The Coen Brothers’ True Grit begins with a long, enigmatic shot of a lit porch at night that slowly fades into view to reveal a dead body. It’s gorgeously done, and it sets the tone for the rest of the film. But True Grit almost had a significantly different opening sequence.

I recently had the chance to chat with long-time Coen Brothers collaborator Roger Deakins, who was the cinematographer for True Grit. While my full interview with him won’t be published until tomorrow, I thought I’d share a tidbit about how the opening shot of True Grit came together. Hit the jump to hear the details. Read More »

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Is ‘Full-On Horror’ Next For Joel and Ethan Coen?

With True Grit standing as the greatest box-office success of Joel and Ethan Coen‘s directorial career, the question now is naturally: what next? While some (read: me) might hope that this success would finally provide a way to finance their adaptation of To the White Sea, it seems like that’s not to be the case.

But there are other movies in the pipeline. One could be a pseudo-16mm documentary, and another could be called a “full-on horror movie.” More details, including the (not quite serious) cast idea for the monster, after the break. Read More »


Nine-time Academy Award nominated cinematographer Roger Deakins (The Coen Brothers films, The Shawshank Redemption, A Beautiful Mind, The Reader, Kundun) has seen the future, and it isn’t 35mm. Deakins has worked on film for 35 years. He is the type of veteran whom you would expect to be a film purist. Last year, for the first time in his long history, Deakins decided to shoot a feature length movie (Andrew Niccol’s science fiction thriller Now) using digital video cameras, and he’s not sure he’ll be going back to celluloid.

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The Cinematography of True Grit

/Film reader Oscar sent me a link to a nice little featurette titled “The Cinematography of True Grit” which focuses on the work of 9-time Oscar nominated cinematographer Roger Deakins. Watch the video embedded after the jump.

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‘True Grit’ – What Did You Think?

Joel and Ethan Coen hit a small speedbump a few years ago, but the filmmaking brothers are really back on track now. Their latest is True Grit, a new film based on the same Charles Portis novel that spawned the 1969 film of the same name starring John Wayne. It’s the Coens’ first out and out Western, and their second time working with Jeff Bridges and Josh Brolin. The film is also the feature debut of young Hailee Steinfeld. As Mattie Ross, who seeks to avenge the death of her father at the hands of lowlife Tom Chaney, she is the emotional and active center of the film. (Don’t let SAG’s minimizing Best Supporting Actress nomination fool you; the girl is the lead, end of story.)

True Grit is in theaters now, and we want to know what you thought of the film. As is the norm for posts of this type, spoilers follow after the break and are fully allowed in the comments. Read More »

dragon_lovers

I’m one of the biggest critics of Dreamworks Animated films, and a self confessed Pixar fanboy. Kung Fu Panda is the only movie released from Dreamworks Animation that I’m proud to own on my DVD shelf, and I’ve found most of their other productions to be  filled with unfunny pop culture-infused jokes and uninspired designs/story. And while I was impressed by the concept art for their latest film, How To Train Your Dragon, the teaser trailer left me disappointed (something just didn’t gel with the voice acting).

Ain’t It Cool head geek Harry Knowles has seen a very early cut of the film, in 3D, and says that the movie is “every bit as emotional, thrilling and fun as KUNG FU PANDA” but at the same time, “completely different.” And he assures us that is it “very much a story over gags film, with no potty humor.”

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Interview: Andrew Stanton

A couple weeks ago I got the chance to enter the Pixar Animation Studios campus in Emmeryville to interview Finding Nemo director Andrew Stanton about his latest film WALL-E. When Stanton entered the room he told me that he reads /Film “all the time”, how cool is that? A big portion of our conversation was devoted to talking about his favorite films and cinematic influences, you can read that segment in our Movie Playlist: Andrew Stanton column. Enjoy!

Andrew Stanton: Did you get to see it here?

Peter Sciretta: No, I saw it last week in the city.

Andrew Stanton: Oh, OK, cool. Digital? No, yes. Digital?

Peter Sciretta: No, it was actually weird because it was misframed at first and they had to fix the projection during Presto.

Andrew Stanton: Oh shhh – your worst fear.

Peter Sciretta: Yeah, but it was fixed in time for “Out There…” (the beginning of WALL-E)…. One of the things I noticed, right away with Wall-E is, sure – he’s cute, he’s instantly cute to any viewer. Your instantly attached to him, but he’s also very functional. As a robot, everything about him is so functional, so what came first the chicken or the egg?

Andrew Stanton: Well yeah, it was kind of in tandem. We knew what we wanted his functions to be before we knew what he would look like, and when we were first boarding the – I sort of in the year that I was supposed to be just on vacation and thinking about what I wanted to do, I actually was here under the radar sneaking, doing the first act, because I knew it would raise a lot of questions and debate about whether I could do a film like this and I just didn’t want to go there. I just wanted to prove it, so I had to design something, so I very early on came up with the idea of him being a box, and Eve being a circle, and that was very masculine feminine and then we knew we wanted him to compact trash and stuff so we just gave him little treads and the binoculars came a couple of months later. I was starting to realize that was a much stronger way to play the face because binoculars already have a sort of character to them. They can have all this expression because of the hinge down the center so I kind of had those basic conceits (sic) about it but once we – once that shorthand worked in the boarding of it, then we spent much longer time actually designing it and doing I guess the equivalent of blueprints and getting all the engineering correct, because we thought it would be really cool if we could truly make this work, and the other thing we lie about is sort of the Tardis effect where like all his parts can go into that box. We’re definitely lying about the physics of that, but outside of that everything actually functions, there’s no cheating, I mean he, how the parts slide out, and the rails his arms run on and the extension of things, it’s all very accurate. We felt that we wanted on a much more intricate level the same design quality that was with Luxo. Luxo just felt like it was built to do its job and you feel like you’re working within the constraints of how he’s designed and there’s something just about the initial design of him that just evokes a personality. You actually want to throw a character on to it, even though it’s all designed just for its function and so we wanted Wall-E to be the very same kind of thing but on a much more intricate – so yeah, and then Eve came based on Wall-E, I mean it was really an opposite of Wall-E, yeah.

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VOTD: The Making of WALL-E

[flv:http://bitcast-a.bitgravity.com/slashfilm/trailers/wallbroll1.flv 460 268]

The Making of WALL-E by Disney

The Pitch: Last month we posted the b-roll footage from Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull to show you a bugs eye view of the behind the scenes production of a movie. Today I bring you the B-roll footage from the making of WALL-E. And while they are technically the same thing, the WALL-E footage is completely different because of the way the animation process works. It’s also fascinating to see the guys at Pixar making the magic. The first clip (above) shows concept art creation, environment design, Stanton directing the animators (a must watch), creating the music and sound design and Roger Deakins consulting the cinematography. The second clip (below) focuses on Stanton’s directing of the voice cast and the computer design work that went into creating some of the characters.

[flv:http://bitcast-a.bitgravity.com/slashfilm/trailers/wallbroll2.flv 460 268]

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