By macleans.ca - Wednesday, May 8, 2013 - 0 Comments
Xavier Dolan continues to push buttons. The 24-year-old director, acclaimed for his 2009 debut…
Xavier Dolan continues to push buttons. The 24-year-old director, acclaimed for his 2009 debut I Killed My Mother, recently shot a video for French new wave act Indochine’s single College Boy in which the lead character, a gay teen, is bullied, beaten, harassed, crucified and shot multiple times.
Filmed in the playground of a downtown Montreal school, the black-and-white video was almost instantly banned on Quebec’s MusiquePlus channel, and censored on YouTube shortly after.
Dolan says the video has an anti-bullying message, and should be seen. “Preventing the young generation from seeing the clip is to prevent them from understanding this message at the most crucial age,” he told France 24.
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Wednesday, January 9, 2013 at 2:09 PM - 0 Comments
Last night, Kathryn Bigelow’s new film about the hunt for Osama Bin Laden, Zero Dark Thirty, premiered here in Washington, DC. The theatre at the Newseum was packed with journalists, talking heads and a smattering of senators. Outside, protesters in Guantanamo Bay-style orange jumpsuits expressed their opposition to torture and the way it is portrayed in the film.
A few weeks ago, the acting head of the CIA, Michael Morell, wrote that the movie gives a exaggerated impression of the role the harsh interrogation techniques played in the hunt for Bin Laden:
The movie “creates the strong impression that the enhanced interrogation techniques that were part of our former detention and interrogation program were the key to finding Bin Laden. That impression is false.”
“The truth is that multiple streams of intelligence led C.I.A. analysts to conclude that Bin Laden was hiding in Abbottabad. … Some came from detainees subjected to enhanced techniques. … But there were many other sources as well.”
Bigelow, whose previous film, The Hurt Locker, about an army bomb squad in the Iraq War, won six Oscars fincluding best picture, best director, and best original screenplay, introduced the film last night by saying she had “no agenda in making this film.” Screenwriter, Mark Boal, engaged in a post-screening Q-and-A with Martha Raddetz, the ABC News reporter who moderated the vice presidential debates. (Raddetz also interviewed Chris Pratt, the actor who plays one of the Navy SEALs who raided the compound. He described the experience of filming the climactic raid scene inside a replica of the fortress-like hideout that filmmakers had built to scale on location in the country of Jordan.)
Boal told Raddetz that he was surprised by the some of the political reaction that greeted the film before it had even opened in Washington, DC. (In addition to the CIA comments, the Senate Intelligence Committee is investigating where the filmmakers got their information.) Perhaps he should not have been surprised. It’s hard to watch this gripping and suspenseful film and not come away with the strong impression that water-boarding and torture were key factors obtaining the intelligence that led to bin Laden.
The film opens with an extensive torture scene – including waterboarding – of an apparently fictional or composite detainee, described as a nephew to 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. Later, after his torture has ended and he has been allowed to sleep and is eating comfortably – but with the implicit threat of more abuse hanging over him – his CIA interrogators fool him into thinking that he had already began talking while under extreme sleep deprivation and had given up names that foiled a plot. They get him to relax and start talking more about his travels before his capture, including naming three other men who were with him at one point. Two of those names were familiar to the CIA already, but they third name is new; he describes the man as merely a computer guy. But this third man will turn out to be the courier who will lead the CIA to Bin Laden’s hideout. (In real life, none of the three detainees who are known to have been waterboarded gave up the courier’s name and identity.)
There is then a montage in which other detainees tell interrogators that they knew of the man, including one who says he sometimes delivered messages for Bin Laden but was just one of many couriers; it is not clear what treatment, if any, they were subjected to or even whether they were in American hands or some foreign service. Later, yet another detainee is introduced who talks freely to his interrogators because he does not want to be tortured again, he says without adding details; this detainee fills in the crucial description that the man is, in fact, Bin Laden’s most trusted courier. Yet another detainee lies about the man while being truthful about other information, which confirms that the man must be particularly important. (The rest of the hunt – learning the courier’s real name and the dogged manhunt to track him down in Pakistan — do not involve interrogations, coercive or otherwise. The CIA, for example, discovered some information about the man had been submitted by another country’s intelligence service shortly after 9/11 but had gone overlooked in its files; and used bribery, electronic surveillance, and the cell phone’s signal to hone in on their target.)
Here is a detailed New York Times report in May 2011 about the role that torture played in the trail that led the CIA to bin Laden’s trusted courier, and then to his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan:
But a closer look at prisoner interrogations suggests that the harsh techniques played a small role at most in identifying Bin Laden’s trusted courier and exposing his hide-out. One detainee who apparently was subjected to some tough treatment provided a crucial description of the courier, according to current and former officials briefed on the interrogations. But two prisoners who underwent some of the harshest treatment — including Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who was waterboarded 183 times — repeatedly misled their interrogators about the courier’s identity.
In his comments after the screening, Boal portrayed the movie as ambiguous about the role of torture.
“I remember hearing that the head of the CIA had made a statement about the movie and that was a pretty intense moment… I wasn’t totally expecting that,” said Boal.
“I think there is a lot in that statement that falls in line with the movie. The movie to me portrays a lot of different techniques over the years.”
Boal called “Bigelow” “gutsy” in portraying the interrogation techniques.
“The fact that she was willing to tackle that and not shy away from that part of the story, I’m very proud of the fact that she did that. I think she did a great job of capturing some of the essence of the issues involved. We are talking about a ten year man-hunt that had hundreds if not thousands of people involved…”
Likewise, former Democratic senator, Chris Dodd, now the head of the Motion Picture Association of America, gave a full-throated defense of the film: “It’s a movie. This isn’t a documentary,” he said.
The film “celebrates the work of the people of this town, to the world and to people in this country, who don’t think anything we do very well gets done at all. This is a great moment.”
Dodd compared the movie to the film Philadelphia, which raised awareness about AIDS and To Kill a Mockingbird, which highlighted racism. The torture controversy, he argued, is irrelevant.
“The fact that we are sitting here bickering a bit about whether or not there is a scene or two in this movie which some people think captures an acknowledgement or acceptance or approval of a certain strategy I think misses the point entirely. I think for years to come this film will be a way in which an awful lot of people will recognize the incredible efforts of some remarkable Americans whose names we will never ever know and never get the chance to personally thank — and for that reason I am thankful for what they did,” Dodd said.
But it was hard not to feel as if they were talking about a different, more ambiguous movie than the one that had just been screened.
By Brian D. Johnson - Wednesday, August 29, 2012 at 4:40 PM - 0 Comments
If you’re looking for evidence that Canada’s media culture is a kinder, gentler place than its American and British counterparts, look no further than the case of Sarah Polley. Today the 33-year-old Toronto filmmaker and actress finally went public with a family secret that has been known to certain members of the film community and the media for well over a year—that actor Michael Polley, the man she’s called Dad all her life, is not her biological father, and that her mother, who died when she was 11, conceived her during an extra-marital affair. Sarah revealed the secret in a blog post on the National Film Board’s website, as she braced herself for the Venice and TIFF premieres of Stories We Tell, an astonishing documentary in which she unravels her family history. I’m one of several journalists who became privy to the secret ages ago but, at Polley’s adamant request, refrained from going public. I had tried to talk her into giving me the story. But I respected her wishes, partly because her privacy seemed more important the public’s need to know. But also because to do otherwise would seem like dubious journalism: sure, I could have cobbled a piece together from sources, but without Polley’s confirmation, and the details she could provide, breaking her secret seemed at best shoddy and at worst unethical.
Now that I’ve seen her documentary, which premieres in Venice next Wednesday, I’m glad I didn’t spill the beans. It’s a brilliant film: an enthralling, exquisitely layered masterpiece of memoir that unravels an extraordinary world of family secrets through a maze of interviews, home movies, and faux home movies cast with actors. And now I find I’m reluctant to reveal details that Polley has put on film—not to preserve her privacy, but so as not to spoil the story she has told with such consummate skill and sensitivity onscreen.
If you want to know more — spoiler alert! — here are some excerpts from Polley’s NFB blog post:
“In 2007 I was on set in Montreal, shooting a scene for the film Mr. Nobody. I received a phone call from a friend warning me that a journalist had found out a piece of information about my life that I had kept a secret for a year. I got in touch with the journalist and begged him not to print the story. It was a story that I had kept secret from many people in my life including my father. It took some time and many tears to convince the journalist not to print the story within the week, but I left that conversation convinced that it was not a secret I could keep for long, and that if I wanted the people in my life and outside my life to know the story in my own words, I would have to take action.
“I flew to Toronto that night to tell my father the news. He was not my biological father. This had been confirmed by a DNA test with a man I had met a year earlier. I had met my biological father almost by accident, though I had long suspected based on family jokes and rumours that my mother may have had an affair that led to my conception.
“My father’s response to this staggering piece of news was extraordinary. He has always been a man who responds to things in unusual ways, for better or for worse. He was shocked, but not angry. His chief concern, almost immediately, was that my siblings and I not put any blame on my mother for her straying outside of their marriage. He was candid about his own lack of responsiveness towards her and how that may have led her to the point where she sought out the affection of another person. And then he began to write. And write and write and write.
“He wrote the story of their marriage, her affair (which he put together from other people’s memories), and his relationship with me. He wrote about our need to tell stories.
“My biological father, at my behest, had also begun writing the story of his relationship with my mother. He is a fine storyteller too and one of the most interesting people I’ve ever met. Each of us had a deep and growing need to tell the story, different parts of it, in different ways, with emphasis on different details, in a way that reflected our own experience and what was most important to us as we are now.
“My siblings began telling the story to their friends. Journalists who heard the story from various sources began calling me and asking me to be interviewed about this discovery. Everyone who heard the story seemed to want to own it. . . “
By Mika Rekai - Wednesday, August 22, 2012 at 10:37 AM - 0 Comments
How to reduce distraction from texting during movies? There’s an app for that.
In an age of constant communication, the movie theatre is one of few places where using your cellphone, with its bright glowing screen, is still a social faux pas. A new app for Android phones, however, may change that. Developed by a Toronto tech company, the In the Dark app switches smartphone screens to a mix of dark grey and black so users can continue texting without disturbing others. It also automatically puts the phone on vibrate. The app’s developer, Kyle Goomansingh, was inspired to create In the Dark when he was in a movie theatre and distracted by the bright light on a fellow audience member’s smartphone. The app works with the phone’s existing messaging systems, but reconfigures settings so texts and emails appear on a grey screen with black lettering. (It’s also a good way to keep your texts hidden from prying eyes reading over your shoulder.) Of course, the other solution to the texting-during-movie dilemma would be to just watch the movie, but who does that anymore?
By Brian Bethune - Friday, June 1, 2012 at 1:46 PM - 0 Comments
Toronto’s annual celebration of anime and manga brought out thousands of devotees, including many in costume
What does it take to run a multi-million dollar event with more than 20,000 attendees and no professional involvement? Lots of volunteers—some 700—in the case of Anime North, Toronto’s annual celebration of those twin pillars of Japanese pop culture, anime and manga. Flip sides of the same massively popular coin, anime (film and TV) and manga (multivolume comics) contain a bewildering variety of content, theme and visual expressions. Erotica and fantasy, sci-fi and horse operas, mystery and romance or any combination of thereof, Western or Asian, in some of international pop culture’s most eclectic mash-ups: “Anime’s a medium, not a genre,” says Anime North conference chairman, Irwin Tan.
And one that inspires deep devotion in its primarily young aficionados. “Most are 17 to 25,” notes Tan of the thousands flocking through Toronto’s Congress Centre last weekend, “though I’m starting to see people in their 30’s, who are second-gen. Probably 18 or so when we began 15 years ago; now they’re pushing their own kids—some in very cool costumes—around in strollers.” The demographics mean attendees are far from well-heeled, but they still exert a major economic impact: entrance charges range from $55 weekend passes to $35 one-day passes; 15,000 area hotel rooms are annually blocked off (up to 40 per cent of attendees come from outside of Southern Ontario, and many of the locals stay on-site as well); the Dealers’ Room (selling manga, anime and collectibles of all kinds) does beyond brisk business; and line-ups for the nearby fast-food restaurants are daunting for all but the hungriest teens.
Tan, a 44-year-old commercial office designer and convention chair for the past 11 years, has been with Anime North from the beginning. It grew out of a University of Toronto club that held a 1997 convention in a campus venue. Even then attendance—700 people—was twice expectations. “We ran around all day photocopying more badges for people showing up at the door. Since then it’s grown about 10 per cent every year.” Which brings Anime North, by the miracle of compound interest, to its present 20,000-plus, making it by far Canada’s largest convention of its kind and in the top five in North America. And bringing it also to an ongoing effort to keep itself in the sweet spot between easy-going, for-the-pure-love-of-it amateurism and the demands of large-scale organization. This year, for the first time, the convention placed a daily cap (20,000) on attendees, partly to leave room to breathe in the crowded congress hall and partly because the odds say that bad weather—there’s never really been any in 15 years—has to come some day. At any given moment several thousand people are milling about in the open air, and organizers want be sure they can accommodate them all during a storm.
“We strive to stay very relaxed, very casual,’ says Tan, “but still act professionally,” especially with the guests, who include Japanese bands (and this year a star Tokyo DJ) and voice actors from Canada and Japan. That means no one is trying to establish, let alone adhere to, hard and fast rules of exactly what constitutes anime. The costumed wrestling, which runs throughout the weekend, often features participants dressed as very North American figures, including such superheroes as Spider-Man. “Once I went by and I saw a match between Vegeta [from the wildly popular anime Dragonball Z] and [Sesame Street’s] Elmo,” recalls Tan. “I thought of it as ‘Kill Me Elmo’.” But as long as there’s some “tie-in to Japanese culture, we’re good with what people want to see.”
As for the pull of it all, the engine behind Anime North’s double-digit annual growth, it pretty much comes down to the cosplay for the convention chair. More than half the attendees, not just those babies in strollers, come dressed as characters from shows or comics or, often enough, as concepts inspired by anime. Some of that is “showing off—those costumes take a lot of work and ingenuity,” says Tan, “and part is the sense of community they help invoke. We have workshops on improving your costume, and people will often simply stop and give you advice. We’re very close-knit.”
All photos courtesy of photographer Ian Bethune
By Jaime Weinman - Thursday, May 10, 2012 at 10:03 AM - 0 Comments
Money is plentiful and dramas are provocative—on TV
David Cronenberg’s next project is called Knifeman, described by his production company as the story of a surgeon who “goes to extraordinary and unorthodox lengths to uncover the secrets of the human body.” It sounds like a very Cronenbergian feature film—except it’s a TV series the Canadian director will direct and produce. The announcement just confirmed the latest trend in show business: everybody wants to make their own television show. The film industry is losing a lot of its revenue, as reported in April by Benjamin Swinburne, an analyst for the financial services firm Morgan Stanley, but TV is doing great. Swinburne says “big media companies have protected themselves by diversifying more into television, a much healthier business,” as reported by Deadline.com’s executive editor David Lieberman. And filmmakers go where the investment is going, which is why everyone—from veterans like Cronenberg to young film school graduates—is taking a close look at TV. “People who understand where the business is flowing are heading into television in big ways,” said Joe Pichirallo, a film producer (Hollywoodland) and chair of the undergraduate film and television program at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.
It used to be that when a major film director went into television, it was only to direct a pilot, or to put his name on the series as a producer (like the feature director McG on the teen soap The O.C.). With the exception of writers, who might have more creative control in TV, no director or technician saw TV as a first choice. “With the glamorization of the film milieu since the 1930s,” says Daniel Doz, president of the Alberta College of Art and Design, “students have often idealized working in film rather than TV.” “In the past, people were not going for television, particularly directors,” Pichirallo adds. “They were thinking, ‘I’ve got to try my luck in features.’ ”
By Brian D. Johnson - Friday, February 17, 2012 at 10:20 AM - 0 Comments
Ever noticed those mountains looming behind New York City?
In a scene from The Vow, Rachel McAdams and Channing Tatum park by the Chicago waterfront, strip down to their underwear, and scamper into the lake for a frigid late-night dip. But the lake is Ontario, not Michigan. The couple is cavorting on Cherry Beach in McAdams’s home city of Toronto, and the skyline is visible—minus the CN Tower. Canadian locales routinely impersonate American cities in Hollywood movies, but what’s striking about The Vow is how blithely it shows familiar glimpses of a city that’s supposed to be incognito. The lovers first cross paths at City Hall, and exchange their vows at a guerrilla wedding staged in the Art Gallery of Ontario. The movie is punctuated by postcard vistas of the real Chicago, but whenever the actors are in the shot, Toronto backdrops shatter the illusion, at least for anyone who knows the city.
There’s nothing wrong with faking locations. It’s something Hollywood has always done and always will. Movies, after all, are in the business of make-believe. But after so many years, the routine casting of Toronto and Vancouver for American burgs has become irksome, especially now that these cities have more personality and profile of their own. Ontario film commissioner Donna Zuchlinski claims local audiences enjoy spotting their hometown onscreen—“it adds to the movie-going experience, that sense of pride.” But stripped of its character, a surrogate city exudes blandness. In a confection like The Vow, despite a spirited performance from McAdams, that cavalier lack of authenticity penetrates deep into the bones of the movie, from the generic characters to the formulaic script. It seems to say: what the hell, the audience will never notice.
When American studios shoot movies north of the border, would it kill them to set one there? That almost never happens. Although Canada is the only country in the world that’s lumped into Hollywood’s domestic market, apparently we’re not domestic enough to be a place where people would actually live. “Americans want to see American cities,” says Toronto production designer Sandra Kybartas, a veteran of both Canadian and U.S. shoots. “They have a limited palate for exoticism.”
By Jaime Weinman - Wednesday, November 9, 2011 at 11:10 AM - 0 Comments
Some cinematographers worry that digital can’t reproduce the look of film
At the Tate Modern gallery in London last month, artist Tacita Dean unveiled her exhibit “FILM,” an expression of fear for the future of motion picture film. “It breaks my heart to think that we’re going to lose this beautiful medium,” Dean told the Evening Standard. Not long after that, Creative COW magazine reported that several major motion picture companies, including the venerable Panavision, will stop creating new film cameras and concentrate on digital video cameras instead. It looks like all of film, not just Dean’s, may be a museum piece. “The end of film distribution is on the horizon,” says Patrick Corcoran, director of media and research at the National Association of Theatre Owners in the U.S.
It’s not that demand has completely disappeared. “Filmmakers are very much accustomed to working with film,” says Corcoran. “There are some who are going to be slow to give that up.” Wally Pfister, the cinematographer of The Dark Knight, told American Cinematographer that film can be exposed in a wide variety of ways, which gives him “infinite creative flexibility in creating images.” Steven Poster, president of the International Cinematographers Guild, has embraced digital, but says film “does have a look that’s kind of unique.” Film fans love its inherent grainy quality, and Dean’s exhibit also celebrates film processes like hand-tinting, which can’t be done with computers.
But even if some directors still want to use film, it may become harder to find anyone willing to make or process it. Film has been battered by the popularity of digital 3-D, which has no film equivalent. TV studios have mostly abandoned film for new pilots over the last two years, in part for labour reasons: Poster says “they were fighting with the Screen Actors Guild,” and digital video allows them to deal with a different union. As more producers find reasons to give up film, the cost of making and delivering film prints will go up; by 2013, Corcoran estimates, the studios are likely to conclude that “it no longer makes economic sense to ship film.”
By Jaime Weinman - Monday, October 17, 2011 at 12:02 PM - 2 Comments
You may have seen this article last week about the decision of several companies to suspend production of film cameras, further signaling that high-definition video rather than film is the format of the future. This has been going on for a while (companies have been slowly phasing out film of various types for several years), but was accelerated by a sudden and mostly un-heralded shakeup within the TV industry a couple of years ago. As the article notes, the TV producers were in a dispute with the Screen Actors’ Guild, but made a congenial deal with another union, AFTRA, which had jurisdiction over taped shows—including shows shot on high-def video. And so within a year, most of the producers switched production of their pilots from film to digital video, so that their shows would be covered by AFTRA contracts. And that was that:
Whereas, in previous seasons, 90 percent of the TV pilots were filmed, and under SAG jurisdiction, in one fell swoop the 2009 pilot season went digital video, capturing 90 percent of the pilots. In a single season, the use of film in primetime TV nearly completely vanished, never to return.
There are still some existing shows shot on film, including some very good-looking ones (I think Fringe and The Mentalist are or were shot on 35 mm film). But eventually, all TV shows will be shot on HD unless the creators have some very specific aim in mind; part of the point of shooting on film is to look like a feature, but since features will increasingly abandon film, there’s not much point in using it for TV.
It’s actually amazing that film lasted in television for so long, since producers have been trying to phase it out of TV ever since the invention of video tape. (The Twilight Zone famously experimented with switching to tape for a few episodes in its second season, giving up when it became clear that it didn’t look as good as film. In the UK, for many years, tape was used for anything shot in the studio, with 16 mm film used for outdoor sequences only because tape cameras weren’t mobile enough.) But the prestige of film, as well as the visual beauty it could provide at its best, kept film going in TV for many decades; in fact, there were times when film would become more popular rather than less – as in the ’90s, when most U.S. producers dropped taped sitcoms and switched to film instead. It proved remarkably resilient.
As to whether we should mourn the death of film, I don’t think there is much point in that, and it’s by no means the biggest change to hit motion pictures in Continue…
By Jaime Weinman - Monday, August 8, 2011 at 10:00 AM - 1 Comment
Bright young actors, not aging stars, are grabbing up the hottest roles this fall
When CBS announced that Two and a Half Men had signed Ashton Kutcher to replace Charlie Sheen, the executives were probably hoping it would be a unique piece of news: a young movie star, who had just made a successful film with Natalie Portman (No Strings Attached), coming back to television. But it simply became part of a larger story about the new fall season. Instead of the usual tactic of snapping up aging movie stars—like William H. Macy on Shameless, or Glenn Close on Damages—the new U.S. shows for the fall season are full of feature-film actors in their twenties or early thirties. Actors normally graduate from television to movies, but many young actors this year seem to be realizing that, as Variety TV columnist Brian Lowry puts it, “TV can be extremely helpful to an actor’s career, and quite lucrative in its own right.”
And so when Canadian networks fought over who would get to simulcast other new U.S. shows this fall, they were fighting over shows starring these young movie people. Citytv snapped up 2 Broke Girls (which CBS executive Nina Tassler touted as her “highest-testing pilot ever”) with Kat Dennings from the summer blockbuster Thor. The same network took The New Girl (touted by its own production company as one of its “highest-testing pilots ever”), in which Zooey Deschanel will go from playing adorably quirky movie characters looking for love to playing an adorably quirky TV character looking for love. CTV got the ’60s period drama Pan Am, one of several attempts to copy Mad Men (even though Mad Men doesn’t get many viewers); it will star Christina Ricci of The Addams Family fame.
It’s no surprise that television networks want to get movie stars to headline their shows. Though there has been a lot of talk about TV being better or more prestigious than movies (“TV is replacing movies as elite entertainment,” wrote critic Edward Jay Epstein last season), no one really seems to act like they believe it: “On the food chain of entertainment,” wrote sitcom writer and blogger Ken Levine, “it goes like this: movies, television, street performing, radio. Movies look down at television. Television looks up at movies with awe.” When Sheen was fired from his show, TV Guide said that the producers felt the only possible replacement would be someone bigger than a mere television star: “They were going after movie stars,” an anonymous insider told the magazine’s Michael Schneider.
By Jaime Weinman - Thursday, July 28, 2011 at 5:05 PM - 1 Comment
The highly bankable little blue characters star in their own movie
The Smurfs have done what Tintin and other European comic strip characters never could. They’ve conquered North America. The Smurfs movie comes out July 29, and since it has famous blue characters saying things like “you smurfed with the wrong girl,” nobody’s expecting it to get good reviews. But the studio, Sony, does expect it to make some money: Smurfs have been bankable here since 1980, when the Belgian comics were adapted into a TV cartoon. Other French-language comics have trouble crossing the sea. The producer of Steven Spielberg’s upcoming Tintin, also based on a Belgian comic, admitted to the press that it’s a risk because Tintin “is known so well in Europe and virtually not at all here.” But veteran TV screenwriter Marc Zicree told Maclean’s that when he told a young American about writing for the Smurfs cartoon in the ’80s, “I was like Moses coming down off the mountain.”
It’s easy to see that the Smurfs, created (as Les Schtroumpfs) in 1958, have become part of North American culture in a way that, say, Asterix can’t match. On June 25, for the anniversary of the birth of Smurfs creator Peyo, Sony sponsored “Global Smurfs Day,” a worldwide gathering of people who painted their faces blue and wore white hats just like his creations. There have been Smurfs parodies on shows like Family Guy, Robot Chicken and Saturday Night Live; North American college students used to have a drinking game where they took a drink every time a character in the show said “Smurf” in place of a normal word. Eric Leroy, who is curating an exhibition devoted to Peyo and the Smurfs at the Arcurial gallery in Paris, told Maclean’s “the children of the world identify with the Smurfs.”
This worldwide popularity is mostly thanks to the cartoon, still in reruns on channels like Teletoon Retro. Though some of the shows were adaptations of Peyo stories, Zicree says the writers started to “bring an American boisterousness” to the franchise, creating new stories with a non-European slant: “I was a big science fiction geek,” he recalls, “so I wrote one about an alien who visits the Smurf village and impersonates a Smurf.” That North American take on the Smurfs has come to define them even on Peyo’s home turf. “In Europe,” Leroy explains, “the comics are popular—25 million copies—but the TV show is more popular today.”
By Brian D. Johnson - Thursday, June 30, 2011 at 12:10 PM - 4 Comments
Enough with the gimmickry, price gouging and 2D conversions
It was hailed as the biggest revolution in cinema technology since colour. But less than two years after the triumph of Avatar, 3D seems to be wearing thin. For the first time since the new digital format was launched, the majority of viewers are choosing to watch 3D movies in 2D versions—at least in the U.S., where a 3D ticket bears a $5 premium. There, 2D outpaced 3D at the box office by about 60 per cent for Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Kung Fu Panda 2, Green Lantern—and in advance sales for the final Harry Potter movie. Canada is another story. “We see movies consistently outperforming in 3D,” says Cineplex Entertainment spokesperson Pat Marshall, explaining that Cineplex charges just a $3 premium. But as American audiences abandon 3D, studio executives who once embraced it as cinema’s salvation are sounding the alarm. Jeffrey Katzenberg, head of DreamWorks Animation, called the trend “heartbreaking.” Blaming a glut of bad 3D movies from other studios, he told the Hollywood Reporter: “We have disappointed our audience multiple times now, and because of that I think there is genuine distrust.”
3D’s big test is Transformers: Dark of the Moon, which opened Tuesday. James Cameron convinced Michael Bay to shoot in 3D, providing the tech he created for Avatar. But armed with that third dimension, Bay’s blitzkrieg style of kinetic action is exhausting to watch. And it will take more than a sci-fi sequel to restore our faith. To cop a phrase from Bill Maher, here are 10 New Rules for saving 3D:
1. Sell 3D and 2D tickets at the same price. Studios complain 3D movies cost more to make, while exhibitors carp about upgrading theatres. Who cares? Viewers suspect they’re being gouged. If you’re trying to acclimatize the audience to an iffy new technology, level the playing field. That would also be the acid test of 3D quality—to see how many people would still choose to see the 2D version.
By Claire Ward - Thursday, June 30, 2011 at 11:23 AM - 0 Comments
Long before Gaga’s “Paparazzi”, there was Fellini’s “La Dolce Vita”
Shot and edited by Claire Ward & Erica Alini
Interview by Brian D. Johnson
Produced by Claire Ward