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.


Oscar Gold Goes Blu

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

It’s a perfect opportunity to purchase and enjoy some noteworthy best picture Academy Award winners that have recently bowed on Blu-ray — all excellent representations in HD: Wings, Rebecca, The ApartmentAnnie Hall, and Shakespeare in Love.

Wings (Paramount Home Ent.), the first best picture winner from 1929 but made two years earlier, is also the only silent to take home the Oscar. That is, unless The Artist soon joins it at the 84th Academy Awards. Thanks to Paramount and Technicolor, the aerial World War I drama has been lovingly restored, including digitally duplicating the Handshiegl color stencil process used for the original film’s bursts of orange machine gunfire and flames during air battles.

In addition, Academy Award-winning sound designer Ben Burtt (Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark) and the team of sound engineers at Skywalker Sound added World War I sound effects as authentically as possible, using library sounds from earlier eras to give viewers a true-to-the-period experience. It turns out that Wings is one of the seminal influences on Burtt, who made his own version of the film on Super-8 as a teenager.

There’s a strange irony that Alfred Hitchcock’s first American movie with producer David O. Selznick, Rebecca, won the best picture Oscar for 1940 (John Ford, however, took directing honors) because none of Hitch’s movies ever won again and neither did he. Rebecca is available on Blu-ray (Fox/MGM Home Ent.) along with Spellbound and Notorious and looks stunning (a wonderfully oppressive use of black and white), thanks to the restoration work a decade by Scott MacQueen. And it’s a brilliant Gothic romance with Laurence Olivier, Joan Fontaine, Judith Anderson, and George Sanders. Hitch learned about crafting sensitive dramas for a female audience that drove ticket sales in the US, and he honed his visual sensibility as well, pointing the way toward deeper, richer, more neurotic suspense-filled dramas. For more Hitch, Criterion has The Lady Vanishes, Paramount has To Catch a Thief stealing its March 6, and Universal has The Birds flying in later this year.

There aren’t too many romcoms that have won best picture and we have three representatives here, but Billy Wilder’s The Apartment (1960, Fox/MGM) wins hands down. Jack Lemmon dug deeper in this bittersweet tale of amoral corporate ambition (a precursor to Mad Men), and is perfectly complemented by the cynical Shirley MacLaine. It’s a tough balancing act between light and dark and Izzy Diamond was a terrific writing foil for Wilder. The romcoms of today such as Bridesmaids push the deft craft and the vulgarity, but Cameron Crowe is probably the best director who has carried on the Wilder legacy. Indeed, this is his personal favorite and a continual inspiration.

Woody Allen certainly came of age with Annie Hall (1977, Fox/MGM), the perfect synthesis of his angst-ridden stand-up and filmmaking sensibilities — and he took Hollywood and Oscar by storm at the height of the ’70s American renaissance. He was witty and original and the chemistry with Diane Keaton was hilariously romantic. It’s ironic how much Midnight in Paris (also available on Blu-ray from Sony Home Ent.) taps into a nostalgia for Annie Hall even though Allen rails against such nostalgia in his latest Oscar contender.

Shakespeare in Love (Lionsgate) charmed its way to Oscar gold in 1998, given that Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan was the heavy favorite. But Harvey Weinstein pulled off a major upset with a political campaign that is still talked about today. In fact, the Weinstein touch still works in the post Miramax era, witness last year’s win for The King’s Speech and this year’s likely victory for The Artist. Indeed, Shakespeare in Love and The Artist both have their seductive charms. But the romcom about the Bard, writing, acting, and true love struck a chord that still delights on Blu-ray.

Stuart Craig Talks Potter

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Below the Line, Blu-ray, Clips, Home Entertainment, Production Design, Trailers | Leave a comment

Oscar-nominated production designer Stuart Craig discussed the creative journey he’s had with the Harry Potter Potter franchise in my TOH column at Indiewire. The cinematic architect of the fantastical wizarding world from J.K. Rowling is truly the face of Potter and deserves special recognition for The Deathly Hallows Part 2 finale.

To Kill a Mockingbird on Blu-ray

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Below the Line, Blu-ray, Books, Cinematography, Education, Home Entertainment, Movies, Music, Oscar | Leave a comment

This week saw the 50th anniversary release of To Kill a Mockingbird on Blu-ray (Universal Home Ent.). It’s one of the most beautifully crafted and emotionally stirring films ever made, and Gregory Peck’s Oscar-winning Atticus Finch is a performance for the ages. He is a model of fairness, stubbornness, devotion, courage, and love, as the Harper Lee adaptation by Horton Foote concludes. Russell Harlan’s sensitive black and white cinematography strikes the right visual tone in keeping with the themes of the racial drama. And Elmer Bernstein’s gentle, melancholy score is embedded in our memories right along with the movie. I had the great pleasure of meeting Peck on a few occasions, which has only enhanced my enjoyment of the film. This is a Blu-ray worth owning, to be sure. And kudos to Technicolor for helping restore it.

However, time has been unkind to the elements and it is not a pristine transfer. Robert Harris has an informative post about the condition of the film elements and an analysis of the mastering.

Skyfall Image Reveals Most Grizzled Bond Ever

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Blu-ray, Home Entertainment, James Bond, Movies | Leave a comment

Forget the poolside image snapped up by Empire — this is the first official Skyfall image of Daniel Craig in his third outing as James Bond. In the franchise’s 23rd film, directed by Sam Mendes, the focus shifts to Judi Dench’s M for the first time when MI6 is attacked and she’s to blame because of her mysterious past coming back to haunt her. Bond is pressed into action to stop the threat and redeem his boss. Naomie Harris (field agent Eve) and Bérénice Marlohe (Sévérine) are the co-Bond girls; Javier Bardem is the villain, Ralph Fiennes is a government official, and Albert Finney plays an as yet unidentified character.

We can read a lot in this fusion of old and new, with a Walther-wielding, grizzled Bond poised for danger inside an ultra-modern, neon-lit Shanghai club. He is truly “the most dangerous Bond ever,” which is how they described Timothy Dalton 25 years ago in The Living Daylights. Or at least since Sean Connery. Skyfall opens Oct. 26 in the UK and Nov. 9 in the US. Happy 50th, 007.

VFX Oscar Nominee Real Steel Goes Blu

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Animation, Blu-ray, Clips, Events, Home Entertainment, Movies, Tech, Virtual Production | Leave a comment

Good timing: the same day that Real Steel was nominated for the VFX Oscar on Tuesday, the father/son boxing bot drama starring Hugh Jackman was released  in a two-disc Blu-ray/DVD combo set by Disney Home Ent. The better to appreciate the virtual production breakthrough by Digital Domain and Giant Studios. The Shawn Levy-directed movie not only looks and sounds great but also contains a slew of extras, including deleted and extended scenes and Building the Bots, among other featurettes.

Real Steel takes the Simulcam developed for Avatar and puts it into a real world setting for the next advancement in virtual production. Giant Studios, under the leadership of Matt Maden, the virtual production technical supervisor, came up with a new system for a new paradigm.

“It really worked beautifully for us with production and with Digital Domain,” Madden suggests. “We spent the time upfront figuring out how the pieces would fit together and how we would communicate. It’s a model we’re going to be referring to time and time again moving forward.”

Unlike previs, Giant knew they we were ultimately going to be delivering a form of the movie back to DD in a game-level quality in terms of rendering. But the action itself was going to be fairly close to final, with the exception of the additional animation layer and effects that they would be putting on top of it with the electronics and liquids and ripping metal.

But Giant significantly took the Simulcam process of simultaneous CG display to the next level. It wasn’t just cranes and dollies; there was quite an extensive use of steadicam. But it required Giant to have a system that was robust enough to record this fast-moving, dynamic camera action.

According to Digital Domain’s Erik Nash, the production VFX supervisor, previs was achieved completely through real time interactive means in which Levy was in the ring with the boxing performers, directing them as he would human boxers, and then was able to come up with his camera moves in a very hands-on way.

“So heading to Detroit we brought the motion capture technology with us, but, unlike Avatar, we were putting our synthetic characters into the real world,” Nash explains. “We were able to make the boxing robots visible to the camera operator and to Sean on his monitor. We now have plates that are photographed as if the robots are there.

“So the efficiency is huge, but, to me, the reason for taking this technology and pushing it to the next level was to attain a grittier and more visceral experience.

But the motion capture was only a foundation for the performance. Because of the two-foot scale difference between the real actors and the CG robots, all of the data prior to virtual camera and the Simulcam process in Detroit slowed down 10%. “We did that to help sell the weight, size and mass of the robots,” Nash offers. And then once that data was turned over to the animators at DD, the process had several phases: to attain the robotic nature of the characters, they addressed the fidelity with which motion capture records all of the subtle nuances of human motion by developing tools to filter the MoCap data. Then there was a lot of keyframing to heighten the action and make some of the movement less fluid. There’s always inaccuracy when you have two CG characters making contact with each other. Plus the MoCap actors didn’t actually hit each other as hard as the CG robots needed to, so they sped up punches, hardened the punch impact and exaggerated the reactions.

Oscar Nominations Full of Surprises

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in 3-D, Animation, Below the Line, Blu-ray, Books, Cinematography, Costume, Editing, Events, Home Entertainment, Movies, Music, Oscar, performance capture, Production Design, Shorts, Tech, VFX, Virtual Production | Leave a comment

Is it a three-way race for best picture between The Artist, Hugo, and The Descendants? Or really a two-way race between either The Artist and The Descendants or The Artist and Hugo? Hard to tell, but Hugo nabbed 11 nominations and The Artist 10 as the AMPAS announced the nominations for the 84th Academy Awards. But with the DGA honoring The Artist’s Michel Hazanavicius Saturday night, is there anything standing in the way of the black-and-white silent ode to Hollywood taking best picture?

The biggest surprise was that there were actually nine nominees for best picture instead of six or seven, as anticipated: Joining The Artist, The Descendants, and Hugo were Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, The Help, Midnight in Paris, Moneyball, The Tree of Life, and War Horse. No real surprises as far as the choices. They’re all solid.

The five best director nominees were Hazanavicius for The Artist, Alexander Payne for The Descendants, Martin Scorsese for Hugo, Woody Allen for Midnight in Paris, and Terrence Malick for The Tree of Life. Could there be a split between best picture and best director?

With A Better Life’s Demián Bichir somewhat unexpectedly joining the best actor race, this one becomes a lot more interesting with George Clooney from The Descendants (the favorite), Jean Dujardin from The Artist, Gary Oldman from Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and Brad Pitt from Moneyball.

How about the spellbinding Rooney Mara from The Dragon Tattoo upsetting the heavily favored Meryl Streep from The Iron Lady for best actress? Or does this one really belong to Viola Davis from The Help? Don’t forget the gender-bending Glenn Close from Albert Nobbs and the beguiling Michelle Williams from My Week with Marilyn. This has to be the most competitive category.

Then there’s Moneyball’s Jonah Hill beating out Drive’s Albert Brooks for a best supporting actor nomination. Does The Beginner’s Christopher Plummer still take the Oscar? Or is The Fighter’s Nick Nolte the dark horse? But what about the nostalgia choice of Max von Sydow from Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close?

Melissa McCarthy from Bridesmaids makes the best supporting actress award a lot more interesting as well. She joins Bérénice Bejo from The Artist, Jessica Chastain from The Help, Janet McTee from Albert Nobbs, and Octavia Spencer from The Help.

Best original screenplay is a lot more fascinating with the surprising Bridesmaids (Annie Mumolo & Kristen Wig), Margin Call (J.C. Chandor), and A Separation (Asghar Farhadi) joining The Artist (Hazanavicius) and Midnight in Paris (Allen). Wouldn’t it be something if Bridesmaids pulled this one out?

Adapted screenplay honors also offered its surprises with The Descendants (Payne and Nat Faxon & Jim Rash), Hugo (John Logan), The Ides of March (Clooney & Grant Heslova and Beau Willimon), Moneyball (Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin, story by Stan Chervin), and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (Bridget O’Connor & Peter Straughan).

The most surprising category of all? Animated feature in which two hand-drawn European indies, A Cat in Paris and Chico & Rita edged out Pixar’s Cars 2 and Steven Spielberg’s The Adventures of Tintin. Score one for the traditionalists. Still, they could’ve gone for Winnie the Pooh to lend a helping hand to Disney’s endangered 2D legacy. And this is the first time that Pixar’s been shut out of a nomination. Rango’s still the heavy favorite, which opens a one-week run on Friday at the ArcLight Hollywood. DreamWorks scored two nominations with Kung Fu Panda 2 and Puss in Boots, proving that emotional storytelling’s definitely on the rise over there.

Animated short nominees ranged from Pixar’s La Luna to The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, A Morning Stroll (also honored at Sundance), and The National Film Board of Canada’s Sunday and Wild Life. Although this one is also wide open, I think La Luna might have the edge but don’t count out Wild Life or A Morning Stroll.

The VFX Oscar probably belongs to Weta’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes for the emotionally stirring CG Caesar. However, it was joined by the character-driven Transformers: Dark of the Moon and Real Steel (which beat out the favored Captain America:The First Avenger) and the completely inventive Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 and Hugo.

Best Picture

  • “The Artist” Thomas Langmann, Producer
  • “The Descendants” Jim Burke, Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor, Producers
  • “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” Scott Rudin, Producer
  • “The Help” Brunson Green, Chris Columbus and Michael Barnathan, Producers
  • “Hugo” Graham King and Martin Scorsese, Producers
  • “Midnight in Paris” Letty Aronson and Stephen Tenenbaum, Producers
  • “Moneyball” Michael De Luca, Rachael Horovitz and Brad Pitt, Producers
  • “The Tree of Life” Nominees to be determined
  • “War Horse Steven Spielberg and Kathleen Kennedy, Producers


  • “The Artist” Michel Hazanavicius
  • “The Descendants” Alexander Payne
  • “Hugo” Martin Scorsese
  • “Midnight in Paris” Woody Allen
  • “The Tree of Life” Terrence Malick

Actor in a Leading Role

  • Demián Bichir in “A Better Life”
  • George Clooney in “The Descendants”
  • Jean Dujardin in “The Artist”
  • Gary Oldman in “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”
  • Brad Pitt in “Moneyball”

Actor in a Supporting Role

  • Kenneth Branagh in “My Week with Marilyn”
  • Jonah Hill in “Moneyball”
  • Nick Nolte in “Warrior”
  • Christopher Plummer in “Beginners”
  • Max von Sydow in “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close”

Actress in a Leading Role

  • Glenn Close in “Albert Nobbs”
  • Viola Davis in “The Help”
  • Rooney Mara in “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”
  • Meryl Streep in “The Iron Lady”
  • Michelle Williams in “My Week with Marilyn”

Actress in a Supporting Role

  • Bérénice Bejo in “The Artist”
  • Jessica Chastain in “The Help”
  • Melissa McCarthy in “Bridesmaids”
  • Janet McTeer in “Albert Nobbs”
  • Octavia Spencer in “The Help”

Animated Feature Film

  • “A Cat in Paris” Alain Gagnol and Jean-Loup Felicioli
  • “Chico & Rita” Fernando Trueba and Javier Mariscal
  • “Kung Fu Panda 2″ Jennifer Yuh Nelson
  • “Puss in Boots” Chris Miller
  • “Rango” Gore Verbinski

Art Direction

  • “The Artist” Production Design: Laurence Bennett; Set Decoration: Robert Gould
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 Production Design: Stuart Craig; Set Decoration: Stephenie McMillan
  • “Hugo” Production Design: Dante Ferretti; Set Decoration: Francesca Lo Schiavo
  • “Midnight in Paris” Production Design: Anne Seibel; Set Decoration: Hélène Dubreuil
  • “War Horse” Production Design: Rick Carter; Set Decoration: Lee Sandales


  • “The Artist” Guillaume Schiffman
  • “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” Jeff Cronenweth
  • “Hugo” Robert Richardson
  • “The Tree of Life” Emmanuel Lubezki
  • “War Horse” Janusz Kaminski

Costume Design

  • “Anonymous” Lisy Christl
  • “The Artist” Mark Bridges
  • “Hugo” Sandy Powell
  • “Jane Eyre” Michael O’Connor
  • “W.E.” Arianne Phillips

Documentary (Feature)

  • “Hell and Back Again” Danfung Dennis and Mike Lerner
  • “If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front” Marshall Curry and Sam Cullman
  • “Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory” Charles Ferguson and Audrey Marrs
  • “Pina” Wim Wenders and Gian-Piero Ringel
  • “Undefeated” TJ Martin, Dan Lindsay and Richard Middlemas

Documentary (Short Subject)

  • “The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement” Robin Fryday and Gail Dolgin
  • “God Is the Bigger Elvis” Rebecca Cammisa and Julie Anderson
  • “Incident in New Baghdad”James Spione
  • “Saving Face” Daniel Junge and Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy
  • “The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom” Lucy Walker and Kira Carstensen

Film Editing

  • “The Artist” Anne-Sophie Bion and Michel Hazanavicius
  • “The Descendants” Kevin Tent
  • “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall
  • “Hugo” Thelma Schoonmaker
  • “Moneyball” Christopher Tellefsen

Foreign Language Film

  • “Bullhead” Belgium
  • “Footnote” Israel
  • “In Darkness” Poland
  • “Monsieur Lazhar” Canada
  • “A Separation” Iran


  • “Albert Nobbs” Martial Corneville, Lynn Johnston and Matthew W. Mungle
  • “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2″ Edouard F. Henriques, Gregory Funk and Yolanda Toussieng
  • “The Iron Lady” Mark Coulier and J. Roy Helland

Music (Original Score)

  • “The Adventures of Tintin” John Williams
  • “The Artist” Ludovic Bource
  • “Hugo” Howard Shore
  • “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” Alberto Iglesias
  • “War Horse” John Williams

Music (Original Song)

  • “Man or Muppet” from “The Muppets” Music and Lyric by Bret McKenzie
  • “Real in Rio” from “Rio” Music by Sergio Mendes and Carlinhos Brown Lyric by Siedah Garrett

Short Film (Animated)

  • “Dimanche/Sunday” Patrick Doyon
  • “The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore” William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg
  • “La Luna” Enrico Casarosa
  • “A Morning Stroll” Grant Orchard and Sue Goffe
  • “Wild Life” Amanda Forbis and Wendy Tilby

Short Film (Live Action)

  • “Pentecost” Peter McDonald and Eimear O’Kane
  • “Raju” Max Zähle and Stefan Gieren
  • “The Shore” Terry George and Oorlagh George
  • “Time Freak” Andrew Bowler and Gigi Causey
  • “Tuba Atlantic” Hallvar Witzø

Sound Editing

  • “Drive” Lon Bender and Victor Ray Ennis
  • “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” Ren Klyce
  • “Hugo” Philip Stockton and Eugene Gearty
  • “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” Ethan Van der Ryn and Erik Aadahl
  • “War Horse” Richard Hymns and Gary Rydstrom

Sound Mixing

  • “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” David Parker, Michael Semanick, Ren Klyce and Bo Persson
  • “Hugo” Tom Fleischman and John Midgley
  • “Moneyball” Deb Adair, Ron Bochar, Dave Giammarco and Ed Novick
  • “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” Greg P. Russell, Gary Summers, Jeffrey J. Haboush and Peter J. Devlin
  • “War Horse” Gary Rydstrom, Andy Nelson, Tom Johnson and Stuart Wilson

Visual Effects

  • “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2″ Tim Burke, David Vickery, Greg Butler and John Richardson
  • “Hugo” Rob Legato, Joss Williams, Ben Grossman and Alex Henning
  • “Real Steel” Erik Nash, John Rosengrant, Dan Taylor and Swen Gillberg
  • “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, R. Christopher White and Daniel Barrett
  • “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” Scott Farrar, Scott Benza, Matthew Butler and John Frazier

Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

  • “The Descendants” Screenplay by Alexander Payne and Nat Faxon & Jim Rash
  • “Hugo” Screenplay by John Logan
  • “The Ides of March” Screenplay by George Clooney & Grant Heslov and Beau Willimon
  • “Moneyball” Screenplay by Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin. Story by Stan Chervin
  • “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” Screenplay by Bridget O’Connor & Peter Straughan

Writing (Original Screenplay)

  • “The Artist” Written by Michel Hazanavicius
  • “Bridesmaids” Written by Annie Mumolo & Kristen Wiig
  • “Margin Call” Written by J.C. Chandor
  • “Midnight in Paris” Written by Woody Allen
  • “A Separation” Written by Asghar Farhadi

Seibel Talks Midnight in Paris

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Below the Line, Blu-ray, Home Entertainment, Movies, Oscar, Production Design, Trailers | Leave a comment

For my Immersed in Movies TOH column at Indiewire, production designer Anne Seibel discussed going back to the golden eras for the City of Lights in Woody Allen’s Oscar-contending Midnight in Paris. The biggest challenge: recreating the legendary Moulin Rouge using a modern concert hall.

Serkis Talks More Apes, Hobbit

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Animation, Blu-ray, Clips, Events, Home Entertainment, Music, Oscar, performance capture, Tech, VFX, Virtual Production | Leave a comment

With a Best Supporting Actor nomination at stake, Andy Serkis was back in town discussing performance capture and trying to educate his fellow actors on getting over the fear of computer technology. You can read all about it along with the unusual approach to sound editing/mixing of Rise of the Planet of the Apes in my latest TOH column at Indiewire.

What’s changed as a result of Weta’s new active-LED system used for Apes is that there are no longer any breaks in the capture sequences: “Every reaction, every emotion, every acting choice and beat happens there and then,” Serkis emphasized.

New Rio Making Of Clip

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in 3-D, Animation, Blu-ray, Clips, Events, Home Entertainment, Movies, Oscar, Tech, Trailers, VFX | Leave a comment

Oscar nomination ballots are due today and Blue Sky’s Rio is aiming for an animated feature nod. Fox has provided me with an informative making of clip, which shows off a flying scene and and putting the birds together. We go behind-the-scenes in a progression from story reel to layout to animation to lighting.

It was a personal project for Carlos Saldanha, the Rio native and Blue Sky Studios vet, director of the first two Ice Age sequels. Saldanha was passionate about accurately capturing the look and feel and rhythm of the beat of the Latin American paradise that is so dear to his heart.

Yet it took a long time to gestate. Saldanha first started thinking about Rio 10 years ago, but had to abandon the idea of a hero penguin after that trend came and went, switching to the brightly colored blue macaw appropriately named Blu (Eisenberg). Then, once he had his story in place about Blu’s fear of flying (“Adapt or Die”), Saldanha and his Blue Sky colleagues had to figure out the complications of feathers and cloth and animating humans on a large scale, and, most crucially, how to render Rio just right.

Academy to Honor Trumbull and Erland

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

The Board of Governors of the AMPAS has voted the Gordon E. Sawyer Award to Douglas Trumbull for his lifetime of technical contributions and leadership in the motion picture industry, and the John A Bonner Medal of Commendation to VFX technologist Jonathan Erland.

Trumbull and Bonner will receive their awards (an Oscar statuette and a medallion) at the Scientific and Technical Awards presentation on Saturday, Feb. 11, at the Beverly Wilshire.

Trumbull has distinguished himself as a visual effects pioneer with major contributions to such films as 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Andromeda Strain, Silent Running, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Star Trek — The Motion Picture, Blade Runner, and The Tree of Life.

Silent Running, in fact, is now available in a stunning Blu-ray through Eureka’s Masters of Cinema Series in the UK.

In the course of his work, Trumbull created, developed or improved numerous filmmaking techniques and tools. These include slit-scan photography, process photography, miniature compositing, interpositive matte painting, large-format filming, high frame rate photography and projection, synchronized multiscale filming, motion control photography, virtual reality systems, interactive motion simulators, and digital cinema. He has been awarded more than a dozen related patents.

In 1975 Trumbull founded Future General Corporation, a research and special effects house that not only served as a training ground for many leading filmmakers and visual effects artists, but fostered several related companies as well.

Trumbull has earned three Academy Award nominations for Visual Effects and received a Scientific and Engineering Award in 1992 as part of the design team for the CP-65 Showscan Camera System for 65mm motion picture photography.

Established in 1981, the Gordon E. Sawyer Award is presented to “an individual in the motion picture industry whose technological contributions have brought credit to the industry.” Trumbull will be the 23rd recipient of the award.

Erland began his professional training in the entertainment industry studying theater at the Central School in England and film at the London Film School. His knowledge of theater technology made him a desirable asset to the team building the audio-animatronic puppet theaters for the I.B.M. Pavilion at the 1964 New York World’s Fair.

After moving to Los Angeles, Erland maintained dual careers in both the entertainment and the industrial exhibit design fields. He joined the newly created Industrial Light & Magic to work on the visual effects for the 1977 film Star Wars. He continued in the burgeoning visual effects field as director of research and development for Apogee Productions, where he received patents for a reverse bluescreen traveling matte process, the Blue-Max flux projector and a method for making front projection screens. The innovations, along with the development of a digital traveling matte system, also earned Academy Scientific and Technical Awards.

In 2007 Erland received an Award of Commendation for “his leadership and efforts toward identifying and solving the problem of High-Speed Emulsion Stress Syndrome in motion picture film stock.”

An Academy member since 1984, Erland was instrumental in establishing Visual Effects as a separate Academy branch in 1995. He has served 11 years on the Academy’s Board of Governors and many years on the Executive Committees of both the Visual Effects Branch and the Scientific and Technical Awards. He also is a founding member of the Academy’s Science and Technology Council.

Named in honor of the late director of special projects at Warner Hollywood Studios, the John A. Bonner Medal is awarded for “outstanding service and dedication in upholding the high standards of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.”

Portions of the Scientific and Technical Awards presentation will be included in the Oscar ceremony.

Academy Awards for outstanding film achievements of 2011 will be presented on Sunday, Feb. 26, at the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center, and televised live by ABC. The Oscar presentation also will be televised live in more than 225 countries worldwide.