Two Saturdays ago, Saturday Night Live did a great Halloween sendup of Wes Anderson by creating a horror movie trailer that featured Anderson’s trademark cinematic style.
The story of how it was conceived and barely made it to the air is fascinating and should sound familiar to anyone who’s ever worked in live television. Here is Oscar-nominated cinematographer Alex Buono on how it all came together.
I was eleven when Sea World of Texas opened in San Antonio. It was 1988 and, to put it mildly, a very big deal for the city. The cool kids got jobs at the park, the rich kids got passes for the season, and anyone sitting in the first six rows at Shamu Stadium got splashed with whale water during the orca show. Whoop. Dee. Do.
I’ve never really liked the ocean and its inhabitants. Sure, I respect the hell out of anything that lives in water that, to me, tastes like boogers. And intellectually, I am fascinated by the entirety of an ecosystem that ranges from freezing water to thermal cracks in the floor. But the water itself is basically one big toilet. Every day, millions of organisms defecate, urinate, fornicate, give birth, and die in our seven seas. And that’s before you factor in the human waste. Cruise ships, sewage, run-off. No thank you.
I love beaches, but I think the ocean is disgusting. I don’t belong in it. And its inhabitants don’t belong on land. They certainly don’t deserve to be put in a place like Sea World.
Imagine if you were ripped from your family and taken to an underwater human zoo to do something really mundane, like math problems, for bloated families of fish. Imagine being kept in isolation and brought out four times a day to do math problems. Every day. Until you died. It would drive you a little bonkers.
Orcas, on the other hand, don’t go a little bonkers. They don’t do a little anything.
That the orca featured in the excellent documentary, Blackfish, is violent toward its trainers isn’t surprising. What is surprising is why more orcas don’t send their trainers flying through the air into the splash zone. That is a show I would see.
Blackfish premieres tonight at 9:00 EST on CNN.
As a schoolboy in Mexico Emmanuel Lubezki got the name “Chivo”. Chivo means goat in Spanish. Apparently he was named this because of his curly hair and the enlongated triangle shape of his head. More importantly during this time, Lubezki befriended a young man named Alfonso Cuarón. Years later the two men would work together, Lubezki as cinematographer and Cuarón as director, on some of the best films of the last twelve years including Y Tu Mamá También, Children of Men, and the recent space thriller Gravity.
While the reactions to Gravity’s script and dialogue, written by Cuarón and his son Jonas, have been tepid to outright hostile, the undeniably genius part of the movie is its cinematography. From a cinematographic standpoint Gravity is a game-changing movie, one that has re-written what can be captured as cinema. It tumbles, rotates, and snaps your point of view as objects tumble, rotate, and snap toward you…as if you truly are in space. This attempt to expand the possibilities of how time and space can be shown in cinema is becoming Lubezki’s signature.
Lubezki has quietly built up a resume of iconic cinematography working with masters like Terrence Malick, Tim Burton (Sleepy Hollow), the Coen Brothers (Burn After Reading), and Michael Mann (Ali). As Malick’s only cinematographer, he is the primary conduit of Malick’s singular vision of cinema which eschews dialogue and plot and instead uses expressionistic visual tones and movement to convey feeling. After working with Malick on The New World, Lubezki won an Oscar for lensing The Tree of Life where he photographed the big bang, the primordial soup, the first organisms that made it to land, dinosaurs, Brad Pitt, Texas in the 50s, and faceless beings walking in the sands of the future with an almost absence of sentimentality. His work in Gravity dwarfs that movie and will resoundingly earn him another Oscar.
It would be a goat that takes us to the height of what is possible. What this chivo sees is worth watching.
Post-WWII Italy was decimated and its studio system lay in ashes. From these ashes filmmakers like Luchino Visconti, Vittorio De Sica, and Roberto Rossellini created a cinema that highlighted the poverty, oppression, and despair within the Italian psyche. Those movies traveled the world and ushered in a new kind of cinema, one that people from the most impoverished of lands could relate to.
Born in Calcutta in 1921, Satyajit Ray was an illustrator of books. But after meeting with Jean Renoir (who was visiting India for his film, The River) and seeing DeSica’s Bicycle Thieves, he decided to make Pather Pachali (Song of the Little Road) in 1955. That film changed the face of cinema forever and made Ray one of India’s most powerful ambassadors to the world.
Like all great storytellers, he and his films have a profound universal humanity that is evident in every frame. If you have never seen his films, now is your chance.
When Ray was given a lifetime achievement award in 1992 by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, it was shamefully discovered that no good prints of his films existed in the United States. The Academy then began a two-decade long restoration project that is now being unveiled tonight.
The Academy is presenting Pather Pachali and Aparajito (The Unvanquished) as a double feature tonight in Beverly Hills. Part three of The Apu Trilogy concludes with Apur Sansar (The World of Apu) on Monday Sept. 9th at the Academy.
Starting on Thursday the 12th of September and continuing through the 21st of October,16 more restored films of Ray’s will be screened at the Aero in Santa Monica.
Many of Ray’s films are available through Criterion on Hulu but his movies, like all masters’, deserve to be seen on the big screen. There is no more moving reminder of what cinema can be than the films of Satyajit Ray.