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Mostly photography and some other musings.

Posts tagged movies

I started watching this film yesterday. Every time a conversation about films with great photography begins, this film is mentioned. I Like a lot Stanley Kubrick films. One of the things that make his films stand out is precisely the photography. And this one is a masterpiece. Although to be honest, I find it a bit boring. Its three hours long, and I still have to find a remaining spare hour to finish it. But as I say, it is mostly enjoyable even if you just stare at your TV screen for the sake of the pictures.

The exterior shots usually have a dramatic skies and great compositions. The light is wonderful. Interior shots are of another kind altogether. Kubrick was really involved in technical aspects of the design of special lenses for getting the result he wanted. He didn’t use any kind of fill light, just the available light on the rooms. The candle lit shots just look amazing. Considering that the film was shot in the 70’s, that is a great achievement.

I might finish watching this film tonight…

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I knew about this documentary ages ago, but never found the moment to watch it. It was released in 1992, and the name Baraka has a religious meaning in it. I enjoyed it a lot. You’ll need to be in a contemplative mood for really finding the beauty of this, if not, it can just be a boring sequence of videos. It shows views of different places in the world, life styles and cultures. You might even find some interesting meanings, maybe very personal ones, depending on your mood while watching the film. Photography is great. The use of time-lapse photography, now so fashionable, is amazing. And the music fits perfectly. Now I need to watch the second part, called Samsara. Good weekend!

You know what they say about wishes. This film goes even further. These wishes can kill you. Stalker is a Russian film directed by Andrei Tarkowsky in 1979. In some remote place there is an area, called the Zone, where weird things happened a few years ago. That area now is kept by military forces, and only a few people dare to enter there. They must be lead by a stalker, a kind of hunter that knows how to avoid getting killed in the path to the wish granting device that lies in the centre of the Zone. In this film, a writer and a scientist use the services of a stalker for trying to get what they most wish.

The film is based on a novel called Roadside picnicI haven’t read this novel, I just watched the film some time ago. In the novel, they describe how some alien waste was left in specific spots on earth, like the waste people can leave in a picnic area. Those wastes are strange devices with some very unique properties. Some of them are lethal while others seem innocuous. Only specialised stalkers are able to go there and find these artefacts. The most important one is the wish machine, that grants wishes to whoever comes close. That comes with a twist. Two persons need to reach the device. The first one gets eaten by a thing called  “Meat Grinder” and meanwhile the second one gets a bit of time to reach the “Golden sphere” where wishes are granted. As you can see, its not easy. Other devices improve your health, or transform everything into a mucus, or just make a loud noise, without any apparent danger. The book goes into details with all these things and their effects. Stalkers at the same time, are exposed to all sort of contamination and side effects. They use bolts or metallic parts attached to their clothes to detect how the gravity in certain areas behave, because it is know that gravity and light act weird in dangerous places. It is also known that their children are born with horrible deformations.

The film takes only some of these themes and in 160 minutes tells the story of these three characters trying to find their way to the Zone. During their trip, they talk about the place, what they expect of it, what are their plans after their wishes are granted. The romantic vision of the writer versus the pragmatism of the scientist brings some interesting dialogues. When they get closer to the place, things change a bit and a few interesting plot twists happen. Some important questions arise, like, what’s exactly a wish? And how a machine or device knows what we wish? What if a hidden, possibly malicious wish, is chosen instead? Is that device a judge that could punish instead of reward us, possibly with death?

It is a very slow film. I already said that about the same director’s film version of Solaris. It is his trademark, it seems. Stalker has some shots of almost 4 minutes where nothing happens, or not even a word is said. I remember that I watched this film in parts, along a few days, and a friend of mine asked me if I had paused the video, because nothing appeared to change in the screen. It wasn’t paused, characters were talking, and I was just amazed by the photography. Almost hypnotized. There are shots in sepia colours. Other shots in gorgeous colour when they are in the Zone. Great light in interiors. Carefully chosen compositions for those almost static shots… It’s visually unforgettable.

I need to read the original novel, at some point. Meanwhile, here you have a link where you can watch the entire film. I’d rather grab a DVD version to really appreciate its photography. Also, you will need coffee, tea, whatever wakes you up, and 160 minutes of your life without distractions.

There is also a game loosely based in some of this ideas. It happens in Chernobyl, a proper Russian Zone, and things like weird artefacts and the wish machine make an appearance, I’ve heard. I haven’t played this one though.

I have a backlog of games not played/to be finished. In the not finished list, I have some very lengthy ones, that I have no idea when I will be able to finish. And what is worse, I’m afraid that the moment I try to come back to them, I might have forgotten about what the game was. It is like having to reopen an already started 500 pages book, and not remembering anything about it (Game of Thrones, I’m looking at you!). In the not played list, there are a few interesting ones.  One of them it’s called Braid. It was released a few years ago, but its been only recently that I  had  a bit of time to spend in it. This picture in their site explains the basic idea: Time manipulation.

This video show the thing in action:

Wonderful 2D art and great design. Worth your time and attention. At least it made me grab my xbox 360 controller at home again.

I’ve worked in games for more than 10 years, and what happens sometimes with that is you no longer play enough games at home. The usual comment from friends is: Ah, you must be playing all the day at the office!. Nothing farther from the truth!. This days I have very little time or interest in playing the nth iteration of a famous first person shooter, or spend hours analysing statistics in a Japanese RPG. And I did that in the past! A lot! But not any more.

Games like Braid are far more interesting to play for me now.  Some developers are trying to make less expensive games, but much more interesting than some big ones in the market now. What they do is avoid all the expensive procedures needed to publish a game and try other sorts of ways to get to the public. Also they have much smaller budgets, less staff, less everything. But sometimes a great idea behind. Here is an opinion of one developer about these associated costs. They created Super Meat Boy, an extremely fun (but hard to master) platforming game. It was a success. Now, they seem to be reluctant to all this new next-gen consoles:

“The overhead cost of just developing for those consoles is insane,” continued Refenes.
“It costs zero dollars to develop on Steam if you already have a computer. When you look at PlayStation and Xbox and Nintendo you have to buy thousand dollar dev kits and pay for certification and pay for testing and pay for localisation – you have to do all these things and at the end of the day it’s like, ‘I could have developed for other platforms and it would’ve been easier.'”
This overhead makes it risky for independents to get behind new platforms without some guarantee of their success.
“You have to take into consideration that when you’re independent, you don’t want to take the risk of jumping on a platform that you have no idea how it’s going to do until it’s already established,” said McMillen.
via Team Meat has no plans for next-gen | Game Development | News by Develop.

“Indie games: the movie” is an interesting documentary film about these kind of games and how they are developed. Basically, lots of hard work, time, passion and dedication. Watch it when you have time! 🙂

I recently watched “Anton Corbijn Inside Out” documentary. I found it particularly fascinating. For sure you have seen some of his famous photographs. If you ever have had an album from Joy division, U2, Rem, Nirvana, or Depeche mode, to name only a few, you have seen one. They are usually high contrast black and white, and in some cases with cross processed film colours. Portraits of famous bands, with dramatic backgrounds.

In this documentary he talks about why he photographs music bands, and how that helped him to overcome his difficulties to relate to people. How his relationship with his family made him like he is now. Some aspects of his photography are discussed also, like the use of old film cameras to this date and his innate ability to see compositional aspects in an image, a thing that normal people learning about photography like me will struggle forever… 🙂 The documentary goes quite intimate, and at some point it looks almost like a filmed therapy session. There are some nice parts where people who has been photographed by him praise his job in some or another way. And the guy seems incredibly humble.

After watching this, I decided to have a look at his latest film, “The American”. He was the director. Critics have called this one an “anti Bond” film. People was expecting  a more action packed kind of film, and it is not. It’s rather introspective.

Here, the Metacritic reviews score for “The American”, and here is interview with him.