Posted by Greg Ferrara on May 22, 2013
With the release of the new movie version of The Great Gatsby (I haven’t seen it yet), the subject of book versus movie rears its ugly head yet again. Some books are said to be unfilmable and Gatsby usually falls in that category. Others include Moby Dick, Catcher in the Rye (never made into a movie due to the wishes of the late author and his estate) and The Sound and the Fury. Still others have been made into movies far more successful than the books they’re based on, such as The Godfather, Psycho and Jaws. And some authors, Charles Dickens comes to mind, wrote books that absolutely welcome the cinematic adaptation, repeatedly. Everyone has their ideas about why certain books work as movies while others don’t but the one thing that often makes or breaks the deal is the narrator: Who it is and how distinctive is their voice.
Posted by R. Emmet Sweeney on May 21, 2013
One of these images is from James Benning’s long-take experiment in landscape photography, 13 Lakes (2004), and the other is from the hit Japanese anime of 2012, Wolf Children. I’ll let you figure out which is which. Outgrossing Pixar’s Brave in its home country, Wolf Children crowned director Mamoru Hosoda as a legitimate heir to Hayao Miyazaki (for whom he initially developed Howl’s Moving Castle), and is now available to English speakers on Hong Kong Blu-Ray and DVD. Both directors are concerned with the relationship between nature and civilization, but while Miyazaki’s eco-parables soar into faraway lands, with Wolf Children Hosoda had directed his focus on the miniature dramas of everyday life. Wolf Children uses lycanthropy as an excuse to mount a gorgeous melodrama about the hard work of motherhood, and the resulting heartbreak when children heed the call to the wilds of adult life, away from home.
Posted by Susan Doll on May 20, 2013
Last year when I attended the TCM Classic Film Festival, I was hoping to find remnants of the film industry’s mythic, glamorous past. But, Hollywood’s enchanted past is well hidden beneath a tacky veneer of souvenir shops, never-ceasing traffic, noisy crowds, shiny modern buildings, and those would-be “actors” costumed as movie superheroes who stroll up and down Hollywood Boulevard. With the help of some research, I did find the ghosts of Old Hollywood, which lifted my spirits and reminded me that the past is always a part of the present, even if we don’t immediately see it. This year, I went in search of Old Hollywood once again, and some of the “ghosts” I found were literal ones, because I spent an afternoon in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.
Posted by Greg Ferrara on May 19, 2013
A few months back I wrote a post on The Other Great Performance in the Movie, about great performances (usually by supporting actors) in movies with famously great lead performances. I’d like to further that theme now, only with great scenes. Last night, my wife, daughter and I took in Black Narcissus at the AFI Silver and enjoyed it as much as we always have (only more so because it was in the gorgeous main theater projected on a huge screen) and afterwards I started thinking about movies with very famous scenes, so famous that most casual film goers might know it (or have a vague sense of familiarity with it) even if they don’t know the movie. But for every great scene in a great movie, there is often another scene just as powerful but perhaps not as famous, or revered.
Posted by davidkalat on May 18, 2013
This week TCM debuts some super-rare Harold Lloyd shorts from the early years of his career. I cannot overstate the significance of this find.
I was asked by TCM to write some material for the web site to introduce Harold Lloyd in general and some of these shorts in particular, but the specific remit of that assignment was kind of limiting, so I have a lot else to say about these films that didn’t fit into the website content. But hey—I have a blog!
Posted by Richard Harland Smith on May 17, 2013
… that guys in movies will never again wear top hats. READ MORE
Posted by Kimberly Lindbergs on May 16, 2013
I’m fond of mysteries that evolve through conversation and unravel in small spaces such as Alfred Hitchcock’s ROPE (1948) and Robert Hosseins DOUBLE AGENTS (1959). The claustrophobia they evoke seems directly linked to our primal fears and primitive suspicions. One of the most interesting films in this vein is Giuseppe Tornatore’s A PURE FORMALITY aka Una Pura Formalita (1994). I recently revisited this opaque thriller after almost 20 years and was surprised by how effective it still was. Even though I was well aware of the surprise twist ending I was mesmerized from start to finish thanks to Tornatore’s deft directing choices, Pascal Quignard’s brilliant dialogue and the masterful performances etched out by two powerhouses of European cinema; Gérard Depardieu and Roman Polanski.
Posted by Greg Ferrara on May 15, 2013
The movies are now and have always been eager to please. They want you to like them, even if they’re giving you a bit of history along with the entertainment. They want you to know they have you in mind no matter what, and when I say “you,” I don’t mean whoever is watching the film at any given moment. I mean whoever is going to see the movie in the theater during its initial release. That’s the audience the movies want to please because they don’t know who the audience is going to be in 40 or 50 years so best to concentrate on the one before them right now. And that’s why period movies always give more than a passing nod to the present day and if the choice comes down to period accuracy or present day pandering, pandering will win every time.
Posted by R. Emmet Sweeney on May 14, 2013
Delmer Daves is having a moment. The Criterion Collection, the closest thing the U.S. has to a cultural gatekeeper, just released 3:10 To Yuma (1957) and Jubal (1956) on DVD and Blu-Ray, while the Anthology Film Archives in New York City is holding a mini-retrospective of rarely screened Daves titles, including Pride of the Marines (1945) and The Red House (1947). I had never delved into the director’s work because the ambivalent words of Andrew Sarris and Manny Farber were ringing in my head. Sarris thought his films had “stylistic conviction in an intellectual vacuum”, while Farber positioned Daves against the Spartan “Hawks-Wellman tradition” as “a Boys Life nature lover who intelligently half-prettifies adolescents and backwoods primitives.” While encapsulating their writing approaches, Sarris’ lucidity versus Farber’s contradictory collisions, they both convey images of shallow postcard beauty. Then I saw Daves’ extraordinary The Hanging Tree (1959, on DVD from the Warner Archive), which uses a cliffside cabin as a visual metaphor for Gary Cooper’s moral atrophy, and realized his use of landscape is far more complex than Boys Life kitsch. Eager for more, I watched five Daves films over the weekend, which revealed a sensitive director of actors drawn to tales of regeneration both spiritual and physical.
Posted by Susan Doll on May 13, 2013
Filmmaker Mike Gray died on April 30. I had met and worked with Mike a few years ago when Facets Multi-Media, my former employer, released two of his documentaries onto DVD. Gray has been called an author, journalist, documentarian, screenwriter, television director, and activist—all of which accurately describe his life and career.
Obituaries tended to label him as the scriptwriter for The China Syndrome, the most celebrated title on his filmography. Gray was such a novice to screenwriting when he penned The China Syndrome that he had to teach himself how to structure and format his screenplay. He did so by re-typing the entire script for The African Queen. Though new to writing fiction films, he was not new to researching social issues to support a point of view or position. Gray carefully researched the potential dangers of nuclear power for The China Syndrome, a fictional story about a nuclear accident and a power company’s efforts to keep the truth from the press and public. The film seemed downright prophetic when a few weeks later, the nuclear plant at Three Mile Island experienced a major accident, allowing a percentage of radioactivity to leak into the atmosphere. Gray also wrote and directed the 1983 science fiction film Wavelength, which boasted an eclectic cast that included Robert Carradine, Keenan Wynn, and Cherie Currie (of The Runaways). The experience helped Gray land a job writing and directing the sci-fi television series Starman. Later, he produced and directed episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation.
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