Sunday, April 22, 2007

Variety Article on Digital Film

Perhaps the digital revolution was not all it was cracked up to be? This article in Variety about the problems facing the storage of digital cinema reveals a chink in the digital armor.

An excerpt:
As far as movies are concerned, digital, like diamonds, was supposed to be forever.

No more dyes to fade, no more film stocks to decay or catch fire. Just pristine digital data, preserved for all time, and release prints as clear and sharp as the images caught by the camera.
Just one problem: For long-term storage, digital is -- so far -- proving to be a time bomb, more permanent than sand painting but not much else.

Simply put, there's no generally accepted way to store digital "footage" for more than a few months. After that the industry is using a hodgepodge of improvised solutions, some rather costly, others not very reliable.

That looked like a small problem when digital film making was limited to low-budget indies, animation houses and tech pioneers like James Cameron and George Lucas.

Now, though, that small problem is growing geometrically as the major studios shift away from film to digital capture. Such recent releases as "300," "Apocalypto," "Zodiac" and "Superman Returns" were shot on digital. Their digital masters could be seriously degraded if the problem isn't addressed quickly.

In fact, the problem is so severe that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences' Science and Technology Council warned in 2005 that within just a few years films shot with digital cameras could be lost.

Generally I have supported the spread of digital film because of the ease of production and post production. What before required a great deal of equipment can now be done, in a simpler form, on home computers. This is rapidly democratizing the film medium and make the form available to all, in much the same way as clay or paint are now available to all. That does not mean that the next Scorsese or Spielberg is going to emerge on YouTube, since studios provide the means for large scale production and distribution, but digital film does allow for more people to dabble in production and this experience will make them appreciate good films.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Happy Friday the 13th!

Happy Friday the 13th! Here are some trailers and assorted clips related to the films found on YouTube. Watching the trailers, it is interesting to observe the progression of the series from a independent slasher film to a multi-million dollar franchise.

Friday the 13th

Friday the 13th Part 2

Friday the 13th Part 3

Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter [Ahem. Part 4]

Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning

Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives

Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives - Music Video

Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood - Deleted Scenes

Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan - Fan Made Music Video

Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday

Jason X

Freddy Vs. Jason

Here is one last video that reveals something interesting about Jason as a pop culture icon. Although the video is meant in fun, Jason has become lovable in an odd way, much like how Dracula began as a vicious fifteenth century warlord, grew into a Victorian vampire, and eventually became a breakfast cereal and a foam puppet that teaches America's kids mathematics. For better or worse, the same seems to be happening to Jason Voorhees.

I will play some Friday the 13th music in this weekend's episode of Maverick at the Movies. If you check out the Features section of the Maverick at the Movies site, I have uploaded an mp3 my interview with Peter Bracke, author of Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Tarantino Dialogue

With the release of Grindhouse, film critics Kim Morgan and David Fear debate the status of Quentin Tarantino's filmography. Here is a sample:

David Fear:
Does "Death Proof," his half of this $53-million homage, do anything but wallow in nostalgia for yesteryear's cheap thrills? It's not like I don't have a soft spot for splatter flicks and anything involving muscle cars going vroom as well. The problem is that once you're done playing spot-the-reference (Ohmygod, the chick that kinda looks like Roberta Collins is driving Kowalski's Dodge Challenger and being rammed by Snake Plissken!), you realize there isn't anything there besides "his obsessions" (e.g., a foot fetish that would rival Luis Buñuel's and others' movies). "Jackie Brown" may have been an adaptation of an Elmore Leonard novel on one level and a sub-blaxploitation crime film on another, but Tarantino also managed to sneak in something heartfelt into the mix: what happens to people when they get older, get burned by life and have to make up for bad decisions and lost time. For him to go from something as emotionally naked as "Brown" to the jukebox cinema of "Kill Bill" (Wow, you've seen a lot of cool Asian movies. Um, congratulations?) felt like a serious step backward. "Grindhouse" is just another series of footnotes masquerading as a narrative.

Kim Morgan:
What's wrong with a guy reveling in his encyclopedic knowledge of exploitation if he's actually being inventive and honest along the way? And both "Kill Bill" and "Death Proof" are incredibly inventive and, as you said of "Jackie Brown" (which I like -- especially Robert Forster's performance), exceptionally naked. He's not just cataloging favorite scenes from Asian cinema, spaghetti Westerns, Brian De Palma, giallo, exploitation and redneck road movies; he's actually building on them, mixing the aesthetic and thematic elements into a feverish work of grand geek opera. And he knows we know that. He's not, like some other "inspired" filmmakers, simply copying Terrence Malick or Martin Scorsese or Robert Altman; he's tweaking and amplifying what he truly knows of life -- movies -- and Tarantino is a fan of cinema from the Grindhouse to the Art House. In that sense, he's a lot like Godard. And, really, a lot like Woody Allen, who also riffs on his influences ("Stardust Memories?" Fellini, anyone?) and continually chats about movies and music throughout his films.

For myself, I am in a little of both camps. In general I do like Tarantino's work. I thought Kill Bill was incredible, with Pulp Fiction following close behind as his greatest work. On the other hand, I think Fear gets to an important point not just for Tarantino but for a lot of pop art of our period. Inter-textual references to movies, music, and other media have become increasingly used as in place of actual observation and the result is a lot of work that is made up of other pieces. Making tribute to your influences is noble, but if filmmakers (or musicians, or novelists) cannot make their own observations, then the work does not amount to much more than hero worship. This is where I think Kim Morgan's observations are right on. She writes that by combining these various genres and styles, Tarantino is able to take the old and make it new. When that is accomplished, and Tarantino did accomplish this in Kill Bill, Reservoir Dogs, and Pulp Fiction, then audiences are treated to something really fulfilling because what it allows him to do is simultaneously make a new experience and comment on the original.