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.

Rango Revels in Dirt on Blu-ray

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Animation, Home Entertainment, Tech, VFX | Leave a comment

Score another one for Rango, which is the best animated feature so far this year. The Blu-ray released last Friday from Paramount Home Ent. is stunning reference quality, which is ironic given the dirty aesthetic: We luxuriate in every dirty, grimy, dusty, fuzzy detail; the blacks are deep; and the spaghetti Western-inspired compositions are full of depth. Who needs 3-D when you have such a tactile experience with reptilian skin and parched desert surroundings?

ILM’s first foray into animation proved to be a smooth transition, considering its legendary achievements in photoreal VFX. The San Francisco studio created a unique “photo-surreal” look that embraced imperfection. The performances were also aided by director Gore Verbinski’s live-action mode of shooting Johnny Depp and the other voice actors. Check out the audio commentary that includes animation supervisor Hal Hickel and VFX supervisor Tim Alexander, as well as the “Breaking the Rules: Making Animation History doc. As an added bonus, there’s an extended cut with a four-minute coda in which the inhabitants of Dirt take a detour, so to speak.

“What he wanted was something very different from the neat and tidy and colorful mainstream feature animation that we’ve become accustomed to,” Hickel suggests.

Trailering The Dark Knight Rises

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

How does Bruce Wayne regain his humanity before he’s completely swallowed up by his Batman legend? A more immersive Gotham (spearheaded by VFX supervisor Paul Franklin and assisted by IMAX, no doubt); the tug of war for Wayne’s soul between Liam Neeson’s Ra’s al Ghul and Gary Oldman’s Commissioner Gordon. The eerie image of Tom Hardy’s Bane, but no allusion just yet to Anne Hathaway’s Selina Kyle/Catwoman. What a contrast to Potter. But then Christopher Nolan plays in a whole other cinematic sandbox. Coming July 20, 2012.

Potter’s VFX at IndieWIRE

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

Just posted “Winding Down Potter’s VFX” at IndieWIRE’s TOH. The Soho VFX companies have come of age with the Wizard of Hogwarts and are certainly poised for life beyond Potter. In due time, I’ll be covering the accomplishments of Part 2.

 

Pooh at IndieWIRE

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

“Winnie the Pooh vs. Harry Potter” marks my debut today with Thompson on Hollywood (TOH) at IndieWIRE, where I will be writing regularly about animation, VFX and below-the-line.

 

 

 

 

 

It All Ends for Potter

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

Watching the end of Harry Potter in The Deathly Hallows: Part 2, I was struck by how it all coalesces wonderfully like a magical spell. I admit that I wasn’t totally hooked until The Prisoner of Azkaban, the third installment, when Harry’s rite of passage finally seemed arduous and riveting.

But the narrative unfolds and climaxes nicely with operatic action, and stirring revelation, justifying the strategy to divide Deathly Hallows into two parts. There are plenty of surprises and delights, of course, beginning with the horcrux raid of Gringrots and the thrilling ride atop the poor dragon that has been enslaved. Or the Hogwarts statues that come to life in grand Harryhausen fashion (Isn’t it about time, incidentally, that the London VFX community, which has come of age with Harry, gets some Oscar love?)

Then there are the unlikely heroes that emerge to prove their strength and loyalty to Harry and Hogwarts. And those solemn moments of recognition and reversal that are the fundamental stuff of drama and help Harry fulfill his destiny as the Chosen One, including a sublime moment with Snape and surreal encounter with Dumbledore.

Ultimately, it becomes clear why J.K. Rowling captured lighting in a bottle with Harry Potter: She conjured just the right mixture of Christ parable, Greek tragedy, Shakespeare, King Arthur, Grimm, Dickens, Wagner, Oz, The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, among others, along with a dash of Joseph Campbell for good measure.

But that wasn’t enough: Rowling and the filmmakers made Harry the Millennial sensation by tapping into the post 9/11 ethos of fear and terror. Director David Yates makes this most clear in the image of falling ashes during the destruction of Hogwarts.

Yet the most successful film franchise rests with the maturation of its three leads: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint. No other franchise has taken its stars on a journey from adolescence to adulthood in real time as closely as this one. It’s amazing to look back at The Sorcerer’s Stone and see how far the actors and characters have come in a decade. And now that it’s over, we’re going to want to revisit the previous films and connect the dots and read between the lines. In that sense, our journey with Potter has just begun.

Pooh: A Hand-Drawn Poster Child

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

I have a Winnie the Pooh article at AWN. I was very impressed with Pooh: It not only captures the wit and simplicity of the original Disney shorts from the ’60s, but also plusses them in visual richness (art director Paul Felix exquisitely captures the soft English light) and narrative daring (SpongeBob owes a dept to the looney gang of the Hundred-Acre Wood). We’ll see how well it does at the box office, once the Harry Potter onslaught vanishes, and if it finds broad appeal, but rest assured: 2D isn’t dead at Disney — it just smells funny, as Frank Zappa would say.

Trailering Hugo

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

The Hugo teaser trailer is now available (shortened from Hugo Cabret and opening Nov. 23). It’s immediately clear that it’s Martin Scorsese’s valentine to French cinema, particularly Georges Melies (Ben Kingsley), the father of special effects. He soaks up the period with steam trains and mechanical gizmos.”It’s Neverland and Oz and Treasure Island all wrapped into one.” The director/cinephile’s first foray into 3-D and children’s wonder is surely a holiday must-see.

An adaptation of Brian Selznick’s bestseller about an orphan boy (Asa Butterfield) living a secret life in the walls of a Paris train station in the 1930s and a mysterious encounter with Melies. Scorsese told The Guardian: “Every shot is rethinking cinema, rethinking narrative — how to tell a story with a picture. Now, I’m not saying we have to keep throwing javelins at the camera, I’m not saying we use it as a gimmick, but it’s liberating. It’s literally a Rubik’s Cube every time you go out to design a shot, and work out a camera move, or a crane move. But it has a beauty to it also. People look like… like moving statues. They move like sculpture, as if sculpture is moving in a way. Like dancers…”

Rob Legato serves as overall supervisor; Pixomondo LA is the lead vendor. He told me a while back that “the Melies recreations are stunning-looking. In some cases impossible for the trained eye to see what might have been restored from what was recreated. First choice, of course, is restoration but we have recreated some moments and the behind-the-scenes shooting of the same. We recreated the glass house studio and the painted backdrops and fantastic costumes. A treat for film lovers.”

Trailering Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

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

Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) and Watson (Jude Law) are back and the game’s afoot with Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris) in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (opening Dec. 16). Naomi Place plays Slim, the latest femme fatale, and Stephen Fry is along for the explosive Victorian ride as brother Mycroft Holmes. Looks just as action-packed as ever, as Guy Ritchie continues his mashup of Holmes, Bond, and Jim West.

Chas Jarrett is back as overall VFX supervisor, with Framestore, MPC, and Cinesite sharing duties.

Trailering Arthur Christmas and The Pirates!

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

First Aardman Animations and Sony released the UK teaser trailer for the CG-animated feature, Arthur Christmas (opening Nov. 23). And today comes the first UK teaser for Aardman’s next stop-motion feature, Pirates! In An Adventure with Scientists, directed by co-founder Peter Lord (opening Sept. 21, 2012). And what a year for stop-motion 2012 is shaping up to be with Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie (Oct. 5) and Laika’s Paranorman (Aug. 17) joining the fray.

Looking at Arthur, Aardman & Sony Pictures Animation (SPA) have collaborated on a funny CG feature that truly does let Aardman be Aardman (unlike Flushed Away): A “state of comic dysfunction” ensues as an unlikely hero helps Santa deliver those presents in one night, ultra high-tech style. Arthur is directed by Sarah Smith and Barry Cook, boasts James McAvoy (Arthur), Bill Nighy (Grandsanta), Hugh Laurie, and Jim Broadbent.

Meanwhile, Pirates!, based on the Gideon Defoe book, pits Hugh Grant’s sea captain against rivals Jeremy Piven and Salma Hayek for the Pirate of the Year award. Looks like Aardman is back in action doing the latest and greatest with stop-motion and digital enhancements.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pmp-fbsk2r8

Trailering John Carter

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

Walt Disney Pictures has released the John Carter teaser trailer this morning and it looks terrific, melding sci-fi and Western sensibilities (but uniquely different from Cowboys & Aliens). Coming off the heels of WALL•E, Pixar’s Andrew Stanton has made a smooth transition to live-action sci-fi with his visually striking adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter of Mars book series. Shot in Monument Valley, John Ford country, John Carter looks organic to the period.

Taylor Kitsch plays Confederate soldier John Carter teleported to Mars (or Barsoom), where he gets caught up in a civil war and the aggressors are 12-foot pale green, slim Tharks. Peter Chiang is the onset VFX supervisor and Double Negative is the primary vendor, with support from Cinesite, MPC, and others.

Definitely the forerunner to Avatar; however, this is no CG intensive movie. The VFX seamlessly blends in with the real world locations and exotic vibe in a photoreal way. The animated Tharks look dangerous and vulnerable at the same time.

The cast also includes Lynn Collins, Samantha Morton, Mark Strong, Ciaran Hinds, Dominic West, James Purefoy, Daryl Sabara, Polly Walker, Bryan Cranston, Thomas Hayden Church, and Willem Dafoe. John Carter opens March 9, 2012