Ignatiy Vishnevetsky talks about The Social Network in 3D, Transformers, and we end with some Quick Questions
The following is a continuation of my hour-long chat with the new co-host of "At the Movies," 24-year-old Ignatiy Vishnevetsky. After having covered subjects concerning his new job and his cinephile background, I wanted to delve into his brain's more analytical corners while continuing to find out what impressed Roger Ebert enough to give Vishnevetsky one of the best jobs in the movies. Sans a somewhat lengthy discussion about what Chicago theater has the most comfortable seats, the following is a full dive into the wisdom of the 24-year-old co-host who is on his way to being one of the most recognized film critics in America. The following includes theories about why the seventh Saw movie might be one of the better films to use 3D, why The Social Network might have looked good in 3D, Michael Bay's neuroses, and much more.
I was curious about what your thoughts on film school were. Do you think it just wasn’t for you or do you think it’s better to study film by simply watching movies in a more home video approach?
It’s different for every person. My own opinion, which could very well be wrong, is that if you want to direct a film, you should … take something else, medicine, law, literature. There are a few great directors that come out of film schools. And they usually come out of the same bunch of film schools. The odd thing about directing as compared to everyone else [working on the film], is that everyone else has to be professional. I think directors sort of have to be amateurs. Whereas you can’t just be a doctor. You can’t just load film into a camera without ever having touched a camera before. It’s not going to work if you’re not fully trained in it, or fully educated in that regard. On the other hand, I think, this is my perspective as a critic, is that maybe the key to directing is not to believe that you’re a professional. I think that people who tell you how something should be directed are wrong. There is no right way that a movie should be made. And the “right” ways still serve a bad movie, or one that is fairly boring. I think a director should always be going into the unknown, and probably have a good grounding in things other than film. When you’re making films, you’re ultimately engaging with all of history and culture. Ultimately, as a director, you should be worried about things that are more important than whether or not a shot is in focus, or if a boom mic is visible. There are more important issues in film. I think that film schools are very good for particular things. But I don’t know if you can really teach people to be filmmakers. Film school teaches people about lighting, but they don’t teach you about light. I think that’s what it ultimately comes down to. That sense of experience in the world is something that you get somewhere else.
Did you have any hands-on film work at Columbia College Chicago?
I did production, I shot 16mm shorts. I shot films after that as well.
Roger Ebert has been very outspoken on 3D. I was wondering what your thoughts were.
I think 3D is a whole world of possibility that people are not taking advantage of. I think there is a lot that can be done with 3D, and I don’t think anyone is doing anything with it. There’s so much that can really be done with 3D. I don’t subscribe to the notion that movies are just two-dimensional images with sound. I’m of the idea that cinema is something greater than movies. It’s a whole way of looking at the world, and kind of absorbing, interacting with life and history. Movies will change. The forms will mutate. But ultimately, cinema is something else. 3D has been largely disappointing. You see occasional really interesting uses of it, but will actually be brief and fleeting. You know what actually had fairly good use of 3D that wasn’t all that great, was Saw 3D.
Yes, [laughing], I read your review of it. You enjoyed the film, it seems.
I believe that I had the only positive review. It’s better than any of the other Saw movies. It’s by no means sophisticated 3D, but it actually makes fairly good use of the medium. Possibly because it’s actually shot on real physical sets. Almost all 3D movies you see nowadays are made on a computer. But they actually built most of the sets, and physically shot on the set to see what advantage they could take of the 3D camera. You know, The Green Hornet makes really interesting use of 3D. I think [Gondry] makes very interesting use of 3D during dissolves, which, first of all, you don’t really see dissolves in movies anymore. But he makes an almost gorgeous use of 3D during dissolves.
So much can be done if you have a depth of field with 3D. But no one seems to be really doing it. For example, rack focus is really weird in 3D. And a little pointless to have this shallow depth of field. So I’m surprised that more people aren’t shooting in really, really deep focus in 3D. Things like that are where you can take advantage of the best effect.
Plus, we are still stuck in the post-production era of 3D.
The thing is, people who are working directly in 3D, I don’t think they’re really doing their … like Avatar doesn’t really look that good. I don’t think it looks terribly different in 2D than it does in 3D.
Did you see both versions?
I saw it on DVD later. The interesting ingredient for them is just a bunch of picture postcard effects. There’s maybe a shot through the glass in a door, that looks really great. It’s really crisp, and has this depth of field. For a fleeting second, you can see what 3D can do. Then it just goes back to as if [James Cameron] was making a movie in 2D, it just happens to be 3D. Which is how everyone is still approaching it. It’s not a huge difference.
You know what I would have loved to have seen in 3D? The Social Network. I wish that movie was in 3D. It does have a fairly crisp look to it, and I feel like that would work very well in 3D. I think that so much of it is kind of about building this sense of place in time, this kind of milieu that Zuckerberg is festering in. That movie would have worked better in 3D than Tron: Legacy, which oddly enough opens up with a thirty-minute David Fincher imitation.
It all has the same color palette.
Yes, it’s exactly the same color palette, until they travel within, and get inside of their new age-y father issues in the computer universe.
And you still have movies that rely on 2D to tell stories in 3D films. Even Tron: Legacy begins in 2D.
I kind of like the fact that Tron: Legacy is this weird, Frankenstein of a film. There’s 2D, and then 3D. It’s like part sound features, from the very transition where there will be some sound. In movies from the early 30’s or the late 20’s, you have this weird overlap where part of the silent aesthetics that were thrown out, but still survived. So you’d have inter-titles, but there’s sound, or color tinting, which totally disappeared in the sound era. But there are some color tint in early talkies.
So you’re saying, that just as sound, 3D will …
I don’t know. 3D is such a very different beast. First of all, you don’t need to put on headphones to hear sound in a movie. So much of film is directly connected to how movies are actually watched, and how they are experienced. For example, cinema owes so much to the fact that it is supposed to be shown to a stationery audience. Film would not have developed the way it has if it wasn’t for the fact that people are seated, and looking at the screen. So, cinema kind of invented the captive audience. And then the fact that people have to put on glasses is always going to hinder 3D, or making it feel special. But you can’t predict the future, but maybe I’m wrong.
Of all films by David Fincher, do you think The Social Network would look the best in 3D, or would something look even better?
Zodiac, I would have loved to have seen. Fincher should make a film in 3D.
I want to do some word associaton: I say a movie title, and you give me the first one or two critical words that come to mind … Paul Blart: Mall Cop.
“Funnier than Observe and Report.”
Easy A I haven’t seen.
“Soap opera.” Because the Saw movies are really a soap opera.
Do you have an interest in the Saw films, considering your positive review of Saw 3D?
I had to watch all of them in preparation. I went through the entire series in a short span of time. At which point it really becomes obvious that [the series] is soap opera for horror convention types.
One last title – Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.
[Pauses] “Neurotic fascism.” Bay’s a weird character. People accuse Woody Allen, I’m not the world’s biggest Woody Allen fan, but they accuse him with a crap argument that he is working out his issues in his movies. But Bay does it on a larger scale, and he kind of convinces people of America to come to movie theaters to watch him battle his personal demons in cyan and orange for two and a half hours. You know, I like the first part of The Island, before they leave the facility, is probably his best work with The Rock. That’s good solid entertaining filmmaking. Armageddon is kind of a fun time.
Would you recommend Armageddon?
No, but there’s nothing wrong with watching Armageddon on a winter’s eve. But then you get into the Transformers territory, and you’re getting into some weird, personal territory. And it has this weird, kind of perverse sexuality to it as well. If you remember at the end of the first Transformers movie, Shia LeBouf and Megan Fox are making out on top of Bumblebee, who is Shia LeBouf’s friend. That is a really weird scene. Or, the obsession with robot genitalia. One of the robots pees on something in the first Transformers, and in the second one a robot has something that resembles testicles, and John Turturro says something like, “I’m below the enemy’s scrotum.” Those are some strange, strange films. It also reminds me of … I don’t know if you’ve seen Jetpilot by Howard Hughes. It’s a cold war romantic comedy starring John Wayne and Janet Leigh, who is a Soviet agent. It’s directed by Josef von Sternberg, kind of. I guess he probably directed like half of it. A lot of directors were brought in, because Don Siegel shot part of it, but the part he shot was never used. The movie has this sort of pre-teen boy’s view of the world, but on a huge scale with this very obvious discomfort around women, with these very bright colors. John Wayne marries Janet Leigh and they travel to the Soviet Union. That’s what I think about when I watch more recent Michael Bay films. It’s a sort of hundred million dollar outsider art.
What are you going to watch today?
I actually have to write out something that I’ve already watched, so I don’t know what I’m going to watch today. [Maybe] the Criterion DVD of There Was A Father, which I haven’t seen since a VHS bootleg back in the day. Maybe one of the recent Abel Ferrara films, I’m thinking of rewatching one.
Does your love for film even mean that you look forward to being forced to see the new Justin Bieber movie?
One thing: who is directing that movie?
Jon M. Chu, who did Step Up 2 and Step Up 3.
I am pretty much looking forward to it, because I happen to like Step Up 3D. It’s a beautiful film. I like all of the Step Up movies. And then there’s that dance sequence when they’re on the street … that is what from a Hollywood movie. I want pretty people singing – so actually, I’m looking forward to the Justin Bieber movie.
Quick Questions with Ignatiy Vishnevetsky
Favorite fruit? The tomato. Which many people don’t remember is in fact a fruit.
What is your favorite summer movie? I like to watch really cold movies in the summer. I don’t really have any particular favorites. If I’m going to watch a movie, might as well see one when it’s not so hot outside. I’m talking about movies that look generally cold, like John Carpenter’s version of The Thing. I think that’s good to watch when it’s really hot outside.
So, very visual depictions of winter, and not just in atmosphere or tone. Well, it’s not like I’m going to watch a Christmas movie. That doesn’t make me feel cold. It feels me with giddy family warmth.
What is a book that you wish you had written? [In a joking tone] “The Collected Works of Ignatiy Vishnevetsky” is a book I wish I had written. No, there’s nothing that I’ve read that has made me feel like, “Oh, I wish I had thought of that.” Usually when I run into something that seems to completely crystallize an idea or feeling that you have, but usually I feel like in that situation that “Oh good, someone has done this for me. I don’t have to do this. I can go do the next thing.”
What are you reading now? I am reading a book by Wilhelm Raabe, a nineteenth century German writer.
If you could be someone for 24 hours, and then go back to being yourself, who would you be? I’d just stay myself, but maybe fifteen years in the future. I think that would be my pick, because it would be an advantage. I would know what things to watch out for. “Oh, I’m gonna go bald, okay. Better start buying hats now.” But I don’t know where I am going to be next week.