Saturday, February 25, 2023

An Ongoing List of Directors Positively Acknowledging Visual Effects

this page is periodically and (hopefully) frequently updated

Over on social media, I provide an extensive and exhaustive chronicle of movie directors and studios denigrating, marginalizing, and outright insulting the visual effects crews of their own films.

I want to do a better job of chronicling the positive: the lovely, fleeting moments of Hollywood leadership actually publicly acknowledging and praising the digital visual effects work in their films and the people who create the work. 

Have you seen a studio, producer or a director specifically praising the people and work behind the visual effects of their film? Send me a link - .

2023, Rian Johnson and "Poker Face"

Here's "Poker Face" showrunner Rian Johnson talking about the show's visual effects, calling out supervisor Craig Clarke and the visual effects houses that contributed to the show.

2023, John Francis Daley and "Dungeons and Dragons"

I served as ILM's compositing supervisor on "Dungeons and Dragons" (2023) and directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein were fantastic partners on the movie. 

original tweet:

2023, Craig Mazin and "The Last of Us"

Writer and producer Craig Mazin was extremely complementary of the visual effects work on "Chernobyl" on his podcast Scriptnotes, and even dedicated an episode of the show to a discussion about visual effects. In Scriptnotes 588, Mazin goes out of his way to praise the visual effects artists of his show "The Last of Us".

watch on YouTube

original tweet:

2023, Jim Cameron and Jon Landau, "Avatar: The Way of Water"

I wrote about how director Cameron and producer Landau were public and supportive of their visual effects teams on the night of the Visual Effects Society Awards in 2023. See also Landau calling into Corridor Crew's VFX Artists React video.

original tweet:

2023, Boots Riley, "I'm a Virgo"

I had the pleasure of having a quick chat with Boots Riley when he was prepping "I'm a Virgo" - he's such a thoughtful gentleman and I was thrilled to see his tweet about both the in-camera effects work and the digital work for the show:

original tweet:

2023, Seth MacFarlane, "Ted"

Upon wrapping on the new Peacock series "Ted", Seth MacFarlane took time to praise the work from Franestore on the project:

2023, J.A. Bayona, "Society of the Snow"
Director J.A. Bayona was effusive with praise on the visual effects of his film "Society of the Snow", and promoted an interview with the film's visual effects supervisor Laura Pedro. (Thanks, Charmaine!)

original tweet:

Another in a series of tweets from J.A. Bayona:

original tweet:

2023, Jimmy Chin, "Nyad"

Co-director of "Nyad" Jimmy Chin promoted the work of visual effects supervisor Jake Braver and the visual effects team on Instagram. Thank you, "megbaratta"!

2023, Reginald Hudlin, "Candy Cane Lane"
Director Reginald Hudlin went out of his way to talk about the artists of ILM:

"There were so many joyful things about making this movie, but one of the best was working with the brilliant artists at Industrial Light And Magic. Watching the magic unfold weekly was a treat!"

2024, Michael Sarnoski, "A Quiet Place: Day One"
Director Michael Sarnoski talks about digital effects in "A Quiet Place: Day One".

“The monsters themselves are physically unique and a bit impossible to do practically. But we had amazing people at ILM who had a lot of experience bringing those monsters to screen and did an incredible job making these monsters extremely real and extremely terrifying,” he says.

2024, Wes Ball, "Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes"
Director Wes Ball has been exuberant about his experience working with Wētā FX and about digital visual effects in general, both on his own Twitter account and promoting the movie.

"I've been spoiled as a fairly young filmmaker - I've made four movies with Wētā . They are the best in the world... I can't say how humbling it is to work with people that are the best in the world at what they do. It's absolutely a thrill every day to see the stuff they do. They are true artists. They are not just 'computer tech nerds'. People don't totally appreciate the artistry and storytelling, filmmaking craftsmen that these people at Wētā are."

The VFX of 'Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes' (befores & afters): 

Thursday, February 23, 2023

Box Office Breakdown of MPAA Ratings, 1980-2022

note: This is an update to an old post, which has a lot of cool links to articles concerning the historical link between MPAA rating and box office performance.

I'm really proud of my original post, which looked at the percentage of the top ten films at the domestic box office as they relate to the films' MPAA ratings. I've always felt that the dominance of PG live-action movies had been waning (taken over by PG-13) hits, and it was reassuring to see that feeling accurately play out in chart form.

The chart above adds years 2016-2022, which saw a staggering increase in PG-13 domination, culminating in 2021 and 2022 where PG-13 films made up a 93% and 86% of the top ten box office dollars, respectively.

The gigantic 2021 PG-13 percentage was fueled by five PG-13 superhero movies, "F9", "No Time to Die" and "Ghostbusters: Afterlife". That's nine of the top ten films at the box office; the sole non-PG-13 film in the top ten was "Sing 2".

But look what happened in the truncated, abbreviated, all-around-crummy year of 2020: 41% of the top ten's box office was from R-rated films! The top film of 2020 was "Bad Boys for Life" which was rated R, and there were impressive showings from fellow R-rated movies "Birds of Prey" and "The Invisible Man". Granted, due to the pandemic the severely-constricted box office for the top ten films of 2020 was about 1/5 of the 2019 top ten, which included hits like "Avengers: Endgame", "The Lion King", and "The Rise of Skywalker".

That said, 2020's performance of R-rated films was the highest percentage since 1988 when "Rain Man", "Coming to America", "Die Hard" and "Cocktail" dominated the box office (42%). In 1996 when R-rated fare like "Jerry Maguire", "Ransom", "The Rock", "The Birdcage" and "A Time to Kill", restricted films made up 39% of the top ten box office.

The year which saw the highest percentage of R-rated hits in the top ten was 1987, where movies like "Fatal Attraction", "Beverly Hills Cop II", "Good Morning, Vietnam", "The Untouchables", "Stakeout", "Lethal Weapon" and "The Witches of Eastwick" made up for a staggering 70% of the top ten box office.

Sunday, February 19, 2023

Fake "Before and After" Images and Color Timing

Criticize a finished movie all you want but please don’t make pretend “before and after” split screen images to stoke anger about color timing. The discourse is bad enough as it is.

The top image is a production still taken with a still camera and processed and color corrected for the express purpose of looking good as a production still (to be used online, magazines and newspapers). The bottom image is an altered frame from the trailer(?), which typically has different color timing choices than the final film. Of course, the original poster doesn't care about any of this.

It's very easy to make fake before/after images. See?

Also, please define "before" to me, either with film acquisition or digital acquisition. (There is no "before". There's only "the image as it has been handed to me by the previous step in the image pipeline".)

A while back someone tried to do a "gotcha!" tweet comparing the original "Halloween" (1978) and a grab from the trailer of "Halloween Ends" (2022). The original tweet is no longer online because the author has protected their tweets. This was their "comparison image", complaining how ugly the new movie looks:

I wrote:

[screenshot from 30-year old masterpiece, one of the most beautiful movies ever filmed]

[screenshot from random modern shitty movie gamma’d up]

look how fuckin ugly movies are today

But it wasn't even a fair comparison, since their "Halloween" screengrab was artificially brightened, and the screengrab from the "Ends" trailer" was decontrasted and brightened falsely.

Below is a good faith comparison of a production still (made by a still photographer corrected for use on the web/newspaper/magazine) and the finished MOVIE frame. Very different images made for very different uses.

original "Ant-Man 3" tweet:

original "Halloween Ends" tweet:

"Pitch Black" (2000) and its Post-Release Persona

At left, the original poster for "Pitch Black". At right, the retrofitted key art which now includes the star's name, and the 'Chronicles of Riddick' tag to indicate it's part of a film saga. A bit of a difference.

"Pitch Black" (2000) is a great movie.

The film is an ensemble piece that has beautiful design, genuinely shocking moments, and authentic characters. It's a surprisingly grown-up science fiction film.

I think it also suffers from the fact that one of the ensemble became an international star who headlined the (ugh) sequels, which--I think--puts off folks from seeing the original for the first time. Rather than the film positioned as a gorgeous one-off ensemble piece, it's been unfairly retrofitted as "the first film in the superstar's saga", which isn't fair to the movie. Part of the mystery of the first film is genuine uncertainty of alliances or survival.

Anyway, we joke a lot about 'sequels ruining the original', but in this case I'm kinda on board with it because the mere existence of the sequels reshapes how potential audiences view the first one. New viewers push PLAY are 'waiting for the superstar' to do their thing.

Original tweet:

Saturday, February 18, 2023

"Goodfellas" Prop Fail

view on YouTube

I... never noticed this before. This has less to do with a "fail" and more to do with "where does the audience's eyes track, per-shot".

"Goodfellas" (1990).

update: Ryan Butterworth on Mastodon says the license plate prop falling off the real license plate has been painted and 'fixed' in the 4K edition of "Goodfellas". The official statement from Todd Vaziri Incorporated is that fixing stuff like this is incredibly dumb and whoever asked for this to be fixed is wrong.