Letters, memos, telegrams from Golden Age Hollywood published in new book

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When she was cast in George Cukor’s My Fair Lady (1964), Audrey Hepburn asked the director for the designer’s sketches of her shoes so her private Parisian bootmaker could cobble them because she had “trouble” with her feet after dancing ballet. (Image Courtesy: NPR).

Rocky Lang and film historian Barbara Hall have edited and compiled the new book Letters from Hollywood: Inside the Private World of Classic American Moviemaking, a collection of written correspondences between classical stars, according to NPR. Hall says the documents humanize the artists who wrote them, and filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich, who penned the foreword, says this publication is more historical than it is an invasion of privacy. Ingrid Bergman, Katharine Hepburn, Marlene Dietrich, Audrey Hepburn, Bette Davis, Hattie McDaniel, as well as Henry Fonda are among the authors found in the text, writing to everyone from Ernest Hemingway to George Cukor to Jack Warner to Hedda Hopper to William Wyler.

Ansel Elgort defends “The Goldfinch”

This weekend, Ansel Elgort took to Instagram to challenge the critics who made John Crowley’s The Goldfinch (2019) one of the worst-reviewed releases of the year, inspiring fans to flood Letterboxd with enough four-star reviews to raise its score, according to IndieWire. Not only has the film’s word-of-mouth underperformed, the adaptation of Donna Tartt’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel has also been a box office nightmare for Warner Bros., dropping seventy-one percent its second weekend in theaters. While praising the reviewers for their writing, Elgort dismisses their articles as one-sided, saying audiences (and his mother) still enjoy the movie despite its flaws.

Netflix review: Rian Johnson’s “Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi” (2017)

With a hero from a desert planet who goes on to help destroy a galactic fascist’s superweapon, J.J. Abrams’s Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens (2015) can be read as a companion piece to George Lucas’s Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977).

In a similar vein, Rian Johnson’s Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi (2017) aims to be as game-changing a sequel as Irvin Kershner’s Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980), but as it shoots for the moon, where does it land among the stars?

If you don’t know what to watch next, Star Wars: The Last Jedi is available to stream on Netflix. The epic space opera was nominated for four Academy Awards. The filmmaker also served as scriptwriter.

Rey (Daisy Ridley) arrives on the planet Ach-To to train in the Jedi arts with exiled Master Luke Skywalker (Mark Hammill) so she can defeat Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and his master, Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis).

At the same time, Resistance pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) flees a First Order dreadnought with a comatose General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) and Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo (Laura Dern); Poe plans to fight, but Holdo plots an escape.

Poe sends former First Order stormtrooper Finn (John Boyega) and a mechanic named Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran) to Canto Bight to rendezvous with the hacker DJ (Benicio del Toro) so he can deactivate the First Order’s tracking device.

It is refreshing to see a popular entertainment franchise like Star Wars and all its self-contained stylistic formulae churn out a “critic’s film” to be deconstructed through an authorial lens.

From a postmodern context, it is the most thematically ambitious release in the saga (not to say “ambition” always translates to “success”), and it needed to be after The Force Awakens inaugurated the third trilogy with a beat-for-beat revisit to A New Hope.

If The Empire Strikes Back is most remembered for its “big reveal,” then The Last Jedi is defined by its subverted expectations.

That said, as a sequel to The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi fails to satisfy some of the foreshadowing introduced in its parent film. While this is intentional, dramatically, it’s still… well… unsatisfying.

Maybe these films would have better consolidated this experiment with the mainstream myth that is the Star Wars universe if the same director had shot both of them.

In any case, the overarching poetry of Star Wars is the past rhyming with the present, and using the Rotten Tomatoes audience reception score for a litmus test, The Last Jedi complements The Empire Strikes Back as the movie even more beloved than A New Hope, the one that started it all.

“The Princess Bride” star leads charge on Twitter against remaking film

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Cary Elwes and Robin Wright light up the screen as The Man in Black and Buttercup in The Princess Bride. (Image Courtesy: NBC News).

As part of a Variety profile published Tuesday about Norman Lear, the executive producer behind Rob Reiner’s The Princess Bride (1987), Sony Pictures Entertainment chief executive Tony Vinciquerra says a reboot of the film may be in the works, according to NBC News. Cary Elwes, who stars as Westley, tweeted his condemnation against the idea, calling the classic a “perfect” movie, and so did Jaime Lee Curtis (whose husband, Christopher Guest, plays Count Tyrone Rugen), saying “there is only ONE The Princess Bride.” So many other celebrities as well as fans have followed suit, the backlash topped Twitter’s trending topics.

World’s first Holocaust feature film to premiere in Tel Aviv this weekend

 

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Wanda Jakubowska, “the grandmother of Polish cinema” as well as “the mother of Holocaust movies,” said the reason she lived through her imprisonment was because she was obsessed with making a film about it. (Image Courtesy: Haaretz).

As part of the Tel Aviv Polish Institute and the Polish Adam Mickiewicz Institute’s “Polish Zoom” film festival this month and next, Wanda Jakubowska’s The Last Stage (1947) is screening in Israel Sunday night seventy years after it debuted there, according to Haaretz. It is the first feature-length picture about the Holocaust, shot on location at Auschwitz, and the filmmaker, scriptwriter, and many cast members – all women – were camp survivors. As ahead of its time as the movie is with its intersectional feminism, though, it is still a Stalinist propaganda piece, sanitizing the Soviet war criminals into warriors of liberation.

Amazon Prime review: M. Night Shyamalan’s “Glass” (2019)

M. Night Shyamalan enjoyed somewhat of a revival since The Visit (2015) and Split (2016), never quite meeting the triumphs of The Sixth Sense (1999) and Unbreakable (2000), but still at least becoming watchable again.

As for Glass (2019), the third in a trilogy with Unbreakable and Split, the faults of his authorship stand in relief against these two stronger entries.

If you don’t know what to watch next, Glass is available on Amazon Prime. The psychological superhero thriller got largely negative reviews, with only thirty-seven percent of critics aggregated via Rotten Tomatoes praising the film.

The filmmaker also wrote, co-produced, and made a cameo appearance in the picture.

Unbreakable hero David “The Overseer” Dunn (Bruce Willis) and Split villain Kevin Wendell “The Horde” Crumb (James McAvoy) are institutionalized at the same Philadelphia facility as The Overseer’s nemesis, Elijah “Mister Glass” Price (Samuel L. Jackson).

There, Doctor Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson), a psychiatrist who specializes in treating patients who believe they’re superheroes or otherwise superhuman, studies the three characters.

But Mister Glass has a plan for escape, and with The Horde in his reach, an alliance between the two could spell doom for the city The Overseer can no longer protect.

The premise is the highlight of the movie – three of Shyamalan’s finest creations conflicting against one another in a setting evocative of the ambiguous realism making Unbreakable a masterstroke of suspense.

It would’ve done the same for Split, if not for a denouement which decisively answers the question, “Does The Beast exist?” when no answer is what gives Unbreakable its staying power.

For the first time since Unbreakable, the audience asks themselves if The Overseer, The Horde, and Mister Glass really are players in a comic book, or if they’re suffering from a collective delusion of grandeur; debating the truth of the text warrants devoted re-watches.

But Shyamalan makes the same miscalculation at the end of Glass as at the end of Split, except worse, unleashing a veritable Pandora’s box of absurdity onto his world-building that no amount of mystery could ever close again.

And he might not have made this error if he hadn’t marketed himself as a brand after the success of The Sixth Sense, the Wellesian wunderkind, the lovechild of Sir Alfred Hitchcock and Steven Spielberg whose signature style orbits the climactic twist (even at its most contrived).

It’s the reason why auteur theory, developed in postwar Europe as part of the French New Wave by early film critics obsessed with studying Hollywood directors, is problematic and borderline fallacious in the inherently collaborative world of moviemaking.

Shyamalan is indisputably talented – The Sixth Sense is one of the best of all time – but The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable are greater than their twists, and even Hitchcock knew his limits. Hitch cast himself in cameos, but he never delivered a line, and he didn’t pen a word of dialogue.

His greatness lay in knowing when to take “no” for an answer.

If Shyamalan had an executive to answer to, or a seasoned screenwriter to ground his concepts into the dramatically satisfying, Glass might have lived up to its “super” potential.

What it is instead, is a delusion of grandeur.

Star-studded preview uploaded for Roland Emmerich’s “Midway” (2019)

Roland Emmerich’s Midway (2019), written by Wes Tooke and starring Ed Skrein, Patrick Wilson, Luke Evans, Aaron Eckhart, Nick Jonas, Darren Criss, Mandy Moore, Dennis Quaid, as well as Woody Harrelson, dropped a new trailer Thursday, according to Rolling Stone. The cast of characters are mostly real-world military officers, and the World War II blockbuster will detail the Battle of Midway, a Pacific Theater defense of the American West Coast from the Japanese Imperial Navy after Pearl Harbor which marked a turning point during the conflict. The film is scheduled for a Veterans Day weekend release from Lionsgate, November 8.

The evolution of the stripper movie

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Jennifer Lopez, Constance Wu, Keke Palmer, and Lili Reinhart headline Hustlers. (Image Courtesy: The Atlantic).

Lorene Scafaria’s Hustlers (2019) joins Steven Soderbergh’s Magic Mike (2012), Gregory Jacobs’s Magic Mike XXL (2015), as well as Gene Graham’s This One’s for the Ladies (2019) in its empathetic representation of the camaraderie between strippers, according to The Atlantic. This marks a progression from the likes of Adrian Lyne’s Flashdance (1983), which isolates star Jennifer Beales from her fellow dancers, or Paul Verhoeven’s Showgirls (1995), wherein Elizabeth Berkley’s unlikable protagonist sabotages her relationships with other strippers. Hustlers castmate and consultant Jacq the Stripper tells Variety the film’s nuanced treatment of her community is because of their inclusiveness toward her.

Film school graduates in demand right now

With the advent of streaming platforms from media corporations looking to compete against Netflix, Syracuse University television, radio, and film professors say their freshmen are entering the entertainment industry at a lucrative time, according to student newspaper The Daily Orange. Department chair Michael Schoonmaker says this is a “Golden Age of Entertainment” for traditional movies and television as well. Even though film majors are stereotypically faced with skepticism, especially because anyone who owns a camera phone can become a filmmaker now, original content is in demand from undiscovered, young artists, as Hulu, Amazon Prime, Showtime, and CBS flood their collections.

Marielle Heller’s “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” (2019) reportedly moves TIFF to tears

Marielle Heller’s A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (2019) was a cause for nostalgic audiences at the Toronto International Film Festival to exit the theater with tears in their eyes and stories about Mister Rogers on their lips, according to The Daily Beast. Reviewer Richard Porton reports that Heller uses a pessimistic journalist named Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys), a fictionalized representation for the 1998 Fred Rogers profiler Tom Junod of Esquire, to balance the Rogers biopic with more nuance. Porton dismisses this attempt, writing that the movie still canonizes Rogers’s character, but praises Tom Hanks’s performance as the television host.