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

Ridley Scott Wants More Blade Runner

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

Now that Ridley Scott has gotten a pleasant taste from revisiting Alien with the 3-D Prometheus (June 8, 2012), Deadline.com reports that he’s signed on for more Blade Runner with Alcon Ent. and producers Bud Yorkin and Cynthia Sikes. It’s uncertain if the project would be a prequel, sequel, or spinoff (like Prometheus), since no script has been written, but the news has stoked Anne Thompson and other journos. Why not? The landmark 1982 sci-fi/neo-noir not only ushered in cinematic cyberpunk, but also the fascination with the phantasmagorical Philip K. Dick (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?) that continues to this day.

Back in 1986, Scott told me he was fascinated with the notion of Harrison Ford’s weary Deckard as a secret replicant, but that he was never given the budget to convey it clearly or convincingly. As we know, he attempted to massage the clues in various iterations, culminating with the Blu-ray release in 2007 of the “Final Cut.” I suspect that this renewed opportunity to definitively close the book on Deckard’s identity is a major appeal, along with the chance to bring the imaginative and prescient universe up to date with state-of-the-art CG and 3-D. After all, the original took place in L.A. in 2019 and remains one of the best-looking films ever made.

Indeed, when I had the chance to revisit Blade Runner with Scott in honor of the Blu-ray release, he gave a hint about its timeless appeal that bears repeating: “I think it’s the cast that keeps everything really alive… and the unusual blow-by-blow and organic engagement of one character throughout each scene… Everything makes sense: If you want to read at the end of the film that there are parallels to where we are today, it’s all there… I think that when scientists get stymied, they look to the possibility of God for just sheer imagination.”

Line-Up Set for Inaugural Palo Alto International Film Fest

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

The Palo Alto International Film Festival (PAIFF) has announced its program for the inaugural event that launches Sept. 9-Oct. 2. Highlighted by the digital restoration of Georges Méliès’ A Trip to the Moon (1902), presented by Technicolor on Oct. 1, the line-up includes 20 features and 74 short films curated from award-winning films and film festival favorites that exemplify PAIFF’s theme of innovation in art, film, and technology.

The schedule ranges from Braden King’s cross-platform feature Here, to the artistically inventive Bombay Beach by music video director Alma Har’el to such docs as Something Ventured, which delves into the world of Venture Capital firms.

The 2011 festival kicks off with a free outdoor screening of  Kevin McDonald’s Life in a Day, a documentary shot by filmmakers all over the world that serves as a time capsule to show future generations what it was like to be alive on July 24, 2010. This will take place on Ramona Street in downtown Palo Alto. The rest of the main program will play at Palo Alto Square and Aquarius Theater over the remaining three days.

PAIFF will announce its Speaker Series and Workshops later this month. However, it previously announced “Behind the Scenes with Walter Murch” (presented by FileMaker Inc.), which will take place on Saturday, Oct 1, at noon at Talenthouse in Palo Alto.  The three-time Oscar-winning film editor will present a behind-the-scenes look at his post-production process using FileMaker Pro database management (including on his latest, Hemingway & Gelhorn, directed by Phil Kaufman, to premiere on HBO in early 2012).

Tickets to individual screenings and shorts programs are now available at www.paiff.net.

The Gravity of the 3-D Situation

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

In covering prestigious 3-D on Friday, I forgot to reference Alfonso Cuarón’s apparently mind-blowing Gravity (Nov. 21, 2012), which will be post-converted in 3-D and IMAX 3-D. The intimate sci-fi survival thriller stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney as the lone survivors from a space station disaster who must float through space to return home. Gravity was indirectly in the news today, with Guillermo Del Toro touting his friend’s ambitious film in an MTV interview for Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (Aug. 26). According to Del Toro, Cuarón consulted with both James Cameron and David Fincher; in fact, Del Toro hooked up Cuarón with Cameron to talk tech early on and was advised that what he had in mind was about five years away. Nonetheless, Cuarón has decided to push the envelope.

London-based Framestore is doing the VFX (under the supervision of Chris Watts, Where the Wild Things Are, 300), which is 60% animation with the balance consisting of a hybrid of CG and live-action elements (including MoCap). It’s previously been reported that the opening shot lasts about 20 minutes, surpassing the bravura long take from Cuarón’s last film, Children of Men. Good thing cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki (The Tree of Life) is shooting digitally.

So imagine Gary Lockwood’s Frank Poole from 2001: A Space Odyssey somehow making his way back home instead of being lost in space. That’s what Cuarón and Framestore have in store for The Gravity: photo-real zero-gravity in space, punctuated by the director’s long and fluid visual style, leaving “no cut points to hide behind,” according to Framestore.

Talk about crying “out for the extra element of space and depth,” which Martin Scorsese said about the stereoscopic implications of his upcoming Hugo (opening Nov. 23).

Mid-Year VFX Oscar Watch

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

In my weekly TOH column at IndieWIRE, I analyze the five mid-year frontrunners for the VFX Oscar. Good thing there are five slots now, with next year’s bake-off expanding from seven to 10 (though the presentations have been trimmed to 10 minutes).

Trailering New In Time

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

Fox has released a new In Time trailer (Oct. 28) from Andrew Niccol, which contains more of the framing of Justin Timberlake’s character for murder along with the class divisions and sexual overtones. In a futuristic sci-fi twist on Hitchcock’s pursued pursuer, time is currency and the wealthy live forever while the poor struggle for every minute of their 25-year limit. Timberlake has more time than allowed and takes Amanda Seyfried hostage to crack open the corrupt society that has set him up. Matt Bomer and Cillian Murphy (as the time keeper) also shine. Roger Deakins’ gritty cinematography is up to its usual high standards, as is Alex McDowell’s alluring production design, evoking a Fight Club-like underworld. VFX by Luma, Wildfire, Soho, Rez-Illusion.

Trailering Like Crazy

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

Paramount Vantage has released the trailer for Drake Doremus’ indie sensation Like Crazy (Oct. 28), which nabbed the Sundance Dramatic Grand Jury Prize. As Anne Thompson relates in her informative interview with the director today at TOH, Like Crazy is a romantically voyeuristic adventure. Using the Canon 7 Digital SLR camera (photographed by John Guleserian), he captures an improvisational vibe inspired by jazz and the naturalism of Lars von Trier. Judging by the trailer, Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones (The Tempest) are achingly sublime in their intimacy (it has been trimmed to PG-13 by Doremus). At first blush, Like Crazy harkens all the way back to Murnau and Borzage, for starters, yet it’s totally fresh in its post-modern take on first love, in which Brit college student Jones falls for American classmate Yelchin, only to be separated when she violates the terms of her visa. Immersive mise en scène comes in many forms, thankfully.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BnFKe9eWVMw

Trailering In Time

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

Fox previewed the trailer for Andrew Niccol’s In Time, at Comic-Con (Oct. 28). Justin Timberlake and Amanda Seyfried star in a futuristic thriller in which people stop aging at 25 and must buy more time to survive. When Timberlake has more time than he can imagine, he becomes the pursued pursuer in a corrupt world. Matt Bomer and Cillian Murphy (as the time keeper) also shine. Roger Deakins’ gritty cinematography is up to its usual high standards, as is Alex McDowell’s grounded production design, evoking a Fight Club-like underworld.

A Quantum of Bond 23 Casting

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

The supper baddie dream cast of Javier Bardem and Ralph Fiennes appears to be on track for Bond 23, according to the Mail, along with the introduction of Naomie Harris (Pirates of the Caribbean) as the flirty Miss Moneypenny. Nothing official yet from EON, MGM, or Sony.

But that would mean that director Sam Mendes’ darker vision is also on track (scripted by John Logan and Bond regulars Neal Purvis & Robert Wade), “where the characters are modern, mature, and challenging,” according to an earlier report from the Mail.

The mind reels with the possibilities of going deeper up the SPECTRE-like Quantum chain to discover whether Bardem or Fiennes is the post 9/11 version of Blofeld: a slow-burning, charismatic, alter ego to Craig’s conflicted 007. With the other baddie softening Bond up for the real cat-and-mouse.

As for Harris, her presence is sure to be an alluring one as Moneypenny: defusing office tension with M while being Bond’s enabler.

The still untitled Bond 23, scheduled to begin production in November for North American release Nov. 9, 2012, has already tapped naturalistic cinematographer phenom Roger Deakins (True Grit), who plans on shooting digitally on the Alexa with an optical viewfinder.

Still confirming if Mendes collaborators Dennis Gassner (Quantum of Solace) and Tariq Anwar sign on as production designer and editor, respectively, along with VFX supervisor Steven Begg (Casino Royale).