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.

Movies

Descending on Forster

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Movies, Oscar, Trailers | Leave a comment

It was surreal: I had just seen The Descendants last Tuesday and then ran into Robert Forster at the Sutton Place Hotel in Vancouver on Wednesday. He smiled and sat down when I explained the coincidence and we chatted for an hour. He told me that he thoroughly enjoyed his turn as the grieving father in the Alexander Payne-directed odyssey shot in Hawaii and starring George Clooney.

Originally Forster only had a single scene, but that expanded into two. Payne graciously asked Forster if he’d like to do his set up first and gave him as many takes as he needed, which weren’t many. Not surprisingly, Forster explained that acting for him is finding the emotional moment and making his stand. Speaking of Clooney, Forster said he was the very gracious in his own right, making sure everyone was comfortable. And Forster suggested that Oahu was paradise.

Forster asked what I thought of the comedy-drama and I told him it’s a haunting film and one of my favorites of the year. I noted that it’s Clooney’s greatest dramatic stretch and that I appreciated the fact that each character isn’t what he or she initially seems. For instance, Forster’s character is understandably gruff but reveals a tender side that’s quite affecting.

Forster recalled working on The Stalking Moon with Gregory Peck early in his career and how the sound mixer had to call him out for speaking too softly.The actor appreciates the advancement in technology along with more believable and naturalistic dialogue to work with today. Of course, Forster credits Quentin Tarantino with rejuvenating his career with the Oscar-nominated turn in Jackie Brown (which has just come out on Blu-ray). He agreed that Tarantino, like Payne, knows how to get the best out of his actors and give us memorable movies to hold on to. Forster then excused himself to get some sleep before another day’s work on the J.J. Abrams-produced Fox series, Alcatraz.

Tintin Getting Early Positive Reviews

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in 3-D, Animation, Clips, Movies, Oscar, performance capture, Tech, VFX, Virtual Production | Leave a comment

Steven Spielberg’s The Adventures of Tintin opens Oct. 26 overseas, but is already getting positive early buzz in Europe.

TOH’s London correspondent, Matt Mueller, writes, “Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson’s inaugural instalment in their planned Tintin trilogy delivers the frolicking, boy’s-own-adventure goods in delightful, delirious spades. From frequently breathtaking animated imagery to superb vocal outings by its British cast and a tight screenplay (by Steven Moffat, Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish) that retains the globetrotting charm of Belgian originator Herge’s comic-book series, the movie keeps a could-be-confusing plot humming along nicely while adding in dollops of wry, affectionate humour. Tintin is a fine example of what can be achieved when some of cinema’s brightest minds come together to honour great source material…”

THR’s Jordan Mintzer adds, “…a dazzling flashback scene where past and present are intermingled with plenty of wit and digital splendor (most notably in an image of The Unicorn emerging from the sea and crashing, dreamlike, onto a row of sand dunes), showcase Spielberg’s talent for creating action that is less about bullets and bombs than in keeping things visually alive, introducing dozens of ideas in only a few shots. This is what makes Tintin an altogether more successful mocap experience than earlier efforts like The Polar Express, and the director (who operated the camera and is credited as “lighting consultant”) approaches the medium in a realistic way that’s also far from the epic worlds of Avatar, setting things in a past of lifelike artifacts and locations…”

Premiere’s François Grelet gushes, “Rushing in gap open by James Cameron, Robert Zemeckis the brothers Wachowski, indeed David Fincher, Spielberg seizes itself of his potential movie camera to rethink bottom in height the bases of the storytelling to the old one. The most beautiful moments of his Tintin are situated by there, in this manner to dare impossible transitions to print to the narrative a noisy dynamism, to reinvent the rhythmic binary one alternated mounting for him to infuse more nuances (attention the eyes on the sequence of flash back), to think every scene under the only angle of the piece bravery and to put to poorly the received idea according to which a film has itself Of housewife his spectator with moments of flottement, more commonly called ‘breathings…’”

Empire’s Ian Nathan concludes, “The pace throughout is rat-a-tat-tat quick, the plot tripping along, and the exposition breathless. You have a job keeping up, but never at the expense of the sheer goodwill. While luxuriating in its pre-existing universe, here is a film imploring you to join in. It would take a hard heart to resist.”

This merely confirms the positive takeaway I got from my Weta visit last summer and from what I’ve glimpsed so far since then. It’s looking more and more like Tintin will be a definite Oscar contender for best animated feature.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=heU3cmo01fs

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h6FDgKv-eBg&feature=related

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Trailering More Muppets

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Movies, Tech, Trailers, VFX | Leave a comment

After parodying The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Disney has released a new, wacky, legit trailer for The Muppets (Nov. 23). The gang definitely goes Hollywood as they re-team to save their studio from the greedy grip of Jason Segel. Jim Henson would be proud.

Five New Tintin Clips Released

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in 3-D, Animation, Books, Clips, Movies, Oscar, performance capture, Tech, VFX, Virtual Production | Leave a comment

There are five new clips available from The Adventures of Tintin (Dec. 21). It’s very clear that Spielberg has applied a break-neck Raiders action ethos in taking Herge into the hyper real world of CG. Indeed, it also appears that Weta has taken animated performance capture to the next level with this new hybrid of photoreal and hand-drawn stylization. I’ll have to wait to see the completed film in 3-D, but it’s looking like Rango will have some serious Oscar competition.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=heU3cmo01fs

http://www.youtube.com/watch?NR=1&v=zFt8OpMTEnk

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h6FDgKv-eBg&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qBf79XkC208&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iJrWklzb5b8&feature=related

First Look: Director Sarah Smith Talks Arthur Christmas

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

In this week’s Immersed in Movies column at indieWIRE’s TOH, I get an Arthur Christmas sneak peek from first-time director Sarah Smith. From what I’ve seen, Aardman and Sony bring out the best in one another as the Bristol creators of Wallace & Gromit finally nail CG and freshen up the Santa myth. Opens Nov. 23.

Go Deeper into Hugo with Featurette

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

Martin Scorsese provides a brief but stirring glimpse into Hugo (Nov. 23) in this featurette, which is much more illuminating than the trailer. He sets up the story of the eponymous orphan (Asa Butterfield) living in the Paris train station, trying to fix the mechanical man left behind by his late father, and embarking on an adventure. There are beautiful glimpses of the inner world of the station (everything is imbued in blue) and the connections with magic and the cinema, and how it all emotionally resonates with the powerful presence of Georges Méliès (Ben Kingsley), the father of special effects. Even though it’s flat, we get a wondrous sense of the depth and the great visuall possibilities of 3-D, with vertiginous Hitchcockian shots and mysterious echoes of House of Wax.

Trailering The Avengers

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

The Avengers (May 4, 2012) appears to be in good hands with Joss Whedon, judging from the new trailer, which exhibits lots of Loki mayhem (ILM and Weta Digital have VFX duty on this epic) and superhero jostling. As anticipated, Robert Downey Jr. gets most of the screen time as Iron Man, and his ego doesn’t sit well with the other team members: Chris Evans as Captain America, Mark Ruffalo as the revolving Hulk, Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow, and Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye.

Trumbull to Receive VES Georges Méliès Award

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

Douglas Trumbull will receive the 2012 Georges Méliès Award from the VES, which will be presented at the 10th Annual VES Awards, held at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, Feb. 7, 2012. Trumbull, who’s advanced VFX with his pioneering work on 2001: A Space Odyssey, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and Blade Runner, has also directed Silent Running and Brainstorm. He also revolutionized large-format filmmaking with Showscan in the mid-’80s, which offered unparalleled viewing at 120fps.

Trumbull most recently served as a creative consultant on The Tree of Life birth of the universe sequence. With the privately-owned film studio, Trumbull Ventures, he is specializing in the development of advanced integrated systems for high-resolution digital production utilizing virtual sets and locations, high frame rates, 3-D, and advanced previsualization. Trumbull is presently developing multiple feature film projects that he intends to write, produce, and direct, using his virtual set technology

“Doug Trumbull is a leading light in the field of visual effects and technology,” said VES chair Jeffrey A. Okun.  “He is an innovator in all things entertainment and equally important is his genius for re-imagining the impossible into a compelling visual that not only has never been seen before but also goes to the heart of the storytelling. We are seriously honored to know and work with him.”

“It is truly an honor to receive the Georges Méliès Award from the Visual Effects Society,” said Trumbull. “My philosophy is that everything in a movie is an illusion of some kind, and I am very excited that the industry today is now embracing 3D, higher frame rates, and other opportunities that can expand the movie-going experience, and deliver to audiences the kind of immersive and other-worldly images that we in the VES can provide. The role of the VES at this time could not be more important, and I am very grateful to receive this astonishing recognition.”

Trumbull has been the recipient of the American Society of Cinematographer’s Lifetime Achievement Award, and has recently been selected by his peers as a VES Fellow of the Visual Effects Society (only the third to receive this distinction).

Previous recipients of the George Méliès Award were Robert Abel, John Lasseter, Phil Tippett and Ed Catmull.

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.