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

Peter Jackson Unveils Hobbit #3 Production Diary

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

Peter Jackson is unable to make Comic-Con this weekend to show off The Hobbit: The Unexpected Journey, writing on Facebook that the timing is too premature, but anticipates making an appearance next year. However, yesterday he launched the third video production diary for The Hobbit. You can view all three below. Meanwhile, here’s a new image of the dwarves. Speaking of which, I chatted with motion choreographer Terry Notary (The Hobbit, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and Avatar), and he confirmed that there will be plenty of CG performance-captured characters, including dwarves, elves, goblins, wargs, and orcs. In fact, he teased that the goblins will be quadrupeds with arm extensions and will move in a unique style. You can look forward to reading about insights into his fascinating craft. The Unexpected Journey opens Dec. 14, 2012.

Amazing Spider-Man Trailer Leaked

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

Sony’s The Amazing Spider-Man trailer has been leaked (originally sourced at movie-list.com) ahead of its Comic-Con premiere in Hall H this weekend. Director Marc Webb (500 Days of Summer) has definitely slinged a nerdier and creepier reboot with Social Network’s Andrew Garfield in a Zuckerberg-like reversal of iconoclastic empowerment. Co-starring Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Martin Sheen, Sally Field, and Dennis Leary. VFX looks more low-key as well, but Sony Imageworks will certainly make use of new HDRI advances with the Spheron digital camera for quicker and superior integration of CG environments. Coming July 3, 2012.

 

Sony Animation Goes Chickenhare

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

Sony Pictures Animation and Dark Horse Ent. will develop an animated feature based on Chris Grine’s graphic novel series, Chickenhare.

Chickenhares hero is half-chicken and half-hare. The eponymous graphic novels in which Chickenhare was introduced, originally published in 2006 and 2008 by Dark Horse, follow him and his shelled sidekick, Abe, on their adventures in an amazing fantasy world filled with monstrous creatures, demonic critters, and danger lurking around every corner. The two pick up a few more friends and a few more problems, all while exploring themes of identity, family, and friendship.

Mike Richardson and Keith Goldberg will exec produce for Dark Horse. Michael Lachance will oversee the project for Sony Pictures Animation (SPA) with president of production Michelle Raimo-Kouyate.

“Sony Pictures Animation is always looking for original characters, and Chickenhare is a true original,” said Raimo-Kouyate.  “This story has everything we want in an animated film — broad comedy, heartfelt emotion, universal themes, and a one-of-a-kind hero that audiences will love.”

“Chris Grine’s Chickenhare is one of the quirkiest characters we’ve ever published,” added Richardson. “We’re excited that the good people at Sony Pictures Animation responded so enthusiastically to what has to be one of our greatest comics-to-film projects yet. The more animated movies I see, the more I want to make them, and in Chickenhare we found a character so colorful and three-dimensional that he could only exist in an animated world.”

Grine, a graduate from Ringling School of Art & Design, is also the creator of 165 Bots withStuff, which were featured on the Shoebox blog.

Captain America Sets the Table for The Avengers

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

Marvel saved one of the best for last with Captain America in setting up The Avengers (May 4, 2012). And Joe Johnston returns to form, channeling The Rocketeer as well as October Sky, with his affectionate comic book rendering of World War II occultist megalomania and mayhem. Yes, it evokes Raiders of the Lost Ark, but without the tongue-in-cheek irony that made Steven Spielberg’s serial adventure so unique 30 years ago (as IndieWIRE’s Anne Thompson rightly points out). But when Joss Whedon rolls out The Avengers, the dynamics should work out just fine with earnest, patriotic Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) complementing the snarky Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.).

So, just when superhero fatigue was setting in, Captain America: First Avenger blows in like a breath of fresh air like a real movie and not just a Marvel franchise. Scrawny, orphaned, Rogers just wants a chance to join the fight against the bullies, and gets his chance with some superhero juice that does the trick better than spinach, going up against Teutonic master of delusion Red Skull (the ever reliable Hugo Weaving), who’s found his own supernatural Lost Ark with which to rule the world. The VFX (overseen by Chris Townsend) is seamless and unobtrusive; in fact, this doesn’t seem overly vfxy at all, despite more than a dozen vendors involved. However, the 3-D conversion leaves much to be desired and turns out to be more distracting than enhancing. Now we have to wait and see how this all plays out with The Avengers next summer, with the members of S.H.I.E.L.D. fitting into place and Thor’s Loki (Tom Hiddleston) going after the MacGuffin for world domination.

Trailering The Dark Knight Rises

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

How does Bruce Wayne regain his humanity before he’s completely swallowed up by his Batman legend? A more immersive Gotham (spearheaded by VFX supervisor Paul Franklin and assisted by IMAX, no doubt); the tug of war for Wayne’s soul between Liam Neeson’s Ra’s al Ghul and Gary Oldman’s Commissioner Gordon. The eerie image of Tom Hardy’s Bane, but no allusion just yet to Anne Hathaway’s Selina Kyle/Catwoman. What a contrast to Potter. But then Christopher Nolan plays in a whole other cinematic sandbox. Coming July 20, 2012.

Potter’s VFX at IndieWIRE

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

Just posted “Winding Down Potter’s VFX” at IndieWIRE’s TOH. The Soho VFX companies have come of age with the Wizard of Hogwarts and are certainly poised for life beyond Potter. In due time, I’ll be covering the accomplishments of Part 2.

 

Pooh at IndieWIRE

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

“Winnie the Pooh vs. Harry Potter” marks my debut today with Thompson on Hollywood (TOH) at IndieWIRE, where I will be writing regularly about animation, VFX and below-the-line.

 

 

 

 

 

It All Ends for Potter

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

Watching the end of Harry Potter in The Deathly Hallows: Part 2, I was struck by how it all coalesces wonderfully like a magical spell. I admit that I wasn’t totally hooked until The Prisoner of Azkaban, the third installment, when Harry’s rite of passage finally seemed arduous and riveting.

But the narrative unfolds and climaxes nicely with operatic action, and stirring revelation, justifying the strategy to divide Deathly Hallows into two parts. There are plenty of surprises and delights, of course, beginning with the horcrux raid of Gringrots and the thrilling ride atop the poor dragon that has been enslaved. Or the Hogwarts statues that come to life in grand Harryhausen fashion (Isn’t it about time, incidentally, that the London VFX community, which has come of age with Harry, gets some Oscar love?)

Then there are the unlikely heroes that emerge to prove their strength and loyalty to Harry and Hogwarts. And those solemn moments of recognition and reversal that are the fundamental stuff of drama and help Harry fulfill his destiny as the Chosen One, including a sublime moment with Snape and surreal encounter with Dumbledore.

Ultimately, it becomes clear why J.K. Rowling captured lighting in a bottle with Harry Potter: She conjured just the right mixture of Christ parable, Greek tragedy, Shakespeare, King Arthur, Grimm, Dickens, Wagner, Oz, The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, among others, along with a dash of Joseph Campbell for good measure.

But that wasn’t enough: Rowling and the filmmakers made Harry the Millennial sensation by tapping into the post 9/11 ethos of fear and terror. Director David Yates makes this most clear in the image of falling ashes during the destruction of Hogwarts.

Yet the most successful film franchise rests with the maturation of its three leads: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint. No other franchise has taken its stars on a journey from adolescence to adulthood in real time as closely as this one. It’s amazing to look back at The Sorcerer’s Stone and see how far the actors and characters have come in a decade. And now that it’s over, we’re going to want to revisit the previous films and connect the dots and read between the lines. In that sense, our journey with Potter has just begun.

Pooh: A Hand-Drawn Poster Child

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

I have a Winnie the Pooh article at AWN. I was very impressed with Pooh: It not only captures the wit and simplicity of the original Disney shorts from the ’60s, but also plusses them in visual richness (art director Paul Felix exquisitely captures the soft English light) and narrative daring (SpongeBob owes a dept to the looney gang of the Hundred-Acre Wood). We’ll see how well it does at the box office, once the Harry Potter onslaught vanishes, and if it finds broad appeal, but rest assured: 2D isn’t dead at Disney — it just smells funny, as Frank Zappa would say.

Trailering Hugo

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

The Hugo teaser trailer is now available (shortened from Hugo Cabret and opening Nov. 23). It’s immediately clear that it’s Martin Scorsese’s valentine to French cinema, particularly Georges Melies (Ben Kingsley), the father of special effects. He soaks up the period with steam trains and mechanical gizmos.”It’s Neverland and Oz and Treasure Island all wrapped into one.” The director/cinephile’s first foray into 3-D and children’s wonder is surely a holiday must-see.

An adaptation of Brian Selznick’s bestseller about an orphan boy (Asa Butterfield) living a secret life in the walls of a Paris train station in the 1930s and a mysterious encounter with Melies. Scorsese told The Guardian: “Every shot is rethinking cinema, rethinking narrative — how to tell a story with a picture. Now, I’m not saying we have to keep throwing javelins at the camera, I’m not saying we use it as a gimmick, but it’s liberating. It’s literally a Rubik’s Cube every time you go out to design a shot, and work out a camera move, or a crane move. But it has a beauty to it also. People look like… like moving statues. They move like sculpture, as if sculpture is moving in a way. Like dancers…”

Rob Legato serves as overall supervisor; Pixomondo LA is the lead vendor. He told me a while back that “the Melies recreations are stunning-looking. In some cases impossible for the trained eye to see what might have been restored from what was recreated. First choice, of course, is restoration but we have recreated some moments and the behind-the-scenes shooting of the same. We recreated the glass house studio and the painted backdrops and fantastic costumes. A treat for film lovers.”