“There’s a familiar phenomenon of filmmakers hiding their loss of inspiration behind the ostensible social or political significance of their work. Ridley Scott does as much in “Prometheus”—not with politics but with chthonic mumbo-jumbo, pseudo-religious, pseudo-biological, and pseudo-mythological bombast, and a lumbering audiovisual scheme to match.”
That’s how Richard Brody opens his “What Not To See This Weekend” review of Ridley Scott’s latest film epic, Prometheus. This is a film I wanted to like, given the passion I have for the original Alien films. But, it may well end up being the most disappointing film of the year.
The Society For Film
A while back I mentioned a new collaborative project, The Society For Film. Well James Marsh and I just posted our 11th podcast, which includes a substantial discussion of Prometheus, together with some comments. I think it’s the best episode we’ve recorded and the show is starting to find its identity (you can listen here).
To be honest, it was our second attempt at recording this episode. Last week James saw a preview screening of the film and I rushed home from the opening night to record the episode. But, an error on my part, meant our Skype conversation did not record properly. So we had no show.
My habit was to check at the end of each recording that a new file was created. This time the file was there, but when I opened it the next morning, only the first minute or so of our conversation had been captured. I had one of those horrifyingly cinematic moments, like when the actor screams in realisation that his world is just a computer construct and the walls peel back to reveal a barren, post-apocalypic world. It was awful.
A Learning Experience
One of the most important reasons for collaborating is develop your skills, to push yourself out of your comfort zone and try something you might have been able to do by yourself. I wanted to do this project because I used to love writing about film and in recent years I haven’t done it simply because I haven’t had a compelling reason to do so.
Moreover, working on The Society For Film has schooled me in how podcasts (and iTunes) work, as well as giving me a regular spoken word audio editing project. And, working with a professional film critic like James has forced me to improve both my written and spoken communication.
Since James and I live in different countries, we record our conversation over Skype. At first I was using Call Recorder to save the calls, but a few mishaps inspired me to try Audio Hijack Pro. The calls are recorded in stereo, with James on one side and me on the other. I use either an Audio-Technica AT4033, or Sontronics Saturn microphone, through an Apogee Duet interface and James used a Blue Snowball microphone direct into his computer.
Once the calls are recorded I import the audio in Logic Pro and bounce it twice, once mixed hard left and once hard right. That gives me two new audio tracks, with each voice isolated, for mixing purposes. My podcast template has six tracks. One for the original audio, one for each isolated voice, one for the introductory theme music, one for the outro theme music and one armed with a Native Instruments Reaktor, in case I want to add some bumpers or sound effects during the episode.
There is a D-Esser, EQ and Compressor on each vocal track, as well another Compressor and a Reverb on auxiliary channels, that use just to add a little glue and make it sound more like we are both in the same room. Then, on the master channel, I have a FabFilter Pro-L Limiter, to bring up the levels, and a UAD ATR-102 Tape Emulator, just to give the sound some old school mojo.
But It’s About The Films
I’m really enjoying the project and I like that it’s making me be a little more disciplined and thoughtful about my film-watching habits. It’s challenging and fun to work with someone like James who is so knowledgeable and up to date about contemporary cinema.
In fact, more than anything, I enjoy being pushed to be a more imaginative writer (and communicator). And, I have new found respect for the film critics who can really make us think, not just about the films we’ve seen, but about the culture within which we see them. So, with that in mind, I’ll leave the final word on Prometheus to Richard Brody,
“There’s a cry of desperation in critics’ desire for the movie to be good—a craving for a metaphysical cinema of grandiose ambition, a wish for genre to be the launching-pad for creativity that it was in the classic age of the studios, good will toward an erstwhile hero of the analogue age, the hope that, as in those days, vastly popular art can also be vertiginously profound (as, of course, chez Hitchcock). Popular can do this. See “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” or “Shutter Island,” among many other movies (and the success, in limited release, of “Moonrise Kingdom” suggests as much, too). Those movies have an exuberance, an extravagance that the very serious “Prometheus” can’t touch. Scott’s film lacks brio as it lacks substance; it feels like official art, a terribly sad and sorry ersatz both for seriousness and for fun.”