Friday, November 22, 2013

Six More Days Until 'Frozen'

On Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, the newest Disney animated film Frozen will be released in theaters. It will be the third movie I see in theaters this break, after Catching Fire (which was amazing) and Thor: The Dark World (which I hope will be amazing). But still, I have decided it is worth becoming broke over. And here is why.


For the first time in history, a woman is directing an animated Disney feature. Screenwriter Jennifer Lee is doing the honors and I must say, it sounds like she did a killer job. Animation has a male-dominated industry for decades and this is the start of an era of female creative leadership. However, animation does not differ that much from the overall Hollywood breakdown of directors by gender.

One of the major perks of a female director is the perspective that she can add to the story and animation. Frozen is a Disney rendition of Hans Christian Andersen's fairytale The Snow Queen. The story revolves around the struggles between two princess sister, Anna (voiced by Kristen Bell) and Elsa (voice by Idena Menzel) in a fictional Nordic kingdom. With Lee's perspective impacting the sister conflict, reviews claim the sister relationship is relatable. Lee's goal was to humanize Anna and I'm excited to find out how she tried to do it.

The Hunger Games







For those of you who have read the books, you know why this series has become the new talk of the town, and for those who haven’t…well, lets just say you are missing out on something that will forever be one of the worlds greatest franchise’s. The writing, the themes, the characters, the actors, and the cinematography are only a few credible aspects of the film that makes it so appealing and such a universal phenomenon.

Themes

I’ve heard many people talk about the horrible message that The Hunger Games represents. They complain that it is setting a bad example for society and showing kids that it is okay to kill each one another. However, every time I hear someone say this, I can’t help but want to turn around and show them the other great, empowering things we see in these stories.  As well as point out the fact that they are books/movies and, like any other action based movies, they are based on tragedy in which we conquer and look past through the sympathy and actions of the heroic character (in this case Katniss). It’s what makes a great movie a GREAT movie. Without a set back or type of devastation or conflict, there wouldn’t be much of a film entertainment business, if any at all.  So lets push that aside and look deeper into the story and look at the more meaningful and relative themes that bring much more meaning to the story.

Beating The Odds- This, in its own, entails several themes. First is, poverty. Panem, which is described as the United States divided up into twelve districts in a post apocalyptic world, with each district based on wealth, starting from District 1/ The Capital who are extremely rich, to District 12 who are almost unbearably poor. Katniss and Peeta live in District twelve and not only struggle to find enough food to feed themselves and their families, they are at the largest disadvantage within the hierarchy since they have they option to exchange an extra ballad with their name in the ballad of potential tributes of the games for a trade of food and essentials for their loved ones.   And not only that, they are weaker and not as privileged as the other Districts who can afford food and useful weapons, yet they come out stronger and most experienced than the others because of their unprivileged situations at home where they had to fight for there food and go over and under to make ends meet.
Another is Individualism. The tragic and stressful situations each tribute is put under to save their own life, let alone take the life of another to do so is enough to draw one out of their right mind.  Yet, Peeta is determined to not let the temptations take over who he really is. He wont let the Capitals influence of murder and betrayal become his new identity. Instead he dies the opposite. He states that he doesn’t want to die as anyone but himself within the games. He doesn’t want to be a murderer, he would rather die true to himself than live as a different person.
These themes alone relate so much to real life and can be taken into context of our own lives.





Love/ Compassion- Whether real or not, love is a major theme in the story. Later in the story we find out that Peeta, unbeknownst to Katniss, is in love with her.  The results of this love façade played a major role in the life of the characters, literally and figuratively, especially with them both winning the games.  Also, we see the compassion that pours out from many of the tributes, such as Rue and Katniss who made a pact to protect eachother, and did until their fate made them part.



Characters/ Actors

Katniss/ Jennifer Lawrence- It is inevitable to say that Jennifer Lawrence is going to be the new Meryl Streep of our generation. She has already won two awards, a Golden Globe and an Oscar before the age of 25, and has captured the world with her profound talent and likable personality.  It is arguable that her role as Katniss is what sparked her career, but it is fair to say that it did and forever will be the role that made us remember who she was.    Katniss is a very strong- headed upper teenaged girl who has sacrificed her life for her sister to participate in the annual Hunger Games.  From the beginning we see her struggle on the brink of death and continue to do so throughout the movie.  She is fierce and hungry for life, yet vulnerable and very compassionate.  This, as you could imagine creates its own conflicts and Jennifer Lawrence undeniably does an amazing job with displaying both of those characteristics in a way that is believable and realistic.




Peeta/ Josh Hutcherson-  Peeta is also very compassionate yet doesn’t possess the same urge for survival as Katniss. He is more of a follower and hides from danger instead of facing it.  Josh Hutcherson also embodies his character so well and brings the character to life through his great acting and chemistry between him and Jennifer Lawrence. 














Besides Katniss and Peeta, the cast is filled with many unique and important characters. There is Gail (Liam Hemsworth), who is Katniss’ best friend and sort-of love interest that also taught her much of what she knows about hunting. Then there is Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks), the escort of the tributes. And then of course the tributes themselves. All are tremendously talented and make this story come alive.



Cinematography

Directed by Gary Ross with cinematographer Tom Stern, The Hunger Games  broke records in the box office and left the audience talking. Though, unfortunately it didn’t get the best rep. as many complained about the changes they made to the story by not following the book and the unfavorable layout of the arena, the film was still very visually appealing.  Gary Ross did a great job telling the story, and Tom Stern did a wonderful job in creatively capturing all of the elements of the story.

Catching Fire has finally hit theatres and I cant wait to see what masterpiece they have created now. I expect that they kept  to the original story based on the backlash of The Hunger Games, as well as will blow all the competition out of the water, like it did the first time too!  Good luck getting a ticket, and may the odds be ever in your favor!







Why I Might Watch Almost Human

Good sci-fi shows are a rarity. In part, it’s because they cater to such a niche audience; the general population likes to stick to a blend of mostly drama/reality TV, and that usually does not include futuristic societies, robots, aliens, or any combination of the three. The first truly weird and successful sci-fi-esque show would have to be the Twilight Zone, created by Ithaca’s own Rod Serling. It was incredibly ahead of it’s time, and combined fantasy elements with current-day
issues to create a show that was a crazy and wonderful kind of social commentary. Few shows have really broken through the mold since then. The ones that have, however, have been mostly excellent.

In the mid 90s, the X-Files proved that it’s totally possible to have a successful procedural show about aliens, which is something people didn’t realize they were missing until the show debuted. A few other great sci-fi shows came during the mid 2000s, some recognized for their greatness (the adventure/drama/crazy shit-show that was Lost and the surprisingly critically acclaimed Fringe - thanks J.J. Abrams) and some that were not (you’ll always have Netflix, Firefly). Besides the love it or loathe it Battlestar Gallactica, no other shows immediately come to mind, which just goes to show that networks either don’t care for sci-fi shows anymore or that sci-fi shows, basically, just need to get better. 

Which is why I’m so intrigued by Almost Human. FOX has really been pushing this show for a while now, airing commercials for it almost constantly since before the World Series. It’s gotten to the point where I’m embarrassed to say that I’m interested in it; every time I see an ad, my roommates lampoon me for ever bringing it up. And yet, here I am, on Hulu, with my curser hovering over the ‘play’ button on the pilot of Almost Human. 

Part of me wants to give it a chance. For me, personally, it has a lot of similarities to Fringe when that first aired: it’s on FOX, it’s very much a science fiction show, and I know next to nothing about it, despite all the commercials. From what I gather, Karl Urban is a hard-ass cop living in a society that embraces robots. I think he gets hurt or something, and wakes up with a new robot partner, which he isn’t happy with. It’s like a buddy-cop movie, just instead of a person, one buddy is a robot. And they’re not buddies. So. 

The other part of me, though, doesn’t want to get hurt again. Knowing the life-spans of sci-fi shows, I know that the chances of it being good/getting picked up for multiple seasons is slim at best. That being said, the reviews have been mostly positive so far (even though only the pilot has aired and that has to be good) and people seem to be truly enjoying it. It’s also another show that J.J. Abrams has slapped his name on, so you have to expect a certain level of excellence from it. Well. It’s decided then. Despite whatever flak I might get from my roommates, I will sit myself down over Thanksgiving break and watch Almost Human. 


Maybe. 

Francois Truffaut and Wes Anderson

I've slowly been working my way down a list of films that I should see by influential directors through the century. The first director I wanted to take a look at, for no real particular reason was Francois Truffaut. I had seen the film he's arguably best known for, the French New-Wave masterpiece, "The  400 Blows" before. I had liked that, and I figured I would check out the other four films in the Antoine Doinel series, including "Antoine and Colette" "Stolen Kisses" "Bed and Board" and "Love on the Run".


 Out of those films, I really appreciated the third, "Stolen Kisses". I really couldn't place my finger on it, but there was something about that film that struck a chord with me. It was fun and lighthearted, all underscored by this lovable quirkiness. I believe at one point I said aloud to myself, "I really like this film". And it wasn't until I saw one shot, which was perfectly framed, dead on in the center of the screen, that I realized what felt so right to me. It reminded me a lot of Wes Anderson.



 Anderson is one of my favorite film directors. His movies are always quirky and charming, and I find the style of photography pretty endearing. Moonrise Kingdom and The Fantastic Mr. Fox are two of my favorite films.

I figured that this couldn't be coincidental, so I powered up the old google machine, and type in a fine-tuned, well-worded search of "Wes Anderson Francois Truffaut". Surprisingly, there were a lot of hits that came up. These are two articles that appeared, one from 2012 (Just before Moonrise Kingdom) and one from 2002.



http://film-dot-com.tumblr.com/post/20856422516/francois-truffaut-inspired-wes-andersons-moonrise

http://www.nytimes.com/2002/01/11/movies/watching-movies-with-wes-anderson-from-centimes-a-wealth-of-ideas.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm

I guess I shouldn't really be surprised at this point by the fact that great filmmakers have been inspired by other great filmmakers. I suppose this one just struck home the most for me, given the circumstances. If anything it serves as a reminder that inspiration does not come out of a vacuum and in order to get better at making films, you need to see what other people have done right first.

Catching Fire




Last year I finished all three books in the series “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins. When I was reading the books I couldn’t put a single one of them down for a single second. Like most teenagers, I became completely enthralled in the 12 districts that made up the post-apocalyptic nation of Panem. So last night, when I went to see “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire”, the second movie in the series, I had extremely high expectations about how I wanted the movie to play out. In the end, I was more than satisfied.
“The Hunger Games: Catching Fire”, from Lionsgate, opens with a scenic view of the heroine, Katniss Everdeen played by our favorite actress, Jennifer Lawrence. One of the reasons why this movie is so successful is because of the amazing and publically appealing cast involved. To start, Jennifer Lawrence is a successful Academy Award-winning actress who has appealed to many young adults with her witty speeches and her love for food and drinking before interviews. Most importantly, her ability to act as a cunning, selfless fighter has been spot on, to say the least.

The movie begins with Katniss crouching in a bush hunting for animals in the forbidden part of her district. This opening scene reminds us that Katniss is just as bad-ass as she was in the first movie. That is, until her best friend Gale (Lian Hemswirth), startles her into a nervous breakdown. Then, we see her for what she has become since the first Hunger Games, a complete emotional wreck. But what else would you expect from a girl who had been dropped into an arena forced to kill the surrounding 23 people in order to continue living?
The Hunger Games might be directed towards young adults due to it’s superficial, cliché romantic theme of a girl constantly flip-flopping between two boys, each from a different world. However, the plot itself is complex and thoughtful, including references to past films and literature as well as universal themes including government, oppression and justice. In the first “Hunger Games” we meet Katniss, who resides in District 12, 1 of the 12 Districts that now makes up what is left of the world after a revolution destroyed most of North America. In order to make the people understand and regret their actions of revolting the president, currently President Snow, holds an event known as “The Hunger Games”. “The Hunger Games” is a broadcasted event in which two tributes from each district are chosen to fight each other to the death until there is one lone victor who receives fame, wealth for themselves, wealth for their district and the ability to continue living. In the first movie, Katniss and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), are chosen to be tributes in order to participate in dramatic, horrifying, gladiatorial extremes.

The second movie tells the story of a new game that took place on an island set up as a clock to reveal a different lethal event with each new hour. The idea itself is intriguing, but on the screen it was completely engrossing. The poisoning fog, killer monkeys, raining blood, threatening lighting and more was exciting for any age.
Catching Fire has a different director than the first. This time around, Francis Lawrence replaced Gary Ross. When Ross directed the first movie, it was done in the hesitance and fear that usually fuels the adaption of a popular book onto the movie screen. But with the surprising popularity and success that followed the first movie, Lawrence was given more free range. Lawrence is known for previously directing the well-received films, “Constantine” and “I Am Legend”. There were also other details that made this movie so fascinating including the amazing costumes, designed by Trish Summerville, that were absolutely breathtaking. Other aspects that made the details of this film so detail oriented include the director of photography, Jo Willems, music by James Newton Howard, production design by Phillip Messina and producers Nina Jacobson and Jon Kilik.
The ending may have been disappointing, but it is hard to criticize it since it had ended exactly as the book had. In fact, most of the movie had followed the book, but not in a negative or downgrading manner. Rather, the movie did not take away from the book but only expanded on its ability to tell such a fantastic and symbolic story. The script, written by Simon Beaufot and Michael DeBruyn completed the difficult feat of adapting such a popular book. Typically, movie adaptations fail at properly adapting a popular book. However, this was not the case with this big-studio, beautifully visual adaptation. Although the ending was a chest, overdone concept of displaying the main character’s facial expression as she realized the consequences to her action, the scene did fill me with anticipation and excitement for the next two movies to come.

MōVI STARTS MOVING

Earlier in the year a couple students, including myself, posted about the new MŌVI... a hybrid type of steadicam that can provide very smooth shots in versatile situations. The device is already being used in a couple productions, but one production team has actually worked with MŌVI technicians to mount a RED Epic camera onto this flagship device. Their creation is pretty cool looking... a mechanical dance routine on an artistically lit backstreet, all with the MŌVI flowing around the scene:


When interviewing GAREN, the producer of the music video, he stated:

Did using the MōVI make my job as a producer easier? No. Did we come across difficulties because of its learning curve? Yes. Did it cause us to lose some time? Yes. But these things are all to be expected when embracing new technologies.

His answer seems very logical and brings forth the point that the MŌVI is not yet meant for anyone to pick up and start making their very own backyard video. It's a technical piece of equipment and it will take the industry a little bit of time to discover its full potential. 

Of course what would any of this be without a handy behind the scenes video?


Read more about this on nofilmschool.com

Wayne's World

Last night I came home trying to do some work but when I came home all my roommate's were watching Wayne's World so I naturally sat down and put off my work further more. I was never passionate about Wayne's World but I remember appreciating it when I saw it a good 6 or 7 years ago so I was curious what I'd think of it now. I don't know if I just haven't changed my humor since middle school or was just enjoying the nostalgia of watching it, but I found myself and my roommates laughing hard at the a lot of the jokes. One of my favorite scenes in that movie is Garth's day dream about approaching the hot girl in the dinner with Jimmy Hendrix's Foxy Lady underneath it.

After that I started thinking about how this movie was different because of how frequently they broke that fourth wall. It was cheesy at times but I still enjoyed it. My favorite time they break the fourth wall is when Wayne, Garth, and Cassandra are in Ben Kane's apartment. Garth Steps back and starts talking about how bad of an idea it was for Wayne to bring Cassandra there. Although he's supposed to be the idiot of the film I realize he pushes the plot forward. In that scene he's going around the apartment showing books of "how to pick up women" and then finds is to do note book that says, "buy television program - Exploit it." I can't tell if it was a cheap or clever way of pushing the story forward.

I think overall, I really liked how they had the characters aware that a movie was being made on them. I think since Wayne and Garth were making a TV show in the movie, it fits to have them aware of the makings of the film. I also really enjoyed how it made fun of Hollywood cliches. Wayne has a scene when he's professing his love to Cassandra where we openly splashes water in his face while "Oscar winning scene" flashes at the bottom of the screen. They do a nice job of transitioning between the realization of the Hollywood cliche back into the storyline with out you even noticing.



Thursday, November 21, 2013

Best Interactive Video I've Ever Seen

I've seen many interactive videos, some are good, some are bad, and some are really bad. Today I watched the best interactive video I've ever seen. Unlike most interactive videos out there, it is actually practical, without a huge network of links to different scenarios on YouTube. It is the most entertaining, and lends itself to be re-playable over and over again. It is an interactive music video to Bob Dylan's Like A Rolling Stone. I absolutely love Bob Dylan, but even if you aren't a fan you will still enjoy the interactive video. The video has a sidebar, which resembles a TV set menu with channel buttons, volume, play, pause, and stop. You are able to change the channels, and no matter what channel you change it to the talent is always in sync with the song! Basically there are a bunch of different music videos on each channel and when you change to one of them, it syncs up to the part of the song you are at. It features channels such as the news, the history channel, the shopping channel, etc. It parodies shows such as The Bachelorette, and Pawn Stars. You should check it out, you will not regret it!




Check it out here:

http://video.bobdylan.com/desktop.html


The Movie Friday Night Lights

In honor of Ithaca College’s last regular season game of 2013 I have decided to post about a football movie. I chose the movie Friday Night Lights because I love the stories told with each character. It is very authentic and real.  The movie takes place in West Texas in a town called Odessa. 
High school football is above all in the town. It is more important than money, church, or sex. It is everything. It holds the social order together and gives people a sense of meaning and belonging. The football players of Permian High are told to protect the town, which is a very important job for a bunch of male teenagers.

I like the storylines because each character has a different personal story that is brought together by the game of football. Boobie Miles is the star running back who puts all his hopes and dreams into football stardom which is eventually broken by an injury. Don Billingsley isn’t the best football player. He has an abusive father who once played for the team and won the state championship. Mike Winchell is driven by desire to leave the small town of Odessa.

The reason I love the movie as a whole is because of the ending. The ending is uplifting but also sad. It is one of the most honest high school sports movies I have ever seen. The team ends up losing the state championship by a few feet. It is not a happy ending, it is a real ending and I love that. Since it based off real-life members of the 1988 team, we are told where each player ended up. The players, heroes and superstars in high school, grew up to be construction salesmen, and land surveyors.

I just love movies that don’t always have happy endings or fairytale stories. I love sincerity.

Everything Wrong With...

We all know that most movies are not perfect. There may be some continuity errors or there could be parts of the story that are not resolved at the end. Actors could give off the wrong mood of the story, or there could just be a few bad lines. Most movie-goers often overlook these flaws, but some people decide that it is their mission to point these flaws out to the rest of us. The YouTuber "Cinema Sins" is happy to point out every flaw in a movie. And no movie is safe (unless it is absolute perfection). 

In honor of the movie premiere of the new Hunger Games movie, I give you "Everything Wrong With The Hunger Games In 3 Minutes or Less".


The guy who makes these puts a comical twist on the movies. He is critical, yet he still makes you laugh at the mistakes that you saw in the movie and even the mistakes that you completely missed. Here is one he did on "Avatar". 


And I leave you with this gem. If you've seen the movie "The Room", you will appreciate this. 


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Editing film with a deadline


As of now, I have been awake for almost twenty-four straight hours, about ten of which have been spent editing my group's short film, "Cracked". After having been up editing until about 3 or 4AM for the past four days, I've decided tonight was the night when sleep was simply not an option. Tonight's cutoff time was about 5AM. This wasn't due to being kicked out of the library or to my roommate yelling at me to turn off the light. It was due to the fact that most of us working on the film's picture-locked draft tonight reached the point where no good could come out of continuing our work. The last 4 days have been some of the most taxing and fulfilling days of my life, and since I'm running on little to no sleep due to the deadline I've been given to have this film finished by, I figured now is the best time to give you my honest opinion of editing with a deadline.

It's difficult.
Editing is difficult. There's no question about it. It takes a lot of time, patience, and skill. Sometimes, none of these are available. Having approximately four days to edit a seemingly twenty-minute, picture-locked copy so that our sound designer can have ample time to make our project sound as professional as possible, time is simply not of the essence. It's unfortunate, but it's the hand I've been dealt, nonetheless.

Patience is not one of my virtues. That's a fact. If something isn't working the way I want it to, I've been known to begin cursing out my laptop at a reasonable volume right in the middle of the library. The problem with this is the fact that, in order to edit something just right, an editor needs patience so that he doesn't accidentally scare everyone sitting within a fifty-foot radius of him. Very few things ever fit together perfectly with ease in the editing process. It's important to remember that.

Clearly, one needs to have some level of skill in order to be good at his job. Now, I'm not saying that I'm a bad editor. I like to think that I have some level of talent. The fact is, though, I'm still learning new things everyday. Just tonight, actually, I must have learned at least three new editing techniques from my fellow group members that I had no idea were available to me. These three or so new techniques I learned are certainly going to come in handy sometime soon down the road, but I really wish I knew them a few months ago. It just goes to show that an editor is never done learning.

It's stressful.
Four days. Really? Four days to edit an entire twenty-minute short film. That's all I was given. The deadline I was given was set for a very good reason. We need to have the film's audio mastered by someone who truly knows what they're doing, but seriously? In order for a person to provide you with his best work, you better give him the necessary time to do so. The more rushed an editor is, and the less sleep he has, the more difficulty he's going to have in turning in a quality project.

The most stressful part about the whole thing is that, despite the little time film editors are often given, the entire project still comes down to you. It's basically like the last five seconds of a basketball game. Your team as retrieved the ball. They've gotten it down the court. They've set you up with a perfect shot. It's now up to you. You can either score the game-winning point, or you can miss the shot and your team's effort was all for nothing. An editor can either be the hero or the complete screw-up on a film crew.

It's bullshit.
No matter how well the preproduction and production of a film go, the editors always seem to get screwed over. You'd think the editor would be given as much time as they needed to make the final product their best possible work, but no. Editors always seem to have the shortest deadline out of anyone on the entire production crew.

Sure, being the editor has its perks. The most evident one is the fact that I had to do little to no work up to this point in the project process. What could I do? There was nothing for me to edit. Another major advantage would have been--if we hadn't needed someone to work audio for our first two shoots--that I wouldn't have been required to go to the actual shoots. That could have easily been more time to relax or to edit what we had already shot (which I was luckily given for our group's final shoot on Sunday).

Despite how fair it really is that I have to run off little to no sleep for a mere four days, instead of having work the entire semester, I still attempt to put the idea in my head that the whole thing is bullshit. Don't ask me why. I'm just tired.

It's totally worth it.
At the end of the day, and at the end of the whole process, editing is truly one of the most rewarding positions in the entire crew, especially with such a short deadline. To be able to look back and say, "Wow. I did all that in four days?", is all the reward I need. To have the privilege to be able to see the entire progress from a script, to a shoot, to a cluster of files, to a beautiful film is an absolutely indescribable feeling. The editor is the final puzzle piece to a film, and it's an honor to be that final piece.