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.

Festivals

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.

The Hugo Cineaste Factor

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

Martin Scorsese’s Hugo (Nov. 23) is indeed the work-in-progress mystery movie tonight at the New York Film Festival, as predicted by, among others, Deadline’s Pete Hammond and Hollywood Elsewhere’s Jeffrey Wells. Can’t wait to find out what the reaction is. Meanwhile, what fascinates me is the analysis that Wells got from someone who attended a September test market screening in Chicago. In fact, I already have it on good authority that the depiction of silent film legend Georges Méliès (Ben Kingsley), the father of special effects, is “a wonderful distillation” of Scorsese’s efforts to restore the reputation of Michael Powell (The Red Shoes), which is alluded to in the analysis. I’ve also heard that Scorsese’s stereoscopic aesthetic is very much rooted in the theatricality of House of Wax and Dial M for Murder, which is downplayed by the anonymous attendee.

Here are some of his other comments:

“Lots of wide-angle and tracking shots. In fact, there’s one tracking shot in the opening 10 minutes that outdoes the Copa shot in Goodfellas in terms of sheer technical razzle-dazzle — it follows Hugo across and around catwalks, down a ladder, around a spiral slide, through walls, etc.

“The most consistently impressive aspect of the 3D is actually the particulate matter Scorsese adds to all the shots in the train station — amber-hued dust, snow, seta, etc.

“I actually think it may be his most ‘personal’ film since…I don’t know, Goodfellas? … I shit you not — the last act is all about the importance of film preservation…. It’s a movie made for cineastes.”

Remembering Steve Jobs, VES Summit, Gaeta

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

In this week’s TOH indieWIRE column, I elaborate on my memorable encounter with Steve Jobs and recap last weekend’s VES Production Summit and my casual conversation with John Gaeta at the Palo Alto Film Fest. Somehow it all fits.

Geeking Out with Gaeta at the Palo Alto Film Fest

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

It’s always stimulating talking to John Gaeta. Yesterday, I got to do it publicly for an hour at the inaugural Palo Alto International Film Festival. Gaeta discussed his vision of “deep cinema” and more complete convergence with interactive media, the breaking of the fourth wall, if you will. He traced the pioneering experiments in photographic motion by Eadweard Muybridge (appropriately in Palo Alto and the festival’s iconic logo) to his “Bullet Time” innovation in The Matrix to the current Kinect work with games that he’s doing with motion sensing technology at his Float company in San Francisco.

It’s Gaeta’s contention that while the movie industry is creatively stagnating, we’re on the verge of a new renaissance of technological innovation that will transform both movies and interactive entertainment into a deeper and more subjective experience within a decade. We’re talking holodeck with complete volumetric capture so viewers can watch from the viewpoint of the director or select their own individual perspectives. In other words, imagine going into the Matrix with Neo, or racing into the Photo Anime of Speed Racer, or being transported into the watercolor heaven of What Dreams May Come, let alone the dynamic world of Charles Foster Kane or the distant Pandora or some future universe conjured by a visionary director.

“The whole sensor revolution, really, is starting to pour itself in all manner of application… For instance, the only way to port people in a holographic way would be real time spatial acquisition of them and their textures and to bring them into some common viewing space.”

Gaeta said there will always be one thread of popular entertainment driven by the big or small screen experience because of the immense power of performance sculpted by storytellers in a way that we can’t construct ourselves. “But I do think that the universe these auteurs create is a place I might want to go deeper into… so that by toggling off the camera I could get a free view version and do anything I want, but it’s still the performance: I’m not bending the performance, I’m not changing it, I’m not changing the angle, and I can get all sorts of incredible, expository information…”

But there’s a dark side to the technology, Gaeta warned: Your life is going to be metricized and monitored in every way by Big Brother. But such invasion of privacy he hopes will be halted. Time will tell what will be unleashed.

In the Works: Returning to Kurelek’s Maze

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Animation, Education, Events, Festivals, Movies, Tech, VFX | Leave a comment

Today’s TOH indieWIRE column is an interview with Nick and Zack Young about the fascinating restoration and expansion of their father Bob Young’s influential documentary about famed Canadian painter William Kurelek. The new version creatively incorporates animation to take us deeper into the darkly surreal and nakedly frank paintings. William Kurelek’s The Maze will premiere at the Mill Valley Film Festival on Oct. 12 and Oct 15, and will also kick off a major exhibition of Kurelek’s work in Canada at the Winnipeg Art Gallery on Oct. 13 and Nov. 26.

Getting Immersed with John Gaeta at the Palo Alto Fest

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

As part of the inaugural Palo Alto International Film Festival this weekend, I will have a casual conversation with Oscar-winning visual effects designer John Gaeta (The Matrix movies, Speed Racer) about interfacing with media, the future of movies, and possibilities for more experiential storytelling. The event will take place Sunday at 3:00 at Talenthouse in downtown Palo Alto, and will be streamed live.

Additionally, there will be two screenings of Méliès’  A Trip to the Moon, with Technicolor’s Tom Burton discussing the celebrated digital restoration (Saturday at 2:00 and 4:00).

Here’s the complete speaker line-up:

Friday, September 30, 12-1p

2 – 3 p.m. Tim Draper: The Future of Media, http://paiff.slated.com/2011/films/timdraper_paiff2011_paiff2011

3 – 4 p.m. Making the Startup Kids with Vala Halldorsdottir and Sesselja Vilhjalmsdottir; http://paiff.slated.com/2011/films/makingthestartupkids_paiff2011_paiff2011

4-5 p.m. How Much Is Your Idea Worth? with Saad Khan (CMEA CapitalFilm Angels) and Eric Edmeades (Kerner Group), moderated by Sunil Rajaraman (Scripped.com); http://paiff.slated.com/2011/films/isyourideaworthanything_paiff2011_paiff2011

5:30-6:30 p.m. Global Cinema Tomorrow with Alesia Weston (Sundance Institute), Santhosh Daniel (Global Film Initiative), Jasmina Bojic (United Nation Association Film Festival); http://paiff.slated.com/2011/films/globalcinematomorrow_paiff2011_paiff2011

7-8 p.m. Encyclopedia Pictura: Isaiah Saxon, Daren Rabinovitch, Sean Hellfritsch; http://paiff.slated.com/2011/films/encyclopediapicturaisaiahsaxondarenrabinovitchseanhellfritsch_paiff2011_paiff2011

Saturday, October 1, 11-12p

3:15-4 p.m. Paul Debevec: Achieving Photoreal Digital Actors; http://paiff.slated.com/2011/films/behindthesceneswpauldebevec_paiff2011_paiff2011

4:15-5 p.m. Steven Gaydos:  Writing “Road to Nowhere”; http://paiff.slated.com/2011/films/stevengaydos_paiff2011_paiff2011

5:15-5:30 p.m. Uwe Bergmann: Photographing Molecular Particles; http://paiff.slated.com/2011/films/uwebergmannphotographingmolecularparticles_paiff2011_paiff2011

5:30-6 p.m. Stuart Bowling: Advances in Cinema Image and Surround Sound; http://paiff.slated.com/2011/films/stuartbowlingadvancesincinemaimageandsurroundsound_paiff2011_paiff2011

6-6:30 p.m. Jim Helman: Hollywood in a Digital Worldhttp://paiff.slated.com/2011/films/jimhelmanhollywoodinadigitalworld_paiff2011_paiff2011

6:30-7 p.m. Jens Peter Wittenburg: Beyond 3D; http://paiff.slated.com/2011/films/jenspeterwittenburgtheimpactof3donstorytelling_paiff2011_paiff2011

Sunday, October 2, 2-3p

10:30-11:30 a.m. Digital Filmmaking & Distribution: Whose Tail is Wagging the Dog? with Michael Murphy (EVP, Gravitas Ventures), Dale Djerassi (President of Djerassi Films, Jaman Networks Advisory Board), John McCrea (GM, Tunerfish), and Danae Ringelmann (Indiegogo.com).  Moderated by Britt Bensen (Editor-in-Chief and Co-founder at On Demand Weekly); http://paiff.slated.com/2011/films/amovieinsearchofanaudience_paiff2011_paiff2011

12-12:30 p.m. Nickhil Jakatdar: The Future of Mobile and Movies; http://paiff.slated.com/2011/films/nickhiljakatdar_paiff2011_paiff2011

12:30-1 p.m. Brett Crockett: Delivering Cinema Sound to Mobile Devices; http://paiff.slated.com/2011/films/brettcrockettdeliveringcinemasoundtomobiledevices_paiff2011_paiff2011

3-4 p.m. Interfacing with Media: A Conversation with John Gaeta.  Moderated by Bill Desowitz (indieWire); http://paiff.slated.com/2011/films/breakingthefourthwallaconversationwithjohngaeta_paiff2011_paiff2011

4-5 p.m. Ditching the Divide – Merging Technology to Manufacture Cinema with Matthew Meschery (Director of Digital Initiatives, Independent Television Service (ITVS)) 
Katie Gillum (Associate Director, Disposable Film Festival) 
Hannah Eaves (Vice President/Digital & Engagement, LinkTV) 
Michella Rivera-Gravage (Director of Digital and Interactive Media, Center for Asian American Media (CAAM)) 
Tanya Marie Vlach (Eye-Camera/Eye, Tanya).  Moderated by Santhosh Daniel (The Global Film Initiative); http://paiff.slated.com/2011/films/ditchingthedivide_paiff2011_paiff2011

The complete festival lineup is available at: http://paiff.slated.com/2011/schedule/week

Oscar Watch: Rango Honored by Hollywood Film Festival

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Animation, Festivals, Movies, Oscar, Tech, VFX | Leave a comment

I’ve just posted my analysis of Rango being honored today with the Hollywood Animation Award at indieWIRE’s TOH blog, and the implications on the animated Oscar race. Despite Rango being the front-runner so far, it’s the widest open race in years.

Descending From Telluride

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

Critics and journos are spilling over with praise for Alexander Payne’s The Descendants (Nov. 23) at Telluride this weekend, which gives it lots of Oscar buzz.  And I’m sure it isn’t merely the bucolic beauty of the surroundings or the fact that George Clooney was there with Payne (a critical darling since his last film, Sideways), flashing his movie star charisma like a polished Presidential contender at Iowa or New Hampshire. The Descendants has been earmarked for Oscar ever since it was announced. Based on the novel by Kaui Hart Hemmings, Clooney plays an indifferent real estate lawyer Matt King forced to reconnect with his two daughters and confront his demons after a boating accident puts his wife in a coma. And the Hawaiian setting serves as a volatile metaphor for all the pent up emotions (shot by Phedon Papamichael, who also worked on Sideways).

And the early returns suggest a funny, quirky, and reflective film about repression, change, responsibility. Just the kind of indie prestige film critics flock to and the Academy craves, especially in this 10th anniversary of 9/11. Yes, I believe that’s going to be the cultural undercurrent this season.

“Payne’s heartfelt comedy about a father and his two daughters facing the death of his comatose wife manages to sidestep the pitfalls of the weepie,” writes Anne Thompson. “Articulately narrated by Clooney’s Matt King, a sad sack real estate lawyer in Hawaiian shirts and kakis who considers himself ‘the back-up parent, the understudy,’ the movie is full of characters who are hiding deep emotion…”

“But The Descendants is about more than one’s own personal journey of self-discovery; it is about selflessness, and how most of us are really here not to polish our own knobs 24/7 but to look out for others, especially those we’re responsible for, those we’re leaving behind,” effuses Sasha Stone.

Can’t wait to see it myself and chime in with my personal observations and interview coverage.

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