4 items from 2017
The AppleThe musical possesses a unique form of power rarely afforded to other Hollywood genres. In the words of film scholar Rick Altman, “The musical invites us to forget familiar notions of plot, psychological motivation, and causal relationships.” In contrast to other commercial genres, the musical is almost one-of-a-kind in its ability to arrest time and space, to suspend disbelief, to defy our lived understanding of human relationships and even the very conventions of filmgoing. In what other mainstream genre can fictional characters get away with looking into the camera lens so often? Dramatic logic is replaced in the Hollywood musical by spectacle and raw emotional appeal, with singing as the defining device for such purely cinematic priorities.But what happens to the musical when singing is taken out of it? This was the conundrum of the short-lived disco musical, a sub-genre that ended as soon as it began.Popular »
How what you hear can tell a story as sure as what you see.
In the 1920s, sound started creeping in to motion pictures, first via shorts then later making its feature debut in 1927’s The Jazz Singer. In those first formative years, sound was an accessory, it was a flashy new gimmick and that’s how it was used, for the enjoyment and amusement of the audience. Sound was for musical numbers or punching up comedic scenes, and, of course, for dialogue, but it wasn’t yet considered to be the storytelling element, an equal to film’s visual aspect, that it is today.
Until 1931, that is, and Fritz Lang’s M.
A serial-killer thriller and Lang’s first time working with sound, M is also the first major feature to utilize sound as a narrative and filmmaking tool: it advances the plot, it serves as a transition between scenes, it »
- H. Perry Horton
When people talk about memorable Oscar moments, they usually mention the streaker, Sacheen Littlefeather, Sally Field, or Cuba Gooding Jr. But there is another gauge for Academy Awards events: significant moments that helped shape the awards DNA that we see today. Many of these moments occurred off-camera, but their effect is long-lasting.
The first ceremony was held May 16, 1929, at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, three months after winners had been announced. Like high-school graduates getting diplomas, winners silently went to the stage, accepted the trophy, then sat down; honorable mentions did the same, receiving certificates. Warner Bros. was given an award for “The Jazz Singer,” the only talkie honored. Accepting the trophy, Zanuck did something radical: He said a few words of praise for the WB team. And thus the acceptance speech was born.
The ceremony was first broadcast March 19, 1953, on NBC. The Variety review the next »
- Tim Gray
Like a prodigal son, Hollywood is again returning to religion.
Since the 1980s, Hollywood has been criticized (with justification) for depicting any religious believer as mindless, evil or both. Filmmakers this year treat them with respect.
“Silence” and “Hacksaw Ridge” daringly center around devout Christians. Religious beliefs have a positive effect on the lead characters in other 2016 films, including “Fences,” “Hidden Figures,” “Jackie,” “Mr. Church,” even “The Conjuring 2.”
Studios have their own belief system, and it’s based on recent hits. Hollywood loves stories about an individual whose principles are challenged, but usually the protagonist is a superhero, cop or animated creature.
“Silence” depicts the culture clash of Western Christians with Japanese. The long legacy of the “white savior” is turned upside down, and the film raises issues of faith, doubt, personal integrity, and the fine line between belief and stubborn pride. To its credit, “Silence” raises questions that audience members must answer. »
- Tim Gray
4 items from 2017
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