Friday, July 30, 2010

Finding Cinema

This is not a normal blog entry.
This is a personal entry.
As personal as ones and zeros get.

I found Cinema at a very young age. I had several guides along the primitive road of motion picture discovery; Steven Speilberg, John Hughes, Martin Scorsese, Brian De Palma, Quinton Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, Howard Hawks, Darren Aronofsky, The Coen brother, Christopher Nolan, etc...

I found Cinema during a fascinating time for the art form. I have this satisfaction in common with two of my favorite "guides" through my motion picture education; The Lumiere Brothers.

The Lumiere Brothers found cinema in 1985 because their blood and sweat created cinema itself. A integral component in bringing the cinematographe, one of the very first film cameras, to fruition, the Lumiere reign as technological and innovative pioneers in the early period of cinema's birth. Their 1985 short Sortie des Usines Lumière à Lyon was one of the first recorded images ever to be seen on film the world over. They developed the perforated film stock that would allow film to run through the reels of a camera and projector; a process that is still used today. By showcasing private screenings in public coffee houses in France, the Lumiere brothers in essence created the film festival. It can be argued that The Lumiere Brothers fathered the art form of cinema.

Lumiere, translated into English means light.

Cinema is various shades of light illuminated on a white screen in a dark room.

The audience in that room is illuminated.

But after the film ends, and the lights come back up in the dark theater, is the mind of the audience still illuminated?

We live in a time of fragmented media, of digital communication and an age of limitless knowledge. However, and maybe because we live in this era, we are still sitting in the theater, not noticing the credits role; leaving contemplation behind with the discarded popcorn bag and empty soda cup. We are sitting in that coffee shop in 1985, sipping coffee, glancing at the flickering Lumiere images on the wall and turning back to our table, giving up the opportunity to see beyond the "screen". Now is the time to see the light behind the images; watch it pass from the projectionist booth behind us, filter through the air above us and cast a myriad of colors and shadows on the blank wall.

It's time to let a bit more light into the theater. Enough light to leave an impression on the audience. Enough light to keep the film going. Enough light. Lumeire.

In retrospect, I did not find Cinema. The Lumeire brothers and the other early film innovators who had a dream of capturing the essence of life, they found Cinema. They found it and unleashed it's brilliance of light, interpretation, beauty and infinite possibilities on the rest of the world.

Cinema in turn found me. It found you as well. And now its up to us to open our third eye to the lasting wonders of the world of cinema.

Because cinema has been good to us, it's time to be good to cinema.
It's time to be resourceful and knowledgeable.
Time to be both an intellectual and casual spectator of the motion picture.
To be an alternative viewpoint, to be a faithful critic to this young form of art.
To be a contributor to the work started over a hundred years ago.
To enable the continuance of light.

For those of you who have followed this blog, know that this entry marks the beginning of the venture beyond. Its time for the trailers to end and for the audience to embark on the journey of the feature presentation.

Be Cinematic.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Incepting The New Summer Blockbuster

The blockbuster movie is as classic to summer time as the slip-n-slide was to us kids growing up in the 80s and 90s. It's just a great time to go see a motion picture, especially if you're in the south like I am and the heat outside is unbearable. This summer has been no different; big budget movie after big budget movie have been churned out by the studios at a steady pace this year and it's no surprise that each one looks and feels like a summer blockbuster. However, being at the movie theaters this past weekend has shed some light on a surprising revelation that brought a smile to my face.

It seems, and I hope I'm not wrong, but it seems that audiences might actually be getting more sophisticated and smarter.

Case in point, Inception opened this weekend to a gross estimate of $60 million, while Disney's The Sorcerer's Apprentice earned a measly $17.3 million in it's first three days. As one online critic put it "Suck it, Bruckheimer".

Now while these two movies were obviously targeted at two different age groups, it's still interesting to note that analyst predicted that The Sorcerer's Apprentice would take top seat this weekend at the box office because Inception seemed to "heady and vague" for the typical audiences. But instead The Sorcerer's Apprentice took third place, on it's opening weekend! Of course, Inception took first, but what was the second highest grossing film this past weekend? Despicable Me. And that film came out last weekend, before The Sorcerer's Apprentice. So what does this say about audience trends?

Of the few people I asked, no one knew that The Sorcerer's Apprentice was a remake, or rather a spin off, of Disney's Fantasia film. Since Fantasia, The Sorcerer's Apprentice has been remade several times on film and television. So basically, it's been done and despite the fact that Disney threw a ton of money at Jerry Bruckheimer to make an eye-popping special effect driven family flick, it's still doesn't appear inventive enough to be considered something "new and original". I admit, I didn't see The Sorcerer's Apprentice this weekend but truthfully, the trailers and the clips that I had seen of the film didn't appeal to me whatsoever. It looked like Harry Potter meets Mardi Gras, or The Last Airbender meets Every Bad Movie Nicholas Cage Has Done. From the trailers it looked like Nick Cage was just phoning it in and the script sounded like a string of hollow one liners. Nothing drew me to the film, and it's not because it's geared toward a younger audience. Harry Potter is basically a kid's flick but the trailer for the Deathly Hollows totally peaked my interest.

Now Inception on the other hand...well, to be fair, I'm a huge Christopher Nolan fan. Have been since Memento. So it was safe to say that as soon as I saw "written and directed by Christopher Nolan" I already knew three hours of my summer were going to be dedicated to this movie. And again, to be honest, Inception, didn't surprise me either. Why? Because I already knew before going into the theater that Inception was going to be a smart, creative, well acted, well directed, suspenseful, artful film that would be a hit with critics and audiences. And it was. But as I said, I knew that before hand and from the box office numbers of the Thursday midnight showings of Inception, it seems that a lot of people knew that too.

So again, what does that say about audiences? That maybe audiences are again flocking to films made by their favorite directors instead of who stars in the film or what studio produces the movie? That maybe audiences are actually paying more attention to smart marketing and passing over predictable film plots? That maybe audiences want to actually think when they watch a film? I think so. I think if this weekend proves anything to Hollywood it proves that bloated, glossed over Disney-like films cannot always be counted on to win the hearts of movie goers. It proves that audiences are fickle and even though sometimes they choose the dumbed down version of entertainment, if offered, sometimes they will go for quality. It proves that business and art can co-exist and that if you build it, they will come.

Now if only Christopher Nolan would cast Nicholas Cage in Batman 3, then finally he can get some decent work.