Posts Tagged ‘Robert Redford’


94 minutes | No MPAA rating

The cinema has always been dominated by its visual elements and the moving image…there’s a reason we refer to them as “the movies,” after all.

But as powerful as visual images may be, they can be enhanced immeasurably by the judicious and creative use of sound. Some filmmakers, in fact, argue that what we hear in the theater is as important — perhaps more important — than what we see.

Midge Costin’s documentary “Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound” — she’s a veteran sound and dialogue editor making her directing debut — is a little bit of everything: history, aesthetic exploration, technological geek out.

It is also, for the most part, a look at the careers of two of the still-living giants of movie sound: Walter Murch, whose sound designs have graced the films of Francis Coppola, and Ben Burtt, who brought his talents to George Lucas’ “Star Wars.”

The film opens with Murch, now 77, commenting on how even before birth we are accustomed to hearing our mother’s breathing and heartbeat, as well as voices and noises coming from outside her body. For that reason, Murch asserts, hearing is a much more profound experience than viewing.

The film picks out from cinema’s past special films that advanced movie sound. There’s “King Kong,” whose sound designer manipulated the roars of zoo animals.  There was the radio era, when entire worlds were fabricated from pure sound; artists like Orson Welles exploited the artistic possibilities of radio and then brought that some creativity to the soundtrack of his “Citizen Kane” (1941). Alfred Hitchcock was an advocate of pure sound, eschewing all music for his “The Birds” (1965) and relying heavily on electronically distorted avian noises.

But these adventurous souls were few and far between. Mostly the studios were run like an assembly line that avoided adventurous sound design; each studio had its own sound library of gunshots, trains, screeching tires, ricocheting bullets and other noises that were used over and over again.

Of course for most of the sound era — which began in the late ’20s — movie sound meant monaural sound, noises coming from one speaker directly behind the screen.  It wasn’t until Barbra Streisand demanded a full stereo presentation for her 1976 “A Star Is Born” that stereo soundtracks became the norm.

In films like “Nashville” Robert Altman got creative with dialogue, wiring up everyone in a crowded scene with their own microphones and recording each actor individually so that he could manipulate what his audience heard in the final print.


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All-Is-Lost-2013“All Is Lost” My rating: A- (Now showing)

106 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

Among the many virtues of J.C. Chandor’s “All Is Lost” is this:  It may be one of the purest examples of cinema I’ve encountered in ages.

You could turn off the soundtrack and still understand exactly what is going on here.  Movies are about movement, after all,  and “All Is Lost” is a near-perfect example of visual storytelling.

Robert Redford, now 77, stars as our unnamed protagonist, the sole traveler on a well-equipped modern sailboat on the Indian Ocean.

We first see him awakening to the slosh of water in his cabin; he quickly discovers that his boat has been rammed by a floating container bin — one of those railway car-sized steel shoeboxes that evidently has fallen from the deck of a freighter. It has knocked a whole in the side of the sailor’s boat…and in a bit of ironic commentary, has left the sea littered with thousands of colorful running shoes that it held.

“All Is Lost” is the near-wordless story of what our man does to survive in a hostile environment. As such it bears no small resemblance to another much-ballyhooed current film on the same theme: “Gravity.”

But the fact is that “All Is Lost” is the superior film — less gimmicky, more believable, unbearably suspenseful and heartbreakingly sad.


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Buck Brannaman

“BUCK” My rating: B+ (Opens wide on July 1)

88 minutes | MPAA rating: PG

Heroes are hard to come by in this day and age. But I think we’ve got a new one.

Buck Brannaman trains horses. He is, in fact, one of the men on whom the title character of “The Horse Whisperer” was based.

His ability to read these animals, to commune with them telepathically (one good old boy rancher calls it “voodoo”), to meld minds so that no sooner does Brannaman think it than the horse responds, would be enough to make him a world-class curiosity.

But as the new documentary “Buck” illustrates, what makes Brannaman truly heroic is not his skill with horses (more…)

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