This week’s featured film is John Sayles’ beautiful western drama Lone Star. For our science fiction season, we caught up with Holly Conrad to talk about her incredible Mass Effect costume project and old school special effects. Table Time sees Luke impressed by The Hard Times of RJ Berger, and Conor won over by the giddy enthusiasm of Amy Poehler in Parks and Recreation. Question time looks at some Dudebros thoughts on what video game remakes we’d like to see, and what franchises we’d like to see revisited.

Time Stamps

(00:00) Intro and Lone Star

(19:55) Science Fiction Season: The Holly Conrad Interview

(37:35) Table Time: The Hard Times Of RJ Berger and Parks and Recreation

(47:39) Question Time: Video game remakes we’d like to see.

Cheerfully Inaccurate

The special effects genius behind the 1933 King Kong was in fact Willis H. O’Brien, and not Edmond O’Brien, star of noir classic D.O.A

Stuff We Mentioned This Week:

The Fifth Element, Men In Black, The Three Burials Of Melquiades Estrada, No Country For Old Men, King Kong, Eight Men Out, Clash Of The Titans, Jason And The Argonauts, Superbad, Kick-Ass, Taxi Driver, Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore

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15 comments on: Wireless Express Show Episode 16 (12/06/10)

  1. Morgan

    Great episode, Dudebros!

    Loved the interview with Holly. Hearing her talk about how forgettable CGI effects are compared to classics from the 80s/90s had me thinking that modelwork and animatronics are the only way to go for a ME film. ME is really a ‘retro’ sci-fi game with lots of nods to 70-80s films and visual references, so it would be great to see it adopt classic special effects, too. You’ve got to do a follow-up interview post-Comic-Con win!

    My own John Sayles history is tortured. I was super-excited to see Lone Star and rented it from my local, fancy indie-videostore. When I took it home I discovered that it was region-restricted (which is totally like something that my local store would pull) Now I cry everytime I hear Lone Star mentioned.

    Okay, a question;

    Has a film ever gotten you into something?

    Cheerfully preverted award this week goes to Luke ‘I would like nothing more than to crawl through your dungeons, once again’ Maxwell.

  2. Dudebros

    Thanks Morgan! We really wished we had more than our standard 20-minute segment to talk to Holly, she proved an incredibly interesting guest. And you’re so right, Mass Effect’s heart is so close to awesome science fiction movies of the past, it would be perfect to see it done with old school animatronics and love.

    That’s a terrible story about Lone Star! I’ve had that with a couple of films, worst is where you start a movie and something interrupts, then you start again and it happens again, and then you just can’t sit down and watch the movie because you’re kind of over the beginning bit.

    Thanks for the question, we’ll put it in the ghoulash for next week!

    -Conor

  3. TL Howard

    The interview with Holly was fantastic. CG effects have made movies that could be epic just Ok to watch. If only there could be an influence to drive movies back to the anamatronic realism of older movies. It just makes it a more enjoyable experience to watch. Being a huge Mass Effect fan, I would love to see characters like her anamatronic Krogan appear on screen. That, plus an actual engaging story line, would make the movie worth watching. I do miss the days when Sci Fi movies were worth watching.

    Being a gamer I have been sorely disappointed with the crossover between console to screen and visa versa. What we need are people who are passionate about the genre that they are working in and it will by far make a greater impact in what they are doing. Love Mass Effect? then work on the Mass Effect movie. Then you will want to do things beyond right for the fans because you are one. Great show and nicely done. Cheers

  4. Dudebros

    Hey TL, thanks for the comment! Couldn’t agree with you more.

    I think love is the missing ingredient in so much of that console-to-movie transition. People who aren’t really all that enthusiastic about the game working on the movie leads to a really humdrum job. Whether it’s movies or games, I think you can really feel when love goes into the work and it elevates it to something beyond an entertainment product, whether or not critics call it “art”.

    Again, thanks for the comment, and we’re delighted you liked the show!

    -Conor

  5. Jaques la Merde

    As a CGI artist, I have to defend my medium.
    CGI is just as valid an art form as stop motion animation. CGI takes just as much skill and artistry as hand drawn classical animation, stop motion animation, claymation, etc. And the concept that all you have to do is press a button and wait 30 hours for a photorealistic image to appear is a complete fallacy.
    If a film is advertised using primarily the amazingness of its special effects, then I’m probably going to give it a miss, because special effects are not what movies are about. CGI is a wonderful too, but it takes skill, research and dedication just like the works of Willis O’Brien and Ray Harryhausen did. The amount of work that goes into CGI before you press the button to make the final image is huge. Take the example you guys spoke about, King Kong. The artists and Weta worked on Kong for years to get him looking so good on screen, yes there was a lot of talk of skin shaders and hair simulation, but without those things Kong would have looked shit. Then of course there’s the motion and mannerisms of Kong, the team studied gorillas in the wild, and spent a lot of time at London Zoo interacting with their gorillas. Why? Because they are animators, just like O’Brien and Harryhausen or William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, or Nick Park or Henry Selick.
    The things that a CGI artist has to do are quite often the same things that a stop motion artist has to do. They have to build a characters skeleton, they have to build the muscles and skin, they have to paint the skin, add hair, fur or whatever and they have to have to worry about how the motion of the skeleton effects how the skin of your character bends, and interacts with itself, and they have to light it properly and shoot it properly.
    Do you know how much CGI was in Ridley Scott’s Gladiator? Absolutely loads. But Gladiator is not a CGI film, it’s not an “effects” movie, or a genre movie so people don’t really think about it and you didn’t even notice the effects.
    The thing you need to remember, it’s the use of the film making tool that is important, not the tool itself. A film like Micheal Bays Transformers is an example of the opposite. The film has no other redeeming qualities other than some flashy effects, whereas in Jacksons King Kong, the viewer doesn’t notice that all the long shots, and a hell of a lot of the close up shots of New York are CGI. Films like the Star Wars prequels or the Transformers movies unfortunately are just CGI porn. I’m sure CGI porn has it’s place, but CGI as a film making tool has revolutionised film making.
    Any special effects in movies, be they CGI, stop motion, matt paintings, miniatures, whatever, should never be noticed as such. A real special effects artist, no matter what tools he uses, has one overall primary function; to make sure nobody notices his work, that it fits seamlessly into the movie. That was the aim of Harryhausen, O’Brien, Richard Taylor, Phill Tippett, John Dykstra or David Harberger. An Effects artist has done his job properly when nobody notices his work in the final film. When the viewer notices the effects, the artist has failed.

  6. Jaques la Merde

    And I just need to point out, the Skeleton sequence in Jason and the Argonauts is the best mix of live action and animation (any medium) ever. FACT!

  7. Conor

    Right on Jacques, that was a really interesting and informative response. I enjoyed reading it and it made me re-examine stuff a little too.

    I think the thing you said I agree with the most is simply that in modern film the effects should be invisible. (Except where it’s part of the spectacle for instance a beautiful stop motion movie like The Nightmare Before Christmas)

  8. Jaques le Merde

    That’s different. That film is entirely made through the medium of stop motion. There is actually a small amount of cgi in there too, but that is done in such a way to blend seamlessly into the look of the movie. People say that hand crafted animation is dead and that cgi is the future of animation. I’m sure Henry Sellick, Hayao Miyazaki, Richard Taylor, Nick Park and even John Lasseter would dissagree with that statement.

  9. Morgan

    Fine points Jacques and really well made but I’m still not sold on the CGI mix that most film’s use.

    The problem with Peter Jackson’s King Kong is that for all the incredible work that the team of artists put in (and unquestionably they are artists) I still felt that the creature fell into the uncanny valley. It put me at a remove from the action in a way that the original never did. When I watched the classic Kong film I saw that it was a nicely animated but obviously ‘fake’ effect- and bought the character wholesale because the trickery was upfront. The arduous amount of work that goes into making something that isn’t there appear real is missing the point about the contract we enter into when we watch a film; a suspension of disbelief.

    When I saw the original Kong I saw it wasn’t ‘real’ and said to myself ‘okay, it’s not real, but I will make belief it is real’ and lo-and-behold, as if by magic, it become a living, breathing, three storey-tall gorilla. Comparatively the 2005 version tries so hard to mask the unreal by force of labour it is as if it is saying ‘no, no we’ve put in so much work to make this thing look real that it is almost real’ and so it puts me at a remove- like a magician who tells the audience that there really is such thing as magic. There is a simple honesty and straightforward contract in the original that is lacking in the modern version.

    Indeed magic and movies have been mentioned a lot this week and I think there is a tangible link between the two. Both invite us to suspend our disbelief and present marvelous things that need specific conditions to create the illusion. One of my favourite quotes lately has been (though I don’t know who said it) ‘I don’t believe in magic but I do believe in the illusion of magic’

    This speaks to me about my relationship to cinema.

    Added to that the tactile nature of plastic, clay, rubber suits, props and models which can only ‘be real’ by their ‘being’. In fact I was watching Predator with a friend a few nights ago and was literally gleeful to be in the company of an alien which was basically a really tall, muscular dude in a kick-ass costume. At times it looked a little hokey and at others it looked terrifying. All the while I could tell myself it’s just a dude in a suit- and then go back to enjoying the hell out of the film.

  10. Jaques le Merde

    Conversly, remember the 1976 remake of king kong?

  11. Morgan

    Hahaha, touché Jaques. Man that film was an abomination. Still it’s got the Dude in it, so you know, swings ad roundabouts.

  12. Jaques le Merde

    My point is, be it hand crafted or digital, they are equally valid and all have their place in modern film making.

  13. Jaques la Merde

    Ok, I have a question.

    Who do the Dudebros think would win in a three way gunfight: Blondie, Silence or Harmonica?

    A bit of an obscure question, but I have faith in the Dudebros to work this one out.

  14. Dudebros

    NICE, Jacques. I was tempted to answer this one right now but I’ll save this one to talk over with my Dudebro Luke during tomorrow’s show.

    -Conor

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