Sunday, February 27, 2011

Back into the past

CCI-Highlights from Karl Bauer on Vimeo.

This is just highlights of a program I did for where I used to work back in the 90's.  Learned a lot here, and worked like a dog.  From lighting, to graphics we did it all at the Computer Channel.  I worked for a great producer by the name of Steven Lyshior.  It's been awhile, but I just got around to digitize some footage, and figured I throw it up here.  Learned how to create cheap sets that looked awesome, and all it took was a trip to your local Home Depot. 

The graphics nowadays are a lot more sophisticated.  I remember running the computer over-night to render certain effects.  All shows were also cut on "The Cube" a non-linear edit system that no longer exists.  The Immix Video Cube had a control surface with faders to allow mixing and shuttle controls without the purchase of third party controller.  It's amazing to realize that what was done back then could be done with off the shelf non-linear editors, and prosumer cameras now.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Gnomeo & Juliet (2011)

What does one do when the kids are off from school, and it's a birthday to boot.  Well one heads to the cinema for some laughs.  So the family headed out to see Disney's latest "Gnomeo & Juliet", and we were not disappointed.

The film is a send up on "Romeo & Juliet", only with garden gnomes.  Hey I was skeptical at first, but it was the only film out there that was decent for the kids to watch, and you know what it was kind of cute.  There I said it. It wasn't offensive, and it didn't totally stink.  In fact Sir Elton John is one of the people who is responsible for this making it to the screen, and his songs are all over this film.  Sir Elton's creative hands are all over this film, and he does a good job at keeping us entertained.  Their are voices by Michael Caine, Maggie Smith ,Jason Statham, Patrick Stewart, and even Ozzy Osbourne.  With talent like this it can't be all that bad, and it isn't.    The film runs a brisk 84 minutes and in the film there are some funny bits, and it even has some moral lesson that we are all the same no matter what color we are.  In this case it's blue and red, but you get the message.  

The film is to entertain a younger audience.  It has some jokes that adults would find funny and it does it tactfully.   Seeing it with a bunch of kids is half the fun, so I would recommend bringing the nieces and nephews.  I know I enjoyed hearing my own kids laugh at the action and if a movie can do that it's worth seeing just to hear that.

This film is being released in 3D and 2D, and we saw the 2D version, and we're fine with that.  I can't say that the 3D would have enhanced this film at all, but that seems to be a personal choice.  If you like 3D and can't get enough I'd say see it, but if you want to save a few bucks you won't miss it with this film. 

All in all I enjoyed the flick, and it was great being a kid again and giggling with the family.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Losers (2010)

Finally saw the film "The Losers" on HBO last night, and I have to say it was entertaining.  Where you think it is just another action-adventure film with explosions and firearms you won't be too off base, but the film the Losers has something else.  That something else is humor and some good acting also.  It's a simple revenge flick where "After being betrayed and left for dead, members of a CIA black ops team root out those who targeted them for assassination."

That said about the plot the film has some pretty funny moments among its actors.  There is a real chemistry between the actors, and the banter back and forth is amusing.  It makes one like the characters and want to see more.  The one scene where the actor Chris Evans goes in to infiltrate a computer company is pretty funny, and the fight between Zoe Saldana as Aisha, and Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Clay is amusing to watch.

I think this is what makes this film stand out from your typical action adventure film.  The film is based on a comic book, and it's beginning credits pays tribute to that by showing the characters in cartoon form.  I had never heard of "the Losers" before, and it has peeked my interest in the comic book series.   

The film is directed by Sylvain White who does a great job with the action sequences.  I would also be re-miss if I didn't mention Jason Patric  performance as Max the bad guy.  He is funny and reeks of villainy, and you can see Mr. Patric is having some fun here.  That's what makes the film so watchable.  It's just fun.  The actors play the parts tongue in cheek, and it works.  This is not a serious film.  This is a film where your suppose to have some fun at, and everyone from the director to the cast know it.  If you get a chance and you want to see some fun on the screen I wouldn't hesitate to see this film.  Where the film "The Expendables" goes wrong, "The Losers" doesn't.  It's a lot better and you have the sense that everyone in it is having a great time.  You will too I'm sure.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Possession (2002)

I caught this late at night on cable, and I found myself quite involved in the plot of the movie.  The film is about:

"A pair of literary sleuths unearth the amorous secret of two Victorian poets only to find themselves falling under a passionate spell."

The film stars Gwyneth Paltrow as Maud Bailey, and Aaron Eckhart as Roland Mitchell who are the two literary sleuths.  Jeremy Northam plays Randolph Henry Ash, and Jennifer Ehle plays Christabel LaMotte who are the two Victorian poets.  There are some really good performances here and the plot is one where we are really interested in finding out about the two poets love affair.  There is deceit, and betrayal in the film, and in a way this propels the story forward.  The director Neil LaBute does an interesting job at tying the two stories together.  Watching Eckart and Paltrow is also very interesting, and I have to say both look stunning when they are on screen.  Both performers give a depth to their characters which make the audience want to follow them on their literary sleuthing.

Of course the performances of both Jeremy Northam, Jennifer Ehle, and Lena Headey are also without fault.  The film treats its literary origins with remarkable respect, and does make the viewer long for the days when human expressed themselves in letters.    It is this part of the film where I really thought the film was interesting.  There are scholars who study poets, and writers through their work and their correspondences.  We live in an age where the art of writing has seemingly gone away.  Letters to one another is no longer a sought after commodity.  Instead we write notes that seem to be short and less descriptive in our feelings.  Emails, and instant communications have killed the art of good letter writing, and it seems to be a loss for mankind.  I can still remember a day when a letter would come from a friend or loved one and one would be excited by it.  Now with mass communication being what it is I feel we have lost something in our correspondence with each other.  This film shows us a different era where words had the power to move individuals to do extraordinary things.

The film also is a statement about poets and poetry.  In one scene Echkart's character says that their are no more poets, and in a way he is right.  Not like there was earlier when the written word had more power.  Maybe LaBute wanted us to think about this while the stories played out up on the screen.  It is a mesage that permutates the film.  The film is from the novel by A.S. Byatt, and is executive produced by Barry Levinson

The cinematography by Jean-Yves Escoffier , and it is beautifully shot.  The production design is stunning and is by Luciana Arrighi.  The film is slow and well paced, and if your not into talky romantic films this film may not be for you, but it does have a good story.  The performances are really good, and it does seem to have a point.  Anyone who loves the written word will love this film.

I was surprised how much I liked it.  I'm not a big fan of Mr. Labute.  His two films which I really despise are In the Company of Men, and Your Friends & Neighbors .  I also did not like his take on the film The Wicker Man.  I mean why mess with a classic, and after seeing LaBute's version you'll appreciate the original so much more.  But that's for another discussion.  To say I was surprised that LaBute directed this is an understatement.  He does the material some justice here, and the film is a really fascinating to look at and the characters are compelling to watch.  All in all if your a die heart romantic you'll love this film.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Character vs. Content

I've been looking at movies, TV shows, and cable series lately.  I've been watching them and have found out that a lot of what I like in these shows are the characters in them.    Of course series shows on TV have a distinct advantage over movies and that is we follow a character or characters through the course of a season.  Movies can only get it right in about two hours and it's all on the director and actor to make sure that the audience follows our protagonist throughout the film.  I'm not going to say one is easier then the other.  There are some series that do it right, and there are some series that fail to illicit our attention.  In movies I've always gone by the rule that if I am not convinced in the first ten minutes of the film that I'm interested in the character or characters I lose my attention to the story.  If I don't believe in a character in a series I change the station, so some series on TV have to meld content and character together by drawing in the audience slowly, but having a hook in the first ten minutes.  Movies also do this but not as quick as TV or cable does.

In a series the producer may have a story arc he or she follows that was created by the series creator.  Most successful TV shows have these.  The more the creator knows where he or she wants to take the story the better the character arc is.  Movies on the other hand are story centric.  It's usually up to the actor to get the performance the director wants of the character he or she is playing.  Usually this is done before the cameras even start rolling.  In rehearsal and readings the actor and director talk about the character and what that character is feeling and his or her motivation.  Through these readings and rehearsals the actor comes up with a sort of profile of the character they are playing.

In a series this happens in readings, and rehearsals too, but in TV time is short because your producing several episodes of a story or stories.  Maybe the episodes are connected, but usually the story is new.  It is in episodic TV where the actor can slowly work in his or her performance.  An example of this would be NCSI.  The actors on that series have been with us for a awhile, and there have even been actors who have left the series, yet what NCSI does is that we as an audience "like" the characters they play.  The banter between the characters in the series provides us with some personnel information of the characters, which we like. 

The writers use this to create engaging stories, yet it's interesting to see what the actor comes up with as his or her performances evolve in the series.

In movies it's a bit quicker.  An actor needs to know what the character does, what his or her back story is.  Usually this helps their performances and helps propel the story forward.  I remember talking to actors on my feature and the one thing I regret is that I didn't have more rehearsal time.  What saved me was that I had some great actors who took the time to talk amongst themselves about their characters.  They would run it past me, and I would usually help fill in the blanks of what I thought.  This helped since I was the writer, but I do believe that if I had rehearsed a bit longer I would have gotten a stronger story out of it.  Nuances in characters is the key sometimes.  The way an actor walks, and the way their character re-acts to situations can tell volumes about their character, which enrich the story. 

Series have a distinct advantage there, but the one thing they do have to do is tell "good" stories" that rivet the audience to the couch.  It's really hard to do this in 45 minutes, yet some successful series like "Blue Bloods, "NCSI", and "CSI: Las Vegas" do so perfectly.  This is even harder in half hour shows known as sit-coms.  Some sit-coms that have really done this are "MASH", 'All in the Family", "Alice", "Family Ties", and "Maude" just to name a few.  In all of these sit-coms the actors themselves had to bring out the characters in the story.  Of course this was done with some talented writers, producers and directors.  Chemistry between actors and other talent is important, and using professional actors makes ones life easier.  Actors who know their craft and who continue to study their art can make a semi-interesting story something that resonates with its audience. 

So what am I trying to say here?  Is story important?  Is character important?  I think it's a bit of both.  If the audience doesn't identify with a protagonist how can they elicit sympathy for that character.  Eventually they loose interest in the story, and that is something you don't want as a producer or director.  As a writer always re-write, and as a director always be open to ideas that actors bring to a character.  It can make a so-so story into a strong story, and a good story into a better story.