"DISCLAIMER TIME! 50 is a very small number. I make no claims to any of these lists being either comprehensive or some sort of objective analysis of the 'best' films directed by women. I make selections based on on what I've seen, what I like, and the position of the stars. One film per director. Ready? Let's go
." [more inside]
Jason Blum—producer of Paranormal Activity, Insidious, Sinister, The Purge, The Bay, and Oculus—participated in an interesting interview at SXSW Film 2014
about his model of producing high-quality low-budget horror films
for wide release. The video is almost an hour long, but worth watching if you're interested in contemporary mainstream horror.
Do movies that pass the Bechdel Test make more money than movies that don't?
Walt Hickey, writing for Nate Silver's new fivethirtyeight site, examines the data.
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
These movies offer not just a twist, but a twist atop a twist, and a joke atop the joke: the “superjoke,” as Billy Wilder called it. Those themes repeat: the lively, often-painful love triangle, the sexual and romantic jealousy, the thrill of sex, and in this case, the carnal kicks co-mingling with the art of stealing, an act more erotic than gold-digging. (Gold-fleecing is much more penetrating.) And then—important during one of the worst economic times in America’s history—there’s Lily and Gaston’s hard, artful work, something to respect.
Ernst Lubitsch’s charming pre-Code transgressions
"If I had to conduct an experiment that would give an insight into neorealism, I'd build a time machine and travel to Italy, circa 1952. I'd ask Vittorio De Sica to make a film using Hollywood actors like Montgomery Clift and Jennifer Jones. I'd then team De Sica up with a Hollywood producer, the kind that liked to impose his will and sensibility onto a film—someone like David O Selznick. In bringing these two worlds of cinema together, I'd hope for a clash of sensibilities so great that it would result in two cuts of the same film, one by De Sica and the other by Selznick. I would run these two films side by side and examine each cut, and in the difference I would find something to say about the essence of neorealism."
Sight & Sound magazine's excellent video essay 'What is neorealism?' compares Terminal Station to Indiscretion of an American Wife.
In the early eighties, Orson Welles was a fixture at L.A.’s Ma Maison, where Wolfgang Puck was the chef before he moved on to Spago. Nearing 70, and 40-plus years removed from Citizen Kane, which he made when he was just 25, Welles was fat and famously difficult, no longer a viable star but still a sort of Hollywood royalty—a very certain sort. The younger director Henry Jaglom was one of many aspiring auteurs who admired him but possibly the only one who taped their conversations. These took place in 1983 over lunch at the restaurant.
The Q&A With Jeff Goldsmith
is an irregularly released podcast where Mr. Goldsmith interviews, at length (each episode runs an hour or more), working Hollywood and foreign screenwriters. The most recent episode is a panel conversation with the year's Oscar-nominated screenwriters. You can listen to the podcasts on his site or subscribe in iTunes or on Android.
Goldsmith is also the publisher of the terrific screenwriting magazine Backstory
--currently only available for the iPad but coming (eventually) to the web and Android. You can download the first issue (which is wonderful, and contains full length scripts along with the interviews and stories) for free.
During the Golden Age of Hollywood and until 1967, mainstream movie studios were banned by the Production Code
from depicting taboo topics like drug addiction, explicit murder and venereal disease, or even showing explicit nudity. But in the 1930's and 1940's, films marketed as "educational" could and did fly under the radar, and three of the best known 'educational' propaganda exploitation films are: Sex Madness
(1935), Reefer Madness
(1936) and The Cocaine Fiends
(1938). [more inside]
Name all the female movie directors you can in one minute, right now. No Google. I’ll wait. This movie gave me cooties why there are no female directors
What you see here is a prime example of what happens to film that is neglected and improperly stored.
This is an original reel from It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World that is now untouchable. The film has turned acidic, sporting the strongest and most foul vinegar-like odor I have ever smelled. In fact,
Robert Harris told me a story of how his contact lenses were singed by the fumes the film produced, causing temporary retinal damage to his eye. [more inside]
The Seventh Art
is an independently produced video magazine about cinema with three sections: a profile on an interesting group/company/organization in the industry, a video essay and a long-form interview with a filmmaker.
Yet by 1944 the IRS named Barbara Stanwyck the highest-paid woman in America. From 1930-57, she did a minimum of two pictures a year, sometimes even four or five. Yet it wasn't workaholism, according to the actress: "I was afraid they'd get somebody better, frankly. I never really thought I had any clout. For a lot of years I was free-lancing, by choice, but I think discipline stays with you. It's this fear that maybe somebody can come in and take over. Maybe a Redford or a Streep can take the luxury of a year off, but I never thought I could. Of course, we were more workable in those days. And they make more money now. Anyway, I never had self-assurance about leaving."
Leonard Michaels' "The Zipper"
: Rita Hayworth is never seen disrobed in the movie, though it is threatened more than once. The atmosphere of dark repression and mysterious forces – the mood or feeling of the movie – might be destroyed by the revelation of her body. It scared me as she began her striptease dance in the nightclub. I didn’t want everybody to see her body, or even to see that Rita Hayworth had a body. [more inside]
Today is the 100th birthday
of Raymond Nicholas Kienzle
, better known as Nicholas Ray
. The seminal Hollywood-outcast
behind Rebel Without a Cause
, Bigger Than Life
, Bitter Victory
and the hallucinatory Western Johnny Guitar
made intensely emotional films about isolated people, often infused with profound desperation
and a sense of the nightmarish
. Francois Truffaut dubbed him "the poet of nightfall," while Jean-Luc Godard simply declared that "the cinema is Nicholas Ray." He studied architecture under Frank Lloyd Wright, mentored Jim Jarmusch
and let Wim Wenders film him as he was dying of cancer
. Bob Dylan even wrote a hit song
about one of his movies
. [more inside]
SI has written an oral history about the making of the movie "Major League".
Charlie Sheen was also interviewed for this piece.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Margaret Herrick Library today launched its latest online research tool, the Production Art Database. The database contains records for more than 5,300 items from the library’s collection, including motion picture costume and production design drawings, animation art, storyboards and paintings. Nearly half of the records include images, making this an invaluable online resource for researchers interested in motion picture design.
'Star Wars' Producer Gary Kurtz Reflects When George Lucas and I began planning the first film, we had no idea what it would become; the kind of devotion it would attract... So what was it that made Star Wars so different, so special? I can give you one small example of the kind of care we took when putting the film together...
A New Yorker profile
of consummate dealmaker Irving 'Swifty' Lazar. [more inside]
The Magnificent Ambersons
, Orson Welles' second film, has inspired a legend around the lost footage excised by the studio to make it more appealing to audiences. The film's making is a cautionary tale in letting the studio have creative control, and the finished product pained Welles to his dying day. The mythical status of the lost footage has inspired a few to try and track it down
. [more inside]
Toy Story 3
hits theaters today, and it's already winning universal acclaim
as an enchanting and heartbreaking wonderwork, employing understated 3D
and a "real-time"
perspective that deftly capitalizes on the nostalgia and can't-go-home-again angst
of a generation that grew up with the series.
It has a strong pedigree, with 11-year-old predecessor Toy Story 2
the rare sequel to equal its forebear, 1995's Toy Story
(itself the first CGI feature in history).
And it joins a lofty stable of films: over the last 15 years, Pixar has put out an unbroken chain of ten commercial and critical successes
that have grossed over $5 billion worldwide and collected 24 Academy Awards
(including the second-ever Best Picture nom for animation
), a legacy that rivals some of the greatest franchises in film history
But there's rumbling on the horizon. Although the studio has been hailed for its originality
(of the 50 top-grossing movies in history, only nine were original stories -- and five of them were by Pixar
), two of their upcoming projects are sequels
, both of them based some of their least-acclaimed films (Cars 2
in 2011 and Monsters, Inc. 2
in 2012). And while 2012 will also bring
The Bear and the Bow Brave
, the first Pixar flick to feature a female protagonist [previously]
, fellow newcomer Newt
has been canceled
. With WALL-E/Up/Toy Story 3
guru Andrew Stanton focusing on his 2012 adaptation
of John Carter of Mars
and with forays into live-action
already in development, does this mark the end of the golden age of Pixar?
Or is this latest entry lasting proof that even the toughest case of sequelitis can be raised to the level of masterpiece? [more inside]
kill 3D movies? Jeffrey Katzenberg of DreamWorks thinks it might
. Or as Michael Bay puts it "You can’t just shit out a 3D movie"
as illustrated in the 2008 Hollywood Portfolio from Vanity Fair
Roscoe Lee Browne
, class act from beginning to end. The first time I ever noticed him was in The Cowboys
, a western I've watched many times just to hear him speak.
Perfection and Eraserhead
. Discussing Singing in the Rain
with prisoners. The link between Pasolini, Blind Willie Johnson and Carl Sagan
. If you like hanging out at the corner of Film and Word, you might enjoy spending time in the archives at Your Humble Viewer
, a wide
, funny and literate
Say "cheese" — stinky, expensive, overprocessed American cheese.
The venerable Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has revealed its set design
for the Seventy-Eighth Academy Awards® Telecast. This year's edition is described as "an homage to old movie theaters" by designer Roy Christopher. "It's a no-holds-barred return to classic Hollywood glamour." Others may beg to differ.
Hollywood fights back
: is this the year Hollywood finally nails its political colours to the mast, or are we seeing just the latest salvo in a battle for the political heart of the industry?
[NYT registration required.]
In the red corner, "uninformed, misleading, money-hungry, two-faced, elitists"
making films about gays, feminists and commies
. In the blue corner, "towering intellectuals, hard-core conservatives, supermen and superwomen, and just good common people"
making films about god, democracy and family values
And if you wonder what difference it makes anyway, just ask eBay founder Jeff Skoll
. He thinks films have the power to shape public opinion, and has launched a website to galvanise support for social change
Call her Madame.
Among the old-timers, the story went like this: a woman known to everyone as Madame came to California from Kentucky with her children and her husband. But once they were in the Gold Rush State, her husband left her. Desperate to find work, she introduced herself to a movie director named D. W. Griffith
. He not only cast her in his movie
, but the two became friends for life. And with this woman, called Madame Sul-Te-Wan
, what we now call Black Hollywood
began -- as a new book
by historian Donald Bogle