Welcome to The Morning Read.
What a weekend. I should just get a room at the Four Seasons year round at this point. It’d be easier. Still, I can’t complain when I end up sitting across from Harrison Ford and Dennis Quaid chatting. We’ll have those interviews and more up next week for you, as well as reviews of “Legion,” “Extraordinary Measures,” and “The Book Of Eli,” even as I find myself neckdeep in Sundance prep.
Lots of good stuff online this weekend to read, although it seems like a lot of you were back in theaters seeing “Avatar” again. Why not combine the two experiences and read the script, which Fox has made officially available online?
There’s little doubt that “Avatar” has got execs at every single studio talking about how they can make their own SF epics or 3D spectacles, but another of the side effects of the film’s success is the potential retrofitting of many older films into 3D, something that’s been discussed for many years but that now seems to be a fait accompli. After all, for a studio, it’s the difference between committing $120 million to a new film or $10 million to a company to retrofit a film. About four years ago, I saw a demo of one version of the process at Lightstorm’s screening room, where Jon Landau was showing off clips from several older films that had been put together as proof of concept. We saw clips from “Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope,” “Star Wars Episode II: Attack Of The Clones,” and “The Two Towers,” to name a few. Different things impressed me about each of the clips we saw.
The clip from the original “Star Wars” was from the very start of the film, and as you’d expect, the feeling of seeing the Star Destroyer rumble by overhead in 3D is deeply impressive. I saw the film in its first run when I was a seven-year-old kid, and one of the things that got me addicted to movies in the first place was the way I felt like I fell into the screen, like I got lost in this alternate world that George Lucas created, and watching the sequence in 3D, it felt that way again, like the ship was really rumbling overhead. Even better was the moment where Darth Vader first enters the film, smoke swirling around him, laser blasts from the stormtroopers racing by. The “Episode II” clip was the chase scene through Coruscant, which made perfect sense as a demo of how depth could enhance an action beat. What really blew my mind was the scene from “The Two Towers,” though. It was one of the first major scenes with Gollum, Sam, and Frodo, and the 3D did something to my perception of what I was looking at. It’s a great sequence, and Gollum was already convincing, but to suddenly see Sam in the background, Frodo in the foreground, and Gollum holding a space between them… it made him real.
Keep in mind, what I saw were just early tests, and the process has gotten both cheaper and more precise since then. Do I think we need every film retrofitted in 3D for a theatrical re-release? No. Of course not. But do I think the process can change the impact of an older film when applied properly? Absolutely. I’d love to see Warner Bros. pony up for a Busby Berkley musical or “Singin’ In The Rain.” I’d love to get lost in the wide open spaces of a Sergio Leone movie or ride through the Los Angeles landscapes of “Blade Runner” in a Spinner. Can you imagine riding behind Danny Torrence through the halls of the Overlook Hotel or having to duck to avoid a crop duster as it races by just overhead?
It could happen. And I’m looking forward to checking it out when it does.
Oh, Rick Baker, you glorious freak. I was e-mailed the same link about 15 times this weekend, and I finally followed it. Turns out, Baker, the acclaimed make-up artist who has won roughly 9,000 Oscars for his work, has been teaching himself editing and digital effects, and as a sort of pet project, he put together his own video for “Monster Mash,” singing everything, playing everything, appearing as all of the onscreen parts. If you don’t feel completely insane by the end of this, you’re not paying attention.
Eli Roth has had one hell of a ride over the last decade, and as it turns out, he’s been keeping notes the entire time. I didn’t know he was planning to publish a book, but sure enough, a major excerpt from it is up over at Mediaite, and it’s worth some time this morning. Eli’s got rabid fans, and equally rabid detractors, but before I think of anything else, I think of him as just another film fan at BNAT, a guy who brought someone else’s movie one year for no reason other than he liked it and wanted to share it. Say what you will about him, but he’s a hard-working dude who got where he is because he laid himself out there and took some major chances, personally and financially, and they paid off. And he’s a total Basterd. So he’s got that going for him.
I’m disturbed by the notion that an Indian company is planning to adapt 70 Charlie Chaplin shorts into 3D CGI cartoons. Who sold them the rights? Do they need the rights? Is this an indication of what we have to look forward to as more things fall into the public domain? If so, it’s going to be a very ugly future.
One of the many reasons I refuse to identify myself with any particular political party or ideology is because of the people I would have to associate myself with. For example, although I think Oliver Stone is a damn good filmmaker at times, I also think he’s barking mad, and his new series sounds like it’s going to be an easy target for everyone who loathes liberals. “Oliver Stone’s Secret History Of America”? Look, I believe that we peddle many institutional falsehoods to our students in this country, but I also think this show is guaranteed to inflame more than it educates. And way to lead with the “sympathy for Hitler” bit, Ollie. Nicely played.
What a lovely piece by A.O. Scott about “Where The Wild Things Are.” I have no idea if the film’s going to get any Oscar recognition… my gut says no… but time’s going to be incredibly kind to it, and the people who connected with the movie will be evangelical about it for years to come.
Copyright issues seem to get more and more complicated each year, and with the lawsuits brewing back and forth between Marvel and the Jack Kirby estate, there’s going to be some serious precedent set one way or another. And although I’m all about artist’s rights, I have to confess I’m not sure where I stand on this. I think it’s important that Marvel at least acknowledge the individual contributions of the various artists and writers who helped build their company, financially as well as on-screen, but I also think when you do work-for-hire, you know up front that you don’t own the thing you’re creating. It’s tricky territory, and it’s going to be very important to see how this all shakes out.
And speaking of credit where it’s due, I know this link isn’t brand-new, but I only just discovered “Letters Of Note,” and this memo about who created Bugs Bunny is absolutely jaw-dropping. Savor every word.
And finally, Vern has written about one of the great mysteries of our age, and since I’m totally freaked out by the topic under discussion, you should be, too.
Lots more for you this week, so make sure to check back frequently.
The Morning Read appears here every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Except when it doesn’t.
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