One More Round for Our Hobbit Swede

Around this time last year, Jerry Belich and I teamed up with several friends to swede the first trailer for The Hobbit. We had a lot of fun messing around with a video camera, and our final result went a little viral. If you know me personally, I’ve probably made you watch our video at some point or another. I also wrote about the whole experience at length at Mad Art Lab.

However, that was a year ago, and the full movie is finally hitting the big screens. Despite my misgivings about the film itself, I had a grand time watching it in Austin, because Jerry and I were giggling our asses off whenever something we sweded appeared onscreen. It was seriously one of the most delightful experiences of my 2012.

So, I figure that our little video deserves just one more push, to celebrate the arrival of the long-awaited film. Enjoy!

December 27th: PowerPoint Karaoke!

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that December 27th will just be another normal Thursday. Or perhaps you’re thinking that you won’t live to see the 27th, given that it comes after the Mayan apocalypse, Xmas shopping, and the premier of the new Tarantino movie. But assuming we all survive the next two weeks, December 27th won’t just be another Thursday! It will be POWERPOINT KARAOKE DAY!

That’s right! Once again, PowerPoint Karaoke takes the stage at the Bryant Lake Bowl, at 10 PM December 27th. Doors open at 9:30 PM! You can drink beer and eat food in the theater! Tickets are all of $7, but you can get one at $5 if you bring your Fringe button along! Tickets can be purchased at the door or online:

http://bryantlakebowl.com/calendar/shows/powerpoint-karaoke-10

This month’s presenters are Dawn Krosnowski, Tom Reed, Sharon Stiteler, and Tim Uren! That right there is a reason to survive the apocalypse.

If you do the Facebook thing, you can add the event to your calendar here:
http://www.facebook.com/#!/events/338344859606085/?fref=ts

The BNAT14 Tour de Kitsch

This past weekend, I traveled to Austin, TX to be part of the 14th Butt-Numb-a-Thon film extravaganza. Since I am still a bit on the poor side, I once again made the trek by driving instead of flying. This means that I once again subjected myself to six US states’ worth of highway-side rest stops and gas stations, meaning you get another installment of the Tour de Kitsch!

I have claimed a Moose! WHOA! I can buy death at this truck stop!
Minneapolis, MN: I picked up my favorite travel buddy, MOOSE! Moose has traveled to all seven continents and has met a plethora of celebrities. He’s also cuddly.
 
Faribault, MN: WHOA! I can buy Death at a truck stop!
The unvalued customers get uncertified soap. Holy crap. They still make full-screen DVDs?!?
Des Moines, IA: The unvalued customers get uncertified soap. Lathrop, MO: They still make full-screen DVDs?! Jerry Springer?! Bobcat Goldthwait?!
 
Explosive fairy tales! ZOMBG DEATH SNOWGLOBE.
Lathrop, MO: It was a gas station full of fireworks. Let’s put explosives near other explosives YEAH! Also, these particular items prove that you can blow up all your childhood dreams.
 
Guthrie, OK: Death snowglobe. Let me type that again. DEATH SNOWGLOBE.
Guys, I don't think there are palm trees or surfing in Oklahoma.. Oh no! My car has hit a giant egg!
Guthrie, OK: Guys, I don’t think there’s surfing or palm trees anywhere near Oklahoma.
 
Austin, TX: My car just ran over an egg!
Oh WOW. I might need this.
Guthrie, OK: Oh WOW. Guthrie, OK: It’s a lizard hat. I am ashamed that I didn’t buy it.
 
Posting without comment. Sweet barking Godzilla, what's with the skull souvenirs on this trip?!
Guthrie, OK: … I got nothin’. Albert Lea, MN: What’s with the skull kitsch on this trip?!
 

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (Review)

This past weekend, I had the most excellent opportunity to see the opening chapter of The Hobbit in 48fps 3D format. The Internet, of course, has been abuzz for the last few weeks in anticipation for this film, debating as much about the new High Frame Rate (HFR) format as the movie itself. I even made a preliminary post about it last week.

If you read my prior post, you’ll know I had some misgivings about the format. Now that I’ve actually seen it in action, I have more to say.

I’ll start out by saying that it does take a little while to adjust to watching a film in 48fps. However, I found that I quickly got used to the format itself, particularly because it makes 3D much, much better. I’m lukewarm on 3D filmmaking in general, mostly because I have to wear the 3D glasses over my own corrective lenses, and I usually wind up with eye strain by the end of a standard-length film. I had no such problem with The Hobbit. The action-smoothing effect of 48fps made the 3D much easier to enjoy. Other folks at the screening also experienced the same improvement, so it seems to not just be me.

There are issues with the look of the film, however, as it relates to either HFR or 3D.

The first issue, which I predicted earlier, is that HFR hides nothing. It’s very easy to tell the difference between CGI and real people. It’s very easy to see the seams in the actors’ makeup. Sometimes, the digital effects look distinctly half-baked. It’s often difficult to get past the fact that much of the film looks like a well-rendered video game and not an immersive cinematic world. This isn’t a problem with HFR itself; it’s a problem with how effects are used in the film. Since The Hobbit is the first grand forray into HFR, I imagine this film will teach effects teams quite a bit about how they need to change in order to use HFR in the future.

The second issue I have is with the lighting. Part of the reason The Hobbit looks like a video game is because it’s lit like one. The lighting is too uniform, too bright, and too candy-colored in the CGI scenes, so a lot of the giant effects set pieces just don’t look real. The cave in the “Riddles in the Dark” sequence is probably the brightest-lit cave I’ve ever seen. It looks like bluish daylight in there. I’m sure the brightness of all of the scenes is to compensate for the normal dimness of 3D, but it causes most of the scenes to have not one whit of atmosphere.

I was able to get past most of my misgivings in these departments by telling my brain early on that I was watching a particularly well-rendered CGI animated film instead of a live action film, so I was mostly able to get past the look of the film and absorb its other qualities.

In a nutshell, outside of the jarring difference of HFR 3D, the film is… okay.

The Hobbit suffers from some major pacing problems. It’s not slow, per se. It’s just rambling and episodic, and it doesn’t quite seem to know where its own climax might be. The inflation of the 300-page book into a grand trilogy is almost undeniably at fault here. Part of the reason the Lord of the Rings trilogy works so well (and particularly its first film) is because the Jackson/Walsh/Boyens writing team made a wise decision to focus tightly upon Frodo. If a scene in the book didn’t have anything to do with Frodo, it was cut. The theatrical cuts of the LotR films are incredibly efficient pieces of storytelling, despite their astounding running length. The Hobbit, on the other hand, is going in the opposite direction. For a movie named The Hobbit, it sure doesn’t seem have a whole lot to do with Bilbo Baggins. The movie tangents all over the place.

The episodic pacing is in part borrowed from the book (which is also episodic), but here it really feels like the walk-FIGHT-walk-FIGHT-walk-LEVELBOSS pacing of a video game (not helping the fact that the film also looks like a video game).

The net effect of all this is that the film ultimately feels like a three-hour boondoggle. Some individual scenes work quite well (most notably, “Riddles in the Dark” and a random bit where the characters run into stone giants), but the film just really rambles about. There are too many characters to really get intrigued about any of them. There are too many tangents to know what the audience is supposed to care about. There isn’t a whole lot of tension to be felt anywhere, except in a few random moments.

Which is too bad, really. If the movie hiding within the HFR 3D shininess and the rambling action pieces were better told, nobody would give a fart about the effects or the HFR. If this were a good movie with some awkward effects, it would be a joy despite its flaws. Instead, this is an okay movie buried under an avalanche of technology.

I do recommend seeing the film. It is quite the spectacle to see on the big screen, and it is entertaining despite its aimlessness.

I’m going to be in the movies!

Nacho Vigalondo, Elijah Wood, and Tim League

Nacho Vigalondo, Elijah Wood, and Tim League at Fantastic Fest 2010. I assure you, the party is always where Nacho is.

It’s true! I am currently slated to be an extra in the new Nacho Vigalondo film, and filming happens TONIGHT! It also sounds like I’ll get to sling my camera around at the shoot, so I’ll be able to document a single night of behind-the-scenes goodness.

I’ll be arriving at the shoot at 9:00 PM CST, and I’m scheduled to be there until 8:00 AM CST. Thus, if you’re a nightowl and want to hear about what happens on a movie shoot, tune in to my Twitter feed. There is normally a lot of waiting around on a movie shoot, so I’ll probably have plenty to say online.

I’ve not heard specifically which film we are shooting tonight, but I presume it is Open Windows. Really, any Nacho Vigalondo movie is a good thing. If you haven’t seen Timecrimes (currently available on Netflix Streaming), you should have a look.