With 'Dark Shadows' on the way, we look at the director's work through the prism of art direction
Friday brings the second weekend of the summer movie season and Tim Burton's latest, "Dark Shadows." The film is…unfortunate. My thoughts line up a bit with Drew McWeeny's: it almost gets by on laughs but the whole time all I could wonder was, "Why?" It starts with the script, folks. And this film could use one.
Anyway, we're not talking about scripts today. We're bringing the focus, as we like to do, back around to the below-the-line talent in the film industry, and a rather specific installment of The Lists this week: production design in Tim Burton films. "Dark Shadows" keeps the filmmaker's dark and decadent tradition alive, yet another reminder of his penchant for design elements.
This has been his trademark, and across a wide spectrum of collaborators, one ought to add. Burton typically grows his art department heads from within, so there's a natural consistency at work, but he's brought Oscars for Best Art Direction to four different production designers in his time. That's impressive.
The Soundworks Collection's latest profile reveals the film's aural design
I caught "The Avengers" for a second time earlier this week. It's still a barrel of fun but don't try to think about that script too much. It shatters under modest consideration. And I felt the length a bit more this time around. Nevertheless, I still love the movie.
Something I was paying particular attention to this time, though, was the sound elements. The only Marvel Studios film to grab a nomination in the sound categories so far was "Iron Man," which got in for Best Sound Editing in 2008. But with Oscar-winners like Christopher Boyes and Lora Hirschberg on board, I wonder if the team-up actioner can find its way to one or both fields this year.
For a film as busy visually as this one is, it's a big accomplishment that it's so delicately balanced aurally, yet so dynamic on the editorial side of things. Boyes, who was interviewed for the SoundWork's Collection's latest sound profile on the film, worked on the "Iron Man" films, so he had some things in place for "The Avengers." And naturally he brought in elements provided by the teams of Richard King ("Thor") and Stephen Hunter Flick ("Captain America: The First Avenger") to "honor the original signature sounds, which was Marvel's desire," he says.
Okay, I'll join the fun
There's a lot of talk about lists lately. Just the other day we chewed on Roger Ebert's inclusion of Terrence Malick's "The Tree of Life" in his personal top 10 films of all time as part of the 2012 Sight & Sound critics and filmmakers poll (which Guy is agonizing over currently as he was asked to participate this time around -- Friday's the deadline).
Meanwhile, HitFix's own Drew McWeeny offered up his personal list of 20 last night as a lead-in to a feature Film School Rejects managing editor Scott Beggs (aka Cole Abaius) has been working through for a few days now. I was also asked to participate in that poll, which was largely net-based in focus and therefore younger in demographic. So I might as well offer up some extended thoughts, too.
I've been doing this in one form or another for 12 years, going back to college and, really, my teens. I'm 30 now. And one question I've been asked frequently over that span of time is, "Hey, what are your top 10 films of all time?"
Continuing our series of Cannes competition previews
The director: Cristian Mungiu (Romanian, 44 years old)
The talent: A number of first-time actresses pepper the cast list of Mungiu's latest, including his two leads, Cosmina Stratan and Cristina Flutur. Keen followers of the Romanian New Wave may recognize (if not necessarily be able to name) the odd face in support, including a number of bit players from "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days." The biggest name here, relatively speaking? Luminita Gheorghiu, who won an LA Critics' award a few years back for "The Death of Mr. Lazarescu."
Mungiu wrote and produced the film himself. It's interesting, however, to see Belgian brothers (and two-time Palme d'Or winners) Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne on the list of co-producers, just in case its Croisette cred needed any beefing up. "4 Months" cinematographer Oleg Mutu is also, invaluably, back on board -- as mentioned yesterday, this is one of two Competition entries this year shot by him. That film's production designer Mihaela Poenaru returns, joined by Calin Papura, who did some striking work on Francis Ford Coppola's "Youth Without Youth." Editor Mircea Olteanu (who also doubles as sound editor) makes his feature debut here.
In celebration of incomparable performer's 100th birthday
The AMPAS is set to honor Gene Kelly, the icon of the golden age of the elaborate Hollywood musical, in a two-night celebration hosted by his widow, Patricia Ward Kelly. The event will feature film clips, personal remembrances and a look at the radical impact Kelly had on the way dance was filmed.
Kelly's on-screen presence as a singer/dancer and behind-the-scenes work as a director and choreographer altered how musical numbers were conceived and executed both in his day and beyond. He is remembered for his indelible self-directed performances in films such as "An American in Paris" and "Singin’ in the Rain," and his innovative use of settings such as rain-soaked sidewalks and props ranging from umbrellas to mops to sheets of newspaper and roller skates invigorated the expansive musicals of the day.
Kelly was buoyant, muscular and full of vibrant charm. He was the quintessential 1950s archetype of what the United States wanted people outside and inside its boundaries to believe Americans were: attractive, confident and good-natured, with a witty sense of play.
Continuing our series of Cannes competition previews
The director: Sergei Loznitsa (Belarusian, 47 years old)
The talent: Amid a sea of unfamiliar actors -- some of them Russian workhorses, but many of them first-timers -- two names stand out, though both of them are in supporting roles. Romanian actor Vlad Ivanov made a striking impression (and scooped an LA Critics' award) as the surly abortionist in "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days"; veteran Russian actress Nadezhda Markina's stunning turn in the title role of "Elena" earned a European Film Award nod last year, and will hit US screens next week.
As on his last film (and first narrative feature) "My Joy," Loznitsa wrote the script, while that film's editor Danielius Kokanauskis, production designer Kirill Shuvalov and cinematographer Oleg Mutu are all on board. Mutu, in particular, is a name to note: he's been a key figure in the recent Romanian new wave, having shot "The Death of Mr. Lazarescu," "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days" (which he also produced) and "Tales From the Golden Age." This is one of two Competition credits for him this year: he also lensed Cristian Mungiu's latest, "Beyond the Hills."
The guild will allow 'for your consideration' DVDs to be sent to its membership
The Directors Guild of America (DGA) has announced today that it will be reversing a long-standing policy outlawing the issuance of "for your consideration" screeners to its membership. The change will go into effect this awards season.
Said DGA president Taylor Hackford via press release, "There's nothing better than watching a movie on the big screen, exactly as the director intended. But it's not always possible for our members to get to the theater to see every film in awards contention."
The guild's former policy was in place because it believed films sent out on DVD "could have an advantage over films that are not able to be sent out due to limited marketing budgets or other financial constraints of studios and distributors." Noble, but out-dated. And given the down-the-middle voting habits of the membership as of late, it doesn't seem to have done much for the little guys anyway.
The late multi-hyphenate's impression on the film world lives on
I've been out all afternoon, so the sudden news of Adam Yauch -- better known as MCA of The Beastie Boys -- succumbing to cancer has been all Twitter remembrances and mobile news briefs for me. And all sadness. HitFix's Katie Hasty has plenty to say about it here, Melinda Newman here. Really and truly, I feel like a piece of me went with him. And I think anyone who has grown up with that music knows what it has meant.
But as many movie sites have dutifully pointed out, Yauch's creative reach was significant in the film world as well. And his tenure as a driving force behind indie distributor Oscilloscope Laboratories has ushered brave pick-ups and challenging cinematic material to the fore for the last four years or so.
Awards success greeted a few of those titles. Most significant was a Best Supporting Actor nomination for Woody Harrelson as well as a Best Original Screenplay nomination for Alessandro Camon and Oren Moverman for "The Messenger" in 2009, which itself flirted with the first-ever expanded Best Picture line-up during that season.
Continuing our preview series on the Cannes competition
The director: Ken Loach (British, 75 years old)
The talent: As is often the case with Loach films, the cast is a jumble of fresh faces and old hands from British film and television. Making his screen debut in the lead is 24 year-old Scotsman Paul Brannigan, whom we'll also see later this year in Jonathan Glazer's "Under the Skin." Heading up the support is veteran English comic actor Roger Allam (recently seen in "The Iron Lady" and "Tamara Drewe"), who previously worked with Loach on 2006's "The Wind That Shakes the Barley." Other Loach associates on board include bulldog-faced character actor John Henshaw (for many the standout of 2009's "Looking for Eric") and young Glaswegian William Ruane ("Sweet Sixteen," "Tickets," "Barley").
On script duty, of course, is Paul Laverty, who has written all but one of Loach's narrative films since 1996's "Carla's Song," winning the Best Screenplay award at Cannes in 2002 for "Sweet Sixteen." Loach's regular producer Rebecca O'Brien is also on board. Below the line, the presence of Robbie Ryan, whose work for Andrea Arnold (most dazzlingly on "Wuthering Heights") has made him one of the most exciting cinematographers in the business, adds interest. Still, given that Loach's two most recent, rather pedestrian-looking features were shot by Barry Ackroyd and Chris Menges, respectively, don't get your hopes up for a visual feast.
The film opens this weekend
The summer is here at the multiplex as Joss Whedon's "The Avengers" hits theaters this weekend. Midnight screenings are already letting out so it's time to hear what the public has to say (the US public, anyway, as it's already chugging along in 39 other countries). Did Marvel pull off the ambitious team-up? I'd say so. Drew certainly loved it. So what say you? Offer up your thoughts in the comments section below. (Oh, and the music video for Soundgarden's original song for the film dropped yesterday if you're interested.)