Nearing the End

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It's been close to a week since I last posted, and as you can tell, we're getting pretty close to finishing up our set of vfx shots for Letters from Iwo Jima. So far I've completed 29 shots for the film, in a scant six or so weeks. While definitely not as sexy as some of the stuff from previous films I've worked on, the shots are gratifying, and are definitely challenging in their own right. I'm unsure as to when the trailer for this second film will be out. There might be something at the end of Flags to whey your appetite, but don't count on it. A couple more of my shots made it into the TV spot trailers during the Lost season 3 premiere, they go by quick!

The days are growing shorter, and I'm staying here at work longer... I hit the vacant parking lot this morning at around 6:45am, with the sun just dawning. Settled into the chair and started working away. On other days I grab a coffee from the kitchen before getting down, but recently I've just been sitting at the desk and starting to comp right away. I usually leave a script or two up at the end of the day, and render something overnight, so it'll be ready in the morning. Today was no exception. Five finals from the supervisor today.. A couple more to go! Next week is my last week here at Digital Domain, with a possible extension or rehiring depending on shows available at the end of the month. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on what you like), I left a full time gig at Tippett to do contract work here at Digital Domain, a place I've always wanted to work. Now that this chapter of my life is complete, it's on to bigger and better things, which could be anywhere, local or abroad. I'm sending my new reel out and talking to prospective employers and seeing what may come up. At the moment I'll be staying local to the LA area, unless something amazing pops up elsewhere in the world. There's lots of stuff on the horizon, it's just too bad it's not immediately after Letters from Iwo Jima! A couple weeks of downtime should be good though.

Some preview screenings of Flags have happened, and there seems to be good reviews all around.. Here's one below, from a poster over at The Pacific War Forums.

There are a lot of people guessing about the movie. Well, I saw it with my siblings in an advanced screening about two hours ago. We spent an early dinner before the movie sharing and connecting pieces of the few stories our father (a navy corpsman) had ever shared with us with what we can deduct from his service records and a few remaining letters, and then we went to the movie. For free! I imagine that in the coming months there will be a lot of talking and sharing going on amongst other brothers and sisters. (Our dad died in 1964 from complications related to "a service conected disability." Funny thing about that is none of us ever knew about any disability...)

A very powerful movie with really outstanding performances all around...

Some connections are much easier to make if you'd read the book. Like a reporter shouting, "Was the picture staged?" But even at 2 hours and 10+ minutes, (buy the small soda) I suspect there are still miles of film on the cutting room floor.

I'd really love to know what the teenagers in the audience thought though. They were after all, just there for a free movie.

Mostly done in flashback, there were several scenes of Bradley towards the end of his life, and of his son interviewing Rosenthal and other veterans. The bulk of the movie however is done in flash backs between the war bond drive and combat. (mostly by Bradley and Hayes)

The two separate flag raisings are distinctly portrayed as such. And if you blink, you miss the second one.

I felt, and my siblings concur, that the identities, roles, and relationships of the flag raisers who would die were rather lost in the clutter a other characters who were also getting shot and blown up. Perhaps this was intentional: a reflection on the confusion of war and an accent point as to how some of the flag raisers would be mis-identified.

The detail obsessed will certainly find technical errors. I can on occassion be such a person. Like, I don't recall through all the gunfire a single "pling" of even one M1 clip springing empty from the reciever. And why did Ira have a Thompson on the beach, but up on Surabachi a carbine, and later in night action a Garand with a bayonet? ok, yeah I have no doubt that the black sand fouled a lot of weapons, but I already acknowledged my obsessions... That said, I really was quite impressed by the entire production. It is a movie after all. And a strong one at that. (I imagine they were firing blanks though... )

I'd heard this was an ensemble production, but there were so many familiar (and good) character actors from so many different tvs shows and movies showing up for just a brief one or two lines that it was almost distracting. (Actually the distraction was that everytime a new face was recognized, my wife would give my hand a slight squeeze. Such squeezes were much less distracting than the severed head squeeze that has compelled me to type most of this account with one hand.)

The politicians and stateside generals were generally the bufoons, and the war bond drive was a classic portrayal suggesting that "spin" is not a new political concept. (Was that Carl Rove in the trench coat next to Navy Secretary Forrestal? Look, I already suggested there were a lot of cameos in this show. It could have happened!)

There were several scenes where the peace and quiet seemed , my wife later said, surreal, but I felt at the time it was just unrealistic. Like on the troop ship the night before the invasion, it almost seemed, well, serene. It was certainly quiet and uncrowded. But again, these scenes are portrayed in flashback, and I guess there is a point where you don't hear (or register) the big guns any more, and the only people in the minds picture are the ones you remember being there, not necessarily the crushing crowd of unfamiliar OD clad Marines.

As for blood & gore; remember the central figure is a navy corpsman!
When I was 10 or 11, my uncle (army infantry) gave me all his war stuff from Europe, including a bunch of really cool captured snapshots of German soldiers. Well, my dad had been in the VA for something and when he came home I asked him why he didn't have any pictures from the war. And my father; the kind, loving, compassionate, and gentle man who I remember once crying in the pasture over the body of a cow, struck down by lightning, with her young calf bellowing beside her, turns and says to me in the most sincere voice I'd ever heard; "You don't take pictures of men run over by tanks." Well, Clint Eastwood does.

(I never asked my dad anything about the war after that.)

I give this movie a solid five 5 stars. Go see it with friends and family, and then sit down and talk about it. And then talk about your fathers and mothers and brothers and sisters and children. Share your stories and share your lessons. And dreams and ambitions. And maybe someday then, you or your children, or your childrens children will sit around a dinner table with people of different colored skins and different nationalities, and wonder collectively at the cruel inhumanity of what was once called war.

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