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joshua gallegos

American Hustle

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I saw American Hustle today, and I don't comprehend the hype surrounding the motion picture. I was aware from the get-go about the actors, the acting didn't feel sincere, it was acted. I was watching caricatures the whole time, in the exception of Jeremy Renner, who was truly believable. The film is listed as a crime/drama on IMDB, but it's really more of a comedy than anything else. I really loved O. Russell's 'Silver Linings Playbook', which reminded me of Wilder's 'The Apartment', but this film you can completely see so much of Martin Scorsese's form being completely ripped off! The freeze frames, the slow motion, the music, the staging, and even the 'Mean Streets' look that they were going for in the cinematography. It's just not an original piece of work, and the ending was completely foreseeable. The film had its moments, I particularly liked watching Amy Adams for the obvious reasons, but other than that, I was aware I was watching a movie thee whole time. Has anyone else seen it?

Edited by joshua gallegos

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Haven't seen it yet, but could it all be intentional?

 

I thought the idea to make all these flamboyant, self-conscious characters rather fitting if you consider they are all con-men, pretending to be something they're not.

 

A totally exaggerated, over-the-top form also seems like a good choice to me based on the subject matter and outrageous retro-70s look they were going for. But it would have to be well done of course, and not just feel like a rehash of all the similar films that came before.

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It's certainly not a bad film, it's entertaining, I just don't see its brilliance. Usually after I watch a great film, I leave with that adrenaline you get, where you want to tell everyone how good it was, but I honestly felt nothing for it. The film was certainly over the top, and I must say Jennifer Lawrence was pretty horrible in this movie, and you never really feel any of the characters are in any real danger. Compared to Robert Redford who was shot at and chased mercilessly in 'The Sting', you really felt scared for him, but in American Hustle I never felt that kind of danger for the Christian Bale character, when he goes through the entire 'ordeal' of a certain operation.The film just didn't leave an impression like it did with Silver Linings, the film is certainly over-hyped, I was very disappointed.

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Haven't seen it yet, but could it all be intentional?

 

I thought the idea to make all these flamboyant, self-conscious characters rather fitting if you consider they are all con-men, pretending to be something they're not.

 

A totally exaggerated, over-the-top form also seems like a good choice to me based on the subject matter and outrageous retro-70s look they were going for. But it would have to be well done of course, and not just feel like a rehash of all the similar films that came before.

Something was amiss, I can't quite diagnose what it was exactly, but it's certainly a film that draws too much attention to itself, and most of the scenes with Amy Adams took me out of the story, she is too much to handle.

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It suddenly dawned on me that the whole film IS a forgery! That is why the film imitated Scorsese so much! Ha! That's very clever of David O. Russell. Maybe there's more to this film than what i thought, I should definitely see it again.

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It suddenly dawned on me that the whole film IS a forgery! That is why the film imitated Scorsese so much! Ha! That's very clever of David O. Russell. Maybe there's more to this film than what i thought, I should definitely see it again.

 

Well, it's gotten you to pay attention and talk about it. Ha! Can't be all that bad...

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Well, it's gotten you to pay attention and talk about it. Ha! Can't be all that bad...

I never really said it was bad, it's actually a very entertaining film, I just didn't feel it was as good as everyone said it was, but in a way it's growing on me a bit more, perhaps I missed its genius. I need to see it again.

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Well, every filmmaker borrows from other great filmmakers, some even do it frame by frame. When James Cameron introduces the Kate Winslet character in Titanic, if you watch Bette Davis in 'Now, Voyager', you will see just how much he "borrowed" from that moment. In the case of Boogie Nights, I felt the technique didn't get in the way of the story, it was charged with energy, because it mainly dealt with very eccentric personalities. If anything, I would say Boogie Nights is more or less like Raging Bull, it's very biographical in the sense that we get to know every little aspect and nuance of the pornography industry, just as much as we got to see the inside and out of the boxing world with Jake LaMotta. The attention to detail in both films are quite profound. Even Tarantino who borrows from his favorites, manages to integrate that into his own style. In, American Hustle it felt the whole thing was a complete ripoff, I think it was done on purpose because David O. Russell has a definite style of his own, as in Silver Lining's Playbook -- so, it was that aspect that drew too much attention, and it took me out of the story, because i just didn't believe anything I was seeing, it felt too false to take seriously.

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It was pretty ludicrous and I too don't understand the hype. I guess Hollywood needs something to rally around in a somewhat dry year for cinema. I worked on it for a few days and can say it was loads of fun, but the story, who gives a s**t.

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Maybe its projector but it looked half of the movie out of focus to me.

 

You're right! Much of the movie had focus issues. The cinematographer insisted upon using old Canon K35 lenses for their 1970's look, the time period that the movie takes place. Unfortunately, the K35's have 1970's technology as well. Since AMERICAN HUSTLE was shot entirely on steadicam, the use of Preston FIZ remote focus units were necessary. Since the K35 lenses have a compressed focus scale and are known for "loss of motion," they could neither respond to the Preston transmitter commands nor return to a prescribed focus mark. There wasn't much chance for success in the focus department with these lenses. About half way through the shoot and against the cinematographer's wishes, the First AC insisted on switching the Canon K35 lenses for the Zeiss Hi Speed lenses which were made for cinematic use. After the switch, the focus issues were eliminated and the integrity of a period look was mantained.

 

 

 

G

 

Edited by Gregory Irwin
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Hey Greg, I just saw it last night followed by a Q&A with Geoffrey Haley. After hearing what you had to work with, I thought you did an outstanding job. I frequently work with a company that insists on using a RED mounted with an old set of manual Nikon still lenses. They're a real pain in the arse!

 

I think doing any kind of film with ONLY one kind of camera movement has a… monokinetic feel to it. After listening to the Q&A, its seemed like the choice of 100% steadicam was as much a choice of fast camera setups rather than a specific look.

I still couldn't stop gawking at the costume and sets. The production design was AMAZING!

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Hey Greg, I just saw it last night followed by a Q&A with Geoffrey Haley. After hearing what you had to work with, I thought you did an outstanding job. I frequently work with a company that insists on using a RED mounted with an old set of manual Nikon still lenses. They're a real pain in the arse!

 

I think doing any kind of film with ONLY one kind of camera movement has a… monokinetic feel to it. After listening to the Q&A, its seemed like the choice of 100% steadicam was as much a choice of fast camera setups rather than a specific look.

 

I still couldn't stop gawking at the costume and sets. The production design was AMAZING!

 

Thanks for the kind words Jeremy. David O's choice of using steadicam only comes from his interpretation of what a steadicam is capable of. He feels that it has an ease of movement and he truly believes that it is a panacea for the amount of time that it would take to set up a studio camera along with dolly track, etc. He doesn't want to be limited in any way that track would limit his camera movement to. David simply wants the cast to do what they want and for us to conform on the fly to them.

 

It's interesting to note that Geoff ("A" camera and Steadicam operator) and I are very accustom to no rehearsals or no blocking of a shot. In fact, we kind of enjoy that challenge. We had a tremendous success with David's THE FIGHTER which was shot in the same fashion. The movie is in frame and completely in focus. The difference was that we did not use the Canon K35 lenses. We shot with Zeiss Master Primes at a T1.3 and it looked fantastic! Hoyte van Hoytema was the cinematographer on THE FIGHTER where as Linus Sangren was the cinematographer on AMERICAN HUSTLE. His choice of employing the Canon K35s was fatal to our success when referring to the focus pulling challenges. Those lenses simply could not perform to the level we required. Thankfully, after we changed lenses to the Zeiss High Speeds, our focus issues were put behind us. I only wish we had made the change earlier in the shooting schedule.

 

I also want to mention what iron men Geoff Haley and Greg Lundsgaard were. They both operated steadicam non-stop for long hours and weeks on end. They really sacrificed their bodies to make AMERICAN HUSTLE. It was both physically and mentally challenging for us all. Jorge Sanchez was my "B" camera 1st AC and he too did a wonderful job.

 

G

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against the cinematographer's wishes, the First AC insisted on switching the Canon K35 lenses for the Zeiss Hi Speed lenses which were made for cinematic use.

That must have led to some 'interesting' conversations. Well done for fighting your corner. There are unfortunately many DP's who are more than happy to throw the crew under a bus if it serves their artistic vision. They need to be reminded that filmmaking is a collaborative endeavor.

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For what it's worth, the steadicam operating and focus work immediately stood out to me as excellent - so many extremely fast push ins to close and then nailing the landing with no float and near perfect focus.

 

I would imagine that with his love of improvisation David is the kind of director that doesn't like marks or rehearsals, which often leads to the kind of camera work shown in Silver linings playbook. You and Geoff really elevated the visuals of the film with your work.

 

I immediately looked you guys up and noticed that you had worked on The Fighter as well even though Hoyte was not on American Hustle. I was curious if David specifically asked your team back?

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For what it's worth, the steadicam operating and focus work immediately stood out to me as excellent - so many extremely fast push ins to close and then nailing the landing with no float and near perfect focus.

 

I would imagine that with his love of improvisation David is the kind of director that doesn't like marks or rehearsals, which often leads to the kind of camera work shown in Silver linings playbook. You and Geoff really elevated the visuals of the film with your work.

 

I immediately looked you guys up and noticed that you had worked on The Fighter as well even though Hoyte was not on American Hustle. I was curious if David specifically asked your team back?

Thank you Mathew. To answer your last question, Geoff and I were direct requests by David. He wanted us for SLP as well but we were not available. And I believe that was one of the issues our DP had. He didn't have his crew since Geoff and I were "forced" upon him. But we tried our best to look out for both his and David's interests. That got a bit tricky at times.

 

As far as your other observance, you're correct. David does not rehearse, there are no marks and we haven't a clue to what's going to happen during a take till after we have shot it. It must be quite a sight watching the steadicam operator, the focus puller, the boom man as well as the gaffer, who was booming a china ball on a stick, all negotiating for the same space while trying to stay out of eyelines and the key light! We all got into the habit of keeping an eye out for each other and signaling to which direction any of us needed to shift whether it was ducking either under the boom or even the lens! Even the cast got involved with the calling of audibles during a take and were extremely respectfull of our challenges as we were of theirs. The script supervisor would always ask me what the shot would be and I would smile and say " I'll let you know after we've shot it."

 

Finally, I accidently omitted the name of our 3rd steadicam operator who spent just a couple of weeks with us. Dave Thompson also made a huge contribution to AH. Sorry Dave!

 

G

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This video was shot with my iPhone to illustrate the focus issues we had with the Canon K35 lenses and the Preston FIZ. You can also see the T stop on the lens which further complicated our challenges in this shooting situation. This video was shot on set of AMERICAN HUSTLE.

 

 

Edited by Gregory Irwin

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My wife used to be an AC, and she says that video made her feel physically ill :)

 

Not being able to make those fine adjustments or be able to trust your marks is ridiculous, I'm glad they finally saw sense and agreed to make a change.

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This video was shot with my iPhone to illustrate the focus issues we had with the Canon K35 lenses and the Preston FIZ. You can also see the T stop on the lens which further complicated our challenges in this shooting situation. This video was shot on set of AMERICAN HUSTLE.

 

Hey Gregory,

What's actually causing the "dead motion" there. Is it just lens barel friction?

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Hey Gregory,

What's actually causing the "dead motion" there. Is it just lens barel friction?

 

I wish that it was that simple. Here's the basic deal:

 

With regards to the Canon K35 lenses, there are 3 key points that are very vulnerable to DEAD PLAY or DEAD MOTION in the focus mechanism. Since it is a floating front objective design (as opposed to a fixed head design) the focusing transport is vulnerable to backlash - especially if not maintained.

 

The K35's helical assembly is aluminum on brass which can wear very easily over time especially if this lens is from the 1979 era. The brass on aluminum helical assembly mates the parts together and has an approximate measured error of .0015” or 0.038mm backlash. This alone could account for an unreliable focus transport.

 

Another point of interest is in the lens helical capture. This is a brass on aluminum on brass configuration that is threaded in place to the correct height and is held in position with loc-tite! This setup can potentially come loose or wear down over time and create a noticeable backlash. This means a measured .002” or 0.050mm end to end play which can easily create backlash especially if combined with some helical wear.

 

The third point is the floating objective. The mechanism is held in by a fit and located by a brass key. Play in either or the mentioned parts could lead to an image shift as well as backlash. Remember, we were driving these lenses with powerful Preston focus motors and most likely overwhelmed the focus transport components.

 

A final point worth mentioning is that these lenses typically have fairly strong traces of secondary color that can sometimes convolve the image quality and make seeing focus difficult at wide open. I'm not convinced that this was our case but it's a possibility.

 

In the end, with all of the above mentioned and considering the K35's compressed focus travel, shooting these lenses on steadicam with ANY remote focus system, especially with an aggressive cinematic style as we had, would be futile. If these lenses were on a manually focused camera, where the focus puller could physically turn the barrel by hand and see the focus inscriptions, one's odds of success would be much greater. We simply had the wrong tool combination for AMERICAN HUSTLE.

 

Sorry for this lengthy explanation - I'm a bit of a physical optics nut! :) I should also mention that Panavision's Dan Sasaki contributed to this posting.

 

Greg

Edited by Gregory Irwin
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Seems like the sort of lens that would work better on a digital camera where you could pull focus by eye looking at an HD monitor rather than relying on the focus markings on the barrel.

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