Inside Reel – Digital Filmmaking Documentary (PBS)

 

Keanu Reeves’ new documentary Side by Side chronicles the impact of digital filmmaking and begs the question–what is the role of celluloid in modern cinema? 10 years ago, The Inside Reel posed a similar question with its doc The Inside Reel: Digital Filmmaking, which premiered on PBS in New York and Los Angeles.

The “digital revolution” is one of the most significant changes in the film industry since the advent of sound and color.  It is also one of the most debated topics among filmmakers and fans.  The program goes behind the scenes and talks to some of the world’ most successful filmmakers about the advent of digital technology to see how it’s changing the way films are made and ultimately seen.  By Interviewing over 32 respected actors and filmmakers, including Johnny Depp, Tim Burton (Edward Scissorhands, Batman), and Academy Award winning Directors, Oliver Stone (Platoon, JFK) and Robert Zemeckis (Forrest Gump, Back to the Future), The Inside Reel: Digital Filmmaking offers a glimpse and speaks to those at the forefront of this “evolution in filmmaking” and illustrates where these filmmakers believe the future of cinema is headed. The program highlights some of the biggest achievements and innovations of this digital revolution as well as illuminates some of the misconceptions and pitfalls filmmakers may fall into with the abuse of this technology. From desktop editing to photo realistic dinosaurs, digital technology is expanding the palate for all filmmakers and is forging cinema’s evolution into the 21st century. Marilyn Ross of The Hollywood Reporter called the program “a must see for anyone who loves movies.”

The Inside Reel‘s From the Vaults: The Directors DVD featuring interviews with George Lucas, James Cameron, Francis Ford Coppola, Quentin Tarantino and many more is coming to Amazon.com this fall.

Keanu Reeves’ Side by Side will be released theatrically on August 17.

IR Short Takes: DARK SHADOWS [Warner Brothers]

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.

Exacting The Story: The PBS Winter 2010 TCA Press Tour – Feature

PBS always understands the importance of relevant arts and science programming although sometimes its approach appeals more to a bygone generation settled in their ideas with a continual approach to knowledge but not a new approach to thinking in terms of process solving. The reflected programs take on a structure of life gained but still being maintained which in a good way provides a sense of both contentment and warmth in a constantly scitzophrenic state.

American Masters: When You’re Strange This documentary on The Doors which optimizes never-before-seen footage made its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in 2009 and has gone a tightening including a new narration by actor Johnny Depp to replace the temp track by director Tom DiCillo.

John Densmore, the drummer for The Doors, had always been a major proponent force in maintaining their culture relevance whereas other surviving members Ray Manzarek and Robbie Krieger seemed to want the music to speak for themselves. Despite a very public discernation of the use of the name “The Doors” in terms of touring a couple years back, this new ideal between them seems to translate into the want to create a museum piece to accurately represent the band. John says that he is honored that they have been included in the American Masters series making the joke that “now I know why I wear a cape”. He speaks of the process of The Doors from his perspective. He and Robbie had been living together and Jim [Morrison] came to the top of the hill and was depressed. He sat outside looking above the LA skyline and wrote the lyrics (People are strange/when you’re a stranger/Faces look ugly/when you’re alone) before he came back inside which in turn reflects the ideal behind the title. Densmore says that much of the footage in the docu he has seen before but with this incarnation “there is more depth to the story for me”. He speaks that when they played the Hollywood Bowl, Harrison Ford was a grip on the crew. In terms of the actual idea of the band, he likes the confusion. Some of the new footage brought in which he talks about is “The Highway” footage which was shot when they first got big. In “Strange”, Jim is driving in this footage and the radio comes on to say that Jim Morrison had just died which was trippy. He admits that doesn’t remember all the gigs that they played and honestly didn’t “realize what a dangerous force we were”. That came to a culimination he said at the New Haven concert: “Jim was backstage with some fan and the cops maced him”. The band headed onstage and start playing “Back Door Man”. Jim stopped the song and started talking about “the little blue man in the little blue cap”. That was the end of the show. Manzarek got on the mike and told everyone to go to the police station. While Densmore admits Morrison “couldn’t play one chord on any instrument”, “he was a genius with words” and “he had the melodies” and “could do them arpeggio”.

Densmore talks about the long sections of instrumental they would have in pieces like “The End”. He explains it as “very jazzy” but that “creativity sometimes comes in the same package”. In terms of the legacy of Morrison, Densmore says that he looks to him now and sees that “his destiny was to have this quick shooting star” adding that “he was channelling the angst, the music and the magic”. In reference to the Oliver Stone film in the 1990s which was based on his book, he said “Val Kilmer should have been nominated” because his performance “gave me the creeps on set”. He does admit that the Stone movie was “excessive” but as “Oliver says, ‘If you don’t like my film on your chest, don’t go see my movie'”. Densmore makes reference to the aspect of doing commercials because “Jim blew up” and that because of this “The Doors have never done a car commerical”. In terms of influence, he says “you can hear a little of us in U2” though “we didn’t have a bass player”. He admits that they did two albums after Jim died but they eventually realized: “What are we doing?” saying “we didn’t want to replace those leather pants”. Densmore says that Ray and Robbie tried to sing but it “didn’t give us the synchronicity”. The one aspect that he sees in “People Are Strange” which is not in Stone’s movie is “a humor and lightness”. Jim Morrison, he says, “was a blast in the beginning before his self-destruction” because “he became an alcoholic really”. The Doors’ time together he describes more now “as some kind of beautiful dream I had” but with “Strange” now he looks and “it is right there on the screen again”.

Dick Wolf, the TV magnate who was instrumental in getting this new film made, speaks to the addition of Johnny Depp’s voice over after the film was picked up at Sundance in saying “Johnny made one astounding change by personalizing it and using the [band members’] first names”. Wolf continues that “it gave a magnificent shift to evidence for the film” which is “something you can’t buy”.

Independent Lens: Dirt The Movie This film which also came out of Sundance in 2009 talks about the essence of what this specific resource does for the planet.

Jamie Lee Curtis, who was brought in to narrate the doc after its pick up, explains that Bill Benenson [who directed the film] is a neighbor of hers. She admits they “both live surrounded by dirt” but that they “also ended up at the same school as parents”. Her actions in the film are “not on camera” but she “acts as the voice of reason if you will”. It is good now she says that everybody understands the importance of green. She and her husband Christopher Guest were selected to be the EV1 family in terms of getting the new hybrid but admits “they came and stole it back”. Now they got a Honda Clarity but explains that “we’re all trying to do something”. For her, it is about “educating”. She hopes that “one of our kids will fix [the mess we made]” confessing that “we fucked up”.

Gene Rosow, the co-director of the production with Benenson, says that every facet has an effect. He uses the example that a chef he knows in NY mentioned a difference in the tenderness of pork based on certain properties of the dirt it consumes. He speaks to the analogy present in “how we treat dirt is how we treat ourselves”. He does think that awareness is growing but that the generation of kids right now will have to be the ones to see it through. The paradox for him through is that he sees the US as being a divided country. A certain energy emerges because everyone has their own separate tribe though people are starting to understand the fundamental urgency behind the economic and environmental obstacles society is starting to face. Rosow’s belief is that there is starting to be “an awakening to a real crisis” but that there is “a lack of literacy on this issue” that will soon cause people to “wake up”.

Executive Briefing: Sarah Eaton The former Fine Line Features topper displays her key element of processing the different elements necessary to maintain public television on a national scale yet the key still is balancing an aspect of the baby boomer mentality but still bringing in some new viewers.

“Masterpiece” has always attracted a stable of names to its roster. Eaton announced that they are now working on a new production of “Emma” which will be created as a four-hour miniseries for the “Classic” brand while Kenneth Branagh will be working on “Mr. Mollander” for the “Mystery” brand which will also be undertaking three new “Foyle’s Wars”.

Masterpiece Classic: Anne Frank The new intentions of a classic literary anti-hero always revolves around the tendencies of the actress playing her and whether intended awareness is either subtle or oblique.

Ellie Kendrick, who plays the title character, explains, via satellite from London, that the transition of this young woman was difficult to play but “the reason she is so popular is because she is someone that we can identify with”. She sees Anne as “spirited and funny” but that “the diary became her only friend” which she professes “is the kind of woman you run into in this girl’s soul”.

Deborah Moggach, who adapted this new miniseries, explains that it took more than two years to persuade the Anne Frank estate to allows them to pen this new perception and that “it is a testimony to the BBC that it held”. She admits that it isa complicated work to do through Anne’s eyes” because she had to give the characters life “with their own journeys”.

The Tavis Smiley Show Smiley, in headlining a show both boosted by an integrity brand and, by certain accounts, immune to ratings and late night wars, has scored many exceptional interviews over the years especially with his no nonsense style of interviewing.

Smiley begins by talking about the parallel between Afghanistan and Vietnam. Specifically, he pinpoints the idea as “a call to conscience”. He says he was talking that morning with staff about they can get at the aspect of where the money is going in this conflict. The question he begs to ask is “Are we beyond the corruption and the damage done?”.

One of the new angles he is approaching this season is a behind-the-scenes view of Secretary Of State Hilary Clinton at work. Smiley has known her for many years but he was interested in how she would approach the ideal of rivals becoming allies. He says “I whittled it down and what I learned is that it is harder than I thought”. He doesn’t understand why she wants this job at 62. There is a point in the piece he did where he believes she might get out before 4 years is done but knows, for sure, she “will not have 8”. He “cannot think of a woman who has been more demonized by the press” but “was surprised how affable she was with the press pool” that travels with her but he did make the point that he was “the only person of color”.

In terms of other people he has met and interviewed he says Fidel Castro was the most interesting in that “there is a charm to him” and that “he is extremely well read and a witness”. He explains that Castro has a “a unique and strategic type of thinking” but that “there are games he plays in conversation” which had Smiley himself “most on edge”.

Smiley also comments on the late night melee that is occurring first indicating that he doesn’t know Conan but that Jay is “a personal friend”. In terms of his opinion, he says “it was a mistake to push him out of the time slot” citing that this move “will go down as one of the biggest mistakes in the history of television” but that “it has been fascinating to watch”. Smiley indicates that “television is changing in alot of ways” but that “there is a comfort in consistency”. The problem is that “NBC ran up against something they couldn’t figure out”.

In terms of new initiatives, he and Jonathan Demme are working together on some piece in regards to the recent New Orleans & Haitian crises. Smiley has been to Haiti a number of times and says that “no country should have to endure the hell they have gone through”.

Demme says that as far as the initial footage they shot in regards to New Orleans “what we have going for us is the people” who have returned to the hard hit Ninth Ward. Demme explains that this is where Brad Pitt’s initiative was launched. The experiment in filming is being done over a 5 year period of which they are in year 2 . The parallel of Haiti he says “is on his mind right now” because of “what you discover when the structure is inadequate”. In comparison, he admits the initiative to rebuild New Orleans which was a distinct hope, did not happen. For him, it is “a humanist canvas of real life and real people” calling this project for him “a wonderful amazing challenge”. One of the most interesting aspects for him is the idea of what “big belief” and “forced faith” is. The reality as he sees it is that “it is take your medicine time but how do you circumvent that” which is the “struggle”.

NOVA: The Pluto Files This new perception and dissertation on the nature of modern astronomy and the changing view on the nature of the universe is elevated by the distinction of personalities, both dissecting and far ranging, that inhabit this new incarnation of the popular science series.

Mark Sykes, Director of the Planetary Science Institute, says the debate of Pluto as a planet or extrasolar object is “about fear”. His perception of the discussion is about points. He says Pluto “is round…it has an atmosphere…it has seasons”. The problem in the modern scientific community is that “the discoveries outstrip the vocabulary to slow them down”. He uses the analogy that the word “manufacturer” used to describe an object “made by hand” but “that definition has evolved”. With the definition of a “planet”, “it depends on what is useful” and if there is “independent importance”. He believes in the thinking “that more is not upsetting to people” but “less is” but that there should not be simply “abitrary change”.

Neil deGrasse Tyson, an astrophysicist as well as host of the show, has his own ideas in regards to this mode of thought. His vector revolves around the the fact that you want a word in regards to a universal body that classifies an object in terms of its commonality. He revels in the fact that he believes that there is still “an insatiable appetite for the cosmos” and that there are “certain aspects that tap us all”. The frustrating anglet in terms of the education for him is the idea that the solar system is taught in a certain way which is viscerally outdated. However, in persistence of this specific subject, he says “even if Pluto had been demoted, it wouldn’t have tipped the apple cart”.

The Buddha On the other end of scientific speculation, this series examines a spiritual perception enlisting the eyes of a highly placed subject who is both indicative of the teachings but also is allowing himself to be aware of the world that inhabits new ideologies but that everything remains cyclical.

David Grubin, the filmmaker behind this endeavor which is narrated by Richard Gere, describes Buddha, in his mind “as really the first psychologist” and explains that “Buddha, like Freud, was a realist” in that “he saw an experience for what it was”. The message for the film he hopes is that “it is possible for everyone to be the Buddha”.

The Venerable Metteyya Sakyaputta himself was brought into the world in the same place as the Buddha and, although he was born Hindu, he became an ordained Buddhist Monk. Metteyya relates that the key to the question of Buddha is to become a better human being. In relation to modern ideals, he believes that there is always something in the mind from cultural ideas but that one must always take a closer look. In looking at Western culture, he sees that the people are getting something unique but that they are specifically looking for the direct benefit it brings them. This was the first time he had visited the United States. He had requested from his Dharma Mother some ways to see this country. One of the first TV series he saw was “Friends”. The next was “The Simpsons”. He describes the fact that Lisa Simpson takes on all the elements of a Buddhist which is a very adept statement.

In terms of being interviewed for this film (“The Buddha”), he explains that he had no idea what it would be like but that it was important. He looks and wants to understand what Western Buddhism is missing. He sees that people are much more tense here. They want to accomplish something in a ten-day course and “get on with it”. One of the recent books he read examines human intelligence versus IQ intelligence and that we are just starting to understand these connections. Patience is essential. Metteyya relates that “Buddha gave us a path to develop human qualities of sharing, loving others, having patience and not complaining about every single thing”. “The Buddha”, he says, “sees that you are now a seed with many potentials”.

The Venerable Sakyaputta understands that, through Buddhism, people think that they will find “keys to happiness”. However, he sees that “as a Western ideal” that is mired in something “very complex” because “in order to have peace in the heart, you have to think of the mind”. He goes on to say that “Buddha says that the mind and the matter is a unique phenomena that has impact on each other”. The perception he believes is that “mental thoughts have influence where we have emotion in our mind”. He reminds through teachings that “patience is a virtue but that doesn’t mean we have to be waiting and waiting and never get any work done.” The realization has to be “Buddha is not a rock…but a human being.”

Public Enemies – Theatrical Review

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The essence of “Public Enemies” is that it continues the aspect of Michael Mann is his ability to keep audiences on the edge. He isn’t groundbreaking in a conventional sense  per se yet the storytelling is effective and ample. His visual style and direction of actors is visceral yet one can see holes. His latest venture, his first after the quite effective (and again visceral) but underrated “Miami Vice” is a grand experiment and one that exceeds expectations a lot of the time. Mann is the only one truly using the aspect of these new cams on widespread new releases in this kind of real world environment and not a special effects extravanganza. There is a balance between the aesthetic, the realistic and the artistic that is at play here.

Another interesting balance especially within this specific picture and its subject matter is its appeal. At the screening at the Academy last night which also included a significant amount of recruited “normal moviegoers” to build buzz, I was surprised to truly see a cross-section that one would not think directly would be influenced by this kind of “Scarface” epic from the 30s and yet it speaks. Whereas “Scarface” became about the sheer bravado and “the world is mine”, there is a different aspect here. John Dillinger (played here by Johnny Depp with restrained gusto) gets what he wants and of course gets it in the end. Live fast and leave a good looking corpse (albeit with a few bullet holes). The perspective that one can see right away is how viewable that this film will be in a couple years. The picture that comes to mind is Gary Oldman and “Dracula”. While the performances are nowhere near than nuanced, there is a sensibility to the proceedings that has a timeless capability

But coming back to the actual demos in play of the picture, the urban population came out in force to Beverly Hills. The line was around the block for the test/buzz audience per se. Two younger African Americans sitting in front of me as well as what would be considered a group of late teen Ventura teenagers behind me were experiencing the same movie and reacting in different but similar ways. The African American in their late teens/early 20s watched Johnny Depp slinking through a club and then going after his new love played by Oscar winner Marion Coiullard. He says he will never abandon her. Later on after bashing a guy who won’t let him talk to her at the coat check, Dillinger gives her his life story since she says she doesn’t know him. He says his mother died when he was born. His dad beat him because he didn’t know any better. He like fast cars, good food, whiskey and her. Period. That got the entire audience in a full applause. Lots of shout out for him at the screen. The word I repeatedly heard is “He’s a pimp” which is a mark of endearance. Similar to “Scarface”. This guy took what he wanted and made no bones about it. The only irony is that he was a criminal, a gangsta. What is interesting is that back in the 50s and the 60s, the people that could anything and be the cool kids on the block were the scientists rocketing people into space. Like Obama, we need a rock star like that in space.

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But “Public Enemies” shows that rare instance, and whose impression will be seen at the box office, the impression on modern culture. Now in terms of acting, Mann as usual can simply get some mesmerizing elements at times from his people but this is also due to the intimacy of this camera and what it can show. There is still a shortcoming/advantage to this Cinealta F23 HD Camera he is using. The cam lists for $150,000 on the Sony website and is at the forefront but it still at times does not look as good as some of the low light elements you can current see on the Sony Red One which has a 35mm chip. Now the great element of this whole discussion is that Mann is bringing the idea to the forefront of these cameras in a conventional shoot but getting A- list actors to allow themselves to be shot in this way. It is much more in your face. It was one of the aspects that made the training sequences in “Ali” pop and is improved here.

The system looks beautiful in day shoots with not as many lights. Even in sequences like the club in the beginning of “Miami Vice” or even here in the lusher bordello nightclub near the beginning as well, the camera maintains an interesting balance where it doesn’t look like video. However during one shootout in the woods where the blast elements of the Tommy Guns are in full view, there is both a disconnect and a connect that pulls you both ways especially if you have a production background but are also thinking of how the audiences will perceive the film. This specific sequence using almost completely natural light is not as overly grainy as it was before in earlier Mann films with this technology but the lack of true rack focus and the shutter speed makes certain running elements inside and with the car chases look like it was shot on a video camera (which it is) but of a much lower grade. This is also because of slight blur. It begins to look like guerilla filmmaking but of film school technology. It is not there yet in terms of this.

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Now on the flip side, it makes what you are seeing extremely visceral and personal. Being in the room only with Johnny with what you can tell is just the cameraman with Mann possibly way out somewhere on a Bluetooth video tap or even right behind the camera allows 360 video shoot flow. That is exciting especially if you are talking a massively budgeted film like this. It is like play acting with the biggest toy you can find. When the Tommy Guns start going off, you feel you are right in the middle of it. In terms of the technical right when the Tommy Guns blare, one can see the shutter speed change. However there is something very cool about watching Depp just unleash a blaze of gunfire in that room. You can imagine how loud it was. It is definitely a different experience for him for sure than “Pirates” or even Burton, his longtime collaborator.

This brings the aspect to the acting. Because of his cache and the fact that A-list actors are now mostly doing movies because purely of directors with scripts as the second consideration, other lower tier actors on the totem tend to follow that perception. This time in films is very interesting for this with using this type of camera because unlike the past 80 years, because of it there is less down time on set because the light (unless you are doing ultra stylized) is less of an issue (or in terms of a motion capture film) is not an issue at all.

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Johnny gets the brunt of the interaction with the camera and seems extremely game for it. The camera in close up captures truly what you look like so the make up has to be ultra fine and almost invisible or you see the imperfections. At one point in a bed scene, the camera is so close up that you can see the imperfections in Depp’s skin which are few. Many actors would not be game for this especially at Depp’s current stature. This is also the first time we have seen him looking like his original 21 Jump Street persona in terms of look with the hair and clean shaven. It is this point for me that I most see Johnny having met him throughout his career because usually he disappears almost completely. The research he did for the role and his family’s own criminal past he has discussed in the media obviously helps him but doesn’t play the character glib. He plays Dillinger as methodical but he shows the man as still enjoying himself yet practical. The parallel I can make is Leonardo DiCaprio’s character in “Catch Me If You Can”. This movie however much more visceral.

While the ending which has Mann giving homage to old school Hollywood with Clark Cable and “Manhattan Melody” seems a bit over-artsy, it is pertinent and upon further reflection, very classical and stylized while maintaining the verite style allowed by the F23.. You can read a lot into the eyes of Depp at that time when he is sitting in the theater. Mann allows this scene to breathe the most to give it consequence.

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Christian Bale has the less glamorous role in the movie and, at times, the more difficult one since he has to be subtle. With a new found accent that separates him, the droll delivery he must employ in “Dark Knight” is gone for the most part but again Bale is so recognizable now that unless he supremely alters his appearance like Depp does in other roles, the impression of Bale, the persona, despite the fact that he tries to keep that at a minimum, still shines through. The character he plays (Purvis) is a man who must work the politics but also be hard hitting and stay true to himself despite moral or ethical conflicts. One of the intrinsic parts of the movie is when Purvis fully commits to his mission and guns down Babyface Nelson with gusto in the middle of the dark. This is one of those moments where the actual aesthetic of that low light with the F23 works. But that is because the camera is standing fairly still a certain distance away.

The other major player is actress Marion Cotillard who won the Oscar for “Le Vie En Rose”. As with a lot of female parts she has less to do, since most of the active action, is taken by the men. Her character only starts to have some cool stuff to do in the interrogation room towards the end. Her viciousness and repulsion at the men who are roughing her up got the audience applauding. Unfortunately that is the only place it is allowed to shine especially in this kind of boy’s movie set in this time period.  Even in “Scarface”, Michelle Pffiefer and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio had much more to do.

Other interesting actors populate the screen, some for moments and others fleeting, but their inclusion shows the pedigree. Billy Crudup has the most screen time apart from the leads as J. Edgar Hoover in very much a thankless role. Despite this, the performance comes off fairly flat. Stephen Dorff has bad ass elements of one of Dillinger’s gang but besides a few one liners that are taken and heard off-the-cuff, he is not specifically highlighted in a deliberate way. Channing Tatum has about two minutes as Pretty Boy Floyd early in the picture as he is shot down at the opening of Bale’s introduction as Purvis. The interesting thing is that when you see him for the first time up close after he has been shot where he has no dialogue, he looks like Chris Pine. The credits are the only thing that proved me wrong. And towards the end, Leelee Sobieski shows up as Polly Hamilton with maybe one line. She worked with Kubrick on “Eyes Wide Shut” but again very small inclusion. Giovanni Ribisi as an outside consultant to Dillinger is the person with the most on-screen time with Depp in this regard although you could tell he only worked two days. But his impression is the most undeniable because he completely blends in. You feel that he is there in that time period.

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That is one thing that this format and the approach Mann takes does. It places you in that time period however fleeting it is. You maybe get a little of the feel of what it was like for these outlaws when that was consider modern. That is the movie’s true strength along with Depp. Coming out of theater and looking up at the color of the sky, it is the same on the film. It is hard to capture what the naked eye sees and that is part of the experiment. With others big directors going either fully stylized (Tony Scott), fully digital (Robert Zemeckis) and beyond the realm of what might be possible (James Cameron), Michael Mann is one who is still bringing the real. And despite whether it works all the time, it is a cool artistic focus that will continue to evolve. Out of 5, I give “Public Enemies” a 3 1/2.