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

Trailering More Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Below the Line, Blu-ray, Books, Home Entertainment, Movies, Tech, Trailers | Leave a comment

Stand aside Muppets, here’s more of the real deal. The new Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Dec. 21) looks grungier and more ominous as we get deeper into it. I especially like the golden hued interiors in contrast to the snowy white exteriors. And Rooney Mara is beguiling; Daniel Craig burns with intensity; Christopher Plummer is refreshingly vulnerable; and Stellan Skarsgård looks quietly sinister. David Fincher is definitely in his element.

Meanwhile, TOH reports that Music Box will release the Swedish The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Trilogy: Extended Edition Blu-ray on Nov. 22. The box set will offer more than two hours of additional footage not seen in the theatrical versions of the original Swedish films (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest).

Sneaking Puss in Boots in 3-D

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

One of the highlights at this week’s 3D Entertainment Summit at the Hollywood & Highland Center was a sneak peek of the first 18 minutes of DreamWorks’ Puss in Boots (Nov. 4) as part of tribute to Jeffrey Katzenberg’s pioneering efforts. Not surprisingly, the film really pops in 3-D, thanks to the continual improvements in the stereoscopic aesthetic (kudos to Phil McNally).

Puss (Antonio Banderas) walks into town in search of a heist. First, he’s ridiculed in the saloon, but after demonstrating his notorious feline skills, he attempts to steal the magic beans from the villainous couple, Jack (Billy Bob Thornton) and Jill (Amy Sedaris). Just then, a masked rival mucks things up and Puss seeks revenge, resulting in a wild kitty litter dance competition and sword fight. But the mysterious opponent turns out to be… Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek). The screw turns when another old rival, Humpty Dumpty (Zach Galifianakis), saunters in to offer a heist proposition.

Puss in Boots looks smart, witty, naughty, and visually fun. Director Chris Miller (Shrek the Third) is definitely reaching beyond Shrek and has benefited enormously from exec producer Guillermo Del Toro.

Moneyball: ‘The Island of Misfit Toys’

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Below the Line, Books, Cinematography, Movies, Tech, Trailers, VFX, Virtual Production | Comments Off

Moneyball (opening today) reminds us that baseball is as much about psychology as poetry. As with anything in life, you can’t fulfill your promise without confidence and nurturing. And, not surprisingly, director Bennett Miller follows Capote with another literate and mournful biopic of a creative iconoclast on a life-changing journey. Only in this case, Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt at his most fascinating and charismatic best) is spiritually adrift because baseball has broken his heart (he blew his chance as a player). But that doesn’t prevent the driven and resourceful Beane from reinventing himself,  rekindling his love once again (the script by Aaron Sorkin and Steven Zaillian crackles with metaphor and wit).

Moneyball ironically begins in 2001 with the A’s losing a devastating playoff series to the Yankees, and subsequently losing their stars to free-agency. With a small payroll, there’s just no way to compete with the Yankees, but, thanks to a young economics wiz (Jonah Hill), Beane embraces a revolutionary approach to scouting players through computer analysis, and slowly transforms his “island of misfit toys” into a competitive team, and going on a wild, record-breaking ride in the process.

Moneyball is fundamentally about the difficulty of adapting to change and learning to survive and thrive with less — an apt metaphor for our times. Wally Pfister ‘s cinematography has a gritty yet surreal quality at times, in keeping with the volatile tone. The transparent VFX wizardry involving stadium seating is by Rhythm & Hues (supervised by Edwin Rivera).

A Dangerous Method Dissected

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

There’s an interesting irony that the very week Citizen Kane bowed on Blu-ray, David Cronenberg’s A Dangerous Method (Nov. 23) took some early critical hits for being uncinematic. Just because it’s theatrical and talky and visually spare? Some Came Running’s Glenn Kenny hit back with some very persuasive aesthetic arguments about the power of Cronenberg’s visual style and how it serves as a compelling counterpoint to the rivalry between Michael Fassbender’s romantic Carl Jung and Viggo Mortensen’s rigorous Sigmund Freud.

It just so happens that I attended a screening a couple of weeks ago, and I was particularly struck by the strong visual style. As Kenny points out, for instance, the depiction of the initial treatment of Keira Knightley’s tortured Sabina Spielrein is brilliantly constructed. Jung insists on sitting behind Sabina as she attempts to describe what’s troubling her in an attempt to remain unobtrusive and detached. And as she recounts her sexual repression and compulsion for S&M, her face and body contort as though she were possessed by the devil. All the while, the two-shot and closeups reveal an attraction/repulsion that will develop between Jung and Sabina.

Meanwhile, screenwriter Christopher Hampton told F.X. Feeney during a Q&A how rigorous a director Cronenberg is and how much he’s learned from his narrative skill (which can’t be divorced from his visual style). I look forward to exploring this and more in greater detail as we get closer to the film’s release because it’s such a rich cinematic experience.

Trailering The Pig with the Froggy Tattoo

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Animation, Below the Line, Editing, Movies, Tech, Trailers | Leave a comment

What an inspired idea for The Muppets (Nov. 23) to riff on The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Dec. 21) in the latest teaser trailer, The Pig with the Froggy Tattoo. It’s fast, funny, zany, off-beat, and irreverent, as they puppeteer flashes of Jason Segel, Amy Adams, Neil Patrick Harris, Rashida Jones, and Mila Kunis in Fincher mode. VFX by Look and Legacy. How about a double-bill?

A Dreamy Drive

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Below the Line, Cinematography, Clips, Editing, Movies, Production Design, Tech, Trailers, VFX | Leave a comment

Drive (opening today) is like being in a dream. Director Nicolas Winding Refn seems to be channeling Michael Mann from the ’80s with Tangerine Dream. In fact, it doesn’t seem like the 21st century at all. Everything is faded, dingy, grimy, low-tech, thanks to Beth Mickle’s production design and Newton Thomas Sigel’s cinematography. It’s set in LA (downtown, Echo Park, the Valley), and the vibe is neo, neo noir.

Ryan Gosling plays the stuntman/part-time getaway guy (who gets in way over his head) as the iconic loner in his ’73 Chevy Malibu: Steve McQueen-like, only without the movie star charm and charisma. But he’s effective: a quiet, anonymous drifter forced out of the shadows when he befriends Carey Mulligan (a latter day Tuesday Weld) and her son. Albert Brooks and Ron Perlman play terrific baddies; and Bryan Cranston makes a crusty foil to Gosling as his unlucky pal.

However, the opening downtown getaway, which sets up Gosling and the milieu so brilliantly, (edited by Mat Newman), is never matched in terms of excitement and fascination. And the bone crunching, bloody violence is so over-the-top that it wakes you up from the spell. But then that’s probably the intention (VFX is by Ring of Fire and Wildfire). It’s a real treat.

Fall/Holiday Preview: Five Glorious VFX Films to Watch

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

I preview five VFXy films to keep an eye on this fall/holiday season in my TOH indieWIRE column: Hugo (Nov. 23), Real Steel (Oct. 7), Immortals (Nov. 11), Anonymous (Oct. 28), and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (Dec. 16). And not a contemporary setting among them.

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

Trailering We Bought a Zoo

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Below the Line, Books, Cinematography, Editing, Movies, Music, Trailers | Leave a comment

Cameron Crowe is back! We Bought a Zoo, the writer-director’s first feature since 2005′s Elizabethtown, really looks like Jerry Maguire meets Local Hero, as single dad Matt Damon attempts to reinvent himself and the dilapidated zoo he buys. With the help of his two kids and the wacky staff, they all discover a new life for themselves and the animals in this gentle tale of reawakening. Co-starring Scarlett Johansson, Thomas Haden Church, Patrick Fugit, Elle Fanning, and John Michael Higgins.The score is by Jónsi from Sigur Rós, but you know the eclectic rock tunes that Crowe selects will be appropriate to the misadventures. Production designer Clay Griffith (Jerry Maguire), cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto (Brokeback Mountain), and editors Joe Hutshing (Vanilla Sky, Almost Famous, Jerry Maguire) and Mark Livolsi (Almost Famous) are along for the journey.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8R0aUmVoqrs

Trailering Twilight Breaking Dawn — Part 1

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Animation, Below the Line, Books, Cinematography, Costume, Editing, Movies, Production Design, Tech, Trailers, VFX, Virtual Production | Leave a comment

The second trailer went online yesterday for The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 1. And it doesn’t disappoint in teasing the tense wedding, bed-breaking sex, and horrifying pregnancy that will unleash the powerful offspring, which poses a threat to both the vampire and werewolf clans. It’s the ultimate in post-modern kitsch, with sex, birth, and death, which is probably what attracted Bill Condon in the first place. Imagine Gods and Monsters meets Chicago.

Meanwhile, Tippett is back doing CG wolves, and there is other VFX from Method, Modus, Lola, Hydraulx, Wildfire, Spin, Image Engine, Mr. X. And there’s stylishly spooky below-the-line work from production designer Richard Sherman (Gods and Monsters), cinematographer Guillermo Navarro (Pan’s Labyrinth), costume designer by Michael Wilkinson (Watchmen), and editor Virginia Katz (Dreamgirls).

What’s to become of Edward and Bella? Opens Nov. 18.

Catching Contagion

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Animation, Below the Line, Cinematography, Editing, Movies, Production Design, Tech, Trailers, VFX | Leave a comment

Steven Soderberg’s Contagion gets under your skin immediately, which is exactly its purpose. Using the Red camera, the director achieves a gritty look to this cautionary tale about mass hysteria stemming from a mysterious pandemic that baffles the scientific community and sweeps the globe like the Black Plague. At the same time, flashbacks of Hong Kong and other locales have a naturalistic beauty, heightened in IMAX, that allow us to appreciate life and the world around us.

It’s a gripping procedural with scattered emotional beats from a fine ensemble cast (Gwyneth Paltrow, Matt Damon, Laurence Fishburne, Jude Law, Marion Cotillard, Kate Winslet, Jennifer Ehle, and Elliott Gould), and the perfect film to commemorate the 10th anniversary of 9/11. What have we learned besides blogging at its worst is “graffiti with punctuation”?

Soderbergh’s cinematography stands out along with Howard Cummings’ production design, Stephen Mirrione’s editing, and VFX by onset supervisor Tom Smith of Method Studios (the creepy CG bat is particularly effective).