President of Brazil threatens to censor show business

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The Institute of Economic Research at University of São Paulo says seventy percent of Brazilian-produced films are publicly funded. (Image Courtesy: The Hollywood Reporter).

On Thursday, Brazilian politician Jair Bolsonaro, a military officer whose conservative populism got him sworn in as president in January, threatened to end Agência Nacional do Cinema (ANCINE), the federal film agency, for being too liberal, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Bolsonaro also said the ANCINE office would be moved away from Rio de Janeiro, the cultural seat of Brazil as well as home to its film industry, to the political capital of Brasilia, and encouraged the institution to fund more family-friendly movies. More than a hundred local pictures were released in 2017, compared to thirty in 2001, the year ANCINE was founded.

Inside the “Forgotten Film” online community

Hobbyists are buying strangers’ used film rolls on eBay (which guarantees an easy profit for the sellers who buy them for cheap or find them for nothing at all) and undertaking the expensive, treacherous task of developing sometimes degraded prints, according to The Guardian. The “Forgotten Film” subreddit has grown from eight hundred Redditors to three thousand over the last three years, perhaps in response to the 2017 “mystery box” craze, with popular YouTubers unboxing collections of unknown and random items from eBay. Levi Bettwieser, an Idahoan video producer, runs the nonprofit Rescued Film Project, where people can give him their old films to develop, and as for the voyeuristic thrill of being the first to see an image out of the past, Bettwieser says, “Pictures are our defense against time.”

The top ten highest-grossing films of all time, adjusted for inflation

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Victor Fleming’s Gone with the Wind (1939) sold over two hundred million tickets during its eight releases in the United States, where Anthony Russo and Joe Russo’s Avengers: Endgame (2019) has sold close to ninety-five million domestically since April, but would contemporary theatergoers come out to see Gone with the Wind? (Photo Courtesy: CNBC).

Anthony Russo and Joe Russo’s Avengers: Endgame (2019) has surpassed James Cameron’s Avatar (2009) as the top-grossing film of all time, according to CNBC. However, Hollywood doesn’t adjust box office records for inflation due to a number of variables, such as the new forms of entertainment accessible to modern audiences, evolving movie content, and the dozens of inflation rates across global markets. But Comscore, a media analytics company, divided the average ticket price the year a picture was released into its gross to estimate the number of tickets sold (still not an exact science, since averages are imperfect data), and ranked the top ten grossers as follows, from lowest to highest: David Hand, William Cottrell, Wilfred Jackson, Larry Morey, Pierce Pearce, and Ben Sharpsteen’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937); William Friedkin’s The Exorcist (1973); David Lean’s Doctor Zhivago (1965); Steven Spielberg’s Jaws (1975); Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments (1956); James Cameron’s Titanic (1997); Steven Spielberg’s E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982); Robert Wise’s The Sound of Music (1965); George Lucas’s Star Wars (1977); and Victor Fleming’s Gone with the Wind (1939).

Andrew Lincoln returning as Rick Grimes in “The Walking Dead” film

Andrew Lincoln will reprise his role as Rick Grimes in an untitled Universal Pictures theatrical release after playing the character for nine seasons on AMC’s The Walking Dead (2010-), according to BuzzFeed News. A short video teaser premiered at a 2019 San Diego Comic-Con panel for The Walking Dead and AMC’s Fear the Walking Dead (2015-), with a helicopter rescuing a half-dead Rick at the end of his final episode. Executive producer Scott M. Gimple, chief content officer for The Walking Dead universe, is writing a series of films revolving around the character, which were initially expected to air on cable until Universal, in search of a new hit franchise, became involved.

Netflix review: AMC’s “Breaking Bad” (2008-2013)

With the (now controversial) Academy Awards sweep for Sam Mendes’s American Beauty (1999), Hollywood made the bed for its love affair with the mid-life crisis.

If it’s because there’s something to be said about straight, white men of a certain age running the industry, then the fate of Walter White is what they deserve.

If you don’t know what to watch next, AMC’s Breaking Bad (2008-2013) is available to stream on Netflix. Showrunner Vince Gilligan saw the series win sixteen Primetime Emmy Awards.

Leading man Bryan Cranston took home four of them, co-star Aaron Paul earned three, and leading lady Anna Gunn won two.

The neo-Western crime drama, set and shot on location in Albuquerque, spins the yarn of Walter White (Cranston), a high school chemistry teacher diagnosed with lung cancer who produces and distributes meth with former student Jesse Pinkman (Paul) to provide for his family.

Simultaneously, Walt finds himself trapped in a violent criminal underworld that threatens not only himself, but also the lives of his wife, Skyler Lambert (Gunn), and his DEA agent brother-in-law, Hank Schrader (Dean Norris), who he’s desperate to keep in the dark about his business.

Through it all, Walt becomes an increasingly powerful (and dangerous) drug lord.

The theme of Breaking Bad is addiction, and the key to addiction is escalation. Walt, the “average,” domesticated suburbanite, grows to be as addicted to his dark alter ego, “Heisenberg,” as users are addicted to his meth, and as addicted as the binge watcher is to his downfall.

Breaking Bad is the once-in-a-lifetime show that improves with each season until it reaches that even rarer “perfect” finale, intensifying its mythos to such a transcendent crescendo, it feels as though the writers had the entire series charted from the beginning.

It is a slow burn from an intoxicating initial hit to a dizzying high with nowhere to go but down, which is why Gilligan led the noble maneuver to bow out gracefully at the production’s peak, rather than beat a dead horse.

His ethos, on the other hand, lands a somewhat more discordant note. In the Breaking Bad universe, actions have consequences, and crime doesn’t pay.

Still, many fans fail to see Walt’s abusive, narcissistic behavior for what it is, instead demonizing one of his longest-suffering victims: his own wife, Skyler.

Skyler White is something of a lovechild between Patty Hearst and Lady Macbeth, a housewife who wakes up one day to find her American Dream perverted into her worst nightmare.

The home she made is now a prison, the family she raised is now in jeopardy, and the man she married is the monster who started it all.

As she is forced to launder his blood money to protect her children from the truth about their father, Skyler cannot scrub her own hands clean. It’s a life she never asked for, and it’s a cross she’ll have to bear forever.

She is hypocritical and manipulative, but her flaws are what help her survive in Heisenberg’s unforgiving empire.

Overall, she’s a contradictorily-faceted, nuanced, tragic character, played to pitch perfection by Gunn. She is hardly the megalomaniac Walt is – where Heisenberg says family is his motivation to rationalize his deadly lifestyle, for Skyler, it’s the truth.

Regardless, the fanbase turned against her with such vitriol, the actress herself was the recipient of death threats.

Most likely, it’s because Walt’s role as the “antihero” at the focal point of the narrative seduces the audience into sympathizing with him, falling for the “meek,” “mild-mannered” persona which turns out to be just another lie.

It’s a masterfully verisimilitudinous character study, but it unfairly cuts Skyler into an antagonistic figure – in the end, she is right to condemn Walt’s choices, even if he ostensibly made them for the sake of her, because he is ultimately what destroys everything they have together.

For the objective, ethical consumer, with enough critical remove to see behind Walt’s mask,  Breaking Bad is a work of art that will be studied centuries from now like we study Shakespeare today.

Sir Anthony Hopkins penned an open letter to the cast praising their performances as the greatest of all time, and Cranston and Paul deliver, as protagonist and deuteragonist, respectively.

Even though Cranston isn’t the sociopath Walt is (or, at least, one would hope), this turn in his career is still a deeply personal one for him. Before Breaking Bad, he was a comedic staple on NBC’s Seinfeld (1989-1998) and Fox’s Malcolm in the Middle (2000-2006).

Heisenberg is as miraculous a transformation for Cranston as it is for Walt, a chameleonic alchemy of dynamism further tempting us onto Walt’s side at the beginning, when he’s at his most harmless, only to find ourselves, much like Skyler, bedfellows with a villain by the end.

Toxic masculinity and heterosexual, Caucasian, male egocentrism stand trial in American Beauty on meth, for the crime of vampiric selfishness, with five seasons of evidence to convict the accused.

Gilligan’s verdict ought to serve as a cautionary tale for all the other Walter Whites out there who seek empowerment through oppression.

Independent California filmmaker wants public to know about his PI flick

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When McDick won Best Comedy and Audience Award at local festivals, one of the attendees brought the trailer to Danny Trejo’s attention, and he agreed to shoot his scenes in Malibu. (Photo Courtesy: The Santa Monica Daily Press).

Santa Monica-based comedy actor Chris McDonnell’s McDick (2017) is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video with around a thousand views so far, according to the Santa Monica Daily Press. The film stars McDonnell, Mo Collins, and Danny Trejo, with the director playing a detective who gets himself fired and becomes an incompetent private investigator in the tradition of Blake Edwards’s The Pink Panther (1963). The movie was something of a years-long passion project for the New Jersey-born McDonnell, who called in favors from his friends in the Los Angeles filmmaking community and raised a budget of $150,000 after moving there in 2002.

The “Titanic” survivor who made a movie about it a month later

A silent film star named Dorothy Gibson co-wrote and acted in Etienne Arnaud’s one-reeler, Saved from the Titanic (1912), twenty-nine days after surviving the sinking herself, according to The A.V. Club. Gibson’s character in the film wears the same clothes the actress wore the night of the disaster, and even though the picture was an international hit, the only known prints were lost in a fire two years into its release, in one of the worst cinematic tragedies of the era. Gibson had been part of movie history since “Hollywood” was located in Fort Lee, New Jersey – indeed, she was one of the first performers to reach stardom – and only one of her flicks still exists.