Since his death from cancer at age 32, comedian Bill Hicks's (very previously) legend and stature have only grown; American: The Bill Hicks Story (previously) fills in the details of a life cut tragically short, blending live footage and animation, and is narrated by the 10 people who knew Bill best. A comic's comic and unflagging critic of hypocrisy and cultural emptiness, American: The Bill Hicks Story is now streaming for free on Snag Films.
The enigma of Mona Lisa's smile? Who cares? The mystery of Dido Belle is much more intriguing. The double portrait Dido Elizabeth Belle and Lady Elizabeth Murray, once attributed to Johann Zoffany and now hanging in Scone Palace in Perth, depicts two elegant 18th-century women in silks and pearls at Kenwood House in London. Beyond them, you can just glimpse St Paul's and the rest of the Georgian cityscape. Nothing unusual about any of that, but for one detail – Dido is mixed race. Belle is about slavery and follows on the heels of Steve McQueen's Oscar-winning 12 Years a Slave. An impossible act to follow, you might suppose. Yet the two films could hardly be more different. "I wouldn't want audiences to come to Belle and think they were about to see '12 Years a Slave Mark 2'," Asante says. Based in Britain and rooted in fact, Belle is an extraordinary story, she tells me: Dido Elizabeth Belle (1761-1804) was the daughter of John Lindsay, a British admiral, and an African slave. She grew up in Kenwood House, Hampstead, under the guardianship of Lord Chief Justice Mansfield. One delicately speculative Guardian article about a painting and its context leads to a fascinating portait of a Ghanaian/British filmmaker and the circumstances that formed her. Asante has always had an "extra eye" and sees herself as an insider and outsider (all directors, she believes, need to be emotionally ambidextrous).
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]
Ronald D. Moore and Brannon Braga discuss writing the Star Trek: The Next Generation series finale. [more inside]
Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return set a record for the all-time worst opening weekend for an animated film. Executive Producer Greg Centineo attributed the failure to a "conspiracy" of Hollywood's powers-that-be against independent production company Alpine Pictures. In light of Oz's glacially-delayed release schedule and shabby production values, it would appear that the heads of Alpine are completely incompetent…or are they? [more inside]
The Spielberg Oner: "One overlooked aspect of Spielberg is that he's actually a stealth master of the long take. From Duel to Tintin, for forty years, he has sneakily filmed many scenes in a single continuous shot." [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.
Film is Forever is a 16 minute short film made by students in the Lights, Camera, Action! class at West Ridge Middle School in Austin, Texas in partnership with Creative Action -- a team of teaching artists who run interactive performances, community-based programs and arts residencies in schools. More student-created work can be viewed on their web gallery.
Richard Linklater's Boyhood casts the same group of actors to shoot a movie over a 12-year period (2002-2014) portraying the coming-of-age of Mason, played by Ellar Coltrane, who speaks about the experience here.
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'.
Bonding over Bond: Superego’s Matt Gourley and Matt Mira of The Nerdist Podcast love James Bond so much they decided to make a podcast about it. Each episode they invite a guest to take a serious — and seriously funny! — deep dive into “the greatest film franchise known to man.” Oh, and it's called James Bonding! (Of course there are Paul F. Tompkins epsiodes, why do you ask?) [more inside]
With Career View, The Dissolve (previously) offers an extensive survey, and critical summary, of a career in film. [more inside]
"Draft Day," "Moneyball," and the rise of the sports management movie. There’s a new breed of sports movie in town, one that does away with all that pesky team building and ersatz democracy. These films celebrate the real heroes of sports, the real heroes of any workplace: the bosses.
Over a hundred years ago, a most impressive collection of early motion pictures was collected by the Swiss Jesuit abbot, Josef-Alexis Joye, who collected a trove of films as a way of educating children and adults. In total, he collected around 2,500 titles between 1902 or 1904 and 1915. The abbot's collection was not forgotten or lost after his death in 1919 -- it was stored and cataloged, though in danger of deteriorating by the 1940s. A few decades later, Italian film historian Davide Turconi, fearing that the films would be entirely through deterioration, decided to clip a few frames from each print and save something of the collection. Luckily, his fears were unfounded, and many the films were preserved in the 1970s by David Francis of the National Film and Television Archive of the British Film Institute, where approximately 1,200 of the nitrate prints still exist. [more inside]
Why This Movie Perfectly Re-Created a Picasso, Destroyed It, and Mailed the Evidence to Picasso’s Estate.
You've heard of dog and horse shows, but are you familiar with rabbit shows? Rabbit Fever is a coming-of-age story that follows six competitors as they strive to win the top title at the National American Rabbit Convention - an event that draws more than 20,000 rabbits in one building, the largest mass of rabbits in the world. While adult members of the rabbit habit compete for BEST IN SHOW, the teenage enthusiasts quest for an even more coveted honor in the rabbit community - Rabbit King and Queen!
Made for French television to promote a map exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Paris Raúl Ruiz's (wiki imdb) Zig-Zag is a good place to begin one's trek through the Chilean artists work. [more inside]
Introducing Sociology: Tim Kreider's influential 1999 essay (previously) on how Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut uses sex and infidelity to cover up a story of greed and murder by the elite gets a brand new afterward by the author to introduce a new site for his non-fiction writing, TimKreider.com
"It’s a very exciting night for us, because it’s not just the première of the film, it is the worldwide release date." - Joss Whedon's new film, "In Your Eyes" celebrated its global premiere and release simultaneously tonight. The Dissolve weighs in on the release, mere days after the first few minutes of the film were previewed online. TheWrap has further coverage on the film and on the evolving nature of self-distribution in the arts world. [more inside]
British Pathe releases 85K videos to YouTube. An archive of film from the late 1800s onward is now available on YouTube.
Before Firefly, there was the television movie White Dwarf, a far-future pseudo-western scripted by Bruce "Wild Palms" Wagner. The story is essentially Kurosawa's Red Beard relocated to the tidally-locked planet of Rusta, a frontier world split between a Victorian dayside culture and a medieval nightside kingdom. Neal McDonough stars as an arrogant young Earth doctor dispatched to a Light Side clinic to complete an internship under the unorthodox Paul Winfield.
"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.
David Cronenberg: a virtual exhibition based on an exhibit at the Toronto International Film Festival.
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.
Part 1 and Part 2 of a 35MM promo reel for Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. The reel features some alternate takes and cut scenes, and is possibly narrated by Kubrick himself. via Cinephilia, who also have a bunch of great photos of Kubrick at work on the set.
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."