Edited on 14 Mar 2012: Added two sections on what is planned and how you can help.
Over the past couple weeks, I’ve received dozens of emails from readers of my FilmsFolded comments. Rather than continue to respond individually, I’ll do so here and point the URL to this note.
FilmsFolded.com is down and likely to remain so for some time. Though I own the URL, the site itself is not mine. You can read some history about my project and the relationship to the site in this note.
If you just want the short report:
- I am slowed in my film viewing while I get this infrastructure programmed, look for continuing sponsorship and deal with a new baby. I’ll be back writing individual comments soon. Likely they will be as before and appear as before on IMDB. You can still read all comments there, though they are hard to navigate.
- My friend may repair the FilmsFolded site. If he does not, I will work to replicate it here with the search functions it had in its first incarnation.
- The essays are underway here in their own section. The plan is to use some of the comment-upon films as examples in the essays. Also, I plan extended comment-like essays on each of the films I rate four.
I can use some help in some of this. Write me if you are interested.
The central focus of the FilmsFolded work will be essays about some cinematic dynamics of interest. These will be centered on the ideas of noir, folding and introspective narrative that have characterized the IMDB comments. The original idea was to write the essays in small, accumulative bits when writing a film comment, and to use many of those films as examples. But it took much longer than expected to get this infrastructure organized, and there still is some basic work to do to bring it up to phase one standards.
So the plan at the moment is to:
- Build substantial comments on a few films and use them as prompts for the essays. Since we have a list of Ted’s Fours, I’ll start with that. They may not be the very purest examples of some types of folding, but they are a constrained list of the films that affected me, and I’d like to retain the passion of the experience in writing what could be a relatively cold analysis.
- Write the essays. The setup I have makes it easy to incrementally improve these, adding examples and incorporating insights from readers via the comment system. (I presume it works.) As the essays mature, we can link to examples from films, both those I have seen (via the comments) and that readers have. The plan a month ago in doing this was to not have a page for each film, but to link to the comment page in the (old) FilmsFolded.com site, maintained by a friend.
- Write similar essays as we go about key artists. In effect then, we would have three interrelated threads: one on basic concepts, one on key films (the fours), and one on interesting artists. Each of these would reference — in the respective essay — example films and incidentally link to the original (or possibly an edited) comment. The setup I have here allows for very complex interlinking among notes on the site. In fact, that is the main benefit of the investment so far.
All of these will benefit from comments by collaborators, to judge from how I have been influenced in the path by bright cinematic minds. The intended audience is just this sort of reader, someone who wants to understand why films are so darned powerful and how to make better use of the investment in watching. The essays will presume a certain theoretic perspective (like the IMDB comments do), but that perspective is not presented as something other than an alternative, potentially useful way of thinking about film.
- At the same time as the essays and examples are being structured, I’ll be working with my collaborator on a modeling method that we are developing to capture and display the key narrative dynamics noted in the essays. These will be applied to the synopses of the films that are written (initially for the fours). So the synopses must be structured in a way that captures information that can be tagged with the features that can be displayed and acted upon. The Tool area is for a user interface we have developed to display the key dynamics.
A key goal of the essays is to describe some effective dynamics, give examples in real films and provide a simple graphic interface to ‘diagram’ the dynamics. You should know that the tool we are talking about here captures some sophisticated notions, but is relatively crude graphically, only a couple steps up from a boxes and arrows. It does require animation, but possibly some static graphic convention derived from it can be inserted into the essays to get key points across. We have some foundations for this already started.
The Kutachi effort is to come up with the next generations of user interfaces, though we do have a fairly well worked out outliner-based UI from the old Framethrower project we can use as well.
How You Can Help
My situation is constrained and I could use some help. I will be in Shanghai in May and plan to dedicate some serious time to this project then. I believe a useful contribution from you can be simply being active in the comments section.
Otherwise, I could use some help with:
- The first effort should be some synopses of thefours. I am not quite sure what will be required until we get into it. But it seems we need:
- A traditional synopsis of the film at some level of granularity on which we can attach our model features. This will literally stand as a surrogate for the film. The ambition of the Framethrower project was to directly annotate the film, but we cannot do that now. Since so many of the effects we are concerned with are cinematic, I suppose we will need screenshots and perhaps short clips to capture those elements. (The site’s layout favors 400 pixels wide.) This could turn out to be labor intensive, based on my start on ‘The Pillow Book.’
- Some annotation in words about the interesting ideas wehighlight.
- Another effort will be what to do with what used to be FilmsFolded.com. I am not sure what to do with this. My friend may restore it to the way it was, roll it back to the original version or abandon it altogether. The comments have surprised me in the audience they gathered, and I do think some are quite good. We may choose to build a database driven site like the first FF that reproduces the comments and allows sorting by year, name and rating. (We’d replicate the current layout of this site and have those options in the upper right popup.) And also allow searching by word or concept. This may not be difficult for an experienced web programmer. And there are issues about whether to keep the comments as they are, or to improve them in some way. And whether to support user comments in this area (comments on my comments).
- Yet an even more challenging programming effort will be to help me instance the logic behind the model. This will be in Python, but use some esoteric techniques.
The current list can be viewed in the screenshots below, taken from the authoring software. To remind, I have constrained this list in arbitrary ways: no more than two per year, and no more than two from any filmmaker. That has produced some interesting collisions, and you can see some not-final pruning in the screenshots — an asterisk means the film is tentatively deleted from the list.
This has grown larger than I expected. It was originally presented as “Every cineliterate person should experience this.” That is probably too pretentious for this context; I would only say that films have changed my life and possibly some mix from this list could change yours as well.
I suppose this means that the synopsis will only focus on the dynamics we highlight. There are all sorts of film sites that tell you generally what a movie ‘is about.’ So I think we can just mention the elements that matter to us.
Possibly the best way to insert these annotations is via the parentheticals that this is an example of. From this type of insert, we can include links to the essays on the dynamics (and artists if applicable). We can also insert graphics and inner parentheticals. An example of the former is the image below of the topics currently sketched.