Topic >> filmmaking

Good Night and Good Luck

filmmaking, politics 1 Comment »

goodnight_officialposter.jpg.w180h267.jpgDespite the title, no.. this is not my swan song. Far from it. Instead it refers to a wonderful film of the same name that chronicles the conflict between Edward R. Murrow and Senator Joseph McCarthy during the 1950s. It’s both absorbing and amazing, and is startling relevant in the times we now live. I quote now from a speech Murrow made in 1958 which is also in the film:

“Our history will be what we make it. And if there are any historians about fifty or a hundred years from now, and there should be preserved the kinescopes for one week of all three networks, they will there find recorded in black and white, or color, evidence of decadence, escapism and insulation from the realities of the world in which we live. I invite your attention to the television schedules of all networks between the hours of 8 and 11 p.m., Eastern Time. Here you will find only fleeting and spasmodic reference to the fact that this nation is in mortal danger. There are, it is true, occasional informative programs presented in that intellectual ghetto on Sunday afternoons. But during the daily peak viewing periods, television in the main insulates us from the realities of the world in which we live. If this state of affairs continues, we may alter an advertising slogan to read: LOOK NOW, PAY LATER.

For surely we shall pay for using this most powerful instrument of communication to insulate the citizenry from the hard and demanding realities which must be faced if we are to survive. I mean the word survive literally.”

I strongly urge you take time out and see it, and hope to read your reactions to the film here.

That’s Incredible!

entertainment, filmmaking No Comments »

I’ve stopped trying to pick which Pixar movie is my favorite. They are all great. And The Incredibles doesn’t disappoint. In what I consider a relatively dull movie year, The Incredibles is a shining star, carried by a great story; great voice acting, stunning animation and guess what? They managed to sneak in a nice message too.

The Incredibles astounds visually, without falling into the same trap so many other CGI based movies do. Films like Final Fantasy and The Polar Express push extra hard to create realistic human characters, but ultimate fail. It is true that the eyes are the windows to the soul, as their CGI characters look lifeless, and downright creepy; highly mobile mannequins with a voice. As humans we know how we act, how we talk, how we convey emotion, giving us a common reference point. There are also subtleties and nuances in a performance we that we perceive, both consciously and unconsciously. Replicating that in CGI is very tricky, making suspension of disbelief all the more difficult. On the other hand characters like Gollum, and Mike and Sully from Monsters, Inc. are literally of a different breed, and outside our range of experience, so we are better able to buy it, despite any flaws.

Pixar’s approach to creating characters is different. Their hyper-realized characters look little like us, but have broad but universal characteristics/emotions we can identify with. They have exaggerated expressions and physicality owing more to Bugs Bunny than real life. And we are never trying to be convinced that they are real. Plus the backdrop of good story and writing helps, as no matter how good the CGI is, it cannot prop up mediocre writing or a weak story — are you listening George?

In addition to the characters, the worlds and environments they inhabit are so vivid you are frequently fooled into thinking they are real, as if you could reach out and touch them. It would be interesting to visit a world created by Pixar. I might want to even stay there. 🙂

There are many other factors that contribute to Pixar’s continued success: cutting edge technology, people who love films making films they love, a deep understanding of the importance of story, and the geography, as they’ve yet to fall under the spell of Hollywood.

There are no suits at Pixar, at least not in the traditional Hollywood sense. They have a love of good film and stories… not necessarily the bottom line. The recycling old stories and making sequels is rarely offered as alternatives to original ideas. Choices are dictated by good story telling and not demographics. I think as long as Pixar continues to make its own decision, operating outside the bubble of Hollywood, their films will continue to be fresh and unique, and ultimately successful.

Spiderman 2 Spins an Engaging Web

entertainment, filmmaking No Comments »

We caught a late but packed showing of Spiderman 2 the othernite. Unlike other films we have seen this year (and I put Shrek 2 and Van Helsing at the top of that list), Spidy 2 was actually worth the $10 and 10 minutes of commercials we had to endure before the previews started. It definitely feels more like a Sam Rami film, with a number of signarture shots this time. Good performances all around with hats off to Alfred Molina, who plays Doc Oc.

poster1_hi.jpgAs usual the actions sequences were over the top and for the most part brilliantly executed. As of late I have grown numb to action sequenece (all things Lord of the Rings accepted of course), but this film delivers. It was actually nice to feel a little adrenaline pumping and some genuine excitement for a change.. somthing I thought “The Day After Tomorrow” and “Van Helsing” had all but drained from my veins.

It’s not all marigolds however. There were far to many speeches about honor and love and sacrifice. WAY TO MANY. And like the first film, the special effects vary wildly in quality. Doc Oc’s extra arms are amazing while Spidy still looks like Playdo… and did you catch those helicopters at the end? Ouch. I also had trouble with how Spidy stopped the train… too much like Superman. Spidy is all about agility, speed, intelligence, and those web spinning wrists… not about brute strength. And the explanation for the existence of Doc Ocs fabulous tentacles? Tenuous at best.

But then I am gently reminded that it is a comic book afterall. So I shrug my shoulders and enjoy the ride.

The View From Inside My Fish Bowl Part Deux

entertainment, filmmaking, politics No Comments »

I would like to clarify my position stated at the close of my previous post. A close friend and cohort whom I greatly admire and respect seems to draw the following conclusion from my diatribe:  I believe we deserve what happened to us on 9/11. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. Evalulated on a purely personal and individual level, such acts are never deserved or justified. But on a global scale, viewing the preponderous of evidence over the centuries, how does man’s greater wisdom allow him to slaughter millions of Russians, Jews and Chinese, and not suffer the consequences of those attrocities? Can a species sustain itself longterm it it seems perpetually hell bent on killing off significant parts of its population, or denying basic human rights and needs to the rest? Is some form of Darwinism at play here? Is part of deserving what we get understanding and willingly accepting the consequenes of our actions?

The character Ripley from the Aliens series once said, "You don’t see them f*cking themselves over for a god damned percentage."  The most inhuman of all creatures, are humans.