Saturday, August 17, 2013
Errol Morris Day
'The 65-year-old filmmaker Errol Morris is sitting in his East Cambridge offices, a cleanly designed floor-length warren of cubicles, editing bays, bookshelves, and objets d’art. His personal office is shaded against the afternoon sun, a cool oasis of eccentricity. A stuffed baby penguin stands on a side table and a horse’s head protrudes from the wall. On his desk, in a glass case, is a monkey’s head — a Hanukkah present from his wife. The office, like the mind of the man who presides over it, is a cabinet of curiosities.
'That mind is more restless than it has ever been. Morris is a Boston institution and a national treasure for the nine documentaries he has made during the past 30 years. 1988’s The Thin Blue Line freed an innocent man from prison. 2003’s The Fog of War, in which Robert McNamara broods over his part in the Vietnam War, won an Oscar. And 2008’s Standard Operating Procedure probed the nature of photography and the sins of Abu Ghraib. Gates of Heaven (1978) remains the greatest film about pet cemeteries ever made.
'Yet at the moment Morris is busier than he has ever been — active not just in film but on all fronts. He has published two books in the last three years; the most recent, A Wilderness of Error, opens up the 1970 Jeffrey MacDonald murder case for reappraisal. He is putting the finishing touches on “The Unknown Known,” a documentary on former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, to meet the fall film festival season, after which it should go into theatrical release. “Inevitably, there will be comparisons to The Fog of War,” the director says, “but it’s a very different kind of story. It’s a story about someone absolutely convinced of their own rectitude.”
'His essays on history, imagery, evidence, and the knowability of facts spill onto the New York Times website and Slate.com. He’s an active, if not obsessive, tweeter (@errolmorris). Morris has also signed up to direct not one, but two fictional feature films; the one about cryonics, Freezing People is Easy, is set to star Paul Rudd and Owen Wilson, while Holland, Michigan is a “Hitchcock-like movie” set at a tulip festival. And his second career making commercials — he has shot more than 1,000 spots for everything from Target to Cisco — would be enough of a first career for many people.
'Alfred Guzzetti, a filmmaker, professor, and former head of Harvard’s Visual and Environmental Studies program, says his students see Morris “as a major figure, because he was very influential in documentaries coming back into theaters.” Guzzetti befriended the director when Morris relocated from New York to Boston 25 years ago, and the two men still meet weekly to play chamber music together, Guzzetti on piano, Morris on cello.
'“He’s patented a certain style,” Guzzetti says, “and that style is widely imitated: the combination of these very ironic interludes and comparisons, the way in which he edits sync-sound talking heads, the driving minimalist music — I don’t know whether he agrees with this, but I’ve always told him that I think that the films are kind of oratorios.”' -- Boston Globe
Errol Morris Website
Errol Morris @ IMDb
Errol Morris & Werner Herzog in conversation
Errol Morris @ Twitter
'The Murders of Gonzago' by EM @ Slate
Errol Morris: The Thinking Man's Detective'
'Errol Morris Lets Loose'
Video: Errol Morris on The Colbert Report
Errol Morris interviewed @ BOMB
Errol Morris @ mubi
'Scandal and Subjective Reality in Errol Morris's Tabloid'
'Elusive Truths: The Cinema of Errol Morris'
'The Devil's in the Details'
'Errol Morris, in Five Takes'
Errol Morris' A Wilderness of Error Site
Video: 'Errol Morris: Two Essential Truths About Photography'
'59 Minutes With Errol Morris'
'First Person was an American TV series produced and directed by Errol Morris. The show engaged a varied group of individuals from civil advocates to criminals. Interviews were conducted with "The Interrotron", a device similar to a teleprompter: Errol and his subject each sit facing a camera. The image of each person's face is then projected onto a two-way mirror positioned in front of the lens of the other's camera. Instead of looking at a blank lens, then, both Morris and his subject are looking directly at a human face. (Diagram) Morris believes that the machine encourages monologue in the interview process, while also encouraging the interviewees to "express themselves to camera". The name "Interrotron" was coined by Morris's wife, who, according to Morris, "liked the name because it combined two important concepts — terror and interview."' -- collaged
Serial Killer Groupie Sondra London Part 1
In The Kingdom Of The Unabomber
Stairway to Heaven — Temple Grandin Part 1
The Parrot Part 1
Joan Dougherty - Crime Scene Cleaner Part 1
Stalker Part 1
I Dismember Mama - Saul Kent, promoter of cryogenic immortality Part 1
How to Interview Someone
by Errol Morris
My advice to all interviewers is: Shut up and listen. It’s harder than it sounds. Most interviewers feel like they’ve got to be Mike Wallace, laying out booby traps and gotcha questions in what amounts to verbal combat. I think an interview, properly considered, should be an investigation. You shouldn’t know what the interview will yield. Otherwise, why do it at all?
I started developing the shut-up-and-listen school of interviewing in the 1970s. I was in my late 20s and traveling around the country interviewing murderers and the families of their victims for a book. I spent hours in high-security and psychiatric prisons with people like Ed Gein, the Wisconsin serial killer who inspired the movie Psycho. I always used two Sony (SNE) cassette recorders, and at some point I started playing a game with myself: Speak as little as possible. The cassette tapes got longer and longer—first 30 minutes, then 60, then 120—and the number of words I spoke became fewer and fewer. I was really proud of the interviews where my voice wasn’t on the tape at all.
Be well prepared, though. I’m surprised at how many people don’t prepare. When I interviewed Robert McNamara, he said he was shocked I’d read his books and actually thought about them. But I never go into an interview with a preconceived set of questions. I almost always start the same way: By saying, I don’t know where to start. Maybe it’s a nervous habit. But it’s also the truth. You fumble around for a beginning, and then suddenly you’re off and exploring.
As I was arranging an interview with First Lady Laura Bush for a short film that would air on the 2002 Academy Awards, her aide asked me for my list of questions. I told her I don’t prepare a list. She pressed, and we went back and forth on this several times. When I showed up for the interview, it was clear I wasn’t going to provide a list—so the aide handed me a typewritten sheet with not only the five questions I was supposed to ask but also the First Lady’s responses! When I sat down with the First Lady, I immediately went off script. The first question the aide had provided for me was, “What’s your favorite movie?” The sheet said The Wizard of Oz. So I asked, incredulously, is The Wizard of Oz really your favorite movie? She said, in fact, it’s Giant, the 1956 Western. As a young girl in Texas she’d stood in line for hours to be an extra in the film, which was shooting in her town, and it’s been her favorite ever since. That’s a story I never would have gotten had I been guided by a grocery list of questions.
A final tip: Don’t be afraid of technology. We think of technology as limiting intimacy. But think about the telephone. Certain kinds of intimacy emerge on a phone call that might never occur if you were sitting right next to the other person. Technology limits things, but it makes other things possible. In all my interviews for film, I use a setup I call the Interrotron. Basically, it’s a teleprompter in front of a camera. I stand in a different room, out of sight of my interviewee, who interacts with my image on the teleprompter—and effectively stares directly into the camera. When Robert McNamara is talking about the Cuban missile crisis in The Fog of War, about how close we came to nuclear war, it’s not me interviewing him. It’s him talking directly to the audience.
A Brief History of Errol Morris (Documentary)
Errol Morris on Confirmation Bias
Errol Morris ESPN Team Spirit Film
Errol Morris & Werner Herzog in conversation
Les Blank's Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe
11 Excellent Reasons Not to Vote? - A Film by Errol Morris
Recovering Reality: A Conversation with Errol Morris
by Jon Pavlus
Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Errol Morris has a signature style that's as instantly recognizable as Martin Scorsese's or Wes Anderson's: namely, showing his interviewees talking right into the camera lens. But I've always wondered - unless he has a video tap from his eyeball going right into the camera, how does he actually shoot that way? Here's an example of the direct-to-lens style, from his Oscar-winning The Fog of War:
And from the Apple commercials:
And from a recent documentary commissioned by IBM:
Think about it: How does Morris get such penetrating interviews if the interviewee is just looking at a camera? If they're looking into the lens and not at Morris, it would be hard for Morris to get anything like the unsettling, revealing, startlingly personal interviews that are Morris's bread and butter. Would you tell a flat piece of glass about the biggest mistake you ever made in your life?
Morris solved that problem with the Interrotron, an ingenious bit of camera-rig design:
By shooting through a simple two-way mirror with a video monitor mounted under the camera lens, Morris can film his subject and make eye contact with him/her from the exact same angle. But that's only half of it. The real genius of the Interrotron is that it's a two-way street: the same mechanism gives the interviewee continuous eye contact with Morris, as well. No hiding behind a monitor while lobbing awkward questions for this director; Morris, who's known to interview people for literally dozens of hours, doesn't fake the intimacy you see on camera. It's the real outcome of an intensely human process -- and the Interrotron's subtle design genius humanizes the filmmaking process enough to break down the subject's emotional barriers.
Morris didn't invent this camera angle -- nor was he the only one to devise this clever system. Production designer and frequent Morris collaborator Steve Hardie (who also made these illustrations) independently invented a nearly identical system a few years before Morris started using his. But thanks to a slew of riveting, Oscar-winning films, both the technique and system have become forever associated with (and usually attributed to) Morris.
Luckily, the basic idea is simple enough that any enterprising filmmaker could probably build her own if she really wanted to.
Errol Morris's films
Gates of Heaven (1978)
'Gates of Heaven is the story of two California pet cemeteries transformed into an eccentric portrait of the American dream. Errol Morris began this, his first non-fiction feature, in 1978 after reading a headline in the San Francisco Chronicle: "450 Dead Pets To Go To Napa." "Gates of Heaven" follows the stories behind two pet cemeteries -- one that fails (set up by innocent Floyd McClure at the intersection of two superhighways) and the Harbert family, who apply the latest marketing concepts to the pet cemetery profession. Alan Berger in the Boston Herald wrote, "The appearance of an original talent in the arts frequently conforms to a pattern. Simply put, the newcomer presents us with a work which defies nearly every criterion in the established canon of taste. The new work -- like a new theory of light or matter -- abruptly makes its predecessors appear inelegant, clumsy and misguided. This is precisely what Errol Morris has done with his first feature, Gates of Heaven." Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times has called Gates of Heaven "a masterpiece" and "one of the ten best movies of all time."' -- collaged
the entire film
Vernon, Florida (1981)
'Vernon, Florida is an odd-ball survey of the inhabitants of a remote swamp-town in the Florida panhandle. Henry Shipes, Albert Bitterling, Roscoe Collins and others discuss turkey-hunting, gator-grunting and the meaning of life. This second effort by Errol Morris, originally titled Nub City, was about the inhabitants of a small Florida town who lop off their limbs for insurance money ("They literally became a fraction of themselves to become whole financially," Morris commented.) but had to be retooled when his subjects threatened to murder him. Forced to come up with a new concept Morris created Vernon, Florida (1981) about the eccentric residents of a Southern swamp town. David Ansen in Newsweek wrote, "Errol Morris makes films unlike any other filmmaker. Vernon, Florida, like his earlier study of pet cemeteries, Gates of Heaven, is the work of a true original. On the surface, it is simply a portrait of several somewhat eccentric residents of a slow backwater town... There's a taste of Samuel Beckett in the film's tone of droll, forlorn hopefulness, and something of Buster Keaton in the spacious frames and exquisitely deadpan comic timing. Vernon, Florida isn't sociology at all, it's philosophical slapstick, a film as odd and mysterious as its subjects, and quite unforgettable."' -- collaged
The Thin Blue Line (1988)
'The Thin Blue Line is the fascinating, controversial true story of the arrest and conviction of Randall Adams for the murder of a Dallas policeman in 1976. Billed as "the first movie mystery to actually solve a murder," the film is credited with overturning the conviction of Randall Dale Adams for the murder of Dallas police officer Robert Wood, a crime for which Adams was sentenced to death. With its use of expressionistic reenactments, interview material and music by Philip Glass, it pioneered a new kind of non-fiction filmmaking. Its style has been copied in countless reality-based television programs and feature films. Terrence Rafferty in The New Yorker has called it "a powerful and thrillingly strange movie. Morris seems to want to bring us to the point at which our apprehension of the real world reaches a pitch of paranoia -- to induce in us the state of mind of a detective whose scrutiny of the evidence has begun to take on the feverish clarity of hallucination."' -- collaged
the entire film
The Making of 'The Thin Blue Line'
A Brief History of Time (1992)
'In 1992, Errol Morris finished A Brief History of Time, about the life and work of Stephen Hawking, the physicist who is often compared to Einstein and who is paralyzed and has spent much of his life in a wheelchair. In this film adaptation of Hawking's book about the origins of the universe, Morris has woven together graphics, interviews and archival material in a story about both Hawking's life and science. David Ansen in Newsweek has called it, "an elegant, inspirational and mysterious movie. Morris turns abstract ideas into haunting images, and keeps them spinning in the air with the finesse, and playfulness, of a master juggler". Morris' interviews for the film have been incorporated into a book, A Reader's Companion, published by Bantam Books. The film appeared on many "top ten" lists for 1992, including Time, The Los Angeles Times and The San Francisco Chronicle.' -- collaged
the entire film
Fast, Cheap and Out of Control (1997)
'Fast, Cheap & Out of Control may be Errol Morris' most unusual work yet. Morris himself calls it "the ultimate low-concept movie--a film that utterly resists the possibility of a one-line summary." The film interweaves the stories of four obsessive men, each driven to create eccentric worlds of their dreams, all involving animals: Dave Hoover, a lion tamer who idolizes the late Clyde Beatty, and who shares his theories on the mind of wild animals; George Mendonça, a topiary gardener who has devoted a lifetime to painstakingly shaping bears and giraffes out of hedges and trees; Ray Mendez, who is fascinated with hairless mole-rats, tiny buck-toothed mammals who behave like insects; and Rodney Brooks, an M.I.T. scientist who has designed complex, autonomous robots that can crawl like bugs without specific instructions from a human controller. As the film proceeds, thematic connections between the four protagonists begin to emerge. The lion tamer and the topiary gardener look back at ways of life which are slowly disappearing; the mole-rat specialist and the robot scientist eye the future, envisioning creatures that may someday replace the human race.' --errolmorris.com
Mr. Death (1999)
'Fred A. Leuchter, Jr., an engineer from Malden, Mass. decided to become the Florence Nightengale of Death Row — a humanitarian whose mission was to design and repair, electric chairs, lethal injection systems, gallows and gas chambers, . In 1988, Ernst Zundel, publisher of Did Six Million Really Die? and The Hitler We Loved and Why commissioned Leuchter to conduct a forensic investigation into the use of poison gas in WWII Nazi concentration camps. Leuchter traveled to Auschwitz and illegally took brick and mortar samples for analysis in order to "prove" that the Holocaust never happened. Leuchter fully expected his involvement with Ernst Zundel to be the crowning achievement of his career, but instead it ruined him. Reopening the doors to this century's keystone atrocity. Morris bypasses a more obvious discourse on bigotry to examine instead the origins of evil in vanity and self-deception.' -- collaged
The Fog of War (2003)
'It is the story of America as seen through the eyes of the former Secretary of Defense, Robert S. McNamara. One of the most controversial and influential figures in world politics, he takes us on an insider's view of the seminal events of the 20th Century. Why was this past Century the most destructive and deadly in all of human history? Are we doomed to repeat our mistakes? Are we free to make choices, or are we at the mercy of inexorable historical forces and ideologies? From the firebombing of 100,000 Japanese civilians in Tokyo in 1945 to the brink of nuclear catastrophe during the Cuban missile crisis to the devastating effects of the Vietnam War, The Fog of War examines the psychology and reasoning of the government decision-makers who send men to war. How were decisions made and for what reason? What can we learn from these historical events?' -- collaged
the entire film
Standard Operating Procedure (2008)
'The story of Abu Ghraib is still shrouded in moral ambiguity, but it is clear what happened there. The Abu Ghraib photographs serve as both an expose and a coverup. An expose, because the photographs offer us a glimpse of the horror of Abu Ghraib; and a coverup because they convinced journalists and readers they had seen everything, that there was no need to look further. In recent news reports, we have learned about the destruction of the Abu Zubaydah interrogation tapes. A coverup. It has been front page news. But the coverup at Abu Ghraib involved thousands of prisoners and hundreds of soldiers. We are still learning about the extent of it. Many journalists have asked about “the smoking gun” of Abu Ghraib. It is the wrong question. As Philip Gourevitch has commented, Abu Ghraib is the smoking gun. The underlying question that we still have not resolved, four years after the scandal: how could American values become so compromised that Abu Ghraib—and the subsequent coverup—could happen?' -- Errol Morris
'Thirty years before the antics of Lindsay, Paris and Britney, Joyce McKinney made her mark as a peerless tabloid queen. In TABLOID, Academy Award(R)-winning filmmaker Errol Morris (THE FOG OF WAR) follows the salacious adventures of this beauty queen with an IQ of 168, whose single-minded devotion to the man of her dreams leads her on a labyrinthine crusade for love. Down a surreal rabbit hole of kidnapping, masochistic Mormons, risque photography, magic underwear, celestial sex, jail time and a cloning laboratory in South Korea, Joyce's fantastic exploits were constant headlines. Morris, interviewing the Fleet Street reporters and photographers who covered the events at the time, wants to deconstruct the addictive, almost metastasizing power of how tabloid news stories work on us. At 88 minutes, Tabloid is short and sweet (it's pure movie candy), but by the end we've forged an emotional connection to Joyce McKinney at the deep core of her unapologetic fearless/nutty valor. And that's what really makes a great tabloid story: It's a vortex that's also a mirror.' -- collaged
Errol Morris interviewed about 'Tabloid'
p.s. Hey. ** DOVEY, HI, Dovey! It's so very lovely and such an honor to have you here. I was thinking about you a lot yesterday on the very sad anniversary of Antonio's passing. I miss him every day. He was greatly loved here, and I think I can speak for all of his contemporaneous d.l.s when I say that we were all very in awe of him, his genius, his person. Thank you so much for the link to that gorgeous sound and visual piece of his. I'll embed it below so everyone can enjoy it. I send you so much love and respect, now and always, and take very good care of yourself, okay? Everyone, yesterday was the anniversary of the passing of Antonio Urdiales, a beyond extraordinary young artist in every medium imaginable and one of the rare people I've known who possessed true and absolute genius and who we here at the blog were incredibly lucky to have as a d.l. for a long time. Whether you were here in those days or not, I draw your attention to a memorial post that people here and I made for and about him, wherein you can experience a lot of his work as well as the effect he had on all of us. Here's 'A Weekend for and by Antonio Urdiales, Day 1'. And, at the bottom of the p.s., I've embedded one of Antonio's sound and visual video works that was very kindly passed along to us by his mother, Dovey. ** S., Hi. Wow. Everyone, here's a stackless Emo stack of a different color by S. aka 'Who's that sexy lego man?' ** Allesfliesst, Oh, happy to help. Okay, good, I'm glad I'm not a mistaken interloper in some 'JvG' cult. 'Taipei' is quite good, yes, I certainly agree. Aw, re: you know what. Everyone, Allesfliesst proposes to lead us lock, stock, and barrel into a little thing called 'Baby Panda born at Taipei Zoo meets mom for the first time' I saw a panda at the Tokyo zoo when I was there. He was eating and inattentive. I didn't resolve my sleeping problems. I might be very gradually, with stops and starts, getting better. Yesterday, I would have said I'm on the cusp of being in the clear, and then last night happened, so I don't know for sure. Get rid of your thing and tell me how the fuck you did please. ** David Ehrenstein, International good morning to you! ** Grant maierhofer, Hi, Grant. Things are mostly really good, thanks. Not a lot to report from the last several days either, but they were good. Great weekend to you. ** HyeMin, Hi. Oh, it's okay if we're not aligned on Lydia Davis's translations. Apples and oranges, or whatever they say. I like Richard Howard's translations a lot too, though. But, not knowing French except in the most rudimentary fashion, I just try to be trusting of translations unless something really jars me 'cos I don't know what happened in the translators' tacklings of the originals, for better or worse. ** Dan, Hi, Dan! Yes, I saw the great potential news-bearing email. Fingers very crossed. I'll hope to see you in person too. I'm not coming to LA for the 'Jerk' performances, but hopefully not too long thereafter. Take care, sir! ** Steevee, Hi. It's interesting to look at the comments after the fact and think about how time passes between them, as in the case of your pre-modem and post-modem reports. I like the Earl Sweatshirt album pretty well. I didn't fall in love, but I'm going to spin its sound again today and see what happens. No, I still haven't tried the new New Puritans album. Thank you for reminding me. I keep forgetting. Noted. ** Mark Gluth, Oh, gosh, Mark, thank you and so very much! ** Thomas Moronic, Hi, T! ** Jeff, Howdy, Jeff. Cool about that song for Antonio. I'll go listen to it in just a bit. Everyone, speaking of the late, very great Antonio, here's d.l. Jeff with an alert and recommendation: 'Here's a song by 'Witchboy' that is dedicated to Antonio. I discovered it by chance a while ago. I was streaming the Witchboy album in the background to my internet browsing one day (because a musician I like was pretty enthusiastic about it), and it was a ghostly feeling when that song came on, and I realized who it was about. (The rest of the Witchboy stuff at that bandcamp page is pretty cool as well.)' ** _Black_Acrylic, Hi, Ben. Wow, you were arrogant and callous once? Man, that is super really hard to imagine. Really? The mastery of sex and drugs characterization is not a stretch however, ha ha. But, yeah, I understand about the sadness. Cool, I'll go look at the MFA profiles, thank you a lot! Don't be too sad, Ben, you're totally the awesomest. Love, me. ** Statictick, Thanks about the posts, buddy. Yeah, I went for a long time squinting at cloudy words before I bit the bullet and got reading glasses. I kind of really recommend it. Apart from the reddish indents at either side of the top of my nose, it's cool. ** Sypha, Hey. It's definitely a boon that you can go both short and long. I couldn't write a long book if someone offered me a million dollars. Well, maybe for a million dollars, but it would be a terrible book. Really, you think sickness can encroach that way? Interesting. I mean, why not, I guess, although my logical side offers much resistance to the thought. But logic can only know so much. ** Gary gray, Hi, man. Saturday is today! Wow. Yeah, I hope it's really inspiring and productive-making. Do report back. I'm very curious. Nice show that you've got waiting for you at the tail end too. I only know of 'Diary of a Chambermaid', I think, unless I'm spacing. I'll investigate. Thanks about the stacks. Re: the number of images, it depends. Sometimes the number is meaningful and is a code and is a preset goal of the stack, and sometimes it just indicates the number of images I managed to find acceptable. See you on Monday! ** Misanthrope, Right, that's what I basically figured about the LS + mom situation. Man, ... I don't know what to say. That's heinous. I hate generalizations, but I would say that, in general, I respect kids a ton. I just never wanted to produce one. I've never been curious to find out what my DNA and genetics would produce in combination with someone else's. I guess people have this deep, primal need to leave a new human in their wake, but, like I said, I've got the crapshoot of my books as my leftovers, and those are offspring-like enough. ** Okay. This weekend is devoted to Errol Morris, one of my favorite filmmakers in general and especially re: 'Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control', which is in my top 10 fave films list. Enjoy it maybe or hopefully. See you on Monday.
ɆȾɆɌ/\/ȺȽ by Antonio Urdiales
Posted by Dennis Cooper at 12:07 AM