“The Avengers" was a pet project of Marvel Studios for years. After planting characters in solo films for half-a-decade, the superstar extravaganza hit the big screen last summer. Despite much risk, it was a rapturous success. Last month, the film earned a well-deserved nomination for Best Visual Effects and I recently spoke with Jeff White, visual effects supervisor at Industrial Light and Magic and one of the four artists who shared that nomination, as well as Victoria Alonso, Executive Vice-President of Marvel and executive producer of the film, about crafting the film and the visual effects.
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It almost seems inevitable.
First, you've got that moment when a comic performer breaks through giving a performance in a supporting role in someone else's film, and everyone goes crazy about how good they are and then next thing you know, scripts that have been sitting around in development get hastily rewritten and that supporting part that was created for Jim Carrey is suddenly just right for this person, and this film that was just sort of stalled out is suddenly a priority because that's the reward for that breakthrough moment, even though nine times out of ten, that reward ends up being sort of terrible.
It is a perfect example of how the best intentions, and the most logical business practices, can still result in a flat-out terrible movie. Right now, we're about to see what happened because of every single review that pointed out how funny Melissa McCarthy was in "Bridesmaids." When I visited the set for that film, it was obvious immediately that whatever McCarthy was doing, she wasn't doing it halfway. She was very funny in conversation, but she was also very clear about how much work she'd done to help figure out the character she was playing. And by the time the work-in-progress screening at SXSW finished, it was obvious that she had pretty much wrestled "Bridesmaids" to the floor and beaten it senseless.
"Argo" may have taken a decisive lead in the Best Picture race with its slew of guild wins, but with two weeks of voting left, "Lincoln" isn't going to go away quietly -- indeed, the year's most nominated film seems to be renewing its media presence, most notably with an extensive interview piece in the New York Times, in which Steven Spielberg and many of his below-the-line collaborators, including nominees Janusz Kaminski, John Williams, Michael Kahn, Rick Carter and Joanna Johnston, weigh in on the challenges and rewards of making the film. This emphasis on team effort should cast the film in a positive light to voters, as does Spielberg's explanation of what separates the film from his other work: “I’ve never made a film where this was going to succeed or fail based on the writing and based on the performances ... Maybe this is the quietest directing I’ve done in my life.” [New York Times]
The good news is that this week, the chefs get off the cruise ship and get to cook on solid ground. I never love challenges that make working in a crappy or weird kitchen a major obstacle to overcome. Weird ingredients? Fine. But I don't want to see people forced to cook with one hand tied behind their back or no hands, just feet or whatever the heck. Let these people make great food. The good news is that, in Alaska, with its great, fresh fish, they may be able to do just that.
At this point, I will only be treating it as news when JJ Abrams is not attached in some way to a new film in development. It will be easier for all involved, I believe.
One of the first things I did when I got home from dropping the kids off at school this morning was hopped on Kotaku to watch them live-blog an event at the D.I.C.E. Summit where JJ Abrams was onstage with Valve's Gabe Newell, and while it seemed at first like it was an discussion of the ways that games and movies approach narrative differently, it also ended up being an announcement of a partnership that should surprise no one at this point since it is evidently impossible to get a science-fiction project made without Abrams being involved.
Valve has been a very strong company in terms of creating IP that seems like it is ripe for further exploitation. There are plenty of video game fans, myself included, who would love for Valve to make a "Half-Life 3" sometime this decade, and I'd be as excited for that as I would be for any movie that might get announced.
A review of tonight's "The Americans" coming up just as soon as I do something horribly masculine with reindeers and wood chopping...
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis continue their stay atop the Billboard Hot 100 as “Thrift Shop,” featuring Wanz, spends its third week at No. 1.
Bruno Mars’ “Locked Out of Heaven” holds at No. 2, while will.i.am and Britney Spears’ “Scream & Shout” reaches a new high, climbing two places to No. 3.
“Scream” pushes the Lumineers’ “Ho Hey” down 3-4, which, in turn, moves Taylor Swift’s “I Knew You Were Trouble” 4-5, according to Billboard.
In a fairly static chart, Swedish House Mafia’s “Don’t You Worry Child” featuring John Martin stays at No. 6, while Justin Bieber’s “Beauty And A Beat” featuring Nicki Minaj remains at No. 7.
A$AP Rocky’s “F**kin Problems” has nothing to complain about as it moves 10-8. There are two new entries into the Top 10: Pink’s “Try”climbs 11-9, making it her 13th Top 10. Scottish DJ Calvin Harris logs his first Hot 100 Top 10 as a lead artist as “Sweet Nothing” featuring Florence Welch rises 14-10.
As the Feb. 10 55th annual Grammy Awards edge closer, we’re analyzing a category a day. Today, we look at one of the top four awards, Record of the Year.
Record of the Year nominees:
“Lonely Boy,” The Black Keys (The Black Keys & Danger Mouse, producers)
“Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You,” Kelly Clarkson (Greg Kurstin, producer)
“We Are Young,” fun. featuring Janelle Monae (Jeff Bhasker, producer)
“Somebody That I Used to Know,” Gotye featuring Kimbra (Wally de Backer, producer)
“Thinkin’ ‘Bout You,” Frank Ocean (Frank Ocean, producer)
“We Are Never, Ever Getting Back Together,” Taylor Swift (Max Martin, Shellback, Taylor Swift, producers)
WHO’S MISSING: Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” is a much better record than song (see the explanation below) and it would have fared better in this category than in Song of the Year. Mumford & Sons’ “I Will Wait” continued what “Little Lion Man” and “The Cave” started, which is strong acoustic guitar and banjo playing brought to the forefront in the mix, which isn’t something you hear every day on pop radio.
THE PLAYERS: Unlike Song of the Year, which goes to the songwriter, Record of the Year is an award for the artist and the other people involved in the sound of the record, including the producer and engineer. All of the selections here offer interesting productions, but “We Are Young” and “Somebody That I Used To Know” were especially noteworthy for their non-traditional, innovative productions. Clever arrangements made both songs stand out like beacons in the cluttered radio landscape. They sounded like nothing else coming out of the speakers and they both helped usher in a new era of pop music that is smart as it is accessible.
THE ODDS: Fun. has more nominations than Gotye overall and that can sometimes sway voters. Both “We Are Young” and “Somebody That I Used to Know” were massive hits. In fact, four of the six songs nominated here were Billboard Hot 100 chart toppers.
THE WINNER: “Somebody That I Used To Know,” Gotye (by a nose)
I'm feeling OK about Season 12 of "American Idol" so far. How about y'all?
No, I haven't felt like the audition episodes suggested talent unparalleled in the show's history, but it seemed like there was some talent. And, more importantly, it felt like the new judging panel had personality and a particular chemistry, even if that chemistry was vaguely toxic. After two years with Wacky Cypher Steven Tyler and Sexy Cypher Jennifer Lopez, I'll even endorse the cringe-worthy tension between Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj, plus the "How the heck did I come to be stuck in the middle of this?" benign coolness of Keith Urban.
How will that chemistry evolve in Hollywood? Let's find out!
This is going to be a significant test of how much of a character belongs to the writing and how much is about the performance. If Disney wants to make a young Han Solo movie, I'm willing to watch that. Sure. Absolutely. Part of me hopes someone completely insane decides to spend $100 million on technology to let Harrison Ford give a motion captured performance as young Han Solo because I think that would be "Hellraiser"-level creepy, but accidentally, and I'd have to watch it every day because it would be totally deranged.
Obviously, no one is going to make that movie, and so they're going to end up casting someone to play young Han Solo, and no offense, Hypothetical Young Actor they haven't found yet, but those are some mighty big shoes to fill, and pretty much everything you do is going to get hyperscrutinized. You are always going to be compared to Harrison Ford in his prime, and even Harrison Ford can't win when that comparison is being made. It is a losing proposition because of the nature of fandom, and I contend that the moment you give the fans what you think they want, they will turn on you and tell you that they never wanted it after all.
I'd say I've written about Richard Linklater's beautiful and profound "Before Midnight" enough as it is. Sony Classics picked up the film out of Sundance and I've been waiting for release plans anxiously. Because if played right, this is a film that could land nominations for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Actress, easy.
So it's looking like May 24, according to a Tweet from Exhibitor Relations. The film will begin with New York and Los Angeles bows and move out from there. That's right after Cannes. They won't be taking it there since it's playing Berlinale, but a post-Cannes bow worked for Woody Allen's "Midnight in Paris," which debuted at the fest in 2011, released soon after and was kept in theaters long enough to be a box office story and, eventually, an Oscar winner.