Ennio Morricone died yesterday in Rome at ninety-one years old, according to The Los Angeles Times. Staff writer Randall Roberts describes him as not only “the most important film composer of the twentieth century,” but “also the busiest.” Roberts lists his top ten scores as: Sergio Leone’s Trilogia del dollaro; Gillo Pontecorvo’s La battaglia di Algeri (1966); Sergio Sollima’s La resa dei conti (1968); Dario Argento’s Il gatto a nove code (1971); Bernardo Bertolucci’s Novecento (1976); Terrence Malick’s Days of Heaven (1978); John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982); Roland Joffé’s The Mission (1986); Brian De Palma’s The Untouchables (1987); and Quentin Tarantino’s The H8teful Eight (2015).
In the season finale of the YouTube series Reunited Apart with Josh Gad, the core cast of John Hughes’s Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986) joined together for the first time in thirty-four years, according to NBC Chicago. Matthew Broderick, Jennifer Grey, Alan Ruck, Mia Sara, Cindy Pickett, Lyman Ward, as well as Ben Stein all hopped onto a Zoom call with Gad. Broderick, who hadn’t seen Ruck in at least fifteen years, told Gad about how he hurt his knee before shooting the parade scene, before the cast went on to act out iconic scenes from the cult classic.
Between violent confrontations with police in protests over George Floyd’s death, the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as record unemployment rates, there is little to celebrate about this year’s Pride Month, according to The New York Times. This isn’t to say all Pride events are canceled or postponed, because many can still be enjoyed online, such as virtual drag shows, benefit concerts, and, of course, “entertaining and evocative” films about the queer community and its history. Seven of these movies are: Arthur J. Bressan Junior’s Gay USA (1977); Greta Schiller and Robert Rosenberg’s Before Stonewall (1984); Christopher Ashley’s Jeffrey (1995); Gus Van Sant’s Milk (2008); Matthew Warchus’s Pride (2014); Robin Campillo’s BPM (Beats Per Minute) (2017); and David France’s The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson (2017).
As protests continue to rage over the death of George Floyd, Black social justice leaders as well as scholars urge people wanting to make a change to educate themselves on systemic racism through books, conversations, movies, and documentaries, according to ABC. Doctor Creshema Murray, founding fellow at The Center for Critical Race Studies at the University of Houston-Downtown, published her first book in 2018, Leadership Through The Lens: Interrogating Production, Presentation, and Power. “Television and film is a way for us to disconnect from what’s happening in the real world, but it’s also a tool for us to understand,” says Doctor Murray.
The Guardian critic Erik Morse was twelve years old when he saw a heavily edited version of Brian De Palma’s Dressed to Kill (1980) for the first time on late-night television. According to Morse, in the decade before the film started appearing regularly on cable as well as video rentals, the Italian “giallo,” the genre from which De Palma borrows most heavily, had been followed up by low-budget slashers and erotic thrillers. Morse writes, “Dressed to Kill’s kaleidoscopic atmosphere – its watery, soft-focus lens, garish colour palette and flashy, optical tricks such as slow-motion, mirrored surfaces, split screens and dioptres – was a feast for my languorous, pre-teen senses.”
After meeting with a panel of five filmmakers yesterday, California Governor Gavin Newsom has announced he will issue guidelines Monday for film and television companies to resume production in the wake of the novel coronavirus pandemic, according to The Mercury News. Among those sitting on the panel were director-producer Ava DuVernay, as well as Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos. DuVernay, who lost a family member and a crew member to COVID-19, says the quarantine has had positive impacts on the filmmaking process, such as virtual writers rooms, in addition to fewer cast and crew crowding together on sets.
Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing (1989) – written as well as produced by the filmmaker, and starring Danny Aiello, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, John Turturro, Samuel L. Jackson, and Lee himself – is one of the greatest films of all time, according to Far Out Magazine. Regardless, the racially charged release was only nominated in two categories at that year’s Academy Awards (Best Supporting Actor and Best Original Screenplay), winning neither. Some critics said the movie could “incite black audiences to riot,” to which Lee responded, “I don’t remember people saying people were going to come out of theatres killing people after they watched Arnold Schwarzenegger films.”
In celebration of Alien Day in April, The Guardian critic Ben Child ranked the eight films in the classic science fiction series from worst to best. Beginning with Paul W. S. Anderson’s Alien vs. Predator (2004) as well as Colin and Greg Strause’s Alien vs. Predator: Requiem (2007) tied for last, Child argues James Cameron’s Aliens (1986) surpasses Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979) as the greatest installment in the saga. Child writes, “Final mention, however, goes to Scott’s original Alien… At the time, there had simply been no more terrifying movie ever made by Hollywood, while [Sigourney] Weaver delivered a career-making performance.”
Natasha Gregson Wagner, the filmmaker behind Natalie Wood: What Remains Behind (2020), was eleven years old when her mother drowned off the coast of Catalina Island on Thanksgiving weekend, 1981, according to The Guardian. Natalie Wood died at forty-three years old, but the movie star, born 1938 in San Francisco to Russian immigrant parents, began acting as a five-year-old before earning an Academy Award at fifteen for Nicholas Ray’s Rebel Without a Cause (1955). While her daughter’s documentary does confront the suspicious circumstances surrounding Wood’s drowning, Wagner’s goal is to celebrate the life and career which have been overshadowed by it.
Between the programming on Turner Classic Movies, the Columbia Noir series currently streaming on the Criterion Channel, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic, film noir has found itself part of the contemporary critical conversation again, according to The New York Times. It is difficult, if not impossible, to define noir, if for no other reason than that it transcends genre, but critic Ben Kenigsberg says Nicholas Ray’s In a Lonely Place (1950), which is streaming on Criterion’s Columbia Noir series, is a “place for getting a handle on what noir is.” Kenigsberg writes, “It has elements of murder mystery, melodrama and Hollywood insider scoop.”