More uplifting culture for 2017
Can films be inspirational? Well, the good ones all are. And, in a broader sense, going to the cinema is a narcotic, luxurious experience that makes you feel inspired, uplifted and stimulated. But when people talk about “inspirational” films – underdogs achieving spectacular sporting success, charismatic teachers winning over pupils, people overcoming disabilities – I am sometimes a bit agnostic. An inspirational film often feels soupy and syrupy, schematic and cliched, faintly coercive and reactionary. Inspirational means aspirational, no arguments – and it brings out my ironic, grumpy Brit. When I’m asked for my favourite inspirational scene, I nominate Tom Courtenay’s final, miserable act of defiance in The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner.
One movie that was lauded as inspirational,
Reviewed by Glenn Erickson
The British New Wave got a real shot in the arm with 1961's A Taste of Honey. A stubbornly realistic drama about life in the lower working classes of Manchester, it was adapted from a near-revolutionary play by Shelagh Delaney, produced by Joan Littlewood. Here in
By Raymond Benson
In the late 1950s, a film movement emerged in Britain known as “Free Cinema.” Some of the U.K.’s most celebrated filmmakers of the 1960s and 70s were among its practitioners—Lindsay Anderson, Karel Reisz, Lorenza Mazzetti, and Tony Richardson. The directors made low budget, short documentaries about the working class with an almost deliberate “non commercial” sensibility. It was radical and exciting, and it was a precursor to the British New Wave that dovetailed with the French New Wave that was so influential on filmmakers everywhere.
Many of the pictures of the British New Wave, released between 1959 and 1964, focused on characters described as “angry young men,” and the films themselves were referred to by critics and theorists as “kitchen sink dramas.” This was because the movies were presented in a harsh, realistic fashion and were indeed about the gritty, working
After serving in the Royal Marines during the second world war, Tony began his career in the film industry. He started as an assistant in the props department and ended up in the cutting rooms, where he considered himself privileged to have enjoyed successful collaborations with the directors Tony Richardson (for whom he edited A Taste of Honey, The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner and Tom Jones), Richard Lester (The Knack, Petulia and Juggernaut) and Nic Roeg (Walkabout and Performance). He definitely played a significant role in the “new wave” of British cinema during the 1960s.
The Guild of British Film and Television Editors reported his death on Facebook.
Gibbs was nominated for four of the American Cinema Editors’ Eddie Awards, including for “Tom Jones” in 1964 and “Fiddler on the Roof” in 1972. He won Eddies in 1998 for his work on John Frankenheimer’s TNT miniseries “George Wallace,” starring Gary Sinise, and in 2002 for his editing of Mark Rydell’s TNT TV movie “James Dean,” starring James Franco (a film for which he also picked up an Emmy nomination). Also in 2002, he received an Ace career achievement award.
The Ace said of Gibbs in 2002: “With ‘Reindeer Games’ he continued his successful collaboration with John Frankenheimer, but his friend director Mark Rydell allowed Tony to
Tom Courtenay, who made his name in the 1960s in films that have become classics – The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, Dr Zhivago, Billy Liar – has been enjoying a tremendous new lease of life, at the age of 78, in 45 Years, directed by Andrew Haigh and co-starring Charlotte Rampling. It is a marvellous film about the delicate equilibrium of a marriage and what happens after a letter arrives one morning, out of the blue, with news that has the power to change everything. Courtenay plays Geoff Mercer with a convincing mixture of cussedness and vulnerability (as can be seen on DVD, out now).
Did you always want to be an actor?
At grammar school, the head boy would do the day’s reading and I didn’t like the way he did it. I wanted to do it. And eventually I became the head boy. And later I went to University College London, which was on Gower Street and the real reason I wanted to go there was because it was close to Rada.
How did you start out?
After University College London, I did two years at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. I heard the head of Rada, John Fernald, wanted to do “The Seagull.” I
(The following review is of the UK release of the film on Region 2 format.)
In Roy Ward Baker’s 1960s comedy-drama Two Left Feet, Michael Crawford plays Alan Crabbe, a clumsy and unlucky-in-love 19-year-old who begins dating ‘Eileen, the Teacup Queen’, a waitress at his local cafe. She lives in Camden Town and there are rumours that she’s married, but that doesn’t seem to alter her behavior. Alan and Eileen travel into London’s ‘Floride Club’, where the Storyville Jazzmen play trad for the groovers and shakers. Eileen turns out to be a ‘right little madam’, who is really just stringing Alan along. She’s the kind of girl who only dates to get into places and then starts chatting to randoms once inside. She takes up with ruffian Ronnie, while Alan meets a nice girl, Beth Crowley. But Eileen holds a strange hold over
This feature however is designed as a tool to guide and inform viewers who perhaps aren’t as well-versed in the incredible range of motion pictures available worldwide, and to point them in the right direction so they can experience some truly remarkable content; to find a hidden gem.
The country that opened one’s eyes to the unfathomable range, beauty and quality of cinema was our geographically-near cousins France; the filmic culture thrives in amongst the quaint Parisian apartments, the swelling cigarette smoke and the existential conversations shared. Cinema’s rich history really began in France; revolutionary auteurs such as Georges Méliès, the Lumière Brothers and Luis Buñuel paved the way for the plethora of
“45 Years,” which will start to shoot this spring, follows Kate Mercer in the five days leading up to her 45th wedding anniversary. The planning for the party is going well, but then a letter arrives for her husband. The body of his first love has been discovered, frozen and preserved in the icy glaciers of the Swiss Alps. By the time the party is upon them, five days later, there may not be a marriage left to celebrate.
Haigh adapted the screenplay from a short story by the poet David Constantine. Tristan Goligher is producing for The Bureau. The pic has received coin from the BFI Film Fund,
As Cinema Retro gets inundated with DVDs to review during the course of any given year, it's virtually impossible to keep up with all of them in a timely manner. Here are some notable titles you should be aware of:
Cabaret Blu-ray (Warner Home Video): Warner Home Video has inherited the rights to Bob Fosse's classic 1972 film adaptation of the stage production that, in turn, was based on Christopher Isherwood's Berlin Stories. The Blu-ray comes packaged in one of those irresistible hardback book formats that is loaded with wonderful photos from the movie. The movie itself holds up superbly even after 40 years. The decline of Germany's Weimar Republic amidst the rise of National Socialism in the 1930s is seen through the eyes of nightclub singer Sally Bowles (Liza Minnelli) and her constant companions (Michael York, Helmut Griem) . Fosse's decision to emphasize the sleaze elements
Kathryn Bigelow, who could be a top contender for American auteur director, had to leave America, after six years of unemployment, to seek financing in Europe, and is still not included with men among auteur directors. Other successful women directors who have made both commercially and critically successful features in America are mostly film and TV stars: Drew Barrymore, Jodie Foster, Penny Marshall, Barbra Streisand, Betty Thomas, to name a few. These directors have done fine work, but mostly within the confines of the studio system where, just once in a blue moon, a director like Nora Ephron, Catherina Hardwicke, Mimi Leder or Nancy Meyers can carve a niche.
The question arises, who are the American women directors whose films reveal the work of an auteur director? One could jump in with dozens of directors, from Anders, Arzner, Bigelow, Cholondenko, Coppola, Coolidge, Dash, Dunham, Hardwicke & Holofcener— just to start through the alphabet, but like Bigelow, none of these excellent directors is embraced as an auteur by the paternalist American film establishment.
In the United States less than 5% of feature films are directed by women, so for a director to emerge who is not already a women celebrity, is virtually impossible. Women directors usually make just one film before getting taken down early in the pipeline: if it’s not the misogynistic Hollywood studio system that expels them, their films are given paltry distribution and P&A budgets, or sometimes gender-biased critics comprised of over 80% males will likely taint their reviews.
One perfect example of a very fine American woman director whose body of work clearly distinguishes her as an auteur director is Jane Spencer. Jane Spencer is the director of the beloved low-budget indie feature Little Noises that premiered at Sundance some years ago to ecstatic reviews— and enamored audiences, and of Faces On Mars, which premiered in Europe at Solothurn. Her new film, The Ninth Cloud, which is being repped for distribution by Shoreline Entertainment is a dreamy, surreal marvel, which could do very well on the 2014 international festival circuit.
For Spencer, who dreams big, but must keep her budget small, ingenuity is the name of the game. As she says, “My dream as a kid was to direct big David Lean-style epics, so working within the framework I can create, I try to imbue my indie films with giant, epic themes.” Imagine if women directors like Spencer were afforded the budgets and opportunities to realize their immense talents for creating epic, visionary films.
I have always thought that film directors are like alchemists and magicians, but women directors have to be able to master another kind of magic as well: film financing in a void. Most women directors must cobble their production budgets together in any number of mysterious ways, and I wanted to know how Spencer had done it again. How did she succeed in making yet another wonderful feature film? How had she found the money?
Spencer answered the question with a question: “In an industry so difficult for women directors, how can any women director raise the money to make a film? You are basically forced to think outside the box. You just can’t give up. You try all the traditional methods: submit your script to actors, agents, studios, production companies, get it to friends in the business. They almost always lead to dead ends.
“So, finally, you go out and find it dollar-by-dollar— private equity from investors who like the project obviously, private loans you— yourself— take out. You get everything on the cheap, but keep the quality; get everyone to do you favors, but make sure they ‘get it’ and believe in the film. That’s the only way an American woman can make an indie feature film.”
Spencer shot The Ninth Cloud on super 16mm. Having a film camera instead of shooting digitally gives The Ninth Cloud a look that is simultaneously both very modern and nostalgic. As Spencer says, “It allows for the documentary, free-camera look I wanted to capture inspired by films like The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, Darling, and Billy Liar. These low-budget 1960’s British kitchen sink films were an inspiration for Spencer, her Production Designer/Producer Richard Hudson and her Dp, Sam Mitchell. She goes on, “I wanted the film to express an impressionistic vision of Zena’s (the main character) world.”
In the film, in which we follow the dreamy, strange Zena, through what turn out to be her final days....Spencer glorifies the vulnerable Zena through a nuanced appreciation for her ability to “see.” Keeping her indie budget low, Spencer uses inexpensive, old film technology to record her character’s fleeting, childlike, and magical perception of the world around her—and it works beautifully. The film captures the elusive, dream-like moments, as fleeting as a painter’s sudden awareness of reflected sunlight glancing off rippling water-- impressionism-- that gets at the essence of art, and is the very reason we revere our great male “Masters of Cinema.”
As Spencer puts it: “I wanted to depict, from a women’s perspective for once, the victorious dreamer. One doesn’t have to accept ‘reality’ to live a meaningful life. Whatever your journey is—stay with your dream. You cannot be dissuaded by pressure to conform to social norms, systems, or institutions that tell you ‘cannot' because it’s 'unrealistic' or 'impossible.'"
We all know that numerically, becoming a female film director in America is virtually impossible— as former DGA president, Martha Coolidge says: “like winning the lottery.” It’s a bizarre anomaly that America, the leader of the free world, virtually excludes women from its most culturally influential global export—media. Hollywood’s level of support of women film directors is among the worst in the world, something that is now accentuated by the recent drafting of international charters that promote the gender equity among women directors in many countries outside the United States.
However, making feature films that move and inspire audiences is Spencer’s quest and she has not been dissuaded by statistics. She says: “This was a very, very difficult film to finance. We had some wonderful equity investors, our own company invested a lot of the money-- especially for post, and there turned out to be not many pre-sales. It was very much patchwork financing, very hard, and we filmed it over the space of a year, in sections, because budget-wise, we had to.”
Even after her critical success at Sundance her studio meetings were difficult. After years of struggling to get financed out of L.A., Spencer happened to move to Europe for personal reasons, and immediately had much better luck.
"We got it done-- though at times we didn’t think we would. We started financing in 2008 when the financial crisis happened, so some of our financiers fell out. Our wonderful male lead at the time, Guillaume Depardieu, whom I adored, died of pneumonia on a set in Romania. I really wondered if this film would happen - for a moment. But then the producers and I got right back up on our feet and started financing it again. We found the amazing lead actress Megan Maczko in a play on London’s West End....Michael Madsen, who is great in the film—so sympathetic -- playing a dishwasher/poet (instead of a guy with a gun) - was lovely and stayed with the project....and we got the great French actor Jean Hugues Anglade onboard - We got right back up on our feet and started financing it again. By 2011 we had finished shooting. We’ve been in post for two years: all of 2012 and much of 2013.”
All the hard work has been well worth the effort. Spencer’s multi-layered film is woven with themes of Djuna Barnes and Baudelaire and traverses the landscapes of Marcel Carne and Antonioni. What makes the film so exceptional is how freshly these motifs have been re-imagined through this director’s effortless lens. The Ninth Cloud is at once tender and deeply moving, yet it manages to reject sentimentalities while glorifying its heroine and uplifting the audience.
Will women directors like Spencer ever join the pantheon of international male auteur directors? That depends upon the whether or not the U.S. cultural consciousness evolves to finally embrace gender equity in our nation’s most influential global export—media. Only then will women directors get the budgets and opportunities to test their metal and take their rightful places in the annals of American cinema.
The Ninth Cloud will be opening in select theaters internationally starting 2014.
Please visit The Int’l List of Living Women Directors: http://www.womendirectorsinhollywood.com/
Marie Giese is American feature film director, a writer, a member & elected Director Category Representative for women at the DGA. She graduated from Wellesley College and UCLA graduate film schooland co-founded the foremost international web forum for political action for women directors (Visit Here). An activist for parity for women directors in Hollywood, she is in development to direct two feature films Rain and Treasure Hunt
James is off to never never-land, as he considers Metallica: Through The Never and the band's appearances in the movies...
A Metallica movie? Oh yeah? Say f*ck yeah, James! I'm there and I'm throwing up heavy metal horns and headbanging like a maniac. Unfortunately, trying to watch a film and simultaneously make moshpit movements is a tricky feat to pull off.
It raises a distressing dilemma: "to rock out or not to rock out?" It's a little like those moments where you're enjoying a musical and can't resist singing along, except with the Headbanger Hamlet question, there's little chance of you being able to follow what's happening on screen.
You can't properly appreciate, say, the cinematography and nuanced depth of the acting performances with blurred vision and flailing hair in your eyes. Also, as unfortunate possible side effects, you can end up
“My father was a house painter and my mother worked at the school canteen; she was a hairdresser as a young girl during the war,” recalls Peter James of his childhood growing up in Sydney, Australia. “We didn’t even have a record player in the house. We didn’t get a black and white TV until 1963.” The prospects for the teenager did not look good until his cousin Jon Cleary, a prolific novelist who had an Oscar nominated adaptation called The Sundowners (1960) produced, intervened. “He had written several film scripts and asked my parents, ‘What is Peter going to do when he finishes school?’ I was only 15. They said, ‘He’s hopeless. He can’t read or write.’ In fact I’m dyslectic. The word dyslectic hadn’t been invented in those days.
We asked you what bizarre film choices your teachers foisted on you. Er, there’s a wide selection...
As we get towards the end of the school year, teachers across the country are united in reaching either for a legion of board games, or a few films to watch to keep their charges quiet.
Personally, I got a mix of teachers and their film choices. We were shown The Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner once, and it wasn’t for a few years that I realised that said teacher had edited the copy himself, to remove anything that he deemed ‘inappropriate’. He deemed a lot inappropriate, to be fair to him.
But also, school was the place where in Religious Education we had to sit through Gandhi, in English we had to sit through any Shakespeare adaptation that came to hand, and then one day,
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