Monday, October 30, 2006

Happy Halloween

May you, and your children (if applicable) enjoy a very ghostly good time...

THE PRESTIGE - Comepletely Spoiled

This is my critical look at THE PRESTIGE. This is basically nothing but spoiler- so if you're waiting to go see it...go see it...and don't read. Clear? Mmmmk.


The Prestige (2006)
Written by Jonathan Nolan & Chris Nolan based on the novel by Christopher Priest
Directed by Christopher Nolan.
Starring; Christian Bale, Hugh Jackman, and Micheal Caine

How much disappointment do you derive from a movie where the answer is so clear, you've guessed it half way through, only to be proven completely correct? Ask yourself that before watching The Prestige. And then go see it anyway.

Christopher Nolan does an impeccable job layering this movie, not just through his capture of moving images cross-cut through un-linear narrative, but through the writing of this incredibly well told story. The basic some is - two rival magicians competing to out do each other. But it cuts far deeper into obsession and sacrifice.

As I already asked, are you disappointed when the answer is so obvious? That's what the Prestige asks us, in a nut shell. The notion is that a magician has 3 acts- The Pledge, The Turn, The Prestige. That he can make something so ordinary seem so extraordinary. And the reason for magicians never giving up their 'method/secret'? Because is so simple, they'll be worth nothing to you afterwards. Common theme throughout the film is sacrifice. In the opening act you see the age old - bird in a cage - disappearing act. How does the trick work? Simple (once you know it's worth nothing), the cage folds crushing the poor bird inside while the magician pulls out another bird, previously stowed away. The Prestige, as this film declares, is not in making the bird disappear, but in making it reappear. Dual imagery/interpretation is something played upon in this movie throughout.

Borden (Bale) and Angier (Jackman) are the rival magicians who have come through the ranks, learning their tricks, always in close competition. Borden is particularly good at seeking out the 'method' while Angier is far better with 'showmanship'. Both however, are completely obsessed with their craft, its perfection, and most importantly- being better than the other. So much so that Angier eventually loses his emotional attachment to the memory of his wife, who died as a result of Borden’s mistake, in pursuit of Borden’s new 'secret'. Borden, meanwhile, seems to be a fickle spouse as a result of his dedication. So much so, that his wife even says "Some days you love me, and some days you don't. Some days you love your magic more."

As the rivalry gets nasty, 1 dead wife, 2 fingers and 1 show now gone, the magicians seem to part ways, not yet even...but focused. That is until Angier goes to see a new trick by Borden called "The Teleported Man". The trick? He bounces a plain rubber ball at one end of a stage and enters a door, coming out through another door on the stage, to grab the ball. It takes him as much time as closing an opening a door, clearly an impossible feat. So impossible, Angier becomes obsessed to the point of sacrifice.


So how does he do it? As Cutter (Caine), Angier’s illusionist engineer (he builds the tricks that Angier uses) reasons - he's using a double. But Angier doesn't believe it, even though he ultimately redoes the trick with one and shines it up a bit. It's too simple just to be a double in Borden's 'Teleported Man', though, and after having his rip-off of the trick sabotaged by his rival, Angier seeks out the real method, by both decrypting Borden’s diary, and capturing Borden’s engineer for ransom (the Method to the trick). When Borden gives it up, he leads Angier to Nikola Tesla (played so well by David Bowie...say what?). This is where the obsession hits a new gear.

Angier awaits the construction of something similar to Borden’s trick, a machine that will literally teleport Borden from his contraption to a new destination. But the machine doesn't they think. What it does in fact, is duplicate. After testing it on hats and then a cat, they realize they are copying the person within the machine and they are appearing somewhere else. Once the calibration is adjusted- Angier has the ultimate show - a real 'teleported man'.

But, how can he do this when he's simply copying himself? How would he deal with the multiple selves he creates? Simple...He kills himself. 100 times, in 100 shows. In his final show, he sets one last trap for his rival. He allows him onstage to view the contraption, and fairly sure that Borden's acute ability to spot the trickery (in this case a trap door), he knows Borden will find his way down beneath the stage where he will be able to helplessly watch Angier die in locked water cage- the same one Angier’s wife died in - as a result of Borden's ill tied knot which she was unable to slip...setting this whole grudge off.

Throughout the film, we see Borden on trial and then awaiting execution, from this framed murder scene.

Glossing over many points here though...We find Angier obviously alive (his cloned self), headed to dispose of this machine that Tesla created for him, and shortly after Borden has been hanged. And what happens? Ain't it so obvious? He's shot and killed by Borden, who also happens to be swinging from a noose. But how? Well, Cutter was right- he always had a double. A twin.

Now this is perhaps the most simple 'twist' imaginable, and some may feel cheated without looking deeper into the film.

The theme of the film is about simple things appearing spectacular, they don't hide this, they embrace it. And if such a plain thing like having a twin is the reveal, how do they utilize it so you're not cheated?
Well, Borden asks, as does Cutter throughout the film- "Are you paying attention."

How far does obsession go? (I mentioned something so hit up on the film it seems to be just a thumping of characterization) But it goes further than you'd imagine, to the point of always living 'half a life', shared with your twin brother. This includes a wife..."I know when you love me. Some days you mean it, and some days you don't." Also, for Angier - his obsession runs so deep that he's willing to kill himself by drowning himself every night, 100 times. He's willing to sacrifice himself- though this could be because of something his engineer says to him when his wife drowns to death - "I once knew a sailor, he said drowning...was like going home." Would he have done this if cutter had said, as he does near the end of the film - "I lied you know. That sailor...he said drowning was pure anguish." Probably not...but his better instincts had been blind the entire time.

Another interesting little thought- is how simplistic Angier's trick really is. Aside from the supernatural- it's essentially the 'bird in the cage' trick, where one is killed and replaced by another. Something Angier says is amateurish and cruel until he seemingly acknowledges something Cutter has mentioned before "You'll have to get your hands dirty sooner or later."

Another hint of how far Angier goes to copy and perfect Borden’s work are the two diaries (the one that Angier steals and the one Borden is given while awaiting his death in prison.) Angier discovers after decrypting the book and reaching the end, that it's a fake, a nice little sendoff from Borden. Well, it also happens that the one Borden has in jail, is also a fake, with slightly better showmanship.

This is a movie about obsession and sacrifice, that cloak of theme is so apparent it almost leads to misdirect - yet another theme, not just in the movie but with magicians...their entire 'act' is misdirection, seeping not just into their performances but their entire lives (something laden throughout the movie, best displayed with the Oriental magician posing as a weak, frail old man, who is actually a very strong man. Posing as weak in his entire life, to misdirect his audience no matter what - Something only Borden spots- again with his uncanny ability to spot Method- which makes sense when you find out he's been doing it his whole life, as well.)

There is plenty more, though it may start to sound repetitive. But I'd like to hear what some of you think, if you've seen it. And even if you haven't and don't plan to (and I've ruined it anyway) - How far can you take characterization and theme with such a clear and transparent ending? Does it work for you? Does it make it feel cheap to you? Generally I'd say yes, especially with today’s common 'knock em out in the end with something they don't see coming'. But The Prestige does such a good job at making the obvious so simplistic, you don't really believe it- but that's also the point of everything magicians do. They want that doubt. So layered and thorough...I will have to see this film again, and probably again...But I want to hear from you guys- what did you think?

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

BBQ, Beer and Kittens

I wasn't sure what to expect when I lifted off (and touched down) 3 times on my way Texas...Austin that is. I had ideas of cowboys and guns, and music galore. I was correct about the music, but I missed the boat on college kids.

6th street was a fairly wild place, and if not for Murray, and some serious MUAY THAI, MOTHERFUCKER- I'd perhaps have only the AFF to speak of.

Yeah, I was there. Among a throng of experianced and not-so-experianced writers, producers, groupies, etc. I met a boatload of people I had only know as screen names with complimentary blogs to paint a broader stroke- but seriously, you just don't know someone until they're sitting on your lap. Or eating cheescake from it.

But aside from the people, which were honestly awesome- the experiance was something I wasn't really anticipating. Not that I got what I didn't expect, I just didn't really know what to expect, period. I walked away from it, 4 pounds heavier, and a little more weighted in something else.


I'm not a very good writer- I admit that too frequently. But, it lingers over me anyway- I'm untrained, young and perhaps no so good with English. Drop out not so good. But the one thing I always thought, or was told, was that even if I couldn't write the way professionals wrote, I still had my way of telling things. And above all else- that's what I learned from the pros. That's what I got told over and over again.

Shane Black
John August
David Milch

All notable. All talents worth aspiring too. And they all said the same thing- Write the way you write. Because that's your key into the forbidden palace, that's the backdoor. No one else will write like you, or me, or Shane Black. And that's what makes all of our stories unique, gives it that little pop of something else.

And that's what I think I needed to hear. We'll see...I've never been a personal writer- never instilled anything of my own emotions into scripts...I'm going to change that.

Anyone that wants to can read my next spec. It's an autobiography of sorts...which a smidgen of fiction - you can decide which is which.

SO what did you learn, if you were there? What was it that you needed to hear?

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Platform Wars

I have been rewriting, taking notes, rewriting- writing stuff I don't know anything about...etc...

And preparing for Austin in a week.

I'm not good with updates. But will do something in a week or so, prior to the AFF.

Just thought I'd post this. I've been saying since day 1 that this was only a matter of time. This battle will not be won by any company in my opinion. People felt ripped off when BETA and VHS did this little dance, they won't be so quick to jump on either bandwagon again. People will want backwards compatible DVD players- and cross-platform HD/BLUERAY DVD players...don't believe me?


NEC chip plays HD-DVD, Blu-ray 2006-10-11 15:18:25

BEIJING, Oct. 11 (Xinhuanet) -- NEC has announced it is ready to distribute a new controller chip that may bring a cease-fire in the battle between Sony's Blu-ray and Toshiba's HD-DVD. The new NEC chip is designed to play both HD-DVD and Blu-Ray content.

The price of the chip is around 84 U.S. dollars and NEC has said that will reach estimated shipments of around 300,000 by April next year.

NEC said another key part, an optical pickup usable on machines using both new DVD formats, is being developed by another manufacturer.

"We are in talks with that company so that the pickup can be built into a new line of personal computers due to hit the market next spring," an NEC official said.

Blu-ray and HD-DVD discs are the same size as the current DVD, but each use a more advanced laser technology to expand storage. These new formats offer massive storage capacity, a must for High Definition content, by using a shorter wavelength blue laser.

High Definition videos/pictures contain more pixels and scan lines in a frame, and are able to present objects in more significant detail. Both formats can accommodate High Definition video content of resolutions up to 1080p.

Thanks to this greater storage capacity, the uncompromised, multichannel audio content is made available: more advanced Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD, which offer up to eight channels of audio, are all supported by the new formats.

The unification of the formats may be the best bet to end the format wars. NEC is not the first company trying to figure out how to end the conflict between HD-DVD and Blu-Ray.

In June, IDG News Service reported Samsung's intention to explore the possibility of creating a dual player. Enditem