The Credits http://www.thecredits.org Celebrating Film and Television's Creative Community Fri, 24 Oct 2014 14:35:44 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 Final Tour of Hollywood Costume Exhibit a Must-see http://www.thecredits.org/2014/10/final-tour-of-hollywood-costume-exhibit-a-must-see/ http://www.thecredits.org/2014/10/final-tour-of-hollywood-costume-exhibit-a-must-see/#comments Fri, 24 Oct 2014 14:30:12 +0000 http://www.thecredits.org/?p=12606 “Nearly every costume designed for a film has a story behind its creation…Martin Scorsese once gave me an entire film to watch just to see the stripe on a collar.” -Costume designer Sandy Powell.

When David Fincher was shooting The Social ... Read More

]]>
“Nearly every costume designed for a film has a story behind its creation…Martin Scorsese once gave me an entire film to watch just to see the stripe on a collar.” -Costume designer Sandy Powell.

When David Fincher was shooting The Social Network, a momentous scene had it that Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) had to sprint back to his dorms at Harvard. Only the crew couldn’t secure the Cambridge location that they had used, so Fincher and his team designed a series of mirrors that would help replicate the actual location. This meant that Eisenberg’s GAP sweater would appear as ‘PAG’ on screen as he’d be captured in the mirror. So costume designer Jacqueline West simply had a sweater designed with ‘PAG’ on the chest, which would turn into the proper ‘GAP’ sweater once reversed in the mirror and allow Fincher to secure his shot. This is but one small instance of how the costume designer is also a storyteller, helping cast and crew in often subtle, crucial ways. This and more you can experience at Hollywood Costume, a multimedia exhibition ending its run at the Wilshire May Company Building in Los Angeles.

We thought it fitting to call attention to one of the great film exhibits in the country right now the week Oscar de la Renta passed away. That titan of fashion inspired Hollywood style for decades, as well as one the more memorable lines ever uttered about fashion in a film. We’re talking about Meryl Streep’s turn as Miranda Priestly (believed to be based on Vogue’s editor-in-chief Anna Wintour), in which she explains to her assistant Andy Sachs (Anne Hathaway) how nobody is untouched by high fashion, even the unfashionable like Sachs herself:

“You’re also blithely unaware of the fact that in 2002, Oscar de la Renta did a collection of cerulean gowns. And then I think it was Yves Saint Laurent, wasn’t it, who showed cerulean military jackets? And then cerulean quickly showed up in the collections of eight different designers. Then it filtered down through the department stores and then trickled on down into some tragic Casual Corner where you, no doubt, fished it out of some clearance bin.”

Oof. But also, awesome. In the spirit of the late, great de La Renta, here’s a look at an exhibit for film and fashion lovers alike, paying tribute to the all-important costume designers who have such a huge impact on the films we love.

Where else can you find Katniss, James and Han in the same room?

Where else can you find Katniss, James and Han in the same room?

Hollywood Costume is a collaboration between the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The exhibit recently moved to Los Angeles on October 2, and is now presenting the final showing of the groundbreaking multimedia exhibition in the Wilshire May Company Building, the future location of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. The exhibition explores the huge role that costume designers play in film, from the eye-popping (Ruth Myers gorgeous period pieces for L.A. Confidential) to the subtle elements most of us would never catch but appreciate their effect subconsciously. The exhibit showcases how costume design is as an essential tool of cinematic storytelling. On view through March 2, 2015 the exhibition has everything from the iconic costumes of Hollywood’s golden age (like the costume worn by Marlene Dietrich in Morocco (1930)) to Jared Leto’s costume from Dallas Buyers Club (2013).

Curated by Academy Award nominated costume designer Deborah Nadoolman Landis, the exhibit is broken down into three acts:

Act One: Deconstruction introduces the role of costume design in cinematic storytelling. This section explores the link between clothing and identity and how designers bring characters to life.

Act Two: Dialogue examines the creative collaboration among great filmmakers, actors and costume designers using archival film footage and specially commissioned interviews.

Act Three: Finale presents the most memorable and treasured costumes in cinema history, for heroes, leading ladies and femme fatales alike.

Here’s a glimpse of what’s in store for visitors to the exhibit:

 

Most Famous Shoes in History

The Wizard of Oz (1939)

Dorothy (Judy Garland) wore the most famous shoes in the world. Costume designer Adrian. "It's unknown how many pairs of the shoes were made, but it's believed four pairs used in the film still exist today. The surviving pairs were made in sizes 5C, 5.5 and 6B to accommodate Judy Garland, her stand in and stunt double. The slippers began as white silk pumps made by the Innes Shoe Company in Los Angeles, and they were later dyed red at MGM Studios before being covered with fabric that had been hand-sewn with approximately 2,300 sequins. Each red leather bow, designed especially by Adrian, sparkles with red glass stones and bugle beads." Courtesy 'Hollywood Costume' exhibit.

Dorothy (Judy Garland) wore the most famous shoes in the world. Costume designer Adrian. It’s unknown how many pairs of the shoes were made, but it’s believed four pairs used in the film still exist today. The surviving pairs were made in sizes 5C, 5.5 and 6B to accommodate Judy Garland, her stand in and stunt double. The slippers began as white silk pumps made by the Innes Shoe Company in Los Angeles, and they were later dyed red at MGM Studios before being covered with fabric that had been hand-sewn with approximately 2,300 sequins. Each red leather bow, designed especially by Adrian, sparkles with red glass stones and bugle beads.” Courtesy ‘Hollywood Costume’ exhibit.

 A Fedora & A Whip

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) in Raiders of the Lost Ark, 1981. "Costume designer Deborah Nadoolman based the fedora on a model manufactured by Herbert Johnson on Savile Row, adjusting the crown and brim to flatter Ford's face." Courtesy 'Hollywood Costume' exhibit.

Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) in Raiders of the Lost Ark, 1981. “Costume designer Deborah Nadoolman based the fedora on a model manufactured by Herbert Johnson on Savile Row, adjusting the crown and brim to flatter Ford’s face.” Courtesy ‘Hollywood Costume’ exhibit.

 The Biggest Hat and Bow of All Time

Titanic (1997)

Rose DeWitt Bukater (Kate Winslet) in a costume by Deborah L. Scott. "Her white suit is finely tailored, constructed of white twill fabric with dark violet pinstripes, lapels, cuffs, belt and buttons. Narrow hobble skirt constricts Rose's movement, displaying fashionable pre-World War I silhouette. Ensemble is completed with large picture hat made of Milan straw with a double bow." - Courtesy 'Hollywood Costume' exhibit.

Rose DeWitt Bukater (Kate Winslet) in a costume by Deborah L. Scott. “Her white suit is finely tailored, constructed of white twill fabric with dark violet pinstripes, lapels, cuffs, belt and buttons. Narrow hobble skirt constricts Rose’s movement, displaying fashionable pre-World War I silhouette. Ensemble is completed with large picture hat made of Milan straw with a double bow.” – Courtesy ‘Hollywood Costume’ exhibit.

The Dude Abides in These Casual Duds

The Big Lebowski (1998)

"The Big Lebowski," 1998, Mary Zophres, courtesy of Alba and Thomas Tull. Richard Harbaugh / ©A.M.P.A.S.

“The Big Lebowski,” 1998, Jeff Bridges rocked these incredibly comfortable-looking duds, as much a part of his character as his White Russians and weed. Far out work by costume designer Mary Zophres. courtesy of Alba and Thomas Tull. Richard Harbaugh / ©A.M.P.A.S.

 

The Future Billionaire’s Backwards Hoodie

The Social Network (2010)

 

"Costume designer Jacqueline West shares this unexpected production story about an 'ordinary' GAP sweatshirt. West said, "As for the backwards GAP logo [PAG is written on the gray GAP sweatshirt], David Fincher wanted to shoot a sequence of Jesse Eisenberg running back to his Harvard  dorm and used mirrors to replicate the actual location in Cambridge that we couldn't secure for the film. To do that we had to re-create the desired location in a completely different place and print the hoodie backwards to accommodate the mirror and camera. Hence, 'PAG.'

“Costume designer Jacqueline West shares this unexpected production story about an ‘ordinary’ GAP sweatshirt. West said, “As for the backwards GAP logo [PAG is written on the gray GAP sweatshirt], David Fincher wanted to shoot a sequence of Jesse Eisenberg running back to his Harvard dorm and used mirrors to replicate the actual location in Cambridge that we couldn’t secure for the film. To do that we had to re-create the desired location in a completely different place and print the hoodie backwards to accommodate the mirror and camera. Hence, ‘PAG.’

Gunslinging in Style

Django Unchained (2012)

 

Django Unchained, 2012.

Django Unchained, 2012. Django (Jamie Foxx) became a vengeful gunslinger with some righteous cowboy wear thanks to costume designer Sharen Davis. Courtesy ‘Hollywood Costume.’

 

No Matter What, No Pants

Dallas Buyers Club (2013)

Costume designers Kurt and Bart contributed to Jared Leto's Academy-Award winning performance as Rayon by making her "not a drag queen, but a woman in transition, and we wanted to shop where Rayon would shop. The only thing Rayon was adamant about was she never wanted to wear pants." Courtesy 'Hollywood Costume.'

Costume designers Kurt and Bart contributed to Jared Leto’s Academy-Award winning performance as Rayon by making her “not a drag queen, but a woman in transition, and we wanted to shop where Rayon would shop. The only thing Rayon was adamant about was she never wanted to wear pants.” Courtesy ‘Hollywood Costume.’

]]> http://www.thecredits.org/2014/10/final-tour-of-hollywood-costume-exhibit-a-must-see/feed/ 0 God of the Gown: Oscar de la Renta’s Influence on Hollywood http://www.thecredits.org/2014/10/god-of-the-gown-oscar-de-la-rentas-influence-on-hollywood/ http://www.thecredits.org/2014/10/god-of-the-gown-oscar-de-la-rentas-influence-on-hollywood/#comments Thu, 23 Oct 2014 14:30:18 +0000 http://www.thecredits.org/?p=12596 Born in the Dominican Republic in 1932, Oscar de la Renta began his career in the 1950s, in Franco’s Spain, and by the time he passed this past Monday at his home in Kent, Connecticut at the age of 82, ... Read More

]]> Born in the Dominican Republic in 1932, Oscar de la Renta began his career in the 1950s, in Franco’s Spain, and by the time he passed this past Monday at his home in Kent, Connecticut at the age of 82, he was not only an fashion icon but perhaps the most beloved figure in the entire industry. His dresses were worn by first ladies in the White house, by celebrities at the Oscars, by characters in TV and film and by thousands of models on the runway. His influence on what film and television stars wore both on screen and off was monumental. It was de la Renta’s ivory tulle gown that Amal Alamuddin wore when she wed George Clooney in Venice.

On the small screen, De La Renta’s impact was probably most memorably made on one of the most fashionable fictional characters of all time – a New York City writer by the name of Carrie Bradshaw. It was in season six of Sex in the City when Bradshaw finds out her boyfriend, Aleksandry (Mikhail Baryshnikov, naturally) is friends with the man himself. “Oscar? You…you can call him Oscar?” she asks. Aleksandry eventually gives her a De La Renta gown of her own, which she wears to the Met Ball, and McDonalds. In real life, Parker could call him Oscar, as this loving tribute she wrote to the designer in The Hollywood Reporter attests, and wore him to the Met Ball this past year (with his signature on the gown’s train).

In season two of Gossip Girl, Blake Lively’s Serena van der Woodsen was headed to the White Party in the Hamptons and was all set to wear a tuxedo (including a backless vest and a wide pant), but the vest was a bright white, which doesn’t work on hi-definition TV screens. An attempt to dye the vest down a bit ended up shrinking it. Luckily for cast and crew, there was a white Oscar de la Renta gown already in the wardrobe. For a season four episode, Leighton Meester’s Blair Waldorf wears a beautiful red de la Renta gown for an episode set in Paris. There was also the belted, wool crepe green de la Renta dress worn by Madeleine Stowe, playing the venomous Victoria Grayson in ABC’s Revenge. 

There are countless more examples of de la Renta’s beautiful work appearing on television, but as far as Hollywood is concerned, he is mostly known for dressing stars on their way to awards shows and balls, and the graceful, gentlemanly demeanor that made him stand out in an industry not known for either. The outpouring of love for the man from television stars was immediate.

When it comes to the big screen, he is most remembered for the countless stars who have answered, “Oscar de la Renta” to the first or second question asked every of every woman on the red carpet. Penelope Cruz radiated old Hollywood glamour in this butter yellow strapless de la Renta at the 2005 Academy Awards. Two years later, Jennifer Hudson rocked this brown, gathered waist de la Renta gown paired with a bolero on the red carpet. Cameron Diaz stunned with her champagne tulle de la Renta gown with gold paillette embroidery at the 2010 Academy Awards. Jennifer Lawrence went Back to the Fuchsia (apologies) in this off the shoulder de la Renta at the 17th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards in 2011. The list goes on, and on, and on.

There have been many loving tributes written to de la Renta since his passing. Anna Wintour, Vogue’s editor-in-chief and a friend since 1974, began her remembrance with, “Oscar was a great man.” This sentiment resonates in every tribute, from heads of state and longtime friends. To see de la Renta in action, rent The September Issue, R.J. Cutler’s documentary about Anna Wintour preparing for the 2007 fall fashion issue, to see the graceful figure he cut in his life. Or read any one of the tributes, or this New York Times obit to get a better sense of how he much more than just the gowns. Or, simply watch the red carpet at the awards shows this year, which no doubt will be a fitting tribute to his greatness.

More than just a fashion icon, de la Renta was a beloved son of the Dominican Republic, a husband and father, a legendary raconteur, and by all accounts, and perhaps most importantly, a generous and warm individual who left his mark not only in the beauty of the garments he made but in the way in which he went about making them.

Featured image: Amy Adams in an Oscar de la Renta gown at the 2013 Academy Awards. Reuters.

]]>
http://www.thecredits.org/2014/10/god-of-the-gown-oscar-de-la-rentas-influence-on-hollywood/feed/ 0
Interstellar’s Out of This World Crew http://www.thecredits.org/2014/10/interstellars-out-of-this-world-crew/ http://www.thecredits.org/2014/10/interstellars-out-of-this-world-crew/#comments Wed, 22 Oct 2014 14:30:03 +0000 http://www.thecredits.org/?p=12582 In a little over two weeks, on November 7, Christopher Nolan’s long awaited Interstellar will finally hit screens across the country. Jeff Jensen’s cover story for Entertainment Weekly uncovered a lot of juicy details which add up to what sounds ... Read More

]]>
In a little over two weeks, on November 7, Christopher Nolan’s long awaited Interstellar will finally hit screens across the country. Jeff Jensen’s cover story for Entertainment Weekly uncovered a lot of juicy details which add up to what sounds like the director’s most personal, and possibly ambitious, film yet. When Jensen was on set in October of 2013, the film’s code name was Flora’s Letter. As Jessica Chastain told Jensen at the time, she stumbled upon the code name’s significance by accident. “One day, I noticed this girl. She was really shy and sweet. I went up to her, and she told me her name. And she was Chris’ daughter. All of the clues fell into place. You had to be a little bit of a detective, and when I figured it out, I was incredibly moved: Interstellar is a letter to his daughter.”

It’s long been known that Nolan has a preference for the practical over the computer generated, and to do this he needs a team of immensely talented individuals across the entire spectrum of the process, from set design to editing. From his Dark Knight trilogy to Inception, films that would appear to be require a huge percentage of CGI from start to finish, Nolan relied on his crew and his actors to do as much of the actual work as possible. For Inception’s gravity-subverting scenes, Nolan had a hotel corridor built by production designer Guy Hendrix Dyas, special effects supervisor Chris Corbould and his longtime cinematographer Wally Pfister that could rotate a full 360 degrees to create the effect of multiple gravitational pulls for scenes set during the second level of dreaming.

For Interstellar, a film that has protagonist Cooper (McConaughey) lead a mission into the far reaches of space (along with Anne Hathway’s Brand and Wes Bentley’s Doyle) to find a suitable new planet for humanity to live on, Nolan was still committed to building practical sets and filming against real backdrops as often as possible, to ground his cosmic story in a reality his actors are interacting with. As Jensen has it, Nolan loathes blue screens “the way the Amish loathe zippers,” so the “vertiginous swirl of stars” that are right outside the window of Cooper, Brand and Doyle’s spaceship Endurance were actually projected onto a floor-to-ceiling curtain outside of the windows of the massive spaceship Nolan and crew had built on the same soundstage Nolan and his crew had once built Batman’s cave.

Jensen notes one of the most amazing things about what Nolan has achieved in his career thus far; the ability to make a two hour, 47-minute saga that isn’t based on a comic book or meant to launch a franchise. It isn’t escapist (despite its’ protagonists leaving Earth), has no merchandise tie-ins and no existing fan base—save for Nolan’s, of course.

Nolan on the set of 'Interstellar.' Courtesy Paramount Pictures.

Nolan on the set of ‘Interstellar.’ Courtesy Paramount Pictures.

And what Nolan has once again in Interstellar, beginning with his co-writer and brother, Jonah (credited as Jonathan on their films), is a crew every bit as capable and exacting as he is. Interstellar began it’s life not a Nolan film but a Steven Spielberg project, and it was his brother who had first been tapped to be involved, as the screenwriter. “I wanted to confront all the things that are wrong with us and threatening us, but to focus more on hope,” he told Jensen. “After all the research, all the conversations with Kip and Lynda, the thing that jumped out was how precious life is in the first place.” When Spielberg’s DreamWorks moved from Paramount to Disney, a new director was needed for the project.

We know who the director is, so let’s take a quick look a few members of his crew who made his latest epic possible.

 

Cinematographer: Hoyte Van Hoytema

(This is Hoytema’s first time working with Nolan. Previous films include Her, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Fighter and Let The Right One In.)

Once Nolan’s long time cinematographer, Wally Pfister, began directing his own films, geeks like us we wondering who Nolan would choose as his next lenser. Enter Dutch-Swiss cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema, fresh off the beautifully shot Her. Hoytema’s not as well known in the States, but this will change, as he’s not only is the man behind the cam for Interstellar, but also the next film in the Bond franchise, Bond 24. Hoytema is making a career of replacing legends; on Bond 24 he stepped in for Skyfall cinematographer Roger Deakins, who had a scheduling conflict due to working on the Coen brothers Hail, Caesar! Hoytema is becoming a legend in his own right, however. If you’ve already seen Her and want further proof of his skills, check out his work in the best vampire film of this century (in our humble opinion), Tomas Alfredson’s 2008’s Let The Right One In.

 

Production Designer: Nathan Crowley

(Previous Nolan films: Insomnia, the Dark Knight trilogy and The Prestige.)

How many production designers can say they doubled as farmers to get the necessary shots for a film? We know of one, Nathan Crowley. As Jensen reported, for the scenes on an Earth in the midst of its death-throes, Crowley and the crew planted 500 acres of corn in rural Alberta, Canada (where most of the Earth films were shot), just to destroy them in a controlled apocalypse. They used wind turbines, cardboard dust and smoke from the fire burning the corn to vividly create our planet being cooked alive. For alien planets made mostly of roiling seas, ice and rock, it was off to Iceland for cast and crew.

 

Composer: Hans Zimmer

He’s one of the few composers in the business who everyone knows by name, yet he was willing to take a risk on Interstellar, responding to a request by Nolan to do something a little unorthodox. Nolan asked Zimmer if he would spend a day writing some music for the film without telling him about the genre, characters, title or plot. He gave Zimmer an envelope with a one page letter in it, which contained the fable at the heart of the story. Nolan and Zimmer eventually conducted 45 scoring sessions, triple the amount they did for Inception. Zimmer told Jensen a line from Nolan’s letter that started it all; “Once we become parents, we can’t help but look at ourselves through the eyes of our children.”

 

]]>
http://www.thecredits.org/2014/10/interstellars-out-of-this-world-crew/feed/ 0
Did You Move it Or did I? Get Creepy With Oujia http://www.thecredits.org/2014/10/did-you-move-it-or-did-i-get-creepy-with-oujia/ http://www.thecredits.org/2014/10/did-you-move-it-or-did-i-get-creepy-with-oujia/#comments Tue, 21 Oct 2014 14:30:18 +0000 http://www.thecredits.org/?p=12566 The genius of the Ouija board is that it really is hard to tell who moved the piece. Did you? Did I? I think I might have, but why can’t I remember? The bizarre fact that this patently ridiculous game, in which two ... Read More

]]>
The genius of the Ouija board is that it really is hard to tell who moved the piece. Did you? Did I? I think I might have, but why can’t I remember? The bizarre fact that this patently ridiculous game, in which two players pretend not to move a planchet around on a board that spells out messages from the spirit world, really did creep you out as a child, and it speaks to its 125-year longevity and our collective wish to maybe, kinda, sorta mess around with the occult. But not really. I mean you moved it, right? Right?

There are three basic rules one must follow when using a Ouija board: Never use it a graveyard, never use it a lone, and always say goodbye. In the upcoming Quija, one of these rules is broken right from the jump, along with the boundary between life and death and the creepy spirits that hope to transcend the two. If they could make a film out of your childhood Legos, Transformers and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the Ouija board seems just as apt for adaptation onto the big screen.

The Ouijia board rose from obscurity in the late 19th century into a popular game sold by a major company to people who liked to freak themselves out a little bit. The brief history of this “talking board” begins in 1890, when entrepreneur Charles Kennard and attorney Elijah Bond created the Ouija after a rise in such devices in the mid 1800s, said to help people contact loved ones they had recently lost. The apocryphal story of the board’s creation has Kennard and Bond’s asking it what it would like to be called, and it spelled out “O-U-I-J-A.” The board then explained what the word meant by spelling out “G-O-O-D L-U-C-K.”

By the 1920s the Ouija board had grown in popularity. In fact, Norman Rockwell had watched with fascination as several couples at a dance hall had eschewed dancing in favor of sitting “face to face, knee-to-knee and moving small heart-shaped objects (planchettes) on Ouija boards,” as the Saturday Evening Post’s Robert Berridge wrote. This moment led this Post cover, painted by Rockwell himself. The game we know today was popularized by Parker Brothers, which bought the game in the mid-1960s (one imagines all sorts of unique experiences with the board during that decade), and eventually became a Hasbro game in the 1990s when that company bought Parker Brothers.

Now you might be aware that Hasbro has become a bit of a player in the film world, with a little series of movies about alien robots based on one of their toy lines. A few years back, Hasbro, along with their go-to director/producer Michael Bay, who with Andrew Form and Brad Fuller run Platinum Dunes, approached Universal about making Ouija as a microbudget film that explored the board’s freakier, supernatural elements. A few more players got involved, and voila, Ouija was greenlit.

(L to R) Pete (DOUGLAS SMITH), Sarah (ANA COTO), Laine (OLIVIA COOKE), Trevor (DAREN KAGASOFF) and Isabelle (BIANCA SANTOS) in "Ouija", a supernatural thriller about a group of friends who must confront their most terrifying fears when they awaken the dark powers of an ancient spirit board.

(L to R) Pete (DOUGLAS SMITH), Sarah (ANA COTO), Laine (OLIVIA COOKE), Trevor (DAREN KAGASOFF) and Isabelle (BIANCA SANTOS) in “Ouija”, a supernatural thriller about a group of friends who must confront their most terrifying fears when they awaken the dark powers of an ancient spirit board. Courtesy Universal Pictures.

Enter the husband-and-wife team of Stiles White and Juliet Snowden, no strangers to the horror genre, having written Knowing and The Possession together. “All they said was, ‘Ouija, what would you do?’” Snowden said in the production notes. “Our first instinct was to consider our memories of the Ouija board: playing as teenagers, sitting around with our friends and wanting an answer to something…anything.”

One of the board’s draws as a narrative device is that it can serve one purpose, connection, in two, very different ways. If you’re using the board as a means of closure between you and a loved on, then it’s a wish fulfillment device. Yet in doing so, the board may also open the supernatural door to elements you might not want in your life, which is the danger anytime you start messing around with necromancy. “Whatever the setting is, we try to create a compelling situation centered around people up against something larger than life,” White said. “And that’s exactly what we’ve done with Ouija.

So what does the protagonist of Quija want from the board? She wants to find out what happened to her best friend who died under mysterious circumstances. Thanks to the legacy of the Ouija board, and the countless stories it has inspired, White and Snowden culled pieces of their story together from the wild tales the game has inspired. The most closely held Ouija belief is that if you don’t follow the rules of the game, you may open a door to the spirit realm you might not be able to close. Debbie (Shelley Hennig) breaks a cardinal rule right from the film’s outset; she plays alone.

 

You broke the rules, Debbie! (Shelley Hennig). Courtesy Universal Pictures.

You broke the rules, Debbie! (Shelley Hennig). Courtesy Universal Pictures.

The protagonist Laine (Olivia Cooke) pays a visit to her friend Debbie right before Debbie makes the fateful decision to play by herself. Debbie swiftly dies in a horribly gruesome way, leaving behind clues in the form of diary entries and video footage, showing a bit of what happened right before she died. When Laine starts looking into these clues, they all point to an old Ouija board.

Laine (Olivia Cooke) figuring out she might have to play an old board game to find out what happened to her pal. Courtesy Universal Pictures.

Laine (Olivia Cooke) figuring out she might have to play an old board game to find out what happened to her pal. Courtesy Universal Pictures.

Working from a small budget and limited locations actually aided in the telling of this creepy story. “The schedule kept the drama up; we would be down in the basement for hours, and the tone of the film would seep in the longer we were down there,” White said. “The intensity that got inside the actors’ heads, and they were able to live in the moment and truly be scared, which made for great performances.”

When does something good ever happen in the basement? Courtesy Universal Pictures.

When does something good ever happen in the basement? Courtesy Universal Pictures.

The basement was part of Debbie’s house, a major location for the film that serves as the host for the malevolent spirit that uses every nook and cranny of the place to its advantage. In reality, the house the location scouts found, and production designer Barry Robison went to work on, could itself be haunted—it’s a 120-year old Tudor-revival house in Los Angeles, built in 1895, only five years after the first incarnation of the Ouija board appeared. The house had a lot of small, claustrophobic rooms, a basement (rare in California), and plenty of little details that fit the script.

You might think a microbudget means not being able to afford a topnotch crew, but that’s now how it works. You’ve got cinematographer David Emmerichs, a man who knows a thing or two about filming in tight, terrifying spaces. He was the steadicam operator on Se7en, and recently worked as the virtual camera operator on Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. You’ve got costume designer Mary Jane Fort, the woman behind the iconic duds worn in Mean Girls; and there’s Academy Award nominee Mike Smithson, whose work makeup work on Avatar, Men in Black 3 and Thor: The Dark World more than prepared him to create a dark spirit worthy of a Quija nightmare.

Ouija is hardly the first film to use the “talking board” as a narrative device. The Witchboard trilogy, which began in 1985 (starring Tawny Kitaen, no less), had a group of friends channel the spirit of a little boy through a Ouija board. Michelle Pfeiffer uses a K-Mart Ouija board to find out what’s spooking her in the house in What Lies Beneath (2000). In the 1990 drama Awakenings, Robin Williams uses a Ouija board while experimenting with his catatonic patient Leonard, played by Robert De Niro. And let us not forget arguably the greatest horror film of all time, The Exorcist, which used a Ouija board as the thredshold through which Captain Howdy takes possession of Regan.

There’s quite a legacy of Ouija-related madness, perhaps dating back to your very own childhood and throughout some pretty memorable films, and this Friday, you’ll get a chance to see what kind of horrors the board conjures next.

Feature image: (L to R) Pete (DOUGLAS SMITH), Laine (OLIVIA COOKE) and Sarah (ANA COTO) play the game in “Ouija”, a supernatural thriller about a group of friends who must confront their most terrifying fears when they awaken the dark powers of an ancient spirit board. Courtesy Universal Pictures. 

]]>
http://www.thecredits.org/2014/10/did-you-move-it-or-did-i-get-creepy-with-oujia/feed/ 0
Stuntmen Turned Directors Light Up Screen With John Wick http://www.thecredits.org/2014/10/stuntmen-turned-directors-light-up-screen-with-john-wick/ http://www.thecredits.org/2014/10/stuntmen-turned-directors-light-up-screen-with-john-wick/#comments Mon, 20 Oct 2014 14:30:53 +0000 http://www.thecredits.org/?p=12548 So you’ve got a protagonist named John Wick who’s a widower with a puppy. The puppy’s named Daisy. Daisy’s pretty much all this guy has and cares about in this world, a gift from his late wife. John Wick’s a retired ... Read More

]]>
So you’ve got a protagonist named John Wick who’s a widower with a puppy. The puppy’s named Daisy. Daisy’s pretty much all this guy has and cares about in this world, a gift from his late wife. John Wick’s a retired freelance consultant living quietly and sadly, just he and Daisy all alone.

One day John goes to buy some gas. He’s got a sweet ride, a 1969 Boss Mustang. He’s minding his own business, filling her up, when a weirdo asks him “how much?” John’s a bit confused until he realizes this creep (Game of Thrones Alfie Allen) is asking about the car. John tells him it’s not for sale and is just about to go his un-merry way, but the creep’s got a goon. Now the goon leans into John’s car window and tells him to have a really nice day in a thick, Eastern European accent. We all know Eastern European accents in movies are only given to bad guys. And musical prodigies.

John Wick (Keanu Reeves) and his puppy Daisy. Courtesy Lionsgate

John Wick (Keanu Reeves) and his puppy Daisy. Courtesy Lionsgate

So the creep and his goon eventually break into John’s house, beat him unconscious, and kill Daisy. Also they steal the car. The thing is, John is played by Keanu Reeves, and the freelance consultancy job he had retired from was more like freelance assassinations. In fact, John Wick was the most feared, brutal assassin in the whole of the New York underworld. And now he’s pissed.

There’s your set-up for John Wick, and for a certain segment of the population (which includes us), seeing Keanu Reeves in action mode is a joy, no less in a subversive, wild story that’s filled with great actors (Ian McShane, Willem DeFoe, Bridget Moynahan, John Leguizamo) and staged and shot by two stunt legends. John Wick has Reeves working with his stunt double from his Matrix days, Chad Stahelski, a giant in the stunt world who here is credited as the director of the film (his partner, another David Leitch, helped direct the film as well but was given a producer credit by the DGA.) Stahelski and Leitch have made a hell of a career for themselves, including founding 87Eleven, which uses the their 20 plus years of stunt industry experience to help filmmakers design their action. 87Eleven is one of the most elite stunt groups in the world. 87Eleven doesn’t want to get hired onto action films, they go out and create, shoot and edit their own original stunt sequences and pitch those to the director of a major action film. They’ve done this on The Bourne Legacy, The Hunger Games series, Wolverine and Jurassic World  to name a few. For John Wick, the two went a step further and co-created one of this fall’s most deliriously giddy action films.

Victor (Toby Leonard Moore, left), Iosef Tarasov (Alfie Allen, center), and Gregori (Omer Barnea, right) in JOHN WICK. Photo Credit: David Lee

Victor (Toby Leonard Moore, left), Iosef Tarasov (Alfie Allen, center), and Gregori (Omer Barnea, right) in JOHN WICK. Photo Credit: David Lee. Courtesy Lionsgate.

It was actually Reeves idea to contact Stahelski and Leitch, who together had become two of the most coveted second unit directors in Hollywood. Their transition from stuntmen to filmmakers, however rare it might seem, makes sense when you consider the arc of their careers leading up to founding 87Eleven. As stunt performers, they were always talking to actors about how their performance, cinematographers about the construction of the shot, and in general having a very solid sense of how all the pieces need to fit together. Then, once they founded their company and began filming and editing their own scenes, learning how to make the action more dynamic, more immediate, how to slow it down and speed it up, the progression to directing your own film is much less of a leap.

With the duo on board to direct, it wouldn’t be just Reeves’ John Wick getting all the great moves, the film is teeming with characters who fight with their own signature styles. Take Viggo (Michael Nyqvist), who uses a brutal Russian system of combat called Sambo. The directors don’t just use stunts to wow the audience, it is a part of how they build their characters. “I started stunt training in Stockholm, where I live,” Nyqvist said in the press notes. “When I came ot New York, I met the stunt group and what impressed me was they use the work to help build the character.”

Adrianne Palicki

Ms. Perkins (Adrianne Palicki) gunning for John Wick, to the tune of a $4 million bounty. Courtesy Lionsgate.

For Adrianne Palicki’s character, Ms. Perkins, she had to train for months to learn her character’s chosen martial art, which she uses in a fight sequence (without stunt doubles) with Reeves. “Chad wanted to make sure I would be willing to do my own stuff in the huge fight sequence I have with Keanu–and I was all game,” Palicki said in the press notes. “I had months of training. I had to learn jiujitsu, which she uses to take him down. It was a lot of pain that led to a lot of gain.”

The directors worked with cinematographer Jonathan Sela, developing a style that helped juxtapose the placid, widescreen shots of the early part of the film, where John is living a normal, if sad, life, with the hyper-stylized New York underworld of assassins. Using anamorphic widescreen, they were able to create larger than life panoramas. In the early scenes, that meant big, sweeping landscapes, in the assassin world, they created a sprawling, neon-lit urban netherworld.

The action itself was, of course, a priority. Eschewing the rapidly shot and edited style where every punch and kick comes in confusing fury of movement, the filmmakers relied on the skill of their actors and the expertly choreographed stunts they designed over months. “We didn’t do any of the things we normally do cinematically,” Leitch said. “There aren’t a lot of fast cuts. We didn’t use a long lens or shaky cam and there are more long takes. Because Keanu could do the stunt work himself, we didn’t have to try and hide stunt doubles.”

Peter Debruge’s review for Variety notes how well the action is staged here. “Whereas the tendency among many other helmers is to jostle the camera and cut frenetically in the misguided belief that visual confusion generates excitement, the duo understand what a thrill well-choreographed action can be when we’re actually able to make out what’s happening.”

For Reeves himself, Stahelski and Leitch worked with the actor to develop a hybrid fighting style that involves martial arts and gun work, working with 87eleven’s top stunt coordinators. It’s something not seen on film before, and it’s called ‘gun fu.’ In order to pull this off, Reeves had to train for four months, learning judo and jiujitsu. “We wanted to use practical grappling martial arts and mix in guns, so we created a new style of close-quarter combat,” Stahelski says.

You know you’re in trouble when Keanu Reeves is wearing all black.

He's baaaaack. Courtesy Lionsgate.

Keanu Reeves, back in black. Courtesy Lionsgate.

]]>
http://www.thecredits.org/2014/10/stuntmen-turned-directors-light-up-screen-with-john-wick/feed/ 0
The Sundance of Horror: L.A.’s Screamfest is Freakish Fun http://www.thecredits.org/2014/10/the-sundance-of-horror-l-a-s-screamfest-is-freakish-fun/ http://www.thecredits.org/2014/10/the-sundance-of-horror-l-a-s-screamfest-is-freakish-fun/#comments Fri, 17 Oct 2014 14:30:47 +0000 http://www.thecredits.org/?p=12536 L.A.’s Screamfest is assured of two things this year: it will once again be the biggest horror film festival in the United States, and it won’t draw the ire of the Professional Clown Club. There appear to be no murderous ... Read More

]]>
L.A.’s Screamfest is assured of two things this year: it will once again be the biggest horror film festival in the United States, and it won’t draw the ire of the Professional Clown Club. There appear to be no murderous clowns in this year’s festival lineup.

If you’ve been following entertainment news over the past few days, you might have noticed the kerfuffle between the Professional Clown Club and FX’s American Horror Story, the latter being the most relentlessly freaky show on TV. The PCC doesn’t like the show’s character Twisty the Clown, a serial killer whose weapon of choice is a pair of scissors and who imprisons children on a school bus. The group is claiming that Twisty is contributing to “clown fear” (a real thing, known as coulrophobia), and they’re joined by organizations like Clowns of America International, the country’s biggest clown club, who bemoan the entertainment industry turning the clothes and makeup hardworking Americans wear to work into the very image of gleeful murder and mayhem.

Killer clowns in television and film are a thing (okay, and real, in the case of John Wayne Gacy), the Joker being the most prominent example. They’re also great for promotion. Just look at this story from earlier this year when a creepy clown was stalking residents in Staten Island. Yup, it was all for a movie.

Now I’ve got my own reasons for supporting the clowns, but if you wanted to make a great horror film, it could be the Professional Clown Club and Clowns of American International banding together to strike fear in the hearts of TV showrunners and filmmakers alike. How? By dressing us up as murderous executives and creative-types.

This was a long lead, admittedly, to tease Screamfest Horror Film Festival, the biggest and best of its kind in the United States. If you want to question the bonafides of Screamfest, which continues until October 23, just take a gander at some of the members of their advisory board: Wes Craven (A Nightmare on Elm Street), Clive Barker (Hellraiser), John Landis (An American Werewolf in London), John Carpenter (Halloween), and Eli Roth (Cabin Fever). For the discerning horror fan and the budding horror filmmaker alike, Screamfest is where you want to be.

Screamfest is all about launching the next Carpenter, Roth and Craven. It was in 2007 that Paranormal Activity played for the first time in front of an audience at Screamfest. This is where new work from American and international independent horror filmmakers often begin their careers, landing distribution and representation as a result of the festival.

Formed in August 2001 by film producers Rachel Belofsky and Ross Martin, Screamfest’s modus creep-orandi is to give filmmakers and writers in the horror/sci-fi genres a venue to have their work showcased to people in the industry. Here’s a brief snapshop of some of this year’s selection. Note, not a single sadistic clown in the bunch.

Julia, written & directed by Matthew A. Brown

Single sentence synopsis: After a horrific crime, victim Julia Shames turns her last name into a verb against her tormentors, one slash at a time.

 

Preservationwritten and directed by Christopher Denham

Single sentence synopsis: It’s the most dangerous game, on a nature preserve, with Ken Cosgrove from Mad Men (Aaron Staton).

White Settlers, written by Ian Fenton, directed by Simeon Halligan.

Single sentence synopsis: A couple moves into the Scottish countryside looking for an idyllic life and find whatever the opposite of idyllic is.

 

Zero, written & directed by Chris and Robert Smellin.

Single Sentence Synopsis: Your kid’s dead, ma’am, so it needs to die.

 

Bonus: We couldn’t help but mentioning the 4-minute short Mineral, written and directed by Michael Marino, which has the best logline of all time; After painfully passing a kidney stone, a slob discovers that a new breed of monster has invaded his home with deadly intentions. 

God bless Screamfest.

]]>
http://www.thecredits.org/2014/10/the-sundance-of-horror-l-a-s-screamfest-is-freakish-fun/feed/ 0
The Life of the Mind: Making The Theory of Everything http://www.thecredits.org/2014/10/the-theory-of-everything/ http://www.thecredits.org/2014/10/the-theory-of-everything/#comments Thu, 16 Oct 2014 14:30:49 +0000 http://www.thecredits.org/?p=12507 In an introduction to a first edition of Stephen Hawking’s groundbreaking popular science book A Brief History of Time, Carl Sagan tells a story about how he happened to wander into the ancient ceremony of the investiture of new fellows ... Read More

]]>
In an introduction to a first edition of Stephen Hawking’s groundbreaking popular science book A Brief History of Time, Carl Sagan tells a story about how he happened to wander into the ancient ceremony of the investiture of new fellows into the Royal Society. On that day, Sagan noticed in the front row a young man in a wheelchair very slowly signing his name in a book. “A book that bore on its earliest pages the signature of Isaac Newton. When at last he finished, there was a stirring ovation. Stephen Hawking was a legend even then.”

Stephen Hawking is the rarest of breeds; an iconic scientist. His A Brief History of Time has sold some 10 million copies since its publication in 1988. In its’ pages, Hawking conveys the majesty and awe of cosmology with nimble prose, making subjects such as the Big Bang, light cones and the uncertainty principle digestible to the layman. More current editions have included wormholes, time travel and the possibility of a universe without a Big Bang origin. What it didn’t include were a bunch of equations, as Hawking’s first editor at the Cambridge University Press, Simon Mitton, convinced him early on that for every equation in his book, his audience would be halved. The book contains a single equation: E = mc2.

What just about everyone knows is that Hawking is a genius who has spent the majority of his life in a wheelchair, and that he uses his a computer to speak. He has suffered from Lou Gehrig’s disease (in Britain, it’s referred to as motor neuron disease, MND), which has battled since he was 21-years old. The original diagnoses gave him two years to live. Having beaten every odd in the book, Hawking’s fame is inextricably coupled with the fact that he’s accomplished so much despite his disease. His reach is such that he’s appeared on an episode of The Simpsons (1999’s “They Saved Lisa’s Brain) and is often mistakenly believed to have been the computerized voice in Radiohead’s “Fittier Happier” – it’s actually frontman Thom Yorke’s. (He did, however, give his voice to parts of the Pink Floyd song “Keep Talking”.) Everyone‘s heard of Stephen Hawking, yet practically nobody knows what he’s really like, nor that the creation of his most seminal work would have been impossible without his first wife, Jane.

That will likely change now with the release of The Theory of Everything. Written by Anthony McCarten and directed by James Marsh (Man on Wire), The Theory of Everything aims to shed light on his personal life and the young, healthy man that came before A Brief History of Time, the wheelchair and the computerized voice, and detail how he and his wife Jane managed a marriage amid a death sentence, and how Jane helped her ailing husband create one of the most seminal works of 20th century.

It begins with screenwriter Anthony McCarten, whose long-standing fascination with Professor Hawking, specifically how someone who became so severely physically compromised wrote his seminal book. McCarten marvels in the production notes that Hawking’s physical deterioration ultimately allowed him to compose his communications at the agonizing rate of a one word per minute. “Here, in one man, was an unprecedented juxtaposition of extraordinary mental prowess and extraordinary physical incapacity.”

While the film follow’s Hawking’s courtship of the brilliant, beguiling Jane, and his creation of “A Brief History of Time,” the more crucial text to the film is its source material—Jane Hawking’s “Travelling to Infinity: My Life With Stephen.” Her memoir relates the incredible story of their marriage, with Jane Hawking’s candid portrayal of two extraordinary people in extraordinary circumstances providing McCarten with what would become the thrust of his script.

(L to R) Felicity Jones stars as Jane Wilde and Eddie Redmayne stars as Stephen Hawking. Photo Credit:  Liam Daniel / Focus Features

(L to R) Felicity Jones stars as Jane Wilde and Eddie Redmayne stars as Stephen Hawking. Photo Credit: Liam Daniel / Focus Features

“It’s a marvelous love story between two people, incredibly intense and challenged in the extreme: first by the physical decline, and then by the advent of fame in their lives. When news of his imminent death proved exaggerated, and two years became 10, then 20, their situation demanded that their love take bold and unorthodox forms if it was to survive. Theirs was a love story without precedent,” McCarten said in the production notes.

McCarten began adapting “Travelling to Infinity” without guarantees; he met with Jane at her home, and continued to talk to her over time, but no promises were made. It would take years to secure the legal rights to the film.

Eventually the script landed in the hands of director James Marsh, an Oscar winner for his incredible documentary Man on Wire. Marsh shared the same image of Hawking in his head the majority of the world had until he received the script. “I had the fixed image of Stephen Hawking as the great scientific mind with the wheelchair and the voice machine,” he said in the production notes. “He found the fascinating point of view, which was to tell the story from the perspective of the woman who was falling in love with an able-bodied man; she then makes the critical choice to stay with the man she loves when he is diagnosed with a terminal illness.”

Director James Marsh on set. Photo Credit:  Liam Daniel / Focus Features

Director James Marsh on set. Photo Credit: Liam Daniel / Focus Features

The director was also drawn to the script because its’ spirit recalled Man on Wire, which looked at tightrope walker Philippe Petit’s high-wire walk between New York’s Twin Towers. The Theory of Everything is also about a man who manages to transcend conventional human boundaries and limitations. “There is definitely an affinity, and there is also a cosmic irony: Stephen is physically constrained and yet mentally he is able to go wherever he wants. His mind can and does travel to the outer limits of the universe, but his body is confined.”

Casting is always crucial, but in this case the film not only falls apart if the wrong person is cast as Hawking, but is potentially insulting. Hawking the human being is much more than his famous brain, his illness, his computerized voice and even his well documented sense of humor. The Stephen Hawking portrayed in Jane’s book is a conflicted, complicated, and for a time desperate and depressed individual. This is to say nothing of having to portray someone who gradually lost the use of their body, from a vibrant and healthy 21-year old to a middle aged man with the use of only a few muscles, someone who had to refashion an entirely new way of communicating with the outside world.

Eddie Redmayne.Photo Credit:  Liam Daniel / Focus Features

Eddie Redmayne.Photo Credit: Liam Daniel / Focus Features

Enter Eddie Redmayne, best known in America as Marius in Les Misérables. He pored over every detail of description of Hawking in the book and in his research. “Jane discusses in her book how Stephen had incredibly expressive eyebrows,” Redmayne said in the production notes. “That was something I spent months in front of a mirror working on.” Eventually Redmayne got a chance to meet the man himself, and noticed that how Hawking’s ‘yes’ is sort of a smile, and his ‘no’ is nearly a grimace, but they only show in a few of his facial muscles, meaning he’d have to learn how to isolate those.

The job of teaching him fell to movement director Alex Reynolds. Reynolds schooled the actor on just how the he could portray the various degenerative stages of motor neuron disease on-screen. Reynolds had recently worked on World War Z, where she created the movement for the fast-moving zombies, working with animation director Andy Jones and VFX supervisor John Nelson. In World War Z, Reynolds was working to help create movement en masse, creating a core zombie team, casting and training location specific zombies and refining their movement on set. Her work here was, of course, on a completely different scale but no less daunting.

Reynolds work was aided by Redmayne’s own research. He obtained permission to visit motor neuron disease patients both at a clinic and at home. Because no existing documentation of Hawking’s early stages of deterioration exist, Redmayne and Reynolds consulted with a motor neuron disease specialist to chart the progression of the disease. This research allowed Redmayne and Reynolds to create a chart (the higher the numbers, the later stage of deterioration) that would show had advanced the disease was for a particular scene. During the 48-day shoot, which, like most films, was not shot in sequence, this chart proved invaluable.

Eddie Redmayne as Hawking in a later stage of motor neuron disease. Courtesy Focus Features.

Eddie Redmayne as Hawking in a later stage of motor neuron disease. Courtesy Focus Features.

“Eddie prepared for months, to be ready to give multiple levels of performance,” McCarten said. “He had to be aware on any given day for a scene, ‘Is this stage four of my voice?’ ‘Does this mean stage three of my body?’ He would go from ‘a 4.3 day’ for one day’s work to, for a scene set 10 years earlier and filming the next day, ‘a 2.7 day.’ Each day required all of his talent, discipline, and intelligence.”

The chart was used by many members of the crew, including Marsh and cinematographer Benoît Delhomme. “It demonstrated what was possible and not possible for Stephen at a moment in time,” Marsh said. “This had a big impact on how Benoît shot a scene, and on how we framed it.”

The cast and crew had to help Redmayne on his huge task of engaging the audience with no more than just a cast of his eyes and a small shift of the body. “This is not easy for an actor to pull off, and it came at a physical cost to him. Every day he was in some sort of stress position that he had to maintain for hours at a stretch, while still projecting and making the character emerge out of the disability,” Marsh said. No member of the cast or crew had as much pressure or as hard a role as Redmayne than Felicity Jones, who played Jane Hawking.

Felicity Jones task was just as important as Redmayne's. Courtesy Focus Features.

Felicity Jones task was just as important as Redmayne’s. Courtesy Focus Features.

While it might seem that it takes less effort for Jones to portray the healthy, vibrant Jane than Redmayne’s transformation, that would be a simplistic view. Jane Hawking was far more than a support system and cheerleader for her husband’s illness and genius, she was a brilliant woman in her own right, and one who had to make agonizing decisions, over and over again, to keep their love, and Hawking himself, alive.

Jones met with Jane Hawking early on, and found a woman who had dedicated her life to Hawking while at the same time retaining her own identity. “It was important for her to be recognized in her own right, which is why she continued on with her studies while caring for him and raising a family. What this woman accomplished!” Jones said in the production notes.

Jones’ role required her to consistently show paradoxical feelings. She had be loving while also feeling put upon, burdened, frustrated, hopeful, despairing.

“There were days on the shoot when our work mirrored what Stephen and Jane actually went through,” Redmayne said. “I would have to say to Felicity, ‘I can’t actually do what it says in the script, you’re going to have to lift my arm here.’ This would be in the middle of an already difficult emotional scene; she would have to work around my limitations.”

 Eddie Redmayne stars as Stephen Hawking and Felicity Jones stars as Jane Wilde in Academy Award winner James Marsh’s THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING, a Focus Features release.  Photo Credit:  Liam Daniel / Focus Features

 

]]>
http://www.thecredits.org/2014/10/the-theory-of-everything/feed/ 0
Spirits & Passion Collide in The Book of Life http://www.thecredits.org/2014/10/spirits-passion-collide-in-the-book-of-life/ http://www.thecredits.org/2014/10/spirits-passion-collide-in-the-book-of-life/#comments Wed, 15 Oct 2014 14:30:53 +0000 http://www.thecredits.org/?p=12495 Animator, painter, writer and director Jorge R. Gutiérrez has won Annies and Emmys for his animated television series El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera for Nickelodeon. His work caught the eye of another Mexican polymath, writer, director, producer and ... Read More

]]>
Animator, painter, writer and director Jorge R. Gutiérrez has won Annies and Emmys for his animated television series El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera for Nickelodeon. His work caught the eye of another Mexican polymath, writer, director, producer and novelist Guillermo del Toro (Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth, Pacific Rim), who’s producing Gutiérrez ‘s feature debut The Book of Life, which bows this Friday, October 17. The Book of Life is an enchanting story of friendship, family and courage as old school traditions and new school animation come together for this powerful visual narrative.

Set in Mexico in the 1920’s on the Dia de Los Muertos (the Day of the Dead), The Book of Life follows a love triangle between three best friends – Maria (Zoë Saldana), a feisty damsel that is anything but distressed, Joaquín (Channing Tatum), the local hero with an ego even bigger than his biceps, and Manolo (Diego Luna), a soft spoken bullfighter who’d rather be strumming a guitar than side-stepping a charging bull. After two underworld spirits, the kind-hearted La Muerte (Kate del Castillo) and self-absorbed Xibalba (Ron Perlman, a Del Toro favorite), place a bet on who will win Maria’s heart, Manolo must travel through three fantastical worlds and face his greatest fears to prove that his love goes beyond any mortal barrier.

L-r: Producer Guillermo del Toro and writer/director Jorge R. Gutierrez at the Mexico premiere of 'The Book of Life.' Courtesy 20th Century Fox

L-r: Producer Guillermo del Toro and writer/director Jorge R. Gutierrez at the Mexico premiere of ‘The Book of Life.’ Courtesy 20th Century Fox

What creative spirit possessed Gutierrez to bring this deathly-inspired tale to life? The animation, story and music, as well as his passion for the Day of the Dead, suggest the director’s deep-rooted love for his Mexican heritage.

“The Day of the Dead and the Dia de Los Muertos is my favorite holiday because I think the idea behind it is incredibly universal and beautiful, and the idea is this: as long as we remember those who came before us, as long as we tell their stories, we sing their songs, we cook their favorite dishes, we tell their jokes — they’re here — they’re here with us,” said Gutiérrez in an interview with The Huffington Post‘s Nell Minow.

This triple-threat loves the Day of the Dead so much, he even proposed to and married wife Sandra Equihua – who so happens to be the creative director of The Book of Life – on the holiday. In a behind-the scenes interview with IMDB, Gutiérrez explains that his personal connection began when his best friend passed away at the age of nine. His grandmother explained to him that his friend is with him always. And it is this message that inspired Gutiérrez to dedicate the film to him.

From the characters to the scenery, the compassionate storytelling and loving detail is there in every frame. The Book of Life is a celebration of love, connection and family, one aided by Gutiérrez’s background as an animator.

“I wanted the world to feel handmade,” said Gutiérrez in a behind-the-scenes featurette. To achieve this look, he took inspiration from Mexican folk art. “These folk art toys were a reflection of the people. And I love folk art because of that. It’s this idea that it is art by the people for the people. It’s a mirror of who we are in Mexico.”

The animation of 'The Book of Life' borrows from Mexican folk art, down to the imperfections which only accentuate its' beauty. Courtesy 20th Century Fox.

The animation of ‘The Book of Life’ borrows from Mexican folk art, down to the imperfections which only accentuate its’ beauty. Courtesy 20th Century Fox.

To make sure fellow animators got the imagery right, Gutiérrez employed Central American artisans to hand carve wooden puppets of the characters, which were later rendered into 3D form.

Despite the finesse that comes with computer-generated animation, Gutiérrez insisted that his artistic team leave this holiday’s classic imagery of vibrantly colored marionette style puppets, rusted metal and chipped paint true to form. “I kept saying to them, ‘We are digital artisans, and I want to see flaws and mistakes and texture and dirtiness because that’s what gives folk art its flavor’,” Gutiérrez said to Minow in The Huffington Post.

Even the music attests to the influence that Gutiérrez’s love affair with his native city had on the film. From Elvis Presley and Biz Markie to Rod Stewart and Mumford and Sons, Gutierrez’s musical direction gives iconic songs a new, Mexican-inspired life with Mariachi style covers. Plus, new songs from Us the Duo and the team of Paul Williams and two-time Oscar winning composer Gustavo Santaolalla make the soundtrack as colorful as the animation.

Although inspired upon tradition incredibly unique to Mexico, The Book of Life’s message to honor the past while writing your own future is a theme that knows no cultural barriers.

 

]]>
http://www.thecredits.org/2014/10/spirits-passion-collide-in-the-book-of-life/feed/ 0
Paramount Hosts Interstellar Oculus Rift Experience http://www.thecredits.org/2014/10/paramount-hosts-interstellar-oculus-rift-experience/ http://www.thecredits.org/2014/10/paramount-hosts-interstellar-oculus-rift-experience/#comments Tue, 14 Oct 2014 14:30:08 +0000 http://www.thecredits.org/?p=12484 I went to space. I’ve seen the stars and the distant worlds that occupy the endless, mysterious vacuum above us. I went where few have gone before, leaving behind everything I knew as “home.”

Well, actually, let me clarify. My ... Read More

]]>
I went to space. I’ve seen the stars and the distant worlds that occupy the endless, mysterious vacuum above us. I went where few have gone before, leaving behind everything I knew as “home.”

Well, actually, let me clarify. My mind went to space, and not in a way that intends “I’ve finally gone insane.” My physical self sat in a chair (quite comfortable if I may add) at the AMC Lowes in Lincoln Square and strapped on an Oculus Rift to take part in an experience based around Christopher Nolan’s upcoming film Interstellar. Aside from a handful of photos, posters and teasers inspiring us as humanity heads into its unknown future, Interstellar, much like many of Nolan’s past films, has been shrouded in mystery. What better way to jump into it than by hopping into the world yourself?

Your view of the great unknown begins from behind a window on the spaceship Endurance. Through your headset, you are instructed to make your way through the ship and prepare for zero gravity. The organizers of the event encourage you to look all around you, not just stare forward – and once you do so, it clicks: this feels like an out of body experience. I’m not moving myself but I feel as if I am a part of the body that is. I can see every nook and cranny of the ship and every detail of its contents.

Having the 'Interstellar' Rift experience. Courtesy Paramount.

Having the ‘Interstellar’ Rift experience. Courtesy Paramount.

After moving through a few rooms, they drop the gravity (and your chair), and suddenly you feel like you’re floating. As you ascend through the ship towards the cockpit, objects float in zero gravity and I turned my head as I pass them by, seeing them exist there still, occupying that same space. And this is when that out of body experience started to feel real. The environment you are immersed in suddenly feels like it exists. It’s no longer a ride, or a massive flat screen that holds depth within the frame. It’s no longer something we can so easily pull ourselves out of by looking at our phones or the person next to us. Everything we see, everything we hear, feels tangible and exists within an entirely new world – a world that our minds now believe to be the real thing.

I can slump in my seat and tilt my head to get a better view of what’s outside my window. Spatially I feel relevant, like I belong. I am not an omniscient controller telling a camera where to go and how to act. The thin wire that connects us to movies and games is now stronger than ever.

'Interstellar' Oculus Rift Experience. PHOTO by: Amanda Schwab/Starpix

‘Interstellar’ Oculus Rift Experience. PHOTO by: Amanda Schwab/Starpix

The final seconds of the “ride” have you strap in to the pilot’s seat as you prepare to enter a wormhole. As the countdown begins, and the engines of the Endurance start to hum louder and louder, I couldn’t help but close my eyes to brace for… Whatever it may be. It’s moments like these that make an experience with the rift much more impactful. In your mind it’s real and you will react accordingly.

Entering the tunnel in mind and body. Courtesy Paramount Pictures.

Entering the tunnel in mind and body. Courtesy Paramount Pictures.

The first teaser for Interstellar has Matthew McConaughey saying “…we are still pioneers, and we’ve barely begun…” It’s entirely too fitting to have an experience like this with that in mind. This is only the beginning of what these will experiences will be able to provide. As the Oculus Rift, and technologies like it, improve dramatically, the opportunities for filmmakers to tell their stories in ever more immersive ways will as well. Buckle up.

]]>
http://www.thecredits.org/2014/10/paramount-hosts-interstellar-oculus-rift-experience/feed/ 0
Potent Posters: 8 of the Year’s Best http://www.thecredits.org/2014/10/potent-posters-some-of-2014s-best/ http://www.thecredits.org/2014/10/potent-posters-some-of-2014s-best/#comments Mon, 13 Oct 2014 14:30:18 +0000 http://www.thecredits.org/?p=12434 Never heard of BLT Communications before? You will after you take a gander at this story — they’re a pretty powerful force in the movie poster game, creating beautiful, striking images for films big and small.

Movie posters and prints have ... Read More

]]>
Never heard of BLT Communications before? You will after you take a gander at this story — they’re a pretty powerful force in the movie poster game, creating beautiful, striking images for films big and small.

Movie posters and prints have come along way, from old Hollywood classics to viral sensations—like the one caused by Hunger Games: Catching Fire moving-image poster (created by Ignition Creative). But what has stayed consistent is the importance, and artistry, behind movie posters. Because when it’s good—it’s movie theater popcorn gold. While 2014 is winding down, we’ve rounded up some of our top contenders for best movie posters of the year, with a doff of our caps to the people who made them.

 

Inherent Vice

Courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures.

Designed by: Dustin Stanton

Dustin Stanton’s scintillating poster is a fitting visual come hither for Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest. The singular director adapted one of our most singular novelist’s works, Thomas Pynchon’s groovy, grungy, narcotic noir Inherent Vice. Stanton nails the look and feel of the film with a simple, alluring image. Starring Joaquin Phoenix as detective Larry ‘Doc’ Sportello, Stanton’s poster captures Pynchon’s take on 1970s Los Angeles: the post-60s hangover, eye-popping color and a bleary eyed, hazy city populated by burnouts, beach bums and free spirits coming back down to earth. And, of course, the thing Los Angeles has always had — beautiful women in bikinis. With twenty years in the entertainment advertising business, Stanton kills it again.

 

Listen Up Philip

Designed by: Painted by Anna Bak-Kvapil and designed by Teddy Blanks.

A comedy about a brazen writer, played by Jason Schwartzman, as he anticipates the release of his second novel. Note the eyes of our beautifully painted poster — does a single character look anything less than neurotic with those piercing peepers? Designed by Teddy Blanks, those portraits of actors Schwartzman, Elizabeth Moss, Richard Pryce and more were brilliantly hand-painted by artist Anna Bak-Kvapil and capture the self-regard and paranoia of the hyper-intelligent characters.

 

Birdman_1

 

Designed by: BLT communications

Not Batman, but Birdman. Michael Keaton (playing washed up actor Riggan Thomson) gets the graphic design treatment in a film he, and every other actor in this remarkable story, gave their all for. The poster is a beautiful, and literal, approximation of Riggan Thomson’s main problem—he can’t seem to get out from under the superhero he once played, the eponymous Birdman. Thomson tries to claw his way back into fame by staging a play in New York City (an adaptation of Raymond Carver’s “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love”) if only he could get his alter-ego out of his head.

 

godzilla_ver16

Designed by: Ignition Creative

A movie of epic proportions deserves a jaw-dropping poster that pays homage to the world’s most famous monster. With the artistic juxtaposition of the movie’s title growing out of Godzilla’s back, and the relative stripped down aesthetic, it’s a brilliant way to capture the spirit of one of global cinema’s most lasting creations.

 

**sin_city_a_dame_to_kill_for_ver3

 

Designed By: Illustrator and graphic designer Mac Archibald

For a neo-noir crime thriller like no other, illustrator and graphic designer Mac Archibald seamlessly brought Frank Miller’s original ‘Sin City’ graphic novel style to the big screen. From comic book pages to the gorgeous (if hyper-violent) film shot in native 3D, Archibald’s poster does justice to a city that has very little of it.

 

*men_women_and_children

Designed by: Mondo/BLT Communications

In this haunting yet timely drama, director Jason Reitman (Juno, Up In the Air) asks us to reevaluate if we really know the people we know. In the digital age of continuous, ubiquitous communication, Reitman’s proposition is brought home with a telling image of strangers in a crowd almost seemingly unaware they aren’t actually alone. We might not look up enough in our daily lives, but this poster sure caught our eye.

 

**grand_budapest_hotel

Designed by: BLT communications

If a movie poster embodied its director, this one would take the prize. In true Wes Anderson fashion of clean cuts, bursts of color and relentless symmetry, the image of the Grand Budapest Hotel looks as if it were meticulously copy and pasted onto the mountain landscape. For a film so meticulously designed, BLT made sure the poster would be up to Anderson’s discerning, detailed taste.

 

alive_inside_xlg

Designed By: Eclipse Advertising

This heart-wrenching documentary by Director Michael Rossato-Bennett pieces together the force music has on the human mind and soul—so much so that it can heal in ways medicine cannot. Like the poster says: Listen to your heart.

]]>
http://www.thecredits.org/2014/10/potent-posters-some-of-2014s-best/feed/ 0