Making the Movie

Filmmaking tips, resources, reviews, news and links.

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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.

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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

Wednesday Links: 2000mm Lens Edition

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

Vashi Nedomansky on d.p. Hoyte van Hoytema’s dramatic use of a 2000mm lens in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

The Dr. Strange screenwriter explains how the handling of The Ancient One is “the Kobayashi Maru of the Marvel Universe” – YouTube video of a radio interview

NYTimes: Cindy Sherman Takes On Aging (Her Own)

The New Yorker profiles some pioneers of virtual reality movies

“I will always circle back to writing because I think writing is the most pure and joyful experience as far as creating stories go. There are no boundaries, there are no foreign sales estimates, there’s nothing that gets in your way. It’s really fun to problem solve.” —Slashfilm talks to Green Room writer/director Jeremy Saulnier

TechCrunch: Lytro’s 755 megapixel Cinema light field camera is going to kill the green screen

Variety: AMC Entertainment CEO backpedals: “No texting allowed”

YOUR WEEKLY WISDOM:
A movie that isn’t at least 10% weird is 100% worthless.

OLD POSTS UPDATED:
Selling a Film without a Name Actor

What were Fassbinder’s favorite films?

Director Rainer Werner FassbinderEveryone knows German director Rainer Werner Fassbinder was profoundly influenced by the melodramas of Douglas Sirk. His most-acclaimed work, Ali: Fear Eats the Soul is a remake of Sirk’s All That Heaven Allows. But in 1980, when Fassbinder was asked by a publsher to list his top ten films, he had some surprising choices, none of them directed by Sirk.

Many, however, are directed by Sirk’s contemporary Hollywood master filmmakers, people like Howard Hawks, Michael Curtiz and Nicholas Ray. There are also some decidedly non-Hollywood choices, like Pier Pasolini and Max Ophuls (also a favorite director of Stanley Kubrick). What ties all these films together, and the films of Douglas Sirk, is a heightened sense of drama, and real feel for the emotional inner lives of the characters…

10. Flamingo Road (1949)

A carnival dancer (Joan Crawford) and a businessman team up to get revenge on a crooked political boss in this Michael Curtiz-directed film noir. We’ll see more carnival dancing later on this list with the story of Lola Montès.

9. Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975)

This notorious Pasolini-directed film is based on the writings of the Marquis de Sade. It is reportedly nearly impossible to watch, depicting a series of atrocities that are meant as a critique of the culture surrounding the government of fascist leader Benito Mussolini.

8. The Naked and the Dead (1958)

This adaptation of the Norman Mailer novel was directed by Raoul Walsh. It’s a study of men in war, but it’s a thoughtful study and perhaps that’s what attracted Fassbinder.

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Blu-ray Review: The Emigrants / The New Land

This new double-feature from The Criterion Collection is as epic a movie experience as I’ve ever witnessed. Over the course of two 3+ hour films, I experienced the sweep of years of history, with one, specific Swedish family somehow standing in for many American immigrant experiences.

Max von Sydow and Liv Ullmann play a husband and wife, poor farmers who are struggling to survive in Sweden even before some turns of bad luck make them decide to emigrate to the United States. The story also has many side characters, including some fellow Swedish villagers who are persecuted for practicing their own brand of Christianity. In one of the bitterest ironies of the whole saga, we see that religious persecution isn’t always left behind in the land from which you escape.

The movies unfold at their own pace, but are never slow. Director/cinematographer/editor/co-writer Jan Troell, with his production designer, has a remarkable eye for historical detail. When von Sydow’s farmer plows his field using an ox, it is just as farmers of that time must have done. Likewise, we see the characters cook meals, mend shoes, build houses — all as naturally as if a documentary filmmaker had somehow been transported back to the 1840’s.

Each film has an intermission, so the whole experience can easily be broken into four separate viewings, which is pretty much how I experienced it. Because it is based on a series of connected novels — Troell and screenwriter Bengt Forslund adapt The Emigrants books by Vilhelm Moberg — the parts all feel like one organic whole, even as years pass, characters die, and new characters enter.

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