Directors Interesting

The Future of Movies (1990)

The Future of Movies in 1990

Back in 1990 the late Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel hosted a TV special which featured directors Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and Martin Scorsese discussing the future of movies.

Spielberg and Lucas made headlines earlier this summer by predicting the implosion of Hollywood’s current economic model, but what did they feel 23 years ago?

The answer lies in this programme – recently discovered by Cinephilia and Beyond – where they not only discuss the future of movies but also their careers and a good deal else beside, including:

  • The possibility of a sequel to E.T. (1982)
  • Spielberg’s interest in a Howard Hughes project
  • Lucas on the Star Wars prequels
  • Scorsese on Goodfellas (1990) and commercial success
  • The sex scene in Don’t Look Now (1973)
  • HD television
  • Film preservation

You can watch the full programme here (along with the fast-forwarded ads):

> Find out about 1990 on film at Wikipedia

Film Notes

Film Notes #3: THX 1138 (1971)

George Lucas’ debut feature about a dystopian future society forms the third part of my 30-day film program.

For newcomers, the deal is that I must watch a film every day and make notes about it, with the following rules:

  1. I’ve already seen it
  2. I must make notes whilst I’m watching it.
  3. Pauses are allowed but the viewing must all be one session.
  4. It can’t be a cinema release.

The point is to capture my instant thoughts about a movie and my overall film diet for 30 days, as well as post interesting links to the film in question.

Here are my notes on THX 1138 (1971) which I watched on a Blu-ray on Saturday 24th March.

[Warning! Spoilers ahead]

  • Begins with an old episode of Buck Rogers (!)
  • Titles going from top to bottom reflects the underground nature of the society in film – I can’t think of another film outside Gaspar Noe’s IRREVERSIBLE (2002) that uses this device and that film used it for the end credits
  • Widescreen lensing is impressive – it was shot using Techniscope, a cheaper alternative to 35mm anamorphic which Leone used on his Spaghetti Westerns
  • Sound design immediately apparent as a key part of the film
  • Phrase “consumption is being standardised” repeated over and over
  • Appropriate because the shopping mall
  • Walter Murch co-wrote the screenplay and was obviously closely involved in the sound design
  • What the hell is going with the lizard in the wires?!
  • Sense of despair reflective of the cultural malaise of the late 60s and early 70s
  • The idea of a controlling futuristic society was possibly a big influence on THE MATRIX (1999)
  • Did the hologram sex channel influence MINORITY REPORT (2002)?
  • When Duvall confesses about his room mate, it is almost like a Catholic confession or a session with a psychiatrist
  • The slogan “buy more” has a certain irony when it comes to the issue of Star Wars merchandising
  • Imaginative use of low budget sets
  • Futuristic officers seem to be influenced by the police who cracked skulls on campuses during the Vietnam
  • There is even a TV channel which shows officers beating someone – predicting the Rodney King incident by 20 years! That case also played a key role in TERMINATOR 2 (1991).
  • Issue of sedation prefigures the issue of antidepressants
  • The idea of workers trapped inside white anti-septic clothing is an effective idea
  • Widescreen compositions must have made this a nightmare to pan and scan
  • Pre-digital era effects are deeply impressive
  • The robot that Duvall is working on just before the mind block looks C-3PO from STAR WARS (1977)
  • A computerised industrial society where people are drones has chilling resonances with today’s inter generational struggle, which is also a theme of THE HUNGER GAMES (2012)
  • Ironic that Donald Pleasance is in a film where everyone is bald.
  • Lucas was frustrated at how Duvall would get a scene in take one and Pleasance would take several. In a pre-digital world this was probably a nightmare for the chemistry of a particular scene and maybe led Lucas to pursue digital solutions
  • Nice touch that Duvall’s character is actually building the robotic officers who oppress him
  • The evils of bureaucracy is a persistent theme and the questioning of authority is essentially the whole point of the film.
  • Ironic that the McCarthy era America was paranoid about Communism and it became an oppressive state itself.
  • The ‘white prison’ is a very striking idea, later explored in Lecter’s jail cell in Michael Mann’s MANHUNTER (1986) and then reversed in Jonathan Demme’s THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS (1991).
  • It is also a highly effective ‘visual effect’ as it creates an illusion of depth – an optical trick that predates the use of green screen by 25 years
  • The voices possible influenced by 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968)
  • Couple’s love making being interrupted is symbolic of the sexual Puritanism and hypocrisy of the 1950s era which Lucas grew up in.
  • Approach to the issue of drugs is interesting. It goes for an Brave New World approach where drug taking is an oppressive and enforced act rather than a rebellious act. Philip K Dick also explored similar territory in A SCANNER DARKLY (2006).
  • Excellent use of locations and sets, augmented by Murch’s great sound design.
  • Lalo Schifrin’s score is very effective and moodier than his ones for DIRTY HARRY (1971) and the Mission Impossible.
  • In particular the car chase at the end is a masterful use of sound which makes the sequence feel bigger and more realistic
  • Cars are also important in AMERICAN GRAFFITI (1973) albeit in a wildly different context
  • The voices throughout are ‘comfortingly sinister’ which makes it an effective metaphor for communist regimes.
  • But it could also be seen as an indictment of 1950/60s capitalism which encouraged conformity
  • It could also be seen as obliquely referencing the Holocaust e.g. people as numbers and the enforced shaven heads
  • The closing sequence is actually very similar to THE TRUMAN SHOW (1998).
  • Final shot is hopeful for what some interpret as a bleak film.

Interesting News

Spielberg and Lucas discuss the Internet and Indiana Jones

Steven Spielberg and George Lucas recently sat down with EW’s Steve Daly to discuss the upcoming Indiana Jones movie and the impact of the internet on how films are made and released.

Some notable quotes include them disagreeing on internet speculation:

STEVEN SPIELBERG: It really is important to be able to point out that the Internet is still filled with more speculation than facts. The Internet isn’t really about facts. It’s about people’s wishful thinking, based on a scintilla of evidence that allows their imaginations to springboard. And that’s fine.

GEORGE LUCAS: Y’know, Steven will say, ”Oh, everything’s out on the Internet [in terms of Crystal Skull details] — what this is and what that is.” And to that I say, ”Steven, it doesn’t make any difference!” Look — Jaws was a novel before it was a movie, and anybody could see how it ended. Didn’t matter.

SPIELBERG: But there’s lots and lots of people who don’t want to find out what happens. They want that to happen on the 22nd of May. They want to find out in a dark theater. They don’t wanna find out by reading a blog…. A movie is experiential. A movie happens in a way that has always been cathartic, the personal, human catharsis of an audience in holy communion with an experience up on the screen. That’s why I’m in the middle of this magic, and I always will be.

Plus, they also discuss the impact of the web on filmmaking in general:

SPIELBERG: You also have films being made and released on the Internet, little films, five- to six-minute shorts. They come from all over the world, and it’s really interesting to see and to sense how this world has shrunk down to size of a single frame of film…. More people can pick up video cameras, and more individuals can express who they are as artists through this collective medium.

That’s what’s so exciting. What makes me really curious to see as many short films, especially, as I possibly can, is that everybody is coming out of a different box, and is free to express themselves because budget is no longer a limiting factor. You can make a movie for no money and basically get it out there on YouTube for everybody to see.

LUCAS: Movies are now becoming like writing, like books. It’s opened up to the point where anybody who has the urge or the talent to do it, there’s not that many impediments to making a film. And, there are not that many impediments to having it be shown. That’s where the Internet comes in. Now you can actually get it in front of people, and have them decide whether they like it or not.

Before, that depended on the decisions of a very, very small group of people — executives who in a lot of cases didn’t even go to the movies, and didn’t even like ’em. And they were deciding what the people were and weren’t going to like. It’s much more democratic now. The people decide what they want.

Read the full interview over at EW’s website.

> Official site for Indiana Jones
> IMDb page for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull