ENJOY THE SHOW
Watching VFX breakdowns is always enchanting. ILM has released their full 4-minute video showing their work on Star Wars: The Force Awakens. "The history of ILM leads all the way back to 1975 and origins of Star Wars and The Force Awakens gave us the opportunity to once again push the boundaries of what is possible in character animation and visual effects while combining cutting edge practical effects and physical sets." It's always cool to get a glimpse of what it was like on set and how much they added in each scene to make it feel so real. The amount of objects and layers in some of the scenes is remarkable. ILM also work with their "partners Hybride, Base FX and Virtuos" on this project. All movie geeks need to watch this.
The mountains are a truly magical place. For the past nine years in a row, I've made a pilgrimage up to the beautiful mountain town of Telluride in Colorado for the Telluride Film Festival. It only lasts for one weekend and it's over way too quickly, but it's still one of my favorite weekends every year. At the 2016 version of the film festival, I was able to catch 11 films and many of them were wonderful. A few of them are guaranteed to end up my Top 10 this year, and that's usually the case with Telluride. I come to this festival year after year to fall in love with films again, to see some of the best that cinema has to offer, and I'm rarely disappointed. Plus over the four days the festivals lasts, I get catch up with old friends and make new ones.
It's nice to be back. Up in the mountains, ready to see more films and see what many talented filmmakers have in store for us. I have returned to the Telluride Film Festival in Colorado for my 9th year in a row, covering this festival with just as much enthusiasm as the first time I went (back in 2008). This film festival takes place an altitude of 8,750 ft (2,667 m), in a tiny little charming town nestled deep inside the San Juan mountains. It's such a beautiful location, the kind where you can see the stars, where everyone around you is always saying "isn't it so beautiful?", where it's easy to get a breath of fresh air, and where you must truly appreciate the place you at. I'm glad to be back, and I'm ready to start watching films. Let's begin the show.
Over the past week and a half I've been attending a few screenings of films as part of the Fantasy Filmfest in Berlin (where I now live). Inspired by and operated similar to Fantastic Fest in Austin, TX and Fantasia in Montreal, the Fantasy Filmfest is a horror/sci-fi/genre festival in Germany (taking place in multiple cities over these past few weeks). Their catchy tagline is "Fear Good Movies" and their line-up of films this year is impressive, including some of my favorites from other fests like: Swiss Army Man, Under the Shadow, Train to Busan, Yoga Hosers, and War on Everyone. I caught four films over the last few weeks, two of them worth recommending. Overall, I'm glad I heard about this fest (from a fellow movie lover in Germany) - I always enjoy seeing some of the latest genre films, especially since there's so many out there every year.
With the 2016 summer movie season all but officially over, plenty of movie bloggers/journalists have been quick to say this past summer has been rather lackluster for film. I would argue otherwise – while some of the blockbusters have crashed and burned at the box office, this past weekend Suicide Squad and Sausage Party still performed strong at the box office. Marvel's Captain America: Civil War and Disney's Pete's Dragon were highlights of the summer as well. So why all the “doom & gloom”? That's likely because most audiences never really gave some of the best films of summer 2016 a chance. There were quite a few hidden gems out there waiting to be seen, if you were brave enough to give them your time (and money).
"Be bold. Be brave. Be epic." That's one of the taglines for this movie, but it could also easily be the motto of Laika, the animation studio that created this excellent animated adventure. Kubo and the Two Strings is now playing in theaters and it's a must see. Please, go see this movie in theaters while you can, and enjoy the heck out of it. Please go see it because stop-motion animation needs all the love and support it can get nowadays, especially in the form of tickets purchased to see this beautiful work of art in theaters. It's all hand-made, animated and painted and created by hand (in Portland, Oregon), and it's wonderful. I really can't recommend it enough and I'm very happy to go out of my way to write an entire post about seeing this.
Take a look at the three winning short films from this year's Jameson First Shot international short film competition supported by Jameson Irish Whiskey, Kevin Spacey and Trigger Street Productions. This is the fifth year of the Jameson First Shot contest, and three filmmakers were chosen from around the world to make short films starring Maggie Gyllenhaal and produced by Trigger Street. A few weeks back we wrote about the winners and who they were, now we finally get to see the short films they made. These were first premiered at an event in Los Angeles a few weeks ago, now they can be seen online in full. In addition, we had the chance to ask one of them, Cameron Thrower, a few questions about breaking into the industry.
There are many different techniques that filmmakers can use to enhance their storytelling, add or alter our emotions, or convey a message without dialogue. One of those techniques is the use of silence, or obstructed dialogue, or putting music or sound over talking to convey a feeling. Editor David Verdeure made an outstanding video essay for Fandor called "When Words Fail" looking at this technique, and providing a number of different examples. "The reasons for the use of this stylistic stratagem are diverse—they range from comedic to horrific, from wistful to suspenseful." The video tries to give some potential explanation for each scene, but it's also cool to see these moments and make whatever you want of them in your own mind.
There are filmmaking contests, then there are real filmmaking contests. This is one of the best, a real chance to break into the industry and work with genuine talent. The top three winners of the fifth year of Jameson First Shot international short film competition supported by Jameson Irish Whiskey, Kevin Spacey and Trigger Street Productions, will be featured at an event this weekend in Los Angeles - called The Weekender. This year's three winners are: Cameron Thrower (from the US), Kat Wood (from the UK), and Jason Perini (from Australia). After submitting their original scripts, these three filmmakers were given a chance to actually produce and film their short films starring Maggie Gyllenhaal and produced by Trigger Street.
"My goal was to create a movie that was intellectually stimulating and emotionally moving." One of my favorite films of the year is called Captain Fantastic, starring Viggo Mortensen as the father of a family he is raising to be "philosopher kings" without the toxic influences of modern society. I first saw it at the Sundance Film Festival and flipped for it, calling it "profoundly intelligent" in my review and including it as one of my favorite films of that festival. The film later went on to play at the Cannes Film Festival, where I saw it again (I really, really love this film) and luckily had the chance to meet up with writer/director Matt Ross for an interview. Ross is most well known as an actor, appearing on "Silicon Valley" as Gavin Belson, but he's also a filmmaker - this is his second feature film (after 28 Hotel Rooms) and it's truly wonderful.
Three cheers for art house cinemas! Following in the footsteps of Record Store Day and Free Comic Book Day, an annual event will be taking place this September called "Art House Theater Day". This special celebration of art house / independent cinemas will take place on September 24th, and this will be the inaugural year. The event has its own official website with details and theater listings, but we're not exactly sure if it will involve free screenings of movies. Maybe, but it's up to every individual theater to figure out what they're doing for AHTD. We've always been big supporters of art house cinemas and movie theaters of all sizes, and it's great to see a nationwide coordinated event to celebrate them. Add it to your calendar now.
"We have no control of time. Except, of course, you're a filmmaker." There's an excellent new video essay made by Julian Palmer to check out, this one all about the use of slow motion. The video examines the slow motion work in films ranging from Ingmar Bergman's Wild Strawberries (1957) to many of Scorsese's films including Mean Streets (1973) and Taxi Driver (1976) to recent films like Zack Snyder's Watchmen (2009), Kathryn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker (2008), Nicolas Winding Refn's Drive (2011) and Pete Travis' Dredd (2012), which had a crazy cool slo-mo storyline. Of course there's the scene in The Matrix, because it's so iconic. There's plenty to admire and plenty to learn in this video essay on slow motion, so check it out.