By Steve Greene | Criticwire April 15, 2012 at 11:45AM
Weekend Reel Reads is a regular feature that gathers lengthier stories related to the world of film criticism you may have missed during the week. If there's anything you think would be ideal for future installments, please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reverse Shot’s most recent issue is largely devoted to the work of director Steven Spielberg. While the essays looking back at the famed filmmaker’s classics are insightful and informative, one of the issue’s most intriguing pieces deals with his early career as a TV director. Bruce Bennett provides a glimpse into Spielberg’s efforts at the helm of "Eyes," an episode of the show "Night Gallery." Only 22 at the time, Spielberg was suddenly directing Joan Crawford and, soon after, an hour of "Marcus Welby, M.D." Bennett’s piece reads like an origin story:
"By 1969 Spielberg had been making films since the Boy Scouts (his first film for a photography merit badge). As the start date for 'Eyes' loomed he later told director Tay Garnett that he 'felt old and experienced when the time came to "go pro."' That didn’t stop Spielberg from attempting to ameliorate pre-gig jitters by meticulously planning out the entire shoot in advance. Production realities quickly saw his ambitious shot lists pared back. While Spielberg was not shy about asking for help from his far more experienced crew, he recalled in a number of interviews that his greatest ally on the 'Eyes' set proved to be Joan Crawford. 'She treated me like I knew what I was doing and I didn’t,' the director said at Crawford’s memorial in 1977, 'and I loved her for it.'"
While most conversations about trailers -- on this blog and in other corners of the Internet -- seems to focus on their potential for spoilers, discussion of the background music seems to fade into...well, the background. This article from the LA Times’ Emily Rome looks at Two Steps from Hell, a Los Angeles music duo that specializes in creating music specifically for film advertising.
"Two Steps From Hell also had a shot that year at one of the trailers for 'Avatar.' Its track 'Archangel' was in contention, but the studio ultimately went with a different trailer editing house's version of the preview, which used the track 'Guardians at the Gate' by Beverly Hills-based trailer music library Audiomachine."
The upcoming film “Think Like a Man,” based on a book of a similar title by comedian Steve Harvey, is getting some of the best early screening feedback of any upcoming 2012 release so far. But, given its main demographic hurdles, it’s far from a guarantee that the film will enjoy wide financial success. Enter producer Will Packer, whose Hollywood outsider marketing tactics have helped multiple films in the past gain a wider following. Vulture’s Claude Brodesser-Akner does a fantastic job of outlining some of the cross-racial obstacles in a making a film a hit, while showing that marketing experts are helping to move beyond establishment approaches.
"Of course, despite their predominantly black casts, 'The Help' and 'Think Like a Man' face very different challenges: If 'The Help' had to attract blacks to cross over, 'Think Like a Man' will have to attract whites, a far more difficult task by leaps and bounds. How do you get white audiences to see a film that they are mostly unaware of but that audience research shows they actually love once they see it? The key words being 'once they see it.' As of late last week, only slightly more than one in three white moviegoers (37 percent) were aware of the film, and only one in four (23 percent) expressed 'definite interest.'"
On the lighter side, the gadget review site Tecca presented this quick piece on the viability of certain futuristic weapons. Some of these are closer to reality than others, but the ones that seem likeliest to materialize might just come from the government. Lovers of sci-fi, beware.
"There are several reasons why sci-fi laser weapons will never be possible. For starters, all current weaponized laser technology uses wavelengths of light that are invisible to the human eye. They can cause damage to a target, but you'd never be able to actually see the damaging rays the weapons generate. Second, since lasers travel at the speed of light, even if a visible laser weapon were conceptualized, you'd never actually be able to see the distinct glowing bars that are so common in futuristic firefights. On top of all that, lasers capable of doing damage to a target need massive power supplies, making the idea of a personal, portable laser weapon absolutely ludicrous."