Tag Archives: Her

A Few Stupid Opinions About the Academy Awards

6 Mar

This post is a day late and a dollar short, but that’s what happens when vacations intersect with self-imposed deadlines and Fat Tuesdays. C’est la vie. I haven’t watched the Oscars in the last 5-10 years. Maybe longer, and there may have been a year that I checked out a moment or two from the show, but the last one I consciously remember watching included Owen Wilson and Ben Stiller hawking their Starsky and Hutch remake. But, I will also say that one of the reasons I got into filmmaking was the Academy Awards. I thought as a youth that there was no validation as powerful and as a gold statuette named Oscar, well an Oscar and being drafted in the Lottery had the same level of validation points in my book. So, in hindsight, it isn’t a big surprise that right around the time I realized that I could never play in the NBA I began to pursue making films. Wow, that’s an embarrassing bit of subconscious motivation I just revealed to the world. (Phew, good thing that only eight people read this blog) Anyway, here are some thoughts not long enough or weighty enough for their own stupid opinion that came about from returning this year to watching the Oscars this year:

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If you haven’t seen the films, the Academy Awards is just a three-hour long commercial, if you’ve seen the films it’s a three-hour opportunity to feel a superficial connection to beautiful, lucky people wearing designer clothes. All award shows are dumb, they are the glamorous under belly of capitalism. But not just award shows, also sports competitions where judges determine the winner, they are nothing more than art sold out to the bank of competition. Both are designed solely to increase the value of art. A way to judge art on something that isn’t emotional impact. The gold medal in figure skating and the Oscar for Best Picture should in theory both be equally worthless to the artists who did the work, but of course that isn’t the case. Steve McQueen will jump for joy, whoever beat Kim Yuna will cry tears of joy. It’s a strange dichotomy of art. Emotional connection is key, but there needs to be exposure to give the opportunity for that connection. The thing I enjoyed about this three hour commercial was that it was presented in a quality way. The graphic design for all of the films was unique, reflected the themes of the films and beautiful. Quality art, design and craftsmanship was used to sell quality cinema, which is more than can be said for any type of art in communist N. Korea.

Next up, the Best Original Screenplay is code for best film in my book. The Academy rarely misses in the category. Nearly all the films nominated are some of the best of the year, in my humble. That or my definition of a quality film is the same as the Academy’s definition of a well written, original film. There is one minor thing that I just can’t seem to wrap my head around, why does the Academy regularly nominate Woody Allen for writing to the tune of sixteen original script nominations, while the Coen Brothers only clock in at two original and three adapted. I wonder if the Academy is susceptible to psychological reactance, where they want it(Woody Allen’s attendance) more when they know they can’t have it. It’s shocking that Inside Llewyn Davis didn’t get a nod, but the blue period Blue Jasmine did. Even with that miss, the Best Original Screenplay is the best example of proper artistic appreciation. So good on ya, Spike Jones.

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Last stupid thought generated by the stupid Oscars is that Matthew McConaughey could be the most likable dude on the planet. What a professional. His acceptance speech was a perfect blend of entrainment and genuine gratitude. If everyone prepared a speech as well crafted as this, instead of playing the false modesty game of not thinking they were going to win, then the Oscars would be worth watching once again. I don’t know if retweeting a picture will make the Oscars more worthwhile, but hearing gems like your hero is yourself ten years in the future is something that makes the three-hour commercial worth it.

-C.Charles

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Much Needed Additinal Categories To The Oscars

18 Jan

Oscar nominations for 2014 are out and Oscar Buzz is in full gear these next couple months. With people rushing out to watch movies just because they’re nominated. We’re all going to talk about who and what got snubbed and how awesome we are because we saw (Insert movie) when it first came out before it got recognition. Now we know there’s problems with the Oscars, like how it’s just millionaires congratulating themselves. Or how they are all vying for the dollars of the average consumer. While at the same time are so out of touch with the general public, since nominations are mostly underdog movies that most people skipped. Also that they have categories 98% of people ignore. Seriously when was the last time anyone watched a “Documentary Short Subject”? I can’t even go into how many things are wrong with the Oscars, it would take all day, but in spite of that I still get caught up in the hysteria.

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If they made just a few small changes it would ripple out, ultimately leading to better movies or even just get the public interested in smaller movies before they’re nominated for anything. At the very least it would add variety to the show. Here are some additional categories I think the Oscars could easily adopt that aren’t also recognized by other award shows like The MTV Movies Awards or The Razzies.

Best Vocal Performance – This is long overdue and the need to honor the vital necessity of a human voice in a film is becoming more relevant in modern times. As computer graphics continue to become better and cheaper they’re being used more and more to generate entire characters visually. While there may come a point where computers can flawlessly replicate every visual detail of a character, they will never be able to replicate their voice, only an actor can provide that. This award doesn’t just nominate voice acting in animated movies (CG or otherwise) but anytime someone’s voice is the only presence they have in that movie, this includes narration in a movie or documentary, and cases like the movie Her. I find it ironic that a movie which asks “Can you date a conscience that isn’t really a person?” had the Academy asking “Can you nominate an person who isn’t ever on screen?”. Of course you can! and should’ve, Oscar people. But since you won’t,  just make a whole new category and award Scarlett Johansson Best Vocal Performance for her Role as the A.I. Samantha in the movie Her.

Best End Credits – They already award “Original Song” which most of the time isn’t heard in full until the end credits anyway, might as well award a movie for having good end credits too. It’s becoming more common for movies to have something other than a list as their end credits. Maybe honoring this extra effort will get more movies to elevate their end credits into something that’s more entertaining than a telephone book. Pixar has always been pretty good about this and it is catching on. Popular options are outtakes, additional scenes, great graphics and concept art, short films, epilogues, Argo even had Jimmy Carter talking about the Iranian escape operation over news photos. But this year best end credits goes to Saving Mr. Banks which played the actual 1964 audio recordings of author P.L. Travers dictating notes to Disney executives on what she expected from the Mary Poppins movie. It was cute, funny, and fascinating.

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Best Alternate Format – Increasingly movies are being released in IMAX and 3D formats this is partially due to technological advancement  and partially an attempt to combat online piracy. Most people are just fine watching a standard movie on a computer screen but you can’t pirate a movie and watch it in IMAX or 3D (3D TVs are stupid and irrelevant and I don’t acknowledge them). So Hollywood is trying to get less movies illegally downloaded and more money at the box office by using these high quality formats. However too many movies are just shitty upconverts, and look terrible. If we want better 3D/IMAX movies and want filmmakers to use these formats to their full potential, rather than just a gimmick, they need to get recognized for quality 3D or shooting in IMAX. I’d even nominate movies that were all in Black and White or very stylized like Sin City. The winner would be the movie that used the alternative format in the best narrative way it could, it can’t just be the best looking IMAX3D it has to be the movie that uses the advantages of IMAX 3D to communicate it’s story. This year It’d go to Gravity.

Best Trailer  – Even trailers are hyped now and online viewings of trailers get more views than some Oscar winning movies and there are multiple youtube channels devoted to trailers. The Best Trailer award has nothing to do with how good that movie is and this is why any movie has a chance to win it. I would judge a trailer, not by how it teased the plot, maybe how interested did it make you about the movie it was advertising. But what would trump everything is just if the trailer is entertaining on its own. I want to live in a universe where Gothic Lolita Battle Bear wins for Best Trailer.

Once seen you’ll never forget it…Enjoy.

 

Carl Wells

A Stupid Opinion about Cinematography

16 Jan

In the year that this blog has been around there have been plenty of stupid opinions written poorly and converted to digital ones and zeros, but this is going to be the stupidest opinion to date: Cinematographers are the most important artists on the set of any movie. The better the cinematography, the better the film. PERIOD!

To show this example I’m going to use zero example pictures, GIFs and only a few descriptions of actual shots in films. Instead I’m going to use the rhythm of my fingers on the keys. Hopefully, this will produce many run-on sentences, grammar errors and missed words to give further justification on this, the most stupidest of opinions.

Now, I have never directed a feature-length film, nor been on the set of one, but I thanks to my cursory knowledge of filmmaking, highly enlightened sense of beauty and ego big enough to have its own blog and two different twitter accounts I feel overly qualified to talk about the importance of cinematography in films. Last weekend, I spent the majority of my time consuming films that have been sprinkled on end-of-the-year lists. I decided in the middle of the watching Her (to clear the palate of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, which was meant to be a sort of moral grounding from watching The Wolf of Wall Street*) that cinematography is the most important thing in the world . . . of cinema.  If films were judged without sound and solely on the images on the screen, both Her and The Wolf of Wall Street would suffer greatly, due to relying a lot on voiceover elements. While Walter Mitty would pretty much be the same movie with a handful of confusing scenes of Walter Mitty talking on a cell phone. But not the case, both Her and The Wolf of Wall Street are clearly superior, even with out their very vital voice over elements and that is because the filmmakers behind those films fucking respect the camera.

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Walter Mitty, while having some beautiful scenery, some helicopter shots, silhouettes and wide shots does not have good cinematography. It is a great example of how NOT to shoot a film. All the pretty things make a slick-looking trailer, but the beautiful shots and exotic elements do nothing to complement the story or themes of the film. I like David Fincher films and I like Ben Stiller comedies, but the two should never meet. The cinematography of this film distracted from the humor of the film and detracts from the elements meant to build depth in the Mitty-man.

Her, on the other hand, is a story where the actor and not action is the key to the film, it could easily become a visual nightmare, but instead it is a visually appealing film that fully creates the world, compliments the character and elevates every scene where a dude is just talking to himself to the level of art. The film opens and within the first minute of the film the filmmakers have already established the world of the film, much more than a thousand helicopter shots and silhouettes against the setting sun. We see Theodore Twombly face speaking tender, revealing words, the same shot that will be repeated throughout the whole film, but the opening shot is revealed to be faux-tender and insincere. The shot is designed to reflects that mis-information, the space surrounding his head is empty and drab, while later in the film the same space surrounding Twombly is illuminated with warm abstract lights and echo the new complexities the character has acquired throughout the film.

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The film looks beautiful, and in a visual medium, this is hands down the most important part. The thing that separates a the movies that are remembered from the films that just look beautiful is the intertwining of the cinematography and story. The best films weave the two so tightly together that the look of the film is the film. In the memorable films the camera perfectly conveys the words of the writer, the emotions of the actors, the sounds and melodies of musicians, the texture, color, mood of frame and the vision of the director into a perfect melding of every art form. There is no writer, actor, composer, director or cinematographer, only filmmakers working in perfect harmony for the means of cinema.

-C. Charles

*A more focused stupid opinion about The Wolf of Wall Street is forth coming.