Prisoners

I just got home from seeing a screening of Prisoners.

Holy smokes, I was not expecting that.  It had me on the edge of my seat for almost the whole film.  My chest is tight, my heart hurts from living in my throat for the past almost 3 hours.

The performances are excellent, the soundtrack is so unsettling, and the visual storytelling here is just top notch.  Oh, but the best thing, the very best thing, is the script.

I am so jealous of this script.  I want to give it a read and find out just how it managed to take me on this journey.  It had me in the palm of its hand and did things to me… things that films don’t do to me very often.  Like seriously, the intensity of emotion they managed to create; the craft level on every aspect of this film is stellar.  And like I said, the script-fu is just… damn.

I am a huge Hugh Jackman fan so I basically had to see this film, but it became apparent very early on that I was going to be in for way more than I bargained for.

I am having a hard time figuring out just exactly how to recommend this film; it’s not going to be for everyone.  Its pacing was brilliant, but it was slow (although it didn’t feel slow, if you know what I mean).  And if you have kids, god help you; I already feel sick to my stomach after seeing it, I don’t know how parents would survive this film.

 

Prisoners.

 

Prometheus, Prometheus

If you’ve had enough of Prometheus, skip ahead to the picture of a pretty flower.

Oh Prometheus.  Such promise, such potential.

The visuals were stunning, the sound design absolutely fantastic, and the acting tremendous (having a crush on an android is totally normal, right? Straight up.).

But the story- the story was so flawed it made my head hurt.  The characters were constantly doing things that didn’t make sense, the plot was constantly advancing in completely unbelievable ways, and did I mention all the characters are idiots?

I mean, by the time this movie takes place, humanity has had several centuries of sci-fi to learn from.  Countless tales of first contact, of exploring alien worlds, and all the problems that come along with such scenarios.

So I am to believe that this crew of highly trained scientists go in to this alien installation, take off their helmets, and just touch everything?

The level of stupidity regularly and consistantly displayed in this film is mind boggling.  My writing-brain was screaming the entire time.

…And yet I went and saw it a second time.  Granted, about 15 minutes into the rewatch, I was making that I’ve made a huge mistake face, but then I sank into it, tried to look at the pretty pictures and appreciate all the high tech gadgetry, and ended up enjoying it again.

Aside from the acting, visuals, and sound design I’ve already mentioned being great, there were a few other notable things.  There was a scene which made me cringe, cringe, in uncomfortable squeamish distress.  Scott knows how to build tension and really punch me in the gut with a distressing and gross scene.  Gosh, that one’ll stick with me.

Also, I really liked the costume design.  Their helmets had a full 360 degree view, being clear acrylic all the way around, enabling both their and the audience’s view to be unhindered by parts of a helmet getting in the way.

Gosh.  Ok, that’s enough of Prometheus.  I suppose ranting may be part of the healing process- a bad film is one thing, but when a film with a huge budget and amazing people working on it ends up this bad, it’s a sad tragedy that really makes my heart ache.


Pretty flower, right?

In other news, I had the pleasure of taking a long hike with my father-in-law and his regular hiking group on Sunday.  It was a spectacular hike in the woods, around lakes, to the ocean.  Birds everywhere, a deer, amazing greenery all around- a welcome relief to this noisy city life.

On the hike I had the pleasure of talking with two writers: Clint Budd, who is the President of The Canadian Science Fiction & Fantasy Association, and who runs the Aurora Awards, and his partner Donna McMahon, who has published two books: Second Childhood and Dance of Knives.

I’m going to hang out with them at Vcon, which I look forward to attending at the end of September.

It was just nice to talk shop with some really experienced writers.  Also nice to have some more role models to look up to.  Then, when things start to feel impossible, I can remember these people and ground myself again.

In the meantime, the rejections continue to pour in, the submissions flow out, and I’m outlining my third book.

Onwards to blood-borne nanobots, carbon nanofiber skeletons, and the ethics of bioengineering new lifeforms.

…But perhaps it can wait until after I watch another Fassbender film. o_O

Thanks for reading.

Heidi out.

When it’s Not Hip to be Square: Aspect Ratio Madness

It’s everywhere, and it causes me physical pain.  Yes, Projectionists around the globe are being tortured every day by being exposed to incorrectly formatted aspect ratios.

Sports bars are the worst for this.  Many broadcasts are not meant to be viewed in widescreen format, but the widescreen TVs stretch the program to fit its dimensions.

Absolutely terrible.

A brief warning: if you continue reading this, you too will see the atrocities being committed in plain sight on TVs around the globe.  You might not be able to unsee.  However, I feel like if enough people know about this, we might be able to change it, and get all TVs displaying programs in the intended aspect ratio.

That out of the way, let me begin by sharing one of my favourite frames from a film.

This is from Fight Club, and it depicts Tyler Durden, the most famous Projectionist, pointing up at a “cigarette burn”.  These are markings on the film that tell the Projectionist when to ‘changeover’ and switch between the projectors that are showing the film.  They are at the beginning and end of every reel of film.

Now, let me show you the image as it is printed on the actual piece of film running through the projector:

Notice that, while it’s width is still the same, the height is greater?  Notice that the previously squashed and oblong cigarette burn is now (almost) a perfect circle?  Notice how Tyler Durden’s anatomy is grotesquely deformed and stretched?

I am Jack’s bursting aneurism.

See, film comes in two formats (mostly- there are others, but odds are, if you’re at a regular theatre, you’re seeing one of these two): flat, with an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 (for every 1 unit tall, it’s 1.33 wide), and scope, with an aspect ratio of 2.39:1 (often called ‘widescreen’).

Projectors have two lenses.  The flat lens shows the film as is, no stretching or distorting. The scope lens stretches is to the proper widescreen aspect ratio.  The images above would represent scope film; the first image as seen projected through the correct scope lens, the second image projected through the incorrect flat lens.

Right!  A few more fun examples before I move on now:
        

The image on the left is how the film actually looks in real life.  The image on the right is adjusted to show how the lens would stretch it, creating the correct widescreen aspect ratio.

Huge difference, right?

Right.  So, back to TVs.  Seems there’s quite a mix of formats being programed.  TV used to be filmed in 1.33:1, the aspect ratio of old cathode ray tube television sets.  Almost a perfect box, right?  A little wider than it is tall, but not by much.

But now, programming is being filmed in widescreen to take advantage of the successor, the widescreen television.  This is great!  Widescreen presentations shown on widescreen televisions are wonderful!  Widescreen TVs are 16:9, or 1.77:1.

The problem comes in when non-widescreen programming is presented on a modern widescreen TV.  Then you get things like this:

        It’s not so bad, right?  WRONG!

The original image looks like this:

As you can see, the ‘stretched’ version grotesquely deforms the actors in the frame, squashing them down, distorting everything.  Check them out side by side:

Booooo!

In most cases, the solution is as simple as pressing a single button: the “zoom” or “wide” button on the remote is the one you’ll need.  Press it, and it will cycle the TV to display another format.  Keep pressing it, and it will take you through all the aspect ratios the TV can display.  Many TVs have this set to widescreen, and what they should be displaying is auto.

TVs know what to display things in; let them do their damn job.

This way, 1.33 content won’t get squashed.  It’ll have black borders on the left and right.  2.39 content will get black bars on the top and bottom, because widescreen TVs are 16:9, an aspect ratio of 1.77, not quite as widescreen as scope films in the 2.39 format.

Oh gosh, this seems like a lot.  Basically: hit the zoom/wide button until people don’t look squashed.  You will be doing all viewers a favour.  If anyone protests, please step on their face.  Aw, that seems a little mean now that I’ve said it.  Perhaps whip out a pen an paper and illustrate what you just learned?

Nope, stepping on their face is easier.

You made it to the end!  Bonus pics for you, and you, and YOUUUUUU!

Note: no film prints were harmed in the making of this blog post; I used my collection of trailers.

PSA Image! (Large version here.)

Thanks for reading.

Heidi out.