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.

Below the Line

Talking with the Hugo Oscar Nominees

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in 3-D, Animation, Below the Line, Books, Clips, Costume, Movies, Music, Oscar, Production Design, Tech, VFX, Virtual Production | Leave a comment

For my TOH column at Indiewire, I spoke with the Hugo front runners Dante Ferretti, Sandy Powell, and Howard Shore about the retro vibe. Meanwhile, Hugos sound mixing team (production mixer John Midgley, re-recording mixer Tom Fleischman, and scoring mixer Simon Rhodes) took top CES Sound Mixing honors last night at the 48th annual awards held in the Millennium Biltmore Hotel’s famed Crystal Ballroom.

Talking with the Makeup Oscar Nominees

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

For my TOH column at Indiewire, I discuss the Oscar-nominated makeup for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 2, The Iron Lady, and Albert Nobbs with Nick Dudman, Mark Coulier, and  Matthew Mungle.

“The thing about ‘Potter’ we’ve always said is: You’ve got to treat it as though it isn’t a fantasy film at all — you’ve got to treat it like everyone’s got a history they’ve lived through and it has a reality to it. So we really did obsess on detail,” Dudman says.

“We thought that with the wig and the costume and Meryl’s performance, that was enough for the younger age. For the older, we pushed it a little further: we injected more of the puffy cheeks that Thatcher developed in later years and the neck,” Coulier recalls.

“It was all about taking these two beautiful women and turning them into men,” explains Mungle.

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 Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in 3-D, Below the Line, Books, Cinematography, Tech, Trailers, VFX | Leave a comment

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (June 22) looks like pure Timur Bekmambetov with its mash-up of history and horror. The axe-wielding 16th president (played by Benjamin Walker) is personally obsessed with slaughtering vampires, who killed his mother and are fueling the Civil War. Looks like retro fun and fit for 3-D. Tim Burton, who exec produces, offers a witty intro in London while taking a break from his kitschy Dark Shadows vampire foray (“Prince Charles is actually a werewolf”), which you can view below along with the first trailer. The great Caleb Deschanel is the cinematographer and Craig Lyn is the VFX production supervisor. Weta Digital and Method Studios lead a contingent of VFX suppliers.

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.

Lubezki Talks Tree of Life

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Below the Line, Blu-ray, Cinematography, Clips, Movies, Oscar | Leave a comment

Emmanuel Lubezki, the Oscar front runner for cinematography, discusses his stunning work for Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life for my TOH column at Indiewire.

“Working with Terry has changed my life,” he admits. “I’m a different parent, I’m a different husband, and I’m a different friend. I see nature in a different way since I started working with Terry. I have much more respect for things that I wasn’t aware of as much. He is one of the most important teachers in my life. And I’m a much better cinematographer in helping directors in a much more comprehensive way.”

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.

Oscar Gold Goes Blu

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

It’s a perfect opportunity to purchase and enjoy some noteworthy best picture Academy Award winners that have recently bowed on Blu-ray — all excellent representations in HD: Wings, Rebecca, The ApartmentAnnie Hall, and Shakespeare in Love.

Wings (Paramount Home Ent.), the first best picture winner from 1929 but made two years earlier, is also the only silent to take home the Oscar. That is, unless The Artist soon joins it at the 84th Academy Awards. Thanks to Paramount and Technicolor, the aerial World War I drama has been lovingly restored, including digitally duplicating the Handshiegl color stencil process used for the original film’s bursts of orange machine gunfire and flames during air battles.

In addition, Academy Award-winning sound designer Ben Burtt (Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark) and the team of sound engineers at Skywalker Sound added World War I sound effects as authentically as possible, using library sounds from earlier eras to give viewers a true-to-the-period experience. It turns out that Wings is one of the seminal influences on Burtt, who made his own version of the film on Super-8 as a teenager.

There’s a strange irony that Alfred Hitchcock’s first American movie with producer David O. Selznick, Rebecca, won the best picture Oscar for 1940 (John Ford, however, took directing honors) because none of Hitch’s movies ever won again and neither did he. Rebecca is available on Blu-ray (Fox/MGM Home Ent.) along with Spellbound and Notorious and looks stunning (a wonderfully oppressive use of black and white), thanks to the restoration work a decade by Scott MacQueen. And it’s a brilliant Gothic romance with Laurence Olivier, Joan Fontaine, Judith Anderson, and George Sanders. Hitch learned about crafting sensitive dramas for a female audience that drove ticket sales in the US, and he honed his visual sensibility as well, pointing the way toward deeper, richer, more neurotic suspense-filled dramas. For more Hitch, Criterion has The Lady Vanishes, Paramount has To Catch a Thief stealing its March 6, and Universal has The Birds flying in later this year.

There aren’t too many romcoms that have won best picture and we have three representatives here, but Billy Wilder’s The Apartment (1960, Fox/MGM) wins hands down. Jack Lemmon dug deeper in this bittersweet tale of amoral corporate ambition (a precursor to Mad Men), and is perfectly complemented by the cynical Shirley MacLaine. It’s a tough balancing act between light and dark and Izzy Diamond was a terrific writing foil for Wilder. The romcoms of today such as Bridesmaids push the deft craft and the vulgarity, but Cameron Crowe is probably the best director who has carried on the Wilder legacy. Indeed, this is his personal favorite and a continual inspiration.

Woody Allen certainly came of age with Annie Hall (1977, Fox/MGM), the perfect synthesis of his angst-ridden stand-up and filmmaking sensibilities — and he took Hollywood and Oscar by storm at the height of the ’70s American renaissance. He was witty and original and the chemistry with Diane Keaton was hilariously romantic. It’s ironic how much Midnight in Paris (also available on Blu-ray from Sony Home Ent.) taps into a nostalgia for Annie Hall even though Allen rails against such nostalgia in his latest Oscar contender.

Shakespeare in Love (Lionsgate) charmed its way to Oscar gold in 1998, given that Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan was the heavy favorite. But Harvey Weinstein pulled off a major upset with a political campaign that is still talked about today. In fact, the Weinstein touch still works in the post Miramax era, witness last year’s win for The King’s Speech and this year’s likely victory for The Artist. Indeed, Shakespeare in Love and The Artist both have their seductive charms. But the romcom about the Bard, writing, acting, and true love struck a chord that still delights on Blu-ray.

Stuart Craig Talks Potter

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Below the Line, Blu-ray, Clips, Home Entertainment, Production Design, Trailers | Leave a comment

Oscar-nominated production designer Stuart Craig discussed the creative journey he’s had with the Harry Potter Potter franchise in my TOH column at Indiewire. The cinematic architect of the fantastical wizarding world from J.K. Rowling is truly the face of Potter and deserves special recognition for The Deathly Hallows Part 2 finale.