Bernardo Villela is like a mallrat except at the movies. He is a writer, director, editor and film enthusiast who seeks to continue to explore and learn about cinema, chronicle the journey and share his findings.
When film began any things that were deemed worth crediting came at the front, or at latest on a title card. The end of the film was reserved for a card saying “The End” and re-affirming who owned the film. As the film industry became more formal and unionized more crediting became necessary, thus the creation of closing credits at some point in time and the changes to the opening credits. Since both those as well as studio logo and/or fanfare count toward running time there have been tweaks to the the way title sequences are handled to economize in that regard. Here are a few instances and trends I’ve noticed lately.
Probably one of the best tone-setting openings of the year was that to Iron Man 3. I say this in part because it is slightly out of the ordinary:
Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) starts recounting the story. He will ultimately tell how his blowing off Alrdich Killian (Guy Pearce), and his one night stand with May Hansen (Rebecca Hall), came back to haunt him. However, like a few film’s storyteller’s he has a false start. So he starts over. After that false start is when the Marvel logo comes up and Eiffel 65’s “Blue (Da Ba Dee)” starts playing. It’s an inspired musical choice. I never liked that song, but few things say 1999 like it, so it works very well. Following that, the prologue on the eve of Y2K in Bern, Switzerland plays out.
I’m not sure when the plan for the opening title sequence (OTS) came to fruition for this film, but this is part of the reason why screenwriters are instructed never to indicate where the opening credits go. Firstly, because it’s not the screenwriter’s job, but also because even if you did decide in preproduction where it belonged, and what it should entail, it could close you off from a better idea should one present itself.
Perhaps the most inventive thing about the open of the film is that it creates a payoff in the now-obligatory Marvel stinger that most people now know to wait for. This opening also stood out to me though because in 2011 a trend in OTSs developed of quickly flashing the title after an introduction. The title was usually very large, but that was all and the story proceeded unabated from there. Insidious is an example, as is Hanna. Hugo notably brings its music to a climactic crescendo as if a short film had come to a close, but instead the title of the film merely pops up and on we go to the rest of the film.
Whether a protracted OTS at the start, a truncated one after a prologue, or no OTS is requisite depends on the film and it is interesting to follow the tendencies as it is a part of setting the tone of the story and changes in approaches don’t seem to come along very often.
So both here and in Best Cast there was some revisionism over the years, however, rather than try and readjust things I’ll just let things stand where they are at current.
The Best Director category is an interesting one because it is usually, in the mind of many, inextricably tied to the Best Picture winner. There is a certain logic to that, however, they are two rather different awards when you boil it down. In Best Picture you pick the story and the production. In Best Director you are picking a visionary and the architect of a production. There are times when the direction of a film will outshine its narrative or overall impact or a story that is wonderful but handled with a rather invisible hand that allows splits to occur.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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 (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.
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 (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 (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.
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.
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.
Asa Butterfield and Chloë Grace Moretz in Hugo (Paramount)
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.
Tyler Labine & Alan Tudyk in Tucker & Dale vs. Evil (Magnet Releasing)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
Sacha Baron Cohen, Chloë Grace Moretz and Asa Butterfield in Hugo (Paramount)
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.
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.
Ben Kingsley and Asa Butterfield in Hugo (Paramount)
Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Here’s another blog trying to prove how clever they are by linking to all the visual references in Hugo.” Wrong. Granted it’d be more painstaking to jot down the shots and match them to those in the film. However, the purpose of this post is a bit broader.
I have linked to anything and everything I could find. Some are referenced in Hugo, some aren’t. What I really want to people to do is to take a few minutes and watch some of there. Some are quite short. However, I’ve also created this post using just one website.
The internet archive is a great resource for all kinds of material but especially films which have entered the public domain. You can stream and download all kinds of great movies for free.
If you enjoy these movies, as I suspect you will, in their more primitive degraded state then you can look to Flicker Alley who have released many great sets of Georges Méliès rediscovered and restored works on DVD.
If you ever wonder where your dreams come from, look around: this is where they’re made.
-Ben Kingsley, Hugo
Occasionally on Twitter I’ll post a random epiphany-like encapsulation of a belief I have about film in general and hashtag it #filmthought. I have decided to write this one out here because it needs more explanation than Twitter can bear.
Today, I was sitting through my third screening of Hugo (Reviews of some sort on many of the films I’ve seen will come- apologies for being behind on new content) and the theatre I was at had some issues with the polarizer on the 3D projector. The polarizer is essentially what adds the additional D in layman’s terms. If you’re one who is physically or morally averse to 3D you do not want to see it with a polarizer on the fritz. Anyway, that got me thinking, once the issue was resolved, about 3D in very general terms. I will avoid a film if it’s post-converted or slam really poor 3D. However, when there’s an artfulness to it as there is in Hugo and Avatar the technical aspect can wow me personally. For the record, Hugo is an infinitely finer narrative than Avatar.
In watching this tale about the true birth of cinema, at least in part, and seeing such proficiency at the “latest and greatest” innovation I came to a realization. There have been an abundance of articles about how since film is younger than the other arts it always seems to be in peril in the eyes of those who love it most. Whereas 3D, alternate distribution paths and piracy are the big threats once upon a time sound and color threatened to end the seventh art and didn’t.
In a manner of speaking film has gotten somewhat experimental at least in terms of technique. Many techniques are being rolled out before they’re necessarily perfected but solely to innovate. I think a part of the fear of film critics, historians and enthusiasts in general is that they feel history repeats itself and have found cinematic trends to be cannibalistic rather than symbiotic.
That is to say new alternatives present themselves and become dominant rather than an additional option. In the annals of film history, taking all of it into account, it’s becoming one of the more well-rounded arts in terms of media employed. However, what I’d love is for such choices as 2D or 3D, color or black & white, sound or silent to be actual choices.
Think of all the options a filmmaker has in his arsenal if with the potential success of films like Hugo and The Artist.
There are more media than one realizes:
Black and White
Animation (Various techniques of animation as well)
3D is medium when there is thought given to it.
And there are even more rare instances for example: The French filmmaker Chris Marker took the still photograph montage, a wrinkle for an editorial change of pace brought in by the New Wave and created an entire film, La jetée, from it.
It is imperative that film keep its elasticity of form. That the evolution of the art creates more creatures with which this art can be expressed rather than killing them off entirely. Some of these creatures may become increasingly rare but survival of the fittest need not apply to an art especially when there are many artists out there who do not want to conform or be mainstream.
In summation, I will always welcome well done 3D and loathe it when it’s lazy and exploitative. There’s always room for more; in film the ways in which visual narratives can be constructed should not be limited. There are as many ways to tell stories as there are to tell them as long as there is an audience. In an ever diversifying world the artform needs to continue to push aesthetic boundaries not hide away in a CG 3D impermeable shell.