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Entries in Steven Spielberg (37)

Monday
Oct132014

75th: Absence of Melinda

Two time Oscar nominee Melinda Dillon turns 75 today. Since we don't like any major actresses to totally fade from public consciousness when they stop working, let's look back. Though her last working year was 2007 her most recent high profile gig goes back much further to a SAG nomination as part of the ensemble of Magnolia (1999, pictured left) in which she played wife and mother to Phillip Baker Hall and Melora Walters. 

Though she'd been working for a decade before it in small parts (TV guest gigs and improvisational comedy) her first real claim-to-fame came as "Memphis Sue" Woody Guthrie's wife in the Best Picture nominated bio Bound for Glory (1976). She received a Golden Globe nomination for "Best Acting Debut" (a now long defunct category) even though it wasn't her debut. Dillon's breakout led to bigger parts and two well-regarded Oscar nominations though curiously the Globes, who had first honored her, skipped her both times when her major hits rolled around. Her first Oscar nod made actually history: as the wide-eyed young mother in Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1976) she was and will forever remain the first actor to ever receive a nomination for a Steven Spielberg film (it wasn't until The Color Purple when anyone else followed). Later she was nominated as a particularly fragile soul and key character at the heart of a war in Absence of Malice (1981) between journalist Sally Field and businessman Paul Newman (also Oscar-nominated).

Melinda Dillon as "Teresa" in Absence of Malice (1981)

Though Dillon's heyday preceded the birth of my own film/actress obessions I remember getting the sense that she was a critical darling, the kind of actress with a devout if not populist following. By the time I was watching movies regularly and passionately though the roles were all mom roles sometimes with lots of screentime as in A Christmas Story (1983) and Harry and the Hendersons (1987) and sometimes on the peripheries as in those very blonde family flashbacks in Prince of Tides (1991) or "Merna" in To Wong Foo: Thanks for Everything Julie Newmar (1995).

If you're familiar with her work what's your favorite of her performances? If she could be coaxed out of her retirement what would you have her do?

Thursday
Aug282014

1989 Look Back: The Last Films of Two Hollywood Legends

Hollywood in 1989 was a far different place than it was in the studio system heyday of the 30s through the 50s. The Old Hollywood glamour that made stars like Bette Davis and Audrey Hepburn once shine bright seemed like a distant memory compared to such blatantly sexual films as Sex, Lies, and Videotape. Trying to imagine Davis' Margo Channing or Hepburn's Holly Golightly appearing alongside the neon prints and leg warmers of the 80's is ludicrous. Except that both of these legendary Best Actresses happened to still be making films in 1989, decades after they had first achieved stardom. Sadly, 1989 would be the last year that both actresses would appear again on the big screen and what's worse, neither of their films (Wicked Stepmother and Always) would contribute much to their cinematic legacy.

more after the jump

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Aug262014

Lukewarm Off Presses: "Chef" Again, Lord Attenborough, Joan Allen, and Movie-to-TV Series

Four interesting tidbits coming atcha that we neglected to discuss for multiple reasons. If you hadn't yet heard them, they'll feel like brand new news to you.

In what is clearly understood to be an awards-traction move, Jon Favreau's sleeper hit Chef will be coming back to theaters this Friday in wide release. I'm not sure it has the critical oomph to win any nominations and it didn't have the box office size to make that a non-issue (a la gargantuan hits like My Big Fat Greek Wedding) but could it sleeper hit its way into, say, The Screenplay race? I'm realizing I neglected to consider it at all there which is an obvious mistake. I had a really good time watching it with friends though; it's an easy sit and safe for diverse groups of viewers. My favorite visual was ScarJo eating a bowl of pasta but my least favorite visual was being asked to believe that vivid ScarJo and sexy Sofia Vergara would be a good sexual match for mopey Jon Favreau. These men and their self-serving onscreen fantasies!

Vanity Fair remembers Lord Richard Attenborough (1923-2014), actor turned Oscar winning director. I apologize profusely they we didn't honor him with an RIP here. This week was rough offblog. I'll remember him best as the director of Gandhi (1982) a very good biopic (as I remember it) that was unfortunately tarnished by being crazy over-rewarded by the biopic-obsessed Academy and had the misfortune to win in a strong year too what with Tootsie and E.T. and Victor/Victoria and Blade Runner all knocking about the cinemas and arguably moving on towards 'timeless classic' status. (Gandhi even took Costume Design)  Reportedly Shadowlands (1993), a biopic of C.S. Lewis with Anthony Hopkins & Debra Winger (Oscar-nominated) was his favorite of his own films. I liked that one too at the time. Notice how I'm ignoring the elephant in the room (A Chorus Line)

TV has a long history of attempting series versions of hit movies. Sometimes they're wildly popular (see M*A*S*H), occassionally they develop rabid fanbases but don't quite become big hits (Bates Motel, Hannibal currently) but most of the time they're quickly forgotten (Working Girl, anyone?) and cancelled. As you have probably heard Steven Spielberg is producing a series based on Minority Report even though there's been a show stealing that stop future crime premise for some time now (Person of Interest) and how you gonna function without Samantha Morton's pre-cog eeriness? Martin Scorsese is developing a Shutter Island TV Show for HBO which sounds like a strange idea in an ongoing format unless they go anthology with it and tell different crazy people stories as they come to grips or lose their grip of reality altogether OR they make it about the doctors and play-actors creating these worlds for the crazy prisoners, you know? And there's also a series coming based on that campy 90s hit Devil's Advocate which originally starred Keanu & Charlize as young marrieds and Al Pacino as The Devil. I have to tell you that all three of these sound like T-E-R-R-I-B-L-E ideas to me. Agree or disagree?

...and a tardy Yes No Maybe So extra

We don't do every trailer but I'd feel remiss if we continued to ignore the fact that Joan Allen, who disappeared so completely and who we've missed terribly, has a new movie coming out. The Stephen King adaptation A Good Marriage. Spoilers direct from the trailer in this Yes No Maybe So...

Yes - Joan Allen in a leading role again. It's been since, what, Upside of Anger (2005) for which she should've easily copped the Oscar (and she wasn't even nominated -oh the humanity). And the premise will certainly give her emotional scenery to chomp on. 
No - So the trailer basically tells you what's going to happen: she finds out her husband is a serial killer and then she tries to rescue one of the intended victims and things get scary. So if we're looking for good scares and suspense we won't get that here since we know what will happen.
Maybe So - Stephen King adaptations have been instant classics (Carrie) and absolute garbage and every gradation inbetween so who knows. I'm not familiar with director Peter Askin's work (Company Man, Certainty, Trumbo) beyond the filmed version of John Leguizamo's stage show Spic-o-Rama. Anyone?

Friday
Aug222014

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge Has Gone Global & Retro Cinematic

Tom Hiddleston after his challengeI know it's for a good cause but we're definitely reaching saturation point for the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Soon, like maybe in 5 minutes, it will be over. But ALS is enjoying huge fundraising numbers so good on them for dreaming it up. I hope all these celebrates dousing themselves with freezing water are donating a dollar for every viewing of their videos and vines.

I've avoided sharing any because how would you choose? I mean other than skipping my beloved childhood idol Olivia Newton-John who kind of misses the point, filling her thimble "bucket" of ice with undoubtedly warm pool water before trickling it over her gorgeous blonde head. Let's just say Her Chills Weren't Multiplying. She Was Not Losing Control.

So why am I posting this? To note that this ice bucket madness which was mostly music stars at first has gone global. Here's Chinese superstar Zhang Ziyi doing it below and challenging French actress Sophie Marceau. Her House of Flying Daggers co-star Takeshi Kaneshiro also did one but his is oddly subdued / silent. 

(Other Asian stars getting in on the action include Xiamoing Huang and Li Bingbing who he challenged. He also challenged Fan Bingbing so if "Blink" gets in on the action, I want her to do it in costume. Plz and thx.)

The ice bucket challenge has also gone retro cinematic. Steven Spielberg did it a few days back. But the best one -- or at least the highest budgeted-- is surely The Foo Fighters doing it 1970s Sissy Spacek/Carrie style. I'm just disappointed that they didn't challenge Sissy Spacek, Betty Buckley, and Piper Laurie in the process, you know? though at least Stephen King was name-checked.

If you'd like to donate to ALS to thank them for giving us all this ginormous celebrity wet t-shirt contest you can do so here

 

Wednesday
Sep252013

NYFF: Like Father, Like Son, Like Excellent

TFE's coverage of the 51st New York Film Festival (Sep 27-Oct 14) is picking up pace. Here is Glenn discussing Like Father, Like Son

That foreign language category at the Oscars just continues to be a lightning rod for controversy (or "controversy" drummed up by eager beavers wanting get extra attention for their movies). Nathaniel already discussed some of the issues of that category as pertaining to the French non-selection of Blue is the Warmest Colour. Even curiouser than that, however, was the selection of Japan. Let's face it, a three-hour lesbian drama was always going to be a stretch for a nomination even if it did qualify and even if France did select it. Japan, however, appeared to have a slam dunk in the form of Kore-eda Hirokazu's Like Father, Like Son.

Even if we ignore the fact that it also won a big award at Cannes (the Jury Prize) from Steven Spielberg's jury and that the man himself has snapped up the rights for a remake. Even if we ignore that it's issues of frought father and son relationships put it in line with many other winners from the category. Even if we ignore that it's more refined palate, less scrappy and hip, is the sort of thing voters in this category tend to err towards. Even if we ignore all of that, the fact remains (for my two cents, at least) that the film is just really very good.

I, nor many other western audiences it would seem, have seen Japan's selection. The Great Passage. It may not only be a great film and I'm sure an Oscar nomination would make its producers double proud given the stink that has been raised by the American distributor of Kore-eda's film (the same company that is releasing Blue is the Warmest Colour - double ouch!). Still, it’s curious that Japan didn’t choose the Kore-eda when it seems to perfectly made for the ghetto category. I know it sounds entirely selfish and commerce-inclined, but I enjoyed Like Father, Like Son so much that it would have been nice to see it vying for the statue. It’s such a quality production that surely audiences, spurred by a nomination, could have turned it into a mild hit. Its likely February release now looks rather foolish and presumptuous, but it’s easy to see why the distributor thought they had a winner on their hands.

Like Father, Like Son is a wonderfully effective film about two families from vastly different socio-economic backgrounds who discover their babies were swapped at birth six years earlier. It sounds kind of silly and ripe for turgid melodrama, but it’s handled sublimely by the Kore-eda. He doesn't settle for simple sentimentality, but instead allows his characters to stumble, make bad choices, attempt to redeem themselves, and try to do what's right. The difference in their class background (one family is affluent, the other working class), their differing philosophies on raising a child (one fosters independence, the other family), the myth of motherly bonds, and their own individual sense of right and wrong are challenged by the sudden familial discovery.

Their world is very identifiable and it’s no wonder Spielberg wants to remake it. There are likely tears to be shed, but it earns them through the strength of the performances, especially by Ono Machiko and Yôko Maki as the wives, and the emotion wrung out of the complicated central story. It's also rare to see modern day Japan presented with such visual panache with its juxtaposition of cityscapes and rustic "authentic" locales. Whatever happens to the film now that it's out of foreign language competition, I just hope audiences get to discover it. Spielberg's future remake can only help audiences discover this affecting gem of a film. 

Tuesday
Jul302013

Curio: Making a Scene

Alexa here, returning from a break (moving is hell, folks) to share some film art for your Tuesday. I recently came upon these ink and marker drawings by Jim Ferguson and felt like they reinvigorated my love of classic Spielberg. Jim illustrates scenes from these and other classic and cult films, with a knack for choosing the perfect moments, both iconic and unexpected. 

These are some of my favorites from his enormous portfolio (six more scenes after the jump)

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Jul112013

Emmy AND Oscar-Nominated Documentaries

The eligibility of documentaries for awardage from both that lusted after winged woman (Emmy) and the coveted naked man (Oscar) is a labyrinthine maze from which we would never exit were we to foolishly enter. In fact, someone needs to make a documentary about THAT to sort it all out. Documentaries leave strange crumbs all over both the big and small screens on their long walking journey through often complicated and extremely protacted "releases".

I bring this up because a portion of the Emmy nominations were announced today (like The Grammys there are hundreds of categories) in the non-fiction fields of news and documentary. I was surprised, for example, to see Semper Fi: Always Faithful, The Loving Story and We Were Here as nominees. You may recall they were all Oscar finalists (though not nominees) back in 2011 and now they're up for 2013 Emmys! Actual nominees from that Oscar year show up too, particularly those from the Best Documentary Short category. I thought we'd highlight a few categories in case you've seen any of these films. They might be familiar to you even if you spend more time in theaters than in front of your television. 

OUTSTANDING INFORMATIONAL PROGRAMMING - LONG FORM

OUTSTANDING HISTORICAL PROGRAMMING - LONG FORM

Awesome cinephile Vito Russo with fellow AIDS Activist Elizabeth Taylor

  • The Loving Story -HBO Documentary Films
  • Vito -HBO Documentary Films (read our interview with director Jeffrey Schwartz. Vito Russo wrote the groundbreaking book "The Celluloid Closet" which is all about the problems of LGBT presence in Hollywood films. That book and his AIDS activism are his legacy. This doc was also nominated for "Best Research")
  • Jesse Owens - American Experience PBS
  • We Were Here - Independent Lens PBS [Available on Netflix Instant Watch]
  • Nostalgia for the Light -POV PBS

And there are several other categories of non fiction programming too like "arts and cultural, science, and economic" . Finally, all the fields seem to unite under the umbrella category "Best Documentary" which has six nominations, all of them previous Oscar nominees or finalists except for Nostalgia for the Light, which nevertheless had a movie awards presence winning Best Documentary at the European Film Awards and winning a WGA nomination as well. That said I should note that this is no guarantee that how the docs aired on television is the same way they aired in cinema since documentaries can shape shift as they switch mediums and details of their stories continue to emerge. Some get much longer and are divvied up into segments for news programs. 

BEST DOCUMENTARY

  • Project NIM -HBO Documentary Films
  • Saving Face - HBO Documentary Films
  • The Loving Story - HBO Documentary Films
  • The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom - HBO Documentary Films
  • Hell and Back Again - Independent Lens -PBS 
  • Nostalgia for the Light - POV PBS

Do you like docs and if so have you seen any of these films?

P.S. Of Note: 60 Minutes won a nomination for "Outstanding Interview" for their profile of Steven Spielberg during Lincoln's run. If winged Emmy is anything like naked Oscar, it won't win its category. 

P.P.S. The Emmy nominations most people talk about when they talk about Emmys are the ones that will be announced a week from today on July 18th. We'll talk about those soon!