Guns and Elmo

Hello, I'm John Pavlus.

This is my internet mood board. Click any entry to embiggen.

In real life I write about science, technology, and design. I also run a production company called Small Mammal.

(FAQ: The name comes from a brilliant photograph by Kenneth Cappello.)

So much to learn/steal/emulate here it’s hard to get it all down.

1. Giving graphics and visual “info dumps” an aesthetic dimension, a texture. Embedding them in sensory reality, making them real, i.e. physical. Not just poor-man’s Ken Burns “pan over a JPG” shit. 

2. Eye contact.

3. “Moving still photographs” as b-roll. Friedman is a photographer and his eye for still images is keen. Setting up a “still” like the slow rack focus from Goetz holding up his patent papers to Goetz’s face: simple, stylized, but full of documentary depth, and feels like a scene even though it’s just a “still.” 

4. Wide shots and a sense of detailed space. Goetz isn’t just a disembodied torso in medium closeup. 

5. Narrative atmosphere over explanatory terrain. Goetz tells brief anecdotes to get at the idea of a software patent, but there’s no contrived or over-emphasized “storyline” pulling the film along. Other hints at narrative: the hands that open the laptop at the beginning and close it at the end, with searching/reading in between—there is a sense of seeking, of something storylike “happening”, but it’s just a sense. 

6. Personal interlude. I loved that the film basically stopped, took a hard left to introduce Goetz’s wife (also subtly changed “look” as well: looser, rougher, less stylized), then resumed. Doesn’t make structural sense “on paper” but felt just right. 

7. Leave me wanting more. The film doesn’t try to teach me everything about software patents or about Goetz. It feels whole enough to be satisfying, but not encyclopedic or exhaustive.  

— 1 year ago