News & Updates
May 24, 2020
For a studio that recently weathered barbs for shifting the “Love, Simon” spinoff from Disney+ to Hulu, Disney has just made a forward leap in terms of representation with the latest Pixar animated short “Out.” It’s now streaming on Disney+. This quirky and surprisingly moving short film comes from director Steven Clay Hunter, making his debut after decades as an animator on Pixar films.
“Out” centers on a young gay man, Greg, who’s not out to his parents and is (naturally) about to move into the big city to live with his boyfriend, Manuel. Unexpectedly, Greg’s buoyant parents show up unannounced with a tray of pizza casserole to lend a helping hand in the move. Which finds Greg suddenly needing to scramble to cover up evidence of his sexuality, and his relationship, which includes a framed photo of the happy couple, and a calendar of sexy firemen.
What follows is a kind of “Freaky Friday”-esque, body-swapping plot where Greg and his dog Jim suddenly switch places, and Greg as Jim has to resort to all sorts of rascally bad-dog techniques to keep his mother’s prying hands off that framed photo. To his eventual surprise, it turns out that Greg’s mother is more intuitive than he ever realized.
Almost shockingly, a gay couple is even seen kissing, albeit briefly, in this otherwise tame but still revolutionary in its own way film, as it features animation studio Pixar’s first gay lead. Plus, it’s also revolutionary that it’s also available on the otherwise family-friendly streaming service. One small step to normalizing gay characters in animated films for youngsters.
Pixar, earlier this year, featured a gay character prominently in the animated hit “Onward,” which is also available to stream on Disney+. The passing LGBTQ reference occurs as the film’s elf brothers (played by Tom Holland and Chris Pratt), collectively disguised as their mom’s centaur boyfriend, named Officer Bronco, discuss parenting with two female police officers. One of them is a purple cyclops named Specter, who’s voiced by Lena Waithe and is, according to the studio, Disney’s first openly gay character. Specter tells “Officer Bronco,” “It’s not easy being a new parent. My girlfriend’s daughter got me pulling my hair out, okay?”
“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” also featured a brief same-sex kiss, but “Out” is the first time we’ve seen a same-sex couple take center stage. Watch a teaser for the nine-minute short below.
Source: IndieWire film
May 24, 2020
Alfonso Cuarón’s “Roma” was a global phenomenon in 2018, turning a black-and-white, Spanish-language Netflix movie into a must-see event the world over, winning three Academy Awards, and shedding light on a pocket of Mexican life rarely seen on screens. But it wasn’t always an easy road, as the film’s star Yalitza Aparicio recently recalled in a New York Times op-ed, published Saturday as part of the paper’s Big Ideas series focused on the value of art.
“I never thought that a movie alone could prompt social awareness and change,” wrote Aparicio, adding that “that’s exactly what happened. Suddenly people in my home country of Mexico were talking about issues that have long been taboo here — racism, discrimination toward Indigenous communities and especially the rights of domestic workers, a group that has been historically disenfranchised in Mexican society.”
However, Aparicio said that the kinds of prejudice challenged by the movie, in which she stars as a Mixtec maid working for an upper-middle-class family in Mexico City, plagued her in real life once she received a milestone Best Actress Academy Award nomination.
“Although discrimination is not often spoken about in Mexico, it is a very real problem. According to a 2017 poll conducted by Mexico’s national office of statistics, 65 percent of Mexicans think that few to none of the rights of our Indigenous communities are respected,” Aparicio said.
Aparicio is the first Indigenous American woman, and the second Mexican woman after Salma Hayek for “Frida,” to receive a Best Actress Oscar nomination.
“I have firsthand experience with this kind of discrimination. After I was nominated for an Academy Award for portraying Cleo, racist comments began to circulate on social media. Commenters questioned why I was nominated, making references to my social and ethnic background,” Aparicio said. “An Indigenous woman was not a worthy representative of the country, some said. It was hard for me to see and hear these sorts of statements.”
Still, Aparicio said there was redemption to be found in the experience of the movie, which put a major spotlight on Indigenous people and eventually inspired legislative change. “But real conversations were happening because of [the racist statements]. Eventually, these discussions highlighted the cultural and political importance of diversity in society, art and the media,” she said. Aparicio also reminded that in May 2019, just a few months after the Academy Awards ceremony, the Mexican Congress approved a bill granting two million domestic workers rights, protections, and benefits.
“Cleo had a very profound effect on my life, and playing her placed me on my current path: I am using my newly discovered activism to improve social conditions in Mexico, champion gender equality and promote diversity wherever I can,” Aparicio said. Currently, she’s taking a break from working in movies, serving instead as a UNESCO goodwill ambassador for indigenous peoples.
Source: IndieWire film
May 24, 2020
Though Paul Feig’s “Bridesmaids” scored more than $288 million at the worldwide box office back in 2011, becoming a comedy classic and inspiring many an imitation of the film’s winning formula, a sequel likely won’t be happening. Feig explained why that is in an interview with Collider about his career, which most recently includes executive-producing the upcoming HBO Max series “Love Life” via his Feigco Entertainment.
“Everybody thinks they want a ‘Bridesmaids’ sequel, and it could be fun, but I always have to say this,” Feig said. “‘Bridesmaids’ works — you remember all the comedy stuff, that was great, but the reason that movie worked is because it was about Kristen Wiig’s character, who was a very confident person before the movie began, who has this total crash because her bakery goes out of business and everything falls apart in her life. So we meet her and she’s a disaster. She’s desperately trying to hang onto this one thing, which is her friendship with Maya Rudolph’s character, and that takes her through the fire.”
The movie earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay for Wiig and Annie Mumolo, with Wiig doing double duty starring in the movie as a woman whose best friend’s (Rudolph) wedding challenges their relationship. “That’s why all this stuff happens, because she’s just acting out and trying desperately to save things, and by the end she heals herself, as much as you can. That’s what you latch onto in that film,” Feig said.
“So to do a sequel, I think you’re basically just gonna have to have a funny wedding. And I’ve seen those movies a million times and some of them are good and some of them are like, okay, whatever. It’s obviously up to Kristen, she’s the keeper of the keys on that, but it would have to be something that you can emotionally engage in again and not just go, ‘It’s Megan’s crazy wedding in the Bahamas!’ and all kinds of hijinks happen. That could be funny, but I just think you need more for a movie to be great.”
While it would be fun to think about what Megan’s wedding in the Bahamas might look like (Megan was played by Melissa McCarthy in an Oscar-nominated supporting role), that does not necessarily make for a good movie.
Paul Feig’s last directorial effort was 2019’s “Last Christmas.” He’s directed a number of hit female-fronted comedies, including “Spy” and “The Heat,” but none have so far seen a sequel.
Source: IndieWire film
May 24, 2020
Among the 100 top-grossing domestic movie releases, there have been three occasions when two of those films opened on the same weekend.
George Lucas’ film, of course, is second only to “Gone With the Wind” in tickets sold. But “Smokey” is #77 all time, grossing $533 million (all figures here adjusted to 2020 values).
And for that first weekend, “Smokey” was actually #1. All-time, it’s a bigger hit than any “Harry Potter” film, “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” “West Side Story,” “Lawrence of Arabia,” all the “Hunger Games” films, and “Rocky.” (And, according to Alfred Hitchcock’s daughter, it was one of her father’s favorite films.)
In May 1977, I was in my second year as a film buyer for a local Chicago exhibition chain. At that point, wide releases were not the rule and while Memorial Day was a desirable date, it wasn’t considered summer. Two years earlier, “Jaws” established mid-June as to the go-to date. (And prior to that, summer wasn’t considered a strong time to release a hit.)
Between “Star Wars” and “Smokey,” the Burt Reynolds movie was considered more of a sure bet, particularly in Southern and non-urban locations. By 1977 standards, it represented an ideal “summer” film: light entertainment that’s not meant for critics, not too expensive, and easy to promote.
Reynolds was the draw, an established star with a sexy image and a gift for self promotion, all while still managing to seem like a good ol’ boy. However, his recent attempts to expand into comedy failed spectacularly with Peter Bogdanovich’s musical flop “At Long Last Love.” His last big hit was “The Longest Yard” in 1974.
However, neither “Smokey” nor “Star Wars” were expected to be the top films of the year, much less of all time. The films set for June and July were expected to be the biggest of the season. First up was another Fox title, “The Other Side of Midnight,” and then an all-star World War II epic “A Bridge Too Far,” “Exorcist II: The Heretic,” “New York, New York,” “Sorcerer,” “The Rescuers,” “The Spy Who Loved Me,” and “The Deep.”
The two films had radically different release patterns, neither of which would be considered today. “Smokey” outgrossed “Star Wars” that weekend by playing far more theaters (386 to 43). And it worked, immediately. The first weekend brought in about $11 million. In 2020 terms, that would be about $28,000 per theater. It was a massive hit on a low budget — around $17 million today. It didn’t have a wide release until the end of July and ultimately grossed $533 million, selling around 56 million tickets in the U.S.
It is impossible to overstate how big a phenomenon “Star Wars” became from the start, but some myths about it are incorrect.
It was not a throwaway project in which Fox had little faith. It did go significantly over budget, ending up adjusted about $45 million. And it is true the studio had doubts: After “2001: A Space Odyssey,” which amassed a high return over decades but was considered disappointing at the time, sci-fi titles were regarded with some suspicion. Lucas’ debut “THX 1138” did poorly, and “Logan’s Run” the previous summer did well but hardly great.
With that in mind, the studio believed “The Other Side of Midnight” was their “A” title for early summer. Based on Sidney Sheldon’s bestseller, it was expected to be a steamy, if epic (165 minutes) hit.
Still, Fox positioned “Star Wars” with great care and believed it had a chance. The studio sent out two special promo books to exhibitors that summer. The one for “Midnight” was one of the glossiest, most expensive our buying office ever received, but “Star Wars” was a close second. The message: Pay attention to this one, too.
So the idea that the success of “Star Wars” came as a complete surprise is nonsense. It was heavily promoted, and presented to Chicago exhibitors a week prior in a prime screening. In my experience, the response that evening was equaled only by “E.T.” six years later.
The myth repeated often is Lucas, following cues from Fox, remained uncertain of the response, and then — with its initial unusual Wednesday opening — forgot it was opening day. Certainly the huge initial surge (grossing $2.1 million on two weekdays, about $56,000 per theater, nearly all shows sold out) proved that something close to unprecedented was happening. And by then, word was already out and expectations sky high.
That Wednesday launch shows both smarts and care on Fox’s part. The early jump in several cities (including Chicago) gave word of mouth a chance to kick in for the weekend. It guaranteed sell-outs from the start and became national news, with Walter Cronkite covering the sensation.
The sold-out shows everywhere, enhanced by the small number of locations playing it, kicked exhibitor interest into the stratosphere. Yet Fox stuck to its guns, delaying the next wave of expansion to mid-June, with the film still playing in fewer than usual screens most of its run. Once opened, it played for months, often into 1978.
The result, along with its multiple reissues, is a domestic adjusted total of close to $1.7 billion, nearly double “Avengers: Endgame.” It was in the top 10 for nearly a year, often #1 during initial summer weekends. “Endgame,” on the other hand, went with current strategy and had a record opening but spent only three weeks at #1.
This was 43 years ago, a gap as great as 1924 was to 1977. The idea that two massive films might be released the same weekend is unthinkable today; so is the idea that a film could so surpass expectations.
Finally, of note: Both were original films that only later became franchise titles.
Source: IndieWire film
May 23, 2020
Over 6 years in production,The Wanting Mare exemplifies true fantasy immersion with a DIY ethos.
The age old question: if you knew what you know now, would you still go through with your project?
For director Nicholas Ashe Bateman, it was never a choice. He’s been drawn to tell stories in a fantasy universe he’s held in his head since he was a teenager: the mysterious and expansive world of Anmaere. With a background as an actor, Bateman knew very little about VFX — he didn’t know if any of it was possible, but he just starting working. Six years and four computers later, armed with a copy of the Lord of the Rings DVD and a dedicated crew, Bateman’s first entry into his fantasy universe is now undeniably real.
May 23, 2020
May 23 marks the 40th anniversary of Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining,” and while today it may be hard to dispute its masterpiece status, the Stephen King adaptation did not satisfy critics in 1980. Sure, the movie has spawned countless imitations and parodies, the sequel “Doctor Sleep,” and even an entire documentary centered on its many obsessives and their far-fetched close reads with “Room 237.” But its legacy wasn’t certain when Warner Bros. opened the movie, which went on to earn two Razzie Awards at the first ceremony in 1981. Author King has famously derided the Kubrick adaptation as “misogynistic” and “cold,” but he did give his stamp of approval for “Doctor Sleep” last year. Here’s a sample of what first reviews for “The Shining” had to say in 1980.
“Though we may admire the effects, we’re never drawn in by them, mesmerized. When we see a flash of bloody cadavers or observe a torrent of blood pouring from an elevator, we’re not frightened, because Kubrick’s absorption in film technology distances us,” wrote The New Yorker’s Pauline Kael.
“I can’t help thinking that the Stephen King original, with its spook-ridden, other-worldly junketings, gets in the way of Kubrick’s grim vision, finally cheapening and distorting it,” wrote Derek Malcolm for The Guardian. “The genre within which the film is cast exerts too great a price. Nicholson’s performance, even if deliberately over the top, still shouldn’t encourage as much laughter as fear. Nor should the final twists of the plot look so illogical. If ‘The Shining’ isn’t trivial, it certainly encourages one to think that it is.”
This pan from Variety, meanwhile, is just plain rude: “The crazier Nicholson gets, the more idiotic he looks. Shelley Duvall transforms the warm sympathetic wife of the book into a simpering, semi-retarded hysteric.”
“Kubrick is after a cool, sunlit vision of hell, born in the bosom of the nuclear family, but his imagery — with its compulsive symmetry and brightness — is too banal to sustain interest, while the incredibly slack narrative line forestalls suspense,” wrote Dave Kehr in Chicago Reader.
For The Washington Post, Gary Arnold took issue with the film’s famously expensive and lengthy shoot — par for the course for a Kubrick film, but he notoriously wore Shelley Duvall down to a nub to elicit her frittered performance. “I can’t recall a more elaborately ineffective scare movie. You might say that ‘The Shining,’ opening today at area theaters, has no peers: Few directors achieve the treacherous luxury of spending five years (and $12 million-$15 million) on such a peerlessly wrongheaded finished product,” Arnold wrote.
And here’s this one from Kevin Thomas for the Los Angeles Times: “There are moments so visually stunning only a Kubrick could pull them off, yet the film is too grandiose to be the jolter that horror pictures are expected to be. Both those expecting significance from Kubrick and those merely looking for a good scare may be equally disappointed.”
Still, despite pessimistic reviews, “The Shining” opened big for Warners, grossing $626,000 in just 10 theaters in its first four days, according to the AFI Catalog. That’s the equivalent to about $2 million today. While it mystified many critics at first — a phenomenon Kubrick was never a stranger to — even Roger Ebert, initially dismissive of the movie, came back around with a four-star Great Movies review in 2006.
“The Shining” is currently available to stream on Amazon Prime, YouTube, Google Play, and iTunes.
Source: IndieWire film
May 22, 2020
A sad week for filmmakers, and film fans everywhere.
This week, we reminisce and share more about the impact, influence, and legacy of filmmaker Lynn Shelton. We also dive into the world of possibilities created by the Unreal Engine 5 and the new support of Apple ProRes in Adobe Premiere. Plus, a Deep Cuts Speed Round featuring TV Pilots.
We leave you with the quote from Lynn that stuck with all of us the most, “It’s never too late.” She said this in reference to making big career moves in the world of filmmaking.
May 22, 2020
Stop the presses.
The Panasonic LUMIX S1H is a beloved camera option for video shooters because of its versatility and lucrative recording formats. The full-frame sensor can record 6K 24p, 5.9K 30p, and both 4K DCI and UHD 60p with internal 4:2:2 10-bit sampling.
In August of last year, Atomos stepped up to announce that it would develop ProRes RAW over HDMI for the LUMIX S1H, and more recently set a date for its release on May 25th. Well, that has been changed.
The ProRes RAW capability has been pushed back to an undisclosed date as Panasonic and Atomos aim to “ensure the highest possible level of RAW recording.” While the delay is unfortunate, it’s better than receiving flawed firmware that will need additional updates right out of the gate.
Atomos says that “an unforeseen technical issue has come to light in the final rounds of beta testing that needs rectification prior to shipping.” Both companies are working together to complete the development as soon as possible.
May 22, 2020
Aputure makes available its highly-anticipated new soft panel.
The Nova P300c is a 300W RGBWW LED soft light panel that packs some serious color. RGBWW combines red, green, blue, tungsten and daylight chips into a single fixture that can dial in a wider color spectrum than an RGB light alone. When it comes to creating visually distinct color palettes RGBWW fixtures can offer unique lighting setups.
May 22, 2020
“Germ-zapping” robots that have been used successfully in hospitals might try to make it in Hollywood soon.
Since film and TV productions have ground to a halt in the wake of the global COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve seen many different teams come to the table with options for getting back on set. Baltasar Kormákur is trying color-coded armbands. Other productions are quarantining together. Producers have written handbooks with potential guidelines.
But no one has suggested germ-zapping cleaning robots—until now.
The robots hail from a Texas company, Xenex Disinfection Services, and according to independent research, they are able to kill 99.99% of the coronavirus in 2 minutes. The robots use “LightStrike” technology, or pulses of ultraviolet light, to kill the virus that causes COVID-19.