Thursday, March 24, 2011

Good Night, Sweet Liz

Friday, March 18, 2011

Hollywood Needs Real People

The Polar Express
By Lars Trodson

One of my favorite headlines (that I wrote back when I was a newspaper editor) was for a review of the movie version of “The Polar Express.” We had a local reviewer who didn’t like the film. “Last Train To Creepyville” is what I called it, and it was a reaction to the widely derided, yet early, process known as “performance capture” that was being developed by Robert Zemeckis. Everyone was talking about the “dead eye” syndrome. Performance capture couldn’t give any life to the eyes of the characters. Everybody in that supposedly charming family film looked like a ghoul.

The latest project to bear the imprimatur of this process is “Mars Needs Moms”, which I gather was received with universal ennui when it was released to theaters last week. “A Christmas Carol” with Jim Carrey is also a Zemeckis piece of machinery, and that didn’t fare too well, either.

Now comes word, on the heels of the “Mars Needs Moms” debacle, that the company run by Zemeckis to create more performance capture films has been shuttered by Disney, and a planned 3-D remake of the Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine” has been shitcanned.

Mars Needs Moms
I have never been a fan of this technology. I actually never understood it -- given the whole eye problem and everything. I’m a huge fan of computer animation -- it was a corrective to the hideous photocopied crap that had taken over television and the movies. That stuff wasn’t charming or quaint; it was just cheap. Computer graphics brought lushly conceived backgrounds and characters that moved with fluidity and grace and, with continued advances in that field, still works quite beautifully. Just look at Pixar, naturally.

But "performance capture" seemed redundant and vapid. I suppose Zemeckis -- who put CGI effects to good use in that monstrosity called “Forrest Gump” (can Oscars be rescinded?) -- was trying to be on the cutting edge of something, and that was why he was moving ahead with performance capture.

As cynical as we may be about audiences today, they don’t fall for just anything. And audiences have been telling Zemeckis and his crew that they really aren’t clamoring for the next performance capture endeavor. Now with "Mars Needs Moms" on the verge of being a box office calamity, he has been told definitively.

Motion-capture technology was
used to create Gollum in
The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
The other thing I never understood was why actors would welcome this technology. Jim Carrey famously “starred” in last year’s “A Christmas Carol.” Technicians captured his body movements and then used his voice, of course.

But what if the next development was to use someone else’s body movements and only use the voice of the actor? What would be the point? And where would that lead?

I for one am glad to see that this adventure in performance capture has at least been put on hold. Movies today are soulless enough. They don’t need to be dead-eyed, too.

Monday, March 14, 2011

NY Times Fail

The New York Times gave up some prime real estate in its Arts & Leisure section this past Sunday to talk about the new crop of tough women law enforcement characters now on TV.

The problem? The guy writing the piece talked only to male producers of the shows. Couldn't he have tracked down on of the actors that the article was actually about?

Read the fail here:

-- LT

Sunday, March 6, 2011

'True Grit' vs. 'True Grit': Which One Should Your Pre-Teen Watch?

By Lars Trodson

We live in an age that is the oddest combination: we allow everything and anything to be said or done in public while we feign a kind of Elizabethan prudishness about it all. No swearing on TV, we’re American! Isn’t that Charlie Sheen a mess? But what’s he saying now, I wonder?

At a time when mainstream movies are inching toward more and more explicit sex -- not sexiness, mind you, but sex -- Melissa Leo can’t say “fuck” on the Oscars.

This was brought home to me the other day when I picked up a DVD of the 1969 John Wayne version of “True Grit.” To my surprise, that movie is rated “G” -- that is, for general audiences, just like the kind of movie Disney used to make.

Given that the Coen brothers new version is not so much a reimagining of the Charles Portis novel as it is a simple remake of the Henry Hathaway movie, I wondered what it was rated. The answer: PG-13.

Both movies are virtually the same. I can remember one outright cuss, the ever acceptable “son of a bitch”, which is uttered in both versions. There’s no sex in either movie. I would venture to say that, aside from one shot of Moon’s fingers getting cut off in the Coen version there is exactly the same amount of violence, and about the same amount of blood. The Coens ratcheted way down their penchant for grisliness. I will say that old Rooster Cogburn’s drinking is overplayed in the Wayne version.

To my eyes, the Coen brothers version is actually tamer. Think of this: The hanging scene in the 1969 version takes place in a town square, not in the barren, dusty landscape in the Coen version. In Hathaway’s movie, people are singing hymns as the men get lined up for the noose. There are kids on swings. There are families parked in their buggies to watch the afternoon entertainment. There’s a boy selling peanuts. This version is much more disturbing than what the Coen brothers did with it, and yet this version is okay for kids, apparently.

So why does this version, in what we would often think of as a much less permissive time, receive a G rating and the new one, released in the freewheeling world of Internet porn and R-rated TV, get a PG-13?

I don’t think it’s marketing, because people don't any attention whatsoever to ratings any more. We just live in a time when we no longer know what is acceptable, and what is not.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Chris Decato Music

New Hampshire-based musician Chris Decato has some new tracks out. One of the most talented writers and players around, Chris's music would enhance your next movie, play or video production.

Take a listen here and give him a call:

-- LT