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.

Below the Line

Avengers Press Conference Highlights

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in 3-D, Animation, Below the Line, Books, Cinematography, Clips, Movies, Tech, VFX, Virtual Production | Leave a comment

The recent press conference for The Avengers (opening May 4) was noteworthy for some of the following comments:

Mark Ruffalo on being The Hulk:

I met with Joss Whedon, and he said he really liked The Incredible Hulk TV show and what Bill Bixby did with him. So I rented those with my 10-year-old son. And after the third episode, he turned to me and said, “Papa, he’s so misunderstood.” And I basically based my character entirely on my 10-year-old boy, who has all of the force of nature, like, screaming out of his body while at the same time having everyone around him telling him to fucking control himself.

Robert Downey Jr. on where Iron Man fits in with the group:

Um, well, that he didn’t really set out to do anything noble, but, uh, so he’s kind of in transition. And so there’s something kind of a little more Han Solo than, uh, than Luke. And also the fact that he can pull off wearing a Black Sabbath T-shirt for the better part of the film.

Samuel L. Jackson on the importance of The Avengers:

I just like the fact that Nick Fury believes that these unique individuals deserve the love and admiration of the world, who, uh, we pretty much owe everything to because there are things out there greater than us.

Joss Whedon on tracking information that’s important:

You want some things to be inferred.  It’s fun to see a movie that has texture beyond what you understand necessarily that you know. Like, when I watched Wall Street, I didn’t know what they were talking about, but I was very compelled by it. It clearly mattered a lot. Or if I watch any film about sports, I feel the same way.  [If] you feel that there’s a life outside the frame, then, you know, you feel good about it, so you don’t necessarily have to lay everything out, but organizing that was the most exhausting part of the film because the stuff between the character, that’s just candy. That’s just booze and candy all day.

Joss Whedon on the Harry Dean Stanton cameo (SPOILER ALERT):

Seamus [McGarvey], our DP, was actually shooting a documentary about Harry Dean and spending a lot of time with him, and I sort of got him stuck in my head and I was like who is more accepting than Harry Dean Stanton?  And, so I got to write this weird little scene, which when I wrote it was not little, it was about 12 pages long, and I was like, oh, this is great. Bruce Banner falls into a Coen brothers movie, and the fact that they even let me keep that concept and that we actually landed Harry Dean to play it was very exciting. But the idea was to put him in a slightly surreal situation with somebody who clearly had no problem with what he was, just to make that little transition without milking it too much. And, besides, you know, to work with Harry Dean and to quiz him about Alien and The Missouri Breaks, what a privilege.

Sonnenfeld Talks MIB 3 in 3-D

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in 3-D, Animation, Below the Line, Cinematography, Movies, Tech, Trailers, VFX | Leave a comment

Comedy in 3-D is a rarity, and I discover why in my discussion with Men in Black 3 director Barry Sonnenfeld for my TOH column on Indiewire. Sonnenfeld, who prefers post 3-D conversion rather than shooting natively, is all about the physicality of the performances and using the space outside the screen.

“It’s not for a visual gag but to get the audience more involved,” he contends. “Remember, the old dolly/zoom from Hitchcock’s Vertigo? We’re doing things like that you wouldn’t be able to do if you’re shooting native 3-D unless you converted one eye. So I really embraced 3-D.”

Skyfall Videoblogs Second Unit in Shanghai

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Below the Line, Cinematography, Clips, James Bond, Movies, Tech, VFX, Videogames | Leave a comment

The latest Skyfall videoblog from focuses on the exotic second unit work in Shanghai with comments from second unit director Alexander Witt, first assistant director Michael Lerman,and production manager Angus More Gordon. Of particular interest are the blue neon-lit highways and skyscrapers, which provide an ultra-modern vibe to the action-centric drama helmed by Sam Mendes and digitally shot with Arri Alexa by Roger Deakins.

Meanwhile, Activision announced the autumn release of the 007 Legends video game on PS3 and Xbox 360, which ties together six classic plot lines (including Skyfall) in honor of the 50th anniversary. Touts new maps, weapons, and characters and a multi-player experience.

Tim Burton to Judge Vampire Hunter Art Competition

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in 3-D, Below the Line, Books, Events, Movies, Production Design, Tech, Trailers, VFX, Virtual Production | Leave a comment

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter producer Tim Burton will judge an art competition for 20th Century Fox. Fans are encouraged to center their work on Lincoln or the villainous vampires through creative illustrations. The five top entries will be presented to Burton, who will then pick the grand-prize winner. All styles are encouraged: cartoon, photo, paint, sculpture, graphic design. Directed and produced by Timur Bekmambetov, co-produced by Jim Lemley, and lensed by Caleb Deschanel, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter opens June 22.


 Submit your own pro-patriot or pro-vampire artwork to the gallery at  

 All Submissions due by May 12, 2012

 Popular vote will decide the top five finalists

   One Grand Prize Winner will receive a private midnight screening

                           Four runner-ups will receive a Burton signed movie poster

Introducing David from Prometheus

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in 3-D, Below the Line, Clips, Movies, Production Design, Tech, VFX, Virtual Production | Leave a comment

Meet David (Michael Fassbender), the new android from Prometheus, in this terrific viral campaign. He’s a lot like Hal from 2001: A Space Odyssey. He’s warm, courteous, comforting, and very helpful. He plays chess and performs duties that his human counterparts might find…distressing, according to the android. But remember Ian Holm from Alien? And what eventually happened to Hal? It’s great to see Ridley Scott returning to his robotic glory. Prometheus opens June 8 in 3-D.

Restored Cabaret Launches TCM Fest

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Below the Line, Festivals, Movies, Music, Oscar | Leave a comment

The third annual TCM Classic Film Festival began Thursday at the Chinese with
Warner Bros.’ restoration of Cabaret. The DCP presentation in honor of the 40th anniversary was warm and nicely saturated. And Warner MPI digitally repaired a vertical scratch that ran 10 minutes. I anticipate that the eventual Blu-ray will dazzle. As for Bob Fosse’s famous adaptation of the Broadway musical, it holds up very well: Liza Minnelli was never better as the spirited yet vulnerable Sally Bowles; and Joel Grey still mesmerizes as the malevolent MC. Fosse saw it as a drama about the decadent fall of the Weimar Republic and evil rise of the Third Reich with music as a supporting metaphor. The emphasis on the drama is both its strength and weakness. The story isn’t nearly substantial enough but the execution is often powerful and daring (never more so than during the “Tomorrow Belongs to Me” beer garden number).

During a discussion with Robert Osborne, Minnelli revealed that her father, Vincente, turned her on to such dark-haired beauties as Louise Brooks for inspiration and that Fosse pushed them hard to ooze sexuality during the musical numbers. In fact, Grey admitted that Fosse didn’t want him because he wanted to mold the performance from scratch but that the producers insisted on retaining him from the Broadway production. Michael York, meanwhile, admitted that he aggressively pursued the part when his agent informed him that they were looking for a “Michael York type.”

Restored Two for the Road at TCM Fest

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Below the Line, Festivals, Movies | Leave a comment

One of the restoration highlights of this weekend’s TCM Classic Film Festival was Two for the Road, which I discuss in my latest TOH column at Indiewire. I caught the screening Friday night and it looked stunning in its 4K DCP presentation: the flesh tones were warm, the South of France finally dazzled, and Audrey Hepburn’s Mod outfits popped like neon. Director Stanley Donen was on hand to celebrate his 88th birthday. He told Ben Mankiewicz that he’s very proud of its uniqueness, that every studio passed on it but Fox (thank goodness for Dick Zanuck), and that Paul Newman was his original choice as Hepburn’s co-star but they couldn’t work out the scheduling.

New Skyfall Photo Gallery

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Below the Line, Clips, James Bond, Movies, Tech | Leave a comment

Coinciding with recent Skyfall set visits at London’s legendary Pinewood, we have a slew of new images from the 23rd James Bond film. Thanks to Comingsoon, Hitflix, Just Jared, and Dark Horizons. Also, offered a video of onset interviews with Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem, and Bérénice Marlohe.

“He’s in a good place — he’s being Bond and doing his thing but we throw into the mix this sort of super villain in Javier Bardem,” Craig explained. “And so the world turns upside down and he’s got to address his relationships…. He comes up against it. It’s not just about him; it’s about all the other people we’re introducing in the film as well.”

Craig additionally told MTV News that Bond’s “much nicer and softer now” during his adventure in the field with M. His relationship with Bardem’s Silva also “gives the film a richer content.”

“This is very exciting for a Spanish actor,” added Bardem in the video interview. “Everything is very powerful so beyond being a James Bond movie, it’s a great movie to belong to. And also it’s a movie that’s going to be celebrating the 50th anniversary, so it’s a great honor.”

“It’s completely unique for movies to last so long,” suggested Marlohe, who plays Severine.”So now that I get to know the family around this movie and how wonderful human beings they are, I feel completely moved that this is really a specific position I have now, here, belonging to this 50th anniversary.”

Jaws Goes Blu Aug. 14

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

Jaws makes its long-awaited Blu-ray debut Aug. 14 from Universal Home part of the studio’s 100th anniversary celebration, boasting full digital restoration and 7.1 DTS-HD Master audio. Steven Spielberg’s first commercial mega-hit ushered in the summer blockbuster, grabbing more than $470 million globally and earning three Academy Awards for editing, sound, and score.

Jaws is one of 13 classic Universal films to be digitally remastered and fully restored from 35mm original film elements for the studio’s centenary. Throughout the course of several months, skilled technicians at Universal Studios Digital Services meticulously balanced color, removed dirt and scratches, and repaired any damage to the film elements shot by shot and frame by frame. Following the picture restoration, Universal Studios Sound team up-mixed the iconic soundtrack from John Williams to 7.1 DTS-HD Master audio. The entire restoration process was conducted in conjunction with Spielberg and Amblin Ent.’s post-production team to ensure the integrity of the director’s original vision remained intact.

Blu-ray Bonus Features:

  • The Shark is Still Working: The Impact & Legacy of Jaws: All-new feature-length documentary featuring never-before-seen footage and interviews with cast and crew including Steven Spielberg, Richard Dreyfuss, and Roy Scheider.
  • Jaws: The Restoration: An all-new, in-depth look at the intricate process of restoring the movie.
  • The Making of Jaws: A two-hour documentary featuring interviews with key cast and crew.
  • From the Set: An insider’s look at life on the set of Jaws, featuring an interview with Steven Spielberg.
  • Deleted Scenes & Outtakes
  • Jaws Archives: Take a peek inside the Jaws archives, including storyboards, production photos and marketing materials, as well as a special segment on the Jaws phenomenon.
  • Original Theatrical Trailer
  • UltraViolet: The new way for consumers to collect movies and TV shows, store them in the cloud, and download and stream instantly to computers, tablets and smartphones. Currently available in the United States only.
  • Digital Copy: Viewers can redeem a digital version of the full-length movie from a choice of retail partners to watch on an array of electronic and portable devices.
  • pocket BLU App: The popular free pocket BLU app for smartphones is now even better with newly updated versions for iPad, Android(TM) tablets, PC, and Macintosh computers, with features made especially to take advantage of the devices’ larger screens and high resolution displays.
  • Advanced Remote Control: A sleek, elegant new way to operate your Blu-ray player. Users can navigate through menus, playback, and BD-Live functions with ease.
  • Video Timeline: Users can easily bring up the video timeline, allowing them to instantly access any point in the film.
  • Mobile-To-Go: Users can unlock a selection of bonus content with their Blu-ray discs to save to their device or to stream from anywhere there is a Wi-Fi network, enabling them to enjoy content on the go, anytime, anywhere.
  • Browse Titles: Users will have access to a complete list of pocket BLU-enabled titles available and coming to Blu-ray. They can view free previews and see what additional content is available to unlock on their device.
  • Keyboard: Entering data is fast and easy with your device’s intuitive keyboard.
  • BD-LIVE: Access the BD-Live Center through your Internet-connected player to access the latest trailers, exclusive content, and more!

DVD Bonus Features:

  • Spotlight on Location: The Making of Jaws: Highlights from the full-length documentary featuring interviews with key cast and crew.

Remembering Chinatown

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Below the Line, Cinematography, Festivals, Home Entertainment, Movies, Oscar, Trailers | Leave a comment

Chinatown came out on Blu-ray two weeks ago (Paramount Home Ent.), and while it looks great in HD (the color seems right as witnessed by Gary Tooze’s screen captures at DVD Beaver), I have to agree with Bob Harris that it deserved better. It’s certainly a crown jewel worthy of the lavish attention given The Ten Commandments or Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

However, Paramount sent me the following info about the Blu-ray mastering: Chinatown was scanned from the original negative, but to significantly improve the image, several short sections where the original negative was missing were replaced with digitally combined separation master scans: “This gave a previously soft, compromised image quality a sharper more integrated look, especially in the ‘orange grove’ scene.”

Final color correction was overseen by Oscar-winning screenwriter Robert Towne; the SD transfer was approved by Alonzo, who helped ensure that it remained true to the “scorched landscape” look of the original movie, which was one of the last printed in dye transfer by Technicolor.

Meanwhile, the 5.1 audio remix was done from an original mono multi-track recording. Audio expert Bruce Botnick oversaw the work and had a close working relationship with composer Jerry Goldsmith.

“When I first saw the movie, years and years ago, just before it was released, all I could think of was everything that was missing from the movie,” recalled Towne a few years ago when we spoke by phone about the last DVD. “And with the passage of time, those memories of what’s missing have faded and I can see the movie as a moviegoer––and it seems to me to hold together very well.”

Towne was especially proud of the fact that it never breaks from Gittes’ POV: “Not even The Maltese Falcon can say that,” he offered. “But Chinatown faithfully sticks to the point of view of the detective, which is a pretty difficult thing to do, because if there is nothing to cut away to, you have to keep telling the story strictly from his point of view. The tone of the piece is really consistent.”

For Towne, Chinatown is really about “the futility of good intentions.” “When I got to the end and the significance of the title and everything, I realized that was the basic, underlying truth of that particular story––deeply pessimistic but honest. It’s all too often a truth about humanity.”

He recalled a memorable line from The Seventh Seal: “No matter which way you turn, your ass is always in back of you.”

Towne, who wrote Gittes for his good friend Jack Nicholson (a consummate collaborator), described Gittes as “a naïve adolescent.” Towne has also long since gotten over his disagreements with director Roman Polanski: “I don’t think anybody ever worked harder than Roman. He’s exacting and I can’t imagine in retrospect that there could’ve been anybody but Roman. The two great elements that made the script work so well were Roman and John Huston. I think it was as convincing a dramatization of evil as any actor was liable to give you; Huston had the power, the patina of grandfatherly good nature, and the malevolence that was needed.”