Alejandro González Iñárritu

Cannes 2017: Best Celebrity Sightings at Cannes

Each May, the entertainment industry turns its eyes to the beautiful resort town of Cannes, France, not only eager to see the film festival’s media offerings, but to see the stars. One of the top film festivals in the world, Cannes attracts celebrities from actors to directors, from singers to producers. To help you prepare for this year’s celebrity spotting at Cannes, we’ve listed here some of the A-listers whose presence is hotly anticipated at this year’s festival:

Nicole Kidman

Kidman is involved in four official selection titles at this year’s Cannes, which will likely make her this year’s star. She is starring in two films that are in competition (“The Beguiled” and “The Killing of a Sacred Deer”) and two films out of competition (“How to Talk to Girls at Parties” and “Top of the Lake: China Girl”). Though they are not related to Cannes, Kidman is also starring in a popular HBO mini-series “Big Little Lies” and has a part in the upcoming “Aquaman” film. It looks like 2017 is Ms. Kidman’s year!

Colin Farrell

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Across from Kidman is her co-star in two Cannes films, both in competition: Colin Farrell. Over the past year Farrell has upped his game, starring in a Harry-Potter-universe film (“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”) and a dark science-fiction comedy by director Yorgos Lanthimos (“The Lobster”). Colin is teaming up with Lanthimos again in his newest drama, “The Killing of a Sacred Deer.” Farrell also plays the part of the Union soldier in Sophia Coppola’s new thriller at Cannes, “The Beguiled.”

Kristen Stewart

by celebrityabc on Flickr

by celebrityabc on Flickr

Stewart has come a long way since her days in vampire teen-flicks, starring in two films by French director Olivier Assayas (“Personal Shopper” and “Clouds of Sils Maria”). Now she is making her directorial debut at Cannes 2017 with her short film “Come Swim” (part of the 70th Anniversary Event section). Stewart’s previous beau and “Twilight” co-star Robert Pattinson will also be in attendance for the film “Good Time,” which is in competition for the Palme d’Or.

Alejandro González Iñárritu

As a director, producer, and screenwriter, Mexican-born Iñárritu has made his mark in the film scene. He won the Academy Award for best picture in 2015 for his film “Birdman” and directed Leonardo DiCaprio in his Oscar-winning performance in “The Revenant.” Iñárritu also won best director for both films and even won best director at Cannes for “Babel” in 2006. This year, he is screening his newest film, “Carne Y Arena,” (or “Flesh and Sand”) — which is the only film in the Virtual Reality section of the festival. Based on true accounts, this exhibit allows the viewer to experience the life of a refugee.

Tilda Swinton

by Gage Skidmore on Flickr

by Gage Skidmore on Flickr

Academy Award winner Tilda Swinton will also be in attendance for her starring role in “Okja.” The new sci-fi is directed by Bong Joon-ho, who previously directed another sci-fi with Swinton, “Snowpiercer” (2013). “Okja” will become the first Netflix film in a Cannes festival, and tells the story of a young girl who tries to protect an animal friend from a multi-billion-dollar corporation. The film also stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Paul Dano, and Lily Collins.

Barkhad Abdi

The Somali-American actor and director made his debut in “Captain Phillips” (2013), playing alongside Tom Hanks. His performance as the pirate leader earned him a nomination for best supporting actor in the Academy Awards and Golden Globes, and he won that category at the BAFTA Awards. Abdi stars in the newest Safdie Brothers’ film at Cannes, “Good Times.” This crime drama about a bank robber also stars Robert Pattinson and Jennifer Jason Leigh.

Emma Thompson

Of all the British actors to make their way into the hearts of Americans, Emma Thompson is one of the most beloved. She has starred in multiple classics, such as “Love Actually,” “Sense and Sensibility,” “Brave,” and the “Harry Potter” films, and voiced a character in the newest adaptation of “Beauty and the Beast.” Her filmography goes on and on, and her newest addition to the list will be showcased at Cannes this year in competition: “The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)” has an all-star cast, including Adam Sandler, Ben Stiller, and Dustin Hoffman.

Adam Sandler

by celebrityabc on Flickr

by celebrityabc on Flickr

Speaking of Adam Sandler, some of you might think that Cannes is the last place you would see this slapstick comedian. However, critics insist that Sandler isn’t playing his normal roles in “The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected).” The film follows an estranged family that comes together in New York City for an event with their artistic father. Sandler has delivered some endearing performances in films before, such as “Click” and “Reign Over Me.” Perhaps he will wow audiences at Cannes this year and establish himself as a serious actor.

Julianne Moore

Moore is not a stranger to the Cannes festival, having won the award for best actress in 2014 for David Cronenberg’s “Maps to the Stars.” Her newest film at Cannes, “Wonderstruck,” is based off an illustrated young adult novel of the same name. It is a dual story that follows two deaf children, and also stars Michelle Williams. Like the other popular streaming-service, Netflix, this will be the first time Amazon has had a film in the Cannes festival.

David Lynch

The Cannes festival has long resisted the inclusion of TV shows in their lineup; however, it looks like this year will be an exception. David Lynch has been a part of the festival before, screening his prequel film to the “Twin Peaks” series, titled “Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me” (1992). The film did was not received warmly, but this has not deterred Lynch from coming back. The first two episodes of his “Twin Peaks” reboot will premiere at this year’s Cannes in the 70th Anniversary Events section. Will the show be met with acceptance or more criticism? Find out soon!

There will be plenty of other friendly faces at this year’s Cannes … who are you excited to see? Who do you hope will win? The Cannes Film Festival will take place May 17th – 28th in Cannes, France. Learn more about filmmaking at New York Film Academy.

 

Cinco de Mayo: 7 Amazing Filmmakers from Mexico

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Mexico City is the fourth largest production center in North America (after LA, New York, and Vancouver), and Mexican filmmakers have had great success with their Hollywood films — think “Gravity” and “Birdman” — at recent Academy Awards. For Cinco de Mayo, we celebrate Mexican films and filmmakers of the past and present.

Alfonso Cuarón

Cuarón was the first Latin American to win the Academy Award for Best Director for “Gravity” (2013), which he co-wrote with his son Jonás Cuarón, a filmmaker in his own right. In fact, there are three Cuaróns to watch out for in the film industry, as Carlos Cuarón, Alfonso’s brother, is also a director and screenwriter. The brothers wrote the international hit “Y Tu Mamá Tambien” (2001), a sexy road movie set against a landscape of Mexican society and politics. Cuarón also directed “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” (2004).

Alejandro González Iñárritu

As one of the “Three Amigos of Cinema” along with Alfonso Cuarón and  Guillermo del Toro, Iñárritu enjoys a great reputation at home and abroad. He followed in Cuarón’s footsteps by scooping up the Academy Award for Best Director for “Birdman” (2014), which also won for Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Cinematography.

Guillermo del Toro

Del Toro is famous for his dark and fantastic aesthetic involving imagery from fairytales, Catholicism, and mythology. A Guardian article about the 2008 “Hellboy” sequel quotes del Toro as saying, “I find monstrous things incredibly beautiful, in the way that the most beautiful carvings in Gothic cathedrals are the grotesque carvings. If I were a mason I would be carving gargoyles. I’m absolutely head over heels in love with all these things.” The beautiful “Pan’s Labyrinth” (2006) won three Academy Awards for Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography and Best Makeup and Hairstyling.

Emilio Fernández

Fernández was a dominant figure in the Golden Age of Mexican Cinema (1936-1959). His dark and melodramatic film “María Calendaria” (1944) won the top prize at Cannes and, along with “Flor Silvestre” (1942), starred the prestigious Hollywood actor Dolores del Río and featured cinematography by internationally-acclaimed Gabriel Figueroa. Other celebrated Fernández films were “La Perla” (1945), “Enamorada” (1946), and the American-Mexican production “The Fugitive” (1947), directed with John Ford.

Luis Buñuel

 

Although this famous surrealist director is Spanish, he spent many years in Mexico, winning for it the Palm d’Or at the 1961 Cannes Festival for “Viridiana.” His Mexican period includes “Los Olvidados” (The Young and the Damned) (1950), a story about impoverished children in Mexico City that launched him back on the international film scene with a Best Director Award at Cannes after several years of disappointment, and “Él,” which did poorly at the time of its release but has since found acclaim.

Michel Franco

Franko’s bullying-themed “After Lucia” won a top prize at Cannes in 2012, where Tim Roth was one of the judges, and persuaded Franco to make “Chronic” with Roth as a male end-of-life caregiver (2015). In a Guardian review, Franco is quoted as saying, “How can we understand life without thinking about dying?”

Gerardo Naranjo

In an article at Reuters celebrating the rebelliousness of today’s young Mexican filmmakers, Naranjo is quoted as saying: “It is important to recognize the mastery of the older generation … Cuarón, Iñárritu, they found a way to protect their projects and that is the hardest thing to do in the United States. The industry finds ways to limit creativity over and over.” After gaining attention from Hollywood studios for his 2011 film “Miss Bala,” he has struck out on an independent path with his forthcoming “Viena and the Fantomes” (2017), starring Dakota Fanning.

Do you have a favorite film or filmmaker from Mexico? Let us know in the comments below, and Happy Cinco de Mayo!

The Best Cinematography: A Look At Birdman

Michael Keaton in Birdman liquor store

By the end of this year’s Academy Awards, Birdman winning Best Picture wasn’t much of a surprise. Earlier in the ceremony, it had already picked up Oscars for Best Screenplay, Best Directing and Best Cinematography. The Cinematography award went to the film’s director of photography, Emmanuel Lubezki, giving him a record-tying two Oscars in a row in the cinematography category. Lubezki had won the year before for the stunningly shot Gravity.

Like Gravity, and other films Lubezki shot, including Tree of Life and Children of Men, Birdman is known for its long takes—single, seemingly unedited shots of several minutes or more in length. In fact, Lubezki and writer/director Alejandro González Iñárritu worked very hard to make Birdman seem like it was shot entirely in a single, continuous take. This was achieved by combining several long takes and making their transitions as hidden and seamless as possible. For the most part, it was successful, and is considered a major factor in Birdman’s considerable award season praise.

While the film used camera tricks and illusion to make Birdman seem like a two-hour-plus single take, it still involved several long shots that are incredibly difficult to film in a practical setting. According to Lubezki, most shots are around ten minutes in length with the longest take around fifteen. Even a single one of these takes would be considered a daunting and possibly unnecessary task in a production.

How did the Birdman team (Birdteam?) pull this off? With lots of practice. A proxy set resembling the labyrinthine backstage hallways of the St. James Theatre—where Birdman is set—was built in Los Angeles before filming began. It was there that Iñárritu and Lubezki blocked out each shot, playing Birdman’s jazzy, drum-based score in the background to help set the tone. By plotting and practicing each long take, the filmmakers were able to figure out how and where they could hide their shot transitions, as well as get an idea of where to stage their actors and place their lights. They realized for the more difficult shots, visual effects would be needed to help with the transition.

Zach Galifinakis and Michael Keaton in Birdman

Shooting and combining these takes were assisted in the mobility of the Steadicam, which Lubezki employed throughout filming. The cinematographer has become well known for his intense handheld shots, and Birdman was no different. He personally operated the camera for many handheld shots and relied on veteran Steadicam operator Chris Haarhoff for Steadicam shots, working with him and directing him in real time to better capture the improvisational production of the film and respond to the actor’s movements and unpredictable natural lighting. A 2nd AC would also follow the operator for some shots to spot necessary camera moves.

The cameras used in Birdman included the Arri Alexa and, for the handheld and Steadicam shots, the Alexa plus. The Alexa M was used for some remote and extreme handheld work, using a custom-built backpack holding an external recorder, its batteries, and a wireless transmitter. The primary lenses used were Leica and Zeiss Master Primes. While many cinematographers would avoid using extremely wide lenses for close-ups, Lubezki, considered a master with wider lenses, did not hesitate to use the Zeiss Master Prime 12mm and similarly wide lenses even for tight close-ups in the claustrophobically shot film, creating many memorable and intimate images.

Michael Keaton shirtless in Birdman

Camera movement wasn’t Birdman’s only technical feat. Iñárritu did not shy away from using strong colors like red, blue and green to enhance the drama of the film. Blue and red were used in particular on stage in the play-within-the-movie. Scenes shot outside, with the theater exterior just yards away from Times Square and a memorable scene in the heart of Times Square itself, meant the filmmakers had to work around New York City’s omnipresent artificial lighting.

Lighting proved particularly tricky considering the long, varied takes—without the safety net of cutting, Lubezki had to hide his lights out of frame very carefully. In typical cinematic shots, not only do cinematographers take pains to hide the physical lighting equipment and cables out of frame, but also must maintain the angle of their source within a camera move—shadows or other lights could betray the artificial sources if a shot is not blocked and choreographed correctly. During Birdman’s long takes, with shots often showing 360 degree angles of the set, maintaining this lighting continuity was an epic struggle.

Not only did Lubezki find the right placement for his lighting equipment, he had his grip team constantly move them during the shot, with the lights dancing just out of frame and moving along with the actors, Lubezki, and the camera operator. They would move not only heavy, superhot lamps but also the gels and diffusions bouncing their light and shadows, all to maintain the illusion of a natural source within the shot. This needed to be done for every single take of nearly every single shot in Birdman.

Naomi Watts in Birdman

To minimize lighting equipment and allow for what Lubezki called “a ballet” of hustling and shifting crew members, Lubezki pushed the Alexa to a ISO of 1280 with the aperture open wide. By making the camera more sensitive to light in this way, Lubezki reduced the need for larger and more elaborate lighting setups, giving the camera, actors, and crew more freedom and room to move around within each tracking shot.

Lubezki and Iñárritu also employed the use of lens flares to add visual texture to Birdman. By having lens flares on the film’s copious wide-angled close-ups, Lubezki was able to soften the image, lowering the contrast and making the actors’ more intimate scenes prettier and more emotional.

Simply put, Birdman was more than just a string of gimmicky long takes. If the Oscar for Best Cinematography was given on a purely technical level, Birdman would be more than worthy of it. If the Oscar was awarded based on artistry and how beautifully shot a film is, then Birdman would be more than worthy of it. The Oscar, however, is given based on a combination of both these qualities. Birdman was more than worthy of it.

MIchael Keaton Emma Stone Birdman hospital scene

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