Aug 9, 2007

80 Years of Women in Film

Here's a lovely way to kick off your Wednesday. Anne Thompson linked to this a couple days ago on her Thompson on Hollywood blog, but I just now got around to checking it out ... it's a nice little video montage featuring 80 years of women in film, from Marlene Dietrich to Gwyneth Paltrow, with each successive face morphing into the next. It's very well done, and a lovely tribute to some amazing actresses.

Some commenters on Various and Sundry, which posted the older version of the video, noted that there were no women of color among the 75 or so actresses included. Some commenters pointed out that many of these stars are "glamour" stars, old Hollywood starlets, from a time when women of color were not stars; others have noted that it would have been nice to have at least included more modern women of color, i.e., Halle Berry and Salma Hayek, which would have been interesting both from a morphing standpoint and from the perspective of illustrating the evolution of Hollywood and its acceptance of women who don't have white skin as beautiful.

I tracked down the artist who created the video when someone in that comment thread linked to a "new" version on YouTube (see above) that now includes women of color. Here is the story: According to the artist, Philip Scott Johnson (who goes by the moniker "eggman913" on YouTube), he never intended the piece that's floating around the internet to be spread far and wide. He had the older piece up for a few days a while back before deciding on his own to add women of color to the piece, but the first version is what's been spread around, much to his chagrin. In his own words:

"First of all I'm very upset that an earlier version of Women In Film is out on the internet. Yes, the original had only caucasian women. I realized it was racist simply by exclusion and pulled it off the internet back in May. I wanted it off the internet forever ... Now I am stuck having to carry on conversations about why I changed it all because one guy copied and saved an earlier version. By the way, I changed it long before people started leaving comments on that website so to answer your question, No it was not in response. I changed it on my own a long time ago because I thought it was the right thing to do."

So there you have it. The version the artist currently has on YouTube right here is the one you should point to if you want to direct others to it. It seems to be having quite an impact on folks, and that's great, but I'm sure Johnson would appreciate it if the version he intended to be out there is the one that gets the link love, and if you credit him as the artist. He also has a similar montage of Women in Art, along with some other cool stuff, so check it all out. The morphing work is quite good -- the faces morph seamlessly one into the next (and for those wondering, he used $30 morphing software to create the Women in Art montage, and upgraded to the full version for the Women in Film piece, so you don't have to go broke to get this kind of effect).

As I was watching this for the 900th time (yeah, I can be a little obsessive, what of it?) I got to thinking: is the morphing good simply because the person who did it has stellar technical skills? Or does it also work well because these film stars all have facial characteristics in common? Through the decades, makeup styles changed, eyebrow shapes progressed from delicately curved, to perfectly arched, to that "natural" look that takes a lot of work to look like you didn't do anything to them, hairstyles altered with the times -- but across the ages, all of the women have striking eyes, beautifully shaped lips, and perfectly groomed brows. It's interesting, if you watch it over and over, how the facial features merge so seamlessly from one actress to the next.

Just for fun, challenge yourself to see how rapidly you can identify specific actresses on the first round of watching it. It's kind of addictive, especially if you play it over and over again while sipping some nice herbal tea.


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