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.

Trailering A Dangerous Method

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Below the Line, Cinematography, Costume, Movies, Music, Oscar, Production Design, Trailers | Leave a comment

David Cronenberg’s predictably polarizing A Dangerous Method (Nov. 23) managed to get under everyone’s skin at both Telluride and Venice this past weekend. This is right up Cronenberg’s cerebral alley with the intense rivalry between Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) and Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen) leading to the rise of psychoanalysis on the eve of World War I. And when you factor in the beautiful and unbalanced Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley) who comes between them, you’ve got plenty of sexual repression to deal with As always, look for below-the-line Oscar potential from such Cronenberg regulars production designer James McATeer, cinematographer Peter Suschitzky, costume designer Denise Cronenberg, and composer Howard Shore.

Descending From Telluride

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Below the Line, Cinematography, Festivals, Movies, Oscar, Trailers | Leave a comment

Critics and journos are spilling over with praise for Alexander Payne’s The Descendants (Nov. 23) at Telluride this weekend, which gives it lots of Oscar buzz.  And I’m sure it isn’t merely the bucolic beauty of the surroundings or the fact that George Clooney was there with Payne (a critical darling since his last film, Sideways), flashing his movie star charisma like a polished Presidential contender at Iowa or New Hampshire. The Descendants has been earmarked for Oscar ever since it was announced. Based on the novel by Kaui Hart Hemmings, Clooney plays an indifferent real estate lawyer Matt King forced to reconnect with his two daughters and confront his demons after a boating accident puts his wife in a coma. And the Hawaiian setting serves as a volatile metaphor for all the pent up emotions (shot by Phedon Papamichael, who also worked on Sideways).

And the early returns suggest a funny, quirky, and reflective film about repression, change, responsibility. Just the kind of indie prestige film critics flock to and the Academy craves, especially in this 10th anniversary of 9/11. Yes, I believe that’s going to be the cultural undercurrent this season.

“Payne’s heartfelt comedy about a father and his two daughters facing the death of his comatose wife manages to sidestep the pitfalls of the weepie,” writes Anne Thompson. “Articulately narrated by Clooney’s Matt King, a sad sack real estate lawyer in Hawaiian shirts and kakis who considers himself ‘the back-up parent, the understudy,’ the movie is full of characters who are hiding deep emotion…”

“But The Descendants is about more than one’s own personal journey of self-discovery; it is about selflessness, and how most of us are really here not to polish our own knobs 24/7 but to look out for others, especially those we’re responsible for, those we’re leaving behind,” effuses Sasha Stone.

Can’t wait to see it myself and chime in with my personal observations and interview coverage.

Another Trip to the Moon with Méliès

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

The digitally restored, hand-tinted A Trip to the Moon (1902) by the legendary father of special effects, Georges Méliès, screens this weekend at the Telluride Film Festival and next Tuesday at the Academy’s Goldwyn Theater. I write about the restoration in my weekly TOH column at IndieWIRE.

Trailering Living in the Material World

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

Martin Scorsese’s George Harrison doc, Living in the Material World (HBO, Oct. 5 and 6), premieres at Telluride this weekend. It beautifully introduces the spiritual journey that encompassed Harrison’s musical and cinematic life. He was always the soft, sensitive, enigmatic Beatle — and yet his career as exec producer  (The Long Good Friday, Time Bandits) should also be revealing. The doc is lensed by Robert Richardson (Shutter Island) and edited by David Tedeschi (No Direction Home, Shine a Light). Christian Kontis did digital restoration.

As previously reported, the doc makes use of archival home movies, personal photos, and concert footage to tell the story of the legendary rocker and spiritual seeker. In addition to material provided by Harrison’s widow Olivia Harrison, there are interviews with Eric Clapton, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, George Martin, Paul McCartney, Yoko Ono, Tom Petty, Phil Spector, Ringo Starr, and Jackie Stewart.

“Like so many millions of people, I first came to know George through the music, which was the soundtrack of our world,” Scorsese, who also directed No Direction Home: Bob Dylan, said in a press statement. “So when I was offered the chance to make this picture, I jumped at it.  Spending time with Olivia, interviewing so many of George’s closest friends, reviewing all that footage, some of it never seen before, and listening to all of that magnificent music — it was a joy, and an experience I’ll always treasure.”

Indeed, it’s the spiritual connection that infuses Scorsese’s interest in Harrison, which should make for a fascinating overlap.

Star Wars Tweaks for Blu-ray

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Animation, Blu-ray, Home Entertainment, Movies, Tech, VFX | 1 Comment

The internet is absolutely apoplectic about George Lucas tweaking Star Wars: The Complete Saga for Blu-ray (Sept. 16 from Fox Home Ent). Hardcore fans are even calling for boycotts. First, we supposedly learned that Darth Vader utters “Nooo!” while cringing at Emperor Palpatine electrocuting his son, Luke Skywalker, and then again when hurling his master to his doom.

Now, there’s further outrage over the complete CG Yoda in Phantom Menace; some new blinking Ewoks in Return of the Jedi; and a louder shriek from Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness) to scare the Tusken Raiders in the desert.

Well, get over it. There’s symmetry when you recall that the younger Anakin/Vader bellowed a similar “Nooo!” when learning that his wrath caused the death of the love of his life, Amidala. And the CG Yoda is merely introduced earlier (he was originally CG in only two wide angle shots before the complete transformation in Attack of the Clones). As for the CG toying with the Ewoks, that’s a minor improvement. And if the audio embellishment of Obi-Wan turns out to be true, that’s not so bad either. It’s an emotional outburst that comes as a nice surprise.

Lucas is always revising Star Wars — we all know that. I’ll concede that Greedo shooting first was revisionism at its worst, but that’s an old battle. The rest of these are within the realm of acceptable. I can’t wait to experience Star Wars going Blu. I’ve been waiting since 1995 (on the eve of the DVD launch), when I first heard about Blu-ray from none other than Lucas.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2bZ0OLfNlN4

Clipping Warrior

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

Warrior (Sept. 9) has been cultivating great word of mouth as a stirring, brutal, Rocky-like boxing picture. And, given the success of last year’s The Fighter, might have Oscar potential. Directed by Gavin O’Connor (Pride and Glory, Miracle), the film concerns two estranged brothers, Tommy (Tom Hardy) and Brendan (Joel Edgerton), on a collision course with each other in the ring. The brothers have their own reasons for getting into the ring: Tommy’s a former wrestling champion, who enlists his father (Nick Nolte), a recovering alcoholic, to help train him. By contrast, Brendan’s motivation is more desperate: he needs to become a fighter to pay for his daughter’s medical bills and to keep the bank from foreclosing on his house.

In this first clip, Tommy plans his return to the ring; in the second, Brendan argues with his wife (Jennifer Morrison) in the bathroom that he’s not going back to an impoverished life, despite the physical dangers of entering the ring. As they say, the sins of the father are visited on the sons. Dan Leigh is the production designer (Pride and Glory); Masanobu Takayanagi (Babel) the cinematographer; the editors are Sean Albertson, Matt Chesse, John Gilroy, and Aaron Marshall; and Mark Isham composed the score.

DreamWorks Animation Adds Mari to its Arsenal

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

DreamWorks Animation has purchased a site license of Mari to enhance its in-house pipeline, and has already begun using the digital paint tool from The Foundry on some of its upcoming productions. The announced DreamWorks slate consists of: Puss In Boots (Nov. 4); Madagascar 3 (June 8, 2012); Rise of the Guardians (Nov. 21, 2012); The Croods (March 1, 2013); Turbo (June 7, 2013); Me and My Shadow (Nov. 8, 2013); Mr. Peabody & Sherman (March 21, 2014); and How to Train Your Dragon 2 (June 20, 2014).

Mari allows artists to concentrate on painting detailed, multi-layered textures directly onto 3D models in a fluid and natural way. Mari was originally conceived because no existing commercial product could handle the complex, highly detailed development work required for 3D painting.

Darin Grant, head of production technology at DreamWorks Animation said, “We have a number of ambitious projects in our pipeline and we need to make sure we have the best technological tools in the industry.  Mari provides us with an interactive and intuitive workflow for 3D painting that helps our surfacing and matte painting artists to achieve that ambition…”

“We’re delighted that after a vigorous evaluation of Mari they’ve taken the decision to deploy it across their studios,” added Jack Greasley, Mari product manager of The Foundry. “This is a vote of confidence in Mari from a proven leader in the industry, and helps position Mari as the new industry standard for digital paint.”

Mari 1.3 is available on Linux and Windows. To find out more visit http://www.thefoundry.co.uk/products/mari/.

Bond 23 to Shoot in India

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Below the Line, Cinematography, James Bond, Movies, Tech | Leave a comment

Bond 23, helmed by Sam Mendes and starring Daniel Craig in his third outing as 007, has been given permission to shoot in India, reports The Hollywood Reporter. The Indian government has cleared the way for shooting in Delhi and Goa and close to Ahmedabad in the western state of Gujarat. And, according to the The Times of India, a set piece is being planned for the famed Daryaganj bazaar and flea market Sarojini Nagar in Delhi. However, while permission has not yet been granted for a fight on the rails in North Goa, negotiations are still taking place with the Railway Ministry.

This marks the first time since Octopussy in ’83 that the Bond franchise has ventured to India. For instance, Roger Moore’s Bond is assisted through the bustling market of Udaipur with a young operative handy with a racket played by tennis star Vijay Amritraj.

The upcoming Bond movie, which offers our first fully-formed look at Craig’s 007, is scheduled to begin production in November, and will be shot digitally with the Arri Alexa by Roger Deakins — a franchise first– who collaborated with Mendes on Jarhead and Revolutionary Road. Javier Bardem and Ralph Fiennes are the super baddies, sparking speculation that perhaps they might be returning once again to the Fleming short story, Risico, for inspiration. It was previously tapped for For Your Eyes Only in its use of rivals to manipulate Bond. Naomie Harris is reported to introduce Moneypenny to the origin story. Steven Begg is the VFX supervisor and Tanq Anwar is presumed to be the editor.

The untitled Bond 23 will be released Nov. 9, 2012, in honor of the franchise’s 50th anniversary.

Cœur fidèle on Blu-Ray

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Blu-ray, Home Entertainment, Movies | Leave a comment

London-based Eureka offers the indispensable Masters of Cinema series, which is good news for cinephiles worldwide, including those with region-free players in the US. One of the newest releases is Jean Epstein’s 1923 silent masterpiece, Cœur fidèle (True Heart). Epstein, a film critic/theorist for the the early modernist journal, L’Espirit Nouveau, decided to make a simple story of love and violence about a barmaid, Marie (Gina Marès), oppressed by a cruel foster family, who finds her soul mate in Jean (Léon Mathot).

Epstein, who admired Abel Gance’s La Rouge, wanted “to win the confidence of those, still so numerous, who believe that only the lowest melodrama can interest the public,” while also creating “a melodrama so stripped of all the conventions ordinarily attached to the genre, so simple, that it might approach the nobility and excellence of tragedy.” In fact, he wrote the script in a single night.

With Coeur fidèle, Epstein experimented with Gance’s use of rapid, rhythmic editing along with his innovative use of close-ups and superimposed images. Indeed, the first-half is suffused with poetic realism, drawing us to Marie’s face and hands along with the table and glasses that she cleans. By contrast, the abstract images of the sea and the port are either intercut or superimposed to convey the yearnings of the lovers. It’s all about conveying a mood, as opposed to the second-half, which relies more conventional techniques of situation and action, as others have observed. The most celebrated sequence takes place at the fairground (particularly on the carousel), in which the rhythm defines the tension between Marie and the unscrupulous suitor.

The Eureka Blu-ray is stunning and captures the film’s hypnotic beauty. A precursor to F.W. Murnau’s Sunrise (only available on Blu-ray from Eureka).

Trailering Drive

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

Drive (Sept. 16), directed by Cannes winner Nicolas Winding Refn, is one of the most highly-anticipated fall films — the new Bullitt. The very hot and versatile Ryan Gosling (The Ides of March) plays a Hollywood stuntman and sometimes wheelman who fights for his life after a contract has been put on him for a heist gone wrong. Co-starring Carey Mulligan (An Education), Ron Perlman, and Albert Brooks. It evokes a gritty, neo-noir ’70s look (designed by Beth Mickle, shot by Newton Thomas Sigel, and edited by Mat Newman), epitomized by the ’73 Chevy Malibu that Gosling drives and personally restored. VFX by Ring of Fire and Wildfire VFX.