Updated on December 17, 2010, 8:00 PM - Written by Tim Buttner
I had a lot of anticipation for Tron: Legacy that was well placed. I expected the story to be as it was and ended up enjoying the movie. Sadly I am disappointed with the story, but it matters only a small amount because it at least accomplished what it and its predecessor set out to accomplish. This is an effects driven movie. There's no other way to say it, and it's because the movie is supposed to be a thrill ride that it remains interesting. I applaud the change from 2D to 3D and believe it paid tribute to The Wizard of Oz in an emotional way. Maybe the ending also served that, but I was still a little perplexed because of the nonsensical plot.
The pacing was off a bit, but that is on the story front... and I think the first-time director (Joseph Kosinski) was more focused on the visuals than the audience's connection. The screenwriter's did well with the similarities the prophecies about our computer world, and Olivia Wilde's character Quorra was the most fresh and interesting character. I believe that Wilde had the best performance out of the entire cast, as Jeff Bridges did feel like The Dude and a weird younger double who desperately needs anger management. It was great seeing him on the screen and doing such a fascinating franchise, but I wish he had demanded more from the script. At least he has the Coen Brother's True Grit to make up for this. Garrett Hedlund did fine as Sam, but the character was a little off— "That's a big door." Did he need to say the same thing his father said to Alan in the first movie? Garrett got stuck with some awful dialogue in this film, and I think he could have benefited from some more attention from the director.
Focusing on the positive of the film's experience we come to its most important aspect... the journey. The visuals make the cut and the digital world benefited from 3D wonderfully, but the sound design was insanely awesome. Daft Punk's score is going to give Hans Zimmer's ...
Updated on September 19, 2010, 3:17 PM - Written by Tim Buttner
The Nineteenth-Century proved to be one of great technological advances, whether it was in industry, transportation, or home entertainment. There were many means of entertainment during this century; the theater, vaudeville, the opera, the symphony, art museums, etc., however most of these were experiences that one had to travel away from home in order to experience. Not the case when one chose to stay at home with a good book, or play a game of chess with their kids. Half a century before people showed up in droves at movie theaters to see moving pictures they were able to see and own photographs in their home… and many were stereoscopic1 photographs. The demand for stereoscopic photographs was high in the period between 1851-1930. The occupation of stereoscopic photographer was held by amateurs and professionals alike, which made the domestic life of any person who sought to be successful in this career worthwhile.
It was in 1838 that Charles Wheatstone first devised the stereoscope in order to demonstrate binocular vision and how humans perceive depth perception as a result of it. It was invented a decade before photography, and yet the addition of photography made the images more varied and detailed, which made the effect more startling. Sir David Brewster invented a refracting, lens-based stereoscope in 1849 that was easier and more portable than Wheatstone's model. In 1851 the wet-plate collodion was introduced and the popularity of stereoscopic photographs grew after a stereoscopic viewer was presented at the Crystal Palace to Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, quickly followed by American jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes stating that "we must have special stereographic collections, just as we have professional and other special libraries." (Holmes, The Stereoscope and the Stereograph). Millions of stereoscopic viewers were produced between 1851 and 1930. The market for stereoscopic...
Updated on July 16, 2010, 3:55 PM - Written by Tim Buttner
(Beware as spoilers follow)
From the opening shots of the movie the viewer is introduced to the vagueness of the dream world that for the next two and a half hours they will live in. The character of Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) is introduced as he sees two young kids with their backs to him playing on the beach, and an image that for the rest of the movie will come back is planted in the audience's mind. Cobb is brought to an old Saito (Ken Watanabe) who examines the two items that Cobb had on him: a gun and a spinning top. Christopher Nolan manages to introduce two very important pieces of the puzzle early on with the projection of the kids and the spinning top, and for the rest of the movie the audience debates what is real and what is dream because of the ambiguity these two objects possess.
The audience is taking back through a flashback, which introduces Cobb on a job with trusted friend and colleague Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) trying to steal information from Saito while he dreams. Joseph Gordon-Levitt has come far from 3rd Rock From the Sun and his child actor days to become one of the most talented young performers working today, and he has great chemistry with DiCaprio, who also worked hard to be one of the top leading men in Hollywood. In this dream the audience is introduced to another important piece of the puzzle, Mal (Marion Cotillard), who is the catalyst that sends the players out of the dream. The audience meets the architect, Nash (Lukas Haas), who gets little screen time but plays his purpose well. Instantly the concept of a dream within a dream is introduced, and the rules of the movie world begin to fall into place.
Cobb is presented with a predicament when Saito confronts him and Arthur with an offer that may lead to Cobb being able to finally return home, which the audience is itching to learn the secret that makes it that he can't. Can Cobb and his team hack int...
Updated on July 11, 2010, 12:49 PM - Written by Tim Buttner
I've got a query that has been unanswered for more than a dozen years... where did the song Silent Moon come from? The images this tragic sounding song brings to my head have been captured in a feature I wrote surrounding this song. The short story that this song tells me is breathtakingly beautiful, and is universal because there is no dialogue. The thoughts and emotions are understood in the visuals, and the characters need no explanation. Yet this song, which was featured on a Science Fiction Movie Themes CD, leads me to discover no science fiction movie exists prior to 1989 that contains this song. What? I know, for at least twelve years I've been asking myself the same question. The copyright on the CD I've owned for as long as I can remember is no more than two years after I was born. Now wouldn't one think that that would constitute a movie existing prior or around that date with this song in it? I mean composers Klaus Löhmer and Hans Gunther Wagener aren't even credited on the Internet Movie Database for such a movie. This song has Star Wars, Alien, Blade Runner, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind on the same CD, however it's the only one that doesn't exist. I could give you a million science fiction songs that could have been used as filler, so why does this song exist? Is there a science fiction movie that has this song? Or was it filler? The existence of this song is a mystery, but it amazes me that that mystery has inspire...
Updated on July 7, 2010, 6:14 PM - Written by Tim Buttner
This is my first blog, and really more than anything a test of the capabilities of this service. I'm going to learn more about this and make it part of my company, One Forest Films, in order to better serve it. I will also make one for the company alone, which will be accessible to all the members of the company so that we can do a company blog. I've been a huge follower of MarketSaw for years and always wanted to make my own blog. Now I can.
I look forward making more blogs in the future.
Updated on June 14, 2010, 1:01 AM - Written by Tim Buttner
When such masters as Sergio Leone, John Sturges, and Martin Ritt have remade his films, and George Lucas has claimed that Star Wars (1977) was greatly influenced by Kakushi-toride no san-akunin (1958), then it can't be denied that his significance in the filmmaking world was great. Akira Kurosawa was a Japanese painter turned filmmaker whose films would become a staple of Japanese cinema, and as well an influence on generations of filmmakers. He was a director who greatly cared about his actor's performances, using a telephoto lens and multiple camera set-ups to allow his actors freedom from the constraints of the camera. He had influences from Shakespeare, loosely remaking such classics as Macbeth and King Lear. Akira Kurosawa was, and will always be, a masterful filmmaker whose technique and artistry filled the cinema screen with grace and poise that generations of filmmakers can only wish to emulate.
Akira Kurosawa was born March 23, 1910 in a suburb of Tokyo to a family of eight older siblings. His father was the director of a junior high school, and they were a well off family. A major influence on the life of Kurosawa was a teacher, Tachikawa, who emphasized art on his young pupils. It was through Tachikawa that Kurosawa was introduced to art and film, became a painter, and enrolled in an art school. He joined an artists' group that had an enormous emphasis on nineteenth-century Russian literature. This is where Kurosawa picked up further influences and even a film project for later in his life. His brother, Heigo, was also a significant influence to Kurosawa because of what he did for work and how his suicide affected Kurosawa. Heigo worked as a narrator for foreign silent films, or a benshi, and lost his job when sound came to films, which occurred later in Japan than other foreign countries, so he committed suicide. Kurosawa soon after became the only living boy in his family. It was 1930 when he responded to an advertisement in ...
Updated on May 28, 2010, 3:15 PM - Written by Tim Buttner
It's not easy growing up with one's family because no matter what you're stuck with them due to the blood relation. Some people are lucky enough to have a strong family relationship, but that doesn't mean there isn't dramatic tension beneath the skin. Brothers and sisters are often the worst because there is the competition for parental love and attention, academia, occupation, and love. Deep down there is love, and a sibling will always be there for another, but ultimately siblings get on one another's nerves. It's tough to imagine what Barry Egan (Adam Sandler) had to suffer through being the only boy in a family with eight kids… seven of which were girls. Paul Thomas Anderson's Punch-Drunk Love (2002) focuses mainly on the middle part of Barry Egan's life, where he's having the most conflict due to the constant harassment and ridicule he receives from his seven sisters, and the audience never gets a full glimpse into his early childhood, but the sisters do manage to give a little insight through some exposition. It's tough to classify the psychological disorder that Barry experiences during the film, because it at times would seem like bipolar due to his fits of rage or random breakdowns of weeping, but in fact what makes him mentally ill is depression.
Paul Thomas Anderson decides to open the movie without any opening titles or credits and bring the audience right into the life of Barry, and does so with a wide shot of Barry sitting at his desk in a open storage space talking on the phone with a representative of a food distributor that is participating in a promotion to give away air miles for every ten purchases of their product. Barry is distracted and proceeds out of the storage space into the parking lot where he witnesses a car accident and a cab stopping to drop a Harmonium in front of the entrance to the parking lot. Within this sequence Anderson introduces the audience to the strange events that will take place through the cou...
Updated on May 26, 2010, 10:50 AM - Written by Tim Buttner
Separated by 14 years, however close enough to the time that Dae-su Oh spent imprisoned, Dip huet seung hung (AKA The Killer / Bloodshed of Two Heroes) came from famed Hong Kong director John Woo and Oldeuboi (AKA Old Boy) came from a philosophy student of Sogang University in Seoul: Chan-wook Park. The former was released in 1989 and the latter 2003, but both were met with different sorts of acclaim for their portrayal of violence. One was more of a flashy "Hollywood" flair while the other was a more gritty revenge film. The Killer takes a sort of film noir perspective, and Old Boy makes a dark revenge tale even more twisted than Dumas' and yet, there is a compelling fascination that grabs hold of their audience. Is it because the directors chose to film the movie in their native language? Native country? Or city? Or, could the most compelling facet of the films be that each builds its place in the society in which it was made through the characters sense of honor, which is inherent to the Asian culture.
Woo and Park both have their distinct cinematographic styles, whether it is how they choose to shoot a scene, how they transition from one scene to the next, or how they choose to choreograph a complex fight scene. The number of shootouts in The Killer outnumbers the number of fights in Old Boy, however that doesn't make the latter any less violent. For one of the shootouts in The Killer, an action scene at a beach house, it took 28 days to film, with some 20,000 rounds of ammunition fired, and the final shootout scene took 36 days to shoot, with close to 40,000 rounds of ammunition fired. Old Boy took 3 days to shoot its famous one-take corridor scene where Dae-su fights off close to twenty-plus opponents with a hammer and his bare fists in a tight corridor to get to an elevator. Woo edited his elaborated fight sequences so that it seemed as though his protagonists never had to reload bec...
Updated on May 11, 2010, 3:23 AM - Written by Tim Buttner
Out of all the epic movies that emerged out of the studio system in the early days of Hollywood, there are a select few that manage to reach the level of detail and character development of a Charles Dickens novel. These movies are grand in scale. The world is as much a character as the players that inhabit and evoke the conflict in it. The setting evokes more conflict by its inherent nature, which is exactly what Dickens did in his novels. Dickens wrote long tales, and the Hollywood epics were so long that they required an intermission. Over the course of one of his long novels Dickens was able to keep the train moving by developing his characters always, and the same is true for many of the epics. If there was any filmmaker more capable of the Dickens standards than David Lean, whose best epic film was shot on gorgeous 65mm: Lawrence of Arabia (1962).
An element that a Dickens novel could never have had, which Lawrence is aided by tremendously, is a score that sweeps its beauty throughout the theater. Maurice Jarre provided Lean with his score that created another element to the film's setting. Lean also used sound as a means to tell the story, or transition from one scene to the next, something that Dickens could only allude to in a novel. It is through these devices that Lean makes his first leap above the standards that Dickens put in place through his writing. Where Dickens was confined to describing his world to his audience in words, Lean had the ability to show and/or surround them through images and sound the descriptive qualities of the setting. It is in the earliest moments of the movie that we are introduced to this because the screen stays black and Jarre's roaring score brings to life the theater. Our first introduction is through the music, whereas Dickens' first introduction in the novel Hard Times is dialogue. Not dialogue that we hear, but instead dialogue that we read. The effect is as though we have a black scre...
Updated on March 16, 2010, 1:33 AM - Written by Tim Buttner
First let me comment on how beautiful the Metropolitan Opera is, and how amazed I was by the architecture of the Lincoln Center. Truly a mesmerizing location to travel to for the opera, and then to witness the opera from balcony seats that I paid $70 per seat for was absolutely astounding. The set design was grandiose beyond anything that the Philadelphia Opera Company could present, and I had seen La Boheme, Rigoletto, and L'Italiana in Algeri there. I don't have anything against the oldest opera house in the country, nor the presentation of the music, but there is simply something about the decadence of New York City and the amount of money they are able to sink into their opera. Giacomo Puccini's final opera is one of my favorites and it was a great pleasure to see and hear it live as it will live with me for all of my life.
The room erupted with applause as the conductor stepped out into the orchestra pit and took a bow, and applause rose again when the curtain rose to reveal the people of Peking as the music began. It began with a short overture that set the mood and introduced the Chinese sounds that Puccini had worked into the composition. Puccini works in the chorus of the crowd who meet an announcement from the mandarin. Instantly I'm aware that the music is homophonic, and the instrumental works as the incident music to the action that takes place on stage and as a compliment to the voices of the people of Peking and our main characters.
When we are introduced to Timur, the disposed Tarter king, and his faithful servant Liù it is obvious that the singer playing her will steal the show. Indeed she got a standing ovation at the end of the show because she gave an absolutely devastating and beautiful performance. We met Calaf, and are given the exposition in wonderfully sung recitative. Puccini certainly knew best how to incorporate the voices of crowds into his operas, giving soul to the setting. The change in dynamics and ti...
Updated on March 2, 2010, 11:59 AM - Written by Tim Buttner
The White Ribbon is a wonderful movie made by German writer, director Michael Haneke about a north German village in the year prior to World War I. Although they shot the film on color stock (Kodak Vision3 5207 and Vision3 5219) it was digitally converted to black and white. They also used digital technology to sharpen the images and facial expressions, and as well to remove modern details from the images, which allowed for the place setting to be the more real. All in all this allowed for stunning black and white cinematography.
The beginning of the movie is set during the late summer going into fall and harvest. From the opening shot, which involves a slow fade in to the country side and a single horse rider coming from the distance to the foreground and suddenly tripping on a hidden wire, to the last shot of all the villagers in the church the audience views stunning shots of the village and the countryside surrounding it. The shots inside the homes of the villagers is full of natural light during the days, and candle light at night and it feels as though the filmmakers used little to no artificial lighting in a style similar to Terrence Malick. Overall the movie feels very influenced by Malick with its voice-over and philosophical view of a historic mindset. The moralistic questions raised about the origins of evil are elevated by the ambiguous black and white cinematography, almost bringing back themes of film noir. Indeed the deep focus used throughout the movie is reminiscent entirely of that that was used in the 1940's by film noir directors. Also similar to that style is the stark contrast of lights and darks; where there are many frames where absolute black and absolute white are present, and all the shades of grey in between. The characters that inhabit this world are not necessarily black and white, but instead the ambiguous shades of grey.
Unlike the Hollywood movies that storm the cinemas around the world day i...
Updated on February 6, 2010, 6:59 PM - Written by Tim Buttner
The Green Mountain Boys, the paramilitary group concentrated in and around Western Vermont a decade prior to the Revolutionary War, made themselves so notorious that even George Washington ignored congressional demands to subdue them during the Revolutionary War, around the time that Vermont split itself from New York and formed its own Constitution under the Commonwealth of Vermont. It was its own independent nation, and became the first to abolish slavery in The New World. The Constitution, which is dated July 8, 1777, stated clearly in the first chapter that slavery was prohibited. Throughout the time it became the fourteenth state, ran the last stop on The Underground Railroad, and participated in the American Civil War the Vermonters were fighting against every proslavery bill, act, any other legislation in favor of slave states. How could such a backwoods state, especially one where the population of African-Americans in the 2008 census1 is slightly less than one percent of the states total population, lead the nation in abolitionist movements of the 19th Century?
To understand the psychology of the early Vermonters, one needs to look no farther than the leaders of the Green Mountain Boys2. Ethan Allen3 had a standing warrant for his arrest, along with his brother Ira and cousin Seth Warner, from the New York Authorities because of their interference with the New York government, which was located in Albany a mere 30 miles away from Bennington, the home of Ethan Allen. When authorities attempted to exercise authority in North East New York, they would often return severely beaten, and the rebellious Green Mountain Boys remained allusive to apprehension. The Green Mountain Boys joined the Revolution in support of the colo...
Updated on March 21, 2009, 9:24 PM - Written by Tim Buttner
From the time that audiences were shown a black and white motion picture of a train pulling into a train station, and tried to flee the theater for fear that they would be run over by it, film has used realistic elements to stimulate audiences to care about the characters and the plot they are entangled in. Actors and actresses, whose pretty faces shined bright in front of the many eyes of the world's populace, played these characters but they never uttered an audible word. Then sound was added and playwrights, who had been influenced by the realism and naturalism movement in the mid-nineteenth-century, were brought in to make the dialogue naturalistic, and actors had to find their voices. When certain people thought that "talkies" would never catch on, they were proven wrong, just like later when those who thought that color would never become mainstream were. With color, and a wider screen size for a field of view more akin to human eyes, audiences were able to experience movies as if they were real events happening in front of their very eyes. For the last century film has sought to achieve realism in the technical aspects, with 3D being the next evolutionary step, and beyond the technical with regards to the narrative.
Many years before the invention of motion picture film, an Italian writer wrote to a friend, Salvatore Farina editor of a Milanese literary review, about a short story he had "recorded" after picking it up along the country byways. He called it, "a slice of life, as they say nowadays, that will possibly be of interest to you and to all those who study the hearts of men and women."1 As he continued to detail his reasoning for writing the tale down, this It...
Updated on March 2, 2009, 10:24 PM - Written by Tim Buttner
The grainy black and white images contained in The Battle of Algiers, released in Italy September 8, 1966, are frighteningly realistic and extremely documentary-like. For many viewers it seems like the narrative of the movie was edited into actual footage of the 1954 fight between the FLN (National Liberation Front) and French government. This is not the case, because the brilliant director was the first of his kind to film the movie in that documentary style in order to create an atmosphere that fit into his message-filled film. Not all modern directors who try to replicate his technique succeed. While many lack the innovation and craft that Pontecorvo possessed, others pay homage to his style while connecting to a larger theme just as Algiers did.
The film was so realistic and graphically displayed violent scenes of torture that it was banned in France for several years, and the torture scenes were omitted from US and UK releases (imdb.com). Pontecorvo dares to display these scenes, as well as the aftermath of the bombs that both the terrorists and French military plant, which proves his understanding that these images will evoke a visceral response from his audience that is very appropriate. We're not supposed to like the images, but they are important because they make us question the tactics of the fighters. This form of political filmmaking means that the audience appeal is narrowed, because not everyone is ready to view the film. In the late 1960's this was daring, but Pontecorvo understood that the picture he was making had lasting capabilities and chose to allow his audience to catch up.
Pontecorvo and his cinematographer, Marcello Gatti, studied newsreels of the events so as to give the film the look of th...
Updated on February 10, 2009, 5:09 AM - Written by Tim Buttner
With a movie such as Elephant (2003), from acclaimed indie director Gus Van Sant, where there are a cornucopian number of Steadicam shots throughout the picture, because the movie is mainly told through Steadicam shots, it becomes difficult to select one as significant and distinguishable from the others in terms of aesthetics and level of difficulty. The whole movie had one Steadicam operator. A frequent collaborator with Van Sant, Matías Mesa created an atmospheric style to his operation that is similar to his other collaborations with Van Sant on Gerry (2002) and Last Days (2005). The shots are long and uninterrupted. Often these shots feel poetic, which creates a new visual language for the critics and audience to interpret and form their own meaning. Yet, does this assist in telling the story?
A specific shot of interest is one where we follow the school jock, Nathan, as he travels across the school. In it he strolls down one hallway, up a flight of stairs, down another hallway, outside, back inside, and to the school office. The shot lasts two minutes and fifty-seven seconds, and is accompanied by Moonlight Sonata by Ludwig Van Beethoven, which had begun in the previous Steadicam shot, which had a long intro to Nathan and the beginning of his journey.
The shot continues a feeling that, we the audience, are traveling in the same direction as Nathan. This feeling is a motif that runs throughout the movie, because the last shot is on Nathan and Carrie, the girlfriend he meets in the shot in discussion, fleeing into a cooler from the gunman who, after killing his partner, stalks down to the freezer and discovers them. Well, that may not necessarily be the last shot of the movie, but it is when it comes to involving the charact...
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