Acknowledging the blood, sweat & tears that went into making a head explode on film, among other things.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Neglecting my duties & matte painted beauties

I apologize for my severe lack of posts. Other priorites have hindered my blogging actions. Please bear with me!

In the meantime, To keep you company, head on over to this one:

If you're anything like me, the sight of hand painted matte work makes you weep with joy.

So start weeping!

Friday, October 14, 2011

THE THING (2011) thoughts...

For those of you seeing The Thing (2011) which opens today, give me your thoughts in the comments. How were the practical effects? Was CGI used a bit too liberally or excessively? Was it really necessary? Let me know!

I'll be in my trailer.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Operation Oscar Repo

This rant is brought to you by a fan. Take it with a grain of salt. I'm someone who grew up with the films and absorbed the Star Wars culture. I was a child of Lucas & Spielberg. I am not an industry insider.

So now I think it’s safe to say that George Lucas will be re-tooling his Star Wars films until the day he dies. Apparently nothing can stop him. He has gone from a visionary director with average directing skill into a Gollum-like state with CGI being his “Precious”. I’m also convinced he will place in his Will, something so profoundly insulting to his fans, that he’ll be laughing from beyond years after his demise.

What I’m trying to say is that I give up. You won Mr. Lucas. You have buried the memory of the original trilogy so deep into the digital swamp that it has almost become unrecognizable. We all know it’s not going to stop either. Ten years down the road all of Frank Oz and Stuart Freeborn's work in Empire and Jedi will be scrubbed out as well. Mark my words.

Mr. Lucas, all I ask in return for submission and acceptance of your changes is one thing:

You must return the Oscars that were won before the changes. Simple as that. And by citing Mr. Lucas I mean the whole creative team. (if they were also involved with the retooling)

It may seem a little extreme, but hear me out. Star Wars (1977) won six awards. One of them was for best visual effects. They win the highest achievement for their practical effects, just to go back 20 years later and ruin it with sub par CGI. Apparently Lucas feels that the work of Dykstra, Edlund and all of ILM wasn’t worthy of the Academy Award or else he wouldn’t had them cover over it. Same goes with Best Film Editing. You shouldn’t be able to win for editing then ad in new scenes that disrupt the flow.

Steven Spielberg almost fell into the same drug induced state with E.T. Fortunately he just recently learned the error of his ways and expressed stupidity for wanting to change the past. If only he could have convinced Lucas before the Blu-rays came out.

Film is our culture. It’s our history’s culture, good or bad. It is meant to reflect the time in which it was made. To repeatedly go back and alter and distort it is to ignore history. To ignore history that has won six Academy Awards and influenced countless other filmmakers is just simply deranged.

Monday, August 8, 2011

What if ______ was CGI instead?

Cinema is the most important window in which to view our culture. Film preservation is essential. To alter what has already been done is not only a poor artistic decision; it is also a defacing and elimination of a cultural milestone. (*cough* Mr. Lucas *cough*)

While film preservation is a must, I believe film prop preservation is also essential. To be able to see what was used in a film says a lot about the craft. To hold a prop from something that has been a pop culture mainstay to millions would be quite an exhilarating experience.

Case in point: Giger’s “Alien” head from the 1979 film. This is the actual Carlo Rambaldi mechanical prop.

Nicely preserved at Giger’s estate in Zurich. Notice the human skull in which the entire head is formed around.

Now, what if this was CGI instead? What would we have to display? At the very most maybe a small maquette or model that they would have used to scan in into the computer, but nothing that would have actually been seen on camera. This “Alien” head is tangible. We see the wires. We see the remnants of prophylactics on the jaws. We see the tool that was used for a very familiar cultural image… and it is awesome.

CGI doesn’t offer this.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Thing (2011) Trailer First Impression

What do you guys think?...

It seems to me that "Prequel" is the lazy way of saying, "Let's make the same story in the same locale, give it the same name, but replace Kurt Russell with a 24 year old no nonsense woman and dumb down the terror by over explaining things and make the alien morphing effects CGI even though the original could do it impressively CGI-free 30 years ago."

And what was with that sting at the end? It looked horrible!

Help us Rob Bottin... You're our only hope.

For contrast:

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Ray Harryhausen turns 91!

It’s an honor to share the same birthday as King Ray.
Happy Birthday to a great living legend.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

How the Camera Moves Matters Most

Fighting the good fight can be daunting. We all know CGI is here to stay. There are signs of practical effects resurgence but they are few and far between. I figure at this point, instead of embracing the beast, why not educate the masses on taming it.

There are two major factors exposing CGI “fakeness”: Physics and camera placement. The latter can be easily rectified and the former is bound by the limits of the craft. We all know that gravity can spoil the illusion. After all these years and technological advances, they still can’t duplicate the physics behind gravity. Spider-Man is a perfect example. On his feet, your friendly neighborhood web-slinger looks great, but get him swinging through the city, and you get a flat, lifeless CGI cartoon. (The Spidey re-boot is rumored to be rectifying this by using *GASP* real stunt work and *SHUDDER* wires!)

With physics out of the question of improvement that leaves us with camera placement. The suspension of disbelief from the movie goer’s eye can only go so far. When you have CGI robuts and monsters or massive armies of extras going into battle, we may forgive digital accompaniment, but it’s in the placement of the camera where the movie magic can be lost for us.

We all can grasp the basic function of how movies are made. There is a camera, and people do stuff in front of it. We know the camera is just as physical and real as the actors. If they need a long shot from up high and need it to end it on a close up of something or someone, we know they have to use a crane or dolly. We may not all know what the tools are called, but we all know that SOMETHING has to make the camera move.

Now, when you use CGI as camera movement you get the instant “fakeness” result. No matter what is on the screen, none of it is justified. Something tells us that the camera cannot fly through the sky and zoom through objects all in one take. We are pulled out of the experience. We are told, “This shot wasn’t really filmed, but it is in your face!” Now, I’m sure there are plenty of people that love that look, I just happen to despise it.

I struggle to find a perfect example on YouTube of what I mean, but this clip from Peter Jackson’s Fellowship of the Ring comes close. Granted, I know it’s a lot of model work but pay attention to the camera and visualize how it could be achieved practically…

Don’t get me wrong. I love Jackson’s work and I understand his reasoning in using CGI. But seeing this in the theater, that first shot of Isengard swirling around and diving underground took me out of the film a bit. I know it’s nit picking, but that’s why I have this blog.

I am a sucker for the elaborate practical shots. The kind that you have to rehearse over and over just to get right. I just wish if a director wants to get really ambitious with a shot, he would take into consideration camera movement. Sometimes it can take the most CGI filled scene and restore a little life back into it if the camera is allowed to be restrained a bit.

That’s just my two cents. I know it doesn’t buy much. But what do you want? I’m a whiner.

I will leave you with this though. Before he died, Sergio Leone’s next film was going to be about the siege of Leningrad. An interview with Claudio Mancini describes Leone’s intended opening scene:

There was a lot of talk about Leningrad. Sergio had a lot of things in his mind, but almost nothing in writing, but he would describe what would have been the opening scene.
It showed a theater where an orchestra was rehearsing. The rehearsal finishes and a man puts his instrument back in its case.
He leaves the theater, the camera backtracking in front of him, that's important.
He starts walking in the street and you can see a devastated city, buildings gutted by bombs etc.
A tram passes by and the man catches it. He sees the ruins from the tram which is now moving.
All this without a single cut: how Sergio intended to do this, I really don't know.
The tram arrives at the end station, the man leaves and walks 100 meters to a small house; he enters and there is a woman.
While they embrace, the camera turns and you see a window, then a river and across the river 1.500 German panzers in position.
I said: "Sergio, you wouldn't be able to frame 1.500 panzers not even if they were small cardboard models! On screen you could probably frame 150!" But he envisioned 1.500!"

How would this have been pulled off today without CGI? I don’t know. If anyone could make it work though, I bet it would have been Leone.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Kindertrauma Shout Out!

BIG THANKS to my new internet extended familiy Aunt John & Uncle Lancifer from KINDERTRAUMA. They gave me a nice shout out on their page. If you haven't seen it you're missing out. One of the best sites the web can offer. Its depths into childhood nostalgia on a purely tromatic level runs very deep. So deep in fact, that I've been inspired to write a jingle...

♫ From the "Trilogy of Terror" Zuni Doll to
"Little House" Albert's methadone withdrawl.
Kindertrauma has it all! ♫♪

and for KINDERTRAUMA vistors stopping by, thank you and welcome!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Squib Haiku

Before CGI
You made bullet wounds look real
But that was before

Friday, May 27, 2011

♫ Illusions! Take a closer look! ♪♫

As the nauseatingly 80’s song suggests:

This featurette has everything this blog could hope to see. Enjoy.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Great CGI Free Moments in Rock & Roll

I try to mainly stick to CGI use in film but every so often I come across a related topic. In ad photography, Photoshop dominates. Everyone does it. So, when the average joe comes across an album cover photo such as this, one would immediately assume it was "shopped".

Of course, that's not possible you say, since this was from the 1975 album "Wish You Were Here" by Pink Floyd. Maybe it was optical or super-imposed?

Nope. This shit is real.

Thank you flaming stuntman. you made an awesome album even better.

Monday, May 23, 2011


I apologize for the lack of posts. I have been so hard at work on my other hobby that I have neglected my CGI bashing duties. Have no fear though, I will be returning soon to whine and bitch about all that CGI has destroyed!

Stay Tuned!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Logan’s Run Remake? Why the hell not?

Many times have I raised my fist in anger over unnecessary remakes. I would often question the existence of creation for letting some douche remake Yellow Submarine or cry in my pillow over the thought of The Thing remake. (Yes, I know it’s a prequel, but you can call a turd anything you want, it will still be a turd) I hated Visionary Director© Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead remake even though it got lavish praise. He took what creeped me out in the original and made it hip and lame and not creepy at all. To sum up, most remakes give me a Natalie Portman face...

Not all remakes are bad of course. Scorsese’s Cape Fear was excellent as was Savini’s remake of Night of the Living Dead. More recently, True Grit in my opinion surpassed the original. This is pretty much how I feel with a possible Logan’s Run reinvention.

Logan’s Run is definitely a flawed film. It was birthed in an era that could have cared less about sci-fi films and the effects greatly suffered because of this. Somewhere between 2001: A Space Odyssey and Star Wars there was a great sci-fi malaise. Hollywood was young and edgy. The public wanted strong social commentary veiled in strained relationships and city streets, not futuristic tube transports and cardboard robots. Logan’s Run did well with the commentary; it was in the execution where it faltered.

Personally I enjoy the film, effects and all. It’s a great reminder to a time right before Star Wars where visual effects were new and experimental. The miniatures were blatant, the set design was painfully 70’s and Box… was, um… boxy.

So, why a remake? Why not? Logan’s Run is the type of film that sits somewhere between camp, cult and classic but doesn’t adhere to any one of those. It’s not sacred enough to warrant legions of angry Loganites to burn Hollywood to the ground and it’s not horrible enough to poke and laugh at. It would fit nicely into today’s blockbuster action sci-fi fare with dystopian deep political glazing. The actors would have to be young which is what Hollywood would do anyway. Stick Michael York as the Peter Ustinov character and you’d have yourself a nice homage to the original.

My only reservation on this idea would be their almost guaranteed overuse of CGI. I prefer to be a hopeless romantic and believe that the practical would outweigh but we all know that thinking is folly! FOLLY I SAY!

As long as they keep Box CGI free, that’s all I can ask for. You gotta pick you battles.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m late for Carousel.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Spotlight on: An American Werewolf In London (1981)

I try to stay away from this film and The Thing (1982) because, what else is there to say about them? They are the top dogs of the practical effect universe. I won’t go into too much detail about the craft because I have a few rare video clips I found on youtube that I lumped together for all to marvel at. I will however talk about my “first time” watching the film.

It was around 1986-1987 when I saw AAWIL. I was around 13/14 years old and knee deep in Fangoria mags. I went weekly to the video store and rented 5 or 6 movies at once. I usually watched them all in a weekend. I loved horror, although I was more into cheesy mainstream horror more than I wanted to admit. (I didn’t discover the Italian masters until much later)

I always saw clips of AAWIL mostly from Terror In The Aisles (one of the greatest compilation films never ever to see the light of day again, unless you have the VHS and a working VCR) so when I finally rented it, I was prepared for some gore galore.

What I didn’t expect is at first viewing I was a little turned off towards the end. Believe it or not, I felt the finale in Piccadilly Square was a little too dark and relentlessly violent. I don’t know what it was, but at that point I was turned off to gore films. Seeing people getting mauled by the wolf, smashing through windshields, getting ran over, guts and skulls popping under tires, I was a little nauseated. And the depressing ending was just a little too much for me at the time. Not that I was too young, I think I just watched the film at the wrong time. The disgust was short lived obviously because growing up and understanding John Landis’ twisted mind NOW and seeing the comical absurdity of the scene, it’s genius. I’m sure I’ll get shit for being a little pussy at the time, but that was the way I felt. It was weird.

It’s definitely a fulfilling film. It holds up very well by today’s standards, which I think is due mainly because of the humor. It’s a clever film… and Mr. Landis is one clever bastard.

Below are some great video clips of Rick Baker, John Landis & Co. for you to enjoy…

I love how Landis fetches coffee for Naughton and really observes Baker working. He is a true fan of movie magic.

This is a great featurette which was produced circa 1981

This is fantastic. The actual animatronic mid-transformation wolf head in action!

Bumpy back morphing action! God, I love this stuff so.

Finally here’s the Masters of Horror special which is mainly all about AAWIL.

Have a great weekend and STAY OFF THE MOORS!

Monday, January 3, 2011

80's Film Documentary

Apparently there is a documentary in production focusing on the special effect heavy films of the 80's. For people my age who lived their impressionable childhood straight through this highly imaginative era, this film aims to be extremely entertaining.

Also, if anyone who worked on any of the films that are showcased, I’m sure the filmmakers would love to hear from you.

You can contact the director via Facebook