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Entries in Biblical Epics (12)

Tuesday
Aug062019

De Laurentiis pt 2: The '60s epics of Dinocittà

This week at TFE we're celebrating the centennial of one of cinema’s most prolific and legendary producers, Dino De Laurentiis.  Here's Tim Brayton...

Yesterday, Eric took us on a tour of the first phase of Dino De Laurentiis's one-of-a-kind career as a producer, the era when he and Carlo Ponti helped usher a number of major works of late Neorealism into the world, introducing the first wave of international art cinema masterpieces. We now arrive at the 1960s, when De Laurenteiis was emboldened by those early successes to indulge himself in the first of his many flights of staggering, ill-advised ambition. Near the start of the decade, De Laurentiis opened a movie studio on the outskirts of Rome, an enormous playground for moviemaking nicknamed Dinocittà (after the famous Cinecittà, then and now the heart of the Italian film industry).

The Dinocittà experiment perfectly describes De Laurentiis's singular personality. A visionary producer can tell what is going to be popular in the future, and thus can jump in on trends at the moment of their inception. The hacks who make up the bulk of commercial producers know what was popular a year ago, and thus crank out movies that feel like uninspired cash-grabs and knock-offs. De Laurentiis had the gift and curse of knowing what's popular right this instant, and so his biggest swings – and too often, his biggest misses – came out just barely on the back side of the historical moment when they could live up to his extravagant hopes...

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Monday
Apr222019

Podcast: Cannes + Oscar + Listener Questions

by Murtada Elfadl & Nathaniel R

 

With the weekend bringing so few movies to theaters we opted for an all listener questions episode of the podcast. You can listen to the podcast here at the bottom of the post or download from iTunesWe hope you enjoy our answers and provide some of your own in the comments.

So many good questions, thank you. Comment party in 3...2...1... Go! 

Listener Qs: Cannes, Oscar, More

Tuesday
Dec052017

49 days til Oscar nominations. The #1 film of '49 was...

by Nathaniel R

With 49 days left of fervent prayers from contenders hoping to be among The Chosen on January 23rd, is it any wonder that Samson & Delilah (1949) popped into mind... shortly before Blade Runner 2049 (This is how my brain works -- my deepest apologies).

Biblical movies were once favorites of Oscar voters, especially in the mid 20th century. One might call them the sci-fi blockbusters of the day in terms of both their audience popularity and their difficulty being truly respected outside of "craft" categories. Samson & Delilah was, according to Wikipedia, the year's biggest box office hit in 1949... though that makes little sense. Apparently it was only released in NYC in 1949 and then hit Los Angeles in 1950 to become Oscar eligible for the 1950 Oscars instead of the 49 Oscars...

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Monday
Sep052016

"Colossal Spectacle!"

Happy Labor Day, all! To mark this occassion I will be working very hard today because I have much to accomplish before I leave for TIFF, the best film festival on the planet, according to me, for its ease, it's breadth, and the quality of its movies. Any big plans today, whether or not its Labor Day where you live?

On this day in history as it relates to the movies...

1916 One hundred years ago today the other über famous and influential D.W. Griffith epic, the one its OK to care about, opened. Intolerance, sometimes subtitled "love's struggle throughout the ages," was three and a half hours long and prominently advertised its then insane budget of $2,000,000. Wouldn't it be funny if today's movies were all "we cost $300,000,000 to make" (and all you get is a glossy commercial for merchandise / sequels)" on the posters? The epic stretched from Ancient Babylon through the Christ story and on to 1914 in its quartered parallel storylines to paint a morality story for audiences. The sick cosmic joke in retrospect was not that Griffith was apologizing for his own racist intolerance in The Birth of a Nation but offering a rebuke to people who he felt were intolerant to him because of that picture.

SIGH (Dir. Nathaniel R, running time ∞)

Other debuts on September 5th
Outlaw Jesse James who has been played by a gazillion actors, Old Hollywood titan Darryl F Zanuck, the inimitable prolific auteur Werner Herzog, charmed and outspoken Rose McGowan, Reigning Oscar good luck charm Michael Keaton (Birdman, Spotlight), Dan Gilroy's sick gripping Nightcrawler with Jake Gyllenhaal, 60s sex goddess and Myra Breckenridge herself Raquel Welch, Jack Kerouac's On the Road is published, Disney's pre-Mickey Mouse character Oswald the Lucky Rabbit premieres in his first short, one time Bond George Lazenby, and Black Book/Game of Thrones sensation Carice Van Houten.

And we'll close out our birthdays in history list with the iconic Freddie Mercury (remind me again why the Queen frontman STILL doesn't have a biopic?). This music video was chosen because it felt like something D.W. Griffith would approve of in all its "subtlety" and largesse...

Happy birthday / anniversary to all!

Wednesday
Apr012015

Flow It Show It Long As Hugh Can Grow It

Jason from MNPP here - you know who Hugh Jackman should play? Hugh Jackman should play Samson from the Bible, because if there's anybody continually betrayed by long hair it's him. Think upon the disaster that was Van Helsing (better yet, never think of Van Helsing ever again) or that mullet in Chappie, and then there's the years-long life-swallowing mess that was The Fountain (although I'll grant you the latter turned out interesting in the end) - it seems that we want our Hugh Jackman business on both ends (give or take the muttonchops) or not at all!

This is what today's news that Hugh will be playing Apostle Paul (as in Jesus Christ's best brah) made me think of, anyway. Matt Damon & Ben Affleck are both producing the film via their production company; there's no director attached yet. But back to the 'do and don'ts -- maybe they can go ahistorical and give the Saint-to-be a good high fade? Or Paul was half-Roman, maybe give him a respectable Caesar? Hey, George Clooney made it work. All I'm saying is think through the hair on your head, Hugh. A beard is fine though - we all know you're super good with beards.

Thursday
Nov202014

Interview: Patti Smith Doesn't Want Her Own Biopic!

What becomes a legend most? Not the biopics we see each year at the movies, Patti Smith suggests to me. We were meeting to talk about her first Original Song for a film, "Mercy Is" from this spring's $100 million hit Noah when the conversation veered into her own status as a showbiz legend, the godmother of punk. She shudders when I wonder aloud if anyone will make ever make a movie of her best-selling memoir "Just Kids" which recounts her storied relationship with fellow artist Robert Mapplethorpe. Though she's undoubtedly been interviewed thousands of times by now in her forty years of stardom, and she questions (indirectly) the whole point of the star profile and the interviewing process  -- 'if you really want to know me, it's all there in the work' -- she is a patient and warm interview. She instantly recalls the old massive paraphenalia that journalists used to bring into the room to record with when she sees my tiny electronic device and she's eager to talk Noah, a project she felt immediately taken with when Darren Aronofsky first told her about his plans for it at the Venice Film Festival years ago. 

Patti Smith at a recent concert in Iceland

NATHANIEL: Movies aren’t something you've spent a lot of time with in your legendary career. Did you know Aronofsky’s work well before writing the song for Noah?

PATTI SMITH: Yes. I love the one with Rachel Weisz, The Fountain. And Pi. I saw Black Swan a couple of times and we talked about Black Swan as a metaphor for the artist process and things like that. But it was not so much Darren as the subject.

Nathaniel: But you’ve been asked about religion before in your career and you’ve called it ‘man-made dogma’ so why do a Biblical film?

PATTI SMITH: Well, I love the Bible. Just because I’ve extricated myself from religion doesn’t mean I’m not interested in the scriptures. I look at the Bible as itself. It’s a holy book, it has incredible literature in it and beautiful poetry - the Songs of Solomon and the Psalms. I studied the Bible seriously until I was young teenager. It was always part of our home education: talking about the Bible, arguing about the Bible, interpreting it. So I don’t connect prayer or scriptures with any particular religion so it’s not a contradiction in my life. [more...]

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