I came to the news of Mickey Rooney's passing late due to my offline vacation but it wouldn't be right to not mention it here at the musicals-loving The Film Experience. My first exposure to Mickey Rooney, as far as I remember, was Babes in Arms (1939) for which he was Oscar nominated at 19. I think my parents took us to see it at an awesome revival house in Detroit. Tweens and teenagers, who always fear being uncool, aren't supposed to love old black and white movies made many decades before they were born but cinephiles and/or musical-fanatics are a different breed and I had no shame whatsoever about seeking them out. [More...]
Entries in RIP (74)
Vulture Pharrell on his Oscar loss and Frozen's "Let it Go"
Cinema Blend super depressing think piece about Chris Evans planned retirement after Captain America and why our franchise culture kills an actor's passion
Empire Madonna is not done directing. Next up: Ade: A Love Story based on the novel by Alice Walker's daughter
Guardian wonders when we'll start seeing gay parents in family films from Disney
Variety True Detective will compete in drama rather than in miniseries at the Emmys. Interesting move, right? I still think the Emmys need to start making rulings on this sort of thing just so there's consistency, rather than letting the shows decide.
The Wire FWIW this is the article that seems to make the most sense as to why HBO is doing that
Film School Rejects Plans for Prometheus 2 move forward. Rumors of multiple Michael Fassbender sound perfect to me. Fill the screen with him.
Salon on Wes Anderson and the art of Twee "It's not easy being twee"
What Culture on 18 screenplays every aspiring writer should read. Some interesting choices / points but it's VERY man's man oriented. Obviously written by a guy who doesn't get into female protagonist cinema because I don't know how you make a screenplay list and don't include All About Eve
St Paul Lutheran Church Get this. Oft employed character actor James Rebhorn (Homeland, The Talented Mr Ripley, Far From Heaven) wrote his own obituary before he died. It's beautiful
From CinemaCon in Vegas
i09 sees and loves footage from Luc Besson's "insane" Lucy starring Scarlett Johansson as a drug mule turned superpowered killer. They liken it to Kick Ass which is unfortunately for me a superpowered deterrent.
In Contention on Angelina Jolie's Unbroken preview - I haven't drawn up my "april foolish" predictions yet but I think I'm probably less bullish on this one than most. I keep thinking Seabiscuit. Not that that film wasn't an Oscar hit but that type of inspirational power of human (or animal) spirit isn't as easy of an Oscar sell as it once was, I'd wager.
P.S. And in case you haven't heard Jonathan Groff (Looking, Frozen) and Lucy Liu will announce the Tony Award nom this year on April 29th.
P.P.S. I'm not going to link to any of the many articles about the possible reboot of the Indiana Jones franchise (a.k.a. Indiana Jones 5 or 6) because the only way to end reboot culture and get some actual NEW material up in here is for the media and the public to start ignoring these creatively bankrupt cash-ins that desperately want to keep giving us things we've already had.
What happened to youthful rebellion, I ask? Why do kids today want to see watered down versions of their parents favorite heroes instead of getting their own? Katniss aside, it's ALL their parents heroes over and over again.
We just celebrated the career of cinematographer Oswald Morris this past November on his birthday with a visual tribute. I regret to inform that the fine DP has passed away at 98 on St. Patrick's Day.
I first became a fan of his, without knowing I was (you know how that is at the beginning of cinephilia) when I saw the puppet classic The Dark Crystal (1982) which was his last film. That film was so technically ambitious at the time and a visual triumph in many ways. I've been meaning to watch it again just to feel the presence of actual objects with weight and shadow in the time of CGI.
In the obit at The Telegraph he tells a good story about one of his true breakthroughs: Moulin Rouge (1952):
In 1952, Morris “broke every rule in the book” while shooting Huston’s Moulin Rouge. On being interviewed for the job at the Dorchester Hotel Morris asked Huston how he envisaged the completed film would look. “I would like it to look as though Toulouse-Lautrec had directed it himself,” replied Huston. Morris shot using strong, light-scattering filters on the camera, which had never been used before. “We also filmed every set full of smoke so that the actors always stood out from the background,” he recalled. “The Technicolor people hated it.” Their tune changed, however, on the film’s positive reception. “The head of Technicolor in America wrote to Technicolor in London congratulating them on the wonderful colours in the film. No mention of me.”
Curiously, though he shot several famous films other than Moulin Rouge like Lolita, Equus, The Taming of the Shrew, The Pumpkin Eater and won three consecutive BAFTAs in the 60s for black and white pictures, he was only ever Oscar-nominated for his colorful work on musicals: The Wiz, Oliver!, and Fiddler on the Roof, winning for the latter.
Here's the last kind of news you want to hear, first thing in the morning. Shirley Temple Black, the quintessential child star, has passed away at 85 years old.
Temple's career exploded at the sage old age of 5, when she appeared in a string of massively successful hits for 20th Century Fox in 1934, including Little Miss Marker, Baby Take a Bow, and Bright Eyes. So fast and so complete was her success, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences created a brand new award that year just so that she could receive it, the non-competitive Special Oscar for best juvenile performance. She appeared in a shocking number of films throughout the 1930s, dominating the box office and generally making everybody much less depressed that there was a Depression on. Her career continued strongly until 1949, with the actress still appearing in classics like The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer and John Ford's Fort Apache even as an adult. In later years, she was the U.S. ambassador to Ghana and Czechoslovakia, in addition to sitting on the boards of a number of corporations.
To most of us, though, her name was and will remain fixed to a very particular idea of childish exuberance, the round cheeks and curly hair of pre-adolescent innocence at its most bubbly and aggressively charming. Temple, in the 1930s, was one of the all-time iconic movie stars, an instantly-familiar face with an immediately-recognizable personality even to people who'd never think to watch one of her movies.
It's easy to assume that her stardom was based on being abnormally cute and able to carry a tune, but even in her earliest starring roles, she had a gift for comic timing and a distinctly clever streak that keeps her roles from getting too sacharine. She was, by any standards that have ever fairly applied to a pre-teen, a genuinely good actress and commanding screen presence, on top of being a darling moppet.
We've lost a lot of terrific actors in the last couple of months, but with Temple we've lost more than that. This morning marks the passing of one of the few genuine Hollywood legends left to us, and everyone who loves movies is a bit poorer for it.
Amir here. It's a Sunday and you're pobably expecting my box office column, but I feel too devastated to focus on anything but the tragic news about Philip Seymour Hoffman. A true giant of screen acting has left us today. There is speculation aplenty about why and how this happened, all of which amounts to very little of significance. All that really matters is that the man was too young to go and had many great perfomances ahead of him. And he leaves behind a rich body of work that speaks for itself.
The most famous Austrian born actor prior to Schwarzenegger, and Oscar's favorite Austrian/Swiss actor ever, died overnight at 83. Maximilian Schell film debut came with the German anti-war film Kinder, Mütter und ein General (Children, Mother, and the General) but it wasn't long before Hollywood came calling.
He won a role supposedly through a misunderstanding/accident in the Brando/Clift vehicle Young Lions (1958). Global fame was just a few years away when he co-headlined the mega-star cast of the seminal Oscar Bait giant Judgement at Nuremberg (about Nazi war crime trials) with Hollywood legend Spencer Tracy and they were both were nominated for Best Actor - it's a oft-repeated fallacy of modern Oscar campaigning that people say that splits your vote and prevents you from winning; see also Amadeus. Schell also won the Golden Globe for that film. (As Rhett from Dial M for Movies pointed out on Twitter this morning, his death makes William Shatner (!!!) the sole surviving credited cast member from the courtroom classic)
Schell was quite gracious in his Oscar win and his acceptance speech is well worth watching. I'd argue he was fully aware of why he won ("honoring the movie"*) and I love that he doesn't do just the usual cheek kiss but actually a little bow/handkissing...as diva Joan Crawford warrants.
Schell had a fine and long run as an actor with two more nominations following his win for The Man in the Glass Booth (1975) and Julia (1977 -- and yet another example of a double nomination in the same category. His co-star Jason Robards won that time). He won his second Golden Globe as recently as 1994 for a TV miniseries and a Lifetime Achievement Bambi in Germany just 5 years ago, which coincidentally was the same ceremony wherein Christoph Waltz, a clear modern equivalent of Austrian/Oscar love, won for Inglourious Basterds.
Schell's talents were many, though, and also behind the camera. He turned to filmmaking within a decade of winning Best Actor. His first two feature films First Love (1970) and The Pedestrian (1973) were both nominated in the Best Foreign Language Film category for Switzerland and West Germany respectively. And then his first documentary Marlene (1984) which was about his legendary Nuremberg co-star, was also nominated in its category. That's a lot of awards love and a long and full career worth remembering.
*Judgement at Nuremberg couldn't really win much elsewhere. 1961 was the year of one of Oscar's true phenomenons. West Side Story made nearly a clean sweep of its nominations winning 10 of its 11 Oscar nominations! Nuremberg only bested it in the Adapted Screenplay category where musicals have historically had a very hard time winning. Only two have ever managed: Going My Way (1944) and Gigi (1958).
It feels like Oscar's upcoming "In Memorium" segment this year is going to be extra exhaustingly sad. One of the tiny reasons among many larger ones that I wish they hadn't moved the Honorary Oscar to another event is that the eldest artists of the cinema shouldn't only be viewed through the prism of final goodbyes, you know? This past week we lost two more actresses, both of whom might feel right at home when they hear heavenly choirs.
When I think of Juanita Moore (1922-2014) and her classic Oscar-nominated performance in the Douglas Sirk melodrama Imitation of Life (1959), I nearly always think of a scene she isn't even in! My mind always rushes to her character's own funeral.
Is there a sung funereal performance more moving than Mahalia Jackson's "Trouble of the World"?
It's enough to make you weep as hard as Lora (Lana Turner) when she loses her dear friend Annie (Juanita Moore). I was such a wet-faced mess the first time I saw this movie. See, here's the thing. I think of the funeral first because Juanita's performance and plight as a mother continually rejected by her lighter-skinned daughter (who wants to pass as white) is so moving that it earns this unforgettable Mahalia Jackson send-off.
The Hungarian born operetta superstar Martha Eggerth (1912-2013) passed away just after Christmas at 101 years of age... she kept performing even into her late nineties! Though she was a much bigger star in European cinemas of the 30s, two Judy Garland pictures in the 40s made a big (brief) deal of her: For Me and My Gal (1942) is fun and quite famous, largely for being Gene Kelly's debut, but I'd argue that the more obscure Presenting Lily Mars (1943) is even better. I thought about just posting a still here but no photo will do her justice, despite her loveliness, since it was all about the voice. Here's a clip of her singing Voices of Spring. You can read a lot more about her here.