Music Video Monday: U2 – Iris (Hold Me Close)

Introduction

I’ve debated starting this theme for a few weeks, and I ultimately decided I would as it would encourage me to looks for options that actually fit what I’m aiming for. If one pays too much attention to Top 40 type music you tend to see a dearth of creativity in the music video form. The music video is spawned from short films and can be as creative if not more so than their predecessor. Far too often it does just become singing heads. I want to try and buck that trend and find ones both new and old that do something somewhat outside the box, at the very least have some sort of visual narrative. Here we go.

U2 –Iris (Hold Me Close)

Yes, U2 tried to make us listen to this album whether we wanted to or not, but that doesn’t mean the whole album is an entire loss. Furthermore, upon comparing my impression of this song after seeing a fan video and seeing this, it’s much higher now. There are times when the right images set to music do matter.

It’s a simple, well-told story. Potter fans will also recognize Ryan Turner from The Deathly Hallows – Part 2.

To see the video follow the link below:

U2 – Iris (Hold Me Close)

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Rewind Review: Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief (2010)

Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief is the latest film and franchise attempt from Chris Columbus. While there definitely are some very strong positives to this film there are a few drawbacks as well.

The film is built upon standard story elements both of our age and the fantasy genre, but at least it puts them to good use. For example, it’s a quest film, however, that is openly addressed when Percy is getting volunteers to help him. His mother is married to a jerky man, who is Percy’s stepfather, and Percy has a learning disability which both fit neatly into the plot in very creative ways. Not so creative ways are the ticking clock which is introduced to indicate that Zeus needs his bolt back by the summer solstice, the reason he needs it back is never established. The trio is somewhat Potter-esque and the necessary mentors are all in place to aid in the unwitting heroes’ quest.

The cast for the most part is very strong with a few glaring exceptions. The film is carried well by the young leads particularly Logan Lerman who has to play both awkward teenager then embracing and capable of living up to his demigod status. Perhaps more important is Brandon T. Jackson, who plays Percy’s protector and provides much of the comic relief in the film and he steals the show. Alexandra Daddario is also very capable in the role of Annabeth.

The supporting cast brings the inconsistency. You have the stark contrast of the brilliance of Uma Thurman‘s short turn and Rosario Dawson‘s charmingly sinister appearance contrasting with the wheezing-in-an-attempt-to-sound-older Pierce Brosnan and Catherine Keener, who is not as effective as she was in Where the Wild Things Are.

The CG in the film is solid albeit a little more inconsistent than desirable. Medusa’s head for example could look convincing or bogus depending on the angle its seen from. However, the Hydra and the water-work were spectacular.

The film is a funny and action-filled piece of escapism, which includes some very well-choreographed swashbuckling. It also wastes no time in diving into the tale and letting us know there could be war.

The film is rather entertaining despite a few head-scratchers like why Percy doesn’t make a run for the entrance to Olympus when the true nemesis is heading at them; instead they just wait for him to land. Or why the entrance to Olympus is atop the Empire State Building (At least in diegetic, non-inferred terms).

On a side note not really impacting interpretation of this film, all seems well and sewn up at the end of this film and there is no apparent opening for a sequel.

Overall Percy Jackson is very enjoyable entertaining, action-packed film which provided laughs and diversion even while flawed.

7/10

BAM Special Jury Awards and 2013 Contenders

Every so often over the years I’ve had occasion to award Special Jury Prizes for certain films for miscellaneous je nes sais quois that can’t always be pigeonholed into one category. While I may be a jury of one I can will expand and give an additional award when I see fit. Not only will this post highlight the occasions where I have added awards but it will also track possibilities for 2013.

2011

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001, Warner Bros.)

This year spawned a post of its own as I awarded two prizes one for the Short Film The Confession and another for The Harry Potter Franchise.

My specific thoughts on both can be found here.

2010

They were listed as TBA in the nominations but I didn’t end up awarding any.

2000

The Exorcist (1973, Warner Bros.)

Not yet called Jury Awards but rather Special Achievement awards I awarded two: one for the re-release of The Exorcist and another to Billy Elliot.

My thoughts on that occasion can be found here.

Contenders in 2013

Sweet Love
The Blue Umbrella
Death of a Shadow
Get a Horse!
Headlong

The Flip Side: Seeing the Movie Then Reading the Book

Asa Butterfield in Hugo (Paramount)

Recently I re-posted a series of articles I wrote on The Site That Shall Not Be Named (no it’s not the Dark Lord’s site) about how to divorce oneself from the source material when you’re watching an adaptation of a beloved book, comic, TV Show or what have you. If you want to read that series start here, otherwise bear with me.

In that series I really tackled a problem many face but mainly it pertained to books and their readers the most. To be more specific people who happened to have read the book prior to watching the film, which is a tough transition.

However, a twitter friend of mine and blogger in his own right, recently posted this intriguing entry:

People who follow me at all know I read a lot.

I read books now more than ever, used to read more newspapers and magazines.

But, I hear all the time, I want to see say “Hunger Games” but I need to read the book/books first. I personally prefer seeing the movie first.

Books are a totally different format, richer, longer, have subtext, a medium of words. Film is a medium of images and sounds, and quite a bit shorter at around 90-120 minutes. The average screenplay is 95-125 pages long, the average book is around 300 pages. It’s simply different.

For me a good example of this is Martin Scorsese’s “Hugo”. Although the book the “Invention of Hugo Cabret” by Brian Selznick is very cinematic, and the look is in the movie, Scorsese adds scenes, depth of character and a few other things I don’t see in the book. I did see “Hugo” before reading the book, and think if I read the book first I would have used my image of the book to cloud the movie and not loved the movie for what it did well but get trapped in comparisons.

An example of a book I did read first which clouded my judgment of the movie is “Jurassic Park.” I quite enjoyed Micheal Crichton’s novel, and I missed several scenes (especially the river scene) that were in the book in the movie. Although Spielberg does a good job with it, I find actually the monster movie “The Lost World” to be more fun. I think this is partially because my view of the book hurts the movie.

Another example for me from a recent movie is “The Hunger Games.” My wife has read through this series twice already, and I am still around 20% in the first book. I quite enjoyed the movie, and wonder if my judgment of the book would have clouded how I see the film.

Basically movies and books are entirely different mediums. If you try to make the movie just like the book you get boring movies like Chris Columbus’s Harry Potter 1 and 2, which although good and nowhere near as rich to me as Cuaron’s version that shares the vision of the book but doesn’t feel the need to get everything in Harry Potter 3 (still the best of the series to me.
What do you think?

The general points up there I agree with almost without exception. I wanted to quote the post mainly for context and also as shorthand to expound on my observations on this opposite phenomena I didn’t examine.

I completely agree with the assertion that one musn’t read the book before seeing the movie. The book is not Cliff’s Notes to the film. The film has to sink or swim on its own merits. With regards to The Hunger Games, I liked it but I knew innately that there was backstory and subtext from the book only being hinted at on screen, however, it didn’t ruin the film for me.

With regards to subtext allow me to make a minor semantical point: yes, many films are surface only but when you study them you learn to read them (I’m not being poetical, we say that) and seek the subtext. Some films are what they are; vapid or brilliant there’s not much else going on, those are few. There will be more forthcoming dialogue simply because the examples are ones I so closely relate to but I will transition, believe me.

Another thing that even I didn’t really examine in the prior series is that there really isn’t a direct correlation between pages in a book and a screenplay. One can make it, and I have, for a mathematical argument but truly the literal conversion of book to film can have so many more variables. A good example would be Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust. I stuck with it and finished it and liked, despite it being the most challenging read of my life. Such is the stream of consciousness and transition from reality to memory to fancy to dream that it makes it a very involving and exhaustive experience. Were you to take certain pages out of the book and transcribe them to screenplay form you could have so many changes of time and location that one novel page could be three to four screenplay pages. Again, if you’re a completist and being literal. A good film of the book would have some of those montages implied in the writing but not all of them.

Certain writing styles do imply montage as Eisenstein talks most about in the book of his I’m in the midst of and what can be done in a paragraph of prose may take a page or more in a screenplay depending on how you decide to exploit it cinematically. This is just further food for thought when thinking about taking something that’s purely text and turning it into visuals.

With regards to the example of Hugo above it’s amazing that we both reached virtually the same conclusion about the film having inverted reading schedules. I took The Invention of Hugo Cabret out of the library and devoured it because it was a quick read, liking the story much better than the presentation thereof and then though I knew Scorsese and Logan made certain changes I felt they enhanced the film and made it the best of 2011.

Sam Niell in Jurassic Park (Universal Pictures)

With regards to the Jurassic Park films, I actually tried to read the book and I failed to complete it despite needing to write a book report on it. That did not diminish my desire to see it or affect my view of it. I absolutely adored every second of it. Being a budding cinephile and a kid who at more than one point wanted to be a paleontologist it was, and will remain, one of the most exhilarating movie-watching experiences of my life. It’s magical. On the other hand, I didn’t try and read The Lost World, I disliked it a lot. How much? This much. I was pleased to learn in my Spielberg class that part of the reasoning behind his doing The Lost World was that Universal had been begging him for a sequel since 1982 and he would not hear of it being E.T.

Michael Gambon and Daniel Radcliffe in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Warner Bros.)

As for the Harry Potter films: I love them and I love the books. My love for both is separate but equal, to re-appropriate an old phrase. I always read them before I saw them but with the few production delays they had the gap between reading and viewing grew as the films moved on. My favorite is The Half-Blood Prince, it’s the apex of the story cinematically and in the books I feel so much of what was built in the series lead to that point. The Prisoner of Azkaban is great but like many of the films they stumble at the goal line, metaphorically speaking but that one just loses the ball entirely with the very last image and piece of voice over. Only part of the issue with the first two films is Columbus. The other part is that the books steadily grew in size through the course of the series. Slavishness to the novel was easy, and maybe a requisite to establish the franchise at the beginning. As the books grew slavishness became more difficult to accomplish, nearly impossible, thus the films truly came into their own as a separate but equal enterprise.

So having said all that in the interest of piggybacking and elaborating on points I previously made; What about seeing the movie first and then reading? I am very intrigued by the idea but I do not have much practice with it. I have a few candidates in mind to try it with but let’s see what case studies I have (Yes, we are quite literally discovering it together, hence why I wanted to write this post).

Jack Nicholson in The Shining (Warner Bros.)

The Shining

I decided to pick up a Stephen King book because I saw The Shining. I was just into High School and it was the first time I enjoyed being scared. I was averse to horror before then. I learned from King and went on to read many that he read. However, the film and the book are very different beasts. I had no problem with having a cast in my head, King even acknowledges that in a foreword or afterword of one of his books, but like I said it was different. I didn’t dislike it. I don’t disagree with King’s comments about Kubrick either, yet I still enjoy Kubrick’s riff on the story more than the book or the mini-series. Do I skew to the movie for having seen it first? Yes. However, then there’s The Hunger Games. I tried to read it as a library book. Hardly started. I then saw the movie still knowing next to nothing and would likely enjoy the book more.

Pet Sematary

Miko Hughes holding a copy of Pet Sematary

Here’s one where if you make me pick which one I like I’ll kick, scream and refuse. I love them both so, so much.

Storm of the Century

Colm Feore in Storm of the Century (ABC)

Ha, I’m such a cheater because this is a screenplay but regardless I may be in a minority but I really enjoyed it in both incarnations.

Hellraiser/The Hellbound Heart

Doug Bradley in Hellraiser (New World Pictures)

Clive Barker brings such imagination and originality to everything he does it’s hard to be disappointed but it is a somewhat different interpretation of the vision than the one he put on screen I find. Similarly, he’s working on a comics series of Hellraiser now, which is incredibly good.

The Exorcist

Linda Blair, Max Von Sydow and Jason Miller in The Exorcist (Warner Bros.)

With all apologies due William Peter Blatty the movie rips the book to shreds quality-wise. However, the reading experience was just fine.

Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption/The Shawshank Redemption

The Shawshank Redemption (Columbia Pictures)

It wasn’t a tainted reading experience in any way and it’s evidence of why Frank Darabont is Stephen King’s best adapter.

The Body/Stand by Me

Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Jerry O'Connell and Corey Feldman in Stand by Me (Columbia Pictures)

In a similar way to Stephen King’s reaction to Darabont’s The Mist he also loved this one because of a crucial change Rob Reiner made for the better. Reading it was fine, watching it more lively. In this case it might’ve tainted it in my mind from having seen it so much.

Apt Pupil

This story as written is outstanding. Yes, the cast remained the same but the story delves into the psychology of the situation in ways the film scarcely attempts. You should read it.

The Langoliers

The Langoliers (ABC)

Augmented by having seen it first in part because I love the mini-series up until the very end. It’s like King says, the story just falls into place so smoothly and that translates on to the page and the mini-series is great until one of the worst third act blunders, and effects shots ever.

Misery

Kathy Bates and James Caan in Misery (Columbia Pictures)

How can having Kathy Bates in your head not make it better?

Cycle of the Werewolf/Silver Bullet

The Cycle of the Werewolf (Signet/Berni Wrightson)

It’s a totally different beast entirely. It’s a short little book with Berni Wrightson working his magic illustrating it, giving you new images to focus on.

Creepshow

Creepshow (Berni Wrightson/Signet)

Quite frankly with the premise of Creepshow being tales in the style of old EC Comics how can it not be a good comic book, seriously?

Burning Secret

Burning Secret (Vestron Pictures)

I’m surprised I had forgotten this one. This tale is quite literally the perfect example of this list. I saw this film by chance on Netflix. I was rather intrigued by it and was curious to read the book. The book was rather short and a quick read. The adaptation is great because it develops cinematic subtext without using any of the inner-monologue inherent in the prose. What this does is create an air of mystery and a questioning of motives, at least to an extent, which never happens in the book. The strength of the book is that you get explicit detail about the thought processes of each character. In short, you get slightly different but very well-realized renditions of the tale. In each version the medium is exploited brilliantly.

These are likely the only examples I can be completely certain of. Having thought on them: Yes, the argument does have merit. It can be better and more enjoyable to watch and then read. This might mean that The Hunger Games and A Song of Fire and Ice are in my future.

10 Keys to a Better Life as a Fanboy: 6. The Perils and Merits of Series

Vista Library

This series of articles is designed to help you, the fan, try and divorce yourself from your attachment to source material and judge a film on its own merits and not in comparison to another work. These tips come from my own experience. I hope they are helpful.

The aforementioned tips are all well and good when you are the fan of a standalone piece in another medium and it is being adapted into a standalone, for the time being, film. Things get more complicated when your book or comic or what have you is part of a series. Any series will have its own arc and structure in its greater tale aside from just the structure of the single volume.

This is where you might have to breathe deep and learn some relaxation techniques. If an element, say Hermione’s quest to end the enslavement of House elves, is left out of one film it will be left out of each subsequent film until it becomes absolutely, positively crucial to the structuring of the story. So some of the subplots that enrich a book will invariably fall by the wayside, which is why comparing mediums is dangerous.

I don’t want a novel that reads like a screenplay. I want detail, inner monologue, I want it to be possible to take two pages to describe five seconds of a character’s life. Each medium has its strengths and to expect a film to be a pictographic facsimile of a book is unrealistic. Sticking to the Harry Potter theme The Deathly Hallows is 759 pages long. If those pages were screenplay pages you’d be looking at a 12 and 1/2 hour movie. So even with two films telling the tale of one book you’re looking at roughly 40% of the material in the book covered.

So it’s a fact of life that the movie by necessity can and will leave things out and change things.

Conversely, you need to look at the film within the context of the series. You can compare it to past films but also bear in mind: how did it advance the story, did it up the stakes, is it leaving the table set nicely for a subsequent edition should there be one?

10 Keys to a Better Life as a Fanboy: 5. Forewarned is Forearmed?

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 (Warner Bros.)

This series of articles is designed to help you, the fan, try and divorce yourself from your attachment to source material and judge a film on its own merits and not in comparison to another work. These tips come from my own experience. I hope they are helpful.

This may be the most difficult of my guidelines in which to practice what you preach but it is completely possible. Basically, what this means is that if you find yourself to forming prejudicial opinions when hearing news tidbits about an upcoming films try and avoid them. Granted this is becoming increasingly difficult in a wired world but it is possible.

For example, I wrote about the split in the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows films. Curiosity got the better of me and I looked into what they picked and thus opined on it. However, none of the headlines I saw gave it away had I not clicked the link I’d be none the wiser.

Now, of course, casting news is usually a giveaway. It’ll be in the headline that so-and-so was cast in a given role but what I’ve learned in those scenarios is that I have been surprised many times by such decisions so I no longer read too much into those.

This feeds into the blank slate argument but basically the less about the production you can manage to absorb and form an opinion on before you see the film the better off you will be.

10 Keys To A Better Life As A Fanboy- 3. You’re Not The Director, Screenwriter, Etc.

Rupert Grint in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Warner Bros.)

This series of articles is designed to help you, the fan, try and divorce yourself from your attachment to source material and judge a film on its own merits and not in comparison to another work. These tips come from my own experience. I hope they are helpful.

While this does connect somewhat to number one, as many ultimately will, trust me this is somewhat different and is very important to remember. It is also key to keep in mind ultimately the decisions that are shaping a series based on a work you love are not yours to make. Now you may be a creative type who makes it and someday you could be in charge of a remake, as film is becoming more like theatre and remakes (read “revivals”) are becoming an accepted practice, of your pet project and if that’s the case more power to you but then you’ll be the one facing the angry postings not writing them. However, as you sit in wait for one of the year’s biggest releases you’re not going to shift opinion and if your opinion stands for several consecutive installments of a series do one of two things: one, get over it or two, stop watching them.

An example of this would be a friend of mine who told me four movies or so into the Harry Potter series that she hates how Rupert Grint plays Ron Weasley. There is obviously a difference of opinion between the makers and actor and this audience member as to who Ron is, however, the producers wanted nothing more from the early-going than to secure the young triad for the duration. If the interpretation bothers you that much stop subjecting yourself to it or knock it off and just take it with a grain of salt.

I do fully realize there are remakes or sequels that make money simply because you want to “see how stupid it is” but eventually if a series dissatisfies you for several consecutive installments you should pull the plug. Aside from that you really have no sway. Online petitions may have gotten people on SNL but they have yet to change film casting or rewrite plot points so it is an exercise in futility.

10 Keys to a Better Life as a Fanboy: 2. Have a Bad Memory

Ian McKellan in The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (2003)

This series of articles is designed to help you, the fan, try and divorce yourself from your attachment to source material and judge a film on its own merits and not in comparison to another work. These tips come from my own experience. I hope they are helpful.

I don’t know if it’s possible to train yourself to have a bad memory but you can sure as hell give it the old college try. You may have to be born with it and in that case I have been blessed. At least in this regard, it’s not really as handy as you may think.

How this will help you, though, is that the further you remove yourself from the source material the more you will be able to enjoy the film as a separate entity. An example of my experience with this is the Harry Potter films. Now granted they have gotten better, in my opinion (exponentially so with each installment), however, when I saw The Sorcerer’s Stone my first viewing was marred because I had so recently finished reading the book.

Since then there has been a bit of a gap between my having read the book and seeing each movie. Some were larger than others but that has helped. With each successive film I have spent less and less time and mental energy thinking to myself “Oh, Such-and-Such is coming up.”

Anticipating events and then wanting to see how they are executed cinematically can diminish your enjoyment unnaturally. If you came in as a blank slate you may either be awed or disappointed but it would be all your opinion of what you saw and in no way influenced by your expectation.

An illustration I could give you would be The Lord of the Rings trilogy. I never read them. I don’t care if I ever do read them. It certainly wouldn’t make my bucket list were I to write one (Finishing War and Peace would), but I did see all three movies. Thus, I had no preset expectations and the reception it got was the reverse of what usually happens. It was hyped, fans wanted it and were typically pleased with what they saw. For the record: I thought part one was pretty good, part two was interminable and part three was brilliant until it decided it would refuse to end. In some parallel dimension of the multiverse I’m sure it never did.

2011 BAM Award Winners- Crew Categories

First, while I think that this “trifurcated” method of presenting winners is the way to go the nomenclature is something that may change. I considered “Above the Line” and “Below the Line” but that’s far too industry a term and furthermore it skews the breakdown of awards presented per post. Having said all that not all the categories in this post are crew per se, maybe behind the scenes is better but I’ll think over in the year to come. In any case here are the awards for non-actors.

Best Director

Martin Scorsese in Hugo (Paramount)

J.J. Abrams Super 8
S.J. Clarkson Toast
Martin Koolhoven Winter in Wartime
Paolo Virzì The First Beautiful Thing
Martin Scorsese Hugo

I will grant you that I read more about Scorsese’s process for Hugo than the other directors thanks to the film companion book written by the author of the novel. However, I also knew the book and got a sense when reading it that it might be a stronger piece cinematically than it was in text. After all it is an illustrated novel. It’s a novel wherein Selznick omitted words when he felt illustrating portions would be better. It’s also a case of knowing and understanding a vision and seeing a vision are two different things. This film was on the radar earlier for me than for most. All I learned about it heightened my anticipation, yet I never expected box-office results (which it sadly hasn’t really seen) or critical acclaim (which its gotten in spades) and the last thing I expected was for my lofty expectations to be far exceeded. I could ramble about why I love Scorsese’s process for making this film but anyone who knows anything about him knows his passion and knowledge and how he tries, when applicable, to imbue that to those he works with. All these directors had a great vision for their films, all succeeded to ridiculous heights. Scorsese just does so in a whole other stratosphere and on many, many levels and in different ways than in films past.

Best Cinematography

Asa Butterfield and Chloë Grace Moretz in Hugo (Paramount)

Larry Fong Super 8
Eduardo Serra Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2

Stephanie Anne Weber-Biron Heartbeats

Robert Richardson Hugo
Janusz Kaminski War Horse

This category is usually, and especially this year, just flat-out unfair. Minus the being undead part I feel like little Gage Creed in Pet Sematary shouting my protestations, “No fair! No fair!” Each one of these films is beautiful to look at and exemplifies flawless technique but also motifs that I am enamored of. Larry Fong takes Abrams’ penchant for lens flare and places it in as naturalistic a context as possible, Serra who works best when moving the camera frequently scarcely stops in this last chapter of an epic series, Weber-Biron’s work in Heartbeats is a staggering display of composition and luscious saturation, Kaminski, ever the chameleon like his frequent director Spielberg, brings landscapes not only to life but emblazons them with surreal beauty; and those are the runners up. Like Gage said “No fair!”

Here’s the best case for why 3D can work and why Hugo is enhanced by it. Aside from the technical aspect where every single shot of the film was shot in 3D, whereas even “real” 3D films have some post-conversion element. Shots were composed, framed, lit and even cut together with that effect in mind. And it’s not a shock and awe effect they seek but an invitation, an envelopment.

I frequently mention (whenever it’s the case) how I didn’t want a movie to end. I have never in my adult life felt like I was in the film. I had that feeling at times watching Hugo. It’s a 3D about creating a space and the feeling of room and a real view on an imagined world rather than explosions and chases. It’s about inviting the viewer closer to an intimate tale, involving the audience more than before and the main component to that is the photography.

Best Makeup

Tyler Labine & Alan Tudyk in Tucker & Dale vs. Evil (Magnet Releasing)


Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2
Super 8

Tucker & Dale vs. Evil

Rammbock
Winter in Wartime

This one is always tough. Substandard makeup work is always easier to spot. Natural makeup work is easy to take for granted and effects makeup is easy to over-value. More axioms are possible but that’s the bottom line so typically what I seek is something unique in the mix with standard work, which is the case for most of these nominees. The most versatile though is the cross-section in Tucker & Dale vs. Evil you have college kids (standard) the backwoods characters unfairly looked-down-upon (a bit more unkempt) then your effects (blood & gore) all done brilliantly.

Best Original Screenplay

JJ Abrams on the set of Super 8 (LA Times)

J.J. Abrams Super 8


Michel Hazanvicius The Artist
Benjamin Hessler Rammbock
Stevan Mena Bereavement
Paolo Virzì and Francesco Bruni and Francesco Piccolo The First Beautiful Thing

“Bad things happen, but you can still live.”

That’s the line that sends Super 8 above and beyond the other worthy candidates. One sentence comprised of eight words gives two characters (one not of this world, one a boy forced to grow up too fast) the strength to move on. There are other examples in this film where sparse, terse statements say so much: “I am in him as he is in me…” and so on.

Not to go overlooked without additional praise are the other writers here: Michel Hanzavicius not only wrote a great script for a mostly silent film but also used sound and dialogue on a few occasions in such a brilliant way emphasizing how important they are by not wasting them on trivialities. Benjamin Hessler in an hour of screen time accomplishes so much it’s awe-inspiring. Watch Rammbock. The First Beautiful Thing builds character and manipulates time magnificently. Bereavement is the best horror film I’ve seen in a decade concept and script are the cornerstone to that.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Martin Scorsese shows and illustration from the book to Asa Butterfield and Chloe Grace Moretz (Paramount)

Marti Noxon and Tom Holland Fright Night
Steve Kloves and JK Rowling Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2

John Logan and Brian Selznick Hugo
Lee Hall and Nigel Slater 
Toast

Mieke de Jong, Martin Koolhoven, Paul Jan Nelissen and Jan Terlouw Winter in Wartime

Similar to the other screenwriting category a lot of praise to go around here: Fright Night had some of the smartest, funniest dialogue of the year. Lee Hall’s sensitivty and talents know no bounds. Winter in Wartime is a grossly overlooked and underrated film that will please fans of many genres. Lastly, I don’t think I’ve ever not nominated Steven Kloves for a Harry Potter film but that does not diminish his contribution to the series or these nominations. Changing directors was something the series could survive but not screenwriter. Had he not been a mainstay it would’ve been very different.

As for the winner as many have noted, and I picked up on a few of these as well, there are marked differences between Hugo as a book and a movie that go well beyond just the title. All of these changes enhance the film. They make the story work better on film. They were made with the medium in which they were telling the story in mind and they worked brilliantly.

Best Editing

The Tree of Life (Fox Searchlight)

Job ter Berg Winter in Wartime
Mary Ann Brandon and Mary Jo Markey Super 8

Mark Day Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2

Thelma Schoonmaker Hugo

Hank Corwin, Jay Rabinowitz, Daniel Rezende, Billy Weber and Mark Yoshikawa The Tree of Life


It is often said that all films are made three times. The first is the script, the second is principal photography and the third is in the editing room. Never has a film being made in the edit been more clear than in The Tree of Life. I’d love to see the original script and the supposed 4-hour cut but everything you think of this film whether you love it as I do or you hate it comes down to the editing. Even the cinematography which would be brilliant regardless is better because of the way the images splice together. Perfect frame to perfect frame, disconnected thought to disconnected thought. It like every film is a puzzle. In this one you can place the pieces together how you please and tell people what you see. Not the other way around.

Best Score



Stevan Mena Bereavement
Alexandre Desplat Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2
Howard Shore Hugo
Michael Giacchino Super 8

Jónsi We Bought a Zoo

With these categories not much needs saying. These scores are all great. This clip and the way it plays with the ending are what clinches it for Super 8.

Best Sound Editing/Mixing

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2
Hugo
Super 8


Real Steel


X-Men: First Class

I rarely get actively excited about sound design though it does interest me. I took a sound class and did a lot of very hard work in it and learned a hell of a lot but the bottom line as this sequence and the film progresses the fades, levels, cuts and creation of these sounds, whether it be a compartment door slamming into the ground, an explosion or Cooper’s (the alien) roar it all fascinated and inspired me and made me pay attention, immediately on first viewing.

Best Visual Effects

The Adventures of Tintin
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2
Hugo

Super 8


Real Steel

The real litmus test for special effects is not thinking “Oh, those effects are really good” but rather not thinking about them at all then realize what they were, now that’s impressive. Even more impressive when you learn about what was done to create them. The video above is a quick illustration of what went into Real Steel. The only film wherein I didn’t think about effects until after I’d seen it.

Best Art Direction

Asa Butterfield and Ben Kingsley in Hugo (Paramount)

Anonymous

Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame
Hugo

Winter in Wartime

X-Men: First Class

Art Direction frequently goes hand in hand with cinematography in Hugo more so than most. In a situation where you’re bringing an audience into a world attention to detail is of paramount importance the sets and their dressings become like a character.

Best Costumes

Sacha Baron Cohen, Chloë Grace Moretz and Asa Butterfield in Hugo (Paramount)


Drive

Hugo

Super 8
Terri

Toast

I don’t care for the period bias that exists in costuming therefore I make sure to pay extra attention in modern/present day films to see if something catches my eye and a few nominees reflect that. What works best in Hugo has nothing to do with the fact that there’s an attempt to capture a time or a place but rather to create looks emblematic of character as frequently the actor has but one look through a majority of the movie. For the Station Master there was created a uniform as idiosyncratic as he is, for Hugo an outfit that at one time might’ve been his best but is now tattered and ratty and his only one similarly for Isabelle she is better dressed but always recognizable and so on. Adding to the 3D element all the decisions made here and in Art Direction also take texture into consideration: tweeds, wool and other fabrics with character are chosen.

Best Song

Justin Bieber in Justin Bieber: Never Say Never (Paramount)

“Chatte Batte” Chillar Party
“Exploded Diaper” Löded Diper Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules
“I Want Candy” Cody Simpson Hop
Born to be Somebody” Justin Bieber Justin Bieber: Never Say Never
“Pictures in My Head” The Muppets

“Let Me Take You to Rio (Blu’s Arrival)” Ester Dean & Carlinhos Brown Rio

If you look at past winners in this category you’ll see diversity. Here there is too: Chatte Batte is a sung in voice-over theme song from a Bollywood kids’ comedy. I have a weakness for Bollywood due to a college course so I really should see more. One of the BAM Awards past quirks was that a Bollywood film Lagaan was up for Best Picture and nothing else.

Second, is essentially a rock song but it’s also a jokey kind of song which is one of the highlights of Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules. Jokey and Rock combos also have precedent amongst past winners.

Hop isn’t all that great but it features a pretty good cover of “I Want Candy” and that song lifts the film some when used. Covers also have precedent hence I usually remove the Original from the category name.

The Muppets could’ve easily had a few nominees and I didn’t expect that when the process started and now is as good a time as any to say “Yes, I do surprise myself sometimes and I’m not 100% sure of every single nominee before I start.” With The Muppets it was a case of the first impression not being as strong but the songs stuck after a while.

So why Justin Bieber‘s song? As a recent Twitter conversation made me realize songs in films in general are less thought about and less integral than they ever have been. Another issue is how does one judge the pedigree of the “Original” song or song in this case. Now whether or not the song was really written for the film is a dicey and difficult thing to prove, which is why I ceased to care about that so much. Therefore it’s really about a song debuting in the film or a well done cover.

If one looks at past Original Song Oscar winners you can see they used to be far more iconic and in the middle of the picture than recently; a past example being “Let the River Run” by Carly Simon in Working Girl. Aside from seeing more movies, which after a record-setting year would be hard to do, there’s little I can do to affect the field. Songs don’t play as much of a role so how good a song is a huge criteria. I like all these songs. That’s simple.

The bigger criteria is the influence they have on the overall film. That is clear to see in Muppets where it sets the nostalgic, quasi-melancholy tone before the reunion and in Rio where it’s a joyous celebration of locale. That puts those above songs from Hop and Diary of a Wimpy Kid because those songs merely accompany incidents and don’t shed light on any of the story.

However, as I wrote in my initial review of Never Say Never the story of the documentary is not only Bieber’s but also that of his fanbase who more so than with any other artist propelled him from anonymity to viral sensation to global superstar faster than had ever before been seen. The lyrics of the song by Diane Warren are ostensibly about him but could apply to anyone. Also, while this song plays over the credits it’s accompanied by footage which brings the story full circle and thus music matches the imagery and enhances the end of the film, which depending on execution can be its most important moment. So whether it was “slapped on” in actuality or not it doesn’t feel like it is and is a coda to the film that matches the emotion of the piece so well. You can dismiss it as excuse to get another single for him on iTunes and to tie into the movie but it works aesthetically in my estimation so that’s what matters since marketing is a fact of life. Aesthetics and marketing are more closely tied in film than in any other artform.

Also, the fact that “Never Say Never” spawned a movie and in that movie would be another worthy original song is pretty surreal if you think about it. In a way that fact reflects the film and the story in general.

In Defense of: Dubbing

(GrafittiStudio.Com)

It is quite easy to discuss what the cons of dubbing are. Many of us whether we consider ourselves to be filmsnobs or not agree with most if not all of them. Yet, I will within these paragraphs play devil’s advocate. To be completely frank, I’m doing more than that. I am taking a global view in this piece so while you will read me vehemently explain and defend dubbing as a necessity (in some cases, and an artform when done well) I do prefer to watch a film, in which I do not know the language, subtitled.

So very quickly here is the east part where we can agree on are the cons of dubbing:

Cons

When watching a film dubbed you are automatically submitting to a film wherein you are not witnessing the original vision of the director. The actors choices are re-interepreted as is his text. The edit is compromised in terms of intonation and inflection. The director’s choices are muted. A good dub will try and replicate as closely as it can what those choices are but a copy and a translation are not the same thing as hearing the original audio. Not to say that subtitles are impeachable. I know of at least two cases where edits tantamount to censorship occurred in subtitles making the theatrical release and the home video release quite different.

The biggest con for me, an American consumer who enjoys films from all around the world, is that many times in North American distribution dubbing is a “business decision.” This kind of decision is an attempt to broaden an audience which is niche to begin with and alienating the small but devoted groups of filmgoers who would watch subtitled fare (horror fans and the art house crowd to name two). Without wandering too much into the pro area the North American audience is not the base for which dubbing really is a functional, preferable alternative. We can pick and choose and those of us who will watch foreign films prefer subtitles.

When a film is dubbed suspension of disbelief becomes a major concern. Subtitles do add an artifice but it’s just relaying what is being said. You still hear it as intended. When a film is dubbed there is more artifice to it, it’s something you’re conscious of which is jarring you’re simultaneously distracted by detaching the voice from the actor and giving them a pass and gauging the abilities of the voice over artist. Then there’s the obvious that depending on what language the original was recorded in sync can be very difficult to accomplish at times, or in the worst cases completely disregarded.

And needless to say I have rarely if ever seen English dubbing that was palatable.

Pros

Charles Emmanuel in the studio for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Charles Emmanuel/Warner Bros.)

There is a technique to matching sync on dialogue. With care, performance and at times searching for synonyms or synonymous sentences it can be accomplished even when the languages in question have a large gulf between them.

So there’s technique, that’s fine, most would even be willing to grant that if they’ve seen halfway decent dubbing, however, too much dubbing experience is in Japanese monster movies of the 50s and 60s. There is, however, an art to it as well. Now I come to these conclusions because I speak two languages fluently (English and Portuguese) therefore if I am already familiar with material I can and have examined it dubbed and found some of them enjoyable. The first spark I had when I was about 13 I think and I saw Home Alone in Brazil and was rather impressed by how natural it managed to seem.

It was my most recent trip to Brazil that really got me thinking about dubbing more and differently. Just prior I had started to think of it because all of a sudden I did a “Where are They Now?” kind of search, the kind the internet seems specifically designed for and discovered that one actor who’s work I had enjoyed had taken to dubbing as he came of age and transitioned from being a child actor mostly on screen to mostly voice over work.

When in Brazil though I did some more watching and thinking. First, as I would often peruse the local showtimes seeking something to see (I ended up only seeing Harry Potter 7.2 there) I noticed things. For example, there was only one showing I could find in Rio for Winnie the Pooh that was subtitled. The reason is target audience. Little kids can’t read or very well so it’s easier for them to watch and comprehend a film from another country dubbed than it is subtitled. With most of the cinematic product around the world being American young people make it a necessity the world over.

However, children’s films and children as audience members only make up a small portion of the global box office Hollywood is so eager to conquer. The other reality dubbing addresses is that many countries throughout the world have lower than average literacy rate, thus subtitles present an issue. Many of the films coming out of Hollywood are easy enough to follow just a bit of assistance is needed to make it accessible to that many more people. Dubbing bridges that gap too.

So there’s a duality of purpose. The studios want a more impressive international gross and people the world round need entertainment. So its functionality is very clear. Especially when you consider the fact that the need for dubbing creates jobs for actors, recordists, editors and so on the world round in nations whose entertainment industries may not be as robust.

However, I needed to test the potential for artistry again. Being a kid seeing Home Alone, which I knew and still know quite well, opened the window in my mind allowing the possibility that seeing a dubbed film could be beyond tolerable but even enjoyable. However, the more we watch the more jaded we become. The more we study the less impressed we end to be. A new test case was needed. Again, Harry Potter fit the bill.

I must say that I did see The Deathly Hallows Part 2 subtitled, as it was a new film to me and I wanted to realize it fully. Therefore, considering it was the hot film series of the moment it was easy enough to find both on sale and readily available at people’s homes. My test case was Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, in part because the “Where Are They Now?” actor (Charles Emmanuel) who I’d re-discovered as a dubbist played Ron Weasley in all eight films.

The first thing that struck me was how much better I knew the film than I thought. I knew it quite well indeed enough that I noticed the nuanced changes in language, syntax, intonation, inflection and so on that were made to make the film register as more natural in the language spoken. I reiterate that I must see a film many times before I can submit to seeing it dubbed but it is a masterfully well done job. I even managed to get the sense from it how one can become accustomed to and prefer the dubbed version when that’s all they’ve ever know, which is typically the case with animation. Only studio and network-based international networks show American programming mostly subtitled there.

So that was a revelation and then came another most recently and unexpectedly. I actuality this piece, though I have long pondered it would likely not exist without the following story. The reason that is so is that it’s all well and good to wax philosophical about the hypothetical (to the inexperienced) benefits of dubbing especially when most of them aren’t aesthetic but it’s another to get some insight into how two actors, each of whom portray the same character viewed their dubbing experience.

Dylan Riley Snyder

While on Twitter I saw a tweet from Dylan Riley Snyder (an actor whom you may know from either Disney XD’s Kickin’ It or Todd Solondz’s Life During Wartime) the link was a YouTube clip of scenes from Kickin’ It dubbed into Portuguese, the Brazilian version. I, of course, watched it and rather enjoyed it and was able to laugh at some of the same bits in the same way that I had in English.

The clips were uploaded to the dubbist’s personal Youtube but as of yet Snyder had not been able to discern if he had a Twitter account. After a quick search I was able to find it and relay it. So there I had discovered that the actor originating the role, to borrow the stage term, had heard the dubbist’s work and approved.

I was then further surprised by the ability to get insight into the other more unknown aspect of it, the voice over artist’s thoughts on his craft, his role and responsibilities. Bruno Dias had written a blog post and wanted a version translated to English so that Snyder could read it.

What I expected the post to be and what it was were two completely different things. I expected a cordial, complimentary, anecdotal re-telling of their interaction. What was surprising was the preface and the absolute sincerity and clarity with which Bruno Dias described his adopted and beloved form of acting and also the parallels drawn, respect felt for and connection he made with the actor whose work he is interpreting.

It is and always will be a much better explanation of how dubbing can be an artform than I can ever write so I suggest you read it. If one treats their work behind the microphone with the commitment and dedication that an actor onscreen and respects their interpretee’s process and interpretation they will be successful and yes it will be artful.