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.

Cinematography

Trailering Brave with ‘The Prize’

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in 3-D, Animation, Annies, Cinematography, Clips, Movies, performance capture, Shorts, Tech, VFX, Virtual Production | Leave a comment

A new “Prize” trailer has been released for Pixar’s upcoming Brave (June 22). It’s a marvelously hyper real riff on The Adventures of Robin Hood, in which princess Merida (Kelly Macdonald) defies her parents to reveal her skill in an archery contest featuring some very off-beat techniques.

Meanwhile, in other recent Disney and Pixar tech news, there’s info floating around about a new Disney short for this year, Paperman, directed by John Kahrs (formerly with Pixar and animation supervisor on Tangled), touting a game-changing technique that leap frogs MoCap that’s co-created by Disney animator Eric Daniels (Deep Canvas).

I know that Disney has also been experimenting with translating hand-drawn into CG post Tangled. Now, according to animatie.blog.nl, John Musker apparently revealed at the Annies that he’s working on a project with Ron Clements involving such an interface.

Finally, Big Screen Animation reports that Pixar Research Group (with the participation of David DiFrancesco) is developing a system for capturing light fields for use in 3-D cinematography and videography. According to application info, “data collected by these light field imaging systems can then be used to produce 2D images [or] right eye/left eye 3D images… as well as to render and manipulate images using a computer graphics rendering engine and compositing tools.”

Mendes Debuts Skyfall Videoblog

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

Skyfall director Sam Mendes introduced the first of his videoblogs today on the 007.com website. Not much of a debriefing on the 23rd James Bond film and Daniel Craig’s third as 007, but then he’s just getting started in introducing his ties to Bond and providing behind-the-scenes tidbits.

“The roots of my doing this Bond movie start way before anybody approached me because, like everyone else, I have my own personal relationship with Bond which began when I was I suppose about nine or ten years old. I’ve always been a fan of the movies,” he says.

In fact, Mendes told me a decade ago that he was first approached to direct Die Another Day. He was very flattered but it just wasn’t the right Bond for him. Little did we realize that Craig would eventually become the sixth Bond and that he’d be engineering the film that will likely define his legacy, now that the rite of passage is over.

Naturally, Casino Royale pulled Mendes in: “Here was a real man in a real situation and it reminded me of when I was watching Sean Connery…I think it is still possible to make a big, entertaining, fabulous, glamorous movie and yet at the same time to say something about the world that we’re living in.”

And, ironically, Skyfall marks Mendes’ first English movie.

UPDATE: Skyfall will get an IMAX release for the first time day and date with the Nov. 9 bow.

Trailering Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

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

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (June 22) looks like pure Timur Bekmambetov with its mash-up of history and horror. The axe-wielding 16th president (played by Benjamin Walker) is personally obsessed with slaughtering vampires, who killed his mother and are fueling the Civil War. Looks like retro fun and fit for 3-D. Tim Burton, who exec produces, offers a witty intro in London while taking a break from his kitschy Dark Shadows vampire foray (“Prince Charles is actually a werewolf”), which you can view below along with the first trailer. The great Caleb Deschanel is the cinematographer and Craig Lyn is the VFX production supervisor. Weta Digital and Method Studios lead a contingent of VFX suppliers.

Lubezki Talks Tree of Life

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

Emmanuel Lubezki, the Oscar front runner for cinematography, discusses his stunning work for Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life for my TOH column at Indiewire.

“Working with Terry has changed my life,” he admits. “I’m a different parent, I’m a different husband, and I’m a different friend. I see nature in a different way since I started working with Terry. I have much more respect for things that I wasn’t aware of as much. He is one of the most important teachers in my life. And I’m a much better cinematographer in helping directors in a much more comprehensive way.”

The Artist’s Schiffman Talks Retro Code

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

I spoke with Oscar-nominated cinematographer Guillaume Schiffman about shooting The Artist in black and white for my TOH column at Indiewire.  Schiffman turned it into a code predicated on the rise and fall of silent star George Valentin (Oscar-contending Jean Dujardin). It was a back to basics approach in which Valentin was depicted at the outset in crisp black and white and got grayer and muddier as the film progressed. The more dramatic, the greater the presence of shadows; the more comic, the lighter in tone it got.

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.

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

Directing

  • “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

Cinematography

  • “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

Makeup

  • “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

Tweedy Atmospherics in Tinker

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

In my latest Immersed in Movies TOH column at Indiewire, I soak up the tweedy atmosphere of the Oscar-contending Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy with cinematographer Hoyte Van Houtema, production designer Maria Djurkovic, and composer Alberto Iglesias. Most fascinating is the story behind that mesmerizing graphic on the wall of the MI6 conference room.

Richardson Talks More Hugo

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

Cinematographer Bob Richardson went back to square one in shooting Hugo in 3-D. As he simultaneously studied the films of Méliès and the photographic works from that period, he began evaluating the Alexa.

“I did not attempt to measure digital capture against film capture,” he explains. “I went into this experience as producing a digital 3-D product against a fair amount voices asking for a different approach. Meaning that most prefer to use digital capture to emulate film. After speaking with Marty, we both agreed that first and foremost we were creating a 3-D experience and that would require digital cameras. Thus, whatever color space the Alexa’s provided was to be the one we worked within and to place the 2-D film presentation in a secondary position.

“Immediately I learned that one should not take one’s previous ‘film” experience and lay that flatly atop 3-D digital capture without questioning previous patterns of behavior. I realized very early on that I needed to be schooled by a master: Vince Pace was my first teacher; Rob Legato was my constant teacher and companion; and then practice brought a comfort zone.”

The next step was to determine how to take the data and manipulate it. An onsite lab and theater facility was built at Shepperton in London and Greg Fisher was hired to color correct the dailies. “Vince had his team stereo correct our dailies and Marty wanted us to develop a lut for autochrome [a red-orange, green, and blue-violet system, which the Lumière Brothers experimented with in the early 20th century in conjunction with 3-D] for the flashback sequences, which was developed by Rob Legato and Greg Fisher.

“Unfortunately, we were unable to duplicate the exact look but in the process of attempting to create an autochrome feel we came up with what is now the primary base of the film, and the [predominant] blue hue is a direct result of that lut. I found that the blue in the autochrome lut needed a base blue on set. I talked with my gaffer and we set the overhead lights that were currently tungsten with full blue gel. That was often used in combination with white light on the floor to light the actors. The autochrome picked up on the blue and shifted it toward what you see in the film. The sense of depth was enhanced by a combination of cool and warm. We tested shooting sequences with one tone and the result was not as strong a sense of depth as when we mixed cool and warm. Within the film we used that piece of knowledge to our advantage. Certain sequences went completely blue or white with no mixture. That can be seen in the second sequence between Hugo and Méliès at the toy store. A cooler base with little mix of white or warm was used.”

Aside from conveying a hyper reality with tremendous layers of depth and particulate matter that leaps off the screen, Hugo’s 3-D also brings us closer to the characters and actually influences the direction of the performances. “I agree with you completely here — the 3-D gives a sense of intimacy that is not as evident in 2-D,” Richardson suggests. “I must admit that it is somewhat of a mystery to me, why, with some, it works better than with others. I felt that Christopher Lee [as the compassionate bookstore owner] took to 3-D in a phenomenal way. His medium shots and close-ups bear his soul to the audience. The same can be said for the Ben Kingsley close-ups as Méliès in and around the toy store. When an actor is in the zone, the 3-D enhances that performance.”

Bob Richardson Goes Blue for Hugo

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

In my latest TOH column for Indiewire, I chat with Hugo cinematographer Bob Richardson about discovering the joys of an autochrome look that goes hand-in-hand with the 3-D. It’s yet another fascinating link back to the roots of early French cinema.