Category Archives: Hollywood

His Master’s Voice | Emmanuel Lubezki



Emmanuel Lubezki Morgenstern, A.S.C., A.M.C. (1964 – present)

He sometimes goes by the nickname Chivo, which means “goat” in Spanish

Mexican Cinematographer

Lubezki has worked with many acclaimed directors, including Mike Nichols, Martin Scorsese, Michael Mann, Joel and Ethan Coen, and frequent collaborators Terrence Malick, Alfonso Cuarón, and Alejandro González Iñárritu.

Lubezki is known for achieving many groundbreaking cinematography techniques, and his work has been praised by audiences and critics alike, earning him multiple awards, including eight Academy Award nominations for Best Cinematography. He won in this category three times, becoming the first person to do so in three consecutive years, Gravity (2013), Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014), and The Revenant (2015).

Films of Note:  Sólo Con Tu Pareja (1991), Como agua para chocolate (1992), A Little Princess (1995), The Birdcage (1996), Meet Joe Black (1998), Great Expectations (1998), Sleepy Hollow (1999), Y Tu Mamá También (2001), Ali (2001), Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004), The New World (2005), Children of Men (2006), The Tree of Life (2011), Gravity (2013), Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014), The Revenant (2015)


Friday Fun Fact | Kung Fu Panda


Kung Fu Panda took four years to make. According to VFX supervisor Markus Manninen, the computer animation used throughout the film was more complex than anything DreamWorks had done before. The first DreamWorks Animation film to be released in IMAX, Kung Fu Panda was the 3rd highest grossing film of 2008.

The film was originally going to be a spoof of the kung fu genre, but one of the directors, John Stevenson, wanted to have a blend of comedy and action to make the film more epic, saying, “I wasn’t interested in making fun of martial arts movies, because I really think they can be great films; they can be as good as any genre movie when they’re done properly.

The opening scene is an homage to Japanese anime, as both directors are big fan of the genre. They wanted to distinguish the opening dream sequence, so it was hand drawn, whereas the rest of the film (with the further exception of the animation in the end credits) was CGI.

One character that needed revisions was Tai Lung, who continually seemed too sympathetic as the villain of the story. As a result, the producers included the sequence that illustrates the story Tigress told about Tai Lung’s betrayal of his father’s principles, and his rampage after being refused the Dragon Scroll to make him sufficiently despicable to the audience. By contrast, Po was refined by Jack Black and the writers from an unpleasant obsessed fan who unsettled his heroes to an affable martial arts lore devotee, painfully self-aware of his inadequacies.

The Kung Fu/Wuxia convention, where attacks on the correct nerve/Chi points can cause paralysis and other effects, is adopted, although it is not explained in the film, and the jade figurine topped sticks on the shell worn on the imprisoned Tai Lung are positioned at the traditional Chi energy points of the body. The sticks are intended to keep the villain from accessing the power from those points, which is why he was first concerned about removing them before attempting to break his chains.

Kung Fu Panda had a massive impact upon the Chinese audience when it released. To get the ambiance of the film perfect, production designer Raymond Zibach and art director Heng Tang had spent years researching Chinese art and kung fu movies. This effort, combined with the rest of the crew’s extensive research and knowledge of Chinese culture, so impressed the Chinese that there were meetings by official government cultural bodies to discuss why their own country has not produced animated films of such quality themselves.




Midweek Line Up |10 Films with Inspirational Lighting


The Cinema encyclopaedia is so vast, that just naming 10 extraordinary films under any category is likely to cause serious fights, even among close cinephile friends. Nevertheless, take a look at these classics mentioned in this list of films with some great use of light to enhance the film, featuring works of Terence Malick, Francis Ford Coppola, Roman Polanski, Alfred Hitchcock, and even David Fincher. Despite missing many names, this list is a good place to start studying the effect of lighting on cinema.

Find the list here: 10 Films with Inspirational Lightning

A Shot of Short | Presto (Doug Sweetland/Pixar)

This delightful film is about Presto, the magician and Alec, his rabbit in a hat who plots revenge against the overbearing and cruel magician. While the rabbit in a hat trick brings Presto great fame and fortune, Alec is left to languish in a cage, a carrot just out of reach.

Alec is decides not to take Presto’s abuse any longer and rebels giving the magician a taste of his own mean spirited medicine. The rabbit is determined to get the last laugh at the expense of his demanding employer. The film is filled with slapstick, magic hats, vaudevillian antics, all in five minutes of screen time.

When searching for the style of the short, Sweetland decided that it should be like Tom and Jerry with Presto in the Tom role and Alec in the Jerry role. There was a melding of the old and the new.

It wasn’t Sweetland’s original intent to bring the feel of old style cartoons into this film until he found his story not only called for it but would thrive because of it. He found that the art of directing an animated film was something like “boot camp” where he would have to shape and refine his vision.

Through hours of work Presto morphed from the amiable magician to the comic antagonist with the kind of relationship with Alec that would bring to mind classic pairs like Elmer Fudd and Bugs Bunny. They were meant to be antagonists, to do battle and once again the rabbit was going to gain the upper hand.

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Tuesday Blog |The Joker: the history of Batman’s most famous foe

Joker - Batman

The Joker is a fictional supervillain created by Bill Finger, Bob Kane, and Jerry Robinson who first appeared in the debut issue of the comic book Batman (April 25, 1940) published by DC Comics. Although the Joker was planned to be killed off during his initial appearance, he was spared by editorial intervention, allowing the character to endure as the archenemy of the superhero Batman.

The Joker possesses no superhuman abilities, instead using his expertise in chemical engineering to develop poisonous or lethal concoctions, and thematic weaponry. Although the Joker sometimes works with other supervillains such as the Penguin and Two-Face, and groups like the Injustice Gang, Injustice League, and Suicide Squad, these relationships often collapse due to the Joker’s desire for unbridled chaos. The 1990s introduced a romantic interest for the Joker in his former psychiatrist, Harley Quinn, who becomes his villainous sidekick. Although his primary obsession is Batman, the Joker has also fought other heroes including Superman and Wonder Woman.

The Joker has been adapted to serve as Batman’s adversary in live-action, animated and video game incarnations, including the 1960s Batman television series (played by Cesar Romero) and in film by Jack Nicholson in Batman (1989), Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight (2008), and Jared Leto in Suicide Squad (2016). Mark Hamill, Troy Baker, and others have provided the character’s voice.

Keeping with this background about the Joker, here is an article by Owen Williams for listing the various actors to have played Joker on screen and a quick look at their personal styles and character interpretations.

The Joker: the history of Batman’s most famous foe




His Master’s Voice | Dustin Hoffman

Dustin Hoffman

Dustin Lee Hoffman (1937 – present)

American actor and film director, with a career in film, television, and theatre since 1960.

Hoffman has been known for his versatile portrayals of anti-heroes and vulnerable characters. He won the Academy Award for Best Actor in 1980 for Kramer vs. Kramer, and in 1988 for Rain Man. Widely considered one of the finest actors in history, Hoffman first drew critical praise for starring in the play, Eh?, for which he won a Theatre World Award and a Drama Desk Award. This achievement was soon followed by his breakthrough 1967 film role as Benjamin Braddock, the title character in The Graduate. Since that time, Hoffman’s career has largely been focused on the cinema, with sporadic returns to television and to the stage.

Along with 2 Academy Award wins, Hoffman has been nominated for 5 additional Academy Awards, and he was nominated for 13 Golden Globes, winning 6 (including an honorary award). He has won 4 BAFTAs, 3 Drama Desk Awards, a Genie Award, and an Emmy Award.

Hoffman received the AFI Life Achievement Award in 1999, and the Kennedy Center Honors Award in 2012.

Films of Note: The Graduate (1967), Midnight Cowboy (1969), John and Mary (1969), Little Big Man (1970), Straw Dogs (1971), Papillon (1973), Lenny (1974), All the President’s Men (1976), Marathon Man (1976), Kramer vs. Kramer (1979), Tootsie (1982), Rain Man (1988), Hook (1991), Outbreak (1995) and Wag the Dog (1997),  Meet the Fockers (2004), Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (2006), Kung Fu Panda 1, 2 and 3  (2008, 2011 and 2016/voice of Master Shifu)  


Friday Fun Fact | Wolf of Wall Street (Martin Scorsese)


Ridley Scott was initially asked to direct this movie, but when he declined, Martin Scorsese came on board. It had a huge impact on the way the movie turned out, naturally. The majority of the film was improvised, as Scorsese often encourages. Wanting to work with his dream director, Jonah Hill demanded a chance to audition, won the role, and took a pay cut by being paid the Screen Actors Guild (S.A.G.) minimum, which was $60,000.

Scorsese claimed that the sequence of Jordan (Leonardo DiCaprio) attempting to get in his car while extremely impaired on Lemmons was improvised on the day of filming, and that it was DiCaprio’s idea to open the car door with his foot. DiCaprio strained his back during the scene, and was only able to perform the stunt once. DiCaprio cited Caligula (1979) as an inspiration for the way he wanted the excess and decadence depicted in the film.

Matthew McConaughey‘s scenes were shot on the second week of filming. The chest beating and humming performed by him was improvised and actually a warm-up rite that he performs before acting. When Leonardo DiCaprio saw it while filming, the brief shot of him looking away uneasily from the camera was actually him looking at Scorsese for approval. DiCaprio encouraged them to include it in their scene and later claimed it “set the tone” for the rest of the film.

Jonah Hill wanted to eat a real goldfish because everyone was working so hard on this movie that he didn’t want to be the only person who wasn’t. He wanted everything to be real. Obviously, regulations didn’t allow it. They had a real goldfish and three goldfish handlers/wranglers on set. Hill could keep the goldfish in his mouth for three seconds at a time and then they had to put it back in water unharmed.

Margot Robbie has revealed that she accidentally slapped DiCaprio more violently than she intended to while shooting a scene: she got a little lost in the moment, slapped his face and said “F*ck you”. There was a stunned silence on the set and then all of them burst out laughing, but she feared that DiCaprio would sue her for it. She apologised, but he was impressed with her courage and asked her to hit him again.

On a routine visit, Steven Spielberg spent a day on the set, watching the shoot of the Steve Madden speech. Scorsese claims that Spielberg essentially co-directed the scene, giving advice to actors and suggesting camera angles.

This cast assembled by director Martin Scorsese’s film includes three other prominent directors in acting roles: Rob Reiner, Spike Jonze, and Jon Favreau.




Friday Fun Fact | The Jungle Book (Jon Favreau)

The Jungle Book 2016

The Jungle Book released in India a week ahead of its US debut, to pay tribute to the Indian environment of the novel on which the film is based.

The first time King Louie appears on the screen, he is sitting in a chair, his face obscured by shadows and talking in a sinister, slightly muffled voice about offering Mowgli protection before finally revealing his face. This is an obvious homage to the classic film Apocalypse Now (1979) in which Marlon Brando‘s character, Colonel Walter E. Kurtz, first appears on screen similarly composed. Also, the scene where Louie first shows his hand to Mowgli is a homage to the Peter Jackson version of King Kong (2005) where Kong does the same thing upon meeting Ann Darrow.

Unlike the 1967 film, also by Disney, King Louie is an actual villain in this version, where he is more antagonistic and sinister, and though he is a bit more charming and convincing, he can be quite impatient and aggressive. Though many see him as a villain in The Jungle Book (1967), he is actually more of an anti-hero in it, and has been seen in his other appearances in film and television to be on the same side as Mowgli, Bagheera and Baloo.

In the 1967 movie, King Louie was an orangutan. In this film, he’s a gigantopithecus, an ancestor of the orangutan whose range is believed to have also lived in parts of India. This change in species was made to make the film more fantastic, seeing as it would be a good way to represent him as king of the monkeys, and since orangutans are not native to India.

Right before he meets King Louie, Mowgli finds a cowbell in the monkey palace and proceeds to pick it up and shake it, causing Louie to appear. King Louie is played by Christopher Walken, who once famously stated on a sketch on Saturday Night Live in 2000, “I have a fever, and the only prescription is more cowbell!” Amid the treasures in King Louie’s temple, one of them happens to be Genie’s lamp from Aladdin (1992).

Man’s ‘Red Flower’ (Laal Pushp in the Hindi version) has a bigger role in this film. In the older version, it is mentioned briefly by King Louie but in this version several animals mention it and it is implied all animals apart from Louie fear it. This possibly explains why Louie wanted to know how to make fire so he can use it to his own advantage so that all animals including Shere Khan fear him.


A Shot of Short | Big Business (Hal Roach)

For many contemporary audiences, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy exist more as archetypes than memorable performers in and of themselves. The Laurel and Hardy comedies had an undeniable influence on mismatched comedy duos throughout the twentieth century, ranging from Abbott and Costello and the Warner Brothers cartoons to the Honeymooners and, derivatively, The Flintstones. Many of their catchphrases have been ingrained into popular culture so completely that they have been unknowingly attributed to later sources  (most notably Homer Simpson’s iconic “D’oh”). Before succeeding in the sound era, however, Laurel and Hardy were masters of the silent slapstick comedy short as a team with Director-Producer Hal Roach.

Big Business, a short silent released in what many consider to be the last real year of the silent era, showed how, unlike many of their silent film contemporaries, Laurel and Hardy were able to successfully make the transition to the sound era by relying heavily on primarily visual and physical comedy. The plot is the kind of simple material oft found in comedy shorts; Stan and Ollie are Christmas tree salesmen in California who enter into tit-for-tat rallies of escalating hijinks with a would-be customer.

The appeal to audiences of all ages is apparent in the cartoonish gags for which the pair are so well-known, due in no small part to Laurel’s lead creative role on the writing team, frequently challenging his co-writers to one-up one another to even more ridiculous and hysterical bits. The film was entered into the National Film Registry in 1992 and retains the goofball charm it held for audiences around the world.


Tuesday Blog | Dark is the City: Cities in Cinema


A scene from F.W. Murnau’s silent classic, ‘Sunrise’ (1927). Photo: Special Arrangement by The Hindu

“A lot of modern anxieties and pathological conditions are rooted in the experience of the city. Fears like agoraphobia and claustrophobia, the fear of heights or acrophobia are all essentially associated with modern urban space and architectural forms — small apartments, elevators, stairwells, high-rises — and perhaps even occur as a result of such spatial constraints and demands. A number of films have explored these ideas in a variety of ways.” – Sucheta Chakraborty for The Hindu

Sucheta astutely observes and deconstructs the ways in which spaces are used to set the mood and tone in the movies – how they are given a character that will interact with the actors and propel the story forward. She links that to directors and movies which pioneered  these ideas comes up with a wonderful article.

To read the full article, click here.