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Film of the Month Club?


Mei Lewis
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Not sure if this should go here or in ‘On Screen’. And sorry if this is an old/bad idea. 

Perhaps we could nominate a film each month that we all (whoever wants to) watch and discuss?

This would be good now as there’s a lot less communal cinema-going because of covid and probably fewer new releases too.

—-

Any takers?

I don’t have any particular films in mind to start with.

 

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I think that's a very good idea. Problem is, whenever I get to actually sit down and watch a movie, it tends to be the worst possible example of lightweight, zero-concentration popcorn fluff, because I've probably spent the last several hours concentrating very hard on phrases such as "beta-sialon spectral linewidth."

Recently, and with this in mind, I have enjoyed Guardians of the Galaxy. I don't like superhero movies but really it's just space opera.

But I'm sure everyone else will want to discuss art house.

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I started a movie club at the beginning of the lockdown where we watch a movie on our own and between 6 and 12 of us get on a zoom call and do a two hour review. I have a mixture of directors, DP's actors and producers (and one casting director who has quite a bit to say about the performances:). I also only invited people I've had long film discussions with and I know have strong opinions and will have a lot to offer.  We do once a week depending on availability, so we're around 40 movies at this point.  I thought I knew what I was getting into, but it has been shocking... no SHOCKING how intense these things are.  People's opinions on movies are insanely diverse and people are so freaking passionate about their love or hatred.  Movies I thought would be universally praised are torn to shreds by these vipers.  You get a bunch of people in a room together that are passionate about movies to discuss something they all just watched and you'll see some sparks.  I occasionally will invite someone new and I have to warn them not to take anything personally.  What happens is when you say you really love something and someone else says they hated it, you feel like they're attacking your taste.  It's tough to have someone sit there and refute every point you just made.... ESPECIALLY WHEN THEY'RE RIGHT!!! I originally started with "popcorn fluff" type movies, cause I wanted this to be light and fun, but had to give those up months ago cause you find out there's just not a lot to say about them.  We know what they are and why they exist, so there's not much to dive into. It's crazy though how I'm surprised by every meet.  Last week we did the Errol Morris 1981 doc, "Vernon, Florida", which almost none of us liked, but one guy gave a very convincing argument as to why we all missed the point.  He literally changed all of our minds and now we feel like we need to re-watch it.  On the flip side of that coin, I was a huge champion of that Prime movie, "The Vast of Night."  I watched it three times in a row and it became one of my favorite movies of the decade.  Everybody else hated it and spent 2 hours telling me how wrong I am.  I couldn't dig myself out of that hole.  Then Team Deakins had the director on their podcast cause they loved the movie so much... so I got to throw that in their face.

All that to say, it's a lot of fun.  I say do it.  Just don't take anything personally. 😊

Edited by Justin Hayward
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Another thing is we do "blocks" of movies, so we can compare and contrast.  We just finished our Sorkin block, so we started with "Moneyball" (which is awesome), then the next week we did, "The Social Network", then "Molly's Game" and we finished with "The Trial of the Chicago 7."  I'm a bit Sorkin'd out.  Next we are going to do a Coen brothers block.  It's a pretty interesting way to discuss their movies as opposed to a one-off in my opinion.

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23 minutes ago, Justin Hayward said:

, I was a huge champion of that Prime movie, "The Vast of Night."  I watched it three times in a row and it became one of my favorite movies of the decade.  Everybody else hated it and spent 2 hours telling me how wrong I am.  I couldn't dig myself out of that hole.  Then Team Deakins had the director on their podcast cause they loved the movie so much... so I got to throw that in their face.

I just watched this last week, really enjoyed the writing, directing, and camera operating - but what the hell was going on with the lighting and the color grade?

Maybe it was just my Netflix stream, but the blacks were heavily lifted and for many scenes the only shadow detail was in the lifted toe. I do realize this was a very low budget self-financed film and there were budgetary and technological limitations to lighting all of the night exteriors, but I really want to know if the lifted backs was an artistic choice, or if maybe the Netflix execs just decided that nobody would sit thru the film if most of the frame was pitch black and made the call to radically re-grade the film? 

I ended up changing my calibrated tv settings to crush the blacks and it looked much better, though then I couldn’t see what was happening in quite a few scenes. Just a few edge lights and some low fill light would have helped immensely I think...

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13 minutes ago, Satsuki Murashige said:

 

Maybe it was just my Netflix stream, but the blacks were heavily lifted and for many scenes the only shadow detail was in the lifted toe. I do realize this was a very low budget self-financed film and there were budgetary and technological limitations to lighting all of the night exteriors, but I really want to know if the lifted backs was an artistic choice, or if maybe the Netflix execs just decided that nobody would sit thru the film if most of the frame was pitch black and made the call to radically re-grade the film? 

 

Because the whole movie looks lifted, not just the darkest scenes, and the rest of the director's choices were so bold (long takes followed by rapid fire edits... fading to black for long chunks of a dialogue scene...) I took it as an artistic choice.  But there's no question it could be the latter.

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1 hour ago, Satsuki Murashige said:

I just watched this last week, really enjoyed the writing, directing, and camera operating - but what the hell was going on with the lighting and the color grade?

Maybe it was just my Netflix stream, but the blacks were heavily lifted and for many scenes the only shadow detail was in the lifted toe. I do realize this was a very low budget self-financed film and there were budgetary and technological limitations to lighting all of the night exteriors, but I really want to know if the lifted backs was an artistic choice, or if maybe the Netflix execs just decided that nobody would sit thru the film if most of the frame was pitch black and made the call to radically re-grade the film? 

I ended up changing my calibrated tv settings to crush the blacks and it looked much better, though then I couldn’t see what was happening in quite a few scenes. Just a few edge lights and some low fill light would have helped immensely I think...

I had the same issue with this movie.  But... I think the issue might have to do with Netflix streaming an HDR version to my non-HDR TV.  I've seen similar issues with other streaming shows, once in a while.

I'm thinking that it may have to do with my Roku stick.  If the stick logs on before the TV is booted up, it doesn't receive the TV state over the HDMI connection, and errors occur.  Now, I always boot the TV first, then the Roku Stick and I haven't seen this issue again.  But, I haven't gone back to check on "The Vast of Night" again...

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7 minutes ago, Bruce Greene said:

I had the same issue with this movie.  But... I think the issue might have to do with Netflix streaming an HDR version to my non-HDR TV.  I've seen similar issues with other streaming shows, once in a while.

I'm thinking that it may have to do with my Roku stick.  If the stick logs on before the TV is booted up, it doesn't receive the TV state over the HDMI connection, and errors occur.  Now, I always boot the TV first, then the Roku Stick and I haven't seen this issue again.  But, I haven't gone back to check on "The Vast of Night" again...

Hm, interesting. Thanks Bruce, I’ll test it out and report back.

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3 hours ago, Justin Hayward said:

Because the whole movie looks lifted, not just the darkest scenes, and the rest of the director's choices were so bold (long takes followed by rapid fire edits... fading to black for long chunks of a dialogue scene...) I took it as an artistic choice.  But there's no question it could be the latter.

What was strange is that the end credits had normal black levels. I tried changing my tv settings back mid-crawl to see if they were affected and they were not. It was just so extreme in the scenes that weren’t lit with contrast or separation, that it really looked like something had gone wrong. I’ve been there before as a filmmaker at a screening, and it just makes you want to crawl into a hole when it happens.

I thought maybe the studio had added a new end credits crawl with normal Rec.709 levels, while perhaps the movie itself was graded in P3 or something and the two were cut into the same file somehow, but Bruce’s explanation makes sense. Some scenes looked good on my tv with the adjusted black levels crushed, while other scenes where there was clearly supposed to be a hint of shadow detail we’re completely gone. So an HDR version playing on an SDR display would explain things. 

I’ll check it tonite when my living room is dark once more.

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I watched it on Prime on my projector and the blacks looked really washed out, but it just occurred to me the movie opens with that slow push into that old super washed out black and white TV which turns into the actual movie.  Maybe he wanted to maintain more of a washed out TV look from the 50's, but in a darker, low-light, modern, style?

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Sorry, it was indeed Prime, not Netflix. I did what Bruce suggested and turned on the tv first, then the Amazon Fire Stick. Black levels still look inconsistent and heavily lifted. I think Justin is right - it could be an intentional choice, odd as that may be. Kinda ruined an otherwise well-made movie for me, but to each their own. 

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I don't always hate the lifted black level look - years ago I remember seeing "Lost Highway" and there was an extremely underexposed scene in the apartment, middle of the night, and it felt like a fever dream, you were straining to see into the darkness but there was nothing there to see. It was hypnotic.

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3 hours ago, David Mullen ASC said:

I don't always hate the lifted black level look - years ago I remember seeing "Lost Highway" and there was an extremely underexposed scene in the apartment, middle of the night, and it felt like a fever dream, you were straining to see into the darkness but there was nothing there to see. It was hypnotic.

Sure, there are times when it can work - ‘McCabe & Mrs. Miller’ is another good example. I do think it tends to work better in a dark movie theater with a large screen and surround sound, whereas on a 50” screen at home (even a calibrated one) I think it can often look like a post-production error or display calibration error - both because it happens frequently on low budget projects, and also because it’s so easy to change the display settings to something that looks more standard. But in a theater, the viewing experience simply is what it is, which I think encourages the viewer to just go with the flow.

On the other hand, when I went to see ‘Carol’ in the theater I was the only person in there and the staff had left the lights on, assuming the theater was empty. I had to go find someone to turn them off after a few minutes. I don’t think that was an intentional part of the viewing experience that Todd Haynes and Ed Lachman wanted! 

I take your point about the emotional effect of straining to see in the dark, I do think there was some of that intention as well. Another thought would be the radio interference in the story taking over the film, sort of a progressive fogging of the ‘film stock.’ I only make this leap because of the post film grain applied - but if that were the case, then I think it should have been a bit more obvious, with a ramp up from normal black to fogged look with flashes and grain clouds as they get closer to the source. 

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