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.

James Bond

Mendes Debuts Skyfall Videoblog

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

Skyfall director Sam Mendes introduced the first of his videoblogs today on the website. Not much of a debriefing on the 23rd James Bond film and Daniel Craig’s third as 007, but then he’s just getting started in introducing his ties to Bond and providing behind-the-scenes tidbits.

“The roots of my doing this Bond movie start way before anybody approached me because, like everyone else, I have my own personal relationship with Bond which began when I was I suppose about nine or ten years old. I’ve always been a fan of the movies,” he says.

In fact, Mendes told me a decade ago that he was first approached to direct Die Another Day. He was very flattered but it just wasn’t the right Bond for him. Little did we realize that Craig would eventually become the sixth Bond and that he’d be engineering the film that will likely define his legacy, now that the rite of passage is over.

Naturally, Casino Royale pulled Mendes in: “Here was a real man in a real situation and it reminded me of when I was watching Sean Connery…I think it is still possible to make a big, entertaining, fabulous, glamorous movie and yet at the same time to say something about the world that we’re living in.”

And, ironically, Skyfall marks Mendes’ first English movie.

UPDATE: Skyfall will get an IMAX release for the first time day and date with the Nov. 9 bow.

22 Bonds for One Minute

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

Thanks to Jeff Wells at Hollywood Elsewhere for pointing this out: a 50th anniversary cacophony of all 22 Bond openings, beginning with the simultaneous roaring of the MGM lions. It’s very trippy, if not all in sync with the gun barrels, but apparently a prelude to a larger project  by in which all the films will play at once. Should be dizzying.

Aston Martin DB5 Returns in Skyfall

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

The legendary silver Aston Martin DB5, first introduced in 1964′s Goldfinger, makes an action-packed return in Skyfall, tricked out, according to The Sun, with the same license plate (BMT 216A). It’s been spotted for a chase sequence in Glencoe, Scotland, driven by stunt expert Ben Collins. Can’t wait for the intro scene between the new, youngish Q (Ben Whishaw) and Daniel Craig’s Bond, and then to see him behind the wheel with the “weapons dashboard.”

Trailering Bourne Legacy

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

History repeats itself, according to the new Psycho-inspired teaser trailer for The Bourne Legacy (Aug. 3), in which Jeremy Renner’s programmed assassin, Aaron Cross, also goes rogue like his predecessor, compelling government agents Pam Landy (Joan Allen) and Noah Vosen (David Straithan) to track him down. Ed Norton and Rachel Weisz (the wife of James Bond, Daniel Craig) co-star. Albert Finney (who also appears in Skyfall) returns as well. Renner appears more psychologically complex than JB; and Tony Gilroy writes and directs in what appears to be a steadier, back to basics approach, which is great news.

Academy Sci-Tech Winner, Lowry, Passes Away

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in 3-D, Animation, Blu-ray, Home Entertainment, James Bond, Movies, Oscar, Tech | Leave a comment

John Lowry, whose “Lowry Process” is being honored tonight at the AMPAS’ annual Scientific and Technical Awards Presentation at the Beverly Wilshire, passed away Jan. 21 at the age of 79. Lowry developed the process that uses advanced GPU-accelerated, motion estimation-based image processing tools to enhance image quality by reducing noise and other artifacts. His co-developers are Ian Cavén, Ian Godin, Kimball Thurston, and Tim Connolly.

Lowry’s proprietary process was used to repair 500 movies as result of image-sharpening and dirt and scratch removal and the reduction of flicker. Among the cinematic legacies Lowry repaired were the Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and James Bond franchises, along with classics from Disney, Warner Bros., Paramount, and MGM, among others. Citizen Kane, Casablanca, Gone with the Wind, Singin’ in the Rain, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and Sunset Blvd.all received the “Lowry Process.” The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was a contemporary recipient.

In fact, I personally knew John for more than a decade and began reporting on his process back in the DVD days, when the industry was grappling with noise, grain, and artifacts in the SD format. Then, with the introduction of Blu-ray, John stepped up his game and came up with improved algorithms to handle the new challenges of HD. The last time I saw him at the 3D Summit a few months ago, he was involved in tackling 3-D and re-establishing a new corporate identity after leaving Lowry Digital Images, the company he founded. He was always looking for new challenges and had a wonderful passion for movies.

“John Lowry’s passion for cinema and expertise in technology were essential in preserving the work of filmmakers for future generations to enjoy,” George Lucas told The Los Angeles Times in a statement.

“He has rescued many movies from irreparable decay, making it possible to enjoy them forever as the artists envisioned, without the damage of time,” Lucas said. “His legacy has ensured that filmmakers can preserve their legacies.”

Skyfall London Footage Reveals Classic Bond

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

Here’s an onset Skyfall image above of Daniel Craig’s James Bond pulling out a Walther and listening with an ear piece (courtesy of WENN). Below we have an action clip of Bond racing through Central London and entering a building looking dusty after what appears to be an explosion (courtesy of Flynet). Bond clearly evokes the classical look by the way he’s dressed.

Meanwhile, production commenced in the Scottish Highlands later in the week near Buachaille Etive Mor, the ancestral home of Bond’s father, Andrew.

Skyfall Image Reveals Most Grizzled Bond Ever

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

Forget the poolside image snapped up by Empire — this is the first official Skyfall image of Daniel Craig in his third outing as James Bond. In the franchise’s 23rd film, directed by Sam Mendes, the focus shifts to Judi Dench’s M for the first time when MI6 is attacked and she’s to blame because of her mysterious past coming back to haunt her. Bond is pressed into action to stop the threat and redeem his boss. Naomie Harris (field agent Eve) and Bérénice Marlohe (Sévérine) are the co-Bond girls; Javier Bardem is the villain, Ralph Fiennes is a government official, and Albert Finney plays an as yet unidentified character.

We can read a lot in this fusion of old and new, with a Walther-wielding, grizzled Bond poised for danger inside an ultra-modern, neon-lit Shanghai club. He is truly “the most dangerous Bond ever,” which is how they described Timothy Dalton 25 years ago in The Living Daylights. Or at least since Sean Connery. Skyfall opens Oct. 26 in the UK and Nov. 9 in the US. Happy 50th, 007.

First Skyfall Image: Uncovering Bond

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in James Bond, Movies | Leave a comment

Empire has exposed the first official image from Skyfall (courtesy of Columbia Pictures): Daniel Craig as Bond relaxing after a swim, taken at The Four Seasons in London. It recalls the first photo of Craig in the water from Casino Royale (same color speedo), only this one is darker and more complex. I really like the way it conveys voyeurism, sex, and danger. Very tantalizing. The 23rd Bond film and Craig’s third, directed by Sam Mendes, opens Oct. 26 in the UK and Nov. 9 in North America (in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the franchise).

Bond 50 Blu-ray Set Announced

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

What a week for Bond: First Thomas Newman was officially announced as the composer of Skyfall (Nov. 9) — no surprise considering his association with director Sam Mendes (American Beauty). Now word comes out of CES that all 22 current Bond films (Dr. No through Quantum of Solace) will be released on Blu-ray this fall from MGM Home Entertainment and Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment in in a special Bond 50 anniversary box set. This includes nine previously unreleased films (You Only Live Twice, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Diamonds Are Forever, The Spy Who Loved Me, Octopussy, A View to a Kill, The Living Daylights, GoldenEye, and Tomorrow Never Dies).

Bond directors John Glen (For Your Eyes Only, Octopussy, A View to a Kill, The Living Daylights, Licence To Kill), Martin Campbell (GoldenEye, Casino Royale) and Michael Apted (The World Is Not Enough) with special guests Olga Kurylenko (Quantum of Solace) and Caterina Murino (Casino Royale) made the Blu-ray announcement today during a Directors’ panel discussion in the Panasonic Booth at the annual Consumer Electronics Show.

More than 130 hours of bonus features are promised, including some new and exclusive content.

“With all 22 feature films available on Blu-ray in one collection for the first time this is a great way for fans to catch up on 007’s epic journey before Skyfall hits theaters next Fall,” said Michael Brown, SVP, MGM Home Entertainment. “Now viewers can enjoy the intense action of the innovative franchise in the most immersive home experience possible.”

“We have a whole program of exciting activities planned for our 50th anniversary year, beginning with today’s announcement, by Fox, of the release of all 22 films on Blu-ray for the very first time,’’ added Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, with Eon Prods. “We are also delighted that Fox has unveiled a specially designed anniversary poster which we hope the fans will love as much as we do. Our website, will be regularly updated with all the latest anniversary news and events.”

Academy to Honor 8 Sci-Tech Achievements

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Blu-ray, Events, Home Entertainment, James Bond, Movies, Oscar, Tech, VFX | Leave a comment

The AMPAS announced the eight sci-tech achievements represented by 28 individual award recipients, who will be honored at its annual Scientific and Technical Awards Presentation at the Beverly Wilshire on Saturday, Feb. 11, 2012. They include Mantra software for the rendering of volumetric effects, the Phantom cameras, and “The Lowry Process” for digital noise reduction and other artifacts.

Indeed, how fitting that “The Lowry Process” be honored during the 50th anniversary of James Bond, since it was applied to the digital restoration of the Bonds several years ago, and we’ve reaped the benefits in the subsequent Blu-rays. (The Dr. No screen capture above courtesy of Gary Tooze’s DVD Beaver.) The Lowry touch has also been applied to the Star Wars and Raiders collections, as well as hundreds of other evergreens.

The Academy Awards for scientific and technical achievements are:

Technical Achievement Award (Academy Certificate)

To Andrew Clinton and Mark Elendt for the invention and integration of micro-voxels in the Mantra software.

This work allowed, for the first time, unified and efficient rendering of volumetric effects such as smoke and clouds, together with other computer graphics objects, in a micro-polygon imaging pipeline.

Scientific and Engineering Award (Academy Plaque)

To Radu Corlan, Andy Jantzen, Petru Pop, and Richard Toftness for the design and engineering of the Phantom family of high-speed cameras for motion picture production.

The Phantom family of high-speed digital cameras, including the Phantom Flex and HD Gold, provide imagery at speeds and efficacy surpassing photochemical technology, while seamlessly intercutting with conventional film production.

To Dr. Jürgen Noffke for the optical design and Uwe Weber for the mechanical design of the ARRI Zeiss Master Prime Lenses for motion picture photography.

The Master Primes have achieved a full stop advance in speed over existing lenses, while maintaining state-of-the-art optical quality.  This lens family was also the first to eliminate the magnification change that accompanied extreme focus shifts.

To Michael Lewis, Greg Marsden, Raigo Alas, and Michael Vellekoop for the concept, design and implementation of the Pictorvision Eclipse, an electronically stabilized aerial camera platform.

The Pictorvision Eclipse system allows cinematographers to capture aerial footage at faster flying speeds with aggressive platform maneuvering.

To E.F. “Bob” Nettmann for the concept and system architecture, Michael Sayovitz for the electronic packaging and integration, Brad Fritzel for the electronic engineering, and Fred Miller for the mechanical engineering of the Stab-C Classic, Super-G, and Stab-C Compact stabilizing heads.

This versatile family of 5-axis camera and lens stabilizers allows any standard motion picture camera to be fitted into the open architecture of the structure.  The system can be quickly balanced and made ready for shooting platforms such as helicopters, boats, camera cars, or cranes.

To John D. Lowry, Ian Cavén, Ian Godin, Kimball Thurston, and Tim Connolly for the development of a unique and efficient system for the reduction of noise and other artifacts, thereby providing high-quality images required by the filmmaking process.

The “Lowry Process” uses advanced GPU-accelerated, motion estimation-based image processing tools to enhance image quality.

To FUJIFILM Corporation, Hideyuki Shirai, Dr. Katsuhisa Oozeki, and Hiroshi Hirano for the design and development of the FUJIFILM black and white recording film ETERNA-RDS 4791 for use in the archival preservation of film and digital images.

Specifically designed for laser film recording and widely used in the industry today, the high-resolution FUJIFILM ETERNA-RDS 4791 film stock is an important step in protecting the heritage of the motion picture industry.

Academy Award of Merit (Oscar Statuette)

To Franz Kraus, Johannes Steurer and Wolfgang Riedel for the design and development of the ARRILASER Film Recorder.

The ARRILASER film recorder demonstrates a high level of engineering resulting in a compact, user-friendly, low-maintenance device, while at the same time maintaining outstanding speed, exposure ratings and image quality.

Portions of the Scientific and Technical Awards Presentation will be included in the Oscar ceremony.

Academy Awards for outstanding film achievements of 2011 will be presented on Sunday, Feb. 26, at the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center, and televised live by ABC. The Oscar presentation also will be televised live in more than 225 countries worldwide.