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Looker (1981)

 
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Bud Brewster
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PostPosted: Wed May 16, 2018 2:44 pm    Post subject: Looker (1981) Reply with quote

]


This is an enjoyable movie with some impressive credentials. It was written and directed by Michael Crichton, and it stars Albert Finney, Susan Dey, and James Coburn.

Equally impressive is the info in this excerpt from the Wikipedia article.
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Though spare in visual effects, the film is notable for being the first commercial film to attempt to make a realistic computer-generated character, for the model named Cindy. It was also the first film to create three-dimensional (3D) shading with a computer, months before the release of the better-known Tron.
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The plot involves a concept that's been discussed extensively for years — in fact, long before the move came out. This excerpt from the Wikipedia article describes the idea very well.
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Each model is offered a contract to have her body scanned digitally to create 3D computer-generated models, then the 3D models are animated for use in commercials.

The contract deals seem to be incredibly lucrative for the models: once their bodies are represented digitally, they get a paycheck for life, never having to work again, since their digital models are used for all their future work in commercials.

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We've actually seen a version of this technique used in recent movies, like when Peter Cushing's likeness was used in Rogue One. One difference, of course, is that the late Mr. Cushing didn't give the filmmakers permission to use of his digitally recreated face.

Another big difference between Crichton's murder mystery thriller and the real world use of CGI actors is the way Looker suggests that CGI versions of "perfect" woman would be highly effective in advertisements, whereas the actual Hollywood application makes is possible to use popular movie stars who are deceased (or just getting old) in new movies.

This is by no means a small difference. You can't swing a dead cat in Hollywood without hitting a gorgeous woman. They're a dime a dozen, and eager to work in commercials.

But fans of aging or deceased movie stars like Sean Connery, Clark Gable, Erroll Flynn, Marilyn Monroe, Humphrey Bogart, and Katherine Hepburn might enjoy seeing these beloved stars in new "classics" if they were done as well as the actual classics they starred in.

Yes, I know . . . many purists would hate the whole idea and protest loudly. But Hollywood wouldn't give a damn if the movies made a big profit. I'm not endorsing this idea, I'm just stating that using CGI "movie stars" that have millions of fans would be a more profitable use of this method than just making extremely beautiful generic models for advertisements.

But of course, just having the "likeness" of attractive models doesn't mean the CGI versions will automatically move around convincingly and do things that appeal to the viewers watching the commercials. A considerable amount of skill would be needed to animate these CGI models.

That same problem is infinitely more complex when creating famous movie stars who can "act" like the actual legends of the silver screen they represent. The biggest problem, as I see it, would be the fact that the fans of these stars would be the harshest critics of this method! Shocked

These fans could rightly point out that no matter how well the CGI versions of Bogart, Flynn, or Monroe seem to be "acting" like the real movie stars, it's always just an imitation of what we've all seen on screen for decades.

Also, bear in mind that most of the younger movie goers would have little or no affection for old actors like those I've named. A dwindling number of veteran film fans would be the largest group who would even recognize these icons from Hollywood's Golden Age!

It's ironic that the longer a given movie star has been gone, the fewer fans there would be who cared about seeing them recreated with CGI!

The bottom line, guys, is that Crichton's prediction of how this technology might be used isn't quite logical. And even if he HAD suggested that CGI movie stars would be the way to make big bucks the easy way, the problems with that endeavor would probably hamstring the effort.


___________________ Looker (1981) Official Trailer


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Krel
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PostPosted: Wed May 16, 2018 9:14 pm    Post subject: Re: Looker (1981) Reply with quote

Bud Brewster wrote:
We've actually seen a version of this technique used in recent movies, like when Peter Cushing's likeness was used in Rogue One. One difference, of course, is that the late Mr. Cushing didn't give the filmmakers permission to use of his digitally recreated face.

Well, his estate did give permission. The reason he looked so much better than the Carrie Fisher golem, is because they used an actor that bore a passing resemblance to Peter Cushing along with makeup appliances made from a life mask that was made for "Top Secret". They used CGI to enhance the physical appliances.

For years they have been using CGI to put stars that have passed-on in commercials. Remember the Ford Mustang commercial with Steve McQueen?

To go on topic. I once read an interview with Michael Crichton, where he said that "Looker" was originally suppose to be a 'sexy comedy' about the modeling profession. Right before they started production, the studio decided that they wanted the movie to be a thriller instead. It must have been confusing for the actors, you sign up to do a comedy, only to be told that you are actually doing a thriller!

David.
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Bud Brewster
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PostPosted: Wed May 16, 2018 9:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

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Ah-ha. That explains why Wikipedia describes the movie like this:

"The film is a suspense/science fiction piece that comments upon and satirizes media, advertising, TV's effects on the populace, and a ridiculous standard of beauty."

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Maurice
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PostPosted: Thu May 17, 2018 2:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Crichton got it all backwards in the most idiotic way. They perform surgery on the actual women to make them "perfect" before they digitize them, instead of digitizing the nearly perfect women and moving a few points in the data around to make them perfect. Duh.
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Bud Brewster
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PostPosted: Thu May 17, 2018 9:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Maurice wrote:
Crichton got it all backwards in the most idiotic way. They perform surgery on the actual women to make them "perfect" before they digitize them, instead of digitizing the nearly perfect women and moving a few points in the data around to make them perfect. Duh.

Wow, Maurice, that is great point! I'm surprised I completely missed that when I talking about the flaws in the basic plot. Very Happy
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Krel
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PostPosted: Thu May 17, 2018 10:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Maurice wrote:
Crichton got it all backwards in the most idiotic way. They perform surgery on the actual women to make them "perfect" before they digitize them, instead of digitizing the nearly perfect women and moving a few points in the data around to make them perfect. Duh.

But if they did that, then they wouldn't have been able to have the plastic surgeon investigating the deaths of his patients, and why they wanted the surgery.

David.
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Bud Brewster
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PostPosted: Fri May 18, 2018 11:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

________________________________

The problem here is that the basic premise has a number of serious flaws (all detailed above), and so the story just deflates upon close examination.

Justifying the cosmetic surgeon's need to investigate several murders by deliberately including the most series flaw of them all — the one Maurice pointed out — isn't just a "necessary plot device", it's the very plot hole that sinks the story completely!

Okay, let's start over from scratch and build a better story that uses the initial concept: the idea that CGI can replace real people who are "marketable" because they're famous. And since models aren't the best example of this, lets use "actors" instead.

The Plot: Famous living actors (some young, some old) are paid to have their bodies scanned, the voices recorded, and their "signature mannerisms" recorded in 360° 3D.

These actors sign contracts which give the studios permission to use CGI versions of them in movies. The actors love it because they can make money on performances they don't actually have to do! No memorizing dialog, no stunts to perform, no long periods of time in remote and unpleasant shooting locations!

All the perks of stardom. None of the blood, sweat, and tears.

Naturally the computer wizards can make the older actors look younger, a big plus for this filmmaking technique. The actors are delighted by this aspect too . . . except that they don't look quite so attractive in the interviews and talk show appearances they make to promote the new movies.

In fact, even the reasonably young actors look better in the movies which use their CGI versions, especially the ones who are already a few years past their prime.

So, some of the actors (both the middle age and not-quite-young ones) get desperate and go to plastic surgeons in hopes of being made to look more like their "new" Hollywood images. It's mostly a waste of time, of course, and the studios discourage them from doing it, because it just calls attention to the sad fact that these folks have seen their heyday, and the CGI versions in the movies make it obvious that "time waits for no man".

So, now we get to the murder mystery part of the story.

The contracts these folks all sign specify that in the event of their deaths, the studios can continue to use the CGI versions and no longer have to pay the actors. But the bright boys in Hollywood know full well that a dead actor they don't have to pay is a gold mind!

The CGI version of a dead actor is suddenly even more popular and valuable because the public doesn't have to watch the real actor's physical appearance slowly deteriorate as the years go by, and the CGI version becomes the only way the public can continue to enjoy these beloved stars.

And so, rather than wait for these actors to die natural deaths, certain Hollywood moguls decide to "retire" the ones who's deteriorating looks have already started to devalue the "brand" by reminding audiences that what their seeing on screen bears less resemblance every year to the actual person!

Our hero cosmetic surgeon notices that the actors who are dying under mysterious circumstances are often the same ones who came to him in hopes "turning back the clock" on the aging process which is making them look like worn-out versions of their own CGI counterparts!

So, what do you think, guys? Would THIS version of Looker hold up better story-wise than the one Mr. Crichton gave us?

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scotpens
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PostPosted: Fri May 18, 2018 12:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Bud Brewster wrote:
The contracts these folks all sign specify that in the event of their deaths, the studios can continue to use the CGI versions and no longer have to pay the actors.

But they would have to pay the actors' heirs -- at least under California law. According to Wiki:

Quote:
The right of publicity is a property right, rather than a tort, and so the right may be transferable to the person's heirs after their death. The Celebrities Rights Act was passed in California in 1985 and it extended the personality rights for a celebrity to 70 years after their death.

The "right of publicity" includes the use of a celebrity's name, image and/or likeness. Presumably that would include any recognizable CGI re-creation of said celebrity.

Of course, the actors could waive those rights under the contracts you mention. But would they be willing to do that, and would such an agreement hold up in court?

Is there a lawyer in the house?

Link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Personality_rights
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Bud Brewster
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PostPosted: Fri May 25, 2018 4:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

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Thank you, Scotspen, that is very interesting. Cool

And if I wrote a novel based on this idea, it would be important to find a way to get around that legal aspect. The studios want to avoid having to pay the actors or their heirs when they use the CGI "virtual clones".

I suppose the simplest way to get the actors to agree to contracts which waved the rights of the heirs is to pay them so much they wouldn't give a damn about the heirs!

After, all the studios plan to kill them off as soon as they can get away with it, so even though the actors think they'll be rakin' in millions of dollars for decades, they would actually stop collecting as soon as they were murdered.

What do you think?

By the way, I got the DVD of Looker from Netflix today and enjoyed it in spite of the illogical aspects of the plot we discussed above.. I was also impressed with Susan Dey. A lovely lady and an appealing heroine.







The car chase with Albert Finney and the bad guys both trying to use the "light gun" to zap each other into a trance so their cars would crash was well done.

I was shocked by the early scene in which a young lady in lingerie fell from a balcony and crashed onto the roof of a parked car. The scene was shot in slow motion, and the body was clearly NOT a dummy. The stunt woman landed so hard on the car roof that it was crushed convincingly, but even though the roof appears to be designed to reduce the impact (it depresses with the impact, but then it pops back up), I'm sure it was a very painful stunt — perhaps one that even injured the young lady.

Watch if yourself and see what you think. The fall is at the 3:35 mark in this clip from the movie. Notice how the poor girl's body is contorted by the way she lands.
Sad
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Last edited by Bud Brewster on Sat Oct 06, 2018 4:16 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Maurice
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 28, 2018 2:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Stunts are designed to look convincing. Apparently Chrichton discussed how the stunt was done on a commentary track, but I've not heard it. It looks like the stunt woman drops backwards off camera and not from as high as it might look. If you watch the shot a few times notice how she bounces twice and the roof keeps wobbling even after the second impact, which implies it is not very rigid.
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Bud Brewster
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 06, 2018 4:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

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Thanks, Maurice. That makes me feel better. Whenever a see a stunt in a movie that makes me think the stunt person might have been injured, it bothers me.

I'm just an old softy, I guess! Very Happy

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