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Last year Notebook failed to cover what ended up being one of our favorite films of 2013, Michael Bay's Pain & Gain. Upon the release of his latest movie, Transformers: Age of Extinction, we henceforth resume our perhaps morbid fascination with the American director. Previous Notebook writings on Bay include Ryland Walker Knight on the second Transformers movie, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009), Daniel Kasman and Fernando F. Croce each on the franchise's third film, Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011), three critics' three takes on Bad Boys II (2003), and Uncas Blythe's monstrous overview of the cinema of Michael Bay.
The following conversation between Adam Cook and Daniel Kasman took place over email.
We know what we're getting into with a Michael Bay film, and in particular the fourth installment of this blockbuster series. We're familiar with the pitfalls, the vapidity, the ideological murkiness, »
- Adam Cook
While attending the Bizarre AC II in Atlantic City, we had a chance to chat three-on-one with Killer Klowns from Outer Space creators, the Chiodo Brothers, and the subjects ranged from their most famous film to contemporary genre cinema and lots more.
Settle in because the three of them, Stephen, Edward and Charlie, covered a lot of ground in a short amount of time. They have thick Bronx accents and talk very fast with great excitement and enthusiasm but without the hand gesticulation you would expect from a bunch of New Yorkers. Or perhaps the space in the booth was too tight to really see that kind of display in action.
Each brother built upon the other’s remarks, fast from topic to topic. Stephen added pointed conversation when necessary, but he, much like me, sat back while Edward and Charlie took center stage. Along with Killer Clowns from Outer Space of course, »
- Heather Buckley
Sure, it would be easy to rattle off all sorts of movie titles that feature the name of colors. Go ahead and knock yourself out: The Pink Panther, Red Dawn, Yellow Submarine, Purple Rain, Blue Velvet, Goldfinger, etc. The listing seems rather endless. However, can one come up with color-contained movie titles that also carry some messaging of substance and contemplation? Maybe films such as Fried Green Tomatoes or Steel Magnolias are color-coated entries that carries some relevance in its messaging about feminine empowerment for instance. In Rainbow Coalition: Top 10 Movie Titles with Color and Substance let us look are the leading selections that have both color (in title) and substance (in thematic forethought) attached to its skin. Hey, maybe one can make a case for Pink Flamingos but The Blue Lagoon might be stretching things a bit…don’t you think? The Rainbow Coalition: Top 10 Movie Titles with Color »
- Frank Ochieng
Antonin Baudry with Bertrand Tavernier on The French Minister (Quai d’Orsay): "I fell in love immediately with Antonin's book, because it was dealing with politics in, for me, the best way possible." Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze
I met up in New York with Bertrand Tavernier and Antonin Baudry, who co-wrote the screenplay for The French Minister (Quai d’Orsay), based on Baudry's (aka Abel Lanzac) autobiographic graphic novel about his adventures as a speech writer in the French Ministry. The film stars Thierry Lhermitte, Raphaël Personnaz and Niels Arestrup who at times seem to channel the working methods of Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell in His Girl Friday or the serious madness surrounding Peter Sellers in The Party. Howard Hawks, Billy Wilder, Blake Edwards, Jacques Becker, Stanley Kubrick and John Ford pop up in precise reference throughout the conversation.
- Anne-Katrin Titze
Chicago – Not many Oscar winning screeenwriters change the course of their professional lives because of a dream (story below), but Paul Haggis is an exceptionally brilliant writer whose credits include “Crash” (2005) and “Million Dollar Baby” (2004) – which both won Best Picture – and his new film, “Third Person.”
“Third Person” is about the life a writer, portrayed by Liam Neeson, and it is about the circumstances surrounding his life. The ensemble cast includes Mila Kunis, Adrien Brody, Maria Bello, Olivia Wilde, James Franco and Kim Basinger, all surrounding and inspiring Neeson’s character. This is the fourth film Paul Haggis has directed, among his many creations as a TV and film writer.
Photo credit: Sony Pictures Classics
Paul Haggis was born in London, Ontario, and bounced around in his early years as a artist and photographer, and studied cinematography at Fanshawe College in Canada. »
- email@example.com (Adam Fendelman)
The first time I probably saw Eli Wallach was in the 1960s "Batman" television show as Mr. Freeze, but I don't remember anything from those episodes other than how it looked. The first time I saw Wallach and remember him from a role in a movie is probably as Don Altobello in Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather: Part III. But Wallach's most memorable role, for me at least, is undoubtedly as Tuco in Sergio Leone's iconic spaghetti western The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Today we learn Wallach is as we will remember him as he died Tuesday, June 24, at the age of 98. His death was confirmed by his daughter Katherine. Wallach's career spanned more than 60 years and also included films such as Elia Kazan's Baby Doll, Clint Eastwood's Mystic River, John Sturgess' The Magnificent Seven, John Huston's The Misfits and the massive ensemble »
- Brad Brevet
There are, you could argue, two Clint Eastwoods. One is the strong, near-silent type, the man with no name but a pair of Colt revolvers or a .44 Magnum, the lean avenging angel who asks if you feel lucky, punk, and would care to make his day. Whether he's a tough cop, a tough cowboy, a tough secret-service agent, a tough military man, a tough experimental-jet-fighter pilot or a tough racist old coot, the part is a variation on Eastwood's screen persona. His status as a macho icon was cast in »
Thirty-five years ago today on June 11, 1979, John Wayne passed away, three years after the release of his final film, "The Shootist," in which he played a gunfighter stricken with cancer (the disease which would eventually take his life). Wayne (born Marion Mitchell Morrison on May 26, 1907) had been one of Hollywood's most iconic stars for most of his forty-odd-year career, reaching fame after John Ford's "Stagecoach" and overwhelmingly associated with the Western genre, not least another Ford classic, "The Searchers," probably his greatest and most iconic role, of over a hundred. But Wayne was also something of a divisive figure (not least to Public Enemy...), a man whose right-wing politics, vocal support of the Hollywood Blacklist, racial views, and pro-war stance undoubtedly tarnished his career to some degree in retrospect. To mark the anniversary of the Duke's passing, below you'll find "The Unquiet American," a smart and in-depth 50-minute documentary (narrated by Peter. »
- Oliver Lyttelton
In 1962, the same year that a quartet of working-class New Jersey youths called the Four Seasons shot to the top of the pop charts with the irresistible doo-wop single “Sherry,” a solo artist from the West Coast made a less auspicious chart appearance with an earnest cowboy ballad inspired by his character on a popular TV Western. Entitled “Rowdy,” the song featured its gravelly voiced performer lamenting life on the open range, set to a gentle, galloping tempo. That singer was Clint Eastwood.
Surely, few listening to the radio back then would have imagined that, 50-odd years later, the Four Seasons’ pint-sized frontman, Frankie Valli, would still be selling out arenas with his vibrating falsetto. Fewer still would have wagered that Eastwood, then in his fourth season as Rowdy Yates on CBS’ “Rawhide,” would not only go on to become one of Hollywood’s most iconic leading men, but one of its most lauded director-producers, »
- Scott Foundas
In the latest edition of our bi-weekly Latin Beat column, we take a look at upcoming releases in Chile, and also share a peek at documentary festival Fidocs. We have two reports from Mexico, one on the film festival Distrital's awards, and the other about a John Ford retrospective. We also have the trailer for Brazil's fantastic animated Boy and the World (aka O Menino e o Mundo), along with news of a distribution deal in North America....
[Read the whole post on twitchfilm.com...]
The Outfest Los Angeles Lgbt Film Festival has announced the lineup for their 32nd year. Outfest, a non-profit that promotes equality by sharing, creating and protecting Lgbt stories in cinema, will open the 2014 fest with Susanna Fogel's "Life Partners," starring Adam Brody, Gillian Jacobs, Leighton Meester, Gabourey Sidibe and Kate McKinnon. The closing film will be "Space Station 76" by Jake Plotnick. Started in 1982 by a group of students at UCLA, Outfest has featured some of the most acclaimed Lgbt films in the past few decades, down to last year's top honor recipient, "Test." Highlights of this year's festival include films with deep casts. Robin Williams and Kathy Baker star in Dito Montiel's "Boulevard" and America Ferrera, directed by her real-life husband Ryan Piers Williams, stars in "X/Y." Another staple of the festival set to return this year are outdoor screenings at The John Ford Amphitheater. Dubbed the "Under the Stars Series, »
- Brandon Latham
Episode 23 of 52: In which Tracy and Hepburn make a Western because why not?
A lone figure looks out over a vast, unending prairie. A wagon traverses rocky desert trails. Virgin land, a justice-seeking posse, a citified lawyer who brings civilization riding on his pinstriped coat tails. The Western dominated American film for over half a century with images like these. It stands to reason that two American stars and a director on his way to becoming a (controversial) American legend himself would take aim at the genre. The Sea of Grass, the resulting collaboration between Elia Kazan and the Tracy/Hepburn team, is an epic story covering multiple generations in the New Mexico Territory. It’s a Western, but not struck from the same heroic mould that John Ford was making them in Monument Valley. The Sea of Grass is meaner, more melodramatic, and ultimately a maverick mess of a movie. »
- Anne Marie
Issue 6 of The Cine-Files, on "Film Acting", is now online and features a dialogue between Jonathan Rosenbaum and James Naremore. In the latest Hello Cinema podcast, the first of a two-parter, Tina Hassannia and Amir Soltani talk to film critic Godfrey Cheshire about Abbas Kiarostami's early cinema.
Above: the trailer for Paul Clipson's Hypnosis Display, currently touring in the UK with musical artist Grouper. Check out Dummy's interview with Clipson and Grouper. For Film Comment, Fernando F. Croce writes on Agnès Varda: From Here to There:
"Varda’s curiosity about human beings is bottomless and unpredictable. (I can personally attest: I briefly met her at a screening of The Beaches of Agnès, and a question about my accent somehow led to a conversation about my grandmother’s days in Czechoslovakia and my brother’s passion for tubas.) From Here to There is an unabashed self-portrait in »
- Adam Cook
Born of the famously turbulent, yet ultimately fruitful collaboration between John Ford and James Stewart, Two Rode Together stands as compromised material. Ford took on the project strictly for cash shortly after the death of his friend and colleague Ward Bond passed away, sending the film into much darker territory than the director had ever or would ever normally work within. The picture was based on Will Cook’s novel “Comanche Captives”, material Ford apparently thought was less than intriguing western revisionism, even after bringing on his frequent collaborator Frank S. Nugent (The Searchers, The Quiet Man, Mister Roberts) to make something of the screenplay. Though certainly not as piercing as some of his work with his male muse John Wayne, the film remains a solid entry into the nihilistic anti-heroic take on the western.
As his most selfishly styled self, Stewart plays Marshal Guthrie McCabe, a public figure perfectly »
- Jordan M. Smith
Only three more episodes of Best Shot left before a three week hiatus or an early wrap. You decide with your participation!
Thanks to those who participated in Michelangelo Antonioni's mod frameable Blow-Up (1967), Bryan Singer's template setting X-Men (2000), and John Ford's earnest tearjerker How Green Was My Valley (1941) -- my entry was late icymi.
Tomorrow... Tuesday June 3rd - Zorba the Greek (1964)
Dance along with our 50th anniversary 1964-theme party for the month of June (we're going there for the Supporting Smackdown on the 30th and we're trying to be more conscious of time management). This smash hit with both the public and Oscar (3 Oscar wins including Cinematography) is strangely little discussed today despite seeping into pop culture. Plus, I've Never seen it. Don't judge. It's a huge gap in my '60s era Oscar knowledge.
Tuesday June 10th Orange is the New Black (2014) Season 2
A one-off experimental episode. »
- NATHANIEL R
While cleaning out an old barn in New Hampshire recently, a man named Peter Massie discovered an old silent film projector and seven reels of nitrate films hidden in the shadows of a corner of the structure. Among these old reels was a 30-minute 1913 film titled When Lincoln Paid starring Francis Ford (older brother of director John Ford). It was one of six silent films, all presumed lost, in which Ford played Abraham Lincoln. It is stories like this that give hope to silent film fans. 75 per cent of movies from the silent era have been lost to decay or neglect, but when it comes to the over 200 movies that St. Louis native King Baggot acted in between 1909 and 1921, that number is closer to 100%. Here’s a look at Absinthe, a lost film from 100 years ago that I wish someone would find.
Absinthe is a distilled, highly alcoholic (90-148 proof »
- Tom Stockman
I did not forget and I'm grateful to the Best Shot participants who are so faithful and who turned theirs in on time. I fell too behind but here is my choice...
Since I can't choose "every shot of the main street" which John Ford and his cinematographer Arthur C Miller shoot in so many narratively compelling and beautiful ways with any and all the characters, I selected this one, which contains none of the main characters. Unless you stop to consider that the main character is actually the town and its people. This shot is so elegiac, like the coal miners are attending yet another funeral when it fact it's meant to be a celebratory moment. And they're actually outside the local bar... which is right next to the church...which is just down the hill from the coal mine. For »
- NATHANIEL R
Tomorrow when the Supporting Actress Smackdown 1941 hits, we'll just be discussing the five nominees (24 more hours to get your ballots in for the reader's section of the vote!). As it should be. But for the first time in a Smackdown I polled my fellow panelists as to who they would have nominated if, uh, they'd have been alive in 1941 and if, uh, they'd been AMPAS members.
Angelica and I didn't vote (I haven't seen enough 1941 pictures, I confess) but our other three panelists have recommendations for you outside the Oscar shortlist. In fact, all three of them only co-signed 2 of Oscar's 5 choices... different ones mostly so the Smackdown should be interesting (I'm not telling you which as the critiques come tomorrow!). So here are some For Your Considerations for your rental queues or your »
- NATHANIEL R
A few weeks ago, during the celebration of Blazing Saddles 40th anniversary, writer-director, and certified comedic genius, Mel Brooks, said that a film like Blazing Saddles, with its over the top racist humor, objectification/sexualization of women, and culturally insensitive jokes, could never be made today.
Seth MacFarlane has come close.
A Million Ways to Die in The West is MacFarlane's follow up to 2012's surprise hit, Ted. It stars MacFarlane as cowardly -- and slightly neurotic -- sheep rancher Albert Stark, whose insight to the trials and tribulations of life in the old west are where most of the comedy comes from. While we don't actually see all million ways to die, the point is taken early in a hilarious monologue between Albert and his best friends, good guy Edward (Giovanni Ribisi) and town whore Ruth (Sarah Silverman). Who knew the town fair could be so deadly?
The plot »
This summer is full to overflowing with superheroes and sequels, but there is a woeful lack of raunchy, R-rated comedies. “Neighbors” was great and “22 Jump Street” looks like it should be a good time—even though it, too, is another sequel—but aside from that, the only other option is Seth MacFarlane’s western “A Million Ways to Die in the West.” His follow up to “Ted,” which surprised a lot of people and may have elevated expectations unrealistically, the “Family Guy” creator’s latest is a mixed bag and maybe a return to reality. “A Million Ways” starts out strong. MacFarlane, who not only directs, but co-wrote and stars, reproduces the aesthetics of those classic John Ford Monument Valley westerns. There are wide sweeping shots of the gorgeous landscapes, a dirty frontier town called Old Stump, and they even shoot day-for-night in some situations. Given the style of the »
- Brent McKnight
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