Making the Movie

8Aug/140

Your Weekend Viewing: Analysis of Snowpiercer

The analysis can get a very film-school pedantic at times, but I tend to agree with overall gist: Snowpiercer uses the tools of film storytelling to create heart-pounding entertainment whilst also having a strong point of view about the global class system.

In my opinion, until you've seen Snowpiercer, you should skip Guardians of the Galaxy, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Lucy and even Boyhood. For all it's apparent flaws, no film this summer intrigued and surprised me more.

No excuses when it is so readily available on demand. Like the first Matrix, this film seems destined to have an out-sized influence on genre filmmakers and movie buffs.

8Aug/140

Movie Review: Not Another Happy Ending

Movie review from Lillian, our favorite resident Whovian (fan of the Dr. Who TV show). Enjoy... - JO

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not-another-happy-ending_heroLast night, I was very excited to curl up to Not Another Happy Ending. It's a Scottish (yes!) rom-com (score!) staring Karen Gillan, who played Amy Pond for 2.5 seasons on Doctor Who (even more bonus points). Seriously, it's as if the movie had been crafted by my brainthoughts.

Here's a quick plot summary: Young/possibly first time novelist, Jane Lockhart (Karen Gillan -- who lives in an unrealistically fabulous apartment in Glasgow) is going through rejection letter after rejection letter trying to get her book published. With little/no explanation as to why, she goes to visit one publisher, Tom Duval (Stanley Weber) who picks her up and publishes it. It becomes a roaring success, but unfortunately, this and other things in her life (the most successful screenwriter in Glasgow moves in with her), make her too happy to follow up her success -- apparently, she's too happy to write. Publisher, Duval, however, is desperate for another best seller, and so decides to make her life miserable so she can angst up and write already. Mix-ups and "comedy" ensue. Along the way, Duval and Jane are falling in hate-love with each other.

Sadly, I could basically see this film coming from the opening credits. Definitely from 15 minutes in, when I realized that so far the movie had pretty much been comprised of two montages packed-to-the-brim with clichés.

How it could have been improved? Step one: be more creative with costume design than just, "Dress her like Annie Hall so everyone will know she's quirky." Step two: change her occupation. For the love of god, writers, why do you make your protagonist a WRITER? Instantly less interesting. Third possibility: add more of the cast of Dr. Who, maybe? Come on, David Tenant's Scottish? So's Peter Capaldi, come to that. I'm sure there are loads of other people who have played British on Dr. Who, but are actually Scottish...

And I suppose that's what they call digressing. Where was I? Oh yes, step four: rewrites. It felt like an early draft of any romantic comedy you see coming out of Hollywood. I really would have liked to see something more surprising and different. I feel like if they had kept working on this premise, they could have found some new angles.

Things I liked: the soundtrack was fun! Lots of good Scottish music. I liked that Henry Ian Cusick was in it, although his character (a screenwriter, argh!!!) was one of the most poorly-written characters, possibly in film history. But he's not done much since Lost, so it was nice to see his face.

I will go on in more nit-picky detail, full of spoilers, but suffice it to say, Karen Gillan had better put some effort into her next film choices if she wants to keep us loyal Whovians who love rom-coms around! I'm thinking her role in Guardians of the Galaxy might please the fanbase a bit more. ;)

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD... (more…)

6Aug/140

Your Wednesday Links: Guardians, Suckaz

Most of these links come from the @makingthemovie Twitter stream. If you'd like to see them as they come, follow us on Twitter.

Top Five Film Podcast: Ep. 78 - Guardians, Bitch! - True fanboy perspective on the latest Marvel film as well as this year's Comic Con. I must note that I strenuously disagree with the assessment that Guardians is better than Avengers. I kept wishing for more witty Whedonesque banter during Guardians' dull exposition scenes.

Variety profiles the YouTube stars who are bigger than the stars you've heard of - Why anyone would try to "make it" through the studio system or even join the studio system after "making it" on YouTube escapes me. Remember, Walt Disney sold Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. He refused to sell Mickey Mouse (or anything after, for that matter).

Mashable: Nice Try, Hollywood, But a Female Superhero Won't Solve Your Gender Problem - A rantitorial by ex-Variety writer @NotoriousJLD

Indie Wire: Hollywood's Untapped Audience, an Illustrated Richard Linklater Interview and More - See also this IndieWire article on The Problem with Bollywood's Biggest Star, Salman Khan

No Film School: Walter Murch & Jon Favreau Discuss the Science Behind the Way We Perceive Movies

Criticwire Classic of the Week: Ingmar Bergman's 'Wild Strawberries' - Still incredible to me Bergman made this movie the same year as The Seventh Seal

YOUR WEEKLY WISDOM:
Movies are never finished, only abandoned. Publicly.

18Jul/140

Your Weekend Viewing: Dustin Lance Black’s Screenwriting Process

16Jul/140

Your Wednesday Links: The Original Ending of the Planet of the Apes

Most of these links come from the @makingthemovie Twitter stream. If you'd like to see them as they come, follow us on Twitter.

SlashFilm: Read About The Filmed But Deleted 'Dawn of The Planet of the Apes' Alternate Ending

Reddit: What pisses you off most at the cinema?

Steven Soderbergh in Esquire: "In the land of ideas, you are always renting."

Truly Free Film: Expanding Cash-Flow Opportunities to the Sales Side of the Independent Film Business

Colossal: Stopmotion cutaways - Cool use of video technique and power sanding.

Tony Zhou tackles Bayhem

YOUR WEEKLY WISDOM: You are editing your film from the moment you write the screenplay. You are editing when storyboard. You are editing when you place a camera on set and when you call cut. And when you're editing... you're screenwriting.

29Jun/140

Your Weekend Viewing: The Gunfighter

Since it's everywhere else on the internet, may as well share here too...

Directed by a feature comedy editor, written by a copywriter, photographed by an ace d.p. and narrated by a well-known comic actor. Short of the Week has a bit more info, but sadly no budget number. This looks like it cost a pretty penny.

Shorts are always a big gamble, because there's very little way to make any money back on them. There is a small market on overseas television and an even smaller market in the States for homevideo compilations. The real payoff is if it helps make connections or generate other work. I'll be keeping a lookout for these names in the trades.

27Jun/140

Book Review: Avid Uncut by Steve Hullfish

Avid Uncut: Workflows, Tips and Techniques from Hollywood Pros
by Steve Hullfish
Focal Press, $44.95

We have a winner. I have been looking for a book that goes deep -- deep into Avid MediaComposer. Avid Uncut is that book. Avid Agility by Steve Cohen is also quite comprehensive, but it aims and succeeds at being a cheat sheet on this complex and often difficult program. (Hullfish actually recommends Cohen's book as a complement to his own, and I concur.)

I have worked with editors who know the program so well, they can only be described as "Avid ninjas." When I saw that one of these ninjas (the incomparable J.C. Bond of Tony Scott and Tim Burton-movies fame) is interviewed in the book, I knew the author had been talking to the right people. In addition to the usual background on Avid's tools, this book looks at the workflows, keyboards and layouts of real working editors and assistant editors. It covers features, television, documentaries, visual effects and sizzle workflows and techniques. All with plentiful color screenshots.

The biggest win here is the large and helpful section that puts Avid's tools in context from a Final Cut Pro perspective. For all those editors migrating from FCP since the switchover from 7 to X, this is a must-have. For assistants who have to assist these editors, it is a god-send.

What I'd Like To See In Future Editions

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6Jun/140

Your Weekend Viewing: Aug(De)mented Reality

This highly-creative use of animation is courtesy a person (a collective?) by the name of Hombre_mcsteez.

Judging by the upload dates on his/her/their YouTube page, Hombre_mcsteez averages about one video every year. Animation takes a long... long... long time to do, so I'm betting it's an individual.

Anyway, it's one of the coolest video's I've seen in the last few weeks because it points not only to a (to me in any case) novel use of animation, but also to a new kind of internet video I'm seeing emerge, something that for lack of a better term you might call Vine compilations. (Vine is Twitter-of-video service that forces you to share short loops of video.)

Not that there haven't been compilation videos before, but these sort of thematic gag reels seem to be becoming a genre unto themselves and (to my mind in any case) are a lot more fun to watch than individual Vines or a page full of animated GIFs.

Agree? Disagree? Bueller?

23May/140

Your Weekend Viewing: Two Video Essays on Spielberg’s Art

After 40+ years of Hollywood career, director Stephen Spielberg is getting dissected in great detail. The first of these I saw was cameraman Vincent Laforet's very practical look at how Spielberg did the blocking for specific scenes. Then, this week I saw two wider and more philosophical attempts to categorize the Bergmeister's techniques.

Tony Zhou sees Spielberg as the last practitioner of the long (but not flashy) single take. He calls it "The Spielberg Oner".

Fandor's Kevin B. Lee, meanwhile, sees the auteur's signature stroke as "The Spielberg Face".


[via reader TC]

I think both make too much out of a pattern that's all-too-common in other directors, but there's no doubt that Spielberg has studied the greats and internalized some of their most powerful techniques. What do you think about these analyses? What do you see as Spielberg's signature moves?

7May/140

Your Wednesday Links: Absolutely Nothing About Star Wars

Most of these links come from the @makingthemovie Twitter stream. If you'd like to see them as they come, follow us on Twitter.

IndieWire: How Jeremy Saulnier Went From Corporate Videos to Making 'Blue Ruin'

FiveThirtyEight: Statistical Breakdown of Every Blockbuster Since Jaws - The new Nate Silver news site that emphasizes statistical stories also recently had great pieces on the IMDb's worst-rated film and how Mean Girls has impacted our vocabulary.

Filmmaker Mag: "he’s frustrated by what he seems to perceive as the unthinking tyranny of editing" - There might be something to this, but the way it is being reported makes it sound colossally stupid. Film grammar to me is rooted in biological facts of how we perceive information, but, like spoken language, it is also a constantly evolving set of arbitrary structures. If you throw out those signposts, you end up sounding like Nell.

Advice to Writers: Billy Wilder's Rules for Screenwriters

NFS: What Lighting Tools Do the Pros Use? Some of the Most Talented DPs Share Their Favorites

Variety: Jeffrey Katzenberg Predicts 3-Week Theatrical Window in Future

Under The Skin and the Problem with the Adjective “Kubrickian”

Hitfix: Has life in the age of casual magic made moviegoers numb to the amazing? - This essay occasioned much discussion in the filmmakersphere. From what I hear, the new Godzilla will be an answer to the casual magic approach. It will be interesting to see how audiences respond to the Jaws approach of teasing and delaying the payoff.

YOUR WEEKLY WISDOM:
Playwright Howard Lindsay (Arsenic and Old Lace, State of the Union) advised taking the great lines from secondary characters and giving them to the lead. Keep the hero the hero and the star the star.

OLD POSTS UPDATED:
What are Martin Scorsese's favorite films?