23 December, 2008

New Director for New Moon? Aaaand discuss....

So in the past couple of weeks, lots of questions have been raised. Is Catherine Hardwicke signed for new Moon? Why isn’t she? What really happened with her and Summit? How is this going to affect the sequel? Who is Chris Weitz? What is he going to do to New Moon? Why is it a dude? Does he like the books? How is he going to change the cast and the film-making experience?

Audiences are still getting used to seeing Catherine Hardwicke’s adaptation of their favorite book. They are still trying to digest how Eric doesn’t sound how they expected, or how Forks is even smaller than imagined and how the meadow scene differed from the text. It’s a lot for fans to swallow. There are a lot of emotions and expectations tied to these adaptations as the cast and film makers of Twilight were well aware. They took the film seriously, incorporated many elements that only fans would recognize, and throughout it all, they tried to stay obsessively true to the book. Not close to the book, that is something different entirely, but true to the book. They tried to keep the setting comfortable and to appear as expected; they kept the main characters as they are in the books, they made sure the relationships read visually as they did textually, and the things that they did change were elements that were believable within Stephenie Meyer’s universe, but worked in a film context and did not force themselves to be slavishly bound to the text.

I think I’m trying rather hard at this point to say “they.” The director runs the show. There’s no question about that, but the director has a lot of influences that they have to work under and around (studio, producers, actors, author, time, money, fan expectation etc). Catherine Hardwicke was no different. It was her show, but she still had to work with Summit, with the small-ish budget, and the legions of fans amongst many other elements. She worked insanely hard on Twilight from conception to script, to location scouting, to casting, to filming, to editing etc. etc. She was in it from beginning to end. I’m sure she was excited for the job as a good career move and all, but there doesn’t seem to ever have been any doubt that she was ultimately a fan of the work. She was not scared to take chances with it, and she even said to me that she was willing to change whatever was needed to make a good film, but ultimately she was still a fan of the book. That sounds rather cut throat to a beloved novel to be willing to cut whatever necessary, but look at the choices that she did make. The major elements that were altered are possibly surprising and slightly jarring at times, but once I got over the initial shock of how the scene was different from the book (the meadow, meeting the Cullens, the greenhouse etc.), I could see that it made that movie-moment better; it took a static scene from the book and made it more visually interesting; it allowed for more movement, and gave a new experience to Bella and Edward- experiences that could develop their relationship further, as we didn’t have pages and pages, or days and days to believe their love as we did when reading the books; we had approximately two hours in a crowded cinema.

I’m not intensely familiar with Chris Weitz, but what I do know of him is both comforting and unnerving. I thoroughly enjoyed About a Boy. It had emotion, character, story, it was well shot, there were great comedic moments as well as heart-wrenching ones, and it was an adaptation- though often very different from the book. I’m not sure how they began that adaptation or what processes were utilized, but I do know quite a bit about how The Golden Compass was adapted, and that makes me nervous. Weitz also worked on the screenplay for The Golden Compass, and I’ve been told that he had one version of the script that was basically rejected and changed and the one that ended up being shot is completely different from what he wrote. If that’s true I wonder why, who told him no, what was wrong with his, how was it different, and what his reaction and thoughts on the new one was. Obviously he shot it, it’d be hard to turn down an opportunity to direct a $180 million blockbuster starring Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig just because you’re unhappy with the changes to your script (and I don’t even know if Weitz was unhappy with the changes or if he approved the changes). Overall, it was a not a well-done adaptation. It was visually stunning, the cast was incredible, I thought the music was lovely, and the costumes and setting unmatched. It had all of the details and grandeur of The Lord of the Rings but with more gold.

And that’s all I can really say about it.

It was evident that the majority of the budget was spent on talent and special effects. Character development and the arch of the story suffered because the emphasis was put on other elements of the film. It’s somewhat similar to the article I had up awhile ago on Eragon- with The Golden Compass they put the focus on different aspects of the ‘bling.’ It too was a Christmas release, it was advertised as a spectacle film, fun family entertainment etc. and the story suffered because of that. The depth of Pullman’s characters and the intimacy of key scenes appeared cheapened on screen; it was literally gilded; lots of shininess with little substance beneath. Similarly to Eragon, The Golden Compass made quite a bit of money in foreign markets but did not do very well in the US and UK markets where the fan base of the novels is heaviest. (It made $70 million in the US, but $360 million Worldwide)

I hope you can see where my concern is coming in. Catherine Hardwicke was given her choice of four films to work on for Summit and she chose Twilight because she loved the story. She chose it. This time around, the studio chose the director; we don’t know if there is any passion or love for the story from this director like we knew there was from Catherine. Summit and Weitz are not blind by any means, as they realize the power of the fan base and how adamant people are about the novels and the care and love put into their adaptation to the screen. Shortly after it was announced that Weitz would be taking over for New Moon, an email was sent to the fans where he thanked them for the honor, and emphasized how excited he is to portray the love story further among other sentiments. He appealed to the fans first, to put them at ease.

Good move on his part.

The fans were supported and encouraged to embrace Twilight from the very beginning and it worked well, as Twilight has already made what, $150 million before it's world-wide release? The leading fan sites were invited on set, information was released weekly via MTV.com, and most importantly in my mind, Stephenie Meyer approved and expressed her excitement for the film, which almost gave permission to the fans to accept and enjoy the film.

This is the part I’m worried about. How involved is the author? Would Twilight have a quarter of the success if Meyer was unhappy with the adaptation? Her involvement and approval of the adaptation was integral to the fans embracing the film.

It would be all too easy at this point for New Moon to fall into a machine-like process. The film makers already know that they have a money maker, regardless of how well the film is done, fans will see it; maybe not a dozen times if it isn’t as good as Twilight, maybe only six times, but you get my point… they’re going to make a lot of money on the Twilight Saga. Because of this sure thing, I hope that they take opportunities to make it a good film. I have not yet heard if or how Stephenie Meyer will be involved in New Moon, but I hope it’s at least as much as she was in Twilight. With Melissa Rosenberg and Greg Mooradian still at the helm, and I’m sure many of the other producers and creative executives from Summit will still be involved, I can’t imagine the love for the works will totally disappear, but it may be more difficult to focus on the story.

With Twilight, no one on set really understood the project that they were working on; they certainly knew the story, but I doubt that anyone was able to guess the mania and obsession that would ensue. During filming it was an organic set, more indie-like; they worked off of the weather, feelings, moods etc. It was definitely structured, it didn't all just flow hippy-like, but it was a bit more of a creative process. Things changed daily, small elements were added for fun and for fans, and I worry that those are the bits that will get lost with New Moon. Everyone on set this time ‘round will realize how big what they’re working on is. It has Harry Potter status now… everyone has heard of it, people will be vying to get onto it, security will be tighter, and the indie-flick feeling will probably disappear entirely, and that is possibly my favorite element of Twilight. I love that it isn’t a cheesy teen flick with no heart; it’s edgier, and more real than that. There’s nothing ‘Bring it On’-like about Twilight.

It all sounds quite negative at the moment, doesn’t it? I don’t mean to be so negative, brilliant things can happen with new directors. Weitz did just do Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist, which I haven't seen yet, but it's supposed to have a more indie spin, and be somewhat Juno-like. Also, many articles have appeared in the last week discussing other series that have had different directors that have been successful (the Bourne films, and Harry Potter of course among others), and that’s definitely a good point.

I’ve said it before, but the first two Harry Potter films were painful in my mind. They tried too hard to stay true to the book to the point that the fidelity overpowered the film’s ability to be a good film. Alfonso Cuaron changed substantial parts of the book when he took over the helm for The Prisoner of Azkaban and this caused millions of fans to rage, but it made a better film. The series is growing; it is learning. The films have improved, the scripts are more sophisticated, the characters are deeper, more emotional and developed and yes that’s partially because the characters are growing up with the actors who are also gaining talent and experience, but the changing directors was a good thing for the Harry Potter series. A new director can fill in gaps that were missing and bring fresh eyes to a story.

I’m just concerned. But that’s my job as an analytical student. I’m concerned that the girl-power aspect has dropped slightly with a male at the helm, but it is just as sexist to say a man can’t make an accurate film about love as a woman; brilliant directors have done it, and while it’s a smidge of a blow to the feminist in me, he’s still a good film maker, and I’m anxious to see how he takes this story, makes it his own, but still maintains the passion and detail from the book to Hardwicke’s adaptation. He’ll have to maintain many elements of the first film just so it isn’t too jarring and the first flows well into the second, so it will be interesting to see how he utilizes Hardwicke’s adaptation and yet changes it to suit his own vision.

I’m concerned that they seem to be so focused on a timetable, although I understand the needs; Rob and Kristen are going to be fought for from now on by many studios, at least for awhile, so getting them while they are both free and still look 17 needs to be a priority. Locations need to be scouted, and I don’t know if they’ll be back in Portland or will look for new locations, but I do still hope most of the filming is on location. I know how difficult that can be (most directors dream of being able to control all elements of the set, including the weather, and we have all read how difficult the weather was during the filming of Twilight), but the locations really add to the believability and ambiance of Twilight, in my mind. I know it can be replicated in a studio… but there again lies some of the organic indie elements that may be lost.

I’m concerned about the SAG strike too! I'm just hoping that all of that gets sorted and goes well…

So there it is for now. Many, many things to consider. There are hundreds of tiny decisions in making a film that all contribute to the overall success or failure of it. I highly doubt they’ll have to worry about New Moon failing in the box office, but they do have to worry about alienating fans, and producing a work that cheapens a beloved story and has no uniqueness to it, thereby discrediting much of the series and possibly affecting the success of future films in the Saga. The Golden Compass seemed to just fit in a slot for fantastic holiday film. I don’t think New Moon should just fit into the slot for teenage love story. I hope the indie/edgie feel can be maintained, and hopefully the bigger budget that New Moon is getting will go towards making the wolves look like wolves and not cartoons, and that’s it. Please no gold-coated carriages, spend the money on more scenes of the story, not special effects; so help me if $30 million of the budget is spent on the Volturi’s lair just because it will have gold in it...

Anywho... Happy Holidays to all! I'm back in the States and enjoying it after a ridiculously miserable flight home (screaming children for 8 hours, and a very nervous flyer next to me who kept grabbing my arm during slightly turbulent times... so good to be back on the ground now!).

I'm stoked for a little down time away from my University, and am crossing my fingers for New Moon set experience, as well as a possible job on a certain film about a boy wizard...

...more to come.

18 December, 2008

UK Release tonight! And other updates...

So Twilight is out for general release tonight at midnight in the UK, so of course I'm stoked to finally be able to see it again. I've been processing everything from the first screening, and now there are about two dozen things I need to see again... and possibly again and again.

I'm heading to London tonight for the general release, flying home for the holidays on Monday, and I will be home for a couple of weeks (YAY!). You can certainly look for more analysis of the film as that will be happening fast and furiously hopefully, but first I'm going to have something up about the director issues.

A lot of people have been asking for my opinions and thoughts on the switch, so that will be the next thing I have up. A lot of elements go into making a film, different elements into making one of a series, and the director has a lot to do with all of it, so this is a big switch; a surprising one perhaps to most, not necessarily a bad switch, but certainly something to ponder and dare I say it, be wary of. I'm worried about the timing, the slight rush, his past projects (you all know my feelings on The Golden Compass... though that is certainly not all his fault)... anyway, I wish I could have done it earlier as things just keep unfolding around Twilight and New Moon, but that whole 'life' thing gets in the way! The end of the semester was insanely busy!

More soon...

07 December, 2008

General Review of Twilight

Okay! Here it is! My general review of Twilight (more in-depth stuff to follow in the coming weeks). I've rushed a bit to get it out to you, so I'm sorry if it's not as clean and precise as other articles, but at least it's up and readable :)

So, as soon as the film ended, Robbie asked me to sum it up in one word. At first, I said “hm…” because I was still digesting everything I’d just seen, but he said “that doesn’t count. It is an interesting response, coming from you, but it doesn’t count.” I thought about it for a few minutes, and “pleased” was my response. There is much for me to discuss, analyze and question, but overall I am pleased.

Firstly it was good to finally see all of the clips that were released prior to the film’s debut edited together cohesively as the film makers wished them to be viewed. I always get a bit worried before seeing films that I’ve studied or obsessed over that I’ve ruined my experience by watching all of the publicity leading up to the release, and while it does give me certain preconceived expectations, I didn’t find that it took anything away from my first full viewing of Twilight. It was satisfying to see it all linearly and not disjointed, not to mention the beauty of seeing it on the big screen with surround sound instead of on my computer screen or re-recorded YouTube videos, and also seeing the scenes that I was present for during filming to see how they ended up after editing, sound added, etc. It was very cool to see those scenes and think, "I'm sitting right behind that tree," and remember how I was an extra in one scene during my last day on set? Yeah... I definitely saw myself in the background of Forks when Bella and Charlie are in the cruiser at the beginning. Very surreal.

As I said, I am very pleased with the film. Whenever a popular book is adapted there is the worry of how it will be done, how they will use the book, what they will do to beloved lines, scenes, settings etc., and for the most part, I think Twilight kept what they needed to keep (thanks to the producers for replacing the previously cut Lion and Lamb line among many other things retained from the book), and they didn’t change much that fans would believe couldn’t be changed (I suppose I can forgive the fact that there isn’t a black leather sofa in Edward’s room… although it kind of pains me as we all know the importance of that piece of furniture). Of the things that were added to the film and not in the book, I feel that the vast majority of the extra scenes are well done; they add necessary information to the story, or develop characters and their relationships effectively.

These additions are important; in the book we have pages and pages to get to know these characters and how they interact with each other, but in the film we needed a few extra elements to develop those relationships since we didn't have pages of text and ample time to get familiar with them. There are many examples that I’ll go into as I thoroughly analyze the film, but the element that sticks out in my mind to support this at the moment are the scenes between Bella and her parents. I think Charlie and Renee are two of the best-interpreted characters in the film. Renee is just the right amount of loving and erratic, and Billy Burke really pins down the taciturn and yet strong elements of Charlie. He is quiet and reserved, but his underlying love for Bella and desire to be with her and protect her is evident every time they are together (The perfect awkwardness of Bella giving him comfort after Wayland dies, the “thank you” to Charlie after he gets her new tires, and I love when he’s cleaning his gun and cocks it, ready to meet Edward).

The film has that edgy, indie look that I’ve come to expect from a Catherine Hardwicke film, and I am very grateful for that. It would have been too easy for this to become a cheesy teenage love story that was over the top schmaltzy with popular music and mediocre, melodramatic

acting. But with Catherine’s distinct style, Kristen Stewart’s stellar performance as a relatable, strong but slightly awkward Bella, and Rob Pattinson clearly illustrating the many sides of Edward from the jovial teenager in the throes of first love, to the self-deprecating and self-loathing monster that he believes himself to be, this is not a typical teen flick.

It is edgy, dark, intense, passionate, and there are no easy answers in this relationship and we haven’t yet seen a rosy, happy ending. I’m also grateful that like Stephenie Meyer, the film makers didn’t speak down to their audience. They maintained the adult themes without being over the top, and they added witty, snarky dialogue that fits in with both Meyer’s style and a teenager’s reality. While lines like “Speedo padding on the swim team…” or “I like this dress,

it makes my boobs look good…” may sound as though they are trying to emphasize more sexual topics, it’s more believable as a real teenage conversation, and the reality of Catherine Hardwicke’s films and the believability of the characters in her films has always been one of her strengths. It’s these added lines as well as bits like Charlie drawing a halo over his head when he’s about to meet Edward, or his nonverbal response (he throws his arms in the air) when Bella asks if he told her mother about the almost-accident that really bring depth to the characters and make them recognizable and relatable. They have quirks, just like us.

I can’t make the whole review rosy, or I wouldn’t be a very good film student, so here are a few quick points that I found jarring and I will analyze further in the future:

* The tinkling sounds effect when Edward sparkled- although I found the sparkle well executed. It would have been so easy to make that sparkle cheesy and unrealistic…but the tinkling almost made it less-believable. The effect spoke for itself.

* Certain lines missing/changed/dropped. I don’t have a problem in theory with changing lines; as I’ve said before, it is necessary to change elements of a book when adapting it for film so it translates well from the medium of text to screen, but there were some missing or changed that I didn’t agree with, or I didn’t see the reasoning behind changing them.

For example, “If I could dream at all, it would be of you” isn’t there, and it might not have fit, but it's one of those iconic lines that I'm guessing most of the audience was waiting for… or when he and Bella are walking into school and he says “if I’m going to hell…” and it drops off, and I naturally want to finish the line from the book with “I might as well do it thoroughly.” And also, the conversation in the car after Edward saves Bella in Port Angeles. In the film it’s just “put your seat belt on,” and while I understand there wasn’t the set-up to the scene to share the “I want to run over Tyler” line, it was a good opportunity to share a well-loved moment from the novel that might have fit better, or a witty Bella-comment from the film like, “I think Kirk stuffs his Speedo” or something… Obviously I’m still thinking all of this out.

*I’m not sold on the flash-back scene to the Cullens and the Quileutes. I found them artistically out of character with the rest of the film, and while that is the nature of a flashback, this seemed a jump of genre or class to me. It took us from a rough and raw scene (my crazy-rainy first day of set) of Jacob and Bella on First Beach and made it dreamlike, Disney-esque, and fuzzily surreal… I was waiting for the wave-fade and slide effect like a Waynes World spoofed dream-sequence to cap it off... I think a flashback could still occur at this point without my initial reaction being “cheese.”

*There were a few characters that I found jarring: Tyler, Mike, and Esme. I’m not sure if this is due to the difference of the film character to the book character, or if it’s just some other personal reaction, but I found them a bit off.

-Tyler was basically a bully. While in the book he’s annoyingly persistent, he doesn’t throw things at Bella (in the film he chucks something at her to get her attention in the school’s parking lot… to me this is just as horrid as snapping your fingers to get someone’s attention- rude), he doesn’t make fun of her car as soon as she parks on her first day at Forks High, and he doesn’t pull the chair out from under Mike and give Bella a harassing kiss on the cheek.

-Mike is a great character, and I think Mike Welch played him very well, but he also took on a more annoying/bullying slant rather than the golden retriever depiction that comes across in the book. Shaking his rainy hat on her, calling her “girl” and “Arizona” repeatedly, and while I love the scene between Bella and Mike when he says “So you and Cullen, huh? I don’t like it… he looks at you like you’re something to eat,” but it was very rushed, and it made Mike look cocky instead of protective.

Then again, this could be exactly what the film makers were going for. They might have thought Tyler and Mike were too close, and needed to distinguish them a bit more on screen from each other and from Edward and Jacob, so the bullying and pestering aspects of the characters were emphasized. Maybe they wanted to show Mike as cocky, protective AND jilted... Who knows? Perhaps that’s a question I can ask them in the future.

-And Esme I balked at mostly in her first scene when they are making Bella Italian food. It’s a great scene; it takes a rather static scene from the book and makes it more visual. I loved the way that it appears in the book: at the front door, slightly awkward and uncertain, but it would help it to be more visual for the film and could therefore stand to have some humorous action added to it, like the Cullens cooking (it was certainly funny to see Emmet wielding a huge knife and slicing mushrooms). Anyway… it just irked me that the first line to Bella in that scene comes from Esme who says, “Bella we’re making Italiano for you.” This is an awkward moment for Bella, meeting the boyfriend's vampire family for the first time, and for Edward, the perpetually single guy introducing the first girl he's ever brought home, and there isn't a welcome or a greeting. In the novels, Esme is so gracious and thoughtful, and her hospitality is something referred to repeatedly, that it startled me that she jumped straight into that conversation instead of introducing herself, welcoming Bella or some other expected initial response.

Things I thoroughly appreciated/enjoyed and will expand upon in the future:

* The Indi-esque feel of the film. Thank you Catherine Hardwicke. Her architectural background, visual sense for all scenes, her love for the book and her desire to honor it as much as possible, and her sense of reality, rawness and authenticity all shine through. Of course there are blips, in my opinion, but this film would have been so much worse off had it been “Hollywoodized.”

*Bella is strong and independent. Yes, she’s awkward and solitary, but Bella is no damsel in distress. I love when she figures out what Edward is, before they go into the woods, and you can see the determination in her face; the necessity to confront him, call him on all of his crap and get the information she wants.

*The clever inserts: Edward catching the apple like the Twilight cover, Stephenie Meyer’s cameo where she orders a veggie sandwich, and when Bella Googles the legends, Little Brown comes up in the search results (Stephenie’s publisher) as well as Gillian Bohrer who was the Summit representative on set who was there for the extent of the filming.

*Rob’s songs. The lyrics, tone, and placement are ideal (if you haven’t Googled the lyrics yet, do it. It adds a whole new dimension to the songs and their placement in the film). I think the restaurant is where Bella truly makes her choice to be with Edward, but he’s not yet decided and wishes her to be safe from him, so it’s very appropriate for that song to be playing. And in the ballet studio, the pain in his voice during the moment when he puts his mouth on Bella’s arm just has every ounce of emotion you want for a climactic scene.


*The foreshadowing. That great closing shot that focuses on Bella and Edward, pans back over the shoulder of someone, we recognize it’s Victoria who turns, takes her hair down, and the music goes from quiet-romantic to Radiohead; it's intimidating, edgy, and menacing. Also, Edward’s line at the prom after they walk away from Jacob, “I leave you alone for two minutes and the wolves descend…” is great. People unfamiliar with the books will understand precisely what he means without thinking twice, but fans will understand the extra meaning there and appreciate its insertion.

*The soft focus on Mike when he asks Bella to prom and the sharp focus on Edward in the background. It effectively shows where her attention really lies.

*The flowers in the meadow are the same color that they are in the book. If that was just a coincidence, it was a good one.

*Bella’s reaction in the hospital- Robbie (my Nokia technician) found it to be over the top, but I found it necessary to set up New Moon. We needed to see a glimpse of what Bella would do if Edward was gone in order to understand her intense reaction in New Moon.

Oh there’s so much more... but look how long this post already is! I’m going to have to go through it scene by scene, or perhaps by theme, like “In this post, I’ll be looking at the editing choices” or the music, or the characters, or a book to script comparison… the sky’s the limit!

Obviously I have much more work to do, but there are my initial thoughts and musings on Twilight’s adaptation from book to screen. Let me know what you think!

It’s been brilliant to be a part of this process and really see the creation from beginning to end. I certainly hope I have the same opportunities in the future, and that my work will be helpful, inspiring, clarifying or at least interesting. As long as it keeps me entertained and I keep learning things, I think I’ll consider it successful.

Stay tuned, much more to come.

05 December, 2008

In Other News...

My first published article has just been released! It's an interview with the game designers at Lord of the Rings Online (it's similar to World of Warcraft, but with The Lord of the Rings as the overarching storyline).

Go to this site, and scroll down to my article, A discussion with game designers The Lord of the Rings: Shadows of Angmar – LOTRO.com. Then click on 'view pdf article' to read it. You have to register, but it's free.

Also, my Twilight film review will be up this weekend, analysis to follow, and I've had a few emails and comments about New Moon coverage. Just so you know, I'll be covering the New Moon adaptation the same way that I'm covering Twilight, don't worry... I'm not stopping anytime soon :)

04 December, 2008

UK Premiere- Report

I’ve just come back from the Twilight premiere in Leicester Square and it was certainly an experience. It was a week of ‘yes you can go, no you can’t, yes you can, no you can’t’ and finally the people from Nokia pulled through and got me into the thick of things. I found out Tuesday night that I was able to go, and Wednesday morning I was on a train to London. I met up with Robbie and Steph from Nokia around 3:30, we chatted and discussed what was expected of me (to take photos and video using the new Nokia 6220 phone as well as do a few livestream videos with Robbie during the event) and what I was hoping to get out of the evening. They were both extremely laid back, lots of fun, and very positive about the whole experience. Neither of them knew anything about Twilight, so I tried to forewarn them what they were getting into, and yet when we left the pub to head over to the premiere they were somehow shocked at the fact that we could hear the screams from three blocks away. I had to bite my tongue to stop from saying “I told you so.”

The crowds were immense and manic! The enthusiasm was all that I would expect of Twilight fans. It was a slightly different feel than the Breaking Dawn release at the Nokia theater in NYC in August, because that was like a giant party with all of the fans celebrating together and this was more of a fierce competition of who was the bigger Twilight fan, who could push to the front, scream the loudest, and who could see Rob first, but it was still brilliant. There were vampires, signs, chants of “We want Rob!” and “Twilight!” and the crowd overflowed the barriers security had placed there.
The Twilight poster was huge on the Vue theater and TWILIGHT spelled out twice in the Twilight font in blue neon lights on either side of Rob and Kristen’s photo. Oddly enough there wasn’t a red carpet, it was a black carpet, but it was very appropriate for the Twilight d├ęcor. There weren’t vampires or Volturi running around, but there were four hired models, two male and two female, wearing all white and with sparkles on their faces who escorted Kristen and Rob down the carpet. It was a bit cheesy, but effective. They certainly made Rob and Kristen, both wearing all black, stand out from their stark whiteness, and it added some glamour to the presentation, but I wanted to get them a coat or a cup of tea... it was FREEZING! And the vampire/model girls were only wearing white, silk dresses. They’re probably still thawing out their toes!

We spoke to a few of the contest winners (video of two of them here) who were pumped and electric about the premiere, got our tickets and headed over to the theater.

Robbie and I were escorted into the meet and greet pen (don’t you love how it’s called a pen? And it really was a pen… we were packed in there like cattle) where we tried fairly successfully to gain the attention of Catherine, Rob and Kristen. It was only the three of them there (which also kind of surprised me; I figured the producers or perhaps a few more cast members would appear... I wonder how that decision is made), so the three of them bore the entire brunt of the media and the mania, but they handled it well.

They walked down (with the white, sparkly models), did an interview at the end of the carpet, walked back to the beginning of the carpet (with the white, sparkly models), and then worked their way down the crowds, press, and meet and greet areas. They were running late so sadly no one got a lot of time to interview, take pictures etc, but it was so cold I can’t say that I minded all that much. We were able to see them, observe the mania and then move inside.

To be honest, I was slightly frustrated with the whole premiere process. It’s impossible to get their whole attention, you only have a few seconds to get the question out, it’s probably a question they’ve heard 100 times so they're already bored with it, there are a thousand people screaming their name, flashbulbs going off everywhere, and their handlers are constantly moving them along so it never feels like anyone is accomplishing anything. It’s just a lot of skimming the surface. I suppose that’s the point of premieres- just to have some mania, stir up some attention and get people to recognize the name Twilight; it’s not a forum for in-depth info sharing. Hmm… I think this will be a blog entry in the future as I hash through the many elements of movie premieres.

I also found it odd because the last time I saw Rob it was 3am on the last day of shooting in Oregon, we were freezing and hovering around a propane heater on set and swapping ridiculous life stories... just being normal human beings, and in this situation it was like a circus. He was on parade, escorted around... it wasn't bad by any means, it's another facet of an actor's job to do a film as well as the publicity, it's just interesting to see the different sides of one role; the actor, the person, the icon etc. It's the real person versus the 'reel' person (i.e. the character they portray or the iconic figure that they represent). I certainly enjoy the creation part, the development and the filming process more, but this is still an essential part of the overall process.

Anyway…. we were then escorted inside where there was nothing but Twilight posters on every surface. It was great. It really set the scene that something big was happening, and it was happening here. Rob/Edward’s golden eyes were staring us down all over the cinema. On each seat was a black goodie bag with a copy of Twilight inside, two red apples (cute), shampoo (sadly it doesn’t smell of strawberries), Vitamin water and candy, and the MTV Twilight video was playing- the one that introduced the Cullens and talked about the translation of the book to the film. Then the lights went down, and a man from E1 came out (the film’sUK distributor) and said his thanks and introduced Catherine, Rob and Kristen. Catherine said how stoked she was, and how cold she was, and then she gave the mic to Rob. As he took it a girl yelled “Bite me!” at him and he told her with a chuckle and a crooked smile to talk to his manager and then he’d consider it. He said he was glad to be back in London and with “real people” which everyone laughed at, and then they all left (Kristen didn’t say anything) and the film began!

I’ll review the film fully in the next bajillion posts…there are so many angles I want to analyze, that I’ll be doing it in installments. I’ll start with a general review that I’ll have up certainly before the week/end is out, and then I’ll probably do weekly installments analyzing different aspects of the film like the editing, music, lighting, characterization etc…. but for now I’ll just say that I’m pleased. There’s lots to discuss, many things that I wonder about and question, but that’s my job as a film student. Overall, I’m very pleased with it though.

After the film, Robbie and I had a drink in the theater's bar that was fully kitted out with Twilight photos and posters, and spoke to a number of people about their reactions to the film. Most were thrilled to the point of ecstasy to see their visions in real life, of course there were things that they didn't like and my favorite comment on adaptations, "It wasn't how I pictured it..." It can be hard to remember that this is just how Catherine Hardwicke, the producers and their team (which includes Stephenie Meyer) pictured it. It's not the be-all end-all. It's one interpretation that we are invited to view.

Okay, I've a ton more pictures and video, but I was using three different devices to capture stuff, so all of the media will be up as soon as I can get it up, but that’s enough for now… if I start thinking about my reaction to the film I’ll be here for hours and as it’s 1am and I still have the photos from at least one camera to upload, so I’m going to end there for the evening.

Stay tuned for more; the brief review, and then analysis and tearing apart portion of the program is soon to follow.

Addition: This is what I saw as I was walking into Euston Station in London. Twilight is totally taking over my life and following me everywhere :)

UPDATE: My Webshots can be viewed HERE

Rob on GMTV the next morning. Dawson's Creek with fangs? Really? Sigh...

Rob's BBC Interview

Link to the Telegraph's video of the Black Carpet Coverage with a couple of nice interviews with Rob, Kristen and Catherine... but for the love of Pete I wish they'd stop asking Rob if he has a girlfriend...

02 December, 2008

Watch This Space...

Tomorrow is the UK premiere of Twilight, and it's just been confirmed that I'll be on the red carpet covering the event. Insert squeal of delight here!

I'll be with Nokia on the red carpet, thanks to the Twilight Lexicon, throwing my questions in the mix, recording interviews, taking copious amounts of photos, using a fancy new Nokia device to do all of this, and then I'll be escorted in to see the film. YAY!

I'm looking forward to this for so many reasons. For all of the expected reasons of general excitement (how often do I get to go to a movie premiere, let alone one that has been the focus of my life for months, and I have seen from beginning to end?? Maybe there will be more in the future, but this is definitely the first!), but also for the entire presentation of the evening. I can't wait to see how it's received in the UK; if the mayhem is anything like what it was in US, if Rob will be mobbed, how it is presented and introduced, who of the cast will be there...

It's gonna be brilliant. So watch this space! I know some stuff will be going up on the Lexicon, and some stuff will be going up on Nokia's site I believe, but I actually don't have a ton of details at this point! All I know is to get myself to London, and be prepared for anything throughout the day. So watch this space! Excitement and analysing shall commence shortly :)

23 November, 2008

New Moon is Cleared and Big Opening Weekend!

Whoot whoot! New Moon has been cleared for production (as if I ever doubted it...), and Twilight has already made $37 million. And that's only from midnight on Friday morning until Saturday. They're expecting a possible $70 million opening weekend. Summit has GOT to be breaking out the champagne. Additionally, Rob Pattinson is the number one most-searched actor on IMDB.com, Kristen Stewart is number two, Taylor Lautner is number five, and Twilight is the number one most-searched film. WOW.

I'm purposely trying very hard not to read any reviews and whatnot, I want to try and stay as pure as I can until I see the film myself (dear LORD I hope it can happen December 3; I don't know how I can cleanly make it until the 19th... darn UK release being later...). But hopefully I can see it cleanly, make my own observations and opinions, write them down, hash them out, and THEN catch up on the reviews and answer to them. So my review will just have to wait! I'm sorry! Just think of it as the coverage that keeps on giving. When every other outlet has started quieting down, I'll just be warming up :)

Happy viewing all, I'm sure some of you are up to your 7th or 8th time by now!

UPDATE: Whoot! It made bucket loads this weekend- over $70 million, and it's the highest grossing film for a female director. Congrats to Catherine! Read about it here.

17 November, 2008

Let the Mayhem Begin...

Well today is the day. It's Twilight premiere day in LA and the masses are already going mad!

I just spoke with Jen from the Twilight Lexicon and it sounds uber exciting; I'm rather jealous I'm not there, but hopefully I'll be at the London one. The Borders podcast was yesterday with many of the actors attending, signing autographs, and copious amounts of screaming from the hundreds of fans gathered there. The premiere is being held at two theaters (it's just that big :) and there are already hundreds if not thousands of fans lined up around the blocks surrounding the theaters for spots in the fan area of the premiere. I hope there will be serious body-guarding for the cast and crew!

In other good news, apparently 51% of all internet movie ticket sales this week were for Twilight... and it's not even out yet!! That's very promising for the film's success. I don't think the film makers will have to worry too hard about Twilight making them some money, and hopefully that will mean a positive move forward quickly for New Moon production. I believe they're looking to make something in the realm of $30 million in the opening weekend, and I can't imagine they'll have much trouble (yes I'm knocking on wood).

I'm most curious to see the entire presentation of this evening. How did they decorate? What was the budget like for posters, cardboard cutouts, banners, did they make it look like a forest? Did the staff have pale skin and yellow eyes? I doubt it, but you never know with premieres, remember the premiere of V for Vendetta (picture on the right... there were tons of those guys there that night) or the guys that dressed as orcs and jumped around for an hour at The Lord of the Rings premiere? You never know... there could be Newborns running amuck in LA right now outside of the theater.

I wonder how they'll introduce it, if they'll refer to Stephenie Meyer and the overall spectrum of the novel; or if they'll discuss the film making process, the challenges with the adaptation, with the weather, with the stalking fans... and will they discuss it at all afterwards? Is anything said at the end or does it just split apart and everyone goes to their release parties?

Hmm... things we shall soon discover, I hope! And hopefully I'll have a chance to investigate in London.

Keep a weather eye, and happy Twilighting all! Please try not to rub it in too much that you'll ALL see it before me :-p I have to wait until December 3 at the earliest, and possibly until December 19 for the general release. Sigh...

11 October, 2008

New Twilight Trailer

Can we just discuss the new Twilight Trailer? I'm starting to worry that I'm not going to be able to look at the film objectively and critically at this point because whenever I see a new scene or a new image from the film I just get excited, and possibly a little giggly when staring at Rob Pattinson.

I think that's because I already have a lot of faith in the filmmakers though. I'm not waiting 'to see' or 'to be disappointed.' I already know that they are treating this adaptation better than most could imagine; I've already seen some pages, some scenes, and I know that it hasn't clashed with my perceptions of the novel, and it certainly helps that Stephenie Meyer was involved in every step of the process, approves all of it, and endorses it wholeheartedly. Just seeing the care that they've put into shooting every scene and the work poured over the editing process, well, it gives me some hope that this won't turn into a situation like The Golden Compass or The Seeker (ugh...depressingly appalling adaptations).

I'm sure all filmmakers care about the film they are working on, but I'm guessing that many just think of a film as a job and nothing more. While I know that the crew of Twilight have never once forgotten that this is still a business and they are responsible for its success or failure, I feel like they've truly cared about making the film for the fans, because they are fans too. They didn't want the film to be too different because it would alienate their own vision of the novel, not to mention the millions of fans they'd disappoint too.

And this new trailer... okay, the scene opens with an establishing shot of the Olympic peninsula, effectively setting the scene with tones of purple and gray with striking green hills to illustrate the mysterious and other-worldly feel of the location, and the first thing that struck me from a film-study perspective was the transitions, particularly in the first thirty seconds or so as the ethereal music comes up, until just after Edward stops the van from hitting Bella. If you'll notice, almost every cut is a quick fade to black and a quick re-light. To me, this looks like eyelids closing sluggishly and opening back up again on a new and equally as fantastic scene (fantastic as in fantasy-like). This technique throughout the entire trailer reveals in snippets what Bella is seeing, and how she is figuring out the story. I think this is a great device, as the book is from Bella's point of view, this opening and closing of 'the eyes' makes me feel like I'm a bit in a dream and watching this fantastical scene unfold in front of me through her eyes. Even though it's not from her point of view, it still feels like the trailer places you in an observatory point of view. It's not just clips cut together (although there are a few clear cuts) to show the action, it's an experience that draws you in. Also, the moment that Edward swoops in to save her in the trailer, the picture goes to negative, which I think is just brilliant. It's in that moment that Edward has decided (or not decided, but acted instinctively) to reveal himself entirely to Bella. His cover is down, and everything is reversed, and it all changes after this point; so the brief flash of the scene in the negative effectively illustrates this. Brilliant. With the other-worldly music at the beginning, and the suspense-filled phrases: On November 21... Nothing will be the same.... From the Worldwide Bestseller.... Forever... Begins... Now... the sweeping shots of the Gorge, the slow-motion of Edward and Bella walking to school together to emphasize their unusual relationship and how it sticks out to those around them, the focus on the supernatural elements of the Cullens leaping and running... it all makes for a very well put together trailer.

It's interesting how much of the supernatural they are releasing in this one trailer too. Having Bella say 'Vampire' especially after hearing about radioactive spiders, kryptonite, heroes, bad guys and watching Edward rip apart a tree and gracefully catch an apple off of his own foot super-hacky-sack style... it raises the interest as well as the expectation for what we're about to see. He's a different character than most have ever experienced before, and I think the trailer illustrates that well. Many vampires have existed in the history of literature and film, but not one that abstains from his drinking-from-humans tendencies ("My family, we're different from others of our kind"), lives as a member of a loving family, falls in love with a human and proceeds to date her (the kiss... oh, the kiss... need I say more? You can almost see Bella 'attacking' him and him obviously enjoying it, but trying to restrain and back off at all times, and "You are my life now," Yes, I swooned. I know I've talked about the visible chemistry between Kristen and Rob, and Stephenie Meyer has also talked about it at length, but hopefully you can see a bit of it now too)... these are new territories in the realms of storytelling; hence, perhaps, part of the huge appeal of Twilight to readers, although just the dreaminess factor of Edward alone doesn't hurt.

I also enjoyed seeing some of the scenes that I watched being filmed in April- now edited, filtered, cleaned up and rehashed on film. It's bringing the whole experience full-circle. Like the restaurant scene- there was only the one small clip in the trailer, but it looks so different from what I saw filmed in April. The light is softer, the sound clearer, the focus more exact. It makes me wonder which of the hundred takes taken that day they used, and how they decided that those shots were the perfect ones to piece that scene together. And I think about how that was a really rainy day, it was cold and very long, they shot that angle of Rob's face with the back/side of Kristen Stewart's face at least two dozen times, Kristen was full of mushroom ravioli and was worried about eating more, and how none of that peripheral drama plays into the scene at all. It still amazes me how when creating a film all of that side action of 'real life' is forgotten and the focus immediately comes back to the text and the story. Just think about how often in a day you get mad, or hungry, or giggly; can you imagine having a small slice in the middle of whatever emotion you're feeling be completely removed from that situation? I don't think I can turn things on and off like that... I guess that's why I'm not an actor!

(This first picture is the restaurant with no special lighting; it was before they started setting it up for filming and I was able to duck in and take a picture. It's all a bit chinky and somewhat awkward, and the second one is a screen shot of the day, and you can see how it already looks more appropriate and romantic with the lighting etc, and then see the clip from the trailer and it looks spot on. It's so interesting what they can do with art directors, set dressers, and lighting.)

And while I'm on this tangent... I think I've said this before, but it was also interesting watching the preparation processes of Kristen and Rob. Kristen would disappear for a long time between scenes, spend a lot of time in her trailer, and she didn't linger around with the other actors much. She would prepare, focus, come into the scene and shoot it brilliantly, checking herself in the middle of takes, asking to do it again if it wasn't right with her etc., whereas Rob would meander, do what he pleased, and when it came time to film he would pause for about twenty or thirty seconds before action, stare at a spot on the floor or off into the distance, and then he'd be in it; he'd be Edward. It was just neat to witness how differently they prepared and how well each tactic seemed to work for them.

Of course I'm now even more intrigued than I was to see the film in it's entirety (I didn't think that was possible...). I'm working on an article right now on how Twilight is adapting a work the way that I think works should be adapted...at least in the realm of fantasy literature, although the principles described can apply to any adaptation. I just feel like when a film is created by fans for fans, with the help and approval of the author, if that underlying passion and desire to present the film as well and with as much of the spirit of the book present as possible is there- it just easily translates to the film. There's no way not to feel the passion and care put into a work when people really care (i.e. The Lord of the Rings. That was a whole set of Tolkien fans, and look at how well the films turned out, winning scads of Academy Awards and winning over millions of book-loving fans).

I. Cannot. Wait. It's been such a brilliant experience to live with this adaptation from the beginning. Well, not the super beginning as I wasn't there when Greg Mooradian bought the rights, but seeing it from filming, to editing, to marketing, and soon to release... it's all very exciting. Just the filming techniques put into the trailer give me hope that the film will be even more specific and thought-out.