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.


McGurk Delivers LAFF Keynote About Digital Distribution

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

Last year I spoke with Cinedigm Entertainment Group chairman and CEO Chris McGurk about his vision for digital distribution. Multi-media programming and an infusion of new indie blood would not only spur theatrical box office with a TV-like programming model but also feed the other home and mobile platforms and inspire greater content. Well, McGurk expounded on his vision Saturday morning as the keynote speaker at the Los Angeles Film Festival.  Read more

Frankenweenie Gets an Art Exhibit

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

Disney is launching a touring exhibition featuring the art of Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie, the black and white, 3-D, stop-motion, animated feature film coming Oct. 5. The Art of Frankenweenie exhibition will premiere in Barcelona, Spain, at CineEurope, June 18-21, and at Comic-Con 2012 in San Diego, July 11-15, followed by a visit to the Disneyland area in Anaheim, Sept. 14 – Nov. 5. Read more

Delivering More Paperman

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

I cover more about Disney’s new hybrid breakthrough short, Paperman, which took Annecy by storm in my TOH/Indiewire column. Read more

Disney Delivers Game-Changing Paperman Short

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

Disney’s top secret black and white Paperman animated short premieres Monday at Annecy. I haven’t seen the minimalist Manhattan chance encounter yet that blossoms from afar between a dreamer and a beauty through the power of drawings, (it bows locally later this month at the Los Angeles Film Festival), but I spoke last week with director John Kahrs and producer Kristina Reed. Read more

Clipping Madagascar 3

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

There are four new clips from Madagascar 3:Europe’s Most Wanted (June 8), which came to the Cannes Film Festival this week: “Snorkeling,” “I’m the Leader,” “Human Cannonball,” and “Afro Circus.” Read more

FMX: Wreck-It Ralph and Disney’s New Virtual Camera

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

Walt Disney Animation Studios has launched a new virtual camera system with the upcoming Wreck-It Ralph (Nov. 2), which is a potential game-changer. Evan Goldberg, manager of animation technology, gave an informative sneak peek at FMX 2012 in Stuttgart, Germany, last week. He revealed with some making of footage that they created the virtual camera system to replicate the feel of a real camera in layout. It was particularly suited to Wreck-It Ralph, the story of an ’80s video game baddie turned hero, with its “hand-crafted” and “organic” feel.

While Disney embraced the Vicon camera for optical tracking, it had to think long and hard about switching from Maya to MotionBuilder. In the end, the studio stuck with Maya when it figured out how to run at 24 fps with Open GL.

Likewise, introducing capture technology into the Feature Animation pipeline proved challenging, but well worth it, considering the dynamic advantages you get with the new system: a digital scouting device, closer involvement for the director (Rich Moore), hundreds of takes in an hour, the ability to scale a virtual world up and down, as well as translate and rotate, and an unparalleled camera polish. Plus the ability to introduce different looks for the movie’s three worlds, including a hand-held one for the futuristic first-person shooter game, Hero’s Duty (the second image). The other two are Fix-It Felix Jr. (the first image) and the candy-colored Sugar Rush racing game (the third image).

Goldberg proclaimed that the future would offer a simple operator view, gestural, lyrical motion for simulation and VFX, such as velocity-driven particles.

Wreck-It Ralph takes animation and virtual production to new heights at Disney.

FMX: Virtual Production and Higher Frame Rates

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

I’ve returned from a glorious week at FMX 2012 in Stuttgart, Germany. Still a little jet lagged but I will be posting about some of the panels throughout the week. However, I managed to post about the higher frame rate panel I moderated with Doug Trumbull, Ray Feeney, and Johannes Steurer of ARRI for my TOH/Indiewire column, along with a few highlights related to virtual production, which was definitely the most popular track, organized by FMX primary partner, Autodesk. In fact, you can view my session at The Area.

As you might imagine, our discussion of The Hobbit was enlightening. Trumbull offered some solutions to combating the video look, Feeney said we shouldn’t rush to judgment, and Steurer suggested that there’s a balance between pushing photographic boundaries that are appealing for filmmaker and viewer alike.

Understanding Things I Don’t Understand

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

I finally caught up with one of the best indies on the festival circuit: David Spaltro’s Things I Don’t Understand, which has been racking up awards and most recently took best feature at the Indie Spirit Film Festival in Colorado. Spaltro’s follow-up to his acclaimed …Around New York love letter, re-teams with Molly Ryman, who shines as the volatile and vulnerable Violet Kebelick, a brilliant but withdrawn grad student drawn to near-death experiences after a failed suicide attempt. Violet is snarky and self-destructive, but there’s something endearing about this little girl lost.

Violet lives in a Brooklyn loft with two struggling roommates: performance artist Gabby (Meissa Hampton) and musician Remy (Hugo Dillon). Meanwhile, Violet strikes up a friendship with troubled downstairs bartender Parker (Aaron Mathias) and finds spiritual renewal befriending a terminally ill teenager, Sara (Grace Folsom).

Things I Don’t Understand is full grace notes and raw emotional power, superbly acted and sensitively written and directed by Spaltro (who also does a fine job editing). In addition, Gus Sacks’ exquisite cinematography captures the spirit of the passive/aggressive ensemble. Interestingly, Lisa Eichhorn (mesmerizing as the melancholy, boozy Mo from the great Cutter’s Way) appears briefly as Violet’s therapist, providing a calming influence.

I hope Spaltro’s latest film ultimately lands distribution and an appreciative audience. It’s well worth the journey.

Restored Cabaret Launches TCM Fest

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

The third annual TCM Classic Film Festival began Thursday at the Chinese with
Warner Bros.’ restoration of Cabaret. The DCP presentation in honor of the 40th anniversary was warm and nicely saturated. And Warner MPI digitally repaired a vertical scratch that ran 10 minutes. I anticipate that the eventual Blu-ray will dazzle. As for Bob Fosse’s famous adaptation of the Broadway musical, it holds up very well: Liza Minnelli was never better as the spirited yet vulnerable Sally Bowles; and Joel Grey still mesmerizes as the malevolent MC. Fosse saw it as a drama about the decadent fall of the Weimar Republic and evil rise of the Third Reich with music as a supporting metaphor. The emphasis on the drama is both its strength and weakness. The story isn’t nearly substantial enough but the execution is often powerful and daring (never more so than during the “Tomorrow Belongs to Me” beer garden number).

During a discussion with Robert Osborne, Minnelli revealed that her father, Vincente, turned her on to such dark-haired beauties as Louise Brooks for inspiration and that Fosse pushed them hard to ooze sexuality during the musical numbers. In fact, Grey admitted that Fosse didn’t want him because he wanted to mold the performance from scratch but that the producers insisted on retaining him from the Broadway production. Michael York, meanwhile, admitted that he aggressively pursued the part when his agent informed him that they were looking for a “Michael York type.”

Restored Two for the Road at TCM Fest

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

One of the restoration highlights of this weekend’s TCM Classic Film Festival was Two for the Road, which I discuss in my latest TOH column at Indiewire. I caught the screening Friday night and it looked stunning in its 4K DCP presentation: the flesh tones were warm, the South of France finally dazzled, and Audrey Hepburn’s Mod outfits popped like neon. Director Stanley Donen was on hand to celebrate his 88th birthday. He told Ben Mankiewicz that he’s very proud of its uniqueness, that every studio passed on it but Fox (thank goodness for Dick Zanuck), and that Paul Newman was his original choice as Hepburn’s co-star but they couldn’t work out the scheduling.