29 November, 2009

Okay, I've seen it...

I'm sorry it's taken me so stinkin' long to get this up, but this year is called 'hell year' by most 3rd year PhD students in the UK, and thus far it's living up to that! Monumentally busy... but good :) Teaching, working in the international office, writing an article, editing an anthology of Twilight criticism, and planning some Twilight events this spring (Vampire Baseball and Fan Film Festival Cruise- wahoo!)
But, now to the point.... I've seen New Moon. Three times. My immediate reaction: pleased. Improvement. Smoother than expected. Better performances than expected. Elements still stilted and dialogue still lacking occasionally, but overall I thoroughly enjoyed it! I think I should scan in my notes that I took during the film- as it was dark (it was in a movie theater, obviously), they slant all over the place and are at times on top of each other, so I'll try to make out what I wrote.
Things I liked:

  1. Firstly, the theater was filled with girls wearing 'team Edward' shirts, shrieking, and stating 'my heart is thumping in my chest.' This is vastly different from the quiet, unobsessed viewing I had in Wales last year. Twilight fever has officially struck the UK.

  2. The opening shot of the large, golden moon: brilliantly raises the anticipation as the moon slowly waxes to reveal the title of the film, New Moon (we all knew what it would say, but it was exciting when it was finally revealed)

  3. This one begins with a voice over as well, illustrating Bella's point of view. I'm also surprised but glad that they included the 'Gran' dream. I really felt that was a moment in the book where you could see Bella's point of view. You could see the issue you would have if you were 70 and your husband was perpetually 17. Seeing that moment visualized on screen really shined a light on that fear of hers.

  4. The vamps have better contacts, and Edward's sparkling is much better. Although the tinkling bells are still there. Grrr...

  5. Whoever had the idea for Edward to recite Romeo's lines from Romeo and Juliet deserves a bonus. I don't think Rob delivered them all that well, but who didn't coo and melt a bit at hearing Shakespeare from his lips?

  6. I enjoyed the improved effect of the vampires' movements. We first see it at the birthday when Jasper goes after Bella. The speed of their movements- Edward pushing in front of Bella, Jasper slipping through Emmet and Carlisle's hands at first, and then throughout the film- Laurent's chase and fight, and of course that fight with the Volturi (I'll get to that more later), it didn't have the cheesy whooshing sound effects from Twilight, and depicted the vampires more realistically- ultra fast movements that don't seem contrived or cartoon-like.

  7. I greatly enjoyed the moment between Carlisle and Bella when he is stitching up her arm. It seemed rather natural for them to be that close, showed how comfortable Bella has become with this family, and provided an unhurried and believable conversation about vampires and their souls.

    1. Nice touch at the end of this scene, when Carlisle burns the bloody gauze- it's in the shape of a heart. It's a bloody, burning, heart in a bowl. Foreshadow much?

  1. The camera shots in the break up scene. The camera stays quite solidly on Edward, but when it cuts to Bella the angle is skewed; it's usually moving, and is often a disconcerting upshot. This illustrates the apparent calmness and decisiveness of Edward breaking up with Bella, and the utter collapse of Bella's world.

  2. October, November, December, January.... Brilliant. Brilliant. Brilliant. Wonderful shot, poignant music, continuous, driving, circular shot showing the utter despair within Bella. I remember reaching that part of the book, as I'm sure we all do, and going 'What?! What!? What?!' and I'm glad they effectively recreated that in the film.

  3. Bella's relationship with Jacob. I love Taylor Lautner, truly, but I still find the delivery of his lines very awkward and stilted. His interaction with Bella though, and their physicality with each other seems so much more natural in this film. Perhaps their camaraderie offscreen seeped into their onscreen scenes.

  4. “Dear Alice...” emails. It's a good narrative technique. It allows us to hear Bella's thoughts as we do in the novels, but without being pure, cheesy, voice over. Some of them seem out of place to me (the one before she goes into Emily's house stands out in my mind as forced), but overall it was effective.

  5. Attention to detail: Emily made muffins, Jacob's house is red, Edward was in Rio de Janero (something only true fans would know as it's in the deleted chapters from Stephenie Meyer's website), Alice had a yellow porsche... all things that aren't necessary for the film to be good, but are acknowledged and appreciated nods to the fan base.

  6. Bella is less awkward. Not as much of that blinking, lip-biting, fifteen minutes to get out one line-ness. Mike is more awkward (“gotta get that protein in there...”) and it works wonderfully. Oh Mike... definitely laughed at the 'Face Punch' scene with the boys hands ready and waiting for Bella to grab them...

  7. Two words: Thom. Yorke. Damn I love that song, and its use in that compiled scene of Victoria's chase, Harry's heart attack, and Bella about to jump off of the cliff is perfect.

  8. “When you put the dog out.” Witty line... I liked it.

  9. Clever placement of Virgin Atlantic advertising... a little tongue in cheek product placement at the protagonists' virginity perhaps?

  10. When Bella crashes into Edward and he says “Heaven.” Granted I missed the “Carlisle was right...” line, but this was the next best thing.

  11. I enjoyed the awkward moment when they're all in the elevator at the Volturi headquarters, it's as tense as anything, and then this cheesy, Italian elevator music comes on. Beautifully awkward and a nice humorous moment during such a tense scene.

  12. The vacuum sounds as Aro reads thoughts. Oddly enough, it wasn't an annoying effect; this is what I imagine you actually hear when he tromps through your head. And the fight. Wow...the fight. Definitely better visualized than what I was picturing. Strong, fast, effective, and shows the lengths that Edward would go to in order to protect Bella.

  13. The effect of the vamps breaking apart and turning into stone. So thaaaat's what that looks like :)

  14. Complete silence... and then? “Marry me.” Cut to black. Uber effective.

Things I didn't like:

  1. Jake still has a horrible wig.

  2. Alice's clothes. In some outfits she looks classy and funky and Alice like; in others she looks like Katie Holmes at her most Stepford-esque; large, old-lady type suits and childlike painting smocks.

  3. Obvious CG work on the cliff jumping scene. If The Lord of the Rings can make Legolas slide down the trunk of a collapsing olliphant and make it look real, surely we can have Bella or the wolf pack jumping off some rocks and have it look believable.

  4. The vision of Bella as a vampire. Cheeeesetastic.

  5. Dialogue. There are still big chunks of dialogue that I find flat, and missed opportunities for further character development or just better film moments. Every second of screen time costs thousands or even millions of dollars- I hoped that they would fill every moment with productive elements. For example, the exchange at the cinema when Jake and Mike nearly fight; I know that Jake needs to get angry for the change to trigger, but that whole section seemed forced; in fact, I thought a lot of Jacob's elements were forced. I still find him a slightly stilted actor, but it didn't help that he got some cheesy and poorly-delivered lines.
I know I've been doing a lot of comparison to Twilight in order to rate New Moon. It's hard not to acknowledge the first film that is so burned into our memories, and was certainly such an impressing and formative filmmaking experience for me. If I were to just look at New Moon, and try to remove the preconceptions from Twilight, I don't think I'd think New Moon was very good. If I hadn't read the books, if I didn't already enjoy this world, I don't think the film would appear fluid, well-structured, and interesting. It doesn't follow the general rules of three-act script very well, character development is lacking, and honestly, I found the plot under-structured.
It is in the novel too; that's not necessarily a bad thing, the whole point of the book is to illustrate Bella's despair, show the depth of her feeling toward Edward, develop the relationship with Jacob and develop the threat of the Volturi. In that sense, mission accomplished, and accomplished quite well. But the adaptation
challenge arises here when one considers how to turn that transitory novel into an interesting film. They made it a great adaptation for fans, I think. It's a very, very difficult one to make a good film and appease the fans, and monetary success was guaranteed if they made the fans happy, so I think that was more of the focus; true to the book, true to the fans, make them happy, and they did the best that they could with the material.
Therefore, I think this was a wonderful step in producing a better adaptation. Chris Weitz always said this was a film for the fans, and he stood by that throughout. If this film was a project for the fans, and hopefully for a few people to get into the books who were unfamiliar with them previously, then I think it has succeeded. I certainly enjoyed the film. It was entertaining, I think the performances improved, I think the script improved, it was more fluid, the music was brilliant, and I thought the cinematography was often quite beautiful. It's hard to say 'this looks good for the series, it'll only get better...' because you want each film to be brilliant. You want them to stand on their own and be very good, but in this instance, I think we have to look at it in the series.
With Twilight, they didn't necessarily know what they had. They knew it had a fervent following, but no one anticipated the reception that it got. Now they DO know what they have, and that is changing the adaptation process, the filming, the release, and everything else. I think each film will improve on the previous one, but they'll continuously struggle to make a good film that is also a good adaptation.
That's the challenge, and what I find so fun to study!
More soon, but there are the initial reactions and thoughts :)

18 November, 2009

Want to make a film on a cruise?

Holy crap look at this!

So there are a ton of talented Twilight fans out there- I've seen your YouTube videos- so this is for you as well as those of you who have always wanted to give filmmaking a go, but haven't found the opportunity or the right situation.

Well I just found out that I'll be going on Fan Trips Fan Film Project as an organizer and lecturer! The trip begins in New Orleans right after Vampire Baseball (check out the link; Peter is putting together a team again- awesome), they've got a bunch of professional filmmakers, producers and editors that will be assisting small groups in making their own short.

It's pretty much like a 48 film festival, but you'll be assisted by pros, instructed in filmmaking the day before filming, and oh yeah.... IT'S ON A CRUISE SHIP. You get a day of film classes, then a few days of shooting in amazing locations, time to edit, and then at the end of the cruise we'll screen everything at the festival and the winners will be announced.

The pros will do individual workshops too, I'll
talk about my work with Twilight, and a thousand other wonderful things... on the Carribean... Oh. Girl.

Plus the grand prize winner gets a walk-on role in John Goodman's upcoming vampire film Girls Gone Vamp! Whoot. I'm getting wicked excited.

If you want to go, book fast- it's filling up like crazy, and it's really reasonable; as a film student I can tell you film classes and experiences like this are never this cheap...

Hope to see you there!


Here's the schedule, here's the link to sign up!

We'll leave from New Orleans and go to :
SunNew Orleans-5:30 PM
MonAt Sea--
TueCosta Maya10:00 AM6:00 PM
WedSanto Tomas De Castilla8:00 AM6:00 PM
ThuBelize City8:00 AM6:00 PM
FriCozumel8:00 AM5:00 PM
SatAt Sea--
SunNew Orleans8:00 AM-

15 November, 2009

New Moon Week

So the tension is starting to mount for New Moon's premiere, and I think I'm FINALLY getting excited. I've certainly been more removed from this film, both by accident and by design. I wasn't on the set of New Moon, I haven't done any pre-release events, I've been reading the updates on the fan sites and the information released by Summit of course, but I've not had much insider info on this one and have actually been focusing on writing up my PhD...go figure! But it's been kind of nice to be a bit more removed from this one, believe it or not!

With Twilight I was so predisposed to love the film prior to even walking into the cinema due to watching the process, speaking with the filmmakers, seeing scenes ahead of time, and feeling that I knew what the final project would be like before ever seeing the full thing. I enjoyed the process so much, was glad to see the care that they took with the script and how much the story meant to them, that I was pretty much already decided that I'd like the film both as entertainment and as a cinematic work. Even now, all of these months later, I still certainly enjoy Twilight, but I can be a little more discerning about it. It's not a work of filmic genius, and in retrospect, it was almost too faithful to the book, to the point that the film was quite stilted in parts; the fans could fill in the holes, but the non-fans would feel it was a bit jumpy. I think this was necessary for the first film of the series, to maintain the Fan base and still introduce a decent film (think Harry Potter; how literal the first two were, and how stilted and dry they were as films. They had to do that to maintain the fans, keep the films close to the books, then once the fans were on board completely they could change a few things, take some chances, and make films that differed slightly from the books, but made much better films).

I'm excited to see New Moon, because it seems to be being handled rather differently. For one thing, it was an almost completely closed set. The producers I spoke to during Twilight were trying quite hard to get me onto the set of New Moon, but it didn't work out as there wasn't a 'visitable' day for me to go, and the gang I knew said I'd never get the kind of exposure I got during Twilight. The set was much more protected and secret. I wonder if this allowed them a bit more creative control; I wonder what liberties they've taken. I also think they've finally realized that they have something big here; a big moneymaker, an influential film in the industry, and massive power with the fan market. They're protecting their product, and frankly that seems to just be adding to the appeal! We have less leaking photos and information, and I think that is raising the suspense for the film.

I'm excited to see the visual elements under Chris Weitz's eye; it's looking more 'Hollywood,' yes, but I certainly don't think that's a bad thing for this film right now. It needed a bit of a boost so the production matched the reception; so the wolves don't disappoint, the sparkling doesn't look fuzzy and have that horrid tinkling sound, and so the romantic moments aren't cheesy and overdone..... and it looks like it's getting more of that treatment.

I'm sad I won't be at a premiere for it this year, but I'm kind of stoked to go see it normally in the theater with fans and non-fans alike, and make my own decision, removed from preconceptions.

In other news, I'm writing up my thesis, teaching two classes of Digital Communication, presenting at a conference next week on the 'Utilization of the Fan Base in Event Film Adaptations', turning that into a publishable article, I'm collecting proposals for my own anthology of Twilight criticism (see post prior to this one), working part time in the International Office, and somehow still managing to have a bit of a social life, travel, and make some plans for some Twilight-y events in the spring (Vampire Baseball anyone? :)

More soon, I'll try and do better updating this more often, particularly once New Moon comes out (a review at the least is coming, and hopefully some analysis too), and my spring activities start formulating a bit more. Happy wolf-watching all :)