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.

Events

Another Trip to the Moon with Méliès

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in 3-D, Animation, Events, Shorts, stop-motion, Tech, VFX | Leave a comment

The digitally restored, hand-tinted A Trip to the Moon (1902) by the legendary father of special effects, Georges Méliès, screens this weekend at the Telluride Film Festival and next Tuesday at the Academy’s Goldwyn Theater. I write about the restoration in my weekly TOH column at IndieWIRE.

Trailering Drive

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

Drive (Sept. 16), directed by Cannes winner Nicolas Winding Refn, is one of the most highly-anticipated fall films — the new Bullitt. The very hot and versatile Ryan Gosling (The Ides of March) plays a Hollywood stuntman and sometimes wheelman who fights for his life after a contract has been put on him for a heist gone wrong. Co-starring Carey Mulligan (An Education), Ron Perlman, and Albert Brooks. It evokes a gritty, neo-noir ’70s look (designed by Beth Mickle, shot by Newton Thomas Sigel, and edited by Mat Newman), epitomized by the ’73 Chevy Malibu that Gosling drives and personally restored. VFX by Ring of Fire and Wildfire VFX.

Anonymous Gets VFXY at Toronto

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

Anonymous (Oct. 28), Roland Emmerich’s provocative political thriller about the identity of William Shakespeare — Amadeus meets Shakespeare in Love — is one of the techie treats premiering at The Toronto International Film Fest. The movie posits that Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford (Rhys Ifans), is not only the incestuous lover of Queen Elizabeth I (Vanessa Redgrave), but also the real author of the Bard’s works. As the Essex Rebellion conspires against her succession, political intrigue abounds between the Tudors and the Cecils.

Shot at the Studio Babelsberg in Potsdam-Babelsberg, Germany, (the first major movie to use Arriflex’s new Alexa digital camera), the VFX challenge was to virtually recreate Elizabethan London. This task fell to Uncharted Territory, headed by Volker Engel and Marc Weigert, who’ve taken on more of a production partnership with Emmerich since 2012. They serve as exec producers on Anonymous.

Thus, after lots of testing, Weigert tells me that we can expect some stunning advancements in digital cinematography and High Dynamic Range Imaging (HDRI) for photoreal environments that match seamlessly with the 70 sets that were built.

9/11 Anniversary Vibe to Pre-TIFF Oscar Predictions

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

The Gurus o’ Gold made their initial predictions for best picture Oscar nominations heading into the Toronto International Film Festival, and, guess what? There’s a definite post 9/11 10th anniversary vibe with a lot of upheaval and soul-searching.

1. The War Horse

2. The Ides of March

3. The Artist

4. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

5. The Descendants

6. Midnight in Paris

7. J. Edgar

8. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

9. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

10. The Tree of Life

Well, obviously, the specter of 9/11 looms large in Stephen Daldry’s Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (Christmas Day), in which a precocious 9-year-old (newcomer Thomas Horn) searches the five New York boroughs for the lock to the mysterious key left by his father (Tom Hanks), who perished in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.

Talk about reconnecting, land baron George Clooney reaches out to his two daughters in The Descendants (Nov. 23) from the always quirky Alexander Payne. Then director/actor Clooney turns the dirty and corrupt political culture on its head in search of reform and redemption in The Ides of March (Oct. 7).

Which leaves David Fincher to make sense of the the whole malaise in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (Dec. 21), in which Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara search for a woman missing for 40 years linked to a serial killer that was never caught.

And what would Oscar season be without allegorical period pieces to bridge the past and present: Steven Spielberg separates a boy (Tom Hiddleston) and his horse in War Horse (Dec. 28) like lovers during the tumult of World War I. In The Artist (Nov. 23), a French black-and-white silent, the talkie revolution in Hollywood of ’27-’31 hits the industry like an earthquake. Meanwhile, Leonardo DiCaprio gets caught in another identity mind twister of sorts in Clint Eastwood’s biopic, J. Edgar (Nov. 9); and the Cold War espionage games implode in the remake of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (Nov. 18).

By contrast, Woody Allen does the time warp for spiritual guidance in Midnight in Paris, and Terrence Malick book ends his surreal ’50s family saga with contemporary context in The Tree of Life.

To be continued as we head into the Oscar season…

Disney/Pixar to Return to Annies

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in 3-D, Animation, Annies, Events, Home Entertainment, Movies, performance capture, Shorts, stop-motion, Tech, VFX | Leave a comment

ASIFA-Hollywood has announced its call for entries for the 39th Annual Annie Awards, scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 4, 2012, at UCLA’s Royce Hall in Los Angeles. And Disney/Pixar has ended its one-year boycott, according to The Wrap. That’s the reason why ASIFA replaced longtime president Antran Manoogian with respected industry vet Frank Gladstone, who’s revising the voting structure to include a more representative voice from every animation studio. Disney/Pixar has called for the establishment of a multi-studio advisory board.

The 2011 Annie Awards will be presented in 28 categories, including two new ones: Outstanding Editorial in an Animated Feature and Outstanding Editorial in an Animated Television Production. A “Member’s Favorite” award has also been added, but will be on a separate ballot located on the Annies website (www.annieawards.org). While Annie voting is limited to professional members, all members, both professional and associate, will be able to vote on this award.

Entries submitted for consideration will be from productions that were released in the U.S. between Jan. 1, 2011 and Dec. 31, 2011. The deadline to receive submissions and materials is Friday, Oct.14, 2011, by 5:00 pm.  The deadline to join ASIFA-Hollywood or to renew membership in order to participate in the Annie Award voting is Friday, Nov. 4, 2011.

Created in 1972 by veteran voice talent June Foray, the Annie Awards have grown in scope and stature for the past three decades.

For information on ASIFA-Hollywood, please visit www.asifa-hollywood.org.

Nine Shortlisted for AMPAS Sci-Tech Awards

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in 3-D, Animation, Below the Line, Events, Home Entertainment, James Bond, Movies, Oscar, performance capture, Tech, VFX, Virtual Production | Leave a comment

Nine scientific and technical achievements have been selected for further awards consideration by the Scientific and Technical Awards Committee of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. These include the Micro-Voxel Volume Rendering by Side Effects Software; Contour Dense Mesh Motion Capture by Mova (pictured above from MPC’s Hades in Percy Jackson); Cinema System for theatrical projection of stereoscopic content by RealD; Phantom High-Speed cameras by Vision Research; and the “Lowry Process” by Reliance MediaWorks (witnessed in such exceptional catalog Blu-ray/DVD titles as the Bonds and Indiana Jones, among hundreds of others).

The list is made public to allow individuals and companies with similar devices or claims of prior art the opportunity to submit their achievements for review. The deadline to submit additional entries is Tuesday, Aug. 30, at 11:59 pm PST.

The committee has additionally selected these other methods or devices for further consideration:

  • ARRI Zeiss Master Primes Lens Family (ARRI Inc.)
  • Phantom High-Speed Cameras for Motion Picture Production (Vision Research Inc.)
  • Pictorvision Eclipse (Pictorvision, Inc.)
  • FUJIFILM Black and Whit1e Recording Film ENTERNA-RDS for Archive (FUJIFILM North America Corp.)
  • Lyre Microphone Suspension (Rycote Microphone Windshields Ltd.)

After thorough investigations are conducted on each of the entries, the committee will meet in early December to vote on recommendations to the Academy’s Board of Governors, which will make the final awards decisions.

The 2011 Scientific and Technical Awards will be presented at the Beverly Wilshire in Beverly Hills on Saturday, Feb. 11, 2012.

Claims of prior art or similar technology must be submitted on our online site at www. oscars.org. For further information, contact Awards Administration Director Rich Miller’s office at 310-247-3000, ext. 1131, or via e-mail at scitech@oscars.org.

Pixar Announces Dinos and Brainy Movies at D23

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Animation, Events, Movies | Leave a comment

As part of the D23 Expo festivities in Anaheim yesterday, Pixar announced that Bob Peterson (Up co-director) will helm a comedy in which dinosaurs evolve hand in hand with people (Nov. 23, 2013), and that Pete Docter’s follow-up to Up will go inside the human mind (May 30, 2014). Co-directed by Pete Sohn (the Partly Cloudy short) and produced by John Walker (The Incredibles), the dino movie contains the tag: What if the cataclysmic asteroid that forever changed life on Earth actually missed the planet completely and giant dinosaurs never became extinct?

In fact, when I last saw Peterson at the cocktail reception for Cars 2, he was positively giddy about prepping his next movie and gave me a high-five when he overhead me discussing how glorious The Wizard of Oz looked on Blu-ray. Oz, you see, is his all-time fave, and we proceeded to chat about the importance of continuing to make fantastical films. So this is great news for Peterson, who finally gets his crack at directing and playing in the animated sandbox with all the department heads at Pixar. At D23 he said he was inspired by a childhood visit to the World’s Fair in New York, where he saw animatronic dinosaurs created by Walt Disney, which obviously made a big impression.

Meanwhile, Docter will explore heady stuff: a world that comically explains how decisions are made, including why we remember, how we forget, and “how certain songs get stuck in your head.” Co-directed by Ronnie del Carmen (Dug’s Special Mission short) and produced by Up’s Jonas Rivera, the project, according to The Playlist, will be scripted by Toy Story 3′s Michael Arndt. For Docter, this is just the kind of wacky and ambitious project that would’ve tickled his mentor, Disney great, Joe Grant.

And for those complaining that Pixar has been mired in too many sequels lately, this truly confirms that the Disney-owned studio continues to lead the industry in imaginative and risky animated storytelling.

10th VES Awards Scheduled for 2/7/12

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in 3-D, Animation, Events, Movies, Tech, VES, VFX, Videogames, Virtual Production | Leave a comment

The Visual Effects Society (VES), which represents approximately 2,500 VFX artists and practitioners worldwide, will hold the 10th Annual VES Awards Show on Feb. 7, 2012, at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills. The Annual Awards show is where the most outstanding work in 23 VFX categories is presented and the artists who created them are honored.

Meanwhile, in light of the recent open letter from VES exec director Eric Roth about the “unsettled” state of the VFX industry, there should be plenty of discussion and debate about jobs, healthcare benefits, and unionization/guild representation at the upcoming Production Summit (“Trending the Global Marketplace”) on Oct.1, from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm, at the Montage in Beverly Hills (http://www.visualeffectssociety.com/production-summit-2011).

Among the confirmed speakers will be Ted Gagliano (president of feature post at Twentieth Century Fox), Steve Papzian (president worldwide physical production at Warner Bros.), Bob Pisano (president and COO, MPAA), Stephan Trojansky (co-founder Scanline VFX), VFX guru Doug Trumbull, Tony Wible (director of media & entertainment, Janney Montgomery Scott), and Tom Wujec (Autodesk fellow).

Important dates for the 10th Annual VES Awards:

•           Aug. 15, 2011 — Rules & Procedures (www.visualeffectssociety.com/ves-awards)

•           Oct.10, 2011 — Submissions open

•           Nov. 15-30, 2011 — Period for uploading of viewing materials

•           Nov. 30, 2011 — Submissions close

•           Feb. 7, 2012 – Awards ceremony, Beverly Hilton Hotel, Beverly Hills, California

Academy to Screen Digitally Restored Trip to the Moon

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in 3-D, Animation, Events, Movies, Tech, VFX | Leave a comment

While anxiously awaiting Martin Scorsese’s fitting and inspired 3-D valentine to Georges Méliès, Hugo (Nov. 23), the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will present A Trip to the Moon (1902) on Tuesday, Sept. 6, at 7:30 p.m. at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills. This legendary film by Méliès, the father of special effects, will be screened in its original hand-colored version direct from its re-premiere at the Cannes Film Festival this May.

An original color print of A Trip to the Moon was recently discovered in poor condition and underwent delicate work to rescue and digitize the elements.  The restoration of the 14-minute work adapted from Jules Verne was carried out by Lobster Films, the Groupama Gan Foundation for Cinema, and the Technicolor Foundation for Cinema Heritage, and took place at Technicolor Los Angeles. The French band Air composed an original soundtrack to accompany the film.

The program will be introduced by film historian and archivist Serge Bromberg of Lobster Films and Tom Burton, head of the preservation department at Technicolor Los Angeles.  A newly restored print of A Trip down Market Street (1906), recorded by the Miles Bros. of San Francisco days before the famed earthquake leveled the city, along with rare primitive films such as 3-D versions of early Méliès films and turn-of-the century attempts at sound films, will round out the evening’s screenings.

A Trip down Market Street source elements are courtesy of Rick Prelinger, the Library of Congress.

Tickets to A Trip to the Moon are $5 for the general public and $3 for Academy members and students with a valid ID.  Tickets may be purchased online, at the Academy box office, or by mail.

The Samuel Goldwyn Theater is located at the 8949 Wilshire Blvd. in Beverly Hills.  Doors will open at 6:30 p.m.  For more information call 310-247-3600 or visit www.oscars.org.

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.