Sunday, December 30, 2007

Ebert's View


Have you seen Roger Ebert's Top Ten list for 2007 yet? He gives 'Juno' the top spot, and 'No Country for Old Men' the second spot. Of 'Juno' Ebert says:

It is so hard to make a great comedy at all, and harder still to make one that is intelligent, quick, charming, moving and yes, very, very funny. Seeing “Juno” with an audience was to be reminded of unforgettable communal moviegoing experiences...

Sounds right to me. 'Juno' and 'No Country for Old Men' indeed seem to be the best of 2007.

The Orphanage

Another picture I'm looking forward to seeing is 'El Orfanata' (The Orphanage). Of it, Ebert says:

Now here is an excellent example of why it is more frightening to await something than to experience it. "The Orphanage" has every opportunity to descend into routine shock and horror, or even into the pits with the slasher pictures, but it only pulls the trigger a couple of times. The rest is all waiting, anticipating, dreading. We need the genuine jolt that comes about midway, to let us see what the movie is capable of. The rest is fear.

My kind of creepshow.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Creep vs. Gore

The Orphanage

'El Orfanata' (The Orphanage), directed by Juan Antonio Bayona, is shaping up to be the most rewarding creepshow in a long time -- and, not surprisingly, this picture is a Spanish production.

Pan's LabyrinthThe Spanish seem to have a lock on creepy, character-driven movies of late. Guillermo del Toro recently gave us 'El Laberinto del Fauno' (Pan's Labyrinth), an atmospheric and lovingly photographed fable which, although it didn't quite maintain its forward motion in Act II, was original and enjoyable.

Del Toro's 'El Espinazo del Diablo' (The Devil's Backbone) sustains itself with more energy but, doesn't offer as compelling a set of characters, or story. Still, it's a lot of fun. Even his uneven 'Mimic' shows more heart than most -- I'd recommend it. All in all, Del Toro's movies are a breath of fresh air that, amid emotionally challenged and intellectually stagnate Hollywood horror fare, revive the imagination and renew one's interest in good storytelling.

The Others

And then there's perhaps the best of recent Spanish creepshows, 'The Others', directed by Alejandro Amenabar. Here Nicole Kidman is pitch perfect, the story manages to ratchet up tension at every turn, the cinematography is a pleasure -- with scenes that are both classically lit yet keep a contemporary fluidity in the camera and editing -- and even the ending (that most difficult thing to peg in a supernatural thriller) is satisfying. And, if Hollywood isn't convinced by those qualities, 'The Others' was a huge financial success as well.

Why is Spain the new font of character-driven suspense? With the waning success of the new super-graphic, ultra-sarcastic brand of Hollywood horror movie, Tinsel Town could take a lesson. (Not that they're likely to). But, one can hope. In the meantime mi gusto mucho los nuevos peliculos de Espana. Hey, that's the best I could do -- high school Spanish was long time ago. See you at the movies...

Wednesday, December 26, 2007



Three guys -- Rob Portmann, Kurt Svennungsen, and Norbert Caoili -- who have been horror movie fans since they were kids decide to make their own horror movie and, after five years of work, produce 'Frayed'. So far the movie has been an official selection at the 2007 Screamfest Film Festival and the 2007 International Horror and Sci-Fi Film Festival.

I read a story about the trio and thought I'd take a look at their trailer. I'll admit I didn't expect much. Usually, these trailers reflect the standard B fare -- a superficial plot-driven story shot with barely competent camera work using second-string actors. The trailer for 'Frayed' exhibits none of these qualities -- it looks better than most trailers for most of the movies produced in Hollywood (No. I'm not kidding).

Rob, Kurt, and Norbert are trying to land distribution and lining up 'Frayed' for more film festivals. If the movie plays as well as the trailer they'll be in good shape. Here's wishing them luck.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

First Look at Neil Gaiman's Coraline

Very nice looking clip. Hi-rez version available at Neil's journal.

The Cathedral

I like this short quite a bit. Very atmospheric, and creates the sense you are there. Movie is based on a story by
Jacek Dukaj and is inspired by the paintings of Zdzislaw Beksinski.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Sweeney Box Office

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

The thing about Sweeney Todd I'm most interested in is how it does at the box office. There's a lot of praise for this effort, but the release of such a hybrid (and by all accounts, gory) movie over the traditional family get-together season of Christmas and New Year's seems a dubious strategy. Are families going to want to take the kids to see a razor-wielding barber kill people -- and sing?

Well, who knows. What better time to release this picture? -- I don't know, that isn't clear. What's much more clear is X-mas doesn't seem like the right time.

People love Depp, though. And, they like Burton. Most people don't know who Sondheim is and get squeamish when someone starts to sing (especially at the movies). So, this is one of the most interesting openings this year. Hope it does well.

Friday, December 21, 2007



Red band trailer. Warning: this trailer has more than a little pee-pee talk.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Horror Musical?

Tim Burton, Stephen Sondheim, and Helena Bonham Carter

That's Tim Burton, Stephen Sondheim, and Helena Bonham Carter during rehersal of 'Sweeney Todd'. Producer Richard Zanuck calls it a 'horror musical'. NPR has a write up of this difficult-to-peg movie.


Early look

Hellboy II

Here's a nice piece of work directed by Guillermo del Toro.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Mamma Mia

I hate musicals. But, this looks good.


Here's a trailer for a movie about WALL-E from a company called PIXAR.

Insert Content

Judd Apatow, Paul Rudd, Justin Long, Jonah Hill, and Craig Robinson in what can only be described as content.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Christmas Carousel

Photo by Alan Green

Photo by Alan Green

Every year there is a Christmas Carousel set up at the Westlake shopping center in downtown Seattle. Kids and parents love it. Proceeds go to charity. Here are a couple shots (click for larger versions). Photos by Alan Green


Here's a look at Will Ferrell's upcoming comedy.

Cloverfield: New Movie Technique

The only thing that's new in this clip is the reveal in the last few seconds. Still, it's an entertaining bit of movie making. What JJ Abrams and director Matt Reeves have that is new is the 'This Is Actually Happening' camera technique. This differs from the 'You Are There' technique, most recently seen in 'The Bourne Ultimatum'. Actors in Cloverfield routinely spike the camera or behave in some other 'non-actorly' manner because it's not supposed to be a Hollywood movie, rather captured video of an actual event (which is happening right now). I don't think this approach has ever been taken before.

'The Blair Witch Project' differs in that its footage represents what an editor would have culled from a casual account of a camping trip after the video was discovered. That is, only the best parts of the video would have been used for the movie. Regular stuff would have been edited out.

In 'Cloverfield' the conceit is more complex. In this movie footage from a camera (or multiple cameras) is stitched together to present a realtime version of events. The difference between Cloverfield and Blair Witch is the editor for the Cloverfield footage is non-existent, whereas the editor for the Blair Witch footage was a real person who did their best to assemble the footage in the most compelling way. Blair Witch is then presented as if it were an edited version of the (discovered) video of an event which actually happened (instead of a Hollywood movie).

For Cloverfield the idea is that there is no editor (or producer or writer, or studio, etc), and the imagery is magically transported to the movie screen in your theater (and only your theater) as it is shot (in NYC) so you have a realtime account of a real event which is happening now. It's worth noting the storyline in Cloverfield takes place at night. [This is when most people go to the movies]. Having the action take place at night supports the feeling that the movie is taking place 'now'.


I know -- sounds stupid when you read it -- but this is the (subconscious) impression the audience is meant to have, and I think the strategy will work. Part of what will make 'Cloverfield' a success will be the visceral impact the movie will have because of the 'this-is-actually-happening (right now)' image-producing/editing approach. Word of mouth will be more effective than usual because people will infuse their description of the movie with the urgency of someone who actually lived through the events in the movie -- as opposed to the usual 'then, there was the part where they did such and such' spiel. Without knowing it people will describe this movie in the first-person, or with a first-person tone. And, without knowing it, the person they describe the movie to will sense that the person that is describing the movie to them had a great time (at the movie [which is being described]). And, that person (who has had the movie described to them) will want to see/experience the (events of the) movie (in the first-person) all the more.

It'll be both subtle and effective. Once again, hats off to JJ Abrams. He had a great concept for a shooting technique, produced a cool looking movie that everyone is talking about, and came up with one of the best marketing campaigns to date (and dumped it at the first sign it was getting on people's nerves). 'Cloverfield' is primed for success.

Friday, December 14, 2007

I Am Legend Featurette

I Am Legend

If you're thinking of seeing 'I Am Legend', but you're torn and can't decide, NYT has a nice featurette with commentary by director Francis Lawrence that may tip the scales. A.O. Scott has a nice rundown -- scroll down to his video review for a tasty clip. More clips here, some with snippets that haven't been seen.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Everyone Loves Cox (Dot Com)

Dewey Cox: Walk Hard

Sony has set up a Dewey Cox site with tributes to Dewey by Will Farrell, Maroon 5, John Mayer, Sheryl Crow, Brad Paisley, Ghostface Killam, Sarah Evans, Jewel, Lyle Lovett, Jackson Browne, and Van Zandt. It's moving stuff. Let's face it -- everyone loves Cox.

You can also get cards like the one above, bobble heads, icons, and see clips and music videos.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Outsourcing Digital Animation To India

The Golden Compass

Laura Sydell with the first of three reports about how Hollywood is having digital effects sequences like the ones in 'The Golden Compass' done in India.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Generic Soundtrack, Or Just A Sound Alike?

What does the music from 'I Am Legend' (James Newton Howard) and 'Sunshine' (Underworld) have in common? Both have harmonic simplicity -- they're almost stripped of any melodic complexity -- favoring dramatic primitive rhythms instead. Both begin with an ostinato pattern in the upper strings accompanied by a pulsing staccato in the lower strings. The only real difference between the two is that Howard chose a syncopated guttural vocal sting to accent his music while Underworld's guttural vocal sting is on the beat. In both, the repeated notes remain within a very restricted range.

Both have a melody which holds the first note for four beats before ascending two steps in a modal scale, holding each note for two (or so) beats before returning to the original pitch (or another lower pitch). This pattern repeats and escalates. The music for both is in the same key. Underworld choose a more refined sound for 'Sunshine', keeping the melody in the strings, possibly to suggest the purity of space or the presence of the divine, while Howard went with a much more grinding, almost brutal, sound for 'I Am Legend', especially in the very close dissonance of the choral work, possibly to suggest the anger and fear the protagonist lives with and the monstrous beings he hides from.

I've watched these trailers gobs. At first I was sure the same composer had worked on both movies. Then I was sure one of these guys will sue the other. See if you can't hear the similarities. The music in the 'Sunshine' trailer starts about 48 seconds in. The music in the 'I Am Legend' trailer starts almost immediately. Enjoy. They're good trailers.

I Am Legend. Music by James Newton Howard (music starts immediately)

Sunshine. Music by Underworld (music starts at 48 seconds)

Book Of Secrets Featurette

Sunday, December 09, 2007

The Business

What Happens Next: A History of American Screenwriting by Marc Norman

Rob Long on The Strike and the web's effect on the future of The Biz and how we should all just get along -- and -- Marc Norman (author of What Happens Next: A History of American Screenwriting [who is also on the WGA negotiating committee]) on the history of...American screenwriting.

What Does A Movie Producer Do?

Scott Simon with Irwin Winkler re: producing 'Rocky' and 'Raging Bull', coming up from the mailroom at William Morris, etc.

Jumper Trailer


Hits the web

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Friday, December 07, 2007

First 10 Minutes

Walk Hard

IGN has the first 10 minutes of 'Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story'. Another one from the Apatow factory that looks like a winner.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Speechless #19

I like this one a lot. I mean...Tim Robbins... From the series running on DHD.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

What's A Spy Fly?

Here's a clip from 'The Golden Compass'

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Snow Day

Photo by Alan Green

It snowed in Seattle yesterday. Photo by Alan Green

The Key To Reserva

A beautiful commercial for Freixenet sparkling wine shot a la Hitchcock by Martin Scorsese. When Scorsese does Hitch you can't help but win. Camera work is very authentic and arrests your attention right off the bat. The acting style is dated and authentic. The music is the same -- the real deal by Herrmann -- with that signature underlying pulse accented by dramatic outbursts from the strings. Of course, Thelma Schoonmaker's editing clicks.

I feel a little guilty posting the YouTube video but, it's there and Freixenet probably arranged to have it put there, so... Nod to the ever well-informed Anne Thompson. Crack a bottle of Freixenet and enjoy.

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