Now Showing – Cinefex 150

Cinefex 150 - From the Editor's Desk with Jody Duncan

If you’re looking for some extra-special reading material this holiday season, treat yourself to a copy of Cinefex 150, packed with in-depth stories on mystical mirror dimensions, inscrutable aliens, magical creatures and wartime wonders.

With Doctor Strange casting a spell over the box office this fall, you won’t be surprised to see that we’ve chosen Marvel’s sorceror supreme as the cover boy for our December issue. The magic ramps up as we explore the visual effects of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the latest excursion into J.K. Rowling’s wizarding world. We delve into some thought-provoking sci-fi in our detailed analysis of the critically acclaimed Arrival, while rounding out Cinefex 150 is Allied, Robert Zemeckis’ romantic drama of hidden secrets and secret missions set at the height of World War II.

Here’s Cinefex editor-in-chief Jody Duncan to reflect on the contents of our latest issue, and on some of the other coverage we’ve offered through 2016 …

Jody Duncan – From the Editor’s Desk

I was heartened to see that of the 20 films initially announced as candidates for Best Visual Effects Oscar contention – now pared down to 10 – Cinefex has covered all but three (Kubo and the Two Strings, Sully and Deepwater Horizon.)

This may seem unremarkable: “These were the best visual effects films of 2016! Of course they were covered in Cinefex!”

Not so fast. What makes our hitting 17 out of 20 noteworthy is that, for each of the six issues we produced in 2016, we made the decisions as to what to cover for that issue at least six months prior to the release of the prospective film projects. We are the longest of ‘long lead’ publications, our editorial and production processes consuming months, rather than weeks or days. (You think 30-page articles and glossy image reproductions happen quickly?)

So we chose to cover The Jungle Book, for example, well before the film was released – heck, well before it was even finished! When The Jungle Book’s Baloo was still just a twinkle in director Jon Favreau’s eye, we had to guess that the film would be as successful as it was, and that its effects would be as stunning as they were. (But, hey, it was Jon Favreau – this one wasn’t exactly a long shot.)

There’s a whole lot of prognosticating going on in the halls of Cinefex – and I was gratified (and greatly relieved) that, for the most part, we got it right in 2016.

Three of the Best Visual Effects Oscar contenders are to be found in the pages of our new issue 150: Arrival, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Doctor Strange. Our fourth story covers Allied – because, occasionally, we like to explore films that involve muggles and non-aliens living in our own dimension.

I hope you enjoy the issue. As for 2017: What do you think? War for the Planet of the Apes or Woody Allen’s untitled project? Yeah … that’s what we thought, too.

Cinefex 150 is on newsstands now, and available to order at our online store. If you’re a subscriber, your copy should materialize through a sizzling magical portal very soon. And don’t forget our enhanced iPad edition, featuring tons more photographs – many of them exclusive to Cinefex – and stunning video content.

Happy holidays!

Vote for Your Favorite VFX Bake-Off Movie

On December 16, 2016, the 89th Academy Awards came a step closer as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences whittled down the candidates for the Visual Effects Oscar from 20 to 10.

The next stage is what’s become known as the ‘bake-off,’ in which members of the Academy’s Visual Effects Branch will view 10-minute reels showcasing effects work from each of the shortlisted films. This takes place on January 7, 2017. Afterwards, members will vote to nominate five movies for final consideration for the award itself, to be presented at the ceremony on February 26, 2017.

Scroll down to vote for your favorite movie in our fun poll. And if you fancy reading up on the candidates, we’re pleased to report that Cinefex has covered eight out of the 10 films under consideration. Here’s a quick round-up of our in-depth articles, all lavishly illustrated with visual effects breakdowns and behind the scenes photos, many of them exclusive to Cinefex.

Cinefex 147 - Captain America: Civil War, The Jungle Book

In our June 2016 edition, Cinefex 147, you’ll find A Family Affair, Jody Duncan’s superheroic story on Captain America: Civil War, alongside Law of the Jungle, a lusciously detailed article by Joe Fordham on The Jungle Book.

Cinefex 148 - The BFG

In October 2016, Cinefex 149 led with Joe Fordham’s fizzpopping coverage of The BFG, in an article aptly titled A Melancholy Joy.

Cinefex - Arrival, Doctor Strange, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

You’ll find no less than three Oscar hopefuls in our December 2016 issue, Cinefex 150. First up is Arrival, translated to the page by Graham Edwards in his story Persistence of Vision. Next comes In a Mirror, Darkly, Jody Duncan’s magical article on Doctor Strange, followed by Joe Fordham’s spellbinding analysis of Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, in a feature entitled The Magical Congress.

Cinefex - Passengers, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

You’ll have to wait until 2017 to read these last two articles. The good news is that isn’t very far away! Cinefex 151 is due out mid-February, 2017, which means you should have time to pore over its contents before you settle down to watch the 89th Academy Awards ceremony on Sunday 26. The two stories you won’t want to miss are Jody Duncan’s spacefaring feature on Passengers, and Joe Fordham’s starblasting coverage of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

Deepwater Horizon / Kubo and the Two StringsThe only two films on the bake-off shortlist that we didn’t get around to covering this year are Deepwater Horizon and Kubo and the Two Strings. Both movies contain fabulous effects work that we’d love to have written about, but even Cinefex has only so many pages to go around. And we reckon an 80 percent record is something to be proud of.

Raw Steak and The Revenant

Leonardo DiCaprio stars as trapper Hugh Glass in "The Revenant."

One year ago, on December 16, 2015, Alejandro González Iñárritu’s The Revenant enjoyed its U.S. premiere at Hollywood’s TCL Chinese Theatre. Based on true events, and on the novel by Michael Punke, the film tells the harrowing story of 1820s frontiersman Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) who, after being mauled by a bear, seeks revenge against those who left him for dead.

In this exclusive Q&A with Cinefex editor Jody Duncan, makeup supervisor Adrien Morot reveals the secrets behind some of the scenes which didn’t make the final cut. Like the film itself, his is a tale of ingenuity, endurance, and raw steak.

Yes, that’s right. Steak.

On location, DiCaprio grappled with bear performers. Industrial Light & Magic replaced them with a meticulously rendered and animated bear in postproduction.

On location, DiCaprio grappled with bear performers. Industrial Light & Magic replaced them with a meticulously rendered and animated bear in postproduction.

Cinefex: As we understand it, there were quite a few graphic and violent shots of characters being scalped, but those appear to have been cut from the final film. The director, Alejandro González Iñárritu, wanted to capture those effects in camera – and that’s where you came in. Tell us how you realized some of the scalping effects, and where they appeared in the film, originally.

Morot: There were many scalping scenes throughout the movie, including a dream sequence in which Tom Hardy’s character, John Fitzgerald, is scalped. It’s a very weird dream sequence, all done in one shot, where he sees a skinned bear creature walking through an icy pool of blood. The camera turns towards Fitzgerald, who is looking at the creature, and behind him stands Hugh Glass. As Fitzgerald tries to reload his gun, Glass suddenly scalps him. All of that had to be done as one single action – which meant that the bear creature and the scalping all had to be there, self-contained, within that single shot.

Cinefex:  How did you achieve that?

Morot: We had a bald cap, into which we incorporated a network of tubing, and we applied that to Tom Hardy. Once that was secured, we glued on top of it a silicone prosthetic appliance that looked like Tom’s forehead, complete with the scar his character had from being partially scalped as a kid. The prosthetic was pre-cut at the place where the scalping was to be done, and then lightly glued back in place. We concealed the cut line with Ultra Ice that was colored to look like skin tone.

When they shot it, Leo would run a dull blade along that pre-cut line, and then the blood from the tubing would start to pour down. We had a remote-controlled, battery-operated blood pump that was hooked up to Tom’s waist. So, we could be standing 20 feet away, and as Leo started cutting we’d activate the blood. Leo was fantastic – there’s a reason he gets the big bucks! We just had to explain it to him once, briefly, and he did it perfectly every take.

Makeup effects artist Adrien Morot created a head scar appliance worn by Tom Hardy, playing partially scalped trapper John Fitzgerald. The whitish, hairless prosthetic started at Hardy's forehead and continued to the back of one side of his head.

Makeup effects artist Adrien Morot created a head scar appliance worn by Tom Hardy, playing partially scalped trapper John Fitzgerald. The whitish, hairless prosthetic started at Hardy’s forehead and continued to the back of one side of his head.

Cinefex: You mentioned that there is a “bear creature” in this dream sequence.

Morot: Alejandro was always getting inspired and coming up with these kinds of ideas. One day, he came to me on set, and said, “Adrien, I have this idea! How about we have this skinned man-bear creature crawling around in a pool of blood?” And I said, “Okay, sure. When do you want to do that?” His answer was, “Next week!”

I explained to him that it would take more than a week to come up with a skinned bear creature, and his response was that maybe we could just take a suit and stitch some raw steaks onto it.

Cinefex: Steaks? You mean, T-bones, rib-eyes, the things you eat with A-1 sauce?

Morot: Yes! Steaks! And I said, “Okay, yeah, no – I don’t think we can do that.” So I did a bunch of concept drawings on my MacPro in my hotel room, and then showed them to Alejandro to see if he liked any of them. Once he’d agreed on one of those concepts, I had my shop build bear feet that would be worn by Javier Botet, the suit performer. We were lucky to have all of his measurements because we were already doing another movie with him, and he was coming to the shop that week anyway.

Cinefex: You started with the feet – wasn’t the bear head a bigger problem?

Morot: Well, luckily, Legacy Effects had built a skinned bear for the movie, for another scene. I asked John Rosengrant if we could get that skinned bear head for our creature – which would save us a lot of time – and they very nicely sent it to us. It was great, but it was a bit too heavy and cumbersome for our purposes – it hadn’t been built with the idea of a performer wearing it. But it was still a great reference, because I had it right there in front of me as I worked.

I sculpted a new bear head in clay, with kind of a zombie, ripped-flesh texture. I sculpted it very quickly, using Legacy’s head as reference for the shape, but scaled down so it would fit on a performer. I did the mold right there on set, in the makeup trailer, in the mountains, and poured it out of lightweight polyfoam. We did some silicone detailing on top, painted it, and put in glass eyes, and teeth.

Cinefex: What did you do for the body?

Morot: First, I bought the tallest, leanest store mannequin I could find in Calgary, as reference for Javier’s body. Then, using cotton fill, we sculpted the bear shape onto that, with a sculpted ribcage and a neck that jutted forward a bit. Then we did some silicone detailing on top of everything, and painted it. The costume department provided us with a long, shredded cape for the creature to wear. He almost looked like the zombie version of a Civil War soldier. And that’s how we made the suit within a week, inside my makeup trailer.

Cinefex: And no Porterhouses were used in the making of this suit?

Morot: No, no steaks. Given how quickly it was done, you’d think it would have looked like garbage. But, it turned out pretty good. The whole movie was like that – Alejandro suddenly coming up with an idea, very excited, and asking, “Can we have it tomorrow?” Throughout, I was always playing catch-up, always three months behind where I would have been normally. And I was basically working alone at the location, because my crew back at my shop in Montreal was working on other movies. I’d be on set during the day, applying makeup, and I’d work at night producing wounds and dummies and other things needed for the next day. Then I’d drive to the set the next morning, having had very little sleep.

Cast and crew spent several months shooting in the Canadian Rockies. Snow machines added a wintry ambience to those locations lacking the real thing. Visual effects further extended the desolate snowscapes, as in this shot by Cinesite.

Cast and crew spent several months shooting in the Canadian Rockies. Snow machines added a wintry ambience to those locations lacking the real thing. Visual effects further extended the desolate snowscapes, as in this shot by Cinesite.

Cinefex: A trailer in the middle of the Canadian Rockies – that can’t have been a very good place to produce makeup effects.

Morot: I had to set up a little shop in the production office. Once I was there and saw the urgency, I realized that I wouldn’t be able to rely on my shop in Montreal to make things and ship them to me – and, as I said, they were busy on other shows, anyway. So, I told the producers, “I need to make a shop here. Can you get me some shelves? Can you build two 4-by-8 wooden shop tables?” I gave them a list of materials to order, or had one of my on-set assistants get them in Calgary. We did that very quickly. In the end, I had right there in the production office the equivalent of the shop that I had in my dad’s basement when I was 16 years old. That was kind of cool, actually.

Cinefex: “Have silicone, will travel.”

Morot: Basically, yeah. I had a little bit of everything so I could whip out anything we needed. Except a steak suit.


Cinefex 145 CoverYou’ll find our complete, in-depth article on The Revenant in Cinefex 145. The story features more of Adrien Morot’s insights and detailed coverage of the rest of the film’s effects, courtesy of visual effects supervisor Richard McBride and the pioneering teams of artists at ILM, MPC, Cinesite, One of Us, Secret Lab and Legacy Effects.

The Visual Effects Oscar Race Begins

VFX Oscar Longlist 2016

On 2 December, 2016, the latest visual effects Oscar race began in earnest, when The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced the 20 films up for consideration by the Academy’s Visual Effects Branch Executive Committee. Later this month, that list will be halved when committee members decide on the 10 films that will be eligible for nominations voting. Everything comes to a head on 26 February, 2017, at the trophy ceremony for the 89th Annual Academy Awards.

Here’s the list in alphabetical order:

Alice Through the Looking Glass, Arrival, The BFG, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Captain America: Civil War, Deadpool, Deepwater Horizon, Doctor Strange, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Independence Day: Resurgence, The Jungle Book, Kubo and the Two Strings, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, Passengers, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Star Trek Beyond, Suicide Squad, Sully, Warcraft, X-Men: Apocalypse.

Once again, science fiction and fantasy makes a strong showing, with 90 percent of the movies sitting squarely in that ever-popular genre. Of these, one third feature the antics of superheroes ranging from Marvel’s squeaky-clean Captain America to the down-and-dirty reprobates of DC’s Suicide Squad.

Mind you, not since 2004 has a superhero actually won the battle for the visual effects Oscar, when John Dykstra, Scott Stokdyk, Anthony LaMolinara, and John Frazier picked up awards for their work on Spider-Man 2. Will the 89th Awards mark the moment when the famous gold statuette sports spandex once more?

Squaring their shoulders against the sci-fi onslaught are Sully and Deepwater Horizon, a pair of true-life tales that are themselves as different as chalk and cheese. Then there’s the wild card that is Kubo and the Two Strings, Laika’s fantasy adventure that relies as heavily on cutting edge visual effects as it does on its devotion to stop-motion.

Some might think that the overwhelming presence of science fiction and fantasy movies in this awards category is just a sign of the times. Not so. Every film that won a visual effects Oscar during the 1980s was either solid genre fare, or was at least coated with a dusting of fantasy — and if you disagree that Raiders of the Lost Ark counts in that regard, I’ll gladly debate the point. During the 1990s, the only award-winning movie to break the mold was Titanic, a feat matched in the 2000s only by Gladiator. Like it or not, robots rule, wizardry wins, and spaceships score bigtime.

Of course, there’s sci-fi and there’s sci-fi. Last year’s visual effects Academy Award winner was Ex Machina, an absorbing character piece in which the on-screen magic was subordinate to the story. Will this year’s Academy voters be similarly wooed by slow-burning Arrival, or will they give their blessing to a bells-and-whistles spectacular like Doctor Strange or Rogue One: A Star Wars Story? And what of the movies that relied heavily on state of the art virtual production techniques, notably The Jungle Book, The BFG and Warcraft?

Just like you, we don’t have a crystal ball. But we do pride ourselves on the fact that since Cinefex was first published in 1980, every single visual effects Oscar-winner has featured in the magazine. As for this latest crop of contenders — you’ll find in-depth articles covering no less than 17 of the movies on the Academy’s longlist in our recent and upcoming issues.

None of us in the Cinefex office knows who is going to walk away with the next Academy Award for Best Visual Effects, but we’re having a lot of fun guessing. What’s your prediction?


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