michael carnahan

'Deepwater Horizon' Could Stake a Claim in Oscar's Tech Categories

Deepwater Horizon, a drama about the massive 2010 drilling rig explosion and oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on Tuesday night, with survivor Mike Williams, who’s played by Mark Wahlberg in the film, on hand for a standing ovation after it ended.

The production, which cost an estimated $156 million, will be released by Lionsgate/Summit nationwide on Sept. 30. It reunites director Peter Berg and Wahlberg three years after they teamed up on Lone Survivor, and it will, like that film, likely wind up a moneymaker at the box-office, but only a marginal player at the Oscars. To me, the new film looks poised to land noms in the same two categories as their previous film, best sound editing and best sound mixing — and perhaps best visual effects, as well.

There had been some speculation that Deepwater Horizon — which Matthew Michael Carnahan and Matthew Sand adapted from a New York Times article, and in which Wahlberg, Gina Rodriguez and Kurt Russell play workers on the rig, John Malkovich a villainous BP rep overseeing them and Kate Hudson Wahlberg’s wife and babymama back home — might contend across more categories.

But, ultimately, it turns out to be an action movie/disaster film, focused more on stunts and effects than on story, turning Wahlberg’s regular-guy character, Mike Williams, into a superhero (nobody can accuse it of being anything but respectful and celebratory of virtually all of its real-life subjects, save for the guy played by Malkovich). That’s fine. It’s just never been the Academy’s cup of tea.

The good news: the dynamic duo collaborated on another film that will hit theaters this year, on Dec. 21, called Patriots Day (Wahlberg unveiled the trailer during a talk at TIFF), which centers around the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and sounds a lot more like Oscar-bait to me.


Martin Scorsese for Jo Nesbø’s The Snowman

Scorsese has expressed an interest in directing an adaptation of Jo Nesbø’s The Snowman into a feature film +Matthew Michael Carnahan is also in talks to provide the screenplay. Check out the synopsis below:

It is November in Oslo and the first snow of the year has fallen. Birte Becker comes home from work and praises the snowman her husband and son have made in the garden. But they haven’t made a snowman. As the family stand by the sitting room window looking out in amazement at the snowman, the son notices that it is facing the house. The black eyes are staring at the window. At them. Detective Inspector Harry Hole receives an anonymous letter signed “The Snowman”. Later he finds an alarming common thread in all the old disappearance cases. Married women go missing the day the first snow falls. That same night Sylvia Pedersen is fighting her way through the first snow in a forest outside Oslo. She knows she is running for her life, but she doesn’t know what from. Nor does she know what lies ahead. Fortunately.

Self-Portrait: Film Directors on Filmmaking

The film director’s role in a project encompasses several creative activities that carry the film through development, pre-production, production, post-production, and film distribution and marketing. He or she actively oversees the artistic and technical choices throughout the filmmaking process with the aim to organize and manage each creative activity with their corresponding workforce while being mindful of the finances and budget behind the project. He or she must also be able to conduct oneself as a funnel of collaboration through which decisions are made in accordance with his or her vision for the film–a skilled director will be able to balance his or her cinematic vision with his or her collaborators. Steve McQueen and Martin Scorsese are among those skilled film directors, and Film4 brings them and other contemporary filmmakers together for a special discussion on the art of directing. Self-Portrait: Film Directors on Filmmaking offers a fascinating look into filmmaking, its process, and, very essential, what cinema is able to express through its unique language.

Martin Scorsese touches upon the magic of cinema, that is its ability to allow us to capture the essences of our fantasies through technology and creativity. Still, for others like Christopher Nolan and Peter Jackson, the challenges and risks that go into the making of a film oblige the director to strive to entertain viewers and offer an experience worth their money. Rather than emphasizing money as a return, Lone Scherfig stresses more what the director can offer in return for the audience’s time: It’s always a big responsibility to direct because more than anything you take the audience’s time…So you have to be courageous and think that you have something to contribute.

As these directors speak of film as an experience worthy of the spectator’s time and money, David Cronenberg draws attention to film’s potential for greater significance. For him, filmmaking is a means of touching upon the human condition, capturing and expressing what it means to be human: I don’t tend to make movies about moviemaking, which a lot of young directors tend to do. Their movies are really just saying, “I’m excited about movies.” But to me that’s not enough or it’s not even something. Using film to explore the human condition–just the traditional thing of art–that’s still what it means to me: it’s my instrument for exploring what it means to be a human being now.

Still, a filmmaker may be unsuccessful in engaging the viewer with his or her film, whether the film is mere entertainment or an exploration of the human condition. It is this failure to connect with the spectator through a personal cinematic vision that James Cameron believes to be a filmmaker’s greatest fear: [Y]ou can make a movie exactly the way you imagine it without compromise and have it go out and fail in the market place because of some fundamental disconnect between you as an artist and the audience out there. And of course, that is what we all ultimately fear as filmmakers…We fear the fact that our kind of filter for what works for us emotionally and in terms of what excites us on the screen is different than the audience at large. And so how does the film director go about directing a successful film?

Keep it interesting, new, and fresh…avoiding the obvious, says Peter Mullan, You’re in the waters, and you see the shipwrecks all over the place, but you also see the beacons of previous travelers. You know there’s some good work, has been and will be great work out there, but you’re very aware of the shipwrecks. Those great works often engage the viewer emotionally by presenting characters whose decisions and actions fascinate and involve the spectator into the world of the film, as Joe Carnahan suggests when speaking of Die HardWhen character and action can exist simultaneously, and they can assist one another and build off one another, those are always the ones you remember.

Steve McQueen and Paul Greengrass share a similar spirit when reflecting upon the art of directing. Both directors call for freeing and opening oneself to the process, making it an exploration of how the written story can evolve into a cinematic story. Steve McQueen shares: [Y]ou open yourself up to what will come because you don’t know what is going to come. You might find a book, you might write a script, but you are not in the location. Once you’re in the location with the actors, things sort of tend to find their place somehow. It’s a lot of trust, I feel, what one has to have…you have to open yourself up rather than bring your stencil.

While also highlighting the same freedom and openness, Paul Greengrass explains the usefulness of both when directing oneself towards the demands of the cinematic story: The process of filmmaking is about capturing something that’s influx, that does not have a divinity that shaped it, whether that divinity is a deity or whether it’s the divinity of the written word–the screenplay–you got to sort of free yourself from the sense that it’s been previously created, it’s been previously ordained, and get to what really drama is about, which is collision without knowledge of the consequences. Then you’re in a realm where it’s alive and it’s in play, and if you could create those moments, you’re creating pieces of urgency, and if you could put all those pieces together, then you got a film with real drive.

Watch, learn, and absorb Self-Portrait: Film Directors on Filmmaking.