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.

Oscar

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

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

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.

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.

Stainton to Head Paramount Animation

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

Paramount has tapped former Disney Feature Animation head David Stainton to run the new in-house animation division, signaling an end to the DreamWorks Animation partnership. Stainton capped his 17-year tenure at Disney by spearheading the difficult transition from hand-drawn to CG-animated movies, including Chicken Little, American Dog (retitled Bolt), and Rapunzel (retitled Tangled).

In his new role, which takes effect this week, Stainton will report to Adam Goodman, president of the Paramount Motion Picture Group.

As Deadline reports in breaking the story, Paramount Animation will attempt to emulate the successful model forged by Chris Meledandri at Fox/Blue Sky (Ice Age) and now with his Illumination Ent. company at Universal (Despicable Me). The initial plan will be to release one title a year, with budgets of up to $100 million. This is less than Paramount’s Rango, animated by Industrial Light & Magic, and currently the favorite in the Oscar animation race, grossing $240 million worldwide. The broadest range of family fare will be the mandate, according to the official announcement, with a key piece being titles under the Viacom’s Nickelodeon label.

However, it has not yet been reported who will animate the in-house division.

“The success of Rango this year helped us recognize our potential and ability to create wonderfully imaginative animated pictures with global appeal,” said Brad Grey, chairman & CEO of Paramount Pictures. “David is a proven leader with a broad portfolio of experience in animation and family entertainment. He will be a welcome addition to Adam’s highly talented team.”

“David’s accomplishments speak for themselves, and I am glad to welcome him to the lot as we start this exciting new chapter,” Goodman added. “With David’s leadership, we will look to build on what has been a very strong year for our studio in animation, with Rango and the upcoming Adventures of Tintin pointing to the kind of artist-driven, broad-appeal films we intend to make at Paramount Animation.”

“Today’s marketplace affords terrific flexibility as we set out to create fresh, new and different films and seek to attract great talent to Paramount,” Stainton said. “It is a great honor to be joining a company as storied and successful as Paramount and to be able to shape its future in animation. I look forward to helping usher in this new era.”

Meanwhile, The Aventures of Tintin, directed by Steven Spielberg and produced by Peter Jackson, will be Paramount’s next animated release on Dec. 21

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.”

Animated Tatsumi Enters Foreign Language Oscar Race

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Animation, Books, Events, Movies, Oscar, Tech, Trailers | Leave a comment

Variety reports that Singapore has entered the animated doc, Tatsumi, about legendary Japanese manga artist Yoshihiro Tatsumi, in the foreign language Oscar competition. Directed by Eric Khoo and based on the book, A Drifting Life, and five of the artist’s short stories, Tatsumi centers on his impact in bringing manga to an adult audience during post-war occupied Japan. It was animated at Infinate Frameworks Studios in Batam, Indonesia.

A New War Horse Trailer Gallops on Display

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Below the Line, Books, Movies, Music, Oscar, Production Design, Tech | Leave a comment

As with The Adventures of Tintin (Dec. 21), the new trailer for Steven Spielberg’s War Horse (Dec. 28) emphasizes more action. A galloping horse named Joey leaps across the exploding battlefield at night during World War I, underscored by John Williams’ majestic score. Flashback to Albert taming, training, and riding Joey in the warmth, beauty, and comfort of rural England. But all that is shattered when Joey is taken from Albert, and we follow the horse on its epic journey that reaches No Man’s Land.

As production designer Rick Carter asserts, this is part of his post 9/11 “nature of conscience” exploration amid the “Goya-esque disasters of war.” The same goes for Spielberg as well.

RIP Steve Jobs

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

Steve Jobs has passed away from cancer at the age of 56. The co-founder of Apple and chief executive of Pixar (he became a member of the board of directors of The Walt Disney Co.in 2006, following the acquisition of Pixar by Disney) was arguably the leading technological visionary of our time. He transformed the computer industry, revolutionized animation, and, most recently, reshaped delivery systems with the introduction of the iPod, iTunes, the iPhone, and the iPad.

In 1986, Jobs purchased the Graphics Group from Lucasfilm for $10 million and spun it off into Pixar, retaining Ed Catmull, who became CTO, and John Lasseter, who oversaw all film projects as exec producer. He eventually directed the breakthrough Toy Story in 1995, the first CG-animated feature.
I had the pleasure of meeting Jobs at a Pixar party in LA to celebrate its 15th anniversary. I had just written an overview of Pixar for the Los Angeles Times that was published earlier in the day. Jobs read it and thanked me for my kind words. He was casually dressed in jeans and a button down shirt, and struck me as very easy going and caring. He asked me if I’d every been up to Pixar, and I told him that I recently enjoyed covering Monsters, Inc. “You should come up during the start of a production,” he suggested. I took him up on the offer and got the first sneak peek of Finding Nemo for Premiere Magazine.
I also remember overhearing Jobs discussing the upcoming Oscar race with a couple of his Pixar colleagues. Shrek, which eventually won, was viewed as the front-runner, but Jobs remarked that Monsters, Inc. would wear longer because it had more going for it than topical satire. Always competitive and thinking about the future.