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.

Trailers

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.

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.

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.

Arthur Christmas Trailer #2 Arrives

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

A new trailer for Arthur Christmas (Nov. 23) has gone live and it further demonstrates that Aardman and Sony are a great match and play to each others’ strengths. Aardman’s trademark British wit and offbeat designs are beautifully complemented by Sony’s lively character animation and sumptuous environments. It’s breakneck action and snappy timing as the family of Santas tries to salvage Christmas for a deserving child and the hapless Arthur comes of age.

New Action-Packed Tintin Trailer Unleashed

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

A new Adventures of Tintin (Dec. 21) trailer has arrived, and it definitely amps up the action, which isn’t surprising after the slam-bang footage I viewed at Weta in July.

As I commented for indieWIRE, “[Tintin] looks like the best example yet of the fledgling and controversial [performance capture] technique, thanks to noticeable improvements in facial modeling, skin texturing, and more believable eyes. The result is a unique hybrid of caricature and photorealism. And despite the fact that most Americans are unfamiliar with Herge’s Belgian comic books, Spielberg has potentially pulled off a rousing adventure in the spirit of Raiders of the Lost Ark.”

And that’s what Spielberg and producer Peter Jackson are now trying to emphasize.

As for the performance capture, the rendering continues to improve and I see no Uncanny Valley ill-effects. The animation Oscar race just got potentially more interesting: “Tintin clearly pushes boundaries with a new kind of artistic layering of animated expression.” But I’ll know more, of course, after viewing the finished film in 3-D.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qLkgH8ORfk0

Spielberg’s War Horse Poster Unveiled

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

EW got the first look yesterday at the poster for Steven Spielberg’s War Horse (Dec. 28). Anthony Breznican notes how similar it is to the cover of the young adult book by Michael Morpurgo. The World War I drama concerns British farm boy Albert (Jeremy Irvine) being separated by his horse, Joey, when it’s sold to help on the front lines. Albert is called to the front line himself and goes on an odyssey to reunite with his pal.

Production Designer Rick Carter revealed to me via email that War Horse represents the latest film he’s worked on post 9/11 about “the nature of conscience and the Goya-esque disasters of war.” War of the Worlds, Munich, Avatar, and the upcoming Lincoln are the others. Since Spielberg directs four of the five, it’s apparent that he’s on a similar nature of conscience journey.

The new War Horse trailer will be unveiled next week with the release of Real Steel.