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.

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.

Pixar Announces Dinos and Brainy Movies at D23

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Animation, Events, Movies | Leave a comment

As part of the D23 Expo festivities in Anaheim yesterday, Pixar announced that Bob Peterson (Up co-director) will helm a comedy in which dinosaurs evolve hand in hand with people (Nov. 23, 2013), and that Pete Docter’s follow-up to Up will go inside the human mind (May 30, 2014). Co-directed by Pete Sohn (the Partly Cloudy short) and produced by John Walker (The Incredibles), the dino movie contains the tag: What if the cataclysmic asteroid that forever changed life on Earth actually missed the planet completely and giant dinosaurs never became extinct?

In fact, when I last saw Peterson at the cocktail reception for Cars 2, he was positively giddy about prepping his next movie and gave me a high-five when he overhead me discussing how glorious The Wizard of Oz looked on Blu-ray. Oz, you see, is his all-time fave, and we proceeded to chat about the importance of continuing to make fantastical films. So this is great news for Peterson, who finally gets his crack at directing and playing in the animated sandbox with all the department heads at Pixar. At D23 he said he was inspired by a childhood visit to the World’s Fair in New York, where he saw animatronic dinosaurs created by Walt Disney, which obviously made a big impression.

Meanwhile, Docter will explore heady stuff: a world that comically explains how decisions are made, including why we remember, how we forget, and “how certain songs get stuck in your head.” Co-directed by Ronnie del Carmen (Dug’s Special Mission short) and produced by Up’s Jonas Rivera, the project, according to The Playlist, will be scripted by Toy Story 3′s Michael Arndt. For Docter, this is just the kind of wacky and ambitious project that would’ve tickled his mentor, Disney great, Joe Grant.

And for those complaining that Pixar has been mired in too many sequels lately, this truly confirms that the Disney-owned studio continues to lead the industry in imaginative and risky animated storytelling.

Joyce Talks Fantastic Flying Books

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Animation, Books, Oscar, Shorts, Tech | Leave a comment

I have an in-depth interview with Bill Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg about their award-winning new animated short and popular interactive book, The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, at TOH/Indiewire. I definitely think it’s an Oscar contender to keep an eye on and this type of interactive reading experience paves the way for the future of publishing.

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.”

Kubrick Makes a Killing on Blu-ray

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

It’s been a great summer for Stanley Kubrick coming to Blu-ray: First the stunning Barry Lyndon (despite the outcry over its aspect ratio of 1.78:1 as opposed to 1.66:1) and the fascinating Lolita from Warner Home Ent., followed by the bravura Paths of Glory and this week’s seminal The Killing (with Killer’s Kiss as a bonus, from Criterion). The expected upgrade in HD allows us to more fully enjoy and appreciate Kubrick’s visual and narrative achievements, contrasting beauty with decadence with florid camera moves and dynamic compositions.

Indeed, his protagonists are frustrated creative types unable to control the world or communicate with others: Johnny Clay (Sterling Hayden), the know-it-all who’s planned the perfect racetrack heist in The Killing, in which time and space seamlessly overlap, but is ultimately undone by fate and human foible in a noir for the ages; Col. Dax (Kirk Douglas), the idealistic officer and former lawyer in Paths of Glory, who can’t defeat the corrupt military high command he’s pitted against, but is left with a glimmer of hope for a better future; Humbert Humbert (James Mason), the novelist obsessed with possessing Lolita (Sue Lyon) as an object but incapable of love; and Redmond Barry (Ryan O’Neal), the idealistic and ultimately disillusioned ne’er-do-well trapped in 18th century opulence yet ruled by a ruthlessness that destroys everything he loves.

Ultimately, we’re left with a sense of mourning about lost opportunities, but what journeys along the way.

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!

Academy to Screen Digitally Restored Trip to the Moon

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

While anxiously awaiting Martin Scorsese’s fitting and inspired 3-D valentine to Georges Méliès, Hugo (Nov. 23), the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will present A Trip to the Moon (1902) on Tuesday, Sept. 6, at 7:30 p.m. at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills. This legendary film by Méliès, the father of special effects, will be screened in its original hand-colored version direct from its re-premiere at the Cannes Film Festival this May.

An original color print of A Trip to the Moon was recently discovered in poor condition and underwent delicate work to rescue and digitize the elements.  The restoration of the 14-minute work adapted from Jules Verne was carried out by Lobster Films, the Groupama Gan Foundation for Cinema, and the Technicolor Foundation for Cinema Heritage, and took place at Technicolor Los Angeles. The French band Air composed an original soundtrack to accompany the film.

The program will be introduced by film historian and archivist Serge Bromberg of Lobster Films and Tom Burton, head of the preservation department at Technicolor Los Angeles.  A newly restored print of A Trip down Market Street (1906), recorded by the Miles Bros. of San Francisco days before the famed earthquake leveled the city, along with rare primitive films such as 3-D versions of early Méliès films and turn-of-the century attempts at sound films, will round out the evening’s screenings.

A Trip down Market Street source elements are courtesy of Rick Prelinger, the Library of Congress.

Tickets to A Trip to the Moon are $5 for the general public and $3 for Academy members and students with a valid ID.  Tickets may be purchased online, at the Academy box office, or by mail.

The Samuel Goldwyn Theater is located at the 8949 Wilshire Blvd. in Beverly Hills.  Doors will open at 6:30 p.m.  For more information call 310-247-3600 or visit www.oscars.org.

Line-Up Set for Inaugural Palo Alto International Film Fest

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

The Palo Alto International Film Festival (PAIFF) has announced its program for the inaugural event that launches Sept. 9-Oct. 2. Highlighted by the digital restoration of Georges Méliès’ A Trip to the Moon (1902), presented by Technicolor on Oct. 1, the line-up includes 20 features and 74 short films curated from award-winning films and film festival favorites that exemplify PAIFF’s theme of innovation in art, film, and technology.

The schedule ranges from Braden King’s cross-platform feature Here, to the artistically inventive Bombay Beach by music video director Alma Har’el to such docs as Something Ventured, which delves into the world of Venture Capital firms.

The 2011 festival kicks off with a free outdoor screening of  Kevin McDonald’s Life in a Day, a documentary shot by filmmakers all over the world that serves as a time capsule to show future generations what it was like to be alive on July 24, 2010. This will take place on Ramona Street in downtown Palo Alto. The rest of the main program will play at Palo Alto Square and Aquarius Theater over the remaining three days.

PAIFF will announce its Speaker Series and Workshops later this month. However, it previously announced “Behind the Scenes with Walter Murch” (presented by FileMaker Inc.), which will take place on Saturday, Oct 1, at noon at Talenthouse in Palo Alto.  The three-time Oscar-winning film editor will present a behind-the-scenes look at his post-production process using FileMaker Pro database management (including on his latest, Hemingway & Gelhorn, directed by Phil Kaufman, to premiere on HBO in early 2012).

Tickets to individual screenings and shorts programs are now available at www.paiff.net.

New Star Wars: The Clone Wars Blasts Off Sept. 16

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Animation, Tech, VFX, Virtual Production | Leave a comment

Star Wars: The Clone Wars returns for a fourth season with a two-episode premiere on Sept. 16th at 8:00 pm on Cartoon Network. Battle lines intensify in the 22-episode season of the CG-animated saga from creator George Lucas and Lucasfilm Animation in Singapore. Judging by the trailer, there are even more classic connections to the original trilogy.

In the first two episodes of this three-part story arc, “Water War” and “Gungan Attack,” the inhabitants of the watery world of Mon Calamari find themselves on the brink of a civil war. The Jedi soon realize they will need the help of a powerful and amphibious ally to stop the war and drive out the Separatist invaders.

In discussing season three, director Dave Filoni told me that not only are they expanding the scope of the series with more organic environments but also improving the facial animation. Look for this to continue as well in the fourth season.

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