Posts Tagged ‘Steven Spielberg’

Memorable Summer Movies

May 10, 2012

Not too long ago, I wanted to purchase some tickets online for my nephew and I to see Pirates! Band of Misfits. After I bought the tickets, I noticed a short blog entry on the movie ticket website about the summer movie season of 1982 being the best summer movie season ever. That was the summer the following films were released:

The Road Warrior
Blade Runner

John Carpenter’s The Thing

Tron

An Officer and a Gentlemen

Conan the Barbarian

Poltergeist

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

E.T.

(By the way, I saw E.T., Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Tron in the summer of 1982 and I liked E.T. and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan the best out of the three.)

It is risky to say that a year or a season of a year was the best movie year ever because tastes change. Case in point, when Citizen Kane came out in 1941, it was a box office dud. Now it is considered a gem of American cinema.

Duds that turn into classics, not withstanding, I thought it would be fun to write about memorable summer movies. What makes them so memorable? Read on and you’ll find out.

Summer of 1983

Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
If you are a regular reader of this blog, you probably suspect that I liked Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi the best out of the original Star Wars trilogy. Well, you would be wrong. I loved Return of the Jedi. I saw the film on its opening weekend and what an event it was. The theater was packed and everyone was eager to see how George Lucas ended the trilogy. As far as I’m concerned, he did a great job wrapping everything up. (FYI: My favorite scene in the movie and all time favorite movie scene is when Han Solo is freed from the carbonite.)

Jaws 3D
The only thing memorable about this film was that it was shown in 3D. In late 1982, 3D films made a comeback, sort of. A few films were released in 3D but the technology was not as advanced as it is today, so 3D films fizzled out by late 1983.

Summer of 1993

Jurassic Park
A film about the return of dinosaurs and it was directed by none other than Steven Spielberg! What’s there not to like? I went to see the film expecting to get a summer blockbuster and I got more than just the run-of-the-mill summer movie. I got film that was a reflection on technology and how it isn’t always the savior it is made out to be. I can remember thinking while I was watching the film, “Why does this remind me of the film Westworld?” I later learned that the book, in which the film was based on, was written by none other than Michael Crichton, the man who wrote and directed Westworld.

Summer of 2001

Pearl Harbor
I took my dad to see this film for Father’s Day. He grew up during World War II, so any documentary, television show or film that is about or took place during that time, Dad is all over it. I liked this film. The special effects were good and the stars were good in their roles. Yet, the most memorable thing was that during the film, I was thinking, “The Japanese military had guts to do the attack at Pearl Harbor.” Not to take anything away from those in the military who were at Pearl Harbor during the time of the attack, yet I must say that an attack like that was very bold. Little did I or anyone else know that as this movie was making it theatrical run, the 9/11 hijackers were training to carry out the worst attack on U.S. soil, since Pearl Harbor.

Spider-Man Trailer
Normally, I wouldn’t write about a trailer but this one is extra special. It featured a vignette about a group of bad guys who make their getaway in a helicopter. Just as they are about to make a great escape, they get caught in a web spun by Spider-Man. Where did he spin the web? Between the towers of the World Trade Center. When I saw this trailer in the movie theater, (one week before 9/11 if you must know) I was amazed. Yes, I knew it was a computer-generated image, but it was so impressive that it looked like a real helicopter was suspended in a web between the Twin Towers. Of course, when the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon happened, the trailer was pulled from theaters.

Summer of 2008

The Dark Knight
While Christian Bale was great as Batman, Heath Ledger stole the show as The Joker. Ledger’s Joker was EVIL. He didn’t force the humor or nastiness. Ledger played the role as if he were really that bad. Basically, I wouldn’t want to run into Ledger’s Joker in a well-lit alley. Yes, he deserved the Oscar and it was a shame that he died before he had a chance to do more work.

Summer of 2010

Toy Story 3
Wow. The folks at Pixar know how to wrap up a trilogy. The series started with Andy at eight and ended with him going off to college. Along the way, the toys had many adventures and misadventures, yet they stick together, like good friends do. The most poignant and best scene in Toy Story 3 was when Andy dropped off the toys at Bonnie’s house, an 8 year-old whose mom knows Andy’s mom. After telling her about each toy, Andy and Bonnie play with the toys. When they are done, Andy goes off to college and the toys remain with Bonnie.

Well, those are my memorable summer movie memories. Tune in next week for another thrilling blog entry from the chick who loooooves summer movies (among other things related to the movies).

Sources:

http://www.fandango.com/movieblog/weekend-chatter-was-1982-greatest-summer-movies-season-of-all-time-714464.html

Heritage Magazine Fall 2008 “Remember When…1941” Pg. 8

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0107290/

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0425061/

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0133152/

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0213149/

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0468569/

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0435761/

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Female Directors

September 15, 2011

Do you know who Jennifer Yuh Nelson is? Well, if you love animated films you should because she is the director of Kung Fu Panda 2. She recently hit a milestone where she became the highest grossing female director when Kung Fu Panda 2 grossed $645 Million. She beat Phyllida Lloyd, the director of Mamma Mia, whose film grossed $609 Million.

I’m very happy when anyone, male or female, is successful. Still, the milestone Yuh Nelson hit is extra special because Kung Fu Panda 2 is an animated film and not only are there not many female directors, there aren’t many females in animation period. So, kudos to her and may this encourage others to try their hand at either animation or film directing.

Of course, that got me thinking. (Here we go again.) Yuh Nelson and Lloyd aren’t the only female directors out there. There have been others who have made their mark behind the camera. Who are they? Well, gentle reader, read on to learn about some notable female directors.

Kathryn Bigelow
While winning the Oscar for The Hurt Locker put Bigelow on the movie making map, she directed other films such as Point Break and K-19: The Widowmaker. What they all have in common is they are very much guy flicks. The Hurt Locker deals with defusing bombs in the Iraq War. Point Break is an action film about an FBI agent infiltrating bank robbing gang. K-19: The Widowmaker is about a Soviet nuclear submarine that malfunctions and how the crew must work against the clock to save themselves from disaster. So, the stereotype of women directors making rom-coms or period pieces doesn’t fit Bigelow.

Sofia Coppola
Yes, she’s the daughter of Francis Ford Coppola. Still, her work stands on its own. With films such as The Virgin Suicides, Lost in Translation, Marie Antoinette and Somewhere, I’ll go out on a limb and say she’s on her way to becoming the type of director that university film professors will lecture about and show films to their students 20 years from now, if they aren’t already doing it now. Trust me, that’s a good thing, since Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg spent their university days watching films of the French New Wave.

Amy Heckerling
What films did she direct? How about Fast Times at Ridgemont High, with Sean Penn (which was his breakout role), Johnny Dangerously with Michael Keaton (before he went through his dark stage with Batman) and National Lampoon’s European Vacation, with Chevy Chase. Those are some real sensitive films, aren’t they?

Madonna
Madonna!? You must be saying now. Yes, her. Believe it or not Madge directed two films. Filth and Wisdom and her latest opus W.E. which deals with the relationship between Wallis Simspon, American divorcee and Edward Windsor, aka King Edward VIII who left the throne for her. My guess is that being married to director Guy Ritchie must have rubbed off on her and she decided to try making a movie. Movie critics felt she should stick to singing. Still, I wouldn’t count Madonna out yet. After all, sometimes it takes a few tries to get something right.

Penny Marshall
Here’s another female director that doesn’t do period pieces. She directed Big with Tom Hanks, Awakenings with Robin Williams and A League of Their Own with Madonna. In case you are wondering, yes, she was Laverne in the ABC sitcom Laverne & Shirley, which ran from 1976 to 1984.

Barbra Streisand
Yes, not only does she sing and act, but she also directs films, as well. Her first take at directing was with the film Yentl, in which she also starred in. wrote the screenplay and produced. She also did The Prince of Tides and The Mirror Has Two Faces. Okay, those two are chick flicks. Still, somebody has to please that demographic. Yet, Babs isn’t finished yet because, reports are that she will produce, direct and star in an adaptation of the Broadway play Gypsy. She is expected to play Momma Rose and she has experience with that since her own mother was something of a Backstage Mom.

Of course, there are more female directors, but I decided to focus on some notable ones who have been working since the 1980’s to the current time. So, I will end with Streisand and to all a good night or day, depending on what time of the day you are reading this.

Sources:
http://blogs.indiewire.com/womenandhollywood/archives/2011/09/07/jennifer_yuh_nelson_becomes_the_top_grossing_female_director/

http://www.womansday.com/Articles/Life/Entertainment/10-Surprising-Movies-Directed-by-Women.html

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0267626/

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0102685/

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001508/#Director

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001068/#Director

http://answers.encyclopedia.com/question/did-barbra-streisand-direct-any-films-108003.html

http://www.bleedingcool.com/2011/01/05/barbra-streisand-to-produce-direct-and-star-in-movie-version-of-gypsy/

http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20100111185918AAOUDtp

http://www.dose.ca/celebrity/5346132/story.html

The 1970’s, The Greatest Decade in Film?

June 3, 2010

Over the years, I have read quite a few articles that state the 1970’s were the greatest decade in film. Yes, many directors made their mark in the 1970’s, such as Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, just to name a few. Also, there are a good number of films that were both commercial and critical successes, such as, The Godfather, The Godfather Part II, Taxi Driver, Network, again just to name a few.

Still, a lot can happen after a decade passes and films can fall into and out of favor. So, can any one decade be considered the greatest decade in film? Many say that 1939 is the greatest year in film, since that was the year films such as The Wizard of Oz, Gone With The Wind, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and Wuthering Heights were released. Of course, just because many people say such a thing, doesn’t make it true. Also, as the years went on, some of those films seem dated and hokey to modern audiences.

For me, the jury is still out as to whether or not the 1970’s were the greatest decade in film. So, I’ll just take this opportunity to highlight what I think sets filmmaking in the  1970’s apart from other decades.

Directors were products of universities, not studios
Martin Scorsese graduated from New York University and he was a film major. Francis Ford Coppola majored in drama at Hofstra University and did graduate work in film at UCLA. George Lucas went to University of Southern California film school.  Steven Spielberg went to California State University Long Beach. This list of directors and where they went to school shows that unlike directors of the past they weren’t “apprenticed” under one director or just fell into directing.  The people mentioned above were exposed to not only the liberal arts tradition, they were also exposed to and examined French films, Italian films, German films, Japanese films, Hollywood films, art films and they were getting their hands dirty by making their own films. This exposure to many different movie making modes and being allowed to try out their ideas, lead to Hollywood movies that had a richness and depth that wasn’t there before.

Hollywood recovered from development of television
My theory is that it took Hollywood 10 years to recover from the shock that television inflicted. Yes, developments like Cinemascope and color film becoming standard helped to bring people back to the movies. Still, once the powers that be were convinced that people still wanted to go the movies on a regular basis, they were more willing to give directors like Scorsese, Coppola, Lucas and others a chance.

Willingness to explore social issues
Somewhat related to the above, by the 1970’s, the old school of studio heads had died out and those that came after were willing to okay movies that weren’t just about “Boy Meets Girl”.  The movies of the decade dealt with the aftermath of the Vietnam war (The Deer Hunter, Coming Home), political corruption (All The Presidents’ Men), the effect of television in our lives (Network), racism and the drug trade (Superfly) and the list goes on. These films took on issues and the directors and other involved with the film weren’t afraid to face some controversy.

The Blockbuster Film
I also feel the need to mention that the blockbuster film, as we know it, came about in the 1970’s. Films like Jaws, Star Wars, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Superman weren’t just successful films. They broke box office records, had catch phrases and led to merchandising deals and sequels. Since then, it is rare that a blockbuster film doesn’t have some merchandise related to it, does very, very well at the box office and have a sequel or two in the works.

So, while the 1970’s may not be the definitive best decade in film, it does stand out from the decades that came before and from those that came afterwards.

Sources:

http://www.theauteurs.com/topics/2849?page=3

http://movieprojector.blogspot.com/2009/08/best-movies-of-1970s.html

http://www.filmsite.org/1939.html

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000217/bio

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000338/bio

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000184/bio

My Favorite Films & Why

May 14, 2010

It was going to happen eventually, my writing about my favorite movies. So, let’s get started.

Star Wars Episode I-VI
When I saw the first movie in the series, now known as Episode IV, with my brother in 1978 , I had no idea what kind of movie I was going to see. Once the movie was finished, I was hooked.  Like many kids growing up in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s whenever Episodes IV-VI were re-released, I was at the movie theater.  (Remember, this was before the proliferation of VCRs. Also, I live in Philadelphia and the city wasn’t wired for cable until 1986.) The Star Wars series was a story of finding your place in the world, finding love and finding redemption. George Lucas and company did a very good job for all of them. Don’t look at me like that! Yes, he did do a good job with both the original three and the prequels. While the acting was off the mark at times, Lucas took those age old stories and retooled them for modern audiences.

E.T. The Extraterrestrial
This movie was directed by Steven Spielberg, who is a contemporary of George Lucas, incidentally they joined forces to make the Indiana Jones movies.  I went into this expecting a film where alien comes to earth and creates havoc with the people the alien lives with. Instead, I got a film that shows how love and friendship encompass all that we know and yet to know.

It’s A Wonderful Life
An oldie but a goodie. I first saw this film on a Philadelphia UHF television station in the mid 1980’s and I watch it every December since that time. I love the story of George Bailey, played superbly by Jimmy Stewart, the every person who had dreams but set them aside for the sake his family and his community. After a serious business mishap, Bailey felt that his life was worthless and he decided to kill himself. An angel came along to stop him and showed him what life would be like if he had not been born. Life sans George Bailey wasn’t a pretty picture. This film reminds me of the power of small acts of kindness and how these small kindnesses mean a lot to others.

Avatar
Now comes the recent stuff. I read an interview with Sigourney Weaver in Parade Magazine in December 2009 and she spoke a little about her role in Avatar. That piqued my interest. So, once the holidays were over, I went to see it and WOW! Watching Avatar, I didn’t just engage in a little fantasy, I inhabited the world of Avatar. The acting was first rate, the visuals were spectacular and the story of indigenous peoples being forced off their land, is applicable to our time. As deserving as The Hurt Locker was for its Oscars, it would have been nice if that movie won the Best Director award and Avatar won Best Picture award.

Well, those films are a motley bunch. Still the one thing they have in common is this:

I loved them all.