Monday, March 31, 2014

What's Next On My List? Watchmen

We haven't done comic book based movies in a while, so I thought I would get this one out of my system.

The Watchmen are a group of ordinary people who fight crime in the streets of New York. In this universe the people are always under pressure from a fear of nuclear war during the Cold War era. One of the Watchmen, Dr. Manhattan (the only one with actual super powers) wins the Vietnam war for the US which sets on a chain of events that never happened in real life. The imminent threat of nuclear war seems to be at hand, until one of the old Watchmen, Ozymandias, decides to sacrifice millions of people in order to then save billions. Evoking sympathy in the enemy results in peace, however it seems that his machinations may still come to life and the consequences could be even greater...

So it took me about three hundred years to watch this movie. Don't judge me, I have my reasons. First of all, I wanted to read it before I watched the movie. Now, my brother has the comic and he moved away and he just kept forgetting that I asked him to bring it. Second, I still didn't really care about it, not even after I was told about the blue penis. (Thankfully I don't seem to be that shallow after all.) However, I did finally read it and I did watch it - a month ago... Fine, it took me three hundred years to write this review as well, but I promised my best friend so I did want to get it done before I start working on anything else.

The comic? I loved it. I am a fan of dystopian futures and this one appealed to me a lot. I believe that people who make graphic novels - instead of on going comic series - into movies are somewhat blessed. The universe has a beginning, a middle and a finish. You don't need to worry about a thousand different writers imposing their different interpretations of the main characters (or heroes if you will) onto you. I felt the same way with V For Vendetta, which has to be my favorite comic book adaptation of all time (click here to read my review!). You can see that the makers actually used the source material. And if you read my blog you must have encountered that I generally like every single comic book movie. It is simply another writers interpretation of the very same character. Some people maybe don't like given writers and artists, therefore they might not like the movie. This can work both ways, as I like movies but sometimes cannot stand the art work.

So here we have to talk about Watchmen the movie, which as we all know uses a completely different tool for the twist in the end than the graphic novel does. Why? Excellent question, let us investigate. As far as the characters go, I think two in particular have to be mentioned. The one is Rorschach. He is really a nobody; somebody who has given up his own true self in order to become a hero. And he is also somewhat of an antihero as he will not refuse to kill the bad guy. The reader/viewer is not 100% sure if they should like him or not. This is mostly due to the fact that if you see for the billionth time that Batman just won't kill the Joker, even though you really know he should, you just get angry... but here if you see Rorschach kill someone you might say that he was a bit too violent. If you ask me, in the city that they live in? His actions are anything but too violent. He is actually killing one to save at least ten. And if this is the approach you take then you will notice that he and Ozymandias are exactly the same, only the second does it on a bigger scale. Just think about it: They both fight something to save many more in the process. Although a bit extravagant, Ozymandias did only wish to bring peace about. As you would say, the end justifies the means.
Here I need to admit that Ozymandias is probably my favorite character. He is a total psychopath. Probably worse than Rorschach! This is proven to me by the fact that no matter what evil they do, the latter does it on the spot and might sometimes even regret it. That is why Rorschach doesn't even use his real face anymore, he has completely become someone else. As for Ozymandias? Not only did he kill everyone in New York, he planned it! For months! He planned attacks on all of the Watchmen - even succeeded with most of them -, he took out his own scientists and his beloved cat (oh Bubastis... I loved you!) and all to save a corrupt nation from a corrupt war. Here comes the beauty of the whole story: He doesn't even get away with it. Most the Watchmen understand that he had to do it for peace. But they do know that it was not right.
I could go into detail and discuss all of the characters, but I'd rather not. I could write a whole book on each of them, and if you have read the comic then you know what I mean. The other two I believe are the most important in the movie, so let's just stick with them for now.

And here is the only change they made from the comic book. Ozymandias sends a genetically engineered monster to New York. He has stolen the transportation abilities of Dr. Manhattan, but has failed to perfect them. Because of this, anything transported explodes upon impact. This is, however, not a problem as he sends this monster to New York, which immediately dies but it takes out millions with him. Blood everywhere. In the movie they leave out the monster and blame it all on the powers of Dr. Manhattan, therefore giving him a reason to leave Earth for good. In both cases you do feel sympathy for the US: First they loose their biggest town and they realize there are extraterrestrial out there (or are at least fooled into believing). The enemy of my enemy is my friend. In the second case you feel sorry for them as their only ally has decided to turn against them. He is no longer a threat to Russia if he is a threat to the US as well. (Here I would like to point out that I just wrote a history midterm on US foreign relations last week and the last two sentences were very weird to write down.)
Getting back I cannot decide if I am happy about the change. I will say this, psychologically? It hits you. The movie ending? It really hits you. The whole concept of not only killing but literally wiping out an entire city and its citizens? It is horrible. But the horror of seeing all of those bodies? The blood? Just simply the colors and the remains? It actually hurts physically. What I am trying to say is that I think that both of them are equally as hard on the viewer/reader so I am not willing to side with either. I liked the one in the comic - in the comic. And I liked the one in the movie - in the movie. And if I really have to choose, I will say that Dr. Manhattan's departure from Earth makes a lot more sense in the movie as in the eyes of everyone else he is to be blamed for everything.

Now, for the more pressing matter, did I like the movie? Honestly, what is there that is not to like? It follows every single detail of the graphic novel for the exception of about three frames. I will say that the sex scene was completely unnecessary. Not to mention that for me Nite Owl was a lot more charismatic as a fat, but smart old superhero. But let that be my only problem because otherwise the casting was great. Deeper voice for Dr. Manhattan maybe... OK fine! I did have my little nitpicks but I don't care because guess what? Having watched the movie does not destroy the comic book experience! Being the weirdo that Zack Snyder is, be honest, it could've been a lot worse! Like... A LOT worse! And I will say that my favorite scene was the 5 minute montage at the beginning, which gave a gentle nod to all of the flashbacks in the comic book. I saw that prior to reading it and it was actually the reason that made me want to read it in the first place. (Go to the end of the entry to see it!)

Watch it? I don't know. I would tell you yes, because it is a great movie. Is it great without the comic book? It is, because I watched it with my sister who never even opened it and she still very much enjoyed it. This movie is not about heroes, you should be warned. This movie is about human beings. If you are looking for a kickass action movie, then this is definitely not for you. I will say this, anytime somebody says that Wolverine cannot wear his yellow suit because it would be silly? Look at these characters! Do they look silly in their costumes? No, they look effing badass!

Until the next item on my list!

 _ _ _ _ _ 

Laurie Jupiter / Silk Spectre II - Malin Akerman
Dr. Manhattan / Jon Osterman - Billy Crudup
Adrian Veidt / Ozymandias - Matthew Goode
Rorschach - Jackie Earle Haley
Dan Dreiberg / Nite Owl - Patrick Wilson
Edward Blake / Comedian - Jeffrey Dean Morgan
Sally Jupiter / Silk Spectre - Carla Gugino

Saturday, March 29, 2014

"Your Life Won't Pass By" Behind The Scenes

 As you know I have tried and sometimes even succeeded in directing music videos. These usually pop into my head the minute I go to bed from exhaustion from being awake for over 30 hours... nonetheless, when they do pop in, I gotta get up and write them down or they will be gone. For this script that song was by my favorite artists Tiziano Ferro. I grew up with his music and this song in particular has a very special place in my heart. The story itself was inspired by the lyrics - which at this moment I realize nobody knows, because my friends don't speak Italian. For that reason I wanted to install English subtitles, but then I kept getting feedback: People really like this video. The story speaks for itself, even though it is accompanied by the lyrics. So, I will still think about that subtitle a bit more over the passing weekend.
Either way, the script was actually born last October and the filming had to be delayed for various reasons. The first was that my dear director of photography Zsombor just wouldn't read the damn script! He actually got around to it only in January, at which point I was already giving up. I don't know that many boys who actually care or wish to do acting. For that again I had to turn to my director of photography, who again had better things to do. He knows a lot more people than I do. So what I could do in the meanwhile was cast the girl. Now that didn't go as smoothly either...
Although they never admitted it, biggest problem was the scene in the bed. That is something I refused to change, until I was really desperate, but then luck stroke: I showed it to my friend Eszter from the University, and not only did she wish to play in it, but she didn't mind anything in it. I'm not going to hold this against the others, mostly because they all knew I wanted to put it online. And I didn't even mind that they said no - because that actually played out in my favor in the end -, I just really wanted somebody to play the role!
So I was saved on one part. What next? Well, still only people not directly involved in the project knew what the script was about. That was the moment when - at around 1 AM - I just forced it down the throat of my dearest Zsombor and immediately he was on board. I knew he would be that is why I was so frustrated that it took us so long! As for the main actor...
Now, I am going to admit honestly that I wanted him to play this role. You need to know that Bence is probably one of the most skilled young actors in all of Hungary - he is also very busy. We did look around, because I feared that we would be turned down, so I didn't immediately call him. But when I did, we found out that he actually has some free time coming up and a date for shooting was finally set! My main characters hit it off immediately, I didn't have to worry about on screen chemistry and after Nóra was happy to help out during the shoot we were set to go!

Of course, it wasn't nearly as easy as it sounds. We woke up quite early - me personally at 4.30 AM - and the sun doesn't stay in the same spot unfortunately... And we were obviously filming in a private area, yet the patrol men walking around were more interested in kicking out the homeless than us (fortunately). So we went on and we wrapped up our scenes outside in four hours. There were a couple of tricky shots, seeing that the trains were a main component and we had to wait in the end and had about one shot to shoot them correctly. Now, here is where I know I was blessed with working with professionals: these were the easiest shots we had to do all day!
Then came the dream/flashback scenes. Here I just died a little inside. The bed scene was a horrible experience for me. The others kept joking and calling it a sex scene, which I admit actually helped in relieving tension. This, however, bothered me a bit because I wanted to show something other than sexual. I wanted it to be intimate. I don't know if you ever had experience filming, but it is completely different to see it in your head, then see it on paper and then actually witness it and finally seeing it on screen. It is a mesmerizing experience, I however finally knew where the inspiration within me came from and I was shocked. They did an outstanding job in interpreting the script and they hit it out of the park. I have witnessed this before, because I have directed other music videos, but we never really had this sort of strict script and that really added to the experience for me as well. I cannot deny it, I really love doing this. And having a script in front of me, editing was literally a piece of cake.

The second hard scene was when they fought. They really went at it! We have a total of 6 minutes of footage of them channeling their inner Italian and just going at it until their lungs expired! I was actually afraid that the neighbor might call the police, because the arguments they touched usually lead to more than a heated debate among couples... Zsombor too was terrified of them: They were really convincing. But I knew that even if the viewer couldn't hear them, they could still tell whether or not they were really fighting. And not having to deal with the police later on, I am really glad that they went all out. This then finally helped with our last scene (when she packs up and gives him the ring): They really hated each other at that point!
I was again very lucky as I got my hands on two actors who really did do everything I asked them to. Fundamentally it was this that really gave life to my vision and I am very proud of what we achieved. Not sure how others will receive it, but when I showed it to my sister, tears filled up her eyes, she was so moved. If I can get her, then I am sure others will like it too! And when I showed it to my brother he said: "I have one question. It's very important! Why do you want to be a teacher again?"

(To see the video go to the end of the page!)

Having had two actors who were not involved in the previous projects I decided to proclaim this the end of a trilogy. (The first two can be seen by clicking on the pictures below!) You see, this is fun, but essentially if I can I'd like to do something else. This romantic style seems to be something I could be good at, so I want to try out other areas before perfecting it. I don't want to be stuck here without ever trying out other genres or other areas. I love to write, scripts are what my life really is! Directing is fun, but I still have a lot to learn and I would like to do that.

The first video was a stop-motion where the lyrics paved the way for the story. The second was an instrumental song that accompanied a story and the third was a story that is complete without the music. Three videos, three couples, three separate stories. I am very proud of what we achieved so far and I am very thankful to my friends for that!

Until the next project on my list!

_ _ _ _ _

The husband - Bence Gács
The wife - Eszter Dimitrow

Written and Directed by  Susan E. Csorba
Director of photography - Zsombor Váczi
Director's assistant - Nóra Ábrahám
Technical support by Vörös Eszter

Monday, March 17, 2014

Happy St. Paddy's!

May the patron saint of the Irish rest in peace; 
may the lucky four leaf clover be with you today and to everyone else: 
Have a Guinness and toast to your health!  

Friday, March 7, 2014

What's The Next Item On My List? American Hustle

The first trailer for this was awful. Then I realized that it would be a perfect crime story, for which you all know I am a sucker for, so I couldn't wait to see:

Irving is a small conman, who one afternoon meets Sydney, a young woman who decided to make something of the nothing she had. The two become partners, fall in love, rip off others and have a great time.
Unfortunately one day an FBI agent by the name of Richie DiMaso stumbles upon them and uses them to catch a bigger fish. Unfortunately these leads in way too deep and Irving gets scared, both for Sydney, but also for his wife Rosalyn and son at home. DiMaso, incapable of understanding how he may put them into harms way by being too eager, in the end gets conned as well. Irving and Sydney find a way to get out of it unharmed, without causing too much attention and with a clean slate, able to start a life together without the hustle of having to watch their backs all the time.

First of all, let me say two things: Most of my friends didn't like this movie. I'll be honest with you, it didn't catch my attention at first either. Then I watched it again, payed more attention, had lower expectations and it was then that they hit it out of the park for me! Second, you all know that I love Jennifer Lawrence, and I loved her performance, but I think that the media blew this role a bit out of proportion. I agree that it was great, but she is a great actress! And why wouldn't it be, this is her job :D And she had a great cast around her as well!
All the Oscar nominations were dead on, because you can ask any of my friends, nobody dislikes Christian Bale as much as I do! I just do not care for him and here he blew me away. He made me forget I was watching him, and the same goes of course for Amy Adams. She is her generation's Meryl Streep and that Oscar is way overdue! Trust me on that! Not to mention that for the past 10 years, every movie where an American did a British accent it was called stupid and fake. Not here! Here you have somebody, who does such a genuine accent that there wasn't one single article about her not being good. I didn't even know her character did a British accent! But out of the many it was Bradley Cooper - whom I loved ever since I first saw him on Alias - the one who just... wow man, this character? Try telling me he is not a great actor! I laughed, I cried, yelled, damn he was good! I could watch his stupid character for hours and hours! I'm really sorry he didn't win for his performance.

That said, let us get a little bit more into the story. To begin with, you see who is who and where they stand. You can also see the journey they go through and how they get from one to ten. DiMaso is too eager - although his intentions are pure, he manages to break a good person without ever getting close to the real bad guys. Irving has his priorities straight and uses his brain. We see that he isn't a conman because he is evil, he is simply trying to make a living and hurting others destroys him. Sydney is unsure of what she is doing with her life, as perhaps there is more out there. And there is, but she finds that with Irving. Rosalyn is the typical blonde woman and she gets what comes to her simply by being herself. Nothing wrong with that.
And the twist? Oh, my god! The minute I realized what they had done... I bowed my head. Genius, truly, because if you really paid attention you can catch it, but I wasn't alert enough and it just made me smile that they conned me as well! You really have to feel bad for that poor Agent DiMaso...
I was hesitant, but the chemistry among the actors and the editing made the flow of the movie just perfect. The first half is a bit slower, I will admit that in the beginning that was the reason why I had trouble with it. Also there was a key element, a sort of narration used by the characters, which was a nice touch, but it only occurred here and there. There was a nice frame to it, as it appeared in the beginning and then they closed with it as well. But still, bit too much. Also, another thing that really bothered me was a point when Irving got a gun and it lead to simply nowhere. You don't do that! No gun appears without a reason, that is Drama 101! No need for it!
And you may say that David O. Russell hires the same actors, but so what? They are good actors! Think of Tim Burton - you think I care that he casts the same two people in everything? No, I don't give a shit, because they are talented and they sell me their new characters every single freakin' time! Same here! Talent and chemistry and it works. And there is always somebody new, who surprises me with their performance and let me say that Jeremy Renner got me glued to the screen! More dramatic roles to Mr. Renner please! Screw those stupid action movies!

So overall yes, I was very pleased with this movie. Also, perhaps there was a bit too much hype around it, I won't deny that. But the Academy usually isn't very open to these kind of movies, so perhaps these will be front runners to allow a new kind of wave to be considered as outstanding - not just movies based on real events or the ones where you are supposed to cry your eyes out! I think you should watch it, make your mind up on your own, and if you don't like it? Hey, you never know!

Until the next item on my list!
_ _ _ _ _ _

Irving Rosenfeld - Christian Bale
Sydney Prosser - Amy Adams
Richie DiMaso - Bradley Cooper
Rosalyn Rosenfeld- Jennifer Lawrence
Carmine Polito - Jeremy Renner
Stoddard Thosen - Louis C.K.
Anthony Amado - Alessandro Nivola