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Sunday
Apr132014

Box Office: Under the Skin & What We Watched

Nathaniel stepping in for Amir this week to look at What People Are Seeing. If you've already seen Captain America: The Winter Soldier (and you should) there wasn't much to get excited about at the mainstream box office this weekend with films like Oculus, Rio 2, and Draft Day not looking much like inspiring new entries in their shopworn genres. So let's shift our focus to the platform films out there. Frankly, I consider it a huge failing of the planet in general that an art film about Scarlett Johansson as an alien trolling for manflesh in Scotland isn't opening wide and selling out at 3,000+ theaters. Where are the world's movie consumption priorities? You disappoint me, Earthlings. 

Scarlett Johansson tops both the mainstream box office and the platform box office

PLATFORM BOX OFFICE
01 (54 theaters) UNDER THE SKIN $.3 (cum. $.5)  Posters
02 (37 theaters) ISLAND OF LEMURS $.1 (cum. $.4) 
03 (20 theaters) FINDING VIVIAN MAIER $.1 (cum. $.3) Amir liked it
04 (48 theaters) JOE $.1 *new* 
05 (04 theaters) ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE $.09 *new*  Michael's Review
06 (42 theaters) DOM HEMINGWAY $.07 (cum. $.1)  Jude's New Face 
07 (80 theaters) THE UNKNOWN KNOWN $.06 (cum. $.1) Glenn's Review
08 (04 theaters) THE RAILWAY MAN $.06 *new* Brief Thoughts
09 (79 theaters) CUBAN FURY $.05 *new*
10 (23 theaters) PARTICLE FEVER $.04 (cum. $.6) 

Of the newbies only Only Lovers Left Alive and The Railway Man had strong per screen averages (which is usually what you need to expand). I loved Under the Skin but am still collecting my thoughts about it so I'm not ready to write about it yet. I urge you to see it quickly since it benefits from your own interpretation and it's difficult to write about without spoilers. We'll discuss it on next Sunday's podcast.

Otherwise this weekend I goofed off in that I watched things I had no intention of writing about which is, for me, like playing hookie or calling out sick. I mainlined more Archer (which I basically worship) and watched four episodes of "The Fosters". Regarding the latter: I blame Emily Nussbaum's influence over The Boyfriend. He will watch anything she recommends . I  also goofed off by watching Lilies of the Field (1963) when I was supposed to be watching a Bette Davis double feature for articles that are due here in a hot minute.  I was all caught up in that 1963 flashback so I was helpless before it "♪ AaaAaaAaaymen. AaAYaymen. Aaamen. Aaamen Amen ♫." I actually think it's underrated today because it's so square but it "plays" as they say.

What did you watch this weekend? And was it out of obligation, habit, or pleasure?

Sunday
Apr132014

Strictly Baz

As you may or may not have heard Baz Luhrmann has been in the news again this week. 2013 was another big year for him with The Great Gatsby exceeding expectations (financially). The buzz on Baz hasn't quieted in this new year. On March 2nd, his wife Catherine Martin won another pair of Oscars to match her Moulin Rouge! statues and new collaborations for the Bazmark spouses are on the way.

First up is the stage musical adaptation of his breakthrough debut hit Strictly Ballroom (1992). The Guardian featured him a few days ago -- the video is more of a commercial for the show really than a true interview but there are clips from the show and Baz statements worth parsing.

I was 29 for the film. In the back of my mind I always thought 'it's got to be a musical'. I thought 'God, I hope I don't end up 40 and I'm doing Strictly Ballroom musical.' And I'm 52. So I think it will always be in my life. I think a bit like a band that had their first hit song. If you aren't playing that hig song at concerts until you have a foot in the grave then probably you're doing something wrong for the audience and probably you're doing something wrong for yourself. So I've just accepted that it's actually a fundamental part of our life and our journey"

The show, which obviously intends a Broadway run given how frequently Baz drops the word "Broadway" while talking about it is playing in Sydney Australia and the reviews for the show have just arrived which are generally positive though it's amusing that the Telegraph and Guardian critics say almost exactly opposite things about how it stacks up to the beloved film version. 

Baz's next film project-- if he actually goes through with it -- is a real surprise. The rumor is he'll direct the big screen version of the ol' TV series Kung Fu. I can't imagine what would attract Luhrmann to this property which is such an about face, even if he does love to genre-hop. But I pray to God, they dump the whole non-Asian conceit that the TV show went with. David Carradine was such a white dude, you know, and nobody needs 21st century narratives about ethnic anything that pretend audiences can only bear to look at white faces. Even if he does decide to do it, we won't see it for years; his films often appear to be on speed but the auteur isn't speedy. What's more he's supposedly also doing a Napoleon miniseries for TV and a TV series about the early days of hip-hop. How many of those do you think will actually come to be? It takes him five or so years to make everything, after all.  

People will surely make jokes about him adding musical numbers to Kung Fu though it's tough to graft those on to memories of that sedate and dusty TV show. But maybe it's not as impossible as it sounds. Every single one of Baz's films yearns to be a musical even though only one of them truly is.  Given that pervasive feeling, it's just bizarre that he hasn't made one since Moulin Rouge! but maybe he knows it's untoppable? Singular sensations are called that for a reason. They're rare and glorious freaks. 

Sunday
Apr132014

TCM Fest: Restorationists as Rock Stars

Film restorationists don’t feel like rockstars. But with this crowd…”

the TCM Festival is happening at the TCL Chinese Theater in Hollywood

Mike Pogorzelski, director of the Academy Film Archive, chuckles as another round of cheers breaks out from the audience. Pogorzelski is introducing a 35mm print of The Lion in Winter that he restored from camera negative, and so far the audience has cheered for the words “35mm,” “restoration,” “Academy,” and “Peter O’Toole.” Typically, only one of those gets applause, but then TCM Film Festival isn’t your typical Hollywood film festival.

Every single film that plays at the TCM Film Festival is old. The newest film is Mr Holland's Opus, which celebrates is nineteen years old. This means that every single film, from the 35mm print of Stagecoach to the world premiere DCP of OKLAHOMA! (previously discussed), has arrived through the efforts of archivists and restorationists who preserve and revive these classics. Film restoration is usually an unsung part of the film industry, but the TCM Film Festival, with its concentration on celebrating old classics and announcing new restorations, might be the best publicity film restoration gets.

Saturday, a world premiere digital restoration of A Hard Day’s Night screened at the TCL Chinese Theater. Richard Lester’s 1964 classic was originally shot in 35mm with a mono soundtrack, which isn’t well suited to a gigantic IMAX theater like the Chinese. However, the film has been remastered to crystal-clear 4K definition and--important for a rock n’ roll film--upmixed to 5.1 surround sound, bringing the Beatles 50 years through history. Those purists who would balk at the idea of changing a classic need not fear though, this digital restoration is (great) publicity for the Criterion’s Blu-Ray release of the film later this year, which will also have the original mono option available. A Hard Day's Night isn't the only world premiere with an accompanying DVD release: Blazing Saddles, OKLAHOMA!, and others will also soon be available. In fact, with so many DVD release advertisements being made at the festival, it can feel like the commercials TCM doesn't play on its station are happening here instead.

DVD release announcements are not the only purpose of the TCM Film Festival, however. Thelma Schoonmaker was there to discuss not only her multi-Oscar-winning career, but also the career of her late husband, Michael Powell at a screening of his Technicolor masterpiece A Matter Of Life And Death. I got the brief opportunity to meet her, and I promise to write about it as soon as I stop shaking.

In addition, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences rolled out some of the hidden gems in its archive. One of its many growing collections is Hollywood Home Movies. Randy Haverkamp (Academy Programming Director) & Lynne Kirste (Special Collections Curator at the Academy Film Archive) talked a rapt audience through several scenes, including backstage footage from OKLAHOMA! and Gone With the Wind, and some scenes of Alfred Hitchcock goofing off with his daughter in 16mm. These are the glamorous home movies, but Haverkamp and Kirste were quick to encourage any possible collectors in the audience to see the value of even the bits of 16mm and 8mm that don’t have famous directors in them.Their presentation underlined the unspoken theme of the festival: film is our visual and cultural history, and before it disappears we need to save and spread as much as possible, or risk forgetting ourselves. Thanks to the TCM Film Festival for making that job seem a little more glamorous.

Sunday
Apr132014

ICYMI

For those who don't check in enough, don't miss these highlights from the week. It was a slow week, I know, but next week will be madness: the Podcast returns, the Smackdown (finally), The Letter (1940) for "Best Shot" (join us!), a cool behind the scenes interview and more for Easter Week including the beginning of the Tribeca Film Festival.

• "Poor Ivy" Andrew on August: Osage County's MVP
• April Showers wanna shower with young Josh Brolin? Patricia Arquette does
• Home on the Range Tim on the death of traditional animation
Decoding Annie Parker Samantha Morton is back
• Colin Firth has six movies out this year. 40+ before that; How many have you seen?
1963 Oscar Flashbacks to Tom Jones and Oscar night glamour
• TCM Festival Anne Marie & Diana hit the opening night premiere

...and the previous week's highlights

Sunday
Apr132014

1963 Oscar Flashback: Sidney, Cleopatra, Hud

Something is wrong with me. I miss the Oscars already even though I've just barely recovered from the March 2nd related exhaustion. (Nathaniel the Masochist) So the other day I got a little Oscar happy and was looking back at various years, so let's talk the 36th Academy Awards briefly. You in?

They were held exactly 50 years ago today. Tom Jones, just discussed by Andrew, won 1963's Best Picture and three other trophies but the evening is best remembered today for Sidney Poitier's historic win for Lilies of the Field.

Sidney was the first black actor to win in either leading category but it was 38 years before it happened again (with Halle & Denzel on the same night). Now of course it's a fairly regular occurrence in both Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress... the other two categories not so much. 

Lots more photos and trivia after the jump...

Click to read more ...

Saturday
Apr122014

April Showers/Stage Door: "Heathers"

Multi-tasking this evening with a bifurcated trip back to Heathers. As previously noted, the film just celebrated its 25th anniversary and hasn't lost its bark (so quotable, so confident) or bite (so daring, so dark). A musical adaptation of the high school classic is also playing Off Broadway at the moment but we'll get to that in a minute. Let's start with the waterworks...

[Major 25 year old spoilers are ahead]

Click to read more ...

Saturday
Apr122014

TCM's Opening Night Red Carpet: Jones, O'Hara, Novak, O'Brien

Diana reporting from TCM Film Festival's Opening Night Red Carpet. The classic stars came out and Anne Marie and I talked to them.

Oscar winner Shirley Jones with her husband and the Oklahoma! premiere. [Photo: David Buchan/Getty Images]

4 P.M. Hollywood Blvd.
The red carpet is rolled out in front of Grauman’s, but crewmembers are still finagling with the Oklahoma! stop-and-turns as the press begins to descend on the barricades. Within a few moments, we chosen not-so-few (journalists, cameramen, bloggers) swarm to our allocated spaces along the carpet, with The Film Experience smack dab in front of the Grauman’s entrance. Tip sheet in hand and audio recorder on standby, we stand and wait.

5 P.M. The Red Carpet Opens
We are told that Shirley Jones has arrived. In the distance and with some squinting, you can see the Oklahoma! songbird looking bubbly yet elegant in a dark pantsuit with Marty Ingels, her husband of 37 years (a fact highlighted by him carrying a placard reading “37 YEARS”), by her side. As Jones makes her way down the press line, we press are prepping and mentally repeating our opening lines (mine involved her splendid performance in the 2005 revival of 42nd Street and her recent one-woman show at a Maryland Boscov’s), but alas she is called to take photos with Robert Osborne and then bypasses our section.

Leonard Maltin stops by. Being a fledgling critic myself, I jump to ask his advice to young critics and film journalists. Maltin says simply, almost pointedly, that aspiring critics just need to write, and read, but mainly write. He elaborated that he began writing criticism as a by-product of his passion for film history and that if he could have, he would have stayed solely a film historian. In regards to the festival itself, Maltin is there in an official capacity, moderating multiple talks (including Friday’s Club TCM talk with Quincy Jones) and hosting the Hubley Animation tribute, but is also looking forward to seeing as many of the screenings as he can, including Zulu.

Hitchcock ladies Kim Novak (Vertigo) and Diane Baker (Marnie) hit the opening night

Tiffany Vasquez, the TCM Ultimate Fan winner, is brimming with excitement at not only being on the red carpet but being there as a guest programmer, she will be introducing the 1948 noir The Naked City. Like most TCM fans would be, she was very nervous and intimidated by working with Robert Osborne in her onscreen introduction, but Osborne was so welcoming and gracious that he immediately eased her nerves [insert warm, fuzzy feelings]. Funnily enough, the New York City native originally wanted to submit Sunset Boulevard as her TCM Ultimate Fan entry, but decided to utilize her location, with The Naked City springing to mind, and shot the whole thing on the border of Queens and Brooklyn.

6 P.M. The Clock is Ticking
With only a half hour until the show begins, two Hitchcock blondes whizz by with protective publicists/companions in tow -- Kim Novak and Tippi Hedren (both breathtaking and in pantsuits, the former’s dark and the latter’s light blue-and-green floral).

"Meet Me In St Louis"'s Margaret O'Brien who won the Juvenile Oscar of 1944 at the after party [Photo by Stefanie Keenan/WireImage]

Margaret O’Brien, in a stunning royal blue full-length gown and with tinted blue hair to match, says hello. As tiny and peppy as Tootie, even 70 years later, she said that Meet Me in St. Louis was her favorite filming experience, her most challenging performance was in Little Women but because she adored the role of Beth so much from the book and wanted to do it justice more than anything else. Lining up nicely with the festival theme of “Family: The Ties That Bind,” she also credited her mother as her biggest support throughout her career.

Trying to lob at least one question at the legendary and still fiery Maureen O’Hara, I asked how her evening was going (sometimes small talk can work wonders in easing to a star’s red carpet schedule). “I won’t know until the evening’s over,” the quick wit threw back.

Alec Baldwin with the legendary Maureen O'Hara who turns 94 this summer

6:30 PM Closing Time
Everyone is getting settled in for Oklahoma! and here’s Anne Marie’s write-up on the screening itself. More on the festival to come!