Next Screening: April 1, 2014; 7:00 PM (doors open at 6:30 PM)
Film Title: Gattaca
Where: Digital Media Center Theatre
Digital Media Arts & Engineering and Cultural Computing at the LSU Center for Computation & Technology, is happy to present Gattaca, Tuesday, April 1, 2014, at 7:00 PM, at the LSU Digital Media Center Theatre. Doors will open at 6:30 pm. The showing is free, open to all, and seating is on a first come first serve basis—so come early to guarantee a good seat. Please remember that no drinks or food are allowed in the theatre.
“New Zealand screenwriter Andrew Niccol (The Truman Show) made his feature directorial debut with this science fiction drama, set in a future when one’s life is determined by genetic engineering rather than education or experience. The wealthy can choose the genetic makeup of their descendants. People are designed to fit into whatever role is decided before birth. But what happens when someone desires another way of life? Citizens in this impersonal future-world are fashioned as perfect specimens, so those in the natural-born minority are viewed as inferior to the pre-planned perfect specimens (aka “Valids”) who dominate. One of the natural-borns (aka “In-Valids”), Vincent Freeman (Ethan Hawke), has several defects (poor vision, emotional problems, and short 30-year life expectancy), but he also develops a different outlook on his pre-ordained fate. He yearns to break free from society’s constraints, and he dreams of a journey into space as a Gattaca Corp. navigator. To accomplish his goal, he enlists the aid of DNA broker German (Tony Shalhoub) and makes contact with Jerome Morrow (Jude Law), who was paralyzed in an accident and is willing to sell his superior genetic materials. Vincent assumes Jerome’s identity and is scheduled for a flying mission. However, a week before his flight, a Gattaca mission director is murdered, and all members of the program are the suspects. Meanwhile, he develops a romantic interest in a beautiful Valid, Irene (Uma Thurman), prevented from going into space because of her heart defect.” ~ Bhob Stewart, Rovi
As technology barrels ahead at breakneck speed, we are sometimes at odds with the moral and ethical consequences. Gattaca, released in 1997 is an interesting look into the future where our identity can be hidden tracked with technology. The movie takes on a modern more immediate relevance in the throws of the easy access to large amounts of metadata that float around about all of us.
DMAE Monthly Screenings
The Digital Media Arts & Engineering Program at LSU is dedicated to producing tomorrow’s leaders in the digital media arts field. These monthly screenings feature productions that have relevance to the history that led to digital cinema as we know it today, and significant interactive achievements. We will deconstruct individual components and reveal the extent that the digital and analog world collide. We are entering an era where the line between passive and interactive entertainment is blurring and we want to feature productions that skillfully navigate this territory. Each screening will be preceded by a short lecture that will help elucidate the mysterious and hidden world about how these are created and the associated technical and creative challenges.
Contact person: Marc Aubanel
Director of the Digital Media Arts & Engineering (DMAE) program at LSU
May 7, 2014; 7:00 PM (doors open at 6:30 PM)
Film Title: The Matrix
“What if virtual reality wasn’t just for fun, but was being used to imprison you? That’s the dilemma that faces mild-mannered computer jockey Thomas Anderson (Keanu Reeves) in The Matrix. It’s the year 1999, and Anderson (hacker alias: Neo) works in a cubicle, manning a computer and doing a little hacking on the side. It’s through this latter activity that Thomas makes the acquaintance of Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne), who has some interesting news for Mr. Anderson — none of what’s going on around him is real. The year is actually closer to 2199, and it seems Thomas, like most people, is a victim of The Matrix, a massive artificial intelligence system that has tapped into people’s minds and created the illusion of a real world, while using their brains and bodies for energy, tossing them away like spent batteries when they’re through. Morpheus, however, is convinced Neo is “The One” who can crack open The Matrix and bring his people to both physical and psychological freedom. The Matrix is the second feature film from the sibling writer/director team of Andy Wachowski and Larry Wachowski, who made an impressive debut with the stylish erotic crime thriller Bound.” ~ Mark Deming, Rovi
The Matrix brought to the screen virtual-reality concepts raised by science fiction authors William Gibson and Neal Stephenson as well as french philosopher Jean Baudrillard. This combined with cutting edge visual effects which introduced “bullet time” and used a combination of photogrametric and computer-generated backgrounds which revolutionized the aesthetic style of American cinema with asian influences. The visual effects won an Oscar a BAFTA award, and the audio won multiple awards headed by sound designer and studio owner Dane Davis.
Film Title: Swamp Shark [screened on March 5, 2014]
“Open on gorgeous swamplands of the Atchafalaya Basin in the summer. Lots of beautiful teens are at the beach the weekend before Gator Fest. That night an animal smuggling deal goes wrong and a large sea creature escapes into a swampy backwoods river. At the McDaniel’s “Gator Shack” restaurant, a local, Jackson is drunk, and gets mangled to bits. The town sheriff blames the carnage on the McDaniel’s “escaped” pack of gators and tries hauling them off to jail. Rachel McDaniel, head of the family, claims to have seen the fin of a shark! Rachel and her family, along with the help of a mysterious stranger, Charlie, take on the Swampshark and the law to clear their names, save Rachel’s kid sister Krystal and prevent the unwitting folks at the upcoming Gator Fest from being torn to shreds by a beast the likes of which no one has ever seen!” – rottentomatoes.com
Being a self sufficient producer of media content is often an uphill battle. The producer has had a long track record in smaller local productions with headquarters in the state of Louisiana. Swamp Shark was developed and produced by Active Entertainment, a Louisiana based film provider that has produced over 10 feature films for various markets. Swamp Shark was produced for SyFy network and was shot in Louisiana.
Daniel Lewis, Active Entertainment. Active Entertainment has been developing, financing, producing and distributing feature films since 1993. It is one of the industries oldest and most consistent feature film providers operating in the independent film and television marketplace. Its Louisiana operations have produced and provided services for 30+ films over just the past six years. Active Entertainment is capable of providing a wide range of solutions for projects ranging from small to large budget feature films along with television series and reality show production. Active is currently developing and producing content for A+E, Lifetime, SyFy, and Hallmark, as well as product for the independent theatrical marketplace. In early 2009, Daniel Lewis joined Active Entertainment’s Louisiana studio operations in the position of COO. Since his arrival, he has helped to shape the firm’s consistent growth and has enabled the company to build its roster of professionals in the production, finance and post-production areas. Daniel has served as producer and executive producer on a number of the company’s films including “Maskerade,” “Swamp Shark,” “Christmas on the Bayou,” and “Status: Unknown”. Daniel has been actively involved in over 50 productions since joining the film industry in 2006. Mr. Lewis is a 2004 graduate of Louisiana State University.
Film Title: The Iron Giant [screened on February 12, 2014]
“We live in a strange and wondrous time,” says a character in the animated film The Iron Giant, “but there’s a dark side to progress.” This pithy tagline, delivered in the middle of an ersatz-Red Scare sermon, goes by with such putative wholesomeness that we don’t immediately align its wisdom with the movie’s more tender carpe diem and altruistic themes.
Set in a gentle appropriation of the 1950s where quasi-beats run suburban scrap yards and single parents can still effectively child-rear in workaday absentia, The Iron Giant isn’t a Cold War allegory so much as an Americana fairy tale; like a younger, slightly more gullible sibling of Donald Fagan’s nostalgic concept album The Nightfly, the movie swallows the myth of the era’s Wheaties-style sincerity with a grinning gulp. It was based on a British novel, and inspired by a musical adaptation by the Who’s Pete Townshend, but smartly reconfigured from nearly the premise upward by Bird and screenwriter Tim McCanlies.
Bird’s often praised as a storyteller par excellence; The Incredibles was nominated for a screenwriting Oscar, and his obsessive fidelity to plot arc in early Simpsons episodes organized and sharpened the program’s distinctive humor. But The Iron Giant’s apparent looseness in spite of its brevity might be his most impressive writerly achievement. As Hogarth and his gargantuan buddy hide out in the scrapheap sanctuary of local hipster and aluminum sculptor Dean (Harry Connick Jr.), their meandering lakeside playtime produces quiet, personal breakthroughs. Hogarth loves the giant, so he instructs and fosters its struggle for agency against manipulative programming; the giant’s agape toward Hogarth is strangely like that of a thankful Adam who’s just partaken of the forbidden, eye-opening fruit. (Hogarth makes good and evil so attractively simple as a choice between Superman and the evil comic-book automaton Atomo that the giant retracts his unstoppable, self-repairing arsenal.) The giant’s final sacrifice in the face of unintentional, U.S.-initiated nuclear holocaust is the triumphant inverse of Dr. Strangelove’s smirking masochism: What we love most are the things that protect us from ourselves.” – Joseph Jon Lanthier Slant Magazine
The Iron Giant is an animated science fiction film that combined traditional and computer animation. The giant was the only major 3D element in the film. The rendering was done to match the style of the hand drawn 2D animation. The marriage of 2D and 3D is no easy task. Getting a computer to create a more organic, gritty naturalistic look was a significant creative and technical achievement. The film was a critical success but a commercial flop at release and gained prominence when released on DVD. Fifteen years after its cinematic release the movie stands out on its own in contrast to the bevy of 3D flashy animated releases. One of the influences for the art direction in the film was Thomas Hart Benton whose work is strongly associated with the midwest and was a part of midcentury modernism.
Clint Gamble graduated in 2012 from the Art Institute of Vancouver and has been working at Nercorps Entertainment as an animator on MaxSteel and on titles in development. Clint will be talking about the role of an animator working on episodic television productions.
Film Title: Indie Game: The Movie [screened on January 22, 2014]
“Indie Game: The Movie, directed by James Swirsky and Lisanne Pajot, looks at the underdogs of the video game industry, indie game developers, who sacrifice money, health and sanity to realize their lifelong dreams of sharing their creative visions with the world. This Sundance award-winning film captures the tension and drama by focusing on these artists’ vulnerability and obsessive quest to express themselves through a 21st-century art form” – Official Site
Leading up to the global game jam on January 24th, it is appropriate to show how the game industry is in the process of re-inventing itself. The documentary lays bare the efforts it takes to get an entertainment project off of the ground. This David versus Goliath story pits passionate industry professionals against a billion dollar industry that is more and more risk adverse, cranking out endless sequels. Follow the ups and down of the development of Super Meat Boy and Fez. The video game industry is very protective of its intellectual property and few people know what goes on within the walls of these big studios. This documentary offers us a rare glimpse into this secretive industry.
In spirit of indie game development guest speaker Andy Thompson, a local LSU senior, will talk about the successful Kickstarter campaign for Limit Theory which he was involved with, raising over $180,000 in funding.
Film Title: DISTRICT 9 [screened on October 9, 2013]
“Director Neill Blomkamp teams with producer Peter Jackson for this tale of extraterrestrial refugees stuck in contemporary South Africa. It’s been 28 years since the aliens made first contact, but there was never any attack from the skies, nor any profound technological revelation capable of advancing our society. Instead, the aliens were treated as refugees. They were the last of their kind, and in order to accommodate them, the government of South Africa set up a makeshift home in District 9 as politicians and world leaders debated how to handle the situation. As the humans begin to grow wary of the unwelcome intruders, a private company called Multi-National United (MNU) is assigned the task of controlling the aliens. But MNU is less interested in the aliens’ welfare than attempting to understand how their weaponry works. Should they manage to make that breakthrough, they will receive tremendous profits to fund their research. Unfortunately, the highly advanced weaponry requires alien DNA in order to be activated. When MNU field operative Wikus van der Merwe (Sharlto Copley) is exposed to biotechnology that causes his DNA to mutate, the tensions between the aliens and the humans intensifies. Wikus is the key to unlocking the alien’s technology, and he quickly becomes the most wanted man on the planet. Ostracized and isolated, Wikus retreats to District 9 in a desperate bid to shake his dogged pursuers.” ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi.
“I remember walking into The Embassy in Vancouver while working in pre-production on Marvel Nemesis for EA and we were introduced to Neill Blomkamp who was using their offices to quietly work on various projects at the time. Neil had just finished a very popular short film and was in discussion with Nike to create some TV commercials. Even in early days Neil had a strong look that combined a very gritty hand-held feel with CG assets that set him apart from other artists at the time. He straddled the world of technical proficiency with creative excellence in a way that was unique and identifiable. He is an early film director who was as vested and knowledgable about the creative potential of computer graphics in cinema. When I finally saw District 9 for the first time, I could immediately see the artistry and it was a natural evolution from the work he had done previously. The movie was shot digitally on the RED camera and was nominated for Best Visual Effects at the Oscar, Saturn, BAFTA, VES, and Satellite awards. ” ~ Marc Aubanel, Director, LSU Digital Media Arts & Engineering (DMAE).
Film Title: RED (Retired, Extremely Dangerous) [Screened on November 13, 2013]
“Pension-age suburbanite Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) wakes up to a volley of fire from masked hitmen, and as he deals with them one by one, he realises his retirement is going to take a violent detour. The title stands for ‘retired, extremely dangerous’, and this knockabout action comedy is a boisterous, getting-the-band-back-together movie as Frank assembles a crew of trigger-happy oldsters (John Malkovich, Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren, Brian Cox) to uncover why his distinguished, black-ops past is coming back to haunt him. It’s a charming mess, rescued by the knowing gusto of the acting. Beneath its light exterior is not only a neat, if unsubtle, political undercurrent but a rebellious streak about how the allure of firing an RPG outweighs the prospect of retirement.” – David Jenkins, Time Out
Red is an action-comedy film inspired by the Homage’s comic book of the same name created by Warren Ellis and Cully Hammer. The movie was shot in and around Toronto for 10 weeks and moved to New Orleans in the French Quarter for the final two weeks of filming. Additional photography was shot for the credit sequence in Louisiana. The Visual Effects was done by several studios including Saints VFX in Louisiana, CIS, Zoic and Method Studios in Vancouver. The movie is replete with special effect scenes from chase scenes, helicopter scenes, rocket launchers and a large list of explosive visual effects. CG have given film makers the ability to treat comic book subject matter more seriously as unreal powers can be believably delivered with the aid of computer graphics. Red continues a tradition that includes Batman, Blade, Hellboy, V for Vendetta and 300 to name a few.
Bruce Woloshyn from Method Studios in Vancouver. Woloshyn is a VFX Visual Effects Supervisor on many large productions including Invictus, The L Word, Red, Red Dawn, Stargate SG-1, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, the Twilight Saga movies, and Smallville, to name a few.Rating
Film Title: Star Trek Into Darkness [Screened on December 3, 2013]
“It may lack the existential dread of a bona-fide sci-fi classic, but “Star Trek Into Darkness,” the 12th feature based on a television show canceled 45 years ago, is certainly one lavish pop confection. Noisy, frenetic, grandiose and essentially a soap opera, director J.J. Abrams’s second contribution to the franchise has everything, including romance: Never before have Capt. James T. Kirk and his Vulcan antagonist, Mr. Spock, seemed so very much in love.
Illogical, Spock might say. Perhaps. But the unutterable affection between the two is an indication of why Mr. Abrams’s cheeky approach has thus far worked so well. Even when it lampooned various trademarks of the original series—Mr. Spock’s emotion-free personality, Kirk’s cowboy inclinations, the bromance that dare not speak its name—Mr. Abrams’s 2009 “Star Trek” was reverential. Likewise, “Into Darkness,” which trades in the same tropes, boasts characters that are beginning to look like very respectful caricatures, and asks where else can Mr. Abrams possibly go. (Yes, yes, “Where no man has gone…” etc., etc.)
But again, this is because the new “Star Trek” mixes mischief with respect, and spot-on casting. Chris Pine makes the roguish James Tiberius Kirk a charismatic swashbuckler, always willing to bend a rule. Mr. Spock is played, blessedly, by the drily funny Zachary Quinto. Zoe Saldana is a smolderingly businesslike Uhura. A newcomer to the cast is Alice Eve as science officer Carol Marcus, who incites Mr. Spock’s jealousy and Kirk’s libido. The others are equally well used, and while the action is often electric, it’s the relationships that matter. That, and a lippy regard for a cultural legacy.” – John Anderson, Wall Street Journal
Star Trek Into Darkness was partially shot on IMAX film and was originally shown in 3-D. There is a local component to the film, where some shots were developed in Louisiana by Pixomondo. Much of the films was shot on green screen sets and many portions were created through visual effects. Actors were LIDAR scanned and photographed so that photorealistic renders could be used in scenes such as the Enterprise swirling in an uncontrolled descent towards earth. CGI is used for spectacular scenes as well as “invisible” ones where the effects are not apparent to the audience. These invisible scenes are made in order to save money by not creating and housing too many expensive sets. One of the challenges in working on a film with a 45 year old history is to be visually true to what the technology can produce today without betraying the original series. The artists walk a careful line to create a contemporary version that is still routed in a series that existed long before computer graphics were used.