This book is one I've thought (vaguely) about writing, but soon realized I had the interest but not the expertise. Here it is, though, from Colin J. Williamson, visiting assistant professor of film and media studies at Franklin and Marshall College.
What does it mean to describe cinematic effects as “movie magic,” to compare filmmakers to magicians, or to say that the cinema is all a “trick”? The heyday of stage illusionism was over a century ago, so why do such performances still serve as a key reference point for understanding filmmaking, especially now that so much of the cinema rests on the use of computers? To answer these questions, Colin Williamson situates film within a long tradition of magical practices that combine art and science, involve deception and discovery, and evoke two forms of wonder—both awe at the illusion displayed and curiosity about how it was performed. He thus considers how, even as they mystify audiences, cinematic illusions also inspire them to learn more about the technologies and techniques behind moving images. Tracing the overlaps between the worlds of magic and filmmaking, Hidden in Plain Sight examines how professional illusionists and their tricks have been represented onscreen, while also considering stage magicians who have stepped behind the camera, from Georges Méliès to Ricky Jay. Williamson offers an insightful, wide-ranging investigation of how the cinema has functioned as a “device of wonder” for more than a century, while also exploring how several key filmmakers, from Orson Welles to Christopher Nolan and Martin Scorsese, employ the rhetoric of magic. Examining pre-cinematic visual culture, animation, nonfiction film, and the digital trickery of today’s CGI spectacles, Hidden in Plain Sight provides an eye-opening look at the powerful ways that magic has shaped our modes of perception and our experiences of the cinema.
Available in hardback ($90), paperback ($28.95), Web PDF ($28.95), epub ($28.95).
Steve Carell's new comedy, Burt Wonderstone, which features him as Las Vegas magician Wonderstone will open this year's South by Southwest Film Conference. More here from the Hollywood Reporter. Here's more about the movie, which also stars Steve Buscemi as Mr. Carell's partner, Anton Marvelton, and Jim Carrey as a ambitious up and coming magician, Steve Gray. Wonderstone and Marvelton split up their act after an accident on stage, and Gray becomes a threat to Wonderstone's solo act.
Others in the movie are Alan Arkin, playing Wonderstone's mentor Rance Holloway, and James Galdofini, a billionaire casino owner. David Copperfield appears as himself. Jonathan Levit is the magic consultant. The film is due to be released March 15.
From the Hollywood Reporter: Ted Field and Radar Pictures (The Last Samurai, Revenge of the Nerds, Cocktail) are planning a movie centered on the legendary Magic Castle, which reopened in February, after it was damaged by fire last year.
Phil Lord and Chris Miller ("21 Jump Street") are trying to bring "Carter Beats the Devil" to the big screen. Tom Cruise was interested in this project some time ago, but his option apparently lapsed and so did the film. Now, still snoozing at Warner Brothers, the movie project has caught the attention of Mr. Lord and Mr. Miller, whose film "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs" was a huge success in 2009. More here from the Hollywood Reporter.
Gary Ross ("The Hunger Games") may direct an adaptation of William Kalush and Larry Sloman's The Secret Life of Houdini for Summit. Meanwhile, it seems that Columbia Pictures might be planning its own Houdini flick, to be directed by Francis Lawrence, who will also direct "Catching Fire," the sequel to Mr. Ross's successful "Hunger Games." Watch closely: how many Houdinis do you see?
From the New York Times Magazine: photos from the forthcoming film Hugo and an interview with the film's director, Martin Scorsese. The film is an adaptation of Brian Selznick's graphic novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret, and one of the characters is the legendary filmmaker Georges Melies, who had a great interest in stage magic. More here from the Hollywood Reporter.