Saturday, February 23, 2013

behind the scenes links

---"Good riddance, the freeloading bastard, I hope he fries."

---behind the scenes of Terrence Malick's To The Wonder

---Russian Meteorite: The Movie

---Alice

---"all the writers I know now, even right after The Hunger Games, go to meetings and have pitches for television series for female protagonists, and they're told [Hardwicke mimics a deep male voice], 'Well, we need a male protagonist.' It's so bizarre, it's like there's a disconnect." Jerusha Hess, who co-wrote Napoleon Dynamite, has heard similar stories: "I've had friends who've done animation, and they're told they can't sell this because there's not a boy in this fairy tale, and you're like, 'It's a fairy tale—it's supposed to be about a girl.'"

But research shows that the gender of the lead protagonist—or the gender of the director—plays little role in the box-office success of a film.

---courtroom cliches

---Bugs' version of the shower scene

---The early roles of your Oscar nominees

---the dissolves of Vertigo

---the spaces of Amour

---Oscar-nominated editors "run through a key scene from their films"

---30 rock and roll movie moments

---"the system is basically an imperial system . . . they set up this US treasury bond system which essentially functions as a way of funnelling tribute money into the US. . . . There is no real difference between American military power and American financial power" --David Graeber

---"this state of not being observed would begin to torment him after awhile"

---Joe Carnahan discusses creative control as Tony Scott comments on filmmaking

---a film written by a robot

---how to cut a movie trailer

---"Last night, on my way from Turkey to Los Angeles, CA, my family and I were held at US immigration for about an hour and questioned about the purpose of my visit to the United States. Immigration officials asked for proof that I was nominated for an Academy Award for the documentary 5 Broken Cameras and they told me that if I couldn’t prove the reason for my visit, my wife Soraya, my son Gibreel and I would be sent back to Turkey on the same day."  --Emad Burnat

---Emmanuelle Riva in Hiroshima Mon Amour

---Oscar-worthy cinematography and Roger Deakins' most iconic shots

---"Too big to fail has become too big for trial" --Senator Elizabeth Warren

---trailers for Beyond the Hills, Stoker, Simon KillerKon-Tiki, Project Kronos, Hubris, The Unbelievers, It's a Disaster, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, and Finding Vivian Maier

---"I still don't understand how it went that big," says Marquis-Poulin, 23. "I go from step one to the final result. I see all the work we did. I can't comprehend somebody on their phone, watching the video, saying, 'Look at this! An eagle catches a baby! That's awesome.' I can't imagine how many people had this moment. It's weird."

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Strip Mining Yippikiyay: the Film Doctor's one sentence review of A Good Day to Die Hard

'Tis a melancholy thing to brood upon A Good Day to Die Hard's vision of American befuddled balding male machismo, this barren culturally illiterate depiction of Russia, a celebration of American xenophobia in which McClane yells out "You think I understand a word you say?" after knocking a random Muscovite out, this bleak traffic-congested Moscow of numbingly repetitive car crashes and heroes falling through glass over and over, a grim mid-August would-be blockbuster released in February with a high-pitched orchestral score conveying heightened continual excitement, the movie a large, unwieldy tanklike object with saturated marketing conning viewers into witnessing aging action tropes (a plunge into a bullet-ridden bar echoing The Fifth Element (1997)) as it purveys cold war nostalgia, a dream of boomer dads awkwardly reconciling with their progeny mixed in with triumphalist Reagan-era fantasies of an aging empire too stupefied with its CGI explosions to recognize how its sequelitis mirrors its obsolescence, so yeah, sure, gramps has still got it even as Willis cashes in on all of the good will he has generated since appearing in Moonrise Kingdom and Looper when he squints and mutters lines like "You are gonna shoot your father?" and "I believed work was all that mattered" and "I love you, boy" and "Let's go kill some of those bad guys" (the movie would benefit from having no dialogue) as a vacuum cleaner-esque machine neutralizes (!) Chernobyl radiation just before John McClane hangs off the back end of a military Russki helicopter spinning around helplessly, committing copter-harakiri as this poor bludgeoned moviegoer prays that perhaps, somewhere, somehow, some day, a 20th Century Fox studio executive weeps for strip mining the last vestiges of a viewer's affection for the 1988 Die Hard.

Friday, February 15, 2013

The top 10 movie reviews of all time?

What would be your top ten favorite movie reviews of all time? Pauline Kael's 1967 review of Bonnie and Clyde would top my list, but beyond that I don't know, something by Andrew Sarris, David Thomson, Manny Farber, James Agee, A. O. Scott, Anthony Lane, Manohla Dargis, Jonathan Rosenbaum, Roger Ebert, or Andre Bazin? Which reviews specifically?

I challenge Jason Bellamy, Nathaniel Rogers, Catherine Grant, Dana Stevens, Glenn Kenny, David Hudson, Anne Helen Petersen, Farran Nehme, Jake Cole, Kim Morgan, Dennis Cozzalio, Kelli Marshall, Matt Zoller Seitz, Ed Howard, Dan North, Richard BrodyCraig, the Cinetrix, Girish Shambu, and anyone else who may feel inclined to come up with a list. The results could be fascinating.

Meanwhile, some links:

---Beautiful Nightmares: David Lynch's Collective Dream

---"A girl and a gun"  

---"The Future of Cinema" by Keanu Reeves (with Martin Scorsese)

---David Bordwell considers The Man Who Knew Too Much

---The Art of Illustration

---ParaNorman's title sequence

---the early roles of the Oscar nominees

---behind the scenes of The Avengers

---Gary Hustwit's tips for documentary filmmakers

---L'univers de Jacques Demy

---Serge Daney considers film criticism 

---VFX videos for Looper and Flight

---Neil Sinyard on Grace Kelly in Rear Window

Sunday, February 10, 2013

"an indiscriminate video game": 9 notes on drones

1) "imagine a world, which we will soon be living in, where everybody has drones."

2) “I wouldn’t mind if federal officials blew up other citizens and claimed it was in the name of my safety. But it’s just that when it comes to me, I guess I’d rather not be slaughtered by my own elected officials on charges that never have to be validated by any accountable authority. This is tough.”

3) "Trial by jury, trial by fire, rock, paper scissors, who cares? Due process just means that there is a process that you do. The current process is apparently, first the president meets with his advisers and decides who he can kill. Then he kills them."

4) "'A lawful killing in self-defense is not an assassination,' the white paper reads. 'In the Department’s view, a lethal operation conducted against a U.S. citizen whose conduct poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States would be a legitimate act of national self-defense that would not violate the assassination ban. Similarly,  the use of lethal force, consistent with the laws of war, against an individual who is a legitimate military target would be lawful and would not violate the assassination ban.'"

5) "While we do not yet claim to punish criminals before they commit crimes, the core concept of Minority Report, that predicted future criminal conduct is sufficient grounds for locking a person up [or incinerating them], may be closer to realization in the real world than some might suppose."  --from Paul R. Joseph's "Minority Report: Is The Future Now?" (2002)

6) "None of those actions are to determine past guilt for those actions that they took. The decisions that they made are to take actions to prevent a future action—to protect American lives. And that is an inherently executive function." --John Brennan

7) "Perhaps most alarmingly, no one pressed Brennan on why the administration had the right to launch drone strikes in countries like Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia where the United States is not formally at war."

8) "Her grandmother was picking vegetables. . . . The US says this isn't an indiscriminate video game."

9) "The moral ambiguity of covert drone strikes will clarify itself very quickly if another country claims the right under international law to strike its enemies in the U.S. There may come a day when the U.S. bitterly regrets the precedents it has set."

Friday, February 8, 2013

corporate state links

---the opening titles of Run Lola Run

---"Challenge everything, I heard her say between the lines, and sometimes An opinion is an action, a flag planted, a flare shot to the sky. Movies and love and life are one. Know everything, and then know more. And above all else — know what you find in Charade is just as valuable, if not more so, than in The Seventh Seal"

---Dan North's class notes on Godard's Le Mepris

---It Felt Like a Kiss

---behind the scenes of City Lights

---paparazzi

---25 movie critics

---Rabiger's tips for directing actors

---"Citizens of the world.  We have seen the erosion of due process."

---"Digital Cinematography vs. Film: Tides Are Turning"

---Spielberg's grace notes

---Squint Eastwood

---Ronan Doyle's "Deconstructing Woody"

---"From Rushmore to Moonrise Kingdom (shamefully neglected by this year’s Academy voters), Wes Anderson’s films readily, even eagerly, concede the 'miniature' quality of the worlds he builds, in their set design and camera-work, in their use of stop-motion, maps, and models. And yet these miniatures span continents and decades. They comprise crime, adultery, brutality, suicide, the death of a parent, the drowning of a child, moments of profound joy and transcendence.

Vladimir Nabokov, his life cleaved by exile, created a miniature version of the homeland he would never see again and tucked it, with a jeweler’s precision, into the housing of John Shade’s miniature epic of family sorrow. Anderson—who has suggested that the breakup of his parents’ marriage was a defining experience of his life—adopts a Nabokovian procedure with the families or quasi families at the heart of all his films, from Rushmore forward, creating a series of scale-model households that, like the Zemblas and Estotilands and other lost 'kingdoms by the sea' in Nabokov, intensify our experience of brokenness and loss by compressing them. That is the paradoxical power of the scale model; a child holding a globe has a more direct, more intuitive grasp of the earth’s scope and variety, of its local vastness and its cosmic tininess, than a man who spends a year in circumnavigation." --Michael Chabon

---The Pirate Bay Documentary

---trailers for Lawrence Anyways, Fast and Furious 6, Somebody Up There Likes Me, From Up on Poppy Hill, Inequality for All, Byzantium, and I'm So Excited

---The Lady Vanishes

---"The individual has now risen to the level of a mini-government or mini-corporation. Via YouTube and Twitter, each of us is our own mini-network. The trajectory of nearly all technology follows this downward and widening path: by the time a regular person is able to create his own TV network, it doesn’t matter anymore that I have or am on a network. The power of the technology cancels itself via its own ubiquity. Nothing really changes: the individual’s ability to project his message or throw his weight around remains minuscule. In the case of the Web, each of us has slightly more access to a mass audience — a few more people slide through the door — but Facebook is finally a crude personal multimedia conglomerate machine, a ham-fisted personal nation-state machine, a reality-show machine." --David Shields

---Lizzy Caplan's Fashion Film

---Obey

Monday, February 4, 2013

The hard-boiled fairy tale: 9 notes on Alfred Hitchcock's Notorious (1946)

1) Some may describe it as dull, but Notorious operates like a symbolist poem, mostly by suggestion. While Hitchcock's delightful The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934) has plenty of gunplay, chairs thrown around, and an evil dentist, Notorious is all civilized constraint and stately 1940s manners in cluttered Victorian drawing rooms. One Nazi, while eating dinner, mentions twisting his ankle the last time he killed someone. We learn quickly that, in this Rio de Janeiro world of intrigue, you can die for merely pointing at the wrong bottle, but Hitchcock never deigns to show you a weapon or raise a fuss. Instead we glide up and down a staircase. A door quietly closes in the audience's face.

2) I like the seemingly frivolous early party scene in which the notorious Alicia Huberman (Ingrid Bergman) pours various hard liquor drinks into her guests' glasses and openly admires Cary Grant (T. R. Devlin) even though we can't see his face. Emotionally remote, detached, and something of a passive aggressive control freak, he tends to face away for much of the movie. Still, Alicia says that she likes "party crashers," and sits with him. Her guests talk aimlessly about fishing before they pass out. Later, Devlin will place an empty glass on the chest of one of the women lying nearby. In this film, even Hitchcock's sight gags are demure.

3) Devlin alternates between being perfectly handsome, cavalier as Alicia drives drunk, brutal when he's obliged to punch her to knock her out, and chivalric in the way he ties a scarf around her waist to protect her from the cold. At times, Devlin seems actively jealously obnoxious, such as when he nonchalantly ignores Alicia's pleas to hurry up when he's cleaning up the wine cellar.

4) Later, on the edge of death, Alicia will return the scarf, and so the seemingly trivial object gains new meaning as it resurfaces in the movie, as various bottles, a key, and a coffee cup will do soon enough.

5) On the morning after Devlin knocks out Alicia, she wakes to find that he's fixed her a "morning-after" potion to help with her hangover. Whereas Psycho (1960) concerns itself with eating, Notorious fixates on drinking, in terms of Alicia's incipient alcoholism, her attempts to dry out, and in terms of poisoning. But there's also the phallic champagne bottle which Devlin forgets once he learns that his government agency intends for Alicia to seduce a top Nazi scientist, and a wine bottle of uranium ore that serves as a MacGuffin for the famous party scene.

6) At one point, Alicia says "Down the drain with Alicia," foreshadowing Psycho.

7) The chief Nazi, Alex (Claude Rains) is a comically short mother's boy, oddly sympathetic in his headstrong love for Alicia. In 1946, Hitchcock seems much more self-aware of the foolishness of guys around beautiful women in comparison, to say, his problematic relationship with Tippi Hedren years later behind the scenes of The Birds (1963). That's the problem with Sacha Gervasi's 2012 bio-pic Hitchcock: when he's stabbing at various imagined enemies in the shower, Anthony Hopkins's version of Alfred seems scarcely self-aware of anything.

8) Hitchcock appears to fictionalize his elaborate Catholic mother/son issues in the way that Sebastian's mother (Leopoldine Konstantin) Madame Anna Sebastian frequently betrays her jealous dislike to Alicia. At one point, she says to Sebastian, "Wouldn't it be a little too much if we both grinned at her [Alicia] like idiots?" Is this some kind of reverse Oedipal complex?

9) Notorious is a hard-boiled fairy tale that loves nothing so much as lingering on the immense star presence of Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman (dressed in their perfect Edith Head-designed clothes) indefinitely. Hitchcock's camera seems to ask over and over, in scene after scene: what more does one need?