FilmBuffOnline » History http://www.filmbuffonline.com/FBOLNewsreel/wordpress For The Complete Movie Fan Tue, 04 Aug 2015 02:25:25 +0000 en-US hourly 1 See All The Changes Inflicted On The Original STAR WARS Trilogy http://www.filmbuffonline.com/FBOLNewsreel/wordpress/2015/07/27/see-all-the-changes-inflicted-on-the-original-star-wars-trilogy/ http://www.filmbuffonline.com/FBOLNewsreel/wordpress/2015/07/27/see-all-the-changes-inflicted-on-the-original-star-wars-trilogy/#comments Mon, 27 Jul 2015 16:42:00 +0000 http://www.filmbuffonline.com/FBOLNewsreel/wordpress/?p=36393 An exhaustive compendium of the edits and changes made to the classic film trilogy.

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For me, film preservation has always been of great importance, and that is why I have always held an animosity towards the Star Wars: Special Editions. Constantly changing the substance of these films because technology has improved or because you might be second guessing a creative impulse from years earlier does the films a disservice and destroys them as documents of the time that they were originally made.

Sure, some of the biggest changes – Han suddenly not shooting first in his confrontation with the bounty hunter Greedo, Han’s encounter with Jabba the Hutt at the docking bay – has been debated back and forth for almost two decades now. But do people really know the extent the film’s have been tampered with over the years? Well YouTube user Marcelo Zuniga has assembled a rather in-depth look at all the changes that the classic trilogy has gone through over the years from their original theatrical cuts (1977) to the Special Edition (1997) to their release on DVD (2004) and blu-ray (2011). Between the four videos below you get every sound effects and line of dialogue change, different or extended shot, added scene and altered special effect.

Currently, there are rumors that Lucasfilm, not that it is owned by Disney and out of the hands of Star Wars creator George Lucas, is looking at releasing the original Star Wars trilogy in its unaltered form. Until that time though, here is the best way to study those changes.

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Incomplete Orson Welles Memoirs Manuscript Discovered http://www.filmbuffonline.com/FBOLNewsreel/wordpress/2015/06/01/incomplete-orson-welles-memoirs-manuscript-discovered/ http://www.filmbuffonline.com/FBOLNewsreel/wordpress/2015/06/01/incomplete-orson-welles-memoirs-manuscript-discovered/#comments Tue, 02 Jun 2015 01:05:36 +0000 http://www.filmbuffonline.com/FBOLNewsreel/wordpress/?p=36030 The manuscript may offer insights into the great director's numerous aborted projects.

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A recently discovered, incomplete manuscript may give us more insight into the work process of the great Orson Welles and why he left behind so many unfinished projects.

The previously unknown document is the beginnings of a memoir Welles was writing titled Confessions Of A One-Man Band and was found by University of Michigan archivists cataloging new acquisitions that they had recently received for the University’s special collection of Wells memorabilia donated by Oja Kodar, the director’s partner of 24 years, from her home in Croatia. The typewritten draft contains numerous handwritten edits and editions and discusses topics ranging from Welles’ parents to his second wife Rita Hayworth to his friendship with Ernest Hemingway.

Philip Hallman, curator of U-M’s Screen Arts Mavericks and Makers collection, explained that while the unfinished book will probably not be published right away but it will provide plenty of information for Welles and film scholars.

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If you think of it as puzzle, this is another important piece that brings us closer to being able to see the bigger picture. Having an opportunity to look at him as a father, as a husband, as a friend—you get to see what was happening behind the scenes, including the struggles and the missed opportunities and the agony that he was experiencing….

It doesn’t appear to be anywhere near a final draft, but that doesn’t mean that it won’t be important for scholars or researchers. There’s a lot of evidence that we’ve found that explains why he didn’t—or couldn’t—finish some of his projects.

Also within the new material were a number of previously unseen photographs, notes he exchanged with his first wife and letters from other Hollywood directors. It should be several months before the new acquisition will be available to the public.

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Final Trailer For THE DEATH OF ‘SUPERMAN LIVES’ Doc http://www.filmbuffonline.com/FBOLNewsreel/wordpress/2015/04/20/final-trailer-for-the-death-of-superman-lives-doc/ http://www.filmbuffonline.com/FBOLNewsreel/wordpress/2015/04/20/final-trailer-for-the-death-of-superman-lives-doc/#comments Mon, 20 Apr 2015 23:22:44 +0000 http://www.filmbuffonline.com/FBOLNewsreel/wordpress/?p=35803 Are you ready to find out why this Superman didn't fly?

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Right about now, some lucky fans are seeing the theatrical premier of the trailer for Zack Snyder’s Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice, even though we are still roughly a year off from the film arriving in theaters. If you are hoping to see the Man of Steel on the big screen a bit sooner, director Jon Schnepp’s documentary The Death Of Superman Lives: What Happened? will be going into a limited release on May 1. The film takes a deep dive into Tim Burton’s attempt to bring Superman to the big screen in the 1990s with the unlikely casting of Nick Cage in the role of Clark Kent/ Superman. This latest, and final, trailer for the film continues the teasing of an inordinate of the material developed during the project’s pre-production phase before studio Warner Brothers pulled the plug. If you don’t happen to live near one of the selected theaters getting the film, it will be released via streaming, DVD, blu-ray, and Video On Demand outlets.

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Academy Buys Rare 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY Model http://www.filmbuffonline.com/FBOLNewsreel/wordpress/2015/03/30/academy-buys-rare-2001-a-space-odyssey-model/ http://www.filmbuffonline.com/FBOLNewsreel/wordpress/2015/03/30/academy-buys-rare-2001-a-space-odyssey-model/#comments Mon, 30 Mar 2015 15:32:57 +0000 http://www.filmbuffonline.com/FBOLNewsreel/wordpress/?p=35708 The model will be part of the Academy's planned museum.

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The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences have purchased one of the models used in the production of the visual effects for Stanley Kubrick’s landmark 2001: A Space Odyssey. The model of the Aries 1B Trans-Lunar Space Shuttle that transports scientists from the Earth-orbiting space station to the moon base located near the discovered black Monolith was purchased by the Academy Saturday at Premiere Prop‘s Hollywood Extravaganza Auction for $344,000.

The model is one of the very few pieces from the production of 2001 that still exists. Worried that they could be reused in other science-fiction films, Kubrick famously ordered all of the props, costumes and special effects models destroyed upon the completion of the film. According to Variety, the model survived the edict and was acquired by a high school art teacher in 1975 “under an agreement that the electronics be removed from the model to demonstrate the technology to his students.”

The model, which measures in at 32 inches high, 27 inches wide and 28 inches deep, was purchased to be a part of the Academy’s planned Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. Construction on the museum is set to start this summer for a 2017 grand opening.

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Required Listening: NPR Looks At The History Of THE BIRTH OF A NATION http://www.filmbuffonline.com/FBOLNewsreel/wordpress/2015/02/10/required-listening-npr-looks-at-the-history-of-the-birth-of-a-nation/ http://www.filmbuffonline.com/FBOLNewsreel/wordpress/2015/02/10/required-listening-npr-looks-at-the-history-of-the-birth-of-a-nation/#comments Wed, 11 Feb 2015 00:39:33 +0000 http://www.filmbuffonline.com/FBOLNewsreel/wordpress/?p=35521 A look at the problematic legacy of the DW Griffith silent film epic.

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“The worst thing about The Birth Of A Nation is how good it is.”

That, in a nutshell, describes how problematic D W Griffith’s epic silent film The Birth Of A Nation is.

On one hand, Griffith pioneered many new film making techniques, synthesizing what we would consider much of the modern syntax of film today. Much of that can be seen being worked out in Birth. On the other hand, you can’t take the film’s story of how the South, laboring under the harsh indignity of reconstruction, is saved from hordes of former slaves by the heroic efforts of the Ku Klux Klan as anything more than racist propaganda. And that’s before you factor in the fact that all former slaves in the film are played by white actors in black face.

Sunday marked the 100th anniversary of the film’s New York City premiere, so National Public Radio’s All Things Considered examined the film’s history and the problems inherent in studying the film today. How do you teach a film that is important to the development of film as art when it contains so vile a message?

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Required Viewing: Tom Schiller’s NOTHING LASTS FOREVER http://www.filmbuffonline.com/FBOLNewsreel/wordpress/2015/01/02/required-viewing-tom-shillers-nothing-lasts-forever/ http://www.filmbuffonline.com/FBOLNewsreel/wordpress/2015/01/02/required-viewing-tom-shillers-nothing-lasts-forever/#comments Fri, 02 Jan 2015 22:35:01 +0000 http://www.filmbuffonline.com/FBOLNewsreel/wordpress/?p=35319 The creator of a number of short films from the early days of "Saturday Night Live" made one rarely seen feature which will air on TCM this weekend.

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Nothing-Lasts-Forever-ZachTom Schiller is undeservingly the least remembered creative asset of the original Saturday Night Live. While the on screen cast and off screen writers would be known for their numerous comic creations on the groundbreaking late night series and in other projects afterwards in television film, and in one case the halls of the United States Senate, Schiller’s career never broke out in the same way. And that is a shame given that the short films he contributed to the show’s early years – such as the Federico Fellini parody La Dolce Gilda which the Italian neo-realist director reportedly loved – were some of the smartest and most insightful things presented on the show ever.

It’s not that Schiller didn’t get a shot at bigger things beyond the show. That chance came in the early 1980s, courtesy of Saturday Night Live creator Lorne Michaels. Michaels had just signed a five picture deal with MGM as a way to help finance his new Broadway Video production company and asked Schiller to fill one of those slots. The result was Nothing Lasts Forever, the story of a young man who decides he has had enough of the near future society in which he lives and opts to head to a moon colony to start a new life.

TCM will be screening Nothing Lasts Forever on their TCM Underground showcase, Saturday night/early Sunday morning January 3 at 2am (eastern), 11pm (pacific).

Nothing-Lasts-Forever-MurrayProduction commenced on the film in April of 1984, with a pre-Gremlins Zach Galligan (beating out Matthew Broderick, John Cusack, and Matthew Modine) in the lead role of the disaffected Adam Beckett opposite Lauren Tom, still a few years away from her starring turn in The Joy Luck Club. In addition to SNL chums Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd making cameos, Schiller padded out the cast with an eclectic bunch of actors including comic Mort Sahl, Imogene Coca (who went on to do National Lampoon’s Vacation when she wrapped her work here), Sam Jaffee, movie tough guy Lawrence Tierney still a few years away from career rejuvenation in Reservoir Dogs and Calvert DeForest, perhaps better known to late night television viewers as Larry “Bud” Melman of David Letterman’s chat shows.

Schiller has described the movie as a mélange of all the late night movies he would watch on TV as a kid – Hollywood studio films of the 1940s and `50s, science-fictional trips to the moon and Italian neo-realism all in one potent blend. There were reportedly no real issues on set during the film’s production, but things took a turn for the worse soon afterwards, when a disastrous preview screening in Seattle of a rough cut of the film prompted the studio to just shelve the film rather than try and complete it. A video release to Europe was done on the quick and cheap, so cheap that they never even fixed a number of glaring editing issues, including the repetition of one scene.

Nothing-Lasts-Forever-moonAmerican film buffs interested in seeing the film got their first real chance in 1992, when it was screened as part of the Museum of the Moving Image’s “SchillerVision” event, in which they screened a number of the director’s short films as well as Nothing Lasts Forever. It would be another 12 years before it was exhibited again, when Bill Murray insisted that it be shown as part of a 2004 retrospective of the comic actor’s films at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Subsequently, the film’s reputation has only grown through occasional screenings at film festivals and one-off events.

Unfortunately, it appears that there are some rights issues that are holding up any kind of home video release, so for now, outside of the odd festival screening, this appears to be the only time to catch this film. Set your DVR.

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FERRIS BUELLER, ROSEMARY’S BABY, SAVING PRIVATE RYAN And More Named To National Film Registry http://www.filmbuffonline.com/FBOLNewsreel/wordpress/2014/12/18/ferris-bueller-rosemarys-baby-saving-private-ryan-and-more-named-to-national-film-registry/ http://www.filmbuffonline.com/FBOLNewsreel/wordpress/2014/12/18/ferris-bueller-rosemarys-baby-saving-private-ryan-and-more-named-to-national-film-registry/#comments Fri, 19 Dec 2014 01:39:34 +0000 http://www.filmbuffonline.com/FBOLNewsreel/wordpress/?p=35271 Twenty-five new films have been added to the Library of Congress's list of culturally significant films.

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Over 90 years of American film are represented in this year’s list of additions to the Library of Congress’s National Film Registry. Ranging from an early, unfinished film featuring an array of black vaudeville actors to more modern era blockbusters, the new films selected for the Film Registry span a wide range of the film going experience and American history.

“The National Film Registry showcases the extraordinary diversity of America’s film heritage and the disparate strands making it so vibrant,” Librarian of Congress James H. Billington, in yesterday’s announcement. “By preserving these films, we protect a crucial element of American creativity, culture and history.”

Among the titles chosen are the silent films Shoes (1916) and Unmasked (1917), John Ford’s landmark western Rio Bravo (1959) and John Hughes’s 1986 comedy Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Technological achievement is noted with the inclusion of House Of Wax (1953) , the first feature length 3D film and John Lasetter’s landmark computer generated animated short Luxo Jr (1986).

Here are the 25 films, as described in the Film Registry’s press release –

13 Lakes (2004)
James Benning’s feature-length film can be seen as a series of moving landscape paintings with artistry and scope that might be compared to Claude Monet’s series of water-lily paintings. Embracing the concept of “landscape as a function of time,” Benning shot his film at 13 different American lakes in identical 10-minute takes. Each is a static composition: a balance of sky and water in each frame with only the very briefest suggestion of human existence. At each lake, Benning prepared a single shot, selected a single camera position and a specific moment. The climate, the weather and the season deliver a level of variation to the film, a unique play of light, despite its singularity of composition. Curators of the Rotterdam Film Festival noted, “The power of the film is that the filmmaker teaches the viewer to look better and learn to distinguish the great varieties in the landscape alongside him. [The list of lakes] alone is enough to encompass a treatise on America and its history. A treatise the film certainly encourages, but emphatically does not take part in.” Benning, who studied mathematics and then film at the University of Wisconsin, currently is on the faculty at the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts).

Bert Williams Lime Kiln Club Field Day (1913)
In 1913, a stellar cast of African-American performers gathered in the Bronx, New York, to make a feature-length motion picture. The troupe starred vaudevillian Bert Williams, the first African-American to headline on Broadway and the most popular recording artist prior to 1920. After considerable footage was shot, the film was abandoned. One hundred years later, the seven reels of untitled and unassembled footage were discovered in the film vaults of the Museum of Modern Art, and are now believed to constitute the earliest surviving feature film starring black actors. Modeled after a popular collection of stories known as “Brother Gardener’s Lime Kiln Club,” the plot features three suitors vying to win the hand of the local beauty, portrayed by Odessa Warren Grey. The production also included members of the Harlem stage show known as J. Leubrie Hill’s “Darktown Follies.” Providing insight into early silent-film production (Williams can be seen applying his blackface makeup), these outtakes or rushes show white and black cast and crew working together, enjoying themselves in unguarded moments. Even in fragments of footage, Williams proves himself among the most gifted of screen comedians.

The Big Lebowski (1998)
From the unconventional visionaries Joel & Ethan Coen (the filmmakers behind “Fargo” and “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”) came this 1998 tale of kidnapping, mistaken identity and bowling. As they would again in the 2008 “Burn After Reading,” the Coens explore themes of alienation, inequality and class structure via a group of hard-luck, off-beat characters suddenly drawn into each other’s orbits. Jeff Bridges, in a career-defining role, stars as “The Dude,” an LA-based slacker who shares a last name with a rich man whose arm-candy wife is indebted to shady figures. Joining Bridges are John Goodman, Tara Reid, Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Steve Buscemi and, in a now-legendary cameo, John Turturro. Stuffed with vignettes—each staged through the Coens’ trademark absurdist, innovative visual style—that are alternately funny and disturbing, “Lebowski” was only middling successful at the box office during its initial release. However, television, the Internet, home video and considerable word-of-mouth have made the film a highly quoted cult classic.

Down Argentine Way (1940)
Betty Grable’s first starring role in a Technicolor musical happened only because Alice Faye had an attack of appendicitis, but Grable took advantage of the situation and quickly made herself as important to 20th Century-Fox as Faye. Released just over a year before America entered World War II, this film and others starring Grable established her as the pinup queen. The title explains much, with Grable traveling to South America and falling in love with Don Ameche. Carmen Miranda makes her American film debut, and the Nicholas Brothers’ unparalleled dance routines dazzle.

The Dragon Painter (1919)
After becoming Hollywood’s first Asian star, Japanese-born Sessue Hayakawa, like many leading film actors of the time, formed his own production company—Haworth Pictures (combining his name with that of director William Worthington)—to gain more control over his films. “The Dragon Painter,” one of more than 20 feature films his company produced between 1918 and 1922, teamed Hayakawa and his wife Tsuru Aoki in the story of an obsessed, untutored painter who loses his artistic powers after he finds and marries the supposed “dragon princess.” His passion and earlier pursuit of her had consumed him with the urge to create. Reviewers of the time praised the film for its seemingly authentic Japanese atmosphere, including the city of Hakone and its Shinto gates, built in Yosemite Valley, California.

Felicia (1965)
This 13-minute short subject, marketed as an educational film, records a slice of life in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles prior to the rebellions of 1965. Filmmakers Trevor Greenwood, Robert Dickson and Alan Gorg were UCLA film students when they crafted a documentary from the perspective of the unassuming-yet-articulate teenager Felicia Bragg, a high-school student of African-American and Hispanic descent. Felicia’s first-person narrative reflects her hopes and frustrations as she annotates footage of her family, school and neighborhood, creating a time capsule that’s both historically and culturally significant. Its provenance as an educational film continues today as university courses use “Felicia” to teach documentary filmmaking techniques and cite it as an example of how non-traditional sources, as well as mainstream television news, reflect and influence public opinion.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
The late John Hughes, the king of both 1980s family comedy (“Home Alone”) and teen angst (“Sixteen Candles”), achieved a career highpoint with this funny, heartfelt tale of a teenage wiseacre (Matthew Broderick) whose day playing hooky leads not only to a host of comic misadventures but also, ultimately, to self-realization for both him and his friends. Hughes’ manner of depicting late-20th-century youth—their outward and inward lives—finds a successful vehicle in the “everyman” appeal of lead Broderick, whose conning of his parents is really an honest and earnest attempt to help his best friend. With the city of Chicago serving as backdrop and a now-iconic street performance of “Twist and Shout” serving as the film’s centerpiece, Ferris Bueller emerged as one of film’s greatest and most fully realized teen heroes. Alan Ruck, Mia Sara, Jennifer Grey and Jeffrey Jones co-starred in the film. This is Hughes’ first film on the registry.

The Gang’s All Here (1943)
Although not remembered as well today as those put out by MGM, 20th Century-Fox’s big Technicolor musicals stand up well in comparison. Showgirl Alice Faye, Fox’s No. 1 musical star, is romanced by a soldier who uses an assumed name and then turns out to be a rich playboy. Carmen Miranda is also featured and her outrageous costume is highlighted in the legendary musical number “The Lady in the Tutti Frutti Hat.” Busby Berkeley, who had just finished a long stint directing musicals at MGM and an earlier one at Warner Bros., directs and choreographs the film.

House of Wax (1953)
A remake of 1933’s “Mystery of the Wax Museum,” the 1953 “House of Wax” expanded upon the earlier horror tale of a mad sculptor who encases his victims’ corpses in wax. It added the dark talents of Vincent Price and helped introduce 3-D visual effects to a wide audience. “House of Wax,” produced by Warner Bros. and released in April 1953, is considered the first full-length 3-D color film ever produced and released by a major American film studio. Along with its technical innovations, “House of Wax” also solidified Vincent Price’s new role as America’s master of the macabre, and his voice resonated even more with the emerging stereophonic sound process. Though he had flirted with the fear genre earlier in his career in the 1946 “Shock,” “Wax” forever recast him as one of the first gentlemen of Hollywood horror. Along with Price, Phyllis Kirk, Frank Lovejoy and Carolyn Jones (as one of Price’s early victims) complete the cast. André de Toth directed the film.

Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport (2000)
Just prior to World War II, a rescue operation aided the youngest victims of Nazi terror when 10,000 Jewish and other children were sent from their homes and families to live with foster families and in group homes in Great Britain. This Oscar-winning film was directed by Mark Jonathan Harris, writer and director of another Oscar winner, “The Long Way Home,” and was produced by Deborah Oppenheimer, whose mother was among the children evacuated. The film examines the bond between parent and child, uncovering the anguish of the parents who reluctantly acknowledged they could no longer protect their children, but through their love saw a chance to protect them, by proxy if not proximity. Interviews with the surviving children reveal feelings of abandonment and estrangement that often took years to overcome. The film is a tribute not only to the children who survived, but to the people of England who agreed to rescue the refugees when U.S. leadership would not.

Little Big Man (1970)
In this Arthur Penn-directed Western, Dustin Hoffman (with exceptional assistance from make-up artist Dick Smith) plays a 121-year-old man looking back at his life as a pioneer in America’s Old West. The film is ambitious, both in its historical scope and narrative approach, which interweaves fact and myth, historical figures and events and fanciful tall tales. “Little Big Man” has been called an epic reinvented as a yarn, and the Western reimagined for a post-1960s audience, one already well-versed in the white hat-black hat tradition of the typical Hollywood Western saga. Against a backdrop that includes the cavalry, old-time medicine shows, life on the frontier and a climax at Custer’s Last Stand, Penn, Hoffman and scriptwriter Calder Willingham (from the novel by Thomas Berger) upend Western motifs while also still skillfully telling a series of remarkable human stories filled with tragedy and humor.

Luxo Jr. (1986)
The iconic living, moving desk lamp that now begins every Pixar motion picture (from “Finding Nemo” to “Monsters, Inc.” to “Up”) has its genesis in this charming, computer-animated short subject, directed by John Lasseter and produced by Lasseter and fellow Pixar visionary Bill Reeves. In the two-minute, 30-second film, two gray balance-arm lamps—one parentally large and one childishly small (the “Junior” of the title)—interact with a brightly colored ball. In strikingly vivid animation, Lasseter and Reeves manage to bring to joyous life these two inanimate objects and to infuse them both with personality and charm—qualities that would become the norm in such soon-to-be Pixar productions as “Toy Story,” “Cars” and “WALL-E.” Nominated for an Oscar in 1986 for best-animated short, “Luxo Jr.” was the first three-dimensional computer-animated film ever to be nominated for an Academy Award.

Moon Breath Beat (1980)
Lisze Bechtold created “Moon Breath Beat,” a five-minute color short subject, in 1980 while a student at California Institute of the Arts under the tutelage of artist and filmmaker Jules Engel, who founded the Experimental Animation program at CalArts. Engel asked, hypothetically, “What happens when an animator follows a line, a patch of color, or a shape into the unconscious? What wild images would emerge?” “Moon Breath Beat” reveals Bechtold responding with fluidity and whimsy. Her two-dimensional film was animated to a pre-composed rhythm, the soundtrack cut together afterward, sometimes four frames at a time, to match picture with track, she says. The dream-like story evolved as it was animated, depicting a woman and her two cats and how such forces as birds and the moon impact their lives. Following graduation, Bechtold was the effects animator for the Disney short “The Prince and the Pauper” (1990) and principal effects animator for “FernGully: The Last Rainforest” (1992). Now primarily an author and illustrator, she claims many of her characters were inspired by pets with big personalities, including “Buster the Very Shy Dog,” the subject of her series of children’s books.

Please Don’t Bury Me Alive! (1976)
The San Antonio barrio in the early 1970s is the setting for writer, director and star Efraín Gutiérrez’s independent piece, considered by historians to be the first Chicano feature film. A self-taught filmmaker, Gutiérrez not only created the film from top to bottom on a shoestring, he also acted as its initial distributor and chief promoter, negotiating bookings throughout the Southwest where it filled theaters in Chicano neighborhoods. He tells his story in the turbulent days near the end of the Vietnam War, as a young Chicano man questioning his and his people’s place in society as thousands of his Latino brethren return from the war in coffins. Chon Noriega, director of the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center, wrote, “The film is important as an instance of regional filmmaking, as a bicultural and bilingual narrative, and as a precedent that expanded the way that films got made. …” Cultural historians often compare Gutiérrez to Oscar Micheaux, the pioneering African-American filmmaker who came to prominence in the 1920s.

The Power and the Glory (1933)
Preston Sturges’ first original screenplay, “The Power and the Glory,” is a haunting tragedy in sharp contrast to the comedies of the 1940s that established him as one of America’s foremost writer-directors. Contrary to common practice of the time, Sturges wrote the film as a complete shooting script, which producer Jesse L. Lasky, believing it “the most perfect script I’d ever seen,” ordered director William K. Howard to film as written. Compared favorably to novels by Henry James and Joseph Conrad for its extensive mix of narration with dramatic action (Fox Studios coined the word “narratage” to publicize Sturges’ innovative technique), “The Power and the Glory” introduced a non-chronological structure to mainstream movies that was said to influence “Citizen Kane.” Like that film, “The Power and the Glory” presents a fragmented rags-to-riches tale of an American industrial magnate that begins with his death, in this case a suicide, and sensitively proceeds to produce a deeply affecting, morally ambivalent portrayal. The Nation magazine called Spencer Tracy’s performance in the lead role “one of the fullest characterizations ever achieved on screen.”

Rio Bravo (1959)
As legend goes, this Western, directed by Howard Hawks, was produced in part as a riposte to Fred Zinnemann’s “High Noon.” The film trades in the wide-open spaces for the confines of a small jail where a sheriff and his deputies are waiting for the transfer of a prisoner and the anticipated attempt by his equally unlawful brother to break the prisoner out. John Wayne stars as sheriff John T. Chance and is aided in his efforts to keep the law by Walter Brennan, Dean Martin and Ricky Nelson. Angie Dickinson is the love interest and Western regulars Claude Akins, Ward Bond and Pedro Gonzalez are also featured. A smart Western where gunplay is matched by wordplay, “Rio Bravo” is a terrific ensemble piece and director Hawks’ last great film.

Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
With “Rosemary’s Baby,” writer-director Roman Polanski brought his expressive European style of psychological filmmaking to an intricately plotted, best-selling American novel by Ira Levin, and created a masterpiece of the horror-film genre. Set in the sprawling Dakota apartment building on New York’s Central Park West, the film conveys an increasing sense of unease, claustrophobia and paranoia as the central character, convincingly played by Mia Farrow in her first starring role, comes to believe that a cult of witches in the building is implementing a plot against her and her unborn child. The supporting cast that Polanski assembled—John Cassavetes as Rosemary’s husband, Ruth Gordon and Sidney Blackmer as their neighbors, and Ralph Bellamy as her doctor—portray believably banal New Yorkers who gain nearly total control over Rosemary’s daily life during her pregnancy. Insistent that “a thread of deliberate ambiguity runs throughout the film,” Polanski maintains that the film’s denouement can be understood in more than one way.

Ruggles of Red Gap (1935)
Charles Laughton, known for such serious roles as Nero, King Henry VIII and later as the 1935 Captain Bligh, takes on comedy in this tale of an English manservant won in a poker game by American Charlie Ruggles, a member of Red Gap, Washington’s extremely small social elite. Laughton, in understated valet fashion, worriedly responds: “North America, my lord. Quite an untamed country I understand.” However, once in America, he finds not uncouth backwoodsmen, but rather a more egalitarian society that soon has Laughton reciting the Gettysburg Address, catching the American spirit and becoming a successful businessman. Aided by comedy stalwarts ZaSu Pitts and Roland Young, Laughton really shows his acting range and pulls off comedy perfectly. It didn’t hurt that Leo McCarey, who had just worked with W.C. Fields and would next guide Harold Lloyd, was in the director’s chair. McCarey, who could pull heartstrings or touch funny bones with equal skill, started his long directorial career working with such comedy icons as Laurel & Hardy and created several beloved American films.

Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Through the years, Hollywood’s take on war, honor and heroism has taken many conflicting forms. “Saving Private Ryan” drops ordinary soldiers into a near-impossible rescue mission set amid the carnage of World War II’s Omaha Beach landing. The film’s beginning scenes vividly show us “war is hell,” as William T. Sherman said. Spielberg conveyed ultra-realism with harrowing intensity. “Omaha Beach was actually an ‘X’ setting,” says Spielberg, “even worse than ‘NC-17,’ and I just kind of feel that (I had) to tell the truth about this war at the end of the century, 54 years later. I wasn’t going to add my film to a long list of pictures that make World War II ‘the glamorous war,’ ‘the romantic war.’”

Shoes (1916)
Renowned silent era writer-director Lois Weber drew on her experiences as a missionary to create “Shoes,” a masterfully crafted melodrama heightened by Weber’s intent to create, as she noted in an interview, “a slice out of real life.” Weber’s camera empathetically documents the suffering her central character, an underpaid shopgirl struggling to support her family, endures daily—standing all day behind a shop counter, walking in winter weather in shoes that provided no protection, stepping on a nail that pierces her flesh. Combining a Progressive era reformer’s zeal to document social problems with a vivid flair for visual storytelling, Weber details Eva’s growing desire for the pair of luxurious shoes she passes each day in a shop window, her self-examination in a cracked mirror after she agrees to go out with a cabaret tout to acquire the shoes, her repugnance as the man puts his hands on her body, and her shame as she breaks down in tears while displaying her newly acquired goods to her mother. The film, which opens with pages from social worker Jane Addams’s sociological study of prostitution, was acclaimed by “Variety” as “a vision of life as it actually is … devoid of theatricalism.”

State Fair (1933)
For director Henry King to create a film that celebrated an institution as beloved and indomitable as the State Fair, it required the presence of a cherished and steadfast star—in this case, icon, philosopher and America’s favorite cowboy, Will Rogers. Rogers found a superlative vehicle for his homespun persona in this small town slice-of-life setting. He is assisted by Janet Gaynor (already the Academy’s very first best-actress winner), Lew Ayres and Sally Eilers. Enhancing the fair’s festivities, which include the making of mom’s entry for the cook-off and the fattening-up of the family pig, are diverse storylines rich with Americana and romance—some long-lasting and some ephemeral, rife with fun but fleeting as the fair itself. The film’s authenticity owes much to its director, widely known as the “King of Americana” through films such as “Tol’able David,” “Carousel” and “Wait till the Sun Shines, Nellie.”

Unmasked (1917)
At the time “Unmasked” was released, Grace Cunard rivaled daredevils Pearl White (“The Perils of Pauline”) and Helen Holmes (“The Hazards of Helen”) as America’s Serial Queen. In the film, Cunard is a jewel thief pursuing the same wealthy marks as another thief played by Francis Ford, brother of director John Ford and himself a director and character actor. Cunard, in the mode of many women filmmakers of that era, not only starred in the film, but also wrote its script and parlayed her contributions into a directorial role as well. Produced at Universal Studios, the epicenter of female directors during the silent era, “Unmasked” reflected a style associated with European filmmakers of the time: artful and sophisticated cinematography comprised of complex camera movements and contrasting depths of field. With a plot rich in female initiative and problem-solving, Cunard fashioned a strong character who does not fit the image of traditional womanhood: she relishes her heists, performs unladylike physical exploits, manipulates court evidence, carries on with a man who is not her husband and yet survives the film without punishment. In essence, the character Cunard created echoed the woman behind the camera. Today, “Unmasked” serves as a succinct but illustrative example of the role of women in film history, as depicted in fact and fiction.

V-E +1 (1945)
The silent 16 mm footage that makes up “V-E +1″ documents the burial of beaten and emaciated Holocaust victims found by Allied forces in the Nazi concentration camp at Falkenau, Czechoslovakia, as World War II ended in Europe. According to Samuel Fuller, who shot the footage while in the infantry unit that liberated the camp, the American commander in charge ordered leading civilians of the town who denied knowledge of the death camp to “prepare the bodies for a decent funeral,” parade them on wagons through the town, and bury them with dignity in the town’s cemetery. Fuller later became an acclaimed maverick writer-director known for crafting films that entertained, but nevertheless forced audiences to confront challenging societal issues. After making “The Big Red One,” a fictionalized version of his war experiences that included scenes set in Falkenau, Fuller unearthed his “V-E + 1″ footage and returned to Falkenau to comment on the experience for the French documentary “Falkenau: The Impossible Years.”

The Way of Peace (1947)
Frank Tashlin, best known for making comedies with pop icons like Jerry Lewis or Jayne Mansfield, directed this 18-minute puppet film sponsored by the American Lutheran Church. Punctuated with stories from the Bible, the film’s purpose was to reinforce Christian values in the atomic age by condemning the consequences of human conflict with scenes of the crucifixion, lynching and Nazi fascism. Wah Ming Chang, a visual- effects artist who specialized in designing fantastic models, characters and props, created the puppets for the stop-motion animation and also produced the film, which reportedly took 20 months to complete. The film is narrated by actor Lew Ayres, who starred in the anti-war film “All Quiet on the Western Front” (1930). He was so influenced by that experience, that he became a vocal advocate for peace and famously declared himself a conscientious objector during World War II. The Reverend H. K. Rasbach, a frequent adviser on big-budget films such as “The Ten Commandments” and “The Greatest Story Ever Told,” provided technical supervision and story concept. The film premiered at Constitution Hall in Washington D.C., with more than 2,700 in attendance, including members of Congress, representatives of the Supreme Court and 750 leaders from various branches of government.

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)
Author Roald Dahl adapted his own novel, Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley wrote a memorable musical score, and producer David Wolper wisely cast Gene Wilder as Wonka in this film musical about a contest put on by an often-sadistic candymaker. Harkening back to the classic Hollywood musicals, “Willy Wonka” is surreal, yet playful at the same time, and suffused with Harper Goff’s jaw-dropping color sets, which richly live up to the fanciful world found in one of the film’s signature songs, “Pure Imagination.” Wilder’s brilliant portrayal of the enigmatic Wonka caused theatergoers to like and fear Wonka at the same time, while the hallucinogenic tunnel sequence has traumatized children (and adults) for decades, their nightmares indelibly emblazoned in memory like the scariest scenes from “The Wizard of Oz.”

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Orson Welles’s OTHER SIDE OF MIDNIGHT Finally Being Finished http://www.filmbuffonline.com/FBOLNewsreel/wordpress/2014/11/02/orson-welless-other-side-of-midnight-finally-being-finished/ http://www.filmbuffonline.com/FBOLNewsreel/wordpress/2014/11/02/orson-welless-other-side-of-midnight-finally-being-finished/#comments Sun, 02 Nov 2014 21:17:57 +0000 http://www.filmbuffonline.com/FBOLNewsreel/wordpress/?p=35033 Nearly 30 years after his death, the director's last work is finally nearing completion.

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Nearly thirty years after his passing, director Orson Welles’ last, unfinished film appears to be finally be on its way to audiences.

The Other Side Of The Wind, the film that the director had been working on finishing sporadically for the last several years of his life, has been the subject of a number of law suits since almost immediately after his death in 1985, with the likes of Welles’ daughter and sole heir Beatrice Welles, Welles’ longtime companion and collaborator Oja Kodar and the Italian-French production company L’Astrophore all arguing over rights to the film. While there have been attempts to bring all parties to the table to facilitate the film’s completion before, it has been indie producer Royal Road that has managed the feat. The New York Times is reporting that Royal Road has reached an agreement with all parties involved for the rights to finish the movie and have it ready for a May 6, 2015 screening to mark the 100th anniversary of Welles’ birth. Additionally, they hope to shop the film to distributors next month at the American Film Market in Santa Monica, CA.

Welles worked on the film piecemeal, shooting when he had funds procured from acting jobs and the occasional investor over the course of 1969 through 1975. The monetary woes of the film were further complicated by a European investor in the film who embezzled some $250,000 from an Iranian investment group headed by Mehdi Bouscheri, the brother-in-law of the Shah, who had put up much of the money for the production. This lead to a deterioration of the relationship between Welles and the Iranians who refused to pay Welles to edit the film and tried to reduce Welles’ share of any potential profits. It was at this point that Bouscheri had the film the Welles had already shot seized.

The director shot with a variety of film stocks ranging from both color and black and white in 35 millimeter, 16 millimeter and even Super 8 formats, ultimately leaving behind 1,083 reels of negatives. From that material, Welles had already begun to assemble an approximately 45-minute long work print. While it was part of the impounded materials in France, in 1975 the director managed to smuggle it out of Paris in a van, ultimately getting it to California. Kodar has stated that she now has possession of it at her home in Primosten, on the Adriatic coast in Croatia.

The Other Side Of The Wind’s story centered on an aging, iconoclastic filmmaker, played by Welles’ friend and fellow filmmaker John Huston, who is at odds with the Hollywood establishment while trying to finish a film that could mark a comeback for him. In some ways the film is similar to Citizen Kane in that it opens with the lead character’s death and tells the man’s story through a series of flashbacks. Here, the flashbacks take the form of video and film footage shoot by journalists visiting the set of his most recent film and by guests at his 70th birthday party. Susan Strasberg, Lilli Palmer, Dennis Hopper and Peter Bogdanovich, who basically played himself, a young up-and-coming director, round out the cast.

Although the plotline does sound very much as if Welles was drawing from his own experiences with Hollywood, the origins of the film’s lead character can be traced back to a meeting the young, not-yet-as-jaded Welles had with the writer Ernest Hemingway in 1937. Welles told the story of how a whiskey-drinking Hemingway called him one of the “effeminate boys of the theater,” to which Welles took offense. But when the filmmaker fired back with an insult of his own, Hemingway upped the ante by throwing a chair. After a brief scuffle, they shock hands and started an on-again off-again friendship that lasted until Hemingway’s death in 1961. Elements such as the main character’s love of Spain, his first name being Jake (the same as the protagonist from Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises) and the fact that his father committed suicide and that the character’s own death could have been either an accident or a suicide are all elements that are rooted in Hemingway.

It was Hollywood producer Frank Marshall, who served as a line producer on The Other Side Of The Wind, and Royal Road’s Filip Jan Rymsza who started the ball rolling on this attempt to get the film finished. They approached both Welles’ daughter and Kodar, both of who were impressed with their passion for the project and the desire to have it completed to mark the director’s centenary.

Currently, the raw footage is on its way to Los Angeles where Marshall and Bogdanovich, a long-time friend and biographer of Welles, will oversee the editing process, working from Welles original notes.

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Lost SHERLOCK HOLMES Silent Film Rediscovered http://www.filmbuffonline.com/FBOLNewsreel/wordpress/2014/10/03/lost-sherlock-holmes-silent-film-rediscovered/ http://www.filmbuffonline.com/FBOLNewsreel/wordpress/2014/10/03/lost-sherlock-holmes-silent-film-rediscovered/#comments Fri, 03 Oct 2014 23:59:14 +0000 http://www.filmbuffonline.com/FBOLNewsreel/wordpress/?p=34911 Featuring the only known filmed performance of famed Sherlockian actor William Gillette.

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A long sought after, presumed lost, silent film adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic Sherlock Holmes has been discovered at the Cinémathèque Française, the archive has announced. Archivists discovered a nitrate dupe negative of the film just a few weeks ago and are working at restoring it in conjunction with the San Francisco Silent Film Festival.

Originally released in 1916, the film, titled simply Sherlock Holmes, starred William Gillette, considered the world’s foremost Sherlockian stage actor of the time, with even Doyle giving his stamp of approval to the performer. It was Gillette who is credited as adding the distinctive deerstalker cap to the character’s iconography.

Directed by Arthur Berthelet, the film is an adaptation of the stage play written by Gillette, which drew story elements from a number of Doyle’s Holmes stories including “A Scandal In Bohemia,” “The Cooper Beeches” and “The Final Solution.” The film is Gillette’s only film appearance and gives modern Holmes fans a chance to experience firsthand a performance that they could only have previously read about it period accounts.

The discovered negative contains the film’s full 7 reels, which translates to approximately 70 minutes, with French intertitles.

Gillette is not the first actor to play Holmes in a film though. That honor belongs to an anonymous actor who portrayed the Great Detective in a thirty-second long nickelodeon flicker produced in 1900 by American Mutoscope & Biograph,

In a press release, film restorer (and San Francisco Silent Film Festival Board President) Robert Byrne stated –

It’s an amazing privilege to work with these reels that have been lost for generations. William Gillette’s Sherlock Holmes has ranked among the holy grails of lost film and my first glimpse of the footage confirms Gillette’s magnetism. Audiences are going to be blown away when they see the real Sherlock Holmes on screen for the first time.

Audiences will get that chance to discover Gillette’s performance starting next January when the restored film premiers at the Cinémathèque Française’s film restoration festival Toute la Mémoire du Monde. It will have its US premier at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival in May 2015.

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Producer Gary Kurtz Debunks Some Of The Legends That Have Sprung Up Around The Original STAR WARS Trilogy http://www.filmbuffonline.com/FBOLNewsreel/wordpress/2014/09/29/producer-gary-kurtz-debunks-some-of-the-legends-that-have-sprung-up-around-the-original-star-wars-trilogy/ http://www.filmbuffonline.com/FBOLNewsreel/wordpress/2014/09/29/producer-gary-kurtz-debunks-some-of-the-legends-that-have-sprung-up-around-the-original-star-wars-trilogy/#comments Mon, 29 Sep 2014 21:16:04 +0000 http://www.filmbuffonline.com/FBOLNewsreel/wordpress/?p=34897 Do you really know what you think you know about the creation of the original STAR WARS film?

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To many who have studied the behind-the-scenes creative process of the original Star Wars trilogy, one name looms above all of creator George Lucas’s collaborators – producer Gary Kurtz. Kurtz, who had already teamed up with Lucas for American Graffiti, was seen as someone who helped mold Lucas’ creative visions and tempering them into something that more balanced both the business and artistic needs of film. He finally split from Lucas towards the end of the production of The Empire Strikes Back when it was starting to become clear that the factors driving the next installment of the franchise would be more beholden to such concerns as merchandising than it would be to storytelling. And some fans will tell you that things have been downhill ever since.

In doing the research for his upcoming book How Star Wars Conquered The Universe which goes on sale tomorrow), writer Chris Taylor had long conversations with Kurtz and his role in shaping what would be come one of the biggest pop culture phenomenons of all time. Along the way, Kurtz managed to shed new light and dispel some of the long-persisting rumors about the franchise’s earliest days. Taylor shared a few of these stories at Mashable over the weekend and upon reading them you may just find yourself questioning what you think you know about the creation of the iconic film franchise.

First off Kurtz addresses the long-held belief that Star Wars only came about because George Lucas wanted to make a film adapting the classic science-fiction comic strip hero Flash Gordon

I’m sure you know the stories. We tried to buy the rights to Flash Gordon from King Features [in 1971]. They weren’t adverse to discussing it, but their restrictions were so draconian that we realized right away that it wasn’t really a great prospect at the time…

The last proper space opera type of science fiction was probably Forbidden Planet in 1955. Since then, all the science fiction seemed to go downhill towards either Creature from the Black Lagoon type-horror, or alien invasion from space, or just this dystopian kind of depressing stories about post-apocalyptic society. And none of that was fun.

It was just the idea of capturing the energy of the Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers style of space opera, which hadn’t been done for so long. It was really during American Graffiti that we discussed it a lot, because it was on the paperwork when we made [an earlier, soon-abandoned] deal with United Artists for two pictures. One was a 1950s rock and roll movie, and one was an unnamed science fiction film.

That was about the extent of the description at the time. There was no idea of what that science fiction movie would be like. We did discuss Flash-Gordon-type stories at great lengths.

Kurtz also states that the idea of Lucas being inspired by the writings of Joseph Campbell is a bit overblown. (Emphasis in the first paragraph mine.)

The whole idea of Star Wars as a mythological thing, I think came about because of [later Lucas] interviews that tied it to The Hero with a Thousand Faces [which Lucas didn’t read until he’d almost finished Star Wars].

Actually, if you look carefully at it, all coming of age stories fit [Campbell’s model]. Hollywood has done those kind of stories since the beginning, since the 1920s. So there are many, many examples of stories that fit the model of that hero.

I think it did kind of cloud it a bit, that Star Wars got so closely tied to that. It was even more so when George did a long interview about the book and about the connections. There are definite connections there, but I think that’s a bit too analytical.

The long held belief that Lucas merely took his overly long first draft of The Star Wars, cut it into thirds and lifted the middle section out for what would become the first film also comes under fire from Kurtz.

That’s not true. There were a lot of little bits and pieces that were reasonably good ideas and that ended up being in the final draft. But once the final draft was actually locked and the Huycks did their polish on it, there wasn’t enough material to do other movies.

There were some odd ideas that got thrown out, like the Wookiee planet; that was a cost factor. There were some other ideas that might have been included if there was more budget. Some of those ended up in later films. But [George’s story on how it is written] is perpetuated by the fact that he and I did interviews at the time of the opening of Star Wars, saying we took a section out of the middle because there was too much material and we want to do more films.

After the film opened, Fox said, “Can you do another one?” And we said it’s possible, but for cost purposes it would be better if we committed to two more because we can amortize the cost of sets and everything that way. So that’s really what happened. But the story material was not fully formed.

Kurtz also explains how factors outside of storytelling concerns were already starting to shape the course of the film franchise and how that lead to him moving onto other projects.

In the meantime, George had worked with Stephen [Spielberg] on Raiders of the Lost Ark. He was convinced by the end of Empire that it needed less serious stories and more rollercoaster ride. He changed the story outline for Jedi and we had a kind of mutual parting of the ways, because I just didn’t want to do another attack on the Death Star.

The original story outline that we had for the third film I thought would have been great. It was darker and it ended up with Luke riding off into the sunset, metaphorically, on his own. And that would have been a bittersweet ending but I think it would have been dramatically stronger.

It wasn’t ever that way and it never was shot that way. That was just a discussion. This all came up at the time that Empire was being written, because the idea was that they had to tie together.

I had some written materials somewhere. It was about how are we going to resolve the story of these three people; one of the discussions was about Han Solo’s character being killed in one of the raids in the middle of the story. Harrison wanted it to be that way. He wanted his character to end that way. So there was that and there was the princess having to take control of what’s left of her people, and be crowned queen.

But I think what happened was that there were discussions with the marketing people and the toy company. They said, “Oh, no, you can’t do that. You can’t kill off one of your main characters. It’s too salable.” In a way that still happens today with superhero movies. There’s no poignancy anywhere. It’s just a lot of action. But there’s no threat to any main characters. I guess that’s inevitable in this kind of situation where nobody wants to lose anything like that that’s important.

Anyway, I’m not sure that that ever got down to a complete story outline. It was dismissed very early on as being possibly too melancholic and not upbeat enough for big endings.

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