Ghostbusters (2016, Sony)
My ties to the newest installment in the Ghostbusters franchise run deeper than an affinity for the paranormal or the fact that Ray Parker Jr.’s theme song is on my running playlist. In fact, I worked as both an on-set production assistant on and an actor in the 2016 reboot. Before that experience, I grew up admiring the original films. But when it comes to fan-favorite franchises, everyone has a personal narrative of experience.
Living in an age of social media, filmmakers know that Internet comments sections can be dangerous. However, the release of promotional material for 2016’s Ghostbusters has prompted an unforeseen outburst of opposition. In addition to the first trailer breaking records for most-disliked trailer on YouTube, platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram have become breeding grounds for hateful remarks under the protection of online anonymity. Continue reading “I Ain’t Afraid of No Trolls: 2016’s Ghostbusters and the Online Response” »
Hollywood has long placed, and hedged, its bets on history, from D.W.Griffith’s notorious 1915 blockbuster The Birth of a Nation (about the rise of the KKK) to last year’s less controversial but still factually challenged Oscar-winner Argo (about a CIA rescue mission in Iran). If this year’s Best Picture crop is any indication, the postmodern proposition that the further society recedes from physical reality the more it becomes obsessed with reclaiming it, has been borne out in spades. Six of the nine Best Picture nominees from 2013 deal with actual historical incidents—in varying degrees of verisimilitude. Continue reading “Oscar Analysis: “Dallas Buyers Club” Sells out the Truth” »
I’m not counting the comic book-inspired, CGI-enhanced, video game-fueled, super-hero-driven, transnational mega-franchises that hogged cineplex screens and dominated the box-office last year as they have for the past several decades. Nor am I referring solely to the recent trend in more thematically ambitious films that equate bloated running times with high-mindedness. Earnest films about corporate greed such as Promised Land, The East, and Dallas Buyers Club also take a back seat because their very earnestness forced the excesses of content to trump those of style. Front and center from 2013 are a critical mass of “prestige” films—one adapted from a literary classic; the other three, Oscar contenders—whose content and style self-consciously reflected as they helped perpetuate a zeitgeist of excess. Continue reading “2013: The Year of Excess” »
When preparing for Jurassic Park, Steven Spielberg made a reluctant decision to abandon the highly advanced stop-motion technology that had been developed for full-body movement shots of the dinosaurs, opting instead for a still-imperfect and experimental computer-generated effects technology. The reason for Spielberg’s decision, circulated in movie geek lore ever since, was that the stop-motion animation developed for the film had never solved the technique’s historical quandary of adding motion blur to the image. Onscreen, the dinosaurs would move differently from the live human characters, disrupting the continuity of the film’s narrative world. For the greatest verisimilitude, Spielberg backed a technology that could conform to the limitations of the celluloid medium of the time.
When watching The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, I was struck by the resonances between Spielberg’s decision and the one made by Peter Jackson and his creative team to shoot at 48 frames per second (fps), rejecting the 24 fps standard that has held almost universally true since the earliest days of commercial sound cinema. Overall, I enjoyed the film, though I admit that the experience was not as transporting as the Lord of the Rings trilogy was for me a decade ago. The movie raised many issues in my mind, from the creative revisions that Peter Jackson and his screenwriting partners, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens, made to Tolkein’s narrative, to the obvious concern of narrative stuffing (a 300-page novel turning into a projected trilogy of eight-to-nine hours in length). The challenge of expanding a slim narrative into three substantial narratives, the diametric opposite challenge that the team faced in paring down Tolkein’s hefty Rings saga 10 years ago, would provide an opportunity for another sizeable essay. The fact that I haven’t read The Hobbit in more than ten years aside, I was instead attracted to the premiere of the 48 fps format, or HFR (High Frame Rate), as it has been termed, and the host of new aesthetic possibilities and problems that it introduces. Jackson’s choice in this regard bucks a fundamental property of film production and exhibition, and I find that the issues inherent in viewing this movie provide some insights to the many possible futures for the cinematic experience. Continue reading “An Unprecedented Journey: A Format Critique of ‘The Hobbit’” »