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A Foot in the Door: With “Nightlight,” Scott Beck and Bryan Woods Go from the Quad Cities to Hollywood PDF Print E-mail
Movies - Feature Stories
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Wednesday, 01 April 2015 11:42

Scott Beck (left) and Bryan Woods. Photo by Fred Hayes.

The train rumbles toward you, and then it’s over you, throwing sparks. It’s a short train, but it’s nonetheless a harrowing seven seconds – looking, sounding, and feeling uncomfortably real.

That’s because, on a practical level, it is real.

This happens less than 10 minutes into the new, nationally distributed horror movie Nightlight by writers/directors Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, the filmmaking duo from the Quad Cities now based in Los Angeles.

“That whole sequence was a lot of fun to figure out,” Beck said in a recent phone interview. The special-effects team proposed using computer animation for the train, he said, but he and Woods asked: “Could we actually get a real freight train on these tracks?”

We’ve been introduced to five teens who’ve come to a supposedly haunted forest for “flashlight games.” One involves laying down a flashlight on railroad ties, running down the tracks to a specific point, and then running back and grabbing the flashlight. There’s not much to it ... except for the train.

This bit lasts roughly a minute and 40 seconds, done in a single shot.

“The scene starts with the train incredibly far away, [and] it just gets closer and closer,” Woods said.

We can only hear the train’s horn as the first three people complete the task – getting louder with each blast. With the fourth teen, we can see the headlight peeking through the trees as the engine comes around a bend.

And after Shelby, our protagonist, puts her flashlight on the ties, we see the train itself, with her sprinting toward it and then back toward her flashlight.

She jumps away just before the train hits her, but her flashlight – which belonged to a friend who committed suicide and provides the point of view for all the movie’s action – remains on the tracks, and the audience gets an unsettling understanding of what it would feel like to be under a freight train moving at full speed.

 
I'd Like to Thump the Academy … : Notes on the 2015 Academy Awards Telecast PDF Print E-mail
Movies - Feature Stories
Written by Mike Schulz   
Monday, 23 February 2015 16:00

producer/writer/director Alejandro G. Iñárritu and team members of Best Picture Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)Neil Patrick Harris, at the tail end of last night's Academy Awards ceremony, climaxed his hosting duties with the resolution to a magic trick he'd set up earlier in the evening. Much, much earlier in the evening.

 
He Swoops, He Scores: Predicting "Birdman" and the Other 2015 Oscar Winners PDF Print E-mail
Movies - Feature Stories
Written by Mike Schulz   
Wednesday, 11 February 2015 11:22

 

Michael Keaton in BirdmanA big Birdman night but nothing for Michael Keaton? A not-bad Boyhood night but nothing for Richard Linklater? A year in which every single Best Picture nominee will go home with at least one lovely, gold-plated parting gift? Yes, yes, and yes – so long as those “yes”es have asterisks behind them signifying “maybe.”

 
The 2015 Academy Award Nominations PDF Print E-mail
Movies - Feature Stories
Written by Mike Schulz   
Thursday, 15 January 2015 11:30

Ralph Fiennes and Tony Revolori in The Grand Budapest HotelIt was awfully early in the morning, 5:30 a.m. Pacific, when the nominations for this year’s Academy Awards were read by actor Chris Pine, directors J.J. Abrams and Alfonso Cuarón, and Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs. (Also, for the first time ever, the nominees in all 24 categories were read live, meaning we prognosticators didn’t have to wait an extra six minutes to find out just how badly we screwed up Best Sound Mixing.) It might even have been a little too early for Ms. Isaacs, who, when announcing their names, approached true Travolta-ness by calling Julianne Moore “Julianne Moren” and Mr. Turner cinematographer Dick Pope “Dick Poop.”

Yet it’s hard to imagine anyone in Hollywood – especially anyone with a vested interest in the results – falling back to sleep after the official Oscar contenders were revealed, because as wake-up calls go, this one was frequently a doozy.

 
Predicting the 2015 Academy Award Nominations PDF Print E-mail
Movies - Feature Stories
Written by Mike Schulz   
Thursday, 08 January 2015 17:53

Ralph Fiennes in The Grand Budapest HotelIf you’re reading this hot off the (electronic) presses, members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences only have an hour or so to submit their online or – less frequently these days – paper ballots for this year’s Oscar race. (Voting officially ends today at 5 p.m. PST.) So this seems like an appropriate time to make my own final guesses for January 15’s nominees, even if a better time would be January 15 itself – preferably just after the Academy’s official announcement of contenders.

 
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