Lovely survey of 2017's best cinematography

No Film school curated a best-of list showcasing some of the most striking and innovative cinematography from 2017. Read the rest

Review: Bright (2017)

The introductory sequence of Bright is enchanting: signs and street art in Los Angeles that describe a world where the races of historical high fantasy stuck around into the present day to become the mocked or honored subjects of political graffiti.

But once characters start talking, this geeky cool evaporates into a mediocre buddy-cop movie. The swirling fantasy tropes are a trash gyre on the seas of racial allegory.

Bright's contemporary LA is also anchored in the past, all sterotypical gang violence, decrepit public services and despotic crime lords. At the top of society are elves, whose fortified enclaves echo South African apartheid more than Jim Crow. At the bottom are orcs, an underclass repressed due to their former allegiance to a long-defeated Dark Lord.

In the middle is humankind, whose own internal racial consciousness and strata are supposedly absent or muted in the world of Bright—but whose humans constantly exhibit our world's racial conscioussness and strata.

When star Will Smith's character kills a verminous bat-like fairy, for example, he declares that "Fairy lives don't matter today." The "today" warps a quip into darker territory: it suggests that fairies are sentient enough for there to be a slogan opposing the moral insignificance of their lives and that he is sick of hearing about it. Smith apparently ad-libbed the line, and offers a similar one later, telling an Orc to get his "Shrek ass" out of the way.

Imagine the cultural signifiance of Shrek in the world of Bright! Read the rest

A whimsical map of movies, geographically by genre

David Honnorat created The Great Map of Movieland, a delightful atlas showing 1,800 movies organized into regions by genres. Read the rest

Terror-nuggets: winners of this year's 15 Second Horror Film contest

The 15 Second Horror Film Challenge is an annual competition run by a nonprofit (you have until Oct 2018 to get your entries in for next year). This year's top twenty has some entries that literally made the hair on my neck stand up, especially Luma Films' Good Night, which is an especially good take on a recurring horror theme. More of my favorites below. (via JWZ) Read the rest

Emma, a 15-second horror movie

Daniel Limmer's Emma is a short, effective horror film that lasts just 15 seconds, one of many entered in the aptly-named "15 Second Horror Film Challenge."

It echoes a scene from M. Night Shyamalan's Sixth Sense:

(Previously) Read the rest

Fan theory: in Home Alone, Kevin is dead

Erin Gloria Ryan reviews the evidence for a powerful cinematic hypothesis: in the movie "Home Alone," the abandoned youngster played by Macaulay Culkin is in fact dead.

One of the most telling moments in the film comes when Kevin’s mother hitches a ride with a polka band, led by Gus Polinski (John Candy). In the back of a Budget rental truck, Kate asks Gus if he’d ever left his kid home alone. Gus replies that he’d actually left his kid at a funeral parlor once, all day long. Kate says, “Maybe we shouldn’t talk about this.” Gus points out that she had brought it up. “I’m sorry I did,” says Kate, mad with grief.

The best fan theory since "the kids in the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon died when the rollercoaster collapsed and they are in Hell." Read the rest

Ayn Rand supercharged the anti-Communist witch-hunt in Hollywood, in which the FBI classified "It's a Wonderful Life" as secret Communist propaganda

Director Frank Capra said "It's a Wonderful Life" was designed to "strengthen the individual’s belief in himself" and "to combat a modern trend toward atheism." But the FBI's 13,533-page Communist Infiltration of the Motion Picture Industry classed the movie as a secret work of Communist propaganda, "written by Communist sympathizers...to instigate class warfare" and "demonize bankers." Read the rest

Stop charging AT-ATs (What the Rebellion should do in order to improve its anti-Empire tactics)

When I nerdpick a movie, I usually criticize the stupid computers, but I was fascinated by the angry nerding of Angry Staff Officer, a member of the Military Writers Guild, who picked apart the Rebellion's outrageously dumb military tactics (some spoilers). Read the rest

Watch the first-ever Star Wars trailer from 1977

Back when Star Wars was "an adventure unlike anything on your planet.... A big sprawling space saga of rebellion and romance."

Read the rest

Sphinx head discovered in California desert

Archaeologists digging in the sand dunes of Santa Barbara County, California discovered a 300-pound sphinx head. Notably, the artifact does not date back to ancient times but is only 95-years-old. The sphinx is actually a prop from pioneering filmmaker Cecile DeMille's 1923 movie The Ten Commandments. It was part of the so-called "Lost City of DeMille," a massive Egyptian set made for the movie. From the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes Center:

Legend has it that after filming, it was too expensive to move and too valuable to leave for rival filmmakers to poach—so DeMille had it buried.

In the 1980s, director Peter Brosnan and a group of young filmmakers set out to find the ruins. Over 30 years later, excavations began, and have since turned up a trove of historical artifacts including an entire sphinx broken into pieces. Everyday relics—prohibition liquor bottles, makeup, and tobacco tins—have also been found, shedding light on what life was like for the cast and crew in 1923.

There's also a recent documentary on the subject, titled "The Lost City of Cecil B. DeMille." (Hollywood Reporter)

Read the rest

Impressive photorealistic tattoos

Belgian tattoo artist Inal Bersekov does highly-detailed work that recreates famous moments from history and movies. Read the rest

This film geek's jet-setting photojournal matches movie stills to locations

German blogger Andrea David, aka filmtourismus, travels the globe to find the exact spot where movies and TV shows were filmed. Read the rest

One-minute movie about a doomsday prepper

Gaspar Palacio is brilliant, and concise.

"When the siren rings in the distance, a family has to get inside the shelter... Nothing will ever be the same again."

Read the rest

Disturbing animation of rubbery, squidgy SCI heads

"Parasitic endeavours" is a short NSFW animation by Simon Christoph Krenn, with sound design by Matthias Urban, an entry in the emergent genre of ultra-realistic CGI human bodies behaving like unusual materials. [via Sploid] Read the rest

Trippy Cold War-era Hungarian Star Wars movie posters

Tibor Helényi created a lot of great posters for films screened in the Hungarian People's Republic during its communist era, like these posters for the original Star Wars trilogy. Read the rest

Replacing every movie scream with Tom Cruise's weird scream from The Mummy

It works surprisingly well, giving every scene so enhanced the superficial intensity of a church-mandated declaration of love. Read the rest

New Dune movie will take no cues from Lynch's version

David Lynch's Dune, though unsuccessful in theaters, has gained a more positive reputation over the years for its spectacular visuals and memorable one-liners. But Denis Villeneuve, directing a new movie of Frank Herbert's SF classic, says he'll be taking pains not to let it influence his own vision.

From an interview with Yahoo:

“David Lynch did an adaptation in the ’80s that has some very strong qualities, I mean David Lynch is one of the best filmmakers alive, I have massive respect for him. But when I saw his adaptation I was impressed, but it was not what I had dreamed of, so I’m trying to make the adaptation of my dreams. ...

“It will not have any link with the David Lynch movie,” added Villeneuve, who said he fell in love with the classic novel when he was a teen. “I’m going back to the book, and going to the images that came out when I read it.”

This is certainly for the best. Lynch's Dune would have been more thoroughly forgotten but for a series of unambiguously excellent 1990s video games which were fastidiously imitative of his vision. Movies have some power to fix how people see a book, but media derived from movies has an uncanny power to set it in stone, shunting the source material a degree of separation away. I think those games are a big part of why younger Gen-Xers and Millenials appreciate Lynch's Dune, which is a bad film.

The blind spots of the 1982 movie's staging also correspond to things from the book that are most relevant and interesting now. Read the rest

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