What lesson does the film Maqbool teach us?

Category: Feature

The most documented film project of all time

"You can pretty much look into the cards." The words of my friend Jochen in the fall of 2002 come to mind every time I think of the one source from which I probably learned the most about the way films are made today. What other movie freaks Truffauts Mr. Hitchcock, how did you do that? or Sidney Lumet's Making Movies are for me the “attachments” to the Middle-earth films by Peter Jackson.

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Posted on Author AlexCategories External, Feature, FilmTags kino-zeit.de, Kommerzkacke, Lord of the Rings, Netzartikel1 Comment on The most documented film project of all time

The little Prince as a meta-textual film adaptation - and other ways of bringing children's books to the cinema

Those who want to make a film for a children's book these days - a real children's book, for smaller children, not a “young adult” novel - seem to have two options. Either, he remains fairly faithful to the work. Then maybe something like Der Grüffelo emerges, a cuddly, funny illustration of the book by Julia Donaldson with some prominent speakers, which is unfortunately only 30 minutes long. Good for television, unsuitable for today's cinema structures.

The other possibility is an expansion of the known, an embedding of the core story in a larger narrative world that has cinema format, whatever that means. Peter Jackson's Hobbit-Films could fall into that category, Spike Jonzes Where the Wild Things Are, and since this year too The little Prince in a new version by director Mark Osborne and the screenwriters Irena Brignull and Bob Persichetti.

A film about the events

The Hobbit-Films, whatever else one might think of them, are probably still on the safest of feet. J. R. R. Tolkien's novel The hobbit describes a larger story from a very limited perspective. Characters disappear during the plot and return at some point, and the main character never learns what they have been up to in the meantime. The appendices explain that Lord of the Rings. Some things, such as the “Battle of the Five Armies”, which gives the third Jackson film its title, are only told in the book in a wall show. Jackson doesn't adapt the book in his films, he makes a film about the events (and a few additional things he made up). In doing so, he largely loses the “feel” of the book, for many the biggest criticism of the films, but he can tell his story with a similar epic breadth as he did in his last trilogy.

Spike Jonzes film adaptation of Where the Wild Things Are is less different from Jackson's approach than it might seem at first glance. Maurice Sendak's book is famous for the fact that it only has 100 words, but this is because it is narrative limited to the bare minimum. It was created to be read aloud - so that the person reading it and the person listening can speculate together, also based on the wonderful pictures, about what is going on between the words.

A vision of your own feelings

In the end, that's exactly what Jonze and co-writer Dave Eggers did. “And Max the king of all wild things, was lonely and wanted to be where someone loved him best of all”, is perhaps the central sentence in the book. There is a lot of room for interpretation in such sentences. Jonze and Eggers had the opportunity to talk about their ideas with Sendak, who gave them input but basically encouraged them to bring their own interpretation of the story to the screen. So this is the movie too Where the Wild Things Are - a vision of what two authors felt while reading a 100-word children's book. (I like the result very much, but the film isn't all fans either.)

Maybe Osbornes can The little Prince describe in a similar way. The film tries to distill an emotional core from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's book and to reinterpret it in a modern way. However, he goes an additional, meta-textual way. It is “not really a film adaptation in the classic sense, but rather tells of how a child discovers the story of the little prince”, as Rochus Wolff puts it. In some sequences, passages are made The little Prince animated to life in enchanting images, but the far greater part of the film begs the question of which role The little Prince still plays in our world today.

Thoughtful sayings with pictures

The result in the plot is a bit like that Neverending story. A little girl, trapped in an emotional life, first discovers a strange world by reading a text and can finally even enter it and influence her fate. The computer-animated sequences of the film represent the “outside world”, while the world of the book is visualized in stop-motion animations with a very strong hand-crafted look. As in the book, Saint-Exupéry himself appears as an old, crazy-but-lovable man who tells the girl about the little prince in the first place. It's hard to say what the real Saint-Exupéry would have thought of this interpretation of his character.

The little Prince People who think they are smart are often considered to be the epitome of philosophy kitsch. "One sees clearly only with the heart. The essential is invisible to the eyes ”is a sentence that I, like many other people, came across for the first time as a child, maybe even in a poetry album, and which as an adult one likes to think about Sayings with pictures ”corner. But quite apart from the fact that the sentence is no less true due to its naive simplicity The little Prince also significantly more than this saying. It is both a very personal reflection of Saint-Exupéry about his life and his environment as well as an impressive parable - sometimes the only way to express thoughts and feelings.

The end of the parable

That Mark Osborne sees it differently in his film may be the reason why the film The little Prince is only partially successful in opening the book to the outside world. The story of the girl, whose life is planned from her ambitious mother to adulthood, is a fitting and visually well-implemented update of the things that Saint-Exupéry was already worried about in the form of a gigantic “Life Plan” board. But not only is the retelling of the book reduced to some of its best-known passages, in the last third the film breaks up any parabola and any personal reference to Saint-Exupéry and lets the girl meet the characters of the story again in a new setting. That gives the adventure an action-packed finale, it transforms the emotional core of the story - unlike Sendak / Eggers / Jones - but also into a completely different dimension. The little Prince, the film, has a different message and effect than The little Prince, the book.

This kind of meta-textual children's book adaptation seems to be popular right now. In February, the film, which was released in the USA on Halloween, will be released Goosebumps also in German cinemas. Instead of filming one of the stories in R. L. Stine's book series on which he is based, he too knits a plot around a fictional version of R. L. Stine and a book whose characters suddenly come to life. Perhaps the principle works better with scary stories than with thoughtful parables. Or maybe it just doesn't always have to be an epic movie.

The little Prince should still run in many cinemas. I saw it in a press presentation and actually wanted to have this article ready for its theatrical release. Then things happened.

Posted on Author AlexCategories Feature, FilmTags Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince, Goosebumps, Kinderfilm, Mark Osborne, Maurice Sendak, Metatextuality, Peter Jackson, Spike Jonze, The Hobbit, Where the Wild Things Are1 Comment on The little Prince as a meta-textual film adaptation - and other ways of bringing children's books to the cinema

The new optimism lobby and its problems

(Can be gross, unspecific spoilers for The Martian and Tomorrowland contain)

Mark Watney did it. He pulled himself (and potatoes) out of the mud with his botany skills and survived alone on Mars for so long that he could be saved. Today he is a trainer and he explains his philosophy to his young pupils:

At some point, everything’s gonna go south on you and you’re going to say, this is it. This is how I end. Now you can either accept that, or you can get to work. That's all it is. You just begin. You do the math. You solve one problem and you solve the next one, and then the next. And if you solve enough problems, you get to come home.

The closing words from Ridley Scott's film The Martian represent an American dream that also seems to apply in space. We humans can forge our own happiness if we just work hard enough and solve our problems one at a time. Giving up is not an option, it is as true in the job market as it is on Mars. But the words are also part of a new thrust in science fiction, to which The Martian (the film just like Andy Weir's novel of the same name) at least marginally heard. The aim is to bring science and ideas back into focus again and to give future stories a more optimistic twist.

Brad Bird's second real-life film made it very explicitly, probably too explicitly, in the spring Tomorrowland ("German title: A world beyond). An idealistic young girl named Casey, whose father once built rockets, is led by a young android woman into the parallel world of Tomorrowland - a kind of paradise for inventors, in which everything looks like the future visions of the New York World's Fair of 1964. But Tomorrowland has lost its shine, instead everyone is waiting there for the world to end, as predicted by a gigantic tachyon crystal ball. Casey notes that the predictions have a self-fulfilling prophecy effect - they are only so negative because our imaginations have become so negative. After a lot of back and forth, it can destroy the machine and give hope a new chance. (This plot summary does not do justice to the confused narrative style and thus the huge weakness of the film, but that's not what this is supposed to be about.)

Innovation starvation

But Tomorrowland only hits a notch that already existed before. Neal Stephenson complained in his essay “Innovation Starvation” that the technical optimism of the mid-20th century, when a better life seemed possible through invention and great human achievements, has given way to a mood in which no one dares anymore to dream big.

Most people who work in corporations or academia have witnessed something like the following: A number of engineers are sitting together in a room, bouncing ideas off each other. Out of the discussion emerges a new concept that seems promising. Then some laptop-wielding person in the corner, having performed a quick Google search, announces that this “new” idea is, in fact, an old one — or at least vaguely similar — and has already been tried. Either it failed, or it succeeded. If it failed, then no manager who wants to keep his or her job will approve spending money trying to revive it. If it succeeded, then it's patented and entry to the market is presumed to be unattainable, since the first people who thought of it will have "first-mover advantage" and will have created "barriers to entry." The number of seemingly promising ideas that have been crushed in this way must number in the millions.

Stephenson's thesis: The inventors lack inspiration because science fiction, too, wallows only in apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic scenarios. (My thoughts on this zeitgeist) Good science fiction would offer “hieroglyphs”, “fully thought-out picture [s] of an alternate reality in which some sort of compelling innovation has taken place”. A new Tomorrowland, so to speak. Arizona State University thought the idea was so good that, together with Stephenson, they launched Project Hieroglyph from it - a platform for the exchange between fictional thinkers and people who implement ideas in the real world. First sub-project: A short story collection full of “Visions of a better future”.

Somehow admirable, this will to go against the trend in the middle of a time when we maybe more than ever have the feeling that everything is going down the drain, and when even Germany's leading techno optimist Sascha Lobo has lost his confidence . Self-fulfilling prophecies and learned helplessness are of course very real phenomena and a positive attitude can sometimes make a big difference.

Hooray future!

The question is whether the advocates of this science fiction optimism have always chosen the right examples for their good cause. Tasha Robinson has shown with a few examples on “The Dissolve” that the fifties and sixties, especially in the cinema, by no means spread a permanent hurray-future mood, but rather began with the glorification of the past. Rachel E. Gross points out on "Slate" that science doesn't work in the real world like it does in The Martian. And Damien Walter criticizes Project Hieroglyph (which, full disclosure, I have not read) for its hymns to capitalist (male!) Entrepreneurs and the embezzlement of their role in the not at all utopian exploitation of their fellow human beings: “These optimistic futures may well be better for those occupying the top floors of our unequal society, but they offer less hope for those stuck in the lower levels. "

Brad Bird has been made similar accusations, and not just since Tomorrowland (the whole debate can be found with a google search). His visions are objectivistic and emphasize the extraordinaryness of individuals who are in some way “better” than the crowd, but are kept small by them. In fact, the eponymous country, which is a themed area outside of fiction in Disneyland, California, was founded in the film by people who call themselves “Plus Ultras”, which sounds very elitist and, with the thought of Aldous Huxley, a bit eugenic . Younger science tends to believe that cooperation is more valuable than the lonely brooding and decision-making of “great men”.

The cyberpunk moment

Much more important than these counter-arguments, however, I find that Bird, Scott, and unfortunately also Stephenson all miss the target. They have become old white men themselves who (like many of us at some point) wish for a more naive time back. Her pleadings for optimism and a pioneering spirit are almost backwards rather than forward-looking and may even start out from a wrong concept of science fiction. Henry Jenkins recently wrote an excellent essay on the “cyber point moment” in the 80s, in which he excellently explains how wrong it is to always expect science fiction to predict the future. Science fiction, says Jenkins, creates reference systems for the present from which one can derive a future. On the birth of cyberpunk in the eighties, he writes: "The technological changes which were hitting American society were so transformative that we needed our best writers and thinkers to help us make sense of what was happening right then and now."

What Cyberpunk would have made “punk”, Jenkins says, was his will to break up the genre and put it back together again (be sure to read the entire article, which I am reducing to two small aspects). In this respect, it only seems logical that the best science fiction that arises today does not rehash the great men ideas of the past, but opposes the changes in our world in a different way, for example by giving new expression to diversity. Ann Leckie's novel Ancillary Justice (to name just one example that I have read myself) skilfully plays with notions of gender and singular identity - and the new generation of authors is as international and diverse as one could wish. The most important impulses for the future do not always come from the direction from which they are expected.

Brad Birds A world beyond came out in home theater a month ago. The Martian may still be showing in a cinema near you.

Posted on Author AlexCategories Feature, Film, MedienTags A World Beyond, Brad Bird, Henry Jenkins, Neal Stephenson, Project Hieroglyph, Ridley Scott, The Martian, Tomorrowland, zeitgeist4 Comments on The new optimism lobby and its problems

The big request concert - Are films like Terminator: Genisys Fanfiction?

At least since the success of 50 Shades of Gray Fanfiction should be known to many people. The novel that lived its life as a fan fiction for the book and film series Twilight and then became a bestseller was living proof that the predominantly female fanatic hobby of creating new stories for their favorite film, television and literary characters can have mainstream appeal. Fanfiction has long been the object of a whole humanities research direction, it is considered an interesting instrument for empowering fans and women and in many cases it is much more than the mere description of erotic scenarios, even if the sub-section “Slash” is quite large.

Fanfiction doesn't have the best reputation, not just because of the slash factor. The fanfic writers know that. They discuss their works self-critically and self-deprecatingly on the Internet and have long since created a whole vocabulary to name the problems that their hobby brings with it. “Bad” fanfiction - the word is deliberately placed in quotation marks, because some authors write these stories with full awareness of what they are doing - adds little to the original text other than the personal wishes of the writer. It does not reflect the rules of the fictional world that it creates, nor those of our own, and it simply plays through situations that the author would like to experience. The most popular instrument for this, after which even a feminist pop culture site has now been named, is the "Mary Sue", a general term for a character who represents the weakly encapsulated ideal of the author and who is then allowed to experience the adventures that you can represent remain denied.

The madmen run the madhouse

This long introduction is only intended to be the background to a situation that has long been commonplace in pop culture. Fans are not just the authors of the unofficial updates of series, comics and films in internet forums. They're also the official writers, directors, and artists who keep it going. The wiki “TV Tropes” calls this state “Running The Asylum”. The madmen run the madhouse. Pop culture franchises are so old and long-lasting that they are being carried over today by people who grew up with them as fans in their own childhood. Usually this is not a problem at all, because of course these people have grown up and are able to reflect on their own biases. But sometimes it's just one.

Jeff Cannata has it in the “/ Filmcast” to the newest offshoot of the Terminator-Line, Genisys, quite well to the point (at 44:31).

Here’s the thing about this and Jurassic World for me. (...) The people who are making these movies, these properties that are 20 or more years old, were kids when those movies were out and they remember them fondly. And these movies feel like the kids got the keys to the kingdom and they get to write some fun fan fiction that is really reverent to the souce material, sort of like: what we always wished it could be. We sat around and thought: Well, if they had access to a time machine, why didn't they just do X, Y or Z? And I feel like both this and Jurassic World are like the best fan fiction version of these franchises.

What Cannata says reflects in its two key points the conflict of fandom itself. People who are suddenly put at the helm of an operation that they previously loved without reflection feel torn between worshiping their idol and wanting to make it into what they had always dreamed of. If you try to do justice to both extremes, you can probably only deliver an inferior result.

Changing the Myth

Terminator: Genisys More than any other franchise, fanfiction writers have the means to try the balancing act. Because there is time travel in the Terminator universe, director Alan Taylor and his screenwriters Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier are literally given the opportunity to change the history of the Terminator myth. Genisys actually stages some scenes from the originalTerminator from 1984 and then changed it in the new timeline of the film, which - as we will learn later - arose from the fact that the “good” T-800 was sent back to a time before the first film.

In its further course pecks Genisys randomly all the cool ideas and moments from the previous Terminator films together, from Arnold's one-liners to the liquid metal moves of the T-1000, whose presence in the film actually only seems to be justified by the fact that it was awesome to see it to see it in action again. At the same time exists Genisys in his central mantra that the T-800 is “old, but not obsolete”, he always insists that nothing beats the original. In doing so, he undermines his own existence and, in particular, his rather stupid third act. Genisys doesn't want to try anything new, like the spectacularly failed fourth part Terminator: Salvationwho played at a very different time. He really just wants to tell the same thing again, pick out the best pieces and experience them again a little bigger and more spectacular.

Owen Grady is the perfect Mary Sue

Jurassic World resembles Genisys in that respect indeed. Like the Terminator film, Colin Trevorrow's mega-hit is a selective sequel that only develops and picks up on the parts of the myth that the authors liked. And just like the Schwarzenegger vehicle is too Jurassic World Torn between absurd fulfillment fantasies (“What if the park actually had opened?” “How cool would it be if you could train raptors?”) and a paralyzing awe of the original work, whose T-Rex of course alone therefore is cooler than his younger epigones, because he is the original. Chris Pratt's character Owen Grady is the perfect Mary Sue or - as they say with guys - Mary Stu.

Even the creators of popular culture successes sometimes give in to fan impulses, which is often called “fan service” in technical jargon. There is nothing wrong with making a wish come true every now and then. In addition, “what if” scenarios are an integral part of modern franchising and they are one of its most interesting aspects, regardless of whether it is an alternative timeline of Star Trek or what happens when Thor's hammer and Captain America's shield collide.

But the fans who have received the key to the kingdom still have to be careful not to get too deeply drawn into the fan fiction vortex. For the external impact of a franchise, it is somehow important whether its fanfiction is only shared among fans, or whether it becomes a new part of the canon and thus also reflects back on the original. For future sequels it should be more important to keep the general spirit of the original, to reflect on the central ideas that made it big and to calmly go in a radically different direction with everything else and create something original there - example Mad Max: Fury Road. The opposite possibility of creating a derivative of the original, which only attaches its relatives to external appearances and otherwise gets lost in wild, wishful concerts, can only lead to insignificance in the long term.

Posted on Author AlexCategories Feature, FilmTags Alan Taylor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Chris Pratt, Colin Trevorrow, Fan Fiction, Franchising, Jurassic World, Terminator Genisys6 Comments on The great request concert - Are films like Terminator: Genisys Fanfiction?

Starlee Kines “Mystery Show” is a fucking Manic Pixie Dream Podcast

“Is that what you do in your free time?” Starlee Kine is asked by the Ticketmaster employee on the phone. “‘ I don’t want to work today, I’m gonna go change someone’s life? ”" Kine laughs at that, but maybe also because he is so right. Because their mission really seems to be to change a few lives every now and then. In his other assumption, however, the friendly young man on the phone is wrong. Starlee Kine doesn't do this in her spare time. It's her job to host her new podcast “Mystery Show”.

Gimlet Media, Alex Blumberg's planned podcast empire, has reached a somewhat quieter phase after a lot of initial excitement. “Startup”, the show that started it all, has chosen an interesting company in its second season to accompany its founding phase - but it cannot replicate the personal peculiarity of Blumberg's own founding. Speaking of words with “Repl” at the beginning, “Reply All”, the second Gimlet launch, is quite a general store that tries a lot and doesn't always succeed. “Mystery Show”, podcast number three, doesn't sound terribly exciting ad hoc either: A reporter goes around solving puzzles that cannot be solved with the help of the Internet. If we are on children's television with us, it means “Willi wants to know”. Next.

Dr. Phil

But if you think so, you've probably never heard of Starlee Kine. Like some Gimlet reporters, she comes from the same stable as Blumberg, the Planet-Money-This-American-Life-Connection. For "This American Life" she once did a story about breakup songs in which she called Phil Collins and asked him how it was actually done. She reads him a song she wrote about their own breakup and takes advice from Collins. “Dr. Phil “, the title of the segment, is one of the great moments of American public radio. The only podcast I've ever spent money on to download. So much was it recommended to me and so much the pitch piqued my curiosity. (Download it too. Now!)

For “Mystery Show”, Kine relies on the same absurdly fantastic mixture of naivety, tenacity and individuality to solve personal puzzles. In the first episode, which is of all things the weakest so far, she follows the experience of a friend who was in a New York video store in the early 2000s Must love dogs borrowed and found a permanently closed shop the next day. With a little questioning, Kine finds the old owners of the video store and learns what happened. Charmingly told, but still not extraordinary, such a search for clues.

Britney Spears and 9/11

In episode two, however, an author would like to know whether her poorly selling book, with which Britney Spears was once seen in a paparazzi photo, was actually read by the singer. Mystery solver Starlee Kine tries in various ways to get at the now notoriously public-shy Spears - and in the end she even succeeds. In episode three she finds the original owner of a special belt buckle and in episode four the story behind the license plate “ILUV911”.

But it is significant that the podcast is not called “Mystery Solving Show”, but “Mystery Show”. Because at Kine, the journey is the goal. Although it is exciting to get the answers to the questions that are raised at the beginning of every program, the real joy of the heart when listening comes from the little side paths that Kine takes every now and then. Not just the dead ends on the way to problem solving, which are always part of a story, but the seemingly irrelevant side threads on which the narrator artistically loses herself. Like talking to the Ticketmaster representative about the importance of telling yourself that you are worth something. Or the bizarre memories of one of the very first female emergency call dispatchers in the USA, who once had to deal with a man who had taught his dog to drive a car in her early days.

Red threads

Kine doesn't mention these stories on the side. She gives them space because she knows that they are part of the great story of our human existence, which she actually tells. Her mysteries are only the red threads that she pulls through a thicket of everyday observations and insights into her own landscape of thoughts. “Mystery Show” is a show about everything and nothing, but above all about appreciating the little peculiarities of life. The great thing about it is that Kine seems to be tailor-made for this role of a happy goblin who guides you acoustically through the world. It never becomes pathetic or artificial and always remains itself.

In order to understand what all this means, one only has to read the passage with which Kine bridges the time in episode 5, while on a new lead in the case of "How tall is Jake Gyllenhaal really?" waiting.

Seasons passed. Winter came. Planets rotated. Stars died. Innumerable gallons of ice cream were consumed. Countless spoons were bent. Babies learned how to crawl. Teenagers learned how to kiss. Podcasts went from being popular in a niche way to a mainstream way. But still, older people could not figure out how to listen to them on their phones. Heavy televisions were replaced by thin televisions. The outdated models were put out on the street, picked up by couples in love and then, after some time had passed, put back, out on the street.

Anyone who writes texts like this actually manages to have a personal conversation with Jake Gyllenhaal five minutes later on several meta-levels at the same time and in the end to actually experience his greatness. This is how Starlee Kine changes lives. It is so disarming - the mysteries that face it just give up at some point.

Gimlet Media's “Mystery Show” can be heard anywhere there are podcasts. Five episodes have appeared so far, with new ones coming in July.

Posted on Author AlexCategories Feature, Internet, ReviewTags Alex Blumberg, Gimlet Media, Mystery Show, Podcast, Starlee Kine, Storytelling1 Comment on Starlee Kines “Mystery Show” is a fucking Manic Pixie Dream Podcast

Good and Bad Computer Images: The Realism Myth of Mad Max: Fury Road

Stuttgart, FMX 2012, a typical session. Jeff White, Visual Effects Supervisor at Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) describes how to work on The avengers. For a scene in which Captain America jumps out of an airplane, the footage filmed shows an airplane in front of a green screen. Captain America Chris Evans takes a run, jumps three feet and rolls over. The camera follows him and finishes moving on a green mat. In the movie, Captain America keeps falling and the camera stays on him as he sails into the endless depths.

The plan was, explains Jeff White, to replace Chris Evans at the point where the filmed reality and the planned film image no longer coincide with a digital double, a scanned version of the actor that can be animated on the computer. But the process of creating a transition between reality and model turned out to be far too labor-intensive. "So it was easier to just replace the whole thing," says White. In the finished film, only the double acts, initially animated by Evans' movements and at some point designed autonomously. But Evans himself can no longer be seen in the shot.

It's easier to start the computer

Similar stories are often told in visual effects reports. In the case of outrageous stunts, especially if they are performed by superhuman beings such as superheroes in the film, it is often easier to start the computer straight away. There the scenes are either composed of dozens of isolated elements - actors, sky, explosions, vehicles, set recordings - or they are built from scratch in the computer and then rendered out at some point.

The result is scenes with a tremendous wow factor and often very little realism that film fans are currently complaining about. The backlash against computer-generated images (CGI) is in full swing. An entertaining article on “Cracked” calls 6 Reasons Modern Movie CGI Looks Surprisingly Crappy. The first reason is analogously “Because filmmakers can't hold back visually, gravity is regularly levered out”. Reason 3 makes the same argument for camera movements. Credibility and physics are sacrificed on the altar of awesomeness. CGI is becoming the standard rather than the exception. The audience is being fooled.

Counterexample Mad Max

As a counterexample, critics are celebrating these days Mad Max: Fury Road. George Miller's film cost about as much as other blockbusters, but the two-hour chase has a different effect than the similarly intense slapping and stabbing Avengers: Age of Ultron a month earlier. "Because everything is real there," say the fans, "an old hand like George Miller just knows how to do it - without the damn computers."

Mad Max is insane filmmaking. Almost no visual effects; all done for reals. Jaw dropped.

- Zach Braff (@zachbraff) May 18, 2015

Culture pessimistic may make sense, but unfortunately it is wrong. Of the 2,400 settings that make up Mad Max: Fury Road almost all of them have been touched in the computer. In the specialist magazine “fxguide”, visual effects supervisor Andrew Jackson explains:

“I've been joking recently about how the film has been promoted as being a live action stunt driven film - which it is, […] [b] ut also how there's so little CGI in the film. The reality is that there’s 2000 VFX shots in the film. A very large number of those shots are very simple clean-ups and fixes and wire removals and painting out tire tracks from previous shots, but there are a big number of big VFX shots as well. "

Little in Fury Road is real. This “wired” video gives a good, quick overview of the many techniques that have been used. Entire environments like the citadel at the beginning of the film were built in the computer. The sky was exchanged in a large number of the takes. Charlize Theron had one arm digitally amputated. In the sandstorm, it's CGI cars that are torn apart. And the “grade”, the color scheme of the film, is also a highly digital product.

The key difference

The stunts are real though, and apparently that's the key difference. War Boys and Pole Cats, Tom Hardy and the Doof Warrior with his fire-breathing guitar were secured with wire rope constructions that were "drawn out" on the computer afterwards, but they actually fought at high speed in the desert. The camera car drove at up to 160 kilometers per hour through the middle of the souped-up cars on which stunt boss Guy Norris and his team of acrobats and stunt people performed their macabre ballet.

Mad Max, although fantastic and grotesque in its design, remains this side of the Uncanny Valley, in which almost real things seem somehow fake. The viewers seem to sense that real people are putting themselves in danger here, even if almost nothing around them looks like it does in reality. You seem to subconsciously distinguish between “bad” computer images that replace realism and “good” computer images that expand realism.

Digitally created pictures in the cinema are nothing special anymore. They are part of every filmmaker's toolbox, no matter what genre. Although over three years old, this Virtual Backlot video is likely to bring tears to the eyes of many people who are not regularly involved in digital filmmaking. Yes, even in very simple TV series, almost nothing is real anymore.

Not everyone is George Miller

But this second age of computer images will also require directors, camera people and VFX supervisors to develop a feeling for where the line between acceptance and rejection by the audience runs. How much CGI is too much CGI and where is it worthwhile to shoot effects “in camera” (which does not necessarily have to be more expensive) in order to stay on this side of the line?

At the same time, however, films must continue to find a place that deliberately show the finger of realism and use the computer and its possibilities to blur the line between real and false, between animation and real film. The problem with many current blockbusters - especially in superhero films - is that their plots and worlds of stories are so fantastic that sometimes they don't even know whether they want to be realistic and awesome or comic and awesome. After all, not everyone is a Christopher Nolan or George Miller who wants to stand with both feet on the ground despite all the fireworks. Techniques like the Splash Pages in Age of Ultron show that some directors deliberately seek an approach to non-realistic pictorial traditions. It just seems like one has to choose one of the two options.

Thanks to Sascha for pointing out the Zach Braff tweet.

Posted on Author AlexCategories Feature, FilmTags Avengers, Avengers: Age of Ultron, CGI, Digital Aesthetics, George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road, Realism, VFX5 Comments on Good and Bad Computer Images: The Realism Myth of Mad Max: Fury Road

thanks Jurassic World old-guard thinking now also applies to dinosaurs

Full of spoilers.

Almost every review I've given so far Jurassic World read or heard about it criticizes the fact that the film tries so hard to live up to its legacy that it forgets to create something of its own. The references to the original film from 1993 and the efforts to justify their own existence are so varied that, despite some promising ideas, the tension of the film somehow falls by the wayside, which is a shame.

What I found most astonishing was the last story beat of the film, which also speaks of a conservatism that seems to be native to late sequels in particular. After four raptors and four humans are unable to bring down the indestructible Indominus Rex, Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) frees the Tyrannosaurus Rex from its paddock. The T-Rex follows her, inexplicably attacks the larger carnivore and finally brings him down (with a little help from his Mosasaurus friend).

There can only be one

The lesson seems to be: Indominus Rex, this "improved" New Kid on the Dinosaur Block may be genetically superior, but it does not have the class and grace of the primeval "old guard" of the dinosaurs. There can only be one Rex, and its first name is Tyrannosaurus, it seems Jurassic World accept. That doesn't really make sense biologically - because - (EDIT: In the comments I am pointed out that it is supposed to be it after all and even to be “an older Burt Lancaster”. Ouch!) It's kind of narrative nonsense, because : The film actually negates its own justification. If the old guard can still fix everything, you don't need any new infusions.

Nevertheless, it is precisely this motif that is the central core of the entire wave of nostalgia for Expendables to Live Free and Die Hard. The aging cop leaving for one last assignment; the gangster who wants to land one last coup - that is classic narrative material, but it has never been tied into the overall capitalist system as much through nostalgia as it is today. With experience and class, the old heroes make up for what their successors can display in terms of rebellion and technology. And now that even applies to dinosaurs.

But: the innovation

New and striking anyway: The film begins and ends with sequences without dialogue, which are not directly integrated into the rest of the plot as vignettes. The “Cold Open” by Jurassic World is the scene where Indominus Rex hatches from the egg (used prominently in this trailer). None of the main characters is on site and the event is never mentioned again, it only serves as a means of transporting a general mood and threat, as a leader might otherwise do. At the end of the human plot of the film, you see the T-Rex trudging onto the helipad and roaring again, which also does not contain any information about the plot, but rather seems to be a kind of thematic picture, which should round off the film.

Have you ever had such moments elsewhere?

Posted on Author AlexCategories Feature, FilmTags Bryce Dallas Howard, Jurassic Park, Jurassic World, Sequel6 Comments on Thanks Jurassic World old-guard thinking now also applies to dinosaurs

Better communication starts with better signs

The web is full of pages in which maliciously mocked the little mistakes in the world of signs. Incorrectly placed apostrophes at kiosks. The misuse of quotes to “emphasize” terms. It's pretty easy to feel superior that way. In my opinion, however, one rushes at the sparrows of the sign culture, while the real birds of prey, which rob us of valuable life, get away.

I photographed the above sign at Frankfurt Airport a few months ago. I was in a rush, so the photo is blurry, but it's the perfect example of what can go wrong on a sign. It starts with the use of technical terms (“lining”, “ground sleeves”), continues with the invention of words (“staircase”, in fact the architects probably invented the word) and ends with the formulation of the sentence in this strange verb form that nobody can name straight away. Among my well-studied friends, whom I asked for advice on Facebook, the suggestions ranged from the infinitive imperative to the predicate gerundive to "extended infinitive in the present passive". The latter is probably the most correct, the former the most appropriate.

My point is: The first sentence is “We ask your attention”, but what the hell am I supposed to be paying attention to here? The verb form avoids addressing me directly, and the terms are so strange that it takes me a while to even understand what it is about. The sign is probably not aimed at me at all, but at the airport workers, who should kindly leave the posts where they are, but that is not evident from it either. In short, it's a really bad sign.

A case from Nerdview

The linguist Geoffrey K. Pullum coined the term nerdview for the practice of writing notes from the perspective of the experts instead of writing them in such a way that they actually benefit the people at the other end of the communication, which he himself does not find ideal which I will use anyway. Nerdview has long been the norm for everything from instruction manuals to web forms. Whenever you have to deal with government bureaucracy, in my experience it is still normal. I don't think I would be able to fill out my tax return forms without a program that explains what each field means. And nerdview can take subtle forms, as Pullum explains. But it always leads to misunderstandings.

But Nerdview is only part of the explanation for bad signs. In my kitchen psychological opinion, it is just as important that people are afraid of being considered stupid by others if they simply say exactly what it is about. Signs are official with a capital O and this leads to the fallacy that the more big words are used and the more awkward and indirect they are, the better they are. Where would we go if we spoke directly to people and admitted that we were the sender of a request or instruction?

Instead, such signs are created, like in the hallway of my house.

“Maintenance has to be done annually” - I can't even say whether it makes one hundred percent grammatical sense. And I don't know why my landlady doesn't just write “Please have your thermal baths serviced once a year” or “You have to have your thermal baths serviced once a year”.

One last example that George Orwell would probably have been delighted with. It was not for nothing that the Post had the associated reputation.

The user experience

My remarks speak of the conviction, which one does not have to share, that language shapes consciousness. So: How we say something also influences, at least in the long term, how we think about a topic. Which is one of the reasons why I am, for example, in favor of the unpopular and often ridiculed gender mainstreaming. But I don't want to open this barrel here today.

It is much more the case that today, luckily, one can also use data to prove that some formulations simply work better than others when it comes to instructions or rules and prohibitions. A sign like the one at the Post's return slot for incorrectly placed items in their own mailbox would simply not be accepted by an expert in “User Experience” (UX), as consulted by every app and website today. And he'd probably have the numbers too.

The podcast Radiolab made clear some time ago in its episode “The Trust Engineers” which differences can be made by formulations. People who are responsible for wordings (worse New German expression, I know) on Facebook share their insights into how you can ask someone to remove an unloved photo on which you can be seen. “Hey Robert, I don't like this photo, take it down” leads to seven percent more actual photo distance than a speech without a name. And "Hey Robert, I don’t like this photo, please take it down ”works four percent better. If you have half an hour to spare, you should listen to the podcast, it starts with wordings and ends in a much darker place.

The broadcaster feels better too

In my job last year, I also worked a lot on formulations in web forms and e-mails. And even if I don't have any A / B test data, I can still say that a friendly, personal but direct formulation also feels better on the part of the broadcaster. In case of doubt, this at least ensures that more people understand what it is all about.

We should keep this in mind for the signs we put up. Away from indirect formulations, away from nerdspeak and away from hiding behind important-sounding words that only obscure the real purpose of a sign. I firmly believe that better signs can be a first step towards better communication in general.

And by the way, you don't have to be a trained UXer, copywriter or someone who deals with words on a daily basis to design understandable, clear signs. For example, I found this sign, which I photographed in our street over the weekend, almost perfect. One could have specified which dog poop is meant, namely the one left here (and the picture neither corresponds to the text nor is it licensed) - but it could also have said “We ask for your attention! The excrement of four-legged users of this road structure must be removed and not left lying. " It is progressing.

Posted on Author AlexCategories Feature, MedienTags Communication, Radiolab, Signs, LanguageLeave a comment on Better communication starts with better signs

The Path of the Twelve Macbeths: The Scottish Play in / on Film

“To The Lighthouse” is one of the few film blogs where I read the reviews. This is due to its author, who for me like hardly anyone else in the blogosphere manages to write very cleverly and knowingly about films without becoming too formulaic or snobbish. I also appreciate the system with which she sometimes looks through filmographies and then writes about them. When she made fun of it again on Twitter that no one except her was for Macbeth-Interested in filming, I contradicted her and asked her to rewrite the balance sheet of her Scottish odyssey as a guest contribution for “Real Virtuality” - with a preview of the upcoming Justin Kurzel film, which premieres this week in Cannes. The result has been wonderful. You should also read “To The Lighthouse”.

A guest contribution by Lena Leuchtturm

Shakespeare! Fassbender! Cotillard! Three names that, taken individually, are a promise, but whose combination suggests a perfect interplay of artistic talents and strengths and has therefore given me wet dreams since 2013 - since I found out about the existence of a certain film project. Now finally, two years later, director Justin Kurzel's version of the regicide tragedy is celebrating Macbeth Premiere at the Cannes Film Festival.

However, I passed the waiting time sensibly - with a look back. Because one question arose to me: Does the world really need another production of a play by the most filmed author? The IMDb lists a vast number of film and television titles under the keyword “Macbeth”. I looked at 12 of them (by directors such as Orson Welles, Akira Kurosawa, Béla Tarr and Roman Polanski) and can already answer with certainty: But of course she needs them!

Sensitivity to violence

Each film adaptation has its own value. Since the silent film era, Macbeth productions have been available in all quality and for a wide variety of target groups, from true-to-text come to life to freehand modernizations, and each one teaches us something about Shakespeare's play, about images of the world and people, and about cinematic means of expression. I saw Shakespeare through the eyes of others, and it was just differences that brought new insights. For example, the most annoying film adaptation of Geoffrey Wright with Sam Worthington, due to its trivialization of violence, demonstrated precisely that sensitivity in Shakespeare through its lack of sensitivity. Because be Macbeth is more of a violence study than a butchery film.

Geoffrey Wrights Macbeth (2006)

Macbeth (a title that should not be uttered in theaters under a curse - appearance "The Scottish Play") is Shakespeare's shortest tragedy. This makes it a very compact, dense and at first glance unambiguous, which tells of a hopeless, deterministic world plagued by war, betrayal and ambition, in which liberation is achieved through a severed head. Inspired by the prophecy of three witches and the persuasion skills of his wife, the simple warrior Macbeth murders himself to the position of king and tyrant, which first demands the mind and finally the life of the Macbeth couple. Nevertheless, the statement cannot be broken down to the formula “power corrupts”. Macbeth's predecessor Duncan seemed a good king and his son Malcolm promises to be too. It is clearer: Anyone who comes to rule for unfair reasons is not a good ruler. It is not power itself that corrupts, but the means that are chosen. Man is his own ruin because he is never satisfied.