Saturday, June 30, 2012
M*A*S*H (Two-Disc Collector's Edition)
MASH (officially rendered M*A*S*H on the film's poster and art) is a 1970 American satirical dark comedy film directed by Robert Altman and written by Ring Lardner, Jr., based on Richard Hooker's novel MASH: A Novel About Three Army Doctors. It is the only feature film in the M*A*S*H franchise. It became one of the biggest films of the early 1970s for 20th Century Fox.
The film depicts a unit of medical personnel stationed at a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (MASH) during the Korean War; however, the subtext is really about the Vietnam War. It stars Donald Sutherland, Tom Skerritt and Elliott Gould, with Sally Kellerman, Robert Duvall, Rene Auberjonois, Roger Bowen, and, in his film debut, football player Fred Williamson. The film inspired the popular and critically acclaimed television series M*A*S*H, which ran from 1972 to 1983.
* Donald Sutherland as Capt. Benjamin Franklin "Hawkeye" Pierce
* Elliott Gould as Capt. John Francis Xavier "Trapper John" McIntyre
* Tom Skerritt as Capt. Augustus Bedford "Duke" Forrest
* Sally Kellerman as Major Margaret "Hot Lips" Houlihan
* Robert Duvall as Major Frank Burns
* Roger Bowen as Lt. Col. Henry Braymore Blake
* René Auberjonois as Father John Patrick "Dago Red" Mulcahy
* John Schuck as Capt. Walter Koskiusko "The Painless Pole" Waldowski, DDS
* Carl Gottlieb as Capt. John "Ugly John" Black
* Danny Goldman as Capt. Murrhardt
* Corey Fischer as Capt. Dennis Patrick Bandini
* Jo Ann Pflug as Lt. Maria "Dish" Schneider
* Indus Arthur as Lt. Leslie
* Dawne Damon as Capt. Scorch
* Tamara Wilcox-Smith as Capt. Bridget "Knocko" McCarthy
* David Arkin as SSgt. Wade Douglas Vollmer/PA Announcer. (Note: In the movie, Duke called him "Lee".)
* Gary Burghoff as Cpl. "Radar" O'Reilly
* Ken Prymus as Pfc. Seidman
* Fred Williamson as Capt. Oliver Harmon "Spearchucker" Jones
* Michael Murphy as Capt. Ezekiel Bradbury "Me Lay" Marston IV
* Timothy Brown as Cpl. Judson
* Bud Cort as Pvt. Lorenzo Boone
* G. Wood as Brig. Gen. Charlie Hammond
* Kim Atwood as Ho-Jon
* Dale Ishimoto as Korean doctor
* Bobby Troup as SSgt. Gorman
* Marvin Miller as PA Announcer
The screenplay, by Ring Lardner, Jr., is radically different from the original novel; in the DVD audio commentary, Altman describes the novel as "pretty terrible" and somewhat "racist" (the only major black character has the nickname "Spearchucker"). He claims that the screenplay was used only as a springboard. However, the screenplay itself reveals that, while there is some improvisation in the film, and although Altman moved major sequences around, most sequences are in the screenplay. The main deletion is a subplot of Ho-Jon's return to the 4077th—as a casualty. When Radar steals blood from Henry, it is for Ho-Jon's operation under Trapper and Hawkeye's scalpels. When the surgeons are playing poker after the football game, they are resolutely ignoring a dead body being driven away—Ho-Jon's. The main deviation from the script is the trimming of much of the dialogue.
The filming process was difficult, due to tensions between the director and his cast. During principal photography, Sutherland and Gould spent a third of their time trying to get Altman fired; Altman, relatively new to the filmmaking establishment, at that time lacked the credentials to justify his unorthodox filmmaking process and had a history of turning down work rather than creating a poor-quality product. Altman: "I had practice working for people who don't care about quality, and I learned how to sneak it in." Altman later commented that if he had known about Gould and Sutherland, he would have resigned. Gould later sent a letter of apology, and Altman used him in some of his later works, but he never worked with Sutherland again.
There were only a few uses of loudspeaker announcements in the original cut. When Altman realized he needed more structure to his largely episodic film, editor Danford Greene suggested using more loudspeaker announcements to frame different episodes of the story. Greene took a second-unit crew and filmed additional shots of the speakers. On the same night that these scenes were shot, American astronauts landed on the moon.
During production, a caption that mentions the Korean setting was added to the beginning of the film, at the request of 20th Century Fox studios. The Korean War is explicitly referenced in announcements on the camp public address system and during a radio announcement that plays while Hawkeye and Trapper are putting in Col. Merrill's office which also cites the film as taking place in 1951.
In his director's commentary on the DVD release, Altman says that MASH was the first major studio film to use the word "fuck" in its dialogue. The word is spoken during the football game near the end of the film by "The Painless Pole" when he says to an opposing football player, "All right, Bud, this time your fucking head is coming right off!" The actor, John Schuck, has said in several interviews that Altman encouraged ad-libbing, and that particular statement made it into the film without a second thought. Interestingly, the offending word was not censored during a late-night broadcast of the film on ABC in 1985; subsequent broadcasts of the film on network television have the word removed altogether. (MASH had its television premiere as a CBS Friday Night Movie on September 13, 1974 @ 9:00 (EDT), three days after the start of the third season of the M*A*S*H TV series; it was repeated on CBS March 5, 1976.)
Friday, June 29, 2012
The Third Man (The Criterion Collection)
The Third Man is a 1949 British film noir, directed by Carol Reed and starring Joseph Cotten, Alida Valli, Orson Welles and Trevor Howard. Some critics rank it as a masterpiece, particularly remembered for its atmospheric cinematography, performances, and unique musical score. The screenplay was written by novelist Graham Greene, who subsequently published the novella of the same name (which he had originally written as a preparation for the screenplay). Anton Karas wrote and performed the score, which used only the zither; its title cut "The Third Man Theme" topped the international music charts in 1950.
* Joseph Cotten as Holly Martins
* Alida Valli as Anna Schmidt
* Orson Welles as Harry Lime
* Trevor Howard as Major Calloway
* Bernard Lee as Sgt. Paine
* Wilfrid Hyde-White as Crabbin
* Erich Ponto as Dr. Winkel
* Ernst Deutsch as 'Baron' Kurtz
* Siegfried Breuer as Popescu
* Paul Hörbiger as Karl, Harry's Porter
* Hedwig Bleibtreu as Anna's Landlady
* Robert Brown as British Military Policeman in Sewer Chase
* Alexis Chesnakov as Brodsky
* Herbert Halbik as Hansl
* Paul Hardtmuth as the Hall Porter at Sacher's
* Geoffrey Keen as British Military Policeman
* Eric Pohlmann as Waiter at Smolka's
* Annie Rosar as the Porter's Wife
* Joseph Cotten as the Narrator (pre-1999 US version)
* Carol Reed as the Narrator (pre-1999 UK, and all post-'99 versions)
In a famous scene, Lime meets with Martins on the Wiener Riesenrad, the large Ferris wheel in the Prater amusement park. Looking down on the people below from his vantage point, Lime compares them to dots. Back on the ground, he notes:
"You know what the fellow said – in Italy, for thirty years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, they had five hundred years of democracy and peace – and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock."
This remark was added by Welles – in the published script, it is in a footnote. Greene wrote in a letter "What happened was that during the shooting of The Third Man it was found necessary for the timing to insert another sentence." Welles apparently said the lines came from "an old Hungarian play"; the painter Whistler, in a lecture on art from 1885 (published in Mr Whistler's 'Ten O'Clock' ), had said, "The Swiss in their mountains ... What more worthy people! ... yet, the perverse and scornful [goddess, Art] will have none of it, and the sons of patriots are left with the clock that turns the mill, and the sudden cuckoo, with difficulty restrained in its box! For this was Tell a hero! For this did Gessler die!" In This is Orson Welles (1993), Welles is quoted as saying "When the picture came out, the Swiss very nicely pointed out to me that they've never made any cuckoo clocks", as they are in fact German, native to the Black Forest. Writer John McPhee also points out that during the period of time the Borgia flourished in Italy, Switzerland was "the most powerful and feared military force in Europe", and not the peacefully neutral country it is currently
Thursday, June 28, 2012
Fantasia & Fantasia 2000 Special Edition
Fantasia is a 1940 American animated film produced by Walt Disney and released by Walt Disney Productions. With story direction by Joe Grant and Dick Huemer, and production supervision by Ben Sharpsteen, it is the third feature in the Disney animated features canon. The film consists of eight animated segments set to pieces of classical music conducted by Leopold Stokowski; seven of which are performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra. Music critic and composer Deems Taylor acts as the film's Master of Ceremonies, who introduces each segment in live action interstitial scenes.
Disney settled on the film's concept as work neared completion on The Sorcerer's Apprentice, an elaborate Silly Symphonies short designed as a comeback role for Mickey Mouse who had declined in popularity. As production costs grew higher than what it could earn, he decided to include the short in a feature-length film with other segments set to classical pieces. The soundtrack was recorded using multiple audio channels and reproduced with Fantasound, a pioneering sound reproduction system that made Fantasia the first commercial film shown in stereophonic sound.
Fantasia was first released in theatrical roadshow engagements held in thirteen U.S. cities from November 13, 1940. It received mixed critical reaction, and was unable to make a profit. In part this was due to World War II cutting off the profitable European market, but due as well to the film's high production costs and the expense of leasing theatres and installing the Fantasound equipment for the roadshow presentations. Also, audiences who felt that Disney had suddenly gone "highbrow" stayed away, preferring the standard Disney cartoons. The film was subsequently reissued multiple times with its original footage and audio being deleted, modified, or restored in each version. As of 2012, Fantasia has grossed $76.4 million in domestic revenue and is the 22nd highest-grossing film of all time in the U.S. when adjusted for inflation. Walt's nephew Roy E. Disney co-produced a sequel released in 1999 titled Fantasia 2000.
Fantasia opens with live action scenes of members of an orchestra gathering and tuning their instruments. Master of ceremonies Deems Taylor enters the stage and introduces the program.
* Toccata and Fugue in D Minor by Johann Sebastian Bach. Live-action shots of the orchestra illuminated in blue and gold, backed by superimposed shadows, fade into abstract patterns. Animated lines, shapes and cloud formations reflect the sound and rhythms of the music.
* Nutcracker Suite by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Selections from Tchaikovsky's ballet suite underscore scenes depicting the changing of the seasons from summer to autumn to winter. A variety of dances are presented with fairies, fish, flowers, mushrooms, and leaves, including "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy", "Chinese Dance", "Dance of the Flutes", "Arabian Dance", "Russian Dance" and "Waltz of the Flowers".
* The Sorcerer's Apprentice by Paul Dukas. Based on Goethe's 1797 poem Der Zauberlehrling. Mickey Mouse, an apprentice of the sorcerer Yen Sid, attempts some of his master's magic tricks but doesn't know how to control them.
* Rite of Spring by Igor Stravinsky. A visual history of the Earth's beginnings is depicted to selected sections of the ballet score. The sequence progresses from the planet's formation to the first living creatures, followed by the reign and extinction of the dinosaurs.
* Intermission/Meet the Soundtrack: The orchestra musicians depart and the Fantasia title card is revealed. After the intermission there is a brief jam session of jazz music led by a clarinettist as the orchestra members return. Then a humorously stylized demonstration of how sound is rendered on film is shown. An animated sound track "character", initially a straight white line, changes into different shapes and colors based on the sounds played.
* The Pastoral Symphony by Ludwig van Beethoven. A mythical ancient Greek world of centaurs, cupids, fauns and other figures from classical mythology is portrayed to Beethoven's music. A gathering for a festival to honor Bacchus, the god of wine, is interrupted by Zeus who creates a storm and throws lightning bolts at the attendees.
* Dance of the Hours by Amilcare Ponchielli. A comic ballet in four sections: Madame Upanova and her ostriches (Morning); Hyacinth Hippo and her servants (Afternoon); Elephanchine and her bubble-blowing elephant troupe (Evening); and Ben Ali Gator and his troop of alligators (Night). The finale finds all of the characters dancing together until their palace collapses.
* Night on Bald Mountain by Modest Mussorgsky and Ave Maria by Franz Schubert. At midnight the devil Chernabog summons evil spirits and restless souls from their graves. The spirits dance and fly through the air until driven back by the sound of an Angelus bell as night fades into dawn. A chorus is heard singing Ave Maria as a line of robed monks is depicted walking with lighted torches through a forest and into the ruins of a cathedral.
Wednesday, June 27, 2012
Rebel Without a Cause (Two-Disc Special Edition)
Rebel Without a Cause is a 1955 American drama film about emotionally confused suburban, middle-class teenagers. Directed by Nicholas Ray, it offered both social commentary and an alternative to previous films depicting delinquents in urban slum environments. Over the years, the film has achieved landmark status for the acting of cultural icon James Dean, fresh from his Academy Award nominated role in East of Eden and who died before the film's release, his most celebrated role. In 1990, Rebel Without a Cause was added to the preserved films of the United States Library of Congress's National Film Registry as being deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."
The story of a rebellious teenager who arrives at a new high school, meets a girl, disobeys his parents, and defies the local school bullies was a groundbreaking attempt to portray the moral decay of American youth, critique parental style, and explore the differences and conflicts between generations. The title was adopted from psychiatrist Robert M. Lindner's 1944 book, Rebel Without a Cause: The Hypnoanalysis of a Criminal Psychopath. The film itself, however, does not reference Lindner's book in any way.
Warner Bros. released the film on October 27, 1955, less than one month after Dean's fatal car crash.
* James Dean as Jim Stark
* Natalie Wood as Judy
* Sal Mineo as John "Plato" Crawford
* Jim Backus as Frank Stark
* Ann Doran as Carol Stark
* Corey Allen as Buzz Gunderson
* William Hopper as Judy's father
* Rochelle Hudson as Judy's mother
* Edward Platt as Ray Fremick
* Nick Adams as Chick
* Dennis Hopper as Goon
* Virginia Brissac as Grandma Stark
* Jack Grinnage as Moose
* Beverly Long as Helen
* Steffi Sidney as Mil
* Jack Simmons as Cookie
* John Righetti as The Big Rig
Tuesday, June 26, 2012
#59 on the 2007 AFI List of the best 100 American Movies.
Nashville is a 1975 American musical black comedy film directed by Robert Altman. A winner of many awards, selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry, Nashville is generally considered to be one of Altman's best films.
The film takes a snapshot of people involved in the country music and gospel music businesses in Nashville, Tennessee. It has 24 main characters, an hour of musical numbers, and multiple storylines. The characters' efforts to succeed or hold on to their success are interwoven with the efforts of a political operative and a local businessman to stage a concert rally before the state's presidential primary for a populist outsider running for president of the United States on the Replacement Party ticket. In the film's final half-hour, most of the characters come together at the outdoor concert at the Parthenon in Nashville.
The large ensemble cast includes David Arkin, Barbara Baxley, Ned Beatty, Karen Black, Ronee Blakley, Keith Carradine, Geraldine Chaplin, Robert DoQui, Shelley Duvall, Allen Garfield, Henry Gibson, Scott Glenn, Jeff Goldblum, Barbara Harris, David Hayward, Michael Murphy, Allan F. Nicholls, Cristina Raines, Bert Remsen, Lily Tomlin, Gwen Welles, and Keenan Wynn.
* David Arkin as Norman, a nervous, self-conscious chauffeur who doesn't understand that celebrities want him to shut up and just do his job.
* Barbara Baxley as Lady Pearl, Haven Hamilton's companion. She manages a bluegrass night at a downtown club. She appears to be inebriated for most of the film, and is dedicated to the late John and Bobby Kennedy. She is Roman Catholic.
* Ned Beatty as Delbert "Del" Reese is a good old boy with a struggling marriage and a wandering eye. He is Haven Hamilton's lawyer and the local organizer for the Hal Philip Walker campaign.
* Karen Black as Connie White, a glamorous country singer of mediocre talent and rival of Barbara Jean.
* In her first film role, songwriter Ronee Blakley is Barbara Jean, a hyper-feminine, emotionally fragile country singer who is the sweetheart of Nashville.
* Timothy Brown as Tommy Brown, an African American singer who performs at the Grand Ole Opry.
* Keith Carradine as Tom Frank, a member of the folk rock trio Bill, Mary and Tom. He is attempting to create a career as a solo artist. Lean, handsome and dashing, he is also rude and insolent; his successful womanizing leaves him empty and irritable.
* Geraldine Chaplin as Opal, a wacky, celebrity-obsessed, self-absorbed BBC radio reporter. As a surrogate for the audience, she provides an outsider's perspective on the business of music. She is never seen with a film crew, she never shows anyone any official credentials and complains at one point that her cameraman is never around when she needs him. She also erroneously refers to her employer as the 'British Broadcasting Company' (the C in BBC actually standing for 'Corporation'). Film critic Roger Ebert suggests, in his "Great Movies" article, that she may not even be a filmmaker but just a groupie who uses fake credentials to gain access to famous people.
* Robert DoQui as Wade Cooley, a cook at the airport restaurant and protector of Sueleen Gay.
* Shelley Duvall as Martha, the niece of Mr. Green. Martha, who has changed her name to L.A. Joan, has come to Nashville ostensibly to visit Mrs. Green, but spends all her time changing her clothes and wigs, and chasing men.
* Allen Garfield as Barnett, Barbara Jean's husband and manager. Barnett strenuously protects Barbara Jean's career, but when they are together their relationship is strained and he privately bullies her into a nervous wreck.
* Henry Gibson as Haven Hamilton, a Nudie-suit-wearing star of the Grand Ole Opry. His political ambitions play a pivotal role in the film's plot.
* Scott Glenn as Pfc. Glenn Kelly, a Vietnam War veteran who has come to Nashville to see Barbara Jean perform. It is unclear whether or not he is stalking her.
* Jeff Goldblum as the silent Tricycle Man. He rides his long, low-slung three-wheel motorcycle everywhere, and serves as a structural connector for scenes in the film.
* Barbara Harris as Winifred, an aspiring singer-songwriter who runs away from her irascible husband, Star. Despite her straggly appearance and repeated failures to get a break, she understands that the music business is a business, and when her opportunity comes, she is ready.
* David Hayward as Kenny Frasier, a loner who "looks like Howdy Doody", carries a violin case and rents a room from Mr. Green.
* Michael Murphy as the smooth-talking, duplicitous John Triplette, an organizer for Hal Philip Walker's presidential campaign.
* Allan F. Nicholls as Bill, one of the folk trio, Bill, Mary and Tom. He is married to Mary. During the film his marriage is tested.
* Dave Peel as Bud Hamilton, the sweet-natured son of Haven Hamilton. Bud, who went to Harvard, speaks without an accent. He handles his father's business affairs.
* Cristina Raines as Mary, one of the folk trio, Bill, Mary and Tom. She is married to Bill, but is in love with Tom Franks.
* Bert Remsen as Star, who appears in the film only to chase after his runaway wife Winifred.
* Lily Tomlin as Linnea Reese, one of the major characters. Linnea is a gospel singer, wife of Delbert Reese and loving mother of two deaf children.
* Gwen Welles as Sueleen Gay, a pretty young waitress at the airport lunch counter and a talentless, aspiring country singer. Her refusal to recognize her limitations and face reality gets her in trouble.
* Keenan Wynn as Mr. Green, the aging uncle of Martha. His wife is sick and he spends the film trying to get Martha to visit her.
* Richard Baskin, the film's musical supervisor, wrote several of the songs performed in the film. He has a cameo as Frog, a session musician, appearing in several scenes.
* Merle Kilgore as Trout, the owner of a club that has an open-mic talent night that gives Sueleen Gay what she believes is her big break as a singer.
There are cameo appearances by Elliott Gould, Julie Christie, Vassar Clements and Howard K. Smith, all playing themselves. Gould and Christie were passing through Nashville when Altman added them. Altman himself plays Bob an unseen producer who in the beginning of the film is producing Haven Hamilton's song 200 Years. He can be heard on a speaker when Hamilton gets agitated by Frog's inept piano playing.
The film won an Oscar for Best Original Song and a Golden Globe for Best Original Song - Motion Picture (awarded to Keith Carradine for "I'm Easy"). Ronee Blakley and Lily Tomlin were nominated for Best Supporting Actress, Robert Altman was nominated for Best Director, and the film itself was nominated for Best Picture. It won a BAFTA Film Award for "Best Sound Track." Altman won for best director from: Cartagena Film Festival; Kansas City Film Critics Circle Awards; National Board of Review; National Society of Film Critics Awards; and the New York Film Critics Circle Awards. Lily Tomlin was awarded the New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actress.
Monday, June 25, 2012
Raiders of the Lost Ark
Raiders of the Lost Ark (also known as Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark) is a 1981 American action-adventure film directed by Steven Spielberg, produced by George Lucas, and starring Harrison Ford. It is the first film in the Indiana Jones franchise. It pits Indiana Jones (Ford) against a group of Nazis who search for the Ark of the Covenant because Adolf Hitler believes it will make their army invincible. The film co-stars Karen Allen as Indiana's former lover, Marion Ravenwood; Paul Freeman as Indiana's nemesis, French archaeologist René Belloq; John Rhys-Davies as Indiana's sidekick, Sallah; and Denholm Elliott as Indiana's colleague, Marcus Brody.
The film originated with Lucas' desire to create a modern version of the serials of the 1930s and 1940s. Production was based at Elstree Studios, England; but filming also took place in La Rochelle, Tunisia, Hawaii, and California from June to September 1980.
Released on June 12, 1981, Raiders of the Lost Ark became the year's top-grossing film and remains one of the highest-grossing films ever made. It was nominated for eight Academy Awards in 1982, including Best Picture, and won four (Best Art Direction, Best Film Editing, Best Sound, Best Visual Effects) as well as winning a fifth Special Achievement Academy Award in Sound Effects Editing. The film's critical and popular success led to three additional films, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984), Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989), and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008), a television series, The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles (1992–1996), and 15 video games as of 2009. In 1999, the film was included in the United States Library of Congress' National Film Registry as having been deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."
* Harrison Ford stars as Indiana Jones, an archaeology professor who often embarks on perilous adventures to obtain rare artifacts. Jones claims that he has no belief in the supernatural, only to have his skepticism challenged when he discovers the Ark. Spielberg suggested casting Ford as Jones, but Lucas objected, stating that he did not want Ford to become his "Bobby De Niro" or "that guy I put in all my movies", a reference to Martin Scorsese, who often worked with Robert De Niro. Desiring a lesser known actor, Lucas persuaded Spielberg to help him search for a new talent. Among the actors who auditioned were Tim Matheson, Peter Coyote, John Shea, and Tom Selleck. Selleck was originally offered the role, but he was unavailable for the part because of his commitment to the television series Magnum, P.I. In June 1980, three weeks away from filming, Spielberg persuaded Lucas to cast Ford after producers Marshall and Kathleen Kennedy were impressed by his performance as Han Solo in The Empire Strikes Back.
* Karen Allen as Marion Ravenwood, a spirited, tough former lover of Indiana's. She is the daughter of Abner Ravenwood, Indiana Jones' mentor, and owns a bar in Nepal. Allen was cast after auditioning with Matheson and John Shea. Spielberg was interested in her, as he had seen her performance in National Lampoon's Animal House. Sean Young had previously auditioned for the part, while Debra Winger turned it down.
* Paul Freeman as Dr. René Belloq, Jones' arch nemesis, Belloq is also an archaeologist after the Ark, but he is working for the Nazis. He intends to harness the power of the Ark himself before Hitler could, but he is killed by the supernatural powers of the Ark when his head explodes.
* Ronald Lacey as Major Arnold Toht, an interrogator for the Gestapo, who tries to torture Marion Ravenwood for the headpiece of the Staff of Ra. He dies by the supernatural powers of the Ark when his face melts. Lacey was cast as he reminded Spielberg of Peter Lorre. Spielberg had originally offered the role to Roman Polanski, who was intrigued at the opportunity to work with Spielberg but decided to turn down the role because he wouldn't be able to make the trip to Tunisia. Klaus Kinski was also offered the role, but he hated the script, calling it "moronically shitty".
* John Rhys-Davies as Sallah, "the best digger in Cairo" and has been hired by the Nazis to help them excavate Tanis. Although he fears disturbing the Ark, he is an old friend of Indiana Jones, and agrees to help him obtain it. Spielberg initially approached Danny DeVito to play Sallah, but he could not play the part due to scheduling conflicts. Spielberg cast Rhys-Davies after seeing his performance in Shogun.
* Denholm Elliott as Dr. Marcus Brody, a museum curator, who buys the artifacts Indiana obtains for display in his museum. The U.S. government agents approach him with regard to recovering the Ark, and he sets up a meeting between them and Indiana Jones. Spielberg hired Elliott as he was a big fan of the actor.
* Wolf Kahler as Colonel Dietrich, a ruthless Nazi officer leading the operation to secure the Ark. He is killed by the supernatural powers of the Ark.
* Alfred Molina, in his film debut, as Satipo, one of Jones' guides through the South American jungle. He betrays Jones and steals the golden idol, but is killed by traps before he can leave the temple.
* Vic Tablian as Barranca and the Monkey Man
Producer Frank Marshall played a pilot in the airplane fight sequence. The stunt team was ill, so he took the role instead. The result was three days in a hot cockpit, which he joked was over "140 degrees". Pat Roach plays the Nazi mechanic with whom Jones brawls in this sequence, as well as a massive sherpa who battles Jones in Marion's bar. He had the rare opportunity to be killed twice in one film. Special-effects supervisor Dennis Muren made a cameo as a Nazi spy on the seaplane Jones takes to Nepal
Sunday, June 24, 2012
Vertigo (Collector's Edition)
#61 (1998) and #9 (2007) on the AFI Top 100 American Movies List.
Vertigo is a 1958 psychological thriller film directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring James Stewart, Kim Novak, and Barbara Bel Geddes. The screenplay was written by Alec Coppel and Samuel A. Taylor, based on the 1954 novel D'entre les morts by Boileau-Narcejac.
It is the story of a retired police detective suffering from acrophobia who is hired as a private investigator to follow the wife of an acquaintance to uncover the mystery of her peculiar behavior.
The film received mixed reviews upon initial release, but has garnered acclaim since and is now often cited as a classic Hitchcock film and one of the defining works of his career, appearing repeatedly in best films polls by the American Film Institute
* James Stewart as John "Scottie" Ferguson
* Kim Novak as Judy Barton/Madeleine Elster
* Barbara Bel Geddes as Midge Wood
* Tom Helmore as Gavin Elster
* Fred Graham as Scottie's police partner
* Raymond Bailey as Scottie's doctor
* Henry Jones as the Coroner
* Ellen Corby as the hotel owner
In the 1950s, the French Cahiers du cinéma critics began re-evaluating Hitchcock as a serious artist rather than just a populist showman. However, even François Truffaut's important 1962 interviews with Hitchcock (not published in English until 1967) mentions Vertigo only in passing. Dan Aulier has suggested that the real beginning of Vertigo's rise in adulation was the British-Canadian scholar Robin Wood's Hitchcock's Films (1968), which calls the film "Hitchcock's masterpiece to date and one of the four or five most profound and beautiful films the cinema has yet given us". Adding to its mystique was the fact that Vertigo was one of five films owned by Hitchcock which was removed from circulation in 1973. When Vertigo was re-released in theaters in October 1983, and then on home video in October 1984, it achieved an impressive commercial success and laudatory reviews. Similarly adulatory reviews were written for the October 1996 showing of a restored print in 70mm and DTS sound at the Castro Theater in San Francisco.
In 1989, Vertigo was recognized as a "culturally, historically and aesthetically significant" film by the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry in the first year of the registry's voting.
The film ranked 4th and 2nd respectively in Sight and Sound's 1992 and 2002 critic polls of the best films ever made. In 2005, Vertigo came in second (to Goodfellas) in British magazine Total Film's book 100 Greatest Movies of All Time.
In his book Blockbuster: How Hollywood Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Summer, however, British film critic Tom Shone argued that Vertigo's critical re-evaluation has led to excessive praise, and argued for a more measured response. Faulting Sight and Sound for "perennially" putting the film on the list of best-ever films, he wrote that "Hitchcock is a director who delights in getting his plot mechanisms buffed up to a nice humming shine, and so the Sight and Sound team praise the one film of his in which this is not the case – it's all loose ends and lopsided angles, its plumbing out on display for the critic to pick over at his leisure."
Saturday, June 23, 2012
Sullivan's Travels: The (The Criterion Collection)
Sullivan's Travels is a 1941 American comedy film written and directed by Preston Sturges. It is a satire about a movie director, played by Joel McCrea, who longs to make a socially relevant drama, but eventually learns that comedies are his more valuable contribution to society. The film features one of Veronica Lake's first leading roles. The title is a reference to Gulliver's Travels, the famous novel by satirist Jonathan Swift about another journey of self-discovery.
In 1990, Sullivan's Travels was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."
* Joel McCrea as John L. Sullivan
* Veronica Lake as The Girl
* Robert Warwick as Mr. Lebrand
* William Demarest as Mr. Jonas
* Franklin Pangborn as Mr. Casalsis
* Porter Hall as Mr. Hadrian
* Byron Foulger as Mr. Johnny Valdelle
* Margaret Hayes as Secretary
* Robert Greig as Burrows, Sullivan's butler
* Eric Blore as Sullivan's valet
* Torben Meyer as The doctor
* Georges Renavent as Old tramp
# This was the sixth of ten films written by Preston Sturges that William Demarest appeared in.
# Members of Sturges's unofficial "stock company" of character actors who appear in Sullivan's Travels include George Anderson, Al Bridge, Chester Conklin, Jimmy Conlin, William Demarest, Robert Dudley, Byron Foulger, Robert Greig, Harry Hayden, Esther Howard, Arthur Hoyt, J. Farrell MacDonald, Torben Meyer, Charles R. Moore, Frank Moran, Jack Norton, Franklin Pangborn, Emory Parnell, Victor Potel, Dewey Robinson, Harry Rosenthal, Julius Tannen and Robert Warwick. Eric Blore had appeared in The Lady Eve and Porter Hall would go on to appear in three other Sturges films: The Great Moment, The Miracle of Morgan's Creek and The Beautiful Blonde from Bashful Bend, Sturges's last American film.
# Preston Sturges has a cameo appearance as the film director in the scene set in a film studio where The Girl sees Sullivan's picture in the paper and recognizes him. The man she almost runs into on the street outside the studio is Ray Milland.
# Another member of the production staff appeared in the film as well: associate producer Paul Jones appeared as "Dear Joseph", the late husband of "Miz Zeffie", in a photograph in which the man's expression changes.
Paramount purchased Sturges's script for Sullivan's Travels for $6,000. He wrote the film [as a] response to the "preaching" he found in other comedies "which seemed to have abandoned the fun in favor of the message." Sturges may have been influenced by the stories of John Garfield, who lived the life of a hobo, riding freight trains and hitchhiking his way cross country for a short period in the 1930s. Sturges wrote the film with Joel McCrea in mind, but who was to play opposite him went through the casting process. Barbara Stanwyck was considered to co-star, and Frances Farmer was tested for the role as well.
Sullivan's Travels was not as immediately successful at the box office as earlier Sturges films such as The Great McGinty and The Lady Eve, and also received a mixed critical reception. Although the review in the New York Times called the film "the most brilliant picture yet this year" and praised Sturges's mix of escapist fun with underlying significance, the Hollywood Reporter said that it lacked the "down to earth quality and sincerity which made [Sturges's] other three pictures a joy to behold" and that "Sturges...fails to heed the message that writer Sturges proves in his script. Laughter is the thing people want-not social studies." The New Yorker's review said that "anyone can make a mistake, Preston Sturges, even. The mistake in question is a pretentious number called Sullivan's Travels." Nevertheless the Times named it as one of the "10 Best Films of 1941", and the National Board of Review nominated it as best picture of the year.
Over time, the reputation of the film has improved tremendously, and it is now considered a classic, with at least one reviewer calling it Sturges's "masterpiece" and "one of the finest movies about movies ever made."
Friday, June 22, 2012
Tootsie - 25th Anniversary Edition
Tootsie is a 1982 American comedy film that tells the story of a talented but volatile actor whose reputation for being difficult forces him to go to extreme lengths to land a job. The movie stars Dustin Hoffman and Jessica Lange, with a supporting cast that includes Teri Garr, Dabney Coleman, Charles Durning, Geena Davis, Bill Murray, and producer/director Sydney Pollack. Tootsie was adapted by Larry Gelbart, Barry Levinson (uncredited), Elaine May (uncredited) and Murray Schisgal from the story by Gelbart.
In 1998 the United States Library of Congress deemed the film “culturally significant” and selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry. The theme song to the film, "It Might Be You" sung by singer-songwriter Stephen Bishop, and composed by Dave Grusin / Marilyn and Alan Bergman was a Top 40 hit in the U.S., and also hit #1 on the U.S. adult contemporary chart.
Jessica Lange won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance as Julie Nichols. The movie earned a total of 10 Academy Awards nominations.
* Dustin Hoffman as Michael Dorsey / Dorothy Michaels
* Jessica Lange as Julie Nichols
* Teri Garr as Sandy Lester
* Dabney Coleman as Ron Carlisle
* Charles Durning as Leslie "Les" Nichols
* Bill Murray as Jeff Slater
* Sydney Pollack as George Fields
* George Gaynes as John Van Horn
* Geena Davis as April Page
* Doris Belack as Rita Marshall
* Lynne Thigpen as Jo
* Estelle Getty as Middle Aged Woman
The film was nominated for a total of ten Academy Awards, winning only one.
The nominations were:
* Best Picture (Nomination)
* Best Actor in a Leading Role - Dustin Hoffman (Nomination)
* Best Actress in a Supporting Role - Teri Garr (Nomination)
* Best Actress in a Supporting Role - Jessica Lange (WINNER)
* Best Directing - Sydney Pollack (Nomination)
* Best Original Screenplay (Nomination)
* Best Original Song (It Might Be You) (Nomination)
* Best Sound - Arthur Piantadosi, Les Fresholtz, Dick Alexander and Les Lazarowitz (Nomination)
* Best Cinematography (Nomination)
* Best Film Editing (Nomination)
Thursday, June 21, 2012
Close Encounters of the Third Kind (30th Anniversary Ultimate Edition)
Close Encounters of the Third Kind (sometimes abbreviated to CE3K and often referred to as just Close Encounters) is a 1977 science fiction film written and directed by Steven Spielberg. The film stars Richard Dreyfuss, François Truffaut, Melinda Dillon, Teri Garr, Bob Balaban, and Cary Guffey. It tells the story of Roy Neary, a lineman in Indiana, whose life changes after he has an encounter with an unidentified flying object (UFO). The United States government and an international team of scientific researchers are also aware of the UFOs.
Close Encounters was a long-cherished project for Spielberg. In late 1973, he developed a deal with Columbia Pictures for a science fiction film. Though Spielberg receives sole credit for the script, he was assisted by Paul Schrader, John Hill, David Giler, Hal Barwood, Matthew Robbins, and Jerry Belson, all of whom contributed to the screenplay in varying degrees. The title is derived from ufologist J. Allen Hynek's classification of close encounters with aliens, in which the third kind denotes human observations of actual aliens or "animate beings".
Filming began in May 1976. Douglas Trumbull served as the visual effects supervisor, while Carlo Rambaldi designed the aliens. Close Encounters was released in November 1977 and was a critical and financial success. The film was reissued in 1980 as Close Encounters of the Third Kind: The Special Edition, which featured additional scenes. A third cut of the film was released to home video (and later DVD) in 1998. The film received numerous awards and nominations at the 50th Academy Awards, 32nd British Academy Film Awards, the 35th Golden Globe Awards, the Saturn Awards and has been widely acclaimed by the American Film Institute. In December 2007, it was deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" by the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry
* Richard Dreyfuss as Roy Neary, an electrical lineman in Indiana who encounters and forms an obsession with unidentified flying objects. Steve McQueen was Spielberg's first choice. Although McQueen was impressed with the script, he felt he was not specifically right for the role as he was unable to cry on cue. Dustin Hoffman, Al Pacino, and Gene Hackman turned down the part as well.Jack Nicholson turned it down because of scheduling conflicts. Spielberg explained when filming Jaws, "Dreyfuss talked me into casting him. He listened to about 155-days worth of Close Encounters. He even contributed ideas." Dreyfuss reflected, "I launched myself into a campaign to get the part. I would walk by Steve's office and say stuff like 'Al Pacino has no sense of humor' or 'Jack Nicholson is too crazy'. I eventually convinced him to cast me."
* François Truffaut as Claude Lacombe, a French government scientist in charge of UFO-related activities in the United States. Gérard Depardieu, Philippe Noiret, Jean-Louis Trintignant, and Lino Ventura were considered for the role. During filming, Truffaut used his free time to write the script for The Man Who Loved Women. He also worked on a novel titled The Actor, a project he abandoned.
* Melinda Dillon as Jillian Guiler, Barry's single mother. She forms a similar obsession to Roy's, and the two become friends. Teri Garr wanted to portray Jillian, but was cast as Ronnie. Hal Ashby, who worked with Dillon on Bound for Glory, suggested her for the part to Spielberg. Dillon was cast three days before filming began.
* Cary Guffey as Barry Guiler, Jillian's young child abducted in the middle of the film. Spielberg conducted a series of method acting techniques to help Guffey, who was cast when he was just three years old.
* Teri Garr as Veronica "Ronnie" Neary, Roy's wife. Amy Irving (who later became Spielberg's wife) auditioned for the role.
* Bob Balaban as David Laughlin, Lacombe's assistant and English-French interpreter. They meet for the first time in the Sonoran Desert at the beginning of the film.
* Josef Sommer as Larry Butler, a curious man who meets Roy and Jillian in Wyoming and attempts to scale Devil's Tower with them.
* Lance Henriksen as Robert. Henriksen would go on to star in such sci-fi classics as The Terminator and Aliens.
* Roberts Blossom as Farmer, a radical who claims to have seen Sasquatch.
J. Allen Hynek and Stanton T. Friedman make cameo appearances at the closing scene. Spielberg's friends Hal Barwood and Matthew Robbins cameo as two World War II pilots returning from the mother ship. Real life ARP technician Phil Dodds cameos as the operator of the ARP 2500 synthesizer communicating with the alien ship.
Wednesday, June 20, 2012
The Silence of the Lambs
The Silence of the Lambs is a 1991 American thriller film that blends elements of the crime and horror genres. It was directed by Jonathan Demme and stars Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins, Ted Levine, and Scott Glenn. It is based on the novel of the same name by Thomas Harris, his second to feature Hannibal Lecter, a brilliant psychiatrist and cannibalistic serial killer.
In the film, Clarice Starling, a young FBI trainee, seeks the advice of the imprisoned Dr. Lecter to apprehend another serial killer, known only as "Buffalo Bill".
The Silence of the Lambs was released on February 14, 1991, and grossed over $272 million. The film was the third film to win Oscars in all the top five categories: Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Actor, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay. The film is considered "culturally, historically or aesthetically" significant by the US Library of Congress and has been selected to be preserved in the National Film Registry
* Jodie Foster as Clarice Starling
* Anthony Hopkins as Dr. Hannibal Lecter
* Scott Glenn as Jack Crawford
* Ted Levine as Jame Gumb, "Buffalo Bill"
* Anthony Heald as Frederick Chilton
* Brooke Smith as Catherine Martin
* Diane Baker as Senator Ruth Martin
* Kasi Lemmons as Ardelia Mapp
* Frankie Faison as Barney Matthews
* Tracey Walter as Lamar
* Charles Napier as Lt. Boyle
* Danny Darst as Sgt. Tate
* Alex Coleman as Sgt. Jim Pembry
* Dan Butler as Roden
* Paul Lazar as Pilcher
* Ron Vawter as Paul Krendler
* Roger Corman as FBI Director Hayden Burke
* Chris Isaak as SWAT Commander
* Harry Northup as Mr. Bimmel
* Masha Skorobogatov as Young Clarice Starling
* Don Brockett as cellmate and "Pen Pal"
The film won five major Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Actress (Foster), Best Actor (Hopkins), Best Director (Demme) and Best Adapted Screenplay (Ted Tally), making it the third film in history to receive the "Big Five" Academy Awards. It was also nominated for Best Sound (Tom Fleischman and Christopher Newman) and Best Film Editing, but lost to Terminator 2: Judgment Day and JFK, respectively.
Other awards include best picture from the National Board of Review, CHI Awards and PEO Awards. Demme won the Silver Bear for Best Director at the 41st Berlin International Film Festival and was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Director. The film was nominated as best film by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) Awards. Screenwriter Ted Tally received an Edgar Award for Best Motion Picture Screenplay. The film was awarded Best Horror Film of the Year during the 2nd Horror Hall of Fame telecast, with Vincent Price presenting the award to the film's executive producer Gary Goetzman.
In 1998, the film was listed as one of the 100 greatest movies in the past 100 years by the American Film Institute. In 2006, at the Key Art Awards, the original poster for The Silence of the Lambs was named best film poster "of the past 35 years".
The Silence of the Lambs placed seventh on Bravo's 100 Scariest Movie Moments for Lecter's infamous escape scene. The American Film Institute named Hannibal Lecter (as portrayed by Hopkins) the number one film villain of all time and Clarice Starling (as portrayed by Foster) the sixth greatest film hero of all time.
Tuesday, June 19, 2012
Network is a 1976 American satirical film released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer about a fictional television network, Union Broadcasting System (UBS), and its struggle with poor ratings. The film was written by Paddy Chayefsky and directed by Sidney Lumet. It stars Faye Dunaway, William Holden, Peter Finch and Robert Duvall and features Wesley Addy, Ned Beatty, and Beatrice Straight.
The film won four Academy Awards, in the categories of Best Actor (Finch), Best Actress (Dunaway), Best Supporting Actress (Straight), and Best Original Screenplay (Chayefsky).
In 2000, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". In 2002, it was inducted into the Producers Guild of America Hall of Fame as a film that has "set an enduring standard for U.S. American entertainment". In 2006, Chayefsky's script was voted one of the top-ten screenplays by the Writers Guild of America, East. In 2007, the film was 64th among the 100 greatest American films as chosen by the American Film Institute, a ranking slightly higher than the one AFI had given it ten years earlier.
* Faye Dunaway as Diana Christensen
* William Holden as Max Schumacher
* Peter Finch as Howard Beale
* Robert Duvall as Frank Hackett
* Wesley Addy as Nelson Chaney
* Ned Beatty as Arthur Jensen
* Beatrice Straight as Louise Schumacher
* Jordan Charney as Harry Hunter
* Lane Smith as Robert McDonough
* Marlene Warfield as Laureen Hobbs
* Conchata Ferrell as Barbara Schlesinger
* Carolyn Krigbaum as Max's secretary
* Arthur Burghardt as the Great Ahmet Khan
* Cindy Grover as Caroline Schumacher
* Darryl Hickman as Bill Herron
* Lee Richardson as Narrator (voice)
# Kathy Cronkite (Walter Cronkite's daughter) appears as kidnapped heiress, Mary Ann Gifford
# Lance Henriksen has a small uncredited role as a network lawyer at Ahmet Khan's home
# Some sources, including IMDB, indicate that Tim Robbins has a small, non-speaking role at the end of the film as one of the assassins who kills Beale; however, Robbins has publicly stated that he did not appear in the film.
Part of the inspiration for Chayefsky's script came from the on-air suicide of television news reporter Christine Chubbuck in Sarasota, Florida two years earlier. The anchorwoman was suffering from depression and battles with her editors, and unable to keep going, she shot herself on camera as stunned viewers watched on July 15, 1974. Chayefsky used the incident to set up his film's focal point. As he would say later in an interview, "Television will do anything for a rating... anything!"
The character of network executive Diana Christiansen was based on NBC daytime television programming executive Lin Bolen, which Bolen disputed.
Chayefsky and producer Howard Gottfried had just come off a lawsuit against United Artists, challenging the studio's right to lease their previous film, The Hospital, to ABC in a package with a less successful film. Despite this recent lawsuit, Chayefsky and Gottfried signed a deal with UA to finance Network, until UA found the subject matter too controversial and backed out.
Undeterred, Chayefsky and Gottfried shopped the script around to other studios, and eventually found an interested party in MGM. Soon afterward, UA reversed itself and looked to co-finance the film with MGM, which for the past several years had distributed through UA in the US. MGM agreed to let UA back on board, and gave it the international distribution rights, with MGM controlling North American rights.
The film premiered in New York City on November 27, 1976, and went into wide release shortly afterward.
Monday, June 18, 2012
The Manchurian Candidate (Special Edition)
#67 on the 1998 AFI List of the 100 Best American Movies
The Manchurian Candidate is a 1962 American Cold War political thriller film starring Frank Sinatra, Laurence Harvey, Janet Leigh and Angela Lansbury, and featuring Henry Silva, James Gregory, Leslie Parrish and John McGiver. The picture was directed by John Frankenheimer from an adaptation by George Axelrod of Richard Condon's 1959 novel.
The central concept of the film is that the son of a prominent, right-wing political family has been brainwashed as an unwitting assassin for an international Communist conspiracy. The Manchurian Candidate was nationally released on Wednesday, October 24, 1962, at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis.
* Frank Sinatra as Maj. Bennett Marco
* Laurence Harvey as Raymond Shaw
* Angela Lansbury as Mrs. Iselin
* Janet Leigh as Eugenie Rose Chaney
* James Gregory as Sen. John Yerkes Iselin
* Henry Silva as Chunjin
* Leslie Parrish as Jocelyn Jordan
* John McGiver as Sen. Thomas Jordan
* Khigh Dhiegh as Dr. Yen Lo
* James Edwards as Cpl. Allen Melvin
* Douglas Henderson as Col. Milt
* Albert Paulsen as Zilkov
* Barry Kelley as Secretary of Defense
* Lloyd Corrigan as Holborn Gaines
* Robert Riordan as Benjamin K. Arthur
For the role of Mrs. Iselin, Sinatra had considered Lucille Ball, but Frankenheimer, who had worked with Lansbury in All Fall Down, suggested her for the part and insisted that Sinatra watch the film before making any decisions. (Although Lansbury played Raymond Shaw's mother, she was in fact only three years older than actor Laurence Harvey.)
An early scene where Raymond, recently decorated with the Medal of Honor, argues with his parents was filmed in Sinatra's own private plane.
Janet Leigh plays Marco's love interest. A bizarre conversation on a train between her character and Marco has been interpreted by some—notably film critic Roger Ebert—as implying that Leigh's character, Eugenie Rose Chaney, is working for the Communists to activate Marco's brainwashing, much as the Queen of Diamonds activates Shaw's. It is a jarringly strange conversation between people who have only just met, and almost appears to be an exchange of passwords. Frankenheimer himself maintained that he had no idea whether or not "Rosie" was supposed to be an agent of any sort; he merely lifted the train conversation straight from the Condon novel, in which there is no such implication. The rest of the film does not elaborate on Rosie's part and latter scenes suggest that she is simply a romantic foil for Marco.
During the fight scene between Frank Sinatra and Henry Silva, Sinatra broke his hand during a movement where he smashed through a table. This resulted in problems with his hand/fingers for several years and is said to be one of the reasons why he pulled out of a starring role in Dirty Harry, having to undertake surgery to alleviate pains.
The interrogation sequence where Raymond and Marco confront each other in the hotel room opposite the convention are the rough cuts. When first filmed Sinatra was out of focus and when they tried to re-shoot the scene he was simply not as effective as he had been in the first take (a common factor in Sinatra's film performances). Frustrated, Frankenheimer decided in the end to simply use the original out-of-focus takes. Critics praised him for showing Marco from Raymond's distorted point-of-view.
In the novel, Mrs. Iselin uses her son's brainwashing to have sex with him before the climax. Concerned that censors would not allow even a reference to such a taboo subject in a mainstream motion picture of the time, the filmmakers instead opted for Mrs. Iselin to simply kiss Raymond on the lips to imply her incestuous attraction to him.
For the scene in the convention hall prior to the assassination, Frankenheimer was at a loss as to how Marco would pinpoint Raymond Shaw's sniper's nest. Eventually he decided on a method similar to Alfred Hitchcock's Foreign Correspondent (1940). Frankenheimer noted that what would be plagiarism in the 1960s would now be looked upon as an homage.
Frankenheimer also acknowledged the climax's connection with Hitchcock's The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934 and 1956) by naming the Presidential candidate "Benjamin Arthur". Arthur Benjamin was the composer of the cantata "Storm Clouds" used in both versions of Hitchcock's film.
Sunday, June 17, 2012
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf
#67 on the 2007 AFI List of 100 Top American Films
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is a 1966 American drama film directed by Mike Nichols. The screenplay by Ernest Lehman is an adaptation of the play of the same title by Edward Albee. It stars Elizabeth Taylor as Martha and Richard Burton as George, with George Segal as Nick and Sandy Dennis as Honey.
The film was nominated for thirteen Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director for Mike Nichols, and is the only film to be nominated in every eligible category at the Academy Awards. All the four main actors of the film were nominated for Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress.
The film won five awards, including a second Academy Award for Best Actress for Elizabeth Taylor and the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for Sandy Dennis. However, the film lost to A Man for All Seasons for the Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Adapted Screenplay awards, and both Richard Burton and George Segal failed to win in their categories.
* Elizabeth Taylor as Martha
* Richard Burton as George
* George Segal as Nick
* Sandy Dennis as Honey
The choice of Elizabeth Taylor—at the time regarded as one of the most beautiful women in the world—to play the frumpy, fifty-ish Martha surprised many, but the actress gained 30 pounds (13.5 kg) for the role and her performance (along with those of Burton, Segal and Dennis) was ultimately praised. When Jack Warner approached Albee about buying the film rights for the play, he told Albee that he wanted to cast Bette Davis and James Mason in the roles of Martha and George. In the script, Martha references Davis and quotes her famous "What a dump!" line from the film Beyond the Forest (1949). Playwright Edward Albee was delighted by this cast, believing that "James Mason seemed absolutely right...and to watch Bette Davis do that Bette Davis imitation in that first scene—that would have been so wonderful." However, fearing that the talky, character-driven story would land with a resounding thud—and that audiences would grow weary of watching two hours of screaming between a harridan and a wimp—Nichols and Lehman cast stars Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. Edward Albee was surprised by the casting decision, but later stated that Taylor was quite good, and Burton was incredible. In the end though, he still felt that "with Mason and Davis you would have had a less flashy and ultimately deeper film."
Edward Albee's 1962 play was replete with dialogue that included multiple instances of "goddamn" and "son-of-a-bitch", along with "screw you", "up yours", "great nipples", and "hump the hostess". Opening on Broadway during the Cuban Missile Crisis, audiences who had gone to the theater to forget the threat of nuclear war were instead assaulted by language and situations they had not seen before outside of experimental theater.
The immediate reaction of the theater audiences, eventually voiced by critics, was that Albee had created a play that would be a great success on Broadway, but could never be filmed in anything like its current form. Neither the audience nor the critics understood how much the Hollywood landscape was changing in the 1960s, and that it could no longer live with any meaningful Production Code. In bringing the play to the screen, Ernest Lehman decided he would not change the dialogue that had shocked veteran theatergoers in New York only four years earlier. Despite serious opposition to this decision, Lehman prevailed.
As filming began, the Catholic Legion of Motion Pictures (formerly the Catholic Legion of Decency), issued a preliminary report that, if what they heard was true, they might have to slap Virginia Woolf with the once-dreaded "condemned" rating, although they promised to wait to see the film. The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) followed with an even stronger statement, warning the studio—without promising to wait for a screening—that if they were really thinking of leaving the Broadway play's language intact, they could forget about getting a Seal of Approval.
Warner Brothers studio executives sat down to look at a rough cut, without music, and a Life magazine reporter was present. He printed the following quote from one of the studio chiefs: "My God! We've got a seven million dollar dirty movie on our hands!"
The film was considered groundbreaking for having a level of profanity and sexual implication unheard of at that time. Jack Valenti, who had just become president of the MPAA in 1966, had abolished the old Production Code. In order for the film to be released with MPAA approval, Warner Bros. agreed to minor deletions of certain profanities and to have a special warning placed on all advertisements for the film, indicating adult content. Even the Catholic Office refused to "condemn" the film. It was this film and another groundbreaking film, Michelangelo Antonioni's Blow-Up (1966), that led Jack Valenti to begin work on the MPAA film rating system that went into effect on November 1, 1968. It is also said that Jack Warner chose to pay a fine of $5,000 in order to remain as faithful to the play (with its profanity) as possible.
Saturday, June 16, 2012
An American in Paris
#68 on the 1998 AFI Top 100 American Films List
An American in Paris is a 1951 MGM musical film inspired by the 1928 orchestral composition by George Gershwin. Starring Gene Kelly, Leslie Caron, Oscar Levant, Georges Guetary, and Nina Foch, the film is set in Paris, and was directed by Vincente Minnelli from a script by Alan Jay Lerner. The music is by George Gershwin, with lyrics by his brother Ira, with additional music by Saul Chaplin, the music director.
The story of the film is interspersed with dance numbers choreographed by Gene Kelly and set to Gershwin's music. Songs and music include "I Got Rhythm", "I'll Build A Stairway to Paradise", " 'S Wonderful", and "Our Love is Here to Stay". The climax of the film is "The American in Paris" ballet, a 16 minute dance featuring Kelly and Caron set to Gershwin's An American in Paris. The ballet alone cost more than $500,000
* Gene Kelly as Jerry Mulligan
* Leslie Caron as Lise Bouvier
* Oscar Levant as Adam Cook
* Georges Guétary as Henri "Hank" Baurel
* Nina Foch as Milo Roberts
* Hayden Rorke, best known for playing Dr. Bellows on the TV series I Dream of Jeannie, has a small part as a friend of Nina Foch's character.
* Noel Neill, later to portray Lois Lane on the TV series The Adventures of Superman, has a small role as an American art student who tries to criticize Jerry Mulligan's paintings.
* Judy Landon, better known for her appearance in Kelly's next musical Singin' in the Rain (and as the wife of Brian Keith), appears as a dancer in the Stairway to Paradise sequence.
Music and dance
* "Embraceable You" (Leslie Caron)
* "Nice Work If You Can Get It" (Georges Guétary)
* "By Strauss" (Gene Kelly, Guétary, Oscar Levant)
* "I Got Rhythm" (Kelly)
* "Tra-la-la (This Time It's Really Love)" (Kelly and Levant)
* "Our Love Is Here to Stay" (Kelly and Caron)
* "I'll Build a Stairway to Paradise" (Georges Guétary)
* "Concerto in F for Piano and Orchestra" (Levant and The MGM Symphony Orchestra)
* " 'S Wonderful" (Kelly and Guétary)
* "An American in Paris Ballet" (Kelly, Caron, and ensemble)
The film was shot in Hollywood, so it features some quirks in the occasional French dialogue. Notably, near the beginning of the I Got Rhythm number, one of the French children says Jerry, parle anglais à nous, which sounds rather curious, containing mistakes both in direct object placement and in respectful address. In the French soundtrack, which switches to the original sound for the duration of the songs, the à nous is masked through a plop sound, to make the sentence more palatable.
Hollywood movies set in France seldom used location shooting or native speakers. However, great care was sometimes put into reproducing Paris surroundings, as in An American in Paris or Irma La Douce. Many French Paris-set movies of this era avoided location work too, and sometimes the same art directors (Alexandre Trauner being the best known example) worked on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.
Friday, June 15, 2012
Shane is a 1953 American Western film from Paramount. It was produced and directed by George Stevens from a screenplay by A.B. Guthrie Jr., based on the 1949 novel of the same name by Jack Schaefer. Its Oscar-winning cinematography was by Loyal Griggs. The film stars Alan Ladd, Jean Arthur (in her last film after a thirty-year career) and Van Heflin, and features Brandon De Wilde, Elisha Cook Jr., Jack Palance and Ben Johnson.
Shane was listed #45 in the 2007 edition of AFI's 100 Years…100 Movies list and #3 on AFI's 10 Top 10 in the category Western.
* Alan Ladd as Shane
* Jean Arthur as Marian Starrett
* Van Heflin as Joe Starrett
* Brandon De Wilde as Joey Starrett
* Jack Palance (credited as Walter Jack Palance) as Jack Wilson
* Ben Johnson as Chris Calloway
* Edgar Buchanan as Fred Lewis
* Emile Meyer as Rufus Ryker
* Elisha Cook, Jr. as Frank 'Stonewall' Torrey
* Douglas Spencer as Axel 'Swede' Shipstead
* John Dierkes as Morgan Ryker
* Ellen Corby as Mrs. Liz Torrey
* Paul McVey as Sam Grafton
* John Miller as Will Atkey, bartender
* Edith Evanson as Mrs. Shipstead
* Leonard Strong as Ernie Wright
* Nancy Kulp as Mrs. Howells
Although the film is fiction, elements of the setting are derived from Wyoming's Johnson County War. The physical setting is the high plains near Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and many shots feature the Grand Teton massif looming in the near distance. Other filming took place at Paramount Studios in Hollywood, California.
Director George Stevens originally cast Montgomery Clift as Shane, William Holden as Joe Starrett; when they both proved unavailable, the film was nearly abandoned. Stevens asked studio head Y. Frank Freeman for a list of available actors with current contracts. Within three minutes, he chose Alan Ladd, Van Heflin and Jean Arthur, though Arthur was not the first choice to play Marian; Katharine Hepburn was originally considered for the role. Even though she had not made a picture in five years, Arthur accepted the part at the request of George Stevens with whom she had worked in two earlier films, The Talk of the Town (1942) and The More the Merrier (1943) for which she received her only Oscar nomination. Shane marked her last film appearance (when the film was shot she was 50 years old, significantly older than her two male co-stars), although she later appeared in theater and a short-lived television series.
Although the film was made between July and October 1951, it was not released until 1953 due to director Stevens' extensive editing. The film cost so much to make that at one point, Paramount negotiated its sale to Howard Hughes, who later pulled out of the arrangement. The studio felt the film would never recoup its costs, though it ended up making a significant profit. Another story reported that Paramount was going to release the film as "just another western" until Hughes watched a rough cut of the film and offered to buy it on the spot from Paramount for his RKO Radio Pictures. Hughes' offer made Paramount reconsider the film for a major release.
Jack Palance had problems with horses and Alan Ladd with guns. The scene where Shane practices shooting in front of Joey required 116 takes. A scene where Jack Palance (aka Walter Jack Palahniuk) mounts his horse was actually a shot of him dismounting, but played in reverse. As well, the original planned introduction of Wilson galloping into town was replaced with him simply walking in on his horse, which was noted as improving the entrance by making him seem more threatening.
Thursday, June 14, 2012
The French Connection
#70 (1998) and #93 (2007) on the AFI List of 100 Greatest American Movies.
The French Connection is a 1971 American dramatic thriller film directed by William Friedkin. The film was adapted and fictionalized by Ernest Tidyman from the non-fiction book by Robin Moore. It tells the story of New York Police Department detectives named "Popeye" Doyle and Buddy "Cloudy" Russo, whose real-life counterparts were Narcotics Detectives Eddie Egan and Sonny Grosso. Egan and Grosso also appear in the film, as characters other than themselves.
It was the first R-rated movie to win the Academy Award for Best Picture since the introduction of the MPAA film rating system. It also won Academy Awards for Best Actor (Gene Hackman), Best Director, Best Film Editing, and Best Adapted Screenplay (Ernest Tidyman). It was nominated for Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Roy Scheider), Best Cinematography and Best Sound. Tidyman also received a Golden Globe Award, a Writers Guild of America Award and an Edgar Award for his screenplay.
In 2005, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."
* Gene Hackman as Det. Jimmy 'Popeye' Doyle
* Fernando Rey as Alain Charnier
* Roy Scheider as Det. Buddy 'Cloudy' Russo
* Tony Lo Bianco as Salvatore 'Sal' Boca
* Marcel Bozzuffi as Pierre Nicoli, Hit Man
* Frédéric de Pasquale as Henri Devereaux
* Bill Hickman as Bill Mulderig
* Ann Rebbot as Mrs. Marie Charnier
* Harold Gary as Joel Weinstock
* Arlene Farber as Angie Boca
* Eddie Egan as Walt Simonson
* André Ernotte as La Valle
* Sonny Grosso as Bill Klein
* Benny Marino as Lou Boca
* Patrick McDermott as Howard, Chemist
* Alan Weeks as Willie Craven, drug pusher
* Andre Trottier as Wyett Cohn, weapons specialist
* Sheila Ferguson as The Three Degrees
* Eric Jones as Little Boy (uncredited)
* Darby Lloyd Rains as Stripper (uncredited)
* Jean Luisi as French detective
he film is often cited as containing one of the greatest car chase sequences in movie history. The chase involves Popeye commandeering a civilian's car (a 1971 Pontiac LeMans) and then frantically chasing an elevated train, on which a hitman is trying to escape. The scene was filmed in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn roughly running under the BMT West End Line (currently; the D train, then the B train) which runs on an elevated track above Stillwell Avenue, 86th Street and New Utrecht Avenue in Brooklyn, with the chase ending just north of the 62nd Street station after the train crashed into another train up ahead. The conductor played by Bob Morrone and train operator played by William Coke, aboard the hijacked train were both actual NYC Transit Authority employees. Friedkin's plan included fast driving coupled with five specific stunts:
1. Doyle is sideswiped by a car in an intersection
2. Doyle's car is clipped by a truck with a Drive Carefully bumper sticker.
3. Doyle narrowly misses a woman with a baby stroller and crashes into a pile of garbage.
4. Doyle's vision is blocked by a tractor trailer which forces him into a steel fence.
5. Doyle must go against traffic to get back on a parallel path with the train. Intercut with these car scenes underneath the elevated train is additional footage (shots facing the car, not from the driver's perspective) that was shot in Bushwick, Brooklyn, particularly when Doyle misses a moving truck and slams into a steel fence.
Many of the shots in the scene were "real". While Gene Hackman drove well over half of the shots used in the film, legendary stunt driver Bill Hickman, who also had a small role in the film as Federal Narcotics Agent Mulderig, drove the stunt scenes and point-of-view shots through the windshield and from the front bumper, with Friedkin running a camera from the backseat while wrapped in a mattress for protection. The production team received no prior permission from the city for such a dangerous stunt, but they had the creative consulting and clout provided to them by Eddie Egan and Sonny Grosso (which allowed normal protocol for location shooting like permits and scheduling to be circumvented), and the only precaution taken was to place a "gumdrop" style beacon on the car's roof and blare the horn. The most famous shot of the chase is made from a front bumper mount and shows a low-angle point of view shot of the streets racing by. This was the last shot made in the film and was, according to Friedkin, needed to increase the speed of the chase after a rough cut of the scene proved less impressive than he hoped. While Friedkin contends the front-bumper shot is made at speeds of "up to 90mph," director of photography Owen Roizman, wrote in American Cinemataographer magazine in 1972 that the camera was undercranked to 18 frames per second to enhance the sense of speed. Roizman's contention is borne out when you see a car at a red light whose muffler is pumping smoke at an accelerated rate. Other shots involved stunt drivers who were supposed to barely miss hitting the speeding car, but due to errors in timing accidental collisions occurred and were left in the final film. Friedkin said that he used Santana's song "Black Magic Woman" during editing to help shape the chase sequence; though the song does not appear in the film, "it [the chase scene] did have a sort of pre-ordained rhythm to it that came from the music."
The scene concludes with Doyle confronting Nicoli the hitman at the stairs leading to the subway and shooting him as he tries to run back up them. Many of the police officers acting as advisers for the film objected to the scene on the grounds that shooting a suspect in the back was simply murder, not self-defense, but director Friedkin stood by it, stating that he was "secure in my conviction that that's exactly what Eddie Egan (the model for Doyle) would have done and Eddie was on the set while all of this was being shot."
As of July 2009, the two lead R42 subway cars in the chase scene, cars 4572 and 4573, were added to the preserved collection of the New York Transit Museum.