I just watched A.I.

I’m a rabid, sometimes obsessive Spielberg fan. I’m working my way through some of his lesser-appreciated works that I haven’t seen. I started with A.I. because HBO Now had it and I’ve heard that people think it’s weird and that Kubrick would be ashamed.

The AV Club, as usual, provides a wonderfully pithy analysis and criticism that I’ll just leave here.

Talking out of our asses, one YouTube video at a time

This video had all the ingredients to be a good one. It’s made by The Verge, an online-only news site dedicated to the idea of technology as the engine of 21st century culture that I love. It’s about movies, and it’s about trends in movies, and how filmmakers use filmmaking tools to makes successful films.

At least, that’s what I expected.

What I got was yet another YouTube video of people talking out of their asses, spouting flawed theories and inaccurate information about film. Granted, this is a personal pet peeve of mine as an aspiring filmmaker. But misleading journalism is misleading journalism.

Mainly, the video frustratingly perpetuates the idea that film directors are omnipotent beings who are solely responsible for every decision made on making films. Even noted auteurs like Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, David Fincher, Stanley Kubrick, The Coen Brothers, Christopher Nolan, the list goes on… surround themselves with tremendously talented collaborators. Editors, composers, production designers – and cinematographers. In the same order as listed above, here are the frequent cinematographers of those directors:

Janusz Kamiński (a personal favorite, but I’m in love with Spielberg movies to being with)

Robert Richardson & Michael Ballhaus

Robert Richardson again (seriously, he’s really good)

Jeff Cronenweth

John Alcott

Roger Deakins

Wally Pfister

All of whom are incredible artists in their own right, and the directors that the movies wouldn’t be great had the DP not been there on set, collaborating with the director and helping make important decisions.
So when videos like this one come out, it diminishes the incredible work of so many great film artists who do things that aren’t directing.

But ultimately, I don’t care all that much about a tiny video that’s kind of meh on the actual filmmaking information. But it brings me to a related gripe I have with how we talk about filmmaking these days.

Because film is tremendously popular, and so well publicized, we like to think that we’re getting all the information. We, the readers, the journalists, like to think we get it all and we know it all. So we talk up how David Fincher is famous for doing 50 takes of everything, there are 7,000 different YouTube videos about the best long takes in film, and the first name that gets dropped in a movie review is the director’s.

But it’s also led to a really poor colloquial understanding of how filmmaking actually works. The great example of this is the conflation of the terms “special effects” (on-set things like explosions) and “visual effects” (work done in post-production), which are frequently related to each other but require very different skill sets and technique. Look carefully at the film credits and you’ll see that the Special Effects Supervisor and Visual Effects Supervisor are in fact, different people.

This is also related to this trend of worshipping practical effects over CGI. This one is especially insulting, but it’s also a good way to tell if someone actually knows what they’re talking about. I’m not gonna get into it here, but RocketJump Film School has a great video about this idea.

So I’ll leave you with the idea that maybe, if you’re gonna be a writer who spends their time writing about the work of artists, think about the artists and the history and work you could be insulting by not knowing your shit.

Thank you.

Hugh Talman: Commuted

I found Hugh because we’re both members of the On Taking Pictures podcast (which, if you’re a photographer and you’re not listening to that podcast, get thee to iTunes now) Google+ group. Hugh does this wonderful series of street photographs called Commuted. See them for yourself.

Notes on Doing: Christaan Felber

Christaan is a photographer I’ve been keeping my eye on lately. The first time I really noticed his pictures was a sort-of recent NY Times Magazine piece about the band Alabama Shakes (which if you haven’t gotten on board with the Shakes fan club, what are you waiting for?). He shoots film, and not as a stunt. Film creates the aesthetic for him. It’s beautiful. It’s rough. It’s glowing. It’s rich. He’s got an interesting, very millennial philosophy on photography that I think it kind of penchant but also valuable.

Here’s a wonderful, candid interview with Notes on Doing.

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