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Snow White And The Huntsman (#110 of 6)

Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions Costume Design

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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.

Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions Visual Effects

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Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions: Visual Effects
Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions: Visual Effects

Like Avatar before it, Life of Pi is the kind of Oscar-y prestige pic that also stands as a benchmark for the medium—a whopping widescreen spectacle displaying the latest in CG, 3D, and OMG imagery. Say what you will about David Magee’s boilerplate script, which fumbles religious themes and offers very rusty bookends, but the vast second act of Ang Lee’s boy-and-his-tiger tale is pure cinema on a grand scale, bringing myriad wonders of ones and zeroes to his stranded protagonist. Just as its sheer scope conveys the humbling hugeness of life, the sea provides Lee and his F/X wizards with a great canvas on which to work, leaving ample room for neon-hued whales, flying fish, and a carnivorous island crawling with meerkats. What’s more, all of that comes after the film’s gargantuan inciting incident—the most awesome ship-foundering since James Cameron sunk the Titanic. In short, Life of Pi is, with next to no doubt, your victor in this category, unless some scandal emerges about, say, animal cruelty, toward the scant few animals that weren’t uncannily crafted by digital artists.

Understanding Screenwriting #97: Snow White and the Huntsman, Brave, Bernie, & More

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Understanding Screenwriting #97: <em>Snow White and the Huntsman</em>, <em>Brave</em>, <em>Bernie</em>, & More
Understanding Screenwriting #97: <em>Snow White and the Huntsman</em>, <em>Brave</em>, <em>Bernie</em>, & More

Coming Up in This Column: Snow White and the Huntsman; Brave; Turn Me on, Dammit!; Peace, Love, & Misunderstanding; Safety Not Guaranteed; Bernie,; An Appreciation: Richard Zanuck; Two Semi-Appreciations: Andrew Sarris and Nora Ephron; The Conspirator; Bunheads, but first…

Fan Mail: Generally by the time Keith posts one column I have the next one written. I then wait a couple of days to read the comments, add my comments in this “Fan Mail” section and send it. On #95 I sent it off without yet having seen the very interesting comments by “DevilMonkey.” He had been sent a link to that column by a friend who thought that since DM didn’t like superhero movies, “it’s practically made to order for you.” DM thought that column was merely “okay,” but since he remembered reading my book Understanding Screenwriting, he decided to read some of the past columns and ended up reading all of them. That’s above and beyond the call of duty, and if I gave out medals DM would get one.

He particularly liked the Sturges Project and would like to see me do one on Billy Wilder. The advantage to doing Sturges that way is that he had that four-year period of great creativity, while Wilder was wonderful off and on for thirty years. But there are some Wilder films I really want to do. I got a DVD a couple of years ago of Ace in the Hole (1951) that I still have not watched and that I want to do in the column. What other Wilder films to pick? The list goes on and on.

DM raised the very interesting point that I have not done a lot of films from the ’60s and ’70s. He asks, “Is it a silent commentary on your sentiments about films from that era, a matter of personal taste, or just a question of priority and time?” I first wrote that the answer is all of the above, which is usually the best answer to a question like that. But I do like films of the ’60s and ’70s very much. Lawrence of Arabia (1962, and covered in depth in my Understanding Screenwriting book) and Fellini’s 8-1/2 (1963) are two of my favorite movies. And of course Coppola’s two, The Godfather (1972) and The Conversation (1974). I think part of the reason I had not dealt with the films of those two decades is that I dealt with them a lot both as a historian and writer (look at the Annotated Study list in my 1982 Screenwriting book) and as a teacher. At one of Coppola’s many bankruptcy auctions we picked up a gorgeous 35mm print of The Conversation, which I showed nearly every semester for thirty years. I covered several films from the period in my screenwriting class, showing them in sequences over the course of the semester and discussing them in screenwriting terms. So I sort of felt I had dealt with those. But I still have my notes. And scripts for some of them. Did you know that the “dream scene” of Harry and the wife (Cindy Williams) in The Conversation was a “real” scene in the screenplay? Or that Harry originally had a wicked sense of humor? So now that DM has provoked me, you may look forward to more films from the ’60s and ’70s.

Oh, like any good writer, DM saved the punchline until last: it turns out he had not read the book Understanding Screenwriting at all, but something with a similar title. I assume he is making up for that lack in his life even as we speak.

And now, on to the comments on #96: Matt Maul had a different reading of the last scene of the season finale of Mad Men. Matt thought that Don was walking away from the commercial shoot unhappy rather than satisfied. I am not sure there is the visual evidence for that in the shot, but it’s perfectly possible to read it that way. Which is the sort of ambiguity that we love about the show. David Ehrenstein noted that they did give the black secretary a nice scene with Peggy. It was a nice scene, but I still wish there had been more of them. Ah, well, that’s what next season is for. Maybe she’ll become romantically involved with Don. Or with Joan.

Snow White and the Huntsman (2012. Screenplay by Evan Daugherty and John Lee Hancock and Hossein Amini, screen story by Evan Daugherty. 127 minutes.)

This is the script Tarsem Singh should have directed: You may remember that one reason I whacked Mirror, Mirror in US#94 is that I did not think Tarsem Singh was the right director for it. He did not handle the comedy well, and the producers hadn’t provided enough production values to make it live up to his visual sense. There is hardly any comedy in this script, and the producers give the director Rupert Sanders the kind of production values Singh would work wonders with. Sanders works enough wonders that when I first saw the trailer, I assumed it was Singh’s film.

Poster Lab: Total Recall

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Poster Lab: Total Recall
Poster Lab: Total Recall

If recent sci-fi film ads are any indication, all we are is pixels in the wind. Movies like Total Recall, a remake that’s poised to give you déjà vu this August, face the predicament of promoting themes like memory and alternate reality, which aren’t exactly the easiest things to visualize. Common solutions have been to break matter apart like low-res jpegs, and let the debris disperse in smoky, techy milieus. The first Total Recall poster follows this path, depicting futuristic hero Doug Quaid (Colin Farrell) as if his very identity is being erased in geometric fragments. Why does it look so familiar? Well, you just saw a variation of it—same font and all—during the release of last year’s Source Code, whose poster also shattered the hero’s existence into flashes and swept them up like confetti. Though not not as clean as the Total Recall one-sheet, the Source Code ad uses the trend as a tool to integrate film stills, filling the pieces with headshots of co-stars Michelle Monaghan and Vera Farmiga. More generically, Farrell’s gun-toter just disapparates into thin air, which may well point to how this F/X cash cow will be received.

15 Famous Movie Blackbirds

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15 Famous Movie Blackbirds
15 Famous Movie Blackbirds

In what’s unfortunately one of the lesser films about a literary great, John Cusack wields a quill and a gun as The Raven’s Edgar Allen Poe, a legend who would’ve skewered this thriller in one of his sharp-tongued newsprint critiques. What’s perhaps best about the movie is the eerie mood that’s established, a mood symbolized by the titular winged creature. Blackbirds have been harbingers of doom in many a dark tale, and otherwise added spooky style to countless filmic palettes. Even in lighter fare, they point to something sinister, be it imminent attack, loneliness, or even racism.