Ladybird was just OK.

Over at the WaPo, Emily Yahr lists 15 things to know from the Oscars last night:

9) “Lady Bird” was shut out.

Again, not a surprise, but still a letdown for some critics who were big fans of the coming-of-age story about a volatile mother-daughter relationship. Still, at least Greta Gerwig was nominated for best director, which got called out at the Golden Globes for being an all-male category.

Hold up. Lady Bird was not snubbed or shut out. I unfortunately saw Ladybird in the theatre and is was OK. It wasn’t great and it wasn’t horrible. It was OK.

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Film

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“These are screens, or visuals, that the actor can see and, depending on the scene, physically interact with during a shoot.”

Throughout the movie, K visits a laboratory where artificial memories are made; an LAPD facility where replicant code, or DNA, is stored on vast pieces of ticker tape; and a vault, deep inside the headquarters of a private company, that stores the results of replicant detection ‘Voight-Kampff’ tests. In each scene, technology or machinery is used as a plot device to push the larger narrative forward. Almost all of these screens were crafted, at least in part, by a company called Territory Studios.

The London-based outfit is known for developing on-set graphics. These are screens, or visuals, that the actor can see and, depending on the scene, physically interact with during a shoot. They have the potential to raise an actor’s performance while creating interesting shadows and reflections on camera. Each one also gives the director more freedom in the editing room. If you have a screen on set, you can shoot a scene from multiple angles and freely compare them during the edit. The alternative — tailoring bespoke graphics for specific shots — is a time-consuming process if the director suddenly decides to change perspective in a scene.

Designing the technology of ‘Blade Runner 2049’

This is amazing. I’ve always assumed the computer interfaces I see in movies are are put in during post-production. Territory are making usable interfaces.

You can please some people some of the time…

Writing for Quartz, Anne Quito on Scott Dadich’s new Netflix docu-series on design, Abstract:

Design is the animating force behind brands, buildings and interfaces, and so an engrossing series that explains to a general audience what actually goes on behind the scenes was long overdue. Many designers hoped that Netflix’s Abstract: The Art of Design (released Feb. 10) would do for design what Chef’s Table did for food: Through a series of beautifully shot (if at times overly dramatized) profiles, Chef’s Table gave viewers a global sampler of the most creative minds working in the culinary industry.

But after a fortnight of trudging through the first season’s eight 40-minute episodes, I found Abstract puzzling and on the whole, tedious. It’s unfortunate because Abstract’s stellar cast of superstar designers—including graphic design legend Paula Scher, Nike shoe designer Tinker Hatfield, and architecture’s “wacky wunderkind” Bjarke Ingels—are some of the most winsome and articulate ambassadors for their specialization.

Needless to say, Quito is not a fan of a series. She’s critical of everything from it’s production value (it’s over-produced) to the designers they chose to feature (“the usual roster of design stars”).

I think Quito is way off-base. I’ve enjoyed all 6 episodes I’ve watched so far. I find the series beautifully shot and I can’t remember seeing such attention to detail in a docu-series before. If Dadich had chosen a more “raw” style of shooting, people would be complaining it was under-produced.

As for the people featured in Abstract, I’m familiar with many of the design stars within my field of graphic design, but I don’t know many in other industries. The second episode with Tinker Hatfield is a great example. I had no idea he was the guy who brought us the Air Jordan line and collaborated with Michael Jordan for over 20 years.

Then there’s the “hero worship” Quito thinks is dangerous. The reality is, when you’re dealing with people with extreme talent, ego, and vision they’re elevated by the people to a lofty place where we can admire them whether they like it or not. These aren’t production designers working in Photoshop or 40-year-old architecture interns building cardboard models. These are people at the top of their game, and when you get to that level, clients see you out, not the other way around. This puts designers in a similar circle as artists.

There’s clearly room for a series focusing on the undiscovered and under-appreciated people in design. Perhaps a designers’ version of A People’s History of the United States, but that’s another series for someone else to make.

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Art, Film

Tarkovsky

Frank Chimero on Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky:

When the world is brash, fast, and stupid, we must seek out what is quiet, slow, and intelligent to brace ourselves against the world’s madness. I have been under the influence of Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky’s movies for the last few weeks, finding them to be a source of the comfort and beauty which the world seems not equipped to provide right now. Tarkovsky’s movies could be interpreted as sad, but it is a typical American trait to mistake slowness for sadness.

America’s dysfunction is now wed to its antagonistic relationship with Russia, and I take comfort that the Russian powers that be did not care much for Tarkovsky either. They found his spirituality, ambiguity, and grandiosity dangerous, so they embargoed and delayed all of his films. But I adore well-earned spirituality, ambiguity, and grandiosity, so of course I like Tarkovsky too. Everything his countrymen found dangerous about his work I find essential.

It was only last year that I saw my first Tarkovsky film, Solaris. I’ve heard it described as a ‘Russian 2001: A Space Oddyssey‘, but that’s an inaccurate oversimplification.

I enjoyed it, and I agree with Chimero: it required patience (it clocks in at 2h 49m) and engagement to watch, but it was worth it.

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Film

Sulu Likes the Boys

I few days ago I explained why I’m not a fan of movie reboots.

It seems I’m not alone. News broke this past week that the character Sulu is revealed to be gay in the upcoming Star Trek Beyond and the actor who originally played Sulu, and who has been openly gay since 2005 — George Takei — is not on board with the idea:

The idea came from Simon Pegg, who plays Scotty in the new films and penned the Beyond screenplay, and director Justin Lin, both of whom wanted to pay homage to Takei’s legacy as both a sci-fi icon and beloved LGBT activist.

And so a scene was written into the new film, very matter-of-fact, in which Sulu is pictured with a male spouse raising their infant child. Pegg and Lin assumed, reasonably, that Takei would be overjoyed at the development — a manifestation of that conversation with Roddenberry in his swimming pool so many years ago.

Except Takei wasn’t overjoyed. He had never asked for Sulu to be gay. In fact, he’d much prefer that he stay straight. “I’m delighted that there’s a gay character,” he tells The Hollywood Reporter. “Unfortunately, it’s a twisting of Gene’s creation, to which he put in so much thought. I think it’s really unfortunate.”

Takei explains that Roddenberry was exhaustive in conceiving his Star Trek characters. (The name Sulu, for example, was based on the Sulu Sea off the coast of the Philippines, so as to render his Asian nationality indeterminate.) And Roddenberry had always envisioned Sulu as heterosexual.

As nice an homage to Takei it is, I can understand Takei’s rejection of the idea. George Takei, the person, is gay, not Sulu. Being gay is Takei’s story to tell and champion.

Pegg responded, “respectfully disagreeing“:

Pegg expressed sympathy with Takei’s sentiment that mainstream gay heroes were belatedly coming to the big screen, but rejected the idea that this meant a new character needed creating.

“He’s right, it is unfortunate, it’s unfortunate that the screen version of the most inclusive, tolerant universe in science fiction hasn’t featured an LGBT character until now. We could have introduced a new gay character, but he or she would have been primarily defined by their sexuality, seen as the ‘gay character’, rather than simply for who they are, and isn’t that tokenism?”

Pegg continued: “Justin Lin, Doug Jung and I loved the idea of it being someone we already knew because the audience have a pre-existing opinion of that character as a human being, unaffected by any prejudice. Their sexual orientation is just one of many personal aspects, not the defining characteristic. Also, the audience would infer that there has been an LGBT presence in the Trek Universe from the beginning (at least in the Kelvin timeline), that a gay hero isn’t something new or strange. It’s also important to note that at no point do we suggest that our Sulu was ever closeted, why would he need to be? It’s just hasn’t come up before.”

At the end of the day, the most important question will be, is the movie any good?