Making the Movie

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Movie Review: Hunt for the Wilderpeople

New Zealand filmmaker Taika Waititi has been a cult favorite with movies like Eagle vs. Shark and vampire mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows. Here, adapting the novel Wild Pork and Watercress by Barry Crump, he manages to make a film with universal appeal while sacrificing none of the askew humor, heartfelt emotion or visual whimsy of his previous work. I loved this film! It is destined to be one my favorites for the year.

I knew nothing of the plot when I saw the film, so feel free to stop reading here. In barest outline, it concerns a “bad egg” foster child (Julian Dennison) who is sent to a remote farm to live with a smothering woman (Rima Te Wiata) and her angry, nearly-mute husband (Sam Neill). The farm is near the New Zealand “bush” — wild jungle where animals real, fantastical and human live. Adventures ensue, sometimes as the camera rotates 360 degrees in montages without cuts or dissolves.

The soundtrack here, like that for Eagle vs. Shark, is also an instant classic. There is a mixture of Kiwi choral, electronica and classics (Nina Simone’s “Sinnerman”) that somehow blend perfectly. Throw in a dead dog, and it might seem that Waititi is attempting to out-Wes Anderson Wes Anderson.

If you like Anderson’s films, or Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movies, for that matter, you should have a blast with Wilderpeople. It’s a movie brimming with energy, grief, playfulness, warmth, action and maybe even hidden messages about race relations. The movie, like Jesus, is tricky like that.

Wednesday Links: The Peregrinations and Struggle of the External World

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

“I Never Knew How to Make a Film” – Michael Cimino in a 2005 Filmmaker Magazine interview. He got his start in commercials and was known for his elaborate sets. Here’s his famous American Airlines commercial, “Take Me Along”:

The Guardian: Abbas Kiarostami, Palme d’Or-winning Iranian film-maker, dies aged 76 – If you’ve never seen a Kiarostami film, Certified Copy is a good way in.

The New Yorker: The Screenwriter of “E.T.” and “The BFG” Says Goodbye – RIP Melissa Mathison

SlashFilm: Scarlett Johansson Is Now the Highest-Grossing Female Movie Star of All Time – Her total is obviously helped by Marvel movies in which she is not the main star. However, for those who say she can’t sustain a movie as a lead, I point to Lucy. People will pay to see her kick ass, even if the plot is rather dumb.

Notes from the War Room – Terry Southern on making Dr. Strangelove

The Daily Beast: ‘Die Hard’ Oral History: How Bruce Willis Changed the Movies

The Onion: Director Has Clear Vision Of How Studio Will Destroy Movie

Smithsonian Mag: The True Story of the ‘Free State of Jones’

Kottke: The green screen driving machine – I predict it won’t be long until this tech starts being used to ‘skin’ actors as well as cars.

YOUR WEEKLY WISDOM:
“The director’s task is to recreate life, its movement, its contradictions, its dynamic and conflicts. It is his duty to reveal every iota of the truth he has seen, even if not everyone finds that truth acceptable. Of course an artist can lose his way, but even his mistakes are interesting provided they are sincere. For they represent the reality of his inner life, of the peregrinations and struggle into which the external world has thrown him.” – Andrei Tarkovsky

Weekend Viewing: Fuel

FUEL from JALABERT Camille on Vimeo.

A fun little animation…

This is my 3rd year graduation movie from MOPA (supinfocom Arles).

Thanks for watching!

Made with 3dsMax/Maya/Marvelous/Substance Painter/Zbrush

c.jalabert@ecole-mopa.fr

Wednesday Links: The Future of Netflix

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

Car jib rig chases rider on horseback across marshy fieldGame of Thrones Season 6: Anatomy of A Scene: The Battle of Winterfell (YouTube video) – An incredibly high technical level of filmmaking was on display in the last episode, including a blended continuous shot that was reminiscent of The Revenant. Needless to say, do not watch until you’ve caught up, because SPOILERS.

NYTimes: Can Netflix Survive in the New World It Created? – If anything, Hulu is getting worse with the departure of the Criterion/Janus library and the defection of the CW. HBO’s streaming has proved to be complementary rather than a threat. This article is correct in seeing Amazon as Netflix’s biggest rival.

Amazon has the deep pockets, but it should be investing those dollars on better streaming reliability, cleaner UI (with smarter recommendations) and quality content. You don’t have to click very deep on Amazon to hit miles of garbage movies and shows no one has heard of. The Amazon strategy seems to be to bid all other competitors out of business, but only on schlock. Then have the real content people want to see still have rental fees. In an age where Netflix has proven how young consumers want to consume, that model is incoherent.

AskReddit: What movie cliché drives you crazy? – “I have a bad feeling about this.”

Ars Technica: Movie written by algorithm turns out to be hilarious and intense

2001: A Picasso Odyssey – Kottke comments on another cool AI-based video.

Lessons from the Screenplay: Gone Girl — Don’t Underestimate the Screenwriter (YouTube video)

The Scene: $200 Million Movie Budget: What Everyone Earns (embedded video) – Not sure the source for this. Some parts not accurate.

No Film School: In the Future, You May Be Shooting Your Film with a Glitter-Sized ‘Metalens’

VUCAVU: Nestor – A feature film made entirely by one person. This is the only acceptable use for the “A Film By” credit.

YOUR WEEKLY WISDOM:
“If you want to make movies you need to think on a micro-micro level and figure out how to make them for nothing with people who really care about your movie and really want to make it.”Anton Yelchin

OLD POST UPDATED:
Movie Reviews: An Inconvenient Truth, A Prairie Home Companion

Your Weekend Viewing: Mocap Dance Animation Simulations

In this video, “dynamic simulations combine to create a milieu of iconic pop dance moves that become an explosion of colorful fur, feathers, particles and more.” It was created by Method Studios NY for AICP, which I presume stands for the Association of Independent Commercial Producers.

Whatever the purpose, this is a nice keyhole into a future where physics simulations and motion capture allow for some wildly creative animated images. We are not far from a world where one actor can literally put on the skin of another. (You may think, from movies like Rise of the Planet of the Apes and The Jungle Book that we are already there. However, there is a good deal of traditional animation work that is added to the mo-cap to create those performances.)

I also look forward to improvements in dance video games. Can’t wait to select one of these Avatars!

What was Robert Altman’s ideal film?

Director Robert Altman during the filming of 3 Women“A painting with music.”

Writer/director Robert Altman is famous for large-cast, multi-storyline films like M*A*S*H, Nashville and Short Cuts. He also made many smaller, low-budget films of high value. Among them is a puzzler called 3 Women, starring Sissy Spacek, Shelley Duvall and Janice Rule as women who alternately assume each others’ personas. The idea for the film grew out of some images in a dream Altman had.

In the commentary track for the film, Altman speaks about creating films out of dream material, and the way art and music influence his generative process:

It’s like a watercolor in a funny way. You start and you want to vaguely give the impression but you don’t want to do hard lines. You want the viewer to look at it and let them make the hard lines in the watercolor, or the painting.

These films, as I see it, to me they are more like paintings than literature. It’s more about a visual idea and getting impressions from a visual idea. Except, we go back to the same problem that a film is linear. If a film is two hours long, it’s always two hours long. A painting is the length of time you wanna look at it.

Music is linear. But music is not specific in terms of literature. I remember as a very, very small kid when radio first started, my parents would take me for a ride in the car, ’cause I was probably a terrible little kid. And I would come home and they would turn the radio on. It was all classical music then. And I remember kinda half in a half-dream state — half-asleep, half-awake — I’d hear that music.

I would make up stories to go along with them. These stories had no beginning or ending, but they would usually [contain] things that were in my world then. It would be a cowboy riding across the plains. Things that a four- or five-year-old child thinks about. But these are impressions. These same impressions I wouldn’t have today with that music, but it does tend to carry you through a visual. So I guess my ideal film would be a painting with music.

Continue reading

Wednesday Links: How To Cut a Joke

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

Medium: The Trailers for Ghostbusters (2016) and the Art of Editing Comedy

Onion: Leaked Documents Reveal Studio Executives Knew About ‘Gods Of Egypt’ Before It Released Onto Public – Also, listen to the latest episode of The Flop House.

Videomaker: The Kuleshov Effect: Understanding Video Editing’s Most Powerful Tool

Randal Olson: Average movie length – Cool infographic.

Indiewire: The 20 Best Palme d’Or Winners from the Cannes Film Fest – Vanity Fair’s Little Gold Men podcast also had some excellent Cannes coverage.

Kottke: A visually rich tribute to the films of Christopher Nolan

Dangerous Minds: Deep Throat, Fantasia, Rear Window and more, each condensed into a single frame

YOUR WEEKLY WISDOM:

OLD POSTS UPDATED:
Shane Black: An Annotated Filmography – Added review of The Nice Guys

Book Review: When The Shooting Stops… The Cutting Begins

When the Shooting Stops… The Cutting Begins: A Film Editor’s Story
by Ralph Rosenblum and Robert Karen

An Academy-Award winning editor once saw Walter Murch’s In the Blink of an Eye on my bookshelf. “That book is bullshit,” he said. “If you want to know what it’s really like being an editor, I’ll tell you what you need to read: When the Shooting Stops…

And so I did. And he was right. When the Shooting Stops… is less focussed on the techniques of editing and more focussed on techniques of surviving in the rough world of the movie business. Editor Ralph Rosenblum cut many great movies, from A Thousand Clowns to The Pawnbroker to Annie Hall, all of which he talks about in the book. But it is some of the lesser-known films he talks about that make the biggest impression. Battles with directors, producers and the footage itself together form a compelling picture of a life spent making movies.

With writing help from Robert Karen, Rosenblum relates episodes from his creative life with a little dollop of movie history giving a background on the development of various editing philosophies. Like a movie that Rosenblum has edited, the book does not move precisely chronologically. Instead, it opens with the dramatic two-part story of how he “saved” William Friedkin’s third film, The Night They Raided Minsky’s. The editing techniques he describes – use of stock footage, abrupt music cuts, starting and ending scenes unpredictably – can all be seen in recent movies like The Big Short.

Rosenblum talks about his entree into the editing business, through assisting on documentaries. And he dishes on the directors he’s worked with, people like Mel Brooks and Woody Allen. There is a late chapter in the book where he both sympathizes with and excoriates young directors who have let the auteur theory go to their heads. In Rosenblum’s experience, “almost all directors” identify “themselves with the giants of their trade” and “immediately begin demanding the right to control the final cut of the film, not because their ability or their body of work justified it but because their swollen sense of self-importance coveted it.” The best directors, in Rosenblum’s estimation, are the ones who allow other people to make creative contributions without taking it as a personal affront to their own status.

The late chapters deal with Rosenblum’s relationship with Woody Allen, one of those directors who is open to creative collaboration. The story of Annie Hall is of course famous for being ‘found’ in the editing room. Rosenblum died in 1995 and, if you feel some of Woody’s later films haven’t been as good, it may be the sensitive, surprising and savvy contributions of Rosenblum that you have been missing.

I heartily recommend this book to anyone interested in practicing the craft of editing, and more importantly I recommend it to any young directors who would rather be good filmmakers than be worshipped.

Wednesday Links: Movies in a Word

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

Reddit Movies: What are some movies that can be widely recognized when quoting only one word? – Is it bad that I don’t recognize some of the top-voted choices? “Shenanigans” makes me think of the movie Office Space but obviously the word that evokes that movie would be “flair”.

Honest Trailers – Deadpool (Feat. Deadpool) – Deadpool invades his own honest trailer, of course.

Washington Post: Here’s the problem with both ‘Captain America: Civil War’ and ‘Batman v Superman’ – A rare perspective lumping these two films together.

Star Wars – Episode V “The Empire Strikes Back” Homage (Vimeo Video) – A James-Bond-Movie-Style Title Sequence

Playboy: A Beginner’s Guide to Superhero Cinema

SlashFilmcast 2016 Summer Movie Wager (podcast) – Which movie will win the box office crown, Captain America, Finding Dory, or something else?

Celluloid Junkie: Ang Lee Just Invented a New Form of Cinema

Google Public Policy Blog: A Step Toward Protecting Fair Use on YouTube – Meanwhile, YouTube disables audio on John Cage’s “4’33”

WhatCulture: 10 Ambiguous Film Endings You’re Getting Totally Wrong (YouTube Video)

New Yorker: Our Dated Model of Theatrical Release is Hurting Independent Film

Indiewire: Criterion Explains Its New Streaming Service FilmStruck – Glad there will be another option besides Hulu to access the Criterion streaming library.

YOUR WEEKLY WISDOM:
“Artists were too happy, so God invented film.” – Sidney Meyers

Blu-ray Review: I Knew Her Well (Criterion)

In the last few years, I’ve become enamored of the Italian cinema of the 1960’s, a New Wave unto itself and the originator of a genre that came to be known as commedia all’italiana, a mix of drama and comedy that embraces life in all its irony. As the bonus features on this new Criterion release say, I Knew Her Well is not a proper commedia all’italiana. I would say it has much more drama than comedy, but it still embraces the feeling of the movement.

The movie is a character study of aspiring actress Adriana Astarelli (Stefania Sandrelli, in a revelatory performance). Adriana seems to float through life, seducing men, listening to the radio — the movie has an awesome 60’s soundtrack — and doing small-potato modelling jobs.

But all is not as perfect as it may first appear. Adriana repeatedly brushes against the dark side of life, men who assault her or wish to pimp her out. Director Antonio Pietrangelli and co-screenwriters Ruggero Maccari (Scent of a Woman) and Etore Scola (Il Sorpasso) also show us how show business humiliates men as well as women, in an unforgettable party sequence worthy of Fellini.

The movie jumps from scene to scene with little context, and it is offscreen that Adriana finds out her kid sister has died. She had lost touch with her simple, Tuscan family for years. Instead of the sad scene where she hears this news, the scene the filmmakers show us is a bittersweet one instead. Continue reading

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