Exciting Technology & Direct Connection: CinemaCon 2012 – Feature

CinemaCon, like its namesake Showest before it, has always been about exciting the theater owners with new technology and product meant to get them pumped for their direct connection to the customer. While the textures of this year from “Life Of Pi” to “Skyfall” provided some interesting visions, none was more discussed or contested like the footage that Peter Jackson showed of “The Hobbit”, shot at 48fps, which only a year or so after the acceptance of 3D and the near conversion to full digital, takes the string up one more notch. It is all about what you show.

Paramount Heading into summer, Paramount opened the con by honoring Dwayne Johnson with the “Action Star Of The Decade Award” with studio head Rob Moore calling him “franchise viagra”. Johnson, with his textbook charm along with director John Chu, best known for the”Step Up” films, introduced a dexterous element of scenes from the film which both showed humor and drama. Next, Tom Cruise, in a taped greeting from the set of “Oblivion” [directed by Joe Kosinski] in Baton Rouge, spoke before showing scenes from “Jack Reacher” directed by Christopher McQuarrie whose last helming outing was “Way Of The Gun”. Two scenes adapted from the graphic novel distinctified “tone” which Cruise mentioned in his opening remarks. Rob Moore then turned the stage over to Jeffrey Katzenberg who, after a great year with “Kung Fu Panda 2” and “Puss In Boots”, brought “Madagascar 3” and “The Guardians”. The third entry into the “Madagascar” franchise showed almost 15 minutes of the opening optimizing new animation techniques since the last one in the series with Chris Rock coming on stage saying that it was the best so far adding that some parts were “trippy” which reflected in a circus montage. “The Guardians” based on a children’s book is a completely different animal using “myth” and “belief” to approach its subject matter with an edge and texture. Chris Pine who leads the cast as the voice of “Jack Frost” spoke about the key in the character to finding “the center”. Interestingly, the whole time he was speaking, all of his remarks also applies everything he sees in this character to James Kirk for which he is currently shooting the sequel to “Star Trek” as. The ending of the presentation did not disappoint with Sascha Baron Cohen making his second public appearance as “The Dictator” complete with girls and soldiers in tow and walking through the crowd. After throwing some zingers on stage as is his MO, Cohen as the character angled out Katzenberg as the other “dictator” in the room before announcing (which most thought as a joke) that the film would be screening at 11pm up the Strip and that it was not a threat before he exited with great fanfare as Katzenberg kissed his ring.

Warner Brothers The texture of Warner Brothers relies in being able to follow up the powerhouse of Harry Potter. While the arrival of Tim Burton and Johnny Depp to introduce an extended trailer of “Dark Shadows”, it was Christopher Nolan talking about shooting almost a 1/3 of his “Dark Knight Rises” in IMAX that offered a stemming view of a brooding dark conclusion so much so that Adam Shankman who showed an extended trailer of “Rock Of Ages” including the first bit of Tom Cruise singing threw a “you fucker” line at Nolan because of how unbelievable bad ass it was. Director Jay Roach then talked about the balance of political “broo-haha” in regards to  his new film:”The Campaign” starring Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis. However it was moving into fall that offered the most interesting view with the first glimpse of footage from Baz Luhrmann’s “The Great Gatsby” in 3D which Luhrmann explained in a taped message from Australia allows you to see the actors shine without any visual effects. Lastly, Peter Jackson introduced in 3D from New Zealand, the first footage of 48 frames per second from “The Hobbit”. Like seeing “Avatar” for the first time, it takes some getting used to because it is a completely different movie experience in terms of perception with Jackson showing distribs around 10 minutes of footage. One piece in particular showing Gollum’s face very close to camera shows the distinctiveness of this frame rate as do flying shots (like those seen in the original trilogy). Another one very specific to the changing viewpoint of the immersion of the technology is when Gandalf is alone in the catacombs. The depth of the shot makes you think you are actually there though the process does retain an almost HD camera quality in terms of perspective which is rather hard to describe.

Disney Balancing out with the texture of brand specifications from Warner, the Mouse House used the cross structure promotion with Marvel, Pixar and Dreamworks to fuel the fire. Marvel presented a short clip from “The Avengers” intermixing Iron Man, Thor and Captain America with bone-crunching sound followed directly with the announcement of Thor II and Captain America II before Marvel President Kevin Feige showed a small clip leading to the production of Iron Man III which begins production in North Carolina later in the month. Progressing into Dreamworks, the aspect of “People Like Us” starring Chris Pine and Elizabeth Banks (and directed by Alex Kurtzman of “Star Trek” and “Fringe” frame) capitalizes on the studio’s penchant for more novel based forms. “Lincoln” which makes its distribution stateside through Fox, was also mentioned, without texture of a trailer likely to be seen at Fox’s Presentation two days later. Disney Pictures itself started quietly with sleeper quality textures of the stop motion film “Frankenweenie” directed by Tim Burton which does contain odes to Brad Bird’s “Family Dog” episode of “Amazing Stories” and definitely suburban angles of “Edward Scissorhands”. “The Odd Life Of Timothy Green” starring Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton seems more reminiscent of Disney fantasy/morality films of the 70s like “Pete’s Dragon” depending on the tone of the eventual picture. “The Wonderful World Of Oz”, which just completed filming just a couple weeks ago, boasts a great pedigree in director Sam Raimi re-teaming with his “Spiderman” villain James Franco as the titular character here. The story details unearthed by the director speak to an interesting betrayal in the story of sorts centering around Mila Kunis’ character which fuels the intentions of what happens in the world. The footage shown dictates a mixture of sets, which producer Joe Roth identified as Detroit, as well as some interestingly created background CG mattes which might or might not be the final textures. Conversely, Jerry Bruckheimer was brought out by current live action film prexy Sean Bailey after a short live stage bit about Kermit wanting to be the Lone Ranger and Miss Piggy wanting to be the Good Witch in Oz. Entertaining for sure. Bruckheimer spoke of them shooting in Arizona with Johnny Depp coming out and speaking as well. Depp made reference to that fact that “I just saw a frog and pig out here. Did anybody else see that?” When asked about Tonto, Depp deferred in a show of modesty saying, kindly, that he wants the theater owners to see it when it is done. With no footage to speak of for the title with the exception of a photo, details are still scarce. John Lasseter, head of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios, came out next to discuss his slate. “Wreck It Ralph” is a non-Pixar film which is interesting in its own right following a bad guy in an 8-bit video game stuck in an arcade. Lasseter spent a good ten minutes setting up the premise and characters before showing the first ten minutes of the film. John C. Reilly, who spoke about trying to improvise during the recordings with sometimes co-star Sarah Silverman, gives a definite heart to the character. A specific “bad guys anonymous” scene represents this with a dexterity and tongue-in-cheek element replete with visual gag cues. Representing beyond and speaking into the Pixar mode, the announcements in terms of new structures (beyond “Monster University”) border on more esoteric which might be undeniably groundbreaking with one being “The Last Dinosaur” with only a silhouette of a brachiosaurus present and another one that can be encapsulated as “Journey Into The Mind” but probably not in the “Fantastic Voyage” way. Finally, as a perspective of a film which has been interestingly placed without any real knowledge of it, Lasseter unspooled nearly a half-hour of “Brave” which follows the exploits of a tomboyish princess in the highlands of Scotland. While interesting echoes of Robin Hood play through especially when the heroes take disguise, what does seem to ring through. which was not prevalent before as much in the other Pixar movies (because this is inherently a human world), is the reactions of the animals and others in a more realistic way which was a hallmark of say “Beauty & The Beast”. It shows how the feature animation side of Disney is being impacted by Lasseter. While not at the full potential of Disney because of responsibility to the shareholders, he is pushing the bar in subtle ways as he can.

Filmmaker Forum: Martin Scorsese & Ang Lee Whenever you get Martin Scorsese in the room, the perspective becomes one of a film class which is interesting when he is speaking to a roomful of theater owners. The impact of “The Hobbit” footage at 48fps had been ringing for about 24 hours and everybody had an opinion on it, both good and bad. This forum was more about 3D with Scorsese’s “Hugo” pushing the barrier last year in terms of serious filmmakers from a dramatic point of view. Ang Lee, mostly known for his more direct non-genre dramas (but Oscar-winning fare) recently immersed himself in 3D for his Christmas release “Life Of Pi” which many said to be “unfilmable” (and for good perspective reason). While it is interesting to see these men discuss the virtues of this medium, it almost feels like they are behind the ball because the technology is moving so fast. Before the discussion began, a sample of 120fps technology was shown. The eye cannot see, for what is being said, beyond 60fps. The footage here was more smooth gliding elements but the separation dictates the depth. This is one thing that did interact in terms of the Scorsese/Lee discussion because lighting becomes even more of an important structure which Lee said drove him mad in certain respects on “Pi”. Scorsese reflects that the I/O, which determines depth in 3D, was something he and his cinematographer Robert Richardson constantly toiled with on “Hugo”. He however said it was one shot when Sascha Baron Cohen is staring down into the camera with his dog in forced perspective that gave him chills because it showed what the technology was capable of doing. Lee, still in the midst of figuring everything out on his movie, spoke on the essence of using water since a lot of his movie takes place in the ocean. The Taiwanese government ended up building him a massive tank but the camera was the first to use a housing to shoot 3D actually underwater. Neither had seen “The Hobbit” footage so they could not comment though Scorsese seemed visibly intrigued at everyone’s reaction. He compared it to a movie he showed to his daughter, her school friends and some of their mothers at his home in New York recently. It was from back in the 30s where the aspect ratio and the color changes during the film (much like “Wizard Of Oz” in some respects). People, he said, spoke the same way about color. It is just something that will eventually, after growth spurts, become a mainstay. 3D took a little longer but eventually is having its day.

Sony While franchises seem to pile on with respect to the Sony brand, the intention seems to reflect that bigger is better quality. While “MIB 3” and “Total Recall” showed extended structures in 2D, it is interesting to perceive their eventual release.The time travel perspective of Men In Black does not quite have its plot direction set in the footage shown but the humor, as always, plays dry and loose with Josh Brolin doing a spot on impression that you would almost think that Tommy Lee Jones is doing the voice over. “Total Recall” oddly enough recreates an almost deja-vu situation because the set ups in terms of plot device to the original are eerily similar with a swig of “The Fifth Element” thrown into the mix. The world is intense and Kate Beckinsale, melding a character that mixes Sharon Stone and Michael Ironside from the original, is bad-ass especially in an extended foot chase sequence that just screamed with adrenalin yet felt wholly original. The intention of what Douglas Quaid is being accused of here is played a little more than conjecture. “That’s My Boy” looks to bring Adam Sandler back to full resolution after the misfire that was “Jack & Jill” but the man experiments with comedy (albeit more low brow) much like Will Ferrell but with more success on an ongoing basis. This is an R-rated romp that has textures of “Little Nicky” but with more curse words and breasts. Sort of like Billy Madison grown up. It looks hilarious because Sandler’s character can go nuts because Andy Sandberg takes on Adam’s usual role with aplomb. It should kill for sure. And as the announcements proved, “Grown Ups 2” is around the corner a summer from now. “The Amazing Spiderman” also seems to be trying to find its footing. The hardest thing in rebooting the franchise is selecting the right tone and space within which to set it. The humor and action shown here is seeking a balance for sure and the scale surely feels much bigger than the last franchise. Andrew Garfield’s approach is more aloof at times though Emma Stone stabilizes the structure. Denis Leary as the police captain who sees Spiderman as a threat will bring some added tension and the more comprehensive view of Lizard Man promises interesting feelings but it all contains relevance in heart depending on the end product. “Resident Evil: Retribution” shows Paul W.S. Anderson pushing the 3D ideals but the mythology is getting extremely deep. However as long as Milla Jovovich can wield a sword and guns with fire blazing behind her (with extended I/O mind you) people will flock. The final perception allowed was a first look at the Bond film “Skyfall” directed by Sam Mendes. The teaser is dark with overcast skies and dark rooms. It seems almost built like a brainwash sequence. The music is rumbling and has tendencies of foreboding much like “Road To Perdition” which gave chills. Granted it gives no perspective of overall story but the tone indicated feels much like “The Dark Knight Rises”: a dark humor that mixes with tragedy.

20th Century Fox With two summer films that hang on the precipice with different elements at stake, the ideas are humming. With “Prometheus” and a bang up viral campaign, director Ridley Scott seems to know what he is doing. The extended trailer showing the landing sequence onto the planet in its full glory has a dexterity and industrial feeling that only Scott can do. “Alien” DNA plays heavily into the trailer from the ship to the Space Jockey. The blood letting definitely paints it well. It looks phenomenal on the big screen. “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” I have been interacting with over the past couple months. It is a near idea that is perched between real life and genre which is always a hard sell. Director Timor Bekmambetov has the chops to make it happen and the new footage plays to more the historical basis and less of the acrobatics which may be a conscious decision. “Neighborhood Watch” is another interesting amalgamation with Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and Jonah Hill moving into an alien invasion hybrid comedy where they become defenders of their community, swilling beer and taking no bullshit. It is interesting but the line being walked is a tightrope. The final perception to be mentioned on Fox’s upcoming slate is “Life Of Pi”, Ang Lee’s 3D epic to be released at Christmas. Lee showed one sequence and one scene from the film to show what he is trying to do. What comes across for sure is a necessity to use 3D as a storytelling mechanism of immersion. The sequence involves the marooning of the lead character on the ocean and the sinking of the freighter he is traveling on. At first it seems almost simple but the single long takes show a deeper thought at work. Like “Titanic” in a way but more intimate, Lee’s camera follows the actor (picked from a worldwide casting search) underwater trying to save his family who is trapped in the water below deck. The 3D camera picks up the bubbles which gives a much more real feel. Pi, the lead character, ends up on a life raft which a zebra (there are a lot of animals on the ship) jumps onto. The perspective of that and then a Bengal tiger (an integral part of the story) jumping on as well while rain is pouring down, makes on realize that there is a lot of stuff going on technically here. One of the most beautiful shots comes around this point where you can see the sinking ship lingering below Pi in an overhead shot with its lights still on. He disappears below the surface and you get a sense of scale. When 3D starts to be used for this kind of thing (which Cameron embraces as well) is when you will get some killer stuff. The other scene Lee showed is very reminiscent of “Old Man & The Sea”. You can tell at a point it is in a studio stage while Pi and The Tiger fight over their food of flying fish along with tuna that sail into the boat. It has that aspect of Anthony Quinn and the primal fight. The tiger (which is probably CG but it is so seamless as not to be believed) blows Aslan from “Narnia” out of the water with its reality.

CinemaCon, showing new advances, continues to challenge theater owners and, by extension, audiences by trying to keep up with changing technology and rights conversion which, while exciting, always seems to come with a bit of apprehension but ultimately interest.

The Ramis Effect & Other Intellectual Minglings: NFF 2009 – Bonus Feature


Nantucket is a getaway from the everyday, a peaceful haven. Within this forum, the beauty of simple thought gives way to intriguing discussions, simply because of the location. This year, at the 2009 Nantucket Film Festival, Harold Ramis, a honoree for his years of screenwriting expertise, shared his wisdom and handiwork across the board. From a comedy roundtable featuring Ben Stiller, a local boy done well, to a candid discussion of one of his greatest screenwriting successes: “Ghostbusters” to a showing of his brand new comedy “Year One”, Ramis has elicited his effect on Nantucket.

Creating a comedy roundtable is ironic itself sometimes because of the ideas being tossed back and forth and the sometimes paradoxical relectiveness that sets in. The essence of what comedy screenwriting can be is fleeting in retrospect since inspiration comes and goes so quickly. But when you get together such a massively successful panel of comedy mavens which includes Ben Stiller, Harold Ramis, Peter Farrelly and John Hamburg, it is quite interesting.

The big thing which motivates the fervor here in general in terms of the festival perspective is that Stiller is a hometown boy who grew up right here on this island (though he now lives in New York). He relates “The Ramis Effect” per se in that when he was in his teens he worked at The Sunken Ship downtown. His big influence during that time was “Caddyshack” which was written and directed by Ramis. Stiller says that he memorized all of Bill Murray’s monologues and repeated them to his co-workers, parents…anyone who would listen. As this was his childhood home, his parents including dad Jerry and his wife, actress Christine Taylor, were in the audience cheering him on. By sheer coincidence, “The Ramis Effect” had influenced the early development of one of Nantucket’s famous exports.


In terms of themes, one of the initial perceptions discussed at the roundtable was the aspect of writing real characters for comedy by optimizing versatile actors that might not have been bred in the comedy world. Stiller, Hamburg and Ramis have all dealt with, in interaction, as a point of discussion, with Robert De Niro who is considered an acting legend. Ramis as a director obviously tackled it first with his comedy “Analyze This”. Having been involved with the script, he recalls a one-on-one meeting with De Niro in Santa Monica, California where he explained the anger, grief and guilt of this mob character to the actor. Ramis believed this was the best way to approach it by appealing to that aspect of DeNiro’s personality. De Niro actually took notes during this meeting, according to Ramis, and whenever he spoke to people at the studio about the movie, he would take out his notebook and quote Ramis. When an actor of that stature uses your verbal quotes verbatim, that is a good sign. Hamburg relates a decidedly different interaction with De Niro as the revising screenwriter on “Meet The Parents” joking that the actor “probably thought I was an intern”.

Stiller then proudly brings up the fact that the way he was introduced to Hamberg’s material as a screenwriter (which launched their collaboration which eventually led to “Meet The Parents”) when he saw Hamberg’s indie movie “Safe Men” ten years ago at this very festival. The great thing to see is that Nantucket creates that symbiosis which allows such occurences to happen since that is the way many projects get made. Peter Farrelly interjects, as a matter of point, in regards to the “intern” joke, that he and his brother passed on “Parents” as a directing vehicle in its initial form because they believed the story was weak. After Hamberg got to it and turned it around, Farrelly says it became a movie, successful on all levels, that they could not have foreseen.  Also in terms of seeing that specific script [“Parents”] as an actor, Stiller said that he had an interesting reaction to it as they were getting ready to shoot. He was courting Taylor and actually went to meet her father (a security consultant) while he was in rehearsals which created an ironic “art imitates life” convergence. This seems to relate that it all comes down to connecting with the character on a “real” level for an actor.

In terms of the actor experience in terms of what you write, everybody has a different ideas, especially if you are on both sides of the camera.

Ramis, puts his “effect” in motion talking about being in “Stripes”, initially being a writer and then being assimilated into the scene of that movie as performer while having, in his mind, no acting experience. Stiller responds saying that not many people talk about SCTV, but, as he cites Ramis as a founder, he believes that this year’s honoree really revolutionized a certain kind of comedy structure. Stiller counts that troupe among his influence for “The Ben Stiller Show” in the 90s. Farrelly also points to Ramis as being one of his major influences as it was “Animal House” that showed him that you could push comedies beyond the point of comfortability and still make them work. Ramis relates that, at the time when “House” came out, frat enrollment went distinctly up because everyone was looking for that kind of experience. But again not everyone can be Bluto.


But then again not everyone can be Egon either. To celebrate the 25th Anniversary, Ramis allowed this landmark movie to be shown at the Sconset Casino. Outside the hall, a mammoth recreation of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man from the original theatrical release dominated the ground.

Seeing the film on actual celluloid and not in a digital format definitely is a wonderful thing. The interesting angle to see this movie with an audience which is not done as often. One forgets how some sequences and jokes play in a mixed audience.  Ramis had just come from the Comedy Roundtable and arrived late as I did.

With the advent and recent 25th Anniversary of the film (which motivated this showing), “Ghostbusters” has begun anew in the hearts of a new audience. A recent video game touted with a brand new story, cutting edge visuals and an glitzy E3 debut mirrors a brand new Blu Ray version of the film. The fervor of “ghostbusting” seems to be beginning again.

When I asked Ramis about the process of writing the original film with Dan Aykroyd, he related that the initial concept was planned as a buddy movie for Danny and John Belushi. After Belushi died, the idea changed until Bill Murray came into the picture. Having worked with Murray onscreen as well as a writer on “Stripes”, Ramis seemed a natural fit to bring the project closer to fruition. Being another character onscreen seemed was just an extension of that. Aykroyd invited Ramis out to his house in Martha’s Vineyard (quite close to Nantucket actually) where they hashed out and revised the script. Ramis jokingly recounts that they would write and then they would swim in Danny’s pool…and sometimes in reverse order.

Initially, according to Ramis, the script for “Ghostbusters” was much different. The second half of the film was completely set in another dimension and was almost, as he describes it, one big special effect. Ramis, in retrospect, it seems, brought a grounding to the film. The big key being that the audience should experience the ghosts in real time as these guys do which starts in the library scene in the beginning of the film. Also initially Aykroyd had the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man occur in the film on page 60 before they left this world for the other dimension. Ramis felt that the story would much better be served within the mundane and watching these guys go from unemployed college professors to who they eventually lofted to be.

Another point I mentioned to Ramis had to do with the balance of what a writer and director perceives when he is on a set where he is not at the controls. Ramis had just directed “National Lampoon’s Vacation” with Chevy Chase which was a decent sized hit.  The funny thing is that there was a plethora of writers and directors on the set of “Ghostbusters” at any given time as performers which meant everything was discussed. Ramis had already directed three movies. Director Ivan Reitman had directed two. Rick Moranis had just directed “Strange Brew”. So there was alot of creative heads moving at once. Ramis said he had a good idea of what the movie would look like in his head from the time they wrote it.

When I countered on the aspect of how different the film was from the actual finished script, Ramis says that they always rewriting on the day because you had the screenwriters on set and in the scene. The specific aspect that Ramis really fortifies is that he knew how to write for Murray in terms of dialogue. He says that he just got Bill’s humor and his rhythm. The problem, he admits, is that when you do that, rewriting, on set, you tend to direct the performance especially if you are in the scene as well. He says that Reitman had to take him aside to remind him who was directing the movie.

Ramis also addressed in the bigger question forum, the “Ghostbusters 3” talk that has been revolving around (specifically lately) in the media. He says that they have gotten everybody to commit including Sigourney [Weaver], [Bill] Murray and Ivan [Reitman]. From what it sounds like however, it is committed based on approval of a finished script. It sounds like Columbia has put the two writers from Ramis’ new film “Year One” (who are also writers on “The Office”) into the first draft mode with Aykroyd and Ramis in consultant roles. That can go either way (in this writer’s perspective) in terms of possibility depending on the skill of these writers in a feature world, as most people have not seen “Year One” yet. Ramis says that Aykroyd has been dying to do a third “Ghostbusters” for years.

Ramis relates that Aykroyd actually wrote another “Ghostbusters” script a couple years back (which Danny brought to him) about the Ghostbusters going to hell. Ramis says that he thought it was quite interesting but it never quite gained traction. The talk of the third movie came up again with Columbia when Aykroyd was talking to them about an animated/CG “Ghostbusters” film (which is actually a very cool idea with the recent leaps in special effects technology and motion control – not to mention 3D). The studio said, according to Ramis, that if they were going to do the CG work anyway, why not make it a live action film?


As the festival wrapped to a close, “The Ramis Effect” took one more stride with a showing of the writer/director’s historically enriched “Year One” starring Jack Black and Michael Cera as the forefathers of all who wander out into the world after escaping from their would-be Garden. Ramis pointed in the Q&A afterward that the movie was, in essence, a field trip through the Old Testament. He had always pitched it as two guys who just happened to end up in these places that they didn’t below. The movie is a hark back to the great buddy movies.

A couple years back, Ramis said he thought of local Ben Stiller and his friend Owen Wilson but by the time the movie came around, that pairing, he said, had already been played. He wanted to work with Jack Black whom he had met when he did a small acting part in “Orange County”. There was just something about him. Producer Judd Apatow suggested Michael Cera whom he had just worked with on “Superbad”. Ramis says that he understood that he had lost touch with the young crowd and that Apatow had his pulse on what the current generation liked. Cera turned out to a great boon. The film itself works simply because of that matching. Cera’s words just slightly miss the daggers being thrown by Black. It is like a dance but it doesn’t feel forced. It is just happening and is augmented by editing. Black plays a big goofball primitive caveman type who seems to be always looking for the ladies and usually just missing his chance because he is overcompensating. On the other hand, Cera’s character is so weak and gets dumped on so much that he doesn’t know how to approach a girl until he gets laid. He tries to hit her over the head with a club but finds out that that doesn’t work either. They meet a bunch of would-be bible figures along the way who simply seem to make them more confused and disconnected. David Cross kills onscreen, literally, as Cain who whacks his brother Abel (Paul Rudd in an apt cameo) with a rock then escapes off to become a would-be Roman soldier who simply loves the “perks”. Hank Azaria plays Abraham who seems to be big into circumcision because of, as he calls it, the “will of God” while his party-hungry, geeky son Isaac (McLovin from “Superbad”) wants to go to Sodom with the boys after they prevent him from being sacrificed. Sodom is, of course, the place to party which is perfect for our intrepid adventurers.

The movie of course tends to placate the aspect that everyone is misunderstood and must step up to the plate. However, the script isn’t above making fun of its own intelligence but also making sure that it hits the mark with the younger generation. Ramis said that they had actually gone and put together the sacking of Sodom as the ending sequence which is something they thought people would want to see. It turns out however, in reshoots, that in shooting new elements for the beginning, the ending in Ramis’ mind, needed to be more ambiguous. Ultimately, the ending of the film is a little bit too resolute and moral for a comedy of this angle but that is a subjective opinion. An open perception a little darker (say “Death To Smoochy”) would have been a lot more telling. But the balance between optimism and cynicism is a narrow road.

“The Ramis Effect: was felt throughout the nooks of Nantucket during the film festival from his perceptions of intellectualism versus the adolescent perspective of his comedic outings to the paranormal mundaneness of scientists acting as ghost exterminators to ancestral adventurers enraptured by the essence of the literal nature of life.  WIth his creative endeavors inspiring a new generation of filmmakers as well as those at the forefront of comedy (like Ben Stiller), Harold Ramis’ impact on comedy remains constant.

Cobblestone Waves & Celluloid Whispers: The 2009 Nantucket Film Festival – Feature


Nantucket, as a point of geographic reference, is an island that lies about 20 miles off of Massauchussets’ South Shore. Home to many of the elite, its small town vibe is balanced by arts-heavy, artisan-thinking community which perfectly embodies the Nantucket Film Festival which itself is committed to story as a screenwriter’s film festival. Unlike The Hamptons, which is only partially removed from its point of origin, Nantucket offers an autonomy that is both peaceful but specifically evident in its lodging, nighttime escapades and food-on-the-go, which is key for any festival goer.

However the peace in the thick of the night as a dense fog rolls in off the jet stream keeps the island’s temperature constant almost year round…a haven within the ocean’s bosom.


Finding the texture of films at a film festivals takes a perspective of choice. This year captured the essence of “The Ramis Effect“. But it is also about a feeling and emotional core. “Introspection” is a word that comes to mind which captures the mindset as you walk down the cobblestone roads in the main quadrant of town. The wharf spreads out to your left while the stones marketing the road leads up to the church at the top of the hill which also houses a theater venue: Bennett Hall. On the other side of the island, accessible by the comfortable and efficient Nantucket Shuttle, the Sconset Casino, more akin to a society club in its beauty, offers an almost concert hall performance which enhanced many of the viewing

“The Burning Plain”, screened at Sconset, was produced by Walter Parkes and Laura McDonald who previously helped guide Dreamworks’ film division with Steven Spielberg. The film stars Charlize Theron and Kim Basinger as two generations of women whose actions impact the other through miscommunication and guilt. The split narrative structure allows for a very unorthodox approach to character motivation giving both actresses as well as the girl who plays a younger version of Theron’s character Mariana a breathe of confused emotions about the meaning of love at its most wretched and how to interpret it. An inner battle to be sure.


The Exploding Girl“, screened at Bennett Hall, takes the ideology of the “isolated” and places it in a overpopulated world. Ivy is spending is spending the summer in Brooklyn, separated from her boyfriend and is best friends with a guy that she can’t quite perceive. Quietly beautiful and seemingly at peace, this girl who should be enjoying the bristle of her newly legal status instead is spending her time in between moments of self doubt anticipating her next epileptic attack. Shot on the Red One camera which is quickly becoming the boon of the indie scene because of the filmic images it is able to capture, even in low light, the moments of stillness with Ivy’s life surrounded by the bustle of the city or the comfort of her bed paint the picture of internal life in progress.

“The Messenger”, also screened at Sconset, uses “isolation” as battleground where information becomes a heartfelt dagger in a modern world. The film follows two Army soldiers played by Ben Foster and Woody Harrelson who, despite have their own perceptions and vices, are charged with informing families of the respective deaths of their loved ones in combat. The film balances an essence of internal strife with the masks of emotions that crumble in the face of human fraility.


The venue setting also proved the inherent equiibrium of the artistic community in Nantucket with both “Tropic Thunder” director Ben Stiller and Greenestreet founder Fisher Stevens, present in the general audience, both asking intrinsic questions on the essence of these themes to both actor Ben Foster and director Oren Moverman .

The key of Nantucket in connectivity too is the aspect of its getaway element and removed from the modern city which allows, as the above shows, people to be people. While the island has an airport which can appropriated by turbo prop, the journey at times can be as telling as the destination.

Departing from the lower level at Logan International Airport, the Plymouth/Brockton Bus Line takes a winding but picturesque two hour drive into the heart of Cape Cod ending up at Hyannis. A mere two blocks away from the final stop in the cusp of the harbor is the Hy-Line Ferry, a high-speed transport that can get you to Nantucket, 25 miles out, in slightly under an hour. While waiting, thirst may overcome. The Raw Bar On Ocean Street, steps away from boarding, offers simple and relaxed fare as their clam chowder and a cold Bud prepares one for the crossing.


The initial Ferry ride over took place at dusk so the cirrus clouds booned above as the sun sunk into the west. The flitter of the lighthouse faded away as the ship gained speed and headed out into the ocean. Unlike the slower ferry, according to some passengers, the high speed is very smooth, like a limo of the sea.

Arriving on Nantucket as the lights of bobbing boats glistened to the arriving vessel in the night, the cobblestone streets leading out from the straight wharf center the old school feel of town. As fog horns echo in the distance, the feel of 18th century regality fills the mind.


The Brant Point Inn, the resting place of noir, is an easy 10 minute walk through town on the cusp of the residential area filled with B&Bs. Cabs are ample so the transition can be smooth as silk. Settling into an upstairs bedroom, as window slips flow in the light wind, dreamland takes hold as, in the darkness, the fog can be seen drifting in off the ocean

When attending a film festival, access to venues is specific. Nantucket has three looping shuttles within one service: the NRTA. The farthest point needed is Sconset Casino where most of the daily films are played. The shuttle drops you off right around the corner. Because of its schedule, it is also a great place to interact with fellow filmmaker and industry people. The beach, with a great view of the breakwater offshore, is only steps away across a quaint wooden bridge.


The food during a film festival also needs to provide an ease of use but with a substance necessary to placate a visitor on-the-go. The most effective area, which is also a late night hangout for summer crowd (much akin to The Hamptons) is Broad Street between Easy and North Beach. There is a string of small eateries that hit the spot

Stubby’s offers differing American fare but the cheese steak replete with onions presented the right balance of zest before a journey to the pub. Steamboat Pizza, by comparison, offered the comfort of an 18” pie split between cheese and pepperoni that was both hearty with taste and filling that can’t be replicated in a chain.


The Juice Bar, a late afternoon stop, offers a degree of latitude when one needs a quick ice cream fix between movies. Their “Kahlua Krunch” double scoop within their home made waffle cone cools the senses. Easy Cantina, the prince of the late night, has Thursday wing specials but the essence of its $6 burger at the witching hour as the perilous few survivors stroll in with tales of lore is quite worth the effort.

For the essences of the go who need a little bit wider berth, the old staple of Grand Union, unassuming and low profile, right in the heart of downtown near the wharf can offer a quick fix of potato salad, bottled water or the fizz of a good Northeast root beer. As this is a town without the requisite convenience stores which would mar its image, this option offers the ability to balance the ride if your diet requires special needs.


Nantucket’s late night, especially in the summer, offers a distinctly pub rich vernacular although the most vibrant was a hidden away near the high end vestiges of the boat basin just north of downtown. Slip 14 balanced the essence of the island’s young and beautiful with the essence of bigger city influence but without the extensive door line. During the summer, a large chunk of the population is from off island so there is an influx of new young blood looking to enjoy the festivities. Clocking a rum and coke while smoking a Cohiba Cuban on the cusp of the harbor as the dresses slink and the eyes wander, the smiles continue without the abatement of old.

Not to say that the pub experience is anything but viable in the town. After Slip 14 when last call approaches, Brotherhood Of Thieves, up Broad Street as well, offers a dark and refined bar experience that reminds one of the East Village in NYC but with a more elegant and clean theme. A Guinness pint goes down quickly while a Blue Moon bides the conversation with the local Russian bar girl, quiet but direct, allowing for the last drop of the night.

The night before, as the drizzle kissed the ground, the sound of town abated but, in the deep quiet of the night, one place offered a glow. Right off the cobblestone of Main, the red essence of The Club Car, though small and narrow, possessed a vision of energy as the locals wound down a late night. A piano player in the back, enticed by the twenty-something crowd, smiled as the would-be youngsters sang along in unison to the high pitched melody of Elton John’s “Crocodile Rock”.


As the wind of lore heads in, the rain drizzles through the streets with a delicious smell that is lost on the West Coast. With the natural energy of a N’oreaster approaching from the North Atlantic, the churning of the sea provides a wondrous perspective of its powers. With a surge of waves, the Hy-Line braves the sound’s fury heading back to the mainland enticing a beautiful escape.