February 16, 2009

The next big thing in movies

Watching the Keira Knightly vehicle "Duchess" about the Princess Di of the late 18th Century, the Duchess of Devonshire, it occurred to me that pretty soon a filmmaker is going to take this kind of English period porn (much of "Duchess" is filmed at Chatsworth House, which makes Castle Howard, used in the various "Brideshead Revisiteds," look like my house) and resusciate the genre by filming all that sumptuous pomp and circumstance with cheap handheld digital cameras pseudo-reality style, like an episode of "Cops."

Stately Manor meets Shakey Cam -- that's what today's audiences want! They want to see ye olde princesses filmed with an iPhone.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

51 comments:

Anonymous said...

Very cute, but I have a feeling that shakycam is already on its way out. It'll soon look very dated (soooo 2007!) and, like the groovy tie-dyed psychedelia of certain late-60s movies, join the rubbish heap of failed artistic fads.

Anonymous said...

I want to see this movie.

Cody said...

Mr. Sailer, why don't you go back and re-review some of your film reviews? Are you sure did it right the first time? I think not. It takes many years for any work of art to be fully appreciated.

Along these lines, Steve, I just ejected the steaming turd titled KINGDOM OF HEAVEN from the dvd player. I wasted about 55 minutes on it after buying it used for $3.

As a longtime isteve reader it's obvious that you didn't do me the favor of installing a permanent mental bias against this rat-kit of a film when it came out. I specifically remember you bitching about the weak leading man, the ludicrously named Orlando Bloom, but you really should've started a class action lawsuit against Ridley Scott for this cinematic crime.

But now I can't find your review of it on the movie page at isteve.com. Am I only remembering your casual comments about Orlando Bloom in other threads? I thought you reviewed this turd.

The only thing this movie is good for is as case study evidence on how the same talented director can helm a winner like GLADIATOR and also a loser like KINGDOM OF HEAVEN during the same phase of his career. Funny how that happens.

Anonymous said...

steve, denninger just issued a 'red alert'

RED ALERT: FX Dislocation In Process

Anonymous said...

perhaps denninger should've issued an ORANGE ALERT...

shaky world markets shuddering in the shadows...

today ambrose evans-pritchard from england wrote something about the eastern euro banks being on the brink and triggering a global meltdown...

gold and the dollar are higher...

but there is no stock crash at this time...

developing...

Anonymous said...

The Attention Deficit camera work of the MTV generation. Please make it go away.

Anonymous said...

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies looks like a winner.


http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/film/article5683554.ece

Xtra Laj said...

"Tristam Shandy" might come close enough, though that might not be what you mean (and that is obviously a comedy).

Anonymous said...

Cody,
the same director, Mike Newell, made, the truly, truly execrable 'Four weddings and a funeral' and the superb 'Donnie Brasco'.

I think it is all down to the script. A director can only work with what he is given.

Richard

beowulf said...

Richard,

To be fair to Newell, Four Weddings is one of the all time great chick flicks (so I'm told, never seen it), while mob movies like Donnie Brosco are almost universally guy flicks.

Anonymous said...

I also hate shakycam. It's especially pernicious in action movies, e.g. the Bourne series, which it has ruined.

I had an idea for a movie that would be a guaranteed blockbuster: a superhero takes on terrorists.

I'm thinking a telekinetic type, who gets attacked in Amsterdam a la Theo van Gogh. He rips his assailant apart, and then goes after Osama. "THEY DREW FIRST BLOOD".

Anonymous said...

"Chatsworth House, which makes Castle Howard, used in the various 'Brideshead Revisited,' look like my house"

I laughed out loud at this comparison, but in fact, Castle Howard does seem a tad grander than Chatsworth.

http://www.hha.org.uk/HHA/Property.aspx?id=1310&vw=0

http://www.castletonguide.com/gallery/14.html

michael farris said...

I kind of like the idea but the problem is (a problem all these movies have to solve) is: why are they filming this?

This can be solved poorly (the mostly enjoyable Cloverfield had little real justification for most of the scenes being filmed) or well (the very best of these movies [rec] shows tv reporters trying to get a story).

Who's going to explain why Sir Percival Bottomsleigh is shoving the camera in Lady Cruffington's grill?

KingM said...

Please, please let shakycam movement die out.

dearieme said...

@ Anon Dick: I thought that 4Ws and an F was quite entertaining, apart from the drippy female lead. What's your problem with it?

Danindc said...

No idea what this post is about but how about your thoughts on Benjamin Button. I thought it was top 5 worst movies ever- ( Coming to America, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, Waitress and Natural Born Killers being the others) so long, so pretentious, I was getting really angry watching it in the theatre, and kept looking around for someone else to validate my feelings but no one did....they just kept staring at the screen.

I did the looking around the theatre thing in Juno too because of the dialogue and at least then one guy looked over and shook his head in empathy.

Anonymous said...

English period porn ahoy!

Young Victoria directed by Martin Scorcese is out next month. The trailer is on Youtube.

Anonymous said...

Enjoy the period porn while you can. The demographic changes we are "enjoying" will make sure there wont be a market for it in 20 years anyway. So movies about the Edwardian courty will pretty much cease to be made because they aren't, you know, .....inclusive and stuff.


But Helena Bonham Carter will be really old by then anyway right?

PeterW said...

You've already got shakycam Colonial US in the HBO miniseries John Adams.

Anonymous said...

I propose that "Danindc" be banned for badmouthing "Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome." We've got to draw the line somewhere. . .

Though I'm not opposed to the whole shakycam aesthetic (sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't) I've always found the theory behind it hilarious. Critics claim that it is more realistic because it is documentary style. Apparently, the reason that documentaries are more real than fiction films is because they sometimes have rough camerawork, rather than because they're, ya know, filming real events, and the audience is consciously aware of this. Moreover, most shakycam films have rapid-fire editing, an incredibly artificial style. Seems to me that Woody Allen style point-and-shoot long takes are much more believable.

Sure, some faux-documentaries are more realistic seeming than conventional films, but that's because they consciously address the artificiality of the medium, not because wiggly=REALITY!!!!

They are no making period flims that are consciously filthy and ugly. I'm thinking of "The Proposition", a terrific Australian Western, and "The Libertine", which I've not actually seen, but which is apparently quite filth-encrusted. This seems even more contrary to the period film aesthetic than the shaky cam stuff, so maybe that's on the way. . .

anony-mouse said...

Wasn't there a recent documentary series about the Royal family an what it is they exactly do? No shaky cams buthe cams did move about quite a bit.

Anonymous said...

I caught the tail-end of the John Adams series and thought it quite good. I wasn't particularly struck by any palsied camera work ...

I liked the portrayal of Jefferson and Franklin, although it was a little hard to understand why they were so uncritical of pre-Revolutionary France while plotting against the British Crown. But then it's been a while since I read Burke, Paine et al and I can't remember the precise arguments.

Mr Knightley said...

Steve, admit it, British period drama is far superior entertainment than your typical Hollywood fare.

And Kiera in Pride & Prejudice is stunningly attractive.

Anonymous said...

Is shaky-cam a status display?

"I, with my vast resources, can easily afford to waste lots of film while shaking the camera like an excreting burrito, while you with your plebian budget must watch every frame."

Thought so in the 80s anyway.

Mr. Anon said...

" Anonymous said...

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies looks like a winner."

What would one call a Jane Austen zombie flick?

"Death and Dismemberment"

Truth said...

"I thought it was top 5 worst movies ever- ( Coming to America, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, Waitress and Natural Born Killers being the others)

Wow; that's an eclectic list!

Truth said...

If I were to pick the 5 worst movies I've ever seen

5. Vanilla Sky
4. Fair Game (Cindy Crawford)
3. House Party III
2. Charlie's Angels
1. Very Bad Things

Cameron Diaz was in three of them. Whoever invented this movie convention of 97 lb. fashion models knocking out 250 lb Teutonic Bodybuilders needs to be flogged.

Colin Laney said...

Enjoy the period porn while you can. The demographic changes we are "enjoying" will make sure there wont be a market for it in 20 years anyway. So movies about the Edwardian courty will pretty much cease to be made because they aren't, you know, .....inclusive and stuff.

If you pay attention to BBC product nowadays, you can see pioneering work being done on the stubborn problem of insufficient diversity in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries in Britain (and other countries).

In a reversal of Friedman's famous tagline 'Negro Removal' to describe urban renewal, you might call this new process 'Negro Addition'.

It's become especially brazen on the new Dr. Who, where travelling to various times and places in Western History gives rise to the problem of Not Enough Negroes. The BBC works around this problem by inserting Negroes where they were not - for example, the court of the Sun King - and then having contemporary characters act as if nothing whatsoever is the matter. The efffect is quite surreal, sort of like the Soviet 'vanishing Commisar' in reverse.

From the evidence provided for the viewer, in the Dr. Who universe, Europe has been choc-a-bric with blacks since time immemorial and moreover, has never had any problems such as racial inequality or discrimination.

The first three movies I noticed Negro Addition in were Mel Gibson's The Patriot (not technically an anachronism, but still . . . ), in the Hallmark adaptation of Jason and the Argonauts where Orpheus is portrayed as a Sub-Saharan African, and in Ridley Scott's Gladiator (again, not technically an anachronism, but as in The Patriot, there presence of a black actor with screen time feels quite forced and unnatural). Can Morgan Freeman as George Washington be far away? So far as I know, the only movie ever made about Thomas Jefferson was made so that an interracial affair could be portrayed. I guess Jefferson just didn't do anything important in his life other than boinking the help. Nothing justifying a multi-million dollar picture, I mean.

And in defense of shakycam, it is used to spectacular effect in the first season of the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica. Camera use in that show is lifted more or less directly from Ridley Scott's Black Hawk Down, and the naturalistic and even documentarian effect it lends to a science fiction show is incredible.

In the hands of the right director, it could be incorporated into a 'period porn' piece to great effect. Whether it would lend the same sense of immediate reality to a period piece remains to be seen. Certainly, it would seem out of place in something very measured and balanced, like a Jane Austin novel. But for anything with war footage, shakycam would go a long way towards adding a degree of reality to what might otherwise appear too much a staged re-enactment.

I vote that shakycam - though more of the Ridley Scott variety and less the Blair Witch/Cloverfield type - is a permanent addition to the director's palette. I'd love to see some period porn that uses it well, especially if it could be combined with the low light cameras used by Kubrick in Barry Lyndon. The combination of the two could give a strong, and even overpowering sense of another world, a world made by hand, and lit only by the sun, the moon, and by candlelight.

It's just too easy to forgot how different the past really was, or if you prefer, how different our lives are now. Anything that would help bring that gap into high relief would be an artistic breakthrough.

l. ron hoover said...

I liked "Waitress".

colin laney: well-said.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget "Pride and Predator," to be produced by Elton John.

So There said...

Classic iSTeve thread. Thanks for the laughs.

"And Kiera in Pride & Prejudice is stunningly attractive."

She might look good...but she mugged for camera in that movie like a shameless wench. Total ham. Strippers are more subtle with their visual cues.

Truth said...

"The first three movies I noticed Negro Addition in were Mel Gibson's The Patriot (not technically an anachronism, but still . . . )"

I guess you've never heard of Crispus Attucks?

Anonymous said...

The first three movies I noticed Negro Addition in were Mel Gibson's The Patriot

It wasn't the presence of blacks in The Patriot that was so anachronistic. It was the fact that they seemed to be Mel's happy employees instead of his slaves. That and the 20th-century dialogue and behaviour and the numerous historical howlers.

David said...

Steve, your suggestion was incorporated in principle (history via shakycam) years ago, on TV; specifically the "History" Channel.

Shakycam seems like the visual representation of what it's like to be mentally retarded. I feel IQ points dropping when I watch it.

Ditto rapid cutting (a la Bourne). Plus it makes me motion sick. I cannot look at the screen while it's going on.

And what's with the bass-loaded soundtracks? Why is there a surround-sound (or whatever) BOOM on every sound cue? A man slides into his car seat - BOOM. A man lifts his eyebrow dramatically - BOOM on the soundtrack (reverb drums?).

Why even have a story? Just play loud evocative music with faux-dramatic BOOMS. Emotions, not thought. You don't even need visuals. Just strap the audience members to sets of superbass headphones. Be sure to have marketing people in the aisles haranguing them about how "great," "profound" and "KICK-ASS" is the experience they're having. Why should the selling end with the trailer?

I no longer go to the theatre because I always come away feeling raped. Aurally, visually, mentally, and emotionally.

Pop Hitchcock's "Notorious" in the home theatre, set audio on mono, and pass the popcorn. Civilization at last.

michael farris said...

"Negro addition" is not about adding in Black characters, but a theatrical convention called color blind casting.

It's long been the norm in opera (where voice has traditionally been more important than physical appearance).

In this clip:
www.youtube.com/watch?v=8NpF9X19VVQ

Barbara Hendricks is playing a 18th century English girl. Those interested in opera simply ignore her skin tone (compared to that of her father). Ann Trulove is not an especially demanding role and there's not shortage of white sopranos who could perform it.
But Hendricks is an intelligent and unique performer and her take on the character is my favorite. The film in question was criticized for certain liberties taken with the story and score but no one cared that Hendricks' skin didn't match the rest of the cast. (in the theater most black performers in white roles use makeup to lighten their skintone a little but that wasn't an option in this movie).

Some examples of color blind casting recently have been Queen Latifa in Chicago (as Steve pointed out there's no way a black woman would be prison matron over white inmates in the 1920's). But she's not playing a black character.

Also the Haunted Mansion had a version of color blind casting in that the doppelganger of the 150 year old white ghost's lost love was black. (Not as successful).

michael farris said...

"I'd love to see some period porn that uses it well, ...could give a strong, and even overpowering sense of another world, a world made by hand, and lit only by the sun, the moon, and by candlelight."

I thought Herz aus Glas by Herzog did that as well as any movie I've seen so far.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=ooTSV5n6Hiw

Anonymous said...

Michael Farris said: "Negro addition is not about adding in Black characters, but a theatrical convention called color blind casting."

Nope. It's not color blind. It's just plain pro-color.

1. The govt. mandates that if there are more than two people in a visual ad, at least one-third of them must be black. Make a careful survey of billboards and brochures. Someone was counting before us.

2. I wrote and directed a movie in which the producers pressured me to "put more diversity" into the cast. "The movie is too whitebread," they continually complained. (One guess as to their ethnicity. That's right - Irish!) I asked, "What do you suggest? Make the daughter of the white couple black?" -- "You could make it an interracial couple." -- "That's a message film, and the film doesn't have that message." Their racial message was near-top prirority for these nice Irish boys. I was expected to fire some of the white actors and "brown it up" (their words). Color-blind my ass.

It's a deliberate, intentional push for more "color." As for opera, what you describe is plainly anachronistic and absurd. It's not color-blind, it's eyes wide open to color and insisting upon it: it's pure PC.

Think not? Well, if ever I see a black Desdemona on those "color-blind" stages - not deliberately paired with a white Othello, but the opera (or play) presenting black-on-black crime, so to speak - then I'll start to believe you. Why can't Othello and Desdemona be a black couple? Anachronistic? Who cares? Against the theme of the play? Who cares - we're color-blind, aren't we? So we don't look at all that. We just look at acting ability.

JJ said...

Started seeing "Negro Addition" (and lots of PC anachronisms in general) in the TV series "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman".

So believable: California model-types dressed in brand-new buckskin dialoguing in surfer accents about women's rights and the need to be sensitive to all persons of color - on the frontier circa 1875. Not to mention a female doctor, at a time when most places looked askance even at female nurses (Florence Nightingale notwithstanding).

I didn't watch the whole series - did Dr. Quinn ever have a black boyfriend?

Anonymous said...

"If you pay attention to BBC product nowadays, you can see pioneering work being done on the stubborn problem of insufficient diversity in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries in Britain (and other countries).

In a reversal of Friedman's famous tagline 'Negro Removal' to describe urban renewal, you might call this new process 'Negro Addition'."

Yes, I've noticed this as well. Soon every BBC historical drama will have to have a representative of each of the ethnic minorities. Shakespeare in particular is due for some revision: we'll have Desdemona murdered by her father, an old white guy, rather than by her Black husband; Lear as a victim of ageism; and Hamlet as a depressed Muslim. Historical accuracy will be a thing of the past and children will be even more confused than they already are.

Andrew Roberts reviews "Young Victoria" in today's (UK) Daily Telegraph. He praises it for historical accuracy - something, he says, that isn't often found in depictions of the English in American films.

Anonymous said...

Colour blind casting all sounds wonderful and inclusive until...one remembers that any character who supposed to be black must be played by a black actor. Otherwise a whole racist can of worms is opened up.

Whats theirs is theirs, whats ours is theirs.

Anonymous said...

in the Hallmark adaptation of Jason and the Argonauts where Orpheus is portrayed as a Sub-Saharan African

I suspect quite a few classic films will see diversity adaptations in coming years.

For now, we can still be grateful for mercifully monoracial productions, with only minimal, realistic diversity, like 2007's Bridge to Terabithia (Disney, no less), a story of white childhood innocence and imagination, untroubled by a lack of Honduran best friends or Samoan mentors.

And I'm still shocked that Lord of the Rings was able to get away with such a marked lack of diversity. There wasn't even any historical justification for it. Half the heroes could easily have been "diverse." Plenty of fantasy flicks before it managed to squeeze in a Chinese kung fu master/sage or black sidekick.

Sideways said...

If I were to pick the 5 worst movies I've ever seen

5. Vanilla Sky
4. Fair Game (Cindy Crawford)
3. House Party III
2. Charlie's Angels
1. Very Bad Things


Ha, I've got Charlie's Angels as #2 on my list, behind "Boys Don't Cry"

Combining Cindy Crawford's acting with a Lesser Baldwin was casting genius.

And put me in the "Death to shakeycam!" movement

Anonymous said...

>Their racial message was near-top prirority for these nice Irish boys. I was expected to fire some of the white actors and "brown it up"

Ah yes those Irish. LOL

Remember too many whites in one place makes the Irish uncomfortable and annoyed. White is "hideous"

michael farris said...

Color blind casting in opera wasn't an overnight process. Black singers for a time were constrained to non-European/Asian characters and slowly crept into some Asian and southern european characters like Carmen. Marian Anderson's met appearances were as Ulrica, a fortune teller in New Orleans.
The singer who gets the biggest credit for removing the color barrier on the opera stage was Leontyne Price. Basically her talent was such that people wanted to hear and see her on stage beyond the few roles that were open to black singers at the time. So in addition to Aida (a black role usually sung by white singers) her great roles included white (and Asian) characters.

Regarding Othello (or Otello). AFAIK no black singer has ever performed the role because black male opera voices seem to come in two varieties, lyric tenor (George Shirley, Vinson Cole) and Bass-baritone (Simon Estes, Paul Winfield). I've yet to hear of a black dramatic tenor (black female opera performers have a similar vocal distribution to white singers). The black mezzo turned soprano Shirley Verret did sing Desdemona opposite white tenor James McCracken.

Getting to BBC style productions. Basically the policy appears to be:

1. If race is not an issue at all in the piece, then it can be cast color blind with non-white actors in theoretically white roles, especially if historical accuracy is not being aimed at in the first place (the black actors in BBC's Casanova were perhaps that mini-series' least unrealistic aspect).

2. Race is taken into account for roles where race is, in fact, an issue.

3. If historical accuracy is wanted then roles are cast according to race.

It doesn't seem like a great problem to me but my obsessions aren't necessarily those of most commenters here.

James Kabala said...

Colin Laney: I would 1776 featured Thomas Jefferson as a lead character (although Adams was a bit more prominent).

Anonymous said...


It doesn't seem like a great problem to me but my obsessions aren't necessarily those of most commenters here.


Moral preening in action. Yes, Farris, you're so pure of heart, so much better than the rest of us benighted souls with our petty "obsessions." Sure, racial dispossession and racial extinction are permanent, but what's that compared to the soaring moral heights of pee-cee racial rectitude?

Anonymous said...

Moral preening in action. Yes, Farris, you're so pure of heart, so much better than the rest of us benighted souls with our petty "obsessions." Sure, racial dispossession and racial extinction are permanent, but what's that compared to the soaring moral heights of pee-cee racial rectitude?

Ditto.

I wanted to say something along those lines, dont have the talent.

michael farris said...

And just what exactly is the connection between colorblind casting and "racial dispossession and racial extinction"?

I'll agree that I'm engaged in moral preening if you'll agree that you're soaking in a bathtub full of the crazies.

Anonymous said...

Colour blind casting all sounds wonderful and inclusive until...one remembers that any character who supposed to be black must be played by a black actor.

It's not just happening in movies, either. I can think of no better example than the statue to memorialize the white 911 firefighters was transformed from three whites into a white, a hispanic and a black. As even Jonah Goldberg managed to point out, everyone knows that had it been black firefighters the statue would have been three blacks.

And just what exactly is the connection between colorblind casting and "racial dispossession and racial extinction"?


Don't worry about it, Michael. It'd just go over your head.

I'll agree that I'm engaged in moral preening if you'll agree that you're soaking in a bathtub full of the crazies.

What's so crazy about seeing blacks as they really are? Isn't it literally more crazy to see them as you fantasize about them? That might sound like a rhetorical flourish, but at bottom it's really an empirical question; I don't doubt that this exactly what makes it seem so "crazy" to you.

James Kabala said...

I remember a few years ago an opera director refused to cast a particular singer because she was too fat, and there was a great uproar on the grounds that singing ability is all that should matter, that an opera is not a play or even a musical where some degree of realism in casting is called for. The likes of Pavarotti certainly played young swashbucklers long after he ceased to bear the faintest resemblance to one.

This true to some extent of the classic stage as well. Most of Shakespeare's plays, even the historical ones, are set in a sort of timeless never-never land to begin with, and this was even more true when they were newly written -Julius Caesar was first performed in Elizabethan clothes, not togas. As late as 1936 MGM could make a movie in which Romeo was 43 and Juliet was 34. Realism in terms of age has actually increased in recent years - no one could get away with a thing like that today, although one probably could in opera.

I agree that colorblind casting becomes jarring the more realistic the production is and the closer we get to the present. I saw an ad the other day for a BBC/PBS Oliver Twist in which Nancy was black, and although this is actually not historically impossible, political correctness was probably a factor in the casting. In opera and on the classic stage, realism is often ignored anyway, as previously detailed, so what's one more thing? Should black people be barred from opera? Chances that this will lead to the "extinction" of the white race are rather low.

It is true that this doesn't go both ways and we'll probably never see a white Othello again. (But then again, we'll never see a black Desdemona or Iago - race is just too important in that play.)

michael farris said...

"I saw an ad the other day for a BBC/PBS Oliver Twist in which Nancy was black, and although this is actually not historically impossible, political correctness was probably a factor in the casting."

I'll reserve judgement on that until I see it. On the other it could conceivably work both ways.

Bertolucci's "besieged"
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0149723/
would work just as well with a reclusive western black musician who's hired a white Chechen (or Balkan) maid. The racial division is probably crucial to the story working, but who plays which is up for grabs.

"What's so crazy about seeing blacks as they really are? Isn't it literally more crazy to see them as you fantasize about them?"

My 'fantasizing' about them means I think they're people with good and bad qualities. As our host once pointed out here, collectively black people in the US saw through W's 'war on terror' a lot quicker than white americans did (many of whom are still in a state of denial). Yeah, there's lots of dysfunction in poor black neighborhoods but are poor white neighborhoods really doing any better?

And pray tell, what is it about blacks "as they really are" that means they shouldn't appear in movies and stage performances?