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CG hangovers.


Paul Bruening
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Hello all,

 

Is it just me or is anyone else getting weary of high concept, CG driven movies? I recently saw King Kong, then Narnia. My wife and I left the theatres with a kind of uneasy feeling about these movies. We felt the same when we came out of The Island and The second and third Matrixes.

 

Is it the CG that registers wrong to the brain, somehow? Is it the over planned and over polished production technique? Or, is it that the "wow" of high concept and CG driven movies is wearing thin?

 

I can't put my finger on it. It's like when you splurged on candy back when you were a kid. The rush wears off and you have this monumental sugar hangover.

 

I have noticed that CG allows the human characters in the movie to defy all human sensibilities on intuitive, simple physics. Like when Kong is running on his knuckles with Ann Darrow in his hand. The G forces alone would have crumpled her into a rag doll. Then there was all that being tossed about in the action scenes.

 

Maybe I'm too critical. Maybe I should suspend disbelief and just go with it. What do you think?

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I agree - it all goes in circles

 

there were the big budget dance numbers of the 30's and 40's > then they died out

there were the westerns

there were the car chases

there were the howard "montages"

there is CG

next will be animated children's adventures

 

producers see an area to mimic success - they follow and copy and it all gets devalued with each rehash.

 

Nothing beats a good story - watch "Little Emperor", "Lawrence of Arabia", "Momento", "Seven Samurai" and "Fight Club"

 

CG is just a tool

 

my 1.354 cents

 

Rolfe

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Paul,

 

Has it not occured to you that this is nothing to do with CGI, but merely to do with the fact that you're choosing to watch shallow, pointless money spinning crap? I mean you actually paid to see all three Matrix movies? Which bit of the Island were you expecting to be a decent movie going experience? Don't get me wrong I'm no art house purist, but if you dont want to watch CGI movies then why the hell would you go to a film whose selling point is solely based on a CGI gorilla (or if you want to be pedantic a director best known for his 'epic' use of CGI imagery)? I think your 'candy' analogy is correct, I mean complaining about blockbusters like this is paramount to saying that everytime you go to a sweet shop you're amazed by how much sugar they have in their sweets...

 

Keith

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Or, is it that the "wow" of high concept and CG driven movies is wearing thin?

I think that's really it, more than just the fact that it's CG. The technical quality of CG these days is such that I can't pick it out much of the time, unless it's some obvious actor danger or physics-defying shot. It's a shame, many of today's action sequences make me yawn because I've been overstimulated over the years with the Michael Bay stuff (sorry, but he will continue to be my whipping boy until further notice). It takes so much more these days to ge the pulse up, and to me the CG is only a portion of the blame, because even the in-camera shots cause an eye roll sometimes. Too much spectacle, not enough substance. Any "event movie" will likely not be seen by me in the theater.

 

To me, the biggest problem is the blockbuster mentality. Studios pour ungodly amounts of money and promotion into large flicks that they bet the farm on, and not enough into the smaller ones that could be more consistent streams of revenue. Followed closely by the incestuous nature of product that's bound to spawn mongoloids. Studio A had a success with this genre pic, so Studio B must have one just like it. Don't even get me started on actor salaries, but unfortunately they're proven to be worth it much of the time. I've said it before, I'd rather have 400 "Chasing Amy"s than one "The Island" (although I'd probably pay to watch Scarlett do her nails for two hours). I also think that the theater should charge $12 to see "The Island" and $3 for "Chasing Amy" (put it on a sliding budget scale), but that probably won't happen. You pay extra for the premium rides at the amusement park, and seeing "Rent" on Broadway costs more than seeing Don Knotts at your local dinner theater, so why not?

 

Get a Netflix subscription and check out some of the smaller movies that weren't worth the "event" of going to the theater. Especially some of the stuff from Korea the past couple of years. Having access to literally everything out there has restored some of my faith, and I can now also watch the occasional popcorn flick without feeling bad about myself.

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You have to realize that in the days when video games are selling as well as blockbusters, these movies aren't really made for people like us. Kids who play PlayStation or X-Box games all day long aren't particularly tired of looking at computer-generated images. Heavy CGI is actually one of the SELLING points of these movies.

 

Sure, I'm tired of it, although I liked "Kong" -- to me, some of these efx-heavy movies are no different than their 1920's-1940's counterparts, all shot on sets with painted backdrops, matte painted wide shots, etc. "Gone with the Wind" would be the equivalent; it was considered incredibly efx-heavy for its day. You look at a b&w movie like "Jane Eyre", with its completely fabricated reality of England and it seems more "accurate" to the gothic mood of the novel than the Zeferelli version shot in real locations.

 

Jackson had some of the same thoughts about the original Kong, which created more of the nightmarish, expressionist world of a jungle than a real jungle would look (take a look at the 1976 remake, shot in Hawaii -- it looks like Kong is living at Club Med). So the fabricated reality is more atmospheric than a real location would create.

 

It's really about story, story, story -- do the efx help propel the narrative and establish story points and create a world for this narrative to take place... or does everything stop dead while we stare at an efx sequence that is just there for eye candy purposes, or just to hype us up. "Revenge of the Sith" and the other "Star Wars" prequels had this problem; Lucas had plenty of narrative to tell, but still felt this need to dogpile meaningless efx action sequences and over-paint the backgrounds with distracting CGI.

 

Kong's problem is just that it is too long; story points AND efx shots could be trimmed to tighten up the story.

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Guest LondonFilmMan

Most movies seem to be formula. We know what will happen more or less, and when more or less, what they will say and....yawn...

 

Let me see ONE film with consistently GOOD dialogue....and without cranes, amazing shots from helicopters, CG, special effects, an orchestra playing constantly, tiring action scenes...etc.. and I will watch it. It would also be nice to watch a non offensive movie...and by that I mean one without a copious amount of swear words, aggression, and a lack of consideration towards the audiences intellectual prowess.

 

You may think I am being a prude...but I think the industry is putting on the psychology and commerce a bit much and should just get on with telling a good story...

 

There must also be a good chemistry between lead man and woman.

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You have to realize that in the days when video games are selling as well as blockbusters, these movies aren't really made for people like us.

 

I think this is the key. Although I have lots of pet theories as to why many of these CG-heavy films don't work for me, the unfortunate truth is I am no longer in their target audience. On any given weekend, the films I look forward to seeing are becoming less and less mainstream, and I'm not even talking about "art" films.

 

For example, in Cleveland this week (not the center of the the film world, but pretty representative of your average US town), "Brokeback Mountain" is only playing on three screen, "Good Night and Good Luck" on one, "Munich" opened on two, "Capote" on one - while Kong and Narnia are playing on AT LEAST 50 each.

 

Those numbers alone tells me the studios know exactly what market they are after - and it's no longer me.

Edited by Craig Knowles
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but I think the industry is putting on the psychology and commerce a bit much and should just get on with telling a good story...

 

The industry will change when audience demand good story, good dialogue, etc. Unfortunately, I see no sign of this happening any time soon.

 

Here is one poignant example:

 

Last year, I taught a Grade 11 English class. On one particularly slow day, I polled my class of 30 to tell me their favourite movie of 2004.

 

Now, to refresh your memory, 2004 saw the release of a wide-variety of films: Spiderman 2, Sideways, Harry Potter, The Incredibles, Shrek 2, The Aviator, Collateral, Ray, The Notebook, Million Dollar Baby, Fahrenheit 911, Shark Tale, Kill Bill 2, etc.

 

Do you know the class concensus was as to the "best" film of the year?

 

Overwhelmingly, it was "Troy".

 

I'll remind you this was a Grade 11 ENGLISH CLASS, in which we were studying Shakespeare.

 

I often speak about this example with my writing partner because the fact of the matter is, for those of you who plan to work in film long-term, these "Troy"-loving kids are the future audience of cinema.

 

Add to that the fact that our industry fears illegal downloading more than erosion of product, and you can see we're in for a long ride.

Edited by Craig Knowles
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i'm pretty sick of seeing exquisitely exposed sunsets that also throw enough light on the actors to give a glowing hairlight. and i think king kong has surpassed any other movie with such artificiality. the insects looked real. the skies didn't. just print them up just one stop, please.

 

but the movie was a lot better than i thought it'd be. which really isn't saying that much.

Edited by jaan
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Last year, I taught a Grade 11 English class.

 

I would never -- never -- teach high school kids. I know what they're like. I was one.

 

As a part of the targeted demographic, I would like to express my own weariness of CG. The sad thing that I have found is that kids really don't notice it. In a conversation about Rings or Chronicles of Riddick (yeah I saw it...) I am often dismissed as a "film purist" for my vicious dislike of CG.

 

For this reason I have recently loved becoming accuainted with earlier classics -- The Deer Hunter, The Searchers, Hunt for Red October, and the like. I am constantly amazed by Alien. If made today, that movie would have been ruined by CG. Same with The Thing.

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I find a lot of the fault lies, nowadays, with the newer trend in FX houses towards the digital "artist'...It's a sad truth that the older generation of fx guys, ( the ones who come from a backround in FILMMAKING) are being pushed aside by the art school graduates who've learnt how to push pixels in maya. It's a different asthetic nowadays....we're seeing an increasing move towards an overtly art-directed "painterly' look in cg ( in features anyway, the best fx work on the planet is still reserved for commercials) and there seems to be a feeling that it doesnt have to look photoreal, as long as it's 'pretty'.

 

A horrible concept

 

An example, I spent a few years at Digital Domain recently and saw the development of the 'Stealth' stuff there, the work went from rough, to more refined, to gorgeously photoreal....and was then consequently pushed too far to the technically exellent but thoroughly overworked 'hypereal' styling that it was eventually released with.

 

I think it takes a strong director to pull the work back from that point, to a place that it fits with the look that he and the DP have defined for the film.

 

Or you go the PJ route and make absolutely every shot in the film art directed to oblivion.

 

Funnily enough though, I didnt mind the stylising of Kong too much...it's very much a fantasy picture anyway.

 

As long as the fx work is consistent with the look of the rest of the film, the job's been done, and done well.

 

J

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Hi;

 

Does anyone else find CG images of people (eg matrix 2) to just be consistently wrong? I find things like landscape and background CG sets usually far more exceptable because I think ambiguity works there, who can say exactly what a hill looks like? With human forms though, much like life painting, if it isnt right it just screams wrong and snaps me straight out of the story, I guess we all instinctively know how a human body should look and move and it seems no one has cracked it yet...

 

Olly

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Guest LondonFilmMan

Even when CG looks even better, it still will not be able to beat a real good dialogue. People NEED it whereas people do not need CG. perhaps society is just going through the throes of flaunting what can be achieved tech wise. Proud of their Xmas toys ...

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Even when CG looks even better, it still will not be able to beat a real good dialogue. People NEED it whereas people do not need CG. perhaps society is just going through the throes of flaunting what can be achieved tech wise. Proud of their Xmas toys ...

If so, then they've been going through it for over 100 years, visual effects have been around for as long as movies have.

There's nothing inherent in CG that makes it more worthy of scorn than, miniatures, glass mattes, painted cyc's,

puppetry or pyro, all of which Melies was using in 1902

 

J

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For this reason I have recently loved becoming accuainted with earlier classics -- The Deer Hunter, The Searchers, Hunt for Red October, and the like. I am constantly amazed by Alien. If made today, that movie would have been ruined by CG. Same with The Thing.

 

'The Thing' has already been ruined with an effects heavy remake, though not with pootertoons.

 

'The Hunt for Fred October' was one of the pioneers in CGI with all the particulate matter and prop wash.

 

Don't get me wrong, I love Harryhausen movies and effects heavy Warner Brothers WWII propaganda movies with all the miniature sea battles and dog fights.

Even the stop motion in "The Giant Behemoth' and 'The Fiend without a Face'.

&, yes, "Citizen Kane' is an effects heavy movie.

 

I think the big problem is the Video games mentality and that studios/producers think that bitchin' pootertoons are all anyone wants to see.

 

---LV

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Even when CG looks even better, it still will not be able to beat a real good dialogue. People NEED it whereas people do not need CG. perhaps society is just going through the throes of flaunting what can be achieved tech wise. Proud of their Xmas toys ...

 

 

I agree in principle, but "real good dialogue" is not the key. Silent films have shown us that STORY is truely the heart of a great film. Maybe what we need is a silent CG Blockbuster.

Edited by Craig Knowles
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Guest LondonFilmMan

nah......interesting interractions of the verbal and traditional kind.....please....and without the clever tricks...leave those to the magician.

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For this reason I have recently loved becoming accuainted with earlier classics -- The Deer Hunter, The Searchers, Hunt for Red October, and the like. I am constantly amazed by Alien. If made today, that movie would have been ruined by CG. Same with The Thing.

 

And now, add "The Guns of Navarone" to that list as well. Great movie. Beautiful shipwreck scene.

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It's like when sound films were first popularized and people would go to the movies just to watch someone answer the phone. That's what passed for entertainment, and at the time, theorists claimed that sound was the death of film as an artform. It turns out there were still great movies to be made once the novelty wore off and filmmakers got back into the story telling business.

Of course, there will always be crappy movies for us to talk about as well.

 

Jon Barr

Film Student

Philadelphia, PA

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And now, add "The Guns of Navarone" to that list as well. Great movie. Beautiful shipwreck scene.

 

---Yes. But a slow paced by todays standards. & a bit of an effects film.

 

There's nothing intinsically wrong with CGI.

Effects shots were an important part of the old studio made pictures.

They're being used like steroids.

 

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I agree in principle, but "real good dialogue" is not the key. Silent films have shown us that STORY is truely the heart of a great film. Maybe what we need is a silent CG Blockbuster.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Not story persay, but a dramatic structure.

When Satyajit Ray received lifetime acheivment academy award he stated that movies are derived from 19th century western cassical music.

I strongly agree.

 

Too many movies now are extended dance mixes instead of a wellstructured symphony.

 

---LV

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Not story persay, but a dramatic structure.

 

Not story in the sense of "a good story". I mean, story in the Robert McKee's definition of the word. Many people feel the height of filmmaking was reached in the silent period and became cluttered by sound thereafter.

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Guest Michael Collier II

Whoever made that point about Michael Bay being the whipping boy-made me think of that Team America song:

 

I miss you more than michael bay missed the point, when he made pearl harbor....all I'm saying is pearl harbor sucked almost as much as I miss you.

 

What gets me is the drive to push things beyond their logical limit. Its not telling a story in action anymore, its trying to put you in one intense moment after another. compare 4-5 minutes of running with the stampeding dinosaurs with the end ice scene. I was bored silly during the stampede because every shot was trying to be more intense than the last. I became numb to the action 30 seconds in (and there was no suspense buildup before hand to make me really get into the chase)

 

Now the ice sequence I liked. It gave a moment to remember what the movie is about, and its not about a gorrilla destroying things. the brief action that followed was much more entertaining than most of the other sequences, just because of that sharp break in action. suddenly I was rooting for kong again.

 

I think CG has produced too much eye cany and not enough story telling. Its a way to turn your brain off. write in the script 'intense action chase sequence follows' then you hand that off to a team of animators who dont really care about the emotional heart of the film, just how do we make peoples eyes bug out.

 

I think its just the end of the romance period with CG and that will soon die down and we can get back to making real films that dont include greenscreen shots in 90% of the movie.

 

oh, and pearl harbor was lame too.

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