Tag Archives: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Thursday’s Child — Stephen Colbert, My Greatest Actor, and the Joseph Gordon-Levitt Bylaw

There were just too many good articles this week. Thursday’s Child expands on yesterday’s Wednesday Collective.

“On Stephen Colbert, Satire, &c.”
Chris Braak

Stephen Colbert

Last week, satirist Stephen Colbert put himself in hot water when his show, The Colbert Report, tweeted an offensive remark about Asian-Americans. It was part of a larger bit in which he criticized Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder by portraying other cultures in ways similar to how Native Americans are portrayed by Snyder and his team. It was a way of trying to get people of other cultures to identify with the public struggle to change the team’s name.

Needless to say, Twitter doesn’t lend itself the context of a several minutes-long comedy routine. In a vacuum, the offensive remark just seemed offensive, and lost its entire point. Was it brave? Was it foolhardy? Thankfully, I don’t have to answer these questions. Chris Braak at Threat Quality Press (author of that stupendous Wonder Woman piece a few weeks ago) already has. He twists himself in logical loops that amuse, edify, and speak to some rather poignant truths.

The Greatest Actor
Johanna Schneller

Irrfan Khan

There’s a point in Life of Pi that breaks your heart. If you’ve read or seen it, you know it, that rare moment so many artists seek to evoke by breaking the viewer into his or her component parts, by making you see yourself and your life from the outside, in the simplest of terms. It is fulfilling and scary and belittling and majestic. It’s like seeing yourself for the first time, all else removed. It is, perhaps, my favorite moment in all of film, and even thinking of it now, it makes me falter.

It is the achievement of director Ang Lee, novelist Yann Martel, and screenwriter David Magee, among many others. It is delivered in the most unassuming terms by actor Irrfan Khan. If you asked me to tell you the best male actors working today, I wouldn’t get past his name on the list. The honesty of his performances is defined by a quote he gives Canada’s Globe and Mail about his boyhood shyness and inability to express himself: “I remember feeling, ‘I’m not what you are thinking, there’s somebody else inside of me.'”

The article starts with a little too much fandom, but once it settles down, it’s revealing: Khan describes seeking a mystical experience through his acting, and it translates to the viewer in every nuance. His is a quietly forthright performance style that inhabits a scene’s space and transcends across the medium to audiences in a way I’ve never seen before.

Write About the Filmmaking
Matt Zoller Seitz

MZS lead

Music criticism long ago degenerated into celebrity revue and lifestyle reporting. It’s one reason Consequence of Sound is just about the only music review website I’ll still go to – their critics talk about instrumentation, theory, and how they play into theme and emotional effect – they actually analyze the music itself.

Point is, there’s an interesting article about how film criticism has largely devolved into literary analysis. It’s better than celebrity revue, but there’s a good point to be made here – criticism of anything demands some expertise in the field’s theory. Otherwise, it just devolves into that dreaded good-bad scale I’m always railing against. Critics ought to be translators, not because viewers are too stupid or uneducated to understand what’s being said (they aren’t), but because we’re trained in the film grammar to not just describe a movie’s message, but expand on its very technique.

“Imagine, for a moment, football commentators who refuse to explain formations and plays,” critic Sam Adams writes. “Or a TV cooking show that never mentions the ingredients.”

Now, I don’t have to imagine that first part – I’ve heard Troy Aikman broadcast. By “film grammar” I don’t mean knowing some verbiage others don’t, I mean understanding form history and the unspoken language of visual techniques based in everything from art history to statuary to graphic novels. The challenge is to take that morass of intellectual study and translate it into something practical and useful for the widest range of readers.

Criticism, in this day and age, should not simply describe what’s in front of us, it should seek to create new pieces of art based on the pieces of art we critique – to do our best to expand minds, evoke emotion, invoke social consciousness, make caring connections with our readers, and to share information rather than hoard it like some elitist knowledge connoisseur. Do that, and critics earn that the literary analysis may one day be done on our reviews, and not on movies themselves.

Sam Adams’s comments expand on Ted Gioia’s in a piece by Matt Zoller Seitz at RogerEbert.com, because apparently this article lacked a sentence with 50 names in it.

The Art of Color Grading on The Grand Budapest Hotel
Beth Marchant

The Grand Budapest Hotel

A colorist is someone who goes through every scene and shot of a film with its director and editor in order to make sure the coloration is perfect and consistent. You can imagine one of the most exacting directors in this field is auteur Wes Anderson. “Digital Intermediate Colorist” (think: Color Magician) Jill Bogdanowicz recently completed the color grading on The Grand Budapest Hotel, and Beth Marchant at Studio Daily puts her through her paces in this exhaustive interview. It gets technical at points, but always returns to the creative aspect of a crucial job most don’t even know exists. It’s completely worth diving into, especially for filmmakers and photographers.

Thelma Schoonmaker on Editing
Nick Pinkerton

Wolf of Wall Street

Martin Scorsese’s go-to editor, Thelma Schoonmaker, discusses the craft of editing with Film Comment. She addresses editing for performance over continuity, how to edit improvised scenes, and the matter-of-fact, jump cut style she employs on The Wolf of Wall Street. This is a must-read for filmmakers.

The Alien Soundscape of Scotland
Trey Taylor

Under the Skin sound studio

It’s rare that I champion a movie that hasn’t come out yet, but Under the Skin is based on one of my favorite novels by Michael Faber. If his name sounds familiar, it’s because he wrote bestseller The Crimson Petal and the White. Add to this the completely strange and unfamiliar ways in which every technical aspect has been approached – the whirlwind rhythm-based editing of Paul Watts, the cinematography of Daniel Landin suggesting a world that exists in some other film’s fade to black, the suggestively post-industrial John Cage-influenced score of Mica Levi…as well as what this article at Dazed Digital discusses: the sound design by Peter Raeburn and Johnnie Burn.

Burn himself wandered Glasgow recording the city’s sounds through a secret microphone hidden in his umbrella, and he discusses the best techniques to nonchalantly shove it in people’s faces as he passes them on the street. It’s a good read, especially for those interested in learning about the single most difficult and overlooked responsibility of any independent film production – sound editing.

The Joseph Gordon-Levitt Bylaw


Yesterday, I introduced The Sharni Vinson Rule: One never needs an excuse to post about Sharni Vinson, the Australian lead of You’re Next and Patrick. I added that – in the interest of equality – the same rule applies to Joseph Gordon-Levitt, star of Looper and the unauthorized biography of every relationship I’ve ever had, (500) Days of Summer.

Down the road a bit, you’ll be reading my thoughts on Gordon-Levitt’s Socratic brainchild of a new show, HitRECord on TV. It is the most important thing on television because it changes the very way TV is created, viewed, analyzed, hosted, and understood. Bold claim? Not after you’ve seen it. Go to the site and see what I mean.

Edited (4/3/14): to reflect that the offensive tweet was on The Colbert Show‘s Twitter account, and not on Stephen Colbert’s.

Indie Ruin to Epic Empire: The Films of 2014, #30-21

January is the time of year when studios dump films for which they have no other place and try to get audiences to the Oscar nominees instead. Pretty soon we’ll see the ramp up for this year’s best films. With apologies to Guardians of the Galaxy, because I really can’t get that excited to see a tree and a raccoon save the universe when Marvel still doesn’t think a woman’s capable of doing it, these are the thirty movies I’m most excited to see this year:

A Fantastic Fear of Everything

30. A Fantastic Fear of Everything

February 7 — Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, The World’s End), mostly in his underwear, stars as a children’s author who is afraid of, well, everything, especially his laundromat. He is tormented by a stuffed hedgehog from his own books. If that doesn’t get you interested in finding out what happens next, I don’t know what would. Watch the trailer here.

The Voices

29. The Voices

No date set — I remember my first Ryan Reynolds experience, the very questionable Blade: Trinity, in which he out-Parker Posey-ed Parker Posey herself. Since then, he’s made some bad career moves, so I’m excited he’s getting back to the indie circuit. Here, Reynolds plays a far too happy-go-lucky factory worker, as well as voicing the cat who keeps insisting he give into his urge to murder people, and the dog who insists that’s not such a good idea. Also starring Gemma Arterton and Anna Kendrick. Directed by Marjane Satrapi, director of the artful, animated memoir Persepolisnaturally.

Publicity stills photography on the set of NBC Universal's movie 'Unbroken'

28. Unbroken

December 25 — Angelina Jolie directs a screenplay by the Coen brothers about Olympian Louis Zamperini, who fought in World War 2 and was taken captive by Japanese forces. Jolie is relatively untested as a director, but she’s smartly and decisively managed her own career and has proven a desire to tell challenging stories.

The Lunchbox

27. The Lunchbox

February 28 — An Indian comedy about an older man and a young housewife who become accidental penpals through Mumbai’s lunchbox delivery system. It stars Irrfan Khan, whose central role in Life of Pi introduced Western audiences to an actor with the rare ability to communicate through the unspoken, quiet spaces between the dialogue. Watch the trailer here.

300 Rise of an Empire

26. 300: Rise of an Empire

March 7 — The sequel nobody asked for looks much better than it has any right to be. Early trailers make it look like the naval battle of Salamis carries much of the synaesthetic sumptuousness of the first 300. While I expect about as much historical accuracy as my foot, Noam Murro is an incredibly intriguing choice at director, and those trailers also pose the battle as a clash led by queens. Lena Headey returns, and Eva Green looks to be chewing every piece of scenery she can lay her hands on. After the brawny manliness of the first 300, it will be nice to see women just as capable at leading their troops into battle. Watch the trailer here.

X Men Days

25. X-Men: Days of Future Past

May 23 — Bryan Singer fuses his modern and Matthew Vaughn’s First Class X-Men franchises together through the magic of time travel. Starring everybody who’s ever been in an X-Men movie, including Ian McKellen and Michael Fassbender as the same character, Jennifer Lawrence and Ellen Page as much bigger deals than in their previous entries in the franchise, and throwing Game of Throne’s Peter Dinklage into the mix because…why wouldn’t you? Watch the trailer here.

Under the Skin

24. Under the Skin

April 4 — The director responsible for the uneven Sexy Beast and Birth delivers a movie starring Scarlett Johansson as an alien seductress picking up hitchhikers in Scotland. Wait, what? The trailer looks downright Lynchian, and my favorite David Lynch movies are always the ones he has nothing to do with. Watch the trailer here.

Blue Ruin

23. Blue Ruin

April 25 — A prisoner is released from jail. The homeless man whose life he ruined sets out for revenge. Things quickly devolve into a contest to see which man can hurt the other more. Watch the trailer here.

Jupiter Ascending

22. Jupiter Ascending

July 18 — In the latest Wachowski beat-em-up, the Queen of the Universe targets a lowly Earth girl named Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis) for assassination. Why? So we can have an action movie. Well, it’s because Mila Kunis has perfect DNA. So, at least it’s scientifically accurate sci-fi. Her DNA threatens the Queen, so the Queen sends her best assassin (Channing Tatum) for Jupiter’s head and he switches sides. So it’s Snow White and the Huntsman, but in space, and by the Wachowskis, so inevitably better. I’m always in the mood for a swashbuckling planetary romance. Certain parts of the trailer feel clunky and cliché and Tatum and Kunis haven’t proven they can carry this big a film, but the Wachowskis have rarely faltered. Success or failure, it will definitely be event cinema. Watch the trailer here.

The Grand Budapest Hotel

21. The Grand Budapest Hotel

March 7 — Wes Anderson continues his campaign to film quirky, period characters exclusively at 90-degree angles, this time in a murder mystery set across the precious, snowy climes of Eastern Europe. I loved making dioramas as a kid, so I’m all in. Watch the trailer here.