Weekend Reel Reads is a regular feature that gathers lengthier stories related to the world of film criticism you may have missed during the week. If there’s anything you think would be ideal for future installments, please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
While the MPAA has had its recent public image hiccups, it’s important to note that the complicated process of film ratings is an issue that spans multiple continents. The Telegraph’s Bryony Gordon recently spoke with David Cooke, the director of the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC), a former political advisor who now plays an integral role in how films are categorized in Britain. The profile also delves into the role that Cooke and his team plays in suggestions for editing (a process that some might label as “censorship”) and the power that the BBFC has in declaring a certain piece of film unsuitable for theatrical release (looking at you, “Human Centipede 2”).
“That film has been passed with no cuts. But even if it had been ‘censored’, you’d barely be able to tell. ‘When we make cuts, people think in terms of ‘snip-snip’,’ says senior examiner Craig Lapper, ‘but these days, with digital, there are so many other ways you can make a film more acceptable. You can suggest soundtrack changes and things like colour darkening, putting shadows in to obscure the more gory elements of a scene.’ So in The Woman in Black, the adaptation of Susan Hill’s ghost story starring Daniel Radcliffe, we didn’t hear the crack of the woman’s neck as she hung from a noose – and, thanks to the cunning use of shadows, neither did we see her face.”
Criticwire members Govindini Murty and Jason Apuzzo, editors of Libertas Film Magazine, had this guest post at The Atlantic earlier this week, discussing how the digital vs. film battle is even a factor in blockbuster movie-making. On one side, digital enthusiasts see 3-D as both a lucrative box-office sell and a more realistic viewing experience. However, those who opt for celluloid have a built-in advantage when it comes to IMAX footage. Murty and Apuzzo frame their discussion around the new documentary “Side by Side,” which recently played at both Berlin and Tribeca. It’s a helpful overview for those unfamiliar with some of the inherent technical details that complicate this fundamental divide.
“Prometheus and The Amazing Spider-Man were also photographed using groundbreaking new RED Epic digital cameras, which capture images at roughly 5K resolution (i.e., 5000 vertical lines of resolution), as compared to the 2K resolution of regular high-definition video. The Epic camera, which weighs only five pounds, represents a major advance in digital cinematography—and was recently used by Peter Jackson to shoot The Hobbit and also by director Len Wiseman for the forthcoming remake of Total Recall. As Amazing Spider-Man cinematographer John Schwartzman (ASC) recently said of the Epic in a RED user forum, ‘For the first time in digital cinematography, small size doesn’t come with a resolution penalty.'”
Film Crit Hulk is a figure that has yet to be featured in this weekly roundup, so what better way to introduce him than to offer a piece that’s near and dear to his (giant, green, rage-filled) heart? Regularly posting at Badass Digest (and occasionally in The New Yorker!), Film Crit Hulk is, for the uninitiated, what he sounds like: a series of musings on various issues in film, written in the style of everyone’s favorite incredible superhero. This week, Hulk offered a lengthy treatise on the cinematic value of “The Avengers,” complete with an itemized list of why the hero omnibus fits in perfectly with the overall oeuvre of its director, Joss Whedon. (Spoilers herein, but…you’ve probably already seen “The Avengers,” right?)
“AND THAT MEANS THAT TRULY, LOKI HAS TO PSYCHOLOGICALLY BALANCE OFF SEVEN DIFFERENT CHARACTERS: HE HAS TO INDOCTRINATE CLINT. HE HAS TO CLASH WITH CAP’S EARNESTNESS. HE HAS TO ANTAGONIZE TONY AND ENGORGE HIS EGO. HE HAS TO SPURN THE ETHOS OF HIS BROTHER AND AVOID HIS OWN HUMANITY AT ALL COSTS (WHETHER IT BE FOR HIS OWN LUST OF POWER OR THE GRAVE CONSEQUENCES OF THE DEAL HE HAS MADE). HE HAS TO LET NICK FURY’S SEVERE THREATS BOUNCE OFF OF HIM. HE HAS TO TURN THINGS AROUND IN AN INCREDIBLE INTERROGATION SCENE WITH BLACK WIDOW. HE HAS TO ENRAGE BANNER. AND THEN HE HAS TO GO AHEAD AND TAUNT THE HULK. THE POINT IS THAT LOKI HAS A HECK OF A LOT TO DO WITH ACCENTUATING THE CHARACTERISTICS OF OUR MAIN CAST. AND GIVEN WHAT HULK SAID EARLIER, FLESHING OUT THE CHARACTERS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN THIS MOVIE (IN SERVICE OF THE CIRCLE PAN MOMENT). SO WITHOUT LOKI, AND EVERYTHING TOM HIDDLESTON BRINGS IN HIS GREAT PERFORMANCE, THE FILM ABSOLUTELY DOESN’T WORK. HE’S NOT JUST THE LYNCHPIN. HE’S A SERIES OF LYNCHPINS.”
The incomparable site Brain Pickings has published an excerpt of sorts of David Parkinson’s “100 Ideas That Changed Film,” a close look at the innovations that helped transform both the craft and popularity of the medium. Rather than just an unadorned list of these notable developments, Maria Popova’s post contains photos and illustrations giving a slightly more varied example of what the new book offers. (Interesting note: one of the cinema-changing ideas is the currently running Cannes Film Festival.)
“From technologies like magic lanterns (#1), the kinetoscope (#3), and the handheld camera (#78), to genres like slapstick (#21), poetic realism (#50), and queer cinema (#97), to system-level developments like the star system (#23), film schools (#38), and censorship (#48), to cultural phenomena like fan magazines (#31), television (#63), and feminist film theory (#86), the book blends the illuminating factuality of an encyclopedia with the strong point of view of a museum curator to reveal, beneath this changing flow of technologies and techniques, cinema’s deeper capacity for playing on universal emotions and engaging our timeless longing for escapism, entertainment, and self-expression.”