Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Jeff Bridges doesn't like greenscreen

I live in a house of crappy magazine subscriptions. Found on top of my cistern are trashy publications such as People (how I loathe thee) and Redbook (the Cosmo for moms). The only magazine of some interest to me is Entertainment Weekly. The last issue, August 20th, was the annual film preview for the fall season. In it was a quote from Jeff Bridges, who was once the coolest actor to of never won an Oscar (now that he has won an Academy Award he doesn't seem as cool).

Sorry Dude.

Speaking to Entertainment Weekly about working on Tron: Legacy, Bridges had some things to say about working with green screen technology. "I had to get past some of the frustrations of not having what I enjoy as an actor—costumes, the set, another actor—and get with the new thing that's going down."

This quote from a respected actor perfectly illustrates some of the things wrong with green screen and reliance on computer effects in general. In essence it makes it hard for the actor to do his job. It does not engage the actor into the movie's world and at the same to it alienates the audience from that same world. The technology hinders the actor in reacting to their surroundings or different obstacles. Not only that but it must not make being an actor as fun as it once was. For example, instead of having a man dressed up in a monster suit you have a tennis ball on a string to help you act afraid. All the imagination in the world isn't going to help an actor get past the fact that they are surrounded by nothing. Really it's a whole different craft than real acting.

Now, I'm no cinematic Luddite saying we should get back to the days before computer-generated imagery but think about the classic movies that didn't have CGI to fall back on. Imagine: The Thing without practical special effects, Blade Runner without minitures or Aliens without men in suits. The best effects in Tron, famous for its introduction of computer effects, aren't even created on a computer. CGI just allows the filmmakers to get lazy and they end up relying on it too much. For every Avatar there is a Speed Racer. Green screening is just another way for filmmakers to tell their story and should not be the basis for a movie or considered the only tool in the toolbox. Remember that it is the same technology that allows local weathermen to give it's viewers the five-day forecast.

Meteorologist are either hot babes or dopey dudes, depending on what the station can afford.

I know that CGI is here to stay but it is my wish that filmmakers will one day remember that special effects don't have to be done on the computer and some of the best films relied on those computer-less special effects. I'm hoping that the novelty of it will one day wear off or maybe the novelty of life before CGI will become popular again. Filmmakers can get more creative with their movie making (just look at Wes Anderson's work on Fantastic Mr. Fox). Leave the hokey CGI to the Sci-Fi Channel (I refuse to call it Syfy) and make something truly engaging.

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