Monday, December 15, 2014

Dec. 15, 1939: "Gone With The Wind" premieres

And we explore the connection between Margaret Mitchell and James Joyce

It may not be the greatest motion picture ever made, as critic Leonard Maltin said, but it may be the greatest example of the kind of movies Hollywood used to create. Like many pictures featuring black actors in the 1930s and 40s, some of this is difficult to watch — excepting a stunning moment with Mammy (Hattie McDaniel) and Scarlett (Vivien Leigh) as they walk up the stairs to try to get a grieving Rhett Butler out of his room. This scene undoubtedly won McDaniel the Oscar.

Be that as it may, it's hard to understand there was a time when a movie, no matter how large and opulent, could capture the attention of an entire nation. (The first half of "The Hunger Games" final installment may have been the most popular movie this weekend, but I don't know a single person who's seen it.) But that was the case of GWTW. The search for the actress to play Scarlett made national headlines and for many years this was the highest grossing movie of all time. It was also the only movie for decades that was known for its acronym. Everyone knew what GWTW meant.

It is no wonder that producer David O. Selznick chose to film in color. The opening paragraphs of the novel are a splash of color:

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Spielberg Manifesto

How a 27-year old speech by one of the most powerful figures in movie history can still change the movies

By Lars Trodson

There is a manifesto coming out of Hollywood that industry leaders hope will reinvigorate ticket sales, if not the artform. The manifesto isn't the idea of any specific group or individual; it's been issued piecemeal through interviews, articles and columns in such publications as The Hollywood Reporter, and The New York Times. The manifesto can be summed up in just a few words: Technology will save tomorrow.

This belief is advocated by such disparate luminaries as special effects pioneer Douglas Trumbull, screenwriter and director Paul Schrader and the futurist Faith Popcorn. These people are predicting that bigger screens, immersive technologies and better food will be the gateway to a revived industry.

The recent flurry of interest on how to save the movies has come about because of the dismal 2014 summer season. After those box office receipts emerged, experts started to weigh in on the future. This viewpoint deserves to be called a manifesto because, despite the number of voices involved, almost everyone is advocating the same path.

Monday, November 24, 2014

J Lo, J Law, Scar Jo and ... who?

The habit of the media to reduce celebrity names to instantly recognizable marketing handles has led to some pretty ridiculous examples, so we made up a new one.

And so, in the proud tradition of J Lo...

and J Law...

 and Scar Jo...

We present...

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Mike Nichols, 83

Filmmaker, standup comedian and theater director Mike Nichols has died at 83. A titanic chameleon — from nightclub stages with Elaine May to "Spamalot" — an incredible career.

The word legendary is bandied about too easily, but it applies here. He was a successor to George Abbott and Elia Kazan and Billy Wilder and others whose talents stretched across genres and media.

Friday, November 7, 2014

The Men From UNCLE

Apropos of nothing, here's a little bit of movie trivia that I just realized today.

There were two great male ensemble movies from the early 1960s that became a mainstay of American pop culture experience during the last 50 years: "The Magnificent Seven" and "The Great Escape." They always seemed related, of course, because Steve McQueen, Charlie Bronson and James Coburn appeared in both films.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Halloween Wins!

How the most rag-tag of holidays became the most important of them all.

By Lars Trodson

As Orson Welles so famously said, “That grinning, glowing, globular invader of your living room is an inhabitant of the pumpkin patch, and if your doorbell rings and nobody's there, that was no Martian, it's Halloween!

By which Orson and I mean to say that it is now Halloween all year long. As children, we were admonished to keep the spirit of Christmas in our hearts everyday of the year. But no one is that cheerful. We barely celebrate the spirit of Christmas for an entire day anymore.

As it turns out, it’s much easier, perhaps because it more closely matches the dark heart of the world, to celebrate the dead and the undead. You would not be paranoid to believe that there is death all around us. The name is also great. Look at it. Look at the letters strung together. Halloween. We say it and see it so often that we forget what the word actually looks like. But if you take a second to actually read it, it seems even stranger still.


Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Sphinx Unearthed!

By Lars Trodson

It's true.

A team of esteemed archeaologists have spent years unearthing one of man's greatest and most mysterious treasures, the ancient Sphinx. The find has been soberly reported in major newspapers and and science journals this past week.

Only this Sphinx is the one that was built for Cecil B. DeMille's first version of "The Ten Commandments," which was made some 90 years ago in the ancient, mysterious town of Los Angeles. It's made of plaster and is in rough shape, being buried in sand and all (see: Original Sphinx.) But these scientists have brought it above ground, and the old artifact can now be seen by grateful future generations. It was, just as an aside, one of 23 Sphinxes built for the movie.