Bringing the musical to life behind the scenes
It's been a while since I linked a SoundWorks Collection profile. That needs to be remedied.
It's a pretty varied and fun week at the theaters this holiday weekend, with "Hugo" and "The Artist" making their way to theaters. But if you were to ask me what's worth seeing, I'd double down on "The Muppets" in a heartbeat.
The film is a nostalgia fest built into a massive musical with plenty of tunes in the mix. Naturally, then, it's worth considering the sound elements on the film. Gerard was smart to mention it in a recent Tech Support column dedicated to the Best Sound Mixing category. And I'm happy to see that the SoundWorks Collection has dedicated a profile to that work on the film, featuring interviews with mixer Kevin O'Connell and supervising sound editors Kami Asgar and Sean McCormack, among others. Have a look (and listen) below.
The film hits theaters today
The more I spin away from Martin Scorsese's "Hugo," the more I want to see it again. I still think, as I did when I first wrote about it, that the first half is structured in a way that doesn't embellish the mystery so much as stagnate the narrative, but I'm in love with Ben Kingsley's performance and the final half hour, which is dedicated to Scorsese's passion for the cinema. Meanwhile Guy has posted a new list dedicated to the crafts of the director's films (though I'm shocked the art direction of "Hugo" missed). The film opens today and all this hot air can finally give way to your thoughts on it, so head on back here and offer them when you get around to seeing it. (And check back later today for a big interview piece pegged to the film that will hopefully delight the cinema geek in everyone.)
Offer up your burning queries
Alright, you know the drill. Rifle off your need-to-knows and we'll address as many as we can in Friday's podcast (which, remember, will be later in the day on Friday). I imagine we'll be talking about "The Iron Lady," the doc short list, things of that nature.
Also: Jim Henson's Muppet legacy and a free-for-all campaign party season
With a DVD/Blu-ray release imminent, Paramount is milking the "Super 8" comeback train while splitting focus with other awards contenders already in the mix. It's always tough to bring the conversation back around on a movie, especially on a summer entertainment hoping to be something more in the eyes of voters. One move was a big screening and reception at the Academy last night in honor of the release, part and parcel of a campaign party free-for-all this season. Director J.J. Abrams recently sat down with Geoff Boucher to talk about the big lessons of small budgets (conservative spending being a particular narrative on that film all year). [Hero Complex]
With the dazzling 'Hugo' hitting screens, we celebrate the technical wonders of Scorsese's cinema
I sat down to watch Martin Scorsese’s “Hugo” last night with little idea of what to expect but one thing: that the screen would be awash with some of the finest, most inventive technical artistry that money (or, indeed, imagination) can buy. I was not disappointed: while I’m still sorting out my thoughts on the film as a feat of storytelling, there’s little denying that it’s one of the year’s most lustrous craft showcases, rendered in genuinely eye-popping 3D and buttressing the cinematic valentine it writes to pioneering filmmaker Georges Méliès with its own arsenal of visual wonders.
Such expertise is now par for the course with Scorsese, whatever the film: I was cool on “Shutter Island” last year, but still delighted in his own delight in the filmmaking tools at his disposal – even less obviously extravagant works like “The Departed” or “Taxi Driver” are fat with aesthetic and sensory detail. That’s partly down to the director’s own genius, and partly down to the intimate collaborations he fosters with masters of their own craft: to love Scorsese is to love editor Thelma Schoonmaker, designer Dante Ferretti, DPs Michael Ballhaus and Robert Richardson, and so many more who have become part and parcel of the man’s auteur identity.
So Scorsese seemed as ideal a candidate as any for one of our occasional craft-themed lists – here, I’ve selected the 10 below-the-line contributions to his films, ranging from cinematography to sound to production design, that have most amazed me over the years.
The ‘My Week with Marilyn’ director talks Michelle Williams and capturing an icon
Next August marks the 50th anniversary of Marilyn Monroe’s death. Half a century after her passing we find that Monroe remains an enduring figure in our collective consciousness. Director Simon Curtis hopes that the release of his film, “My Week with Marilyn,” will provide audiences with fresh insights into the complex nature of the cinematic icon. Indeed the film's star, Michelle Williams, is receiving consistent Oscar buzz for what many feel is a revelatory, nuanced portrayal of Monroe.
Marilyn Monroe represents both more, and less, than an actress of repute or a captivating movie star in our cultural lexicon. Marilyn, Norma Jean, the human being is often distilled to an image, a representation of an ideal, a desire, or a figurehead. Monroe herself quipped about her status as a sex symbol in her final interview: “A symbol? I always thought those were the things you clashed together.” She laughed with the journalist but went on to explore essential quagmire of being Marilyn Monroe. “See that’s the trouble is a sex symbol becomes a thing," she said. "And you just hate to be a thing.”
Veteran director gets intellectual as his Freud-Jung drama hits screens
If auteur theory has brought us to the point where directors’ surnames become definite articles describing their films (oh, if one had a dollar for every unironic reference to “The Haneke” or “The Polanski” overheard at any major film festival), the apex of auteurist achievement must be the conversion of a surname into an all-purpose adjective, used not only to describe that director’s films, but others as well.
Few of these ungainly adjectives are quite as evocative, or eagerly repeated by critics, as “Cronenbergian,” a term generally loaded with promises of physical and psychological penetration, a vague entry point into an oeuvre critic Tim Robey aptly described, referencing Cronenberg's debut feature, as the director’s “own Academy for Erotic Enquiry.”
“It can be a mixed blessing, obviously, and you could put yourself in the position of railing against your own adjectival success,” Cronenberg says with a dry lilt, his voice genially Canadian where one might expect it to sound, well, perhaps a little more Cronenbergian. “The good part is that it suggests you have a real voice in cinema that didn’t exist before, and that is a major achievement. I mean, Fellini films get called Felliniesque, so why complain? But it can also be a trap that encourages audiences to put you in a box, to the point where people might say ‘A Dangerous Method’ is not a ‘Cronenbergian’ film. And at that point, you bristle, because it’s like typecasting.”
Mr. Hazanavicius, meet Mr. Scorsese and Mr. Spielberg
Really, I don't want to be a wet blanket. I appreciate that people are discovering and loving the movie on the festival circuit. I think it's a thin sort of satisfaction, though, and oddly enough, some of the same people who took "The King's Speech" to task for being (in their view) a trifle against the STAGGERING density of "The Social Network" last year are glomming onto Michel Hazanavicius's film like it were a blast of freshness. It's not. It's novel. And charming. And yes, it celebrates Hollywood's Golden Age, which is delightful.
The thing is, when I see a runaway locomotive narrative getting out of hand like the idea that "we should award 'The Artist' because it celebrates film history" or what have you, I feel like I have to step in. Especially since that narrative isn't at all unique to "The Artist" this season, or even this weekend, for that matter.
Also: Muppet Walter modeled after Michael Cera and Hamm hearts Wiig
There's a really annoying campaign going on that is nevertheless SO Harvey Weinstein (meaning it will get the job done): Charlie Chaplin's granddaughters are going around waxing on about how they love "The Artist," and The Weinstein Company is happy to bring that message and the messengers to any and all who'll listen. But the thing is, while I get it, I couldn't care less what Chaplin's granddaughters think of "The Artist." I'd rather hear what they thought of, say, "Shame." You know, a film with a conversation that stretches past the concession line? Anyway, all that aside, the cast and crew of the film are also making the rounds and Bret Brevet recently chatted up director Michel Hazanavicius. [Rope of Silicon]
Could downplaying film's Oscar chances be a canny move?
In our newly revised (and newly two-headed) Contenders section, you may have noticed a slight uptick for one of the year’s last great unknowns, “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.” Kris has placed David Fincher’s remake of the Swedish blockbuster thriller as a dark-horse Best Picture outsider, while Fincher himself cracked the top 10 in my own rejigging of the Best Director category. The film also pops up in a couple of tech categories, while Rooney Mara is waiting to pounce into the Best Actress inner circle.
With the film not yet seen, there’s no telling whether this is that start of greater upward movement, or if we’re just catching some December fever. I’ve been sceptical for some time that the Academy will warm to a nasty pulp remake by a director they seem to admire more than they like, however expertly executed it is, and I remain so.
Certainly, Fincher would discourage us from getting too excited. He’s taking great pains to distance his film from the Oscar race in the advance publicity trail: first, he quipped to Entertainment Weekly last week that his violent genre piece had “too much anal rape” to win over the Academy, and he pretty much repeats that statement in this Total Film interview, where he says he “can’t imagine anyone in their right mind” describing the script as Oscar bait.