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Fireside Chats: Cinemablend’s Eric Eisenberg

May 20, 2010 Leave a comment

I am joined today by a degenerate Mets’ fan, my former co-writer at Geek on Film, and lover of all things film, Cinemablend‘s Eric Eisenberg to discuss everything from the Summer movie schedule to Ghostbusters 3, and argue over Inglorious Basterds‘ Oscar snub.

Amani (Truth From The Basement): We might as well start with the news story of the day; Megan Fox being dropped from Transformers 3. Should we have any hope that this means the sequel will try to redeem itself?

Eric Eisenberg (Cinemablend): Considering Michael Bay’s notorious ego, I’m still not 100% certain he sees anything wrong with Transformers 2 in the first place. Add that to the fact that news is now coming out that Fox left on her own accord, and it kind of looks like they really couldn’t care less about the quality of the movie.

TFTB: I’m sure he’s using the Brett Ratner logic; it made more money than the first so it’s a huge cinematic achievement.

Eric: Transformers 3 will make money, and a lot of it. People didn’t seem to care that the second one was cinematic garbage and it probably won’t stop them from revisiting it. And it’s not as though Megan Fox’s presence was what was driving up the box office. If there is a loser in this whole deal, it’s Fox, which makes her decision to leave all the more questionable.

TFTB: Well I don’t know about that, I know quite a few people that ONLY saw it for Megan Fox’s presence. Not her acting ability to be sure, but we’ll say screen presence. And I definitely don’t believe the spin that she chose to left.

Eric: But what about Jennifer’s Body? That film was sold exclusively by Megan Fox’s chest and it was a bomb. She should be praying that Jonah Hex takes off. Girls that look like her are arriving in Hollywood everyday, hence why it took a grand total of 20 minutes for Gemma Arterton’s name to be thrown in to the mix.

TFTB: Well Jennifer’s Body proved there are limits people aren’t willing to cross even to see Megan Fox, and a Diablo Cody script is one of them. It looks like machine gun horses may be another. As for Arterton, I thought it was just because she’s contractually obligated to be in every terrible summer action movie.

Eric: On that note, I wouldn’t hold out much hope for Prince of Persia.

TFTB: I have a feeling we’ll get to a summer movie review in a little, but since we’re on the topic of horrible movies; which are you more excited for the Magic 8-ball movie or Rubber?

Eric: How can you go wrong with a killer tire? It’s too easy to make a generic movie about a magic 8-ball, a killer tire actually requires some creativity.

TFTB: Especially one named Robert. I’ve been saying for years the Michelin man would be the doom of us all. He’s far too close to the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man and we all know what happened to him.

Eric: Frankly, I don’t understand why we’ve never seen a copyright lawsuit between them, or at least a Ghostbusters parody commercial from Michelin.

TFTB: It’s coming, what do you think the plot of Ghostbusters 3 is going to be about?

Eric: I don’t believe in Ghostbusters 3. Much in the same way I don’t believe in ghosts.

TFTB: Speaking of Ghostbusters, you interviewed Bill Murray at the Tribeca Film Festival for Cinemablend; your thoughts on how close -if at all- that project is to reality?

Eric: There is no movie. Well, I should actually rephrase that Read more…

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You’re About To Enter Another Dimension

April 30, 2010 Leave a comment

Growing up, like most people I loved watching The Simpsons. Thursday nights (remember when?) were a highlight of my week waiting for the best show on television. It’s almost hard to remember now, but there were few shows that were ever as subversive, funny and as smart; and doing it while shattering people’s notion of what an animated show could be, was revolutionary. It should be no surprise then that The Simpsons had an impact on the way I look at the world of entertainment. What I didn’t expect was that one of those things would be movies in 3D.

The Simpsons episode ‘Treehouse of Horror VI’, the most anticipated episode of the season way back in 1995, ended with the animated Homer being sucked into the world of the third-dimension. For the creators of the show it was a fun way to needle the critics who never took their work seriously enough because ‘it wasn’t real’. Visually, working with a new dimension was a stark departure for the traditional 2D hand drawn cartoon. The disparity was even greater once Homer left animation all together and fell into the real world. While Homer being converted into 3D was certainly new, exciting and even kind of cool, it never felt quite right.

Today, I feel the same way about the use of stereoscopic 3D in Hollywood. With Iron Man 2 coming out next Friday and kicking off the summer movie season, you’ll be seeing a lot more of 3D. This is not at all a good thing. I will admit that I have been a 3D skeptic for a while now. Even when I was a kid and we had the red and blue 3D glasses from the 1950s, the effect got old pretty quick. I wrote an article last summer wondering aloud if 3D was just a gimmick by Hollywood studios and unfortunately the answer has come back a resounding yes.

I will be the first to admit that 3D worked great in Coraline, Avatar and How To Train Your Dragon. Unlike the bulk of movies being converted to chase James Cameron’s payday however, they each had two things working for them: First, they were all conceived and shot for a 3D presentation. Secondly, each feature was almost entirely created with computer rendered effects, from the sets to the characters. Even in Avatar, the industry standard for the technology, the scenes on base with primarily human actors and practical effects pale in comparison with the visual splendor that is Pandora.

Now I don’t begrudge a filmmaker the right to tell a story through whatever device and techniques they choose; I just ask that they tell it well. My problem with stereoscopic 3D is that for live-action movies it adds absolutely nothing to the story, and in some cases takes away from it. The very notion that the choice is between 3D and 2D is a false narrative to begin with. Stereoscopy just enhances the illusion of depth which is why there is that exaggerated spatial difference. For me, conventional films do a better job of creating realistic depth than stereoscopic 3D in live-action as it is. More and more however, even that distinction is muddled as films that are shot traditionally are being converted into substandard 3D.

Clash of the Titans rushed its print into 3D during post-production after watching Avatar break the bank, and those results were universally panned. Scratch that. Clash of the Titans in 3D was offensively, laughably, bad; and that’s not even talking about the script. The rushed and half-assed product actually ended up looking worse than the standard print, and in a movie with giant killer scorpions and Liam Neeson in unnecessarily glistening armor, that’s saying a lot.

Just last week it was announced thatM. Night Shamaladingdong’sThe Last Airbender would undergo post-conversion into 3D before its July 2nd release, and The Green Hornet is being pushed back to 2011 for conversion. Now I’ll admit to not having much faith in either of those movies, but it used to be that studios pushed back a movie to tighten up the story and not just visuals.Even James Cameron thinks studios going for the cheap money grab are diluting the market with an “inferior product,” when they jump on the conversion bandwagon.

We’re not talking about restoring color to The Wizard of Oz so we can see the film how it really would have looked. 3D Conversions are just going back to a finished film, slapping on a rushed, forced perspective and passing it off as something new. Unless you’re looking for a schlocky My Bloody Valentine-type experience, the supposed extra-dimension just doesn’t add up. I’ll save that extra $5 for the popcorn thank you very much.



I’m Better Than Eric

March 7, 2010 2 comments

It’s that time of year again when I thoroughly beat down my dear friend Eric with my Oscar predictions (Oh yes, I’m calling you out). This is a strange year in as much as most of the major awards are pretty much a given at this point with the exception of the biggest prize of the night. Awards season has been leading to this so let’s not waste any more time.

BEST PICTURE
Nominated: Avatar, The Blind Side, District 9, An Education, The Hurt Locker, Inglourious Basterds, Precious, A Serious Man, Up, Up in the Air

With all due respect to the rest of the participants, at this point, this is really a two-horse race with Avatar and The Hurt Locker. When it was announced the Oscars returning to 10 best picture nominations instead of 5 there was a great deal of hand wringing about a diluted field and surprise winners coming out of nowhere. Instead we all collectively remembered that Best Picture is still for all intents and purposes tethered to the Best Director nominees. The competition between James Cameron and Kathryn Bigelow will get all the headlines as ex-spouses but their movies speak for themselves.

As much as a cinematic experience Avatar was, its weaknesses were The Hurt Locker‘s strengths. While the journey to Pandora was undeniably compelling to watch in the immersive IMAX 3D screens, the story was nothing we haven’t seen countless times before and the FernGully and Dances with Wolves jokes (and yes that is Eric) are warranted. The Hurt Locker, which was criminally hard to find in theaters kept me on edge literally from the opening scene with it’s story as well as visuals. While Inglorious Basterds was the best movie I saw this past year, if the choice is really between Avatar and The Hurt Locker, the better movie should win. Winner: The Hurt Locker

BEST DIRECTOR
Nominated: Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker), James Cameron (Avatar), Quentin Tarantino (Inglourious Basterds), Lee Daniels (Precious), Jason Reitman, (Up in the Air)

See Above. It’s ultimately the job of the director to pull all the elements together into the best movie and this award is Bigelow’s to lose. Ironically enough, if Cameron had a better screen writer on Avatar he may have actually won this award, but he has no one to blame but himself. As I hinted at earlier, I’d love to see Tarantino win for Inglourious Basterds but that’s not going to happen. Winner: Kathryn Bigelow

BEST ACTOR
Nominated: Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart), George Clooney (Up in the Air), Colin Firth (A Single Man), Morgan Freeman (Invictus), Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker)

Renner was fantastic in The Hurt Locker and has an outside chance if The Hurt Locker momentum carries over, Clooney was Clooney in Up in the Air (which was solid but a bit underwhelming in light of expectations), but the statue belongs to The Dude this year. The academy loves to reward actors who have been deserving in the past and Bridges is truly one of the most talented and versatile actors of his generation and this is the year he gets his. Winner: Jeff Bridges

BEST ACTRESS
Nominated: Sandra Bullock  (The Blind Side), Helen Mirren (The Last Station), Carey Mulligan (An Education), Gabourey Sidibe (Precious), Meryl Streep (Julie & Julia)

This is another race that could be closer than a lot of people think. Meryl Streep was considered the front runner for most of the year because, well, she’s Meryl Streep. Almost out of nowhere Sandra Bullock started to get strong consideration for the surprisingly good The Blind Side. I say she’ll pull it off, even if only because the academy might feel it’s more fun to vote for the feel good comeback story. Gabourey Sidibe is a strong dark horse contender for Precious. Mulligan should win for An Education, but unfortunately she won’t. And if you haven’t seen that movie yet (and almost nobody has) you should. Winner: Sandra Bullock

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Nominated: Matt Damon (Invictus), Woody Harrelson (The Messenger) Christopher Plummer (The Last Station), Stanley Tucci (The Lovely Bones), Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds)

Just stop. It’s Waltz. Period. He was the best anybody, to do anything this year in the movies. If the Academy even considered giving it to anyone else they should just stop handing out awards.

Hyperbolic? Maybe. But absolutely true. Anyone who has seen Inglorious Basterds walked away remembering Hans Landa. The award is his. Winner: Christoph Waltz

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Nominated: Penelope Cruz (Nine), Vera Farmiga (Up in the Air), Maggie Gyllenhaal (Crazy Heart), Anna Kendrick (Up in the Air), Mo’Nique (Precious)

Replace Waltz and Inglorious Basterds with Mo’Nique and Precious and it’s the same story. And if anyone told you they saw that coming after her work on The Parkers… punch them right in their lying faces. Winner: Mo’Nique

Other Winners…
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY – Quentino Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY – Jason Reitman & Sheldon Turner, Up in the Air
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM – The White Ribbon, Germany
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE – Up
ART DIRECTION – Avatar Art Direction: Rick Carter and Robert Stromberg; Set Decoration: Kim Sinclair
CINEMATOGRAPHY – Avatar Mauro Fiore

COSTUME DESIGN – The Young Victoria Sandy Powell
DOCUMENTARY FEATURE – The Cove
DOCUMENTARY SHORT – China’s Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Sichuan Province Jon Alpert and Matthew O’Neill
FILM EDITING – The Hurt Locker Bob Murawski and Chris Innis
MAKEUP – Star Trek Barney Burman, Mindy Hall and Joel Harlow
ORIGINAL SCORE – Up Michael Giacchino
ORIGINAL SONG – “The Weary Kind (Theme from Crazy Heart)” from Crazy Heart Music and Lyric by Ryan Bingham and T Bone Burnett
ANIMATED SHORT – The Lady and the Reaper (La Dama y la Muerte)  Javier Recio Gracia
LIVE ACTION SHORT – Instead of Abracadabra Patrik Eklund and Mathias Fjellström
SOUND EDITING – Avatar Christopher Boyes and Gwendolyn Yates Whittle
SOUND MIXING – Avatar Christopher Boyes, Gary Summers, Andy Nelson and Tony Johnson
VISUAL EFFECTS – Avatar Joe Letteri, Stephen Rosenbaum, Richard Baneham and Andrew R. Jones