When I’m pressed for time to write at length, I will occasionally gather together compilations of recent news stories that might be of interest to this blog. I encourage our readers to discuss further in the Comments.
The Man Who Shot ‘Annie Hall’
Found at: Los Angeles Times
Gordon Willis, the legendary cinematographer of such classics as ‘The Godfather’ and ‘Manhattan’, passed away earlier this week at the age of 82. Fellow cinematography great Conrad Hall once dubbed Willis the “Prince of Darkness” for his unparalleled sculpting of light and shadow. The power of his images is frequently startling.
The most insighful appreciation of Willis’ work I’ve found is this article at L’Etoile Magazine. (Don’t worry, it’s in English.) The piece runs a little long, but is well worth a read for anyone interested in the art of motion picture photography and how critical it is to the storytelling of a film.
A perfectionist known to clash with both directors and actors while setting up his shots, Willis was also never shy about speaking his mind, as he did in this rant about the Blu-ray transfer of ‘All the President’s Men’:
“[The Blu-ray version of All the President’s Men is] all fucked up. All the medium tones [are wrong] and contrast is way higher than it oughta be. It’s overloaded. All they had to do was use the most recent DVD as a reference, because that’s fine. They probably think they’ll get [me] in there and it’ll turn into a problem, but it’s definitely a problem when they don’t. They don’t get it. They get on those fucking dials … it’s a disease. Their idea for a Blu-ray is to make it for guys who are watching football.”
Sadly, the problems he describes with revisionist tinkering afflict far too many Blu-ray releases of catalog titles.
Paramount Shrugs Shoulders and Gives Up on ‘Star Trek’
Found at: Variety
When the powerhouse team of screenwriters Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman decided to split up a few weeks ago to pursue separate projects, it was reported that Orci had been lobbying intensely to direct the next ‘Star Trek’ movie. The very notion of that seemed like such an obviously terrible idea that I had trouble believing Paramount would give it even a moment’s consideration.
Sadly, the studio later confirmed that Orci has been hired to helm the sequel. Not only is he responsible for writing such flagrantly awful garbage as ‘Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen’, Orci has no experience at all in directing. Nothing. Zero. Not even a short film or a TV episode or a music video or a commercial. How the hell was this guy put in charge of a big-budget science fiction tentpole production? What is Paramount thinking?
To date, I’ve seen every ‘Star Trek’ film in a theater with the exception of ‘Insurrection’, which I caught later on DVD and didn’t feel that I’d missed much. Perhaps it’s premature to already cast judgment, but I expect that I may skip this one as well.
Although I hold little hope for the film, ‘Star Trek’ is no stranger to disasters (like ‘Insurrection’ or ‘The Final Frontier’), and I’m sure will rebound eventually. My suggestion to the studio: Let Orci wrap up this little trilogy of movies set in the alternate Abramsverse timeline, and then return to the original franchise continuity with a whole new cast and storyline set a century or more after the events of ‘The Next Generation’. I think I have a pretty good idea for how to neatly tie everything together in a very short prologue scene. Seriously, call me.
Don’t See ‘Godzilla’ in 3D, Says Man Who Made ‘Godzilla’ in 3D
Found at: Rope of Silicon
This summer’s monster blockbuster reboot of ‘Godzilla’ is playing at IMAX 3D theaters around the world. Yet the film’s own cinematographer, Seamus McGarvey, thinks that 3D sucks and encourages fans to watch the movie in good old-fashioned 2D. In a recent interview, the DP (who also shot ‘The Avengers’, which was likewise converted to 3D in post-production) laments the studio pressure to make every movie 3D. He calls it a gimmick, and says, “As a cinematographer I absolutely despise it.”
I guess that explains why so many viewers have complained about being unimpressed with the film’s extremely conservative use of three-dimensional depth.
Batman > Superman
Found at: The Verge
Zack Snyder’s upcoming sequel to ‘Man of Steel’ finally has an official title: ‘Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice’. This is awkward in several respects. First off, it’s a mouthful, and “Dawn of Justice” makes it sound like a copycat of any number of recent generic sequels, prequels or reboots. It might as well be ‘Dawn of the Rise of the Planet of the Dark Justice World into Darkness’. Wouldn’t “Batman vs. Superman” say everything that needs to be said? I suppose the “Justice” part is meant to indicate that this is a precursor to the eventual ‘Justice League’ follow-up, but still, it just sounds stupid.
Next, using a “v.” rather than “vs.” suggests that this is a lawsuit between two claimants, not a battle. Is the movie going to be a courtroom drama in which DC heroes sue each other over trademark infringement? How exciting!
Most importantly, placing Batman’s name first in the title gives him top billing in a movie that’s ostensibly a Superman sequel with a guest appearance by Batman. Further, it implies that Batman is the hero and Superman is the villain. What are these two fighting about anyway?
Refresh my memory: Was the name “Superman” even actually used in ‘Man of Steel’? Wouldn’t this sequel be better called ‘Man of Steel vs. The Dark Knight’?