Monday, December 29, 2014

“Elevation” and “Two Days, One Night”

Elevation from Roundtable Pictures on Vimeo.

Update: Marion Cotillard has been nominated for a Best Actress Oscar for her role in the Dardennes' "Deux jours, une nuit."

The new film by the Dardenne brothers, “Deux jours, une nuit,” (“Two days, one night”) is causing quite a stir, mostly due to the rapturous reviews that Marion Cotillard is receiving for her portrayal of a working class woman who loses her job and tries to win it back. Cotillard is Sandra, who learns that her coworkers have been able to cover her shifts during a lengthy illness (she has a breakdown) and have been promised a bonus of 1,000 euros if they agree to lay her off. The two days and one night of the title describe the timespan that Sandra has to get her colleagues to change their minds. She needs her job, but they also could use the extra money.

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.