Making the Movie

Filmmaking tips, resources, reviews, news and links.

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Your Wednesday Links: The Director’s Burden 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.

Slashfilm: Movies Sold At Sundance 2016

An educational video about the cliché of ladies slapping men in movies

This lesson from The Book of Life can be profitably employed in the movie industry

BELLADONNA OF SADNESS Official Red Band Trailer – Weird, kinda amazing and definitely NSFW promo for a trippy 1970’s Japanese animated film, newly restored.

Filmmaker Magazine: Cracking Eggs: Looking for Financial Stability Outside of Independent Film

Engadget: 4K Blu-ray has already lost to streaming

BuzzFeed: 5 Batshit Things In The Movie “Joy” That Weren’t In The Original Screenplay

YOUR WEEKLY WISDOM:
“The myth that the director is the sole creator of his film is a burden on almost everyone in the movie business, including the director, who frequently becomes weighted down by excess responsibility, in capable of generating a team spirit, afraid to delegate authority, or unable to graciously accept the contributions of the expert collaborators he has summoned to his side.” – Ralph Rosendblum (and Robert Karen), When the Shooting Stops… The Cutting Begins: A Film Editor’s Story

Your Weekend Viewing: In Frame: Zun Lee

From the Vimeo page:

Zun Lee is a physician, self-taught photographer and visual storyteller based in Toronto. He originally picked up a camera to relieve work-related stress and quickly developed an exacting eye for documentary photography and street portraiture. His intimate projects “Father Figure” and “Fade Resistance” challenge media stereotypes of African-American families and have garnered the attention of The New York Times, The New Yorker, and Magnum Foundation, among others.

Director Sam Wood on authenticity in actors

I found this little gem in an unlikely place, Dale Carnegie’s 1948 self-help book How to Stop Worrying and Start Living. The frequent name-dropper Carnegie relates a little piece of wisdom he heard from the director Sam Wood. Wood is largely forgotten today, but he made some terrific films, including one that many consider the best baseball film of all time, Pride of the Yankees. This advice on acting comes within a larger discussion about self-knowledge:

Sam Wood […] said the greatest headache he has with aspiring young actors is exactly this problem: to make them be themselves. They all want to be second-rate Lana Turners or third-rate Clark Gables. “The public has already had that flavor,” Sam Wood keeps telling them; “now it wants something else.”

Before he started directing pictures such as Goodbye, Mr. Chips and For Whom the Bell Tolls, Sam Wood spent years in the real-estate business, developing sales personalities. He declares that the same principles apply in the business world as in the world of moving pictures. You won’t get anywhere playing the ape. You can’t be a parrot. “Experience has taught me,” says Sam Wood, “that it is safest to drop, as quickly as possible, people who pretend to be what they aren’t.”

I wonder if Sam Wood would have spotted the talent of a young Meryl Streep, a gifted mimic who seems to disappear into a role. On the other hand, he might have noticed a George Clooney or a Tom Hanks, actors whose screen personas are extension of their natural likability.

Whether the actor you’re presented with is a Streep or a Clooney, the point is well-taken that the actors should be self-aware enough to know which kind of actor they are.

Your Wednesday Links: Get In Formation 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.

FiveThirtyEight: ‘“Leo Got A New Fur Coat But, Gosh, Was It Worth The Consequences?” – released domestically as “The Revenant”’ – See also their 2016 Oscars Race interactive infographic

The Atlantic: Will ‘Batman v Superman’ Manage to Revive the Most Difficult Comic-Book Superhero of All?

rkenji on Imgur: Brazilian movie titles translated back – Also ‘clickworthy’ on Imgur: Who Rotten Tomatoes says should have won Best Picture

Newcity Film: Hey Hey In The Hayloft: The Preston Sturges Whirl Of “Hail, Caesar!” – I enjoyed the new Coen Bros film as a combination of A Simple Man and Burn After Reading. Nearly every scene is a gem, but it’s a bit esoteric for the average film-goer, so I’m not surprised the box office has been a disappointment.

Additionally, this past week I watched Chi-raq on Amazon Instant (free with Prime). The film is supremely cinematic, but it also benefits from VOD due to the density of the language and imagery. Like Hail, Caesar!, it is well-built for repeat viewing.

OLD POSTS UPDATED:
Vimeo Discontinues Tip Jar

Your Weekend Viewing: A Brief History of Cursing in Cinema

Your Wednesday Links: Oscars Snowy White

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

New York Times: Academy Board Endorses Changes to Increase Diversity in Oscar Nominees and Itself – A radical move yet one that is unlikely to please Academy members or the general public. Doubling the already small number of women and minorities in the Academy is probably still a small ratio of women and minorities. Also, can the Academy be sure that the ’emeritus’ member votes are the ones that are disadvantaging deserving actors and crew members of color? Mightn’t it also be younger members whose personal and business networks are extremely white? Might some older members be the ones who have time to seek out and view the more obscure films by people they don’t know? Might publicity campaigns for white movies be given more money because of the perception that white movies are preferred by the Academy? It’s a sticky problem that echoes the problems with a lot of entrenched, powerful institutions in this country.

SEE ALSO: Academy Member FAQ

The Guardian: Internet cat video festival is ‘harder to get tickets to than Burning Man’

Kottke: Max Mad: Fury Road sped up 12X is still watchable – See also the Mad Max Fury Road vfx reel

Lynn Cinnamon: How The Big Short’s Michael Burry invests in water

Variety: ‘Southside With You’ Review: Barack and Michelle Obama’s First DateSwiss Army Man is also getting some, ahem, interesting reviews out of Sundance. And Birth of a Nation sold for a record amount.

A chart of every death in John Wick

The New Yorker: The Oscar Whiteness Machine

LA Times: Netflix: The most feared force in Hollywood? – Every day the studios continue to back the failed UltraViolet format is a huge win for Netflix.

IndieWire: The 11 Must-See Movies Completely Rejected By the Oscars

Your Weekend Viewing: The Exam

This unsettling thriller, written and directed by William Speruzzi, follows what happens when a man up for a job promotion gets a rather unorthodox medical examination.

Read more about the film on the official website.

Your Wednesday Links: Post Golden Globes Hangover 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.

Hollywood Reporter: The Making of ‘Sicario’: How the Cast Survived a Trip Through Juarez

The new Trailer for Hail Caesar built entirely around one (hilarious) scene – The Zootopia teaser also did this. Could be the start of an interesting trend. It is a known technique for trailers to “stop down” and play an extended part of a scene in order to demonstrate quality. So what effect does showing an entire scene have?

SlashFilm: Pacific Rim 2 Might Not Be Dead (And We Probably Have China to Thank for It) – Would much rather see this franchise keep going than Transformers.

New Republic: Our Most Anticipated Movies of 2016

Little Gold Men Podcast analyzes what the Globes wins mean for Oscars – Hint: not a whole lot. Sorry, Matt Damon.

US Mag: What Ricky Gervais said to Mel Gibson

NBC Didn’t Stream the Golden Globes – A bad trend… for movie lovers and for NBC’s ratings.

YOUR WEEKLY INSPIRATION:

Anne Coates, editor of LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, accepts her lifetime achievement award.

A photo posted by Devin Faraci (@birthmoviesdevin) on

Movie Review: The Hateful Eight

This is Quentin Tarantino epynumerous eighth film — an homage to Fellini’s 8 1/2, perhaps? — and one of his most divisive. It is both shot in epic, difficult 70mm and staged as an intimate, intricate theater piece. It is also perhaps his most defiantly social-justice-themed, a companion to Django Unchained in more than the period and plethora of bounty hunters.

I’m not sure precisely which of the characters are supposed to count as the ‘eight’ of the title, but the meat of the story centers around a group of people trapped in Minnie’s Haberdashery during a postbellum Wyoming blizzard. Just like in today’s headlines, the fault lines of the Civil War are still visible, and the plight of African-Americans hinges on their capacity to “disarm” self-appointed lawmen and criminals alike.

To me, that makes it a great deal more successful than Django Unchained, which seemed to apply the Inglorious Basterds playbook of anachronistic revenge to the amorphous evil of slavery instead of Nazis, with far less success. Here, the playbook is straight out of John Carpenter’s The Thing. How? To get into more specifics will require spoilers, and boy does this movie have spoilers!

But first… Is the film worth seeing in the 70mm roadshow version? Definitely. Only check reports to see if your local theater’s projectionist isn’t up to snuff. Running a 70mm screening is no joke. I can’t be sure, but I feel like the film stock used and the color treatment (in the opening credits) evokes the only 60’s extravaganzas. Even the camera movement, on an early complicated opening shot, is far less smooth than Tarantino or the world’s #1 lighter of tables, d.p. Robert Richardson, would normally allow.

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Movie Review: Spotlight

spotlight_posterSpotlight is an excellent drama of journalism in action. All those people saying it is the best since All The President’s Men are wrong. It is, in fact, better.

It’s virtues are subtle but wonderful: a graceful script, a verité sense of the production design, unshowy direction, calibrated performances — not least by Mark Ruffalo — and a wallop of a dramatic conclusion that beats the pants off All The President’s ‘hey, you know the rest of this story’ abrupt ending.

The events of Spotlight took place not long ago, but as the film dramatizes without underlining too much, the changes in journalism thanks to the internet have changed everything. One shot really, which shows an AOL billboard looming over the Boston Globe parking lot, visually communicates it all.

Actor-cum-writer/director Tom McCarthy has quietly been making excellent films for years. Win Win, in particular, I felt did not get its due. Still, the control exhibited here, both in the economy of the storytelling and subtlety of the performances, evinces a new level of confidence. Like All The President’s Men, Spotlight trusts the inherent drama of chasing a story, the small triumphs over petty bureaucracies and the nagging fear that a rival reporter is going to beat you to the big headline.

Ruffalo, as is his tendency, is a bit mannered for my taste. He still transforms himself with this role in a way I’ve never seen, and his big speech near the end of the film is a truly great acting moment. Rachel McAdams, Liev Schrieber, Stanley Tucci and Michael Keaton are less attention-grabbing but still excellent. By true picks for acting MVPs are the lesser-known character actors, all of whom inhabit their roles in a way that seems effortless: Brian d’Arcy James, James Sheridan, Neal Huff, Michael Cyril Creighton & the man who played the victim who finally consents to use his name and picture. (I cannot find the actor’s name.)

Spotlight is the conventional wisdom pick to win Best Picture. For me, it didn’t give me the same frisson as The Revenant or The Big Short. It is, however, an excellent and important film. Like The Big Short it reminds us in closing that, sadly, even exposure of scandals does little to change the status quo.

The Catholic Church continues to be, in Star Wars parlance, a hive of scum and villainy. I say this ruefully, and from my perch within a family of Catholics. What can even great filmmaking do in the face of religious conviction? At least with Bill Cosby finally facing arrest, perhaps there is some hope that our most corrupt institutions will see justice, even if it has been a justice delayed.

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