Friday, July 28, 2006

Can you imagine James Caan, Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman, or Steve McQueen as Roy Neary, the part played by Richard Dreyfuss in "Close Encounters of the Third Kind?" Or Will Smith as Neo in "The Matrix?" Take a look at for these and hundreds of other examples of actors who were considered for or even offered memorable movie roles, or submit some of your own.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Comic-Con, part 4--"Renaissance"

I got a chance to talk with Marc Miance from Attitude Studio, producers of the striking new animated film, Renaissance.

Miance developed the high-contrast look of the film. "Our first idea was to mix a very simple graphic design, very pure, with a very realistic animation. How to achieve? All the scenes exist in CGI and the lighting in the virtual camera provides high contrast, a sort of 'painting with light.'" The style, a sort of "futuristic film noir," was developed, and then they searched for a story that would fit. "We used Paris, not because we are French, but because we have seen other cities -- New York, London -- in movies as futuristic, but not Paris. It is futuristic but not too far away. You can imaine it." I asked him what the toughest technological challenge was in making the film and he said, "the eyes." They developed a patented new technology using special glasses to track the eye movements of the actors (including new James Bond star Daniel Craig, Catherine McCormack, and Jonathan Pryce) as they recorded the voices of the characters and used them in the film.

Comic-Con, part 3

In attendance:
Deepak Chopra,
two Wayans brothers,
the United States Postal Service,
the man who played the Lollypop Kid in "The Wizard of Oz,"
Daniella Alonso of television's "One Tree Hill,"
legendary shlock film-maker Roger Corman,
Samuel L. Jackson,
rapper/film-makers Snoop Dogg and RZA,
former Congressman Slade Gorton,
Kathy Garver, who played Cissy on the 1960's television show, "Family Affair,"
a man selling insurance for comic book collections,

a professor from Ohio State University speaking on "a central aspect of the Superman myth -- fighting through the web constraints placed on American hopes and aspirations by modernity -- [which] grew directly out of Captain John Smith's portrayal of himself in his narrative of his adventures published in 1630,"
Batman and Spongebob Squarepants made from Legos
and many Anakin Skywalkers, Corpse Brides, Hermione Grangers, Captain Jack Sparrows, Empire storm troupers, X-Box characters, and a two-year-old in a Supergirl costume.

Comic-Con, part 2

It was a pleasure -- and an honor -- to get a chance to talk to Neal Adams.

The word "legendary" is tossed around a lot in the world of comics, but Adams is one of the few who has earned it. He was still a teenager when he had his first syndicated comic strip, Ben Casey ("I almost had to bring my mother down to sign the contract, but I had just had my birthday.") He went on to draw nearly all the great superheroes, including Batman, Superman, Green Lantern, and X-Men. "There's nobody in comics who's five years my junior or five years my senior. I started right after Dr. Wertham told Congress that comics were driving kids to crime. Everyone just about closed down. All that was left was stuff like 'My Greatest Adventure' and -- this is my favorite -- 'Pat Boone Comics.'" I went to art high school and my teachers, who wanted us to have careers in art, told me comic books were going to be gone. But some people are born pig-headed." And some people just love comics. "Here's the definition of a comic book artist: You put him into a closet with a drawing table, a lamp, a radio, art supplies and you slide paper under the door and he keeps filling it up -- only to get new paper so he can draw more." He spoke about the history of comics, which began when printers ("not publishers, printers") reprinted newspaper comic strips into book form, creating an industry. "Comic books are ahead of everybody -- a comic book artist can do an $80 million movie in one month and then the next week do another one. Who could possibly catch up to us?" No one, as long as you keep sliding Adams more paper under the door.

Adams is working on a documentary about "Dondi" artist Irwin Hasen and a new six-issue Batman series (he said he likes drawing Batman because it's like two characters, Batman and his cape).

Comic-Con, part 1

Comic-Con attendees take their passions very seriously. In this crowd "fan-boy" is a compliment. But they don't take themselves seriously. Young American Comics handed out "Comic-Con Bingo #2," a game-board with squares for convention icons and stereotypes, inviting attendees to cross off five in any direction to win. Targets included "inappropriate spandex" (illustration of a tubby Wonder Woman), "superhero on cell phone," "three of a kind" (illustration of three puzzled Darth Vadars eying each other), "covered in buttons (50+)", "card game in progress," and "costume girl mobbed by fanboys." Let's just say that no one there would have had a problem completing a row. And the program description of a panel discussion on vintage comics ended, "Witty comments and knowing glances will be provided free for all."

The movie I am most looking forward to...

The Science of Sleep, by the director of "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" and "Dave Chapelle's Block Party." Can't wait.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

On my Way to Comic-Con

I am thrilled to be going to Comic-Con in San Diego for the first time. Watch this space.

Friday, July 14, 2006

"Ant Bully" director John Davis

I had a delightful conversation with writer-director John Davis at a reception before a screening of his new film, "The Ant Bully." Tom Hanks, who had read the book to his son and enjoyed it, sent a copy to Davis, the creator of the "Jimmy Neutron" series to see if he was interested in making the movie. He was, and after eight months writing the script and more than three years producing the film, he was very happy to be showing it, especially to the audience at this screening, a very excited bunch of kids on a field trip.

Davis told me that the movie had many challenges, from the technological (he said everything they ever did for "Jimmy Neutron" was not adequate for this film) to the logistical (his cast of superstars, including Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Nicolas Cage, and cult favorite Bruce Campbell were each recorded separately), to the conceptual (the drawings are based on real insects but mandibles didn't look "right" on the female characters so they left them off). But the result is worth it -- a terrific film sure to be a huge hit with kids.

Kevin Smith could be reading this right now

Desson Thomson's Washington Post interview about Kevin Smith says that

No other filmmaker has made it his business to nurture, kibitz with, heckle and engage his fans on such an intimate, day-to-day basis.
Smith spends several hours online because he enjoys the "constant validation" of interacting with his fans.
Alerted in 1995 to a Web site dedicated to "Clerks," Smith went to an Internet cafe in Red Bank and checked it out. He was so enchanted, he immediately hired its creator, Ming Chen, to do something similar for him.

When Chen suggested putting up a message board, Smith recalls his reaction: "I was, like, 'So at 2 in the morning, if I wake up and I'm, like, I suck, and I'm alone in the world, I can jump on there and have somebody be, like, I like what you do, and sleep better?' I was so dialed in to that notion."

Guess Who's Coming Over?

Well, I wouldn't want to release a good movie in the backwash of The Black Pearl, either. So it isn't surprising that the week after the biggest opening of all time we have a bit of counter-programming that is half-hearted at best with two crude comedies. What is interesting is that both have the same theme: the lives of an adorable young couple are disrupted and then enriched by the arrival of an obnoxious and out of control character who moves in with them.

In You, Me and Dupree the adorable couple (Matt Dillon and Kate Hudson) returns from their honeymoon to find that the groom's slacker best friend has lost his job and his apartment, so he moves in with them for "a couple of days." In Little Man, a hard-core criminal who is the size of a toddler (Marlon Wayans' head on the body of a small body) pretends to be a baby and is taken in by an adorable couple (Kerry Washington and Shawn Wayans). In neither case does hilarity ensue.

There have been a lot of classic movies about free spirits who turn the lives of straight-laced people upside down -- you know, the ones where the reserved and proper and play-by-the-rules type complains throughout the movie and then says at the end, "You know, this was the best day of my life."

Classics in this genre that have the characters actually living together include "The Odd Couple" and "The Man Who Came to Dinner." A slyly spicy movie about a three-way relationship is Noel Coward's "Design for Living." All are worth renting -- these are movies in which hilarity ensues, big time.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Yahoo's "The 9"

If you bypass the annoyingly chirpy hostess, who reminds me of those awful "what's new in technology" shows they force-feed to airline passengers and some cheesy self-promotion, the new The 9 feature on Yahoo!, each day's 9 coolest sites, has a very promising start. I especially liked Daily Dancer. Remember the old advice, "Dance like no one is watching?" There now seems to be an addendum: "And then post it on the Internet." Even though I get a huge kick out of the new Mac ads (I'm a big Justin Long fan and am looking forward to his new movie, "Accepted," next month), I enjoyed the Vh1 parodies. The Ask a Ninja and cat massages dog clips are old news to anyone who's been on You Tube, it is shameful for them to try to plug their own Yahoo Buzz page, and the doodle like Jackson Pollock site just barely makes it only because they came up with the caption "Never Mind the Pollocks," but the Men Who Look Like Kenny Rogers is just the kind of time-waster the Internet was made for.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Thanks for the shout-out, Mr. Vice President!

At yesterday's
International Corporate Governance Network conference, former Vice President Al Gore began his remarks by thanking me for my review of his movie, An Inconvenient Truth!

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Trailer Trash (and Treasure)

The Washington Post has a great article about movie trailers as an art form. Some trailers give away the entire movie ("The Lake House") and some fundamentally misrepresent the movie ("Angel Eyes"). Some are miniature works of art themselves. Two of the article's examples, "Birth" and "Gerry," had trailers that were vastly more imaginative and appealing than the movies they were promoting.

The internet has made movie trailers more accessible -- and not just for viewing. First, sites like our own Yahoo! Movies make any trailers available to anyone at the click of a button. You don't have to buy a ticket to a movie and hope that the trailer you are looking for will be one of the two or three they show before the feature. More important, the trailers are accessible for viral mutation. "Brokeback Mountain" inspired faux trailers that became so popular online they were seen by more people than, well, "Birth" and "Gerry." And the already-legendary "Snakes on a Plane" ("SoaP" to those in the know), inspired fans to create fake trailers so popular that the producers brought star Samuel L. Jackson back for reshoots to add a line of dialogue from the fake trailer. I like that. Studios use trailers to tell us what we're going to see; now fans tell studios what we want to see.

Monday, July 03, 2006

The Movie I've Seen the Most -- Slate asks film-makers and critics which films they watch over and over

Slate asked Spike Lee, Peter Farrelly, Paul Schrader, Philp Lopate, its own Dana Stevens, and others which films they've seen the most. Their answers are surprising, provocative ("The Wild Bunch?" "In the Realm of the Senses?" "Ghostbusters?") and a lot of fun. I especially love Peter Farrelly's story about knocking himself out with a 16-hour drive to get to a wedding and just making it...until he saw that "Something Wild" was on television. "I never made it to the church and I was about 20 minutes late to the reception."

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Barnyard gender questions...

The trailers for the new Nickeodeon movie "Barnyard" are very cute and the movie looks like a lot of fun. I like the way the cow shouts "MAN-a-bunga" when he jumps into the pond. But I couldn't help wondering -- I know I'm just a city girl, but aren't cows....female? Didn't the not-nearly-as-bad-as-its-reputation "Home on the Range" give its cow characters the voice talents of Roseanne Barr and Dame Judi Dench? But the cows in "Barnyard"have names like Eddie and Otis, with voices by Kevin James and Sam Elliott.

And another question -- a second animated movie in the same summer with cow-tipping humor? (The other one was "Cars.") Is there some kind of cow-tipping zeitgeist to make this a timely subject for kids' movies?