As the Crank Turns

March 8, 2012

If I haven’t done so, I will do it now. Let me state for the record that I do not like horror films, in particular I don’t like horror films made from 1970 to the present day. I find them to be heavy on gore and chase scenes and light on plot and characterization. Don’t worry, there’s a reason for this disclosure and it has to do with this week’s blog entry.

Exhibit A
There will be a remake of the campy horror film Evil Dead.  Reports state that the remake will be more dark and more gory than the original. Also, the role of Ash, which was played by Bruce Campbell in the original film, will be recast as a female. Well, it worked with Battlestar Galactica, so I guess the director decided to try it in Evil Dead.

Exhibit B
Radius,
a game and crowd-sourced film, most likely the first of its kind in the world, had its premiere in Cincinnati recently. The film was made via a smartphone scavenger hunt. People were invited to upload images of people, places and things in the Cincinnati area. Three hundred people participated and 2000 images were uploaded. The company that made this film, Ripple FX Films, is an independent production company that wants to “…put the audience at the center of the art.”

The Point of Exhibits A & B
Exhibit A shows how, once again, the powers that be in Hollywood have decided to greenlight a remake. Exhibit B shows how, once again, the independent filmmakers are striving to creative imaginative and original films. Really, it is necessary to redo Evil Dead? For fans of the film, part of its charm was its low budget campiness. Now there will be a version with lots of CGI effects. Like that will make the film better? As for independent filmmakers, they regularly show their dedication to storytelling and they do it with less resources and more imagination then the studios. Go independents!

“You’ve written about this before,” you must be saying now. “So, what else is new? Hollywood is a business, you know.”

Yes, I’ve written about this before, of course if the powers that be would stop with the redos, I would stop writing about this. Yet, the fact remains, Hollywood is a business and the tension between art and commerce has been going on since the days of Charlie Chaplin. Still, it is possible for the studios to create an original film and make money, as well. Burlesque, The Help, Shrek, Twilight are all recent original films that did well at the box office. So, the powers that be can’t blame it on the recession or throw up their hands and say it is just a trend. In fact, Ripple FX Films was brave enough to solicit images from everyday folks and the people at that company created a film out of those images. So, suits how about taking a line from the independents, putting the lid on all the remakes and making something original?  Don’t worry, you’ll make money. After all, Burlesque, The Help, Shrek, Twilight made money, lots of it and they were all original.

Tune it next time to As the Crank Turns, when our resident blogger will rail against a remake of Planet 9 from Outer Space. (That is if the suits actually decide to greenlight Planet 9 from Outer Space.)

Sources:
http://www.movieweb.com/news/the-evil-dead-remake-to-be-dark-and-very-gory-says-jane-levy

http://www.local12.com/news/local/story/First-of-Its-Kind-Movie-To-Premiere-In-Cincinnati/D2zXlk1aKUaa6T4i5gmDGQ.cspx

http://www.whatisradius.com/about

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My Thoughts Regarding the 2012 Oscars

March 1, 2012

The 84th Annual Academy Awards took place on February 26 and here is the list of winners:

Best Picture: The Artist, Thomas Langmann, producer

Best Actor: Jean Dujardin, The Artist

Best Actress: Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady

Best Director: Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist

Best Supporting Actress: Octavia Spencer, The Help

Best Supporting Actor: Christopher Plummer, Beginners

Best Cinematography: Hugo, Robert Richardson

Best Art Direction: Hugo, Dante Ferretti (production design) and Francesca Lo Schiavo (set decoration)

Best Costume Design: The Artist, Mark Bridges;

Best Makeup: The Iron Lady Mark Coulier and J. Roy Helland

Best Foreign Language Film: A Separation, Iran

Best Film Editing: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall

Best Sound Editing: Hugo, Philip Stockton and Eugene Gearty

Best Sound Mixing: Hugo, Tom Fleischman and John Midgley

Best Documentary Feature: Undefeated, TJ Martin, Dan Lindsay, and Richard Middlemas

Best Animated Feature: Rango, Gore Verbinski

Best Visual Effects: Hugo, Rob Legato, Joss Williams, Ben Grossman, and Alex Henning

Best Score: The Artist, Ludovic Bource

Best Song: “Man or Muppet” (The Muppets), music and lyrics by Bret McKenzie

Best Screenplay (adapted): The Descendants, Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, and Jim Rash

Best Screenplay (original): Midnight in Paris, Woody Allen

Best Short Film (Live Action): The Shore, Terry George and Oorlagh George

Best Documentary Short Subject: Saving Face, Daniel Junge and Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy

Best Animated Short Film: The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg

Now for my thoughts.

I’m Right (75 Percent of the Time)
I predicted in my blog entry of February 2 that Meryl Streep would win Best Actress for Iron Lady, The Artist would win Best Film or Best Director and George Clooney would win Best Actor for The Descendents. Well, Meryl Streep won Best Actress, The Artist won both Best Film and Best Director, and Jean Dujardin won Best Actor. That means, I got three out of four right. I’m better than the lottery. As for George Clooney, I’m thinking the Academy is waiting to see if he can pull off the kind of performance he gave in The Descendants again before they give him an Oscar.

The Host
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, Academy for having Billy Crystal host the Oscars. He was funny, engaging and moved things along. As I said in my Twitter post of February 27, “Hire him next year, & the year after that & the year after that…”  Of course, if Crystal can’t do next year’s Oscars, how about having Anne Hathaway as host. She was great last year, good enough to host the ceremony without James Franco. Here’s an idea, Billy Crystal can do even numbered years and Anne Hathaway can do odd numbered years and in years ending in 5 or 0, they can do it together. Sounds like a good plan to me.

Finally!
Bravo to Octavia Spencer and Christopher Plummer. Spencer won Best Supporting Actress for her role in The Help and Plummer won Best Supporting Actor for  Beginners. Spencer, like a lot of actors, toiled in bit roles in television and movies, before being cast in The Help. Plummer had roles ranging from Captain Von Trapp in The Sound of Music to bank president Arthur Case in Inside Man, but it wasn’t until 2009 that he got his first Oscar nomination. It was at the 84th Academy Awards where they both finally won. Just goes to show you that hard work and class pay off.

Let’s Not Forget…
The Cirque Du Soleil tribute to the magic of movies was great. Though, I must say that I didn’t like some of the camera shots. It would have been better if they didn’t show the performance at different angles, rather just keep a straight ahead shot. Then there was Kermit and Miss Piggy. Their little skit/presentation was funny. I especially liked Miss Piggy’s comment about not being nominated, “It’s about time Spielberg left some for the rest of us.” She said. “How many Oscars does he need anyway?” Well, Spielberg was snubbed more times than he won, so he understands why Miss Piggy would be frustrated with the Academy.

Well, that’s my two cents on the 2012 Academy Awards. Will George Clooney (not to mention Miss Piggy) finally get that Oscar? Will Billy Crystal return as host? Will the Kodak Theatre get a name that will stick for more than 11 years? These and other questions will be answered next year.

Sources:
http://articles.philly.com/2012-02-27/news/31104758_1_academy-awards-winners-hugo-film-editing

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001626/

http://oscar.go.com/video/PL55173797

Now I’ve Seen Everything (Up To This Point)

February 23, 2012

As always, the Internet has proved to be a great source for my blog. So, will I write about an upcoming auction of a Little Caesar movie poster that will take place in Texas during the month of March, 2012? (There are only two posters from this film known to exist and this is one of them.)

No.

Will I write about an auction that took place on February 9-11, 2012 that included The Amazing Spider-Man No. 1 comic book from 1963. The comic book was rated as an 8.5 (10 is the considered best) and sold for $23,400.00

No.

So, what will I write about? Hair, namely celebrity hair. Believe it or not, I learned that that Paul Frasier Collectibles in England is selling strands of hair from celebrities such as Katherine Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, Marilyn Monroe, even Justin Bieber, just to name a few. Most of the strands sell for £49.95 ($78.69 USD), yet one strand sells for £149.95  ($236.24 USD) and a collection of hair, not just a few strands, sells for £35,000 ($55,142.51 USD).

Wow, some people will buy anything and more power to Paul Fraser for making a profit out of the hair. The thing is, what is someone going to do with a strand of hair? Clone the celebrity once it is possible to create a human being hair or tissue samples? Put it in a display case to astound friends and confuse enemies? I can see the point of buying a piece of clothing or jewelry that a celebrity owned, even a movie prop. They are things that are either pleasing to the eye or artfully rendered and, in the case of clothes and jewelry, they can be worn. You can’t wear a strand of hair.

Also, what about the case of celebrities that didn’t have children and any parents and siblings have since died. How can it be proven that the hair is really theirs? Do you call up relatives and a say “Excuse me, we have a strand of hair that may be from your cousin, Marilyn Monroe. Can you please give us a DNA sample, so that we can prove that the hair is really hers?” Personally, if there was a famous person in my family and his or her hair were to be auctioned off, I would charge for having to give a DNA sample. How much would I charge? Whatever the going price for the hair is, that is how much my DNA is worth.

I must say that having a strand of hair from a celebrity, especially a dead one, is creepy. No matter how tastefully the hair is displayed, it still came from a human being. It’s like displaying a skull or a jar with an eyeball floating in formaldehyde. As wonderful as the human body is, and it is, the body looks better and is less creepy when the parts aren’t disassembled and scattered hither and thither.

Then there’s the question of how the hair was acquired in the first place? In the case of Justin Bieber, it was acquired when he cut it on The Ellen Show. How did people get a hold of the hair of Elizabeth Taylor or Marilyn Monroe? Did a maid save some strands after Taylor or Monroe washed their hair? Did a beautician put a collection in a jar after a cut and styling session? Elvis’ barber did something like that and his collection of The King’s hair sold at auction for $33,657 in April 2003.

I guess this is just a case of there are people in the world with more dollars than sense. Yes, a person is entitled to spend his or her money as he or she sees fit and if that person wants a strand of Elizabeth Taylor, and can afford it, then fine, spend your money on Liz’s hair.  Yet, all the money in the world doesn’t take away the creep factor.

Sources:
http://www.paulfrasercollectibles.com/News/MEMORABILIA/‘Little-Caesar’-movie-poster-–-‘holy-grail’-of-gangster-films-–-auctions-in-Texas/9781.page?catid=78

http://www.morphyauctions.com/auctions/article?id=195

http://morphyauctions.auctionflex.com/showlot.ap?co=31120&weid=21297&weiid=7787056&archive=n&keyword=Spider&lso=lotnumasc&pagenum=1&lang=En

http://store.paulfrasercollectibles.com/famous-hair-s/1830.htm

http://finance.yahoo.com/currency-converter

MastroNet Inc., Americana Premier Catalog Auction, Lots 1-670. #583 “Enormous Quantiy of Hair From the Head of the “King” – Elvis – Saved by His Personal Barber”, pages 206-207. April 23, 2003.

http://www.kovels.com/201008258031/News-News-News/elvis-presley-hair-a-bargain.html

 

 

Fanboys (and Girls) Back Off

February 16, 2012

George Lucas, the man behind Star Wars, the co-creator of Indiana Jones and now the co-director of Red Tails, a World War II film that focuses on the pursuit squadron made up of African-Americans, known as the Tuskegee Airmen, has announced that he is retiring from making movies.

Yet, for someone who has created some of the most enduring characters in film and some of the most successful films in the history of cinema, Lucas seems to be more an object of scorn than praise. The comments section of the website where I learned of Lucas’ retirement had quite a few sarcastic and nasty comments about him. Of course, to be fair there were complimentary comments as well.  I feel that the negative comments directed at him are mean spirited and don’t add anything constructive to the conversation. So, this blog entry will be my answer to all the disgruntled Jedis out there.

First, a disclosure:
Yes, I am a fan of all the Star Wars films from the original trilogy to the prequels. I love the films because of the good versus evil/adventure story that they are. Yet, I must say that I feel that the Clone Wars animated film and subsequent series are unnecessary. As for the Ewok made-for-TV movies from the 1980’s, I’m neutral on them.  Now, here’s my two cents on the subject:

Temper Your Expectations
Get over the fact that the prequels weren’t what you expected them to be. Remember this is Star Wars, a series of movies that was made for entertainment purposes, they are not meant to be taken as philosophy or religion. Yes, it uses mythic arch-types such as hero’s quest and redemption, but many stories have those things, such as The Chronicles of Narina and Lord of the Rings. No one begrudges the filmmakers of these films for how they interpreted each story.

If You Think You Can Do A Better Job…
Make your own movie! That’s right. If you are going to shoot off your big mouth about how you didn’t like this or that aspect of the Star Wars prequels or would or would not do something a certain way, then go make your own movie where you decide how things should be done. Digital cameras make it much cheaper and, in many ways, easier to make a film now than it was in the mid 1970’s when Lucas was in Tunisia and England making Star Wars. In fact, independent director Lena Dunham shot the film Tiny Furniture on a Canon EOS 7D, a still camera that sells for $1500, and she got a nomination for Best Cinematography from the Independent Spirit Award. So, stop shooting off your mouth and start shooting a movie.

In The Words Of A Certain Starfleet Captain…
“Get a life!” Yes, I am mixing my pop culture metaphors, still it is apropos for those who feel the need to comment on how George Lucas sold out, could have done better or mention anything else that is less than complementary. Lucas has achieved what few people have done, namely he was able to take the ideas in his head and have them realized. Most people’s ideas, for whatever reason, stay exactly that—ideas that never see the light of day. Yet, Lucas was lucky enough to not only have the Star Wars films made, but to see them transcend just being movies to become a part of American culture.

So, how about showing a little admiration for what Lucas was able to accomplish and if you can’t show some admiration, then back off. The Star Wars films are Lucas’ baby. He created them, shared them with the world and millions were touched by them. How many people can say that about their creations?

Personally, I don’t think this retirement will last very long. He’ll get another idea that he just has to turn into a film. So, don’t expect Lucas to spend the rest of his days playing golf and lounging around the Skywalker Ranch.

Sources:
http://www.movieweb.com/news/george-lucas-set-to-retire-after-red-tails

http://www.tuskegeeairmen.org/explore/history.aspx

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/terry-keefe/the-slamdance-film-festiv_b_1217044.html

http://www.ebertpresents.com/episodes/episode-108/videos/88

Minimalistic Movie Posters Are Cool

February 9, 2012

In this blog and on my Facebook and Twitter pages, I have highlighted many examples of minimalistic movie posters. In case you just surfed in and don’t know what they are, minimalistic movie posters are movie posters distilled to a single image or just a main image with only the most necessary background. Since words don’t really describe minimalistic posters here are some examples:

(FYI: The Dark Night Rises poster was done by artist Chaz Russo and his work can be found here. The Amazing Spider-Man poster was done by freelance graphic designer Matt Ferguson and his work can be found here.) I must admit that seeing these kinds of movie posters have turned me into a fan. What is it about such posters that make them so great? Here’s my two cents on the subject:

Not Created by Committee
One person created these posters. That person had an idea and decided to execute it. There was no market research done on the images. No suits were involved in the process.  If digital means were used to create the poster, it was used by someone who didn’t just learn how to the use the program at 9:00 AM on Monday and started making posters at 10:30 AM. It was just one person and his or her vision. Out of that came a thing of beauty.

Created by People with Talent
These posters were created by people with 1/100,000 of the budget of a Hollywood studio, yet they create something that makes you stop for a moment and look at something in a good way. Yet, the studios are drowning in money and when they try to make a minimalistic movie poster it turns out like this:

The above X-Men First Class poster is not a good movie poster, period. Yet, the artists who make the minimalistic movie posters time and time again make amazing posters. They have the mythical “it” and that enables them to meet the challenge that creating a minimalistic movie poster entails. Not to say that it is easy to create such a poster, it isn’t. After all, how do you decide which image to focus on and how do you stop yourself from putting in other images? I don’t know how they do it. Still, because of their talent, they create posters that surpass almost anything the studios create.

They Are Good Ads for the Movie
There have been times where I’ve seen the “official” poster for a film and thought “That’s nice” and wasn’t moved to see the film.  I’ll see a minimalistic movie poster for the same film and think “I WANT to see that movie.” Never mind the fact that the film is past its theatrical run and it’s only available on DVD. The minimalistic movie posters instill desire in me. The Photoshopped creations from the studios just don’t do that.

They Are Works of Art
Look at the examples of fan created The Dark Knight Rises and The Amazing Spider-Man minimalistic movie posters and tell me that they aren’t works of art in and of themselves. Even if you know nothing about the movie in question, these posters look good enough to be displayed in any museum.  Through the artist’s knowledge of the film, as well as use of color and space, he or she creates a work of art. This one lone person, who has nothing more than talent, the right tools and access to the Internet, is able to create something beautiful. Whereas the studios, with all their resources, more often than not create something that ranges from pedestrian to downright dumb and many times, the movie poster isn’t even beautiful.

Just goes to show you, less is more, especially since committees aren’t known for creating great works of art.

Sources:
http://www.shockya.com/news/2012/01/16/the-amazing-spider-man-gets-three-fan-made-minimalist-posters/

http://www.comicsalliance.com/2011/10/21/adam-rabalais-art/

http://www.comicbookmovie.com/fansites/rorschachsrants/news/?a=51170

My Thoughts on the 2012 Oscar Nominations

February 2, 2012

The Academy Awards nominations were announced on January 24, 2012 and here are the nominees for Best Picture:

The Artist
The Descendants
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
The Help
Hugo
Midnight in Paris
Moneyball
The Tree of Life
War Horse

If you want to see the entire list of nominees, you can read them here: http://www.movieweb.com/news/84th-annual-academy-awards-nominations

Now for my thoughts on the subject:

Then There Were Nine
This is the third year in a row that more than five films are up for Best Picture and I’ve grown to be not so crazy about the idea. If the Academy is going to expand one category, then it should expand the other categories, like Best Director, Best Actor/Actress, etc. Especially for an award like Best Picture, which is an icing-on-the-cake type of award. I feel that if your film has been nominated for Best Picture, it should have a few other awards, too. While films on the list are up for other awards, only two on the list are up for both Best Director and Best Actor (The Artist and The Descendants). This year none of the films in the Best Picture nominees have the quadruple nods of Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor, and Best Actress. Getting all those nominations gives a film a cache of respectability, as well as, bragging rights of “Look how great we are.” So, I say either expand all the categories or shrink the Best Film category back to five.

“The winner is…”
I predict that Meryl Streep will win for Best Actress, The Artist will either win for Best Film or Best Director and George Clooney will squeak by with Best Actor. What makes me say those things? Simple:

1.)   Meryl Streep is due for a win. While she has been nominated 17 times, she only won twice (1980 for Kramer vs. Kramer and in 1983 for Sophie’s Choice). So, how about giving her an award for portraying a powerful woman like Margaret Thatcher.

2.)   The Artist is an artsy and nostalgia piece and the Academy loves to award art and nostalgia films as if to say, “See, things were great back then. People cared about art and so do we.” Never mind the fact that the same tension between art and commerce existed “back then” as it does now.

3.)   George Clooney’s character in The Descendants isn’t some “I’m so handsome/smart/cool” type of character. Rather he plays a widowed dad who is trying to raise his kids and keep the ancestral home from being bought by real estate developers. Maybe the Academy will reward him with an Oscar. Yet, he is up against Jean Dujardin from The Artist. So it’s an actor in an art and nostalgia film versus an actor who’s known for playing “I’m so handsome/smart/cool” types, this time not playing such a type and getting an Oscar nomination for it. Hmmm, it will be close.

And Now A Word About The Host
When I learned that Eddie Murphy would be the host of the Academy Awards, I was so happy. Finally, a host who knows how to play for laughs. While Anne Hathaway was great at last year’s show, James Franco was just there. Then came the news that Murphy left when the telecast’s producer, Brett Ratner, left. I thought, “Oh no, the show’s going to suck.” When I heard that Billy Crystal would be the host, I breathed a sigh of relief. I’ve seen him host the show before and he knows what he is doing. He’s funny and moves the telecast along. So, my fears of a host who just shows up and nothing more were, thankfully, unfounded.

The 84th Annual Academy Awards will be broadcast on the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) on February 26, 2012. To learn more about the Academy Awards go to: http://oscar.go.com/

Sources:
http://www.movieweb.com/news/84th-annual-academy-awards-nominations
http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000658/awards

Lost and Found

January 26, 2012

Not too long ago, I learned that an animated version of The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolken’s prequel to Lord of the Ring was found. This version is over 11 minutes long and dates from 1966. It was designed by Czech illustrator Adolf Born and was written and directed by Tom and Jerry animator Gene Deitch and you can watch it here:

As you can guess, this discovery got me thinking about other lost and found films. There are many films, most from the early days of motion pictures that have become lost, either through neglect, accident or the nitrates ate away at the film and there is nothing left to watch. There are also many films that were, and still are, languishing in a closet somewhere, only to be found when someone knocks something over or lifts up a box.  So, I have put together a list of some films that are lost and some films that were found.

Lost
The Story of the Kelly Gang
(1906)
This film tells the tale of Australia’s most famous criminal or “bushranger” Ned Kelly. Directed by Melbourne native Charles Tait, the film was a popular and critical success and lead to a succession of bushranger films. Soon these type of films were banned in several Australian states because they romanticized crime and criminals. Unfortunately, at the turn of the 20th century, studios didn’t realize the historical significance of saving a film, like The Story of the Kelly Gang. So, there was no procedure put in place to preserve these films for future generations, hence it became lost. Still, the film has not entirely disappeared. Nine minutes of footage was found in a deserted house in 1979 and just before the film’s 100th anniversary, Australia’s National Film and Sound Archive contacted archives around the world in regards to the film. As it turned out, the British Film Institute had an incomplete film labeled “Kelly Gang,” and it contained more footage of the film. While, it is far from complete, there was enough footage to get a feel for the film and that was added to a DVD of the film.

Humorisk (or Humor Risk) (1920s)
Would you believe that the Marx Brothers made a silent film? Yes, it is true. In fact, it was their first film and they played different characters to the ones that they became famous for. Reports are that Groucho didn’t like this film, so he purchased it and destroyed all prints and negatives. Ouch! That’s taking the killing of your darlings to extremes.

Catch My Soul (1974)
Conventional wisdom states that most of the films that became lost were from the early years of the 20th century. For the most part that’s true, the exception is Catch My Soul. This is a rock opera based on Shakespeare’s Othello and has folk singer Richie Haven as the lead. The film was directed by Patrick McGoohan, who was the lead actor in the famous television show of the 1960’s The Prisoner. The film got poor reviews and one critic said that it was “pricelessly funny” without meaning to be, since it was dramatic film. Wait, it gets worse. According to McGoohan, one of the producers found religion and added 15 minutes of religious material to the film. McGoohan didn’t like that and tried to have his name removed from the credits. The next year it was re-titled as Santa Fe Satan and then it disappeared. So, check your closets and attics, keep an eye open at flea markets and while checking out stuff on eBay, because a print of this film might show up in those places.

Found
Cléopâtre
  (1899)
No, this is not the one with Liz and Dick. This is a French film and the earliest horror film made. This film deals with the re-animated mummy of Cleopatra and the havoc she creates. It was thought to be lost until 2005 when a print of the film was found. So, now the French film canon includes more than just chain smokers who discuss the meaning of life in sidewalk cafes.

Richard III (1912)
This is a film adaptation of the Shakespeare play of the same name and is considered the oldest American feature film in existence. It featured the, then, famous actress Sarah Bernhardt. This film was thought lost until 1996 when a high quality print was found.

Metropolis  (1927)
This film wasn’t lost like the other films mentioned. Rather, after it’s premiere in Berlin, the film was cut from its original 153 minutes to 90 minutes. Restoration was done in 2001 with combined footage from several archives and that brought the film up to 124 minutes. That version was considered to be the most complete version until 2008 when a 16 mm negative was found in, of all places, Buenos Aires. This negative contained 25 minutes of lost footage. This footage was integrated with the 2001 version in 2010 and now the film is as close to director Fritz Lang’s original version of the film as possible.

The lost and found films mentioned in this blog entry demonstrate the importance of archiving films. After all, whether a film becomes a classic or a flop, it is part of the historical record of the studio that made it, so it needs to be saved for future generations. It also demonstrates the importance of keeping track of your own stuff. After all, if you lose your stamp, coin or baseball card collection, do you think the Smithsonian Institute will help you find it?

Of course, it you have any information about the lost films mentioned in this blog entry, please contact the following film archives: 

Australia
National Film and Sound Archive of Australia
McCoy Circuit, Acton ACT 2601
GPO Box 2002,Canberra ACT 2601
Email: enquiries@nfsa.gov.au
http://nfsa.gov.au

USA
National Film Preservation Board
Library of Congress (4690)
Motion Picture, Broadcasting & Recorded Sound Division
101 Independence Avenue SE
Washington DC 20540
Attn: Steve Leggett, Staff Coordinator
Email: sleg@loc.gov
http://www.loc.gov/film/

The author would like to thank Gene Deitch for his assistance with this blog entry.

Sources:
http://www.movieweb.com/news/the-hobbit-long-lost-animated-short-discovered

http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/movie-lists/9-famous-lost-films-that-have-been-rediscovered/

http://www.mentalfloss.com/blogs/archives/70351

http://www.kino.com/metropolis/restoration.html#rest

The More Things Change…

January 19, 2012

The more blog ideas I get.  Two items on the Internet inspired this entry.  They are:

The Historical Fact
On December 28, 1895, the first commercially screened movie was shown in the Grand Café in Paris. The film, called Workers Leaving the Lumiere Factory, is 46 seconds long and shows people leaving the Lumiere factory in Lyon, France. The film was screened by Auguste and Louis Lumiere (their father owned the factory) and people actually paid to see this, along with other short films, created by the Lumiere brothers.

The Recent Development
The December 27, 2011 entry of Entertainment Weekly’s Popwatch blog was a part lament/part rant about the demise of the video rental store. What lead to this article was that the author wanted to rent Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion and she couldn’t find it anywhere. So, she was stuck with downloading it from iTunes. (The horror!)

My Two Cents
Regarding the first movie shown to a paying audience, everything has a beginning and movies are no exception. Yes, the act of going to see a motion picture began in a humble Parisian cafe. I saw the film (Thank you, You Tube) and while it doesn’t compare Hollywood’s current output, it is worth a lot as a historical document. Imagine being a patron of the Grand Café. A poster advertising a new attraction piques your interest. You go in, pay admission and see something you have never seen before, namely, moving images on a wall. We in the early 21st century take it for granted that there are motion pictures. In late 19th century Paris, motion pictures, even if all they do is show people leaving factory, were an amazing new sight to behold. Attached is the film, let me know what you think of it.

Now for the endings part of this blog entry. Thanks to Netflix, DVD vending machines and the Internet, the end of the video rental store is coming.  Yes, for whatever reason there will be some holdouts that survive because they serve a niche in their community. Still, trend is to get videos from a source other than a bricks and mortar store. On the one hand that is good, because the choice is in consumer’s hands and in the case of Netflix and the Internet, they have more items than can ever be found in a bricks and mortar store.

On the other hand, searching for something on the Internet or just viewing the selections from a DVD vending machine, seems so sterile. I can remember going to a Tower Records & Video (RIP) near my house to rent a movie and not having any idea what to rent until I actually found something after browsing the aisles for at least 15 minutes. While that happens with the Internet, there’s no sense of adventure when what you want is right at your fingertips. As for vending machines, they are limited to 20 to 40 titles of the most recent releases or straight to video duds. While it is great to rent the latest Harry Potter film from one of these machines, noticing that Piranha 3DD is listed below right below it doesn’t enhance the experience—at least it doesn’t for me.

Still, who would have thought in 1895 that there would be computer-animated films, films made with motion capture technology and even just films made in color and having spoken dialogue and other sounds. In addition, who would have thought in 1995 that video stores would be replaced by Netflix, vending machines and the Internet. Of course, time marches on and things evolve and change. So, who knows what entertainment or other wonders that tech heads will dream up and create. Whatever comes next, it is good to have a sense of appreciation for what is and a sense of wonder for is to come. Believe it or not, there was a time when even cable television didn’t exist. Now there are over a hundred channels available to those who subscribe to service and people actually complain about “…nothing good being on TV.”

Sources:

http://blogs.suntimes.com/ebert/the-birthday-of-the-movies.html

http://www.earlycinema.com/pioneers/lumiere_bio.html

http://popwatch.ew.com/2011/12/27/contrarian-corner-ive-had-it-with-video-stores/

Top 10 Grossing Films of 2011

January 12, 2012

Now that 2011 is history, it is time to consider how movies fared in the past year. The top ten grossing films in the U.S. were:

1.)  Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 $381 Million
While it was sad to see the films end, they ended very well. God bless J.K. Rowling for her imagination and for being brave enough not to drag out the Harry Potter story. The books and films ran their course and the characters all lived happily ever after, except for Dumbledore, Voldemore and Professor Snape.

2.)  Transformers: Dark of the Moon        $352.3 Million

3 .)  The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1     $276.1 Million
I can’t wait for Part II so that these Twilight films will end. Once. And. For. ALL!

4.) The Hangover Part II        $254.4 Million
Low-brow humor brings in the dough.

5.) Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides   $241 Million

6.)  Fast Five        $209.8 Million

7.)  Cars 2           $191.4 Million
Since sequels worked for Toy Story, the folks at Pixar felt it would work for Cars and it did.

8.)   Thor         $181 Million
Stan Lee must be a very happy camper since his creations have finally made it to the silver screen.

9.)   Rise of the Planet of the Apes        $176.7 Million

10.)  Captain America: The First Avenger   $176.6 Million
See number 8.

Well, what about Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol? You must be asking. After all, this was the film that heralded Tom Cruise’s return to being a box office draw. Well that film was 18th on the Box Office Mojo list for 2011 with a total U.S. gross of $141.1 Million as of January 3, 2012.

Still, what do these films say about the movie industry. Well, they don’t just say, they shout that sequels still sell. Eight out of the 10 films on the list were sequels. I’ve written quite a lot about how sequels, redos and reboots have littered the movie landscape, so a word to the wise is sufficient. (i.e. The suits haven’t gotten the message so, gentle moviegoer, seek out something original and ignore the sequels, redos and reboots.)

I don’t mind movies based on comic books, because comic books lend themselves to being on the silver screen, especially with the technology now available.  With today’s technology, a good special effect team can make it very easy to suspend disbelief and buy into the illusion that someone can leap tall buildings in a single bound, swing from skyscraper to skyscraper or design an exoskeleton suit that makes him impervious to injury and have incredible strength. Of course, a good special effects team can’t help if someone is a bad actor. Remember, there are limits as to what special effects can do.

Of course, I must admit that I am still on the fence regarding the upcoming Spider-Man reboot. The three Spider-Man films directed by Sam Rami and staring Toby Maguire as Peter Parker/Spider-Man did well at the box office, with audiences and critics. It wouldn’t hurt anyone to have ended it at the third film and let other characters in the Marvel universe get their chance in the spotlight. Yet, I’ve seen some of the images from the film and they have piqued my curiosity. Stay tuned for further developments.

You know, when I ended a similar blog entry in January 2011, I predicted that 2011 would bring more blockbusters, sequels and animated films. I was right and the above list proves it. Just goes to show you that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.

Sources:
http://boxofficemojo.com/yearly/chart/?yr=2011&p=.htm

http://www.hollywood.com/news/The_Box_Office_Year_in_Review_2011/12394979

Library of Congress Adds Movies to the 2011 Film Registry

January 5, 2012

What do Forrest Gump and A Cure for Pokeritis have in common? They are just two of the 25 films added to the Library of Congress’ Film Registry for 2011. The Film Registry was established by an act of Congress in 1989 and its mission is to preserve films that are “…culturally, historically or aesthetically significant…” This year’s group brings the number of films in the registry to 575 and to say that this bunch is a diverse lot is an understatement. In addition to Forrest Gump and A Cure for Pokeritis, there are films about addiction (The Lost Weekend) an early example of computer animation (A Computer Animated Hand) and Charlie Chaplin’s first full-length film (The Kid).

I must say that it is wonderful that the Library of Congress has a film registry and that those at the registry are working hard to preserve this part of American culture. In doing this blog, I’ve come to the opinion that as far as the United States is concerned, there should be no demarcation line between high culture and popular culture, since it all deals with our hopes and dreams as a people. Whether it is Huckleberry Finn trying to find his place in pre-Civil War Missouri or Luke Skywalker staring at the suns of Tattoine and wanting more than just the farm life with his aunt and uncle, American culture deals with a restlessness that comes from wanting to find out either what is around the bend or what a person is capable of doing or becoming. That’s one of the reasons why American culture is our best export, since the only limit is one’s imagination.

In case you are wondering, the films that made it on to this year’s list are:

  1. Allures (1961)
  2. Bambi (1942)
  3. The Big Heat (1953)
  4. A Computer Animated Hand (1972)
  5. Crisis: Behind A Presidential Commitment (1963)
  6. The Cry of the Children (1912)
  7. A Cure for Pokeritis (1912)
  8. El Mariachi (1992)
  9. Faces (1968)
  10. Fake Fruit Factory (1986)
  11. Forrest Gump (1994)
  12. Growing Up Female (1971)
  13. Hester Street (1975)
  14. I, an Actress (1977)
  15. The Iron Horse (1924)
  16. The Kid (1921)
  17. The Lost Weekend (1945)
  18. The Negro Soldier (1944)
  19. Nicholas Brothers Family Home Movies (1930’s-40s)
  20. Norma Rae (1979)
  21. Porgy and Bess (1959)
  22. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
  23. Stand and Deliver (1988)
  24. Twentieth Century (1934)
  25. War of the Worlds (1953)

“It’s the stuff that dreams are made of.”

Sources:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/2011-national-film-registry-list-is-announced-gump-bambi-deemed-worthy/2011/12/27/gIQA56wbLP_story.html

http://www.loc.gov/today/pr/2011/11-240.html