If the idea in creating this one-sheet for The Master (Weinstein Co., 10.12) was to kill or diminsh interest in Paul Thomas Anderson‘s upcoming film, the people behind it have pretty much succeeded, for the most part. I look at this and my mood drops. It almost makes me feel nauseous. It tells me The Master will be a serious film, but it also tells me it’s going to be a bit of a slog to sit through
An L.A. Times story posted late last night (7.17) by Susan King discusses the long-expected debut of Sony Home Video’s Lawrence of Arabia Bluray (streeting on 11.13) as well as Thursday night’s AMPAS screening of a 4K digital version.
But the end of King’s story leaves a somewhat inaccurate impression.
“Over the years, the film was cut from its original length — a 187-minute version was released in the early 1970s to get more showing,” she writes. “But in 1989, a restored ‘director’s cut’ done by Robert A. Harris and Jim Painten under Lean’s supervision was released.” This is correct.
King then writes that Thursday night’s Academy screening “marks the U.S. premiere of the new digital restoration of the film — correct — “which used the original 65-millimeter negative.” Technically correct but a tad misleading.
Grover Crisp, executive vp, asset management, film restoration and digital mastering, tells King that “the original negative itself was actually quite scratched and not in good shape.” But with digital restoration, “the original negative is kind of the Holy Grail in this kind of work because the detail and sharpness were there in the negative so we wanted to work with that.”
This last graph suggests that Crisp went all the way back to the original 1962 negative and in so doing bypassed the elements created by Harris and Painten for the 1989 restored cut. Which isn’t true. A significant portion of Harris and Painten’s work used the original 1962 negative, and Crisp did go back to that for extra clarity’s sake, but several additions, refinements and enhancements that turned up in the 1989 Harris-Painten version were also included in Crisp’s final digital version, which was actually scanned at 8K.
Update: Harris has told me that what Crisp scanned was precisely what Harris created in 1988. He adds the following: “It would have been far easier for Crisp to simply take one of our 65mm interpositives and scan that, but he decided that what was best for the film was to scan our neg, which was in very worn condition. With this Crisp knowingly opened a Pandora’s Box, but for the betterment of the film. He’s been working with those elements tirelessly for two years, and went far beyond what any studio executive would normally have done. My hat is off.”
This afternoon I sent the following to a person who may very well be and most likely is Roman Polanski. This person identified himself in a 7.17 HE thread as “RRT Polanski,” and expressed himself in such a way that I’m 85% to 90% persuaded it’s probably from the Real McCoy:
“Roman — This is a response to what appears may be a legitimate post from you on a 7.17 Hollywood Elsewhere comment thread about my mistaken belief (which I’ve since admitted to) that Rosemary’ Baby was once composed and issued on home video at the aspect ratio of 1.66 to 1.
“You wrote that while my ‘righteous fury amuses [you] beyond measure,’ you feel ‘under the obligation to scholars and in defence [sic] of [your] magnificent friends at Criterion to set the matters right. Rosemary’s Baby is being released by Criterion in 1.85:1 because that is the aspect ratio I directed the film to have, because that is the aspect ratio that I prefer, and because that is the aspect ratio I insisted upon.’
“You added that ‘while there was protection in the filming for the possibility of inadvertent projection at 1.66:1, it was never my intention to allow such projection if I could maintain control of the circumstance of projection. This film is and will always be properly framed at 1.85:1.’
“If you’re really Roman Polanski. as you seem to be, I’ve obviously been chastised and bitch-slapped here, and I humbly admit error (as I did yesterday) in insisting that 1.66 is, or should be, the proper aspect ratio for your 1968 film. It’s your film, your call, and I defer to your judgment and authority.
“Except on some level, and I’m speaking in a purely conversational way here, I can’t entirely do that. Not wholeheartedly. I know for a fact that William Fraker, your Rosemary’s Baby dp, was a gifted man with a great eye, and I completely trust (and on some level recall. perhaps due to some viewing of Rosemary’s Baby at 1.66 in a Paris revival theatre) that what he captured within that protected 1.66 aspect ratio was aesthetically pleasing and balanced. I am what you might call a ‘light, air and breathing space’ kind of guy, and I believe that Rosemary’s Baby would be somewhat more pleasing (to me anyway) if it was cropped around…oh, let’s say 1.75 to 1. Just a little bit of breathing room. No biggie.
“Who am I to tell you what aspect ratio I prefer when you’ve clearly stated what you like and what you’ve firmly decided and that this is the end of it and shut up? Well, first of all we’re just talking here. Secondly, I’m a bigmouth. But thirdly, having been a film fanatic all my life and a licensed projectionist for a brief period in the early ’80s, I am seriously mesmerized by the right kind of motion picture framing for films that I love and respect, and I guess I’m caught up in a belief that I know a thing or two about what looks right.
“I don’t mean to imply that I know better, but deep down I sort of feel that…how can I put this? I feel that what I believe in this matter has a certain validity. I’m obviously not ‘right’ and you, the creator of Rosemary’s Baby, are certainly not ‘wrong,’ of course. But there’s a little man inside who wants to nudge up the frame height when I watch your film. Just a little bit. Anyway, that’s what I was trying to say the other day before I admitted error on this matter. The little man tells me what to say, and I just say it. Because the little man knows.
“I also believe very passionately what I said about the steak in that get-together scene between Mia Farrow, John Cassevettes, Ruth Gordon and Sydney Blackmer. I don’t have a Rosemary’s Baby DVD with me right now and I haven’t seen the Criterion Bluray transfer, but I’ve been led to believe by a source who has examined the film closely that the viewer may — I say ‘may’ — not be able to see the steak they’re eating. Again — I don’t know that the steak is missing, but I’ve heard that it may be. And if that turns out to be true when the Criterion Bluray comes out, I very respectfully don’t think that’s right.
“Anyway, it was good to hear from you, even under this circumstance. I humbly accept your criticism that my passionate argumentative tone strikes you as fascistic. I will try to keep this in mind during future debates over aspect ratios.”
“Regards, Jeffrey Wells, Hollywood Elsewhere”
APPARENT 7.17 POLANSKI COMMENT: “A colleague has made me aware of the discussion under way here, and while it amuses me beyond measure, I feel under the obligation to scholars and in defence of my magnificent friends at Criterion to set the matters aright. “Rosemary’s Baby” is being released by Criterion in 1.85:1 because that is the aspect ratio I directed the film to have, because that is the aspect ratio that I prefer, and because that is the aspect ratio I insisted upon. While there was protection in the filming for the possibility of inadvertent projection at 1.66:1, it was never my intention to allow such projection if I could maintain control of the circumstance of projection. This film is and will always be properly framed at 1.85:1. And Mr. Wells, while I admire your sense of righteous fury, let me say to you that I know a little bit about fascism, and disagreeing with you is not the hallmark. However, your response to disagreement looks familiar. Polanski” — i.e., RRTPolanski.
Yesterday’s Twitter war between Simon Pegg and self-described “immoral, vulgar, gay-loving feminist” Courtney Stoker was an odd back-and-forth. Pegg posted a photo of several ComicCon “cosplay” (i.e., costume play) women dressed in Princess Leia‘s Return of the Jedi harem costume, and wrote “makes noise like Homer Simpson thinking of donuts.” Stoker replied that Pegg is a “gross unenlightened jerk” and that he was “objectifying geek women & discouraging more from identifying as geek.”
In other words, in Stoker’s view, Pegg wasn’t getting with the spirit of ComicCon cosplay and degrading the environment by conspicuously smacking his lips and sounding like LexG/Ballsworth. I get what Stoker is saying but c’mon…a couple of dozen women in harem costumes and Pegg is a sleazebag for noting that harem-girl attire has a certain effect upon his libido? Pegg replied to Stoker by saying “it was not my intention to offend and I am against the objectification of women when the intention is malicious…chums?” And Stoker responded “if you’re actually against it, apologize.”
A guy is always asking for trouble, of course, if he says anything in a public forum that objectifies women or alludes to their sexual allure in any lewd way. It’s unwise to go there. But the point of a harem costume, of course, is to sexually titillate or arouse. The reason George Lucas told Carrie Fisher to wear a harem costume in that Jedi sequence is because it would be sexually titillating or arousing to the Star Wars fan base. The reason women wear Princess Leia harem costumes to ComicCon is because they know that sexually titillating costumes always get attention, and that a certain portion of this attention (if not the bulk of it) will be prurient in nature. They know that going in so Pegg’s reaction, however obviously he expressed it, was more or less precisely what they were expecting if not looking for.
The designers of this modified poster for Gangster Squad (Warner Bros., 9.7) have resuscitated the spirit of classic ’50s noir, particularly the one-sheet vibe of 1997’s L.A. Confidential. I don’t believe for a second, of course, that the newbie will be nearly as good. I doubt that Ruben Fleischer (director) and Will Beall (screenwriter) are a match for L.A. Confidential‘s Curtis Hanson (director, co-screenwriter) , Brian Helgeland (screenwriter) and James Ellroy (source novel).
Christopher Nolan‘s The Dark Knight Rises (Warner Bros., 7.20) is the first superhero flick in a long time to have won me over so completely that it made me feel like a geek. It felt so overwhelmingly effective that I just folded up my crabby attitude and put it in a Fed Ex package and sent it off to a p.o. box in New Jersey. It kills, this thing. It really does. Knockout City. Except for the ending.
Ultra-disciplined pacing, dialogue that is clear and true and adds up (and which you can actually understand except for occasional Bane moments), breathtaking IMAX footage, whomping aural impact and an exhilarating movie-ish euphoria…Nolan wins, I capitulate, and Marshall Fine and the naysayers are just too picky and picayune.
Every line of dialogue, every shot, and every cut counts in this thing. The sheer discipline that went into The Dark Knight Rises got me off more than anything else. It’s made of high-quality fibre and is densely and expertly threaded like a world-class T-shirt or carpet. And it is eighteen or nineteen times better than either of the Joel Schumacher or Tim Burton Batman films. When they say “stop your bitching and just kick back and enjoy it for the movie-movie wows and adrenaline highs,” this is the kind of film they’re referring to — this is the gold and silver and bronze standard rolled into one.
TDKR is tight, tight, tight, tight. It breathes and moves and doesn’t feel turgid but God, it’s like it began as a four-hour movie and somehow Nolan whittled it down to 165 minutes. I can’t imagine how Nolan could tell the story he’s chosen and cram it all into a two-hour running time. It flew right the hell by, I can tell you that. (I was furious that I was forced to hit the head at the 75-minute mark.) And when something is flying by (as opposed to plodding or jogging by), you just stop caring about the problems and the speed-bumps, which TDKR certainly has if you really wanna go there.
I’m not going to argue with anyone who says The Dark Knight is a better film. Fine, I don’t care, whatever. And I could complain about some aspects that bothered me here and there (like the almost Taxi Driver-ish finale), but if a well-oiled, well-tuned movie of this sort is just blitzkrieging and rolling over you like a tank and you’re lying there and loving the sheer craft and the power and the will of it, all of this stuff falls by the wayside.
I don’t even know what TDKR is really “saying” in a cultural-political-philosphical vein and for all I know it is some kind of Republican fantasy action flick that guys like John Boehner will love, but I forgot about my political affiliation as I watched it. And that’s saying something.
I didn’t like The Avengers to begin with (I called it “corporate piss in a gleaming silver bucket”), but that movie is dog excrement compared to The Dark Knight Rises. Joss Whedon is a good guy now because of his ComicCon rant about the U.S. turning into Tsarist Russia, but don’t even mention his directorial skills alongside Nolan’s. Nolan knows, Nolan is a madman, Nolan delivers and will kick your ass around the block with this film. He and his co-writing brother Jonathan and co-story guy David Goyer…all in the weaving and the tight, tight, tight, tight, tight construction.
I won’t argue with anyone who’s claiming that TDKR doesn’t align all that well with what’s percolating today with the banksta gangstas and Occupy-ers and official lies about the spirit-soaring wonder of living in the USA today (which nobody with half a brain believes in any more), and I won’t argue against anyone who feels that Bane’s (i.e., Tom Hardy‘s) Escape From New York-style imprisonment of Manhattan is like some loony Republican fantasia about what could happen to this country if leftist hooligans and illegals were to have their way entirely. There are obvious echoes in the financial calamities that befall Buce Wayne’s empire, but I will say no more than that.
But I will argue against anyone who claims that The Dark Knight Rises doesn’t work. It has to be regarded as one of the year’s best so far, and I really don’t see how the Academy oldsters can dismiss it and not say “okay, we get it…we should have nominated The Dark Knight and we know we fucked up, so we’re going to nominate the finale…not with any expectation that it will win or anything, but because it absolutely deserves to be called one of the year’s finest films.”
This is a movie and a half that just carries you along like white-water. I went in with a bit of a pissy attitude — I’ll admit that now. I was waiting to be disappointed or underwhelmed in some Marshall Fine-like way, but it just refused to comply. A lady academic friend who came along said she felt bored, but for me it never sagged or wheezed or felt tedious or ponderous. I know I was in good hands almost immediately. By the half-hour mark I said, “Oh, the hell with it…this thing is wailing.”
It’s true about Joseph Gordon Levitt and especially Anne Hathaway delivering the best performances, but Christian Bale delivers as forcefully here as he did in Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, so I think the credit should be spread around more evenly. And Hardy isn’t constrained or under-served by playing bad-guy Bane — I think he actually delivers a memorable bang-up performance considering that half of his face is covered by a breathing device. (There’s one tiny glimpse of his facial entirety at the end.) Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Liam Neeson, Marion Cotillard, Morgan Freeman, Ben Mendelsohn, Matthew Modine, Tom Conti…everyone delivers like a champ.
There’s no way you can see this except on a huge IMAX screen. I would love to go back and catch it in IMAX again this weekend, but I know I won’t be able to get in. And forget Bluray or watching it on an iPad or iPhone or any other substitute experience. And cheers to dp Wally Pfister, who’s one of the last hold-outs against digital photography. It may be that The Dark Knight Rises will be one of the last super-successful movies shot on celluloid, but what a finale! This is one terrific-looking film. And what a glorious thing not to have to deal with 3D glasses…pure pleasure!
“An explosion that Syria state television called a suicide bomb attack killed at least three top aides to President Bashar al-Assad on Wednesday,” the N.Y. Times‘ Neil MacFarquhar and Dalal Mawad reported a couple of hours ago, “including the defense minister and Mr. Assad’s powerful brother-in-law.”
“The blast in Damascus, after three days of fighting in the capital, hit at the very military structure that has been directing the harsh repression of the 17-month-old uprising against Mr. Assad’s rule.
“The assassinations were the first of such high-ranking members of the elite since the revolt began and could represent a turning point in the conflict, analysts said. The nature and target of the attack strengthened the opposition’s claims that its forces have been marshaling strength to strike at the close-knit centers of state power.”
Steven Spielberg‘s Lincoln will open limited on 11.9.12 and expand on 11.16, it was announced this morning. A Deadline report says that this decision by Disney, the film’s distributor, “puts Lincoln squarely in the midst of Oscar season”…as if it’s ever been anywhere else in the minds of absolutely everyone including Mohamed Morsi.
It’s been presumed all along that Lincoln would be an end-of-the-year holiday movie — now it’s a mid-fall thing. Which means that early-bird, Josh Horowitz-level New York screenings will start sometime in early October, I’m guessing, with people like me desperately begging and pleading to see it a couple of weeks later please-please-pretty please.
The idea, of course, is for Lincoln to win the Best Picture Oscar and Daniel Day Lewis, naturally, to win for Best Actor. Do you want to hear a bold, bold, bold idea? Show Lincoln to absolutely no one until opening day. Make them scream and pant for it and say “nope…sorry, kids…too bad…this is a really good film, but first and foremost it’s for the people…buy a ticket.”
Bold idea #2: New York Film Festival honcho Scott Foundas needs to rope and tie this steer and debut Lincoln as the NYFF closing night attraction on 10.14.12 — a little more than three weeks before opening day. Would that really be so crazy? If Spielberg has the goods and hasn’t mucked it up by “Spielbergizing” this semi-adaptation of Doris Kerns Goodwin‘s “Team of Rivals” and if DDL has really nailed Honest Abe in some kind of legendary jacklegged way, how can DreamWorks lose by showing it at the end of this highly prestigious festival?