Heaven Is for Real
Faith-based film tries reaching past its audience, but falls back on preaching to its own choir way too much.
* This filmography is not intended to be a comprehensive list of this artist’s work. Instead it reflects the films this person has been involved with that have been reviewed on this site.
Scout Tafoya's video series on underrated films continues with "Ishtar".
Odie Henderson launches our coverage of Oscar Memories from some of our most notable contributors.
Director John Lee Hancock on the challenges of making a film about Walt Disney for Disney.
Writer Peter Sobczynski responds to our Movie Love Questionnaire.
If we said there was a clear throughline from "Bonnie and Clyde" and Richard Donner's "Superman: The Movie," you'd say we were crazy, right? Get ready to eat your words as we prove once again that showbiz works in mysterious ways.
Marie writes: Holy crap! THE KRAKEN IS REAL!" Humankind has been looking for the giant squid (Architeuthis) since we first started taking pictures underwater. But the elusive deep-sea predator could never be caught on film. Oceanographer and inventor Edith Widder shares the key insight - and the teamwork - that helped to capture the squid on camera for the first time, in the following clip taken from her recent TED talk." And to read more about the story, visit Researchers have captured the first-ever video footage of a live giant squid at i09.com
"American Masters: Inventing David Geffen" premieres Tuesday, Nov. 20th at 8:00pm on PBS. (Check local listings.) It can also be viewed, where available, via PBS On Demand.
by Jeff Shannon
It was my good fortune to be working at Microsoft when the big announcement was made in March of 1995: Microsoft was entering into a joint venture with DreamWorks SKG, the new film studio and entertainment company founded the previous year by mega-moguls Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen (the "SKG" in the company's original moniker). At the time, Microsoft dominated the booming business of multimedia publishing, and the group I was working in, nicknamed "MMPUB," was producing a dazzling variety of CD-ROM games and reference guides. As an independent contractor I was the assistant editor of Cinemania, a content-rich, interactive movie encyclopedia (later enhanced with a website presence) that was an elegant and in some ways superior precursor to the Internet Movie Database.
Marie writes: I have no words. Beyond the obvious, that is. And while I'm okay looking at photos, the video.... that was another story. I actually found myself turning away at times, the suspense too much to bear - despite knowing in advance that he's alive and well and there was nothing to worry about. The bottom of my stomach still fell out...
(click images to enlarge)
Above all it was her personality. Pauline Kael had an overwhelming presence in a conversation. There will no doubt be many discussions of Kael's work and influence and with the publication of Brian Kellow's new biography Pauline Kael: A Life in the Dark, and the Library of America's forthcoming collection of her work.
She was the most powerful, loved and hated film critic of her time, but her work cannot be discussed objectively by simply reading it. She challenges you on every page, she's always in your face, and she functioned as the arbiter of any social group she joined. She was quite a dame.
"The church of baseball." That's a term from Annie Savoy, Susan Sarandon's vivid character in "Bull Durham," that film of men, women and baseball, written and directed by Santa Barbara native Ron Shelton. I'm lifting the phrase here, adapting it for films and film festivals.Call it the church of cinema. That's been my experience and my "church" since age 18, a kid in college. I'd escape the campus upheaval, both political (this was the anti-war era) and personal (the sexual revolution hitting big time), and my search for identity, with a respite every Wednesday afternoon; with a couple dozen others, I became a weekly acolyte at screenings of the International Film Series at the University of Colorado at Boulder. There I discovered Belmondo, Bertolucci, "The Battle of Algiers." My world blew open and I never looked back.
Arthur Penn, whose "Bonnie and Clyde" was a watershed in American film, died Tuesday night at 88. Gentle, much loved and widely gifted, he began life in poverty and turned World War Two acting experience in the Army into a career that led to directing in the earliest days of television and included much work on Broadway.
I remember the first time I watched "Bonnie and Clyde" like it was yesterday. I was seventeen years old and eager to broaden my knowledge in film. On weekends, I would go watch classic movies at my paternal uncles' who was a film buff himself. The only way to watch a movie uncut in Egypt was to purchase the video cassette from Europe or the USA and import it.
That is exactly what my uncle would do. His collection of UK video cassettes kept me busy for months. Every week I would visit him and we would watch one of Hollywood's classics together. It was there, at his living room filled with movie posters, that I was first introduced to such memorable characters as Norman Bates, Antoine Doinel, Tommy DeVito, Hal 9000 and of course Bonnie and Clyde.
He is a viper, a parasite, a stalker, a vermin. He is also, I have decided, a national treasure. Ron Galella, the best known of all paparazzi, lost a lawsuit to Jackie Kennedy Onassis and five teeth to Marlon Brando, but he also captured many of the iconic photographs of his era. At 77, he is still active, making the drive from his New Jersey home and his pet bunny rabbits through the Lincoln Tunnel to Manhattan, the prime grazing land of his prey.
I had an idea, as many of us do, about Gallela and the species of paparazzi. It was a hypocritical idea. I disapproved of him and enjoyed his work. Yes, he comes close to violating the rights of public people, and sometimes crosses the line. He certainly crossed the line with Jackie's children.
Dirt! The Movie" for practical and personally rewarding solutions
One of the things film critics do for a living is to pay close attention to how people behave, and how that behavior is presented through visual media. This applies not only to actors playing characters, but to people who play themselves, in fictional or nonfictional settings, on and off the screen. It should come as no surprise to learn that some of our best movie critics have backgrounds in psychology.
When Bill Clinton said, "I did not have sex with that woman," it now seems impossible to believe that he fooled anyone at that particular moment. But if any movie critic misread Clinton's voice and body language, that critic should have been impeached. As opaque as the clumsy verbal gymnastics of George W. Bush and Sarah Palin may often be, behind the contortions it's hard to avoid seeing the painful truth, which is simply that they don't know what their own words mean, and even when they know what they've been told to say they don't know how to communicate it. As actors, they're thoroughly unconvincing: You can see the wheels turning inside their heads -- only the gears aren't even engaged. There's a lot of whirring and spinning, but nothing happens. That can be excruciating to watch, but it's also the stuff of modern comedy. Christopher Guest, Ricky Gervais, Steve Carell, Tina Fey, Jon Stewart, Samantha Bee, Stephen Colbert and the whole Judd Apatow crew come to mind.
Patrick Goldstein, writing in the Los Angeles Times, argues that film critics like Roger Ebert, sophisticated in their knowledge of media presentation and human behavior, make more insightful political pundits than the usual beltway-bubble spin-docs employed by television, radio, print and online outlets. In a piece called "From film critic to political pundit," Goldstein writes:
To me, film critics, like TV and theater critics, are especially well equipped to analyze today's politics, which is why Frank Rich made such a seamless transition from theater to media and political commentator. In fact, in some ways film critics are probably better equipped to assess the political theater of today's presidential campaigns, since our campaigns are -- as has surely been obvious for some time -- far more about theater and image creation than politics.
Paul Newman, a sublime actor and a good man, is dead at 83. The movie legend died Friday at his home in Connecticut, a family spokeswoman said. The cause of death was lung cancer. Newman reportedly told his family he chose to die at home.
View image De Niro in "Casino." Las Vegas is a Hollywood movie.
From my piece on Sin City in the Movies at MSN Movies: The world has other gambling meccas -- Monte Carlo, Atlantic City, Reno -- but none as storied or mythologized as Las Vegas, an American dream-zone strategically located in the arid wasteland between Hoover Dam and Hollywood. The neon oasis is a concrete mirage: The closer you get, the more real the place becomes, but when you reach out to grab it, it slips through your fingers anyway. A surreal amalgamation of landmarks historical and imagined (Egypt, New York, Camelot), it rises out of shimmering heat and dust, a dazzling C.B. DeMille monument to profligate waste and the proposition that anything can be purchased or accomplished for a price.
Vegas is a Hollywood movie made corporeal, a surreal experience built on sand, powered by electricity, riches and promises of desires fulfilled. The electricity comes from the dam, the money comes from the odds that always favor the house, the desires come from the human heart (as well as a bit lower and to the right). But how sinful can sin be in a place called Sin City, where everything sinful in the outside world is overtly or tacitly permitted?
Q. I noticed the letter in the Answer Man from Daniel Stender of Ames, Iowa, who had a project of paintings of scenes from movies featuring people dressed in bear suits but who could only think of two titles, "The Shining" and "The Science of Sleep."
Nobody ever seemed to know what Dusty Cohl did for a living. He was a lawyer, and it was said he was "in real estate," but in over 30 years I never heard him say one word about business. His full-time occupation was being a friend, and he was one of the best I've ever made.
View image "Citizen Kane": No matter what anybody says, "It's Terrific!"
Edward Copeland had a bunch of questions about anomalies in Oscar history and technicalities in the (ever-changing) rules. So, he went straight to the source, the staff of the Academy's Margaret Herrick Library, and sent them an e-mail with his queries. Now he's got the answers, which you can read at Edward Copeland on Film.
Question No. 4.: For years I heard the statistic that Orson Welles was the first person to be nominated as producer, director, actor and writer for a single film for "Citizen Kane" until Warren Beatty repeated the feat twice for "Heaven Can Wait" and "Reds." Later, the Welles stat seemed to be revised under the argument that in 1941, the studio head would have won the Oscar if "Citizen Kane" had taken best picture. Should Welles be considered as having had four nominations for Kane or not?
Answer: From a strictly statistical standpoint, no. The rules were not the same then as now, so technically, as that statistic is stated, you can only apply it to films from the 1951 (24th) Awards on, when the nominees for Best Picture become the individually named producers rather than the production companies. The nominee for Outstanding Motion Picture for "Citizen Kane" was Orson Welles' company Mercury. So if you want to consider that being in the "spirit" of the statistic, feel free. In which case, you might also want to give consideration to Charlie Chaplin and his Honorary Award for "The Circus," given how the citation is worded. But again, from a strict statistical standpoint, neither of these two meet the Warren Beatty statistic of 4 competitive nominations for the same film in the stated categories.
In a year when the Academy Award nominations are more diverse and international than ever before, it's anyone's guess who will win best picture. "Dreamgirls" garnered more nominations than any other movie, but was passed over for both picture and director.
David Thomson, or "David Thomson"? Critic or stalker?
David Thomson is often described as a "film critic," but film criticism is not quite what he does. Nor is he a journalist or a biographer or a historian by any traditional definition of those terms. Thomson is a cinephile, a fantasist and an autobiographer, who writes about movies -- and the characters in them, and the people who make them -- as his possessions, imagined aspects of himself.
In the introduction to his best-known book, the idiosyncratic and provocative "A Biographical Dictionary of Film," he admits that, in writing about movies, he is unavoidably writing about himself -- and, indeed, the book might be better titled "An Autobiographical Dictionary of Film." All film criticism (and all writing, fiction or "non-fiction") is to some degree autobiographical, and Thomson has been more aggressive and up-front about his obsessions with his fantasy-objects, from Warren Beatty to Nicole Kidman, than most. But I'm not sure his treatment, or imaginative possession (sexual and otherwise), of his not-at-all-obscure objects of desire is any less tabloid-creepy because it is presented as critical nonfiction rather than as gossip or on some fanatical fan blog, except that Thomson's writing is better.
Last week, Kidman's reps said Thomson had misrepresented himself in the one telephone interview he did with Kidman for his ostensible biography, being sold under the title "Nicole Kidman." From The Daily Mail: According to the star's publicist Wendy Day: "Nicole has never met David Thomson. She has only spoken to him briefly on the phone about her acting processes and various films.
"He's a well-respected film writer and she accepted the interview only because she was under the impression he was writing a series of film essays." So, if Thomson is going to write about movie-fed fantasies, and he's decided to focus his on Nicole Kidman, what are his ethical responsibilities when it comes to soliticiting her unknowing cooperation in his enterprise? A review in the New York Times, which calls the ostensible biography "a weird and unseemly mash note," offers several quotes from the book, including:“I should own up straightaway that, yes, I like Nicole Kidman very much. I suspect she is as fragrant as spring, as ripe as summer, as sad as autumn and as coldly possessed as winter.... That’s why I’m writing this book, I think, to honor desire."
“Just as I take the breakup with Cruise as the liberating and altering experience in Kidman’s life, so we have to see that Tom was changed, too."
“I dare say she wakes up some nights screaming because she felt it [aging, losing her looks] was about to happen. (Not that I can be there to witness it — or stop imagining it.)��? Thomson also speculates about what might have happened on the set of "Eyes Wide Shut," in this excerpt from the book published in the Sunday Times of London:
Slavoj Zizek in the wake of Melanie Daniels, crossing Bodega Bay in a small motorboat.
At 150 minutes, in three parts, "The Pervert's Guide to Cinema" (catchy title, no?) is probably the fastest-moving, most shamelessly enjoyable film I've seen in Toronto so far this year. There is no story, and only one character -- but what a character he is. He's Slavoj Zizek (more precisely, Žižek), Slovenian philosopher and psychoanalyst, and he comes across as a delightfully unhinged Freudian maniac, the sort of heavily-accented mad doctor who might narrate an Ed Wood movie. But, believe it or not, he's the real thing. (I Googled him to be absolutely sure, and now I can't wait to read more of, and about, him.)
And what he does as narrator of this film (directed by Sophie Fiennes, sister of actors Ralph and Joseph) is talk -- and talk and talk and talk -- about movies. He's terrific at it, too. Turns out the good doctor is quite the cinephiliac (with a strong Freudian/Lacanian bent, natch), and in what feels almost like a two-and-a-half-hour free-association, he lets his brilliant and facile mind wander through many of the greatest films ever made -- with a heavy concentration on Hitchcock (emphasis on "Psycho," "Vertigo" and "The Birds"), David Lynch ("Lost Highway," "Blue Velvet," "Mulholland Drive," "Wild at Heart") and Andrei Tarkovsky ("Solaris," "Stalker"). One image, one idea, flows into the next, which makes for an intoxicating strain of film criticism.
This isn't quite the first film of this sort ("A Journey Through American Cinema with Martin Scorsese" springs to mind) -- but there ought to be more. The genre of movies about movies -- in-depth appreciations and evaluations of films that go beyond clip reels like "That's Entertainment!" into something deeper and, well, more entertaining -- is something I hope will blossom over the next few years. It's something I've been thinking about a lot: Film criticism needs to expand beyond mere words, and make better use of other media, including the web and film/video itself, where the images themselves can be seen while they are analyzed.
While the winners won't be announced until March 5, you can cast your vote now.