The 83rd Annual Academy Awards

I decided that I would not write during what portion of the red carpet I did watch as attention must be paid. Overall, while in the end there was nothing that will likely go down as a historic Oscar look. It was one of the better looking overall displays I can remember.

I don’t know when this half-hour pre-show started (it wasn’t that long ago). I never really cared for it and it’s a little superfluous and just makes the show end later. Why does it still happen?

Begnini’s celebration is my least favorite acceptance moment. For the record.

You gotta love Steven Spielberg. Wiping the producer’s forehead and giving him water is classic.

Like the opening montage of best picture nominees. Why not the end shot from Inception?

Great opening with Anne Hathaway and James Franco. Great joke in the opening about James ‘appealing to a younger demographic.’ Glad to see the families get introduced.

Tom Hanks presents as Gone with the Windand Titanic get mentioned. Art Direction and Cinematography mentioned early in the show is a nice change. This was not a category I was looking for an upset in Alice in Wonderland takes Art Direction. Shocked.

First, applause of the night upon hearing Wally Pfister’s name called for Cinematography. Very well deserved award. Loved his speech in regards to Nolan.

Another pleasant surprise and the first standing ovation of the night as Kirk Douglas is introduced.

Douglas’s shtick may go down as one of the moments of this year. Also, I have to see Animal Kingdom. It has been decided.

I stand corrected Leo’s speech.

“I’m Banksy”
-Justin Timberlake

Awesomely amazing line.

I said it previously I would be rather happy if The Lost Thing got animated short. Congratulations.

Toy Story 3 wins Best Animated Feature. I knew that already.

Didn’t really like that Screenplay got the short shrift in terms of presentation. No excerpts or anything. Surprised but gladdened by the win for The King’s Speech. I also think that winners should realize there are 23 other winners who all deserve their time to do their thanks and shouldn’t risk taking some time from others.

I want to see In a Better World but am a little surprised it won. It’s the 3rd Danish winner and surprisingly the first since 1959.

Am I the only conspiracy theorist who thinks clips are based on one’s chances of winning? That was not the best scene for Mark Ruffalo at all.

Best part of Bale’s speech was his saying he’d dropped the F-bomb enough already. Oscar-winner or not he’s had plenty of other wonderful and worthy performances not the least of which is the one that launched his career many years ago, Empire of the Sun. All roads lad to Spielberg.

I’ll bet the theme from E.T. has been played at the Oscars every year since 1982. It always makes the closing medley.

OK, so does Trent Reznor and Atticus Finch winning mean that the trend away from composers towards current/former recording artists is going to stick?

First, winner I was extremely geeked about in a while. Sound mixing goes to Inception. And there goes another sweep in the sound categories. I wish I had stats for it but I bet it happens a lot. I have also enjoyed how everyone is thanking Chris Nolan first, almost as if they are trying to subtly point out his being snubbed for Best Director.

I really wish that more time would be spent on the technical awards maybe a special after the earlier presentation. Some really awesome technology gets kind of glossed over.

I need to look into the other Make-Up nominee that I hadn’t heard of, The Way Back. Looks sweet.

Leave it to President Obama to have the best choice as best Oscar-winning song. I’m a little tired of these categories that flex their nominations between three and five. Pick a size. Really, only four songs were nominated? Why? The process is intricate but music is where you can add to your appeal if you’re looking to boost ratings. I was floored when “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp” won that scored high enough to be nominated and win but yet this year songs by Eddie Vedder, Alanis Morissette and Justin Bieber didn’t?

Kudos to Luke Matheny not only on the win but on plugging all the nominees who are iTunes. They were great.

The best, most entertaining part of the night was the musical montage.

Inside Job wins and now I never want to talk about Banksy again.

Billy Crystal comes on for a bit. Always glad to see him back.

Inception wins visual effects and stops Alice’s unthinkable streak.

Jude Law and Robert Downey, Jr. should do something together that’s not as “Holmesy” that was pretty funny stuff.

Listening to the other nominees actually got me rooting for Randy Newman for the first time in years. Some sleepy stuff in there.

Complete and utter failure this year in the “In Memoriam” montage. Firstly, with the lives singing people who were shown didn’t get their due applause like they did in previous years and first the SAG Award show excluded Corey Haim and now the Oscars did too. I assure you he is missed by many film fans and is exclusion is a joke.

Tom Hooper wins for The King’s Speech. Dare they split it?

Best story told by a winner tonight has to be Hooper’s tale about how his mom found out about the play and said “Tom, I just found your next film.”

They were at it again. Kevin Brownlow is a man who has more than earned his Life Achievement award. For all intents and purposes he pioneered preservation and restoration of films and brought many silent films back from the dead. Here is a link to Kevin Spacey’s speech about him at the Governor’s Ball.

I also found it a little humorous that they said Jean-Luc Godard was sorry he couldn’t be there.

This congratulatory intro to lead acting categories is also making it take a lot longer than it has to.

It looks like there’ll be no surprises in the acting categories.

Congratulations to Colin Firth for his win. It’s his first but it shouldn’t be. If you haven’t seen A Single Man you most definitely should. It’s good to know that some people do get their due.

Listing the previous winners and nominees in the Best Picture category is a great way to lead off the Best Picture montage.

The King’s Speech wins Best Picture and now I can rest comfortably.

The finale was a fanastic and needed addition to the show. It was either ending on a jubilant note or a down one based on where my rooting interest were. if they keep this up it’ll be a fantastic close every year. Great job, P.S. 22.

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Justin Bieber: Never Say Never Extended Cut Coming this Weekend

Justin Bieber in never Say Never (Paramount Pictures)

As previously reported Paramount is poised to release an extended cut of Justin Bieber: Never Say Never this coming weekend, for one weekend only.

Reports vary between sources about how much content would be added but estimates are between 30-40 pushing the running time over two hours.

The film will include music which is not seen in the current cut, more friend footage and other things which were suggested by fans and already existed but were excised pre-release. What’s perhaps most compelling is that the film will get somewhat reflexive and include footage of fans watching the sneak preview of the film on February 9th, which truly brings the story of the film full circle. Jon Chu, director, in the video embedded below talks about how this film fits the mold being made by the current artist.

Ultimately, it is quite likely that the correct decisions were made for the initial theatrical release as it was quite a successful that told a well-rounded tale and didn’t just shoot concert footage all fancy like but it would be interesting to see what was left out and how an extended cut change things. Again it’s something you can look at a few ways: either crass or a team and crew going the extra step to thank the fans who made all of this possible. With all the suggestions and the technology available (as Chu mentions it’s screening in 90% digitally-capable cinemas) these were easy request to accommodate and documentaries offer more flexibility.

It is also being reported that the film will be released on DVD in August. That has yet to be confirmed by Paramount and clearly details don’t yet exist about it.

Review- Waiting for ‘Superman’

Geoffrey Canada in Waiting for 'Superman'

Waiting for ‘Superman’ comes out on video today

When I was about 14 years old the film Hoop Dreams came out. At the end of that year Roger Ebert cited it as one of, if not the best movies of the year. This is not an Ebert rant but a point shall be made. At the time being young, naive and having not seen it I didn’t know how that could be possible for a documentary to earn that kind of praise. I have become enlightened since then and this film is proof that it can indeed happen and is likely to stand amongst the best films of the year.

Another reason that anecdote was relayed is that this is a personal film. It is personal in many ways not only in that it focuses on individual children while examining the system as a whole but also because as you watch it you’d be hard pressed not to think back to your public schooling experience and either remember something very reminiscent from your own past or come to some greater understanding of the monstrous machine in which you were raised.

Which brings me to my next point: this film is not propagandist. There are several statistics illustrated and cited (if you look close you can see sources). So there is support for the film’s claim that the system is broken and what a bulk of the information is trying to discover factors that lead to that and what possible solutions are.

It is most jarring especially if you were public schooled but were perhaps not well-versed in the politics of the system and some of the terminology. By highlighting a nauseating systemic issue with the individual struggles of children today in our educational system it does become a very emotional experience indeed.

Not to give much away but there are many issues that will be examined like Tracking, The Lemon Dance, The Rubber Room, Tenure and Union Dysfunction. Hearkening back to an earlier point, aside from humorous and creative use of archival footage there is nothing done in the edit to paint anyone in a worse light than they are painting themselves.

Documentaries are a tough business. You have to go where the facts and the footage take you despite what you set out believing. What Guggenheim does well is not only personalize his subject matter but pick topics for which there is overwhelming statistical data to support his hypothesis.

The film shows you the odds these kids are facing as they are trying to get into a school that will give them a better chance, one that won’t allow them to get lost in the shuffle. They are odds that seem insurmountable and surely the results aren’t always great but the film does allow for a glimmer of hope.

First, it is creating a dialogue much like his previous film An Inconvenient Truth did for global climate change. However, in another great piece of marketing from the folks at Paramount it is allowing people to make a difference, even more than the Pledge to see this film which is similar to the Demand to see Paranormal Activity campaign. Everyone who purchases a ticket gets a $15 voucher to donate to their favorite educational program. Details are available here.

Davis Guggenheim was last in the news for backing out of the Justin Bieber 3D film due to the need to promote this film. It was the right choice. John Chu is more than capable of handling that and this film needs its director supporting and publicizing it much as we need it seen and it needed being made.

10/10

Review- Never Say Never

Justin Bieber in Never Say Never (Paramount Pictures)

If there was one thing that was most frustrating about watching Step Up 3 last year, whether it be the 3D version or otherwise, was the fact that there were moments that were magic about it that were almost immediately contradicted or overwhelmed. You could see that Jon Chu had latched onto something at least for a fleeting moment that was like catching lightning in a bottle but there just wasn’t quite enough in the story to propel the film past a few moments of grace and charm.

While I typically avoid any sort of comparative analysis in a review of a single film I mention this to begin the case for Never Say Never and may need to resort to it again to make a point. Chu is, in fact, the perfect candidate for this project because while prior it was like he was wringing a dry sponge here the story existed and it’s the kind of thing you can’t make up and he absolutely nailed it as far a making it a piece of narrative cinema.

Absolutely stripping away any notions you may have pre-conceived or otherwise about the music this film is quite amazing and exhilarating and that has every bit as much to do with the crafting of the film as it does with the narrative it tells.

So far as the crafting is concerned: the edit of this film great and rather impressive and, of course, it interlinks with the narrative. While the story is framed as a countdown to one show, Madison Square Garden, it is told neither chronologically nor does a majority of it take place there.

As the production team had protested for months most of the film is not a concert, hence it’s a little misleading to label it a concert film. There is footage, of course, but rarely is a full song used but what’s most incredible is that all the songs are placed perfectly just watch and listen to the tempo and the lyrics in conjunction with the flow of the film.

As much show footage as there is it doesn’t end up being about the show but about the journey but it’s not a one-sided tale. It tells things both from the perspective of Bieber and his team and with man-on-the-street interviews with his fans. So it makes sense that in a tale as someone who has been launched to astronomical heights thanks to the fervent devotion of his fans that both tales be told as they truly are one.

That is where this film truly separates itself from the other two recent teen sensation films (Miley Cyrus and The Jonas Brothers): this is a personal chronicle and the concert is not the thrust of the film but used as peaks and the big show is used as the climax. Whereas, you saw some goofy-we’re-trying-to-show-how-we’re-like-the-Beatles interstitial scenes in the Jonas Brothers film you didn’t learn anything about them or their journey. This film puts you both in the position of the performer and the audience almost simultaneously, which is quite a feat.

As if further evidence is needed that this film isn’t about the concert there is a star-studded line-up of guest performers, including Miley Cyrus herself in a duet, and it doesn’t detract or elevate things it just fits right into the mix.

It’s not a completely skewed depiction of the performer either. There is a part of the film, which propels the film towards its climax with stakes raised and plays almost like it was scripted, wherein Bieber is fighting off a throat infection and swollen vocal chords just before the MSG show, and his vocal coach asks him if he’d been straining his voice outside the performances. He, of course, responds “No” and then there is a quick montage hearkening back to a short layover he had in a hometown where he’s yelling and gallivanting with his friends that is quite funny.

Like almost anything he does, the film doesn’t take itself or its subject, too seriously and just shows things as they are. In showing him, as much as a film can in this format, as a real person there it can establish its dual connection to both performer and audience.

In the end, many quick flashes of home video and YouTube clips that started off the tale are quickly spliced into the last musical performance of the film and hint at the completion of the journey. The journey concludes in a frame wherein an anonymous user is linking their friends to his videos and hence the viral machine starts. There is also some very creative use of graphics displaying YouTube comments, tweets, subtitles and titles that also gave the film a little more cinematic leverage.

Watching this film, again based on comparison with the other two, was like being at a concert. It was virtually the same atmosphere. That alone should say something. It’s easy enough to dismiss this film as a crass money-grab if you want to but if you watch this and see it as anything less than a sincere depiction and a thank you to those who got Bieber where he is you’re not watching closely enough.

This is a film that is exciting and exhilarating cinematically if you give it an unbiased look and watch it as film, which is what it is. It’s not a concert film because there’s so much more to it than that. It’s the full story of this phenomenon about as well as it can be told. Kudos to Jon Chu and Paramount.

10/10

Why “Never Say Never” Makes Sense

This is a re-post from when Never Say Never was first announced. It makes sense to post it again on the verge of the film’s release.

Never Say Never (Paramount)

So recently both on his Twitter feed and on several media sources it was reported that Justin Bieber was to be the subject of an upcoming film release. The film would follow his world tour, intercut live performances be part doc, part biopic and be in 3D. Academy-award winning director Davis Guggenheim was attached to direct it, that has changed but those were the facts.
 
I find it a little humorous some of the reactions this announcement has been met with. Surprise should not be among the reactions though, derision though not necessarily deserved, was expected.
 
Taking some of these facts into consideration: Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus (as if they’re really two different people), The Jonas Brothers and even Celine Dion, of all people, recently had concert films so announcement this should be no surprise at all. Not to mention the record-breaking Michael Jackson doc This is It.
 
Not only is he talented but he’s out-earning all those acts at this point so of course a studio is going to want to put out a film. Being one who is familiar with him from his days of being pre-viral on YouTube it shocks even me that his rise to near pop immortality has been so meteoric and persistent.
 
And in 3D? Of course. Even though 3D fatigue is setting in, regardless of what scoffing studio execs say, there will still be those projects that will do it, and succeed, especially since a little more than a year has passed since Avatar smashed box office records just because it was shot in 3D. The overcharge, I mean surcharge, made it its money.
 
However, with him being a lightning rod anything Bieber-related is immediately fodder for conversation both positive and negative. It would seem this film is being overly-characterized as as a biopic, in the traditional sense of the word, much the way the photo book of his tour was being referred to as a memoir, where it is truly more of a chronicle, even if you don’t buy his assertion of it being a photo book.
 
Even more recently it was reported that Davis Guggenheim was dropping out. He is citing commitment issues as he will be plugging Waiting for Superman, his latest documentary about public education in the US, obviously there is speculation that he dropped it because his name was being dragged through the mud and the money wasn’t worth it.
 
I won’t comment on a personal/business decision but it most definitely would’ve been very time consuming. However, I don’t view this film as littering the cinematic landscape as it’s not a narrative film. It’s disposable (if you want it to be) entertainment that you can use once and destroy if you so wish and has no bearing on the overall aesthetic landscape of cinema as a whole.
 
This film will come and go and cinema will go on, so jokes or actual fears about the end times are greatly exaggerated.

The Effect of YouTube

YouTube of course is one of the most used and most important websites on the Internet. As will be displayed below there are many ways in which YouTube has already effected the film industry and many more ways in which it can and should in the future.

Self-Shooting and First Person

The image of an arm disappearing off-frame where it is holding the camera is not uncommon in digital photography and not unheard of on YouTube. Some films have been shot first person meaning the film was self-conscious and aware and the person filming is a character, like The Blair Witch Project, Cloverfield and Diary of the Dead.

With so many vlogging and freely adjusting the camera while rolling it is an image that the people are now used to, and will accept this kind of image, and it wouldn’t be surprising if it started getting incorporated into narrative features more often than it is.



Viral Marketing

Several films have already taken to creating footage to be used only for their viral marketing purposes – most recently and notably a “leak” of footage for Cloverfield 2.  The buzz surrounding Paranormal Activity was also aided in part due to its trailer being on YouTube.

When original content was first created a few years ago solely for the purposes of promoting a film you knew that it was going to be, and it continues to be, a crucial part of marketing a film. Even if not creative no major release leaves either YouTube or Apple’s trailer site out of their promotional plans.

Jump Cuts

OK, so jump cuts are nothing new and have been a somewhat tolerated part of the language of film since the French New Wave but it is truly only through the fictional narratives created on YouTube, both crude and refined, that people have en masse truly accepted the fact that continuity is a contrivance which can be forsaken for effect, if necessary.

Even the music video, which planted this seed, never fully communicated this because very few have a coherent narrative. So it was really only when the everyman got on their home video camera or webcam and started to edit that the jump cut became not just acceptable but almost preferred.

Granted the jump cut isn’t predominant in feature films, however, films don’t feel the need to justify or feel timid about using them when they need to.

Mash-Ups

This is a concept original to video sites in their way. It takes the audio and visual associate with a song and presents an alternative to the remix and ultimately creates a new song. Yet the phrase mash-up was quickly re-appropriated to merely mean combining ideas and not so specific to music so it’s not inconceivable that the idea can be used to conjoin disparate ideas in one motion picture.

In a Hollywood littered with prequels, sequels, remakes and reboots it’s certainly within the realm of possibility.
 
Trailer Recuts

Another popular YouTube trend is to recut a trailer with carefully chosen dialogue and different music to make it seem like it was created for another genre altogether. One of the most famous examples is Mary Poppins as a horror film.

Now while this is usually just film enthusiasts having fun again we are in an age where executives are looking to repackage, re-brand and recycle wherever possible and considering the studios own the depictions of these films they created on screen it is not out of the realm of possibility that they go with an idea they find online, pay off the viral editor and go off and turn The Shining into a family film.

Pre-Makes

A recent trend in which modern era movies are spoofed as trailers from the golden age splicing footage from those old films to make it seem like the older star appeared in the newer film. A for example: Indiana Jones cut as if it was a 1950s serial or Ghostbusters in the 1950s.

An even more literal interpretation of this concept of using a bygone star in a modern idea could be accomplished through motion capture or 3D animation and a deal with the estate. If that sounds a little crass keep in mind Gene Kelly has posthumously danced with a vacuum cleaner so sometimes money does outweigh legacy unfortunately.

Handheld

Handheld imagery is already well accepted by modern audiences. However, the YouTube influence is that people will become so used to seeing wildly unsteady imagery that there will be less and less concern about stable images and Steadicam.

This could be a very bad thing in the case of Quantum of Solace the combination of handheld camera work, editing and rapidity of the fight render the action nearly incomprehensible.

The positive could be an added element of realism where a film would not feel the need to cut to a more stable image or a different angle and want to exploit the sense of realism the lack of cuts would create. Images don’t always have to be pretty so long as they are effective too many modern films fail in their hand holding on both accounts.

Video

It’s kind of obvious but needs saying regardless: save for the rare loon, such as yours truly, people are rarely uploading digitized film projects on to YouTube. They typically are all native to video in one form or another. So proponents of the digital revolution in the late 90s were indeed correct only premature.

Video is getting better looking all the time and people are used to it and will accept it unquestionably. Being consistently bombarded by video that’s in a resolution less than ideal on the Internet has aided the transition.

Fred

There are no history books likely to be written about what was the first video that was considered to have gone viral and even YouTube with its statistics keeping would be hard-pressed to quantify many statistics anymore considering how widespread usage of the site has become.

However, it was recently was announced that Fred, a YouTube persona created by teenager Lucas Cruikshank was optioned to a feature film. Should it come to fruition it would be the first concept to go from YouTube to a feature film. A few instances exist of YouTube inspiring commercials but nothing like this.

This would likely be a litmus test for other YouTube sensations in the film world (the music world has already been notably affected with Justin Bieber’s career owing its existence to YouTube popularity) but more than likely a few better, if not as popular people might get deals because of this and it would obviously be the most direct influence of YouTube on cinema: content.

Recently, a Uruguayan filmmaker signed a deal on the strength of his YouTube Short.

Casting

Troye Sivan in X-Men Origins: Wolverine


YouTube has already notably played a part in the casting of a major Hollywood motion picture. Troye Sivan gained notoriety on YouTube mainly just by singing a cappella and gaining attention including that of a casting agent. The agent got in contact with him and gauged his interest in acting and sent him out on a series of auditions. The first of which was for X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

He landed the role, played Young Logan and the rest is history. It is not likely the last story of that kind which will occur.
 

Photo Montage

Another popular motif on YouTube is that of the still picture montage. It is rarely a tag but is a very frequently used technique that could be effectively used in film because in an art form predicated on the moving image to stop the motion whether through a freeze frame or a still is a very powerful maneuver.

Recently, a very effective still picture montage was used at the end of The Hangover, which showed the audience the digital photos from their wild forgotten night.

Structure

This could be the way in which YouTube has the most potential to revolutionize conventional narrative cinema as we know it. Unless a user is uber-popular and they become a “content provider” you are limited to 10 minutes or less. Flow varies and structure is unheard of, however, that does not keep many videos from being quite entertaining and creative while not traditionally structured.

However, at this day and age what has traditional structure really gotten us anyway? At this point, in many cases, all structure does is facilitate unoriginal plotlines that are made in cookie-cutter forms. When something new and original comes along it typically at least bends if not breaks the rules of narrative form so it is not far-fetched to consider that the YouTube videomakers of today could be the cinematic mavericks of tomorrow.

Therefore I call upon the YouTube generation to continue shooting, editing and telling tales the way you want to tell them and the world will listen. If not now, soon.

Conclusion

These are just some of the small ways in which YouTube can affect films. Considering how slow the learning curve is in Hollywood the effect can still permute in the years to come and let us hope that it does. It may create fascinating if not always brilliant work. At this rate it is the only current forum that can be considered a vox populi. It is a movement in and of itself even if not self-conscious of it. For that reason alone the impact is likely to be felt because as studios seek to emulate the viral style they will think it was their idea in the first place but really it was ours and that would be the greatest victory of all.