Threads (1984). (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13) Testament (1983). (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7) [more inside]
Disaster movies are as old as cinema itself. But their golden age began in 1970 with Airport - which, despite being an Academy Award nominee for Best Picture, is now remembered chiefly for the parody it inspired. Earthquake - exhibited in Sensurround - set a record for the number of stunt performers used. But the Master of Disaster was Lost in Space producer Irwin Allen. His The Poseidon Adventure grossed the equivalent of $450 million in today's money. And The Towering Inferno - the filming of which destroyed all but 8 of its 57 sets - is still unsurpassed.
After 40 years in development hell, the film adaptation of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged opens in theaters on April 15. Official site with trailer. (previously).
Stanley Kubrick liked things just so. Including cardboard boxes. (2:05 .wmv)
The Art of Memory - minimal film music art
Jacques Rivette, who emerged in the 1950s... as one of the primary filmmakers of the French New Wave, is the most underappreciated (and under-screened) of this legendary group. Rivette’s deliberately challenging, super-size films defy easy assimilation, and demand a level of attention unusual even to his compatriots’ works. In addition to being considered difficult, however, Rivette’s body of work is also, arguably, the richest of the New Wave era, possessing an intellectual inquiry and humanity unmatched in the French cinema of his time. [more inside]
The other places are like kindergartens compared with this. It smells so incredibly evil! I didn't think such a place existed except in my own imagination. It has a ghastly familiarity like a half-remembered dream. *Anything* could happen here... any moment... Pauline Kael called it "hilariously, awesomely terrible". Others consider it "a forgotten gem of a film that set the gold standard for noir films to come". It was Josef von Sternberg's last major film - The Shanghai Gesture (1941). (parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10)
The "Brown Stabilizer" - better known as a Steadicam - had its first commercial use 35 years ago in Bound for Glory, Hal Ashby's biopic of Woody Guthrie. Later that year, it was used to film the iconic shot of Rocky Balboa running up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. But it was this shot in The Shining - which even Kubrick-hater Pauline Kael deemed "spectacular" - that showed the technology's full potential. (previously)
Streets of Fire (part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10) is a 1984 film directed by Walter Hill and co-written by Hill and Larry Gross. It was described in previews, trailers, and posters as "A Rock & Roll Fable." It is an unusual mix of musical, action, drama, and comedy with elements both of retro-1950s and 1980s. ... The film was promoted as a summer blockbuster but failed critically and commercially, grossing only USD $8 million in North America, well below its $14.5 million budget. Its dynamic musical score by the likes of Jim Steinman, Ry Cooder, and others, as well as the hit Dan Hartman song "I Can Dream About You", however, has helped it attain something of a cult following among fans.
Restrepo is a feature-length documentary that chronicles the deployment of a platoon of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan's Korengal Valley. The movie focuses on a remote 15-man outpost, "Restrepo," named after a platoon medic who was killed in action. It was considered one of the most dangerous postings in the U.S. military. This is an entirely experiential film: the cameras never leave the valley; there are no interviews with generals or diplomats. The only goal is to make viewers feel as if they have just been through a 90-minute deployment. This is war, full stop. The conclusions are up to you. (previously) [more inside]
His melodies are more familiar than those of any other soundtrack composer except perhaps John Williams. He won 20 Grammy Awards, more than any other pop musician in history, and 4 Academy Awards. He scored what some consider the greatest opening shot in cinema history. His versatility encompassed situation comedy as well as science fiction horror. He is commemorated on a 37-cent stamp. He is Henry Mancini. [more inside]
Andrew O'Hehir, writing for Salon.com, called Secretariat: "A gorgeous, creepy American myth". Roger Ebert described O'Hehir's review as "insane". O'Hehir responds.
Arthur Penn, the director of Bonnie and Clyde, Little Big Man, The Miracle Worker, and Night Moves, has died of congestive heart failure one day after his 88th birthday.
Yeah that's right. The Last Dragon is the Greatest of All-Time. Why? For me there are so many reasons.
What makes Point Blank so extraordinary, however, is not its departures from genre conventions, but Boorman's virtuoso use of such unconventional avant-garde stylistics to saturate the proceedings with a classical noir mood of existential torpor and romanticized fatalism. (previously)
Big Trouble in Little China: the history, the cult, the complete soundtrack, the RPG, the video game, the comic book, the geopolitical metaphor.
Often dismissed as a failed experiment, this oddity from Arthur Penn is a constantly surprising and enigmatic classic. Two years ahead of Bonnie and Clyde, this New Hollywood prototype is ragged and frantic, a skewed but thrilling attempt to rewrite established narrative form. [more inside]
Despite my absolute fidelity to Sade's text, I have however introduced an absolutely new element: the action instead of taking place in eighteenth-century France, takes place practically in our own time, in Salò, around 1944, to be exact. (some links extremely NSFW)
Jerry Fielding (1922-1980) was one of cinema's most distinctive voices in the 1960s and especially '70s, the perfect musical complement to the films of Sam Peckinpah*, Michael Winner, Clint Eastwood and others. His scores are marked by modernism and intricate orchestrations but also a poetic beauty and intensity—an appropriate accompaniment to the decade's strange and often sad (but never sentimental) criminals and antiheroes, be they in westerns (The Wild Bunch) or crime films. He was, however, capable of numerous styles (he was a former Vegas bandleader), and wrote a great number of scores (from sticoms to dramas to sci-fi) for television. - Film Score Monthly [more inside]
Matt Helm is a fictional character created by author Donald Hamilton. He is a U.S. government counter-agent—a man whose primary job is to kill or nullify enemy agents—not a spy or secret agent in the ordinary sense of the term as used in spy thrillers. ... The character appeared in 27 books over a 33-year period beginning in 1960... A movie series was made in the mid-to-late 1960s starring Dean Martin... the series bore no resemblance at all to the character, atmosphere, or themes of Hamilton's original books, nor to the hard-edged action of Bond. One reason was the attitude of the filmmakers that the only way to compete with the Bond films was to parody them. - Wikipedia (links may be mildly NSFW) [more inside]
How does a director follow up the highest-grossing R-rated film of all time*? (*adjusted for inflation) He remakes a French classic - taking an international cast to a Caribbean nation ruled by a military dictatorship, where hurricanes, irascibility, other difficulties take him far over a budget already large enough to be shared by two studios. The result is his personal favorite among his films. But deceptive marketing and cute robots contribute to its making back less than half of its costs. (previously)
The day after Kristallnacht, Hitler said: "It was necessary not to make propaganda for violence as such, but to explain certain matters of foreign policy to the German people in such a way, that the inner voice of the people all by itself gradually would call for violence." Towards that end, Goebbels commissioned and closely supervised the production of a propaganda documentary titled Der ewige Jude - "The Eternal Jew". Few if any of the inhabitants of the Łódź Ghetto who appear in its footage survived the war. [more inside]
Pauline Kael called it "a huge, jerry-built, crumbling ruin of a movie". Roger Ebert called it "such a silly and stupid movie... our immediate reaction is pity". Few directors of Michelangelo Antonioni's stature have followed a film as acclaimed as Blowup (1966) with one as reviled as Zabriskie Point (1970). [more inside]
I am Myra Breckinridge whom no man will ever possess. Clad only in garter belt and one dress shield, I held off the entire elite of the Trobriand Islanders, a race who possess no words for "why" or "because." Wielding a stone axe, I broke the arms, the limbs, the balls (nsfw) of their finest warriors, my beauty blinding them, as it does all men... [more inside]
Three years after the failure of his recklessly ambitious Marxist epic 1900, Bernardo Bertolucci returned to directing with La Luna - a story of opera and incest featuring a Golden Globe-nominated performance by Jill Clayburgh, then at the height of her late 70s fame. [Also appearing in small roles were Fred Gwynne and an up-and-coming Roberto Benigni.] Writing in The New York Times, Vincent Canby described it as "one of the most sublimely foolish movies ever made by a director of Mr. Bertolucci's acknowledged talents." Roger Ebert wrote, "Bertolucci has sprung his gourd this time." [more inside]
In 1978, William Peter Blatty published The Ninth Configuration - his first novel since the blockbuster success of The Exorcist. A reworking of his earlier Twinkle, Twinkle, "Killer" Kane, it told the story of a Marine psychiatrist providing unorthodox treatment to mentally wounded Vietnam veterans at a facility located in a castle in the Pacific Northwest. Two years later, Blatty's film adaptation received Golden Globe nominations for Best Drama and Screenplay - winning the latter. Critic Mark Kermode described it as "a breathtaking cocktail of philosophy, eye-popping visuals, jaw-dropping pretentiousness, rib-tickling humour and heart-stopping action. ... Blatty directs like a man with no understanding of, or interest in, the supposed limits of mainstream movie-making. The result is a work of matchless madness which divides audiences as spectacularly as the waves of the Red Sea, a cult classic that continues to provoke either apostolic devotion or baffled dismissal." (previously)
Kurt Vonnegut's perennial 1961 story "Harrison Bergeron" has been given a new film adaptation. (via)
Maurice Jarre (September 13, 1924 – March 29, 2009) was a French composer and conductor. Although he composed several concert works, he is best known for his film scores for motion pictures, particularly those of David Lean: Lawrence of Arabia (1962), Doctor Zhivago (1965), and A Passage to India (1984). All three of these scores won Academy Awards. - Wikipedia
After creating four successive masterpieces in the 1970s, culminating in the tortured production of Apocalypse Now, Francis Ford Coppola began the 1980s by directing "a romantic comedy, a musical fantasy and an erotic love story set amidst the neon glitter of Las Vegas on a Fourth of July weekend." [more inside]
Tennessee Williams said it was the best film version of any of his plays. Roger Ebert called it "awkward and hopeless on its most fundamental level". John Waters calls it a major influence on the development of his taste. [more inside]
"To make off with hubby's fortune, yea, I think I heard of that happenin' once or twice around L.A. And… you want me to do what exactly?" He found the paper bag he'd brought his supper home in and got busy pretending to scribble notes on it, because straight-chick uniform, makeup supposed to look like no makeup or whatever, here came that old well-known hard-on Shasta was always good for sooner or later. Does it ever end, he wondered. Of course it does. It did. Thomas Pynchon's next novel, the 416-page Inherent Vice, is described by Penguin Press as "part noir, part psychedelic romp, all Thomas Pynchon — private eye Doc Sportello comes, occasionally, out of a marijuana haze to watch the end of an era as free love slips away and paranoia creeps in with the L.A. fog." While we wait for its August 4 publication, we can read an essay on the dystopian musical he co-wrote at Cornell or watch a clip of that movie they made of Gravity's Rainbow. [more inside]
This is the story of Lylah Clare. Overnight, she became a star. Over many nights, she became a legend. [more inside]
Robert Altman's final film of the 1970s was Quintet - about a board game where the players kill each other. Here are the rules.
Roger Ebert called it "one of the finest, truest, most deeply felt movies in my experience". Rated X on initial release, it still has not appeared on DVD. [more inside]
"I just began photographing desperately. I really overshot because I was so desperate to always keep the camera going; every moment I stopped photographing I really felt like I might faint, or burst into tears, or come apart, or something like that." [more inside]
Norman Mailer directed a movie featuring himself, his then-current wife, one of his ex-wives, Rip Torn, an Andy Warhol superstar, and Hervé Villechaize. It didn't end well. (warning: language, blood, crying children) [more inside]