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.

VFX

Frankenweenie Very Personal for Burton

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

Don Hahn told me today at the Lion King 3-D junket that Tim Burton’s stop-motion Frankenweenie (Oct. 5, 2012) is such a personal project that he’s helming for the first time without a co-director. “This is Tim’s story; it’s about him growing up in Burbank with his dog,” Hahn said. “So I don’t know how else to describe it except it’s very personal for him.”

The exec producer, who goes all the way back to the old Disney days with Burton (who turned  53 on Thursday), added that shooting in black-and-white and 3-D helps elaborates on the great monster movies of the ’50s that Burton loves. In fact, the director always intended to make Frankenweenie as a stop-motion feature, though it wound up as a celebrated live-action short in ’84. This will allow him, for instance, to further explore the Frankenstein myth. The movie is being made in London and has about four more months of production.

With stop-motion enjoying a mini renaissance (next year will not only see the release of Frankenweenie but also Laika’s ParaNorman and Aardman/Sony’s The Pirates!, with Henry Selick’s ShadeMaker in the wings for Disney/Pixar), Hahn said it’s “incredibly fashionable.” But the digital world allows them to “shoot the movie on camera bodies with interchangeable lenses; we have video taps to be able to watch the progress while we’re working; and then 3-D is probably the other big breakthrough because part of the fun of stop-motion is being on this little child-size set, and, with 3-D, you feel like you’re there. And Tim’s really excited about that… So it’s a technique as old as time and that hasn’t changed. It’s still move a puppet, take a frame, but a lot of the tools around it have changed to allow us to do it a little faster and a little better.”

After unexpectedly losing his beloved dog Sparky, young Victor harnesses the power of science to bring his best friend back to life — with just a few minor adjustments. He tries to hide his home-sewn creation, but when Sparky gets out, Victor’s fellow students, teachers, and the entire town all learn that getting a new “leash on life” can be monstrous.

Frankenweenie will be a reunion of sorts with Winona Ryder, Catherine O’Hara, Martin Short, and Martin Landau supplying voices.

Anonymous Gets VFXY at Toronto

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Below the Line, Events, Movies, Oscar, Tech, Trailers, VFX, Virtual Production | Leave a comment

Anonymous (Oct. 28), Roland Emmerich’s provocative political thriller about the identity of William Shakespeare — Amadeus meets Shakespeare in Love — is one of the techie treats premiering at The Toronto International Film Fest. The movie posits that Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford (Rhys Ifans), is not only the incestuous lover of Queen Elizabeth I (Vanessa Redgrave), but also the real author of the Bard’s works. As the Essex Rebellion conspires against her succession, political intrigue abounds between the Tudors and the Cecils.

Shot at the Studio Babelsberg in Potsdam-Babelsberg, Germany, (the first major movie to use Arriflex’s new Alexa digital camera), the VFX challenge was to virtually recreate Elizabethan London. This task fell to Uncharted Territory, headed by Volker Engel and Marc Weigert, who’ve taken on more of a production partnership with Emmerich since 2012. They serve as exec producers on Anonymous.

Thus, after lots of testing, Weigert tells me that we can expect some stunning advancements in digital cinematography and High Dynamic Range Imaging (HDRI) for photoreal environments that match seamlessly with the 70 sets that were built.

9/11 Anniversary Vibe to Pre-TIFF Oscar Predictions

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

The Gurus o’ Gold made their initial predictions for best picture Oscar nominations heading into the Toronto International Film Festival, and, guess what? There’s a definite post 9/11 10th anniversary vibe with a lot of upheaval and soul-searching.

1. The War Horse

2. The Ides of March

3. The Artist

4. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

5. The Descendants

6. Midnight in Paris

7. J. Edgar

8. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

9. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

10. The Tree of Life

Well, obviously, the specter of 9/11 looms large in Stephen Daldry’s Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (Christmas Day), in which a precocious 9-year-old (newcomer Thomas Horn) searches the five New York boroughs for the lock to the mysterious key left by his father (Tom Hanks), who perished in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.

Talk about reconnecting, land baron George Clooney reaches out to his two daughters in The Descendants (Nov. 23) from the always quirky Alexander Payne. Then director/actor Clooney turns the dirty and corrupt political culture on its head in search of reform and redemption in The Ides of March (Oct. 7).

Which leaves David Fincher to make sense of the the whole malaise in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (Dec. 21), in which Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara search for a woman missing for 40 years linked to a serial killer that was never caught.

And what would Oscar season be without allegorical period pieces to bridge the past and present: Steven Spielberg separates a boy (Tom Hiddleston) and his horse in War Horse (Dec. 28) like lovers during the tumult of World War I. In The Artist (Nov. 23), a French black-and-white silent, the talkie revolution in Hollywood of ’27-’31 hits the industry like an earthquake. Meanwhile, Leonardo DiCaprio gets caught in another identity mind twister of sorts in Clint Eastwood’s biopic, J. Edgar (Nov. 9); and the Cold War espionage games implode in the remake of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (Nov. 18).

By contrast, Woody Allen does the time warp for spiritual guidance in Midnight in Paris, and Terrence Malick book ends his surreal ’50s family saga with contemporary context in The Tree of Life.

To be continued as we head into the Oscar season…

Spielberg Adds 3-D Frisson to Fright Night

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

Steven Spielberg is apparently having a lot of fun with 3-D, and not just with Tintin. According to Fright Night VFX supervisor Joe Bauer, he added a dramatic touch to Colin Farrell’s pool attack. When the teenager releases a cross underwater, Spielberg added a more dramatic shot looking up in the cross part of the metal that is tumbling down through the water and toward the camera.

In addition, Spielberg wasn’t quite satisfied with the stage-four look of Farrell — it wasn’t scary enough. But when the filmmakers reviewed the original concept design, they discovered a shark-like look to the bite, so Spielberg recommended that they make it more, well, Jaws-like. So Luma, which did the bulk of the CG heavy lifting, including the vampire mouth rigging, post tracked more than a dozen shots and created an uglier bite in which the jaw opens much wider and we look deep into his mouth.

Trailering Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark

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

It’s pure Guillermo Del Toro and a throwback to The Innocents.

In fact, there’s a literal turn of the screw, as an 8-year-old girl moves (Bailee Madison) in with her father (Guy Pearce) and his girlfriend (Katie Holmes) and discovers tiny demonic creatures living in the basement of their Victorian mansion. The goblins torment her in this remake of a 1973 TV movie. Opening Friday, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark is directed by Troy Nixey (Latchkey’s Lament short), scripted by Matthew Robbins (The Sugarland Express) and Del Toro, and contains VFX from Spectral Motion, Iloura, and Weta Digital.

Disney/Pixar to Return to Annies

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in 3-D, Animation, Annies, Events, Home Entertainment, Movies, performance capture, Shorts, stop-motion, Tech, VFX | Leave a comment

ASIFA-Hollywood has announced its call for entries for the 39th Annual Annie Awards, scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 4, 2012, at UCLA’s Royce Hall in Los Angeles. And Disney/Pixar has ended its one-year boycott, according to The Wrap. That’s the reason why ASIFA replaced longtime president Antran Manoogian with respected industry vet Frank Gladstone, who’s revising the voting structure to include a more representative voice from every animation studio. Disney/Pixar has called for the establishment of a multi-studio advisory board.

The 2011 Annie Awards will be presented in 28 categories, including two new ones: Outstanding Editorial in an Animated Feature and Outstanding Editorial in an Animated Television Production. A “Member’s Favorite” award has also been added, but will be on a separate ballot located on the Annies website (www.annieawards.org). While Annie voting is limited to professional members, all members, both professional and associate, will be able to vote on this award.

Entries submitted for consideration will be from productions that were released in the U.S. between Jan. 1, 2011 and Dec. 31, 2011. The deadline to receive submissions and materials is Friday, Oct.14, 2011, by 5:00 pm.  The deadline to join ASIFA-Hollywood or to renew membership in order to participate in the Annie Award voting is Friday, Nov. 4, 2011.

Created in 1972 by veteran voice talent June Foray, the Annie Awards have grown in scope and stature for the past three decades.

For information on ASIFA-Hollywood, please visit www.asifa-hollywood.org.

Nine Shortlisted for AMPAS Sci-Tech Awards

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

Nine scientific and technical achievements have been selected for further awards consideration by the Scientific and Technical Awards Committee of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. These include the Micro-Voxel Volume Rendering by Side Effects Software; Contour Dense Mesh Motion Capture by Mova (pictured above from MPC’s Hades in Percy Jackson); Cinema System for theatrical projection of stereoscopic content by RealD; Phantom High-Speed cameras by Vision Research; and the “Lowry Process” by Reliance MediaWorks (witnessed in such exceptional catalog Blu-ray/DVD titles as the Bonds and Indiana Jones, among hundreds of others).

The list is made public to allow individuals and companies with similar devices or claims of prior art the opportunity to submit their achievements for review. The deadline to submit additional entries is Tuesday, Aug. 30, at 11:59 pm PST.

The committee has additionally selected these other methods or devices for further consideration:

  • ARRI Zeiss Master Primes Lens Family (ARRI Inc.)
  • Phantom High-Speed Cameras for Motion Picture Production (Vision Research Inc.)
  • Pictorvision Eclipse (Pictorvision, Inc.)
  • FUJIFILM Black and Whit1e Recording Film ENTERNA-RDS for Archive (FUJIFILM North America Corp.)
  • Lyre Microphone Suspension (Rycote Microphone Windshields Ltd.)

After thorough investigations are conducted on each of the entries, the committee will meet in early December to vote on recommendations to the Academy’s Board of Governors, which will make the final awards decisions.

The 2011 Scientific and Technical Awards will be presented at the Beverly Wilshire in Beverly Hills on Saturday, Feb. 11, 2012.

Claims of prior art or similar technology must be submitted on our online site at www. oscars.org. For further information, contact Awards Administration Director Rich Miller’s office at 310-247-3000, ext. 1131, or via e-mail at scitech@oscars.org.

Ridley Scott Wants More Blade Runner

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in 3-D, Below the Line, Home Entertainment, Movies, Tech, VFX, Virtual Production | Leave a comment

Now that Ridley Scott has gotten a pleasant taste from revisiting Alien with the 3-D Prometheus (June 8, 2012), Deadline.com reports that he’s signed on for more Blade Runner with Alcon Ent. and producers Bud Yorkin and Cynthia Sikes. It’s uncertain if the project would be a prequel, sequel, or spinoff (like Prometheus), since no script has been written, but the news has stoked Anne Thompson and other journos. Why not? The landmark 1982 sci-fi/neo-noir not only ushered in cinematic cyberpunk, but also the fascination with the phantasmagorical Philip K. Dick (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?) that continues to this day.

Back in 1986, Scott told me he was fascinated with the notion of Harrison Ford’s weary Deckard as a secret replicant, but that he was never given the budget to convey it clearly or convincingly. As we know, he attempted to massage the clues in various iterations, culminating with the Blu-ray release in 2007 of the “Final Cut.” I suspect that this renewed opportunity to definitively close the book on Deckard’s identity is a major appeal, along with the chance to bring the imaginative and prescient universe up to date with state-of-the-art CG and 3-D. After all, the original took place in L.A. in 2019 and remains one of the best-looking films ever made.

Indeed, when I had the chance to revisit Blade Runner with Scott in honor of the Blu-ray release, he gave a hint about its timeless appeal that bears repeating: “I think it’s the cast that keeps everything really alive… and the unusual blow-by-blow and organic engagement of one character throughout each scene… Everything makes sense: If you want to read at the end of the film that there are parallels to where we are today, it’s all there… I think that when scientists get stymied, they look to the possibility of God for just sheer imagination.”

10th VES Awards Scheduled for 2/7/12

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

The Visual Effects Society (VES), which represents approximately 2,500 VFX artists and practitioners worldwide, will hold the 10th Annual VES Awards Show on Feb. 7, 2012, at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills. The Annual Awards show is where the most outstanding work in 23 VFX categories is presented and the artists who created them are honored.

Meanwhile, in light of the recent open letter from VES exec director Eric Roth about the “unsettled” state of the VFX industry, there should be plenty of discussion and debate about jobs, healthcare benefits, and unionization/guild representation at the upcoming Production Summit (“Trending the Global Marketplace”) on Oct.1, from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm, at the Montage in Beverly Hills (http://www.visualeffectssociety.com/production-summit-2011).

Among the confirmed speakers will be Ted Gagliano (president of feature post at Twentieth Century Fox), Steve Papzian (president worldwide physical production at Warner Bros.), Bob Pisano (president and COO, MPAA), Stephan Trojansky (co-founder Scanline VFX), VFX guru Doug Trumbull, Tony Wible (director of media & entertainment, Janney Montgomery Scott), and Tom Wujec (Autodesk fellow).

Important dates for the 10th Annual VES Awards:

•           Aug. 15, 2011 — Rules & Procedures (www.visualeffectssociety.com/ves-awards)

•           Oct.10, 2011 — Submissions open

•           Nov. 15-30, 2011 — Period for uploading of viewing materials

•           Nov. 30, 2011 — Submissions close

•           Feb. 7, 2012 – Awards ceremony, Beverly Hilton Hotel, Beverly Hills, California

Trailering The Darkest Hour

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

The trailer is now available along with concept art for the Timur Bekmambetov-produced The Darkest Hour (Dec. 21), about a group of American tourists trying to survive an alien attack in Moscow. Directed by Chris Gorak and starring Emile Hirsch, Olivia Thurlby, and Max Minghella, The Darkest Hour has electrifying-looking creatures that descend on the planet to devour our energy. VFX is supervised by Dmitry Tokoyakov, with lots of cool-looking particle work for the “lethal wave energy” that shreds its victims. The vendors include Soho VFX, TIC, BUF Compagnie, Universal Production Partners, and Polygon Ent. Definitely a fresh design for the aliens. Tesla would be proud!