Friday, September 30, 2005
CleanFlicks = Censorship
Thursday, September 29, 2005
Does This Mean the Terrorists Are Winning?
Filming a Birth: Banned in America?
The Nurses of Halloween II
Wednesday, September 28, 2005
Movie Partnerships Part II: Directors & Composers
Steven Spielberg & John Williams: Never before (or since) has an artistic partnership developed a more indelible combination of sight and sound. Either is less without the other. Together, they have created the greatest audio/image collaboration in the history of cinema. For 32 years, through numerous blockbusters and even a few klunkers (1941, Hook, Always), Steven Spielberg and John Williams have worked together since Sugarland Express in 1974 (and as an off-shoot of this, George Lucas and Williams, starting in 1977, have worked on all six Star Wars films together). They made movie history a year later with Jaws. (Would that film be even half as good without Williams' stirring and frightening nautical score?) The simplicity of the central five note theme to Close Encounters of the Third Kind was followed by the rousing Saturday morning matinee style orchestral of Raiders of the Lost Ark and then, the next year, by the sentimental (if somewhat derivative) string-led score of E.T., The Extra Terrestrial. Add to that, the deep south sound of The Color Purple, the adventurous and ominous, pounding notes of Jurassic Park; the melancholy violins of Schindler's List; the patriotic, yet mournful, stirrings of Saving Private Ryan and you realize one thing: these men understand each other. By now, it seems a given that when Spielberg directs a film, Williams scores it. These two giants of cinema tell the same stories in different mediums, and without each other, those stories, in retrospect, would seem only half told. Spielberg's images are absorbed by our eyes while Williams' music fills our ears. Together, they have, on occasion, stirred our souls.
Tim Burton & Danny Elfman: It seems that Tim Burton, like Spielberg, or even John Waters, likes to work with the same group of people time and again. Starting in 1985, and for 20 years now, composer Danny Elfman has scored every feature film directed by Burton, (as well as the Burton-produced A Nightmare Before Christmas, which Elfman not only scored and wrote songs for, but sang in as well). Pee Wee's Big Adventure, Beetlejuice, Batman, Edward Scissorhands, Batman Returns, Ed Wood, Mars Attacks!, Sleepy Hollow, Planet of the Apes, Big Fish, Charlie & the Chocolate Factory and Corpse Bride, all have the unmistakable frenetic, sometimes comic book-style sound, of Elfman. This composer and director seem to be cut from the same cloth. (Non-Burton projects include the theme song to The Simpsons and the Spider-Man films.) While -- unlike Williams -- Elfman's scores may not be memorable beyond the film (perhaps with the exceptions of The Simpsons and the Batman themes), his music makes a Tim Burton film a "Tim Burton film" every bit as much as Tim Burton himself.
Tuesday, September 27, 2005
It Was the Smart Move...
A Short History of Popcorn at the Movies
Monday, September 26, 2005
The Coupe de Villes
Sunday, September 25, 2005
Ten Second Films
Saturday, September 24, 2005
Taxi Driver: Fact or Fiction?
The Return of Francis Ford Coppola!
Friday, September 23, 2005
Opie, Laverne & Meathead
Thursday, September 22, 2005
Jon Silberg: Hollywood Renaissance Man
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
Kevin Costner & Baseball Movies
Norman Rockwell Movies
Tuesday, September 20, 2005
Remaking John Carpenter Films
Industrial & Educational Films of the 50s & 60s
Monday, September 19, 2005
Kay Lenz and Three Movies, Long Ago
Where is Andrew Kevin Walker?
Movie Partnerships: Directors & Actors
Martin Scorsese & Robert DeNiro: Scorsese may have started his career working with Harvey Keitel, and as of late been making films with Leonardo DiCaprio, but the movies from which his legend is born are those he collaborated on with Robert DeNiro. With Scorsese directing and DeNiro acting, the two have made eight films together: Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, New York, New York, Raging Bull, King of Comedy, Goodfellas, Cape Fear and Casino. (Last year, they both lent their voices to the Mafia-as-fish animated comedy Shark Tale, bringing the total number of films together to nine.)
John Carpenter & Kurt Russell: While it's true that Carpenter directed the films that made him a legend in the horror genre without Russell (Halloween and The Fog), the films the two have made together (starting with the quintessential Elvis biopic, simply entitled Elvis) seem like a buddy directing a buddy. For Carpenter, Russell is the cowboy in the westerns he has always longed to, but never gets to, make. Carpenter's fans may expect horror and fantasy from him, but there is no mistaking the western undertones of the Carpenter/Russell collaborations: Escape From New York, The Thing, Big Trouble in Little China, and Escape From LA. It's been nearly a decade though since their last effort together. It's time for another!
Tim Burton & Johnny Depp: Never before has a director had such a doppleganger on screen or a persona so fully realized. Nearly 50 percent of all Burton features star Johnny Depp, and with reason. Depp is not only willing, but able, to portray the loners with whom Burton identifies. The two have made five films together, to date -- two this year alone! Their collaborations include: Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood, Sleepy Hollow, Charlie & The Chocolate Factory and Corpse Bride. No doubt they will work together again before long.
Sunday, September 18, 2005
Little Italy on Film
Saturday, September 17, 2005
Is ET... Jesus?
My Top Five Favorite Films
5- Say Anything: Perhaps this film, directed by Cameron Crowe and starring John Cusack and Ione Skye, still occupies my top five because of where I was in my life when I first saw it. At the time, it cut through the clutter of the typical John Hughes teenage romantic comedies of the day and gave audiences "real" teenagers, dealing with the tough issues of growing up and falling in love; of family loyalties versus branching out on your own. Skye's character is beautiful, intelligent and financially well off, yet she's still vulnerable. Cusack, in one of his best performances ever, embodies everyman/boy at that age, with all the doubts and angst and passion that drive teenage love. My two favorite scenes: Just after Cusack and Skye make love for the first time in the back seat of a car, he's shaking and she asks "Are you cold?" "No," he replies, "I'm happy." And, when things breakdown between them, the bold step he takes of standing outside her window, his boombox high held above his head, and Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes" spilling out. I can't think of many more romantic moments in all of cinema history.
4- Groundhog Day: This film took me by complete surprise when I first saw it. With Bill Murray starring and Harold Ramis directing I expected a pretty silly comedy, but what they delivered left me speechless. There were laughs in the film, plenty of them, but at its heart it's not a comedy. It's a morality play. Murray is a cranky weatherman sent to Punxsutawney, PA to cover the annual Groundhog Day festivities with his beautiful, new producer (Andie MacDowell) and cameraman (Cris Elliot). When an unexpected blizzard strands them in this small town, Murray's character is forced to relive this same day over and over and over again. At first, he uses it to his gain (money, sex, power), then it brings him to desperation (but he discovers he can't kill himself no matter how hard he tries), then despair, as he realizes no matter how hard he tries he can't save everyone around him either (a lonely old man gains Murray's compassion, but no matter how many different ways he attempts it, he can't save this man's life). Slowly, as he observes himself and the life around him, he starts to grow, his soul begins to heal, he becomes more aware, enlighten of his role in life and he realizes the worth of this life, of friendship, of community and of love. Like Murray's character, I could relive this film over and over and over again.
3- The Godfather: The film has rightly taken it's place in American folklore. A prime example of a film improving on the source material. Legendary gambles that paid off in huge dividends. The most unlikely cast, combining to form the most perfect union. A tale of family above all else. It gave us some of the greatest lines ever recorded on film. If When Harry Met Sally... teach us how to relate to those we love, this film teaches us how to deal with the rest of the world. Is it because I'm Italian? Is it because this film takes place in New York? Maybe, but I don't think so. It's compelling in ways films don't know how to be anymore. It just seems to be a work of love for director Francis Ford Coppola, his chance to record the greatness of his culture, even as he tells the tale of one of its greatest blemishes. He makes us care when these people are injured and has us understand the reasons behind their brutality. The scope, the finely tuned performances, the music and the dialogue. There's little chance of this film ever leaving my top five.
2- When Harry Met Sally...: Is love fated? Is there only one person you're meant to be with? Is there a point in a relationship when is simply too late to have sex? This magnificent film doesn't just address these questions, it paints a portrait of friends and relationships that you want to come back to again and again. (I have more than 40 times). It makes New York seem like the best place in the world to live. It uses American song standards to remind us of (often ironically) of what's going on inside the heads of these characters. The actors ad lib and it seems as if they haven't missed a beat because, no film has ever seemed so real in its depiction of the things people say. More than anything, this film celebrates conversation, with friends, with lovers and with a friend that may one day become your lover. Watch it alone. Then watch it with a friend. Then watch it with a lover. Then watch it alone again.
1- It's a Wonderful Life: Some people say it's too sappy. Then those people can call me sappy, because I treasure this film above all others. When a man, on Christmas Eve, has given up and is about to kill himself, all those around him, all those whose lives he thinks he's made worse, turn to Heaven and plead for help. This man is too important to them to die. He's affected their lives positively is so many little ways, each day, these ways are invisible. He certainly can't see them. To him, his life is a failure. He didn't do any of the things he hoped he would do in his life. And now, midway through his life, because of the jealousy of a rival, he is brought to his knees. He's given up. But the world around him hasn't given up (largely in part because of him). An angel appears. At first, he confesses to the angel that he feels he would be better off dead, then he recants "Maybe you're right. Maybe it would be better if I had never been born." On this snowy Christmas Eve, at the very end of his rope, he gets his wish, and is able to witness what life would be like for his friends and family if he had never been born. And suddenly, all those invisible little things that he did right all his life begin to matter. His very existence matters. Films have tried for years to recapture this message, but none have ever met the power with which this masterpiece from director Frank Capra and James Stewart is able to convey it. This is more than a Christmas movie, it's a movie about life and friends and community and relationships and the basic intrinsic worth of every single human life on the planet.
Are these some of your favorites too? If not, what are yours? Let me know.
Friday, September 16, 2005
What Ever Happened to Adam Davidson?
When Harry & Sally & I Met
Curtain Falls on Robert Wise, 91
Thursday, September 15, 2005
Content Matters, Not Technology
Wednesday, September 14, 2005
Big Opening Weekend! Then What?
Tuesday, September 13, 2005
Stephen King & The Best Picture Oscar
Movie with a Mission: A Look Back at Errol Morris' The Thin Blue Line
Monday, September 12, 2005
Bigfoot on Film
Sunday, September 11, 2005
Reality at the Movies
Saturday, September 10, 2005
The $1.49 Double Feature?
Friday, September 09, 2005
Is It Time for RoboFlight 2?
See The Unseen
Thursday, September 08, 2005
Depp Finally Gets His Due
Wednesday, September 07, 2005
Remake the Bad Films Not the Good Ones
The Late Great Neighborhood Movie Theater
Do you have a treasured moviegoing memory or two? Share it here.
Tuesday, September 06, 2005
$200 Million Commercials
Holidays and the Movies: Two Quick Memories
Monday, September 05, 2005
Remember the Late Movie? Or: How TV Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Movies
Why Are the Movies Special?
Sunday, September 04, 2005
2005 Films So Far. Will Oscar Nod?
Crash: Some have said this film was too pat, but I found it to be a claustrophobic and masterfully woven tale of the cycle of hatred in this country. It brought me to tears and, at times, made it difficult for me to breathe. A brilliant cast, powerful message and compelling story.
Cinderella Man: This is perhaps the most conventional film on the list, the kind of film you'd EXPECT to be nominated, yet, it still grabs you. Russell Crowe is perhaps the greatest actor of a generation. Plus he's Best Picture insurance. Check out how many of his films have been nominated or won Best Picture. Ron Howard is an assured filmmaker. And boxing films work, right? (Rocky-Best Picture of 1976; Million Dollar Baby-Best Picture of 2004; Raging Bull-Best Picture of the 80s?)
Batman Begins: This film has the least likely chance of consideration, but wow should it be!! Christopher Nolan (Memento) has embraced the fourth installment in this series and done the near impossible. He's made it the first! Remember back in the 80s when fans were chattering about whether or not Tim Burton would be able to realize the brooding version of Batman recreated by Frank Miller in his Dark Knight series? (Ultimately, he wasn't able to). Well, it doesn't matter. Forget the other films. They don't count. Forget them all. Not only has Nolan taken a well-worn story and character and made it new, he has improved it in ways that were never dreamed of back when this series began. It all begins here, with a brilliant vision from a great director and a mythic story that has finally been given the respect it deserves.
Sin City: And speaking of Frank Miller, this film, adapted by Robert Rodriguez from the series of Frank Miller graphic novels is by FAR the best film of the year to date. It is nothing short of a cinematic landmark. It's Rodriguez's masterpiece, a work of art that deserves to be lauded with multiple nominations, including one for Best Picture of the year. No film will come close to this film's originality and, as such, it deserves a rightful place among the Academy's list of the best.
What do you think? Post your comments here or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks.