In 1968, Agnès Varda was living in Los Angeles with her husband, director Jacques Demy, who was there to begin filming his first Hollywood film, Model Shop (1969). Although initially hesitant about living in the United States, the couple quickly became caught up in the wave of dissent sweeping the country in the late 1960s. Indeed, amid the finger pointing in France about the perceived failure of the events of May ’68 to bring about revolution, many members of the French intelligentsia looked across the Atlantic for alternative models for political change. Varda became part of a growing contingent of French artists and intellectuals, including sociologists Edgar Morin and Jean-François Revel, and writer Jean Genet, who were attracted to the ways in which cultural revolt, social criticism and political contestation were intertwined in the United States. These French thinkers were attracted to the expansiveness and creativity of the American counterculture as opposed to the political deadlock that many believed was the undoing of the events surrounding May ’68. A revolt against American hegemony was taking place within the United States itself, and many leftist French thinkers were enthralled. [more inside]
Life Itself. The documentary based on Roger Ebert’s memoir, by Hoop Dreams’ director Steve James, premiered at Sundance in January and is now rolling out in theaters and on demand.
Back in March, the AV Club premiered a new feature called Iconography, which is an illustrated column by Nick Wanserski examining "pop culture's most fascinating objects". Though the updates have been very sporadic since then, here are the first three entries for your enjoyment: The golden idol from "Raiders of the Lost Ark", The spinning top from "Inception", and Link's floppy hat from "The Legend of Zelda".
We have previously discussed "Starcrash" (trailer) here on the Blue, but we have only scratched the surface. After all, we're talking about nothing less than Roger Corman's answer to "Star Wars", and even that description does not do the film justice. [more inside]
In the spirit of movie geekery as well as "if you're gonna do something, do it right", may I present The HAL Project: A fiver year project (and counting!) to faithfully recreate the computer displays in Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey as a screensaver.
'This elegantly beautiful supercut on “the tactile world of Robert Bresson” by Kogonada for Criterion shows the great French director’s notoriously precise skill is applied even at the slightest hand gesture. There are no faces in this video yet the drama of these scenes is palpable.'
On May 13th, the film world was shocked and saddened by the tragic death of documentary filmmaker Malik Bendjelloul, who had won an Oscar just last year for the documentary "Searching for Sugar Man". In the month that has passed since then, more details have emerged of the months and days that led up to his suicide. The Hollywood Reporter profiles the life and death of Bendjelloul and takes a look at how sudden success can bring about even more sudden depression.
Den of Geek provides a brief survey of rotating sets in film as far back as Royal Wedding in 1951 all the way up to Inception in 2010. In the world of music video, Metallica did their own interesting... ahem, spin on it for "The Memory Remains". The television show "Glee" paid tribute to Royal Wedding with their own rotating room song and dance number. Finally, the Den of Geek article states that such effects require, "intense planning, expensive materials and an army of builders". Nonsense.
"It’s most logical to conceive of Billy Jack as a dream-movie accidentally created by a spiritually confused, LSD-addled 19-year-old who fell asleep in the early 1970s while watching a weird, humorless movie about a half-Native American/half-Caucasian warrior who does not want to fight, because he’s too good—both in the sense of being a singularly skilled one-man killing machine, and in subscribing to a higher moral and ideological cause than his bloodthirsty brothers-in-arms And yet he’s pushed by circumstances into dramatically kicking ass, over and over." Nathan Rabin takes a long look at the bizarre pair of blockbusters Billy Jack and The Trial of Billy Jack. [more inside]
The Film Society of Lincoln Center is currently presenting the first part of a near-complete retrospective of the films of the great German director Rainer Werner Fassbinder, featuring 17(!) films he made between 1969 and 1974. (Part 2, featuring the films made between 1975 and his death in 1982, will take place in November 2014.) Collected below are some recent writings on RWF and these early films, posted by the Film Society and elsewhere online. [more inside]
Kyle Kallgren finishes "Shakespeare Month" on his art house movie review series "Brows Held High" (previously) with a smashing take down of Roland Emmerich's 2011 Shakespeare-was-a-fraud conspiracy thriller "Anonymous". [more inside]
Huge collection of (and commentary on) matte art from classic films that has been rescanned for HD releases. Much more on the process of creating and filming this type of setup at last month's post. (previously)
Feel as if you've watched everything on Netflix? You might find something new at Summary Bug, where a text-display glitch generates whimsical cinematic possibilities.
DESPITE ANY GOOD INTENTIONS, SOMETHING IS GOING HORRIFICALLY WRONG HERE. AND AS A RESULT, WE'RE DEALING WITH A WOLF IN SHEEP'S CLOTHING. A BRAND OF VILLAINY MASQUERADING AS HEROISM. The Film Crit Hulk on the problems with The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and its approach to storytelling and character.
VOMICA is a short horror film about a British commando raid that finds an ancient evil in the crypts and tunnels of occupied France. It recently won Best Short Film prize at the 2014 H P Lovecraft film festival, and is available to watch on Vimeo—for today only—if you go here and use the password 'mayday'.
"I've watched a lot of terrible films over the years... And even by these standards, Driscoll's output is atrocious. But whereas directors like [German] Uwe Boll will happily revel in a 'worst film director ever' title, Richard has absolutely no sense of humour about it. He genuinely thinks he’s creating art." --- This is the story of British actor/director Richard Driscoll, his 2012 film "Eldorado" and how it all landed him in jail.
Back in 1995, Wayne Wang directed a film called "Smoke", which starred Harvey Keitel and William Hurt and whose story largely centered on a Brooklyn Cigar shop on the corner of 16th Street and Prospect Park West. The movie was very well received by critics and stands as one of the great films of the 1990's... but that's not the whole story. [more inside]
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.
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)
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.
"On a sunny day at the very beginning of this millenniums, a crazy frenchman found himself in the desert of Sinai. After some puffs of a magic smoke he wondered - how come that there are no cinemas in the middle of the desert...?"
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]
Late in 2013, Guillermo del Toro released a voluminous book, entitled Cabinet of Curiosities: My Notebooks, Collections, and Other Obsessions. As he explains in the video, the 256-page hardcover is a selection from his notebooks, where the director developed many of the monstrosities we’ve seen on screen. The Guardian notes that there’s something of da Vinci’s notebooks in del Toro’s records: the small, neat script, mixed in with the wonderfully detailed sketches, combine to give the impression of del Toro doing his best to record the torrent of his imagination before the thoughts disappear. In this post, we include a number of these images.Previously [more inside]
There are many, many random numbers involved in the score for the piece. Every time I ran the C-program, it produced a new "performance".... The one we chose had that conspicuous descending tone that everybody liked. It just happened to end up real loud in that version.James Moorer relates the rather unexpected manner in which he composed one of the one of the world's best known pieces of computer generated music: "Deep Note" from the THX trailer. [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."
Live, from Washington, D.C., out of 2500 submissions, it's the 16 official selections of the first ever 2014 White House Student Film Festival [more inside]
"All studios have their main logo that appears at the beginning of a film, but some occasionally use custom logos that reflect the theme of the movie. When I noticed that Warner Bros. does this a lot I wanted to find out how often this happened and what these logos looked like. I couldn’t find a good overview with all logos gathered in one place, so I started to collect them myself, in 2009. Now, five years later, I think I have enough to paint a picture of Warner Bros logo design evolution. "
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".
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.)
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]
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.
In 2013, the Onomo International hotel group asked photographers Omar Victor Diop and Antoine Tempé (nsfw) to create a series of photographs set in the group’s hotels as part of an advertising campaign. Fans of Hollywood, the pair created ONOMOllywood, an exhibition images from iconic films featuring African models in previously white roles. [more inside]
As noted previously, Ubuweb hosts a stellar collection of avant-garde films and videos. But how does one ever decide what to watch? Use Ubu Roulette! Use it to throw a party (as the creators suggest) or to discover something fabulous (e.g.) just by yourself.
Blood Brother (2013) focuses on an American man who, after initially visiting as a tourist, moved to India to volunteer at the Arias Home of HOPE, a home for HIV-positive children in Acharapakkam, near Chennai. He eventually became an Indian citizen by marriage. [more inside]
Paramount has ceased releasing films on 35mm film and will go forward distributing movies exclusively in digital formats. The LA Times' sources said that Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues was the last Paramount movie with a celluloid release, and Wolf of Wall Street was the first major motion picture to be distributed entirely digitally.
Over the years, Hollywood has made films that have promoted the U.S. Military and films that have advertised specific products. But fifty years ago, those two tendencies intersected for a curious artifact of cinema and the military industrial complex. Say hello to “The Starfighters”. [more inside]
In 1959, MOSFILM released "Ballad of a Soldier," made during the Khrushchev Thaw . It chronicles a young soldier, Alyosha, and his six-day trip home from the front during World War II, which "sweeps you, with feeling, into the physical and psychological world of Russians at war." And it is on YouTube. [more inside]
In need of an entertaining cinematic podcast to meet your listening needs? Then tune into Fighting in the War Room! Previously known as Operation Kino, Fighting in the War Room features fascinating discussions between film critics Katey Rich (Vanity Fair), Matt Patches (Hollywood.com / Vulture.com), Da7e Gonzales, and David Ehrlich (Film.com), offering reviews of current films, as well general cinema related topics. [more inside]
"The rise in popularity of television is credited with inciting the move to the widescreen systems that flourished throughout the 50s, 60s, and 70s. This is only partially true. In the early 1950s, studios did begin to compose their movies so that the top and bottom of the picture could be chopped off and a wider screen would show the center of the old 1.37:1 frame. The aspect ratio used by the various studios varied from about 1.5:1 up to the common 1.85:1. But the real reason for the birth of a multitude of widescreen and large format systems was the 1952 opening of a movie made in a process that had its roots in a World War II aerial gunnery trainer. This Is Cinerama (modern YouTube trailer; Wikipedia) shook the industry to the core. The public and reviewers loved it. Its giant screen filled with three oversized 35mm images and an incredible new sound system called Stereophonic were a marvel to behold, and the studios immediately rushed to find something that could do what Cinerama did (Google books preview of the August 1952 issue of Popular Mechanics)." [more inside]