John Ashbery Reads “Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror”

Poet John Ashbery has passed away, at the age of 90. About the poet, Harold Bloom once said. “No one now writing poems in the English language is likelier than Ashbery to survive the severe judgment of time. He is joining the American sequence that includes Whitman, Dickinson, Stevens and Hart Crane.” In 1976, Ashbery won the Pulitzer Prize for his collection, Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror. Above, you can hear him read the title poem, his masterpiece. The Guardian calls "Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror," a densely written epic about art, time and consciousness that was inspired by the 16th century Italian painting of the same name." The text of the poem appears on the Poetry Foundation website.

Find other poetry readings in our collection, 900 Free Audio Books: Download Great Books for Free.

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Watch “Adam,” an Award-Winning Short Claymation That Wonderfully Re-Tells the Story of Creation

Above, watch 'Adam,' a short claymation made by Evelyn Jane Ross while attending the Rhode Island School of Design. As she points out in a recent interview, 'Adam' is "nothing like Wallace and Gromit; it’s neither a children’s story nor does it have a distinct character. Instead, it’s a poetic narrative depicting love and emotional sincerity. It uses the malleable nature of clay to emphasize the main idea, creation. 'Adam' also defies the perception that animation is a children’s medium. The film could easily be rated “R” for “MATURE” audiences only." She then adds:

I read a quote by Stanley Kubrick, 'A film is - or should be - more like music than like fiction. It should be a progression of moods and feelings. The theme, what's behind the emotion, the meaning, all that comes later'. This quote really guided my progression. It seemed like a wonderful way to think of structure and timing. The meaning, yes, came later.

Although Ross made the film mainly to fulfill some senior year requirements at RISD, she got some extra mileage out of the claymation. Among other awards, it won Best Animated Film at the Yale Student Film Festival, the Berlin Flash Film Festival, and Santa Fe Independent Film Festival. And it was a BAFTA Student Awards Finalist. Enjoy.

"Adam" will be added to our list, 1,150 Free Movies Online: Great Classics, Indies, Noir, Westerns, etc..

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How Doors Open onto Philosophical Mysteries in Robert Bresson’s Films: A Short Video Essay by Kogonada

FYI: Last Friday, Colin Marshall highlighted for you the new feature film by kogonada, whose many video essays--on Ozu, Linklater, Malick, Anderson, etc.--we've shown you here before. Rather by coincidence, The Criterion Collection just posted kogonada's latest video essay, this one examining how "doors open onto philosophical mysteries in the films of French master Robert Bresson." Watch "Once There Was Everything" above, and pair it with his other Bresson essay ("Hands of Bresson") from three years ago. It appears right below.

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See New York City in the 1930s and Now: A Side-by-Side Comparison of the Same Streets & Landmarks

The New Yorker has posted a very neat split-screen tour of the same streets in New York City, letting you see the Big Apple in the 1930s and today. Times Square, Central Park, the Brooklyn Bridge--they're all on display. What a difference 80 years make.

Below you can find other historical videos and photos of NYC ... and London and Berlin too. Enjoy.

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Watch Clouds Roil Through the Grand Canyon: A Beautiful Timelapse Film Captures a Rare Full Cloud Inversion

From producer and editor Harun Mehmedinovic comes a pretty breathtaking timelapse film of a rare phenomenon at the Grand Canyon. Writes Mehmedinovic:

Millions of visitors a year come to Arizona's Grand Canyon National Park, one of the seven natural wonders of the world and the most visited national park in the western United States. However, on extremely rare days when cold air is trapped in the canyon and topped by a layer of warm air, which in combination with moisture and condensation, form the phenomenon referred to as the full cloud inversion. In what resembles something between ocean waves and fast clouds, Grand Canyon is completely obscured by fog, making the visitors feel as if they are walking on clouds.

This video was filmed as part of SKYGLOW (skyglowproject.com), an ongoing crowdfunded quest to explore the effects and dangers of urban light pollution in contrast with some of the most incredible dark sky areas in North America. This project is being produced in collaboration with International Dark-Sky Association (darksky.org), a non-profit fighting for the preservation of night skies around the globe.

The film was shot on Canon 5DSR & 5DIII cameras and lenses. You can download high resolution stills via this zip file. Enjoy.

via Twisted Sifter

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Noel Coward’s “Alice (Is At It Again)” Gets Reimagined as a Very Modern Fairy Tale: A Short Film Starring Sarah Snook

English playwright, lyricist, actor and raconteur Noel Coward (1899 –1973) is still remembered for his plays such as the wife-after-death comedy Blithe Spirit and Private Lives; his playlet Still Life, which became the classic David Lean film Brief Encounter, and his scripting and co-direction of the WW2 morale-booster In Which We Serve, also directed by Lean, for which Coward won an Honorary Academy Award. However, he’s perhaps better known now more as an image of archetypal mid-20th century Englishness, replete with dressing-gown and cigarette-holder, and the hundreds of witty songs and poems he wrote, such as Mad Dogs and Englishman and Mrs Worthington, which he performed in cabaret in his distinctively clipped English manner to much acclaim in London and, latterly, in Las Vegas.

His 1946 song Alice (Is At It Again), written and then cut from his flop musical Pacific 1860, became a standard of his cabaret act and, with its suggestive lyrics, risqué subject matter and sly wit, is typical of his oeuvre. It’s thus a surprising choice perhaps by rising Australian actress Sarah Snook for the subject of her new short film Alice, co-devised with director Laura Scrivano, and the second film of The Passion, a new online series of performed poetry films coming out of Australia. The first film in the series, A Lovesong, starring Daniel Henshall (from AMC’s Turn: Washington Spies), featured T.S. Eliot’s modernist masterpiece The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock (watch it below), so Alice is a change both in style and tone for the series, but continues the project’s experimentation in rendering poetry on film for a digital audience.

Sarah, who won critical acclaim for her genderswitching role in the 2015 science-fiction thriller Predestination, found the Coward text in a bookshop in San Francisco, while sourcing a text for her film for the series.

Says Sarah:

(Director) Laura and I were interested in the ideas of femininity and how that is expressed, particularly in sexual or sensual terms. When I read the poem, I was charmed by it and excited by the potential and challenge of contemporizing it for The Passion. Coward’s themes are very much of the time and place of the original lyrics’ writing, as is his take on them, while our adaptation is an updating, an exploration of female sexuality and empowerment that Coward plays with, and the wildness and freedom of discovering that. Our Alice, who I think nods to Coward’s, is breaking out of the strictures of her background, and being free and true to herself.

Originally Alice, as read by Coward, would have been performed with a patter, a rhythm of its own, with a sense of irony and a lot of wit, and certainly in his very particular RP accent. It’s hard to escape that as it’s written so well and embedded so deeply into the lines, with a particular scansion, but I wanted to go against that somewhat, while retaining and respecting Coward’s sparkle and playfulness.

Alice is the second film of The Passion series, in which actors select a text which has a personal significance for them or strikes a particular chord, and then work closely in collaboration with director Laura Scrivano to develop it as a new performance piece for film. A third film is currently in development. More information about the series can be found at this website.

Dan Prichard is an online film and webseries producer, based in Sydney, whose work explores identity, place, and the space between film and performance in the digital arena. Visit his website and follow him on twitter @georgekaplan81

680 MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) Getting Started in April: Enroll Free Today

Heads up: This month, 680+ MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) will be getting underway, giving you the chance to take courses from top flight international universities, at no cost. With the help of Class Central, we’ve pulled together a complete list of April MOOCS. Below find a few courses that piqued our interest. You can also rummage through the complete list of MOOCs and find your own.

Note: The trailer for the course, The Great War and Modern Philosophy, is featured above. View the complete list of MOOCS here.

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