ARRI OCU-1 REVIEW

The ARRI OCU-1 is a product that caught my attention when it was first shown at IBC in 2018. Even though it was primarily designed to enable camera operators to override and return focus, iris, and zoom controls from the WCU-4 Wireless Compact Unit, it can also be used as an electronic follow focus by … Continued

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Westcott FJ400 is a sleek 400ws portable flash head with cross-platform radio trigger

Lighting and accessory manufacturer Westcott has announced a studio-style battery operated portable flash head that it claims has a recycle time of less than a second at full power, and which can be triggered by a wireless controller that’s compatible with the TTL flash system of ‘virtually any camera brand’. The Westcott FJ400 is a mono-block style head that takes Bowens S mount modifiers and which is powered by a 4400mAh lithium polymer battery that is said to deliver more than 480 full power bursts per charge. The heads also come with an AC power lead.

A dial on the side of the unit allows the power to be adjusted over a 9-stop range in full or 1/10th stop increments, and flash duration varies between 1/1280sec and 1/19,000sec depending on output levels and the mode set. The head can pulse to match a 20fps camera drive and allows high speed sync with shutter speeds as short as 1/8000sec. The wireless system in driven by a particularly powerful 2.4GHz radio communication network that the company says has a range of 300m/985ft, and heads can be organised in 10 groups over 16 channels.

A large display panel on the side of the flash allows users to see at the glance the unit’s settings and a 20W LED modelling lamp helps to preview the look of the light before the shutter is pressed. Westcott has mounted the flash tube well away from the body of the housing to push light out at a wide angle and a diffuser dome is supplied in kits as an accessory to soften the light before it enters the modifier.

Westcott has also introduced wireless controller for the head that it says is compatible with a wide range of flash systems from different camera manufacturers. Each Westcott FJ-X2m Universal Wireless Flash Trigger is said to work with Canon, Nikon, Sony (with adapter), Fuji, Panasonic Lumix, and Olympus cameras, as well as the Canon RT flash system. It is powered by its own lithium ion battery that is good for over 200,000 triggers per charge, and sits in the camera’s hotshoe. The controller is also supplied with a Bluetooth connection that allows it to be adjusted remotely using a smartphone app.

The Westcott FJ400 basic kit costs $569.90 and the FJ-X2m controller costs $99.90, and both are due to ship in late October. For more information see the Westcott website.

Paxton Winters’s Aronofsky-Produced Pacified Wins Top Prize at San Sebastian; Other Dramas Explore Franco’s Legacy and the Spanish Civil War

San Sebastian has always been a place where the past meets the present with some finesse, its Art Nouveau buildings nestling happily next to the angular lines of the film festival’s main Kursaal auditorium, opened in 1999 and intended to mimic “two beached rocks.” This mix of energy is reflected in the audiences who attend, often seen snacking on a glass of wine and one of the city’s traditional pintxo canapes as they patiently queue for the cinema, and who generally break out into a round of spontaneous hand-clapping as the festival’s jazzy introduction plays before each film. History seemed […]

10 Movies From 2019 Audiences Liked But Critics Didn’t

Every year has them – the films that divide the audiences, and elicit only extreme responses of utter despise, or complete fascination. Even more frequently, these reactions are pretty equally split between critics and the audiences.

While there are some films that manage to completely bridge these “divides”, and stun both critics and moviegoers, while achieving a good box-office success, it is more frequent that we see movies completely trashed by critics whose success isn’t in the slightest derailed by that.

In this list, we look at films that were hated by critics, but liked by the audiences – the criteria that a film needed to pass to make the list is good box office success, and a large difference between the critics and audiences’ ratings.

 

1. The Art of Racing in the Rain

Even judging only by the synopsis, the first film is pretty obviously a critics’ pet peeve, but is it for a good reason? The Art of Racing in the Rain is adapted from a novel by Garth Stein, and its protagonist is a dying golden retriever, waiting for his owner to come home. Naturally, this sounds a little on the nose, and it doesn’t really get more subtle – the dog then proceeds to narrate his life, with Danny, a prospective professional race-driver (Milo Ventimiglia), and later, his wife Eve (Amanda Seyfried).

Things happen as they usually do in movies, and the couple welcomes a daughter, and then faces a serious illness, death, and an ensuing custody battle, which all pretty closely corresponds with a plot of made-for-TV movie. The dog also suffers health issues before dying, while the film introduces the old Mongolian belief that dogs are reincarnated as humans after they die. Without spoiling the film for anyone, it is pretty clear where this is going.

Naturally, critics found the film “sentimental and contrived”, as well as shamelessly emotionally manipulative. Others added that it seems predictably hell-bent on making the audience cry, and isn’t afraid to use clichés to accomplish this. Of course, the reviews aren’t all completely bad, some consider its predictability to be an asset in heightening the emotional impact, but the reception definitely differs from that of the audiences.

The film exceeded its projected opening weekend earnings, and seems to have found good footing with moviegoers who found it entertaining, well-done and heart-warming. Clearly, the audiences found the catharsis it offered a good return on their money – no wonder, as this is a formulaic film made to severely tug at people’s heartstrings, and allow them to have a good cry in the theater, and forget all about it the same day.

 

2. 47 Meters Down: Uncaged

This sequel to a seemingly more successful 2017 film 47 Meters Down essentially doesn’t offer much novelty – it follows a group of girls who scuba dive to a sunken Mayan city, only to be trapped by sharks. Not to be confused by the preceding movie which had two sisters get trapped by sharks while in Mexico, which makes it not very clear why this had to be a separate film.

Essentially, the critics’ consensus on both films is pretty clear: there isn’t much artistry or originality to behold here, as it has been called a “Jaws knock-off”, and even toothless, but it does offer low-stakes entertainment and cheap thrills, which is by any means, hardly a ringing endorsement.

However, audiences seemed to have enjoyed it for the same reason, as it did fairly well at the box office, and received much less scathing reviews from the viewers, who called it suspenseful and entertaining. This completely encapsulates the essence of what is clearly pictured as a summer audience pleaser, with little to no substance or rememberability.

 

3. Overcomer

In this Christian take on Friday Night Lights, a high school basketball coach and his team find themselves in a difficult times, after the town’s manufacturing plant gets shut down, leaving numerous families without a constant income stream. However, this is hardly a comment on the troubles of the working class, or an analysis of family and friendship – it is more accurately an unsubtle diatribe about the transformative power of prayer, that managed to find its audience, and – based on the majorly favorable audience reviews – satisfy their cinematic needs.

However, the critics didn’t hold back, calling it awkward and predictable at best, and preachy, cheesy and manipulative at worst, criticizing the film’s need to completely spell out its messages, instead of letting the audiences do the work in at least reaching the predetermined conclusions themselves.

The audiences, on the other hand, found it inspiring, powerful, and uplifting, praising the performances, and the message. Again, it could be that the movie was exactly what the audiences wanted out of it, but that doesn’t make the criticisms any less valuable from the aesthetic and narrative standpoint.

 

4. The Upside

This remake of the highly successful and highly beloved 2011 French film The Intouchables doesn’t seem to really improve or touch on the original, thereby failing to justify its mere existence, let alone the time and money it asks from its viewers.

These are the resources that they seem to have willingly given up, with the film doing well commercially, and getting favorable reviews from the audiences who found it charming, funny, uplifting, heartwarming, and multiple other positive adjectives. It is very possible that they didn’t know of the original, or any of the other two remakes, and couldn’t compare this version to them, but it seems like they were pleased with the performances by Kevin Hart as a paroled ex convict, and Bryan Cranston as his paraplegic, billionaire boss.

However, critics didn’t share the enthusiasm, calling the film manipulative, clichéd, “hackneyed”, even preachy and nothing more than a “light crowd pleaser”. The original film inspired some of the similar complaints, but to a much smaller extent, and mostly in retrospect, with the critics reactions matching the audiences’ much more closely, which indicates that it simply handled its subject matter more skillfully, leaving little reasons for the 2019 film to even exist, aside from the obvious language change, and the box office earnings.

 

5. Godzilla: King of the Monsters

Another sequel on the list is a sequel of the 2014 Godzila and the 35th film in the overall Godzilla franchise, so the fact that some viewers found it a little passé isn’t that shocking. These viewers, are however, mostly the professional viewers, as its box office earnings were over double the production budget. Additionally, while some viewers has complaints, most of them found it interesting and compelling, praising the visuals and the action sequence.

This is the one aspect where they agree with the critics, who found the effects impressive, but not so much that they eliminate the need for good storytelling. They mostly found the film dull, emotionless, and completely unable to deal with its own magnitude. This makes the cutting-edge effects even sadder, after thinking about what they could be achieved while serving a better story.

Cherry Blossoms & Demons – VIFF 2019 Review

Eleven years ago at VIFF 2008 (where does the time go?) there was a fair bit of praise falling like confetti on writer-director Doris Dörrie’s plaintive and heartfelt drama Cherry Blossoms. An East-West culture clash story with a lackadaisical pace, sumptuous visuals and a peculiar poetry to it all as Dörrie rendered a slow goodbye between long-married couple Rudi (Elmar Wepper) and Trudi (Hannelore Elsner). Her new film, Cherry Blossoms & Demons is a well-meaning but often overworked supernatural sequel centering on Rudi and Trudi’s adult son Karl (Golo Euler).

Not so long ago Karl was an outstanding professional but he’s fallen on hard times; the bottle and deep depression. When he shows up unannounced, panda-masked and three sheets to the wind at his estranged daughter’s birthday party, it’s obvious that he’s utterly out of control and in need of help. Help appears in odd ways for Karl, first in the hard-to-make-out form of a ghost that scares him silly and then in the form of Rudi’s butoh dancing companion from the previous film, Yu (Aya Irizuki). Rudi isn’t particularly pleased to have Yu resurface as his salvation considering she was the biggest beneficiary of his dad’s will.

From here things grow even more muddled as Yu guides Karl back to his family home and ultimately back to Japan before the whole tale plays out and wears out. Thankfully the convoluted course of the film is salvaged rather sweetly by the late Kirin Kiki (this was her final film before she lost her long battle with cancer last year) as Yu’s grandmother. Her scenes, while maudlin at time, are also an absolute delight.

Fans of Dörrie’s first film are bound to appreciate many aspects of this restless and often recherché spin-off, but it’s an inconsistent experience. Sometimes it feels like Jodorowsky-lite and then a sequence of tired Freudian psychology spoils the mood. The messy spirituality and cribbing from Kurosawa’s Ikiru serves to remind us that that’s a far better film, and there’s ample misuse of other tropes (a femme fatale/manic pixie mashup doesn’t help much).

Apart from the aforementioned scenes with the esteemed Kiki, the dance sequences are beautifully choreographed and performed, and that may be more than enough for filmgoers to appreciate and overlook the disparity that haunts and hinders Cherry Blossoms & Demons.

Taste of Cinema Rating: 3 stars (out of 5)

Author Bio: Shane Scott-Travis is a film critic, screenwriter, comic book author/illustrator and cineaste. Currently residing in Vancouver, Canada, Shane can often be found at the cinema, the dog park, or off in a corner someplace, paraphrasing Groucho Marx. Follow Shane on Twitter @ShaneScottravis.

iPhone 11 sample gallery

It’s missing the telephoto camera that the Pro model is equipped with, but the iPhone 11 has plenty to offer between a new ultra-wide camera, Night Mode and an updated Portrait Mode. We’re testing out some of these features in more detail, but for now take a look at the image quality Apple’s latest generation of phones is capable of.

See our iPhone 11 sample gallery

Scarborough – VIFF 2019 Review

Adapted for the screen by director Barnaby Soutcombe (I, Anna [2012]) from Fiona Shaw’s 2008 play, Scarborough is a smart and slippery inquiry into two problematical student-teacher romances over three days in the eponymous coastal town of Scarborough, North Yorkshire.

As the film opens we are greeted, along with Liz (Jodhi May) by a chatty hotel concierge (Daniel York) and then pulled into the expansive lobby of the Scarborough hotel, and it all seems to forebode some kind of mischief. Cut to Liz guiding a young man, Daz (Jordan Bolger) easily half her age to her room and one wonders if we aren’t in for a frisky comedy of manners?

It’s revealed that Liz and Daz are teacher and student and they’re barely in their room before they’re pawing on each other and making love. Daz rather humorously finishes way too early and is on his phone in a blink as Liz is left to soak in the surroundings, including the lull of the ocean just outside their luxurious suite.

The affair of Liz and Daz runs parallel another hot for teacher affair in the same hotel, this one between 40ish Aiden (Edward Hogg) and “barely sixteen” Beth (Jessica Barden, great in the role that somewhat echoes her recent enfant terrible character on the excellent Netflix series The End of the F***ing World).

Initially, with the steamy shenanigans and off-season resort town vibe, it almost feels like we’re in for a Rohmer-like sex farce, but that’s a misdirect.

While these characters show questionably loose morals and one wonders if the teachers, clearly manipulating their younger companions, don’t deserve the inevitable schism that these sorts of affairs, at least in the movies, inevitably lead to. And their student-lovers, while doe-eyed at times, aren’t pushovers, either. Complicating matters more is that these are a likeable, lovely, even commendable bunch. Their lives are complex, and while they may have spouses or professional careers put in danger, Barnaby doesn’t want to punish them.

At one point Aiden and Beth enjoy some midway rides and devour cotton-candy, to which Beth eagerly confesses: “This is my favorite food!” Aiden, with a diverting roll of the eye points out the obvious, “it’s just sugar,” and this seems to underscore what the adult halves of these twin relationships are abiding; an ultimately empty-calorie affair that will result in a spoiled gut.

The effectively intrusive camerawork, largely hand-held, makes the film more provocative and voyeuristic, and that’s a definitive plus, and while the end twist is a tad too predictable, it’s clear to see why this fine if slight tale makes for a sweet amusement.

Taste of Cinema Rating: 3.5 stars (out of 5)

Author Bio: Shane Scott-Travis is a film critic, screenwriter, comic book author/illustrator and cineaste. Currently residing in Vancouver, Canada, Shane can often be found at the cinema, the dog park, or off in a corner someplace, paraphrasing Groucho Marx. Follow Shane on Twitter @ShaneScottravis.

Paradise Hills – VIFF 2019 Review

Vivid colors and chic camera choreography are beautifully bound together in the initial scenes of Alice Waddington’s feature length directorial debut, the erratic yet always elegant sci-fantasy Paradise Hills. But it’s a film that opens perhaps too big; Waddington playfully presents a richly imagined world that’s part musical, part mystery, and overfull with intrigue and possibility. Like the illusory love child of Dhonielle Clayton’s “The Belles” and William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson’s “Logan’s Run” it hits the viewer hard and fast. A neon-lit, Mediterranean swayed Shangri-La that, before long exasperates the audience.

Yes, there’s a story amidst the eye-popping production design from Laia Colet, a rather convoluted and cloudy one from Waddington, Brian DeLeeuw, and Nacho Vigalando. Though it all begins rather simply––a shame the story didn’t stay more simplistic, as the dazzling visuals can only carry so much––with Uma (Emma Roberts), after a brief operatic preface, suddenly awakens with no provocation, on a lush island called Paradise.

Instantly understanding she’s a prisoner here, she soon finds that her rose garden-addled and Escher-inspired environs is actually a rehab-like facility for young women, headed by The Duchess (Milla Jovovich). Uma has been placed in this odd but opulent facility at the behest of her busy-body parents who want their daughter to be up to snuff and marriage material for Son (Amaud Valois), who belongs to the same snooty upper-crust royalty as they, even though Uma is in love with a poor boy (of course!) played by Jeremy Irvine.

Other young women reluctantly kept at Paradise include Amarna (Eiza González), Chloe (Danielle Macdonald, and Yu (Awkwafina), and before long they’ve bonded and suspect all sorts of sinister deeds that of course are unfolding behind the scenes. When the Duchess first meets Uma she sort of gives it all away when she says: “Some people complain that rose bushes have thorns, I rejoice that thorn bushes have roses.”

There’s some fun to be had in the fairytale-like unfolding of Paradise Hills. And many of the calore-rich and completely crackpot visuals are a sight to behold. The costume design from Alberto Valcárcel is decadent with retrofuturism and gothic minutiae, duly matched by Alfonso Mancha’s ostentatious set decoration and the shifting cinematography from Josu Inchaustegui. But after an hour or less (decidedly less) Paradise Hills becomes overcooked. A classic case of too many ingredients in the stew, each overpowering the other resulting in gaudy goop.

The acting is fine, if a little over-the-top in the case of Jovovich, but she’s the villain, so that’s okay. Her Duchess is campy on occasion, and that works best considering the steep cliffs Paradise Hills throw the viewer down. It’s a real tragedy that a film that begins with such high concept designs and such jaw-dropping study should become such a mixed bag of bland.

Waddington’s film looks absolutely astounding, it’s a drop-dead gorgeous production, worth a recommendation for those merits alone. But the eye candy is all empty calories and upsets the tummy. For all the visual spectacle there’s just as much that galls and grates. For instance, Waddington ends it all with a cliché crane shot to force an emotional response that’s sadly too close to retching.

Taste of Cinema Rating: 2.5 stars (out of 5)

Author Bio: Shane Scott-Travis is a film critic, screenwriter, comic book author/illustrator and cineaste. Currently residing in Vancouver, Canada, Shane can often be found at the cinema, the dog park, or off in a corner someplace, paraphrasing Groucho Marx. Follow Shane on Twitter @ShaneScottravis.

Landscape photography with a drone: the advantages – part 2

In the previous article in this series, I elaborated on the compositional advantages of the drone compared to land-based shooting. I claimed that the drone offers infinitely more compositional opportunities, which results from the fact that the photographer isn’t bound to the ground. This allows better perspectives and separation of the compositional elements.

In this article I’d like to talk about two more advantages of shooting with a drone, which particularly relate to the comparison with manned-aircraft based shooting: the drone’s availability and its ability to take off and land anywhere.

The Springs of Ojos Del Campo, Argentina. The only way of seeing this scene from the air is using a drone. DJI Mavic II Pro, 1/400 sec, F8, ISO 100. Puna De Argentina

Availability and Running Costs

I would be remiss if I neglected to state that in tandem with its ability to fly, the drone’s availability is the very thing that made the drone change the world of photography forever.

Today’s drones are amazing machines. An idiot-proof, tiny, light, foldable quad-copter can easily fit in your photo bag with several spare batteries and the remote control, while leaving room for a your entire DSLR and lens arsenal. Each of these batteries can last for up to half an hour (!) of flight. Under favorable conditions, you can send the drones 5 kilometers or more away and 500 meters high while maintaining connection (in theory, that is, as it’s illegal in most countries to fly higher than 120m and out of sight).

An aerial perspective exposes the beautiful contour and layers of the shore of the Dead Sea.
DJI Mavic II Pro, 1/20 sec, F4, ISO 200. Ein Gedi, Israel

You can bring a drone with you to any shoot, fly it in any terrain and in harsher weather that you think. You can fly it while sitting comfortably inside a heated car, with the spare batteries charging quickly as you fly. It’s portable enough to hike or even climb with. For the experienced drone user, it can take less than 3 minutes to set up and be airborne, when time is of the essence.

This light on the top of a huge iceberg was disappearing and reappearing with the horizon clouds obscuring the sun to the north west. With the drone, I had the choice of when exactly to fly to optimize my photography and get the best light.
DJI Mavic II Pro, 1/30 sec, F7.1, ISO 100. Kangia Fjord, Greenland

Needless to say, a manned aircraft is not always available. Some natural landscapes one wishes to shoot are far in the back country with no airport or heliport nearby. With a drone, you are free from these worries. An hour of flight in a Cessna can cost hundreds of dollars, and yours truly has once been given a quote of $4200 per hour (Or $70 per minute. Yes, that’s right) for a helicopter flight. Flying a drone is virtually free.

This river of lava burst out of the mountain side before my eyes. After picking up my jaw from the floor, I grabbed my drone and sent it right to the source of the flow.
DJI Phantom 4 Pro, 1/100 sec, F6.3, ISO 400. Kilauea Volcano, Island of Hawaii

Ability to take off and land anywhere

This ability is a particular aspect of the drone’s unmatched availability. Due to the drone’s minuscule size, it is not only possible to fit it in a camera bag, take it out and have it airborne within minutes. It is actually possible to do so without the need for a helipad – or any kind of takeoff/landing surface whatsoever – after a bit of training, takeoff and landing can be done from the pilot’s hand. This often neglected fact can make a world of difference when the area a photographer is based in is something like a small boat, a place with uneven ground (for example a lava-field or snowy earth) or a roofed area such as a cave.

A typical Targa speed boat in Greenland. There’s no really comfortable place to take off or land, but there’s plenty of space to do so from the pilot’s (or someone else’s) hand.

Taking off from a boat isn’t easy, especially when the open area is crowded or too small. Boats often are loaded with antennas, which makes takeoff from the roof problematic. But the photographer can launch the drone from his hand while standing in the front or back of the boat, thus giving the drone the necessary space for a safe takeoff.

Hand-landing on a boat is a bit more challenging, to say the least. The pilot needs to direct the drone slowly and carefully toward the boat’s open space, then catch the drone in midair by hand. This can be difficult in a number of ways. Firstly, boats tend to sway side to side, and the drone is ideally fixed in its aerial position, thus its course relative to the boat is chaotic. Secondly, the drone’s sensors tend to block it from getting too close the pilot’s hand. Luckily, the sensors can be disabled.

This boat had a much more comfortable open space to take off and land, but it was challenging nevertheless.

Personally, I’ve had more than my share of less-than-pleasant experiences when hand-landing a drone on boats. While the DJI Phantom series has handle-like landing gear which makes it very easy to catch the drone, the Mavic series does not, and a lot can go wrong when trying to maneuver and catch the drone while standing on a swaying boat. The propellers can cut and bruise your fingers or cut through your clothes, and a wrong movement or failure to catch the drone can result in it hitting the boat or worse – taking a nosedive into the water.

A gigantic arched iceberg dwarfs our boat in Disko Bay, Greenland.
DJI Mavic II Pro, 1/30 sec, F8, ISO 100

There’s not much that can be done about this other than practice taking off and landing the drone from your hand. Remember that while a drone can be lost at any moment, images last forever.

For a bit more about flying from a boat, check out my friend Ian’s video about our trip to Greenland earlier this year. Ian suffered a brutal attack by his drone, but survived to tell the tale! Yours truly had plenty of drone fails as well, and the shenanigans meter was on the high side throughout the trip.

In the next article I will conclude the discussion of the drone’s advantages with perhaps the most exciting of its traits: the ability to remain totally fearless in the face of danger!


Erez Marom is a professional nature photographer, photography guide and traveler based in Israel. You can follow Erez’s work on Instagram and Facebook, and subscribe to his mailing list for updates.

If you’d like to experience and shoot some of the world’s most fascinating landscapes with Erez as your guide, take a look at his unique photography workshops in The Lofoten Islands, Greenland, Namibia, the Argentinean Puna, the Faroe Islands and Ethiopia.

Erez offers video tutorials discussing his images and explaining how he achieved them.

More in This Series:

Selected Articles by Erez Marom:

10 Movies That Mark The Decline of Great Directors

There’s no doubt about it, all of the directors I’m highlighting today have at one point been the standard bearers of filmmaking. Each director spoken of today are among the greats of their eras, and arguably of all time. So why am I going to criticize them? Well, like the law of gravity, what goes up must inevitably come down. And in the world of art that’s certainly the case, where what was once great isn’t as great as it used to be. I’m not saying that these directors never made anything good again, but these are 10 Films that Mark the Decline of their Greatness.

 

10. Woody Allen – Celebrity (1998)

celebrity

There was a time where I would’ve made the argument that Woody Allen was the most consistently great director with a prolific filmography. I’ve always been amazed at how dedicated this man is to filmmaking to the point where not only did he make great classics, but made them as often as he did.

It seemed like every year there was a Woody Allen classic to behold; “Love and Death”, “Annie Hall”, “Manhattan”, “Stardust Memories”, “The Purple Rose of Cairo”, “Hannah and her Sisters”, and “Crimes and Misdemeanors” just to name some of his greats. But with a plethora of movies year after year, eventually you start to lose your magic. And when combined with an embarrassing personal life like what Allen was going through for a long time, it makes for a bad mix.

“Celebrity” is a film that feels more like a wannabe Woody Allen film, a film that has so many loose ends and never amounts to much of anything. The actors just perform whatever skit Allen has for them, and then it ends. Allen’s trademarks were still watchable enough but were getting old. It took a while for him to reinvent himself but thankfully he did with works like “Midnight in Paris”.

 

9. Steven Spielberg – A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)

Artificial Intelligence

Well this should come as no surprise. Steven Spielberg is of course a legend in the movie industry. No matter how old we get it’s impossible to deny the wonder and imagination he brought to the silver screen for all of us. But I think even the biggest Spielberg fans will admit that in recent years he hasn’t been the same director he was in his prime.

At the turn of the 21st century it seemed as though a new breed of directors emerged to take the ball and run with it, but Spielberg hasn’t been able to keep up. His first work of the modern era was a love letter to his dear friend Stanley Kubrick, “A.I. Artificial Intelligence”. In all fairness, this is a film that bypasses traditional standards of criticism because it was made for the sake of keeping his friends vision from dying with him.

A lot of what doesn’t work and equals out to a mixed bag of a movie is largely due to Spielberg doing the best with what Kubrick had initially envisioned, and the two are such stylistic opposites that it was sure to backfire in some way. But after this he never really got back on track.

Spielberg has directed what many consider some of his worst work ever since; ranging from “The Terminal”, “War of the Worlds”, “The BFG”, “Ready Player One”, and the infamous “Kingdom of the Crystal Skull”; to decent-at-best movies like “War Horse”, “Lincoln”, and “Bridge of Spies”. Spielberg remains one of the great directors of all time, and no one will be credited as much for creating the cinematic spectacle as much as he has. But the magic is just gone.

 

8. Clint Eastwood – Invictus (2009)

Invictus (2009)

Clint Eastwood is perhaps the single greatest example of an actor-turned-director. He started his directional career with “Play Misty for Me” in 1971 and had some misfires here and there but still had some good work through the 70’s and 80’s like “High Plains Drifter”, “The Outlaw Josey Wales”, and “Pale Rider”.

But Eastwood’s real landmark of a directional effort came with his Best Picture winning “Unforgiven” in 1992. He made some stuff for the next decade that weren’t quite as remarkable, but in 2003 he would find his stride once again with “Mystic River”.

The following year he would follow it up with another Best Picture winner “Million Dollar Baby”, in 2006 he gave us two very good films with “Flags of our Fathers” and “Letters from Iwo Jima”, and then in 2008 he would hit us with two more very good films with “Changeling” and “Gran Torino”. With each film Eastwood was showing the wisdom of an old master combined with the emotional resonance of deeply human characters, however flawed they may be.

Then in 2009 he directed “Invictus”, a semi-decent film but one that felt ordinary compared to his previous works. It never quite got out of second gear and was just cruising along on autopilot, never reaching its potential. Soon afterward it seemed like Eastwood was losing his touch pretty quickly.

From the schlocky romance of “Hereafter”, to the flat out boring bio-dramas of “J. Edgar”, “Jersey Boys”, “Sully”, “The 15:17 to Paris”, and “The Mule” (although that one was romanticized). Not to mention the highly overrated “American Sniper”. When Eastwood played the 90 year old, Earl Stone, in “The Mule” he wasn’t that far off. Eastwood, at the moment I’m writing this, is 89 years old. To be fair, it’s cool that he still wants to do this at his age, but it seems like it’s time to ride off into the sunset.

 

7. Federico Fellini – Fellini Satyricon (1969)

Fellini Satyricon

I mentioned on another article I wrote called “The 10 Greatest Film Auteurs of All Time” that one of the great ironies behind Fellini’s work is that what many people would regard as his greatest achievements Fellini himself called his worst.

Fellini said his best work was in his early career, during the height of Italian Neorealism, and later on his films delved more into his own insecurities to the point where he called himself self-indulgent. But I still maintain Fellini had it all wrong, his semi-autobiographical works like “La Dolce Vita”, “8½”, and “Amarcord” remain his greatest works because they’re the most personal reflections of his life.

But by the same token, Fellini delved more into his Christianity and sexual tendencies with his later works, and nowhere was that more spotlighted than with “Fellini Satyricon”. A hellish, sometimes disgusting series of mythical tales. With this film Fellini delved into more gratuitous nature than ever before, really pushing the boundaries of what he could do. But ambition can be just as much of a disaster as it can be a success. And to hear Fellini tell it he just fell off the rails, just going more and more into his own childhood with his filmography until it ended in 1987.

 

6. John Carpenter – Memoirs of an Invisible Man (1992)

Memoirs of an Invisible Man

John Carpenter is a horror icon, commonly regarded as one of the great horror directors of all time. He started out with some underrated gems like “Dark Star” and “Assault on Precinct 13” but his massive breakthrough came with one of the most influential horror films and a landmark in independent cinema, “Halloween”.

With this Carpenter firmly set in motion the slasher genre and made the go to Halloween movie of all time, after this it was a special release almost every year. From 1980 to 1984 he made “The Fog”, “Escape from L.A.”, “The Thing”, “Christine”, and “Starman” back-to-back-to-back. Two years later he would make the action comedy “Big Trouble in Little China”, then two years after that he made the cult classic “They Live”. It seemed like Carpenter was on a roll and was making a hit year after year.

A few years alter he would return with “Memoirs of an Invisible Man” and it was never the same. This was Carpenter’s first delve into something massively different from his previous works, a noble effort to change things up, but one that flopped since Carpenter just doesn’t have a knack for fantasy-romance.

He attempted to go back to the horror genre in the years that followed but it was severely less than what he once offered; “Village of the Damned”, “Vampires”, and “Ghosts of Mars” aren’t exactly films we hold in the same regard as “Halloween” or “The Thing”. Carpenter has more or less retired from feature filmmaking ever since, with some exceptions here and there. These days he seems to just live off of his past successes, and I think that’s best.

“In a Way, It is My Most Gentle Film…”: Manfred Kirchheimer on His NYFF-Premiering Free Time

There’s poetry in the misery of a hot New York summer day. Spike Lee found it, in 1989, with Do the Right Thing: the sun-drunk torpor, the beads of sweat gliding down bare skin. Where winter tends to drive us indoors, away from the streets, summer promotes a more collective suffering. Rear Window hits a similar note of mutual, summertime malaise. The heat forces characters to sleep on their fire escapes and keep their windows open, turning the private public. Before air conditioners, where else could you escape the heat but outside, with everyone else? Manfred “Manny” Kirchheimer considered many […]

How to Film a Fight Scene | Combat Cinematography 101

Stay tuned to the end for a chance to win a prize!

Every once in a while you will have the opportunity to shoot an action scene of some sort. There are a lot of cinematography techniques that go into good action scenes, and in this episode of 4 Minute Film School we will be discussing some of those techniques in the form of a training scene in a boxing gym. Today, director of photography Oliver Lukacs walks us through how to shoot a training scene in a boxing gym, in the style of movies like Million Dollar Baby or Creed.

In this video, Oliver shows us the steps he takes when shooting a boxing training scene. First, he establishes the scene with a wide angle shot that incorporates camera movement and foreground object movement. This gives a sense of motion to the scene from the very start. Next, he gets inside the action with a tight over the shoulder on the main character. The compressed space and fast movement makes the audience feel like they’re part of the action. Lastly, he reverses the over the shoulder to see the second character. This helps tie the scene together and have something to cut between.

The main techniques we will be discussing today are using a 90 degree shutter angle, building on natural light, making use of foreground elements. A 90 degree shutter is when the camera’s shutter moves faster than normal. This can make motion feel more jittery and energetic. Building on natural light is when your lighting mixes with the light already present in a location. In his case it meant having all the lights coming from the same side of the building as a large open door. Making use of foreground elements is when you place objects in front of the camera to fill the frame. This can add a sense of depth to the image and introduce motion.

Ultimately, as most filmmakers try to tell human stories, learning how to light different characters and locations will help bring your stories to life. Different lighting styles and directions will create different feelings and emotions. It is also important to be able to embrace different sources or motivations for your key lights, as they might lead you to lighting designs that you would never have thought of. There is almost always a way to make the light falling on someone’s face more flattering, but knowing how to make that fit with your scene is an important skill. But it is also essential to be able to embrace the type of lighting that will complement the talent’s face and best tell the story.

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