Monthly Archives: April 2010

James Cameron sits down with The Lantern

James Cameron is a busy man.

The hit director behind “The Terminator,” “Titanic” and “Avatar” said his flight into Columbus marked airport No. 114 that he has traveled through in the last three months.

“I’m due for a day off any month now,” he said.

Before Cameron delivered his lecture to students at Ohio State on April 28, he made rounds across the globe to raise awareness on the themes he presented in his last film, “Avatar.”

“I’ve been contacted by so many groups from around the world dealing with environmental issues, indigenous rights issues and so on that I’ve been busier than ever,” Cameron said.

Cameron decided to take a break from activism to give his first-ever college lecture in the Ohio Union’s Archie M. Griffin Grand Ballroom.

“It seemed like an opportunity to share my life experience and the journey that I’ve had and see if people can find some way of mapping it to their individual journeys,” he said.

Now, with “Avatar” in his rear-view mirror, Cameron is taking some time away from filmmaking, but is currently talking with 20th Century Fox about an “Avatar” follow-up.

“If we make it right away, it won’t even be out for three-and-a-half years,” he said. “But it will be a continuation of the story and deal with some of the same themes, but in surprising ways.”

Attention to Cameron’s every move will be heightened thanks to the record-breaking box office of “Avatar.” Apart from earning more than $2.7 billion in worldwide box office, Cameron’s epic also took home three Oscars at this year’s Academy Awards.

All eyes at this year’s Oscar ceremony were on a juicy battle between Cameron’s “Avatar” and his ex-wife Kathryn Bigelow’s “The Hurt Locker” in the Best Picture and Best Director categories.

Both trophies went to Bigelow.

“I’ve worked with Kathryn a couple of times as producer and I know her artistic integrity is extremely high and we both value that,” Cameron said.

With Bigelow’s “The Hurt Locker,” which had a $15 million budget, taking home top honors at the Oscars over “Avatar,” which reportedly cost between $300 million and $500 million, Cameron said the Academy’s recent preference for smaller, independent films gives directors no incentive to make big-budget movies.

“What they’ve done historically is create a disincentive for filmmakers to make high quality, big movies,” he said. “And then all the critics whine that big movies are just these hollow, clanking commerce machines when in fact, there’s not a huge incentive for filmmakers to go that extra distance because they’re not honored for it in any way.”

Though Cameron didn’t walk away with either the Best Picture or Best Director Oscars for “Avatar,” he did end up taking it to the No. 1 spot in all-time box office.

Cameron’s quest for success has led his actors and crew members to speak out against the director’s demanding nature. On the set of “Avatar,” actor Sam Worthington said a frustrated Cameron confiscated the crew’s cell phones and stapled them to a wall.

“Go find a quote, a quote, which you won’t be able to, of an actor saying that I was demanding, at least in a negative way,” he said. “They may say that I challenge them to do their best work, but in actor speak, that’s a compliment.”

Cameron said the actors he works with love the challenge he presents.

“I tell them going in, ‘We’re going to the Super Bowl, so be ready,’” he said. “But they love that. Are you kidding? An actor wants to be challenged.”

It must be working.

Cameron’s last two films, “Titanic” and “Avatar,” have grossed $1.8 billion and $2.7 billion worldwide, respectively.

“I’m a big movie fan and I just make movies for what I would want to see,” he said. “What I would want to see in a movie theater is a film that takes me out of myself, takes me on a journey, immerses me in the characters, gives me a powerful emotional reaction to the story and then spits me back out onto the street kind of dazed and wanting to go see it again.”

Part of Cameron’s box office success with “Avatar” stemmed from the urcharge added to 3-D ticket sales. Despite the tough economy, cinema-goers still forked over the extra cash to watch “Avatar” in 3-D.

“It’s completely immersive,” Cameron said about 3-D. “It’s an enhanced experience. It’s a premium experience. You enter the world. It seems more palpable, more real to you as you’re watching it. People are transported; they lose track of time, they lose track of space, where they are. They’re fully immersed in the story.”

With “Avatar” serving as the catalyst in making 3-D popular in cinemas, Cameron went on the defensive against those saying 3-D is still just a gimmick.

“That’s a very, very tiny minority. The audience has spoken,” he said. “I think the jury’s in. It’s not a gimmick. It’s the way people want to see their movies.”

And when “Avatar” hit store shelves April 22 on DVD and Blu-ray, it achieved more success, already topping “The Dark Knight” as the No. 1 best-selling Blu-ray in the format’s history.

“I love Blu-ray. Great format,” Cameron said. “You get all the quality and resolution in the image that you would have in a movie theater.”

And now, with an “Avatar” sequel confirmed to be in development, Cameron is keeping his lips sealed on where the next film in the franchise will go.

“I don’t want to spill the beans before the fact,” he said.

And what about the sequel dealing with the themes of “Avatar” in “surprising ways?”

“The key word there is ‘surprise,’” he said. “And if I tell you what it is, it won’t be a surprise.”

[This story ran in The Lantern on May 3, 2010. Click here.]

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Cameron doesn’t have time to mull record haul

For some, a body of work garnering more than $5.7 billion in worldwide box office and 21 Academy Awards is enough for an impressive résumé.

Not for blockbuster director James Cameron.

Cameron — the director behind “Avatar,” “Titanic” and “The Terminator” — delivered his first college lecture Wednesday in front of a capacity crowd in the Ohio Union’s Archie Griffin Grand Ballroom.

After a 55-minute lecture and 25 minutes of question-and-answer, Cameron gave away the night’s most popular tidbit of information: a 3-D re-release of “Titanic” is in the works.

“We’ve done tests and it looks really cool,” Cameron said. “You gotta spend your time, and you’ve gotta spend the money to make it equal to what it would have looked like had you shot it in 3-D, and if I had 3-D cameras back in ’96, I would’ve done ‘Titanic’ in 3-D. That’s a no-brainer.”

Meanwhile, Cameron’s visit to OSU comes on the heels of his latest smash-hit, “Avatar.”

Not only did “Avatar” bag three Oscars at the 82nd Academy Awards, it sank Cameron’s own “Titanic” as the No. 1 film of all-time at the box office, earning more than $2.7 billion worldwide in total receipts.

“’Avatar’ was by far the riskiest project that I’d done yet, and I’d done some pretty risky projects,” he said.

Cameron said that the first two years in development of “Avatar” were devoted to developing new technology, including a “virtual camera” which allowed Cameron to direct the actors in real-time while viewing their animated characters on a monitor.

“Instead of seeing Zoe Saldana or Sam Worthington, I would actually see their 10-foot-tall blue characters in the rainforest of Pandora,” he said.

Weta Digital, one of the digital effects companies working on “Avatar,” also developed a new form of technology for the film which helped to capture the actors’ facial movements. After taking a year to shoot the actors, it took an additional year for Weta to return fully-animated shots.

“We were three years into a 4-and-a-half year multi-hundred-million-dollar project before we saw a single finished shot, and it was a pretty spooky time,” he said. “What an amazing day that was.”

“Avatar” was so advanced, in fact, that Cameron was asked how humans linked to their avatars in the film.

“It uses the PFM principle,” he said. “Pure f—ing magic.”

Now, after completion of “Avatar,” Cameron is campaigning for environmentalism.

“In ‘Avatar,’ Earth is referred to as the ‘dying world,’ and that’s not meant to be a big downer or a criticism, it’s meant to be a call to action,” he said. “Especially to people your age because this is the world you’re going to inhabit.”

Before Cameron took the podium, a six-minute highlight reel from Cameron’s films played on two projection screens, featuring clips from “Titanic,” “Avatar,” his “Terminator” films, “The Abyss” and “True Lies,” as well as footage from his deep-sea documentaries.

Then, Cameron took the stage, and after rousing the audience with an “O-H … I-O,” Cameron talked about his unforeseen rise to success in film.

“When I was a kid, it was just an unfathomable dream,” he said. “It didn’t even seem possible.”

Cameron, originally fascinated by physics, developed a love for English and science-fiction after realizing he was poor at math.

“I figured if I couldn’t do science, I could write science-fiction,” he said. “That pretty much started to define my career path.”

In 1979, Cameron landed his first paying job in film as a production assistant for “Rock ‘n’ Roll High School” before bagging his first directorial dig on a major feature film in the 1984 film, “The Terminator.”

“I found out that directing a movie consists of knowing all the answers, even if you didn’t really know all the answers,” he said. “It was that the attitude of leadership was more important than the specifics.”

Cameron went to work on “Avatar” in 1995, but the technology of the time was not sufficient to get the film into production.

“It became pretty quickly apparent when we broke it down and analyzed it that no single movie would have the time or the resources to solve this very, very complex problem,” he said. “I actually created too big a challenge.”

In the meantime, Cameron went on to develop “Titanic.”

“Titanic,” now the No. 2 highest-grossing film of all-time at the worldwide box office, as well as winner of 11 Academy Awards, worried studio executives during production that the film would lose the studio money.

“It was a chick flick where everybody’s wearing corsets and funny hats and everybody dies at the end,” he said. “This is not intuitively obvious that it’s going to beat ‘Star Wars,’ and frankly, nobody involved believed that it was going to make a lot of money.”

Mounting pressure on the success of “Titanic” weighed on Cameron so much that he taped razors to the monitors in his editing rooms with a message saying, “Use in case movie sucks.”

Now, with “Avatar” and “Titanic” resting No. 1 and No. 2 on the worldwide box office charts respectively, Cameron is sharing his experiences and speaking to adoring college students.

“I came because I am a very large fan of Mr. Cameron’s work and I knew it was his very first college lecture,” said Alex Stigler, a first-year in English. “I was interested in what he would have to say in regards to the filmmaking process and what insights he would give us.”

Grady Cobb, a second-year in landscape architecture, appreciated Cameron’s insight.

“The lecture was kind of informational and an insight into what [Cameron] was thinking,” he said. “It was interesting how he came up with all these different things.”

After success with “Titanic” and “Avatar,” Cameron said that his best advice to young people is to take risks.

“Take risks, don’t do what everyone else is doing,” he said. “You need to intentionally go as an artist where it’s uncomfortable, where you’re going to challenge yourself.”

[This story ran online for The Lantern on April 30, 2010. Click here.]

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‘Adult Swim’ hosting zany ‘Block Party’

Local fans of Adult Swim programming will have the chance to check out their favorite shows re-imagined as carnival games – and bag free stuff, too.

“The Adult Swim Block Party and Ragbag of Jollification” tour will be at The Lodge Bar Saturday from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Admission is free and guests must be 21 and over.

The event will feature carnival games inspired by Adult Swim original series, raffles, prizes, free swag and musical performances by People Under The Stairs and Motion Potion.

“This is the third time we’ve had a carnival out in the world … and this one combines the music component, the off-campus component and the night-time [component],” said Stacy Moscatelli, director of marketing for Adult Swim. “It’s kind of a little bit more fun.”

Adult Swim is putting on the tour to connect with its fans, Moscatelli said.

“Since Adult Swim started, it’s been really important for us to get out and hang out with our fans,” she said. “It’s just sort of this connection that a lot of TV networks don’t have.”

The tour has 10 stops, all in college towns. Columbus was chosen because of Ohio State’s presence, Moscatelli said.

“[OSU] is just a good school and it’s got a good vibe,” she said. “We all kind of felt like the event could be really successful there.”

Columbus’ stop will be hosted by The Lodge Bar, located at 165 Vine St.

“It sounded like a good event, and it’s not going to cost us anything, so it sounded like a good event to do,” said Patrick West, general manager for The Lodge Bar.

West said that potentially poor weather and the Ohio State Spring Game may deter people from attending, but the fact that the event is free should lead to good turnout.

“They’re putting on a free event,” he said. “It’ll bring out the people.”

Each stop on the tour features live music from a different band. Los Angeles-based hip-hop group People Under The Stairs is playing in Columbus.

“[Adult Swim] asked us [to play], and we’re honored, because People Under The Stairs is all about … crazy stuff, and [Adult Swim] is too,” said Thes One, member of People Under The Stairs.

The tour is sponsored by Capcom and T-Mobile, both of whom will have stations at the event.

Capcom will be offering previews of their upcoming video games “Street Fighter IV,” “Lost Planet 2” and “Dead Rising 2,” while T-Mobile will be showing off its new HTC HD2 phone.

[This story ran online for The Lantern on April 23, 2010. Click here.]

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An English course on…Kubrick?

After teaching students the works of esteemed literary and film giants such as James Joyce and Orson Welles, English professor Morris Beja is now sharing the filmography of another esteemed film legend with students: director Stanley Kubrick.

Beja’s English 578 class, “Special Topics in Cinema: Stanley Kubrick,” meets at 12:30 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays at Gateway Film Center.

“In recent years, the filmmaker that I’ve been most fascinated with has been Stanley Kubrick,” Beja said. “I just find myself so intrigued by his work that I want to now expose myself to it as much as possible and teach it.”

Most weeks, one day of class is devoted to a screening while the other day is for discussion. The films screened in the class are “Dr. Strangelove,” “Lolita,” “2001: A Space Odyssey,” “A Clockwork Orange,” “The Shining,” “Full Metal Jacket” and “Eyes Wide Shut.”

“Every one of his major movies has an element of mystery about them, intrigue, controversy, down to his last one, ‘Eyes Wide Shut,’ which was very controversial,” Beja said.

Presenting the films of Kubrick to a college class works because the films are “teachable,” Beja said.

“There are things to ponder,” he said. “There are great movies out there, fabulous movies that are almost a little hard to teach except to talk about how nice they are.”

Though Kubrick films like “2001: A Space Odyssey” are noted for ambiguity in their themes, Beja said he tries to teach students other aspects of the film as well.

“I like to stress the technique,” he said. “I don’t want to ignore those technical aspects for the sake of just talking about themes, but obviously you also have to do that to ponder just what is being suggested.”

Because of the complex nature of Kubrick’s films, Beja does not expect students to fully unpack Kubrick’s ideas in the course of a class.

“I don’t expect them in just one session to know all about [a film], any more if I were teaching a Shakespeare course, I would expect them to know everything there is to know about ‘Hamlet,’” he said.

Some of Beja’s students, including Brice Patterson-Blight, a fourth-year in English, said they enjoy the class’s learning environment.

“I think Professor Beja is definitely a very studied man and he knows the material he’s working with very well,” he said. “I really like that it’s held in the theater. I think that’s the perfect environment for a specific course study on a director.”

Kubrick died in 1999 shortly after filming “Eyes Wide Shut,” leaving Marie Chirico, a fourth-year in psychology, longing for more.

“He seems like he’s very good at what he does, but kind of someone that was taken a little too early,” she said. “I think he could have done a lot more good work.”

Meanwhile, Beja said he wants students to walk away from his course with an understanding that cinema is a multifaceted medium.

“Cinema is worth studying and not just watching,” he said. “It’s worth thinking about, and Kubrick is a prime example of how that can be true.”

[This story ran in The Lantern on April 27, 2010. Click here.]

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Students can give the new ‘Splinter Cell’ a test run today

Fans of the “Splinter Cell” franchise will have the opportunity to check out the latest installment in the series Friday at the Ohio Union.

A launch event for “Splinter Cell: Conviction” will be held in the Ohio Union’s Round Meeting Room Friday from 6 p.m. until 9 p.m.

The event will feature a playable version of “Splinter Cell: Conviction” in single player and multiplayer modes, as well as a gaming tournament, raffle, trivia, food and prizes.

“We’re having [the event] on campus to get students more interested and be able to come out and have fun,” said Jeana Howald, campus representative for Ubisoft at Ohio State and a fifth-year in strategic communications.

“We’re really excited,” she said. “This is our first official event at Ohio State.”

“Splinter Cell: Conviction,” the fifth game in the “Splinter Cell” series, was released in North America on April 13. The game was developed and published by Ubisoft and is available on Xbox 360, Microsoft Windows and iPhone.

“There’s a lot of tactics and there’s a lot of strategy in the game,” Howald said. “It’s a lot more for the player to decide how to go about certain combats … it’s pretty exciting.”

Friday’s event is sponsored by Game Creation Club in partnership with Ubisoft at Ohio State.

Game Creation Club is a student organization designed to “facilitate the interest, research and development of video games and the game industry,” according to the group’s Web site.

“We see the event as a great way to provide fun, entertainment, excitement and the college favorites: contests and giveaways,” said Jim Pickett, adviser for Game Creation Club and a fourth-year in art and technology, in an e-mail.

Meanwhile, Ubisoft at Ohio State is also planning a launch event for “Ghost Recon: Future Soldier” this fall, though the game will appear at Friday’s event.

“There’s a beta on the disc for ‘Splinter Cell: Conviction’ that allows you to play — for the first time it’s been available — the new ‘Ghost Recon: Future Solider,’” Howald said.

Other partners for the launch event include Rogue Media Gaming, GameStop and Columbus Ohio Retro Gaming Society.

[This story ran online for The Lantern on April 16, 2010. Click here.]

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‘Late Night Movies’ selects comic book theme

Cinema’s most popular superheroes are returning to the big screen at Gateway Film Center.

The “Late Night Movies” series at Gateway Film Center will be screening comic book and superhero films every Friday and Saturday in April. Admission is $5 and all screenings begin at midnight.

“It’s a great tradition with a lot of the movie houses we admire,” said Melissa Starker, sales and marketing manager for Gateway Film Center. “A lot of great theaters have a history with late-night shows, and it just happens to work out that late-night business here is really good.”

Films screened in the series are part of a monthly theme based on what new releases are scheduled.

“It gives us a chance to try to think up some fun things and movies that people would really like to see again,” Starker said.

Past themes include Tim Burton films for the release of his remake of “Alice in Wonderland,” and “Nightmares on High Street” featuring horror films to promote the release of “Nightmare on Elm Street.”

Once a theme is chosen, Gateway Film Center staff pick the films that will be screened.

“We just kind of start from [a theme] and brainstorm what we think people would really like to see again,” Starker said.

Comic book and superhero films were chosen for April to promote the upcoming comic-based films “Kick-Ass” and “Iron Man 2.” “Kick-Ass” hits theaters April 16 and “Iron Man 2” will be released May 7.

Films screening in April include “The Dark Knight,” “Sin City,” “Spider-Man” and “Hellboy.”

With “Iron Man 2” scheduled for release in May, Gateway Film Center attempted to screen “Iron Man” as part of the series, but was unable to secure the rights.

“Usually with movies if they’ve got a sequel coming out or a remake coming out, the original is kind of hard to get your hands on,” Starker said.

Gateway Film Center also attempts to project prints of the films, but that is not always possible. Some films don’t have a quality print available. Others have been released on the high-definition Blu-ray format.

“Evil Dead,” which was screened as part of the “Nightmares on High Street” month, featured a new 35-millimeter print. However, Gateway Film Center resorted to a Blu-ray projection of “The Dark Knight.”

“A lot of times, if you’re looking at a movie that’s more than ten years old, you can show it on 35 [millimeter], but that 35-millimeter print is going to be in pretty rough shape,” Starker said. “We show stuff on Blu-ray, so that can look better.”

Success of “Late Night Movies” has prompted Gateway Film Center to continue the series into the upcoming months. Several possible themes in the works include a Quentin Tarantino month, a Coen brothers month and a mind games month to promote “Inception,” which hits theaters July 16.

The popularity of late-night shows is attributed to dynamic Columbus night life, Starker said.

“The weekend late-nights are among our strongest,” she said. “I think people in this town aren’t afraid of going out late at night.”

[This story ran in The Lantern on April 13, 2010. Click here.]

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‘Lost’ fans find common ground and common theater at Gateway

One of television’s most popular programs is getting silver-screen treatment.

Gateway Film Center is airing new episodes of “Lost” live on one of its big screens every Tuesday. Doors open at 8 p.m. and admission is free.

“We usually have [‘Lost’] in a theater that’s at least 100 seats,” said Melissa Starker, sales and marketing manager for Gateway Film Center.

Starker said screenings are regularly near capacity, and the season premiere was screened in a full 300-seat theater, complete with a bar and themed treats.

“We actually had a bar in the theater and a concession stand,” she said. “We also made ‘Lost’ cupcakes with sharks and planes crashing into them and things like that.”

“Lost” was chosen by Gateway Film Center over other shows because of its appeal to audiences.

Lost “just has a really, really strong connection with its audience,” Starker said. “It’s the kind of thing that feels like an event with every episode. And also with ‘Lost’ in particular, it’s just so beautifully shot … so it just makes sense to see it on the big screen.”

Last Tuesday’s episode drew 9.45 million viewers, putting “Lost” No. 3 in its time slot behind “American Idol” and “NCIS: Los Angeles.” The season premiere, however, garnered 12.1 million viewers, according to The Nielsen Company.

Fans of “Lost” are drawn to its various qualities, ranging from its character work to the show’s distinctive plot twists.

“I like ‘Lost’ because of its mature character development and the continuity of the story,” said Brian Kennedy, a graduate student in computer science. “A lot of shows are so episodic that there’s almost no meaning to watching a new episode.”

For Andrew Lin, a first-year in art, “Lost” is appealing because it is not predictable.

“It ends in a cliffhanger every episode so that just keeps it going,” he said. “And plus there’s all these crazy conspiracy things. That’s always fun.”

Many fans feel the Gateway Film Center offers a unique viewing environment and an ideal opportunity.

“It’s in a theater and it’s free,” Lin said.

For Kennedy, last Tuesday’s episode was his first “Lost” experience at Gateway Film Center.

“It’s the first time I’ve ever done it,” he said. “It sounds kick-ass.”

Beginning this week, Gateway Film Center will also be airing new episodes of “Glee” on its screens.

Doors will open at 8 p.m. Tuesdays, and the episodes will air at 9 p.m. However, this week’s episode airs at 9:30 p.m. Admission is free.

“It’s another one of those shows like ‘Lost’ where you mention it to people and they get so excited,” Starker said.

“Lost,” meanwhile, is currently in its sixth and final season. New episodes air at 9 p.m. Tuesdays on ABC, and the series finale is set for May 23.

[This story ran in The Lantern on April 13, 2010. Click here.]

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