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.

Editing

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

Editor Claire Simpson Talks ELIC

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

One of the most intricately structured Oscar contenders, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, was totally dependent on cathartically conveying the aftermath of 9/11 — in particular, the sensitive portrayal of nine-year-old Oskar (played by newcomer Thomas Horn). I recently had an illuminating email exchange with editor Claire Simpson (Academy Award winner for Platoon) about the challenges of the film.

You previously worked with director Stephen Daldry on The Reader. What has your collaboration been like?

Stephen’s pioneering work has been primarily in theatre. He is very meticulous about text and performance. Since these are the areas that I am most comfortable, I find it really exciting and enjoyable to work with him. He uses a late Stanislavski technique when creating a scene with the actors, which revolves around action and intention. He likes to see a cut of a scene as soon as possible while he is shooting just in case he needs to modify or rethink the dynamics. It requires working very fast and understanding the nuances of the text. There is a constant dialog between us and because I had already worked with him on The Reader, we had developed a very honest and straight forward rapport

What were his priorities about what we should and shouldn’t see about 9/11 as well as Oskar’s tricky portaryal?

Oskar, our young protagonist, has a condition bordering on Asperger’s syndrome, which is on the autism spectrum. His behavior is very particular: obsessive, compulsive; highly intelligent but without social skill, which sometimes make his interactions inappropriate. Before principal photography began, Stephen and his team researched the available studies on Asperger’s syndrome and were very well versed in the behavioral patterns and symptoms. Oskar is not an easily accessible child and his way of processing information is through rigorous analysis as opposed to empathetic evaluation. Paradoxically, his imagination is so fertile it generates paranoia and fear of everyday things. This is exacerbated by the loss of his Dad [Tom Hanks]. Given the nature of his father’s death in the WTC on 9/11, which is still so raw to us, one had to be very careful that there was authenticity to both character and events and that 9/11 should never be a background but a principal player. We were very sensitive to the feelings of the relatives of those who perished that day and we had many discussions with both support groups of the families and many of the families themselves, as to what they felt was appropriate and honest.

What was it like balancing the emotional needs with the reality of the events depicted? 

The biggest challenge was how much of the actual news footage from 9/11, if any, to include in the film and whether or not to use the image of “the falling man.” The content of the answer machine messages was also a matter of concern. Some viewers and critics have found the use of these images prurient.  We had early private screenings for some families who had a child or parent killed in WTC and for some support groups of these families. All without exception had insisted that we not shy away from using these images. One sibling told of hearing a prayer group in the background of his brother;s final message. A mother spoke of the generosity and thoughtfulness for his friends and family that her son had shown at the hour of his death. Others spoke of the fear and panic. One gentleman, whose son had died, heartbreakingly described the effects on his grandson. Many of the children of the victims obsess about whether there parent was “a jumper”; they examine photographs downloaded from the internet.. And those who had no recovered body to bury, which is the vast majority, are left to imagine the unimaginable. In the child, Oskar, we tried to express the pain of that catastrophic loss, in particular. Grief is universal. if we can understand the legacy of pain from this kind of catastrophic event then perhaps we will be less willing to allow it to be repeated anywhere.

Talk about balancing the fictional aspects of the story with the real events.

Obviously, the idea that a child would find a lock for a key in a metropolitan area as big as New York is pretty farfetched and so the impulse is to make the search as interesting as possible without portraying New York as a city populated by ridiculously colorful eccentrics and therefore removing any sense of reality from the boys journey. So there is a delicate balancing act between “magical realism” and the emotional force of the narrative that the real events evoke. The events are told through the perspective of an emotionally challenged child who has lost his father, mentor, and guide through life in a catastrophic event. Oskar’s mother struggles through her own grief to take care of him but the relationship does not have the same symbiotic dynamic as father and son.

There is a scene where Oskar has locked his mother out of the bathroom. She knocks on the door begging to be let in. Oskar asks her why she wants to come in and she answers from behind the glass, “To tell you that I love you.” There is a companion scene to this where Oskar, after leaving the apartment, whispers, “I love you,” on the other side of the door where his mom is standing.  She has broken down in tears but he cannot hear her and is left to speculate on what her reaction might be. So you have two scenes about two people who are so emotionally broken that they are incapable of reaching each other. This culminates in a heartbreaking fight between them where Oskar, expressing his anger at the incoherent tragedy, declares, “I wish it were you, I wish it were you in the building instead of him,” and she responds, “So do I!” Sandra Bullock is masterful in these scenes. In a very restrained performance, she bravely portrays a mother who seems cold and remote, but it pays off in the end because it enables her to have an incredibly powerful scene of reconciliation at the end of the film.

What was the post process like?

We entered production with a very long script. To try and consolidate the story into a reasonable length and maintain the integrity of the script was very challenging. Fortunately, I had worked with Stephen before and we work very quickly turning over ideas and the performances were all really tight. Thomas Horn was extraordinary. He could sustain his performance through a five minute take and I never had to stitch together a scene. His focus and intensity were ever present. We use montage as a short cut in telling the story of the journey and meeting “The Blacks.” There are also a lot of flashbacks because the story revolves around memory and how we restructure events in our brain.

It came down to the wire right before the Christmas release.

Sandra Bullock’s scenes were the first to be shot because of her availability. There is a scene where she is looking through Oskar’s expedition diary, which has photographs of the people Oskar meets on his quest. But those scenes had not been shot yet. Indeed, many of the people whom Oskar was to encounter had not even been cast at that point. The book was compiled at the end of production and we shot inserts of Oskar making the book and inserts of it’s content when Thomas Horn came to New York to record his ADR

What are your favorite moments?

Working with Max Von Sydow was one of the best moments of my career. He was so generous in his performance and had such great comic timing. He played The Renter with such delicacy. First of all he doesn’t speak and so all the communication is by written notes and gestures. There is some editorial ellipsis necessary when writing the notes to reduce screen time and he had “Yes” tattooed on his left hand and “No” tattooed on his right hand which provided a kind of semaphore.

Tellefsen Pitches Moneyball

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

In my latest Immersed in Movies column for TOH at Indiewire, I speak with Moneyball editor Christopher Tellefsen about internal rhythms and getting under the skin of Brad Pitt’s Oscar-contending Billy Beane.Tellefsen works well with director Bennett Miller, who has a fondness for quests, and this is even more ambitious than Capote. Moneyball comes out this week on Blu-ray/DVD from Sony Pictures Home Ent.

Bond 23 is Skyfall

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Below the Line, Books, Cinematography, Costume, Editing, Events, James Bond, Movies, Production Design, VFX | Leave a comment

Better get used to the title Skyfall for the 23rd Bond film (Nov. 9, 2012). Like Quantum of Solace, it apparently refers to Bond’s troubled state of mind. “It has emotional context which will be revealed in the film,” promises producer Barbara Broccoli.

But there was precious little revealed at today’s London press conference, amid speculation about the return of Blofeld and the possibility of M’s shocking demise. Fittingly, today also coincides with Sean Connery’s announcement as Bond 50 years ago.

Yes, Javier Bardem plays the super baddie, no doubt a new breed of grounded Bond villain; Berenice Marlohe plays the seductive and enigmatic Bond girl, Severin; but Naomie Harries plays a field agent named Eve, not Moneypenny; and Ralph Fiennes and Albert Finney have not yet been confirmed as friend or foe (although it has been suggested that Finney plays M’s boss).

Speaking of M, according to the official announcement, Skyfall is about how “Bond’s loyalty to M is tested as her past comes back to haunt her.  As MI6 comes under attack, 007 must track down and destroy the threat, no matter how personal the cost.”

Meanwhile, director Sam Mendes (who was first approached for Die Another Day, but it understandably wasn’t the right fit) suggested that Skyfall will offer a return to classic Bond action and is first and foremost an audience film and not a high-brow experience, as 007 travels to Istanbul, Shanghai, and Scotland (his ancestral home). How ironic that both Mendes and Craig first got hooked on Bond through Live and Let Die, and that their association on Road to Perdition has serendipitously taken them down this road to Bond’s maturity.

Make no mistake: Skyfall is our first glimpse of Craig’s fully-formed Bond and will likely define his legacy as 007. Speaking of Craig, he came to the press conference with very short hair and some stubble on his face. All he had to say was this was going to be “Bond with a capital B.”

The crew includes director of photography Roger Deakins (Jarhead and Revolutionary Road, who will be using the Alexa); production designer Dennis Gassner (Quantum of Solace, Road to Perdition, and Jarhead); editor Stuart Baird (Casino Royale); costume designer Jany Temime (Harry Potter); second unit director Alexander Witt; stunt co-ordinator Gary Powell; SFX supervisor Chris Corbould; and VFX supervisor Steve Begg.

The Tree of Life Goes Blu

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

Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life bows on Blu-ray today (Fox Home Ent.), providing the opportunity to dip into his brilliant summary statement about coalescing nature and grace. The imagery by cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki is stunning in HD (which is why he’s the Oscar front runner so far). Coupled with the superb DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 (the score by Alexandre Desplat is magnificent along with the use of various requiems), this is reference quality.

The Tree of Life is a free-form, existential journey that captures fleeting moments of life.  It primarily focuses on a Texas family in the 1950s, setting up a tension between nature (personified by Brad Pitt’s conflicted, talkative father) and grace (personified by Jessica Chastain’s peaceful and quiet mother).  It’s bookended by a present-day segment about the alienation experienced by the eldest son, Jack (Sean Penn), a successful architect haunted by childhood memories.  Early on, sparked by a moment of grief, the film suddenly leaps to a birth of the universe segment that addresses the meaning of the cosmos.

The bravura birth of the universe sequence can now be studied and appreciated more closely as well (also a VFX Oscar contender): “It’s a real coalescing of ideas and metaphysics about the history of the universe that takes us from [notions] of origins right through some semblance of the Big Bang to the early genesis of stars and galaxies and planets forming, ultimately life itself on planet Earth,” explains Dan Glass, the esteemed visual effects supervisor who oversaw the VFX-laden sequence.

The work was divided into three realms: Astrophysical, which dealt with the early cosmos and evolution of the universe, stars, galaxies and planets, principally handled by Double Negative in London (under the supervision of Paul Riddle); Microbial, the molecular and cellular origination of life, which was primarily done by the London boutique One of Us, with supplemental work by Method (the splitting off of DNA strands to form more complex organisms, supervised by Olivier Dumont) and the father/son team of Peter and Chris Parks, who shot interesting flows of colors; and Natural History, which focused on the much anticipated dinosaurs, created by Prime Focus/Frantic (supervised by Mike Fink and Bryan Hirota).

Editorially, Malick utilized what editor Mark Yoshikawa calls a “relay system of editing.” He adds, “He didn’t want the presence of the editors’ fingerprints on it.  That is why he always had Chivo [Lubezki] and Joerg [Widmer, the camera operator] grabbing bits that we could never really use for traditional coverage.  It was very challenging.”

Hugo Reactions

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in 3-D, Editing, Festivals, Movies, Oscar, Tech, Trailers, Virtual Production | Leave a comment

The reactions to last night’s work-in-progress preview of Martin Scorsese’s Hugo (Nov. 23) at the New York Film Festival were mixed in degree of enthusiasm, but the takeaways were pretty uniform: The second-half valentine to silent French director Georges Méliès (Ben Kingsley) and the importance of preserving our cinematic heritage was spot on, and the live-action 3-D experience was the most immersive since Avatar.

In fact, Hugo is a thinly disguised tribute to Michael Powell (The Red Shoes). “Marty has restored the reputations of so many filmmakers, mainly my [late] husband’s, and the film’s a wonderful distillation of that,” editor Thelma Schoonmaker recently told me. “But, of course, that is why he was drawn to the story in the first place: the chance to show this genius who is thrown aside and then to show his greatness.”

Weaving the subsidiary characters into the narrative, such as Sacha Baron Cohen’s station master, and not lingering too long on the mysterious setup are among the challenges, and last night’s sneak peek probably confirms what the filmmakers already know.

“Though Hugo will be sold, somewhat correctly, as a children’s adventure film set amid the great creaking clocks and colorful characters of a Paris train station, it’s a love letter to movies, and more specifically the importance of preserving films for future generations,” enthuses Cineblend’s Katey Rich.

“His introduction — comprising a whooshing tour of the station, a hungry pursuit by the game, gimpy Baron Cohen and his equally game Doberman, and finally a gorgeous perspective on winter lowering over Paris — is a thing of nearly wordless beauty,” observes Movieline’s S.T. Vanairsdale.

“Hugo‘s fantastical mystery leads us to the birth of cinema — which is where Scorsese’s heart lies, and the film takes off,” suggests indieWIRE’s Anne Thompson.

“If anyone, it’s for (and about) Scorsese, the great film lover, historian, and preservationist. At it’s core, it is the most expensive and creative Film History 101 course of all time,” offers THR’s Scott Feinberg.

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.

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

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.