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Archive for the ‘film_history’ tag

You Should See the Film Called Spotlight (2015)

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I’m a lazy film reviewer, but I very much enjoyed seeing Spotlight, and you probably would too. 

Netflix will have it soon, or see it in the theatre

SPOTLIGHT tells the riveting true story of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Boston Globe investigation that would rock the city and cause a crisis in one of the world’s oldest and most trusted institutions. When the newspaper’s tenacious “Spotlight” team of reporters delves into allegations of abuse in the Catholic Church, their year-long investigation uncovers a decades-long cover-up at the highest levels of Boston’s religious, legal, and government establishment, touching off a wave of revelations around the world. Directed by Academy Award-nominee Tom McCarthy, SPOTLIGHT is a tense investigative dramatic-thriller, tracing the steps to one of the biggest cover-ups in modern times.

  • Mark Ruffalo as Michael Rezendes
  • Michael Keaton as Walter “Robby” Robin
  • Rachel McAdams as Sacha Pfeiffer
  • Stanley Tucci as Mitchell Garabedian
  • Liev Schreiber as Marty Baron
  • John Slattery as Ben Bradlee, Jr.
  • Billy Crudup as Eric MacLeish

(click here to continue reading Spotlight (2015) – Rotten Tomatoes.)

Spotlight doesn’t resort to typical Hollywood clichés, there are zero car chases, there are no weapons being brandished, there isn’t a heart-pumping scene where a villain is just around the corner about to catch the hero as dramatic music swells, there is not even a heavy-handed monologue from some powerful higher-up at the Boston Globe trying to shut down the whole investigation. The reporters who make up the Spotlight team aren’t presented as larger-than-life super-humans, there are zero scenes about someone coming in drunk and belligerent, zero scenes about love-interests that have nothing to do with the plot, but simply exist to give “depth” to the character. The journalists slowly, methodically practice journalism, a dying art form. 

Instead, the film follows what actually happened as an investigative journalism team composed of Roman Catholics discovers how the institutions fail to protect the vulnerable. Cardinal Bernard Law doesn’t even get his comeuppance (in this lifetime, anyway). 

Wow. Highly recommended.

Written by Seth Anderson

December 8th, 2015 at 10:35 am

The Breakfast Club 30 years later

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"You load up. You party"

A photo posted by Seth Anderson (@swanksalot) on

I graduated from high school in 1986, so the Breakfast Club will always have a certain resonance for me. Coincidentally, I watched the film a few months ago (for the first time since seeing it in a theater in Austin) – verdict, good film, not great, but watchable.

Make it a double feature with Slacker (filled with people I knew or at least recognized from Austin’s streets), and you have a decent biosketch of a lot of people my age.

Hanging over the film is a dread that no matter how cool or rebellious or thoughtful you may be, we all become our parents. Well, sounds good: Socioeconomically speaking, this generation (according to too many studies to mention) will be the first in 60 years to have smaller incomes, greater student-loan debt and higher unemployment than the previous generation. Said Daniel Siegel, the esteemed clinical psychiatrist and author of “The Developing Mind: How Relationships and the Brain Interact to Shape Who We Are”: “The upside may be an increased quality of life than generations before this one. Science supports that if you don’t reflect on what happened to you as a child, it is highly probable you will re-enact the behaviors of your parents. Under stress, those qualities really come out. Culture may change, but that fundamental reality hasn’t. But it could be this generation is more reflective. The more mindful you are, the more you release yourself from matters of the past, and I think that mindfulness is being encouraged more than back in 1985.”

The critical assessment

“The Breakfast Club” made $51 million on a modest budget of $1 million. Chicago reviews were generous: Roger Ebert (“a surprisingly good ear”) and Gene Siskel (“thoroughly serious”) raised their thumbs. Elsewhere, notice was mixed. Kirk Honeycutt, then film critic for the Los Angeles Daily News (and later the Hollywood Reporter), remembers: “I thought the movie was a little pat, a little too eager to blame parents, then go home.” These days, it’s seen as Hughes’ defining work, an ’80s touchstone with a Rotten Tomatoes approval (consisting of mostly blog reviews) of 91 percent. It is in a way a reminder that nostalgia and reassessment take an outsize role in deciding what becomes a classic. Honeycutt, for instance, has a new book: “John Hughes: A Life in Film.” He told me: “A lot of critics didn’t treat (Hughes) fairly. I think we were too worried about, say, Woody Allen. These kid problems looked overblown. We missed the relevance. Hughes was making a point about how it felt to be a teen, and we missed it with “Breakfast Club.” I failed it too. But then, a good film — you see something new each time. And 30 years later, I’ve changed my mind.”

(click here to continue reading The Breakfast Club 30 years later, how culture has changed – Chicago Tribune.)

Written by Seth Anderson

February 18th, 2015 at 10:03 am

Posted in Film

Tagged with , , ,

James Brown and the Making of ‘Get On Up’

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I hope this is a good film, because James Brown was an amazing performer, and a complicated cat…

“I was sitting right there,” says Mick Jagger, pointing at a row of seats in the famous first balcony at New York’s Apollo Theater. He is remembering how, as a young fan back in England, he had worn out the grooves on his copy of James Brown’s 1963 album, “Live at the Apollo.” Then, he says, he watched from the balcony in 1964 as the Hardest-Working Man in Show Business performed his splits and spins and dropped to his knees begging and screaming “Please Please Please.”

Fifty years later, Mr. Jagger is back at the Apollo, speaking in the historic space where “Get On Up: The James Brown Story”, which he co-produced with Brian Grazer, would have its premiere in a couple of days. It hits theaters Aug. 1.

“It was daunting, of course,” Mr. Jagger says of having to follow the future Godfather of Soul in one of his most amazing performances. Keith Richards has said it was a big mistake to even try. Mr. Jagger’s perspective: “At that age you don’t care. You don’t think. You just do it.”

Mr. Boseman worked with choreographer Aakomon Jones to learn Brown’s signature moves, including the one-legged sideways slide step that “we called the good foot,” the actor says.

It also didn’t hurt that one of the film’s producers happened to be among a handful of people on earth who has had as long and storied a performing career as James Brown.

“I would say that Mick Jagger sort of produced the philosophy behind how to approach the performances,” says Mr. Boseman. “He was adamant about the amount of intensity that James Brown brought to a performance and [Mr. Jagger] always tried to match himself. He drove that point home.”

The two also discussed what Mr. Boseman calls Brown’s “good face,” which his audience saw, and the “bad face” that the famously strict to the point of abusive band leader turned on his backing musicians.

Mr. Jagger says “We talked about how there are two people you’re playing really—James Brown the person and there is James Brown the performer. They’re not the same James Brown.”

(click here to continue reading James Brown and the Making of ‘Get On Up’ – WSJ.)

and I happened to run across these James Brown Youtuberies yesterday, so I’m sharing them for your edification. The man could dance…

 The film took a while to make…

But a primary reason the project “was pushed off year after year,” Mr. Grazer says, was pinpointed by James Brown himself. Though Brown had given his blessings to Mr. Grazer’s film he remained skeptical, telling the producer: “You’ll never find somebody to play me.”

He was right. And though Wesley Snipes and Eddie Murphy reportedly were considered for the role, the part had not been cast by 2006 when, following Brown’s death that year, rights to his story were returned to the Brown family estate.

For Mr. Grazer, the film was a labor of love. A self-described James Brown fanatic, he grew up in the San Fernando Valley listening to his music. “When I was in high school, I was in a car club and I just played James Brown over and over and over again on my 8-track,” he says.

“`You wanna know how hardworking I am?”” Mr. Grazer remembers Brown saying. “Then he told me a story about how once he was dancing and he stepped on a nail on stage. The nail went right through his foot, bled through his shoe and he kept on going.”

That fired Mr. Grazer’s determination to make his film.

(click here to continue reading James Brown and the Making of ‘Get On Up’ – WSJ.)

but they want the young’uns to go see it too:

With the film ready to open in theaters, the filmmakers are hoping to repeat the success of Mr. Taylor’s, “The Help,” which grossed close to $170 million domestically on a reported budget of $25 million, slightly less than “Get On Up.”

While test screenings have shown that “Get On Up” currently appeals to “a 40-plus audience,” Mr. Grazer says, “I want kids to see it.” To get them into theaters he has tapped into friends in the hip-hop community whom he met during the production of his 2002 film “8 Mile.”

“Eminem, Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre, ODB from the Wu-Tang Clan, Kanye, those guys worship James Brown, who really is the progenitor of hip-hop. They were all influenced by him and they all feel that some of their funk has come from James Brown. I want kids to see where the music comes from.”

To help get the word out, Mr. Grazer says he hopes to enlist his friends Jay Z and Justin Timberlake to help promote the movie.

“A lot of my friends, and Brian’s friends as well, said it was impossible to make a film about James Brown,” says Mr. Jagger.

(click here to continue reading James Brown and the Making of ‘Get On Up’ – WSJ.)

Like I said, I hope this turns out to be the biopic that The Hardest Working Man In Showbiz deserves.

Written by Seth Anderson

July 25th, 2014 at 2:13 pm

Posted in Film,Music

Tagged with ,

On Boycotting Woody Allen’s Films, Hate the Artist, Love the Art

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9 great movies
9 great movies

For many years I’ve heard many variations of the question answered here by the New York Times Ethicist columnist, Chuck Klosterman; whether moral failings or even alleged moral failings are reason enough to avoid the work of certain offending artists.

I was discussing with a friend whether it is permissible to boycott Woody Allen’s films in the wake of the sexual-abuse allegations. We both thought it would be wrong to further empower someone who may have sexually abused a child. But our legal system is built on the principle that the accused are innocent until proved guilty, and preserving that value is important whether or not you believe the allegations. Is it permissible in this case to boycott, or should we presume innocence? J.K., NEW YORK

When news of Dylan Farrow’s accusation against Allen resurfaced earlier this year, I received many emails that were all different versions of the same question: “Is it acceptable to continue watching (and re-watching) Allen’s films if any part of me believes he may have molested his adopted daughter?” Your query is both similar and different; you’re wondering if it’s O.K. to stop watching his movies, even if he has been convicted of absolutely nothing and insists that he’s innocent.

My answer to both questions is yes.

There are many who find themselves wondering if they can still love “Manhattan” or “Crimes and Misdemeanors” if the allegations against Allen are true. It’s highly unlikely, however, that those same people would wonder if they needed to move out of a house if they discovered the carpenter who built it had been accused of the same offense. This is because of art’s exceptionalism — we view artistic endeavors as different from other works. But it’s this same exceptionalism that allows a person to consume art by people they see (rightly or wrongly) as monstrous: What you know about an artist can inform the experience you have with whatever they create. A film is not just a product that has one utility; it’s a collection of ideas that can be weighed and considered in concert with one another.

Watching a movie is not a tacit endorsement of the person who made it.

(click here to continue reading On Boycotting Woody Allen’s Films – NYTimes.com.)

Johnny Depp and some psychoactive mushrooms
Johnny Depp and some psychoactive mushrooms

Can you separate the artist as an individual from their work? I settled this question long ago, for myself, by agreeing to let myself read and enjoy poetry written by Ezra Pound. Ezra Pound seems like he was a virulent anti-semite, a Nazi-sympathizer, and so on, and yet his poetry is intriguing. Roman Polanski admitted having drugged and screwed a 13 year old girl, and yet “Chinatown” is still a great film, as is “Knife in the Water”. John Lennon might have hit Yoko Ono a few times, does that mean I can never listen to “Working Class Hero” again? What about David Bowie’s Third Reich fixation during the time of the recording of some of his best albums? The list goes on and on: artists who were assholes, thugs, sexual deviants, or even worse, Scientologists! Does it matter if Henry Ford was a Nazi-sympathizer? Would you still drive a Ford car? Like Mr. Klosterman says, would you boycott your house if you discovered one of the carpenters who worked on your kitchen did some vile thing ten years ago? Where does it stop? 

It’s a variant of the old cliché: Hate the Sin, Love the Sinner, in this case, Hate the Artist, Love the Art. Or not, it’s your own choice, and your choice alone to make.  

Written by Seth Anderson

March 15th, 2014 at 11:04 am

Ten of Barbara Stanwyck’s Best – As Chosen By Margaret Talbot

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Barbara Stanwyck as Lily Powers in Baby Face

For your next holiday viewing party, a list of ten great films that Barbara Stanwyck shone in…

The qualities that made her great, that made her, as the film critic Nell Minow says, the most eternally modern of Golden Age actresses, were evident from the beginning. Stanwyck believed in being as natural on screen as the Hollywood glamour machine allowed, and it extended to her appearance: as Wilson makes clear, the actress was not vain. She described herself as just “average nice-looking”—no Greta Garbo or Carole Lombard or Hedy Lamar—and felt it was “a good thing” that she could “crack through with honesty.” She excelled at playing women with their own best interests in mind, tough women with hard shells, but she was also gifted at playing on the edge, where anger and defensiveness part to reveal a glinting vulnerability.

Stanwyck was one of Hollywood’s hard-working pros—a trouper who always knew her own lines, and often everybody else’s as well, was always on time, who learned the names of all the crew. She probably wouldn’t have appreciated a lot of psychologizing about her work, but it seems clear that she drew on her own rough upbringing to play many of her finest roles. Born Ruby Stevens in Brooklyn in 1907, she was four when her pregnant mother was killed by a drunk who pushed her off a streetcar. Her bricklayer father soon ran off to Panama, abandoning the family. Young Ruby was raised by a shifting cast of relatives, and supported herself from the age of fourteen as a switchboard operator, a pattern cutter, and a chorus girl. “I’ve known women who plodded through life,” Wilson quotes her saying, “but the women I knew did their plodding on the pavement, not the soil. I know very little about the simple life. I’m a product of crowded places and jammed-up emotions, where right and wrong weren’t always clearly defined and life wasn’t always sweet, but it was life.” That life, with all its ambiguity, is what you always see in a Stanwyck performance, flickering across her uncommonly intelligent face like light dancing on water.

“Steel-True” has inspired several Stanwyck retrospectives, including one at Film Forum, in New York, playing through December 31st. It inspired me to make a list of my favorite Stanwyck performances, all of them available on DVD. Here they are, in chronological order:

(click here to continue reading Barbara Stanwyck’s Best : The New Yorker.)

Click through the link to read thumbnails about each of the ten.

I’ve seen: Baby Face; Stella Dallas; The Lady Eve; Ball of Fire; Double Indemnity; Meet John Doe; and There’s Always Tomorrow

and have yet to see: The Miracle Women; Ladies They Talk About; and All I Desire.

Of the films I’ve seen, Double Indemnity is my favorite, I’ve seen it multiple times, but all are worth watching methinks. The links go to Netflix, if available. I was unable to find There’s Always Tomorrow, except at Amazon as part of a collection including All I Desire, and contrary to Ms. Talbot’s assertion that all of these are available on DVD, I could not find several films. Perhaps there are other sources.


Baby Face – Directed by Alfred E. Green

Written by Seth Anderson

December 27th, 2013 at 10:04 am

Posted in Film

Tagged with , ,

Repo Man: A Lattice of Coincidence

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Sam McPheeters writes a paean to a favorite film of mine, Repo Man. Repo Man has been out of print recently, but now The Criterion Collection has rescued it, and restored it as well. I’m really tempted to get a copy. For many years, the phrase “Let’s get sushi… and not pay!” has been an oft repeated phrase in my monologues.1 Also, “I don’t want no Commies in my car!… No Christians, either!” in my best Harry Dean Stanton Old West voice…

Repo Man, released in early 1984, was the first feature film by a twenty- nine-year-old British UCLA film school graduate named Alex Cox. Even now, the film’s existence seems implausible. It is an apocalypse tale with no doomsday, a punk movie with no concert, a science fiction story with less than ten seconds of aliens. Most of its now classic music was on the far, far edge of American society in 1984. It mines a world of drugs, crime, and capitalist peril for absurdist yuks (when Cox showed the film to his contacts in the real world of Los Angeles auto repossession, they found it to be a diluted version of their much more terrifying jobs). The project, originally envisioned at one-tenth of its final budget, was picked up by Universal Studios. That backing launched the green director into the unfamiliar universe of teamsters and lawyers and the watchful eyes of a studio that could smoosh the project with one phone call.

Criterion Repo Man

Criterion Collection – Repo Man

How a major studio allowed such a vehemently odd movie to exist really is a mystery. Its outlandishness isn’t forced; it’s forceful. This is a film that expands a singular style of humor into an entire worldview, a physics as vast as the Force in Star Wars. But part of the mystery is also that Cox could gather so much talent in one place. Granted full autonomy in his casting, he somehow assembled a flawless ensemble. Emilio Estevez’s Otto is a pitch-perfect mix of blank ambition and obliviousness. Matching this is the world-weary exhaustion—dubbed “the Old West/cadaver look” by a friend of Cox’s—of Harry Dean Stanton’s Bud. Otto is a baby-faced punker initiated into a secretive trade by Bud, who listens to obsolete music, dresses square, and dreams small. Their worldviews collide in the new terrain of early eighties America, an era of subtle but rapid change from the Me Decade to the Greed Decade.

(click here to continue reading Repo Man: A Lattice of Coincidence – From the Current – The Criterion Collection.)

I know I saw the Repo Man film in the theatre, but I don’t know if it was during the first run, or after the soundtrack made a splash. In those old dusty days, before the internet, before cable television, before DVDs and streaming video services, I saw a lot of movies on opening weekend. I do remember it being a mostly empty theatre, but laughing hysterically at the cans of generic food…

Repo Man thrived largely because of its music. The soundtrack not only resurrected the theatrical run, it also stoked interest in the video release. The film had the wonderful serendipity to enter the VHS market during the golden age of video stores. In the mideighties, “cult film” was both an aesthetic and a status facilitated by scarcity. Video connoisseurs of the pre-Internet world foraged through shelves and bins, propelled by word of mouth and employee picks. Even if you managed to catch the infamously edited television version of Repo Man (with “flip you” and “melon farmer” dubbed over saltier insults), you would have had to own a VCR to share the experience with friends. The film bloomed as a phenomenon not just because it had to be sought out but because it delivered on expectations when finally found.

Musically as well, it’s hard to think of another nondocumentary film with the preposterously marvelous timing of Repo Man—Cox had the most vibrant and diverse punk scene in America to work with. And certainly no other film used such good fortune to such novel effect. Consider the cameo by the Circle Jerks. That scene shows one of the mightiest lineups in the first wave of American hardcore—Keith Morris, Greg Hetson, Earl Liberty of Saccharine Trust, and the celebrated drummer Chuck Biscuits—in that incarnation of the band’s only recorded performance, as a drum-machine-backed lounge act.

If you haven’t seen the film in a while, or ever, give it a spin…

Repo Man Poster

Repo Man Poster

Footnotes:
  1. conversations, dialogues, whatever []

Written by Seth Anderson

April 16th, 2013 at 5:03 pm

What Woodward’s John Belushi book can tell us about the sequester scandal

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John Belushi
John Belushi – source unknown

In the course of writing a new biography of John Belushi, Tanner Colby went page by page through Bob Woodward’s book Wired: The Short Life and Fast Times of John Belushi to check facts, and, and found reality much different than what Woodward had written. A fascinating subject, in fact. Woodward’s reputation continues to swirl downward…

What started as a fun project turned out to be a rather fascinating and unique experiment. Over the course of a year, page by page, source by source, I re-reported and rewrote one of Bob Woodward’s books.…

Wired is an infuriating piece of work. There’s a reason Woodward’s critics consistently come off as hysterical ninnies: He doesn’t make Jonah Lehrer–level mistakes. There’s never a smoking gun like an outright falsehood or a brazen ethical breach. And yet, in the final product, a lot of what Woodward writes comes off as being not quite right—some of it to the point where it can feel quite wrong. There’s no question that he frequently ferrets out information that other reporters don’t. But getting the scoop is only part of the equation. Once you have the facts, you have to present those facts in context and in proportion to other facts in order to accurately reflect reality. It’s here that Woodward fails.

Over and over during the course of my reporting I’d hear a story that conflicted with Woodward’s account in Wired. I’d say, “Aha! I’ve got him!” I’d run back to Woodward’s index, look up the offending passage, and realize that, well, no, he’d put down the mechanics of the story more or less as they’d happened. But he’d so mangled the meaning and the context that his version had nothing to do with what I concluded had actually transpired. Take the filming of the famous cafeteria scene from Animal House, which Belushi totally improvised on set with no rehearsal. What you see in the film is the first and last time he ever performed that scene.

Here’s the story as recounted by Belushi’s co-star James Widdoes:

One of the things that was so spectacular to watch during the filming was the incredible connection that [Belushi] and Landis had. During the scene on the cafeteria line, Landis was talking to Belushi all the way through it, and Belushi was just taking it one step further. What started out as Landis saying, “Okay, now grab the sandwich,” became, in John’s hands, taking the sandwich, squeezing and bending it until it popped out of the cellophane, sucking it into his mouth, and then putting half the sandwich back. He would just go a little further each time.

Co-star Tim Matheson remembered that John “did the entire cafeteria line scene in one take. I just stood by the camera, mesmerized.” Other witnesses agree. Every person who recounted that incident to me used it as an example of Belushi’s virtuoso talent and his great relationship with his director. Landis could whisper suggestions to Belushi on the fly, and he’d spin it into comedy gold.

Now here it is as Woodward presents it:

Landis quickly discovered that John could be lazy and undisciplined. They were rehearsing a cafeteria scene, a perfect vehicle to set up Bluto’s insatiable cravings. Landis wanted John to walk down the cafeteria line and load his tray until it was a physical burden. As the camera started, Landis stood to one side shouting: “Take that! Put that in your pocket! Pile that on the tray! Eat that now, right there!” John followed each order, loading his pockets and tray, stuffing his mouth with a plate of Jello in one motion.

First off, Woodward wrongly calls the cafeteria scene a rehearsal, when half the point of the story is that Belushi pulled it off without ever rehearsing it once. Also, there’s actually nothing in the anecdote to indicate laziness or lack of discipline on Belushi’s part, yet Woodward chooses to establish the scene using those words. The implication is that Belushi was so unfocused and unprepared that he couldn’t make it through the scene without the director beside him telling him what to do, which is not what took place. When I interviewed him, Landis disputed that he ever referred to Belushi as lazy or undisciplined. “The greatest crime of that book,” Landis says of Wired, “is that if you read it and you’d just assume that John was a pig and an asshole, and he was anything but. He could be abrupt and unpleasant, but most of the time he was totally charming and people adored him.”

(click here to continue reading Bob Woodward and Gene Sperling: What Woodward’s John Belushi book can tell us about the sequester scandal. – Slate Magazine.)

You should read the rest…

Ok, one more excerpt:

John Belushi was a recreational drug user for roughly one-third of his 33 years, and he was a hard-core addict for the last five or six, from which you can subtract one solid year of sobriety. Yet in Wired, which has 403 pages of narrative text, the total number of pages that make some reference to drugs is something like 295, or nearly 75 percent. Belushi’s drug use is surely a key part of his life—drugs are what ended it, after all—but shouldn’t a writer also be interested in what led his subject to this substance abuse in the first place? If you want to know why someone was a cocaine addict for the last six years of his life, the answer is probably hiding somewhere in the first 27 years. But Woodward chooses to largely ignore that period, and in doing so he again misses the point. In terms of illuminating its subject, Wired is about as useful as a biography of Buddy Holly that only covers time he spent on airplanes.

Of all the people I interviewed, SNL writer and current Sen. Al Franken, referencing his late comedy partner Tom Davis, offered the most apt description of Woodward’s one-sided approach to the drug use in Belushi’s story:

“Tom Davis said the best thing about Wired,” Franken told me. “He said it’s as if someone wrote a book about your college years and called it Puked. And all it was about was who puked, when they puked, what they ate before they puked and what they puked up. No one read Dostoevsky, no one studied math, no one fell in love, and nothing happened but people puking.”

Written by Seth Anderson

March 12th, 2013 at 10:05 am

Posted in Books,Film

Tagged with , ,

In Conversation: Steven Soderbergh

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Passing Strangers
Passing Strangers

Mary Kaye Schilling of New York Magazine has a quite interesting interview with Steven Soderbergh, who is about to quit making films to paint. I’ve long been an admirer of Soderbergh, probably since his first film came out when I was taking film classes at UT1 I don’t love every film Soderbergh has made, but he often does interesting stuff.

A few excerpts, in case you are too lazy to click the link. For instance:

MKS: You’ve talked in the past about obsessively viewing films for inspiration—like The Battle of Algiers and Z for Traffic. What did you watch for Magic Mike?

SS: Saturday Night Fever was our model. It’s one of those movies people remember differently than what was actually true. Going back, we were startled by how dark it gets. This girl is being raped in the back seat of the car, and Travolta doesn’t really do anything, he just drives around. He does things that you probably wouldn’t want your protagonist doing today.

and 

MKS: But you’ve shown an incredible ability for getting films made, particularly the mid-level, character-driven, superhero-and-­vampire-free films that conventional wisdom says don’t get made anymore—from the esoteric sci-fi film Solaris to, yes, even a somber, black-and-white movie about post–World War II Germany. How do you account for that?

SS: On the few occasions where I’ve talked to film students, one of the things I stress, in addition to learning your craft, is how you behave as a person. For the most part, our lives are about telling stories. So I ask them, “What are the stories you want people to tell about you?” Because at a certain point, your ability to get a job could turn on the stories people tell about you. The reason [then–Universal Pictures chief] Casey Silver put me up for [1998’s] Out of Sight after I’d had five flops in a row was because he liked me personally. He also knew I was a responsible filmmaker, and if I got that job, the next time he’d see me was when we screened the movie. If I’m an asshole, then I don’t get that job. Character counts. That’s a long way of saying, “If you can be known as someone who can attract talent, that’s a big plus.”

 and

SS: Music has become another of the most abused aspects of filmmaking. I’m mystified by the direction scores have taken in the last ten years. It’s wall-to-wall—it’s the movie equivalent of the vuvuzelas from the last World Cup! I don’t understand it at all. For me, it’s ideal when you can get the music to do something that everything else isn’t doing.

MKS: I’ve always appreciated how you don’t use the soundtrack to telegraph emotions; your scores are remarkably subtle. The Informant! was one of the few times you used music conspicuously, but it really worked for that film.

SS: A lot of people had mixed feelings about that score.  Look, it was a very specific choice in the sense that—what I said to [composer] Marvin Hamlisch was, this music is not for the audience. This music is for him [Matt Damon’s character], it’s his soundtrack. For the movie, it worked. But that’s not typically what you’re doing with a score. I think that’s why people reacted ambivalently.

I was saddened to hear that the Confederacy of Dunces script is dead, again:

MKS: Are there many films you wanted to make that didn’t happen?

SS: Less than a handful. There are tons of excuses you can make for something not happening. It’s a very imperfect process, getting a movie made. And I’m one of those people who just ignores that stuff. The film doesn’t have to be perfect. The deal doesn’t have to be perfect. I’ll reverse engineer into whatever box we have so that we can do it and do do it—less money, less time, whatever. I’m looking for reasons to say yes. But, sometimes, nothing works.

MKS: Like Confederacy of Dunces. Whatever happened to that?

SS: I ended up walking away. We had this lawsuit over the rights [against Scott Rudin and Paramount pictures in 1998], and we got the project back, and at that point—it was a good lesson to learn, actually, because I realized once we got it back that my enthusiasm had been beaten out of me. Now it was an obligation, as opposed to something that I wanted to do. I don’t know what’s happening with it. I think it’s cursed. I’m not prone to superstition, but that project has got bad mojo on it.

Ok, one last bit relevant to this blog’s interests:

MKS: That’s a 180-degree turn from fifteen years ago, when you called the film business the silliest in the world.

SS: After making a lot more films, I realized that the movie and TV business is, for all its inefficiencies, one of the best-run big businesses we have. It’s very transparent, financially, and the only business I know of that successfully employs trickle-down economics: When movies and shows make money, the profits go right back into making more movies and shows, because the stock price is all about market share. And these people excel at problem-solving—that’s 99 percent of the job. I look at Hurricane Katrina, and I think if four days before landfall you gave a movie studio autonomy and a 100th of the billions the government spent on that disaster, and told them, “Lock this place down and get everyone taken care of,” we wouldn’t be using that disaster as an example of what not to do. A big movie involves clothing, feeding, and moving thousands of people around the world on a tight schedule. Problems are solved creatively and efficiently within a budget, or your ass is out of work. So when I look at what’s going on in the government, the gridlock, I think, Wow, that’s a really inefficient way to run a railroad. The government can’t solve problems because the two parties are so wedded to their opposing ideas that they can’t move. The very idea that someone from Congress can’t take something from the other side because they’ll be punished by their own party? That’s stupid. If I were running for office, I would be poaching ideas from everywhere. That’s how art works. You steal from everything. I must remember to tweet that I’m in fact not running for office.

(click here to continue reading In Conversation: Steven Soderbergh — Vulture.)

Footnotes:
  1. yes, as we all know by now, I joke I am a film school drop-out, but it is true as well []

Written by Seth Anderson

January 28th, 2013 at 7:14 am

Posted in Film

Tagged with , ,

A Walk Through H

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hotpocket plats
hotpocket plats

A Walk Through H is a film I saw years ago  1, and haven’t seen again, but still remember vividly, at least on an emotional level. A powerful film in other words. See it if you can. Looks like it is available via Netflix, I’ve just added it to my queue.

A Walk Through H: The Reincarnation of an Ornithologist was the culmination of Peter Greenaway’s 1970s short-form work. It is a 40-minute abstracted journey film, told almost entirely through the use of a series of 92 “maps,” a set of drawings and patterns gathered together in a museum by the mysterious Tulse Luper, a character who has wandered through many of Greenaway’s films. The narrator (Colin Cantlie) drolly describes each map in turn, recounting a journey through “H,” though the meaning of this journey or what “H” stands for is never explained outright. Instead, as Greenaway’s camera pans across the surface of each drawing, following the maze-like paths that lead from one map to the next, the narrator describes how he came to possess each of these maps, and what his journey is like. Greenaway occasionally intercuts images of birds and sunsets, the only figurative images in the film with the exception of the bookend sequences in the museum where all these maps are framed and displayed. Otherwise, the film is “set” entirely in the world of “H,” which is represented only by Tulse Luper’s maps, an elaborate guide through a mystery region, with a mysterious purpose as the goal.

This film is a culmination of Greenaway’s tendency towards lists and repetitions, a motif that would soon be elaborated on even further in the three-hour epic of The Falls. Here, Greenaway’s deadpan wit is comparatively concise, and about as mordantly funny as he’d ever be. The narrator is entirely straight-faced, but his bizarre, offhand descriptions of people and places and incidents — all of it tossed off with a tone that suggests he expects his audience to know exactly who and what he’s talking about — are often hilarious non sequiturs. Some of these characters and ideas would later show up in Greenaway’s feature films, and it’s not surprising: A Walk Through H suggests a thriving, fully populated world beyond its narrowly defined borders, with a great deal of intrigue and activity leading up to the gathering of these maps. The entire journey is driven as well by the propulsive, looping score of Michael Nyman, a chiming, hypnotic piece of music that accelerates to a frenzied crescendo for the breathless conclusion, in which an ornithologist is (possibly?) reincarnated at the journey’s end. This is a strange and unforgettable film, an imaginative mental odyssey, a map leading into the creative jumble of Greenaway’s fertile mind.

(click here to continue reading Only the Cinema: Films I Love #32: A Walk Through H (Peter Greenaway, 1978).)

 

Footnotes:
  1. while a student at University of Texas, basically on a lark, on one of those nights with nothing going on []

Written by Seth Anderson

June 25th, 2011 at 9:14 am

Posted in Film,Suggestions

Tagged with ,

When Jimmy Page Debuted With the Yardbirds

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I’ve always loved this clip of The Yardbirds playing Stroll On from Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow Up.

Before Jimmy Page became the quintessential guitar player with mystique, he was a bass player with ambition.

In 1966, Page joined one of the most influential and up-and-coming British bands of his era, the Yardbirds. At only 22 years old, he was already a respected session musician in London – in fact, the blues-leaning rock band had approached him two years earlier to replace then-guitarist Eric Clapton, but Page declined in loyalty to his pal. A year later, when Clapton quit, the group solicited Page again, who in turn recommended another friend, Jeff Beck (because Page was raking in the cash sitting in with Decca Records artists, including the Rolling Stones).

Page finally joined the group in 1966 as a replacement for bassist Paul Samwell-Smith. At his first show with the Yardbirds, at the Marquee Club in London, he played electric bass. The venue was a significant one for the Yardbirds, as they’d held their first residency there in February 1964, and the show celebrated Page’s hard-won presence. Page kept up four-string duties for a bit before switching to twin lead guitar alongside Beck – until Beck left the tumultuous group too, and the Yardbirds became a quartet with Page at lone lead guitar. It was with this lineup that they released their final album, 1967’s Little Games.

All three guitarists of the Yardbirds – Clapton, Page, Beck – would become guitar superstars. However, the Yardbirds proved an especially strong catalyst for Page’s future glory: When singer Keith Relf and drummer Jim McCarty left the quarreling group in 1968, Page rebranded the band as “the New Yardbirds” and recruited vocalist Robert Plant and drummer John Bonham. Bassist John Paul Jones came into the fold soon after – and with him, the one and only lineup of Led Zeppelin was cemented.

(click here to continue reading When Jimmy Page Debuted With the Yardbirds and Steely Dan Broke Up | Rolling Stone Music.)

Written by Seth Anderson

June 25th, 2011 at 8:22 am

Posted in Music

Tagged with , ,

Netflixed: Roman Polanski- Wanted and Desired

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Didn’t quite know what to expect from this documentary, though I was aware of the broad details of Polanski’s eventful life – Sharon Tate’s husband when she was brutalized by Charlie Manson, surviving concentration camps, and so on. Quite watchable, if a bit disquieting.

This penetrating documentary explores the tumultuous events of director Roman Polanski’s personal life, including the murder of his pregnant wife, Sharon Tate, and the controversial sex scandal that prompted him to flee the United States for France. Highlights include an interview with Polanski’s victim, Samantha Geimer, as well as candid conversations with Chinatown screenwriter Robert Towne and actress Mia Farrow.

 

(click here to Netflix Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired.)

Polanski’s sexual encounter with a 13 year old is distasteful, whether or not is was consensual; 13 year old girls might be sexually active, but adults should have enough sense to keep their pants on. However, the film makes a pretty strong case for judicial misconduct on the part of Judge Laurence J. Rittenband.

Worth a view.

Roger Ebert:

The tragic story of Roman Polanski, his life, his suffering and his crimes, has been told and retold until it assumes the status of legend. After the loss of his parents in the Holocaust, after raising himself on the streets of Nazi-controlled Poland, after moving to America to acclaim as the director of “Chinatown,” after the murder by the Manson family of his wife and unborn child … what then?

He was arrested and tried for unlawful sexual intercourse with a 13- year-old girl, one of several charges including supplying her with drink and drugs. Then he fled the country to avoid a prison sentence and still remains in European exile for that reason. That is what everybody remembers, and it is all here in Marina Zenovich’s surprising documentary, “Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired.”

But there is so much more, and the story she builds, brick by brick with eyewitness testimony, is about crimes against the justice system carried out by the judge of Polanski’s case, Laurence J. Rittenband. So corrupt was this man that the documentary finds agreement among the three people (aside from Polanski) most interested in the outcome: the defense attorney, Douglas Dalton; the assistant D.A. who prosecuted the case, Roger Gunson, and Samantha Gailey Geimer, who was the child involved.

Their testimony nails Rittenband as a shameless publicity seeker who was more concerned with his own image than arriving at justice. Who broke his word to attorneys on both sides. Who staged a fake courtroom session in which Gunson and Geimer were to go through the motions of making their arguments before the judge read an opinion he had already prepared. Who tried to stage such a “sham” (Gunson’s term) a second time. Who juggled possible sentences in discussions with outsiders, once calling a Santa Monica reporter, David L. Jonta, into his chambers to ask him, “What the hell should I do with Polanski?” Who discussed the case with the guy at the next urinal at his country club. Who held a press conference while the case was still alive. Who was removed from the case on a motion by both prosecution and defense.

(click here to continue reading Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired :: rogerebert.com :: Reviews.)

Manohla Dargis:

The sharply argued documentary “Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired” isn’t about the innocence or guilt of its title subject, who after pleading guilty in 1977 to having “unlawful sexual intercourse” with a minor flew from Los Angeles to London, never again to return to America. Neither is it about Mr. Polanski’s likability, his tragic past, morals, short stature, brilliant and bad films, the sleaze factor or your personal feelings on whether there’s anything wrong with a 43-year-old man’s having sex with a 13-year-old girl. All these elements come teasingly into view here, but really this is a movie about a very different kind of perversion.

“Wanted and Desired,” which opened on Friday without advance press screenings, was bought by HBO at the Sundance Film Festival in January. Its one-week theatrical run will make it eligible for Academy Award consideration, though given that organization’s often pitiful record when it comes to nonfiction film, it seems unlikely that a movie this subtly intelligent would make its short list. That’s especially true because the director, Marina Zenovich, refuses to wag her finger at Mr. Polanski, even when presenting the sordid and grimly pathetic details of his crime, like the Champagne and partial Quaalude he furnished the 13-year-old girl and her repeated nos.

Mr. Polanski’s guilt isn’t in doubt, arguments about the age of consent notwithstanding. In March 1977, he was arrested at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel and charged with raping the girl at the home of his friend, Jack Nicholson, the star of his film “Chinatown.” (Mr. Nicholson was away.) He was released on $2,500 bail and eventually indicted on six felony charges, including child molestation and sodomy. In August, after agreeing to a plea bargain, he pleaded guilty to one felony count of illegal sex with a 13-year-old girl. Her family’s lawyer, Lawrence Silver, told the judge that his clients were not seeking a prison term for Mr. Polanski, only an admission of wrongdoing and rehabilitation. By Feb. 1, 1978, Mr. Polanski had fled.

As Ms. Zenovich forcefully explains — using talking-head interviews, a wealth of archival material and generous clips from Mr. Polanski’s films, including “Rosemary’s Baby” and “Chinatown” — he had every reason to run. The story of what happened between the initial charges and his flight has been sketchily told before, including by his victim, Samantha Geimer, who in 2003 wrote a commentary for The Los Angeles Times in which she stated that she believed that he and his most recent film at the time, “The Pianist,” should be honored on their own merits. She added, “Who wouldn’t think about running when facing a 50-year sentence from a judge who was clearly more interested in his own reputation than a fair judgment or even the well-being of the victim?”

“Wanted and Desired” answers Ms. Geimer’s bombshell question with shocks of its own, notably corroborating interviews from Douglas Dalton, Mr. Polanski’s lawyer, and Roger Gunson, the assistant district attorney who led the prosecution. Together these two former opponents pin the blame for Polanski’s flight directly on the presiding judge, Laurence J. Rittenband (who stepped down in 1989 and died in 1994). Aided and abetted by an avalanche of fluidly organized visual material, the lawyers fill in the appalling details of what was effectively a second crime, one largely perpetrated by a celebrity-dazzled judge and the equally gaga news media he courted. This crime left two victims, Mr. Polanski, who was denied a fair trial, and Ms. Geimer, who was denied justice. As she wrote, “Sometimes I feel like we both got a life sentence.”

 

(click here to continue reading Movie Review – Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired – The Judge, the Director and the Vagaries of Justice – NYTimes.com.)

 

Written by Seth Anderson

January 31st, 2011 at 10:10 am

Posted in Film

Tagged with , ,

links for 2010-10-04

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  • Appcelerator and IDC surveyed 2,363 of over 70,000 developers who use Appcelerator’s Titanium application development platform on their plans, interests and perceptions of the major mobile and tablet OS providers. The Macalope asks this every time one of these surveys appears: is that representative of the whole? Of course not. It’s representative of the fact that Appcelerator wants to drive traffic to its site by publishing some incendiary survey results. This survey most likely specifically excludes those who’ve been developing for the Mac for years and are nominally more likely to be Apple enthusiasts.
    (tags: iPhone)
    1799f4ae-2f9b-4fa5-ab08-cd09631eac05_1_0.jpg
  • Artisanal breads begin with just four ingredients – flour, water, salt and yeast – and turn them into loaves so crusty, chewy and fragrant that you cannot stop eating them. If they have some whole grain in them, even better.
    (tags: food)
    The Great Wave off Kanagawa_1830. By Katsushika Hokusai.JPG
  • Most Chicagoans who work in the Loop have some familiarity with the Pedway, Chicago’s network of (mostly) underground passages and tunnels that transports pedestrians from the E,l to shopping, to work, without having to step foot out into the snow or rain. Many of us, however, use it purely to get to work and back, without ever bothering to find out just where the mysterious bends can actually take us. Let’s face it–the Pedway can be downright intimidating. So, both locals and tourists will be interested in local improviser and tour guide, Margaret Hicks’, reprisal of her Pedway Tour. The intriguing, 90-minute tour begins again this month, and features some of Chicago’s most famous buildings, without stepping outside.
    (tags: chicago)
    1282669094909.jpg
  • In 1976, two years before his 60th birthday, Ingmar Bergman was rehearsing a play at the Royal Dramatic Theatre in Stockholm when two plainclothes policemen arrested and booked him for income-tax fraud. Although the charges were false and eventually dropped, this terribly humiliating experience caused the internationally acclaimed Swedish filmmaker to suffer a nervous breakdown and a deep depression. He vowed never to work again in his native country, and began a self-imposed exile
    (tags: film_history)

Written by swanksalot

October 4th, 2010 at 7:01 am

Posted in Links

Tagged with , , ,

links for 2010-10-01

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  • used TaintDroid to test 30 popular free Android applications selected at random from the Android market and found that half were sending private information to advertising servers, including the user’s location and phone number. In some cases, they found that applications were relaying GPS coordinates to remote advertising network servers as frequently as every 30 seconds, even when not displaying advertisements.
    McCain_Phone.jpg
    (tags: google privacy)
  • “I gather he came straight from Grand Central to Shubert Alley,” Matthau told me. “I walked out of the theater after a performance and there’s this guy shouting at me from across the street: Walter! Walter! It’s me — Bernie! I fucked Yvonne De Carlo!
    (tags: film_history)

Written by swanksalot

October 1st, 2010 at 7:01 am

Posted in humor,Links

Tagged with ,

Blues Brothers and Jane Byrne

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“The Blues Brothers (Widescreen 25th Anniversary Edition)” (John Landis)

Netflix

Jane Byrne was the first mayor after Richard J Daley died1, and she was willing to do things differently than Daley. Thankfully, Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi waited, or else an iconic Chicago film wouldn’t have gotten a green light.

John Belushi walked into Jane Byrne’s office, sweat beading on his forehead. Dan Aykroyd waited outside the door. He gave Belushi, a Wheaton native, the breathing room to appeal to the mayor, hat in hand, local boy to local girl. Belushi was nervous. Byrne expected him to be. She sat at her desk stone-faced and silent, she recalled, offering no relief.

Mayor Daley the Dictator

Belushi and Aykroyd wanted to shoot a movie in Chicago, but, as everyone knew, Chicago government wasn’t exactly amenable to movie production. There wasn’t an official policy or anything. Movies did shoot here. Brian DePalma shot “The Fury” here a year earlier. A lot of commercials were shot here. There was even a cottage porn industry in River North. But the cooperation needed for a large-scale Hollywood production — the kind Belushi, Aykroyd and director John Landis had in mind, only bigger — was out of the question. It had been for years.

It was 1979, and Byrne had just started her term. Mayor Richard J. Daley, the reason movie studios usually didn’t consider Chicago a viable location, had died three years earlier. Byrne, now 76, remembered that Belushi “looked kind of fat, a sweaty guy already, but he wore a suit jacket and I thought he looked sick, to be honest. To the point that his hair was getting wet. I was a fan of his. But, of course, I wasn’t going to say this right away.”

So, for a laugh, she let him drown. She thought it would be funnier if she “acted like the first Daley, nodding like Buddha.”

“I know how Chicago feels about movies,” the comedian said to the mayor. Byrne nodded. Belushi said the studio would like to donate some money to Chicago orphanages in lieu of throwing a big, expensive premiere. “How much money?” she asked. He said, “$200,000.” She nodded again.

“And so he kept talking,” Byrne recalled. “Finally, I just said, ‘Fine.’ But he kept going. So again I said, ‘Look, I said fine.’ He said, ‘Wait. We also want to drive a car through the lobby of Daley Plaza. Right though the window.’ I remember what was in my mind as he said it. I had the whole 11th Ward against me anyway, and most of Daley’s people against me. They owned this city for years, so when Belushi asked me to drive a car through Daley Plaza, the only thing I could say was, ‘Be my guest!’ He said, ‘We’ll have it like new by the morning.’ I said, ‘Look, I told you yes.’ And that’s how they got my blessing.”

And that, more or less, is how Chicago became a regular location for movie production.

(click to continue reading Blues Brothers movie 30th anniversary – chicagotribune.com.)

but it all wasn’t peaches and cream:

Few claim “The Blues Brothers” changed filmmaking here overnight — retired casting director Alderman, for instance, pointed out that the industry has gone through dramatic swings, generating $24 million in 2003, $155 million in 2007. But few debate that those 14 weeks of production in 1979 were the turning point. Indeed, to Byrne, “The Blues Brothers” should be remembered as no less than the dawn of contemporary Chicago, “part of one big push to remind people how attractive their city was.” “I didn’t see it any different from sidewalk dining or Taste of Chicago,” both of which started during her term, she said.Richard J Daley Bicentennial Plaza

Landis, however, doesn’t remember it as a bright, new civic dawn. By summer 1980, he was one of the hottest directors in Hollywood. His previous film was “Animal House.” “The Blues Brothers” was then one of the most expensive movies ever made (and became a blockbuster). But as he entered the lobby after the Norridge screening, he said the tension seemed elsewhere.

“These two Cook County commissioners approach Jane,” Landis said. “And they start shouting at her. They were really abusive, and you could see her getting mad. ‘How could you have let them do this?’ they screamed. ‘They ruined the floors! Troops on Daley Plaza!’ It was the most bizarre scene. She’s saying back, ‘They replaced the floors!’ A guy’s shouting, ‘No way we let this happen!’ She’s saying, ‘It happened months ago! And you didn’t even notice!'”

Footnotes:
  1. one term only, I think []

Written by Seth Anderson

June 16th, 2010 at 8:37 am

Posted in Chicago-esque,Film

Tagged with , ,

Lost John Ford movie unearthed in New Zealand

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Cool. Wonder how long until these are released on DVD for Netflix purposes?

Netflix- Watch InstantlyNetflix- Watch Instantly

Collection of 75 early American films, including several that had been considered lost to history, have been discovered in New Zealand

An extraordinary collection of 75 early American films, including several that had been considered lost to history, have been discovered in New Zealand and are being returned to the US.

The cache includes the only copy believed to exist of a late silent movie by one of the giants of American film-making, John Ford, as well as several works produced between 1910 and 1920 starring important female actors such as Clara Bow and Mabel Normand.

The collection had been stored at the New Zealand Film Archive but their significance was not fully recognised until last year when they were dug out by a Los Angeles-based film preservationist. A deal has since been struck with the National Film Preservation Foundation based in San Francisco to preserve the reels and return them to the US.

The batch is being seen as a time capsule of American film from the 1910s and 1920s. Only about a fifth of all US films produced between 1900 and 1940 have survived, the rest having been lost through decay or neglect.

The collection comes from a period when the American film industry was just taking off and, propelled by the success of westerns, had begun to triumph around the world. About nine out of every 10 films shown in cinemas globally in the 1910s were made in the US.

“This is a wonderful group of movies,” said Annette Melville, the NFPF’s director. “About 70% of them are complete, which is extraordinary in itself, and many have their original colour tints.”

The crown jewel of the collection is Upstream, a 1927 film by John Ford, the director who later made such Oscar-winning classics as The Grapes of Wrath and The Quiet Man. Ford made more than 60 silent films between 1917 and 1928 but only about 10 are known to exist in their complete form.

The copy of Upstream found in New Zealand has a little damage from decay to its nitrates at the start of the film, obscuring the credits, which might explain why it has taken so long to come to light. The collection also includes a trailer for another Ford film, Strong Boy, which has otherwise been lost.

(click to continue reading Lost John Ford movie unearthed in New Zealand.)

 

Written by Seth Anderson

June 7th, 2010 at 6:21 pm

Posted in Film

Tagged with , ,