Posts Tagged ‘The Hurt Locker’

Nominated Editors Spill the Beans

March 10, 2010

On Saturday I attended the Egyptian Theater’s “Invisible Art, Visible Artists” Seminar.  The free seminar is an annual tradition for my friends and me on Oscar weekend.  Every year the Oscar-nominated editors show up, talk their film, their craft and show a clip.  It’s moderated by Alan Heim who is a great editor (ALL THAT JAZZ, NETWORK, THE NOTEBOOK) and my dad’s doppelgänger.  They have the same warm, welcoming energy, inquisitive listening ability, bushy mustache and even speaking style.

The editors in attendance this year were:

Stephen Rivkin and John Refoua (AVATAR), Julian Clarke (DISTRICT 9), Sally Menke (INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS), Bob Murawski and Chris Innis (THE HURT LOCKER), Joe Klotz (PRECIOUS: BASED ON THE NOVEL ‘PUSH’ BY SAPPHIRE).

I’d already seen the five represented films and enjoyed all of them tremendously (except for DISTRICT 9). I like it when I’ve previously viewed the films because seeing the clips becomes extra enlightening and satisfying. It’s like reminiscing over old pictures of your favorite relatives the night before a family reunion.

My favorite editor was Sally Menke. I’ve seen her interviewed in an AFI Master’s Seminar for one of the KILL BILLS, but I’d forgotten how articulate, thoughtful and wildly intelligent she is.  I was absolutely thrilled when Sally showed and discussed the scene from INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS that I blogged about and continues to be one of my most read posts: The Strudel Scene. See below for the juicy insights she offered.

Joe Klotz was my second favorite. I watched PRECIOUS the night before so it was freshly awed in my world. He loves his profession and the art behind it. I got the sense that he has great respect for whatever story he’s telling and for the characters in that story. He was grounded, sincere and without frills. Joe chose the scene in which Precious and her mother physically fight after Precious comes home with her new baby. This is one of the best scenes in the film. See below for more details on what he had to say about its creation.

Unfortunately, neither Sally or Joe won a golden statue the next night.

A few insights and behind-the-scenes stories I’ll remember from the seminar:

  • The AVATAR guys had 10 assistants. Sally employed seven assistants (mostly because BASTERDS featured English, German, and English scenes). THE HURT LOCKER duo had three assistants for their 200 hours of footage.  Because of budget constraints, Joe Klotz edited PRECIOUS on his own Avid in his home. He had one assistant who would sometimes work off his personal laptop. You do whatever it takes to make your movie.
  • Sally and Chris+Bob (THE HURT LOCKER) spoke about how their films

    THE HURTLOCKER editors won the Oscar.

    mixed humor with tension. Sally credits this to Quentin’s voice and the tone of his films. Chris and Bob believe comedy was an important way to diffuse the tension in their nerve-wracking (in a good way) film.

  • Sally’s interest and education in human psychology lead her to filmmaking.
  • Sally and Quentin had planned to change the Strudel Scene after Cannes. And they did. Instead of covering the beginning of the scene when Landa arrives with shots of Landa, the officer and Shosanna, the camera remains on and slowly pushes in on Shosanna’s face during all the pleasantries. She’s listening to the men and steeling herself for facing Landa (the man who murdered her family years ago). Sally explained that all that matters in that moment is Shosanna realizing what’s happening and what she must do (not be suspected by Landa).  They wanted the audience to be with Shosanna, seeing into her soul at this important moment.
  • Sally also explained the last beat of the scene in which Landa leaves and Shosanna gasps/cries and releases tension and fear she was containing while they ate strudel. Sally gives us only the briefest of moments of Shosanna gasping and then cuts away.  They made this editorial decision because they wanted Shosanna to be a strong woman. It was important that the audience think of her as a tough character because she will go on to plan Hitler’s assassination.
  • Joe said he picked the clip he did because he wanted to talk about the trust between director and editor.  When he first cut that scene, it didn’t work. The stunts weren’t so good, and the coverage was lacking. He couldn’t make the scene sing. Director Lee Daniels told Joe he wanted to do a photo shoot with Mo’Nique and Precious depicting them from when Precious was a baby through her childhood. Joe trusted in Lee’s idea even though he was initially doubtful. Mo’Nique and Baby Precious start out a happy mother-daughter duo and then, when the abuses starts and continues, the stress, tension, and unhappiness show on their faces in the pictures. Lee took the pics and gave them to Joe, trusting him to figure out how to work them into the scene. And he did. Brilliantly.

My Top 10 Films of the Decade

December 31, 2009

Before we arrive at my Top 10 movies from the last decade, let’s meet the Contenders and the Jury.

Almost Famous (2000)

The following is a list of films culled by Sarah B. (sb), Jared P. (jp), LeeAnn N. (ln) and I (ac) over the last three days in the Colorado mountains. Of the thousands of films released in the last decade, these were our 36 favorites.

I wanted to include the “Contender” list first because, frankly, I wish I could have included most of the 36 in my top 10 list. Of my 10 picks, there are about five that I’m 100% absolutely certain that they belong on my list.  I couldn’t imagine it any other way. The other 5 were hemmed and hawed over because this list of 36 is so damn good.

Good Night and Good Luck (2005)

To make this damn good list, we debated, we researched, and we gushed over old favorites. We tried not to forget the comedies. We unanimously hated on “Crash.” We included our blockbuster crushes and our indie heartthrobs. We admitted to the glory of Daniel Craig as Bond. We recalled when, where and with whom we saw the films and why we still think about those movies to this day. We remembered the reasons some of these films changed the way we think about cinema entirely.

The Dark Knight (2008)

No blood was shed but Jared did cry. Once.

Each person’s top 10 picks are indicated by their initials. I also pulled my individual list out from the big list because you’re reading the Anna Christopher blog.

The Contenders List (alphabetical)

Adaptation (2002) – sb, jp

Almost Famous (2000) – ln, ac

Amelie (2001) – ln

Avatar (2009) – ac

Batman Begins (2005)

Casino Royale (2006)

Chicago (2002)

Children of Men (2006) – sb, jp, ac

Dark Knight (2008)

The Departed (2006) – sb, ac

Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007) – sb

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind  (2004) – jp, ln

Good Night and Good Luck (2005) – sb, ac

The Hurt Locker (2009) – ac

I’m Not There (2007) – jp

The Incredibles (2004) – sb (tie with Zoolander)

Inglourious Basterds (2009)

Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003) – ac

Let the Right One In (2009)

Little Children (2006) – jp

Lost in Translation (2003) – sb, ln

Memento (2000) – jp

Michael Clayton (2007) – sb, jp, ac

Mulholland Drive (2001) – jp

No Country for Old Men (2007)

The Pianist (2002) – sb, jp

Punch Drunk Love (2002) – ln

The Queen (2006) – sb, ac

The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) – ln, ac

Superbad (2007) – ln

There Will Be Blood (2008)

Traffic (2000)

United 93 (2006)

WALL-E (2008) – jp, ln

Wedding Crashers (2005) – ln

Zoolander (2001) – ln, sb (tie with The Incredibles)

My Top Ten List (in alphabetical order NOT rank)

  1. Almost Famous
  2. Avatar
  3. Children of Men
  4. The Departed
  5. Good Night and Good Luck
  6. The Hurt Locker
  7. Kill Bill Vol. 1
  8. Michael Clayton
  9. The Royal Tenenbaums
  10. The Queen

I bet you think I forgot some! Or maybe you want to argue over “Avatar”? Feel that Sarah shouldn’t be allowed a ‘tie’? Bring it! My blog’s got plenty of room for your comments and suggestions.

Kathryn Bigelow’s THE HURT LOCKER

July 29, 2009

the-hurt_lockerI saw THE HURT LOCKER on Sunday night and I can’t stop thinking about it.  My friend Peter and I discussed the film for two hour over drinks and sweet potato fries, even testing ourselves like in our old AFI days with deciphering a proper premise for the film. Film geek alert. 

All the word-of-mouth reviews I’ve heard and the press critqiues I’ve read about this film ARE true.  This is a great story and told with great skill (woman director!!). The cinematography exposes as much of the story as the dialogue, and the writing is magnificent.

The performances are off. The. Hook. It’s a rare thing that you feel like you’re watching a documentary when you aren’t. From the first momentsMV5BNDM1ODcyMzEzNV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwODIwMTQ2Mg@@._V1._SX600_SY338_, I was IN the film because the performances were so nuanced, confident, and blindly invested. Usually I experience at least five minutes of being distinctly aware of the actors acting.  That they are playing characters. That I’m watching a replication of reality.  THE HURT LOCKER never lets its audience get away with that. Colin FarrellWillem Dafoe and Charlize Theron were originally set to star. I’m so glad they didn’t. In Jeremy Renner I trust. Though I will say that I think he’s an actor that is best fit in period pieces (ASASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES, NORTH COUNTRY) and war-ish movies (28 DAYS LATER). His look doesn’t translate to modern stuff. To me, he’s no F.B.I. agent or 30-something guy looking for love in NYC.

Bigelow on THE HURT LOCKER set in Jordan.

Bigelow on THE HURT LOCKER set in Jordan.

Ms. Bigelow used three to four 16mm cameras to capture docu-style imagery and non-traditional coverage. These shots gave the film an unsettling sense of reality (and the danger of said reality) and set the film in an unmistakable place and time.  In the end, her shooting ratio was 100:1 — more than Coppola’s on APOCALYPSE. I havn’t seen Ms. Bigelow’s other work but I’m going to now.  And I know I’ll be watching THE HURT LOCKER again. Studying it, really, when it’s on DVD.

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