Today is the 100th birthday of Raymond Nicholas Kienzle, better known as Nicholas Ray. The seminal Hollywood-outcast-turned-French-New-Wave idol 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]
Weekend At Kermie's: The Muppets' Strange Life After Death. Elizabeth Stevens asks:
What if, in 1990, instead of recasting Kermit—something that had been done to Mickey and Bugs Bunny before him—the Muppets had continued on Kermit-less, as "The Simpsons" did after Phil Hartman died. Recall Susan’s words on "Seasame Street" about Mr. Hooper in 1982: “Big Bird, when people die, they don’t come back.” Let’s say Robin showed up saying his uncle Kermit had passed away? Or, if that was too dark for Disney, what if Kermit had left show business to go off to start a family with Piggy? Someone else could lead the gang of weirdoes..
It would’ve made more artistic sense than what happened
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"As part of the DGA's 75th Anniversary, DGA Lifetime Achievement Award recipient and three-time DGA Award winner, Steven Spielberg, was celebrated on June 11, 2011..." [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.
Transformers 3 scene from The Island. SlashFilm passes along the news that Michael Bay recycled shots from his 2005 film The Island in his new film Transformers: Dark of the Moon, saving costs by adding different CGI to the same car chase scenes. "I’m not sure how often this kind of thing happens, but my guess is that it happens probably more than you would think."
A letter by director Michael Bay helpfully advising projectionists the proper way to show his new film Transformers 3 in movie theaters and a very grateful response from the Projectors' Guild.
The Girl With the Golden Wardrobe. Long after the Golden Age of Hollywood has dimmed, and its legendary stars taken a bow, history's most iconic film costumes are returning to the spotlight as actress Debbie Reynolds sells her showcase collection.
The Catalogue (PDF)
The Catalogue (PDF)
"The Duke in His Domain" - a profile of Marlon Brando by Truman Capote, published in The New Yorker, November 9, 1957
'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 cure for blocked screenwriters "Michels also told the writer to get an egg timer. Following Michels’s instructions, every day he set it for one minute, knelt in front of his computer in a posture of prayer, and begged the universe to help him write the worst sentence ever written. When the timer dinged, he would start typing. He told Michels that the exercise was stupid, pointless, and embarrassing, and it didn’t work. Michels told him to keep doing it."
Beloved anime classic Akira (previously) is in the process of getting a live-action adaption courtesy of Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures. In fact, they're currently trying to assemble a cast. Oddly enough, despite keeping the leading characters' names Kaneda and Tetsuo, all the actors approached are white. This hasn't gone unnoticed, and Racebending.com is preparing a campaign to protest. Just last year M. Night Shyamalan's adaption of The Last Airbender (previously) drew massive criticism for having an all-white cast in an Asian setting. [more inside]
In the movie business, sometimes a flop is just a flop. Then there are misses so disastrous that they send signals to broad swaths of Hollywood. “Mars Needs Moms” is shaping up as the second type. Is the fact that the Robert Zemeckis animation tanked so badly (A $7m opening weekned against a $150m budget) part of a back-lash against 3D or was Mars Needs Moms just a particularly bad film?
Jesse Heiman, World's Greatest Extra. According to myth, he has appeared in every movie and tv show ever created. (via)
"To someone my age (47) Keith Richards (67) in his memoir Life has a kind of rare healthy post-Empire geezer transparency. But for my younger friends, it’s no longer rare; it’s now just the norm. What does shame mean anymore? my friends in their 20s ask. Why in the hell did your boyfriend post a song called 'Suck My Ballz' on Facebook last night? my mom asks. But nothing yet compares to the transparency that Sheen has unleashed in the past two weeks—contempt about celebrity, his profession, the old Empire world order..." Bret Easton Ellis on Charlie Sheen and the worlds of pre- and post-"Empire," i.e., celebrity.
Jane Russell, Sex Symbol of the 1940's and 50's has passed on today; the stars shine a little dimmer today. Here she is in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
'The studios have won' Interview with Alex Cox, director of Sid And Nancy, Repo Man and more recently Repo Chick.
Marilyn by Larry McMurtry.
So here's what's on tap two summers from now: an adaptation of a comic book. A reboot of an adaptation of a comic book. A sequel to a sequel to an adaptation of a comic book. A sequel to a reboot of an adaptation of a TV show. A sequel to a sequel to a reboot of an adaptation of a comic book. A sequel to a cartoon. A sequel to a sequel to a cartoon. A sequel to a sequel to a sequel to a cartoon. A sequel to a sequel to a sequel to a sequel to a movie based on a young-adult novel. And soon after: Stretch Armstrong. How did Hollywood get here? There's no overarching theory, no readily identifiable villain, no single moment to which the current combination of caution, despair, and underachievement that defines studio thinking can be traced. But let's pick one anyway: Top Gun.
The Day the Movies Died. (via)
The Day the Movies Died. (via)
Rod Hilton has been "editing" and abridging movie scripts since 1998 (first script: Godzilla). In all this time, he has given 5 stars to only six movies: Saving Private Ryan; The Matrix; Being John Malkovich; Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back; The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King; and Inception. (Previously)
It was not easy to get Terence Malick to direct again, as this article about the making of "The Thin Red Line" from Vanity Fair shows.
Unsung. Helen Mirren honestly appraises Hollywood at a rewards show earlier this month, but no one told you about it.
"Designed by Giant Robot head guru Eric Nakamura and his friend Len Higa, the car was stripped down and operated on extensively, with a simple goal in mind: transform this Scion car into one giant Nintendo Entertainment System. " The Scion Gallery and Giant Robot team up to curate "Pixel Pushers" a show about the 8-bit aesthetic. The Scion gallery's tour of the show.
Zombie Baby, Fucking Jane Austen, The Last Witch Hunter, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, American Bullshit, Better Living Through Chemistry... just some of the titles that made this year's Black List, a list of the best unproduced screenplays of the year as voted on by industry insiders. LA Times and Deadline Hollywood have pieces on it and here's an October audio interview with Franklin Leonard, creator of the Black List. In past years, aspiring screenwriters could find PDFs of the scripts online. It's gonna be a lot harder now.
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]
"The brutal reality is Netflix’s bargain days for streaming movies and television is coming to an end."
Is Netflix Streaming Its Way Towards Disaster? In the wake of last month's price hike, Edward Epstein (author of The Big Picture and The Hollywood Economist) explores a few issues with Netflix's turn toward streaming video. The licensing deals Netflix cobbled together before studios fully grokked the value of streaming are expiring in the next year or two, outlets like Amazon and HBO are starting their own streaming services, and the right of first sale, which allows Netflix to buy DVDs and then rent them over and over, doesn't apply to streamed content. Via this post from Slashfilm, which adds more links and info. [more inside]
"You know the reason I picked this place? 'Cause it has nothing to do with my life. I never come here, ever. It's as far removed from any place that I would ever go to. And that's exactly why I chose it. 'Cause it has nothing to do with me." ESQUIRE versus CHRISTIAN BALE
Judd Apatow made a public service announcement for the American Jewish World Service that won't be shown on TV, and not just because it's five minutes long. AJWS is a quiet but powerful force for good in the world. The organization was among the first on the ground and continues to help rebuild in Haiti, post-tsunami India, and many other places around the world. This is its 25th year of philanthropy and humanitarian aid (and its president's 70th birthday).
Stunning Audrey Hepburn photos: now you too can leaf through this marvelous Taschen limited edition by famed Hollywood photog Bob Willoughby, which sold out in hours despite its hefty price tag.
Tony Curtis, Hollywood Legend, Navy Man, star of The Defiant Ones, Some Like It Hot and The Great Race, has passed away. [more inside]
Lookout Mountain Laboratories (Hollywood, CA) was originally built in 1941 as an air defense station. But after WWII, the US Air Force repurposed it into a secret film studio which operated for 22 years during the Cold War. The studio produced classified movies for all branches of the US Armed Forces, as well as the Atomic Energy Commission, until it was deactivated in 1969. During this time, cameramen, who referred to themselves as "atomic" cinematographers, were hired to shoot footage of atomic bomb tests in Nevada, Utah, New Mexico and the South Pacific. Some of their films have been declassified and can be seen here. [more inside]
Behind the opening scenes of Blade Runner. “Doug and his Entertainment Effects Group team created thousands of acid-etched brass miniatures lit from below with hundreds of bundles of fiber-optic lights, shot in forced-perspective through layers of smoke to create layers of light refraction, creating depth.” The first of a three-part series on the making of Blade Runner’s unforgettable opening sequence.
A lot of old advertising, like the copy here, reads like literate AOL kids. They spell and capitalize and punctuate, but they're still hype machines stuck on exclamation marks and shouting and… boldface and underlines. Today, the fashion is for much shorter ad copy. If sound came along today, we'd come up with a catchphrase and call it a day. "Hear the difference." In 1929, if you didn’t have at least five catchphrases, some capitalized buzzwords, and several exclamation marks, you just weren't with it. [more inside]
Over the course of four months earlier this year, Dave at Goodfella's Movie Blog posted 100 (!) sharply written analyses of a wide range of classic Noir films. The top position was a bit of a surprise amid the obvious standards, but the real meat is in his informative takes on dozens of lesser-known gems. [more inside]
Hollywood ate my childhood [or] Why film remakes are desecrating our most precious memories. Hint: it's the money. [more inside]
Gravelly-voiced character actor James Gammon has passed away of cancer at the age of 70. His career spanned more than 50 years in television, (with roles from "Gunsmoke" to "Grays Anatomy",) film and theater, but most will probably remember him as either the cantankerous manager of the Cleveland Indians in the 1989 comedy "Major League" or as Don Johnson's crotchety, retired longshoreman father on the television show Nash Bridges. [more inside]
Cary in the Sky with Diamonds. "Before Timothy Leary and the Beatles, LSD was largely unknown and unregulated. But in the 1950s, as many as 100 Hollywood luminaries—Cary Grant and Esther Williams among them—began taking the drug as part of psychotherapy. With LSD research beginning a comeback, the authors recount how two Beverly Hills doctors promoted a new 'wonder drug,' at $100 a session, profoundly altering the lives of their glamorous patients." [Via]
This is how a Harry Potter film has actually "lost" $167 million by Hollywood accounting, despite bringing in almost a billion dollars worldwide.
Screenwriters find work is dwindling. While screen writers conferences are still enthusiastically marketed all over the country, and eagerly reported on, the working reality for screenwriters these days, is that work is growing ever more scarce. 'This week the Writers Guild of America, West reported that while earnings for screenwriters have bounced back to pre-strike levels' (2007–2008 Writers Guild of America strike), 'there is a lot less work going around: employment has fallen 11% in the last three years, with 226 fewer screenwriters working in 2009 than 2006, the year before the 100-day walkout and the lowest level in at least six years.' '"Except for current A-list writers, the picture is as bleak as I've ever seen it," said former Writers Guild President Dan Petrie Jr.' [more inside]
First, there was colossal miscalculation. Something so bad it could make parable a four-letter word. Didn't faze him. His next was "bizarrely compelling... Slower than watching a train wreck," but yet invoking, "that same level of disbelief." It was also like swallowing spiky clusters of manure. Maybe he had lost his mind? But yet he rose again... Or should we say he blew? No really, it was the wind this time . A feeble gust of an environmental horror story. "You feel like you're not watching the end of the world but the end of a career." Alas, like the undead, you cannot stop him. His latest, sitting at a paltry 0%* on the Tomatometer, is whitewashed, and offers an experience that's a headache-inducing, joyless, soulless, husk that Roger Ebert called "agonizing... in every category I can think of and others still waiting to be invented." It enchantingly makes, "Jake Lloyd’s performance in The Phantom Menace look studied." And, "the Golden Compass... look like a four-star classic." With $150 million spent on production, and $130 million on marketing alone, has this "auteur" finally created his masterpiece? Or will it be the Last Straw® (in 3d!)? [more inside]
In 1978, "Bruce Wayne" (probably not his real name) worked as a set dresser on The Muppet Movie. Here are some photos he took on the set. (via Muppet Central)
“There is one line in ‘Zero Hour!’ where a stewardess says, completely seriously, ‘The life of everyone on board depends upon just one thing: finding someone back there who can not only fly this plane, but who didn’t have fish for dinner,’ ” Mr. Abrahams said. “That was the essence of the movie. We just repeated the line. We didn’t have to change a thing.”
Airplane! (known in Australia as Flying High!) turns 30 [more inside]
Airplane! (known in Australia as Flying High!) turns 30 [more inside]