1984: A Blockbuster Year

“My fellow Americans, I’m pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.” Ronald Reagan brought that oops moment to the world as he tested a microphone before a radio address; later that November Regan won a landslide re-election. That was the peak of the Reagan era. That was 1984.

1984 was, indeed, an unforgettable year!Mary Lou Retton won gymnastic gold and American hearts at the L.A. Olympics. The reining Miss America, Vanessa Williams, was stripped of her title because of a nude photo spread in Penthouse magazine. Madonna became everyone’s “boy toy” with her “Like a Virgin” performance at the MTV Video Music Awards. Marvin Gaye was killed by his father; Bernie Goetz gunned down four muggers in the NYC subway; millions starved in Ethiopia; and Bob Geldoff responded with “Do They Know it’s Christmas Time.” Thousands died in the Union Carbide Corporation disaster in Bhopal, India; and Clara Peller asked, “Where’s the Beef?” Cindy Lauper proclaimed that “Girls Just Want to Have Fun”; Prince let us know what it sounds like “When Doves Cry”; and Tina Turner made a big comeback and asked, “What’s Love Got To Do With It?

Clearly, 1984 was a year of big news, big events, and, thanks to the number one TV show, Dynasty, really of big shoulder pads! But as the ashes of have long since settled, it’s ’84’s hit movies that remain with us and have stood the test of time.

Besides being the year that introduced the first PG-13 movie, (Red Dawn), 1984 was the birth year for a number of hit features that spawned numerous sequels: The Terminator, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Ghostbusters, The Karate Kid, Beverly Hills Cop, and Police Academy. Comedies were probably the most notable feature of ’84. While the year didn’t produce any great American Film Institute darlings as weighty as Citizen Kane, it did, however, release an impressive number of comedies that are still fresh and still freakin’ funny today. Already mentioned are Ghostbusters, Beverly Hills Cop, and Police Academy; but also there are All of Me, This is Spinal Tap, Splash, Revenge of the Nerds, and Romancing the Stone.

1984 didn’t just release blockbusters that kept bottom line obsessed studio heads filled with coke and lap dancing blonds, it also saw the release of some lesser known films that have endured to become classics, films such as Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in America; Wim Wenders’ Paris, Texas; Jim Jarmusch’s Stranger Than Paradise. And the cult classics such as John Sayles The Brother from Another Planet, and the NYC cult horror flick C.H.U.D.

1984 saw Regan era teen angst approach its peak, while the John Hughes’ teen classic, Sixteen Candles, solidified Molly Ringwald as the ’80s’ ginger teen queen and—along with Weird Science that same year—shot Anthony Michael Hall to geek teen stardom, as its new nerd on the rise. The Karate Kid taught us to “Wax on, Wax off,” and A Nightmare on Elm Street introduced slasher fans to a terrifying new evil villain, Freddy Krueger, who entered our nightmares and has remained with us nine sequels later. Not only did teen anxiety influence cinema, but also the collective unease of the Cold War, as 1984 released a cinematic Soviet Union invasion of the U.S.A. in cinematographer and director John Milius’s Red Dawn. The first film to receive a PG-13 rating, Red Dawn was perhaps a bit unbelievable but cathartic, and filled with up-and-coming young stars (Patrick Swayze, Jennifer Grey, and Charlie Sheen); it was a definite reaction to the Cold War anxieties of the 1980s.

 
Sixteen Candles, Molly Ringwald

1984 was a year of movies filled with classic pop music in such films such as Prince’s Purple Rain, which produced an enduring soundtrack that still holds up today. The concert film Stop Making Sense featured the Talking Heads and was directed by a relative newcomer, Jonathan Demme. Beat Street and Breakin’ capitalized on the popularity of break dancing, and Footloose danced into theaters with its MTV look and a soundtrack that garnered six Billboard magazine top 40 hits. Footloose was promoted again and again; each subsequent music video featured clips from the film, and ultimately kept those bottom-line-obsessed studio heads “Dancing in the Sheets,” and laid the foundation for Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.

In celebration of that most unforgettable year, I have listed my twenty essential movies of 1984, films that have endured, some that are well crafted, some that capture the spirit of the ’80s—thirty-year-old movies that make us think, sing, dance, scream and, above all else, laugh out loud!
—John David West

David’s 20 Essential Movies of 1984

Ghostbusters

Paris, Texas

Amadeus

The Killing Fields

Once Upon a Time in America

Stop Making Sense


The Terminator

 

This Is Spinal Tap

Beverly Hills Cop


The Karate Kid


Sixteen Candles



Footloose


A Nightmare on Elm Street


Stranger Than Paradise


Purple Rain
Starman


Gremlins


Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom


The Muppets Take Manhattan


Police Academy

 

 

Click here from more movies from 1984 at IMDB, it’s amazing!

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1984: A Blockbuster Year

“My fellow Americans, I’m pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.” Ronald Reagan brought that oops moment to the world as he tested a microphone before a radio address; later that November Regan won a landslide re-election. That was the peak of the Reagan era. That was 1984.

1984 was, indeed, an unforgettable year!Mary Lou Retton won gymnastic gold and American hearts at the L.A. Olympics. The reining Miss America, Vanessa Williams, was stripped of her title because of a nude photo spread in Penthouse magazine. Madonna became everyone’s “boy toy” with her “Like a Virgin” performance at the MTV Video Music Awards. Marvin Gaye was killed by his father; Bernie Goetz gunned down four muggers in the NYC subway; millions starved in Ethiopia; and Bob Geldoff responded with “Do They Know it’s Christmas Time.” Thousands died in the Union Carbide Corporation disaster in Bhopal, India; and Clara Peller asked, “Where’s the Beef?” Cindy Lauper proclaimed that “Girls Just Want to Have Fun”; Prince let us know what it sounds like “When Doves Cry”; and Tina Turner made a big comeback and asked, “What’s Love Got To Do With It?

Clearly, 1984 was a year of big news, big events, and, thanks to the number one TV show, Dynasty, really of big shoulder pads! But as the ashes of have long since settled, it’s ’84’s hit movies that remain with us and have stood the test of time.

Besides being the year that introduced the first PG-13 movie, (Red Dawn), 1984 was the birth year for a number of hit features that spawned numerous sequels: The Terminator, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Ghostbusters, The Karate Kid, Beverly Hills Cop, and Police Academy. Comedies were probably the most notable feature of ’84. While the year didn’t produce any great American Film Institute darlings as weighty as Citizen Kane, it did, however, release an impressive number of comedies that are still fresh and still freakin’ funny today. Already mentioned are Ghostbusters, Beverly Hills Cop, and Police Academy; but also there are All of Me, This is Spinal Tap, Splash, Revenge of the Nerds, and Romancing the Stone.

1984 didn’t just release blockbusters that kept bottom line obsessed studio heads filled with coke and lap dancing blonds, it also saw the release of some lesser known films that have endured to become classics, films such as Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in America; Wim Wenders’ Paris, Texas; Jim Jarmusch’s Stranger Than Paradise. And the cult classics such as John Sayles The Brother from Another Planet, and the NYC cult horror flick C.H.U.D.

1984 saw Regan era teen angst approach its peak, while the John Hughes’ teen classic, Sixteen Candles, solidified Molly Ringwald as the ’80s’ ginger teen queen and—along with Weird Science that same year—shot Anthony Michael Hall to geek teen stardom, as its new nerd on the rise. The Karate Kid taught us to “Wax on, Wax off,” and A Nightmare on Elm Street introduced slasher fans to a terrifying new evil villain, Freddy Krueger, who entered our nightmares and has remained with us nine sequels later. Not only did teen anxiety influence cinema, but also the collective unease of the Cold War, as 1984 released a cinematic Soviet Union invasion of the U.S.A. in cinematographer and director John Milius’s Red Dawn. The first film to receive a PG-13 rating, Red Dawn was perhaps a bit unbelievable but cathartic, and filled with up-and-coming young stars (Patrick Swayze, Jennifer Grey, and Charlie Sheen); it was a definite reaction to the Cold War anxieties of the 1980s.

 
Sixteen Candles, Molly Ringwald

1984 was a year of movies filled with classic pop music in such films such as Prince’s Purple Rain, which produced an enduring soundtrack that still holds up today. The concert film Stop Making Sense featured the Talking Heads and was directed by a relative newcomer, Jonathan Demme. Beat Street and Breakin’ capitalized on the popularity of break dancing, and Footloose danced into theaters with its MTV look and a soundtrack that garnered six Billboard magazine top 40 hits. Footloose was promoted again and again; each subsequent music video featured clips from the film, and ultimately kept those bottom-line-obsessed studio heads “Dancing in the Sheets,” and laid the foundation for Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.

In celebration of that most unforgettable year, I have listed my twenty essential movies of 1984, films that have endured, some that are well crafted, some that capture the spirit of the ’80s—thirty-year-old movies that make us think, sing, dance, scream and, above all else, laugh out loud!
—John David West

David’s 20 Essential Movies of 1984

Ghostbusters

Paris, Texas

Amadeus

The Killing Fields

Once Upon a Time in America

Stop Making Sense


The Terminator

 

This Is Spinal Tap

Beverly Hills Cop


The Karate Kid


Sixteen Candles



Footloose


A Nightmare on Elm Street


Stranger Than Paradise


Purple Rain
Starman


Gremlins


Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom


The Muppets Take Manhattan


Police Academy

 

 

Click here from more movies from 1984 at IMDB, it’s amazing!

[Interview] with Director of Güeros Alonso Ruizpalacios

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Sombra, Tomas and Santos listening the tape (Alejandra Carbajal)

Director Alonso Ruizpalacios’ first feature-length film, Güeros, is part road movie, part social-historical inquiry, and part quest film that explores youth in the early days of the 1999 National University strike in Mexico City—a city shown as both a complicated character (friend and foe), and a place to drive around without purpose.  A partial shout-out to French New Wave and Robert Frank, Güeros is beautifully filmed in black and white, using 4:3 aspect ratio, which embellishes it with the look and feel of a photograph that’s brought to life and infused with poetry, humor, and idleness.

I had the pleasure to sit down and speak with Ruizpalacio, whose film had its North American premier at last year’s Tribeca Film Festival.  It’s safe to say that Ruizpalacio is a daring new voice in Mexican cinema; he dares to shoot in “artsy” black and white, break the fourth wall, and frequently submerge the narrative to allow the cinematic moments to breathe. This is the stuff that repels financiers, but it’s also the stuff that elevates the art of cinema and satisfies those of us who like a bit of meta, silence and poetry in our films.

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Tomas (Alejandra Carbajal)

West: There are moments in the film where you stop the narrative to allow these moments that seem to transcend the film and stand out on their own, like a visual poem. How important are these moments, and how important is poetry to your work?

Ruizpalacios: I like it when people notice that. That’s definitely one of the things I like most about cinema. It’s one of the things I’m drawn to, and I try to do in whatever I’ve done: in my shorts in my theater. I love those moments that are non-narrative. I’m a huge poetry fan as well.  So, it was important to me to let the film breathe outside of the story. They are the moments that I sometimes respond to the most in films that I like. I think that film now tends to be so plot-driven that there is little space for these moments of otherness.  The poems that are actually in the film are written by a friend of mine. He’s a really great poet.

West: I think I saw his name listed in the credits?

Ruizpalacios: Yes. His name is Javier Peñalosa. He actually just came back to Mexico from New York. He came here [New York City] to do an MFA in poetry, which was very strange to me—that someone would get an MFA in poetry.

West: [laughing] It’s a very practical degree.

Ruizpalacios: Yeah.

West: That’s what I did; I got a practical, luxury degree in poetry. Where did he go?

Ruizpalacios: NYU.

West: Ah, ha. I went to the New School.

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Sombra y Ana sleeping in the car. (Alejandra Carbajal)

Ruizpalacios: He’s really great, and he wrote this book of poems recently; he published this book of poems.  I read them, and I said, Can this be in the film? I always wanted poetry to appear; in the original script there was a lot more poetry.  That was the way that Sombra and Ana related; they sent each other poems on tape. That didn’t make it into the final edit, because it took too long to set up. But some of that survived. Also, I was the only one who was always fighting to keep the poems in the film. Everyone said, “Just cut the poems out.” I said, “No, this is important; we need to let it breathe and have its moment.”

I was reading an interview with Alfonso Cuarón, and I was surprised to hear him say that—he’s this really big famous director now, making big Hollywood films—and the interviewer said to him, Above all, you have to follow the story, and [Cuarón] said, No! Above all, you have to be true to cinema. He said story is only one part of what is cinema.

West: Absolutely.

Ruizpalacios: I agree with that. I think we place too much emphasis on story. That’s what I like about movies. They don’t have to follow a three-act structure and get to the point and find a plot point. I didn’t want to do that [kind of] film.

West: It’s true most people do expect a solid narrative. It’s hard for you as a director to resist that and be true to yourself. This is more of an artistic film and certainly less commercial.

You chose to shoot in 4:3 aspect ratio, in black and white, and you end the film with a photograph. When one looks at a photograph, they’re aware that there is more beyond the edge of the frame, there is the rest of the world that was cropped out. The viewer is present, aware that he is present and experiencing the photograph. But in a film, the viewer is not necessarily aware of the world outside of the frame; the viewer is invisible; the only world they know and care about is within the frame or on the screen.  Was your intention to use the trope of still photography—your use of black and white, two freeze frame shots [Tomas in the garden and Sombra at the end], Tomas taking a  photograph—as a poetic devise to tell this story?

Ruizpalacios:  I think in a way it was also found subconsciously. It wasn’t a conscious decision. When prepping for the film, we watched a lot of Robert Frank’s films—the way he shot his documentaries and his documentary photography. When we approached Güerosas a road movie and what’s it going to look like, we thought of Robert Frank and [his book] The Americans and the way of the framing and the lighting and at the same time very documentary, but it has something of a set piece in it. So we did think that photography—the fact that Tomás does have a camera and he’s taking photo throughout the whole film—it does make you think about image. When we found the 4:3 aspect ratio, it seemed right. We are so unaccustomed to it, but it used to be the norm [in cinema]. But now it’s not. However, there are a lot of films now that are shot in 4:3. It makes you think about the frame, because you’re missing two-thirds of the screen, so it makes people aware and think, What am I missing? So, that’s something I like people to think about in the framing, think about what they are missing, and what these characters are missing. Originally we had planed to shoot in 4:3 only when they are in the apartment, and then when they left the apartment, we would widen the frame. But then we thought that’s too literal. We just fell in love with this framing. I thought, Why did we ever stop using this [today]? Right now, I would love to make more movies in 4:3.

West: And in black and white?

Ruizpalacios: Oh, yeah.

West: The sound is very important in this film. How did you make your sound choices?

Ruizpalacios: A lot of sound choices you make beforehand. I’m a huge music buff. Sound design is something that I pay lot of attention to.  A lot of directors are not that fussy about sound, but I think it’s literally 50% of the film. So many of the sound decisions came out of the writing process. Also, you have to find the voice of the film. For this film, [shooting] in black and white took us in the direction to make it more and more silent and to have spaces. I think a film should be a space for you to experience things and get lost in the experience for two hours or whatever the length. I think that silence is something that we experience rarely now. It’s not a silent film, but it has important silent moments. I think those contrasts of having saturating sound and then having none are important, because they make you listen, and they make [you] aware that it’s an experience.

West: Also, it provides dynamics. We watch the characters listen to the Walkman,  but we cannot hear the music that they are listening to.

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Alonso Ruiz Palacios (Alejandra Carbajal)

Ruizpalacios: The decision of not hearing the music on the Walkman—originally we were going to look for that music and produce it. I was going crazy before filming it, because we were looking for the right music. It was one of those things that are written easily in the script, but when you have to go and produce it, it becomes a headache. It’s like writing [in the script] “Something really beautiful happens here,” and then you actually have to go and make something really beautiful happen. So, that was a pain in the ass. I was listening to all these old rock and folk singers from Mexico, and I said, “This doesn’t do it; it’s not that great. It has to be something amazing!” We were going to have this kid who plays music [record it], and then I thought, No he’s not going to do it, it’s not going to be enough. Then suddenly I had this idea, Let’s not listen to anything, and that makes it more powerful.

West: Yeah, it creates a negative space that allows the audience to fill in the music for themselves. Well, thank you for your time, and congratulations on a wonderful film that spoke to the poet in me.

—John David West

Güeros is playing at Film Forum

209 West Houston Street .

MAY 24 through June 2
12:45 3:00 5:20 7:40 9:50

 

 

2015 Independent Spirit Awards

Spirit Awards

Every year, Hollywood recognizes the efforts of independent film making through the Independent Spirit Awards.  This year marks the 30 anniversary of the Spirit awards.  Back in 1985, the awards were known as the FINDIE (Friends of Independents) and the awards were presented by Jaime Lee Curtis and Peter Coyote.  The awards presentation was at the now closed 385 North restaurant.

Things have changed quite a bit in 30 years.  While the Spirit Awards maintain the laid back sensibility of those first few ceremonies, the award has become very prestigious and can launch careers.   It has also helped highlight independent film making and bring it into the consciousness of the movie-going public.   For example, four of the five nominated films for Best Feature are also Academy Award Best Picture nominees.

The Independent Spirit Awards, hosted by Kristen Bell and Fred Armisen, will be announced Saturday, February 21 on the IFC Channel.

—Ariadne Ansbro

Boyhood
Boyhood

BEST FEATURE 

BIRDMAN OR (THE UNEXPECTED VIRTUE OF IGNORANCE) PRODUCERS: Alejandro G. Iñárritu, John Lesher, Arnon Milchan, James W. Skotchdopole

BOYHOOD PRODUCERS: Richard Linklater, Jonathan Sehring, John Sloss, Cathleen Sutherland.

LOVE IS STRANGE PRODUCERS: Lucas Joaquin, Lars Knudsen, Ira Sachs, Jayne Baron Sherman, Jay Van Hoy

SELMA PRODUCERS: Christian Colson, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Oprah Winfrey

WHIPLASH PRODUCERS: Jason Blum, Helen Estabrook, David Lancaster, Michael Litvak

Obvious Child
Obvious Child

BEST FIRST FEATURE 

A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT DIRECTOR: Ana Lily Amirpour PRODUCERS: Justin Begnaud, Sina Sayyah

DEAR WHITE PEOPLE DIRECTOR/PRODUCER: Justin Simien PRODUCERS: Effie T. Brown, Ann Le, Julia Lebedev, Angel Lopez, Lena Waithe

NIGHTCRAWLER DIRECTOR: Dan Gilroy PRODUCERS: Jennifer Fox, Tony Gilroy, Jake Gyllenhaal, David Lancaster, Michel Litvak

OBVIOUS CHILD DIRECTOR: Gillian Robespierre PRODUCER: Elisabeth Holm

SHE’S LOST CONTROL DIRECTOR/PRODUCER: Anja Marquardt PRODUCERS: Mollye Asher, Kiara C. Jones

Land Ho!
Land Ho!

JOHN CASSAVETES AWARD 

(Award given to the best feature made for under $500,000; award given to the writer, director, and producer) * Executive Producers are not awarded.

BLUE RUIN WRITER/DIRECTOR: Jeremy Saulnier PRODUCERS: Richard Peete, Vincent Savino, Anish Savjani

IT FELT LIKE LOVE WRITER/DIRECTOR/PRODUCER: Eliza Hittman PRODUCERS: Shrihari Sathe, Laura Wagner

LAND HO! WRITERS/DIRECTORS: Aaron Katz, Martha Stephens PRODUCERS: Christina Jennings, Mynette Louie, Sara Murphy

MAN FROM RENO WRITER/DIRECTOR: Dave Boyle WRITERS: Joel Clark, Michael Lerman PRODUCER: Ko Mori

TEST WRITER/DIRECTOR/PRODUCER: Chris Mason Johnson PRODUCER: Chris Martin

Ava DuVernay directing Selma
Ava DuVernay directing Selma

BEST DIRECTOR

DAMIEN CHAZELLE Whiplash

AVA DUVERNAY Selma

ALEJANDRO G. IÑÁRRITU Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

RICHARD LINKLATER Boyhood

DAVID ZELLNER Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter

Only Lovers Left Alive
Only Lovers Left Alive

BEST SCREENPLAY

SCOTT ALEXANDER, LARRY KARASZEWSKI Big Eyes

J.C. CHANDOR A Most Violent Year

DAN GILROY Nightcrawler

JIM JARMUSCH Only Lovers Left Alive

IRA SACHS, MAURICIO ZACHARIAS Love is Strange

Elizabeth Banks in Little Accidents
Elizabeth Banks in Little Accidents

BEST FIRST SCREENPLAY

DESIREE AKHAVAN Appropriate Behavior

SARA COLANGELO Little Accidents

JUSTIN LADER The One I Love

ANJA MARQUARDT She’s Lost Control

JUSTIN SIMIEN Dear White People

Marion Cotillard and Jeremy Renner in The Immigrant
Marion Cotillard and Jeremy Renner in The Immigrant

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

DARIUS KHONDJI The Immigrant

EMMANUEL LUBEZKI Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

SEAN PORTER It Felt Like Love

LYLE VINCENT A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

BRADFORD YOUNG Selma

Miles Teller in Whiplash
Miles Teller in Whiplash

BEST EDITING

SANDRA ADAIR Boyhood

TOM CROSS Whiplash

JOHN GILROY Nightcrawler

RON PATANE A Most Violent Year

ADAM WINGARD The Guest

Jake Gyllanhaal in Nightcrawler
Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler

BEST MALE LEAD

ANDRÉ BENJAMIN Jimi: All Is By My Side

JAKE GYLLENHAAL Nightcrawler

MICHAEL KEATON Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

JOHN LITHGOW Love is Strange

DAVID OYELOWO Selma

Rinko Kinkuci in Kumiko, Treasure Hunter
Rinko Kikuchi in Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter

BEST FEMALE LEAD

MARION COTILLARD The Immigrant

RINKO KIKUCHI Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter

JULIANNE MOORE Still Alice

JENNY SLATE Obvious Child

TILDA SWINTON Only Lovers Left Alive

Alfred Molina in Love is Strange
Alfred Molina in Love is Strange

BEST SUPPORTING MALE

RIZ AHMED Nightcrawler

ETHAN HAWKE Boyhood

ALFRED MOLINA Love is Strange

EDWARD NORTON Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

J.K. SIMMONS Whiplash

Andrea Paz in Stand Clear of the Closing Doors
Andrea Suarez Paz in Stand Clear of the Closing Doors

BEST SUPPORTING FEMALE

PATRICIA ARQUETTE Boyhood

JESSICA CHASTAIN A Most Violent Year

CARMEN EJOGO Selma

ANDREA SUAREZ PAZ Stand Clear of the Closing Doors

EMMA STONE Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Anne Dorval in Mommy
Anne Dorval in Mommy

BEST INTERNATIONAL FILM

FORCE MAJEURE (Sweden) DIRECTOR: Ruben Östlund

IDA (Poland) DIRECTOR: Pawel Pawlikowski

LEVIATHAN (Russia) DIRECTOR: Andrey Zvyagintsev

MOMMY (Canada) DIRECTOR: Xavier Dolan

NORTE, THE END OF HISTORY (Philippines) DIRECTOR: Lav Diaz

UNDER THE SKIN (United Kingdom) DIRECTOR: Jonathan Glazer

Virunga
Virunga

BEST DOCUMENTARY 

20,000 DAYS ON EARTH DIRECTORS: Iain Forsyth, Jane Pollard PRODUCERS: Dan Bowen, James Wilson

CITIZENFOUR DIRECTOR/PRODUCER: Laura Poitras PRODUCERS: Mathilde Bonnefoy, Dirk Wilutzky

STRAY DOG DIRECTOR: Debra Granik PRODUCER: Anne Rosellini

THE SALT OF THE EARTH DIRECTORS: Juliano Ribeiro Salgado, Wim Wenders PRODUCER: David Rosier

VIRUNGA DIRECTOR/PRODUCER: Orlando von Einsiedel PRODUCER: Joanna Natasegara

Inherent Vice
Inherent Vice

ROBERT ALTMAN AWARD

(Award given to one film’s director, casting director and ensemble cast)

INHERENT VICE DIRECTOR: Paul Thomas Anderson

CASTING DIRECTOR: Cassandra Kulukundis ENSEMBLE CAST: Josh Brolin, Hong Chau, Martin Donovan, Jena Malone, Joanna Newsom, Joaquin Phoenix, Sasha Pieterse, Eric Roberts, Maya Rudolph, Martin Short, Serena Scott Thomas, Benicio del Toro, Katherine Waterston, Owen Wilson, Reese Witherspoon, Michael Kenneth Williams

Foxcatcher
Foxcatcher

SPECIAL DISTINCTION AWARD

FOXCATCHER

DIRECTOR/PRODUCER: Bennett Miller WRITERS: E. Max Frye, Dan Futterman PRODUCER: Anthony Bregman, Megan Ellison, Jon Kilik

CAST: Steve Carell, Mark Ruffalo, Channing Tatum

 

1939, Still the Best Year: Dark Victory

Dark Victory 81939 was very eventful. The country was just beginning to come out of the worst economic depression in history. Mohandas Gandhi began a hunger strike to protest British rule in India. The Spanish Civil War ended, and Francisco Franco became the dictator of Spain. Europe was plunged into a second world war in just twenty years.

However, from this great turmoil came great art. Most film historians recognize 1939 as “the greatest year of film.” That year, ten films were nominated for Best Picture of the Year at the Academy Awards. This was the first time so many films were nominated for the year’s top prize. The films nominated were: Dark Victory, Goodbye Mr. Chips, Of Mice and Men, Stagecoach, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Wuthering Heights, Ninotchka, Love Affair, The Wizard of Oz, and Gone with the Wind. However, this list does not completely encompass all of the great films that year. Other amazing films that year included: The Women, Beau Geste, Gunga Din, Young Mr. Lincoln, The Four Feathers, Intermezzo: A Love Story, and The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

These films shaped the way movies were made and stories were told. They also launched the careers of several screen legends, as well as solidifying the legendary status of others.

Bette Davis, Ronald Regan
Bette Davis, Ronald Regan

In honor of the 75th anniversary of the Academy Awards for 1939, I will be viewing several of these films, to see if they are, in fact, timeless.

There are spoilers below. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

In 1939, Bette Davis was already a star. She had won two Academy Awards for her roles in Dangerous (1935) and Jezebel (1938). She was famous for playing tempestuous women, infusing characters with her particular brand of fire. In 1939, Davis found the role she had been waiting to play.

Dark Victory is based on the stage play of the same name. The film was directed by English director Edmund Goulding and stars Davis, George Brent, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Humphrey Bogart, and a 28-year-old contract player for Warner Brothers, Ronald Regan.

Dark Victory is the story of Judith Traherne, a young socialite who is diagnosed with a brain tumor. Her only chance at survival is if she has a risky operation to remove the tumor. Luckily for her, world-renowned brain surgeon Dr. Frederick Steele (George Brent) has agreed to take her case.

Dark Victory 5
Humphrey Bogart, Bette Davis

Once the operation is complete, Dr. Steele admits to Judith’s best friend, Ann (Geraldine Fitzgerald) that the surgery was not a success and that Judith will live quite normally for a time but will then go blind and die. However, Dr. Steele does not disclose this information to his patient, as he has fallen in love with her. Judith obviously finds out and rejects Dr. Steele, believing that it is better for him to not get more attached if she is just going to die.

During a heartfelt talk with her horse trainer, Michael (Humphrey Bogart), he confides in Judith that he is in love with her. Even though she does not love him, he tells her that she needs to get as much out of life as she can, especially before it is too late. Judith then marries Dr. Steele and dies a short time later.

The entire synopsis of this film screams “melodrama,” and in the hands of a lesser actress, it certainly would be. The entire premise of the film lends itself to overacting. However, Davis eschews the acting trend of the day and allows herself to be just emotive enough. The true pièce de résistance of the film is the final scene. Judith’s eyesight starts to go just as Dr. Steele is leaving for a conference. She, selflessly, does not let him know that she is close to death and he leaves. Alone with Ann, Judith says a sweet goodbye, ascends the stairs to her bedroom, lies down in her bed, and falls asleep. She knows her death is imminent, and she quietly embraces the dark. It is amazing how much is conveyed in these simple actions. Davis’s face as she closes her eyes says more than the entire screenplay. Judith only began to live when she found out she was going to die: the beautiful symmetry of life expressed in a moment.

Behind the scenes, things were not quite so tranquil. While filming the scene of Judith walking to her room, Davis stopped the scene and ran to the director, Edmund Goulding. Davis asked if famed composer Max Steiner would be writing the score of the film. A surprised Goulding responded that he did not know. The score would be assigned to a composer during post-production. When Goulding asked why Davis thought this was important enough to stop the scene, she replied, “Well, either I’m going to climb those stairs or Max Steiner is going to climb those stairs. But I will be God-damned if Max Steiner and I are going to climb those stairs together!” Davis knew that this was her scene and the last thing she wanted was for a large orchestral score to tell the audience how to feel. She was going to show the audience how to feel.

Davis succeeded. While this is not my favorite Bette Davis film, I do think that it is some of the finest work she ever did. I have always lamented that this film did not come out in another year, for this role was award-worthy. Unfortunately, one of Davis’s fellow Best Actress nominees that year was Vivien Leigh for Gone with the Wind. Leigh’s performance was one of the greatest in cinematic history, so I can’t lament Davis’s loss too much.

Ultimately, Dark Victory is a triumph.

—Ari Ansbro

MoviefiedNYC’s Most Anticipated Films for 2015

Star Wars: The Force Awakens:

Its’a given, like almost everyone else, John David and I are both super excited about Star Wars: The Force Awakens the most eagerly awaited movie of 2015.

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Now here is where we both part ways:

Myrna’s Most Anticipated

Crimson Peak

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Crimson Peak a gothic horror film from the director of The Devil’s Backbone, sees Guillermo del Toro return to his roots.

Tomorrowland

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Director Brad Bird (Toy Story 3), writer Damon Lindelof (World War Z) and George Clooney (Gravity) take us on a journey to the Tomorrowland inside all of us, where wishes come true and and ideas come to life. In these dark times we live in, it’s a film that dares you to hope.

Midnight Special

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The latest from director Jeff Nichols (Take Shelter, Mud) about a father and a son that go on the run after the dad learns his child possesses special powers.

Kingsman: The Secret Service

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Based on the  comic book  Kingsman: The Secret Service tells the story of a super-secret spy organization that recruits promising street kid into the agency’s ultra-competitive training program but more importantly bring us Colin Firth as an action star.

Self/Less

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A psychological science fiction thriller from Tarsem Singh ( The Cell, The Fall). I can’t help it I like they way his movies look.

The Revenant

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Deep in the uncharted American wilderness, Leonardo DiCaprio,  directed and co-written by renowned filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu. DONE! I’m there.

Knight Of Cups

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Knight of Cups is a story of a man, temptations, celebrity and excess. Terrence Malick’s newest film seems to be much more than a standard character study. So EXCITED!

Macbeth

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Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard and director Justin Kurzel ( Snowtown Murders) making a grim and bloody adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth? Yes, please.

Dark Places

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With Gone Girl proving a giant and acclaimed hit, hopes are high for this adaptation of an earlier novel by author Gillian Flynn.

Southpaw

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A boxer fights his way to the top, only to find his life falling apart around him. Um…I’m all about Jake Gyllenhaal in 2015!

Honorable Mentions:

Mission Impossible 5, Bond 24, Ant-Man

David’s Most Anticipated

San Andreas

san-andreasIt may be just awful, but come on–The Rock (Dwayne Johnson) in earthquake disaster flick? I’m in

The Hateful Eight

7882faad-1c50-4e2a-b005-b0e51c821e04-meet-the-entire-hateful-eight-in-this-behind-the-scenes-image-breakdownQuentin Tarantino is back—western style—with his less than Magnificent Seven featuring Channing Tatum, Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tim Roth, and Bruce Dern—enough said!

The Walk

1418142255463Joseph Gordon-Levit stars as French high-wire artist Philippe Petit and his 1974 high wire walk between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. 

Jurassic World 

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I’m just not sure about a new Jurassic Park. Director Colin Trevorrow (Safety not Guranteed) might surprise everyone. but for nostalgic reasons, I look forward to returning the world of Jurassic Park. Will the new dinosaurs have feathers?

Crimson Peak

Crimson PeakI’m so ready for Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth,) to return to a horror story, this one features Jessica Chastain and Tom Hiddleston—a triple YES!

Every Thing Will Be Fine

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Director: Director Wim Wenders (Paris, Texas), latest feature is a 3D (love it when auteurs go 3D). This one stars James Franco, Charlotte Gainsbourg, and Rachel McAdams

La Blessure 

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I can’t wait to see what director Abdellatif Kechiche does to follow up Blue is the Warmest Color. Something about Gerard Depardieu and a teenage trying to lose his virginity. 

The Martian

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Sci-fi gets a boost from director Ridley Scott with The Martian, as Matt Damon stars as an astronaut stranded on Mars. Also it features Jessica Chastain, Kate Mara, and Kristen Wiig.

Flashmo

Michael-HanekeDirector, Michael Haneke’s next flick involves a group of people who stage a flashmob. Sounds kookie and a far cry from demential of Amour and child abuse of The White Ribbon – sounds just kookie.

Ex Machina

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Writer Alex Garland (28 Days Later) directs his first feature, which stars Oscar Isaac (A Most Violent Year) Domhnall Gleeson (About Time). Gleeson is a young programmer who must evaluate the human qualities of a sexy artificial intelligence babe.

 

Back to Basics: Hollywood Players Move to TV


Screen_shot_2014-12-01_at_1.53.16_PMOn January 11, HBO launched the new seasons of three original series. At 9:30, in between the fourth season premiere of Girls and the second season premiere of Looking, the premium cable provider will run the series premiere of its new original series Togetherness, created by the Duplass brothers (Mark and Jay). According to HBO’s website this thirty minute comedy will profile “Four adults nearing forty, living under the same roof, struggl[ing] to keep their relationships and individual dreams alive”. The series represents the legendary mumblecore duo’s first foray creating and writing for television. This is just the latest in a trend of directors and actors typically associated with film who are being drawn into television, which is in the midst of an explosion of high quality content in storytelling. Television, which has always struggled for artistic relevance in comparison to cinema, is currently the place where some of the most creative original stories are being told, and some major Hollywood players are starting to notice.

The age of Internet streaming has been a tremendous boost to the television industry by providing a new, low cost distribution method for content. The strategy of releasing content online to be viewed at the viewer’s convenience was pioneered by Netflix, who began producing original content for its online television and movie streaming service in 2012 with the original crime comedy series Lilyhammer. HBO has been providing content online through its HBO Go service since 2010, and recently announced plans to provide a subscription to HBO Go without a cable plan starting in 2015. Meanwhile Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu are all places where consumers can watch television shows and movies on the same screen, and ultimately blurring the line between TV shows and film. At the recent Produced By: New York conference director Darren Aronofsky commented on the changing definition of entertainment, stating “I keep thinking about the whole idea of the (traditional) 90-minute feature and whether it really makes sense when we’re in this golden age of television and also this self-distribution age,” also commenting on his interest in television and his plans for his production company Protozoa Pictures to team up with HBO. One project Aronofsky plans to be involved with is an adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s MadAddam book series.

Netflix shook up the definition of “television” by releasing the entire season of its original shows at once rather than in the traditional weekly increments, enabling a practice sardonically dubbed “binge watching” in which viewers watch many episodes back to back. In fact 2% of Netflix subscribers watched the entire second season of House of Cards, which consisted of thirteen hour-long episodes, in the first weekend after its release. Ultimately the House of Cards deal is a game-changer not only in its method of distributing content, but in the way it makes its content. In 2011 Netflix bought House of Cards from established film director David Fincher, offering a reported $100 million for two seasons and exclusive distribution rights. Fincher set the tone for the show by personally directing the first two episodes, and remains on board as an executive producer. Twenty Emmy nominations later, including a win for director David Fincher, the show has established Netflix as a viable source of content and has been picked up for its third season.

The most remarkable thing about the House of Cards deal is that Netflix was paying for content that didn’t exist yet. The show was produced by a company called Media Rights Capital who was able to leverage an unprecedented amount of creative freedom from Netflix, including final cut rights for Fincher and his team. The result is that the series is more cinematic in pace and distinctly Fincher; it’s unlike anything else on television. In the wake of the success of House of Cards and other programs, Netflix and other fledgling streaming services like Amazon and Yahoo are hungry for content, with the freedom to produce unique and original programming.

On our cable boxes television networks like HBO, AMC, FX, and Showtime have been churning out quality content at such a pace that some consider this to be a new golden age of television. The elevation in storytelling has helped television escape the stigma of career death for actors, which has in turn helped elevate the level of performances as big name film stars increasingly take a turn on the silver screen; Steve Buscemi, Kevin Spacey, Jeff Daniels and Claire Danes to name a few. Coupled with a cynicism in Hollywood over the current state of the studio system this has made television an increasingly attractive platform for Hollywood storytellers. Last year Steven Soderbergh encapsulated these feelings in a forty-minute speech in which he announced his exodus from Hollywood (since then he has made a TV movie for HBO and directed a twenty episode series for Cinemax entitled The Knick). Many other Hollywood directors likely share his feelings. For example Fincher is taking a break from film to direct HBO’s adaptation of the British series “Utopia”. He is slated to direct the whole season, not just the first few episodes.

In 2013 HBO found a smash hit with the first season of True Detective, an anthology series that brought together a team of big name film actors and a director that previously worked in film. The first season stars Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey as detectives for the Louisiana State Homicide Unit as they investigate a series of murders and their apparent ties to the occult. The series was praised for the performances by the two lead stars and for its writing, especially in the monologues delivered by the brooding, nihilistic Rust Cohle. Credit for the aesthetic quality and technical achievements of the series lie with director Cary Fukanaga, a director previously known for the films Jane Eyre (2011) and Sin Nombre (2009). It was recently announced that the second season would once again recruit talent from Hollywood, pairing Vince Vaughn, Colin Farrell, and Rachel McAdams as the stars with Fast and Furious director Justin Lin.

In another example, on October 15, 2014, fans of the cult classic TV show rejoiced at the announcement that David Lynch’s Twin Peaks would return to the small screen twenty-five years after its early cancellation by ABC. Lynch, who hasn’t made a feature film in nearly ten years, was lured out of this semi-retirement by the prospect of working in television once again by the premium cable network Showtime. During its initial run Twin Peaks was embraced by critics and enjoyed a relatively small but dedicated following. Unfortunately ratings suffered as the series, distinctly Lynch and thus distinctly weird, was unable to compete against more mainstream programs like Cheers. The high production value of Twin Peaks, notably in the cinematography, and the strong authorial voice of the series would likely have found a comfortable place in today’s television climate, especially given the creative freedom offered by streaming services like Netflix. The fact that Lynch is returning to television after such a long creative hiatus rather than to film is a good sign for the current state of TV.

The Duplass brothers on the other hand seem a more natural fit for television. The directors were pioneers of the mumblecore movement, which developed in the festival circuit, specifically around South by Southwest. The subgenre is marked by a microscopic budget, natural and often improvised dialogue, and small stories that revolve more around character than around plot. While other mumblecore directors have evolved by taking the tropes of the genre to larger budget films with more mainstream actors (for example Joe Swanberg’s Drinking Buddies or Lynn Shelton’s Laggies), the fact that the Duplass brothers took an opportunity to work in television is not surprising. The type of stories they tell, which take place mostly through dialogue and the interaction between characters, are perfect for a half hour serial format, allowing character and story to develop slowly over time at a pace that’s more comfortable for the overall tone of the mumblecore movement. Togetherness will likely pair well with Girls, which is another show that focuses on the small scale interactions between a group of characters.  

A possible reason for this shift from film to television could be that outside the independent film scene, the major studios seem to be de-emphasizing story in favor of special effects and spectacle. Driven by the need to reach a mainstream audience as well as to be accessible to the massive foreign markets in China, Russia, and elsewhere, studio films are often visually stunning but lacking in dialogue and character. Action packed superhero films from Marvel and the endless sequels in the Transformers franchise consistently top the year end box office totals, leaving smaller budget (and smaller profit) films to dive deep into characters and real human issues. Although the superhero genre is beginning to spill over into TV with shows like Agents of Shield and Arrow, television programs traditionally speaking are a place where a long form story can unfold over time, driven by quality writing rather than effects. Television is a place where actors can dive deep into a character and a story while simultaneously reaching a mainstream audience in a way that is much more difficult for both independent and major studio films to achieve.

One wonders if this trend is more indicative of a renaissance in television or a slump in Hollywood. On one side, soulless annual movie sequels have managed to make superheroes boring, while on the other side high caliber performances and quality writing have made television captivating. It seems television has been willing to take risks and cede creative control in the name of good content in a way that Hollywood has failed to do in recent years. While the film world might lament the recent exodus of talent, viewers are getting just as much quality content as ever; just on a different screen. As Kevin Spacey said in a speech at the Edinburgh International Television Festival, “it’s all content. It’s just story . . . and the audience has spoken; they want stories. They’re dying for them.” Here’s hoping Hollywood will step up its game in response.

—Wil Barlow