The Morning Read (3.02.09) Tarantino bashing, viral 'District 9,' and Malick and dinosaurs?
Happy birthday, Dad! He turns 69 today, and rather than snicker and make dirty jokes about that particular number, I'll just wish him a happy one, hope I'm half as cool at his age as he is, and acknowledge once again that the only reason I am able to do what I love for a living is because he indulged my interests as I was growing up, something not every parent would be willing to do. He gave me my lifelong appreciation of Ian Fleming, Clint Eastwood, Steve McQueen, and the cinema of badassery, and I can barely sum up how much I adore him.
You guys have a good weekend? My family's getting ready to leave town for an extended trip to Argentina, so it's been a blur of all sorts of last-minute activity, things we have to get finished. In addition, I had interviews on Sunday for "The Last House On The Left," and a ton of writing to get done for this week. I'm a little dizzy from it, and it hardly seems possible it's already Monday morning again. Let's see what there is out there worth reading as we gear up for the week ahead.
Why is it that when I read articles in which people rant about how much they hate Quentin Tarantino, the subtext is inevitably about how Tarantino didn't do what they wanted him to do with his career? Although I think it's ridiculous to pan a movie based on a single teaser trailer, I'm not going to bash the guy for it. But what does disturb me about this sort of a rant is the implication that Tarantino owes anyone a different kind of movie than the kind he's making. I know people who complain that what he's making now is totally disconnected from his "early great movies" like "Reservoir Dogs" or "Pulp Fiction." I don't think that's true or especially fair. Tarantino's in an enviable position, where he's been able to follow his particular whims as an artist without any restraint, and whether you like the results or not isn't the point. They're his interests. These are the films that he feels like he has to make. In the end, all you can judge is whether or not he pulled off the art that interested him, not whether or not he lived up to your particular wants for his career. When did we stop reviewing what an artist actually does versus what we wish he would do?
[more after the jump]
And, yeah, that article bugs me because I do like what Tarantino's up to. But again... you don't have to agree. I'm not some Taste Nazi, insisting that only my take on things is correct. What's great about the world of film is the wide variety of things out there, and what excites me might not be what excites you, but chances are both of us can find something worth watching that will appeal to us. When Devin Faraci writes about the ten most exciting directors of 2009, it says as much about him as it does about the filmmakers. I don't agree with all ten, but it's a great starting place for a conversation about whose work we are anticipating this year. Like I see he has Haneke on his list. Personally, I'll take Gaspar Noe in the "Filmmakers Determined to Piss Me Off In 2009" sweepstakes, if only because I prefer his particular style of provocation. Still... great read.
Also at CHUD this morning, Eileen offers up a round-up of some of the viral marketing that's out there for "District 9," Neil Blomkamp's story of alien invasion in South Africa, with design and FX by WETA. I've heard some crazy things about this film, and it's one to keep your eye on as 2009 unfolds.
John Cleese may sound like a grumpy old man (just a little) in this short article, but he raises a good point. Cinema sound has to strike a balance between spectacle and function, and I've certainly noticed that some mixes err on the side of the wow.
For the most part, copyright laws were established well before we had any sense of how long and rich a life a piece of creative work might have in the international marketplace. And today, thanks to technology, there are so many new questions about copyright raised all the time that it's become an ongoing and incredibly important debate. Although it's a bit dry, it's worth it to take the time and read this legal article on the public domain status of the work of Robert E. Howard. It's important stuff, especially as people argue over who "owns" the rights to Conan right now. It's undeniable that many of Howard's Conan stories are in the public domain, but it's less clear what that means about the character.
And the reason it's important is because right now, everything is in flux. Who owns a piece of art, how to monetize the creation of it, where it's distributed and by whom... these are all very real concerns. We should be celebrating Matt Stone and Trey Parker as goddamn heroes because of how well they've figured out the system, and their model is one that people would do well to study. They create something they control, and even within the corporate structure, they've managed to make it personally profitable and embrace new media.
Some people are still advocating the idea of charging for content, but I'm not sure consumers are willing to whip out the credit card all day long while they're web-surfing. We were trained in media consumption by the free-to-watch TV model, or by one-bill-per-month cable. The idea of having to pay each content provider each time we click on something seems unworkable to me, more so each year the Internet exists. And when you've got guys like Ed Brubaker trying to create Internet shows where they're proposing daily content with recognizable faces, innovation in terms of finance can only be a good thing.
It's not just where we find money that has to evolve... it's the money guys themselves. I've spent a fair amount of energy declaring Tom Rothman an enemy of cinema over the years, because I genuinely dislike the way he handles filmmakers and material, with a craven eye on the bottom line. His polar opposite inside the studio system would have to be Thomas Tull of Legendary Pictures. I've spent some time talking to Thomas over the last few years, and even when we don't see eye to eye on something, I can tell that this guy approaches things from a place of genuine enthusiasm about movies, and that he is definitely chasing a certain audience without condescending to them.
More "Watchmen" reviews are coming in, and there are some truly savage reactions. Anthony Lane went apeshit on it in The New Yorker, and his reaction doesn't surprise me. I think some people are going to completely miss the difference between celebrating something and deconstructing it. Anyone who asks you where the joy is in "Watchmen" has profoundly missed the point, or simply doesn't care what the point is in the first place. Marshall Fine seems to get it, though.
And ultimately... does it matter what any critic says about "Watchmen"? Or any film? It's great when a critic takes the time to draw attention to performances they feel were overlooked, or when they write a think-piece about a trend in filmmaking, or when they celebrate the career of a filmmaker whose work could use the attention. But again... do people pay attention, or are we all just talking to and about each other? And at what point do we just accept the grinning mediocrity of Ben Lyons is a given and give it a rest?
Do I have a new favorite critic? Hmmmm... I might.
Meanwhile, I'm not sure Lee Iacocca is going to be the film's biggest fan.
Terrence Malick, dinosaurs, and IMAX? If this hadn't already been named as one of the films I'm most excited about this year, this would probably push me over the edge. Even better, this is starting to look more and more like Malick is returning to one of his abandoned dream projects, the hyper-ambitious "Q." God, I can't wait to see "Tree Of Life."
If you're not interested in 3D, I would imagine all the talk of how high-def 3D is going to break into the home market is deadly boring, but allow me to indulge my tech nerd for a moment. I've seen a demo of one home 3D process that I thought was pretty amazing, and I would love to see RealD figure out a standard that matches what they've got in theaters right now. If that happens, I would expect 3D to become the genuine presence in the marketplace that Katzenberg and Cameron so desperately want it to be.
And speaking of Cameron, what the hell is all over that t-shirt JJ Abrams was wearing at Wondercon?!
I did not attend the WGA Panel that John August wrote about, but I probably should have. I know and have worked with several of the people on that panel, and it sounds like some solid advice for writers was given, and some clear-headed talk about the industry in general occurred. I hate the idea of marketing people being involved in development, but it's a given right now if you're working in the studio system, and if you want to be a screenwriter, this is some hard truth that you should just accept.
I agree with Glenn Kenny that animation is one of the mediums that works best on BluRay, and that Disney in particular seems determined to push just how good a transfer can look. Their "Sleeping Beauty" is jaw-dropping, and I'm eager to get my hands on the new "Pinocchio" transfer as soon as possible. I'm encouraged by what Kenny has to say about it.
On that note, I've got more to prepare for today, including this week's "On The Shelf," and the first edition of the "Motion/Captured Must-See Project." I'll see you back here with those in just a few.
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