Tag Archives | film

Sympathy for the Robot

Johnny 5 and CHAPPiE: Heralds of the End Times or cute widdle wobots?

Cute widdle wobots or heralds of human extinction?

[Editor’s Note: This article may contain spoilers.]

Most of the time, I couldn’t care less about a computer’s feelings. I distrust them, frequently cuss at them, and occasionally smash them to pieces. Pretty callous, right?

You’d think a colorful robot on the silver screen would tug at my heartstrings, but no, not really. They usually make me uneasy. I didn’t bat an eye when C-3PO got blasted apart in The Empire Strikes Back. As a kid I thought The Terminator was super-cool, but seriously, it wasn’t a big deal to see half of his face crunched off—he’s tough, he can take it, he’s just a machine!

Things were different with Neill Blomkamp’s CHAPPiE.

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Can a documentary move a social issue agenda forward?

As a member of the film distribution community, most notably relating to documentaries, I have watched more than my fair share of non-fiction films, and studied over years the release patterning of even more. One thing I have learned is that there are no shortage of topics to choose from when it comes to a filmmaker selecting a theme to focus on. From a tour that guides you through Hermitage Masterpieces to a biography of Aleister Crowley (In Search of the Great Beast), films are created and released on a broad spectrum of non-fiction subjects. That was the case in 1984 when I first entered the industry, and that is the case now… 31 years later.

One area that I have seen great expansion is that of films addressing a social or political issue with the agenda of raising awareness or causing viewer perspectives to sway in one direction or another.… Read the rest

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First and Final Frames


First and Final Frames from Jacob T. Swinney on Vimeo.

What can we learn by examining only the first and final shot of a film? This video plays the opening and closing shots of 55 films side-by-side. Some of the opening shots are strikingly similar to the final shots, while others are vastly different–both serving a purpose in communicating various themes. Some show progress, some show decline, and some are simply impactful images used to begin and end a film.

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God’s Slave

Based on the actual events of a 1994 bombing in Buenos Aires still making headlines today, “God’s Slave” follows Ahmed, trained since childhood as an Islamic terrorist now assigned to execute a suicide bombing at a synagogue, and David, the cold-blooded Israeli special agent who will stop at nothing to prevent the attack. But neither man is defined solely by their extremist views. Ahmed, posing as a doctor, lives happily with his wife and young son; though David’s marriage is on the rocks, he remains devoted to his wife and daughter. With time running out before the attack, David zeros in on Ahmed as a suspect, his investigation culminating in violent, if unexpected, consequences.

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How Technicolor Changed Storytelling

Via Adrienne LaFrance at The Atlantic:

In the dawn of the age of cinema, adding color to black-and-white films was something like “putting lip rouge on Venus de Milo.” That is to say, it had the potential for disastrous, garish results. And that’s how the legendary director Albert Parker referred to the process of colorizing motion pictures in 1926, according to The New York Times that year.

Parker’s lipstick-on-the-Venus de Milo line wasn’t originally his—it was the same comparison famously used by silent film star Mary Pickford to lament the rise of talkies. As with sound, adding color to motion pictures represented a revolutionary shift in onscreen storytelling—and not everyone was convinced that change was worthwhile. Even those who were excited about color filmmaking felt trepidation.

“The color must never dominate the narrative,” Parker told the Times. “We have tried to get a sort of satin gloss on the scenes and have consistently avoided striving for prismatic effects… We realize that color is violent and for that reason we restrained it.”

Today, we’re accustomed to seeing color choices set the tone for a scene, a film—even an entire body of work.

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Breaking Up the Narrative: the 2015 Philip K. Dick Film Festival

FilmFestivalDaniel Abella is the founder and director behind the Philip K. Dick International Film Festival, which just held its third annual event this January at Tribeca Cinemas, NYC. I spoke with him about Philip K. Dick’s ongoing, reality-bending influence on cinematic expression.

J: What compelled you to start a Philip K. Dick film festival?

D: I have been a big fan of Philip K. Dick since learning he was compared to Jorge Luis Borges by Ursula LeGuin. After reading VALIS, Ubik and The Divine Invasion, I found a writer of great depth approaching some modern day philosophers. Philip K. Dick represents a distinctive voice that speaks of a bygone era in science fiction where humanity is prized and valued. My first film feature The Final Equation(1) was inspired by Philip K Dick’s mind bending 2-3-74 experience of meeting an alien intelligence he called VALIS. Based upon the good reception of the film it occurred to me that other filmmakers may want a forum to express their ideas and stories.… Read the rest

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