Do the Right Thing wasn’t ahead of its time. It was behind its time, and it’s ahead of ours. It came out in the summer of 1989, six months before Driving Miss Daisy, but if you can imagine it without hip-hop, it could have come out in 1939 alongside Gone with the Wind; without color, in 1929 with The Jazz Singer; without sound, 1915 and The Birth of a Nation. If you updated the soundtrack and the fashion a bit and released it next week, critics would praise its timeliness and how its depiction of police brutality and racial tension captures the angry zeitgeist surrounding the recent killings of unarmed black civilians by police officers. Some might even predict that it would ultimately end up feeling dated, as some did 25 years ago. If only. - Lessons from Do the Right Thing on Its 25th Anniversary
Most of America's silent films are lost forever, according to the newly released Library of Congress report The Survival of American Silent Feature Films: 1912–1929. (You can look up the ones that survive in this handy database). [more inside]
"I'm here because my family went through slavery" - Steve McQueen on 12 Years A Slave, the story of Solomon Northup. ‘12 Years a Slave,’ ‘Mother of George,’ and the aesthetic politics of filming black skin. Before Solomon Northup: Fighting Slave Catchers in New York. The final fate of Solpmon Northup remains unknown. (Previously)
A month after its release, Naughty Dog's sweeping interactive epic The Last of Us is being hailed as one of the best games of all time, with perfect scores even from notoriously demanding critics. Inspired by an eerily beautiful segment from the BBC's Planet Earth, the game portrays an America twenty years after a pandemic of the zombiefying Cordyceps fungus (previously), leaving behind lush wastelands of elegant decay teeming with monsters and beset by vicious bandits, a brutal military, and the revolutionary Fireflies. Into this bleak vision of desperate violence journey Joel, a gruffly stoic Texan with a painful past, and his ward Ellie, a precocious teenager who may hold the key to mankind's future. Boasting tense, immersive gameplay, compelling performances from a diverse cast, a movingly minimalist score from Oscar-winning Gustavo Santaolalla, and an array of influences from Alfonso Cuarón's Children of Men to Cormac McCarthy's The Road, it's already being slotted alongside BioShock Infinite and Half-Life 2 as one of modern gaming's crowning achievements. And while it's hard to disentangle plot from action, you don't have to buy a PS3 to experience it -- YouTube offers many filmic edits of the game, including this three-hour version of all relevant passages. And don't miss the 84-minute documentary exploring every facet of its production. [more inside]
Suffice it to say, Persepolis is quite a work. It’s a testament to the power of the graphic novel. The art’s simple linework helps the story feel unpretentious and direct. Persepolis was adapted as a 2007 French animated film, written and directed by Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud. Among other honors, it was nominated for an Academy Award. Why would someone want to ban such a book?
Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound!
Via io9: "The first nine Superman cartoons produced by Fleischer Studios from 1941 to 1942 are a wonder of animated retrofuturism, giving us a peek into a world that not only had a flying superstrong protector, but also filled viewers' heads with dreams of autonomous robots, comet-controlling telescopes, and machines that could shake the Earth. These films are in the public domain and have been available on the Internet Archive," but now Warner Bros. is releasing them (remastered) on YouTube. The first short, "Superman" (also known as "The Mad Scientist,") was nominated for an Academy Award. Also see: The Super Guide to the Fleischer Superman Cartoons. Find links to all nine episodes and more inside. [more inside]
The newly released trailer for Total Recall (2012) shows a Quaid quite conspicously not getting his ass to Mars. It could all have been different, as many versions of Total Recall 2 have been in the works over the years. Meanwhile is the Robocop remake anything but total recall? And has the American action movie gone kablooey?
From 1935 to 1951, Time Magazine bridged the gap between print & radio news reporting and the new visual medium of film, with March of Time: award-winning newsreel reports that were a combination of objective documentary, dramatized fiction and pro-American, anti-totalitarian propaganda. They “often tackled subjects and themes that audiences weren’t used to seeing — foreign affairs, social trends, public-health issues — and did so with a combination of panache and subterfuge that today seems either absurd or visionary.” (Previous two links have autoplaying video.) By 1937, the short films were being seen by as many as 26 million people every month and may have helped steer public opinion on numerous issues, including (eventually) America’s entry to WWII. Video samples are available at Time.com, the March of Time Facebook page and the entire collection is available online, (free registration required) at HBO Archives. [more inside]
For quite some time, I’d wanted to make a screwball comedy. A fast-talking, wildly acclerating ensemble comedy that gets stupider and stupider. I never imagined it would be about a war, and inspired by a very recent war at that. But Simon, Jesse, Tony and I all felt that the more we found out about the dysfunction in Washington and the naivety in London leading up to the Iraq invasion, the more obvious it was that the only way to deal accurately and fairly with this topic was as a screwball comedy. - The Oscar nominated script for In The Loop, with an introduction by writer Armando Iannucci.
The Producer Cites Religious Controversy. The Director points to a recessionary trend against "serious" movies. A new film about Charles Darwin's life ("Creation") is reportedly having difficulty finding a US distributor. ( Creation: IMDB / Official Site / Trailer / Spoiler-laden review from Roger Ebert / LA Times review // Darwin: Previously on MeFi).
Cult western classic One-Eyed Jacks (1961) is the only film ever directed by Marlon Brando, who happened to replace the original director, none other than Stanley Kubrick.
In defense of suburbs: "Revolutionary Road," based on Richard Yates's 1961 novel of the same name, is the latest entry in a long stream of art that portrays the American suburbs as the physical correlative to spiritual and mental death.
2009: A True Story. "My name is Sara Ford and I am 18 years old. I moved to California at the end of last year. Before the first attacks... before everything changed." [Via] [more inside]
Loose change A one hour analysis of 9/11 and how it is more likely than not that the government was actually behind the attacks. A documentary analyzing the footage and presenting an alternative view to the official version.
Unless you are German you may not have heard of Winnetou and Old Shatterhand, characters created by Karl May. A possible D.I.D. sufferer, he had never set foot in America and began to write his Wild West stories whilst in jail. Popular with readers across Europe, his books have been translated into over thirty different languages. Spaghetti Westerns partly came about because early 60s films [test your knowledge] based on his books, inspired Italian producers to invest in Westerns. His life story was made part of Syberberg's trilogy in 1974.
The Spook Who Sat By The Door, a movie pitched and marketed as blaxploitation, was a low budget political science fiction thriller about black revolution in urban black America based upon the novel written by Sam Greenlee. It was withdrawn two weeks after its release in 1973, ostensibly at the behest of the FBI. Some remember it fondly, while others revile it in recollection. Thirty-one years later, it has been released on DVD. Sam Greenlee's an interesting man--another book of his, Baghdad Blues, is evidently an autobiographical novel based upon his first hand experience of the 1958 Baath coup in Iraq. Side notes: Researching this post led me to the intriguing Chicken Bones. And here is Elvis Mitchell's take on The Marginalization of Black Action Films.
Film noir, Monica Lewinsky style. As of January 22, 2001, Lewinsky was free to talk about the events that led to her immunity agreement with Ken Starr. HBO signed her up for some audience Q & A, and has taken this opportunity to push the envelope by filming it in black and white. It's set to premiere on March 3. Slightly more here. Really though, what's the point? Let's just put her in a zoo and let the patrons throw her peanuts.