Remembering Philip Seymour Hoffman

On Sunday, February 2, 2014, I—with more deep unbelief and sadness than most on that day, I would wager—stared open-mouthed at text on a web page that told me Philip Seymour Hoffman (age 46) was dead. There’s always some initial shock when you see something like that, but for me, I knew that the shock would not lose intensity with the days to follow. If anything, it would gather steam as I slowly faced the realization that we lost one of our greatest living actors to drugs before he had lived 50 years on this planet. You think of all the films and plays he hasn’t directed yet, the canonical theatrical roles he will never age into, the background characters he will never have a chance to turn from one-note non-entities to flesh-and-blood human beings you would never forget. As A.O. Scott painfully points out, “We will be denied his Lear, his Prospero, his James Tyrone in another Long Day’s Journey Into Night.” The thought of Hoffman growing from Jamie to James Tyrone in Eugene O’Neill’s masterpiece, something the great Jason Robards did (incidentally, Hoffman’s costar in “Magnolia”), thrills me with more anticipation that I’d like to admit. And the thought that follows—that such a thing can now never happen—fills me with more sadness than I could articulate. We will never know how deeply cinematic and theatrical history have been hollowed by the early death of this screen titan. And yet, it’s more than that to me. It’s more than losing great future performances and films. It’s about losing the person. No famous death has ever affected me this way, but I’m not surprised that it has. Hoffman was my favorite actor, yes, but the sorrow extends beyond someone being great at something who I can no longer watch be great at it. The sorrow springs from the fact that after watching someone in 33 films, you feel like you know them in some way. The contours of their faces and the rhythms of their voices are so irreversibly etched in your mind. But this wasn’t just someone who was “in movies.” Hoffman’s varied, brutal, fearless choices—both in terms of performances and the films housing them—seemed, at least, to reveal something about the man himself. A suffering artist: that’s what we saw. Not in every film, of course, but there were enough of them to leave that lasting impression. Especially in “Synecdoche, New York,” where Hoffman plays a theater director whose determination to find truth in art ends up costing him everything in life. Was Hoffman Caden Cotard? Was he playing himself? I don’t know. But at least it seemed like to watch Hoffman was to know him, and after having watched him so consistently, I feel like I knew him quite well.

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When I think of Philip Seymour Hoffman, so many scenes come to mind. So many line readings and facial expressions and character choices that made some films better than they had any right to be and made great films even greater. I think about his comic, bizarre scene-stealing in “Hard Eight” and “Twister” and “The Big Lebowski.” I think about his heartbreaking Scotty J. in “Boogie Nights.” I think about his unflinching commitment to the stomach-churning Allen in “Happiness.” I think about the lived-in truth he brought to lighter fare like “Flawless.” I could go on and on. The phone conversation in “Magnolia,” of course, where Hoffman’s under-utilized warmth found a cozy home in Phil Parma. His background reactions to Tom Cruise’s breakdown are almost as powerful as anything going on in the foreground. Without Hoffman in that role, I don’t think the movie would be what it is, which is one of my favorites of all time. Who could forget the smarmy Freddie Miles from “The Talented Mr. Ripley”? Freddie’s calculated outing of Tom Ripley is one of the best scenes in the film, mostly because Hoffman skyrockets the tension through creepy unpredictability. Then there’s Dean Trumbell (the Mattress Man) from “Punch-Drunk Love,” a kooky character in a kooky movie that sprung from the wild mind of Paul Thomas Anderson, Hoffman’s frequent collaborator. Within 5 films, Anderson gave Hoffman an enormous amount to do, and he pulled it all off impeccably. From the bonkers background players of “Hard Eight” and “Punch-Drunk Love” to the sympathetic open heart of Phil in “Magnolia” to the tragi-comedy of “Boogie Nights” to, finally, one of Hoffman’s greatest performances in “The Master” (top 3 or so, but I’ll get to that). And how could I not mention his timeless portrayal of Lester Bangs in “Almost Famous” (a favorite of many)? That late night phone call between William and Lester is one of the best scenes in the movie (“I’m always home. I’m uncool.”) and probably one of the best in Hoffman’s whole career (“The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else when you’re uncool.”). Again, the warmth that Hoffman exudes here is uncharacteristic in a filmography filled with off-putting characters, and it really highlights the range that Hoffman possessed. And there’s more.

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The way he sinks into the sweaty, conflicted mess that is Jacob Elinsky in Spike Lee’s amazing “25th Hour.” The way that he terrorizes “Mission Impossible III,” immediately turning it into a more compelling film that it ever would have been without him. The naturalism and intelligence he brought to “The Savages” (also a great movie—Hoffman’s pick of films was always exceptional). The knockout voice acting in the touching “Mary and Max,” where Hoffman’s nearly unrecognizable vocal dynamics grace the animation with pathos and humor. The scene-stealing rampage he goes on in “Charlie Wilson’s War,” tearing into Sorkin’s dialogue with near manic vigor. His opening monologue in that film is a highlight in his career (“Also, water goes over a dam and under a bridge you ponzi schoolboy.”). All of that, and I haven’t even mentioned things like “Doubt,” “The Ides of March,” “Owning Mahowny,” “Love Liza,” and “Along Came Polly” (“Let it rain!”). This was an actor with incredible range with great performances in great movies. From background character acting to front-and-center film-carrying powerhouses, Hoffman always had more and more to offer than we ever expected, which was significant considering how much we had eventually come to expect. For me, though, the real greats, the true all-timers come down to four film roles: the titular “Capote,” Lancaster Dodd in “The Master,” Caden in “Synecdoche, New York” (one of my all time favorite films), and Andy in “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead.” All of these films represent Hoffman at his peak, as he basically made the films what they were and transformed in different ways with each one. Hoffman’s performance is “Capote,” in what probably remains his most unrecognizable screen morph. It’s a tricky performance, simultaneously sympathetic and horrifying (“I did everything I could”) and deeply unsettling, as the film is emotional in a way that few films are. That’s because of Hoffman. He doesn’t just do an impression of Capote. He seems to become him. And it’s one of the great performances in recent years.

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Hoffman just storms through “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead.” It takes on a kind of dream-like theatricality with the actor at its center (also recalling some “Long Day’s Journey”), which brings truth to the melodrama but also maintains the heightened tone that Lumet was going for. His bear-like intensity is frightening, but deep down Andy is just another broken soul with father issues and misplaced modes of relationship. It’s a big, commanding role but also a very quiet one at times, one that requires Hoffman to scream at his brother, cry over his relationship with his father (“It’s not fair!”), do despicable, selfish acts but also present himself as such an empty shell of a man that we can’t help but sympathize to some degree. His monologue at the pristine, chilling drug supplier’s home (which takes on a whole new tragedy in light of the actor’s real-life addiction) is hands down one of the best things he’s ever done. In a lot of ways, this is the definitive Hoffman performance. But one of the most surprising is “The Master,” another transformation of the screen persona we thought we knew so well. Again, the movie would not exist without this portrayal, as the actor embodies all the meticulous craft and mystery of the film around him. Hoffman had an uncanny way of understanding exactly what each film tonally required of him, and in “The Master,” whatever Anderson was striving for finds intense expression in Hoffman’s Lancaster Dodd. It’s an acute, mannered work that stands in stark contrast to other Hoffman roles and is all the more powerful for it. I’m so glad that we have “The Master,” an amazing example of the actor’s dedication to his craft. But for me, it all comes back to “Synecdoche, New York,” which also takes on a new resonance in light of the actor’s untimely death, so fixated was the work on mortality, legacy, art imitating life, and life imitating art. If I could keep one Hoffman performance, this would be it. Hoffman might not be Caden, but they seem united at least on this front: both sought truth in their art, and both dedicated their lives to this truth. With Hoffman, we didn’t just have a skillful actor who liked to be skillful. We had an artist who constantly dug deeper, constantly challenged himself, constantly tried to uncover things still in need of discovery. His roles were difficult, as were many of the films surrounding him. His work cost him something. You could tell that what he was doing wasn’t easy, but for him, it was worth it. And for that, we respected this artist. We were endeared to this artist. We looked forward to everything he did. Not just because he was a good actor or because he was “impressive.” But because the work mattered to him, just as it does to us.

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Philip Seymour Hoffman will be missed. There’s something about this unexpected, too-soon death that still stings. I’m not exactly sure what it is. Was it his age? His command of craft? His welcoming screen persona? The substance abuse that ultimately claimed his life? His commitment to truth in art that is all too rare in this modern filmic landscape? Probably all of that and more. I don’t know—but this is deeply saddening news. We will always have the work, of course, but even that seems vaguely facile when compared to the enormity of a life taken. Still, for a man who dedicated his life to his art, we have a memorial that the artist should have been proud of. Many Hoffman admirers probably felt that they had lost a friend that tragic day, and in some ways, that itself is the legacy. Not only did people like Hoffman because he was a great actor but because they liked the person behind the acting. Because, as I said before, it felt that to watch him was to know him. And we felt that we knew him well. Whether we did or not is another story, but that’s less important. Hoffman made a lot of friends in a lot of films, friends that he never met but affected just the same. And now, unfortunately, those friends mourn with those who knew the man himself. Yes, we’ll always have the films. But Hoffman, not just the actor but the person, will be missed. That seems to be all there is to say right now.

-Rob

Academy Award Nominations

Yesterday, the Academy Award nominations were announced, and as always, they came with some surprises. Not surprising, of course, were the leaders themselves—confirming that we have a 3-way race on our hands for the top prize: “Gravity” (10 nominations), “American Hustle” (10 nominations), and “12 Years a Slave” (9 nominations). Will the Academy spring for the historical drama, the space phenomenon, or the lighter caper film? We’ll know soon enough, but for now, it’s fun to just enjoy the nominations. It’s much easier to be pleased with nominations than it is to be with winners, after all, considering that only one name is called when the magic envelope opens. It’s also nice that right now, many of these categories appear to be genuine races. I can’t remember the last time Best Actor looked less like a foregone conclusion than it does this year. People like Jeff Bridges, Colin Firth, and Daniel Day-Lewis—to name a few—had their respective Oscars tightly sown up months before the ceremony. Sure, Cate Blanchett is dominating the season and likely faces no real threat to her imminent Best Actress win. But the other acting categories contain no such safe bets; even with Jared Leto and Lupita Nyong’o sitting pretty as heavy favorites for Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress, respectively, they’re still in a race (which you really can’t say for Blanchett). It’s exciting to see that Best Actor, often the least surprising “race,” could really go a lot of ways. Strong cases could be made for Matthew McConaughey, Leonardo DiCaprio, Bruce Dern, and Chiwetel Ejiofor (perhaps in that order) taking home the honor, while Christian Bale should just be happy he broke into such a competitive field. And the biggest prize of the night, Best Picture, could feasibly go to any of those top 3 (the rest seem pretty far behind). But enough with potential winners. Let’s just sit back and relish what looks to be a pretty respectable list of nominees.  Actually, first, I’d like to note some of the major surprises I encountered when first reading the names here. Tom Hanks missing for “Captain Phillips” was a big shock, as was the omission of his “Saving Mr. Banks” costar Emma Thompson, both of whom seemed like shoe-ins. I thought Paul Greengrass would get a Best Director nomination for “Captain Phillips,” and I thought Oprah would easily get in for “The Butler.” I’m bummed that the brilliant cinematographer Sean Bobbitt didn’t get nominated for “12 Years a Slave.” So that just goes to show you: you never really know until the names are read. Some omissions lead to some pretty cool inclusions, though, so let’s get to that.

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I’m happy to see that Michael Fassbender, one of my favorite actors, picked up his first nomination for “12 Years a Slave.” He’s been doing great work for the last several years, and this kind of seems like a culmination of that. Fassbender’s costar Chiwetel Ejiofor, meanwhile, has been a hardworking actor for a while now in films by the likes of Steven Spielberg, Spike Lee, Woody Allen, David Mamet, Alfonso Cuarón, and Ridley Scott. I’m thrilled that Ejiofor got this kind of moment, and I hope that it leads to great opportunities for future projects. Fassbender and Ejiofor’s director, Steve McQueen, received his first Best Director nomination, which is a huge honor for this singular filmmaker. On another note, the criminally under-recognized Sally Hawkins scored her first nomination for “Blue Jasmine,” which brought a smile to my face. Matthew McConaughey, who has been on such a hot streak with “The Lincoln Lawyer,” “Bernie,” “Killer Joe,” “Magic Mike,” “The Paperboy,” “Mud,” and “The Wolf of Wall Street” (not to mention the upcoming “Interstellar”), is now an Academy Award nominee for “Dallas Buyers Club,” while his “Wolf” costar Leonardo DiCaprio managed to pick up his fourth nomination and his first since “Blood Diamond” (2006). Jonah Hill, meanwhile, now has 2 Academy Award nominations. It will be interesting to see where his career goes from here. Finally, it’s great to see one of my favorite filmmakers, Alfonso Cuarón, snag his first Best Director nomination (well-deserved). I hope he takes the golden boy home. Also of note? Meryl Streep now has 18 nominations. Martin Scorsese has been nominated for Best Director 8 times (he won for “The Departed”), 5 of which have come from his last 6 movies (since “Gangs of New York” in 2002). Roger Deakins, who shot the moody “Prisoners,” holds 11 nominations and no wins, which isn’t likely to change this year (Lubezki has that in a walk for “Gravity,” which I can’t contend with).

american-hustle-bradley-cooper-christian-bale1But the big news here is “American Hustle,” which showed a great deal of strength by landing acting nominations in all 4 categories. David O. Russell’s last movie, “Silver Linings Playbook,” did the same thing just a year ago, which is amazing. His movie before that one, “The Fighter,” earned 3 acting nominations (with 2 wins). So over 3 movies in the last 4 years, that’s a combined 11 acting nominations (with 3 wins…so far). Russell has been nominated for Best Director for 3 movies in a row, all of which came with corresponding Best Picture nominations for the films. So yeah, this is pretty much an unbelievable hot streak. Christian Bale (who received his first nomination, and win, for “The Fighter”) scored his first Best Actor nomination for “American Hustle,” which is a new landmark for the powerhouse actor. Bradley Cooper (who received his first nomination for “Silver Linings Playbook”) has 2 nominations in as many years, and he’s proving himself to be one of our great working actors (he was also terrific in “The Place Beyond the Pines”). Amy Adams landed her first Best Actress nomination, which perhaps marks the high point in her career thus far. She’s garnered 5 nominations in 9 years, and one hopes she’s actually going to win one of these things one day. And how about Jennifer Lawrence? At a mere 23 years-old, Lawrence has 3 nominations and 1 win (in Best Actress, no less) under her belt already. She was just 20 when she picked up a Best Actress nomination for “Winter’s Bone.” And she’s leading the “Hunger Games” franchise. Lawrence is doing quite well for herself, to say the least, and I bet she’s eager to work with Russell again (who, by the way, directed Amy Adams to a nomination for “The Fighter” and Lawrence to her win for “Silver Linings Playbook”). As is Bale, Adams, and Cooper, I presume. As is anyone, at this point. All eyes are on Russell, and I can’t wait to see what he does next.

So that’s my take. What did you think of the nominations? What would you have changed?

-Rob

Most Anticipated 2014 Movies

Well, 2013 has come and gone, and while I haven’t yet seen a great deal of its films, 2013 seems to have been an exceptional cinematic year. “12 Years a Slave” has garnered a lot of attention. “Gravity” is understandably lowering everyone’s jaws. It’s an encompassing, visual spectacle with edge-of-your-seat adventure, a surprising emotional punch, a fiercely committed central performance, and some of the strongest final moments in recent film. “American Hustle” seems to be winning over almost everyone who encounters it, continuing David O. Russell’s impressive streak. “Captain Phillips” looks to be a terse, chilling example of in-the-moment realism. “Her” has passionate supporters, which is no surprise considering it’s from Spike Jonze. And of course there are others, from “The Wolf of Wall Street” to “Saving Mr. Banks” to “Nebraska” and so on. I’m very much looking forward to “Inside Llewyn Davis.” And let’s not forget about “Mud” and “The Place Beyond the Pines,” two stellar entries from earlier in the year. So what does 2014 have in store for us? Here are some of my most anticipated movies of this new year.

Noah (Dir. Darren Aronofsky)

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As a big Darren Aronofsky fan, I’d be anticipating anything from him. But this is his passion project, and he’s working on a much larger scale fresh off the success of “Black Swan.” So expectations are going to be formidable. Considering the singular voice behind this Biblical epic, I’m betting expectations will be both exceeded and overturned. No one really knows quite what we’re going to see, and I can’t wait for Aronofsky to show his hand.

Exodus (Dir. Ridley Scott)

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Let’s keep this Biblical theme going, shall we? It’s been less than 4 years since Ridley Scott has done swords-and-sandals (2010’s “Robin Hood”), but it feels like longer than that. 2005 gave us the disappointing “Kingdom of Heaven.” And it’s been 13 years since “Gladiator.” Scott is a very hit-or-miss director (“Black Hawk Down” is great. “A Good Year” is not so good.), but I’m excited to see him back in history mode, especially with Christian Bale (coming off a one-two punch of “American Hustle” and “Out of the Furnace”) at the forefront. We’ve seen the Moses story before, but not from the director of “Gladiator.”

Foxcatcher (Dir. Bennett Miller)

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Intrigue surrounds this strange story. Bennett Miller has proven himself to be an assured, actor-attuned director in his two previous, very different films (“Capote” and “Moneyball”). “Foxcatcher” looks to be dark, elliptical, and downright fascinating. Featuring Mark Ruffalo (consistently great), Channing Tatum (ever impressive), and a barely recognizable Steve Carrell (he’s a talented guy, but man, I can’t believe how stomach-churning he looks in this role), this isn’t one I want to miss.

The Immigrant (Dir. James Gray)

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I’m very much in the pro-camp when it comes to James Gray. He might test the patience of some, but I appreciate his sad, spare, emotionally charged brand of cinema. His European-infused, 1970s-throwback motion pictures are deliberately paced and sensually shot, and they make optimal use of Joaquin Phoenix’s terrifying talent. Judging by its Cannes notices, “The Immigrant” may very well be Gray’s best film to date. The performances by Phoenix, Jeremy Renner, and especially Marion Cotillard have received high praise, with Gray’s old-soul sensibilities seeming to blend seamlessly into his subject matter. It’s been quite the wait, but I don’t mind as long as it gets here.

The Hobbit: There and Back Again (Dir. Peter Jackson)

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Last year’s “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” was a complete blast from start to finish, the epitome of adventure film with expertly designed action set pieces and a potent mix of fun and impending darkness. Will the final installment be the best? We will see, but if it’s merely as good as the second part of the trilogy, that’s more than enough to look forward to. Martin Freeman remains an ever endearing protagonist, and Benedict Cumberbatch is a knockout as the seething Smaug.Comparisons to “The Lord of the Rings” are not really relevant, strange as that may seem. This has become very much its own trilogy, and quite a good one so far.

X-Men: Days of Future Past (Dir. Bryan Singer)

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Bryan Singer is back, and it’s about time. Singer actually directed last year’s “Jack the Giant Slayer” (Remember that? Because I don’t.), but it really feels like “Valkyrie” (2008) was his most recent film. Nearly six years, then, from where I’m sitting, is way too much time between offerings from the man who gave us “The Usual Suspects.” Oh yeah, he also directed “X-Men” and “X-Men 2″ before Brett Ratner took over with the largely dismissible “X-Men: The Last Stand.” In between then and now, Matthew Vaughn revived the franchise with the prequel “X-Men: First Class,” which was, if not a great movie, a step in the right direction. “X-Men: Days of Future Past” gets to have its cake and eat it too by blending Singer’s original world and characters with Vaughn’s. Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, and Hugh Jackman all in the same movie. Not to mention Jennifer Lawrence, Halle Berry, Ellen Page, and the newly added Peter Dinklage. I’m excited for Singer’s atmosphere to be back on this franchise.

Men, Women & Children (Dir. Jason Reitman)

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I’m always happy when I know another Jason Reitman film is coming out. I remember being taken completely off guard by “Juno” in 2007, amazed by its comic timing, unforgettable titular character, and even-handed empathy. Whereas a lot of comedy stems from cruel condescension and black-hearted distance, “Juno” was not afraid to be sweet. It likes its characters, and it wants us to like them too. “Up in the Air” was a mostly breezy but appropriately bittersweet take on corporate downsizing seen through the perspective of one of those doing the downsizing. And “Young Adult” floored me 2 years ago, taking a directorial approach almost diametrically opposed to that on display in “Juno.” That film really didn’t like its characters (most of them, anyway), and its borderline abrasiveness was a bold, admirable choice, even if the film isn’t the easiest to sit through. What kind of touch will Reitman bring to “Men, Women & Children”? I’m especially excited to see him team up with Adam Sandler, who excels at this kind of material.

Gone Girl (Dir. David Fincher) 

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David Fincher doing a disappearance mystery? I’m there. It would be an understatement to say this is well within Fincher’s wheelhouse. His most recent film was “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” after all. “Se7en” and “Zodiac” are two of his best films, alongside “Fight Club” and “The Social Network.” The rest of his filmography includes “Alien 3,” “The Game,” “Panic Room,” and “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” all of which have issues but are not without individual virtues. I’m a sucker for Fincher’s command of craft (the cinematography/editing is always top-notch) and his penchant for dark material. This is one of our greatest working directors with subject matter that seems tailor-made for him.

Interstellar (Dir. Christopher Nolan)

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The teaser might not have offered much in the way of new footage, but it certainly teased some of the ideas it might be playing with, and it seems to be strong thematic material. As with any Nolan project, we don’t know much about it, just that it has something to do with space travel (or is it time travel?). And part of looking forward to a Christopher Nolan movie is enjoying the mystery of it. He’s blown our minds with “Memento,” “The Prestige,” and “Inception,” and, of course, helped redefine superhero/comic book movies with his terrific Dark Knight trilogy. I can’t wait to see what he does with a premise like this. Not to mention, the cast is unbelievable. Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Wes Bentley, Michael Caine, Casey Affleck, Topher Grace, Ellen Burstyn, John Lithgow, Bill Irwin, David Oyelowo, and Matt Damon. Wow. November come soon.

Inherent Vice (Dir. Paul Thomas Anderson)

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Two Paul Thomas Anderson films in 3 years? I didn’t think I would ever be typing that, but I am (if “Inherent Vice” does in fact appear in 2014, but most think it will). Five years each separated “Punch-Drunk Love” from “There Will Be Blood” and “There Will Be Blood” from “The Master,” so this is quite a treat. Anderson is hands-down one of my favorite filmmakers, if not my favorite, so any new offering from him is going to be hotly anticipated. He only has 6 features to his name, though the first came out in 1996. So, naturally, anticipation is mounted even higher. I’ve admired Anderson’s last two films (especially “There Will Be Blood”), both of which signaled a pretty drastic repositioning of formal rigors and storytelling concerns. He’s always wielded substantial filmmaking craft, but never before had that craft announced itself as so significantly Artful (“The Master” was very much a culmination of this). PTA used to entertain us, and spurts of “The Master” seem so ambivalent toward the audience’s enjoyment (not to mention its seeming ambivalence toward much of anything) that you wish you could trade some of the amazing formalism for that former sense of fun. If “The Master” was a culmination, “Inherent Vice” seems to be, judging from source material, the throwback some of us have been secretly waiting for. Some have described this 1970s Los Angeles, drug-infused mystery novel as a cousin to “The Big Lebowski,” and I’m thrilled about that. The cast includes Joaquin Phoenix (who was on fire in “The Master”), Reese Witherspoon, Josh Brolin, Owen Wilson, Benicio Del Toro, and Maya Rudolph. Bring it on. Let’s have some fun again. 

Well, that’s the top 10 for me. What are you looking forward to this year?

-Rob

Aronofsky + Bible = Cautious Excitement

Darren Aronofsky has undertaken a very difficult task in producing a film based on the Biblical account of Noah, his family, and the global flood that wiped out the entire living world. That last sentence alone contains enough “hot-button” words to send every studio exec from New York to L.A. running for the hills, taking their money (i.e. the film’s budget) with them.  What Hollywood studio would voluntarily take on a Bible story? Well, probably quite a few more than you would think as it’s been proven that the “faith market” is a financially viable corner in an otherwise secular movie culture.  The Bible’s not the problem for the studio heads; it’s certain stories in the Bible that are the problem. Specifically, wherever there’s a whiff of Old Testament there is always a bit of trepidation as it is undoubtedly the more controversial of the two “testaments.”  Add to that the controversy that surrounds the whole “global flood event” that the entire story of Noah and his family is founded upon, which itself opens the creation/evolution debate due to the Creationist view of the flood’s impact on our current world (and on the methods which date our current world). Additionally, though nearly every ancient culture contains records of an ancient flood, the Bible is the only book which attributes it to the God of the Old Testament. And, finally, there’s the whole Christian message which becomes obvious upon the slightest inspection (let alone the direct parallel revealed by Jesus in the book of Matthew) .  That last part may not seem as apparent until one realizes exactly how Jesus draws the final parallel to Himself.

[Mat 24:37-39 NASB] 37 “For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. 38 “For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, 39 and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be.”

Basically, just as people died physically because they didn’t believe then, they will die spiritually because they do not believe now. In case you didn’t notice, it’s not popular to talk about eternal condemnation, hell, damnation, punishment, or sin of any kind these days.

So, as I said, Aronofsky has taken on quite the task here. However, I think it would be a mistake to think that this will be a word for word dramatization of the story presented in Genesis and preserved in the history and canon of Christianity.   This will worry belivers and probably relieve the “anti-religious,” but I guess this post is for the believer as there is no significant word of warning I can give those who don’t even  really believe the original, Biblical telling of the story is true

But, to my brothers and sisters in Christ, let me give you a fair heads-up about, “Noah,” in the following points:

1. Darren Aronofsky is not a Christian or a practicing Jew. Though Darren is Jewish by blood, he has said in several interviews that he is an agnostic (i.e.from his perspective, there may or may not be a God). So, to expect him to treat the material with the same level of reverence as we do would be a mistake.  Darren has no reason to make great strains to stay faithful to the Biblical text.  And, if you know anything about Aronofsky as a director, one things become very clear: he will not care what we think of, “Noah.”

Aronofsky is known for being nearly unmovable on his principles. He picks hills and dies on them no matter the cost and it’s what makes him an incredibly good director and writer.

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2. There are several accounts of a global flood outside of the Bible.  Nearly every ancient culture accounts for this event and many tell the story in a very similar way to the Bible but with clear distinctions (namely, a lack of the presence or power of, “Yahweh”) .

There have been a couple of reviews of the original screenplay around the web, and while I’d rather not link you to them as I think they may do more harm than good to our objective perspective on the film, they have been anything but encouraging by way of reinforcing any hopes that this film would remain true to even some of the core elements of the story of Noah.  This, on top of some reference to current, “global-warming,” political themes, evidently distract and steer the direction of Aronofsky’s story

3.  There will probably be things depicted visually that we would leave to simple text.  This includes some of the more wicked things Noah does as well as some of the controversial activity surrounding the Nephilim of Genesis 6 (both of which are sexual in nature), not to mention a portion that may depict Adam and Eve without attempting to cover anyone up.  And, lest you think this director is one to approach such things “tastefully,” let me assure you…..he is not. So, don’t be surprised if you hear about the film containing some sexual content. (I don’t know this for sure and, to be fair, am basing this insight on some older comments made by Aronofsky, so, things may have changed)

So then where does that leave us? Is there a good reason to see this film? Of course!

Darren is about to pull off what few have been able to do: telling a Biblical story with seriousness and some amazing creativity.  The trailer for this film is enough to induce goosebumps and you’d have to be blind, deaf or dead not to be moved by the gravitas this film will obviously command.  My perspective? Why can’t believers make films like this?

The closest thing I’ve seen come close is Mel Gibson’s, Passion of the Christ.  Christians have got to start seeing the people of Scripture as real people, not as “demi-gods” and they’ve got to start learning how to use their creativity.  The stories are there. The people are real. God is real! What other motivation do we need?    Where’s our courage?

I, for one, will be first in line to see this film, regardless of whether I agree with how Aronofsky presents the story or not.  I want to learn from him and I want to admire his ambition to take the Bible seriously when it comes to the arts.  I can only hope other Christians will follow suit

Brennan

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The Red Dragon Takes Flight (UPDATED)

UPDATE:  Peter Collister has posted his test footage from the Red Dragon and WOW.  THIS is the footage people wanted to see. Jaw-dropping stuff

Dragon from Peter Collister on Vimeo.

Though it has been a long time coming, the Red Dragon has taken flight and Mark Toia of Australia has posted the first real look at some of the footage.

RED EPIC DRAGON – ITS THE REAL DEAL ! from Mark Toia on Vimeo.

For those wondering what’s impressing us filmmakers the most, it would undoubtedly be the dynamic range and light sensitivity, especially when paired with 6K resolution. There is, at this time, nothing like it.

Mark shot at a 17:1 compression ratio, which, in laymans’ terms, means he opted to save space on his hard drives by compressing the image 17x over from it’s original, true, 1:1 form, where there was no compression (compression being the changing of a file, normally reductive, by getting rid of some of the information that was in the orignal file. In terms of photography, it normally means getting rid of redundant parts of a photo or video to save space (i.e. when shooting a red apple fully framed, compression will drop some of the red pixel information because it has enough other red pixel information to make up for it). Everyone of course would want to have completely uncompressed footage all the time, but that’s just somewhat impractical seeing as Mark said in his post over at Reduser that even these files (per frame) were coming in at 109MB a piece, which, if you are doing the math and know about file sizes, amounts to 2.6 GB per second if shooting 24fps (normal cinema mode)! Now, imagine shooting at 100fps (slow motion)! That’s nearly 11GB per second! And, if I’m understanding Mr. Toia correctly, that’s at the 17:1 compression. Imagine shooting double that data (using compression like 8:1 or 9:1)!

That above paragraph, which was supposed to be in laymans’ terms, basically means this camera gives you the absolute biggest bang for your buck. (the only camera that Mr. Toia claims comes even close is the Sony F65, which starts at a cool $65,000). Landing somehwere between $27k to $30k for the body, this more than halves the price of the F65 and outperforms it in seemingly every way ( pictures, resolution, color fidelity, camera size ).

Now this is the Epic Dragon (which either comes as the Epic M Dragon or the Epic X Dragon), not to be confused with the Epic MX, or the Epic M MX, or the Epic X MX, or the Red one MX or Scarlet MX. Confused? Basically boils down to this: Epic X vs Epic M refers to how it was manufactured, either by Machine (X) or by hand (M). Then you have the sensor types: Mysterium, MX (Mysterium-X) and Dragon. So if you Got an Epic X Dragon. You’d be getting an Epic Camera body with all of it’s internal processors (which provides for much better Slow Motion and other feautres as opposed to the Scarlet camera body), that was crafted by Machine with a Dragon Sensor inside. Scarlet X Dragon would have the Scarlet Body, machine made, with the Dragon sensor.

Very excited to see more in the next week (i’m sure there will be footage galore soon)

Brennan

Some Incredible Examples of Canon Raw Magic Lantern Footage

Just in case you missed it the other day, the Magic Lantern team have hacked into the 5d Mark III and given it the ability to record resolutions up to 3.5k in the Raw format. Granted there are some output resolution limitations to those things but I’ve found the best looking, absolutely jaw-dropping, footage is coming form the 1920×1080 Raw videos. I’ve included them below

5D MK III – Magic Lantern RAW Test – 1 from Xinfinite Films on Vimeo.

5D MK III – Magic Lantern RAW Test – Low Light from Xinfinite Films on Vimeo.

Canon 5D Mark III Continuous Raw Video with Magic Lantern (1920×1280 24p) from Andrew Reid on Vimeo.

Canon 5D3 RAW Video Test 1920×1080 ISO3200 from Sunset Bay Photo on Vimeo.

A RAW in the park. (Canon 5D mark III with Magic Lantern RAW module – short test) from Johnnie Behiri on Vimeo.

The 5D family just grew up a little

It is widely accepted that the Canon 5D Mark ii was the product that started the “DSLR Revoultion,” thereby reawkening the independent spirit of American Filmmakers.  It’s been about 5 years since it first hit the scene and it’s been about 4 years since the whole indi-dslr-filmmaker market shot up.

Since then, Canon has released the mark ii’s big brother, the mark iii, and while it has had fairly successful reviews, it was beginning to seem like Canon couldn’t finish the fight they started with companies like Blackmagic, Red, Sony, and Arri all starting to beat them at their own game.

Now, however, thanks to the infamous Magic Lantern group (who are responsible for the infmaous Magic Lantern hack which let’s you customize certain settings on your canon DSLR’s) the Canon 5d mark iii and soon to be 5d mark ii and 6d and the whole canon family willl be making the ultimate comeback as the newest hack allows you to get full RAW video at 24fps in resolutions up to 3.5k!!! And that is on a full frame sensor!!!

Who does this hurt most? Probably blackmagic and Red, though probably the former a bit more as they were just  beginning to make some big splashes in the market for pocketable 1080p raw.  They should stil fare well but this resurrection of the 5d family is about to rock the world of filmmaking all over again.

Who could’ve guessed? Head over to EOSHD and No FIlm School to learn more

 

Brennan

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