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August 2, 2020

‘A Call to Spy’ Trailer: Female-Dominated Production Team Runs WWII Espionage Thriller

Women rule the upcoming IFC Films release “A Call to Spy,” a World War II espionage thriller from Oscar-nominated director Lydia Dean Pilcher. Not only is the narrative centered on Winston Churchill’s female recruits thrust into a bold mission, but the production team is also dominated by women throughout. IndieWire shares the exclusive trailer for the film, which hits theaters and VOD on October 2, below.

Here’s the synopsis: “In the beginning of WWII, with Britain becoming desperate, Churchill orders his new spy agency — SOE — to recruit and train women as spies. Their daunting mission: conduct sabotage and build a resistance. SOE’s ‘spymistress’ Vera Atkins (Stana Katic of ‘Castle’), recruits two unusual candidates: Virginia Hall (Sarah Megan Thomas of ‘Equity’), an ambitious American with a wooden leg, and Noor Inayat Khan (Radhika Apte of ‘Sacred Games’), a Muslim pacifist. Together, these women help to undermine the Nazi regime in France, leaving an unmistakable legacy in their wake. Inspired by true stories, this original screenplay draws on SOE, OSS, and CIA files.” The screenplay is written by star Sarah Megan Thomas.

Director Lydia Dean Pilcher is an Academy Award nominee for 2014’s “Cutie and the Boxer,” which she co-directed with Zachary Heinzerling. She also served as a producer on “The Darjeeling Limited,” “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” and “Queen of Katwe.” She also directed and produced the 2018 film “Radium Girls,” the historical drama starring Joey King.

“A Call to Spy” premiered at the 2019 Edinburgh International Film Festival in June 2019, where Pilcher told Women and Hollywood, “I was compelled by the challenge of portraying the journey of these women in a way that could show how the very existence of national and ethnic differences can stimulate deeper humanitarian connection. As we all face the current global epidemic of national extremism, it’s unsettling to realize we are facing the same conditions that set the stage for the Nazism.”

The film also features Linus Roache, Rossif Sutherland, Marc Rissmann, Samuel Roukin, and Laila Robins. The movie picked up prizes at the Santa Barbara and Whistler film festivals.

Watch the exclusive trailer for “A Call to Spy.”

Source: IndieWire film

August 2, 2020

‘Blossoms Shanghai’ First Look: Wong Kar-Wai’s New Series Is an Ambitious Ode to Shanghai

Projects from Hong Kong director Wong Kar-wai come and go, from the now-dead Amazon series “Tong Wars” to the suspended development and production on his film “Blossoms” back in February due to the coronavirus. While a movie is still in the works, that project now lives as “Blossoms Shanghai,” Wong’s first dramatic series and an adaptation of the epic, multi-award-winning novel “Blossoms” by Jin Yucheng. Check out the promotional poster for the film, featuring Hu Ge, below.

Created and produced by Wong, “Blossoms Shanghai” offers an homage to the “In the Mood for Love” director’s birthplace at the most intriguing moments in its recent history. The pilot is also directed by Wong. This is Wong’s first time behind the camera since 2013’s “The Grandmaster.”

Written by award-winning Shanghainese screenwriter Qin Wen, with visuals from Academy Award-winning “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” cinematographer Peter Pau, the series, according to the official synopsis, “tells the story of an enigmatic, self-made millionaire, Mr. Bao (Hu Ge), and his journey of reinvention from a young opportunist with a troubled past to the heights of the gilded city of Shanghai. Set against the backdrop of massive economic growth in 1990’s Shanghai, the series unveils the glamour that follows his dazzling wealth and his entanglement with four fabulous women that represent the pursuits of his life: adventure, honor, love and innocence.”

Hu Ge is known for his turns in the hit series “Nirvana in Fire,” which made him an icon in China, and 2019’s neo-noir “The Wild Goose Lake,” a 2019 Cannes Film Festival competition entry that earned acclaim during its stateside release earlier this year.

“Jin Yucheng’s landmark novel ‘Blossoms’ has been the perfect backdrop to visualize and share my love for my birth city,” Wong said in a statement to press. “With the series, I would like to invite the audience to immerse in the intrigues of Shanghai and its inhabitants in the early 1990s, an exciting time that paved the way for the prosperity of modern Shanghai.”

When not working on the series Wong is endeavoring to save the Hong Kong film industry, as he is is among the leading filmmakers to boost the region’s filmmaking with a new plan that totals $33.5 million U.S. dollars in funds.

Filmed entirely in Shanghai, “Blossoms Shanghai” is a production of Jet Tone (Xiangshan). Tencent Penguin Pictures has acquired the rights for China. Block 2 Distribution is handling international sales.

Blossoms Shanghai

“Blossoms Shanghai”

Jet Tone Films

Source: IndieWire film

August 2, 2020

How George Miller’s ‘Babe’ Revolutionized the Talking Animal Movie 25 Years Ago


Babe” turns 25 on August 4, and the sweet, endearing family drama from Down Under, about an orphan pig winning a sheepherding competition, revolutionized the talking animal movie in 1995. The underdog also became a surprising box office hit and Oscar contender for Universal.

“Babe” earned $64 million domestically and $254 million worldwide, and grabbed seven Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director (for Chris Noonan), Best Adapted Screenplay (Miller & Noonan), and Best Supporting Actor (for James Cromwell as avuncular Farmer Hoggett). Yet its lone prize was for Best Visual Effects, beating Universal’s heavily favored “Apollo 13.”

Thanks to the landmark collaboration between VFX studio Rhythm & Hues (overlaying CG animation over live-action animal footage), and more advanced animatronics from London-based Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, and Australia’s John Cox’s Creature Shop and Robotech, “Babe” altered the landscape of the industry. “We weren’t just changing technology, we were changing filmmaking,” said Oscar-winning production VFX supervisor Scott E. Anderson (“Hollow Man,” “Starship Troopers”). “It was a huge step forward as far as using visual effects for telling a story. Instantly it started a different [performance-driven] trend.”

Babe Universal



“To my knowledge, ‘Babe’ was the first [live-action] film where animals were the leading characters that actually spoke their lines rather than the dialogue being communicated by a narrator,” added Neal Scanlan, the creature project supervisor at Henson, who most recently has worked on the “Star Wars” franchise. “In order to achieve this — and by far the greatest challenge — required utterly lifelike animatronics that could articulate their mouths in order to convincingly pronounce words. It also required CGI to do the same to the footage of the real animals.”

It began with “Mad Max’s” George Miller and his Kennedy Miller production company acquiring the rights to adapt Dick King-Smith’s novel, “The Sheep-Pig,” into a feature shot in his native Australia, helmed by Noonan (“Miss Potter”). But it took nearly a decade for technology to catch up with need to realistically portray talking animals (Miller even phoned Stanley Kubrick about cracking his talking pig problem).

“For me, it all came down to Chris Noonan saying on the first day, ‘I’m gonna shoot the animals like movie stars and I’m not gonna talk down to children.’ And for the next three years, that was my mantra. We needed the animals to look like movie stars and Chris was telling a real story.”

Babe Universal



The 500 animals that appeared in the movie were trained by the legendary Karl Lewis Miller (“Beethoven” and “Cujo”). There were 42 pigs alone for Babe, along with an assortment of dogs, cats, sheep, cows, horses, goats, ducks, mice, and pigeons. The VFX worked on two fronts — mouth replacement and face enhancement. To create the illusion of believable human expressions, Rhythm & Hues overlaid CG animation over the live-action footage of the animals.

“The earliest example of that from my experience was a lot of the projection mapping we had done on ‘Terminator 2: Judgment Day,’” said Anderson. “So the idea that we could take something that looked realistic, split it, deform it, and reposition it made a lot of sense. Projection mapping had not been done on this scale, for this many shots, and with this subtlety. And they combined this with [other elements of] the CG mouths and internals, and then using morphing to help the animal performance around the eyes.”

Meanwhile, the craft of animatronics was pushed further with greater sophistication and nuance, controlled remotely by puppeteers, who took care of the rest of the necessary facial and body movements. “Although we had many years of experience in producing all types of puppets and animatronics at the Creature Shop, ‘Babe’ demanded that we reinvented the rule book,” said Scanlan. “Many new materials and techniques needed to be found and developed. A computer controller that allowed the puppeteers to control the characters was taken to the next level and the methodology of how to configure an animatronics for the numerous shots was revisited.

Babe Universal



“In order to make the animatronic puppets appear to be real, we decided to build them in the way nature does,” added Scanlan. “We started with a metal/ mechanical skeleton that had motors and cables so it could be operated by the puppeteers. For instance, for Babe there was a standing version, a sitting version, and a lying version. To this skeleton, we added muscles that would squash-and-stretch as the body moved and on top of this was the skin. Babe’s skin was a brand new material at the time, a semi-translucent flexible silicone. Each hair was punched into the skin one at a time and took many weeks to complete. This in-depth approach was the same for each of the different characters. The animatronics were [handled] usually by two puppeteers who could control the head, body, and all the facial expressions, including the dialogue in real-time as per the director’s wishes.”

The silicone provided a nice translucency with light scatter, which predated the subsurface scattering that has become the norm today with CG. The best example of this was Babe’s introduction to the farm dogs in the barn and a discussion about his identity, which was beautifully shot by the late, Oscar-winning cinematographer Andrew Lesnie (“The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring”).

The key here was studying and capturing real animal behavior rather than creating anthropomorphic performances. “What’s amazingly hard for people to understand and believe in this day and age is that, before the first minutes of this film, animals did not talk,” Anderson said. “And so the whole entry into the film with the arrival of Babe was all layered in at degrees to get the audience to accept talking animals for everything that would follow. And once we owned them, now we were fully telling the story.”

Source: IndieWire film

August 2, 2020

Switzerland Photography & Wallpapers

Switzerland Photography & WallpapersAoiroStudio08.01.20

Somewhere in the middle of Western, Central and Southern Europe; there is the country of Switzerland. Every year on August 1st, it’s the celebration of the Swiss National Day. I decided to share 10 wallpapers of Switzerland in celebration of this day and also somehow share a photo journal of this stunning country that I have been calling ‘home’ for almost a year. You can download them via my Unsplash profile.

What can I tell you about Switzerland based on my experience living here so far, well it’s an incredibly photogenic place to be surrounded with. You are so close to nature, its astonishing alps, and its well-designed and engineered train tracks that will take you anywhere from ground to the top of some mountains. You become to appreciate its richness and become most aware of embedding its lifestyle, culture, and traditions. Hope you will enjoy these wallpapers, it’s a bit of a learning curve for me to photograph a natural scenery (since I am not used to and still), it’s quite to easy to get lost on what you actually want to focus on. It’s a pleasure though to carry your camera when traveling to places because you never know what you will discover.


Download the wallpapers on Unsplash

Source: Abduzeedo Photography

August 1, 2020

‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ Star Nicholas Hoult Knew He’d Made it as an Actor When Charlize Theron Spat in His Face

Five years later “Mad Max: Fury Road” is the gift that keeps on giving. With a Furiosa spinoff prequel on the way and continued play in best-of-the-decade lists, George Miller’s Oscar-winning 2015 action epic has stayed firmly in the cultural imagination. The film was toasted once again Friday night at a special drive-in screening in Los Angeles, with Kyle Buchanan of The New York Times moderating a Q&A with stars Charlize Theron and Nicholas Hoult.

As reported by Variety, Hoult recalled filming one challenging fight scene alongside Theron inside of a tractor. “I knew I really arrived as an actor when there was a scene when you spat in my face,” Hoult told Theron. “I think I asked politely, ‘Do you mind if I spit back?’”

Talk about a spit take! That kind of intense camaraderie on the set was also evident in an on-set feuding between Theron and co-star Tom Hardy. Stunt performer Dayna Grant recently opened up about the film’s “challenging” atmosphere and the actors’ rivalry during filming. Grant revealed that the Theron-Hardy feud was obvious from the earliest stages of the production, forcing a separation in how the action scenes were choreographed.

“We knew right from the get go,” Grant said. “We knew from the beginning that it was happening when we were doing the fight choreography…there was tension then. So we were told what was going on. And we were just told to try and make it work as much as possible, which was challenging, because usually you’re all in one big group and working together whereas we were kind of separated.”

Theron took some ownership for the feud during an interview with The New York Times published back in May, saying, “I didn’t have enough empathy to really, truly understand what he must have felt like to step into Mel Gibson’s shoes. That is frightening! And I think because of my own fear, we were putting up walls to protect ourselves instead of saying to each other, ‘This is scary for you, and it’s scary for me, too. Let’s be nice to each other.’ In a weird way, we were functioning like our characters: Everything was about survival.”

Source: IndieWire film