Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Christopher Nolan's Interstellar (2014)

"As coincidence would have it, Interstellar was released on the same Friday as The Theory of Everything, the Stephen Hawking biopic. The renowned theoretical physicist has for years been a proponent of real-life, NASA-led interstellar travel. “It is important for the human race to spread out into space for the survival of the species,” Hawking said in 2006. “Life on Earth is at the ever-increasing risk of being wiped out by a disaster, such as sudden global warming, nuclear war, a genetically engineered virus, or other dangers we have not yet thought of.” And it just so happens that Kip Thorne and Hawking have been close friends for decades."
The premise for Interstellar was conceived by film producer Lynda Obst and theoretical physicist Kip Thorne, who collaborated on the 1997 film Contact and had known each other since Carl Sagan once set them up on a blind date. Based on Thorne's work, the two conceived a scenario about "the most exotic events in the universe suddenly becoming accessible to humans," and attracted filmmaker Steven Spielberg's interest in directing. The film began development in June 2006 when Spielberg and Paramount Pictures announced plans for a science fiction film based on an eight-page treatment written by Obst and Thorne. Obst was attached to produce the film, which Variety said would "take several years to come together" before Spielberg directed it. By March 2007, Jonathan Nolan was hired to write a screenplay.

Steven Spielberg moved his production company DreamWorks in 2009 from Paramount to The Walt Disney Company, and Paramount needed a new director for Interstellar. Jonathan Nolan recommended his brother Christopher, who joined the project in 2012. Christopher Nolan met with Thorne, then attached as executive producer, to discuss the use of spacetime in the story. In January 2013, Paramount and Warner Bros. announced that Christopher Nolan was in negotiations to direct the film. Nolan said he wanted to encourage again the goal of human spaceflight. He intended to write a screenplay based on his own idea that he would merge with his brother's screenplay. By the following March, Nolan was confirmed to direct Interstellar, which would be produced under his label Syncopy and Lynda Obst Productions. To research for the film, Nolan visited NASA as well as the private space program SpaceX.

Though Paramount and Warner Bros. are traditionally rival studios, Warner Bros., who released Nolan's Batman films and works with Nolan's Syncopy, sought a stake in Nolan's production of Interstellar for Paramount. Warner Bros. agreed to give Paramount its rights to co-finance the next film in the Friday the 13th horror franchise and to have a stake in a future film based on the TV series South Park. Warner Bros. also agreed to let Paramount co-finance "a to-be-determined A-list Warner Bros. property". In August 2013, Legendary Pictures finalized an agreement with Warner Bros. to finance approximately 25 percent of the film's production. Although it failed to renew its eight-year production partnership with Warner Bros., Legendary reportedly agreed to forego financing for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice in exchange for the stake in Interstellar.

Nolan filmed Interstellar with a combination of anamorphic 35 mm and IMAX 70 mm film photography. Cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema was hired for the film, as Wally Pfister, Nolan's cinematographer on all of his past films, was working on his directorial debut, Transcendence. To minimize the use of computer-generated imagery, the director had practical locations built, such as the interior of a space shuttle. Van Hoytema retooled an IMAX camera to be handheld for shooting interior scenes. Some of the film's sequences were shot with an IMAX camera installed in the nosecone of a Learjet.

Filming took place in the last quarter of 2013 on locations in Alberta, Canada; southern Iceland; and Los Angeles. Double Negative, which worked on Nolan's 2010 film Inception, created the visual effects. Visual effects supervisor Paul Franklin said the number of effects in the film was not much greater than in Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises or Inception, but that for Interstellar, they created the effects first, so digital projectors could be used to display them behind the actors, rather than having the actors perform in front of green screens.

Hollywood Reporter:
Among the practical challenges were transporting the 10,000-pound spaceships to Iceland; planting acres of corn through which the actors would drive at dizzying speeds; figuring out how to make them weightless in space (Nolan used a rig named "the parallelogram"); and deploying a biodegradable cellulose product known as C90 to create a huge dust field, much to the chagrin of the cast that constantly struggled to escape its particles. For inspiration, Nolan drew on everything from a Ken Burns documentary, The Dust Bowl; to the architecture of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe; to astronaut Marsha Ivins, who visited the set; to the 1983 film The Right Stuff; to the music of his regular composer Hans Zimmer, whom he asked to draft part of the score before a single frame was shot — and before Zimmer even knew the title of the movie in question.

The result of all this work is an audacious, two-hour-and-47-minute drama that cost $165 million to make (Paramount, Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures split the budget; Paramount will release the film in the U.S., Warners will handle international) and is expected to contend in the best picture Oscar race. Interstellar premiered on October 26, 2014, in Los Angeles and subsequently received wide release around the world. Notably, in North America, Interstellar was released in film stock to theaters still equipped to project the format before expanding to venues using digital projectors.

More information:
» USA Today's Interactive with the Endurance Spacecraft
» Wired: The Lost Chapter of Interstellar (Chris Nolan's Prequel Comic)
» Salon: "Interstellar Science: What the movie gets wrong and really wrong"

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Budos Band - "Magus Mountain"

9:30 Club:
Brooklyn-based The Budos Band are a big band with a big sound.  With nine members playing an array of instruments, including baritone sax, congas, and trumpet, the Budos boys create their signature fusion of afro-beat, funk, and jazz. This year, the instrumental gurus broke their own mold with Burnt Offering, which strays from the band’s habitual eponymous titling of albums and incorporates beloved metal and psych-rock influences for the first time.  As Budos proved performing their new single, “The Sticks,” for their national TV debut on CBS This Morning, they’ve seamlessly married their beloved brassy, funky feel with the new direction.  Groove with us as The Budos Band give all they have to offer, this Saturday at the Club.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Head and the Heart - "Let's Be Still"

Seattle indie-folksters The Head And The Heart have just released a quirky new music video for “Let’s Be Still,” the title track off their most recent LP. The idea for the video was conceived by band member Jonathan Russell with Jon Jon Agustavo directing, and the result is a fantastical blend of Mary Poppins and Moonrise Kingdom. There are antiquated outfits, colorful kaleidoscopes, silly running and lots and lots of hot air balloons.

Russell had this to say about completing the project: “We are really excited to see this video finally come to light after many months of dedicated work by all involved. Jon Jon and his crew were top notch and it was an unforgettable experience watching and participating in the process step by step.”

Let’s Be Still is out now via SubPop.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

San Francisco Giants Win Third World Series in Five Years

USA Today:
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The San Francisco Giants beat the Kansas City Royals, 3-2, to win Game 7 of the 2014 World Series and earn their third championship in the last five seasons. Though starting pitcher Tim Hudson could not escape the second inning in the game, the Giants’ bullpen shut down the Royals the rest of the way to lead San Francisco to yet another World Series win.

Baseball can be pretty ridiculous sometimes. The Giants didn’t seem like they should win the World Series in 2010, when they needed big performances out of dudes like Pat Burrell, Juan Uribe and Edgar Renteria. And they didn’t seem like they should win it in 2012, when they swept a Tigers team that included, at the time, the best pitcher and the best hitter in the world. And it certainly didn’t seem like they should win it in 2014, when they played under-.500 ball from June 9 through the end of the season.

The Giants are just the second National League team to win three World Series titles in five seasons, 2010, '12 and '14. The Cardinals gave St. Louis titles in 1942, '44 and '46.

Bruce Bochy is the second manager in Giants franchise history to win three World Series. The other was Hall of Famer John McGraw in their New York days, 1905, '21 and '22.

The Royals' 11-4 (.733) postseason record is the best winning percentage by a World Series runner-up. They had a better postseason winning percentage than did the Giants (.706).

Madison Bumgarner
The Giants left-hander, who shut out the Royals on Sunday, came back on just two days' rest in the fifth inning and pitched five more scoreless innings in Game 7. He gave up a single, then retired the next 14 batters he faced.

The parameters of the postseason have changed so much over MLB’s history that it’s hard definitively that the Giants’ ace had the best postseason ever for a pitcher. Another Giant, Christy Mathewson, threw complete-game shutouts in Games 1, 3 and 5 of the 1903 World Series, for example. And Curt Schilling dominated in 2001, as did Orel Hershiser in 1988, as did Sandy Koufax in 1964.

But Bumgarner’s 2014 is one for the history books regardless: He threw 52 2/3 innings — more than anyone else ever did in a single postseason — and in those 52 2/3 innings he had a 1.03 ERA and strikeout-to-walk ratio over 7:1. That’s nuts. And throwing five scoreless innings in an elimination game on two days’ rest ranks as one of the coolest things you’ll ever see done on a baseball field.

Hunter Pence
Pence went 12-for-27 with three walks — good for a .500 on-base percentage — in the World Series. Plus he scored eight runs and played fine defense in right field throughout. Practically any other year, that’d be good enough to earn him World Series MVP honors.

Tim Hudson
Despite Hudson’s short outing in Game 7, he pitched pretty well for the Giants en route to his first-ever World Series berth. Hudson is 39 years old, he’s the active Major League leader in wins with 214, and he battled back from a gruesome ankle injury that ended his 2013 season with Atlanta. During the Giants’ champagne celebration after the NLCS, Hudson called out, “I waited 16 years for this!” Now, after 16 seasons in the Majors — including spots on six playoff teams that never escaped the LDS — Hudson gets his ring.

Pablo Sandoval
Sandoval also had a great series for the Giants, just like he did in their 2012 run. He batted .279 with 16 homers and 73 RBIs in 157 regular-season games for the Giants and .366 in the postseason with seven doubles and five RBIs, four of those during a seven-game World Series win against Kansas City.

But Sandoval is slated for free agency after the season. He has been such a mainstay on these Giants championship team and such a popular player in San Francisco that it’s hard to imagine him playing elsewhere. But it could be that Sandoval’s three-hit night in Game 7 represents the exclamation point on his fine tenure with the club.

San Francisco's $164.7 million season-ending payroll -- sixth-highest in the majors -- will go up slightly, and again next season. World Series MVP Madison Bumgarner receives bonuses of $100,000 for his World Series MVP and $75,000 for the NLCS MVP.