Thursday, October 25, 2012

iPhone, Blackberry, and the physical nature of the Smartphone

Even before the Times ran its story about how BlackBerry users were feeling the shame, I often would tease my wife about hers...except when we were in out-of-the-way locales and she could get a signal when my Android phone could not.    I've been a Droid user for about three years now, and I'm quite happy with it. (Translation: my carrier doesn't have the iPhone.)  I like the browsing, the apps, the games, the store, it's fun.  When we were abroad last summer, and my SIM card died (it was really old), I had to use my wife's Blackberry and I just got so confused by it. 

yesterday on my way to work, I listened to ESPN Radio's Mike and Mike in the Morning; co-host Mike Greenberg was discussing his change from BlackBerry to iPhone.   In fact, he told a "shame" story that was the final push sending him to Apple: while traveling with co-host Mike Golic, former Notre Dame lineman and current parent of three student-athletes at South Bend, Greenberg took out his BlackBerry on the plane.  Golic's wife Chris looked at him and basically asked, you're still using one of those?  That was it for Greeny; less than two weeks later, he got the iPhone.

And he got nervous as hell, as his tweets indiciated.

On air, Greenberg complained that he could not text or send e-mail easily on the iPhone; the auto-correct functions create bizarre texts that read like dadaist poetry. the tiny keyboard icon of the iphone, without the physical bumps of the similarly small BlackBerry keypad, does not appeal to Greenberg, or a lot of still-loyal Blackberry users.   (There are still about 90 million of them.) 

And therein lies a crucial distinction that Marshal McLuhan would have loved to consider.  The iPhone is essentially a visual/audio experience; you check your location on the maps, watch video, listen to music, play games that involve sliding your fingers on the screen rather than punching arrows one way or the other like in old computer games.  (No wonder I'm not so great on the PacMan apps for Droid and iPad: the joystick of the old arcade came gave me the feel of a throttle that sliding one's finger cannot possibly duplicate.) 

The BlackBerry, on the other hand, is a tactile experience. No one uses it to watch videos -- hell, when I send youtube links or videos to my wife, she can't see them! It's not a music player; the only real audio function is, of course the phone.  its central resource is the tactile one of typing tiny keys to send e-mails, texts, and their famous BBMs -- BlackBerry Messaging, which allows all these "shamed" BlackBerry users to send free messages to each other.  It is certainly true that a physical keyboard makes for easier message-ing, but that's largely, I think, a function of the tactile nature of the device.  

(I suppose their might be a sensual as well as sensory component to this...some people like touching, some like watching...? )

My point here is simply to consider the smartphone environment from a relatively different point of view.   Lastly, I should note I feel I've got both worlds working well for my Droid: a functional touch-screen and a slide-out real keyboard.   Yes, it's probably a bit  bulkier than either the iPhone or the Blackberry, but I believe I get a lot of the features of Apple with the easy, tactile-textual strength of the Blackberry. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The interpretation less traveled by? High School teachers and Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken"

One of the most enduring poems in American high school English classes is Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken."  The speaker describes seeing two paths as he walks in a wood and briefly debates which path to take. 

The last stanza of the poem describes the speaker having apparently made his choice: "I took the road less traveled by/and that has made all the difference."   The classic interpretation of the poem, the one pretty much every kid who studied it in high school knows, is that "we" should not take the path that everyone else has taken; we should find our individual voices and doing so will make all the difference in our lives.  

First, let's appreciate the irony of such a reading being posited -- or, I suggest, imposed -- in one of the greatest conformity factories on the planet: the American high school.   If it's not the teachers who are imposing their wills on those who might be different, the students themselves do a fine job of policing, with their constant drive for exclusivity.   Individuality in such a locus is a dangerous thing, as guidance counselors were reminded of after Columbine.   And here the kids are sitting in English class being told to follow their own path!!! Fabulous.   (Good chance to teach the concept of "irony," eh?)

Second, look at the poem carefully:  In the second stanza, the speaker makes the point that while it might have appeared that the road he was taking was less traveled by, the truth is: "the passing there/had worn them really about the same."   Thus, the speaker is not really choosing the road less traveled by.  It's also worth mentioning the title: it's "The Road Not Taken."  Is Frost talking about the road that he did not take, or is he again referring to the road that the speaker did take but he's now representing it as less traveled in the final stanza?

And let's look again at the last stanza.  Frost shifts time here; he has the speaker speculate that "somewhere ages and ages hence" he (the speaker) will be telling this story to someone.   Remember that, because what he imagines himself to be telling of the story is in fact a lie.   He did not take the road less traveled.   That is a myth.   His imagined future telling of this incident is going to perpetuate a fictional account, and indeed an account that is now perpetuated by high school English teachers all the time.  

And it's still perpetuated; when I was in high school, that's the interpretation we got, and in fact when we graduated two years after I first studied Frost's poem, "the road not taken" was the theme, and we had speeches by  several of our classmates on the subject -- including yours truly. I was a sucker for that interpretation, too. (I will admit it today: I basically wrote the speech so I could sneak in a quote from the Violent Femmes' first album.  Thrill of my life: meeting Gordon Gano after a gig and telling him so. And no, I didn't quote from "Add it Up." )   But such an interpretation doesn't really hold up.

In teaching Frost's poetry to my college students, I asked about their prior experiences with this poem, and indeed one student said that in high school, he pointed out the fact that the roads were worn basically the same.  The result? He was just told he was wrong.  He suspects that his teacher didn't want to complicate matters for the rest of the class.  (Amazingly this kid still came to college to become an English major!) So much for choosing roads or interpretations less traveled!

Can we please please please make this point in 10th grade instead of waiting for college?   It's time we stop perpetuating literary lies! The poem is much richer than our secondary education teachers gave it -- and us -- credit for. 

Eli: Washing away my childhood traumas

I grew up a Giants fan in the seventies.  At different times, the team had great defenses, but almost always putrid offenses, culminating in The Fumble in November 1978.  But beyond how basically dreadful the Giants were, we had to sit and watch as America's Team kept dominating the NFC East (why were they in the East in the first place, for chrissake? New York, Washington, Philadelphia...and Dallas?  The Cardinals were in St. Louis, and that certainly didn't make much sense either).   In the seventies, they went to five Super Bowls, winning two.   They were led for most of the decade by Roger Staubach, whom we simply referred to as "him," kind of like Red Sox fans would refer to "Aaron Fucking Boone" when speaking of the hero of the 2003 ALCS.  

Staubach was famous for his late-game theatrics, building his reputation in the 1975 NFC division playoffs on a last-second touchdown against the Minnesota Vikings, that became known as the "Hail Mary" pass because, after the game, Staubach told reporters that just before he threw the pass to Drew Pearson, he said a quick Hail Mary prayer. (The name has stuck to any such pass thrown in desperation at the end of a game.)   In truth, Staubach only had little over a dozen 4th quarter comebacks in his career -- John Elway has twice that many -- but it sure as hell seemed like he had more, and as I became more involved a fan, I understood that no lead was safe against the Cowboys; in his time Roger Staubach owned the last two minutes of a game the way that Elway would a generation later. 

As Staubach's career ended with the decade -- his career started late because of his service in the Navy, where he'd won a Heisman trophy -- the Giants' luck turned.  NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle stepped in to stop the feud between the patriarch of the team (and in many respects the league itself) Wellington Mara and his nephew Tim, telling them to trust his judgment and accept George Young from the league offices, to run the team.   His first draft pick was Phil Simms.   He also drafted Lawrence Taylor.   The result: within eleven years, the Giants had won two Super Bowls.  

Since Young retired (he has since passed on), the Giants have had two General Managers, Ernie Acorsi and Jerry Reese.   Acorsi put together the team that went to the Super Bowl in 2000 (they got crushed by the Baltimore Ravens), and Reese has been in charge of the teams that have won two Super Bowls in the last five seasons.   Acorsi's stamp is stil very much on this current Giant team, because it was Acorsi -- at Reese's recommendation, as Reese was Acorsi's top scout -- who made the trade with the San Diego Chargers that brought Eli Manning to New York.  

And Eli is rapidly become the Staubach of this era.  No lead is safe against him.  

Mike Lupica's column in today's New York Daily News tells it like it is: this is not only a fun time to be a Giant fan, it is the most fun time ever. Steve Serby's column in the Post makes a similar declaration, focusing on Eli himself: He declares Manning the best QB in the league right now.  

Is there anyone else in the league you'd want to bring your team back from a fourth quarter deficit?  Philip Rivers?  Big Ben? Aaron Rodgers? Drew Brees?  Even Tom Brady and Eli's big brother Peyton?   Nope. Even before his first Super Bowl triumph in the final minutes against Brady, Eli had a knack for success running the two-minute offense.  It was the one thing everyone on Sportstalkradio could agree with about him.   Eli was very cool under pressure, though at times that coolness was translated as a deer-in-headlights look.   Since that great finish against Tom Brady, who was going for history in the desert in January 2008 (the Patriots were 18-0, looking to cap a perfect season, and Brady was going for his fourth Lombardi Trophy, which would put him in very short company alongside Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana), Eli has simply been money in the fourth quarter, as he was this past weekend against the Redskins (who have a helluva young quarterback themselves, and as a Giants fan I can only hope he's more reckless running the ball and takes too much of a beating to have as great a career as I think he's gonna have).  

Let's not kid ourselves: Big Ben in a foxhole is great, tough as nails, and he's proven he can do it on the big stage. (He's 2-1 in Super Bowls.)   Brees and Rodgers are are gifted quarterbacks in the classic mold, and they've each one a title and probably will win more.   Brady is Brady, and Peyton has managed to get the Brady-monkey off his back, winning one title and losing another Super Bowl (to Brees and to Saints coach Shawn Payton's gamble of starting the second half with an onside kick).    But Eli right now tops them all.   Will he be higher on the All-Time list than his brother, or Brady? Probably not.  But Giant fans have to be thrilled at the way their organization is run: five Super Bowl appearances since 1979, and right now the best quarterback they've ever had is in his prime. 

Oh, and the nice part:  Eli has already surpassed "him" on the list of most fourth-quarter comebacks. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Film Friday: Toward a reading of Disney's "heroic" Jews?

One of the things I'm trying to do as a parent and academic is to justify all those hours watching Disney content with my kids.  (When they were younger, yes, it was Sesame Street; I still think I should go back and write about the sense of space created by the show, but that seems over for me, at least.)  And as an academic parent, I don't really let them just sit back and accept all the rhetoric that most of the Disney films (and many of their series, Phineas and Ferb excepted), so they do have a reasonably critical sense of understanding. 

One of my favorites from years ago is the Lion King sequel Lion King 1 1/2. My kids thought it was hiliarious, and I am continually knocked out by it.  On a formal level,  this straight-to-video sequel attempts to deconstruct not only the original film's story, but also the very process of both story-telling and story-experiencing.  It is as playful a text (in the sense that scholar Robert Stam uses the concept of play) as you might expect from the Disney factory.   If the original Lion King is an odd re-telling of Hamlet, then this sequel is an odd version of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, sifted through the lens of Borscht-belt humor and Fiddler on the Roof.  

And that's what I'm working on right now: a consideration of the Jewish narrative in a number of Disney video sequels.  

Now, we all know that Disney's narratives follow a fairly consistent structural pattern.  (Here, I'm speaking of the feature animation films; the pre-Snow White shorts cut a larger path, and even many of the popular Goofy shorts of the fifties offer more cultural satire than you might think.)   Heroic characters, patterned in the Classical Hollywood mode, travel down paths that challenge their resolve, but ultimately succeed, reinforcing the dominant cultural norms of white heterosexual normativity.   (Douglas Brode, in his book about Disney and the counter-culture, does suggest that it's not so simple, but I'm inclined much more toward the  critical assessments rooted in feminism and critical race theory.)   This is very clearly the case with The Lion King, which rather brutally presents us a world where subordinates bow before their leader -- who, when conditions are right, will eat them.    (Matt Roth, writing in Jump Cut, offers a scorching assessment of the film, seeing it as fitting right in with Walt Disney's own anti-labor and anti-Semitic ideologies as it attacks the liberal politics of the inclusive welfare state that neolib Bill Clinton worked hard to dismantle.)  Simba's path will exile him from his community until he rediscovers his true self (instead of the lazy slob he's become hanging out with two outcasts who adopt young Simba as their own, Timon the meerkat and Pumba the warthog).  Simba's uncle, Scar, is an unfit leader: conniving and deceitful, he is clearly coded as unmasculine and interested in only the nominal power that being king brings.   His allowing of the hyenas (stand-ins for Blacks and Latinos, voiced as they are by one of each -- Whoopi Goldberg and Cheech Marin) to "move into the neighborhood" brings down the property values of the pride lands.  (The lionesses, Roth continues, apparently are unable to challenge Scar, despite their obvious collective strength.)  All the usual emotional buttons are pushed, all at the service of the same fundamental sets of values Disney has come to be connoted with. (This remains the case even when the songs have been written by two gay men and the studio is now run by Jews.)  

But Lion King 1 1/2  is a rather different animal (as it were).   First, the very titling the sequel as a half suggests something is off.  (A "straight" sequel, The Lion King 2: Simba's Pride, had previously been released on video, to mixed critical success. Though many copies have been sold, I actually don't know any child who has seen it.)  I suppose, for some of us arthouse types, such a title evokes Fellini's masterpiece 8 1/2, but something else is afoot here.   The premise of this sequel is to re-tell the first film from the points of view of Timon and Pumba, who do not appear in the original until halfway in.  But the setup makes it a bit more complicated.

At first, the film opens much as the original does, with the famous Swahili chant that announces "The Circle of Life" and the sun rising on a new day.   Suddenly, a voice screeches in tune to the chant: Whaaaat's on the menuuuu?"  It is Nathan Lane's Timon, announcing his presence, and soon we are aware that he and Pumba are about to sit down to watch the original film, their silhouettes indicating their presence in a screening room, much like those of Mike and the bots on Mystery Science Theater 3000 (another likely inspiration for the filmmakers).   And before the song can fully kick in, Timon, after agreeing with Pumba on the emotional pull of that opening chant, begins to fast forward the video images! He wants to skip ahead to the part where he and Pumba come in.   (That's the half of the film he cares about.)   But Pumba points out that "we" were there in the first half of the film, but that the audience of the original does not know it.   So informed, they decide to tell their side of the story, which must take them back to "before the beginning."  

"Our side" is really Timon's side, and we discover that Timon is a Jewish meerkat.  He is a failure in the schlemiel tradition, inept at digging tunnels, unable to avoid causing accidental harm, Timon is forced to leave his family and "friends" behind, much to the chagrin of his overprotective mother (voiced by the most famous cartoon mom in history, Julie Kavner).   The meerkats are subservient and live in constant fear; their connection to the Jews living in the diaspora of Eastern Europe is quite obvious.   Timon is a visionary of sorts, seeking a place (homeland?) where he -- later, they -- will not be hunted.   And while he does find such a place, he is unable to stay there after Simba arrives; TImon and Pumba "raise" the cub and Pumba follows Simba when he decides to return home to challenge Scar.  Eventually, Timon is able to help defeat the hyenas with the assistance of the other meerkats, who use their digging skills to create a trap tunnel.  Timon is given a chance to act heroically, but comically.   The meerkats' occupation of their new space obviously has some larger implications as to Disney's views on the Arab-Israeli conflicts.  

As I said, I was kind of stunned to see Timon "come out" as a Jew, and I think that his Jewish identity needs to have some further exploration.  I want to take this apart in terms of thematic issues and the film's formal qualities.  

But frankly, it's late, and I'm getting more root canal in the morning...

Friday, October 12, 2012

Film Friday: Frankenweenie!

I took my oldest to see Burton's Frankenweenie last week.   I would say it's probably more Disney than Burton, but it is a charming homage to the classic monster cycles of both  thirties Hollywood and fifties Japan, too.   The film begins with a Super8 movie made by the protagonist, young Victor Frankenstein, who shows his creation to his loving but worried parents.  The film is basically about an alien attack on a city, and it looks cheesy as a child's creation -- or some of the classic monster movies of a bygone era.  The hero who saves the day is Victor's beloved dog, Sparky.   As the film is projected in the living room, we see a piece of the strip burn up (a problem you don't have with digital projection).  "I can fix that," Victor says, and proceeds to do so. 

(Quick lesson, kids: when a film strip moves through the projector, if anything causes the film to stop for too long as it moves through the reels, the heat of the projector's lamp is often strong enough to burn the strip of film.  The emulsions are no longer so dangerous that a fire can occur in the booth, but it is something projectionists had to handle. And that includes being able to repair the film strip to start again.   In every booth, there's supposed to be a splicing apparatus.) 

We see Victor take the segmented reels of his film back to his attic/studio, where he has the equipment needed to splice the Sparky movie together.   This, then, becomes the central theme: relationship between the broken and the fixed.   The burning of Sparky on film is a foreshadowing for the little pooch.  

It is not a spoiler to tell you that Sparky dies; the premise of the film is that young Victor, inspired by his new science teacher (a wonderful turn by Ed Wood veteran Martin Landau), brings Sparky (get it?) back to life.   The dramatic conflict comes when Victor tries to hide what he's done from his parents and his classmates, who all want to win the science competition.   

The image of the small town suburban America may intend to evoke Eward Scissorhands, whose town is grotesque in its use of color and camera angles to portray that grotesqueness.   Here, in black and white, and working with animation, Burton gives us a sense that everyone in the town is a bit weird; the landscape seems as dark as that of Burton's 1989 Batman, but with some of the sentimentality we feel for the misfits.  

Another interesting question is one of time: when is this story set?  We see Super8 movie equipment, but also talk about computers.   It's really hard to get a handle on the time frame, and I wonder if that was deliberate.  

Many of the same themes that one can find in Mary Shelley's novel are a part of the discourse here, but sanitized for the Disney audience.  Science, the teacher tells Victor, comes from the heart as well as the head.   And while the original Victor realizes the folly of his ways in messing around with playing God, the boy hero is allowed to rescue his dog, because, after all, what better love story is there than that between boy and dog? (Having the dog be the thing brought back to life also allows Burton to ignore the much more complex questions of morality that the Monster himself raises when he learns to read and think:  he wishes to confront his creator and understand why he was put on this planet, just as Milton's Adam asks of the angel Gabriel concerning God.) 

And ultimately, what Frankenweenie is about is not science per se; it's about movies and the life-giving qualities they give to us.  When Victor prepares his experiment to revive Sparky electrically, yes, Burton is paying homage to the James Whale version of the novel, but in this kiddie-styled lab, the mechanics are re-worked items in the home; the moving wheels of Victor's bike power the machinery, and the sound of the spokes is the sound of the flickering of a film strip inside a camera (or projector).   The movies are a transitional medium; that is, they combine elements of the mechanical media of typographic print (the sequential-ity of images) with electric power that can redefine perspectives.   Is is the electricity of the light that projects the image unraveling before our eyes.   In the early days of cinema, terms popular do describe the apparatus included bio-skop:  the seeing of life.   This was the shock of the new: seeing life, moving life, reappearing before one's eyes. 

Film is a medium of preservation.   Film critic Andre Bazin, in his essay "The Ontology of the Photographic Image,"  writes that cinema is a kind of mummification: it preserves the dead and allows them to live beyond the grave as it were.   In the projection of the image,  the dead rise again. Boris Karloff died in 1969, but his Monster comes to life every time the Whale films are screened.  As electric media create an external central nervous system, one that is highly social, we understand why scientists (and novelists and film-makers) turn to electricity as a means -- or metaphor -- for bringing the dead back to life.     Will Frankenweenie live beyond the grave?   Audiences will decide that, but it certainly will appeal to the sentimentalist with a taste for the pop-culture macabre.   (And speaking of macabre, look carefully at the grave markers in the pet cemetery; there's a deliciously sick reference to a certain Japanese kiddie phenomenon that might be worth the price of the ticket.)

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Goodbye, Mongo: Alex Karras, 1935-2012

What can I say?  Alex Karras was a heckuva football player, and he was one of a generation of ex-jocks to "go Hollywood" and make more money on the screen, small and big, than they did on the field.  Karras was one of the luckier ones in that he got to star in a sitcom in the eighties, the popular Webster.  He did a lot of TV work before then, appearing on ABC Sports broadcasts, doing game shows, guest-starring on sitcoms, working with George Plimpton, and doing a bit of wrestling, too. (Karras had done some pro wrestling work prior to beginning his football career, and took it up again for one season where he'd been suspended for betting on football games.)  And here's a bizarre clip where he gets his chance against a female game show contestant who happens to be a pro wrestler herself.  (And yes, Charles Nelson Reilly is very funny at the very end of the clip.)

Karras also had a fine turn as the James Garner's bodyguard in Blake Edwards' Victor/Victoria, who ultimately admits his own homosexuality when he thinks he sees his boss do likewise. But let's face it: for guys my age, who were just a bit too young to have seen Karras play pro football, he is remembered for one word.  And that word is Mongo, the character he played in Mel Brooks' Blazing Saddles.  The link takes you to the classic scene of Mongo's attack on Rock Ridge, right up until the sheriff tricks him with a Candygram.  Below, I give Karras's most famous character the last word, wishing him goodbye.

Low-intensity, high involement? McLuhan and "Marty"

This week, I screened two classic dramas from the Criterion Collection's Golden Age of Television set for my History of Broadcasting class.  The programs come from the era when many programs were devoted to the live broadcasts of dramatic stories written by top writers mostly out of New York: Rod Serling, Gore Vidal, Reginald Rose, Paddy Chayefsky, and others who were afforded the status of playwrights for their work.  Most of the programs took their titles from the sponsors: General Electric Theater, Kraft Television Theater, etc.   (A few titles didn't have sponsor names in them, like Playhouse 90.) 

One of my purposes was to examine the reading materials to consider why these programs were so highly regarded: the critical reception came mainly from New York also, where critics of drama are so influential in the "legitimate" theater.  Also, the "essence" of television, so the critics claimed, was its power as a live medium; radio dramas had been successful that way, and that continued with the new video-broadcast medium.  

But as I showed them the Philco-Goodyear Television Playhouse broadcast of Marty, the iconic Chayefsky play directed by Delbert Mann and starring Rod Steiger in the title role, something else fascinated me.    Despite the so-so quality of the video projection in the classroom, which also affected the sound badly enough that I had to put the subtitles on at one point, the students responded viscerally to Marty's story, verbally expressing their responses to Marty's sensitivity by oohing and aw-ing.   Ok, yes, of course I want them to be moved by this story of a plain-looking guy who meets a plain-looking girl and sees at least a spark of hope in his lonely life (and realize the depth of dramatic characterization even in the supporting characters, especially Marty's mother). And yes, part of the appeal of Marty is in Chayefsky's beautiful script, which is tv's version of French Poetic Realism and German kammerspiel .   Who can argue with such beautiful dilalogue as:

so, whaddayuh wanna do tonight Marty?
I dunno, Angie. What do you wanna do?

But in reviewing the crucial -- and longest -- chapter from Understanding Media, I began to re-think what McLuhan means by referring to the television medium as a high-participant one.  

The film image -- quality, 35- or 70mm stuff, Panavision, whatever -- is a hot medium, high intensity, high-definition. The viewer of film does not have to "fill in" any missing spaces to comprehend the film image.  Television, made up of electronic dots being scanned across the screen, is much more akin to the pointillism paintings of artists like Seurat.  The audience has to fill in the dots.  TV, as a cool, participant medium, requires more in-depth involvement to create the message.  And I wonder, when considering the tv version of Marty, I would try to note the ways that my students became involved in the medium, not just the story of this lonely butcher.  

I have been questioning McLuhan's propositions about the tv medium, though I do understand it to varying degrees.   My students' response to Marty tells me I have to be careful not to dismiss the medium.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Film Friday: "They're making a movie...!"

Many movies are themselves about making movies.  Most of them give you what purports to be an inside look at the people who make them.  Some films are celebratory, like Truffaut's Day for Night.  Others are more cynical about the process, like Altman's The Player.   I just want to offer a few remarks about those films that address films that, to varying degrees, examine what happens to local communities when a movie is being made there.

One of the more explicit recent films about this process is David Mamet's satire State and Main, which looks at the efforts of a film crew that, having been booted from one location, must trying finishing the film in another small New England town.   But even this film presents us as much with the interlopers as it does the impact they bring.  

Alan Alda's moderately funny Sweet Liberty (1986) concerns a history professor (played by Alda) whose historical novel is being adapted -- or as he sees it, butchered into the kind of melodramatic adaptations of John Jakes novels from the seventies.   Most of the dramatic tension involves the actors who play the two leads in the movie and their impact on the novelist and his girlfriend, but there are some amusing scenes were the local historical reenactors clash with the filmmakers:

(You might recognize a few faces.)

I recall watching a documentary many years ago about the invasion of a movie production:  Mark Kitchell's short The Godfather Comes to 6th Street was shot by its director, then a film student at NYU, as he wandered his Lower East Side neighborhood on the day that Francis Ford Coppola came to shoot some of the Little Italy scenes for Godfather II.   Paramount tried to stop Kitchell from shooting the film but ultimately Kitchell persevered.  The film was shown on PBS, and is, yes, in the film collection at NYU.  

For my money, and one of these days I'll say more about it, the greatest movie of this type is Vittorio de Sica's After the Fox from 1966.   Written by Neil Simon -- who begged United Artists to get him out of finishing the film, because he thought it was turning out awful as it was being made -- the film stars Peter Sellers as a master thief who  must smuggle gold stolen from Cairo into Europe.   He decides the best way to do it is to pretend to be making a movie about just such an event, and chooses a distant island, called Se Valio,  as a likely port to have the gold smuggled.  The townsfolk become thrilled once they realize "they're making a movie!" but the chief of police almost stops them cold, insisting that the crew produce a permit.   Sellers's director -- "Federico Fabrizi" -- is able to persuade the chief to look the other way.  The first scene is supposed to be the only one shot -- the landing of the gold and the hauling it into a getaway van -- but the ship has engine trouble and does not arrive on time, leaving "FF" to actually shoot a picture.   There the film turns toward satirizing European Arthouse cinema.   By the time the gold scene is shot, the Roman police have arrived, and everyone gets arrested! 

In addition to Sellers' brilliant performance, we have Victor Mature, coming out of his retirement, to play an aging actor trying to stay young.   "Fabrizi" wants to use him in his film, to show the locals of Se Valio that he is a legit film-maker.   But of course that involves snowballing Mature's character, Tony Powell.   And in this scene, we have one of the greatest seductions ever.  

As I said, I could write for hours on this film, a longtime family favorite, but that little hand is on the one, and I've gotta get some shuteye.