I was brought up on Superman as a kid. There was a whole point in my life where I read Superman. So when I was finished with it, I was like, “Man, if they make this movie, they are destroying the legend of Superman.” I wanted to do it just to defend him.I called [writer] Tom Mankiewicz, who had been a friend for years. He said, “I don’t want to get involved. I don’t want to do a comic book.” I said, “Tom, it’s more than a comic book. Please come over.”I got a little stoned, smoked some weed, put on the Superman costume. I was in pretty good shape then. It was like elastic. And Tom pulled up, and I ran across the lawn and Tom turned and looked at me and ran back to his car.Tom says, “You’re crazy. Get the f— away from me!”
[kubrick] There’s Something About Stanley: Kubrick’s Strange Science Of Obsession … the search for meaning in Stanley Kubrick’s films… ‘What if the most meaningful clue is not in anything that the Kubraphiles are proposing, but in the fact that they are looking, and what if Kubrick intended this to happen? Allowing that it was more than just the deluded bid for immortality of a cosmically inflated ego, what might the end game be here? As I suspect every good Zen master will tell you, the nature of such a many-layered puzzle is that it’s not the answer but the experience of finding it that leads to understanding.’
Suddenly here it is, plopped down in the middle of an antique chessboard like a massive rook, a foot-high black statuette of a falcon. The hunched, brooding shoulders are instantly recognizable.
There is a long moment of silence.
“This is the thing dreams are made of,” Risan announces.
I’m not sure what to say. He has told me he actually owns two Falcons. I ask where the other one is. “I leave it downstairs,” Risan replies. “It’s too fucking evil. It has the presence of surrealism. American surrealism. The evocation of evil that it manifests is not normally the kind of thing I like to collect. I like the Warhols, the chessboards. So I leave it in the basement.”
This is a lot to digest. Risan senses my skepticism.
“I know, right?” he says with a smile. “Weird. Weird guy with a lot of art.”
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March 3, 2016
[movies] Ghost in the Shell, over two decades old, remains our most challenging film about technology … a look back at the anime/manga Ghost in the Shell … ‘Kusanagi also questions what her existence means or even is, and whether she is just a synthetic being created by scientists, with neurological implants aimed at making her more productive. She asks her colleague Batou, “I mean who knows what’s inside our heads. Have you ever seen your own brain?” and examines whether a hyper-connected cyborg could create its own soul all by itself? This scene ultimately poses the final scary question: what is the purpose of being human?’
[enhance] Let’s Enhance …‘Let’s run this through video enhancement…’ …
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February 15, 2016
[movies] Michael Mann Looks Back on His Career … Michael Mann interviewed… ‘Because, though people characterize Heat as a crime thriller, that’s the last thing it is, at least in my mind. It’s a very formally structured drama, and its structure is a character-driven dialectic of Hanna [Al Pacino’s character] and McCauley [Robert De Niro’s character]. Its plot is driven by a crime story and a police story to a certain point, and then it breaks into a kind of chorus. In that chorus, we see slices of these different people’s lives. The fuguelike nature of the narrative is what was so exciting to me. When you’re with McCauley, you are subjectively immersed in his life, and you want what he wants, his expectations, his ambitions — his heart is your heart. You want him to get away. When you’re with Hanna, you want him to intercept McCauley, and you want him to achieve what’s driving him. That the two of them know and like each other while they’re headed for a lethal collision, and that they’re two of the only people who are like each other in the invented universe of this movie, that’s the construction. It’s brutally rigid construction.’
[toys] Stormtroopers – the world’s biggest army? … a BBC reporter attempts to find out how many Star Wars Action Figures have been sold since 1977 … ‘My first significant breakthrough came from an unlikely source – the Leicestershire County Council Museum Service. The original Star Wars toys were produced under license in the UK by a company called Palitoy. They had a factory in Coalville in Leicestershire, and the museum inherited some of its paper. An internal company newsletter from 1985 revealed it had sold 25 million action figures in the UK alone – more than one toy for every child in the country at the time.’
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[religion] Religious Symbolism in E.T. … a look at the similarities between E.T. and Jesus … ‘Occasionally incongruous pieces of religious symbolism are sprinkled throughout the film. The children’s mother is called Mary, a fact emphasised by her children calling her by her first name throughout the movie. Elliot promises to believe in E.T. his whole life—implying, curiously, that the event would later become a matter of faith. The iconography is also Biblical — a rainbow in the sky, E.T.’s glowing heart, and the famous image of the boy’s and alien’s fingers touching—suspiciously reminiscent of Michaelangelo’s Creation of Adam.’
[movies] 50 Brilliant Science Fiction Movies That Everyone Should See At Least Once … ‘Robocop: Another totally subversive science fiction movie from the 1980s, this film picks up Tron’s obsessions with corporate fascism and runs in a different direction, with the evil OCP trying to take over Detroit’s police force and remake the struggling city as Delta City. RoboCop himself is a great example of science fiction’s struggle with the ways technology changes or negates our humanity, and 20 years before The Dark Knight, this film manages to delve into similar questions about how far we’ll go to keep society safe from crime. A surreal blend of cyberpunk, Frankenstein and action movie, this film remains Verhoeven’s greatest statement.’
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November 4, 2015
[comics] 10 great comic book films … a list of ten comic adaptations work watching … ‘American Splendor: This portrait of underground comic book writer Harvey Pekar blurs the boundaries between drama and documentary to disorientating effect. Paul Giamatti stars as Pekar, a Cleveland file clerk who turned his own mundane existence into profound popular art through a series of autobiographical comics. The film’s masterstroke is that Pekar and his wife Joyce narrate, wryly commenting on the dramatisation of their own lives. Hilarious, poignant, piercingly insightful and formally dazzling, American Splendor warrants comparison with Woody Allen at the height of his powers.’
[movies] In Cold Blood: why isn’t the movie of Capote’s bestseller a masterpiece? … looking back at the film version of In Cold Blood … ‘All of In Cold Blood’s virtues are encapsulated in that opening: the black-and-white camerawork of cinematographer Conrad Hall; the music of Jones; and the performance of Robert Blake. Hall’s work draws on news-footage aesthetics, achieving a true-crime tabloid griminess that evokes photographers such as Walker Evans and Robert Frank. Jones sonically anchors his two killers (Smith and Richard “Dick” Hickock, played by Scott Wilson) with unnerving twinned acoustic basses and found sounds. And Robert Blake is Robert Blake, in the keynote performance of his career.’
[movies] At Last, the Great Martian Movie … a look at Martian Movies… ‘Maybe the best reason to anticipate more excellent Mars movies is the planet’s pull on something deep within us. Having emerged from our myths, it still feeds our fantasies. It’s the most interesting motif left in archetypal dreams of escape and adventure in strange, vast realms, of human rejuvenation and transcendence through exodus and hardship.’
[movies] Martin Scorsese’s ‘Goodfellas’: Still the Most Realistic Mobster Movie Ever … a look at Goodfellas after 25 Years… ‘Liotta has probably never been better—wormy (his braying laughter at Tommy’s bad jokes is wonderfully hideous) and yet somehow sympathetic. Perhaps because he’s placed alongside two truly cold-blooded men, Henry is the closest thing the audience gets to an anti-hero in the film: His mild shock at every pointless murder feels like moral outrage in the mobster world. That’s a dynamic David Chase understood when laying out the world of his TV show The Sopranos (the only true Mafia masterpiece produced since Goodfellas): By making his protagonist Tony a slightly more reasonable person than his violent, thick-headed associates, the character seemed infinitely more relatable.’
[movies] How High Def Is Changing Your Brain—and Driving the Prop Master Crazy … a fascinating look at how High Definition video is changing the way TV and Movies are created … ‘In Cook’s phrase, the property master’s job is “to obtain acceptance for forgeries,” to give a sensation of reality within an illusion. That’s a bit different from mere fidelity to empirical reality. It’s a facsimile of reality plus a dimension of persuasion, reshaped over time by the progress of technology.’ [via As Above]
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August 18, 2015
[movies] Dressing The Future … fascinating look at Moebius’ influence on the costume design of Alien … ‘The film reunited the Dune creative team, the other artists did not meet Moebius personally this time around – however, even though he was somewhat more removed from the project than Cobb, Foss, Giger, and O’Bannon (who all either worked on the project from its inception, or from the time it was greenlit) Moebius still turned in work that his co-artists found exemplary. “I was in contact with Moebius indirectly,” said Giger, “as he was designing the costumes for Alien. Those astronauts’ clothes and helmets were just like Ridley Scott wanted them. They looked like ancient divers. He did a fantastic job.” “Moebius did the designs for the astronauts,” Giger told Cinefantastique in ’79. “They wear a kind of Japanese armour and helmets which could belong to just about any period of time.”’
[movies] 2001 A Space Odyssey: Unwrapping the Slit Scan sequences … ‘While watching Kubrick’s “2001 A Space Odyssey”, I thought it would be fun to write some software to unravel the slit scan artwork in the psychedelic sequences of 2001, to see what they were.The technique used to unravel the sequences involved using an SGI’s real time video hardware, with a hacked version of ‘videoin.c’ (from the SGI example programs) to accumulate scanlines from the DVD and concatenate them back into the original artwork. So as the film played, the program ran, unrolling the scanlines in realtime…’
[web] How Minions Destroyed the Internet … On the rise and rise of Minions … ‘Wait, no, wait I just got it. I figured out their appeal. Minions are basically emoji. They’re yellow, they run the emotional spectrum, they function as a malleable shorthand for almost indescribable feelings. Like, do you know what the nail art emoji means? It means a million different things. So does the prayer hands emoji. (This is an emerging area of academic study.) Okay, so… Minions are emoji with arms, legs, and goggles.’
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June 28, 2015
[kubrick] Rejected ‘The Shining’ Poster Designs From Saul Bass, With Stanley Kubrick’s Notes … fascintaing look at Kubrick’s process … ‘While the final result is the iconic, yellow one-sheet, there were a number of iterations, and we can now see the rejected ones. Drawing from different aspects of the film, including the maze, the hotel, and the family unit, there’s some striking imagery, but we can see why Kubrick went with the one he did.’
This is getting us close to the soul of Jurassic Park, so I make one last call to Phil Tippett. Phil — an Oscar-winning effects man who helped dream up Jabba the Hutt — was Jurassic Park’s dino-director. Phil says what makes Jurassic Park click is that “it’s a movie from a different age.”
Though we remember it for the effects, Jurassic Park feels … palpable in a way few CGI-loaded movies do today. When the T. rex smushes the Ford Explorer, that’s a real Ford Explorer. When the electric fence topples, that’s a real fence. Richards says perhaps 80 percent of her dinosaur scenes were shot with Winston models, allowing her and Neill and other actors to actually be with the effects.
Fanboy-dom is about something irretrievable, a lost world of childhood. And here, from the age of Avatar, we can see it clearly. Jurassic Park, along with The Abyss (1989) and Terminator 2 (1991), were the stars of an amazing in-between period of summer-movie history. An interesting couple of years between the Analog Era and the Computer Era. We were charging headfirst into the movie future, but we hadn’t quite left the past. Jurassic Park had 55 computer-effects shots; The Phantom Menace, released six years later, had around 2,000.
[movies] Christopher Nolan explains Inception’s ending…‘The film-maker explained that he saw the concept of reality in the film – and real life – as entirely subjective. So DiCaprio’s character doesn’t wait to see if the spinning top drops because he no longer cares to distinguish between a possible harsh reality and a potentially wonderful dream.’
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[kubrick] The 10 Most Outrageous Theories About What The Shining Really Means … ‘Stuart Ullman’s Paper Tray is Trying to Have Sex with the Audience – Top-notch conspiracy hunter Jay Weidner has many, many theories about the work of Kubrick (and other things) but some of the more eye-popping are his thoughts about how the director used the subliminal messaging of advertisers in his films. To wit: In the scene where Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) meets Stuart Ullman (Barry Nelson) in his office and, Weidner says in 237, his hips line-up perfectly with his paper try making it look like an erection.’
[kubrick] Stanley Kubrick’s Keys To The Shining … going far too deep on Kubrick’s The Shining and a conspiracy / cover-up by NASA … ‘Stanley Kubrick embedded the Narrative of a Murder in this Film. I believe it was His wish that it be found – by his Audience. I’m motivated to share this Narrative here, because ultimately it contains information that is profoundly pertinent – to All of Us.’
Jim Abrahams: I always felt that part of what made it so endearing to have those guys in the movie was that everyone knew that [Robert] Stack and [Lloyd] Bridges and Leslie [Nielsen] and Peter Graves were having a laugh at the expense of their own images. That kind of self-effacing humor is endearing, and as we reflect on Airplane! and the fact that it’s lived so long, I think that’s part of the reason why: It’s not really mean-spirited, it’s actually sort of sweet.
Jerry Zucker: Everyone was terrific, really, but Leslie was the one who was just a fish in water. Leslie just loved it, every minute of it, and practically didn’t need direction, because once he got what we were doing, that was just his thing. He loved it.
[comics] Review of the Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Trailer … from Andrew Rilstone … ‘Dark Batman is more interesting than the silly Batman (who never quite existed outside of the KAPOW television series). Dark Batman is more in keeping with the basic premise of a character built of rage. But just because Dark Batman is cool is does not follow that Dark Superman and Dark Spider-Man and Dark Paddington Bear would be equally cool. The darker the dark character is the more he needs a bright character character to stand next to. And the brighter the bright characters the darker and cooler the dark, cool one will look. (This is the point of Robin.)’
[movies] Tears in rain? Why Blade Runner is timeless … a look back at Blade Runner … ‘Ford’s Deckard may or may not be as gripped by uncertainty about his job as Dick’s original blade runner. In any case, his brusque “lack of affect” provides one of the long-standing puzzles of the film: is he, too, a replicant? Certainly Ford’s perpetual grumpiness (it sometimes seems his default acting position), his curdled cynicism, put up barriers to feeling that suggest it is as disturbing for him as it is for the hunted Leon or Roy. Though some still doubt, it seems clear that Deckard is indeed a replicant, his imaginings and memories downloaded from some database, his life as transitory as that of his victims. However, as we watch Blade Runner, Deckard doesn’t feel like a replicant; he is dour and unengaged, but lacks his victims’ detached innocence, their staccato puzzlement at their own untrained feelings. The antithesis of the scowling Ford, Hauer’s Roy is a sinister smiler, or someone whose face falls at the brush of an unassimilable emotion.’
[movies] The Grantland Q&A: Errol Morris … big interview with Errol Morris … On Donald Rumsfeld: ‘But I think — and I could be just making excuses for myself — that there’s a portrait that emerges [in The Unknown Known] that’s very different and far more interesting than the portrait you would’ve gotten by having him walk off the set or repeatedly refuse to answer questions, which is what would’ve happened. There’s something about his manner that reveals to me much about the man. A refusal to engage stuff with any meaning is really frightening, and I think that’s part of who he is. There’s a whole class of people who love to push people around but don’t love to think about stuff carefully.’
[movies] Typeset In Space: Alien … a wonderfully done blog post on the design and typography in Alien … ‘Back to the action. Ripley is safely on board the shuttle, with no sign of the alien. But wait – just when we think all is rosy, it turns out that the damned thing has also stowed away on the shuttle. Gah! Thankfully, this shuttle comes equipped with a system that pipes highly toxic and flammable SPECIAL GASES into the main cockpit at the press of a button: It’s not immediately clear why this is a particularly useful or safe feature to have in a shuttle. Nonetheless, it certainly comes in handy when there’s an alien hiding in the wall.’
[movies] How the Death of Mid-Budget Cinema Left a Generation of Iconic Filmmakers MIA … ‘Francis Ford Coppola made four of the finest films in motion picture history, but he can’t get a movie produced anymore; after a ten-year exile, he made three films between 2007 and 2011 that were basically self-financed (via his lucrative wine-making business). “You try to go to a producer today and say you want to make a film that hasn’t been made before; they will throw you out because they want the same film that works, that makes money,” he said at the Marrakech International Film Festival.’
[herzog] Werner Herzog Discusses His Unique Career … ‘Actually, I was completely stoned once with the composer Florian Fricke in Popol Vuh. I was at his home and he had pancakes and marmalade. And I smeared the marmalade and he started chuckling and chuckling. And I ate it and it tasted very well and I wanted another one and took another good amount of the marmalade and the marmalade had weed in it. He didn’t even tell me. I was so stoned that it took me an hour to find my home in Munich. I circled the block for a full hour until finding my place. So I have had the experience.’
[movies] Deckard: Blade Runner, Moron … amusing analysis of how bad Rick Deckard is as a Blade Runner … ‘I’m not sure how I’ve never noticed this before, but Deckard is an idiot. He’s given all the information he needs on a plate, nothing bad happens unexpectedly, and every lead falls into his lap. He has photo ID of everyone he has to kill, he’s told about their physical strength, he has a gun, they’re all unarmed, and he’s legally allowed to shoot them dead in public. Yet in every case, he lets them get into a hand-to-hand fight with him that he can’t win, and the only way the film can even keep him alive is for his targets to suddenly stop fighting or get killed by someone else.’
[movies] The 10 Best Quotable Films … ‘Airplane!, 1980 – It’s not just about “Don’t call me Shirley”, surely. Airplane! made shameless use of repetition (“Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit drinking / smoking / sniffing glue”), misunderstandings (“Nervous?” / “Yes” / “First time?” / “No, I’ve been nervous lots of times”), and fnar fnar jokes to create one of the most juvenile films of all times – and one that regularly tops “funniest film of all time” lists. Its rapid-fire wordplay is as cringe-inducing as it is amusing, but the deadpan delivery by Leslie Nielsen and co ensures they don’t seem aware of their own comedy.’
[movies] Jamie Zawinski watches all nine Hellraiser movies…‘Hellblazer #9 – Revelations: Despite the reviews, I must say, I enjoyed this one! Maybe I was a little punch-drunk by the time I made it this far, though. And anything would be a step up from Hellworld. It starts off with some shaky-cam nonsense, but fortunately they didn’t keep that up. A couple of jerky bro teens go to Mexico, murder a hooker, and pick up a Lament Configuration from some dude in a bar, you know, like you do. Most of the movie is told as a flashback at a dinner party with their jerky family, when one of them escapes from hell and shows up skinless on the veranda. Antics ensue.’
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September 22, 2014
[movies] Ghostbusting Lovecraft … great analysis of how the movie Ghostbusters beats back H. P. Lovecraft’s worldview …
…the busters’ typical enemies are ghosts of the Poltergeist persuasion, the Big Bad of the movie, a formless alien god from Before Time summoned by a mad cultist-cum-art deco architect, is basically Lovecraftian. From Gozer’s perspective—or the perspective of the Gozer cultist—human beings are small mammals clustered close to the firelight of their pathetic “reason,” etc. etc. etc. Standard Lovecraftian spiel. The skyscraper (and by extension New York and all human civilization) is the illusion. Scratch its skin and you’ll find a heartless alien reality beneath.
But Gozer loses. And the shape and consequences of his loss undercut the Lovecraftian dichotomy between apparent reality and actual horrifying reality. In Ghostbusters that horrorscape isn’t the truth either—it’s a mistaken interpretation of an underlying world that’s gross, evolving, playful, social, compassionate, and way more interesting than the dry surface layer.
[movies] How ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ Went From In-Joke to Blockbuster … on the comic book origins of the TMNT franchise … ‘The Turtles literally started out as a joke. Co-creators Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird were comic-artist wannabes when they spent a November 1983 evening doodling the masked, weaponized reptiles to entertain themselves. Each adjective in Turtles’ title represented a hot superhero-comic trend at the time — mutants were the stars of Marvel’s Uncanny X-Men; DC’s New Teen Titans had teenage protagonists; and future Sin City impresario Frank Miller had stuffed his groundbreaking run on Daredevil full of ninjas. By throwing it all together atop a funny-animal framework — which, from Carl Barks’ Donald Duck to Steve Gerber’s Howard the Duck, had long been a route to comic-book gold — Eastman and Laird simply obeyed the Spinal Tap doctrine of cranking it to eleven.’
[funny] Werner Herzog’s Note To His Cleaning Lady … ‘I have conquered volcanoes and visited the bitter depths of the earth’s oceans. Nothing I have witnessed, from lava to crustacean, assailed me liked the caked debris haunting that small plastic soap hammock in the smaller of the bathrooms. Nausea is not a sufficient word.’
Holdengräber reminded him of the dictum, attributed to Blaise Pascal, that opens Lessons of Darkness, Herzog’s 1992 documentary: “The collapse of the stellar universe will occur – like creation – in grandiose splendour.”
Herzog repeated it. He said, “Actually, Pascal didn’t write that. I wrote that.”
Holdengräber said: “But it sounds so very like Pascal.”
“Pascal should have written it,” Herzog said, of the 17th-century philosopher. “That’s why I signed his name.”
[movies] Man On Fire: The Top 10 Films Of Tony Scott … interesting list of essential films directed by Tony Scott … ‘Day of Thunder – If you call this TOP GUN on the race track I am going to punch you in the face. This has nothing to do with TOP GUN and doesn’t even come close to resembling that story. Cole Trickle doesn’t have anybody really fighting for him outside of Randy Quaid, and if that’s all you have you’re fucked.’
[movies] A Whole Bunch Of People On Facebook Thought Steven Spielberg Killed A Real Dinosaur … ‘Internet humourist Jay Branscomb posted it on Facebook with the caption: “Disgraceful photo of recreational hunter happily posing next to a triceratops he just slaughtered. Please share so the world can name and shame this despicable man.” A lot of people didn’t get the joke, and thought Spielberg really had shot a dinosaur. This person called him an “inhumane prick”…’
[movies] Dressing The Future … a fascinating look at the costume design process on the movie Alien … ‘When Sigourney Weaver turned up for dress rehearsal, she found something other than grimy space-wear. “When they first dressed me up as Ripley it was in one of those pink and blue uniforms,” she said. “Ridley Scott came in and said, ‘You look like fucking Jackie O’NASA.’” Luckily, Scott decided to improvise…’