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The Colossal Vitality of His Illusion
October 7, 2013 4:03 PM   Subscribe

Baz has graciously agreed to let us release this 'before and afters' reel to show our peer group the VFX work completed on his film The Great Gatsby
posted by chavenet (50 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

 
Green screen snooze.
posted by planetesimal at 4:07 PM on October 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


The magic of the silver screen is pretty much indistinguishable from witchcraft at this point.
posted by BuxtonTheRed at 4:08 PM on October 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Once upon a time people would make pilgrimages to the various locations where they shot scenes from various films. That'll be an anachronism until people start doing it in Oculus Rift, I guess.
posted by mhoye at 4:09 PM on October 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


I, for one, welcome our new... ooh.
posted by mochapickle at 4:13 PM on October 7, 2013


/drops in placeholder comment with the intent of greenscreening in some snark about how they couldn't greenscreen in the point to the story. I'll do it in postproduction.
posted by Artw at 4:19 PM on October 7, 2013 [13 favorites]


Wow.. I knew this looked like a terrible movie, but now I see for sure that it looks terrible too. All of those rapid zooms are pathetically uninspired. And the glossy fake-looking sheen on everything? What a steaming pile of cinematic crap!
posted by ReeMonster at 4:19 PM on October 7, 2013


The movie Avatar should have taught everyone a valuable lesson but I guess someone always is going to have to pick up a crack pipe.
posted by planetesimal at 4:20 PM on October 7, 2013


There seems to be this odd feeling that the movie was a critical bomb but...it was not bad at all. It was a straightforward (a bit too literal maybe) adaptation of the material with lots of shiny, flashy stylized Erte' inspired art deco visuals. I mean, isn't the hollow void of American Excess looking super cool kinda the point? I mean, the Great Gatsby is about a lot of things, but naturalistic realism is not one of them.

Also I like to think the framing device was there to fuck up any future students who try to just watch the movie.
posted by The Whelk at 4:29 PM on October 7, 2013 [21 favorites]


All of those rapid zooms are pathetically uninspired. And the glossy fake-looking sheen on everything?

It's Baz in full on Moulin Rouge mode. Which works for the first half of the story and all the fun excess, then falls apart later.
posted by Artw at 4:29 PM on October 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah I am quite fond of the book, genuinely enjoyed this movie (for very different reasons than why I am fond of the book) and the really ersatz glitz of it was so on purpose I'm not even sure how "these are fake-looking technicolor effects in a film about a bunch of people being terminally unable to get over their own superficiality" is a valid criticism but hey there's Robert Altman movies for people who want Robert Altman movies and there's Baz's Gatsby for people hell-bent on getting eye-diabetes like I am.
posted by griphus at 4:35 PM on October 7, 2013 [10 favorites]


The movie Avatar should have taught everyone a valuable lesson but I guess someone always is going to have to pick up a crack pipe.

Visually I'd say the movie was pretty successful, as was Avatar TBH. Also it should probably be pointed out that the number one critical and commercial movie at the moment is basically Sandra Bullock in a greenscreen box.
posted by Artw at 4:37 PM on October 7, 2013 [8 favorites]


Why do they have weird little clumps of green screens dotted around the place, but then absolutely all of the final image is covered in CGI in the end, even the greenscreenless bits?
posted by dng at 4:37 PM on October 7, 2013


Also I thought it was interesting that the one time I really connected with the movie was the same moment I really connected with the book: Gatsby's huge, overdone, totally try-hard meeting with Daisy in Nick's bungalow (And in the movie, when Leo does that sit up, straighten up, unbutton, sit up, button, re-pose thing? I do that all the time when nervous! I totally related!)
posted by The Whelk at 4:42 PM on October 7, 2013


Wow.. I knew this looked like a terrible movie, but now I see for sure that it looks terrible too. All of those rapid zooms are pathetically uninspired. And the glossy fake-looking sheen on everything? What a steaming pile of cinematic crap!


I'd have to agree.
I loved Moulin Rouge but all that visual excess that worked there and all that noise-for-its-own-sake simply didnt work for me in this. Instead of it feeling exhilarating, all of the motion and whirl just felt like it gelled into so much white noise and in the end it simply felt boring.
Add to that that for all his hard work (and no one lets you: the audience know hard he's trying as much as DiCaprio) Leo is just not a terribly charismatic actor. Or a particularly depthy one either. I never get the sense that there's much going on behind the eyes with him aside from there being a big flashing "Acting" sign to let you know that he is, in fact, acting right now.
For all the smash zooms and whip pans and fake skyscrapers, the film did have one terrific special effect in Carey Mulligan's face. Sadly she's not given much to do, but man what a face.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 4:43 PM on October 7, 2013


I assume the small green screens are just enough to cover the area where the actors need to be in front of the CGI scenery. For large areas of background that are CGI only, there's no compositing and therefore no green screen needed.
posted by mbrubeck at 4:44 PM on October 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


dng, in compositing, you can just put anything overtop of anything, BUT when you have to put a new image BEHIND something, that's mostly when green screen comes into play, because you use it to define the edge of your subject/foreground, instead of having to manually draw each edge (rotoscoping). Does that make sense?
posted by Brainy at 4:44 PM on October 7, 2013 [6 favorites]


Why do they have weird little clumps of green screens dotted around the place, but then absolutely all of the final image is covered in CGI in the end, even the green screen less bits?

The green screen typically covers the path of the object in motion that will be included in the final shot, in order to separate it more easily from the background. Although yes, it's funny that they bothered to build organ pipes only to say fuck it in post.
posted by phaedon at 4:45 PM on October 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't think it has as much to do with green screen as the end result. And to defend the look of the film as being appropriate to the story.. umm, don't MOST of BL's movies look like this? It doesn't strike me as a particularly innovative aesthetic that is specific to THIS film. And, Gravity was mind-blowing, almost completely animated, and yet was extremely convincing as a sort of film/animation hybrid. Gatsby looks like every RPG cut scene I've ever seen. Most movies now use a ridiculous amount of green screen anyway.
posted by ReeMonster at 4:45 PM on October 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


dng, in compositing, you can just put anything overtop of anything, BUT when you have to put a new image BEHIND something, that's mostly when green screen comes into play, because you use it to define the edge of your subject/foreground, instead of having to manually draw each edge (rotoscoping). Does that make sense?

It does, cheers.
posted by dng at 4:46 PM on October 7, 2013


Yeah, I also thought the first half of the movie was pretty great, and then turned into a talky snoozefest. That first half looked fucking amazing, though. The drive through NYC was totally exhilerating, and the NYC by night stuff was beautiful.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 4:47 PM on October 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


I mean this seriously....you mean the movie already came out???
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:48 PM on October 7, 2013


The visuals of the first half were really well backed up by the soundtrack too.
posted by Artw at 4:51 PM on October 7, 2013


I mean this seriously....you mean the movie already came out???

They sell it by the registers at Target now.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 4:52 PM on October 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


I have no desire whatsoever to see this film, but now I really want to drive a car like that.
posted by Catch at 5:03 PM on October 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


What made "The Great Gatsby" the novel so great was almost certainly the special effects.
posted by chasing at 5:05 PM on October 7, 2013 [9 favorites]


I have to say though, the "I'm Gatsby" reveal scene should be taught in every film school in the class where they cover how to totally blow a climactic moment.
posted by griphus at 5:16 PM on October 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


chasing, you're more right than you know.

St. Alia, it was in theatres in May, and on disc in August. But you're forgiven as it spent an extremely long time in post-production; principal photography took place in 2011.
posted by dhartung at 5:17 PM on October 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Artw: "The visuals of the first half were really well backed up by the soundtrack too"

Visuals being really well backed up by the soundtrack is also a Baz thing. He just usually does it for the whole movie (though I haven't seen Australia).
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 5:19 PM on October 7, 2013


Baz believed in the green screen, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us.
posted by 2bucksplus at 5:21 PM on October 7, 2013 [12 favorites]


Do not see Australia.
posted by Artw at 5:21 PM on October 7, 2013


It was a straightforward (a bit too literal maybe) adaptation of the material

Other than completely missing the point of the novel?
posted by straight at 5:30 PM on October 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Being best friends with Leo notwithstanding, it's hard to figure out why they didn't strip out Tobey McGuire and replace him with a robot that could, you know, act.
posted by phaedon at 5:31 PM on October 7, 2013 [5 favorites]


We do not get the Nick Carraway we want, but the Nick Carraway we deserve.
posted by griphus at 5:35 PM on October 7, 2013 [6 favorites]


Superficially it's an ideal Lurhmann project, in that it's a live story and it's all about excess. But under the excess it's commentary on class, and the live story turns out to be a sham, and Baz doesn't really have it in him to pull it off, because fundamentally he really likes excess and live stories and isn't too hot on social commentary, so it degenerates into a slightly dull mash up of Citizen Kane with the green light as Rosebud and The Talented Mr. Ripley where Ripley isn't as smart or psychopathic, and that's no fun at all. It makes you wish he'd had the money to just go off and make his own crazy jazz age project that he could have made make sense on his own terms.
posted by Artw at 5:49 PM on October 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


(That said, I enjoyed it quite a bit, even the noticeably less good second half.)
posted by Artw at 5:51 PM on October 7, 2013


I liked the movie more than I thought that I would but then I'm not much of a fan of the novel so he couldn't really ruin it for me.
posted by octothorpe at 5:58 PM on October 7, 2013


What I want to know is how is it that Blade Runner was made over 20 years ago and yet it looks so much better and way more believable than anything in that reel.
posted by photoslob at 6:16 PM on October 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


You may want to sit down for tis but Blade Runner is actually 31 years old.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 6:38 PM on October 7, 2013 [13 favorites]


photoslob, there is a physicality to model work that just can't be replicated in CGI. But I submit that those are two very different esthetic frameworks, even though Blade Runner has its own sort of excess at work. I do not think, for instance, that Luhrmann's goal was "believability" in a concrete, this-was-life-in-1920s-America sense. But for Blade Runner making the future seem real was pretty important. Still, even the Bradbury Building was heavily enhanced, not only by set dressing and practical effects such as the dripping-wet columns out front, but by careful use of matte paintings. And Hollyhock House was made to seem like the 93rd floor of a skyscraper. Those physical parts that they start with, and the practical effects used on studio sets, give the movie a heft. Gatsby was going more for airy, even giddy imagination. Nevertheless, it's quite instructive to look at what was CGI and what was practical (say, the human stuntmen jumping out of the way of the car).
posted by dhartung at 6:47 PM on October 7, 2013


I am more convinced than ever that I will never watch this film. Why would I want to see DiCaprio, Tobey Macguire, and a bunch of nobodies, when I could watch the 1974 version with Robert Redford, Mia Farrow, Sam Waterston, Bruce Dern, and even Howard Da Silva?

We do not get the Nick Carraway we want, but the Nick Carraway we deserve.

You deserve Sam Waterston.
posted by charlie don't surf at 7:00 PM on October 7, 2013


Jurassic Park is the 20 year old film that looks more convincing than anything released today.
posted by 2bucksplus at 7:09 PM on October 7, 2013 [6 favorites]


BTW, watch this clip from the 1974 version.

I remember reading some lit professor who said that modern audiences that have air conditioning can't understand Gatsby. They're hot and miserable all the time.

Now watch the climax of the film (unless you haven't seen it and don't want spoilers). This is the full effect of opulence that wilts under the oppressive heat. And that scene contains the only FX in that movie.

When I watch that film, I want to wear sunglasses and put on sunscreen.
posted by charlie don't surf at 7:15 PM on October 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm with griphus and Artw. I just looked at the clips, and I can't say that looks like a good, well shot, well acted movie (looks like it suffers from that late 60s/early 70s thing of all movies having to respond in some way to Bonnie and Clyde just to prove their auteur-chops).

I mean, before the Luhrmann came out, the received wisdom on Gatsby was that it would forever stymie all directors' attempts to render it on film - it begs to be filmed, but then thwarts itself. Given that history and the nature of the material, Luhrmann's version is a win. This piece in the New Yorker related the lineage well, I thought, with some good critical insight.

Personally, I thought Luhrmann's version was pleasingly workmanlike. I very much appreciated the detail, and though some might imply there's something lazy about the CGI, there is a painstaking, loving, intense amount of legitimate historical research, as well as real craft, behind that imagery. Also, as far as the Plaza scene with the heat, it came through for me in the Luhrmann. I remember thinking about it in the theatre, and thinking how little most modern audiences can relate to that kind of suffocating heat with no escape. At least in the 70s we still got to enjoy it on a regular basis, it wasn't a leap of imagination.

If I was disappointed in anything, it's that it wasn't more Baz-y; I'd really wanted him to do it up. He was religiously faithful to the book in almost all things, and it started to feel like a straitjacket, especially when the visual feast got meager and the actors had to stay resolutely on the rails in the last reel.

Too bad we can't compare it to the 1926 version, of which just this trailer survives.
posted by Miko at 8:34 PM on October 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


In the back of my mind I kept hoping it would go all impressionist and expressionist ala The Saddest Music In The World and actually become a 1920s movie about existential emptiness but, yeah it hemmed really close to the source material and the 3rd act was a lot of audio-book performances.

I did like Toby McGuire's reading of the "they where careless people" bit tho.
posted by The Whelk at 8:40 PM on October 7, 2013


Blade Runner looks good because it was real -- in the sense of being physical objects and all. If you've never seen the clip on how the opening sequence was made, it's worth a watch.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 9:28 PM on October 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


"What I want to know is how is it that Blade Runner was made over 20 years ago and yet it looks so much better and way more believable than anything in that reel."

If you want a *really* good explanation of this very topic, Adam Savage recently explained it in great detail here. He specifically references a Cinefex Magazine issue entirely on Blade Runner as great source material for what makes Blade Runner look so good.
posted by markkraft at 6:37 AM on October 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


And the glossy fake-looking sheen on everything?

You are not supposed want to be like Gatsby! He and his friends are glossy sheen.
posted by shothotbot at 6:37 AM on October 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


I know this is stuff is going on in pretty much every movie, but occasionally it's good to be reminded that acting is really hard.
posted by echo target at 7:08 AM on October 8, 2013


Am I completely alone in having loved this? Oh Baz, please never stop making movies about excess.
posted by stoneweaver at 11:10 AM on October 8, 2013


You are not completely alone.

When my boyfriend and I saw the film, at the end we turned to one another and he said, "You loved it, didn't you." "Yes," I said. "Then I'm not going to say anything at all to spoil it for you," he replied. And he let me just go on loving it, without the interference of other opinions. And I intend to keep doing just that.
posted by ocherdraco at 11:21 AM on October 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


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