Special and Visual Effects : German Expressionism

German Expressionism


I watched a very good docco last night on German films from the 1910s - 1920s. What struck me was the inventiveness involved. Take a film like The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, the sets were astounding, dreamlike, disturbing.

Personally, I feel that CGI is killing the imagination, not aiding it. I see very few films wherein FX are used to create something original - it's always just another monster or another set of skyscrapers falling down. There are the occasional exceptions, Life of Pi was a decent use of FX, but such films are rare.

Can anyone point me to a modern film that shows us something new?



'Honk honk!' - Harpo Marx
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My fav movies ... http://www.rinema.com/LLP23

Re: German Expressionism

CGI isn't killing the imagination, it's allowing people to make movies that were physically impossible before. Is there any way Transformers (the quintessential example) could have been made without computers? I'll be honest: a decent stopmotion transforming sequence would be jaw-dropping, but I doubt it's possible.

CGI requires exactly the same imagination as physical sets. You still have to design, build, and light them. You can, for example, use CGI to make an expressionist film. Comparing expressionism and CGI is ridiculous: expressionism is an art style, CGI is a tool.

Haven't you ever seen films that used CGI to make original scenery? Upside Down, for example, created some amazing fantasy scenery, as did The Lovely Bones. Hugo brought dreams to life with its CGI. Even monsters are original. The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and countless similar movies created places too large to make practically. There are also shots (like the camera moving through a keyhole) that are unique to virtual cameras.

What made Life of Pi a "decent use of FX" for you?

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My films: https://sites.google.com/site/westernroadmovies/

Re: German Expressionism


OK, I almost stopped reading when you listed Transformers as supportive of your CGI/imagination argument.

But, Upside Down (which I aint seen yet) does look like an interesting, imaginative film.

The Lord of the Rings leaned too heavily on FX, as, most certainly, did Star Wars 1-3, with actors working in front of green screens for most of the time, or in front of invisible characters.

Life of Pi showed me a very believable tiger, in a boat, on a beautifully temperamental ocean. And, yes, it was mostly green screen and one actor on his own, but I felt the director worked hard to use the CGI, not simply make everything as big, and spectacular as possible.



'Honk honk!' - Harpo Marx
--------------
My fav movies ... http://www.rinema.com/LLP23

Re: German Expressionism

Transformers was a lousy film, but the CGI was good (and the Academy agrees with me on that). Designing a realistic transformation from a car to a humanoid robot takes a ton of imagination. If I was told to design a film, I would find it much easier to make expressionist backgrounds than a Transformer.

Unless you are only interested in interesting effects, I can't recommend Upside Down, unfortunately.

So what? They did things utterly impossible without CGI, and designed places, people, vehicles, worlds and cities utterly new and imaginative. Kamino (Attack of the Clones) or Lothlorien (Lord of the Rings) rely on CGI to make their unworldly aura. Someone had to put in the hours imagining the aliens in Star Wars.

So you basically liked Life of Pi because the CGI was pretty? I think Life of Pi had its share of big spectacle. The boat sinking, the whale, the tiger--they have the same qualities as the CGI in Rise of the Planet of the Apes, except done more photo-realistically. How was the CGI in Life of Pi any more imaginative than that in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe?

Just curious, what do you think about compositing or color correction/grading or other digital effects?

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My films: https://sites.google.com/site/westernroadmovies/

Re: German Expressionism


I think our Transformers disagreement is merely a question of taste.

I have no problem with compositing per se, but when it involves actors I think it has a detrimental effect. An actor exchanging lines with a CGI charatcer will not be as good as an actor exchanging lines with another actor. And I know they use fill-ins, for reactions, etc, but still - it won't be the same.

As for digital grading, etc, I know this is pretty much common practice, but as it never strikes me whilst watching a film, I am not bothered.

When I see FX in a film and think, wow, those FX are really impressive - someone must have spent months on that, then, for me, it has failed. If I look back on a film (as I did with Pi, 2nd viewing, and start to marvel at the CGI skill, that has worked.

It's an interesting subject. I remember a sci-fi short story about a future world where all acting, on stage & in films, was done by life-like robots. Can't remember the name of it. Will look it up.


'Honk honk!' - Harpo Marx
--------------
My fav movies ... http://www.rinema.com/LLP23

Re: German Expressionism

Neither of us like Transformers. You're saying it didn't involve imagination (or am I misunderstanding?), which I think is false.

So you admire the work put into Caligari, but dislike the work put into CGI because it's obvious someone spent time on it? Caligari's backgrounds are nothing but fabrication, which required design and work, albeit on a smaller scale than modern $100 million+ movies.

The process in Pi is the exact same process used in Transformers. CGI is the tool, not the art style. Directors who make mindless-practical-effect-action-movie-#2857 aren't using any more imagination than those who make mindless-cgi-action-movie-#5635.

Sounds interesting. Reminds me a bit of the movie AI.

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My films: https://sites.google.com/site/westernroadmovies/

Re: German Expressionism


Of course there was some imagination involved in creating the Transformers sequences, but really, not that much, eh? It was a toy that turned from a car into a robot - now, what was the creative process involved there? Right, here's a toy car, but look, ta-dah! it's a robot. Can you do that onscreen, but make it look really, really big?

I didn't say I disliked CGI because it takes time - I didn't say I disliked CGI at all. What I dislike is the trend of movie-makers, Hollywoodian, mostly, that give over huge swathes of their films to CGI, scenes that generally involve new buildings falling down (there was a band called that, German as well). For me, bigger, brighter, more destructive, became a bore some time ago.



'Honk honk!' - Harpo Marx
--------------
My fav movies ... http://www.rinema.com/LLP23

Re: German Expressionism

Watch the transformations a little more closely and you'll notice that there was a ton of thought involved. The creative process involved designing objects that have the parts to be two separate objects with a logical way to get from one to the other with thousands of moving parts. Also, the method that each transformer uses reflects their personality and emotion. The design is actually pretty cool once you start looking at the nuances.

I agree that CGI unfortunately tends to be used mostly in poor films. The directors and screenwriters are at fault, not the (underpaid) VFX artists or the software. Besides, it's not like having bigger destruction is a new trend. From King Kong, to Jason and the Argonauts, to Jurassic Park, to Transforms, all those films broke ground on various effects in order to make apes/monsters/dinosaurs/robots bigger and better.

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My films: https://sites.google.com/site/westernroadmovies/

Re: German Expressionism


Yes, I guess the scale of destruction has always been set to the highest.

It is indeed the directors, and of course, the studios, that demand the FX are OTT. Reminds me of the quote, "full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."




'Honk honk!' - Harpo Marx
--------------
My fav movies ... http://www.rinema.com/LLP23

Re: German Expressionism

I really think that sentiments like these and the 'CGI is killing film..CGI is bad...CGI is cheap' are really all based out of ignorance. By promoting these myths you're simply marginalizing and helping studios marginalize VFX and CGI communities because you don't KNOW anything about it. You think it's a cheap magic box where computers do all of the work. That's studio/director thinking. Stop it. Stop it right now.

You know the studio being the VFX for Life of Pi? Bankrupt. Laid off all of their US and Canadian staff. When the VFX guy tried to talk about R&H's struggle at the Oscars..his mike got cut (but the composer was able to talk for far longer when he accepted his award). The same studio also did VFX work for RIPD, Snow White and the Huntsman, and even stretching all the way back to Babe. They are literally the same people working on flop or hit so it.

What you simply don't understand is that VFX companies are simply CONTRACTED companies and are clients to the production studio. Unless you're in animation (like Pixar or Dreamworks), then the director isn't involved on a day-to-day basis like they are on the set filming. Most don't care about the process..they just know that they have to spend X (which won't fluxuate if they want to change things) and the spending X is going to drive ticket sales.

You seem to have an issue with 'monsters' and 'building's falling down'...but that's what the script calls for. When big name actors and flashy visuals are the two surest bets to get butts in seats on opening weekend...then studios are going to cater to that (but give the VFX studios hard contracts). You also only point out the flashy 'sizzle' effects but most CGI ..pixel-per-pixel... is subtle like set extensions or removals, digital actor doubles, retouching, rotoscoping, color-matching, match-moving and objects that you wouldn't realize were fake unless I showed you the Maya/Nuke files.

CGI isn't killing anything. Bad production studios and bad directors are.

Re: German Expressionism

I don't think of it as killing imagination. If anything, it's helping people put what was never thought possible on screen. My issue is with the 'magic' of practical effects. Though I enjoyed The Hobbit, I felt that the switch to a CGI heavy film left something to be desired. But hey, that's just me.

www.somearebornthemovie.com

Re: German Expressionism

CGI is not killing the imagination. I think it deserves a place in filmmaking but I feel that the effects of films need to use a lot more of the practical ones too. The idea behind using effects like that for a film is to wow people into thinking "how did they do that?" but because they're using the same effect over and over it doesn't fool the eye as much anymore. For example, Jurassic Park is one of the "go to" films when someone uses an example of CGI but not all the Dinosaur shots were CGI, some was animatronic so the people making the dinosaur look real had something to base it off of. Or Golem from LOTR, Andy Serkis was really there with the other actors and they hired a latex artist to design what he'd look like after the other CG artists taught him how to use the program.

However I do agree that using it to design something as simple as a mask for the Green Lantern is *beep* stupid. If, however, the film can make an effect look real, then why not? German Expressionism is littered with practical effects that makes people think "how did they do that?" as is many films from all over the world, old and new.

"I have always valued my lifelessness."
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