The CIA is not too happy with ‘Zero Dark Thirty’

The CIA is not too happy with 'Zero Dark Thirty'

The CIA’s director takes an unusual step to distance the agency from the bin Laden manhunt film.

Acting CIA director Michael Morell is not happy — not one bit happy — with how the CIA was ultimately portrayed in Zero Dark Thirty, that new movie getting all the buzz about the hunt for Osama bin Laden.

“I would not normally comment on a Hollywood film,” Morell starts, “but I think it important to put Zero Dark Thirty, which deals with one of the most significant achievements in our history, into some context.” Morell published a company-wide memo to the CIA’s website late Friday evening, which is pretty unusual in and of itself. But Morell felt he needed to weigh in on the many controversies surrounding the movie, including the weird reports over the gender of the movie’s main character and that whole icky bit about torture. “But in doing so, the film takes significant artistic license, while portraying itself as being historically accurate.”

He goes on to clarify the movie is “a dramatization, not a realistic portrayal of the facts,” and that the CIA, despite helping a little with the production, does “not control the final product.”

His three main complaints about Zero Dark are:

First, the hunt for Usama Bin Ladin was a decade-long effort that depended on the selfless commitment of hundreds of officers. The filmmakers attributed the actions of our entire Agency—and the broader Intelligence Community—to just a few individuals. This may make for more compelling entertainment, but it does not reflect the facts. The success of the May 1st 2011 operation was a team effort—and a very large team at that.

Second, the film creates the strong impression that the enhanced interrogation techniques that were part of our former detention and interrogation program were the key to finding Bin Ladin. That impression is false. As we have said before, the truth is that multiple streams of intelligence led CIA analysts to conclude that Bin Ladin was hiding in Abbottabad. Some came from detainees subjected to enhanced techniques, but there were many other sources as well. And, importantly, whether enhanced interrogation techniques were the only timely and effective way to obtain information from those detainees, as the film suggests, is a matter of debate that cannot and never will be definitively resolved.

Third, the film takes considerable liberties in its depiction of CIA personnel and their actions, including some who died while serving our country. We cannot allow a Hollywood film to cloud our memory of them.

The most important complaint, obviously, is the bit about “enhanced interrogation techniques,” a.k.a. torture. Just a few days ago, the curious combination of Diane Feinstein, John McCain and Carl Levin sent a letter to Sony Pictures requesting a disclaimer be played before the film. The Washington Post also astutely points out a Senate committee recently approved a report that said “water-boarding and other brutal CIA interrogation methods did not produce meaningful results,” in the hunt for Bin Laden. All in all, things don’t look good for the Zero Dark writers and producers.

To hear them tell it, they’re just trying to condense years of interrogations and intelligence gathering into a watchable movie. Mark Boal, Zero Dark’s screenwriter, defended the movie to The New York Times:

“I’m trying to compress a program that lasted for years into a few short scenes,” he said. The film, he said, attempts “to reflect a very complex debate about torture that is still going on” and shows brutal treatment producing both true and false information.

Like the debate about torture, we suspect the debate over Zero Dark’s depiction of torture will never, ever come to an end.

James Bond Skyfall Theatrical HD Trailer

Daniel Craig is back as Ian Fleming’s James Bond 007 in “Skyfall,” the 23rd adventure in the longest-running film franchise of all time. In “Skyfall,” Bond’s loyalty to M is tested as her past comes back to haunt her. As MI6 comes under attack, 007 must track down and destroy the threat, no matter how personal the cost.

Skyfall is the twenty-third James Bond film produced by Eon Productions. It was distributed by MGM and Sony. It features Daniel Craig in his third performance as James Bond, and Javier Bardem as Raoul Silva, the film’s villain. It was directed by Sam Mendes and written by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and John Logan, and features an Academy Award-winning theme sung by Adele.

The story centres on Bond investigating an attack on MI6; the attack is part of a plot by former MI6 operative Raoul Silva to humiliate, discredit and kill M as revenge against her for betraying him. The film sees the return of two recurring characters to the series after an absence of two films: Q, played by Ben Whishaw, and Eve Moneypenny, played by Naomie Harris. Skyfall is the last film of the series for Judi Dench, who played M, a role that she had played in the previous six films. The position is subsequently filled by Ralph Fiennes’ character, Gareth Mallory.

Related Link: Skyfall Movie Full Production Notes

Sound of My Voice Theatrical Trailer

In Los Angeles, substitute schoolteacher Peter and aspiring writer Lorna are a couple in their twenties making a film documentary. Their subject is a secretive cult led by the mysterious Maggie (Brit Marling), whom they plan to expose as a fraud.

When the cult considers Peter and Lorna ready to meet Maggie, they are made to shower thoroughly and dress in white surgical gowns. Then they are driven blindfolded to a secret basement location and received by Klaus, with whom they exchange a distinctive, intricate handshake, which they have been practicing. Peter and Lorna then join eight other members and meet Maggie, who uses an oxygen tank and implies that the showering and clothing requirements are to avoid aggravating her illness.

Maggie claims to be a time-traveler from the year 2054. She describes the future as riddled with war, famine and struggle, and has come back to select a special band of chosen people to prepare for what lies ahead. She leads the group in a series of intense psychological exercises and tells them about herself and the future, never proving nor disproving her extraordinary claim. Maggie’s charismatic manner is powerful, and both Lorna and Peter have moments in which they waver between skepticism and belief. Lorna is especially concerned when she notices that Peter, who was initially adamant that Maggie was a charlatan, seems to now be intrigued by and even attracted to Maggie.

Sound of My Voice Theatrical Trailer

After several group meetings, Maggie instructs Peter to bring her the eccentric eight-year-old Abigail Pritchett, one of his students. Maggie insists Abigail is her mother, and that Peter and Lorna will be banned from the group if he fails to comply. When Peter admits that he is considering following Maggie’s orders, Lorna is outraged and accuses him of falling for Maggie’s deception. After they argue, Lorna is privately approached by Carol, a woman who identifies herself as a Justice Department agent. Carol tells Lorna that Maggie is wanted for a variety of felonies. Lorna agrees to set Maggie up to be captured and to hide this plan from Peter.

Sound of My Voice is a 2011 American psychological thriller directed by Zal Batmanglij and starring Christopher Denham, Nicole Vicius and Brit Marling. The plot focuses on two documentary filmmakers who attempt to expose a cult led by a charismatic leader (Marling) who claims to be from the future. The film was written by Batmanglij and Marling. It premiered at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival. It was also selected to close the 2011 SXSW Film Festival. The film was released by Fox Searchlight Pictures on April 27, 2012.

Sound of My Voice

Directed by: Zal Batmanglij
Starring: Christopher Denham, Nicole Vicius, Brit Marling, Avery Kristen Pohl, Davenia McFadden, Christy Meyers, Constance Wu
Screenplay by: Zal Batmanglij, Brit Marling
Production Design by: Scott Enge
Cinematography by: Rachel Morrison
Film Editing by: Tamara Meem
Costume Design by: Sarah de Sa Rego
Set Decoration by: Alys Thompson
Music by: Rostam Batmanglij
MPAA Rating: R for language including some sexual references, and brief drug use.
Studio: Fox Searchlight Pictures
Release Date: April 27th, 2012

Related Link: Sound of My Voice Movie Full Production Notes

Making The Vow Movie Real

Making The Vow Movie Real

Principal photography on The Vow began an all-location shoot in August, 2010, in Toronto, Canada. Because the film is set in Chicago, the last four days in October were shot there for verisimilitude, including landmark locations.

Sucsy called on his friend and Grey Gardens production designer Kalina Ivanov to bring her considerable talent and experience to creating the look of every unique set in the film as well as Paige’s artwork.

Ivanov responded to the script immediately: “I loved the opportunity of having to create these people’s lives from scratch and then having to create a whole new world for them of where one of them is comfortable and the other one knows nothing about it. It presented a great opportunity to give Paige’s character a lot of clues about her past life and to give Leo the opportunity to use these clues in trying to rekindle their love. So every environment I created for those characters had to serve a dual purpose: to not just to be their environment, but also to give you the clue of what their life was like before as a couple.”

Kalina and Michael first met at her interview for Grey Gardens and found that they have a very similar approach to art. “We both think very conceptually, and we both feel and think through images, so the first thing I did after I read The Vow was to find an image of a suzannie, which is a multi-colored hand sewn bedspread from Afghanistan, which I felt spoke of the look I wanted to create for this show.”

Making The Vow Movie Real

As for the art, believes Ivanov, “Each of Paige’s sculptures represent a time in her life, and the fact that she was an artist was extremely appealing to me as a designer. And the fact that she forgets how she was an artist, that her art is interrupted and she has to find her core as an artist again, presented itself as a very interesting challenge for me as a designer.”

Tatum gives Ivanov and Sucsy credit for the “incredibly expressive sculptures that are beautiful but have a dark edge to them that show her pain.”

In terms of the locations, Chicago and Toronto do look in many ways alike says Ivanov: “They are both towns from the same era and they’re both on lakes, so the architectural vernacular isn’t that different.”

As for working with director Michael Sucsy, Rachel McAdams smiles. “Michael makes everything fun,” she notes. “He set the tone from the beginning that if nothing else we were just going to have a great time and hopefully, the rest would work out. I love that he’s very much about the process and not the end result, which of course I know is always in the back of his mind, but it’s the journey for him, which is lovely.”

Involved in every aspect of making the film, Sucsy was even there for Rachel’s hair consultations, wardrobe fittings and the art. “Michael is just so much a part of it all! He’s collaborative and totally open to new ideas.” Rachel recounts a moment when Michael told her that he believed in the love story and had a feeling in his solar plexus when he thought about her and Channing together. “I’ve never heard about the solar plexus being an intuitive place on the body, but it is for him, and it was just so sweet. Yeah, he’s just been a lovely support throughout,” says McAdams.

Making The Vow Movie Real

Channing Tatum credits Michael Sucsy with being able to bring the best out in his talent. “I think Michael is a sculptor in a way,” says Tatum. “He has a real sense of how he wants things, and that’s an awesome safety net for an actor. It’s especially impressive when you remember that this is only his second movie!”

The actor continues to sing Sucsy’s praises: “Michael loves the written word and has a real sense of reality and language that I think helps him help us walk the line between over the top schmaltzy and authentic. It’s so helpful to be able to trust that in a director and not be afraid to go too far, not be afraid to undersell it and really just trust that he’s going to go and put all the places in and really ride the wave of a really good rollercoaster of emotion.”

For Kim Carpenter, the movie inspired by their remarkable love story may be the tale of a newly imagined screen couple, but watching it he couldn’t help recognizing the emotional truth of what he’d gone through in real life. In particular, he cites the uncanny acting choice Tatum made when Leo first learns that Paige doesn’t remember him. “He went outside and slid down the side of a [vending] machine,” notes Carpenter. “It’s a really powerful moment in the movie. Well, ironically, once I discovered my wife didn’t recognize me, I went outside the door and slid down the wall and buried my head between my legs. Things like that. The gravity of a lot of the scenes. It actually made me cry! I was really happy with it.”

All in all, Channing Tatum sums up the core of the movie’s message this way: “It’s a big deal to vow yourself for life to somebody and mean it. It really is something.”

For Roger Birnbaum, seeing The Vow to fruition was everything he’d hoped for since he first heard the Carpenters’ story. “With world class director Michael Sucsy and a truly stellar cast, we couldn’t be more happy with The Vow. At the end of the day, we want to make movies that will appeal to a wide spectrum of audiences and make them as well as possible.”

Related Link: View Full Production Notes for The Vow Movie

The Innkeepers: Making movies in a haunted hotel

The Innkeepers: Making Movies in a Haunted Hotel

Taglines: Some guests never check out.

Writer / director Ti West: I’m a skeptic as it is, but I had some weird electric things in my room. The light bulbs would burn out all the time and the TV would turn off and on by itself. It was really just a vibe – it felt like someone was in the room with you. It may sound bogus and just like what everyone else says, but I don’t ever feel that way in my life. Ever.”

Producer Derek Curl: I felt a ghost – I didn’t see a ghost. But I’m also very sensitive to them. I was sitting in bed and actually jumped off because I felt something push up against me…I think the ghosts here really have a bathroom fetish, because they love screwing with people’s bathrooms, whether it’s the water coming on, the lights flickering, doors shutting…

Actress Sara Paxton: It was unsettling living in that inn! One night I was in my bed reading a book after dinner; the windows were closed and suddenly the bathroom door slams and the light flicks on! It freaked me out – I was frozen. It must have been a breeze, I thought, but how could there a breeze when the windows are closed?

Cinematographer Eliot Rockett: I’m the old guy – practically everyone else on the shoot was 30 or under. The whole haunted hotel thing, whatever, I didn’t experience any of that. But this hotel is crooked and weird and not quite right.

Producer Peter Phok: I remember hearing the stories of The Yankee Pedlar being haunted from Luke, the night watchman, when we were here making The House Of The Devil. Personally, I’m not a superstitious person – I’ve got to see it before I believe it. That said, there’s definitely a creepy vibe at this hotel.

Actor Pat Healy: I’m not a believer in ghosts, but I did experience the weird atmosphere of that place, that town. And there were times when we were shooting those “scare moments” when I really felt it.

Line Producer Jacob Jaffke: Everyone had really crazy dreams. The same thing happened when we were making The House of the Devil and staying at the very same hotel. It kind of felt like you were watching Videodrome on acid in the rain…that is the only way I can describe the feeling you would have when you woke up with after a night’s sleep in the Pedlar.

Actress Kelly McGillis: I never had any experiences of being “haunted” when I was there. The Yankee Pedlar was a little creepy, yes, but it also had an interesting charm to it.

Related Link: Read full production notes for The Innkeepers

A New Vision of Underworld

A New Vision of Underworld

With Underworld Awakening bringing Vampires and Lycans into the cold light of the human world, the filmmakers strove to differentiate the Old World fantasy-based Underworld from the modern urbanity in which Selene finds herself. Shooting in Vancouver B.C., they found much they could take advantage of: the city’s modern skyline, the outlying wilderness and the moody atmosphere. “Vancouver is one of the great filmmaking cities,” says Coatsworth. “We embraced both the contemporary and the older aspects of the city to try to create an extension of our European city, while subtly bringing it into the future.”

The damp, overcast streets of Vancouver provided the dark, wet mood the filmmakers sought for their dystopian future, while the modernist architecture provided inspiration for the vast unnamed city.” Underworld is not our world,” says Marlind. “You can’t say it’s Moscow or New York or Rome. It’s Underworld. This was what was very attractive to us, because we were able to explore new ideas.

“If you look around, you will see very hard concrete architectural types,” he continues. “It is very unlike the Gothic style of a place like Budapest, but it has a very cool feel that has been extremely fun to explore.”

The filmmakers gave the fictional city a skyline inspired by the buildings of Soviet-era Eastern Europe. “We went with a very specific look, the architectural style known as brutalism,” says production designer Claude Pare. “Brutalism was the predominant style of the Communist era. It is functional, unadorned and rectilinear. Typically it’s built from stark, grey slabs of poured concrete in bold symmetrical forms. In Vancouver, there are many buildings designed by the architect Arthur Erickson that fit the profile and we were fortunate to be able use of some of these buildings, including Simon Fraser University, which we made our key location, the headquarters of Antigen.”

A New Vision of Underworld

With a laser technology called LIDAR, the filmmakers were able to reshape the Vancouver skyline based on the specifications of the directors, in essence building an entirely new city for Underworld Awakening’s human world. James McQuaide, the film’s executive producer and visual effects supervisor used LIDAR’s ability to capture the geometry of volume to custom build a completely original skyline for a modern city that isn’t geographically recognizable, because it doesn’t really exist.

“We scanned different buildings from all over Vancouver, then brought those images together to create a kind of composite photo,” says McQuaide. “The buildings may be recognizable, if you know Vancouver well, but they are not situated next to each other except in our cityscape. Once we captured the actual geometry of the space, we recreated what was there practically. Because it’s data, we’re not married to any particular angle, so the camera can move freely in the virtual space.”

Production designer Pare also created a cave-like home for the Vampire coven. Hunted to near extinction, a small group has taken refuge in an underground lair beneath a giant hydroelectric dam. “There just happened to be fantastic hydroelectric dam about a half an hour north of Vancouver,” says Wright.

The lair is a monument to earlier times, filled with relics of formerly luxurious lives. “Everything is dripping and very moldy,” says Pare. “It’s done in tones of ochre, brown, dark green and there’s lots of black.”

It contrasts sharply with the hard geometry of the city, says Marlind. “We wanted the Vampire world to be old and sensual and round,” he explains. “It has a feeling of the womb to it, because that is a theme in the film for Selene.”

Both the coven and the Antigen interiors had to be custom built for the shoot. “Vancouver has a number of sound stage facilities that allowed us to spread out and build all of these sets,” says Wright. “Vancouver also has very, very highly skilled set construction people, which came in handy. We were creating a medieval crypt-like coven and then we were doing very high-tech concrete and glass interiors for Antigen and those are two completely different finishes.”

Selene’s iconic costume had to be recreated down to the last detail by Academy Award-nominated costume designer Monique Prudhomme. “The first time I saw her in the costume, I thought, she’s back!” Prudhomme says. “The challenge was to find a fabric that would give the same feel and comfort. The costume is very simple, but it was critical to get it right. The latex suit has absolutely no hanger appeal, but because Kate is so beautiful and athletic, she fills it out and makes it look fantastic. The detail in her costume comes from the leather corset that is boned and embroidered. It’s like her armor.”

Giving the actress added panache is her oversized death dealer coat. “It’s a leather coat that is elaborately embroidered on the shoulders, in the front and on the sleeves,” says the designer. “That coat gives her a big ‘swoosh’ of movement, and also brings the Vampire tradition to her look.”

Putting on the costume the first time was like coming home, says Beckinsale. “Just the sound it makes is very specific. I was very intimidated by the costume in the beginning, but I trust it now. It actually gives me a help, if anything.”

Special-effects makeup designer Todd Masters was entrusted with the task of creating an original visual concept for Eve, the first Vampire-Lycan hybrid. “It was a really great honor to be handed this mantle,” says Masters. “The technology and artistic technique have developed so quickly that the bar is very high. The Eve hybrid went through quite a few developments. It was important to be able to see India inside, so she isn’t just a monster when she goes through this dynamic transformation. We wanted to see a lot of performance. We made some really cool teeth for her, as well as contact lenses and amazing ruby nails.”

Eisley says the elaborate makeup completed the character for her. “I just loved it. I got the Lycan fangs which are very big and gnarly and just very, very intense, plus blood red, very long claws. The contact lenses are a unique mix of black and ice blue, because Eve’s not full Lycan or full Vampire. The contact lenses were very comfortable, but the claws were very painful. They were glued onto my fingers and it felt like they were going to rip my nails off, so it wasn’t too pleasant. But it looks great!”

In addition to introducing new characters and a new setting, Underworld Awakening reaches a new level of action for the franchise. “For the first movie, we had no real budget at all,” says Wright. What made it work was the atmospherics and story points and acting. This is the most wirework I’ve ever done on any film. You’ll see Selene jumping over fences and making impossible leaps. The bar has been raised so high and I think we have elevated the game.”

Brad Martin, who began as a stunt coordinator on Underworld, served as second unit director as well this time out. “Brad knows the Underworld franchise as well as anybody, so we had tremendous good fortune in getting him to play a directorial role in the second unit action sequences of the film,” says Lucchesi. “He’s also a great friend of Kate’s, so he had her confidence in terms of asking her to perform some pretty impressive moves. Kate did a lot of her own stunts because Brad made her feel comfortable.”

Related Link: Read Full Production Notes for Underworld: Awakening >>

The Help: Mississippi as a Character

The Help: Mississippi As A Character

“The South is an oppressive, complicated, beautiful, tragic, loving place all in one bundle. And being there as a group, like we were in summer camp, really bled into these performances and into the film.” —Tate Taylor, director

“The Help” is set in Mississippi, and although a fictional story, it takes place during one of the most important eras in our country’s cultural history—the changing times of the 1960s.

Director and screenwriter Tate Taylor knew from the beginning that “The Help” had to be filmed on location in Mississippi. He wanted to capture the period of time in a very honest and entertaining way and that could not be accomplished on a movie studio back lot. Read more “The Help: Mississippi as a Character”