John Huston, Orson Welles and Peter Bogdanovich on the set of The Other Side of the Wind
- Robert Osborne, Turner Classic Movies host and defacto representative in the United States for the appreciation of older films, has died at the age of 84. With his passing, the number of venerable, welcoming advocates for classic cinema is dropping precariously low.
- The proof is the pudding: Director Terrence Malick actually participated in a public, recorded conversation! He was at SXSW to promote his new film, Austin-set Song to Song, and took place in a discussion with Richard Linklater and one of the film's stars, Michael Fassbender, to promote it.
Heat fan poster design by studiokxx.
- There has been a recent online kerfuffle over the hosting and/or commissioning of video essays, a critical genre that takes many forms but generally explores or analyzes aspects of cinema through video rather than text. Kevin B. Lee, one of the most prodigious and respected producers of high quality videos, has blogged about the issue but even more importantly has found a new host for an immense and in-depth collection of video essays on cinema, titled Backdor and hosted by Audiovisualcy.
Sometimes, they’ll watch more grown-up movies with us at home, the kind we know won’t scare them; Arrival was well-liked for some reason, even though a later, aborted attempt to watch E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial resulted in screams and sobs of terror. (My son was unwavering in his belief that “the alien will eat the boy.”) But even the bad, lowest-common-denominator-of-childhood stuff I’ve come to appreciate. A lot of kids’ movies are garbage, but watching your kids watch kids’ movies makes up for it.
The result, I think, is a greater consciousness of political content, and specifically progressive content, among the Academy members. Three times in the past four Oscar presentations, there have in a sense been two winners. One film is judged more on the technical and artistic grounds and given a larger number of awards but not Best Picture. Another film with an important political theme at its core receives a distinctly smaller number, including Best Picture. The practice seems to imply that the voters want to give the top award to two films, and they have somehow collectively found a way to do so.
- The New Republic has posted an enjoyable series of "classic takedowns of classic films" from its critics Otis Ferguson and Stanley Kauffmann, who skewer such supposedly unimpeachable films as The Wizard of Oz, The Godfather and Pulp Fiction. Though not exactly a "takedown," here's the great Ferguson on Orson Welles' debut:
The real art of movies concentrates on getting the right story and the right actors, the right kind of production and then smoothing everything out. And after that, in figuring how each idea can be made true, how each action can be made to happen, how you cut and reverse-camera and remake each minute of action, and run it into a line afterwards, like the motion in the ocean. Does this picture do this?
A Place in the Sun
Sternberg’s film got mixed reviews and flopped resoundingly at the box office, though it was enough of a cultural event that Groucho Marx could quip in Horse Feathers (1932), another Paramount film: “You know, this is the first time I’ve been out in a canoe since I saw An American Tragedy.” But in the late 1940s, when George Stevens began badgering Paramount to let him adapt the property, the studio executives stonewalled. Eventually the director followed Dreiser’s lead and sued the studio, which relented partly because he convinced them that casting Montgomery Clift in the lead would make the film appeal to young audiences. Stevens, who made his name in the thirties directing light comedies and women’s pictures, fastened on this story after he returned from leading a U.S. Army film unit throughout World War II. Deeply affected by the atrocities he had witnessed, including the liberation of Dachau, Stevens sought a substantial project that would capture his postwar mood. An American Tragedy offered a vehicle for the kind of scathing anatomy of American materialism and moral flimsiness that film noir was then dishing out. Curiously, however, Stevens began turning the dark material into something else: a love story.
- One of the most promising soundtrack composers in cinema these days is Mica Levi, whose eerie score was essential to the success of Jonathan Glazer's arty alien picture, Under the Skin. Her most recent work was the Oscar-nominated score for Pablo Larraín's Jackie, and The New Yorker has devoted a profile to the young musician:
In “Jackie,” Levi’s music may sometimes have felt incongruous with the scenes that Larraín applied it to, but it is difficult to see what kind of action could possibly have been a “better” fit: the soundtrack too strange, too sinuous, too self-questioning to lie neatly in place. What makes the score so remarkable is the sense that the familiar orchestral textures of the prestige Hollywood biopic have been melded with something uncanny, as if we had stumbled across the hairless, tar-colored alien from “Under the Skin” hiding in the Lincoln bedroom. Even the most conservative director could not have used this music in a way that would have allowed us to forget it was there.
- The ten favorite movies of master cinematographer Roger Deakins, best known for his work with the Coen brothers. Bold move to include two Jean-Pierre Melville films! (Via @RealEOC.)
- Despite its Marvel franchise pedigree, James Mangold's Logan is in fact a robust and enjoyable genre film (50% criminal getaway flick, 50% western), in part due to the nearly stark clarity of the direction, and in part due to the actorly charm of its adopted family: Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman and Dafne Keen. The sheer professionalism on display from those three are remarkable, and if greater and specific proof is needed, look no further than Jackman's ridiculously devoted dub session for the film's climatic action scene.