Posted by Greg Ferrara on May 1, 2013
Recently, on April 27th, director Steven Soderbergh gave a speech at the San Francisco International Film Festival about the state of cinema. In it, he discusses the changes in cinema that have occured in his lifetime and the effect they’ve had on him and the movie-going public as a whole. The speech has many great moments that I loved hearing even if, on the whole, I’m not really in agreement with his conclusions. At the heart of it is this idea, murkily expressed early on: ”The problem is that cinema, as I define it, and as something that inspired me, is under assault by the studios and, from what I can tell, with the full support of the audience.” Or not.
Posted by R. Emmet Sweeney on April 30, 2013
As May approaches, the film world turns its eyes to the Cannes Film Festival, which will host world premiere screenings from the likes of Jia Zhangke and Alexander Payne at its Grand Théâtre Lumière. I, however, will be celebrating the Edward L. Cahn Film Festival, taking place on my mustard stained IKEA couch in Brooklyn. No accreditation was necessary aside from an active Netflix account, and travel time was limited to trips to the bathroom. Cahn, born in Brooklyn, was a promising director of incendiary corruption dramas at Universal (Afraid to Talk, Laughter in Hell) before spinning his wheels for MGM short subjects in the late ’30s. He re-emerged as a pathologically prolific director of B-Westerns and gangster films in the 1950s, at AIP and the various companies of Robert E. Kent. Seventeen of these grim 1950s features are available to stream on Netflix, but all are due to expire from the service tomorrow [UPDATE: only OKLAHOMA TERRITORY and IT, THE TERROR FROM BEYOND SPACE expired, the other 15 were renewed], along with almost 1,000 other titles (check here for the full list). So I attempted to watch Cahn’s films with as much speed and urgency as he made them.
Posted by Susan Doll on April 29, 2013
Last week, actor Dylan McDermott dropped by Ringling College to mingle with students and to speak to an audience of students, staff, and local residents. The latter event was the last in Ringling’s Digital Filmmaking Lab Series, which is designed to give the filmmaking students exposure to real-world industry personnel. The event consisted of a clip reel and a live interview with McDermott by a local journalist, who then fielded questions and comments from the audience. Articulate and charismatic, he graciously addressed questions that I am sure he has answered many times in the past.
However, one anecdote by McDermott really took the audience by surprise. When talking about his latest film, Olympus Has Fallen, an action film in which terrorists infiltrate the White House, the actor noted that principle photography was done entirely in Shreveport, Louisiana. Though the bulk of the film takes place in the White House, as a secret service agent tries to rescue the President, McDermott said that he never set one foot in Washington, D.C. during production. The studio recreated the White House in Shreveport. Apparently, Louisiana residents got a kick out of driving down the road in Shreveport and seeing the White House in plain view, or at least a part of it.
Posted by davidkalat on April 27, 2013
Last week I posted here some embarrassing anecdotes about my experiences as a color timer in the early 1990s—and I’d intended to immediately follow it up with a sequel. The first post was about Even Cowgirls Get the Blues—a film I knew was a commercial and critical disappointment, and I thought it was funny trying to pretend I was the reason for its problems. And so the sequel would flip the story—a Hollywood film I came near, but which soared to great heights because I was kept safely far away from it.
Except when I sat down to start writing this, I was absolutely jaw-droppingly gob-smacked to discover that my whole premise was flawed. To my utter astonishment, I learned that the Coen Brothers’ The Hudsucker Proxy was not considered a success. I’m still trying to wrap my head around this.
Posted by Richard Harland Smith on April 26, 2013
I hope you’ll forgive my absence from the blog today but I’m off covering the 4th TCM Film Festival in Hollywood. You can follow my reporting at the official festival website and live blog, where my Morlock brother Pablo Kjolseth, friends Jeremy Arnold, Stephanie Thames, John Miller, Nathaniel Thompson, and our bosses will be covering darn near every film being shown. We’re having a blast seeing movies, talking about movies, and meeting old and new friends. Join us, if you can, in the flesh or online. The more the merrier.
Posted by Kimberly Lindbergs on April 25, 2013
Film buffs tend to have obsessions. We fuss and fawn over particular actors and directors while attempting to see everything they ever appeared in or produced. One of my own personal obsessions isn’t an actor or a director but it’s a tale I enjoy seeing reimagined over and over again in different languages and in various settings. That tale is Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus and I’ve seen it retold in many movies of varying quality but I never get tired of it. One of my favorite adaptations of Frankenstein happens to be the 1973 telefilm FRANKENSTEIN: THE TRUE STORY. This lush production runs more than 3 hours long and features a stellar cast of talented players including Michael Sarrazin, Leonard Whiting, James Mason, David McCallum, Jane Seymour, Nicola Pagett, Agnes Moorehead, Ralph Richardson, John Gielguld, and Margret Leighton. It was directed by Jack Smight (HARPER, KALEIDOSCOPE, THE ILLUSTRATED MAN, DAMNATION ALLEY, etc.) and based on a script written by the acclaimed British author Christopher Isherwood along with his partner Don Bachardy. Isherwood and Bachardy took creative liberties with the source material but their teleplay still managed to retain many of the timeless elements that have made Shelley’s story capable of capturing the imagination of readers like myself for nearly 200 years.
Posted by Greg Ferrara on April 24, 2013
I’ve been writing for some time now and in the last decade or so of feverish online opinion, I’ve learned a couple of things about myself and others when it comes to discussing films. One, I’ve learned that there is nary a movie in existence that isn’t like by someone and, two, panning a movie, any movie, usually makes me feel awful inside. It’s why, in just the last couple of years, I decided clearly and boldly: No more!
Posted by R. Emmet Sweeney on April 23, 2013
“Nobody can beat Bruce Lee, everybody can beat me” -Jackie Chan
Failing as a stoic Bruce Lee clone early in his career, Jackie Chan discovered that audiences preferred him as a cheery masochist, enduring abuse for fun and profit. His kung-fu clowning in Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow and Drunken Master (both 1978) established a persona he would tinker with the rest of his career. When he shifted from martial arts period pieces to modern day action thrillers in the 1980s, his drifting fool becomes professionalized, an innocent goofball in uniform. His masterpiece of this period is Police Story (1985), which was recently issued on Blu-Ray by Shout! Factory, along with its initial 1988 sequel, Police Story 2 (1988). Chan has made five Police Storys to date, with a sixth in production set for release later this year, but the original remains his (and my) favorite.
Posted by Susan Doll on April 22, 2013
I saw three of the best narrative feature films I have seen all year at the Sarasota Film Festival, and two of them are getting a theatrical release, which means other viewers will be able to catch them, too. Coincidentally, all of them are about family and community ties.
What movie lover doesn’t carry a soft spot for the western—a genre that Hollywood has all but abandoned. Dead Man’s Burden is a gripping indie western with a stripped-down, straightforward storyline that belies its complex character relationships. I was impressed with the film as soon as I realized it was shot on 35mm. Nothing is better suited for 35mm film than the western because of the narrative significance of the land, often depicted in lingering long shots. Robert Hauer’s crisp cinematography of the vast New Mexico landscape implies that land is important in this film, too, but it is family ties and divisions that make up the heart of this small-scale story. The main location was an actual house from the 1890s that had been built into the side of a hill, providing the perfect setting for a story in which the hard-scrabble pioneer lifestyle is central to character motivations.
Posted by Greg Ferrara on April 21, 2013
With the release of Oblivion, and its plot point of the moon’s destruction, I was reminded of a piece I wrote a couple of years ago for a DVD company about George Pal and one of the things I mentioned was a statement by Ray Bradbury about Destination Moon. What Bradbury said was that it was the first science fiction movie he knew of that really was all about the science. From the earliest moon movies, such as A Trip to the Moon (1902) or Frau im Mond (1929), to the present day, Moon (2009), movies about the moon, when they’re not documentaries or docudramas, center around stories that have little to do with the science of getting there. But when George Pal took a crack at it, getting there was the most exciting thing about it.
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