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‘Night at the Museum 2’ Press Conference, Part 2

Posted on May 16, 2009 at 1:00 pm

IMG_7469-1.JPG More from the “NatM: Battle of the Smithsonian” press conference:
Ricky Gervais, creator and star of the original British version of The Office returns as the director of New York’s Museum of Natural History. He said that he loves to play an “awkward putz” and that “the most fun for a comedian is to play a man without a sense of humor.”
Robin Williams, who returns as Theodore Roosevelt, looked around the historic Smithsonian Castle and said he felt like he was at Michael Jackson’s garage sale. As expected, he kept up a running commentary on everyone else’s answers. Amy Adams answered a question about how her success had changed her life with a joke: “I’ve invested in shoes.” (She was wearing some very fetching Christian Louboutins.) Williams said, “Ah, the Imelda fund.” And he described co-star Hank Azaria’s muscular biceps: “He’s got guns that make Michelle Obama look like an anorexic.”
IMG_7472-1.JPGOwen Wilson answered my question about the special challenges of his role as the tiny-in-stature but big-hearted cowboy Jedediah. He shot most of his scenes in a separate set to make it look as though he was only a few inches tall. “I never saw Hank or Ben, but Coogan was there. Jed doesn’t see himself as a miniature little cowboy. He is larger than life. You never had to worry about Shawn saying, ‘Do less.'”
They were all big fans of the Smithsonian and the other Washington sights. Adams said the Lincoln Memorial, where she and Stiller have a conversation with the huge marble President was “just gorgeous” at night, with a full moon. And Levy said that he loved exploring the Air and Space Museum at night with Stiller, when they had it all to themselves.
Levy said his biggest challenge in making the film was not the effects but his talented cast, who improvised constantly. “Almost every day we would throw out a plan.” Co-screenwriter Garant talked about how much he and Lennon enjoyed bringing all of the historical characters to life. “All of the characters are such archetypes they represent a giant idea.” And so they were able to include a couple sweet “would have been nice” moments in the film that allowed real-life characters to have conversations and experiences that never happened, but should have, as when the Tuskeegee Airmen got to thank Amelia Earhart for helping pave the way for their own unprecedented achievements.
IMG_7524.JPGDirector Levy commented on the Castle setting, too. He said that it wasn’t until they toured the Smithsonian and saw the original building that he knew where the bad guys’ hide-out in the movie had to be located. “We were inspired by the Gothic moodiness of the Castle,” he said. And so, with life imitating art, the Castle now houses the huge pile of Smithsonian treasures that appear in the film as the loot stored there by Ivan the Terrible, Napoleon, and Al Capone. Does that chair on the top of the pile look familiar? It is the chair used by Archie Bunker on the classic television show, “All in the Family.” The one in the movie is a replica, of course. The original is on display in the Smithsonian’s Museum of American History, now with a special new plaque:
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‘Night at the Museum 2’ Press Conference, Part 1

Posted on May 16, 2009 at 11:22 am

Yesterday, I attended a press conference at the historic Smithsonian Castle and had the immeasurable and almost-surreal pleasure of sitting opposite Ben Stiller, Amy Adams, Robin Williams, Owen Wilson, Ricky Gervais, director Shawn Levy, and screenwriters Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon, who were in Washington DC to talk about the sequel to the unexpected blockbuster “Night at the Museum.” This one is set in the world’s biggest (and in my biased opinion, best) museum complex, the Smithsonian Institution. I will be posting more shortly, but as a starter, here’s a short clip with Amy Adams talking about her role as Amelia Earhart and Levy talking about what he wants children and their families to learn from the film.

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WTWTA Blog

Posted on May 14, 2009 at 10:00 am

There is no movie I am more excited about right now than the Spike Jonze-directed “Where the Wild Things Are,” opening this fall and based on the classic children’s book by Maurice Sendak. Having watched the trailer several times, I was thrilled to get a chance for more information on “We Love You So,” a new blog from Jonze about the film. It is a lot of fun to peek behind the scenes and hear his thoughts on some of the movies that influenced the look of the film. And it is worth visiting the site just to take a look at this photo Jonze found on Flickr of an adorable costume made for a real-life Max by his mom, who calls herself Kitjule1010. maxcostume1.jpg

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What Does the Editor Do?

Posted on April 11, 2009 at 8:00 am

Ann Hornaday has a fascinating article in the Washington Post about the impact that an editor has on a film. You’ve heard the expression “the cutting room floor?” That comes from the days when film editors used real scissors and worked with the director to decide what scenes made it into the film and which were literally cut out.

But the editor does a lot more than determine which of several different takes will go into the final film. The editor shapes the story and gives it its rhythm and tone. The editor is the one who remembers what the audience knows and does not know. Hornaday writes about the way that editors inserted crucial information to help audiences follow the story that would not even register if you asked them afterward. Indeed, while some editing is flashy, even intrusive, the best editing registers only subliminally.

When Julia Roberts is trying to steal a top-secret medical formula in the crafty, corporate-espionage caper “Duplicity,” the audience needs to know why she’s suddenly on a different floor of a warrenlike office building. Hence, a brief shot of her running down some stairs.

That shot was requested by the film’s editor, John Gilroy, who also edited “Michael Clayton” (both films were written and directed by his brother Tony). It’s not uncommon, he says, for him to request certain scenes in the course of filming. “We’re always finding out what we need, and sort of embellishing and embroidering as we go along.”

What makes this article worthwhile is the specific examples, from legendary movie moments like the bravura single shot swooping into the nightclub in “Goodfellas” to the small, unobtrusive techniques that are as essential to movie story-telling as the performances and the script. The technology has transformed editing and scissors have given way to computers. But whether we notice the cuts or not, the role of the editor continues to be one of the most important and understanding what a difference that makes enriches our appreciation of film.

Those who want to learn more about the art of movie editing should read When The Shooting Stops … The Cutting Begins: A Film Editor’s Story by Ralph Rosenblum, a superb book with an illuminating discussion of how “Annie Hall’s” out-of-order structure made it so poignant and powerful.

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