Grendel Doesn't Scare Me

Seriously. Even in 3D, Beowulf, and the assorted monsters and dragons he kills, are boring as all get out. (Angelina Jolie's decolletage in real life has a lot more charisma then Grendel and his family in the movie.) Which brings us to this excellent op-ed about the importance of the stunt person. I have to say, I still think that the fighting in Spartacus is amazing — and I've always railed against the CGI tiger-technics of Gladiator. I love video games, but I don't want my movies to look like a scene from GTAIV. I suspect I'm in the minority on this one. What do you think? Stuntpeople vs. special effects — who wins?

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I recently saw "Be Kind Rewind" with Jack Black and Mos Def. It was a great film but more importantly in made me said to realize the loss of creativity that CGI has caused. They used basic backyard film tricks and made great movies. And like the characters in the film I felt more of a connection with the backyard versions.

Sent by Louis | 2:59 PM | 7-31-2008

I wanted to, but didn't get a chance, to ask about what's different in the special effects area for films that become nominated for an Academy Award for Achievement in Special Effects. Are they the films with the most realistic looking CGI, or ones that have more live stunts and seamlessly integrated CGI?

Sent by Nick B. | 3:05 PM | 7-31-2008

I wanted to point out something that a lot of anti computer-special-effect people miss.
The use of computer generated effects frees the director to use the real actor in every scene of the movie. If an actor was under-age, or unwilling, there was no way they could strap a dozen squibs to them to film an action scene. With the exception of Jackie Chan, I doubt directors would ever contemplate actually throwing the star of their film off of a cliff for a scene. In the pre-computer effects days, the only way to do these things convincingly was to use stunt doubles, people who don't really act. With computer effects, you get the real human performance, by keeping your real actor in every scene. A good example would be the Japanese film, "Battle Royale", where they were able to film an extremely bloody, violent action film, without any stunt doubles.

Sent by Kyle Schmitt | 3:19 PM | 7-31-2008

Special Effect quality has peaked with everyone using the same technology. Once upon a time there was a real mystery as to how they achieved certain effects. In Ray Harryhausen's Jason and the Argonauts, for example, there is a scene where a stop-motion harpy yanks a spear out of Jason's (a live actor's) hand. Today with the use of computer effects, no one wonders how that was done. But I look at the craftsmanship involved with an older movie and the interaction between a stop motion cartoon with live actors and it is amazing. Special effects are no longer as impressive to me.
However, the new computer technology has freed up filmmakers to do all kinds of unusual movies if they choose. Robert Rodriguez makes movies in his basement using lots of blue screen and treats his cameras like toys, even getting his kids involved in writing movies with him. It may not be serious cinema, but then he doesn't mean it to be.

Sent by Dan Waldman | 2:02 PM | 8-11-2008