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Douglas Pratt

By Douglas Pratt

DVD Geek: Frozen

A surprisingly entertaining and nerve-wracking thriller, Frozen, has been released by Anchor Bay Entertainment.  About three college kids who get stuck on a ski lift just as the slopes are closed down for the week, the reason it works so well is not just the gnarly tortures the three must undergo as they try to extricate themselves from their predicament, but the very smart emotional dynamics that are at play between the three of them to fill the pauses between the thrills.  It’s very basic—there’s a guy, his relatively new girlfriend, and the guy’s best friend, who now feels like a third wheel.  Basic stuff, but in this situation, something more complex or subtle is not required.  It just has to prevent the viewer from identifying too closely with the tedium the characters must also endure amid the cold and the wind and so on.  The film begins in a very pedestrian manner.  The shot setups are cheap and the dialog is uninteresting, but the film’s 5.1-channel Dolby Digital sound mix is exceptionally good right from the start—as soon as light hits the screen, so do the noises all around you—and especially on the Blu-ray release, it is the audio that carries you along until the suspense takes over.  The makeup continuity is inconsistent and one of the male heroes should have been wearing a more distinctively colored parka so that you can recognize immediately what happened to him, but otherwise, the film is highly entertaining and a terrific crowd pleaser.

The picture is presented in letterboxed format only, with an aspect ratio of about 2.35:1 and an accommodation for enhanced 16:9 playback.  The color transfer looks fine, with the BD’s confidence during the darkest sequences being just slightly more involving than the DVD’s.  The DVD’s sound is great, but it is the BD’s audio that really has the crisp directional effects and subtle dimensional touches.  Both presentations have an alternate Spanish track in mono, optional English and Spanish subtitles, a trailer, 6 minutes of sensibly deleted scenes, a minute-long piece about how the ski lift where the film was shot was haunted, and 86 minutes of very good production featurettes.  It should be noted that the entire film was shot on location, with the director and the cinematographer hanging precariously on a second chair in front of the actors, and the actors actually coping with the cold weather and other indignities, suspended fifty feet above the ground.

The director, Adam Green, supplies a commentary over the deleted scenes and is joined by stars Shawn Ashmore, Kevin Zegers and Emma Bell for a commentary during the film, talking all about the challenges of the production logistics and the unique demands of the shoot.  They also talk about the counter-intuitive realities of their predicament—once you get cold, your breath stops condensing as it leaves your mouth; and you also get so cold you don’t necessarily bundle your clothing as tightly as you ought to, because you get numb to the coldness.  Green has some marvelous stories about sitting anonymously with audience members at a preview screening and listening to their macho opinions about the situation the characters find themselves in.  “Before the movie would play, when people just knew the storyline, just listening to the balls on people, like, ‘Oh, man!  If that ever happened to me, yeah, all I would do is’—my favorite was—‘I would take my skis and wrap them around the cable, upside-down, and I would reverse-helicopter down to safety.’  Or, ‘I would take my pole and I would vault to the next chair, till I could get to safety.’  It’s hilarious how everybody became Indiana Jones or Spider-Man.  ‘Oh, it’s only fifty feet.  I would just jump.’”

The one additional special feature exclusive to the BD is a second commentary, with Green, cinematographer Will Barratt and editor Ed Marx.  They talk about the commitment that was necessary to do the shoot the way they did it, the challenges that were involved (sometimes the lighting was reflected off the snow and onto the actors), and how the choices they made were intended to affect the viewing experience.  As Barratt explains, “One thing that is kind of cool, starting [near the end], we made a conscious decision to start beating up the film.  You’ll see that we really start to crush the image and we start to really, as [the heroine] starts to go a little crazy and stuff, we start to break up the frame.  Completely on purpose, to let the viewer feel a little bit more what the character is feeling.  So, as you watch the movie, watch it as it progressively becomes destroyed, as image quality starts to go away and the grain starts to come up, the blacks start to get all crushed.  I love DI (digital intermediate) for that reason.  I don’t ever use it as a crutch or to fix anything.  I try to give the DI the densest negative I can, the highest quality negative I can, but then, that gives you the opportunity to really mess with it and get really creative with it.”

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The Ultimate DVD Geek

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon