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.


ParaNorman Set Visit

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

A few months ago, I returned to Laika to cover a ParaNorman (Aug. 17) set visit. The first of my articles appears in my latest TOH/Indiewire column. Directors Chris Butler and Sam Fell call it “John Carpenter meets John Hughes,” so it has a lot of teen angst mixed with horror fun. But it’s rooted in skewed naturalism compared to Henry Selick’s Coraline. Read more

Aardman’s Peter Lord Talks Pirates

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

Aardman’s Peter Lord talks about going digital and CG water and shipbuilding and all sorts of swashbuckling fun related to The Pirates! Band of Misfits in my latest TOH column at Indiewire. The detail is marvelous and the wit up to Aardman’s usual high standards.

“Obviously, it’s a very different look than Wallace & Gromit,” Lord contends. “With pirates they need gold braid, belts, buckles, sashes, scabbards, lace. And you couldn’t do that in clay or anything like it. So I didn’t try to pretend that it was clay. I went for a different aesthetic entirely.”

Laika Grabs Goblins

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

Stop-motion studio Laika (Coraline) is venturing into the horror zone once again by snatching Goblins, the Scholastic novel from award-winning author Philip Reeve (Mortal Engines), which was published in UK this month and will be available in the fall domestically next year. Mark Gustafson (animation director on Fantastic Mr. Fox) will helm for the Portland-based Laika, which has ParaNorman opening Aug. 17 in 3-D from Focus Features.

Goblins tells the story of ill-mannered and bloodthirsty goblins who live in the gigantic ruins of Clovenstone Castle, and spend their time mindlessly fighting, looting, and menacing neighboring villages. Only clever young Skarper understands that an ancient and powerful magic created by a vanquished sorcerer is rising again. Soon giants, cloudmaidens, swamp monsters, treewarriors, rampaging goblins and hapless humans will be swept into a fabulous magical conflict that will determine the fate of their world, and delight discerning audiences of all ages.

Goblins is a fantasy with bite,” said Travis Knight, Laika president/CEO.  “It practically shimmers with verve, caustic humor, and piercing wit. Philip Reeve has pulled off a helluva feat, masterfully crafting a sly send-up of classic fantasy archetypes and adventures while lovingly honoring their underlying forms.  Goblins is a thrilling, high energy swashbuckler teeming with wonderful surprises; at once hilarious and twisted, sincere, and endearing.”

Goblins is a fantastic book, full of action, humor, charm, and surprising characters,” added Gustafson. “Philip Reeves has done a wonderful job of turning a familiar genre on its ear and creating a beautifully intricate universe unlike anything I’ve seen before. I’m personally thrilled to have the opportunity to work with my amazingly talented colleagues at Laika to realize the world of Goblins.”

Immersed in Movies Hosts FMX Frame Rate Panel

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in 3-D, Animation, Events, Festivals, Movies, performance capture, Production Design, Shorts, stop-motion, Tech, VFX, Videogames, Virtual Production | Leave a comment

I will not only be attending my first FMX but I will also present a panel about higher frame rates with Doug Trumbull and RFX president Ray Feeney at FMX 2012. The 17th conference on Animation, Effects, Games, and Transmedia will take place May 8-11 in Stuttgart, Germany.

We will explore how higher frame rates will improve the quality of 3-D presentation and help forge a new cinematic language along with other innovations. While Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit is being shot at 48fps and James Cameron intends to shoot his upcoming Avatar sequels at 60 fps, Trumbull is already paving the way with his Showscan Digital process of 120 fps.

In addition, Trumbull provides an in-depth look into his prolific career (from 2001: A Space Odyssey to The Tree of Life). Also, Feeney presents a retrospective on the history of VFX. Feeney has created and implemented numerous new technologies, many of which have become industry standard techniques. Intimately familiar with Robert Abel and Associates (RA&A) from his time there, Feeney reveals how the innovative work of RA&A continues to influence various VFX developments and processes that are nowadays taken for granted — spanning from full ray-traced renders to fluid character animation.
Read more

Trailering New ParaNorman

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

A second ParaNorman trailer has been released, giving us a greater sense of lighthearted thrills in Laika’s stop-motion zombie riff that’s very John Hughes-like and New England pretty.

Misunderstood Norman (voiced by Kodi Smit-McPhee) speaks to dead people and takes on zombies, witches, and ghosts. Chris Butler and Sam Fell direct, and the voice cast also includes Casey Affleck, Tempestt Bledsoe, Jeff Garlin, John Goodman, Bernard Hill, Anna Kendrick, Leslie Mann, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Tucker Albrizzi, Alex Borstein, Jodelle Ferland, and Elaine Stritch.Animation supervisor Brad Schiff (The Fantastic Mr. Fox, Coraline, Corpse Bride) has certainly raised his game. Can’t wait to see how it comes together Aug. 17 from Focus Features.

Trailering Frankenweenie

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

Disney has wasted no time capitalizing on the Oscar-winning success of The Artist to tout Tim Burton’s black and white stop-motion throwback, Frankenweenie. The trailer has just been released on Yahoo and it perfectly captures the tenderness of Burton’s original short as well as his own personal story growing up in Burbank. The black and white works wonders expanding on the Frankenstein myth, in which Victor — who looks a lot like Burton — (voiced by Charlie Tahan) toils away in his attic lab, trying to bring his beloved bull terrier, Sparky, back to life. He couldn’t be happier at his success. But the trailer ends with foreboding about how the neighborhood will react to his home-sewn creation. Opens Oct. 5 in 3-D.

Postering Frankenweenie

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

The Frankenweenie poster has arrived for Tim Burton’s black and white stop-motion movie opening Oct. 5. According to producer Don, it’s designed by Miguel Covarrubias: “Early 20th century caricaturist and hero of Joe Grant.” And they said black and white is dead. Not after The Artist.

Exploring the Oscar Retro Vibe

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in 3-D, Animation, Below the Line, Books, Clips, Events, Movies, Oscar, Shorts, stop-motion, Tech, Trailers, VFX, Virtual Production | Leave a comment

On the eve of Sunday’s Oscar ceremony, I look at the interesting retro connections between many of the contenders in my TOH column at Indiewire. William Joyce (The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore) rejoices at the hand-made greatness of Hugo and The Artist, while Grant Orchard (A Morning Stroll) ties in the lost art of urban myths.

Hugo to Get Plenty of FMX Love

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

Hugo will get two presentations at FMX 2012, the 17th conference on Animation, Effects, Games, and Transmedia, May 8-11 in Stuttgart, Germany. VFX supervisor Rob Legato and Ben Grossmann (Pixomondo’s VFX supervisor) will discuss the game-changing 3-D along with the VFX challenges of pulling off Martin Scorsese’s Oscar-nominated ode to Méliès.

Then, Matthew Gratzner (New Deal Studios) joins Grossmann to dissect the impressive train sequence in a second presentation. While New Deal Studios created the train as a model both in the computer and on set before the crash was filmed, Pixomondo created further visual effects, which involved, amongst others, texturing the train and turning it into a digital model.

Meanwhile, VFX supervisors Juri Stannosek (Pixomondo) and Rainer Gombos (HBO), who create the work for the medieval fantasy series Game of Thrones, reveal which visual effects await the audience in the 2nd season of the critically acclaimed show based on George R.R. Martin’s best-selling A Song of Ice and Fire series of fantasy novels.

Christian Cordona (Look Effects) — one of the VFX supervisors who works on the American crime series Bones – imparts professional insights ranging from pre – through post-production.

Bioware’s Technical Artist Luis Alonso illuminates how the Mass Effect trilogy has evolved since Mass Effect came onto the market. The final installment, Mass Effect 3, is highly anticipated by fans and experts alike. The third-person role playing game The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings constitutes another gaming highlight at FMX. Lucjan Wiecek from the Polish video game publisher CD Projekt Red takes the audience on a journey into the breathtaking world of Geralt of Rivia, the Witcher.

The traditional, annual FMX presentation of “SIGGRAPH Papers,” this year curated by Michael Goesele from the Technical University Darmstadt, is supplemented by a new series on “Eurographics Papers.” This is a scientifically oriented track in cooperation with the European Assn. for Computer Graphics, curated by Prof. Carsten Dachsbacher, who teaches at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology. The following speakers have already confirmed their coming: Lars Krecklau (RWTH University Aachen), Diego Gutierrez (Universidad de Zaragoza), Kai Schröder (University of Bonn), Pascal Mueller (Esri Germany), Daniel Sykora (Czech Technical University in Prague), and Tim Reiner (University of Karlsruhe).

Academy Salutes the Shorts

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Animation, Events, Movies, Oscar, Shorts, stop-motion, Tech | Leave a comment

Last night the Oscar-nominated shorts for both animation and live action were celebrated at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater, hosted by Brad Bird, who has significantly crossed over with his blockbuster Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol (which hits Blu-ray April 17 from Paramount). In fact, there’s nothing like watching a movie at the Academy, and that merely magnifies the enjoyment of the shorts. This year’s crop looked particularly stunning, especially The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, La Luna, and Wild Life.

Bill Joyce set the tone in the lively Q&A by discussing how Katrina and his love of books coalesced into a magical ode to old-fashioned storytelling and tactile techniques. “In the aftermath of Katrina, the whole city of New Orleans was sort of gray,” Joyce explained. “It had lost its color and we found drifts of books washed around in the detritus of the storm.”

Joyce was joined by co-director and Moonbot Studios co-founder Brandon Oldenburg; La Luna’s Enrico Casarosa from Pixar; A Morning Stroll’s Grant Orchard; Dimanche/Sunday’s Patrick Doyon; and Wild Life’s Amanda Forbis and Wendy Tilby, who proclaimed that government financing in Canada gives you a better chance at realizing your filmmaking dreams.

However, Orchard’s bizarre zombie apocalypse at the end of A Morning Stroll caught Brad’s attention. He said the whole existential preoccupation with the chicken was pure animation and that the zombie was the perfect metaphor. Given Joyce and Oldenburg’s great success with turning Morris Lessmore into an Apple app — which Bird wanted to learn more about — he joked that Orchard should turn his zombie into an app as well.

Meanwhile, Academy governor Jon Bloom announced that all 10 shorts nominees were released yesterday on iTunes in 56 countries while playing in 138 theaters and VOD, which is unprecedented. “We have grossed through yesterday over a million dollars,” Bloom said, and then predicted that it would hit a historic $1.7 million.