Blood Diamond special effects supervisor Jeff Okun responded today to yesterday’s followup piece about Jennifer Connelly‘s fake CG teardop, and I answered him line for line. Here’s how it went…
Okun: Jeff — First, thank you very much.
Wells: You’re welcome, and thanks again for writing yourself.
Okun: I greatly appreciate your sense of honesty…
Okun: but do I sense a bit of outrage in your feelings about CG?
Wells: Perhaps a bit.
Okun: All this over a supposed tear?
Wells: Not the Connelly tear itself (although it contains a certain point of offense, for me) but where the next guys will be taking this whole thing a year or five or ten from now…ad infinitum.
Okun: I would like to ask you: what about Fred Astaire dancing with…a vacuum cleaner!
Wells: That was fine, for what it was. I actually love the idea of reconstituting and reanimating dead actors….if it can be done seamlessly. Cary Grant costarring with Lindsay Lohan? I’m there.
Okun: What about Oliver Reed appearing in Gladiator to finish his scenes after he had passed on!
Wells: That was remarkable. I was genuinely impressed.
Okun: And let’s not forget Nancy Marchand doing likewise on the Soprano’s after her death!
Wells: I could spot that, actually. You could see the work. It’s not good at all if you can see the digital brush strokes.
Okun: What about Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart getting 30 years removed from their faces in X-Men 3?
Wells: That didn’t look right either. The aged parts of their faces merely looked erased and painted.
Okun: What about all the face lifts, eye jobs, wrinkle removals, abs replacement, wobbly arm, replacements, triple chin fixes, performance stealing from one scene to another and split screen trickery, etc. that goes on in loads of movies and TV shows?
Wells: Actor’s faces are routinely improved — i.e., made to look younger, smoother, better — in “loads” of movies and TV shows? For vanity’s sake…”loads”? News to me.
Okun: Hey! What about the airbrushing of models in magazines and billboards?
Wells: Women are usually less sexy and arousing when airbrushed. Almost always.
Okun: Talk about your sense of trust and belief! How much harm do you think that has done to the human race?
Wells: Some harm, for sure. Perhaps a lot. There’s a biological, organic, textural truth to our faces, bodies, lives…existences. Our souls, in a sense. Werner Herzog, a towering, majesterial presence in my eyes…a near-God…convinced me last year about the lack-of-trust issue….we don’t trust our eyes any longer. Seeing is not believing. Even when it looks good (like the amazing work in Children of Men, in which you can hardly ever spot the CG…maybe once or twice, at most), we’re not sure it’s real. We’ve essentially given up on that trust.
It’s not that we haven’t always had backdrops and painted scenery and fake beards and old-fashioned matte work (like the ancient Rome cityscapes in Spartacus and Ben-Hur), but images today, it seems, are being fucked with so consistently and relentlessly — CG hammers, saws and screws are constantly tinkering and hacking away — that it’s like an oppressive din. A din and a fog, almost…fog in through the window and infiltrating the great cinematic house…resulting in a lessening of clarity. It’s gotten so that live theatre, for me, is delivering a much greater high because the obvious restraints & biological honesty of the form.
Okun: What I am trying to point out is, while I do agree with you to a point (CG = Bad when misused)…
Wells: Bad when it comes to supplementing emotional aspects of performances certainly. And certainly bad when obvious.
Okun: ….there are much worse instances that should be talked about than this tear issue.
Wells: Such as…?
Okun: And more importantly, the phrasing of your piece, the juxtapositioning of sentences implies that I was a wanton & willing bad-man in a quest to add a phoney tear to Jennifer Connelly to change her performance on a whim. And further that Ed Zwick was complicit as well, which is just not the case.
Wells: Again, all I did was quote from, summarize and compress what I thought I read in the Times Online piece. I tried to re-clarify that in yesterday’s follow-up.
Okun: In a ironic sense, the manner in which you constructed your non writing/reporting is doing the same thing as what you say CG is doing to the movies: you are ruining “any sense of audience trust or belief”
in the written word and the reporter or writer.
Wells: I really don’t see that at all.
Okun: You have somehow managed to give a false impression of what was said and done in spite of the fact that you didn’t write/report anything yourself.
Wells: I’m still giving a false impression after yesterday’s follow-up? I really don’t get what it is I’ve failed to understand or pass along.
Okun: Jeff, you are a good writer. I have read you. I have admired your work. But don’t you find this ironic?
Wells: Since I don’t understand what it is I’ve specifically failed to grasp or pass along, no.
Okun: Again, thank you.
Wells: Be well.