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

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?

A Dreamy Drive

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

Drive (opening today) is like being in a dream. Director Nicolas Winding Refn seems to be channeling Michael Mann from the ’80s with Tangerine Dream. In fact, it doesn’t seem like the 21st century at all. Everything is faded, dingy, grimy, low-tech, thanks to Beth Mickle’s production design and Newton Thomas Sigel’s cinematography. It’s set in LA (downtown, Echo Park, the Valley), and the vibe is neo, neo noir.

Ryan Gosling plays the stuntman/part-time getaway guy (who gets in way over his head) as the iconic loner in his ’73 Chevy Malibu: Steve McQueen-like, only without the movie star charm and charisma. But he’s effective: a quiet, anonymous drifter forced out of the shadows when he befriends Carey Mulligan (a latter day Tuesday Weld) and her son. Albert Brooks and Ron Perlman play terrific baddies; and Bryan Cranston makes a crusty foil to Gosling as his unlucky pal.

However, the opening downtown getaway, which sets up Gosling and the milieu so brilliantly, (edited by Mat Newman), is never matched in terms of excitement and fascination. And the bone crunching, bloody violence is so over-the-top that it wakes you up from the spell. But then that’s probably the intention (VFX is by Ring of Fire and Wildfire). It’s a real treat.

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

Trailering We Bought a Zoo

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Below the Line, Books, Cinematography, Editing, Movies, Music, Trailers | Leave a comment

Cameron Crowe is back! We Bought a Zoo, the writer-director’s first feature since 2005′s Elizabethtown, really looks like Jerry Maguire meets Local Hero, as single dad Matt Damon attempts to reinvent himself and the dilapidated zoo he buys. With the help of his two kids and the wacky staff, they all discover a new life for themselves and the animals in this gentle tale of reawakening. Co-starring Scarlett Johansson, Thomas Haden Church, Patrick Fugit, Elle Fanning, and John Michael Higgins.The score is by Jónsi from Sigur Rós, but you know the eclectic rock tunes that Crowe selects will be appropriate to the misadventures. Production designer Clay Griffith (Jerry Maguire), cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto (Brokeback Mountain), and editors Joe Hutshing (Vanilla Sky, Almost Famous, Jerry Maguire) and Mark Livolsi (Almost Famous) are along for the journey.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8R0aUmVoqrs

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.

Rick Carter’s 9/11 ‘Aftermath’

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

Oscar-winning production designer Rick Carter has put together a very personal photo-exhibit called “Aftermath” of paintings he made following the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

“As it probably is for you, it’s still hard for me to emotionally process,” Carter explained by email. “Part of it for me personally, however, has been the movies I’ve production designed since then exploring the nature of conscience and the Goya-esque disasters of war: War of the Worlds, Munich, Avatar, War Horse, and the upcoming Lincoln.

“In the last few months I’ve begun to look back over my first artistic responses to 9/11, which are represented by these paintings I wanted you to share with you. It’s all just part of my artistic journey over this last decade.”

As we approach the 10th anniversary of 9/11 on Sunday, it’s very fitting, indeed, to reflect on Carter’s artistic journey, delving into “the nature of conscience and the Goya-esque disasters of war,” as he suggests. In War of the Worlds, the opening Martian attack was designed and shot as a gritty metaphor for the destruction of the World Trade Center, right down to the fallen embers. Munich took it a step further in its terrifying depiction of the ’72 Olympics massacre of the Israeli athletes and the Black September reprisal. Avatar then became an epiphany of sorts for Carter. “I always saw the movie as The Wizard of Oz meets Apocalypse Now,” he told me. “It’s like this EKG kind of brain wave going from Kansas into Oz and into this mystical, bioluminescent dream state, the phantasmagoric, which is what [Cameron] called it in the script.”
Meanwhile, I can’t wait to see how Carter extends the nature of conscience further in Steven Spielberg’s upcoming War Horse (Dec. 28) and Lincoln, amid the horrors of World War I and the Civil War. In fact, it’s no coincidence that Spielberg is the catalyst behind four of these five films with Carter. He’s become the prime force in exploring the post 9/11 ethos in American movies.

Trailering A Dangerous Method

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Below the Line, Cinematography, Costume, Movies, Music, Oscar, Production Design, Trailers | Leave a comment

David Cronenberg’s predictably polarizing A Dangerous Method (Nov. 23) managed to get under everyone’s skin at both Telluride and Venice this past weekend. This is right up Cronenberg’s cerebral alley with the intense rivalry between Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) and Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen) leading to the rise of psychoanalysis on the eve of World War I. And when you factor in the beautiful and unbalanced Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley) who comes between them, you’ve got plenty of sexual repression to deal with As always, look for below-the-line Oscar potential from such Cronenberg regulars production designer James McATeer, cinematographer Peter Suschitzky, costume designer Denise Cronenberg, and composer Howard Shore.