Douglas Slocombe. 1913-2016

Cinematographer extraordinaire, Douglas Slocombe, that is known to one generation as the lensman of many of the great Ealing Studio comedies (Kind Hearts & Coronets, The Lavender Hill Mob), to another as doing yeoman’s work on midlevel studio fair such as The Fearless Vampire Killers, The Italian Job, Rollerball and The Great Gatsby, and to yet another generation as he who shot Spielberg’s Indiana Jones Trilogy, complete with gorgeous deserts, lush jungles, and fiery pits of hell; and a bit infamous for not using a light-meter,The man was 103, but (fittingly) retired his career with the legendary sunset shot at the end of The Last Crusade in 1989.

We salute you sir, for making our childhood such a pretty place. (And upon reflection, his work with mirrors in Joseph Losey’s The Servant, is unparalleled.)

The Guardian has more.

Mondays Suck Less in The Third Row

Check out these links:
Mark Kermode on Jaws @ 40.
The Most Egregious Acting Oscar-Snubs of the Past 10 Years
Errol Morris on Typography and Truth
For Fans of the Plot of Serial, The Undisclosed Podcast
The World’s Largest Shipyard?


Re-live 1980s Cheese with Green Screen and Vector Graphics and Hitler: Kung Fury


The Cinematography Strategy of Fast-Cutting on Fury Road


Wes Anderson Parody Trailers are a Dime-a-Dozen. The editing is strong in this one.


Shia LaBeouf cautions against living in a van down by the river


The Unauthorized Biography of Vincent Price


Josh Olson on the Life & Times of Judge Roy Bean


In praise of The Chairs in Cinema


Cinecast Episode 395 – Have an Exit Strategy

The multiplex continues to bore Kurt and Andrew, who have no interest in costumed heroes or a uniformed Reese Witherspoon. So it is off to Argentina for the Oscar nominated anthology film, Wild Tales. Game of Thrones hits the half-way mark and Kurt may have finally convinced Andrew of a) just how tedious things in Meereen have gotten, b) how much Stannis Baratheon has come into his own this season, and c) the power of a good long shot.

The watch-list creates a divide in taste on music and documentary form with Brett Morgan’s Montage of Heck. The strengths and weakness of Wes Craven’s The New Nightmare are discussed, along with a tangent on lost concept over-spill resulting from sold out movies. Don’t Look Now, but there is more Nic Roeg discussion on the Cinecast. As is the case of Kevin Costner, Shawn Levy and the race to the middle(brow). Finally, Alex Gibney’s Scientology doc, Going Clear is compared and contrasted with PTA’s The Master, for dos and don’ts in filmmaking.

As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!

 

 
 

 

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Cinecast Episode 386 – Singing From My Hymn Book

 
Bread and butter. The Salvation is ours this episode, and it is all Mads Mikkelsen will get from the dawn of the oil era in the western United States. The Danish Western shot in South Africa plays as a metaphor for USA style Capitalism – a revenge movie where there will definitely be blood (even if it is all CGI) engenders a good hour of (*spoiler filled*) conversation. Our viewpoints differ, but ultimately the same conclusion is reached: the film is exploitative and pretty decent even if it is often unpleasant.

From there, The Watch List takes over as Kurt catches a few moments from the new Pixar feature and cautiously claims that they may have climbed from the pit of safe mediocrity that they have chosen to dwell in over the past few years. Andrew wanted more of Eva Green’s assets (her voice) and tries the 300 side-quel on for size. Kurt finds one of the key inspirations for Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom a sweet little puppy-love slice of life called, Melody. We close out the show with the much talked about doc-mini, “The Jinx,” which is catching headlines and turning heads, and we are not immune to the charms and the crutches of documentary film making.

As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!

 

 
 

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Toronto After Dark 2014 Review: The Town That Dreaded Sundown

 

 

Easily the biggest surprise and possibly my overall favourite film of this year’s Toronto After Dark film festival was Alfonso Gomez-Rejon’s (director of several American Horror Story episodes) take on the 1976 early slasher The Town That Dreaded Sundown. Though that little film from 1976 has its supporters and certainly has some choice moments, it seemed like an odd pick for a revisit. The original as directed by Charles B. Pierce (director and star of the head-shakingly bad Boggy Creek II – And The Legend Continues – best known for being one of MST3K’s victims) is an awkward melange of horror/docudrama/slapstick comedy that tries to tell the actual events of a masked serial killer who terrorized Texarkana in 1946. And yet…There were some well-realized moments of genuine horror and interesting filmmaking. For his first feature, Gomez-Rejon seems to have focused on those positive aspects and has built a compelling, moody, surprising and absolutely gorgeous film.

Of particular note is the way he composes his frames. More than once during the film, I found my eyes roaming about the square footage on screen, trying to pick up all the little details and contrasting different colour combinations. I’m sure I missed some clues lurking in the background, but the simple pleasure of being pulled into this lovingly created canvas and wanting to savour each little corner, shadow and object was more than enough. If that sounds like a bit of an overstatement, it’s partly due to having very few expectations regarding not only the story but the level of filmmaking. It’s not that I thought the movie was going to be bad (the trailer is quite handsome actually), but from its opening tracking shot that pans down from a Drive-In screen playing the original film (and which continued through the parking lot filled with many of the films primary characters) it was obvious that Gomez-Rejon had very strong stylistic ideas for the film – all of which actually help move the story forward and engage the audience.

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Occultober – Day 15 – Suspiria

Suspiria
When most people think of Dario Argento’s delirious candy-coloured 1977 masterpiece, the first thing that comes to mind isn’t normally the occult. It isn’t the witches hiding within the European dance school, the specific powers held by The Mother Of Sighs (aka Mater Suspiriorum) or even the possibility that those powers were assumed by the young American student who defeats the coven leader in the end.

No, what most people immediately bring to mind is the gorgeous style of the film: the Lite-Brite infused cinematography, the tension of the great prog-rock soundtrack by Goblin (essentially Argento’s “house band” for several films) and the onset of a slow burn of an LSD trip. It’s the kind of movie that is praised for each of its film frames possessing the ability to be framed separately as a piece of art. People rhapsodize about its numerous set pieces – like the early hanging that crashes through a glass ceiling or the discovery of the coven towards the end of the film – as well as its many finely crafted images that stick with you (a set of eyes at the window, an invisible shape framed by lightning, etc.). None of it seems to make much sense, but it doesn’t have to…

First of all, the nonsensical nature of the movie just adds to the creep factor. From that first blast of wind as the American student leaves the airport all the way to the last burning embers of the school, there’s an unsettling feeling to this movie. Each new Skittles coloured scene and every “why is there a room filled with barbed wire?” moment just adds to that sense that something is obviously askew here. Which gets us back to that coven of witches…

The supernatural is at play throughout the whole film – it controls the students, commands guide dogs and allows just about anything to happen. And that’s what a good supernatural/occult thriller should do – make you slightly uncomfortable and unsure about everything around you. The genius of Suspiria isn’t its narrative or tale of sorceresses. It’s the ability to make you look at those still frames and, even if just for a second, worry that The Mother Of Sighs might come right out and get you.

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Mamo #303: Side by Side

Matthew Price sits down with Justin Szlasa, producer of the new documentary Side By Side, to discuss the generational transition from celluloid to digital cinematography, and all the things it means. Meanwhile, Matt Brown eats popcorn.

To download this episode, use this URL: http://rowthree.com/audio/mamo/mamo303.mp3

Hot Docs 2012: ¡Vivan las Antipodas! Review

Narration is a difficult device to use in filmmaking. The adage has always been to “show” not “tell”. That rule is usually given a bit more leeway when it comes to documentary filmmaking, though, due to specific needs to impart information or put across very specific views. This is even more likely when there’s not a talking head to be found. However, the makers of ¡Vivan las Antipodas! decided early on that they would forego all commentary over top of their footage. Instead, they simply do a great deal of showing. Anyone chattering over the gorgeous imagery of 4 different sets of the planet’s antipodes (ie. locations on Earth that are on the exact opposite sides of the planet from each other) would’ve been tuned out anyway. Not only is commentary not required during the languid comparisons of life and environment between the antipodes, but you probably wouldn’t even have noticed the narration due to being so enveloped by the scenic beauty and the unique presentation. Director and cinematographer Victor Kossakovsky has not only taken great care in choosing and framing his landscapes (Russia’s Lake Baikal is stunning to say the least), but has also taken delight in playing with transitions between scenes and locations – using tricks like rotating cameras upside down and visually rhyming his edits. It provides a joyful sense of connection between locations and, even while pointing out some great disparities, ties the entire planet together.

Before defining in text the term antipode (and listing the eight locations), the film opens with a quote from “Alice In Wonderland”:

“I wonder if I should fall right through the Earth! How funny it’ll seem to come out among the people that walk with their heads downwards! The Antipathies, I think…

…it didn’t sound at all the right word.”

Initially, it seems that perhaps “anti” is indeed the proper prefix for these opposite locations. The first pair of antipodes are the massive city Shanghai, China and a remote spot in the province of Entre Rios in Argentina. The construction of a makeshift bridge by the two brothers who live next to it (and who collect tolls from those who wish to drive over it) is contrasted with the huge building projects in Shanghai. But as the film continues with its comparisons and contrasts – lambs being sheared in Chile versus running around the hillsides in Russia; a single car crossing that wobbly bridge in Argentina to the streams of traffic in Shanghai – you start seeing a whole lot more commonality. Sometimes it’s in the landscapes, but more often within the way people live and relate to each other.

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Cinecast Episode 213 – Broadening Your Horizons by Telling You Something You Already Know

 
 
We still have not figured out that it is the ‘summer blockbuster’ season, so instead Kurt and Andrew decide to dig into one of the big Canadian films, (nominated for best foreign language Oscar) Denis Villeneuve’s Incendies (which we keep very light on *Spoilers*). An epic ‘what we watched’ section follows. Along the way, tangents on Lars von Trier and Cannes, the two fantasy epic mini-series on cable, Tree of Life, and Jodie Foster’s Beaver. There are lots of good DVD and Netflix picks to round out the show.

As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!


 
 

 

To download the show directly, paste the following URL into your favorite downloader:
http://rowthree.com/audio/cinecast_11/episode_213.mp3

 
 
Full show notes are under the seats…
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Sunday Bookmarks (Feb. 14-20)

 

  • True Grit Cinematographer Roger Deakins Talks About His “Shot of the Year”
    Deakins is a cinematographer’s cinematographer—the type who writes detailed responses on super fans’ discussion boards, sharing technical specs (“a 1K pup [without a lens] and two Tweenies coming through the window”), giving credit when it’s due (“Nancy Haig and I tested a number of blind samples”), and dishing personal advice (“Nothing ventured, nothing gained!”). He isn’t driven by praise—just the desire to tell a great story. “When I read a script, I think about the development of the characters—I don’t really think about the visuals. Generally, when you read a script that Joel and Ethan have written, it seems very obvious what it should look like,” says Deakins, which may make him the only person in Hollywood who finds the notoriously uncommunicative Coen brothers completely transparent.
  • The Art of the False Comparison; or, Why Freddy Got Fingered is Better Than Touch of Evil
    We all know how false comparisons work. Everybody has a number of movies they like that (most, or many) other people don’t. And everybody also has a number of movies they don’t like that (most, or many) other people do. So you just compare films from the first category to films from the second category (even if they have absolutely nothing to do with one another) and watch the outrage pour forth. You can maximize the outrage if you also make sure that the films from the second category are widely-acknowledged classics. (I realize that Armond White kind of does this with his annual “Better Than” list, though he confines it to new movies.)
  • Video Game Trailers are playing hardball
    In a bid to give movie trailers a run for their money, Techland, the creators of Zombie video-game Dead Island assemble something mighty impressive. Not quite the 28 Weeks Later Opening, but it certainly worth a look to see why all the game-geek and web buzz was so ubitquitous last week.
  • Editing out The Bible for a Wider Audience
    When you aim to please everyone, you probably will please no one. Producers, director and the studio trying to capture both the Blind Side / Passion of the Christ audience as well as secular families with Soul Surfing.
  • A Festival You DON’T want your film at
    This is the type of Film Festival logic and logistics that you never want to see as a filmmaker!

    See also: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zf6f6cIKvCQ&hd=1

    The link goes to 14 minute VIDEO of the 2010 ‘mix-up’ by the Swansea Film Festival which outlines just how frustrating festivals can be to the filmmakers whose films are there to be celebrated; in fact this video could be an outtake or extra scene from the documentary on lower-tier film festival circuit, Official Rejection.

  • The real director of the Room? Not Tommy Wiseau
    Although Tommy Wiseau’s name is synonymous with The Room, having written, directed, produced, and starred in his cult tragicomedy like a latter-day Orson Welles with an ass fetish, filmmaker Sandy Schklair has now come forward demanding that he be the one recognized as directing one of the worst movies of all time. In an upcoming interview with Entertainment Weekly, Schklair reportedly says that he was initially hired as a script supervisor, but his responsibilities quickly expanded as it became clear that Wiseau was too busy acting and, presumably, lighting candles to answer questions regarding his dialogue or directions, so it fell to Schklair to step in and call the shots.

 
 

You can now take a look at RowThree’s bookmarks at any time of your choosing simply by clicking the “delicious” button in the upper right of the page. It looks remarkably similar to this:

 

A Few Interesting but Flawed Lists

I found myself drawn to a few lists (I’m a total sucker for them) in two British mainstream film magazines recently, thought they’d make good discussion starters.

The 60 Best Looking Films Ever: The order is messed up and they only seem to pick one film per director, but it’s got a fair few of my favourites in there. Nice idea though, anyone want to throw in their thoughts on what they’ve missed off? I think Andrei Rublev should have been in there, or at least something from Tarkovsky (I’ve only seen that to be honest, but I imagine his other work also looks stunning).

The 100 Best Films of World Cinema
: A pretty tall order knocking up a list like this, but I was surprised to see one or two titles in there that I haven’t heard of (mainly African ones, I have very little knowledge of films from that continent). The order is a joke though, Infernal Affairs for example is stupidly high (it shouldn’t even be there in my opinion) and a lot of the films listed are obvious crossover success titles, but again it’d be interesting to hear people’s thoughts.

10 Coolest Movie Premakes: This one’s just a bit of fun really, a bunch of trailers for modern films rehashed from clips of old films.