Matt Smith Stepping Down from Doctor Who

2 06 2013

Matt Smith in costume as the 11th incarnation of the Doctor. Copyright BBC Worldwide.

It was announced yesterday that Matt Smith will be stepping down from Doctor Who in December.

The 11th incarnation of the famous time traveling alien will appear in the much anticipated 50th Anniversary Special, which will air on Nov. 23, 2013, and then regenerate in the 2013 Christmas Special into an as-of-yet-unnamed 12th incarnation.

Smith, 30, joined the show in 2010, taking over the reigns from David Tennant who portayed the much loved 10th incarnation of the Doctor. I was, at first, unsure of whether Smith was the right fit for the role or not, having been a huge Tennant fan; however, Smith grew on me, like I think he did for many other fans of the show, and I will be sad to see him depart the role.

On his departure, Smith said, “”Doctor Who has been the most brilliant experience for me as an actor and a bloke, and that largely is down to the cast, crew and fans of the show…It’s been an honour to play this part, to follow the legacy of brilliant actors, and helm the TARDIS for a spell with ‘the ginger, the nose and the impossible one’. But when ya gotta go, ya gotta go and Trenzalore calls. Thank you guys. Matt.”

It is always a bittersweet moment at the announcement that one actor will step down and a new will arise as the Doctor. Speculation as to whom will take over the role has already lit up the interwebs with much emphasis on the possibility of an African-American or female actor/actress being a potential replacement.

I am by no means a sexist, but I will be honest that the idea of a female Doctor doesn’t seem right to me. Yes, Time Lords regenerate into different appearances and personalities, but this late the game, a gender switch seems like it would not be good for the story. The ethnicity change I could see as being an interesting twist, however, given that all 11 incarnations of the Doctor to date have been Caucasian males.

But, whatever the future holds for The Doctor, I’ll be tuning in and trust that the showrunners will make a good decision on whomever they decide to go with, male or female. With a heavy heart I will prepare to bid the 11th farewell, but with open arms look forward to welcoming the 12th with my viewership!

LED vs. Tungsten: Not Such a Hard Choice Afterall

24 05 2012

The anatomy of an LED.

I have had this argument with colleagues countless times and it looks like I will finally get a bit of retribution on the issue.  Though LED and Tungsten are not the only two types of lighting units employed in film and video production (HMIs and Fluorescents being the other two big contenders), there has been a huge push by manufacturers of late to bring LED technology to the forefront as a major player, possibly even as an alternative to the tungsten arsenal.

The proponents of LEDs, or light emitting diodes, will generally argue one or a combination of several points heavily: temperature, weight and ease of use.  There is no argument that LEDs are a much cooler alternative to a tungsten light.  In fact, there is hardly any heat at all from these instruments, even after extended use.  Also, because the units are just a panel of light emitting diodes arranged in vertical and horizontal grids, these instruments tend to be lighter, more ergonomic and easier to transport.  The last cornerstone of the pro LED faction is the ease of use, as many of these instruments have not only built-in abilities to dim the emitted light, but also color temperature controls as well.  In theory LEDs seem like a no brainer, don’t they?  If you took these arguments at face value, then sure it would be; however, if you delve a little deeper into the makeup of light, vision and how cameras read the color spectrum, then it’s not such an easy sale.

A classic Mole Richardson tungsten unit

I have always been a strong supporter of the other side of the coin.  Unless I have to, I rarely use anything outside of tungsten or HMI instruments, with LEDs being my last choice, even below fluorescents tube technology instruments like Kino-Flos.  Tungsten instruments have been industry standard since nearly the beginning of motion picture artificial lighting use over 80 years ago.  Tungsten lights work by heating a filament of tungsten in a halogen gas encased tube to temperatures hot enough to glow.  Being a continuous source, these instruments have an arc that creates a very consistent, clean looking stream of visible light both to the eye and through the lens of a camera.  Because these lights are heating the filament to extreme temperatures, they do get hot, and yes, the housing to contain the lamps has to be built in such a way that the lighting instrument isn’t dangerous to use, which more times than not can make these units big and bulky for the amount of output they produce.  All of these physical properties do have their disadvantages, but the one point that can’t be argued is that tungsten instruments produce a very pleasurable light for film and video production.

To illustrate the point, here is a video from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences that explains some of the correlations between film emulsions and color, and the relative shortcomings of LED units in today’s productions.  Further results of their extensive studies on the subject are available on the Academy’s Web site at:

Though it didn’t take a multi-million dollar study by the Academy to convince me that I’d go with a 40-year-old Tweenie over a brand new LED, it does feel good to have some deeply scientific research on hand to help prove my point to detractors.  I will admit that LED technology is an interesting and potentially wonderful tool for filmmakers, but err on the side of caution that this technology is not quite where it needs to be yet to fully incorporate into production workflows on set, unless of course you are going for a specific look that these inferior discontinuous instruments produce.  In that case, I guess you are creating art.

Tonino Guerra (1920-2012): A Sad Loss for World Cinema

23 03 2012

Screenwriter Tonino Guerra (1920-2012)

I just received news today that Tonino Guerra passed away this past Wednesday after some months of illness.  A storyteller and screenwriter of the highest degree, Guerra’s work with directors ranging from Michelangelo Antonioni to Federico Fellini to Andrei Tarkovsky have provided the backbone and structure to a wealth of wonderful films in World Cinema.

Born in Santarcangelo di Romagna, Italy on March 16, 1920, Guerra was a survivor of an Italian concentration camp during the second World War.  It was here that he began writing, which after the war, blossomed into a successful career in film and television.  Guerra fashioned himself as a tool for the directors with which he worked, often times helping them structure and pen their own concepts and stories, rather than presenting a completed script of his own accord for production.  Working in this manner is quite different from how most screenwriters prefer to work, many wanting as little bother from the director as possible.  However, in Guerra’s method, the beautiful stories and ideas of such iconic directors as Fellini and Antonioni were able to fully come to fruition and soundly transfer from mind to celluloid image.

Among Guerra’s noted works were Antonioni’s L’avventura, La notte, L’eclisse, Blowup and The Red Desert; Fellini’s Amarcord (a personal favorite of mine); Theo Angelopoulos’s Landscapes in the Mist and Eternity and a Day; and Tarkovsky’s late entry Nostalgia, among many others.  Well awarded during his long and prosperous 50 year career, Guerra received three Academy Award nominations, those being for Amarcord, Blowup and Casanova 70.

I try not to write posts about every celebrity who passes, as many get more than their fair share of Rest in Peace articles in the news and blogosphere; however, for Guerra, whose work is largely in foreign cinema and possibly lesser known to many American audiences by name, I wanted to pay dues to a true icon in the motion picture industry.

Oscars 2012 Recap

27 02 2012

Copyright 2012 AMPAS

Well, there were some surprises last night and some wins you could have bet a life savings on.  Am I pleased with the way the way the awards were delegated?  Yes, very much so.  Hosted by Billy Crystal, the 84th Annual Academy Awards ceremony was Hollywood coming out in their Sunday best to honor the performances, films and technical achievements of the year based on the votes of nearly 6,000 members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.  Here’s the recap:

Best Picture – THE ARTIST – The night was down to one of two films: this one, and Scorsese’s Hugo.  Both are excellent pieces of filmmaking and both pay homage to early cinema itself.  In the end, it was the charm of The Artist that won over the Academy and took home the night’s grand prize.

Best Director – MICHEL HAZANAVICIUS for THE ARTIST – It’s almost common place for the Best Picture winner to also land Best Director.  Furthermore, Hazanavicius won the DGA award which all but six times has predicted who won the Best Director award at the Oscars.  No surprise here whatsoever, and I’m happy he won.  I would have been equally delighted to see Marty win a second directing Oscar, but as long as it stayed between the two, I’m good with it, and it did.

Best Actor – JEAN DUJARDIN for THE ARTIST – An amazing turn and win by a formerly nearly unknown French actor.  Always good to see the Academy honor someone outside of the “inner circle.”  With his heavy accent and this being his first international success, this could be Dujardin’s only shot at Oscar glory, and I think he deserved it for his awesome pantomimed performance.

Best Actress – MERYL STREEP for THE IRON LADY – I have to admit, this was a big surprise for me.  I was pretty pegged on Viola Davis walking away with this award, but Streep came in and got it.  Her 17th nomination and third win (first in 30 years), it further solidifies this amazing actresses’ spot in the parthenon of acting.  Likely the best living actress, and possibly the best the screen has ever seen, I’m happy in retrospect that she took home the award.

Best Supporting Actor – CHRISTOPHER PLUMMER for BEGINNERS – Not surprised at all here.  A satisfying turn from a veteran actor, the Oscars love this kind of stuff.  At 82, this win makes Plummer the oldest actor to ever win an Oscar in competition.  Humble and gracious, I think his speech was the best of the night and I’m happy to see him win.

Best Supporting Actress – OCTAVIA SPENCER for THE HELP – Another no brainer and a deserved win for a great supporting performance.  Her genuine reaction to the announcement was enough to put a smile on anyone’s face.

Best Original Screenplay – WOODY ALLEN for MIDNIGHT IN PARIS – I was ecstatic about this win!  I love Woody Allen and have probably said it before, and will probably say it again, but he is one of my favorite filmmakers ever.  Yes, EVER.  I adore his films and seeing him take home another Oscar for a brilliant movie like this one was icing on the cake.  His fourth Oscar and first in 23 years, as usual Woody was at home back in New York and not at the ceremony, but boy did it still feel good to hear his name called.

Best Adapted Screenplay – ALEXANDER PAYNE, NAT FAXON and JIM RASH for THE DESCENDANTS – Really the only honor for this film that showed as a strong contender early in awards season.  Good to see it get its due in this award.

Best Animated Feature – RANGO – Interesting that Gore Verbinski wins his first Oscar for his first animated film after years of directing live action.  Maybe its a good fit for him!

Best Foreign Language Film – A SEPARATION – Has been winning a lot of awards this awards seasons and hailed by critics.  Not a surprise here at all and one of my most anticipated films to see that I haven’t already seen.

Best Cinematography – ROBERT RICHARDSON for HUGO – What a surprise this was!  I was sure Lubezki had it pegged for Tree of Life with his wins elsewhere and, mostly, the ASC award he won a few weeks ago.  However, Richardson’s beautiful imagery on Hugo was definitely equally as deserving.  To me, this was one of the stiffest years in many for cinematography.  All great DPs, with amazing visions.  This was Richardson’s third win and Lubezki has yet to win, that was why I put my money on Lubezki.  However, I will be honest, Richardson’s style has always been a strong influence for me, so I am very happy with this surprise.

Best Editing – ANGUS WALL and KIRK BAXSTER for THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO – Well, this was as much of a surprise to the audience as it was to the winners.  You can tell they weren’t expecting this at all since they had just won last year for The Social Network.  Way to go team Fincher!

Best Art Direction – DANTE FERETTI and FRANCESCA LO SCHIAVO for HUGO – At the beginning of the night, Hugo was sweeping the awards and I thought it might upset The Artist for the win.  In the end, both films walked away with five awards each, but The Artist took home the big prizes.  The art direction in this film is definitely deserving of the win and I’m very happy with how much love it received last night.  It and The Artist were my favorite films of last year, so I was happy when each of these won anything.

Best Costume Design – MARK BRIDGES for THE ARTIST – Well deserved and not surprising in my opinion.

Best Makeup – MARK COULIER and ROY HELLEND for THE IRON LADY – Longtime Streep makeup artist and Harry Potter prosthetics artist take home their first Oscars.  It’s a nice thing to see.

Best Original Score – LUDOVIC BOURCE for THE ARTIST – Strong competition in this field this year with two Williams scores and fantastic scores from all involved.  Bource deserved this award though in my opinion as the music was a driving force in The Artist since there was a lack of voice, and what wonderful music it was.

Best Original Song – BRETT MCKENZIE for MAN OR MUPPET – I was totally unaware before the ceremony that this was Brett from Flight of the Conchords before seeing the program.  I guess I didn’t look at the name close enough, but boy was I excited when it hit me!  This is awesome!  The Ryhmenoceros has an Oscar – how cool is that!

Best Sound Editing – PHILLIP STOCKTON and EUGENE GEARTY for HUGO – Well done.

Best Sound Mixing – TOM FLEISCHMAN and JOHN MIDGLEY for HUGO – Another win for Hugo!

Best Visual Effects – HUGO – ditto!

Best Documentary Features – UNDEFEATED – Haven’t heard much about the docs up for the award this year, but after seeing the win, am definitely interested in seeing this film.  However, I strongly feel that Senna should have been among this lot because it was a brilliantly composed documentary.  I’ll still stick with it as my favorite doc of the year so far, but will give this one and others a chance.

Best Documentary Short Subject – SAVING FACE – Seems like a nice film to win and always a pleasure seeing the winners of the shorts.  These are people who have to struggle for their budgets and are not millionaires.  These awards wins always feel very genuine to me.

Best Short Film, Animated – THE FANTASTIC FLYING BOOKS OF MR. MORRIS LESSMORE – Again, very genuine win.

Best Short, Live Action – ditto.

Well, that wraps it up for the competitive awards.  Of course, there were the technical awards and honorary Oscars presented previously which included an honorary award for legendary makeup artist Dick Smith and actor James Earl Jones.  The Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award went to a deserving Oprah Winfrey.  All in all, I really enjoyed the broadcast and couldn’t be happier with the results.  Until next year, that’s it for awards season in the movies!

Oscar Predictions 2012

26 02 2012

Well, I guess I wouldn’t be much of a film blogger if I didn’t post my predications directly before the ceremony.  So, with hours to spare, I will join the many other bloggers, critics, journalists and general movie lovers around the world (and the Web) in voicing my predictions for this year’s Oscars.  And, my votes go to:

Best Picture – THE ARTIST – Wonderful film, loved the sentimentality and this movie has won nearly every award imaginable in regards to Best Picture win predictors, including the PGA, BAFTA, Independent Spirit, loads of critic circles and Golden Globe for Musical/Comedy.

Best Actor – JEAN DUJARDIN for THE ARTIST – Awesome performance without the use of words.  Clooney could be the upset here, but I think Dujardin has this one in the bag.

Best Actress – VIOLA DAVIS for THE HELP – Meryl Streep might win this for her performance in The Iron Lady, but The Help was a more well recieved film overall and Streep already has two Oscars to her name and gets nominated literally almost every other year.  Davis’s performance was poignant and inspiring and this is only her second nomination.  Meryl will likely have chance time and again, so I’m going to put my money on Davis.

Best Supporting Actor – CHRISTOPHER PLUMMER for BEGINNERS – He’s already won his fair share this awards season and Plummer, at 82, has had a prolific career, but no Oscar wins.  In this role as an aging homosexual who finally comes out of the closet at 75, Plummer picked a perfect role for a veteran actor taking a chance, and the Academy loves those kinds of chances and they love giving out veteran Oscar awards.  Yet, one of my favorite actors, Peter O’Toole has been looked over time and again, eight times counting now.

Best Supporting Actress – OCTAVIA SPENCER for THE HELP – Spencer and Davis’s acting in this film were the highlight of this movie for me, and Spencer has proven tough to beat in this awards season.  In my opinion, she’s the best performance on the roster in this category and I hope it pays off for her, though Bejo could come in for the surprise win.

Best Director – MICHEL HAZANAVICIUS for THE ARTIST – All signs (namely the DGA win) point to Hazanavicius winning this award.  I’ll be shocked if he doesn’t get it, but the only real competition is Marty for Hugo.

Best Cinematography – EMMANUEL LUBEZKI for TREE OF LIFE – Beautifully shot, totally deserves the award and will be shocked if he doesn’t win.  Disliked the movie overall, but can’t argue with this man’s amazing visual aesthetic.

Best Writing, Original Screenplay – WOODY ALLEN for MIDNIGHT IN PARIS – Woody’s best film in years and a deserved win for an amazing filmmaker.

Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay – ALEXANDER PAYNE, NAT FAXON and JIM RASH for THE DESCENDANTS – Big player in the awards season line up who will likely get its due in this award.

Best Animated Feature – RANGO – Gut Feeling here.

Best Foreign Language Film – A SEPARATION – ditto.

Best Editing – THELMA SCHOONMAKER for HUGO – Because this brilliant film deserves something and Schoonmaker is a brilliant editor, one of the best in the industry.

Best Costume Design, Best Art Direction and Best Original Score – THE ARTIST

Best Original Song – “Man or Muppet” from THE MUPPETS

Best Visual Effects and Best Makeup – HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PART II – Because I love Harry Potter and think it should win.

Any of the other categories I’m afraid I don’t have enough of a basis to predict properly.  We’ll see how right (or wrong) I am quite soon – hope you all enjoy the ceremony and aren’t too tired tomorrow morning!!

New Bond Film “Skyfall” Moving Forward Nicely

23 02 2012

Copyright 2011 EON Productions

Daniel Craig’s third outing as British super spy James Bond is due out on November 9th.  On the official James Bond 007 Web site, a video blog was recently released detailing director Sam Mendes’s thoughts on the production and reasons for getting involved in the project.  That video can be viewed here:

Few details have been released on the film, outside of the fact that the story will test Bond’s loyalty to his supervisor at MI5, M (Judi Dench).  The production crew compiled for the film is an impressive, though somewhat non-traditional group.  Director Sam Mendes, whose previous credits include the Academy Award-Winning American Beauty, Road to Perdition, Revolutionary Road and indie comedy-drama Away We Go, is an interesting pick for the multi-billion dollar Bond franchise.  However, I’m very curious as to how this film will be handled by a director not accustomed per se to large budget action oriented filmmaking.  The previous film in the canon, Quantum of Solace, seemed to suffer under the helm of Marc Forster, who like Mendes, is not a traditional big budget director.  However, personally, I have much preferred Mendes’s output to Forsters’, outside of the dreadful Away We Go.

Another newcomer to the Bond franchise is long time Coen Brother cinematographer, Roger Deakins.  Deakins, whose resume reads almost as a top movie list of the past twenty some odd years, is one of the most well-respected DPs in the business and has garnered an impressive nine Oscar nominations, though no wins.  Always the bridesmaid, but no less an amazingly talented artist and one of my favorite working cinematographers in the industry today, his soft light, naturalistic approach to imaging will be an interesting contrast to the usually over the top stylization of a Bond film.

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson have definitely taken a chance on hiring extremely talented, though somewhat out of the norm picks for two positions that are highly influential in the production of a Bond movie.  However, like all iconic franchises, there is always a time for recreating the image to stay up with the times, and now is no better a time after the disappointing reception of the last Bond film.  Hopefully, the glorious rebirth of the Bond image we experienced in Casino Royale will once again come to fruition on November 9th when we get to see the curtain come up and experience our twenty third adventure with James Bond in Skyfall.

Barbara Kent: Last of the Silent Film Stars

21 11 2011

Barbara Kent (1907-2011)

With all the commotion in my personal life and relatively little amount of coverage it received, I just recently heard of the passing of Barbara Kent at the age of 103.  Her passing signifies the last living connection we had to the dawn of cinema, an era defined solely on the visual content of the medium.  There are a few child actors still alive as of this writing, as well as screenwriter Frederica Sagor Maas who turned 111 this year, but Kent was the last adult silent actor still living, at least in regards to American cinema.

Born Barbara Cloutman in Gadsby, Alberta, Canada, on Dec. 16, 1907, she graduated high school from Hollywood High School and, subsequently, got involved in motion pictures after winning the 1925 Miss Hollywood beauty pageant.  Under contract to Universal Pictures, she mad a few appearances in uncredited roles, before making a strong impression as the protagonist, Hertha, in the 1926 Garbo vehicle Flesh and the Devil.  No Man’s Law followed in 1927 and created a bit of an uproar with a scene that looked like she was swimming in the nude, though it was later revealed that she was wearing a flesh colored bathing suit.

Also in 1927, she was selected as one of the WAMPAS Baby Stars of that year and would eventually make a smooth transition into sound films with the 1929 Harold Lloyd comedy Welcome Danger.  She further appeared with Lloyd in Feet First in 1930 and would continue to appear in various films sporadically until 1935.  Never wanting to become an actor, her interests in the profession waned dramatically in the 1930s and she would make her final appearance on film in Guard That Girl in 1935.

Kent married Hollywood agent Harry Edington in 1932 and remained married until his death in 1949.  She met and married Lockheed engineer Jack Monroe in the mid-1950s and would remain with him until his death in 1998.  She became an avid golfer and even received her pilot’s license following her film career.  For the past decade, she made her home in an assisted living facility in Palm Desert, Calif., and was mentioned by many on various forums online to be in good mind and spirits even well into her 100s.

Never glamorizing her career or having much of an interest in the past, Kent rarely gave interviews or even acknowledged her time in motion pictures.  In the end, I guess it is ironic, yet fitting that one of the last remaining stars of that era remained, for lack of a better word, mostly silent of her time in the industry.

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