Wow. It feels like I’ve been on the road forever, but it’s actually just been a little over a week. That’s the last major road trip I’ve got planned until Comic-Con this summer, so for the next few months, we can focus on the regular routine here at HitFix.
During that week-plus I was on the road, lots of stuff happened that I didn’t report here on the blog, and I’d like to catch up this week even as we dig into what’s new. So if you see something here this week that’s not “brand-new,” it might be new to me.
I see that Yahoo! Movies decided to put together a list of “The 100 Movies You Should See Before You Die.” And looking at it, there sure are a lot of familiar titles there. It’s sort of what I was hoping to avoid with the Motion/Captured Must-See Project, and the whole reason I put together a List Of Duh before even starting. There are so many great films that people don’t already know the title of that recommending “Die Hard” seems almost frustratingly wrong. Yes… it’s an action classic. Yes… it was imitated mercilessly. But do you really think “Die Hard” is underrated or overlooked, or that it needs the help of a list at this point? What point is there in doing any of this if we’re not going to try to broaden the conversation instead of just repeating the same thing over and over?
[more after the jump]
Say you want to write about some of these omnipresent classics. Find a new way in, like this great piece on Sight and Sound about the history of cinematography. Much has been written about titles like “Pinocchio” or “Blade Runner,” but in context, the piece isn’t just a rehash… it’s a smartly written look at the way how something looks affects what it is we feel about it.
Nobody likes to be called out on their work, though, so don’t think I’m attacking you, Yahoo! Movies. Your list is your list, and I appreciate that at the very least, you’re doing something to promote the discussion of them that isn’t about money or business. Even when a reader radically disagrees with you, the fact that they respond means you’ve reached them in some way, so I hope A.O. Scott isn’t too irritated by the guy he wrote about today, just as I hope Christopher Rosen doesn’t mind being absolutely and completely wrong about Danny McBride. Anyone who could write that after the run of “East Bound And Down” that just ended does not agree with me on the definition of “funny.” End of story.
Seeing McBride and the entire Jody Hill crew at SXSW was a real treat, and overall this year, the festival seemed to be kicking ass nonstop. Kim Voynar’s profile of Janet Pierson does a nice job of capturing her mood as her first year of being the head of the festival was underway, and I hope it’s a position that Janet keeps for years and years, because I think she had a great start, and I think she’s only going to get better at it in the years to come.
I hope she’s able to allow occasional special events like the screening of the 20 minutes of “Bruno” footage while making sure that those things never actually crowd out real indie voices. I think “Bruno” was an apt fit for the festival because of the crazy rebel spirit that drives the work of Sacha Baron Cohen. Reading about some of the methods behind his madness and the things he’s doing to protect some of those secrets, I respect him even more. The guy is quite simply the best at what he does, the perfect culmination of a long tradition of hidden camera comedy, and I hear the soon-to-be-released “Bruno” trailer will have audiences gasping in horror and laughing helplessly. Can’t wait.
Why do I get the feeling that until “Tintin” is finished, we’re not going to get many straight answers on the way the production of the film works? There’s a piece that ran yesterday in The LA Times that lays out a few more basics about how Peter Jackson and Steven Spielberg are working together on the film, but there are some things in it that suggest to me that the Times doesn’t quite understand the tech. Their description of the mo-cap process in particular seems wrong to me based on the things I’ve heard from the actors who just finished working on the performance capture phase of the film. The whole “green dots on the face while wearing a wet suit” thing is not really how it works anymore. Instead, it’s moving more and more towards a pure experimental theater experience for the actors, where it’s like they’re in a very small room putting on a school play for one audience member. In this case, that audience member happens to be Steven Spielberg, but still… it’s a very intimate process considering how expensive and large-scaled these films can end up being.
Roger Ebert may be out on a limb by himself in his enjoyment of the Alex Proyas film “Knowing,” but I love how engaged he is by the film’s underlying ideas. And I like that he’s willing to defend his position on the movie even after others piled on. He’s single-handedly convinced me to walk in open-minded even after terrible reviews stacked up against the movie. I’ve liked many drafts of the script along the way, and I always thought it had potential to either be amazing or silly, and only degrees between the two. That’s exciting to me as a viewer. I love ambition, even when it goes wrong.
That sort of wild artistic ambition is definitely one of the fuels of “Where The Wild Things Are,” the new Spike Jonze film, and this new gallery of stills from the film seem to have people excited. That’s good. You should be excited. Trust me on this one.
One of the most interesting and important conversations developing right now in the world of art was highlighted earlier this year by the struggle to get “Sita Sings The Blues” in front of viewers despite some complicated music rights issues, and at SXSW, there was a film I missed that gets into the issue using the work of Girl Talk as a jumping off point. I may have been late to the party on Girl Talk, but “Feed The Animals” is one of the most compulsively listenable things I’ve ever heard, and I think fair use is something that we have to start making room for if we expect art in the digital age to continue to evolve. The documentary about film critics also had to deal with the same issues, and I’m curious to see if either of those docs is able to get a widespread commercial release until these ideas are more resolved in a general sense.
I hadn’t checked out The Art of the Title in a while, and sure enough, they’ve got up a great new piece on the dynamic opening titles for Baz Luhrmann’s “Romeo + Juliet.”
I have the BluRay for “Let The Right One In” here on my desk, and it’s one of the next few titles I’ll be watching… but did they screw up the subtitles in a major way? Harry Knowles told me in Austin that he didn’t think it was a big deal, but others seem to reacting much more negatively, and the buzz is building. Seems like a poor choice by Magnolia, in my opinion, and I wonder if enough people will end up complaining for Magnolia to consider reissuing the title with the original theatrical subtitles.
There’s a lot more going on out there, but it’s noon, and if I wait any longer, this won’t be today’s Morning Read. It’s good to be back at it, and I hope as I get back in the habit, you do, too.
The Morning Read appears here every day, Monday through Friday. Except when it doesn’t.
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