21
Dec
2014

Movie Theater

In a new survey that should surprise no one, kids aren’t going to the theater as much as they used to.

According to a recent Nielsen survey, people between the ages of 12 and 24 – also known as “digitals” – aren’t going to the theater quite as much any more. In a survey of 4,100 people during Sept., it was found that the digitals saw an average of 7.1 movies in the theater in 2013, down from an average of 8.4 in 2014.

In a further non-surprise, the study found that 36 percent of the digitals said they were steaming more content this year than last year. 87 percent said that they had streamed movies or TV shows, and 60 percent said they had streamed at least two feature-length films in just one day.

Amongst those aged 25 to 44, movie going ticked up slightly from an average of 7.7 in 2013 to 8.1 in 2014, but those between 45 and 74 dropped to an average of 6.7 from 7.2.

While the two older groups essentially cancel one another out, the loss of the younger group is definitely going to hurt the bank accounts of Hollywood studios. However, they can save some money by running fewer television ads as the survey also found the digitals trust trailers, social media and their friends more than they do commercials. This shouldn’t be too shocking however as trailers pop-up online in seconds and are viewed millions of times. This group isn’t exactly into watching TV in the traditional sense, and they sure as heck don’t watch commercials.

There is no doubt that the industry is changing. And although I fall into the 25 to 44 group, I see maybe one or two movies per year in the theater any more. Even if I have to buy it online as opposed to waiting for it appear on Netflix, I would rather do that with these current ticket prices. At least I then own it, and if I do like the film I can then show it friend or family, or watch it as many times as I like. Paying for a ticket, liking the film and then paying for it again at home just makes no sense to me, especially when the gap between theatrical and digital release has dropped to 12 to 16 weeks. Sure there are exceptions to my personal rule, but in general, I just don’t find it that appealing any more to head to a theater.

Of course this all begs the question of how studios will continue to make enough money to make more films. Thank goodness for foreign sales?

[ Via The Hollywood Reporter ]

20
Dec
2014

The Interview - 1

I had no interest in seeing The Interview. Sure, I probably would have watched it on cable some day, but in the theater? Nope. Definitely not.

However, when all of the hoopla fired up recently after a group calling themselves Guardians of Peace (GoP) made terroristic threats against any theater showing it, I was ready to buy my ticket on the spot.

Why would something like this change my mind? Why would a threat make me see a movie I previously had no interest in? Because I knew at that moment that The Interview suddenly mattered.

The Backstory

Hacked by GOP

I’m not going to dive into the minutia of everything that transpired. The short version is North Korea expressed its displeasure for this movie as soon as it was announced. Seth Rogen, James Franco and Sony Pictures opted to move ahead with it. As the release date crept closer, Sony Pictures was hacked and a data dump from a Hollywood studio the likes of which had never been seen before began to hit the Internet. Emails, documents, personal information and more were contained in the info dumps. It was definitely not pretty.

The hackers threatened that more would come out if Sony did not halt the release of The Interview, but the studio said it wouldn’t pull the film. As promised, more data got out.

Earlier this week, when another group of info got out, the GoP threatened incidents at theaters showing the film.

Warning

We will clearly show it to you at the very time and places “The Interview” be shown, including the premiere, how bitter fate those who seek fun in terror should be doomed to.

Soon all the world will see what an awful movie Sony Pictures Entertainment has made.

The world will be full of fear.

Remember the 11th of September 2001.

We recommend you to keep yourself distant from the places at that time.

(If your house is nearby, you’d better leave.)

Sony Pictures then told theater owners they could pull out of showing the film, and they dropped out in droves.

On Wednesday of this week, Sony Pictures pulled the film completely and announced that it has no plans now to release the film. There will be no theatrical run. No Video on Demand release. So far as we know this film will now be locked in a vault and will never see the light of day.

And with that, a cold chill was sent through all of Hollywood, and one of the most dangerous precedents in recent memory of the film industry was set. Will any controversial topic ever be tackled again on film?

What This Means

The Interview - 2

After the threat was issued, the Department of Homeland Security said the following in a statement:

We are still analyzing the credibility of these statements, but at this time there is no credible intelligence to indicate an active plot against movie theaters within the United States.

In the wake of the events in Aurora, Colorado in 2012, it is understandable that theaters would want to be cautious. I get that. But when even the government is saying that there is nothing credible here, do we still act like we have to bow to this?

This is where we start down the slippery slope. This is where The Interview begins to matter. Let me present you with a 100% hypothetical situation. Lets say Salvagers 3 is coming out soon, and there is a group of tech savvy kids who hate it. Man do they hate this crappy film series. They hate the Salvagers series so much that they think no one should even see it. So a month or so before it comes out they hack the studio releasing it. Maybe they don’t even have to hack it, but at some point they are able to get some attention for themselves and they release an anonymous threat that this film is offensive to some group, and due to the insensitive way that group is being portrayed, they will attack movie theaters across the U.S. that show it to raise awareness.

Yes, this is a hypothetical situation, but it could indeed happen. We’ve now seen one studio bow to anonymous threats, so what is to stop the next one? And the one after that? At what point do we stop bowing to anonymous threats? People have been cautious once, should they remain so for eternity now?

In the wake of The Interview being pulled from release, some theaters got the amusing idea to run Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s Team America: World Police in its place. This 2004 film made fun of Kim Jung Il, the father of the current North Korean leader that was set to be mocked in The Interview. These plans were announced on Wednesday by several theaters shortly after the news came out about the pulling of the new film.

On Thursday Paramount, which owns Team America, told the theaters they would not be providing them with copies of the film.

What Happened to Hollywood?

Chaplin - The Great Dictator

Have you ever seen Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator? It was released in 1940, but filming began on it Sept. 1939, a mere week after the official start of World War II. He had worked on the script throughout 1938 and 1939 as he was concerned by what he was seeing transpire in Germany under Adolf Hitler.

While it was originally banned in the U.K. under that countries appeasement policy put in place by Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, by the time the film was released the U.K. was at war with Germany and the ban was lifted.

The Great Dictator went on to become Chaplin’s highest grossing film and was nominated for five Academy Awards.

It is reported that a copy of the film was sent to Hitler himself, and while some reports say he did indeed watch it, some saying he viewed it twice, there is at least one report he never viewed it.

So… what happened Hollywood? 74 years ago you were willing to release a film that openly mocked one of the worst men in the history of the world, with one of the largest war machines ever assembled, but now we can’t release a film that mocks a man that runs a country that can’t even generate enough energy to light the majority of its land mass at night. Not only that, you won’t allow theaters to show a 10 year old movie that mocks his dead father.

Somehow Team America was okay 10 years ago, but now… oh no, we can’t let theaters show a film that I can stream into my house on a moments notice from Netflix.

Have we truly become this scared? Have we truly allowed a man who runs a decaying country dictate to us what we will and will not show in theaters? This frightens me… greatly.

What Comes Next?

The Interview - 3

Pandora’s Box is open, folks.

Will every film now be run through some sort of screening process before it even begins filming? It’ll just about have to, no one should be offended by a movie, you know? I mean, Hollywood has never, ever made movies that offend anyone, anywhere, and they’ll just have to make doubly sure of that now.

We have started down a slippery slope, and no matter how insignificant you may have considered The Interview at one time, its long shadow will be cast over the industry as a whole for years to come. The studios are going to want to take even less risks than they do now because of this. Why try something edgy or thought provoking when you can pump out another generic sequel or reboot something everyone loved at one time?

We’ve already seen Steve Carell’s Pyongyang, a thriller about a Westerner working in North Korea for a year, cancelled. It was already in the prep phase with filming set to begin in March with Gore Verbinski directing.

The sanitizing of the film industry has already begun in the wake of this fiasco, and it won’t be stopping in my opinion. Every film currently in any stage of production is going to be re-examined is my guess, and anyone that is even thinking of a story pitch right now is going to be rethinking his or her plots.

As for Sony Pictures, I’m honestly not sure what its fate will be. Even if you ignore all of the leaked information, it could be in for a rough ride. It has demonstrated that it won’t stand by its filmmakers and will instead cave when the going gets tough. It’s not a studio I would want to put my trust in to see my project come to fruition, that’s for sure.

The Interview may have just been some silly comedy originally, but now it will be a film that will be remembered for changing the film industry. Is that a grandiose statement? Yes. Do I think it will come true… yep.

19
Dec
2014

Mark Wahlberg - Transformers: Age of Extinction

While it’s doubtful many people thought otherwise, Mark Wahlberg has confirmed he will return for Transformers 5.

Oh… good.

It’s still up in the air if Michael Bay will be back for a fifth Transformers movie, but it appears that Wahlberg will indeed be returning as Cade Yeager. While promoting The Gambler, the actor confirmed to MTV that he signed for multiple films.

I committed to doing a couple more. I can’t speak for Mr. Bay but something tells me we’ll be on the set soon.

There’s no clue who he meant by “we,” but at least we can sleep now knowing that Wahlberg will bring his… um… unique acting style to the franchise again.

I had a lot of problems with Transformers: Age of Extinction, and while I didn’t call him out per se in my post, believe me, he sucked.

Say hi to your mother for me, Mark.

[ Source MTV ]

18
Dec
2014

The Big Lebowski

It’s that time of year again where the National Film Preservation Board has made its annual announcement of which films are being added to The National Film Registry.

For those unfamiliar with the project, each year up to 25 films are selected for preservation in the Library of Congress.  Each film must be at least 10-years-old, they do not have to be feature length and they do not have to have received a theatrical release.

This year’s list includes:

  • 13 Lakes (2004)
  • Bert Williams Lime Kiln Club Field Day (1913)
  • The Big Lebowski (1998)
  • Down Argentine Way (1940)
  • The Dragon Painter (1919)
  • Felicia (1965)
  • Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
  • The Gang’s All Here (1943)
  • House of Wax (1953)
  • Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport (2000)
  • Little Big Man (1970)
  • Luxo Jr. (1986)
  • Moon Breath Beat (1980)
  • Please Don’t Bury Me Alive! (1976)
  • The Power and the Glory (1933)
  • Rio Bravo (1959)
  • Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
  • Ruggles of Red Gap (1935)
  • Saving Private Ryan (1998)
  • Shoes (1916)
  • State Fair (1933)
  • Unmasked (1917)
  • V-E + 1 (1945)
  • The Way of Peace (1947)
  • Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)

It makes me oddly happy of only seen nine of this year’s 25 selections. First of all it gives me more to watch, and two it means they really are trying to preserve film and not just what was popular. Considering the way movies are going these days, I’d much rather dig into the films on this list I haven’t seen.

Any movies on the list that confuse you? The press release below includes a section of why each film was chosen.

You can send in up to 50 films for the 2015 list, get to it folks! Before you do, however, make sure your choices are not already in the registry.

You can also check out the additions for 2006200720082009201020112012 and 2013.

Cinematic Treasures Named to National Film Registry

“Saving Private Ryan,” “Luxo Jr.” and “Rosemary’s Baby” Among Film Additions

The horrors of war, the heroism of sacrifice, a vaudeville pioneer, the devil and a master of the macabre represent the diversity of an elite selection of films recognized for their cultural, historic or aesthetic significance. Librarian of Congress James H. Billington announced today the annual selection of 25 motion pictures to be named to the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress. Selection to the registry will help ensure that these films will be preserved for all time.

“The National Film Registry showcases the extraordinary diversity of America’s film heritage and the disparate strands making it so vibrant,” said Billington. “By preserving these films, we protect a crucial element of American creativity, culture and history.”

Spanning the period 1913-2004, the films named to the registry include Hollywood classics, documentaries, silent movies, student films, independent and experimental motion pictures. This year’s selections bring the number of films in the registry to 650, which is a small fraction of the Library’s vast moving-image collection of 1.3 million items.

The 2014 registry list includes such iconic movies as “Saving Private Ryan,” a treatise about the harsh realities of war, which earned director Steven Spielberg an Academy Award; the chilling 1968 horror masterpiece “Rosemary’s Baby”; Arthur Penn’s Western saga starring Dustin Hoffman, “Little Big Man”; director John Hughes’ “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”; and Joel and Ethan Coen’s cult classic, “The Big Lebowski.”

The list also includes John Lasseter’s 1986 animated film, “Luxo Jr.”; the 1953 “House of Wax,” the first full-length 3-D color film produced and released by a major American film studio; 1971’s “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” starring Gene Wilder; Howard Hawks’ 1959 Western “Rio Bravo”; and Charles Laughton comic turn in the 1935 “Ruggles of Red Gap.” Also making the list is Efraín Gutiérrez’s 1976 independent movie, “Please Don’t Bury Me Alive!,” considered by historians to be the first Chicano feature film.

The documentaries and shorts named to the registry include “Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport,” a film examining the rescue operation that placed thousands of Jewish children with foster families in Great Britain prior to World War II; “Felicia,” a 13-minute short that showcases a Watts neighborhood through a teenager’s first-person narrative; and the 1980 “Moon Breath Beat,” created by animator Lisze Bechtold when she was a student at CalArts.

The silent films selected for preservation include “The Dragon Painter,” (1919) starring Hollywood’s first Asian star, Sessue Hayakawa; the 1916 social drama examining poverty and prostitution, “Shoes”; and “Unmasked,” the 1917 film directed and scripted by its star Grace Cunard. Also added to the registry are seven reels of untitled and unassembled footage featuring vaudevillian Bert Williams, the first African-American Broadway headliner and the most popular recording artist before 1920.

In 2013, the Library of Congress released a report that conclusively determined that 70 percent of the nation’s silent feature films have been lost forever and only 14 percent exist in their original 35 mm format.

Under the terms of the National Film Preservation Act, each year the Librarian of Congress names 25 films to the National Film Registry that are “culturally, historically or aesthetically” significant. The films must be at least 10 years old. The Librarian makes the annual registry selections after reviewing hundreds of titles nominated by the public and conferring with Library film curators and the distinguished members of the National Film Preservation Board (NFPB). The public is urged to make nominations for next year’s registry at the NFPB’s website (www.loc.gov/film/).

For each title named to the registry, the Library of Congress Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation works to ensure that the film is preserved for future generations, either through the Library’s motion-picture preservation program or through collaborative ventures with other archives, motion-picture studios and independent filmmakers. The Packard Campus is a state-of-the-art facility where the nation’s library acquires, preserves and provides access to the world’s largest and most comprehensive collection of films, television programs, radio broadcasts and sound recordings (www.loc.gov/avconservation/).

The Packard Campus is home to more than 7 million collection items. It provides staff support for the Library of Congress National Film Preservation Board, the National Recording Preservation Board and the National Registries for film and recorded sound.

Founded in 1800, the Library of Congress is the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution. It seeks to spark imagination and creativity and to further human understanding and wisdom by providing access to knowledge through its vast collections, programs and exhibitions. Many of the Library’s rich resources can be accessed through its website at www.loc.gov.

2014 National Film Registry

13 Lakes (2004)
James Benning’s feature-length film can be seen as a series of moving landscape paintings with artistry and scope that might be compared to Claude Monet’s series of water-lily paintings. Embracing the concept of “landscape as a function of time,” Benning shot his film at 13 different American lakes in identical 10-minute takes. Each is a static composition: a balance of sky and water in each frame with only the very briefest suggestion of human existence. At each lake, Benning prepared a single shot, selected a single camera position and a specific moment. The climate, the weather and the season deliver a level of variation to the film, a unique play of light, despite its singularity of composition. Curators of the Rotterdam Film Festival noted, “The power of the film is that the filmmaker teaches the viewer to look better and learn to distinguish the great varieties in the landscape alongside him. [The list of lakes] alone is enough to encompass a treatise on America and its history. A treatise the film certainly encourages, but emphatically does not take part in.” Benning, who studied mathematics and then film at the University of Wisconsin, currently is on the faculty at the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts).
Bert Williams Lime Kiln Club Field Day (1913)
In 1913, a stellar cast of African-American performers gathered in the Bronx, New York, to make a feature-length motion picture. The troupe starred vaudevillian Bert Williams, the first African-American to headline on Broadway and the most popular recording artist prior to 1920. After considerable footage was shot, the film was abandoned. One hundred years later, the seven reels of untitled and unassembled footage were discovered in the film vaults of the Museum of Modern Art, and are now believed to constitute the earliest surviving feature film starring black actors. Modeled after a popular collection of stories known as “Brother Gardener’s Lime Kiln Club,” the plot features three suitors vying to win the hand of the local beauty, portrayed by Odessa Warren Grey. The production also included members of the Harlem stage show known as J. Leubrie Hill’s “Darktown Follies.” Providing insight into early silent-film production (Williams can be seen applying his blackface makeup), these outtakes or rushes show white and black cast and crew working together, enjoying themselves in unguarded moments. Even in fragments of footage, Williams proves himself among the most gifted of screen comedians.

The Big Lebowski (1998)
From the unconventional visionaries Joel & Ethan Coen (the filmmakers behind “Fargo” and “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”) came this 1998 tale of kidnapping, mistaken identity and bowling. As they would again in the 2008 “Burn After Reading,” the Coens explore themes of alienation, inequality and class structure via a group of hard-luck, off-beat characters suddenly drawn into each other’s orbits. Jeff Bridges, in a career-defining role, stars as “The Dude,” an LA-based slacker who shares a last name with a rich man whose arm-candy wife is indebted to shady figures. Joining Bridges are John Goodman, Tara Reid, Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Steve Buscemi and, in a now-legendary cameo, John Turturro. Stuffed with vignettes—each staged through the Coens’ trademark absurdist, innovative visual style—that are alternately funny and disturbing, “Lebowski” was only middling successful at the box office during its initial release. However, television, the Internet, home video and considerable word-of-mouth have made the film a highly quoted cult classic.

Down Argentine Way (1940)
Betty Grable’s first starring role in a Technicolor musical happened only because Alice Faye had an attack of appendicitis, but Grable took advantage of the situation and quickly made herself as important to 20th Century-Fox as Faye. Released just over a year before America entered World War II, this film and others starring Grable established her as the pinup queen. The title explains much, with Grable traveling to South America and falling in love with Don Ameche. Carmen Miranda makes her American film debut, and the Nicholas Brothers’ unparalleled dance routines dazzle.

The Dragon Painter (1919)
After becoming Hollywood’s first Asian star, Japanese-born Sessue Hayakawa, like many leading film actors of the time, formed his own production company—Haworth Pictures (combining his name with that of director William Worthington)—to gain more control over his films. “The Dragon Painter,” one of more than 20 feature films his company produced between 1918 and 1922, teamed Hayakawa and his wife Tsuru Aoki in the story of an obsessed, untutored painter who loses his artistic powers after he finds and marries the supposed “dragon princess.” His passion and earlier pursuit of her had consumed him with the urge to create. Reviewers of the time praised the film for its seemingly authentic Japanese atmosphere, including the city of Hakone and its Shinto gates, built in Yosemite Valley, California.

Felicia (1965)
This 13-minute short subject, marketed as an educational film, records a slice of life in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles prior to the rebellions of 1965. Filmmakers Trevor Greenwood, Robert Dickson and Alan Gorg were UCLA film students when they crafted a documentary from the perspective of the unassuming-yet-articulate teenager Felicia Bragg, a high-school student of African-American and Hispanic descent. Felicia’s first-person narrative reflects her hopes and frustrations as she annotates footage of her family, school and neighborhood, creating a time capsule that’s both historically and culturally significant. Its provenance as an educational film continues today as university courses use “Felicia” to teach documentary filmmaking techniques and cite it as an example of how non-traditional sources, as well as mainstream television news, reflect and influence public opinion.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
The late John Hughes, the king of both 1980s family comedy (“Home Alone”) and teen angst (“Sixteen Candles”), achieved a career highpoint with this funny, heartfelt tale of a teenage wiseacre (Matthew Broderick) whose day playing hooky leads not only to a host of comic misadventures but also, ultimately, to self-realization for both him and his friends. Hughes’ manner of depicting late-20th-century youth—their outward and inward lives—finds a successful vehicle in the “everyman” appeal of lead Broderick, whose conning of his parents is really an honest and earnest attempt to help his best friend. With the city of Chicago serving as backdrop and a now-iconic street performance of “Twist and Shout” serving as the film’s centerpiece, Ferris Bueller emerged as one of film’s greatest and most fully realized teen heroes. Alan Ruck, Mia Sara, Jennifer Grey and Jeffrey Jones co-starred in the film. This is Hughes’ first film on the registry.

The Gang’s All Here (1943)
Although not remembered as well today as those put out by MGM, 20th Century-Fox’s big Technicolor musicals stand up well in comparison. Showgirl Alice Faye, Fox’s No. 1 musical star, is romanced by a soldier who uses an assumed name and then turns out to be a rich playboy. Carmen Miranda is also featured and her outrageous costume is highlighted in the legendary musical number “The Lady in the Tutti Frutti Hat.” Busby Berkeley, who had just finished a long stint directing musicals at MGM and an earlier one at Warner Bros., directs and choreographs the film.

House of Wax (1953)
A remake of 1933’s “Mystery of the Wax Museum,” the 1953 “House of Wax” expanded upon the earlier horror tale of a mad sculptor who encases his victims’ corpses in wax. It added the dark talents of Vincent Price and helped introduce 3-D visual effects to a wide audience. “House of Wax,” produced by Warner Bros. and released in April 1953, is considered the first full-length 3-D color film ever produced and released by a major American film studio. Along with its technical innovations, “House of Wax” also solidified Vincent Price’s new role as America’s master of the macabre, and his voice resonated even more with the emerging stereophonic sound process. Though he had flirted with the fear genre earlier in his career in the 1946 “Shock,” “Wax” forever recast him as one of the first gentlemen of Hollywood horror. Along with Price, Phyllis Kirk, Frank Lovejoy and Carolyn Jones (as one of Price’s early victims) complete the cast. André de Toth directed the film.

Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport (2000)
Just prior to World War II, a rescue operation aided the youngest victims of Nazi terror when 10,000 Jewish and other children were sent from their homes and families to live with foster families and in group homes in Great Britain. This Oscar-winning film was directed by Mark Jonathan Harris, writer and director of another Oscar winner, “The Long Way Home,” and was produced by Deborah Oppenheimer, whose mother was among the children evacuated. The film examines the bond between parent and child, uncovering the anguish of the parents who reluctantly acknowledged they could no longer protect their children, but through their love saw a chance to protect them, by proxy if not proximity. Interviews with the surviving children reveal feelings of abandonment and estrangement that often took years to overcome. The film is a tribute not only to the children who survived, but to the people of England who agreed to rescue the refugees when U.S. leadership would not.

Little Big Man (1970)
In this Arthur Penn-directed Western, Dustin Hoffman (with exceptional assistance from make-up artist Dick Smith) plays a 121-year-old man looking back at his life as a pioneer in America’s Old West. The film is ambitious, both in its historical scope and narrative approach, which interweaves fact and myth, historical figures and events and fanciful tall tales. “Little Big Man” has been called an epic reinvented as a yarn, and the Western reimagined for a post-1960s audience, one already well-versed in the white hat-black hat tradition of the typical Hollywood Western saga. Against a backdrop that includes the cavalry, old-time medicine shows, life on the frontier and a climax at Custer’s Last Stand, Penn, Hoffman and scriptwriter Calder Willingham (from the novel by Thomas Berger) upend Western motifs while also still skillfully telling a series of remarkable human stories filled with tragedy and humor.

Luxo Jr. (1986)
The iconic living, moving desk lamp that now begins every Pixar motion picture (from “Finding Nemo” to “Monsters, Inc.” to “Up”) has its genesis in this charming, computer-animated short subject, directed by John Lasseter and produced by Lasseter and fellow Pixar visionary Bill Reeves. In the two-minute, 30-second film, two gray balance-arm lamps—one parentally large and one childishly small (the “Junior” of the title)—interact with a brightly colored ball. In strikingly vivid animation, Lasseter and Reeves manage to bring to joyous life these two inanimate objects and to infuse them both with personality and charm—qualities that would become the norm in such soon-to-be Pixar productions as “Toy Story,” “Cars” and “WALL-E.” Nominated for an Oscar in 1986 for best-animated short, “Luxo Jr.” was the first three-dimensional computer-animated film ever to be nominated for an Academy Award.

Moon Breath Beat (1980)
Lisze Bechtold created “Moon Breath Beat,” a five-minute color short subject, in 1980 while a student at California Institute of the Arts under the tutelage of artist and filmmaker Jules Engel, who founded the Experimental Animation program at CalArts. Engel asked, hypothetically, “What happens when an animator follows a line, a patch of color, or a shape into the unconscious? What wild images would emerge?” “Moon Breath Beat” reveals Bechtold responding with fluidity and whimsy. Her two-dimensional film was animated to a pre-composed rhythm, the soundtrack cut together afterward, sometimes four frames at a time, to match picture with track, she says. The dream-like story evolved as it was animated, depicting a woman and her two cats and how such forces as birds and the moon impact their lives. Following graduation, Bechtold was the effects animator for the Disney short “The Prince and the Pauper” (1990) and principal effects animator for “FernGully: The Last Rainforest” (1992). Now primarily an author and illustrator, she claims many of her characters were inspired by pets with big personalities, including “Buster the Very Shy Dog,” the subject of her series of children’s books.

Please Don’t Bury Me Alive! (1976)
The San Antonio barrio in the early 1970s is the setting for writer, director and star Efraín Gutiérrez’s independent piece, considered by historians to be the first Chicano feature film. A self-taught filmmaker, Gutiérrez not only created the film from top to bottom on a shoestring, he also acted as its initial distributor and chief promoter, negotiating bookings throughout the Southwest where it filled theaters in Chicano neighborhoods. He tells his story in the turbulent days near the end of the Vietnam War, as a young Chicano man questioning his and his people’s place in society as thousands of his Latino brethren return from the war in coffins. Chon Noriega, director of the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center, wrote, “The film is important as an instance of regional filmmaking, as a bicultural and bilingual narrative, and as a precedent that expanded the way that films got made. …” Cultural historians often compare Gutiérrez to Oscar Micheaux, the pioneering African-American filmmaker who came to prominence in the 1920s.

The Power and the Glory (1933)
Preston Sturges’ first original screenplay, “The Power and the Glory,” is a haunting tragedy in sharp contrast to the comedies of the 1940s that established him as one of America’s foremost writer-directors. Contrary to common practice of the time, Sturges wrote the film as a complete shooting script, which producer Jesse L. Lasky, believing it “the most perfect script I’d ever seen,” ordered director William K. Howard to film as written. Compared favorably to novels by Henry James and Joseph Conrad for its extensive mix of narration with dramatic action (Fox Studios coined the word “narratage” to publicize Sturges’ innovative technique), “The Power and the Glory” introduced a non-chronological structure to mainstream movies that was said to influence “Citizen Kane.” Like that film, “The Power and the Glory” presents a fragmented rags-to-riches tale of an American industrial magnate that begins with his death, in this case a suicide, and sensitively proceeds to produce a deeply affecting, morally ambivalent portrayal. The Nation magazine called Spencer Tracy’s performance in the lead role “one of the fullest characterizations ever achieved on screen.”

Rio Bravo (1959)
As legend goes, this Western, directed by Howard Hawks, was produced in part as a riposte to Fred Zinnemann’s “High Noon.” The film trades in the wide-open spaces for the confines of a small jail where a sheriff and his deputies are waiting for the transfer of a prisoner and the anticipated attempt by his equally unlawful brother to break the prisoner out. John Wayne stars as sheriff John T. Chance and is aided in his efforts to keep the law by Walter Brennan, Dean Martin and Ricky Nelson. Angie Dickinson is the love interest and Western regulars Claude Akins, Ward Bond and Pedro Gonzalez are also featured. A smart Western where gunplay is matched by wordplay, “Rio Bravo” is a terrific ensemble piece and director Hawks’ last great film.

Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
With “Rosemary’s Baby,” writer-director Roman Polanski brought his expressive European style of psychological filmmaking to an intricately plotted, best-selling American novel by Ira Levin, and created a masterpiece of the horror-film genre. Set in the sprawling Dakota apartment building on New York’s Central Park West, the film conveys an increasing sense of unease, claustrophobia and paranoia as the central character, convincingly played by Mia Farrow in her first starring role, comes to believe that a cult of witches in the building is implementing a plot against her and her unborn child. The supporting cast that Polanski assembled—John Cassavetes as Rosemary’s husband, Ruth Gordon and Sidney Blackmer as their neighbors, and Ralph Bellamy as her doctor—portray believably banal New Yorkers who gain nearly total control over Rosemary’s daily life during her pregnancy. Insistent that “a thread of deliberate ambiguity runs throughout the film,” Polanski maintains that the film’s denouement can be understood in more than one way.

Ruggles of Red Gap (1935)
Charles Laughton, known for such serious roles as Nero, King Henry VIII and later as the 1935 Captain Bligh, takes on comedy in this tale of an English manservant won in a poker game by American Charlie Ruggles, a member of Red Gap, Washington’s extremely small social elite. Laughton, in understated valet fashion, worriedly responds: “North America, my lord. Quite an untamed country I understand.” However, once in America, he finds not uncouth backwoodsmen, but rather a more egalitarian society that soon has Laughton reciting the Gettysburg Address, catching the American spirit and becoming a successful businessman. Aided by comedy stalwarts ZaSu Pitts and Roland Young, Laughton really shows his acting range and pulls off comedy perfectly. It didn’t hurt that Leo McCarey, who had just worked with W.C. Fields and would next guide Harold Lloyd, was in the director’s chair. McCarey, who could pull heartstrings or touch funny bones with equal skill, started his long directorial career working with such comedy icons as Laurel & Hardy and created several beloved American films.

Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Through the years, Hollywood’s take on war, honor and heroism has taken many conflicting forms. “Saving Private Ryan” drops ordinary soldiers into a near-impossible rescue mission set amid the carnage of World War II’s Omaha Beach landing. The film’s beginning scenes vividly show us “war is hell,” as William T. Sherman said. Spielberg conveyed ultra-realism with harrowing intensity. “Omaha Beach was actually an ‘X’ setting,” says Spielberg, “even worse than ‘NC-17,’ and I just kind of feel that (I had) to tell the truth about this war at the end of the century, 54 years later. I wasn’t going to add my film to a long list of pictures that make World War II ‘the glamorous war,’ ‘the romantic war.’”

Shoes (1916)
Renowned silent era writer-director Lois Weber drew on her experiences as a missionary to create “Shoes,” a masterfully crafted melodrama heightened by Weber’s intent to create, as she noted in an interview, “a slice out of real life.” Weber’s camera empathetically documents the suffering her central character, an underpaid shopgirl struggling to support her family, endures daily—standing all day behind a shop counter, walking in winter weather in shoes that provided no protection, stepping on a nail that pierces her flesh. Combining a Progressive era reformer’s zeal to document social problems with a vivid flair for visual storytelling, Weber details Eva’s growing desire for the pair of luxurious shoes she passes each day in a shop window, her self-examination in a cracked mirror after she agrees to go out with a cabaret tout to acquire the shoes, her repugnance as the man puts his hands on her body, and her shame as she breaks down in tears while displaying her newly acquired goods to her mother. The film, which opens with pages from social worker Jane Addams’s sociological study of prostitution, was acclaimed by “Variety” as “a vision of life as it actually is … devoid of theatricalism.”

State Fair (1933)
For director Henry King to create a film that celebrated an institution as beloved and indomitable as the State Fair, it required the presence of a cherished and steadfast star—in this case, icon, philosopher and America’s favorite cowboy, Will Rogers. Rogers found a superlative vehicle for his homespun persona in this small town slice-of-life setting. He is assisted by Janet Gaynor (already the Academy’s very first best-actress winner), Lew Ayres and Sally Eilers. Enhancing the fair’s festivities, which include the making of mom’s entry for the cook-off and the fattening-up of the family pig, are diverse storylines rich with Americana and romance—some long-lasting and some ephemeral, rife with fun but fleeting as the fair itself. The film’s authenticity owes much to its director, widely known as the “King of Americana” through films such as “Tol’able David,” “Carousel” and “Wait till the Sun Shines, Nellie.”

Unmasked (1917)
At the time “Unmasked” was released, Grace Cunard rivaled daredevils Pearl White (“The Perils of Pauline”) and Helen Holmes (“The Hazards of Helen”) as America’s Serial Queen. In the film, Cunard is a jewel thief pursuing the same wealthy marks as another thief played by Francis Ford, brother of director John Ford and himself a director and character actor. Cunard, in the mode of many women filmmakers of that era, not only starred in the film, but also wrote its script and parlayed her contributions into a directorial role as well. Produced at Universal Studios, the epicenter of female directors during the silent era, “Unmasked” reflected a style associated with European filmmakers of the time: artful and sophisticated cinematography comprised of complex camera movements and contrasting depths of field. With a plot rich in female initiative and problem-solving, Cunard fashioned a strong character who does not fit the image of traditional womanhood: she relishes her heists, performs unladylike physical exploits, manipulates court evidence, carries on with a man who is not her husband and yet survives the film without punishment. In essence, the character Cunard created echoed the woman behind the camera. Today, “Unmasked” serves as a succinct but illustrative example of the role of women in film history, as depicted in fact and fiction.

V-E +1 (1945)
The silent 16 mm footage that makes up “V-E +1″ documents the burial of beaten and emaciated Holocaust victims found by Allied forces in the Nazi concentration camp at Falkenau, Czechoslovakia, as World War II ended in Europe. According to Samuel Fuller, who shot the footage while in the infantry unit that liberated the camp, the American commander in charge ordered leading civilians of the town who denied knowledge of the death camp to “prepare the bodies for a decent funeral,” parade them on wagons through the town, and bury them with dignity in the town’s cemetery. Fuller later became an acclaimed maverick writer-director known for crafting films that entertained, but nevertheless forced audiences to confront challenging societal issues. After making “The Big Red One,” a fictionalized version of his war experiences that included scenes set in Falkenau, Fuller unearthed his “V-E + 1″ footage and returned to Falkenau to comment on the experience for the French documentary “Falkenau: The Impossible Years.”

The Way of Peace (1947)
Frank Tashlin, best known for making comedies with pop icons like Jerry Lewis or Jayne Mansfield, directed this 18-minute puppet film sponsored by the American Lutheran Church. Punctuated with stories from the Bible, the film’s purpose was to reinforce Christian values in the atomic age by condemning the consequences of human conflict with scenes of the crucifixion, lynching and Nazi fascism. Wah Ming Chang, a visual- effects artist who specialized in designing fantastic models, characters and props, created the puppets for the stop-motion animation and also produced the film, which reportedly took 20 months to complete. The film is narrated by actor Lew Ayres, who starred in the anti-war film “All Quiet on the Western Front” (1930). He was so influenced by that experience, that he became a vocal advocate for peace and famously declared himself a conscientious objector during World War II. The Reverend H. K. Rasbach, a frequent adviser on big-budget films such as “The Ten Commandments” and “The Greatest Story Ever Told,” provided technical supervision and story concept. The film premiered at Constitution Hall in Washington D.C., with more than 2,700 in attendance, including members of Congress, representatives of the Supreme Court and 750 leaders from various branches of government.

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)
Author Roald Dahl adapted his own novel, Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley wrote a memorable musical score, and producer David Wolper wisely cast Gene Wilder as Wonka in this film musical about a contest put on by an often-sadistic candymaker. Harkening back to the classic Hollywood musicals, “Willy Wonka” is surreal, yet playful at the same time, and suffused with Harper Goff’s jaw-dropping color sets, which richly live up to the fanciful world found in one of the film’s signature songs, “Pure Imagination.” Wilder’s brilliant portrayal of the enigmatic Wonka caused theatergoers to like and fear Wonka at the same time, while the hallucinogenic tunnel sequence has traumatized children (and adults) for decades, their nightmares indelibly emblazoned in memory like the scariest scenes from “The Wizard of Oz.”

17
Dec
2014

Star Wars The Force Awakens logo

That’s Captain Phasma to you!

In addition to the character names released on the retro Star Wars: The Force Awakens trading cards from last week, Stitch Kingdom discovered a trademark filing for someone named “Captain Phasma.” That is literally all that is known at this time beyond it was filed for at the same time as BB-8, Kylo Ren and Poe Dameron. Not even a clue if this is a male or female, or who may be playing the role.

Is this a paper thin story? Yes. Is this the best story I could come up with right now because no one can talk about anything other than the never-ending Sony hack? Yes.

I really hate the Internet right now.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens hits theaters on Dec. 18, 2015.

[ Source Stitch Kingdom ]

16
Dec
2014

Man of Steel

In case you were wondering, yes, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is a sequel to Man of Steel and not just a launching pad for new characters.

With all the news of Batman, Wonder Woman and Aquaman showing up in 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice it’s easy to think this isn’t really a sequel to the recent Man of Steel, but a recent look at a draft of the script says otherwise. According to a report from Bad Ass Digest, however, not only is it an introduction to new characters, but the script directly addresses some of the criticisms of the last film.

The draft of the script the site was able to look at was dated a month before filming began, so things could have definitely changed. The movie apparently opens with Batman origin – because there may be a person on a desert island that isn’t familiar with it – and then jumps ahead to Bruce Wayne being in Metropolis during the Superman/Zod fight at the end of the first film.

After that apparently we move to a few years later and discover Clark is living with Lois while they both work at the Daily Planet. We will also learn how the world views Superman when he helps Lois with an assignment in the Middle East and it turns into an international incident. China has also apparently banned him from its airspace.

This draft of the script also made references to Superman telling a villain he would take them to prison as opposed to snapping their neck, and there is a reference to the Kryptonian moving a large fight to outside of a populated area because “that’s what heroes do.”

Glad they finally figured all of that out.

Again, this all comes from a draft of the script and things could have changed before filming began, but at least we know it was on their minds.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice will hit theaters March 25, 2016.

[ Source Bad Ass Digest ]

15
Dec
2014

Exodus banner

The box office year is winding down quietly to say the least.

Exodus: Gods and Kings took in $24.5 million this weekend off of a $140 million dollar budget. It was much quieter than the predictions, so it’s unclear how it will do from here on out.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 took in another $13.2 million and stands at $277.3 million domestically off of its $125 million dollar budget. While it started off slowly, it’s showing it does have some considerable legs in its fourth week. Worldwide it has broken $611 million.

Third place went to Penguins of Madagascar which took in $7.3 million and has hit $58.8 million domestically off of its $132 million dollar budget. Globally it’s at $178.5 million.

Top Five debuted in fourth place with $7.2 million off of a $10 million dollar budget.

Rounding out the top five was Disney’s Big Hero 6 which took in $6.1 million and now stands at $185.3 million domestically. Globally it’s at $253.5 million off of a $165 million dollar budget.

Next Wednesday sees the release of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, and Friday will see Annie and Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb.

Curious how I think these films will do? Check out my The Movies of 2014 – 4th Quarter report.

14
Dec
2014

BB-8 trailer shot

How does it feel to return to a career defining role 30 years later? Mark Hamill knows.

Hamill is currently doing press to promote his role in the upcoming Elf: Buddy’s Musical Christmas where he plays the role of Buddy’s father, Walter. Naturally, Yahoo Movies brought up the topic of Star Wars: The Force Awakens comes up, and Hamill has many thoughts on the upcoming seventh Star Wars film.

Bringing back the original trio – Hamill, Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher – was a risky proposition because could they recapture the magic of the original trilogy. And also… Hamill thought he could potentially ruin it.

And I mean, I’m one of those people where I just think, “Keep me out of it. I’ll ruin it, I’m sure!” [Laughs] I’ll show up and just ruin the whole thing.

I don’t want that pressure! It’s too much pressure! You know, because I said to George, “Have you really thought this through? Because maybe it’s not such a great idea.” But I had a feeling, I said,  “You know what – if there’s a weak link, if Carrie [Fisher] or Harrison [Ford] decides they don’t want to do it, there’s an out. Because it’s all or nothing. It should be all of us or none of us.” So I was ready to go either way. And now that we’re all in, we’ll see what happens.

The interviewer went on to ask if he immediately thought Ford, who has a notoriously cantankerous take on the role of Han Solo, might give him an out of the film.

Well, you know, he was someone that was unpredictable. I hadn’t seen him in years; I didn’t know what his feelings were. I know he’s sometimes grown impatient with people that don’t want to focus on what he’s doing currently and want to go stroll down memory lane. God knows, I’m used to that sort of thing. But who knew? And for him to jump back in so enthusiastically, I was delighted. It’s a wonderful character. Everybody loves Han Solo.

Of all the original cast, it really is surprising that Ford came back. It is well-known he asked Lucas to kill off Solo in Return of the Jedi, and since the trilogy ended he has never been one to speak overly fondly of the films. It’s not that he hates them, but as Hamill said, he always preferred to discuss what he was working on at that moment.

The geek in me was particuraly delighted by one very small tidbit about BB-8, the ball droid seen in the Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer. Although he looked a bit CGI in the trailer, it appears that the folks behind the film really are doing every effect they can as practical props.

[Laughs] I’m sure [interviewer’s son] loved the new little droid that’s a rolling ball. I’m sure he wants it under the tree this Christmas. They never cease to amaze me with what they’re able to come up with, you know? I said, “How are you ever gonna top R2-D2, the most adorable droid in movie history?” And then they have this new one. I can’t even tell you his name, [it has since been revealed to be BB-8 – Sean] but you saw it in the trailer. And when they were demonstrating how they did this thing, live on set — because it’s not CGI, that’s a live prop — I was just amazed. They let me play around with it. [Laughs] I was running it all around at the creature shop up in Pinewood. I’m telling you, it’s an absolute delight. And not having thought that I’d ever go back there, to go back into that world, is just – I get the chills. It’s just so much fun.

The more practical props the better in my book.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens hits theaters on Dec. 18, 2015.

[ Source Yahoo Movies ]

13
Dec
2014

Amazing Spider-Man 2 trailer

Rumors are swirling that Marvel and Sony are in talks for Spider-Man to join the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

As I’ve covered before, there are still some major Marvel properties the studio can’t get its hands on due to deals that were made when the comic publisher was in dire financial straits. While X-Men and Fantastic Four are tied up at Fox, Spider-Man and his associated characters are locked down over at Sony Pictures. Well, thanks to the recent hacking of that studios computers things may be about to change.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock you know that Sony Pictures was hacked recently and documents have been coming out left and right. Amongst them were some emails that detailed Sony and Marvel were in talks for Spider-Man to appear in Captain America: Civil War. Those discussions broke down back in October due to Sony wanting to retain creative control over the character, something Marvel just had no interest in.

Well, it seems the door may have re-opened in the wake of the hacking. According to Latino Review the studios are talking again, but under a very different set of circumstances. Apparently the new deal would call for a 60-40 split in financing any new films with Marvel taking on the larger chunk. Sony Pictures would handle distribution as well, but creative control would move over to Marvel under this deal. The arrangement would also call for the deck to be wiped clean which would mean Andrew Garfield would be out as Peter Parker and the history of the previous five films would be erased.

Before you go thinking, “Oh, good, that means another origin film…”, think again. Apparently Marvel feels the origin is well-known enough at this point that it could just pick up with Peter already being Spider-Man and the story could focus more on what it’s like to lead a double life and be a teenager coping with these powers, and also lessen the focus on his love life.

In other words, it would be more about Spider-Man… finally.

The only sadness in this, to me, is Garfield actually has been good in the role, but Marvel would need to make a clean break with everything that has come before.

Should this move forward, it looks like Civil War would not be the Marvel version of the character’s debut as the script is locked. With all of the other films coming up, however, it shouldn’t be too difficult to find a spot for him to make a quick cameo. Honestly, I think he might work better with a quick spot in the upcoming Netflix shows as he has worked with all of those characters.

For now this is all rumor, but the story goes that after the leaked emails, the execs at Sony’s main offices are pressuring the Sony Pictures folks to move forward with this, and I’m all for it.

[ Source Latino Review ]

12
Dec
2014

Star Wars The Force Awakens logo

At long last, we have some character names to go with the Star Wars: The Force Awakens teaser.

We’ve known very little about the character names for the upcoming seventh Star Wars movie, but thanks to a rather ingenious stunt with Entertainment Weekly, we have learned some of that info via mock-ups of the old Topps trading cards.

Man did that hit me in the nostalgia.

Here’s what we now know:

  • Oscar Isaac’s X-Wing pilot is named Poe Dameron… which actually means nothing.
  • Daisy Ridley’s character is named Rey, but no last name which is worthy of a cocked eyebrow as there is some speculation she is Han and Leia’s daughter.
  • John Boyega’s character is named Finn and he is “on the run!” The question is from what. Some rumors have indicated he is defecting from the Empire.
  • The person with the Sith saber is named Kylo Ren, but no indication of the actor playing the part. Also noticeable they did not use the rank of ‘Darth.’
  • The little ball droid is designated BB-8. This still doesn’t mean it’s a key character as background droids also receive names. My gut tells me we will see more of this little guy, however.

Disney/Lucasfilm is just getting us ready for Dec. 18, 2015 when the movie hits theaters… this is going to be the longest 53 weeks ever.

[ Source Entertainment Weekly ]

11
Dec
2014

Mad Max Fury Road Trailer 2 - 57

Mad Max is back, and it doesn’t look like things are much better for him.

Mad Max: Fury Road has been in the pipeline for years, and was actually moved back almost a year for this release even after filming had been completed. While it’s doubtful an exact time will be established in the film itself, many rumors have pointed to this story taking place between Mad Max and The Road Warrior. Not that it really matters as we’re just all here to see the vehicle insanity.

Here is the official synopsis.

Haunted by his turbulent past, Mad Max believes the best way to survive is to wander alone. Nevertheless, he becomes swept up with a group fleeing across the Wasteland in a War Rig driven by an elite Imperator, Furiosa. They are escaping a Citadel tyrannized by the Immortan Joe, from whom something irreplaceable has been taken. Enraged, the Warlord marshals all his gangs and pursues the rebels ruthlessly in the high-octane Road War that follows.

George Miller, creator of the series, sure does like his oddly named characters.

Mad Max: Fury Road opens May 15, 2015.

10
Dec
2014

KRYPTON

Syfy is going to get into the prequel business it appears with the story of what happened on Krypton years before its destruction.

David S. Goyer, the screenwriter behind Man of Steel, has entered development with the Syfy channel on a new series entitled Krypton that will tell the story of Superman’s grandfather and how the House of El fell out of favor. Here’s the official pitch.

Years before the Superman legend we know, the House of El was shamed and ostracized. This series follows The Man of Steel’s grandfather as he brings hope and equality to Krypton, turning a planet in disarray into one worthy of giving birth to the greatest Super Hero ever known.

With Gotham doing well on Fox so far in its freshman season, it isn’t too surprising that something is being set up for Superman as well. While Gotham certainly has its issues, it has had many strong moments as well. Can the same idea work on another planet? Can Syfy live up to the special effects bar set by the opening Krypton scenes of the film?

Only time will tell on all of these questions. The series is currently only in the pilot stage so it will be some time before we know more.