Getting More Immersed with Indiewire


  The Penske Media purchase of Indiewire has resulted in an expansion of my role as crafts and awards season contributor.  Beginning this week, I begin Emmy coverage of below-the-line contenders along with my usual Oscar season crafts reporting, working closely

Immersed in Blu-ray: Hitchcock and Bogart


The WB Archive Collection gets Hitch and Bogie on Blu-ray and they've never looked better for home viewing. In Kent Jones' indispensable doc, Hitchcock/Truffaut, he reminds us that Truffaut was on a mission to correct misconceptions about Hitch as a lightweight

Immersed in Books: Farber on Film


For the first time, the complete writings of film critic Manny Farber is available from Library of America, edited by Robert Polito (Savage Art: A Biography of Jim Thompson). Manny Farber (1917-2008) was the first modernist film critic to write like a modernist.

Animation

Sneaking Puss in Boots in 3-D

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in 3-D, Animation, Events, Tech, Trailers, VFX | Leave a comment

One of the highlights at this week’s 3D Entertainment Summit at the Hollywood & Highland Center was a sneak peek of the first 18 minutes of DreamWorks’ Puss in Boots (Nov. 4) as part of tribute to Jeffrey Katzenberg’s pioneering efforts. Not surprisingly, the film really pops in 3-D, thanks to the continual improvements in the stereoscopic aesthetic (kudos to Phil McNally).

Puss (Antonio Banderas) walks into town in search of a heist. First, he’s ridiculed in the saloon, but after demonstrating his notorious feline skills, he attempts to steal the magic beans from the villainous couple, Jack (Billy Bob Thornton) and Jill (Amy Sedaris). Just then, a masked rival mucks things up and Puss seeks revenge, resulting in a wild kitty litter dance competition and sword fight. But the mysterious opponent turns out to be… Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek). The screw turns when another old rival, Humpty Dumpty (Zach Galifianakis), saunters in to offer a heist proposition.

Puss in Boots looks smart, witty, naughty, and visually fun. Director Chris Miller (Shrek the Third) is definitely reaching beyond Shrek and has benefited enormously from exec producer Guillermo Del Toro.

VES Issues Bill of Rights

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in 3-D, Animation, Events, Movies, Tech, VES, VFX | Leave a comment

The Visual Effects Society (VES) today issued a Bill of Rights that more forcefully addresses the downward spiral of working conditions and benefits for VFX artists and dwindling profit margins for facilities than its previous open letter. Indeed, it was approved unanimously by the VES board.

“In the VES Open Letter, we said it was time to step up as the voice of the visual effects industry by talking to all parties regarding their concerns,” said Eric Roth, VES exec director, in a prepared statement. “At this time we have engaged in a vigorous dialog with key stakeholders at all levels and believe our Bill of Rights lays out the vital concerns of each segment of the industry  Our next step is to focus on bringing all parties together to seek solutions.”

To address these concerns, the VES Bill of Rights states that visual effects artists and practitioners, facilities, and studios all have basic rights that need to be upheld in order to recognize the contributions of each group while improving the quality of life and work for artists, practitioners, facilities, and studios.

For artists and practitioners, the VES advocates “a clear understanding of the work he/she is being hired to perform, including knowing what they are being paid per hour, per week or per job, as well as the duration of the assignment, with strict adherence to all local labor laws and tax codes regarding overtime, sick time, vacation time, working conditions, safety, and other aspects of a professional work environment…”

Crucially, the VES calls for “quality health care coverage no matter where in the world he/she may be working.”

The VES suggests that facilities should be entitled to a “clear and reasonable deal memo with the artists and practitioners for hire delineating the scope of the work, the schedule from commencement to completion, and the agreed upon price; and retain ownership of their intellectual property and proprietary tools…”

Meanwhile, studios should be entitled to “a clear and reasonable contract delineating the scope of the work, the schedule from commencement to completion of the project, and the payment schedule based on the agreed upon price; be informed in a timely manner before incurring any excess charges, delays or problems with work for which it has contracted…”

The first opportunity to address the Bill of Rights will be at the third annual VES Production Summit (“Trending the Global Marketplace: You Are Here”) Oct. 1 at the Montage Hotel in Beverly Hills.

The VES Bill of Rights can be accessed at:www.visualeffectssociety.com/visual-effects-industry-bill-of-rights.

Cats Dominate European Film Academy Animation Noms

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Animation, Events, Movies | Leave a comment

The European Film Academy has selected Le chat du rabbin (The Rabbi’s Cat, France), directed by Antoine Delesvaux  & Joann Sfar; Chico & Rita (Spain/Isle of Man), directed by ono Errando, Javier Mariscal & Fernando Trueba; and Une vie de chat (A Cat in Paris, France/Belgium), directed by Jean-Loup Felicioli & Alain Gagnol.

Le chat du rabbin (adapted from Sfar’s comic and set in ’20s Algeria) concerns a rabbi’s cat that learns how to speak after swallowing the family parrot and wants to convert to Judaism; Chico & Rita follows the tradition of the heartbreaking bolero in which a young piano player and beautiful singer are thrown together; and in Une vie de chat a thrilling mystery unfurls in the alleys and on the rooftops of the French capital during one night.

Any or all of these could be late entry Oscar contenders if they qualify in time.

The nominating committee consisted of EFA board members Per Holst (producer, Denmark) and Antonio Saura (producer, Spain) as well as representatives of CARTOON, the European Assn. of Animation Film, Patrick Caradec (France), Heikki Jokinen (Finland), and Thilo Rothkirch (Germany).

The nominated films will now be submitted to the 2,500 EFA Members to elect the winner, which will be presented at the European Film Awards ceremony on Dec. 3, in Berlin.

Trailering The Pig with the Froggy Tattoo

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Animation, Below the Line, Editing, Movies, Tech, Trailers | Leave a comment

What an inspired idea for The Muppets (Nov. 23) to riff on The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Dec. 21) in the latest teaser trailer, The Pig with the Froggy Tattoo. It’s fast, funny, zany, off-beat, and irreverent, as they puppeteer flashes of Jason Segel, Amy Adams, Neil Patrick Harris, Rashida Jones, and Mila Kunis in Fincher mode. VFX by Look and Legacy. How about a double-bill?

Fall/Holiday Preview: Five Glorious VFX Films to Watch

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in 3-D, Animation, Below the Line, Movies, Oscar, performance capture, Tech, Trailers, VFX, Virtual Production | Leave a comment

I preview five VFXy films to keep an eye on this fall/holiday season in my TOH indieWIRE column: Hugo (Nov. 23), Real Steel (Oct. 7), Immortals (Nov. 11), Anonymous (Oct. 28), and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (Dec. 16). And not a contemporary setting among them.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kzvb_LPtpTw

Spielberg to Release Original Raiders, E.T. on Blu-ray

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Animation, Below the Line, Blu-ray, Events, Home Entertainment, Movies, Tech, VFX | Leave a comment

Steven Spielberg has always had one foot in analog and one in digital, and reaffirmed it Tuesday night after an L.A. Live digital screening of Raiders of the Lost Ark hosted by the Hero Complex’s Geoff Boucher. Spielberg proudly proclaimed that the audience was seeing the original theatrical version. He was then joined onstage for the 30th anniversary screening by Harrison Ford, who proclaimed that shooting the swordsman was his idea.

“This is the best I think it’s ever looked,” Spielberg said, “because, in preparation for the eventual release on Blu-ray, we had to correct the print again and get the original negative out of the salt mines, and then we had to do the separations, and basically the files, which are just amazing, with all the technology of today, without changing any of the movie materially, we haven’t removed anything, we haven’t added CGI, there’s no digital enhancements! It’s purely the movie some of you may remember from 1981.”

Meanwhile, Spielberg announced that the beloved Raiders trilogy and E.T. would be released on Blu-ray next year in their original theatrical versions, again, looking better than ever with only nominal digital cleanup. (He previously told Ain’t It Cool News that Jaws would go Blu in 2012). However, in sharp contrast to his good friend George Lucas, who enjoys improving his films as technology evolves, the celebrated director regrets digitally tampering with E.T. (Remember the guns being replaced by walkie-talkies and the CG enhanced extra-terrestrial?)

“…I was disappointed in myself. I got overly sensitive to E.T., and I thought if technology evolved… it was OK for a while, but I realized what I had done was I had robbed people who loved E.T. of their memories of E.T.

Trailering Twilight Breaking Dawn — Part 1

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Animation, Below the Line, Books, Cinematography, Costume, Editing, Movies, Production Design, Tech, Trailers, VFX, Virtual Production | Leave a comment

The second trailer went online yesterday for The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 1. And it doesn’t disappoint in teasing the tense wedding, bed-breaking sex, and horrifying pregnancy that will unleash the powerful offspring, which poses a threat to both the vampire and werewolf clans. It’s the ultimate in post-modern kitsch, with sex, birth, and death, which is probably what attracted Bill Condon in the first place. Imagine Gods and Monsters meets Chicago.

Meanwhile, Tippett is back doing CG wolves, and there is other VFX from Method, Modus, Lola, Hydraulx, Wildfire, Spin, Image Engine, Mr. X. And there’s stylishly spooky below-the-line work from production designer Richard Sherman (Gods and Monsters), cinematographer Guillermo Navarro (Pan’s Labyrinth), costume designer by Michael Wilkinson (Watchmen), and editor Virginia Katz (Dreamgirls).

What’s to become of Edward and Bella? Opens Nov. 18.

Catching Contagion

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Animation, Below the Line, Cinematography, Editing, Movies, Production Design, Tech, Trailers, VFX | Leave a comment

Steven Soderberg’s Contagion gets under your skin immediately, which is exactly its purpose. Using the Red camera, the director achieves a gritty look to this cautionary tale about mass hysteria stemming from a mysterious pandemic that baffles the scientific community and sweeps the globe like the Black Plague. At the same time, flashbacks of Hong Kong and other locales have a naturalistic beauty, heightened in IMAX, that allow us to appreciate life and the world around us.

It’s a gripping procedural with scattered emotional beats from a fine ensemble cast (Gwyneth Paltrow, Matt Damon, Laurence Fishburne, Jude Law, Marion Cotillard, Kate Winslet, Jennifer Ehle, and Elliott Gould), and the perfect film to commemorate the 10th anniversary of 9/11. What have we learned besides blogging at its worst is “graffiti with punctuation”?

Soderbergh’s cinematography stands out along with Howard Cummings’ production design, Stephen Mirrione’s editing, and VFX by onset supervisor Tom Smith of Method Studios (the creepy CG bat is particularly effective).

Raising Kane on Blu-ray

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Animation, Below the Line, Blu-ray, Cinematography, Home Entertainment, Movies, Tech | Leave a comment

Warner Home Video has finally done right by Orson Welles’ legendary Citizen Kane, released today on Blu-ray. Thanks to the studio’s digital wizards at Motion Picture Imaging (MPI), supervised by colorist Janet Wilson, and overseen by Ned Price, VP of mastering, Warner Bros. Technical Operations, the 70-year-old Kane has never looked better. The source for most of the picture was a 4K scan from a 1941 composite fine grain positive master that Price had uncovered a decade ago in Europe. This makes up for the inadvertent mistreatment on DVD, which was de-grained and printed too brightly.

Now Kane retains its chiaroscuro beauty and grain structure by the masterful Gregg Toland, and its innovative sights and sounds can be better appreciated in HD. Welles applied his training in theater and radio to the film experience in a fresh, exciting, and modern way with deep focus and triangular compositions with high ceilings (owing to John Ford) and overlapping dialogue.

But, first and foremost, Welles was a magician, and there are a lot of brilliant optical tricks and MPI has made sure we don’t see through the illusion. And while some have complained in recent years that the bloom may be off the Rosebud, the Blu-ray lets us see the textures in such finer detail that it’s like watching Kane in a whole new way.

Breslin, Goldblum, Nimoy, Jackson to Voice Zambezia

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Animation, Movies, Tech | Leave a comment

Abigail Breslin (Rango, Little Miss Sunshine), Jeff Goldblum, Leonard Nimoy (Transformers: Dark of the Moon), and Samuel L. Jackson  (Captain America: The First Avenger) have joined the voice cast of South Africa’s first 3D-animated feature Zambezia.   Additional voice talents include Richard E. Grant (Corpse Bride), Jim Cummings (Winnie the Pooh), Jennifer Lewis (The Princess and the Frog), and Jeremy Suarez (King of the Hill).

Zambezia is from Triggerfish Animation Studios and repped by Cinema Management Group (CMG) and is directed by Wayne Thornley.  Exec producers include Greg Becker and Claire Becker of Wonderful Works, Mace Neufeld (Invictus, The Hunt for Red October), and  Edward Noeltner of CMG. The screenplay was penned by Andrew Cook, Anthony Silverston, and Raffaella Delle Donne.

In the heart of Africa, perched on the edge of the spectacular Zambezi waterfalls, lies the amazing bird city of Zambezia; a bird sanctuary led by the wise and battle-tested Fish Eagle Sekhuru (Nimoy). The film follows a young flying daredevil Peregrine Falcon, Kai (Suarez), who leaves his remote outpost, and against his father’s (Jackson) wishes, joins Zambezia’s prestigious Hurricane defense flyers, fiercely trained by Ajax (Goldblum) to patrol the skies keeping Zambezia safe.

Both Zambezia and Triggerfish’s second 3D-animated feature, Khumba, the story of a little zebra born with only half its stripes, currently also in production in Cape Town, are being represented for international sales by CMG.