It would be hard to find two more disparate and distinctive genres than the playful TV adventure shows of the 1960's and the paranoid conspiracy thrillers of the 1970's. Yet they both owe a great deal to the same man: Screenwriter Lorenzo Semple Jr., who not only had a hand in the "Batman" TV show but also penned "The Parallax View" and "Three Days of the Condor", died today at the age of 91.
Because the Coens have tried their hand at numerous genres, from noir to screwball to outright surrealism, it wasn’t immediately apparent that they were making the same basic movie over and over. After 30 years and 16 features, however, it’s now hard not to notice that prototypical Coen protagonists are hapless, well-meaning schlemiels upon whom life exacts a toll that’s much worse than they deserve. In the films of Joel and Ethan Coen, it’s a hard world for little things (and everyone else)
Julianne Ross asks: Must Every YA Action Heroine Be Petite? Amy McCarthy asks a similar question: Why do all our young adult heroines look the same? Mandy Stewart also offers up her own advice: Be Divergent and Other Lessons for My Daughter. Interview with Veronica Roth on her book 'Insurgent' and feminism. [more inside]
"Anita", a documentary by director Freida Mock, which opened in New York and Los Angeles last weekend, looks back on the journey of Anita Hill, who famously testified that her former boss and then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas had sexually harassed her. Trailer [more inside]
Filmmaker IQ offers an extensive variety of free online courses, articles and tutorial videos for aspiring filmmakers. Their image gallery is also fun to browse through. [more inside]
Though Llewyn appears stuck, he’s the nomad always ecstatic in his circumlocutions. He’s on a road to nowhere but at least trudging on a path to somewhere. The rest of the world marks time, gliding smoothly along the straight line of the future, arrested comfortably in the steady flow of the ever-present, and being naively present relieves one from the nightmare of history. Maybe the materialization of Dylan’s music in the final minutes, when it wasn’t there in the beginning, is another sign that Llewyn’s time has passed, and it’s time to, um, face the music. Like clockwork he goes into the alley to confront the shadowy figure, and takes his punch (this time not saying “I’m sorry?” before the fist collides with his face, however). Consigned again to this cesspool, he doesn't stay down but ascends through iron bar shadows and follows his bellicose aggressor, who gets into a cab and drives off. Llewyn looks on somewhat wistfully, not saying “farewell” in accord with Dylan but rather says “Au revoir”—indicating they’ll see each other again. At that quiet utterance the cab’s wheels screech and turn a sharp corner. The linear trajectory forward is thwarted and Fate's Emissary will inevitably come around again. The Orbital Noose: Inside Llewyn Davis
James Rebhorn, an actor often playing a man in a suit, Dies at 65 after a 12-year struggle with skin cancer.
Mr. Rebhorn had memorable supporting roles in major films and worked consistently in television and theater. He appeared in more than 50 films, including “Meet the Parents,” “Independence Day,” “My Cousin Vinny” and “Cold Mountain.”He penned his own obituary which can be read here.
23. On screen, your hero can blow away 500 bad guys, but if he smokes one fucking cigarette, you’re in deep shit. Sam Mendes’s 25 Rules for Directors
Chess has been played in a lot of movies. I mean, a lot. Some of the more notable matches include Ron Weasley kicking ass, HAL stealing from Schlage, a Bond villain stealing from Spassky, and Death just screwing with the audience. Then there is Thomas Crown, who might just have been named for a promising young British player who tragically died at the age of eighteen.
Before you go to bed tonight, don't forget to turn out the light.
God Speed You! Black Emperor (1976) is a documentary of the Japanese bōsōzoku (motorcycle gang) calling themselves "Black Emperors," and their interactions with the law, their parents and each other.
Francis Ford Coppola's first studio picture (and Fred Astaire's swan song) was a big-budget musical about a leprechaun who magically ends racism in the deep south state of "Missitucky." Look!—to 1968's Finian's Rainbow. [more inside]
The legendary TV production manager and inspiration for the film set term "Abby Singer Shot" has passed away at 96. [more inside]
Hal Douglas, who for many of us was THE voice of movie trailers in the 1990's, has passed away at age 89. The Guardian pays tribute with a half dozen of his best trailers. And then, of course, there's the legendary trailer for "Comedian".
With St. Patrick's Day fast approaching, it's a great opportunity to have a look at "Danny Boy". [more inside]
After the success of releasing the television pilot for Battlestar Galactica in movie theaters (in Sensurround) in 1978, Universal Pictures decided on a theatrical release for it's other science fiction TV series: Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. The film version of the pilot was essentially the same as what later appeared on NBC... except with a very different style of opening credits and theme song.
Jamestown Baloos (1957) [SLYT] by Robert Breer [PDF] (previously) "is a frenetic, three-part stop-motion animation that features an army of everyday forms and figures — geometric shapes, a piece of string, newspaper clips, a pin-up girl, even Napoleon Bonaparte — flashing across the screen. Placed in increasingly compromised situations and choreographed to a jingoistic tune, the figures essentially become puppets of their former selves. Such unrelenting visuals recall not only Fernand Léger’s early experimental film, Ballet Mécanique (1924), as Breer himself has mentioned, but also early twentieth-century Dadaist collage. Dada artists like Kurt Schwitters and Hannah Höch created witty, unapologetic works that reflected the chaos and violence of modern existence. Jamestown Baloos serves, as their works did, as a pointed indictment on the absurdity of war."
A short and sweet 10-minute documentary on musician and artist Daniel Johnston. [SLYT] [more inside]
Joel Silver: Terry Gilliam would have radically changed the ending to Watchmen. Zack Snyder: "I made (Watchmen) to save it from the Terry Gilliams of this world."
Film preservation 2.0 Unless the unique challenges of digital preservation are met, we run the risk of a future in which a film from 1894 printed on card stock has a better chance of surviving than a digital film from 2014.
10. If you are throwing an Oscars party, you need to decide if it's going to be a cinema lover's party or an Oscars party. "At a cinema lover's party, people dress up and have thoughtful conversations about the nominees and the year in cinema. At an Oscars party, everyone sits in their sweatpants and trashes every single thing that happens for four hours." This was written by a WSJ sportswriter, who doesn't understand that you can do both at either type of party.
Nat King Cole. Eartha Kitt. Mahalia Jackson. Pearl Bailey. Cab Calloway. Ella Fitzgerald. Billy Preston. All assembled for a single musical: the 1958 W.C. Handy biopic St. Louis Blues. [more inside]
Stephen Soderbergh combines both versions of Psycho to create "Psychos" Director Stephen Soderbergh has just posted, via his blog a link to Psychos, his combining of Alfred Hitchcock's classic Psycho and the slightly less well received Gus Van Sant "shot for shot remake".
Pitchfork is streaming the soundtrack to Wes Anderson's upcoming movie The Grand Budapest Hotel (previously). [more inside]
Assembling a Film's Billing Block. The blurb at the bottom of a movie poster is called the "billing block." And while it might look like a bar code of haphazardly packed type, it is in fact the product of detailed legal agreements and intense contract negotiation. Below is the the billing block for a fictional film and an explanation of how it was constructed. (via kottke.org.)
"If you were a sexually repressed British butler, then you were well represented in British cinema, but otherwise there was nothing for young people." Grantland invites Paul WS Anderson to reflect on the highlights of a 20-year directing career by picking out his favorite scenes. [more inside]
The broken-down grace of Bill Murray: The Dissolve takes a look at the career of Bill Murray and reviews his films. All of them.
The movie itself is a classic, and that greatness is evident right off the bat with one of the best opening scenes in film history. [more inside]
"If you want to predict the future, just think about how bad it could be and make a joke out of it, and there you go."
Ed Neumeier on the writing of the original RoboCop.
Ed Neumeier on the writing of the original RoboCop.
Lilo & Stitch is an odd movie to come from Disney for a number of reasons: a rare work based on an original story, set in a realistic version of the "island paradise" of Hawaii, focusing on strong female characters who have a realistic/varied bodyshapes. For more insight into the making of the "affordable" Disney film, here's Lilo & Stitch revisited, Part I, interviewing the creators Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois, and Part II, featuring master animator Andreas Deja. For a taste of the animation, here are four teaser clips of Stitch invading other Disney films, the official full version of the Lion King interrupted trailer, and making of Lilo & Stitch short docu-clip.
This film produced by the United States Federal Government in 1957 explores South Africa's apartheid policy, focusing on issues such as race relations, political practices, and segregated dwellings. The footage very radically contrasts the bleakness of black life with the privileges enjoyed by most whites as well as including several interviews with black leaders, while also giving the architects of Apartheid a platform to defend themselves and their policies. (34:11)
A fascinating snapshot of the time.[more inside]
"I saw the trailer for Captain Alex [previously on mefi], and two weeks later I flew from NYC to Uganda." Redditor Uncle_Benon shares a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at filming an action flick in Wakaliwood, a studio based in the slums of Wakaliga, outside Uganda's capital city. [more inside]
Walking City - "Referencing the utopian visions of 1960’s architecture practice Archigram, Walking City is a slowly evolving video sculpture. The language of materials and patterns seen in radical architecture transform as the nomadic city walks endlessly, adapting to the environments she encounters."
Here is a 1981 Pulitzer Prize winning article about the death of Playboy Playmate and rising star Dorothy Stratten.
As a thank you gift for his work on "Star Wars", George Lucas gave art director Roger Christian 25,000 pounds in 1979 to make a short film. Christian used the money to shoot a 25 minute medieval fantasy titled "Black Angel". Lucas liked the film so much that he had it precede theatrical showings of "Empire Strikes Back" in the UK, Australia and Scandinavia. In the intervening years, the film was thought lost until a negative was discovered at Universal Studios in 2011. The film was restored and given a premiere at the Mill Valley Film Festival in Marin County last October. It will be shown again later this month at the Glasgow Film Festival and will eventually find its way to a streaming services like Netflix later this year. The BBC recently talked to Christian about the film and its rediscovery.
Just Ella. A short film from Jim Munroe, the creator of Ghosts With Shit Jobs, for the Lo-fi Sci-fi 48 Hour Film Challenge. "Just Ella posits a future overrun by gibbering monstrosities. Ella takes refuge in a 'the Ossington Safehouse, a collectively-run space dedicated to human sovereignty.' But despite doing the assigned tasks on the chore list, the Safehouse isn’t safe — the terrors outside are nothing compared to those within." [Via]
The Sochi Project: An Atlas of War and Tourism in the Caucasus “Sochi used to be much prettier... These days crooks from Moscow come here to build and sell skyscrapers and apartments, although it used to be such a small, lovely town." via The New York Review of Books article on "Why Sochi"
Putin explicitly links the Games to the humiliations of the recent past: “There is also a certain moral aspect here and there is no need to be ashamed of it,” he said. “After the collapse of the Soviet Union, after the dark and, let us be honest, bloody events in the Caucasus, the society had a negative and pessimistic attitude.” The Olympics, he explains, are a necessary part of an effort to “strengthen the morale of the nation.”
Vintage Los Angeles is Alison Martino's YouTube channel featuring a look back at Los Angeles during the 40s, 50s, 60s, and 70s. There's an accompanying blog and a facebook page, too.
"Everything is fine and the world is beautiful. It's raining, it's dark, I woke up at 5:30AM, I'm commuting in traffic. I would have had a headache, I would have been miserable, I would have wondered how my life took me to this point. This point I'm at right now. But no, no, everything is fine. Life is beautiful. The rain drops are just falling and in each one I see the reflection of every persons life around me. Humanity is beautiful. In this still frame shot of traffic on this crowded bus I just found love and peace. Heroin is a wonder drug. Heroin is better than everything else. Heroin makes me who I wish I was. Heroin makes life worth living. Heroin is better than everything else." [more inside]
After Michael Mann set out to direct Collateral, the story’s setting moved from New York to Los Angeles. This decision was in part motivated by the unique visual presence of the city — especially the way it looked at night. Mann shot a majority of the film in HD (this was 2004), feeling the format better captured the city’s night lighting. Even the film’s protagonist taxi needed a custom coat to pick up different sheens depending on the type of artificial lighting the cab passed beneath. That city, at least as it appears in Collateral and countless other films, will never be the same again. L.A. has made a vast change-over to LED street lights, with New York City not far behind. Why Hollywood Will Never Look the Same Again on Film: LEDs Hit the Streets of LA & NY
2001: A Space Odyssey – Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 sci-fi masterpiece – seems an appropriate place to start a blog about typography in sci-fi. Amongst other delights, it offers a zero-gravity toilet, emergency resuscitations, exploding bolts, and product placement aplenty. It’s also the Ur Example of Eurostile Bold Extended’s regular appearance in spacecraft user interfaces. [via]
This documentary pokes fun at the ways in which Inuit people have been treated as “exotic” documentary subjects by turning the lens onto the strange behaviours of Qallunaat (the Inuit word for white people). The term refers less to skin colour than to a certain state of mind: Qallunaat greet each other with inane salutations, repress natural bodily functions, complain about being cold, and want to dominate the world. Their odd dating habits, unsuccessful attempts at Arctic exploration, overbearing bureaucrats and police, and obsession with owning property are curious indeed. A collaboration between filmmaker Mark Sandiford and Inuit writer and satirist Zebedee Nungak, Qallunaat! brings the documentary form to an unexpected place in which oppression, history, and comedy collide.Qallunaat! Why White People Are Funny
What feels to Theodore like love is in fact work, uncompensated and entirely on Element Software’s terms, and such work is not the stuff of science fiction. [more inside]
Because the film is a period piece, The Godfather actually presents a fascinating record of what 1940s-era New York City locations still existed in the early-1970s. Sadly, many of them are now gone. What still remains? Let’s take a closer look.
So Money. An oral history of Swingers.
Three minutes and fifty-six seconds of Buster Keaton running for his life.
From the 1925 film Seven Chances.
From the 1925 film Seven Chances.