WBEZ | Christopher Nolan http://www.wbez.org/tags/christopher-nolan Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Chicago’s last film processing company shuts down http://www.wbez.org/blogs/alison-cuddy/2013-05/chicago%E2%80%99s-last-film-processing-company-shuts-down-107398 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/acuddy.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr" id="docs-internal-guid-3252b609-ecca-cfeb-290e-1ecf7e6453ce">Chicago has lost a major piece of its filmmaking history. <a href="http://filmworkersastro.com/">Astro Labs</a>&nbsp;was the last film processing company in the city and one of just a few left in the Midwest.</p><p>But after 45 years, the company&rsquo;s doors are closed.</p><p>In its heyday, this place was major. Every movie John Hughes ever made was processed here. So were films like &ldquo;The Blues Brothers&rdquo;, &ldquo;High Fidelity&rdquo;, and both &ldquo;Batman Begins&rdquo; and &ldquo;The Dark Knight&rdquo;.</p><p>For Manuela Hung, who along with Reid Brody took over Astro in 2001, the Batman films were a big deal.</p><p>Hung says director Christopher Nolan wanted daily rushes &ndash; but only of certain scenes. So that meant Astro wouldn&rsquo;t just process a working print of the film. They&rsquo;d have to cut the actual negative.</p><p>Trouble was, most people who knew how to do that were retired or no longer around. Desperate, Hung reached out to some students at Columbia College.</p><p>Yes, students cut the original negative shot by Christopher Nolan and Wally Pfister.</p><p>Hung says she&rsquo;s not sure how they did it - their semester hadn&rsquo;t even ended.</p><p>&ldquo;We were working around the clock,&rdquo; Hung said. &nbsp;&ldquo;But they did a beautiful job, and everybody was happy.&rdquo;</p><p>Reid Brody says that&rsquo;s how Astro competed against the major film labs on the East and West coasts: They were always willing to hustle.</p><p>&ldquo;We always managed to get to someone, either through our friends at Kodak or someone at Chicago being connected to the production,&rdquo; Brody said. &ldquo;It was a just a lot of fun, a lot of excitement.&rdquo;</p><p>But those days are long gone. The last feature film Astro handled was in 2010.</p><p>These days, most features shot in Chicago no longer use film. The commercial work Astro relied on has also dried up - advertising companies too have switched to digital. That left local independent and student filmmakers.</p><p>Hung says that&rsquo;s been their primary business for the past year.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s wonderful to be able to do that,&rdquo; Hung said. &ldquo;But that doesn&rsquo;t sustain a whole entire lab. It just doesn&rsquo;t.&rdquo;</p><p>So earlier this month, Astro shut down. And these days, Hung&rsquo;s main job is overseeing the dismantling of Astro.</p><p>That&rsquo;s a huge job. The machines are massive contraptions. Their color printers are about six feet long, covered in shiny steel gears and sprockets.</p><p>In another room, a chemical lab for mixing developer is full of small glass pipettes and giant steel tanks.</p><p>Further along, inside a glass-encased machine, the negative is processed &ndash; dipped in multiple solutions and then hung up to dry, sort of like laundry.</p><p>All of this equipment is in a series of interconnected rooms, covering about 12,000 square feet in total.</p><p>But walking through the now dormant lab is like walking through a graveyard.</p><p>&ldquo;They have absolutely no value to anyone,&rdquo; Hung said. &ldquo;Nobody wants them. The deconstruction of the lab, especially because everything was working, is what makes it really sad.&rdquo;</p><p>Hung says they&rsquo;ve reached out to people They&rsquo;re willing to give everything away. But the size of the equipment is prohibitive in most cases. So most of it will be broken down for scrap metal.</p><p>Other members of Chicago&rsquo;s film community are also mourning the loss of Astro.</p><p><a href="http://www.hairlessfilms.org/">Danièle Wilmouth</a> is an independent filmmaker and film teacher. She&rsquo;s been taking films to Astro for about 15 years. She says the biggest loss is not just the machines, but the people who ran them.</p><p>&ldquo;Not having their expertise that we could call on, just you know, for some advice or a question about something,&quot; she said. &quot;And of course for our students, being able to go their first hand and talk with technicians. That was really invaluable. So, yeah it will be a huge loss. I&rsquo;m really sad about it.&rdquo;</p><p>Meanwhile, though Astro Labs is gone, Manuela Hung and Reid Brody aren&rsquo;t leaving the film business entirely. They&rsquo;ll continue to operate <a href="http://filmworkers.com/">Filmworkers Club</a>, a post production house in Chicago. And they run a small processing plant in Texas.</p></p> Tue, 28 May 2013 15:14:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/alison-cuddy/2013-05/chicago%E2%80%99s-last-film-processing-company-shuts-down-107398 Acclaimed film critic says newest 'Batman' movie stinks http://www.wbez.org/blogs/claire-zulkey/2012-07/acclaimed-film-critic-says-newest-batman-movie-stinks-101021 <p><p><em>Earlier this week, our regular film contributor <a href="http://thehoyde.com/web/">Steve Delahoyde</a> was invited to attend a preview screening of </em>The Dark Knight Rises<em>, the latest sure-to-be-blockbuster action film from director Christopher Nolan. Because the film opens this Friday and its early reviews have been so hotly discussed and contested, we have decided to release his critique of the film one day early. Warning: This review contains several spoilers.</em><br /><br /><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/batman%20christian%20bale%20AP.jpg" style="height: 452px; width: 300px; float: left; " title="Actor Christian Bale on the set of the latest Batman film, ‘The Dark Knight Rises.’ (AP/Darla Khazei)" /><em>The Dark Knight Rises</em> is Christopher Nolan&#39;s final chapter in the wildly-popular series, which found the director re-imagining the familiar Batman franchise, often taking it to dark and unexpected places. The latest is no different, with Nolan at perhaps his most cynical and perverse, very rarely lessening his tight and violent grip on us, with brutality after brutality bombarding the audience at every turn. One would assume that eventually, like with nearly any hyper-violent action film &mdash;&nbsp;or even some grisly schlock of horror &nbsp;&mdash;&nbsp;that eventually we would grow desensitized to a point. This would be true, had the cleverly-deft Nolan not decided to heighten the violence and mayhem seemingly tenfold with each new scene, reaching new levels of cinematic discomfort. By the end of the film, the best that can be said to describe the experience is simple: poop.<br /><br />The bottom line is that the film is unabashedly stupid. Absolute poop.<br /><br />Should you have been able to forgo the basic premise from the very start of this, or any previous series, or even the original comic books &mdash;&nbsp;which is essentially that a sad, rich orphan dresses up in a silly costume to fight even sillier bad people &mdash;&nbsp;then somehow you must nearly be impervious to how absurd and dumb all of this is. That we are, somewhere in our brain, supposed to take a lunatic in an utterly foolish get-up absolutely, 100 percent seriously is an insult to our collective intelligence.<br /><br />Even all the junk Batman garbage that Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher made were better than this.<br /><br />Many have made much ado about Nolan&#39;s use of the franchise to comment on modern-day social issues, with <em>The Dark Knight Rises</em> apparently bringing to light the horrors of terrorism and the police state. To this critic, the only horrors the film exposed were that somehow someone gave someone else money to make not just one of these, but three. Three! About a man wearing a cape and a plastic head with pointy ears! For no good reason. How about making a movie about how it&#39;s dumb to make movies like this? But shoot it backwards and in reverse so you can be all clever about it.<br /><br />The film does have one redeeming quality, however, and that is the chemistry between Christian Bale&#39;s Batman and Anne Hathaway&#39;s Cat Lady. Their romance is believable and cleverly constructed, and the pair&#39;s energy radiates off the screen in waves. Michael Keaton and Michelle Pfeiffer from Burton&#39;s 1992 <em>Batman Returns</em> have nothing compared to the sizzle shared between this pair. However, upon the launch of the film&#39;s third act, Nolan utterly dissolves this cinematic relationship he&#39;s worked so hard at building by showing us Batman&#39;s penis. Tiny and inconsequential, it sits there full frame for nearly three full minutes. That bewildering scene, of course, is not benefited at all by the Cat Lady&#39;s cackles throughout, nor her outbursts of &quot;Little penis!&quot; throughout the remainder of the film.<br /><br />Though to be fair, she&#39;s right.<br /><br />The villain in this film is a behemoth called Bane, a ruthless killer and planner of unspeakable atrocities. He is also clearly an allusion to presidential candidate Mitt Romney&#39;s former company, Bain Capital. Some have asked how Nolan could have possibly inserted a character, let alone make a critique about a specific candidate, when the film finished filming nearly a year ago, and the character was first introduced in comic form in the early 1990s. But that&#39;s just foolish, because of course the whole movie boils down to this: A British director wanted to spend $250 million to say that he wants one guy to be the president of a country more than a different guy.<br /><br />The soundtrack also stinks.<br /><br />In closing, while this critic hasn&#39;t enjoyed a single second of any Batman feature film, save for the 1966 original, the most positive thing about the release of <em>The Dark Knight Rises</em> is that it means it will be at least five to ten years before they decided to make another one of these stupid crap fests.</p><p>Also, I didn&#39;t care for Batman&#39;s high, squeaky voice.</p></p> Thu, 19 Jul 2012 08:01:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/claire-zulkey/2012-07/acclaimed-film-critic-says-newest-batman-movie-stinks-101021