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.

Home Entertainment

Trailering More Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

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

Stand aside Muppets, here’s more of the real deal. The new Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Dec. 21) looks grungier and more ominous as we get deeper into it. I especially like the golden hued interiors in contrast to the snowy white exteriors. And Rooney Mara is beguiling; Daniel Craig burns with intensity; Christopher Plummer is refreshingly vulnerable; and Stellan Skarsgård looks quietly sinister. David Fincher is definitely in his element.

Meanwhile, TOH reports that Music Box will release the Swedish The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Trilogy: Extended Edition Blu-ray on Nov. 22. The box set will offer more than two hours of additional footage not seen in the theatrical versions of the original Swedish films (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest).

Spielberg to Release Original Raiders, E.T. on Blu-ray

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Animation, Below the Line, Blu-ray, Events, Home Entertainment, Movies, Tech, VFX | Leave a comment

Steven Spielberg has always had one foot in analog and one in digital, and reaffirmed it Tuesday night after an L.A. Live digital screening of Raiders of the Lost Ark hosted by the Hero Complex’s Geoff Boucher. Spielberg proudly proclaimed that the audience was seeing the original theatrical version. He was then joined onstage for the 30th anniversary screening by Harrison Ford, who proclaimed that shooting the swordsman was his idea.

“This is the best I think it’s ever looked,” Spielberg said, “because, in preparation for the eventual release on Blu-ray, we had to correct the print again and get the original negative out of the salt mines, and then we had to do the separations, and basically the files, which are just amazing, with all the technology of today, without changing any of the movie materially, we haven’t removed anything, we haven’t added CGI, there’s no digital enhancements! It’s purely the movie some of you may remember from 1981.”

Meanwhile, Spielberg announced that the beloved Raiders trilogy and E.T. would be released on Blu-ray next year in their original theatrical versions, again, looking better than ever with only nominal digital cleanup. (He previously told Ain’t It Cool News that Jaws would go Blu in 2012). However, in sharp contrast to his good friend George Lucas, who enjoys improving his films as technology evolves, the celebrated director regrets digitally tampering with E.T. (Remember the guns being replaced by walkie-talkies and the CG enhanced extra-terrestrial?)

“…I was disappointed in myself. I got overly sensitive to E.T., and I thought if technology evolved… it was OK for a while, but I realized what I had done was I had robbed people who loved E.T. of their memories of E.T.

Raising Kane on Blu-ray

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Animation, Below the Line, Blu-ray, Cinematography, Home Entertainment, Movies, Tech | Leave a comment

Warner Home Video has finally done right by Orson Welles’ legendary Citizen Kane, released today on Blu-ray. Thanks to the studio’s digital wizards at Motion Picture Imaging (MPI), supervised by colorist Janet Wilson, and overseen by Ned Price, VP of mastering, Warner Bros. Technical Operations, the 70-year-old Kane has never looked better. The source for most of the picture was a 4K scan from a 1941 composite fine grain positive master that Price had uncovered a decade ago in Europe. This makes up for the inadvertent mistreatment on DVD, which was de-grained and printed too brightly.

Now Kane retains its chiaroscuro beauty and grain structure by the masterful Gregg Toland, and its innovative sights and sounds can be better appreciated in HD. Welles applied his training in theater and radio to the film experience in a fresh, exciting, and modern way with deep focus and triangular compositions with high ceilings (owing to John Ford) and overlapping dialogue.

But, first and foremost, Welles was a magician, and there are a lot of brilliant optical tricks and MPI has made sure we don’t see through the illusion. And while some have complained in recent years that the bloom may be off the Rosebud, the Blu-ray lets us see the textures in such finer detail that it’s like watching Kane in a whole new way.

3-D Fit For The Lion King: Retrofitting a Classic

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in 3-D, Animation, Blu-ray, Home Entertainment, Movies, Tech | Leave a comment

I discuss the new Lion King 3-D conversion (opening Sept. 16)  in my latest TOH indieWIRE column. Disney stereographer Robert Neuman figured out a nice hybrid aesthetic for hand-drawn 3-D, and overall the added depth makes it a worthwhile experience despite the dimness factor. Producer Don Hahn, meanwhile, recalls when nobody wanted to work on this B-movie.

Star Wars Tweaks for Blu-ray

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Animation, Blu-ray, Home Entertainment, Movies, Tech, VFX | 1 Comment

The internet is absolutely apoplectic about George Lucas tweaking Star Wars: The Complete Saga for Blu-ray (Sept. 16 from Fox Home Ent). Hardcore fans are even calling for boycotts. First, we supposedly learned that Darth Vader utters “Nooo!” while cringing at Emperor Palpatine electrocuting his son, Luke Skywalker, and then again when hurling his master to his doom.

Now, there’s further outrage over the complete CG Yoda in Phantom Menace; some new blinking Ewoks in Return of the Jedi; and a louder shriek from Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness) to scare the Tusken Raiders in the desert.

Well, get over it. There’s symmetry when you recall that the younger Anakin/Vader bellowed a similar “Nooo!” when learning that his wrath caused the death of the love of his life, Amidala. And the CG Yoda is merely introduced earlier (he was originally CG in only two wide angle shots before the complete transformation in Attack of the Clones). As for the CG toying with the Ewoks, that’s a minor improvement. And if the audio embellishment of Obi-Wan turns out to be true, that’s not so bad either. It’s an emotional outburst that comes as a nice surprise.

Lucas is always revising Star Wars — we all know that. I’ll concede that Greedo shooting first was revisionism at its worst, but that’s an old battle. The rest of these are within the realm of acceptable. I can’t wait to experience Star Wars going Blu. I’ve been waiting since 1995 (on the eve of the DVD launch), when I first heard about Blu-ray from none other than Lucas.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2bZ0OLfNlN4

Cœur fidèle on Blu-Ray

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Blu-ray, Home Entertainment, Movies | Leave a comment

London-based Eureka offers the indispensable Masters of Cinema series, which is good news for cinephiles worldwide, including those with region-free players in the US. One of the newest releases is Jean Epstein’s 1923 silent masterpiece, Cœur fidèle (True Heart). Epstein, a film critic/theorist for the the early modernist journal, L’Espirit Nouveau, decided to make a simple story of love and violence about a barmaid, Marie (Gina Marès), oppressed by a cruel foster family, who finds her soul mate in Jean (Léon Mathot).

Epstein, who admired Abel Gance’s La Rouge, wanted “to win the confidence of those, still so numerous, who believe that only the lowest melodrama can interest the public,” while also creating “a melodrama so stripped of all the conventions ordinarily attached to the genre, so simple, that it might approach the nobility and excellence of tragedy.” In fact, he wrote the script in a single night.

With Coeur fidèle, Epstein experimented with Gance’s use of rapid, rhythmic editing along with his innovative use of close-ups and superimposed images. Indeed, the first-half is suffused with poetic realism, drawing us to Marie’s face and hands along with the table and glasses that she cleans. By contrast, the abstract images of the sea and the port are either intercut or superimposed to convey the yearnings of the lovers. It’s all about conveying a mood, as opposed to the second-half, which relies more conventional techniques of situation and action, as others have observed. The most celebrated sequence takes place at the fairground (particularly on the carousel), in which the rhythm defines the tension between Marie and the unscrupulous suitor.

The Eureka Blu-ray is stunning and captures the film’s hypnotic beauty. A precursor to F.W. Murnau’s Sunrise (only available on Blu-ray from Eureka).

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.

Ridley Scott Wants More Blade Runner

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

Now that Ridley Scott has gotten a pleasant taste from revisiting Alien with the 3-D Prometheus (June 8, 2012), Deadline.com reports that he’s signed on for more Blade Runner with Alcon Ent. and producers Bud Yorkin and Cynthia Sikes. It’s uncertain if the project would be a prequel, sequel, or spinoff (like Prometheus), since no script has been written, but the news has stoked Anne Thompson and other journos. Why not? The landmark 1982 sci-fi/neo-noir not only ushered in cinematic cyberpunk, but also the fascination with the phantasmagorical Philip K. Dick (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?) that continues to this day.

Back in 1986, Scott told me he was fascinated with the notion of Harrison Ford’s weary Deckard as a secret replicant, but that he was never given the budget to convey it clearly or convincingly. As we know, he attempted to massage the clues in various iterations, culminating with the Blu-ray release in 2007 of the “Final Cut.” I suspect that this renewed opportunity to definitively close the book on Deckard’s identity is a major appeal, along with the chance to bring the imaginative and prescient universe up to date with state-of-the-art CG and 3-D. After all, the original took place in L.A. in 2019 and remains one of the best-looking films ever made.

Indeed, when I had the chance to revisit Blade Runner with Scott in honor of the Blu-ray release, he gave a hint about its timeless appeal that bears repeating: “I think it’s the cast that keeps everything really alive… and the unusual blow-by-blow and organic engagement of one character throughout each scene… Everything makes sense: If you want to read at the end of the film that there are parallels to where we are today, it’s all there… I think that when scientists get stymied, they look to the possibility of God for just sheer imagination.”

Kubrick Makes a Killing on Blu-ray

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Home Entertainment, Movies | Leave a comment

It’s been a great summer for Stanley Kubrick coming to Blu-ray: First the stunning Barry Lyndon (despite the outcry over its aspect ratio of 1.78:1 as opposed to 1.66:1) and the fascinating Lolita from Warner Home Ent., followed by the bravura Paths of Glory and this week’s seminal The Killing (with Killer’s Kiss as a bonus, from Criterion). The expected upgrade in HD allows us to more fully enjoy and appreciate Kubrick’s visual and narrative achievements, contrasting beauty with decadence with florid camera moves and dynamic compositions.

Indeed, his protagonists are frustrated creative types unable to control the world or communicate with others: Johnny Clay (Sterling Hayden), the know-it-all who’s planned the perfect racetrack heist in The Killing, in which time and space seamlessly overlap, but is ultimately undone by fate and human foible in a noir for the ages; Col. Dax (Kirk Douglas), the idealistic officer and former lawyer in Paths of Glory, who can’t defeat the corrupt military high command he’s pitted against, but is left with a glimmer of hope for a better future; Humbert Humbert (James Mason), the novelist obsessed with possessing Lolita (Sue Lyon) as an object but incapable of love; and Redmond Barry (Ryan O’Neal), the idealistic and ultimately disillusioned ne’er-do-well trapped in 18th century opulence yet ruled by a ruthlessness that destroys everything he loves.

Ultimately, we’re left with a sense of mourning about lost opportunities, but what journeys along the way.