I think it's safe to say that the film business is in a period of transition.
I think it's dangerous to pretend that anyone knows how that period of transition is going to resolve itself.
Steven Spielberg and George Lucas made headlines this week when they spoke at USC as part of the grand opening of the new Interactive Media Building, which is part of USC's School of Cinematic Arts. I think the reason the quotes ended up getting the sort of traction they did in the press is because there's something irresistible about hearing two of the men responsible for the age of the modern blockbuster talk about how blockbusters are ruining Hollywood. There have been a wide range of reactions to the quotes online, but by far, the leading sentiment seems to be a sort of gloating over the idea that these guys are finally realizing what they've done to the industry.
It's an easy claim to make, but it's a hard one to actually back up. By now, it's almost just accepted as a given that "Star Wars" and "Jaws" created the system that exists today, but there's a world of difference between the films that launched Lucas and Spielberg to the top of the business and the films that show up in our theaters week after week right now, and trying to claim that these guys were the ones who lowered the bar does a disservice to the films they made and to the conversation that's worth having about the way decisions are made at the studio level today.
I think it's safe to say that the film business is in a period of transition.
Documentaries make up a healthy percentage of my film diet every year, and the best of them feed my jones in a way that fiction simply can't.
Like with any type of filmmaking, there are great documentaries, good documentaries, and plenty of terrible ones. They are not, by definition, automatically better than some other type of storytelling, but there are things that a great documentary can do that you can't get anywhere else, and obviously I think the subject matter you pick for your doc is a major part of that. When someone like Alex Gibney makes a doc like "The Magic Bus," part of what is frustrating about that film is just how heavily covered every single element of that story already is, and when I see a trailer for "Salinger," what makes it most immediately compelling is how little of that story has been told.
Like many people, I went through a period of being totally smitten with "Catcher In The Rye," and that led me to his other work, and for a time, I was head-over-heels for his voice, his ability to evoke a time and place, and for the way he looks deeply into his flawed but oh-so-human characters. As with any artist who has produced just a small body of work, there also came a point where I felt like I'd gotten as much out of his work as I was going to, and I moved on to other writers and other work.
It sounds like Disney pulled a fast one Tuesday at the Annecy Animation Festival in France.
I've never been, but it's one of those specialty festivals that I wish I could add to my schedule. I was raised believing that animation is just as valid a form of filmmaking as any other, and while I don't think we take full advantage of what animation can be, I do think it's worth just as much serious regard as any other type of film.
There have been rumblings about the latest animated short from Walt Disney Animation Studios for a while now. Just recently, our own Kris Tapley was talking about how he wasn't sure what to make of "Get A Horse!" based on the initial descriptions from the studio. They were absolutely playing that up in the countdown to the big festival reveal, and on Tuesday, any questions anyone had were answered in what seems to have been a highly entertaining manner.
The last time I spoke to Russell Crowe was during the press day for the Ridley Scott version of "Robin Hood," and it was a very good conversation even though I have very little good to say about the movie itself.
It's amazing how our first impressions of someone linger. No matter what Crowe does in his career, no matter how big he gets, and no matter how many A-list directors he works with, when I hear his name or I see him, the first thing that always flashes through my mind is his work in "Romper Stomper." That movie, and his performance in it, were seared into my mind on first viewing, and I remember watching one sequence in it something like ten times in a week when it came out on laserdisc. It's one of those introductory performances that suggests a whole world of possibilities within an actor. Crowe played both rage and tenderness with such conviction, and I hoped he would find a larger place in the industry as a result.
I'm glad to see that Tom Hanks is up for another artistic go-round with Tom Tykwer, who was, of course, one of the co-directors of "Cloud Atlas," last year's hugely ambitious movie in which Hanks played several roles that were all manifestations of one soul as it rippled across time.
I pay so little attention to box-office that I can't honestly tell you if "Cloud Atlas" was a modest hit, a total failure, or an international success story. I hope it did well enough to pay back the people who made it, at least, because I really admire that anyone was willing to pay for something that experimental. At the very least, Hanks must have enjoyed the experience, though, because now it looks like he's going to team up with Tykwer again, this time to adapt a Dave Eggers novel called "A Hologram For The King."
Charlie Day is best known so far for his work on "It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia," and that's as it should be. After all, he's a major creative partner in the production of the show, and it fully expresses a totally lunatic sensibility that Day seems very proud of, each and every week.
This summer, though, Day shows up in a few very different films. There is, of course, Guillermo Del Toro's "Pacific Rim," where Day plays a scientist who is the leading expert on the kaiju, the giant monsters that threaten our planet. I'll be publishing some looks at my time on the set next week, and a lot of what we watched involved Day, Ron Perlman, and something that was not there. Watching him work for a full day in that sort of environment, I was really impressed by how much Day threw himself into every take, into even the angles where he wasn't the focus of the shot. He seemed to be able to summon it up every time, and knowing Del Toro… knowing what he asks of his actors… I could tell that he felt like he had found another missing piece from his always-growing movie family.
I'm not sure what I expected from Michael Shannon's take on General Zod, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't what I got.
That should not come as a shock, though. Michael Shannon has been slowly but surely cementing his reputation as an actor capable of surprising in any role, and the more work of his I see, the more convinced I am that he's one of the great character guys in film at the moment. Anyone who can play the tortured father from "Take Shelter," the shithouse-crazy ex-solder in "Bug," the hilariously irritated cop in "Premium Rush," and General Freakin' Zod, and do so without covering the same emotional ground twice, is a guy worth playing close attention to, whatever he's doing.
The great "Man Of Steel" debate appears to have kicked in, and I'm dumbfounded by some of the reviews I'm reading. I'm on the record as being a pretty passionate fan of the movie now, and I saw it again last night right around the time that review went live, and still feel just as strongly. I disagree with a lot of what I've read, and it's not even about the "like or dislike" of it, but more with the interpretation of what happens in the movie.
Perhaps we're entering an age of lowered expectations when it comes to Pixar, and perhaps that's not a bad thing.
Pixar deserved the reputation they built for themselves as a storytelling titan during their initial run of titles, and one could make a case that everything through "Toy Story 3" was part of a cycle that is now concluded. The decision to start playing the sequel game on a regular basis, no matter how story-driven, has created a shift in the way they are being treated, and it's hard to deny that it feels like a bit of a disappointment.
I am weary of prequels. I think they are narrative dead ends in the first place, and I don't understand the appeal. When they announced that the follow-up to the sweet and smart "Monsters Inc." was going to be a prequel, I thought it sounded really dreadful. And, honestly, I've barely looked at the marketing materials at this point. Why bother? Pixar movies are as pre-sold to the family audience as anything can be, and I know for a fact that whatever they release, we'll end up seeing.
When JJ Abrams was planning "Cloverfield" with Matt Reeves and Drew Goddard, they had the bold idea to shoot a top secret teaser trailer for the film before they even started production on the film. The plan was to release it in front of "Transformers" without anyone knowing what it was. Unfortunately, I broke the story as they were shooting the trailer, and I wrote about the overall plan before they could get the trailer into theaters.
When Abrams was gearing up on the first "Star Trek," I ran a story about how the new film looked to be using time travel as a way to reboot the series in a brand-new timeline, and that it looked like Old Spock would be the one bridge between the two versions. This was early enough in the process that Abrams ended up calling me to ask me to please be careful about how much more I would reveal.
It was a fair call to make. As Abrams has explained recently lately, one of the reasons he has become so heavily invested in locking down the details of what he's working on is because of the experience he had on the version of "Superman" that he wrote for director McG. And who was the one who broke that story? Yep. Me.
"Man Of Steel" is the Superman movie I've waited my whole life to see.
In the film, the most important struggle that Clark Kent aka Kal-El (Henry Cavill) has to overcome is the tension between his Kryptonian nature and his Earthly nurture. He is the last remnant of a once-vibrant race, and he is also fully human, a nice kid from Kansas. From that small description, this film spins a story so epic, so powerful, that my first viewing of it left me dizzy.
Growing up, I was much more of a Marvel fan overall, and of the DC characters, Batman was the one I really dug. I always thought Superman was okay, but somehow perpetually corny. It occurred to me as I was preparing to write this review that the most fundamental difference between DC's two flagship heroes comes down to one important detail: Batman is defined by his missing parents, while Superman is defined by his surplus of parents. Batman's grey moral code and his brutal, cold nature make sense based on his formative experiences, while Superman's optimism and his belief in the good inside people is completely due to the example given him by Pa and Ma Kent.