Tag Archives: a serious man

Oscar, adjective. (UPDATED)

It’s Oscar night – the one night of the year when we can all look forward to four-plus hours of Hollywood celebrating itself with one overblown musical number, self-congratulatory speech, and poignant cutaway to Mickey Rooney in his nosebleed seats after another. This year, the field of Best Picture nominees was expanded to ten, signalling two things: 1) the Academy needs an excuse to include popular fare like District 9 in its marquee category, for ratings and marketing purposes; and 2) the Academy’s going to have its teleprompter writers working overtime thinking up pithy ways to (over)praise these ten nominees. In other words, expect flattering adjectives to abound in tonight’s telecast.

Recognizing this, we at Wipe have decided to offer our own version of “Oscar predictions”: instead of predicting the winners, we predict the adjectives mostly likely to be used on teleprompter screens in praise of the nominees (limiting ourselves to the Picture category, in the interest of brevity). And as an added bonus, we offer our own adjectives in response to the Academy. (I know what you’re thinking, but no, we’re not only out to piss on the Oscar parade.)

Call it our Oscar round-up – or “Wipe-up,” if you will.

The Ten Best Picture Nominees are:

Oscar says: “Heartwarming”

Wipe says: “Republican”

Oscar says: “No Holds Barred”

Wipe says: “Overdone”


Oscar says: “British”

Wipe says: “Pedo”


Oscar says: “Tender”

Wipe says: “Mushy”


Oscar says: “Soaring”

Wipe says:  “Clooney”


Oscar says: “Groundbreaking”

Wipe says: “Techno-horny”


Oscar says: “Unflinching”

Wipe says: “Unsubtle”


Oscar says: “Innovative”

Wipe says: “Techno-racist”


Oscar says: “Jewish”

Wipe says: “Philosophi-coen”


Oscar says: “Heartstopping”

Wipe says: “Heartpounding”

Check back after the ceremony to see how well we scored in our Oscar predictions!

*UPDATE: Stymied by the teleprompter! By our count, we only correctly predicted one adjective: presenter Charlize Theron used the word “unflinching” to describe Precious. Other than that, zilch. They didn’t even use “Jewish” to describe A Serious Man, which is baffling. Oh well, at least we all had fun, right folks? (But seriously, talk about a snoozer.)

-Wipe

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Why the hell are you shooting it in that?

Bear with me folks, I’m an old projectionist so this is what I daydream about when I’m not dawdling on about hockey or a hermetic life spent in the Seychelles. My column today concerns the importance of choosing the right aspect ratio for your future cinematic masterpieces along with a brief look at the advantages of shooting in film and digital. Hardly barn-burning stuff you may think, but stay tuned for porn and explosions!
(Please note: neither ‘porn’ nor ‘explosions’ will take place below.)

When to choose 1.85 : 1 Aspect Ratio
You want to tell an intimate story–for example the struggles of half-Job, half-schmuck Larry Gopnik in the Coens’ A Serious Man (2009). The story resonates with the Coens’ own Minnesota childhood and because Larry at no point fights a polar bear on top of the White House or saves the Third World, the film remains in the smaller, more appropriate ratio of 1:85 (aka “flat widescreen”). Another example is Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation (2003), which never stretches the borders of a 1:85 screen nor the demands of the viewer with its zeitgeisty romance, because if you expand the frame you’re also expanding the viewer’s expectations. The flat screen ratio has been adopted worldwide by filmmakers over the standard 1:37 that was once de rigueur for documentaries and fictional work grounded in reality, with 1:37/1:33 ratios still being used for certain projects (Alan Clarke’s  Elephant [1989] and later Gus Van Zant’s own version [2003] spring to mind with their particular unsettling realities).

Below is an example of a 1:85 widescreen ratio:

When to choose 2.39 : 1 Aspect Ratio
If you’re gonna do a “larger than life” film (see: Tarantino’s WWII fantasies in Inglourious Basterds [2009], or PTA fulminating against capitalism with There Will Be Blood [2007]), you don’t want your epic fighting for breathing room in the frame, hence the longer image of 2:39 to match a larger subject matter. The Man with No Name in Leone’s spaghetti westerns was an iconic character in an iconic setting, therefore The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966) had to be shot/viewed in anamorphic widescreen–the alternative to a shoddy pan-and-scan world lacking perspective on the mythical gunslingers in the Wild West (via the high plains of Spain). This can also apply to gritty films with an immense worldview, say the international scheming of Syriana (2005), or the canonization of the 9/11 passengers in United 93 (2006). Soderbergh’s Traffic (2000) worked in 1:85 because it had common ground with the reality of cinema-vérité documentaries, but it also would have been entirely acceptable to have been shot/screened in anamorphic with its scope of characters and events.

Below is a 2:39 aspect ratio:

Film vs. Digital

Celluloid has existed for over three centuries, and along with persistence-of-vision remains the closest claim to alchemy that civilization has achieved. Digital is the steadily-popular method for filming blockbusters, indie flicks and everything in-between, for very good reasons: flexibility, durability, ease of shooting on set and transfer time in post-production. My thoughts on shooting film vs. digital go beyond the technical limitations and financial reasons behind both formats and towards the psychology of WHY you should choose a certain format. If celluloid and photography have deep roots in our history over the past 200 years and digital points to our present and future, should that thought process not apply to the format with which you choose to film a Mumblecore short, a 3-hour Custer bio-pic or any sci-fi extravaganza?

Michael Mann chose digital to bring John Dillinger’s brief life to screen in Public Enemies (2009) with the intention of immersing the audience in 1930’s Americana and it worked up until the slo-mo climax stretched the demands one could place on the format. Digital has yet to find a solution to its awkward appearance in slow-motion, and this undercut otherwise excellent reasoning for more period pieces to be shot digitally. Another offender is Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto (2006), which allowed the filmmakers an easier time of shooting in the Mexican jungles than 35mm film yet in any scene involving fast-cutting movement, digital ‘pixelation’ occurred–thus taking me right out of the realm of the Mayans. Now if pixelation were to occur in present day settings such as Mann’s Miami Vice (2006) or the futuristic Avatar (2009) I would readily except the digital look as a reflection of our modern times and the years to come. My point being if you want to capture the essence of the past perhaps you should put down the Red One camera and pick up a Super 35 camera with a fine grainy stock, and vice-versa if you’re making the next Terminator popcorn muncher.

There you go, those are my thoughts on the matters, I hope they can be of use to you.

Thanks to the images section of Blu-ray.com and dvdbeaver.com for the examples used above.

-B.A.S.

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Stand-out performances from 2009

With the announcement of the Oscar nominations just around the corner (February 2), I thought it an opportune time to bring attention to a few fine performances from last year that are likely to be shut out of the running. Some of these performances stand an outside chance of grabbing a nomination (a hunch tells me Anthony Mackie might steal a spot in the Supporting Actor category); others are clearly nowhere near being in the race, by virtue of appearing in “lowbrow” or strictly commercial fare. All together, the following comprise ten of my favourite male and female performances of 2009.

Alison Lohman in

Drag Me to Hell

Provided a blessedly soothing, sweet-tempered presence amidst a maelstrom of blood, flames, and witch vomit. ______________________________________________

Zac Efron in

Me and Orson Welles

Proved his ingenuousness (already traceable on his always-flush, emotion-stained face) by way of a beautifully poignant vocal and ukulele number. ______________________________________________

Beyoncé in

Obsessed

Made fiery, fierce red hair iconic; upgraded her fierceness with a rousing (if ideologically loaded) defense of domesticity by fisticuffs.

______________________________________________

Tobey Maguire in

Brothers

Manifested post-traumatic stress with paranoid, spectral eyes; scared the hell out of me and broke my heart, often in the same scene.

______________________________________________

Charlotte Gainsbourg in

Antichrist

Went to the limits for a no-class director; transcended his bullshit by channeling rage and madness on an almost super-human level.

______________________________________________

Omari Hardwick in

Next Day Air

Rendered a potentially trite drug kingpin character fully dimensional, with humour, style, and moral complexity to spare.

______________________________________________

Abbie Cornish in

Bright Star

Did justice to Keats’s effusions in her beauty and charm; clarified Fanny Brawne’s own passion in moments ranging from tranquil to devastating.

______________________________________________

Anthony Mackie in

The Hurt Locker

Unforgettably expressed a soldier’s anxieties in his final, heart-wrenching breakdown in front of Jeremy Renner’s (seemingly) unflappable bomb defuser.

______________________________________________

Rachel Weisz in

The Brothers Bloom

Rather amazingly shaped a ludicrous mess of quirks into a tolerable, even beguiling character.

______________________________________________

Johnny Depp in

Public Enemies

Eschewed his recent streak of commercial showboating in favour of a more refined, fascinating intensity; redeemed a misguided gangster narrative with movie star charisma.

Honourable mentions: Nicolas Cage in Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans; Zoe Kazan in Me and Orson Welles; Sam Rockwell in Gentlemen Broncos; Shoshana Bush in Dance Flick; Richard Kind in A Serious Man; Edith Scob in Summer Hours

Cam

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