick Library recently acquired additional materials including business papers and awards.