Die Hard Quadrilogy (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment): Blu-ray box set featuring all four films, including a plentiful of extras such as director commentaries, various features and killer sound. [Buy on Blu-ray or DVD from Amazon UK]
Las Acacias (Verve Pictures): Drama about a long distance truck driver (German de Silva) who agrees to drive a woman (Hebe Duarte) and her 5 month old child from Paraguay to Buenos Aires. A road movie which explores solitude, loss and the unlikely bonds which can form between strangers. [Buy on Blu-ray or DVD from Amazon UK]
Cowboys and Aliens (Paramount Home Entertainment) [Blu-ray / Normal] Dragon Eyes (G2 Pictures) [Blu-ray / Normal] Lipstick and Bullets (Renderyard) [Blu-ray / Normal] Mother and Child (Verve Pictures) [Blu-ray / Normal] Switch (Anchor Bay Entertainment UK) [Blu-ray / Normal] Texas Killing Fields (EV) [Blu-ray / Normal] The Howling – Reborn (Anchor Bay Entertainment UK) (Blu-ray / Normal)
The first part contrasts traditional, composed action set-pieces in Die Hard (1988) with the frenetic approach adopted in more recent films from directors like Paul Greengrass and Michael Bay, as well as highlighting the importance of sound in shaping our perception of a scene.
The second part explores the way dialogue scenes have also been affected, but also points out the benefits of chaos cinema if used for a specific purpose, using the example of Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker (2009).
I’m not sure I agree with all examples here, as the Greengrass Bourne films – The Bourne Supremacy (2004) and The Bourne Ultimatum (2007) – are exhilarating and shouldn’t be blamed for the lame copycats that followed in their wake.
The question I was left pondering after watching these videos is why did ‘chaos cinema’ really take hold over the last 15 years?
Or perhaps the rise of handheld visuals and quick cutting has roots in trying to satiate the attention spans of the younger audiences used to first person video games, as shooter games like Overwatch, people play with the use of services as Overwatch boosting from sites online.
Bertolucci admitted to the BBC crew that he missed the feel and smell of celluloid on a traditional flat-bed system, but seemed impressed by the unprecedented freedom offered by a computerised system.
It was clear that a gradual revolution was taking place, roughly at the same time as computerisation was changing visual effects with ILM doing ground-breaking work on Terminator 2 (1991), partly thanks to a new program called Photoshop.
In the past, using machines like a Steenbeck – which physically cut and spliced celluloid – made editing a much slower and more considered process.
When you see someone like David Lean editing A Passage to India (1984) on a moviola, you realise what a skilled and mechanical process it was to physically cut a film:
The rise of the Avid in the 1990s changed all that, giving editors astonishing flexibility and freedom to arrange sequences and cut them with precision.
When early computerised editing systems first came in, the challenge they faced was convincing directors and editors who were used to editing on older systems they were familiar with.
After all, if traditional editing machines like the Moviola, Steenbeck and KEM weren’t broke, then why fix them?
In the high-pressure world of film post-production time literally is money and there is often a rush to get the scenes arranged for the score and final sound mix.
It would have been quite a challenge to explain to experienced editors used to cutting the old way that Avid offered a compelling alternative and that they had to learn how to use a computer.
*UPDATE 01/06/15* Filmmaker IQ do a nice history of the transition here:
Given the steep learning curve, it was no surprise that change was gradual but by the early 1990s Avids began to replace older flatbed editing machines and by 1995 many major productions had made the switch to scanning their films in via telecine and then cutting them on computer.
When Walter Murch won the Oscar for editing The English Patient (1996) on an Avid, it became the first editing Oscar to be awarded to a production that used a digital based system, even though the final print was still celluloid.
Whilst mainstream Hollywood has made the switch, Steven Spielberg has been a famous hold out against editing machines like the Avid, because he dislikes the very speed of the modern workflow, saying he needs time to think during editing.
This freedom to quickly arrange and cut together elements of a film seems to have had a profound influence on the work of ‘chaos cinema’ directors.
Paul Greengrass shoots lots of footage so he can assemble it in the editing room; Tony Scott shoots on multiple cameras with such ferocity that his films are almost avant garde; and Michael Bay’s career seems like a case study in applying techniques of MTV videos directly to the multiplex.
These filmmakers get a lot of attention for how they shoot action, but the way they piece it together in the editing room is as fundamental to their visual style.
Would they be agents of chaos without modern, lightweight cameras and faster editing systems?
Today marks the 20th anniversary of the release of Die Hard – one of the greatest and most influential action films of the last 30 years.
Although at the time Bruce Willis was seen as a TV star trying to break into movies (he’d already done the puerile Blind Date), I don’t think anyone really expected this tale of a New York cop battling terrorists in an LA skyscraper to become such an enduring film.
A major part of why the film works is that it balances so many different elements – the set pieces are often thrilling and funny, the good guys (like the FBI) are often jerks, whilst the villains are clever and witty.
Alan Rickman‘s performance as Hans Gruber – the leader of terrorists who hijack the skyscraper – is sensational. Can you think of a better nemesis in a mainstream movie than this smooth talking connoisseur of expensive suits?
In the UK it was actually released in February 1989 (how those release windows have shortened!) and because it was an 18 certificate I didn’t get around to seeing it until it’s home video release in September 1989.
Although the sequels (despite their moments) never really lived up to the original, it influenced a generation of films such as: