Monday, July 25, 2011
Comic-Con Report, volume 1
I trust the muscle tissue in my legs will stop feeling like a Nerf facsimile within a week or so. One loses track of what distance means to one's legs at Comic-Con--I must have walked fifteen miles a day, crossing the exhibit hall over and over, walking across the street and five blocks to get tea or dinner because I didn't want to pay Con prices for food (they were "con" prices in more ways than one), and up and down stairs to get to different rooms. Though actually this year there were very few panels I wanted to see. I was sorry to see that, for the first time in years, Ray Bradbury wasn't scheduled to have a panel. I hope he's okay. Of the panels I did see this year, I'd say the best was Francis Ford Coppola, who was promoting his upcoming film Twixt along with its star, Val Kilmer, and composer Dan Deacon.
The programme had said the panel would feature audience participation of some kind but said nothing more specific--as the audience filed into the room we were each given an Edgar Allan Poe mask with 3D lenses;
I'm sad to say I heard two girls behind me wondering if this is what Francis Ford Coppola looks like.
Some of you might remember a quote from Coppola that was publicised after Avatar came out that seemed to be critical of the concept of 3D, his criticism seeming to focus on the glasses mainly. This seemed odd to a number of people due to Coppola having directed the short 3D film Captain EO. His discussion at Comic-Con on Saturday indicate to me his comments may have been taken out of context and his meaning misunderstood--he spoke positively of 3D, though he expressed a dislike for wearing the glasses. This led him into a more general discussion of innovations in how movies are made and presented.
He showed a seven minute promo for Twixt, which looks rather good. It begins with Tom Waits narrating footage of a northern Californian town, remarking on how the town is distinguished by a belfry with seven clocks, facing in all directions, each telling a different time. It seems to be a story dealing with non-linear time, a subject that seems to have had some prominence in Coppola's films lately. It stars Val Kilmer as a horror novelist and Elle Fanning who seems to exist in a dream world or a ghost world or an alternate timeline--anyway, everything goes grey except for some red accents, like Fanning's eye makeup. "My goth debut," Coppola joked. And Edgar Allan Poe talks to Kilmer's character in this world, apparently something influenced by a dream Coppola actually had wherein he met Poe. Because of Coppola's dislike of glasses, only parts of the movie will be in 3D, and the clip gave the audience visual cues to let them know when to wear the masks.
I was kind of sorry none of the photos I took of the audience came out in focus, but I guess it kind of looks creepier this way, doesn't it?
Then it got really interesting. It seems Coppola plans to take the movie on the road in the first months of release and perform it live for audiences. That is, he has a computer set up with a programme that allows him to edit scenes differently on the fly, cutting early or allowing scenes to go on longer, and cutting to different scenes based on how he feels the audience is reacting to what's happening while Dan Deacon improvises music. He demonstrated for us, drawing from a copy of the whole movie and I must say it was surprisingly seamless. We saw a lot more footage, particularly of a scene that had made the audience laugh where Kilmer's character is trying to start writing a story. If I hadn't known what Coppola was doing, I wouldn't have guessed it wasn't a canned promo. He also tried putting the programme on shuffle, which got some laughs from the audience.
It's certainly a technique that goes well with the subject of non-linear time. It made me wonder if a William S. Burroughs style cut-up film could become a reality, though obviously Twixt doesn't seem to be anything so abstract. I'm not exactly sure I can say it adds to the experience--I liked the second, improvised cut better than the canned one, mainly because it featured a lot of dialogue between Kilmer and Fanning, though I don't know how much that's Coppola editing based on audience reaction or simply him personally feeling a different configuration for the material. I'm honestly a little afraid for him being at the mercy of modern cynical, obnoxious audiences--he's such a sweet guy and wonderful to listen to, something I knew from his DVD commentaries. I kind of felt for whoever controls the board for the Hall H screen as Coppola irritably started shouting direction to him as the feed would go to a split screen of movie footage and panel feed when he didn't want it to. It reminded me of when he practically took over Martha Stewart's show during a guest appearance. The lesson being, I guess, when Coppola's in the room, you'd better do what he says. Which I think is a good idea in any case.
That's the exhibit hall on Thursday. A very small part of it, anyway. It was very crowded, even on Sunday, which is usually pretty slow. I don't know how I'd handle it all if I didn't know my way around--I think I saw most of the booths three times as I made multiple walkthroughs each day to see what was doing.
I've only begun telling the tale of this year's Con, so tune in to-morrow.