Friday, November 30, 2007

Writers Guild Strike 2007, Week Four

Negotiations have re-opened this week but picketing continued at the studios in Los Angeles: CBS Radford Studios, CBS Television City, Disney Studios, Fox Studios, NBC Burbank, Prospect Studios, Paramount Studios/Raleigh Studios Hollywood, Sony Pictures Studios, Universal Studios, Warner Bros. Studios (photo, above).

Several feature films seem to be proceeding despite the fact that their screenplays were not complete, such as Transformers 2, presumably in hopes that the strike will end in time for the scripts to be polished.

Woody Allen is the latest celeb slated for the "Speechless Without Writers" shorts (by director George Hickenlooper), dubbed pretentious by some posters (who are actually sympathetic to the cause— see, for example, comments under Harvey Keitel short). The short with Woody Allen will show him silently sipping tea while a laugh track plays.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

"Paste Magazine" Posts Top 50 of 2007

Paste Magazine has posted an interesting top 50 of 2007 list. Its hard to figure out if they actually considered (saw?) any of the upcoming films as most of the top December releases are markedly absent (Atonement, Charlie Wilson's War, Sweeney Todd, There Will Be Blood), although The Kite Runner and Persepolis do appear. I suspect that they did get into screenings and did consider all the December releases— which would be a bad sign for these Oscar hopefuls. But either way the list is an interesting "first out of the gate" rundown.

Noteworthy (if disheartening) is the placement of Persepolis (#41) versus the mainstream animated hit Ratatouille (#11). If Paste Magazine picks the conservative choice among these two animated film Oscar rivals, than maybe Persepolis isn't all it's cracked up to be.

Glad that The Savages(#46) made their list— I'm hoping that it's good, as I really liked that filmmaker's previous film The Slums of Beverly Hills.

Very happy to see King of Kong get some attention (#20), as well as The Darjeeling Limited (#26), Paris Je T'Aime (#28), The Simpsons Movie (perfect at #35), and Sicko (#37). I do think that Superbad (#44) was actually better than Knocked Up (#23).

I liked their choice of American Gangster at #50— its a nod to the Oscar bait that it is, without going over-the-top with praise.

And of course there are many just-to-be-weird, what-the-hell-is-that-movie choices just for good measure: Hanna Takes the Stairs, anyone?

The Full List (and link):

1. Juno [Jason Reitman]
2. Once [John Carney]
3. Eastern Promises [David Cronenberg]
4. Away From Her [Sarah Polley]
5. Margot at the Wedding [Noah Baumbach]
6. Michael Clayton [Tony Gilroy]
7. The Wind That Shakes the Barley [Ken Loach]
8. No Country for Old Men [Joel and Ethan Coen]
9. The Kite Runner [Marc Forster]
10. Syndromes and a Century [Apichatpong "Joe" Weerasethakul]
11. Ratatouille [Brad Bird]
12. Ten Canoes [Rolf de Heer/Peter Djigirr]
13. Great World of Sound [Craig Zobel]
14. Ghosts of Cité Soleil [Asger Leth/Milos Loncarevic]
15. Offside [Jafar Panahi]
16. My Kid Could Paint That [Amir Bar-Lev]
17. 2 Days in Paris [Julie Delpy]
18. Waitress [Adrienne Shelly]
19. Manufactured Landscapes [Jennifer Baichwal]
20. The King of Kong [Seth Gordon]
21. Sunshine [Danny Boyle]
22. This is England [Shane Meadows]
23. Knocked Up [Judd Apatow]
24. Hanna Takes the Stairs [Joe Swanberg]
25. Bella [Alejandro Gomez Monteverde]
26. The Darjeeling Limited [Wes Anderson]
27. Grindhouse [Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez]
28. Paris, Je T'aime [Various Directors]
29. God Grew Tired of Us [Christopher Dillon Quinn]
30. No End in Sight [Charles Ferguson]
31. The Bourne Ultimatum [Paul Greengrass]
32. Hot Fuzz [Edgar Wright]
33. 3:10 to Yuma [James Mangold]
34. Year of the Dog [Mike White]
35. The Simpsons Movie [David Silverman]
36. Hairspray [Adam Shankman]
37. Sicko [Michael Moore]
38. Rescue Dawn [Werner Herzog]
39. The Short Life of José Antonio Guitierrez [Heidi Specogna]
40. Forever [Heddy Honigmann]
41. Persepolis [Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud]
42. Talk to Me [Kasi Lemmons]
43. Before the Devil Knows You're Dead [Sidney Lumet]
44. Superbad [Greg Mottola]
45. Zodiac [David Fincher]
46. The Savages [Tamara Jenkins]
47. Rocket Science [Jeffrey Blitz]
48. The Signal [David Bruckner, Dan Bush, Jacob Gentry]
49. The Lookout [Scott Frank]
50. American Gangster [Ridley Scott]

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Independent Spirit Awards Nominations Exclude Some Top Talent

The Independent Spirit Awards have been announced (link to full list), and as always they're filled with many movies you haven't seen/don't plan on seeing, but very rarely does any award-worthy independent work of note get left out.

This year, however, some of my favorite movies and performances were from independent films that did not see a nomination. The most egregious oversight I think is the supporting cast of JUNO, particularly Jason Bateman, Michael Cera (in photo with Ellen Page, above), Jennifer Garner, and J. K. Simmons. Also, I'm surprised that Christian Bale wasn't nominated for Best Lead Actor for RESCUE DAWN.

My favorite documentary, THE KING OF KONG: A FISTFUL OF QUARTERS, got the double whammy— it was left off the Oscar shortlist for documentaries AND didn't nab an Independent Spirit Award nomination. What a shame!

My favorite foreign film this year (so far), PARIS JE T'AIME (which may or may not be considered an independent-- but I think it is) did not get nominated as well.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Akira Kurosawa on DVD

With today's Criterion Collection release of Akira Kurosawa's Drunken Angel, it's a better time than ever to take in Kurosawa's films, as 25 of his 31 films are now available on (Region 1) DVD— 20 of which are Criterion Collection DVDs. Below is a list of the films, with Criterion or Amazon links.

Sanshiro Sugata (1943): Unavailable on Region 1 DVD/ VHS link
The Most Beautiful (1944) Unavailable
Sanshiro Sugata: Part II (1945) Unavailable
They Who Step on the Tiger's Tail (1945/52) Unavailable on Region 1 DVD/ VHS link
Those Who Make Tomorrow (1946; co-dir.) Unavailable
No Regrets For Our Youth (1946) Criterion DVD
One Wonderful Sunday (1947) Criterion DVD
Drunken Angel (1948) Criterion DVD
The Quiet Duel (1949) BCI/ECLIPSE DVD
Stray Dog (1949) Criterion DVD
Scandal (1950) Criterion DVD
Rashomon (1950) Criterion DVD
The Idiot (1951) Criterion DVD
Ikiru (1952) Criterion DVD
Seven Samurai (1954) Criterion DVD
I Live in Fear (1955) Criterion DVD
Throne of Blood (1957) Criterion DVD
The Lower Depths (1957) Criterion DVD
The Hidden Fortress (1958) Criterion DVD
The Bad Slept Well (1960) Criterion DVD
Yojimbo (1961) Criterion DVD
Sanjuro (1962) Criterion DVD
High and Low (1963) Criterion DVD
Red Beard (1965) Criterion DVD
Dodeska-Den (1970) Unavailable on Region 1 DVD/ VHS link
Dersu Uzala (1975) Kino Video DVD
Kagemusha (1980) Criterion DVD
Ran (1985) Criterion DVD
Akira Kurosawa'a Dreams (1990) Warner Home Video DVD
Rhapsody in August (1991) MGM DVD
Madadayo (1993) Fox Lorber DVD

Monday, November 26, 2007

"The Other Side of the Wind" Orson Welles's Final Film Could Get 2008 Release

Yes, it seemed to take forever for the fourth Indiana Jones movie to get off the ground. But when it finally did, the hoopla surrounding its production was intense and will only gain momementum the closer we get to its May 22nd release date. In the meantime, another long-gestating film may get its greatly anticipated release in 2008— except, at least for now, its all being kept under wraps. Reportedly, in some quiet corner of Los Angeles, some post production work is afoot (as per a tidbit posted last month on

Although it's taken 15 years for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull to become a reality, Jones has nothing on The Other Side of Wind (Wikipedia link), which has sat dormant since 1976! The Holy Grail of unfinished Welles projects (and there are many), this film was said by Welles himself to be entirely shot (save for some effects shots) and just needed to be assembled. A truncated rough cut existed at one time (as per the late Gary Graver, cinematographer of the film, who helped put it together; too bad Graver will not get to see the release [he died in November 2006]— at least he had somewhat of a hand in the editing, presuming this workprint was used as a partial template).

The keeper of the flame of The Other Side of Wind is and always has been Peter Bogdanovich, who year after year has promised to complete the film for Orson and his fans. Bogdanovich acted in the film and is seen on the set with Welles and lead actor John Huston in the photo above. Now, it seems that 2008 may indeed see the release of the movie.

The scenes that have been shown (most completely in the documentary Orson Welles: One-Man Band, available on the Criterion Collection DVD of F For Fake) are to me, very promising. I always expected that when the movie finally got released that Welles would get his due in the form of a posthumous Oscar win for Best Director (it would be only his second nomination as director after Citizen Kane!); or that the writers would see fit to give him Best Original Screenplay. I also forsaw a Supporting Actor nod for John Huston. This thinking would all be for naught if the film gets released on Cable TV (Showtime is reputedly footing the bill) instead of a theatrical run.

Oscar talk aside, unfortunately, the movie may not contain all the shots, could be horribly deteriorated (although the negative was kept in a film vault), or the editing may prove too daunting for the film to even be completed, much less award-worthy. There was even apparently some talk that only a documentary would be made of the film as was done with the incomplete It's All True in 1993.

Let's keep our fingers crossed. All of Welles other incomplete projects are simply far too incomplete. The only other feature length film that was attempted to be completed was Welles's Don Quixote. The 1992 reconstruction did not fare well. So this is it.

I hope, too, providing all is well, that the movie gets all the attention it deserves, and that the release is as enthusiastically received by the general public as say Vertigo's re-release/restoration was in 1996.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Awards Season Schedule: Movie Year 2007

Here are the dates for all the mainstream film awards announcements— from the National Board of Review to the Oscars:

Dec. 5: National Board of Review
Dec. 9: Los Angeles Film Critics Assn.
Dec. 9: Boston Film Critics
Dec. 9: Washington D.C. Area Critics
Dec. 9: New York Film Critics Online
Dec. 10: New York Film Critics Circle
Dec 10: San Francisco Film Critics Circle
Dec. 10: Chicago Film Critics Assn Noms
Dec. 11: Broadcast Film Critics Assn. (BFCA) Noms
Dec. 13: Golden Globes Nominations
Dec. 13: Chicago Film Critics Assn Winners
Dec. 14: London Film Critics Circle Nominations
Dec. 14: Detroit Film Critics Nominations
Dec. 16: AFI
Dec. 17: Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Assn.
Dec. 17: Southeastern Film Critics Assn.
Dec. 17: Golden Satellite Awards
Dec. 17: St. Louis Gateway Film Critics Association Noms
Dec. 18: Austin Film Critics Assn.
Dec. 18: San Diego Film Critics Society
Dec. 18: Phoenix Film Critics Society
Dec. 18: Toronto Film Critics Assn.
Dec. 19: Detroit Film Critics Winners
Dec. 20: SAG Nominations
Dec. 20: Las Vegas Film Critics Society
Dec. 21: Utah Film Critics Association
Dec. 21: Florida Film Critics Circle
Dec. 21: St. Louis Gateway Film Critics Association Winners
Dec. 23: Oklahoma Film Critics Circle
Jan 3: Houston Film Critics Society
Jan. 3: Online Film Critics Society nominations
Jan. 6: National Society of Film Critics
Jan. 6: Kansas City Film Critics Circle
Jan. 7: Critics Choice (BFCA) Awards
Jan. 8: DGA Nominations
Jan. 8: Online Film Critics Society winners
Jan. 10: WGA Nominations (film)
Jan. 11: Central Ohio Film Critics Association
Jan. 13: Golden Globe Awards
Jan. 14: PGA Nominations
Jan. 16: BAFTA nominations
Jan. 16: Iowa Film Critics Association
Jan. 26: DGA Awards
Jan. 27: SAG Awards
Feb. 2: PGA Awards
Feb 8: London Film Critics Circle Winners
Feb. 9: WGA Awards
Feb. 10: BAFTA winners

Saturday, November 24, 2007

"J'Accuse" (1918) and "La Roue" (1922) to be Released on DVD

Director Abel Gance gave the world one of the greatest silent films, 1927's epic Napoleon, which has seen celebrated theatrical, TV, and video exposure. However, little has been seen of his other silent films. At the tail end of an interview with Film Threat, Jeff Masino offered the news that his company, Flicker Alley, whose releases include the classic French silent serial Judex, is planning to release new digital editions of both Gance's antiwar J'Accuse (1918) (still above) and landmark drama La Roue (1922). The restoration is being carried out by Netherlands Filmmuseum, Lobster Films in Paris, Film Preservation Associates, and others. The films will feature scores composed by Robert Israel.

Both J'Accuse and La Roue were widely seen and influential films in their day.

Napoleon itself has not seen DVD-- perhaps it too is on the way.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Writers Guild Strike 2007, Week Three

The Writers Guild Strike continues, but with a glimmer of hope, as the guild and the studios return to the bargaining table on Monday. In the meantime, several studio films have been put on hold until the strike is over, including the following:

Pinkville: Oliver Stone's film about the My Lai Massacre, starring Bruce Willis had a December start date that has been postponed.

Angels & Demons: Ron Howard's follow-up to The Da Vinci Code, based on Dan Brown's prequel, is on hold since Akiva Goldman's script still needed work and he's on strike. The movie's release date has thusly been pushed from late 2008 to sometime in 2009.

Shantaram: Mira Nair's film with Johnny Depp slated to star, was to begin filming in February, but the production start date has now been called off.

Nine: Rob Marshall's film with Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem, Sophia Loren, Marion Cotillard had its March start date postponed.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Time to Lobby the Library of Congress About the National Film Registry

Happy Thanksgiving!

In one month the Library of Congress will announce the 25 films that become part of the National Film Registry. Last year's list spanned the years 1913-96, and included: Red Dust, Notorious, Rocky, Blazing Saddles, Halloween, and Fargo. Also included were historically important films such as The Curse of Quon Gwon (1916-17), the earliest known Chinese-American film; a film about the Yup'ik Eskimo: documentary Drums of Winter (1988); and St. Louis Blues (1929), a two-reeler featuring the only film recording of Bessie Smith, "Queen of the Blues."

The National Film Registry was begun in 1989, and there are currently 450 films on the list. Although the obscure films and historically important documentaries fulfill the mandate of the Registry, there does seem to be a movement, at least in recent years, to include those fictional feature films that are great films (more of a Sight and Sound approach), and not just historically or culturally important ones. For example, Groundhog Day made the list last year, but there are Oscar-winning Best Pictures not on the list.

You can e-mail your list to the Library of Congress and they'll consider your choices. Link to their website.

Below are my picks for what should be added to this year's list (I only do the narrative feature films: I'll let the Library of Congress decide on the obscure works). To me, the film that most needs to be added above all is Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

My choices, by year:

1910s and 20s:
A Tale of Two Cities (1917)
Male and Female (1919)
The Love Light (1921)
The Sheik (1921)
The Student Prince of Old Heidelberg (1927)

The Guardsman (1931)
Queen Christina (1933)
The Merry Widow (1934)
Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)
Holiday (1938)

Bambi (1942)
First Comes Courage (1943)
Lifeboat (1944)
The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946)
The Lady From Shanghai (1948)

Strangers on a Train (1951)
Limelight (1952)
Stalag 17 (1953)
The Seven Year Itch (1955)
The Killing (1956)

Lolita (1962)
The Birds (1963)
The Great Escape (1963)
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966)
Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)
The Exorcist (1973)
The Front (1976)
Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
Kramer Vs. Kramer (1979)

The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
Arthur (1981)
The World According to Garp (1982)
The Terminator (1984)
Back to the Future (1985)
Aliens (1986)
Blue Velvet (1986)
Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)
Raising Arizona (1987)
Die Hard (1988)

Dances with Wolves (1990)
JFK (1991)
El Mariachi (1992)
Husbands and Wives (1992)
Ed Wood (1994)
Pulp Fiction (1994)
Before Sunrise (1995)
Sling Blade (1996)
Good Will Hunting (1997)
Titanic (1997)

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Henri-Georges Clouzot Centenary

The 100th anniversary of French film director Henri-Georges Clouzot's birth was yesterday, November 20th; he died in 1977. Clouzot's reputation in film mostly centers on his two 50s thrillers The Wages of Fear (1953) and Diabolique (1955). The Criterion Collection offers both of these films on DVD as well as his 40s efforts Le Corbeau (1943) and Quai des Orfevres (1947). Among his other noteworthy films is the feature-length documentary The Mystery Of Picasso (1956).

Clouzot was known as a perfectionist; like Hitchcock, he both sculpted his scripts and planned his shots during pre-production meticulously. Ill health throughout his life limited the number of feature films he made to about a dozen.

The Wages of Fear won both the Grand Prize (later known as the Palme d'or) at Cannes and the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival. Bosley Crowther ended his New York Times review of the film thusly: "The excitement derives entirely from the awareness of nitroglycerine and the gingerly, breathless handling of it. You sit there waiting for the theater to explode."

The Wages of Fear (1953): A devastating study of human nature, this movie hits you right between the eyes with what we’re all capable of, depending on the circumstances, not the least of which is courage but most frighteningly, a willingness to forget your own humanity; a despairing look at our own individual, selfish psyches presented in the form of a suspenseful thriller.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The "Munchkins" Get A Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

Seven of the nine surviving Munchins from The Wizard of Oz were presented with the 2,352nd Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame today. Present were Mickey Carroll, Ruth Duccini, Jerry Maren (holding lollipop in photo, as he was one of the "Lollipop Guild" in the movie), Margaret Pellegrini, Meinhardt Raabe, Karl Slover and Clarence Swensen. A crowd of photographers, cameramen, and onlookers filled the sidewalk outside Mann's Chinese Theater to watch Hollywood Mayor Johnny Grant present the star after the group of Munchkin actors walked down a mock Yellow Brick Road. When the actors spoke they were greated with enthusiasm by the crowd, as when, for example Meinhardt Raabe recited his famous lines from the movie: "As Coroner, I must aver I thoroughly examined her. And she's not only merely dead, She's really, most sincerely dead.”

Mann's Chinese Theater was done up right with multi-color balloons strung overhead in the shape of a rainbow. Also present were several other stars of the Hollywood era with a connection to the event, such as Margaret O'Brien (former child star who appeared with Judy Garland in Meet Me in St. Louis) and Ann Rutherford (who appeared in another 1939 MGM release— Gone With the Wind).

Its amazing that a campaign was necessary to get the Munchkins their deserved Star (link: KNBC story), in light of the fact that the Munchkins are probably more famous than just about anyone who has a star. I'm reminded too of the great efforts by author/researcher Stephen Cox, whose book The Munchkins of Oz (now in its third edition but originally published in 1989), set the record straight on the credits for the little people who are merely credited as "The Munchkins" in the movie. Had Cox not done the research in 1988-89, such an effort would have been impossible today.

The Wizard of Oz (1939): Judy Garland exudes sincerity as she convinces the audience that even if your life is in sepia, your dreams can still be in Technicolor, in a movie that will be watched and enjoyed literally forever.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Criterion Re-Releases "The Lady Vanishes" in a Souped-Up DVD, Out Tomorrow

Alfred Hitchcock nabbed the New York Film Critics Award for Best Director for The Lady Vanishes; the New York Times said "if it were not so brilliant a melodrama, we should class it as a brilliant comedy."

The Lady Vanishes vies with The 39 Steps for Hitch's best 30s film, and I'd give the edge to The 39 Steps on the whole, but The Lady Vanishes has that flawless combination of comedy and suspense that the Times reported, that its an irresistable gem. A perfect example of this delicate balance occurs when Margaret Lockwood convinces Michael Redgrave of the old woman’s disappearance and the two go to look for her in the baggage car— the film takes time out for some fun banter between the two and then switches to a hand-to-hand battle with a villain which is at turns dangerous and comical.

There doesn't seen to be as much written about The Lady Vanishes as the other Hitchcock classics; even Hitchcock doesn't say much in his interviews (perhaps because he had so little to do with the film's preproduction: the area he most liked to shine during). Rohmer & Chabrol perhaps said it best: The Lady Vanishes is almost an encyclopedia. It is the exact summing up of [Hitchcock's] Gaumont-British series [of films], and therefore requires little commentary.... It's an excellent English film, an excellent Hitchcock film."

The Lady Vanishes (1938): A great Saturday matinee style yarn with the perfect hook and a delightful, understated performance by Dame May Whitty in the title role, that, despite a slow start, and the use of some astonishingly obvious models for effects shots, comes out a winner due to its subtle and interesting characterizations and richly blended comedy-mystery tone.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Denny Crane and Alan Shore

I was catching up on Boston Legal and I was struck yet again by how much I loved watching Denny Crane and Alan Shore. The Denny-Alan relationship is just the best male-male combo on TV. What makes the pairing all the more unique is that they're at the same level: they're each other's sidekicks.

The narrative benefit of series TV, unlike say a movie, is that you have the time to develop character relationships in long form, over the years of the actors/characters/and viewers lives. The drawback is the average viewer will only watch the show once and not get the nuances of repeat viewing, like a film. However, when done right, this one viewing can yield the lasting impression and familiarity of character that comes with watching the same movie once every year.

Denny and Alan are perfect for series TV. And for me, they're the new Maddie and David, less the conundrum of "will they or won't they." I know when the series ends I'll miss them more than I'll miss the show itself.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Martin Scorsese Turns 65

Martin Scorsese, who finally won an Oscar this year, and who made his first film at NYU in 1963, turned 65 today. His first film was the fun and funny 9-minute short What's a Nice Girl Like You Doing in a Place Like This?

In the book Scorsese on Scorsese, he said of his first effort that it was inspired by Mel Brooks's comedy and Ernie Pintoff's animation. Brooks and Pintoff collaborated on the 1963 Oscar-winning short The Critic.

Here are the two shorts:

Friday, November 16, 2007

Writers Guild Strike 2007, Week Two

Picketing continues at the studios in Los Angeles: CBS Radford Studios (photo above), CBS Television City, Disney Studios, Fox Studios, NBC Burbank, Prospect Studios, Paramount Studios/Raleigh Studios Hollywood, Sony Pictures Studios, Universal Studios, Warner Bros. Studios. The Tuesday Wall Street picketing of the WGA East and Universal Studios picketing of the WGA West ("Picketing with the Stars") was the big news this week.

Entertainment Weekly brought up a point in regards to Oscar season, that of the hosting duties by Jon Stewart, who's respecting the strike. If the strike should last until the Oscars, the ceremony may be without a host. Last year's host, Ellen DeGeneres, is having enough troubles hosting her own show in light of the strike (Variety article), and would be unlikely to fuel the controversy by taking the Oscar hosting reigns. Could Billy Crystal return as host? Possibly, if he had the blessing of the Hollywood community for this one-time bending of the rules in honor of Oscar's 80th.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

John Gilbert/King Vidor Silent Found; Much Sought-After Janet Gaynor/F. W. Murnau Film May Also be Extant

Heard a rumor through the Association of Moving Image Archivists (AMIA) listserve that a 1926 John Gilbert film, Bardelys the Magnificent (an historical drama set against 17th century France and directed by King Vidor), has recently been discovered. This film is listed as one of the most wanted silents on's website.

Additionally, has a link at the top of their site homepage to a very curious exchange that appeared on Criterion's Forum blog. Apparently a copy of the much sought-after film Four Devils (1929) might exist. This was F. W. Murnau's follow-up to Sunrise (which is often cited as the greatest silent film of all time). The film is about a trapeze act, two of whose members fall in love (played by Janet Gaynor and Charles Morton) but who are torn apart by the entrance of a "vamp" who tempts the male away (played by Mary Duncan)

A 1928 novelization of the film offers several stills (two I've posted here), which don't necessarily strike me as making for the best film (nor does the film's plot); however the historical value of the film alone would make it one of the film finds of the decade.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Steven Spielberg To Receive the Cecil B. DeMille Award

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association has announced the recipient for this year's Cecil B. DeMille Award: Steven Spielberg.

As I correctly supposed in my 11/11/07 post, it is Spielberg who was chosen to break the HFPA's long string of performers as recipients of the award: he is the first entirely non-performer to get it since 1977! This opens a big can of worms for the HFPA as they are now quite behind on their producer/director honorees (Nichols, Lucas, Coppola, Scorsese, Lynch, Stone, Lee, Coen, Tarantino— just to name a few of the Americans).

Click here for a link to the Cecil B. DeMille Award on the HFPA's website.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

"Close Encounters of the Third Kind" is Released on DVD (again)

Close Encounters of the Third Kind can't get no respect. It has never been placed in the Library of Congress National Film Registry (!). And just this year it was bounced out of the AFI's Top 100 Greatest American Films of All-Time (!!).

But Close Encounters was a popular and critical success in its day and undoutably has seen its several trips to the DVD repackaging department because people think its worth owning (and re-buying for the extras).

Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977): The insignificance of man in the universe, an allegory for midlife crisis, or the journey to the afterlife for one man, this film can be interpreted in countless ways, and is arguably Spielberg’s greatest achievement: mysterious, unsettling, and profound.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Last of the 1950s Oscar®-Winning Directors, Delbert Mann, Dies at Age 87

Delbert Mann (second from left, on the set of Marty) was the last of the 1950s Best Director winners alive. Now, the earliest Best Director winner (chrologically) still alive is Mike Nichols.

Earliest Ten Oscar-Winning Directors Alive (Chronologically by Year of Win)

1. Mike Nichols: The Graduate (1967)
2. William Friedkin: The French Connection (1971)
3. Francis Ford Coppola: The Godfather, Part II (1974)
4. Milos Forman: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)
5. John G. Avildsen: Rocky (1976)
6. Woody Allen: Annie Hall(1977)
7. Michael Cimino: The Deer Hunter (1978)
8. Robert Benton: Kramer Vs. Kramer (1979)
9. Robert Redford: Ordinary People (1980)
10. Warren Beatty: Reds (1981)

The age of Best Director winners must be going down, as every single winner from 1975 to the present is currently alive.

Only two Oscar-nominated directors from the 1950s remain: Michael Anderson (b. 1920) [Around the World in 80 Days] and Sidney Lumet (b. 1924) [12 Angry Men].

Here is a list of the 1950s Best Director Winners:

1950: Joseph L. Mankiewicz (1909-93): All About Eve
1951: George Stevens (1904-75): A Place in the Sun
1952: John Ford (1894-1973): The Quiet Man
1953: Fred Zinnemann (1907-97): From Here To Eternity
1954: Elia Kazan (1909-2003): On the Waterfront
1955: Delbert Mann (1920-2007): Marty
1956: George Stevens (1904-75): Giant
1957: David Lean (1908-91): The Bridge on the River Kwai
1958: Vincente Minnelli (1903-86): Gigi
1959: William Wyler (1902-81): Ben-Hur

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Who will Receive this Year's Cecil B. DeMille Award?

One of the highlights of "Pre-Awards" Season is the announcement of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association's Golden Globe Award for lifetime achievement, the Cecil B. DeMille Award. The timing of the announcement has changed somewhat through the years, but recently has stayed firm at 9:00 a.m. PST on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving week. This year, that's this Wednesday, November 14.

The Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Golden Globe was first given in 1952, to namesake Cecil B. DeMille himself. Producer/Director DeMille was one of the most successful filmmakers of Hollywood's Golden Age and in 1952 he made the film that would win Oscar's Best Picture, The Greatest Show on Earth. Who won the second DeMille award? Walt Disney.

In the early years of the award, the recipient was generally a producer/studio head, but starting with Maurice Chevalier (1959's recipient) performers have worked their way up, to the point that the award has been given exclusively to them since 1978 (with a few "hyphenates" among them, such as Clint Eastwood).

So, who do you think will be given this year's Cecil B. DeMille Award? The most likely candidate of the last several years has certainly been Meryl Streep. Streep is second in Golden Globe nominations only to Jack Lemmon (19 to his 22). It seemed to make sense, with her triumph a few months earlier in The Devil Wears Prada, that she would get the award last year. Instead the award went inexplicably to Warren Beatty who hadn't made a film in years (not that Beatty wasn't deserving). So basically, anything goes.

Here is a link to the Cecil B. DeMille Award on the HFPA's website. Below is a list of the recipients through the years.

1952: Cecil B. DeMille
1953: Walt Disney
1954: Darryl F. Zanuck
1955: Jean Hersholt
1956: Jack L. Warner
1957: Mervyn LeRoy
1958: Buddy Adler
1959: Maurice Chevalier
1960: Bing Crosby
1961: Fred Astaire
1962: Judy Garland
1963: Bob Hope
1964: Joseph E. Levine
1965: James Stewart
1966: John Wayne
1967: Charlton Heston
1968: Kirk Douglas
1969: Gregory Peck
1970: Joan Crawford
1971: Frank Sinatra
1972: Alfred Hitchcock
1973: Samuel Goldwyn
1974: Bette Davis
1975: Hal B. Wallis
1976: n/a
1977: Walter Mirisch
1978: Red Skelton
1979: Lucille Ball
1980: Henry Fonda
1981: Gene Kelly
1982: Sidney Poitier
1983: Laurence Olivier
1984: Paul Newman
1985: Elizabeth Taylor
1986: Barbara Stanwyck
1987: Anthony Quinn
1988: Clint Eastwood
1989: Doris Day
1990: Audrey Hepburn
1991: Jack Lemmon
1992: Robert Mitchum
1993: Lauren Bacall
1994: Robert Redford
1995: Sophia Loren
1996: Sean Connery
1997: Dustin Hoffman
1998: Shirley MacLaine
1999: Jack Nicholson
2000: Barbara Streisand
2001: Al Pacino
2002: Harrison Ford
2003: Gene Hackman
2004: Michael Douglas
2005: Robin Williams
2006: Anthony Hopkins
2007: Warren Beatty

What is your guess for this year's DeMille?

Notables who have yet to receive the honor include: Woody Allen, Julie Andrews, Kenneth Branagh, Michael Caine, Glenn Close, Tom Cruise, Daniel Day-Lewis, Robert DeNiro, Gerard Depardieu, Robert Duvall, Sally Field, Jane Fonda, Jodie Foster, Morgan Freeman, Tom Hanks, Dennis Hopper, George Lucas, Helen Mirren, Peter O'Toole, Michelle Pfeiffer, Robert Redford, Julia Roberts, Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, Sylvester Stallone, Meryl Streep, John Travolta, and Denzel Washington.

I think that when the HFPA decides to break with giving the award soley to performers, it will begin with Steven Spielberg.

And, of course, Meryl Streep could happen at any time...

But my guess for this year is HFPA favorite (12 noms, 3 wins) Michael Caine.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Dario Argento Poised for a Career Resurgence

Film director Dario Argento, whose name is almost always preceeded with the words "Italian horror maestro," has made the last in his "Three Mothers" trilogy. The first was his masterpiece Suspiria (1977), his second, Inferno (1980), and now, after 27 years, is The Mother of Tears. This is the chronological equivalent of Return of the Jedi coming out this year.

It was worth the wait. The film belies Argento's 67 years— it's a youthfully energetic film sure to widen his cult status. The University of Southern California (USC) presented The Mother of Tears on Friday night as part of a tribute to Argento, with screenwriters Adam Gierasch and Jace Anderson present. Gierasch gave an introduction in which he amusingly described how he lucked into the screenwriting job, a longtime fan who, through a loss in translation, went from asking Argento for an autograph, to landing a trip to Rome to co-write the movie.

The Mother of Tears does not try to mimic Suspiria (the tragic flaw of Inferno) and could easily stand on its own. And listen, Argento's films in general try my mainstream sensibilities to the breaking point, but there is something to his work and particularly the first, and now the third, of this trilogy.

Screenwriter Gierasch stated that there is an attempt being made to get The Mother of Tears into this January's Sundance Film Festival in anticipation of its US premiere. I suspect that the film will get a decent amount of play— at least a little more than one week at the Nuart in L.A. and the Angelica in New York— and might lead to a few screening series of Argento's films next year.

The "Three Mothers" trilogy:

Suspiria (1977): Atmospheric “fairytale” is at one with the groundbreaking horror films of its day, yet outdistances them with its striking visuals, shocks, and brilliantly maniacal musical score (if in exchange for a looseness of thematic resonance, other than the psychology of audience manipulation), creating an unsettling tone that is a combination of sound and image perfectly matched to make the viewer unsure of what they’re seeing and hearing.

Inferno (1980): All of the elements, as elements, that made Suspiria so fascinating are on display— the striking art direction/ cinematography, the mystery, the shocks, the unusual score— but each of them is drastically less effective, and even a richness of recurring motifs can’t save this entry from being a parody of style only worth the effort as a bridge between the trilogies' better two-thirds.

The Mother of Tears/La Terza Madre (2007/08): Energetic and ambitious film delivers crowd-pleasing (albeit frequently misogynistic) shocks and suspense and a journey narrative that taps into our innermost desire for the horror image.

Argento's imdb listing.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Writers Guild Strike 2007, Week One

The Writers Guild strike, which began on Monday, is casting a dark cloud over Hollywood (with SAG and DGA waiting in the wings: their contracts expire in July 2008). Hopefully an agreement puts film and television schedules back on track soon, however, the strike is expected to be a prolonged one. The 1988 strike lasted five months. For movies, the Oscar season will offer some cheer, but planned '08 and '09 releases will certainly feel the impact. Luckily for James Bond fans, such as myself, Paul Haggis submitted his screenplay for "Bond 22" in the nick of time. The Bond series has seen three of its longest breaks in recent years 1989-95, 1999-2002, and 2002-06. "Bond 22" is slated for release in a year's time on November 7, 2008. Time will tell the full impact of the strike, but for now, the town is begining to shut down in a big way for the Holidays.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Sonny Bupp, Last Living Cast Member of "Citizen Kane," Dies at Age 79

Child actor Sonny Bupp (in photo below with Ruth Warrick), who played the son of Charles Foster Kane, died on November 1, 2007 (exactly 66 years and 6 months after Citizen Kane's premiere on May 1, 1941). Bupp appeared in small roles in several Hollywood classics including San Francisco (1936), Lost Horizon (1937), Abe Lincoln in Illinois (1940), Sergeant York (1941), and The Devil and Daniel Webster (1941). He was the last of the cast or the crew known to be alive from Citizen Kane.

Click here for short obituary, wikipedia entry, and imdb entry on Bupp.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The 30 Best Films Not Yet on DVD (Region 1)

This is a list of the best films I've seen that you can't get on your Netflix®, so check your TCM listings or rustle them up on video, because they're all classics.

1.) Greed
(1924; d. Erich von Stroheim)
2.) Napoleon
(1927; d. Abel Gance)
3.) The Student Prince in Old Heidelberg
(1927; d. Ernst Lubitsch)
4.) The Last Command
(1928; d. Josef von Sternberg)
5.) Street Angel
(1928; d. Frank Borzage)
6.) The Wind
(1928; d. Victor Seastrom)

7.) Westfront 1918
(1930; d. G. W. Pabst)
8.) La Chienne/ The Bitch
(1931; d. Jean Renoir)
9.) The Guardsman
(1931; d. Sidney Franklin)
10.) The Mouthpiece
(1932; d. Elliot Nugent, James Flood)
11.) Red Dust
(1932; d. Victor Fleming)
12.) Waltzes From Vienna
(1933; d. Alfred Hitchcock)
13.) The Merry Widow
(1934; d. Ernst Lubitsch)
14.) They Won’t Forget
(1937; d. Mervyn LeRoy)

15.) Night Train To Munich
(1940; d. Carol Reed)
16.) Man Hunt
(1941; d. Fritz Lang)
17.) The Magnificent Ambersons
(1942; d. Orson Welles)
18.) First Comes Courage
(1943; d. Dorothy Arzner)
19.) Five Graves To Cairo
(1943; d. Billy Wilder)
20.) A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
(1945; d. Elia Kazan)

21.) Los Olvidados
(1950; d. Luis Bunuel)
22.) La Ronde
(1950; d. Max Ophuls)
23.) The African Queen
(1951; d. John Huston)
24.) The Big Sky
(1952; d. Howard Hawks)
25.) El/ This Strange Passion
(1952; d. Luis Bunuel)
26.) Five Fingers
(1952; d. Joseph L. Mankiewicz)
27.) The Incredible Shrinking Man
(1957; d. Jack Arnold)

28.) Chimes at Midnight
1966; d. Orson Welles)
29.) Antonio das Mortes
(1969; d. Glauba Rocha)
30.) Fedora
(1978; d. Billy Wilder)

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Sara Groves Has a New CD

Just something off topic— my favorite singer Sara Groves has a new CD out today: "Tell Me What You Know." All the songs can be sampled on her website. Sara Groves is one of my itunes discoveries. Just got a few songs here and there and then bought her last CD "Add to the Beauty," which sold me on her music completely. Christian music? Never would have thought I'd buy it... but just love her voice. Strangely, the Virigin Megastore had her newest album categorized under "Country." And it does have a bit of a country sound, but I think its a misnomer. Anyway, thought I'd share.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Living Hitchcock Actors: Who's Left?

Alfred Hitchcock's cast of actors is dwindling. Who among the living Hitchcock actors is most associated with him? My answer: Tippi Hedren, who tops my list of the Top Ten Living Hitchcock Actors. I've compiled the top 100, separating the bottom 90 alphabetically. Why the list? Just for fun and for Hitchcock fans who want to know that these actors are still with us. If the rumors are true Namoi Watts will play the lead in the 2009 remake of The Birds!


1. Tippi Hedren (b. 1930) (The Birds, Marnie)
2. Kim Novak (b. 1933) (Vertigo)
3. Joan Fontaine (b. 1917) (Rebecca, Suspicion)
4. Farley Granger (b. 1925) (Rope, Strangers on a Train)
5. Eva Marie Saint (b. 1924) (North By Northwest)
6. Nova Pilbeam (b. 1919) (The Man Who Knew Too Much [1934], Young and Innocent)
7. Doris Day (b. 1924) (The Man Who Knew Too Much [1956])
8. Rod Taylor (b. 1930) (The Birds)
9. Pat Hitchcock (b. 1928) (Stage Fright, Strangers on a Train, Psycho)
10. John Forsythe (b. 1918) (The Trouble With Harry, Topaz The Alfred Hitchcock Hour: “I Saw the Whole Thing”)

THE REST (Alphabetical):

1. Kathryn Adams (b. 1920) (Saboteur)
2. Mary Anderson (b. 1920) (Lifeboat)
3. Julie Andrews (b. 1935) (Torn Curtain)
4. Brigitte Auber (b. 1928) (To Catch A Thief)
5. Diane Baker (b. 1938) (Marnie)
6. Laurinda Barrett (b. 1931) (The Wrong Man)
7. Charles Bates (b. 1934) (Shadow of a Doubt, Spellbound)
8. Kimberly Beck (b. 1956) (Marnie)
9. Henry Beckman (b. 1921) (The Wrong Man, Marnie)
10. Martin Benson (b. 1918) (Under Capricorn)
11. Karen Black (b. 1939) (Family Plot)
12. Morgan Brittany (b. 1951) (The Birds)
13. Faith Brook (b. 1922) (Suspicion)
14. Frank Cady (b. 1915) (Rear Window)
15. Veronica Cartwright (b. 1950) (The Birds)
16. Lonny Chapman (b. 1920) (The Birds)
17. Sean Connery (b. 1930) (Marnie)
18. Charles Cooper (The Wrong Man)
19. Carolyn Conwell (b. 1930) (Torn Curtain)
20. Bernard Cribbins (b. 1928) (Frenzy)
21. Roger Dann (I Confess)
22. Laraine Day (b. 1917) (Foreign Correspondent)
23. Bruce Dern (b. 1936) (Marnie, Family Plot)
24. William Devane (b. 1937) (Family Plot)
25. Douglas Dick (b. 1920) (Rope)
26. Karin Dor (b. 1938) (Topaz)
27. M’el Dowd (b. 1940) (The Wrong Man)
28. Robert Ellenstein (b. 1923) (North By Northwest)
29. Hansjorg Felmy (b. 1931) (Torn Curtain)
30. Jon Finch (b. 1941) (Frenzy)
31. Gisela Fischer (Torn Curtain)
32. Rhonda Fleming (b. 1923) (Spellbound)
33. Bonnie Franklin (b. 1944) (The Wrong Man)
34. Sally Fraser (North By Northwest)
35. Jimmy Gardner (b. 1924) (Frenzy)
36. John Gavin (b. 1931) (Psycho)
37. Kathryn Grant (Rear Window)
38. Rand Harper (Rear Window)
39. Barbara Harris (b. 1935) (Family Plot)
40. Mariette Hartley (b. 1940) (Marnie)
41. John Heldabrand (The Wrong Man)
42. Katherine Helmond (b. 1928) (Family Plot)
43. Teddy Infuhr (b. 1936) (Spellbound)
44. Elizabeth Inglis (The 39 Steps)
45. Paul Jasmin (voice, Psycho)
46. Louis Jourdan (b. 1919) (The Paradine Case)
47. Martin Landau (b. 1931) (North By Northwest)
48. Harry Landers (b. 1921) (Rear Window)
49. Louis Latham (b. 1922) (Marnie)
50. Ed Lauter (b. 1940) (Family Plot)
51. Joan Leslie (b. 1925) (Foreign Correspondent)
52. Barbara Leigh-Hunt (b. 1935) (Frenzy)
53. Norman Lloyd (b. 1914) (Saboteur, Spellbound)
54. Alec McCowen (b. 1925) (Frenzy)
55. Hector MacGregor (Stage Fright)
56. Shirley MacLaine (b. 1934) (The Trouble With Harry)
57. Patrick MacNee (b. 1922) (Alfred Hitchcock Presents: “Arthur”)
58. Karl Malden (b. 1912) (I Confess)
59. Joe Mantell (b. 1920) (The Birds)
60. Jean Marsh (b. 1934) (Frenzy)
61. Anna Massey (b. 1937) (Frenzy)
62. Jerry Mathers (b. 1948) (The Trouble With Harry)
63. Vera Miles (b. 1929) (The Wrong Man, Psycho)
64. Martin Milner (b. 1931) (Dial M For Murder)
65. Patricia Morrow (b. 1944) (The Wrong Man)
66. Bill(y) Mumy (b. 1954) (Alfred Hitchcock Presents: “Bang! You’re Dead”)
67. Kate Murtagh (Family Plot)
68. Paul Newman (b. 1925) (Torn Curtain)
69. Maureen O’Hara (b. 1920) (Jamaica Inn)
70. Christopher Olsen (b. 1946) (The Man Who Knew Too Much)
71. Adele Pearce (aka Pamela Blake) (b. 1918) (Mr. & Mrs. Smith)
72. Gilles Pelletier (I Confess)
73. Nehemiah Persoff (b. 1919) (The Wrong Man)
74. Michel Piccoli (b. 1925) (Topaz)
75. Suzanne Pleshette (b. 1937) (The Birds)
76. Robert Quarry (b. 1925) (Shadow of a Doubt)
77. Marge Redmond (b. 1930) (Family Plot)
78. Frances Reid (b. 1913) (voice; The Wrong Man)
79. Melody Thomas Scott (b. 1956) (Marnie)
80. John Stephenson (b. 1923) (Topaz)
81. Michel Subor (b. 1935) (Topaz)
82. Clive Swift (b. 1936) (Frenzy)
83. Richard Todd (b. 1919) (Stage Fright)
84. Philip Truex (b. 1911) (The Trouble With Harry)
85. Charles Tyner (b. 1925) (Family Plot)
86. Peggy Webber (The Wrong Man)
87. Billie Whitelaw (b. 1932) (Frenzy)
88. Elizabeth Wilson (b. 1921) (The Birds)
89. Googie Withers (b. 1917) (The Lady Vanishes)
90. Edna May Wonacott (b. 1932) (Shadow of a Doubt)

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Pre-Awards Season Begins

So, the announcement of the National Board of Review picks on December 3rd, as is tradition, sends the checkered flag down for the commencement of movie "awards season." I'm of the opinion that "awards season" goes on forever, but I think an anticipatory period is not out of the question. When Entertainment Weekly bumped up their publication of their "Holiday Movie Preview" Issue (I was surprised to see it in my mailbox on Friday) to the same weekend that the L.A. Times traditionally publishes its "Holiday Movie Sneaks" it just seems natural that this is the moment that we can all allow ourselves to stand around the water cooler and say the word "Oscar" without shame. Hence, Pre-Award Season Begins.

2007 is shaping up to be the best year yet this decade for movies, so I'm hoping and praying that the end-of-the-year Oscar fodder doesn't disappoint.

Entertainment Weekly has made a list of Oscar Contenders and my first glance opinion is that they are right on about everything except for Cate Blanchett's nomination for ELIZABETH-- I think everyone is Elizabethed-out. I think the most-likely "long shots" on their list to nab a nomination include: Emile Hirsch in INTO THE WILD (lead actor), Keira Knightley in ATONEMENT (lead actress), and Ruby Dee in AMERICAN GANGSTER (supporting actress). I expect INTO THE WILD, in particular, to gain Oscar momentum.

I'm happy to see, Oscar talk aside, a significant number of "popcorn" movies for the holidays. Can't wait to see: FRED CLAUS, BEOWULF, MR. MAGORIUM'S WONDER EMPORIUM, I AM LEGEND, NATIONAL TREASURE 2, and even possibly ALIEN VS. PREDATOR 2.