House Logo

Tarsem Singh (#110 of 3)

Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions: Costume Design

Comments Comments (...)

Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions: Costume Design
Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions: Costume Design

Okay, so, this isn’t a tough one exactly, but it bears mentioning that one of the two times we’ve gotten this category wrong was when we disregarded the almost always reliable frilliest-always-wins rule and allowed ourselves to be stupidly blinded by Keira Knightley’s emerald green dress from Atonement. (Our only other faux pas—not calling it for The Artist last year—is perhaps more easily explained, as the Best Picture winner clearly benefited from every other nominee’s ostentatious yards of silk drowning each other out.) Now, here we are calling it for more Knightley-donned couture by Jacqueline Durran, this time from Joe Wright’s uneven but oft-deliciously unhinged Anna Karenina, whose four tech nods more than suggest that feelings for this most purple of cinematic adaptations of Leo Tolstoy’s classic tome are more amorous than the Academy’s regard for Anonymous, W.E., and Jane Eyre, each of which received their sole Oscar nominations in this category last year. If the showy grime of Hugo’s Silent Film Era Street Urchin Collection couldn’t seal the deal last year, as we thought it would, we have to rule out Les Misérables and Lincoln’s infinitely grayer lines. Charlize Theron truly rocks Colleen Atwood’s trannie-fierce gowns for Snow White and the Huntsman, but it’s the other Snow White movie in the category, Tarsem’s Mirror Mirror, that could steamroll over Anna Karenina, and not just because its costumes are as gorgeously elaborate, but also because they were designed by the deceased Eiko Ishioka, a previous Oscar winner for Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

Will Win: Anna Karenina

Could Win: Mirror Mirror

Should Win: Anna Karenina

The Conversations: 3D

Comments Comments (...)

The Conversations: 3D
The Conversations: 3D

Ed Howard: If there’s anything that can excite an impassioned debate among film fans, it’s the topic of 3D. The technology has been around for a long time in one form or another—the first 3D films were released in the 1950s—but its popularity tends to wax and wane, sometimes reaching peaks where it’s a huge fad and a box office draw, while at other times the technology falls into disfavor and disuse. We are currently, without a doubt, in the middle of one of 3D’s peak periods, and there are even those, like James Cameron, who argue that 3D is the future of film. It’s pretty rare these days for any big animated film or summer blockbuster to get released to theaters without being in 3D, and older hits from the Star Wars series to Titanic are being refitted and re-released with 3D effects grafted on.

Our entry point for this conversation is provided by the release of two 3D family/adventure flicks made by esteemed directors working in the 3D format for the first time. Martin Scorsese’s Hugo and Steven Spielberg’s The Adventures of Tintin are very different movies, both in their own right and in how they use 3D. Scorsese’s latest work is a deeply personal (but also, paradoxically, uncharacteristic) ode to the early cinema, a formalist celebration of the joys of movies. Spielberg’s film, an adaptation of the beloved comics by Belgian artist Hergé, is arguably less of a personal work, a propulsive, often funny, action movie that hardly ever pauses for breath. Though both films share a certain witty European sensibility and both are family-friendly crowd-pleasers, it’s hard to imagine two more different movies in terms of tone: the breathless, wide-eyed wonder of Hugo and the kinetic, nearly slapstick violence and adventure of Tintin.

Precisely because these films are so different, and because they’re the product of two highly respected American directors rather than just two more disposable holiday-season spectacles, they provide a perfect opportunity to discuss the merits of 3D, to consider whether this technology really is, as filmmakers like Cameron seem to think, the future of film and a valuable aesthetic tool, or if it’s simply a faddy gimmick that’s cycled back into popularity before people get tired of it again. These films provide an interesting case study for these questions. One curiosity is that the brasher, louder Tintin arguably uses 3D effects much more subtly and minimally than the comparatively low-key Hugo, which suggests that 3D can easily be separated from the other elements of a film’s style and tone. I wonder if that disconnect between 3D and the rest of a film’s elements provides some proof for the viewpoint that 3D is an unnecessary gimmick rather than a truly vital means of expression.

Definition of a Cult Classic: The Fall

Comments Comments (...)

Definition of a Cult Classic: <em>The Fall</em>
Definition of a Cult Classic: <em>The Fall</em>

Watching Tarsem Singh’s The Fall made me hate Guillermo del Toro all the more for consistently locking me within plot-driven, petty geek-boxes of marketable fantasy.

In contradistinction, Tarsem documents a visual universe that seems flung together and bereft of the structural, tonal gravitas and authorial control that Oscar loves. Even though no CGI was used during the film’s production, the Dali-like dreamscapes Tarsem gathered from the natural world appear hyper-real and, consequently, post-produced and phony. (Corporate gloss, per the suggestion of New York Times film critic Nathan Lee.) Perhaps we have become so used to digital facsimile that the real world seems like just another Sprint commercial. Or is it more a question of puritanically lumping art and pop into separate categories: art must remain sanctified and dull while pop is now an occasion where good taste is gently set aside in favor of cathartic animal release. There is something transgressive about The Fall, about how it blurs the categories of pop and art. It is an innovation with something important to say about what film-making can be when unshackled from the standardized gradients that drive and determine mainstream success.

Tarsem’s transgressive visual statement revolves around two layers of fiction. A convalescent, lovesick, suicidal stuntman, Roy Walker (Lee Pace), fabricates a story for an adorable little Romanian girl, Alexandra (Catinca Untaru). A hodgepodge of characters emerge from Roy’s imagination and their interactions are driven by Alexandra’s fascination as an audience. Among others, there is the Black Bandit (Roy’s fictional counterpart, also played by Pace), an escaped African slave, an Italian demolition expert (redolent of A Fistful of Dynamite), and none other than Charles Darwin himself, clad in a peacock jacket and bowler hat. They are all out for revenge against Baron Odious. The Baron has, among other foul deeds, stolen the Black Bandit’s girlfriend, a Caucasian geisha-siren bridging the divide between the real and the fictive.