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The Film Experience™ was created by Nathaniel R


 Gemini, Cinephile, Actressexual. Also loves cats. All material herein is written and copyrighted by him, unless otherwise noted. twitter | facebook | pinterest | tumblr | letterboxd

 

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Entries in Visual FX (64)

Thursday
Nov132014

AFI Fest: Weta Digital Celebrates 20 Years with New Technology

Anne Marie here at the AFI Fest with another special event. Weta Digital, the pioneering VFX company behind some of the biggest blockbusters, including the Marvel franchise, Avatar, and The Hobbit, is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. In  “State of the Art: The Evolution of Weta Digital," Visual Effects Supervisor Dan Lemmon gave audiences a peek behind the digital curtain of Weta Digital’s latest film, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, to show how the company develops performance capture to assist and augment cinematography.

 Weta Digital is probably best known for its motion capture process (dubbed “performance capture” by James Cameron "because they also capture emotions"). Dan Lemmon explained that this evolved from Andy Serkis filming scenes as Gollum twice for The Lord of the Rings, into a sophisticated system called a “Capture Volume,” a cube of space surrounded by infrared cameras that record the actors’ movements. For Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, director Matt Reeves wanted to shoot the apes on location, so a new “portable” version was developed. The result had a profound effect not only on the technology of performance capture, but also on the look of the film--both digital and real.

Serkis in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Since Avatar won the Oscar for Best Cinematography in 2009, each subsequent winner has been a VFX-heavy film, so the unspoken question was how Weta Digital interacted with Michael Seresin, the cinematographer of Dawn. Shooting on location allowed Seresin to light the ape actors as he would real characters. Then, Weta Digital could match that lighting on the pixelized primates. In addition, Seresin and Reeves developed a look book, pulling images from The Godfather and grittier 70s films. Dan Lemmon explained that Weta’s job was to mimic Seresin’s intentions, for instance digitally creating the vertigo-inducing helicopter shot for the climax. However, Lemmon also proudly pointed out how Weta Digital improved on Seresin’s vision, whether it was by manipulating the light to capture a digital ape’s eyes, or by adding fake “flaws” to the helicopter shot in order to make the synthetic image more real. 

The result of Weta Digital’s collaboration with Seresin is undoubtedly remarkable, and pushes VFX to be accepted as an art, rather than a gimmick. Still, Weta's additions to Seresin's work mark a definite change in the visual landscape of moviemaking. As VFX are integrated from pre-production to filming to post-production and digital effects get clearer, the line between cinematography and visual effects is going to get increasingly muddy.

Saturday
Sep202014

Tim's Toons: The CGI spectacle and unrealism of Sky Captain

Tim here. This week marks the ten-year anniversary of one of the most important milestones in modern feature animation, though it’s a form of animation that tends to make itself invisible. But when most of the sets, and several of the major characters in movies from Avatar to Gravity to Guardians of the Galaxy are created entirely in a computer by digital artists, can we really keep blithely calling these “live-action movies” without briefly wondering if our pants have just burst in flame? It’s not Disney/Pixar-style cartooning, but these are partially or wholly animated worlds by any definition I can come up with. And it was on September 17, 2004 that Paramount released Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, which made history as the first Hollywood movie made entirely on green screens, with every single location created artificially in post-production...

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Tuesday
Sep022014

Best Shot Season Finale: The Matrix (1999)

I'm not proud to say so but I'd probably take the blue pill. 

BEST SHOT

It's not that I reject reality so much as that I keep misplacing it. It's easy to forget about it you're drawn to the fantasy. My spirit animal is Cecilia in The Purple Rose of Cairo, what can I say?

So here we are completing another season of Hit Me With Your Best Shot and again I've scheduled the final episode for the very moment I'm about to leave the country giving me no time whatsoever to produce anything like a suitable Season Finale with enough pomp and circumstance. [Note to self: Season Six must end before the suitcase has come down from the shelf for the Toronto International Film Festival.] So I'll make it up to you with a little look back at Season 5 in a couple of days.

But that image above, more than any other... apart from the cascading green symbols as visual motif (remember when that screensaver was all the rage?), is what I think of when I think of The Matrix. It needs us to embrace utter fabrication and complicated fantasy for the film to work and yet, as its narrative throughline it demands that Neo completely reject the same for cold hard wet and slimy truth. Is this what the dystopian genre is inherently for, to present dark truths about humanity and our future in the comforting garb of the unreal while screaming "REALITY!" as it pretzels itself back into fantasy like the greatest of contortionists?

I think so. 

Here's what the 12 other Best Shot Participants chose as their defining image. 

THE MATRIX (1999) BEST SHOTS
click on the image for the corresponding article 

The Film's The ThingAntagony & EcstasyFilm ActuallyEntertainment JunkieSorta That GuyLam Chop ChopPop Culture CrazyVideo ValhallaCinematic CornerDancin' Dan on Film
Allison TooeyBest Shot in the DarkTeo Bugbee

What image defines The Matrix for you? Do you see it here?

 

Saturday
Aug302014

Review: Robin Wright at "The Congress"

Amir is here with your second review of the weekend...

The Congress, Ari Folman’s follow-up to his brilliant debut feature, the animated documentary Waltz with Bashir, starts rather normally. The opening shot is a staggeringly beautiful close-up of a tearful Robin Wright (playing an imaginary version of herself) as her agent Al’s (Harvey Keitel) voiceover informs us that her career is in tatters. Robin has hit the film industry’s glass ceiling age of 45 and with an already troubled reputation as a difficult actress to work with, her options are quickly dwindling. Al is trying to convince her to sell her digital image rights to the Miramount studio headed by Jeff (a remarkably greasy Danny Houston). This would mean that the studio will use her scanned image to create characters in future films in exchange for a fat paycheque and her right to ever act again.

Everything about this opening setup is promising, signifying a film that is aware of the fears and tensions within the entertainment industry. The Congress is ripe with smart ideas and astute observations about the challenges that technology presents to the men and women active in cinema. [more...]

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Sunday
Aug032014

Review: Guardians of the Galaxy

This review originally appeared in Nathaniel's column at Towleroad

The Marvel Universe movies could have not existed before Right Now. Yet, for all the technological advances and computer wizardry that have made The Avengers and the like possible, the magic still comes from the humanity of the actors. No amount of technical prowess can make you care about Iron Man if a great actor hasn’t sold you on the bravado and change of heart of the man inside the suit. Captain America’s shield and super strength are great but his adventures don’t work if Chris Evans’s star turn isn’t so perfectly pitched to invoke fantasies of the nobility of a bygone American era. Without the humanity it’s just Trans4rmers and nobody wants that. (Shut up. I’m in denial about those billions). With Guardians of the Galaxy, Marvel Studios has gone Cosmic opening up a whole new movie wing for their ever-expanding universe. As they leave Earth behind, have they found a way to retain the humanity?

Yes and no. But not in the way you might expect.

It helps of course, on a superficial level that the movie begins on Earth and shamelessly pushes collective 80s nostalgia buttons by making Peter Quill, our hero, relentlessly nostalgic about that era. We first meet him as a little boy in 1988 and his most cherished possession twenty some years later when the movie takes place isn’t any of his impressive weapons or starship but a walkman with a cassette tape called “Awesome Mix Tape Volume 1”. It also helps that Quill is played by the endearingly simple Andy from “Parks and Recreation” a.k.a. Chris Pratt. Pratt’s new body may be imposingly hard, with all its cuddly body weight chiseled off, but those years of familiarity have given him a phantom comfy-ness. 

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Sunday
Jun292014

Our Link Summer

Must Reads
The Atlantic 'How Brando Broke the Movies' -excellent piece from Tom Shone on perceptions of movie stardom, acting and chameleon tricks
L'etoile on summer's anniversary nostalgia and childhood idles
Pajiba shares fun excerpts from Neil Patrick Harris' upcoming autobiography. Sounds like a must-read. The Scott Caan story is delicious 

More Links & News
The Guardian "The Glorious Folly of Dance on Film" Singin' in the Rain, Pina and more
The Dissolve Bond 24 gets a rewrite. But why? Daniel Craig returns of course with Ralph Fiennes and Naomie Harris in tow
Geeks Out Boo. Disney is taking pains to make sure we know that 'Wandering Oaken' from Frozen (the guy with the store and sauna) isn't gay like the internet said
Kenneth in the (212) Shia Labeuf and the Jordan Almond defense
Towleroad Gay Iconography: Bette Midler
Vérité recommends Rob the Mob (2014) with Michael Pitt and Nina Arianda. This is one of those rare 'under the radar' recommendations that actually is. I hadn't been aware of this Bonnie & Clyde like tale but I'm up for more Arianda for sure.

Off Cinema
Salon has a list of the 19 greatests 'double entendre' songs from "Brand New Key" to "Milkshake" and so on. I object to the exclusion of Cyndi Lauper's "She-Bop"
Gizmodo how long until we get this weird 'Smart Morphable Surface' technology in sci-fi movie designs? 

Oscar Notes / Production Design
In case you missed it as the weekend began, AMPAS made some minor adjustments to the rules (as they are prone to do) which In Contention analyzes. Mostly it's technicalities like how nominations are credited for Song & Best Picture but the super interesting one is that movies nominated for Production Design which feature heavily digital environments will now have an added nominee, the digital designer. I personally suspected /was hoping that the change which was bound to happen would be closer to the Black and White vs. Color designations that Oscar went through from the mid30s through the mid60s in cinematography and I was hoping it would happen in both cinematography and production design since visual fx achievements keep winning in one or both of those categories (think Avatar, Alice in Wonderland, Gravity, Hugo, etcetera). But I guess that was wishful thinking.

Thursday
Jun262014

Tim's Toons: Remembering the Best of All Transformers Movies

Tim here. We are come to the release weekend of a new Transformers movie - this one has Mark Wahlberg replacing Shia LaBeouf and robot dinosaurs replacing the idiotically absurd lack of robot dinosaurs. And with solemn redundancy almost as predictable as the content of the movies themselves, the same critical conversations that happen every time a Transformers opens are happening once more. There's the "if you like these movies, you are objectively wrong" essay; the litany of reviews all bemoaning the length, noise, and visual incoherence of Michael Bay's latest bombardment of ugly CGI and sexism; the handful of weakly noble defenses that it's all actually fun, and don't we like having fun? And I largely agree with at least two of these, and always enjoy when they put in their appearance.

Then there are always the pieces about how the Bay movies are cynical, loud junk that entirely miss the goofy fun of the crudely-animated Japanese cartoon from 1986 that first brought the Transformers to the big screen. And since I wasn't doing this when the last movie opened, it's my pleasure to write about that one this time around.

For Transformers: The Movie (or, formally speaking, The Transformers: The Movie, but that’s a lot of definite articles in just four words) is actually pretty good, considering how crappy it is. [More...] 

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