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Whedonesque - a community weblog about Joss Whedon
"You can't take the sky from me."
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February 21 2012

New official Avengers photo. Disney has officially released the new Empire magazine photo.

I don't think it's spoilerish.We get a good look at three of The Avengers.

I'm just not on board with that helmet. But it does look better from the side.
Yeah, the helmut is bothersome, but overall I like the new suit. It's very shiny. Hopefully Cap will lose his headgear quickly, not least because it conceals a great deal of Chris Evans's pretty face.
Just what I was thinking too, Simon. It looks silly.
I love that Jason Bourne joined the Avengers. But I wish they would have had the original Bourne on the first Avengers movie then after he dies the new Bourne will be in the second Avengers.
I do love the helmet.
I like the helmet myself. He's got to have some headgear for the costume and it looks practical. It's got a bit of a retro vibe to it, sort of like a motorcycle half-helmet. Which is kinda appropriate, cuz, dude's old. ;-)
Quint on AICN says Avengers is Marvel's best outing yet. I don't like what they have to say about Joss' visual eye though.
Thanks for the link, eddy, would have likely missed it otherwise. I think they're probably going to be right about the cinematic eye, but it seems to just be a preference Joss has at this stage. Nice to hear more confirmation that the script has come together well.
As i said before, i know many people who love Joss who dont have much apreciation for his skills as a director, and many glowing reviews of Serenity praised the movie to the hills and yet were very critical of his "pedestrian directing", so i sort of expect many "Joss has a tv directors eye" to come crossing even in good reviews. That said, i dont agree; i actually LOVE many of his compositions, and i never really saw his directing too much as tv directing, not even on tv, as just a very strong personal style.
Would someone be willing to please explain to me what these types of articles mean when they talk about "pedestrian directing" or "non-cinematic"? Are they the same thing? They don't sound like they are the same thing word-wise. I know directing skills have something to do with getting the performance you want out of an actor. I know that the cinematographer has a lot to do with what shows up on the screen too (after all, they get their own Oscar), but I don't know where the lines are drawn between the two jobs. And I really don't know anything about cinematography and therefore don't know what I am seeing (or not seeing, I guess) in a film. (They need more cinematographers to do commentaries. ^_^) And what wasn't cinematically great about Serenity?

(Whoa. That was a bunch of questions. Eek. I really would appreciate any enlightenment offered up though.)
Took me a while to figure out why I didn't like Cap's costume. In all the picture's I've seen it's weird the ears aren't showing....also the I don't like the blue belt.
Same questions as BreathesStory.
Serenity had Jack Green as cinematographer, and he has a good resume.

From the comments, it looks like "non-cinematic"=="looks like a TV show". But I'm wondering what that means, now-adays. Seems like there are a fair share of "cinematic" TV shows, and meaningful number of movies that are shot like a MTV video (which may be flashy and attention getting, but also gets annoying fairly fast).
I wasn't aware people were calling Serenity non-cinematic, much less Avengers, and I've really no idea what "pedestrian directing" might be. I can shed some light on the line between director and cinematographer.

On a movie, a director is in charge of how the entire thing comes together. Being in charge, they can decide how much they care about a particular thing. One director might micromanage costumes but not direct the actors much. another director might concentrate on the performances and let everyone else do their own thing. Michael Bay is all about the visual. I doubt he does much to direct the actors, but he often operates a camera and has gone as far as kicking his DP out of the room to light a scene himself.

Joss is also a visual director, both in movies and TV. He's more of a collaborator though. he knows what he wants and as long as he gets that he lets the DP do his/her thing. He definitely works close with his DPs on the visual style and has specific shots and compositions he wants. Many directors just know the coverage (wide shot, close up, etc...) they want, and the compositions and any movement are up to their DPs and operators.

In TV, Directors often have little to really do on set. They come in for an episode and then leave. For the most part the actors know their characters better than anyone, so they aren't directed much. The DP, who sits next to every director, knows much more about the show than the director. They collaborate closely, almost co-directing. The director often comes up with specific shots and the DP does those to the extent they fit with the visual style of the show. The DP doesn't have much to do in the way of lighting, cause there is a specific style and the crew knows what it is. Joss' hand is definitely recognizeable in his episode of Glee, and he's one of the best director's they've had IMO. On his own shows he would have had a lot more control and probably did direct the actors a lot, especially in first seasons.

The DP is in charge of the look of the movie/show. The director tells them what they want, the DP gives any suggestions (more or less depending on the director) and then ultimately works with his/her crew to achieve the director's vision. The DP works closely with Art Directors, Costume Designers, Prop Masters, Set Designers, etc, and usually has the power to veto many of their ideas.

The Director, AD, and DP generally run a set.

Jack Green and Seamus McGarvey certainly have cinematic chops (Seamus less so) but Joss might be overriding them at the times reviewers are calling Joss' movies non-cinematic. But from Serenity and the trailers for Avengers, both are very cinematic.

Maybe the complaints are about too much sitting around and talking? That's a very TV thing, and it's a very Joss thing. And I can see that being cited as "too tv" or somesuch.
I'm super psyched about the positive buzz. Is this guy Quint reliable?
I think the criticism of Joss' eye is total bunk. Considering its budget, Serenity looked great. I've only watched it about a hundred times so maybe I'm not the right guy to comment, but the shots were great and the final space battle certainly fits the 'cinematic' bill. Joss has been behind the camera for hundreds of hours more than most film directors, so I just don't buy any of it. I direct any of the haters to see the extended tracking shot introducing Wolfram and Hart in Angel S5's premiere, the one where he had to shoot Wes only from one side due to a brief paralysis on one half of his face. Dude can shoot a scene. I also point to the "handheld in space" technique he pioneered with Firefly, the one that seems to be on display in the thoroughly awesome (and cinematic!) clip of Iron Man charging through the air towards a ship in the new trailer, explosions going off everywhere. Unlike your standard Michael Bay cut-cut-cut visual white noisefest, you get a combination of chaos AND an action sequence geography that the human eye and brain can actually follow. And for the rest, if Joss happens to adhere to more classic ideas of how to shoot and edit his movies, I for one am all for it. There are enough kids out there throwing up twenty cameras to shoot each scene and letting editors with ADHD splice it all together. More than enough.
FWIW, if I recall correctly the handheld in space thing was actually pioneered by the VFX people, for the stillborn BSG reboot that didn't happen and whose place Firefly took.
Thanks, Simon. I can't wait. I'm mildly bothered by "cinematic eye" criticism, but I think what matters here is having a kickass, entertaining film, with good characters and quippy dialogue. I think the vast majority of audience members, myself included, is not going to be fretting about cinematography in a superhero blockbuster.
I reserve the right to credit Joss with anything and everything cool that's ever been done, ever ;) And yes, Quint is definitely one of the better writers over at AICN.
I think in the last few years, we've had many live-action summer blockbusters that have been instantly forgettable once we've walked out of the cinema. There may have been more bang for your bucks on screen but very little of substance to go with it.
Exactly--there's been a lot of lowest common denominator thinking in Hollywood for a while now when it comes to summer movies. I believe the primary reason The Dark Knight resonated with so many people was quite simply that a few people decided to get together and write an involving story that just happened to take place in a comic book universe, instead of hobbling together yet another Rube Goldberg device to deliver an audience to a series of action setpieces. I highly doubt Joss has gone for anything approaching the dark tones of Nolan's franchise, but I'm guessing that audiences will respond enthusiastically to his excellent sense of story, pacing and character.
And here's a still of The Hulk:
As a die-hard fan of the man, I will always love everything Joss makes, but I can see the criticisms of his cinematic eye. The greatest film directors are those with a visual storytelling style that composes many intangibles: pacing, editing, filmic beats and perfect picture composition. All of it comes together in a really great visual storyteller and makes for a distinctive style that you can recognize, like a stamp of personality: a Hitchcock scene looks and feels vastly different from a John Ford-directed scene, for example.

This was my biggest worry about the film, that it wouldn't feel "cinematic" enough; Serenity is a a good film for many reasons, but it doesn't have that innate sense of filmic pacing and composition that makes for a great movie.

However, if The Avengers works on several levels (heart! humor! action! suspense!), then I'm happy. A blockbuster movie with real substance and entertainment factor is a jewel beyond treasure.
@dottikin: I agree with what you said. I'm thinking that Joss's eye will get better as he gets more experience. This is his 2nd feature film, right? With a writer's career, it would be surprising if his visual style was as fully developed as his script/emotional/actor-directing skills. (TV directing with a 5-6 day shoot being much different than multiple-week large budget filming.)

I'm also starting to wonder if this is a case where we don't know what the original question was, so we may be misinterpreting the response. If insiders are giving these glowing reports, a natural question would be "is there *anything* bad you can say about it?" I'm wondering if these opinions were freely volunteered, or if they required much prodding, head-scratching, and garment-rending.
Not to be a party pooper, but if you actually read the article, it's clear that Quint hasn't actually seen the movie but that his sources inside Marvel say it's good. I'm not being cynical when I say that working that close to a movie tends to color your judgment and also it's not very good business to say anything but good stuff about a film you're associated with, so I would take this with a decent sized grain of salt in terms of predicting the overall quality and/or reception of the finished film. At the same time, it's much better than if his sources were admitting to being disappointed, because that would really be bad news. I'm glad there were apparently a few skeptics who've been won over. Again. Much better than they're not being won over but far from being a super-reliable indicator.
I know what you mean, dottikin, but i dont agree; Serenity has innate filmic pacing and i love Josss sense of composition; all of his work does. In fact, you can recognice his style as being quite unique; everytime he directs, in fact, you can recognice the man behind. And yaers before Serenity i allrready considered him a fantastic visual storyteller; in fact the thing that drew me to him was how extraodinatily he could comine dialogue and visual narration.

[ edited by Darkness on 2012-02-23 02:53 ]

[ edited by Darkness on 2012-02-23 02:55 ]
Joss is a great visual storyteller on TV, which is a strangely different medium than the movies. I hope that it'll eventually translate to the big screen and we get a ton of amazing movies from the great Purple One.

And the best Marvel Universe movie so far, for my money, was the first Iron Man and Favreau doesn't have much of a cinematic eye either. He's actually great at capturing performances and interactions between characters; I couldn't tell a scene he directed from a hole in the ground.

And the sources are saying The Avengers is even more entertaining and energizing! I'm actually all a-twitter with excitement.
OneteV's observation that a directorial style takes more than two films to develop makes sense to me. It's true for novelists, painters, composers, etc. A more nuanced critical comment would be that so-and-so "hasn't yet developed" a cinematic style, but you can't expect every commenter to be that nuanced.

I haven't watched enough movies to critique directorial style in general, but I saw Serenity twelve times in theaters during its theatrical release, and a few times since at home. A sophisticated viewer might criticize the pacing of individual scenes, but the pace of the overall movie is intentional and consistent. It starts leisurely and goes faster and faster and faster, with one pause for breath in Haven during the campfire conversation between Mal and the Shepherd, and a coda at the end.

IMO the opening, from the logo and voiceover through the matriushka nest of flashbacks to the shot of the bridge through the ship's window, is a marvel of construction and explication that ought to be studied in school.
bobw1o and dottikin, thank you for your answers. The were helpful. :)

I did spend a little time online trying to figure out what this cinematic eye thing might be. I came up with bupkis. Which either means that my googlefu wasn't up to par or that no one actually writes about it. I'm inclined to think it's the latter, myself. Which is kind of interesting to me. It's apparently one of those concepts that people just toss around that sounds rather important but has no standard meaning and can therefore be conveniently used without fear of contradiction. ;-)
It's not an actual piece of terminology. It's just means "eye for cinema" or something. In contrast to his television work.

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