Shot Behind the Shot – A blindfolded Sandra Bullock braves the rapids in Bird Box

Before and after VFX from Netflix's Bird Box (2018)

(Above) A before and after VFX comparison from Netflix’s Bird Box (2018), which finds Sandra Bullock and two children traversing river rapids blindfolded. The movie is set in a creature-ridden post-apocalyptic nightmare where even a glimpse of the outside world results in almost instant death. The practical portions of the aquatic action were shot on location on the Smith River in Northern California. The water tank work was completed over the last two days of principle photography in a tank surrounded by 200′ of blue screen, with 300,000 gallons of water tinted to match the color of the Smith River.

The pics above come from the awesome site Art of VFX, which detailed the making of Bird Box via an interview with VFX Supervisor Marcus Taormina.

Check out more of the Shot Behind the Shot series here.

A collection of international posters for the Creature from the Black Lagoon series

With the passing yesterday of Julie Adams, who forever preserved a place in monster movie lore as the object of the titular monster’s attention in Creature from the Black Lagoon, I’m looking back at the posters of the three-picture Creature series from the 1950s courtesy of Universal Pictures.

All the posters come from the amazing auction site Heritage Auctions, where they all at one time or another have been up for sale.

Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)

Continue Reading ›

Frame by Frame – Three O’Clock High (1987)

Year1987
Decade1980s
CinematographerBarry Sonnenfeld (imdb link)
DirectorPhil Joanou
Aspect Ratio1.85
DistributorUniversal
GenreComedy
LensesSpherical
Format35mm

Categories
Clink on any link to see similar frames from other films.
Character Introduction
Inserts
High and Low Angles
Rack Focus
Cross Dissolves
Full Shots
Profile
Silhouettes
Unusual Camera Perspectives
Venetian Blinds

The Movie

A “new student” profile piece for the school paper turns into an adolescent nightmare for a timid reporter (Casey Siemaszko) when the story’s subject (Richard Tyson) challenges him to an after school showdown. Siemaszko spends the remander of the day attempting to escape the confines of the school before the final bell tolls. Director Phil Joanou – who was just 24 when production began, making him younger than both his leading men – saw the film as a pubescent nod to Martin Scorsese’s After Hours.

“The original script was called After School and was very much a John Hughes style comedy, very broad with lots of slapstick. When I came on I had really loved Martin Scorsese’s movie AFTER HOURS (1985). If you compare Scorsese’s film with my film, you will see that I was heavily influenced by AFTER HOURS, as in I stole a ton of stuff from it! In the film, Griffin Dunne is trapped down in SoHo and no matter what he does, he can’t escape his fate. It’s very similar to 3 O’CLOCK HIGH in that this kid is trapped in high school and no matter what he does, he can’t escape. The original script was much more about him having to confront the bully, and I added ”Well, what if he tried everything he could think of to get kicked out.” The ticking clock and the trapped hero were what I brought to 3 O’CLOCK HIGH. I also tried to make it much more of a black comedy as opposed to a straight-ahead teen comedy.” – director Phil Joanou, from an interview with Money Into Light

Shot on location in Ogden, Utah over 33 days, Three O’Clock High failed to make back its $6 million budget while in theaters. It’s developed a bit of a cult following over the years – culminating in a Blu-ray release from Shout! Factory – and has been a favorite of mine since childhood. Roger Ebert, however, was not a fan of the stylishly shot movie, awarding Three O’ Clock High one star and condemning it as an extension of Reagan era American machismo.

Hollywood teenage movies have been edging toward fascism for years. There once may have been a time when nice kids got ahead by being nice, but in today’s Hollywood, muscle and brute strength count for everything. – Roger Ebert, from the Chicago Sun-Times

 

Continue Reading ›

Pic of the Day: French poster for Terrence Malick’s Days of Heaven (1978)

Days of Heaven french poster

The house in Days of Heaven – like Norman Bates’s home in Psycho – was inspired by Edward Hopper’s 1925 painting House by the Railroad. The work of Andrew Wyeth also influenced the film, particularly 1948’s Christina’s World. Both paintings can be seen below (Hopper on top, followed by Wyeth).

The poster comes from the auction site Heritage Auctionswhich features hundreds of incredible news pieces of movie art for sale every week.

Check out more Pics of the Day.

Frame by Frame – The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)

Year2018
Decade2010s
CinematographerBruno Delbonnel (imdb link)
DirectorThe Coen Brothers
Aspect Ratio1.85
DistributorNetflix
GenreWestern
Format – Digital
Camera
Arri Alexa Studio XT and Arri Alexa Mini (shot in 3.4K Open Gate ArriRaw)
LensesArri/Zeiss Master Primes and Arri Alura zooms (15.5-45mm, 30-80mm)

Cinematographer Bruno Delbonnel on his preferred focal lengths…
“I’m a big fan of wide lenses – I don’t like long lenses so for me a 32mm or 40mm is a long lens already. On Inside Llewyn Davis we shot almost everything with a 27mm. And the same here on Buster Scruggs – 70% of it is with a 27mm.” – from Variety

Categories
Clink on any link to see similar frames from other films.
Wide Shots
Breaking the Fourth Wall
Close-Ups
Western Showdown
Vanishing Point Perspective
Color – Blue
Three Shot
Dusk
Day Exteriors
Stagecoach

The Movie

“I don’t hate my fellow man, even when he’s tiresome, surly, and tries to cheat at poker. I figure that’s just the human material. And him that finds in it cause for anger and dismay is just a fool for expecting better.” – the titular gunslinger Buster Scruggs (Tim Blake Nelson) on his wanted poster nickname “The Misanthrope”

The Coen Brothers check off a pair of milestones – their first film shot digitally and their first intended primarily as a streaming experience – with this six part Western anthology that twists familiar genre archetypes including the wagon train, the bank robber, the prospector, and the gunslinger. The Coen’s subtext is often inscrutable and you’ll never catch them directly talking about the meaning of their work – even the film’s production designer says he wasn’t sure if the stagecoach passengers in the film’s final chapter are alive or dead. But mortality seems to be the brothers’ primary preoccupation here. One of the stagecoach passengers in the final segment – half of a bounty hunting duo – describes his role as distracting his targets with stories before his partner thumps them. Perhaps that’s the Coen’s way of defining their own role as storytellers – life can be cruel and its sense of humor ironic and all we can do is distract ourselves with tales until the reaper thumps us.

Joel Coen on his first streaming-centric release…
“We came into the business at a time when ancillary markets, which were essentially home video markets, were really responsible for the fact that we were able to get our movies financed. Sometimes, that was the principle way our movies were seen. So if you look at The Big Lebowski, it did a reasonable amount of box office but it did a phenomenal amount of DVDs. People primarily saw that movie on their television sets. For us to get too precious about it would be a little bit strange.”from the Washington Post

The Coen Brothers on shooting digitally for the first time…
“There’s so much latitude in what you’re capturing, you can make it look like pretty much anything later in terms of contrast, in terms of color, in terms of pretty much everything…You’re sort of deferring decisions about how it’s going to look until later because when you capture it on film, it’s actually in the grain of the negative…And when you’re capturing it digitally, you’re just sort of recording pixels, all of which are negotiable later.”from NPR

Continue Reading ›

Cinematographer Sean Porter on shooting Green Book

Here’s my interview with Green Book director of photography Sean Porter (Green Room, 20th Century Women) from Filmmaker Magazine. This is actually my 100th interview piece for Filmmakerall of which you can find here.

As for the Porter piece, here’s a little preview with Sean talking about his shift from old Cooke lenses to newer Leica glass.

Frame by Frame – Sweet Virginia (2017)

Year2017
Decade2010s
CinematographerJessica Lee Gagné (imdb link)
Director – Jamie M. Dagg
Aspect Ratio2.39
DistributorIFC Films
GenreNeo Noir
CameraArri Alexa Mini
LensesPanavision Primos
FormatDigital

Categories
Clink on any link to see similar frames from other films.
Dawn                             Car Shots                         Diners                                  Hotels
Low Key Lighting       Long Takes                      Mirrors/Reflections         Frames Within Frames
Silhouettes                   Full Shots                        Establishing Shots           Foreground/Background

The Movie
A triple homicide in a remote Alaskan town brings together a former rodeo champion (Jon Bernthal) and a violent drifter (Christopher Abbott) in this moodily photographed neo-noir. Though set in Alaska, the film was shot largely in Hope, British Columbia – the same location as Rambo’s inaugural outing First Blood (1982). Continue Reading ›

Behind the scenes of The Coen Brothers’ The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Ballad of Buster Scruggs before and after VFX

A before-and-after visual effects comparison from “Mortal Remains,” the final chapter in the Coen Brothers’ Netflix western anthology film The Ballad of Buster Scruggs. While the other entries were shot on location across New Mexico, Colorado, and Nebraska, “Mortal Remains” and its spectral stagecoach ride were shot entirely on a soundstage. In keeping with the Coen’s reluctance to delve into the meaning of their work, even the film’s production designer Jess Gonchor wasn’t sure of the passengers’ fate.

“I still don’t know whether the characters in that story are dead or alive or just living in the afterlife,” said Gonchor in an interview with The LA Times. “The Coen brothers didn’t discuss it. We built these monochromatic super facades, which were lit from behind. It was a storybook version of what the afterlife might look like.”

The images above come from The Art of VFX’s interview with visual effects supervisor Michael Huber.