By • Jun 1st, 2006 •

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Greetings, one and all. We’re half way through ’06, and much is happening in FIR land.

For one, FIR has finally gotten into Merchandise. All you FIR readers out there will now have the opportunity to acquire quality coffee mugs, t-shirts, beer steins, and other collectibles, many bearing famous film quotes, and all bearing the FIR logo.

Merchandising proceeds will help fund the massive ‘FIR Archives Project’ now underway. By the end of the year (always subject to change), we hope to have a large chunk of the Archives up and readable. As you know, the NBR’s various publications date back so far that they predate any sort of digital filing system, and that has been our biggest problem in implementing the Project. But recent programming breakthroughs have enabled us to finally begin, and to do it in a way that is most rewardingly accessible to visitors. I’ll definitely keep you all updated on our progress.

Merchandise can be found at: https://www.cafepress.com/filmsinreview

I was recently invited to a preview testing of the new Blue Ray DVD technology. One by one, High Def DVDs were screened in HD DVD format, then in Blue Ray, and finally the standard DVD format was shown for comparison. It was a fascinating demonstration. I leave it to the techies to sort out the various nuances of each format, particularly some dubious decisions that have been implemented regarding the player controls and screen design. But I definitely saw enough to make up my mind about visual quality, at least for the foreseeable future.

Both of the new super-formats have their virtues and their drawbacks. Neither HD-DVD, nor Blue Ray, in my opinion, mandate the moderate to costly retooling of your home theater. Maybe in a few years, but not yet. Neither Blue Ray nor HD-DVD has a marked advance over the other. They are both superior to regular DVD in terms of separating light and shadow, and shadings of color, but if I were to give you an arbitrary measure of their superiority over regular DVD, it would be perhaps 10-20% — not the huge advance that has been touted. And in older films, despite Hi Def re-masterings, not more than 10% improvement, at the most.

I see the new DVD technology the way I see the relentless retreads of DVD titles every few years, improved and re-promoted with extras, HD mastering, etc. etc. Yes, they’re better, if only by dint of their supplements, but do you really need to keep reinvesting in the same titles? Using this annoying paradigm in relation to the new competing HD DVD formats, you can see where your quest for the ultimate home theater experience will drag you if you are obsessive enough, which is what the companies are counting on. Home theaters are already better than movie theaters. Have been since the advent of DVD. The new HD technology will make those costly ventures to the neighborhood big screen venues seem as technically antiquated (save for IMAX) as going to a museum. But are the new breakthroughs necessary? Will your family and guests appreciate the tens of thousands you’ve had to shell out to refurbish your already superb home theater? That’s a question you’re going to have to ask yourself, particularly in these financially strapped (contrary to governmental squawking about the robust economy) times. I’d say hold off for the time being. See how it plays out. Your standard DVD players are just fine for the next year. Then if you can’t take it any more, and have to invest in the new technology, it’ll have some of the bugs ironed out by then.

A friendly PR person named Theresa La Padula asked me to bring to your attention the results, and ambitions, or the SHORT SHORT FILM FESTIVAL. FIR promotes the indies, as you know, particularly in Glenn Andreiev’s column, but also just in general. Our final in-print issue in 1997 was all about Indie Filmmakers. So:

Young & Laramore today announced the winners of the first TheCuriousCity.com Short Short Film Festival, an online film festival focusing on the celebration of place… and brevity (submissions were not to exceed 60 seconds). Guest judge Richard Florida, celebrated author of The Rise of the Creative Class and Flight of the Creative Class, helped determine the winning submissions.

The grand prize went to Thomas Bryan Michurski, a freelance art director from Minneapolis, Minnesota, who will receive $5,000 for his miniature epic, “Bards Of Able.” An ode to the filmmaker’s self-described average life, “Bards Of Able” shows clips of a suburban family at play, as Michurski wonders, “Do poets come from ordinary places?” By the movie’s end, it has been concluded that, “There is music among the manicured squares.”

In addition to the Grand Prize, seven category winners were awarded $500 each for their entries in the following enigmatically-named categories: Literate, Thirsty; Day Before Payday; Check One Two Check Check; War And Peace; Small Box Stores; Curious; and Places That Aren’t Applebees.
The winners and finalists were from locations as varied as South Africa, Indianapolis, New York City and Greece.

Conceived and developed by Young & Laramore to invite talented people to give Indianapolis a second look, TheCuriousCity.com is a celebration of the less commercial, more “underground” and special aspects of life in this Midwestern city. By logging onto the web site to learn about the Short Short Film Festival, all film festival entrants were exposed to a new view of Indianapolis.

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