Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Before and After "Black Swan" Special Effects Video is Stunning

Take a moment to watch the above VFX Breakdown video that reveals the incredible layers of special effects that are used in Black Swan. It boggles the mind how much an image can be altered and shaped. The amazing visual effects (vfx) artists are the frosting on the cake that is Matthew Libatiques's dynamic cinematography. Gorgeous performance by Natalie Portman and some great dancing in the really difficult scenes by her dance double, Sarah Lane.

PS - There is a controversy over who did most of the on-camera dancing - Portman or Lane.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Martin Scorsese - Great series of photographs and captions from The Hollywood Reporter

Detail from The Hollywood Reporter gallery on Martin Scorsese.
Take a look at a fascinating series of photographs (and equally good captions) of director Martin Scorsese that is featured on The Hollywood Reporter website. It's really good - and is part of the hype building for the Blu-ray release on April 5th of the Scorsese classic, Taxi Driver. The Blu-ray evidently contains tons of extras.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The woman in the long red gloves...

A photo taken on March 26th in London by Alister - posted on Flickr.
This photo prompts many questions. 1) Can you imagine that there would be a public protest in defense of film preservation? 2) Why would a film preservation demonstrator wear long luxurious red leather gloves to a protest? 3) Where was this photo taken? 4) Who is the woman in the long red gloves? 5) What group does she represent? 6) Who is she demonstrating against?

Here are some answers:
1) Yes.
2) I imagine she would reply..."Actually, dearie, they're really quite sensible in this weather."
3) London
4) We'd like to know!
5 and 6) She is evidently demonstrating/marching in support of the March 26th TUC (Trade Union Congress) "March for the Alternative," a protest against the extent of public spending cuts being enforced by the English Tory-Liberal Democrat government. It is also called the "anti-cuts march." The Brits are broke and the current government is imposing what many feel are draconian budget cuts that will adversely effect society across the board, but leaving the rich untouched. Most of the 500,000 demonstrators brought signs that reflect the core issues of the protest: cuts in social services, education, fire/police, the arts and jobs. A few, like our woman in the long red gloves, brought more esoteric issues to the fore! We applaud her and other Brits sincere point of view. And, hope the British people find a fair and reasonable way out of their financial mess without destroying the things that make England such an amazing country.

Alister's Flickr page:
March for the Alternative website:
The super fantastic British Film Institute:

Sunday, March 27, 2011

My Fortune Cookie

Received this inside a fortune cookie on Friday night out to dinner with family. I was kind of hoping for "One day you will be President of the United States" or "A blond woman named Julie will soon enter your life," but the one you see above is rather apropos.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Kiwanis Factor

The Kiwanis Club is an organization of volunteers dedicated to “changing the world, one child and one community at a time”. The Library of Congress’ Packard Campus is dedicated to preserving our cultural and film heritage “one film at a time”.
So, Paul was honored when the Walnut Creek, California chapter of the Kiwanis Club asked him to speak at their luncheon meeting about our documentary These Amazing Shadows.  Paul regaled them with stories of production….and post production (about Rob Reiner and Tim Roth), and then showed the attendees the first 12 minutes of the film. When he stopped the DVD player, there was an audible sigh from the crowd….as if to say “We want to see more”.  (One person knowingly said “Always leave them wanting more. Right?")
The Kiwanis loved our documentary and were very complimentary….and this was after seeing only the first 12 minutes of the film. Paul explained that they could see the remainder of “this amazing film” starting April 13th through most major cable providers via Video On Demand (including Comcast, Time Warner, Bright House Networks, Cablevision, Cox). And the Kiwanis were pleased.
Whether it be a crowd of 400, or a smaller group of 20, we have been heartened by the overwhelmingly positive response of audiences to our film, and remain proud of These Amazing Shadows.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Art of the Title

The opening title card of a motion picture sets a tone and graphic style that in some cases can have a life of its own separate from the actual movie (think Star Wars). A excellent short primer on the history of title cards can be seen in, The Art of the Title, edited by Ian Albinson (see above). You'll see opening title cards from the silent film Intolerance to the modern day The Social Network.

While on the subject of movie title cards take a look at a website entitled imaginatively enough, Movie Title Stills Collection, a website by Christian Annyas. He is a very skilled graphic designer with a fascination with movie graphics. His personal webpage and Movie Title Stills Collection are really fun to navigate around. Especially if you admire (as Christian does) the work of Saul Bass (Vertigo, North by Northwest, The Man with the Golden Arm, West Side Story)

One of my favorite title cards is from the 1931 Friz Lang directed film, M. What is your's?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

My White Whale - "Frank Film"

Frank Film, Frank MOURIS, 1973 by shortanimatedworld

On Tuesday I read an article in the Wall Street Journal entitled, "Two Animated Dog Sitters," by Ralph Gardner, Jr. that is about two dog sitters, Frank and Caroline Mouris. The reason this article caught my eye is because many years ago Frank Mouris was my White Whale. To explain we must rewind my little life back to when I was a teenager and made my first film, Floods: A National Disgrace, a mocumentary about pants that "flood" (sometimes called "highwaters" it is defined as pants that fall around the ankle. This refers to the fact that you can wear them when there is a flood, or "high waters." At that time pants that were too short were not fashionable.)

Floods was a eight minute Super 8 mm film with a magnetic stripe for sync sound - made a long time before the miracle of the Interwebs and digital filmmaking. I entered the film in the Brooklyn Film Festival. From my vantage point in California that festival sounded very exotic. The film was appreciated for its humor and was selected to be part of a group of films from the festival that toured the country screening in libraries, schools and community theaters. The film that won the festival Grand Prize was an experimental piece called, Frank Film, directed by Frank Mouris.

Click to enlarge - program from the Brooklyn Film Festival
In those pre-Internet days it was hard to see short films. I had no idea what Frank Film was about or looked like. All I knew was that it kept winning festivals and eventually that years Oscar for best short film. My film was always coming up short because everyone loved the alleged super fantastic Frank Film. To be honest my film was no where as good as Frank Mouris' film but in my crazy teenage mind I thought, "what's Frank Film got that my film don't got!" It bugged me for a long time. Fast forward years later to 2009 and we are in pre-production on These Amazing Shadows. Co-director Paul Mariano and I are reviewing the list of 550 films on the National Film Registry and I come across a very familiar title - Frank Film! Once again Frank Film is one step ahead of me! (It was selected to the Registry in 1996.) I quickly did a web search, found a link to the film and watched it for the first time. I liked it.

Frank Film did not make it into These Amazing Shadows. I want to make it clear that my youthful bitterness and jealousy had nothing to do with that decision.

With Frank Film's selection to the NFR it was designated for preservation. Fate has not been as kind to Floods: A National Disgrace. I stored the film badly and it can no longer be projected. Its now only exists in my own distorted memory - perhaps that is fitting.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

"Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Killer," "Spinal Tap" mug and Paul's "Two for the Road" NFR Campaign

Book jacket for Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter - now to be a movie.
In our interview of Caleb Deschanel for These Amazing Shadows he said that all great story telling is a form of myth. Caleb doesn't just talk-the-talk but he walks-the-walk as the famed cinematographer begins shooting in April - Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter in 3-D. A mash-up of mythic proportions. Here is the story in a nutshell: President Lincoln's mother is killed by a supernatural creature, which fuels his passion to crush vampires and their slave-owning helpers. The script was penned by Seth Grahame-Smith who authored the book of the same name. Directed by Timur Bekmambetov (known internationally for his Russian vampire movies, but here in the States for Wanted) it will hit theaters in June 2012. Caleb has been very busy over the past year shooting flicks for William Friedkin (Killer Joe with Matthew McConaughey, Juno Temple, Emile Hirsch) and Jim Sheridan (Dream House with Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz, Naomi Watts).

Available now! This is Spinal Tap mug from Shot Dead in the Head. This is Spinal Tap was selected to the National Film Registry in 2002.

Please support These Amazing Shadows co-director Paul Mariano's campaign to get the 1967 gem Two for the Road on the National Film Registry. Starring Audrey Hepburn and Albert Finney, the story centers on a couple in the south of France as they non-sequentially spin down the highways of infidelity in their troubled ten-year marriage.

Anyone can nominate/vote (really the same thing) a film to the National Film Registry. Simply send an email to Donna Ross at the Library of Congress
Tell her what film you think should be selected and why. Don't forget the basic rules: films must be at least 10 years old and be "aesthetically, historically or culturally" significant. Which, as Steve Leggett of the Library of Congress says, means almost anything.
(I'm campaigning for The Times of Harvey Milk and Key Largo)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Ridicuawesome Personified: ENTHIRAN

I have been looking for the opportunity to use the word mashup - ridiculous + awesome = ridicuawesome. I thought it would take years to experience a life changing moment that would justify its utterance. You must watch the trailer for Enthiran (aka: Robot) for such a life changing experience. Enthiran is a 2010 Tamil science fiction film reportedly the most expensive production in India film history (it has been called India's Avatar). It is co-written and directed by S. Shankar. The story: Dr. Vasi struggles to control his creation, Chitti, a super strong/smart/invulnerable android robot whose program has been upgraded to give it the ability to comprehend and generate human emotions. Chitti is transformed! The plan backfires when Chitti (who happens to be an excellent singer and dancer) falls in love with the Dr. Vasi's fiance and is manipulated to bring destruction to the world when it lands in the hands of a rival scientist. Will Dr. Vasi's own creation destroy him? It's like super ridicuawesome.
Oh, and Enthiran's catch phrase is, "May I come in."

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Alex's Triumphant Return, Stain Boy and HDNet/NFR

Co-director, Paul Mariano, and co-editor, Alex Calleros, present These Amazing Shadows at UCSC.
Have you ever dreamed of returning in triumph to high school and/or college after achieving success? I can't say that was one of Alex Calleros (co-editor of These Amazing Shadows) goals in life. But, he lived it this week on the campus of his alma mater the University of California, Santa Cruz. Alex ('08), along with Paul and I had the wonderful experience of presenting a screening of These Amazing Shadows to one of Professor Shelly Stamps' film classes. Shelly is one of the interview subjects (women directors segment) in TAS and is Alex's former professor.

UCSC Professor Shelly Stamp proudly watches her former student Alex Calleros introduce These Amazing Shadows.
The students really liked and felt inspired by TAS. They asked fun questions and even offered distribution advise. They were clearly impressed with how quickly Alex had achieved success in the film business and were eager to find out his secret(s) to success, which will be the subject of a future blog entry. Shelly told Paul and me that Alex was a great student, "who was really active and seemed to be president of every student film organization."

Professor Stamps' film class in Studio C - Communications Building on the campus of UCSC
Shelly will be presenting a paper on film director, Lois Weber, at the Doing Women's Film History Conference in Sunderland, England - April 13-15. Our big thanks to Prof. Stamp and her class!

Stain Boy
One of the regrets I have about These Amazing Shadows was not pursuing an interview with director Tim Burton. He is such a different kind of person and a great interview (see Charlie Rose's interview of Tim). Tim just came out with a new website that you should check out. The site is centered on a new book of Tim's illustrations called appropriately enough, The Art of Tim Burton. On the website you can get a preview of his art by guiding Stain Boy (via your mouse or touchpad) through a gallery. The website is worth a visit alone just for the background music.

Elizabeth Taylor and James Dean from the motion picture, Giant.
HDNet Movies regularly schedules films from the National Film Registry. Please go to the following link to see their current schedule. Their March schedule includes Giant, The Bridge Over the River Kwai and The Terminator. HDNet is available through Comcast, AT&T, Charter Communications, DIRECTV, Dish Network and Verizon. As they say..."check your local listing for exact channel."
National Film Registry on HDNet

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Evolution of "These Amazing Shadows" theatrical poster.

It's always fun to go back and review how we arrived at various decisions. We're really proud of our theatrical poster designed by Brian Oakes. The design process began centered on the idea of using movie posters from classic films that are on the National Film Registry. We use posters throughout our documentary and to great effect in our end credits (which can be viewed on youtube at the following link: TAS End Credits). Brian wanted to design a poster that would draw a person in to take a close look and to reward them with fascinating details.

In proposal #1 Brian came up with a concept that quickly suggests the general topic of our documentary. The large old style ticket says "movies." Then you get the pleasure of looking at each classic movie poster within our poster. Its active, bright and commercial.

Proposal #2 is a very artistic and nontraditional approach (a personal note - I love it). The movie title is a little hard to read, which draws you in to figure out what is going on. Once you're close you see that there are numerous strips of 35mm motion picture film on a single plane. What movies are they from? It's fun to try to figure them out. It's not commercial, a bit challenging and beautiful.

Brian's final design was a combination of ideas from #1 & #2, plus incorporating the graphic style he had designed for the documentary and the opening title text form. It's dark like a movie theater...filled with amazing shadows...full of detail...and elegant.

Friday, March 4, 2011

"We Got That B Roll!!" and other various beautiful web-abouts.

A screen grab from the very funny video, We Got That B Roll!!.  Directed by Dylan Osborn and written by Sergio Cilli.
To continue our two day run of funny videos - we must share one of our favorites, We Got That B Roll!!. This is a bit of a documentary insider joke. But we know our sophisticated audience will get it. Just in case you need an assist here is the definition of B Roll: secondary footage that adds meaning to a sequence or disguises the elimination of unwanted content. Unfortunately, this funny video cannot be embedded into our blog due the creators wishes. Please click on the following title to take you to this very funny video. We Got That B Roll!!.

Our graphic designer...I mean Director of Motion Graphics, Brian Oakes, has his new website up and it is fantastic. Brian is involved in all kinds of projects including the upcoming HBO doc, Runnin' Rebels of UNLV, which airs on March 12 - just before the beginning of the NCAA Basketball Tournament.

J. Todd Anderson and George Willeman of the radio show, Filmically Perfect.

Since you are already strolling around the Interwebs why not check out George Willeman's website, Filmically Perfect. Okay, it's not George's website but the Internet home of the radio show, Filmically Perfect, on WYSO-FM hosted by Niki Dakota (very cool name!) and features George (one of our interview subjects and our friend at the Library of Congress) and J. Todd Anderson. The three talk about movies that are "perfect." What makes a movie perfect? Go to their website to find out the rules for the perfect movie. You can listen to their show via the web or podcast.

And, finally, our erstwhile These Amazing Shadows website is undergoing a facelift. Stay tuned for the historic release of our new site! It is coming just in time to give you the straight skinny on the plethora of TAS scheduled screenings across the USA beginning in April 2011.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Oscar Talk with Leonard Maltin and his guest Mike Tyson

Noted film critic, Leonard Maltin, one of These Amazing Shadows interview subjects discusses the 2011 Oscar race with former heavyweight champ, Mike Tyson. Very illuminating.

On a more serious note - Leonard was nice enough to post a blurb about These Amazing Shadows on his blog. Thanks Leonard!
Read Leonard's Blog Movie Crazy