Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Letter for "Margaret"

Do this for me.

There’s a petition to get Fox Searchlight to send out year-end screeners of Kenneth Lonergan’s Margaret (which I wrote about here) to critics and other voting groups. Please sign it.

The film, having had a long and litigious post-production history (it was shot in 2005, went through many different cuts and quite a bit of legal wrangling), was only released briefly in a few cities a couple of months ago. Writer-director Lonergan wasn’t talking -- possibly due to a non-disclosure agreement -- so its box office prospects were limited to begin with. This wasn't a deliberate burial so much as a case of a studio not knowing what to do with a film that had already been orphaned a while ago.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Not Made for This World: My Brief Journey with Coriolanus

I was very excited when I first heard that Ralph Fiennes had made a film of Coriolanus. Excited, and a bit perplexed. Some years ago, I briefly considered trying to do something myself with Shakespeare's tragedy – either turn it into an ultra-low-budget film or maybe stage it somewhere. It didn’t result in anything, but I spent a lot of time thinking about how and whether the play could work today. The reason I decided not to do anything with it, though, was a surprising one.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

7 Kids' Movies by Great Directors Who Don't Make Kids' Movies

In honor of Martin Scorsese’s Hugo (which I’ll probably get to writing about one of these days), and also because I feel guilty about not having posted as much this month, here’s a quick list I thought up: Great kids’ movies made by great directors not known for making kids’ movies.

There are some willful omissions, so here's the obligatory disclaimer: I didn’t include Tim Burton or Terry Gilliam because so many of their films hover somewhere close to the genre, even when they’re being irredeemably adult and dark. I thought about including studio workman Roy Rowland, he of 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T fame, except that he had a lucrative career helming Margaret O’Brien pics so kids’ movies don't seem like they were particularly out of his wheelhouse. I also thought about including Fritz Lang and Moonfleet, but I don't know that Moonfleet is a kids' movie, strictly speaking.

And I know some folks will gripe about my not including Alfonso Cuaron and his Harry Potter entry here, but I first got introduced to Cuaron as the director of 1995’s A Little Princess (which I still think is his best film, believe it or not), so he always seemed to have one foot in this world.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Recent-ish Work: Muppets, Immortals, Kumar, Nick Ray

It’s been a slow month round these parts -- in part because I’ve been working on a couple of longer pieces (one of which, my exploration of the curious similarities between The Four Feathers and The Deer Hunter, I posted here recently), but also because I’ve been a bit busier on the reviewing front. So, here are some links:

Monday, November 21, 2011

Is The Deer Hunter a Remake of The Four Feathers?

Well, is it?

Okay, perhaps that headline’s a bit misleading – I’m not exactly saying that Michael Cimino sat down and chose to remake The Four Feathers when he made The Deer Hunter. Hell, I don't even know if Cimino's seen Zoltan Korda's 1939 masterpiece, now out in a gorgeous new Criterion edition. And God knows there are enough controversies over where Cimino’s film actually came from, or for that matter over whether it’s even any good. And perhaps those who see in The Deer Hunter a kind of fascist imperialistic fantasy (such as Jonathan Rosenbaum, whose famous, eloquent 1979 pan not only trashed Cimino’s movie, but also managed to dismiss Coppola and Scorsese in the same breath, with a half-swipe at Days of Heaven along the way) may not be so surprised to hear that it has some similarities to a film made from a Victorian tale of imperial derring-do.

But the two films benefit from the comparison; for it’s clear that The Four Feathers is a lot more reflective and complicated than its reputation suggests, and that The Deer Hunter is about a lot more than just Vietnam. Personally, I find it hard to think of one film without the other nowadays; and the striking echoes between them reveal important, sometimes subtle, thematic concerns.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Eulogy for Lutfi Akad (1916-2011)

Kizilirmak Karakoyun

The Turkish director Omer Lutfi Akad has passed away. This came as a bit of a surprise to me, since I could have sworn that I had heard reports of his death a few years ago. But I guess things like that happen when you get to be 95. Nevertheless, he now rests in peace, and a few words should be said here.