Sunday, October 3, 2010

Bad photoshopping

I hardly think the following is the most interesting thing a person could take away from Roman Polanski's The Ghost Writer, but I can't help which films I see inspire me to discuss which topics.

And what I want to discuss today: Bad photoshopping.

Many films need pictures of the characters when they were younger as a prop that moves along the plot. If it's a solo shot and the background is not important, they can probably get away with actual snapshots from the actors' or actresses' own personal histories. However, if the actor/actress needs to appear alongside the younger version of another actor/actress, or in a setting in which that actor/actress never appeared as an 8-year-old kid, that's when you turn to Photoshop.

Most movies turn to it well. In fact, I often marvel at how well they do it, and sometimes wonder if the actors didn't actually know each other as teenagers.

The Ghost Writer is not one of those movies.

In fact, given how beautiful everything else in the movie looked -- particularly the feeling of off-season Martha's Vineyard, actually shot on the island of Sylt in the North Sea -- it's remarkable how crummy the photoshopped photos looked.

A couple of these photos circulate during the movie, showing star Pierce Brosnan as a younger man, alongside a younger version of Tom Wilkinson (among others that we don't know or care about). In these photos, Brosnan and Wilkinson look like cardboard cutouts of themselves, stacked next to each other almost the way they'd do it on some shoddy TV show like TMZ, where they'd be doing some bit where they pull apart or push together two Hollywood lovebirds, accompanied by some daffy sound effect.

What I found especially remarkable, however, was that there is a solo shot of young Brosnan that looks equally artificial. I can understand that it's hard to seamlessly blend two different pictures of two different actors, since they may have been lit differently or shot at different times of the day, among numerous other potential stumbling blocks. But one actor and a background? Shouldn't be rocket science.

When you've got a film as serious as The Ghost Writer, it tends to stand out. After all, here I am, writing a blog post about it. Granted, I'm hypersensitive to cinematic details, and am also always on the lookout for my next post topic. But let's just say I didn't have to stretch very far here. That Photoshop works sticks out like a ... well, like a sore thumb, even though that's one of my least favorite cliches, and I just had to ask somebody the other week what it's actually supposed to mean. (They could not supply a reasonable answer.)

And it's a shame that I was distracted for even a nanosecond from what is otherwise a very good film. However, it wasn't the only time I was distracted. Here were a couple other strange details that I thought stuck out from The Ghost Writer:

1) Kim Cattrall doing a British accent?

2) James Belushi wearing a bald cap, appearing in one scene as the CEO of a publishing firm?

3) That guy from that short-lived CBS sitcom The Class, appearing in the only other thing I've ever seen him in? (His name is Jon Bernthal, and I've actually seen but not remembered him in about four other things.)

In conclusion, see The Ghost Writer. None of the things I've written about here make a squirt of piss' difference in how good it is.

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