Unknown Orson Welles at MoMA

Has any great filmmaker left as chaotic a legacy as Orson Welles? The director of Citizen Kane, The Magnificent Ambersons and Touch of Evil spent the last years of his life working on several projects, none of which he finished to his satisfaction. On the day of his death on October 10, 1985, he was preparing scenes for a television special, Orson Welles’ Magic Show. Welles bequeathed his unfinished materials to his companion Oja Kodar, who in turn donated most of them to the Munich Film Museum. Stefan Drößler, an archivist and the current director of the museum, will be introducing some of Welles’ work as part of the Museum of Modern Art’s “To Save and Project” festival. Drößler’s program … More

53rd New York Film Festival: Don’t Miss These Revivals

The 53rd New York Film Festival, running from September 25 to October 11, showcases several high-profile features that will be opening in the coming weeks, including The Walk, Carol, Bridge of Sighs, and a sneak screening of The Martian. Concurrent with the big-ticket Main Slate screenings are the Festival’s more idiosyncratic series. Convergence (September 26 and 27) spotlights interactive and virtual reality titles. Projections (October 2 – 4) covers abstract and experimental movies. And Spotlight on Documentary offers a dozen examples of the genre. Along with Special Events, the 53rd NYFF offers an intriguing series of eleven revivals, seven of them honoring the twenty-fifth anniversary of The Film Foundation. Founded by director Martin Scorsese as a means to develops more … More

CGI: Find another scapegoat

  Some writers love compiling lists about “Why movies are so terrible today”—as opposed to back when they were great, before digital or widescreen or color or sound or whatever other technological development. CGI, or computer-generated imagery, is the villain in two widely circulated posts. A month ago on the Cracked website David Christopher Bell gave 6 Reasons Modern Movie CGI Looks Surprisingly Crappy, which basically boiled down to how Bell liked movies better when they used a lot of animatronics. On Rocketstock, Michael James has 10 Reasons Why CGI is Getting Worse, Not Better. After bemoaning the death of 35mm, I’m as surprised as you are to find myself defending CGI. But both Bell and James are complaining about … More

Early Cartoon Masterpieces Screen in New York City

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences continues its five-part series on animation with The History of Silent and Early Sound New York Animation on Tuesday, May 19, at The Academy Theater on East 59th Street in Manhattan. Historian and collector Tommy Stathes, a specialist in early animation, hosts the program, which features cartoons from as early as 1900. The evening’s final film, 1928′s Steamboat Willie, introduced Mickey Mouse to the world. Movies like J. Stuart Blackton’s Humorous Phases of Funny Faces (1906) were made in New York City because that’s where the motion picture industry was concentrated. A vaudeville performer, Blackton would go on to head Brooklyn’s Vitagraph Studios, one of the most successful of the early production … More

Tribeca Docs Fight for Justice

The Fourteenth Tribeca Film Festival ended April 26 after handing out awards for both narrative and documentary films.  Winning for Best Documentary Feature was Democrats, a step-by-step account of politicians in Zimbabwe trying to draft a constitution from Danish director Camilla Nielsson.  The audience award went to TransFatty Lives, Patrick O’Brien’s firsthand look at his struggles with ALS.   Other noteworthy documentaries included the intensely bizarre family study The Wolfpack, opening June 12 from Magnolia Pictures; Uncertain, set in a Texas border town and winner of the Albert Maysles New Documentary Director Award for Ewan McNicol and Anna Sandilands; and Gored, discussed in depth here by FJI writer Rebecca Pahle. Tribeca also spotlighted strong examples of advocacy journalism, efforts by … More

Celebrating Animation from Its Beginnings

For the next five weeks the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will be spotlighting animation in a series that stretches from the form’s early beginnings to one of this summer’s most eagerly awaited releases. An Animation Showcase: From Celluloid to CGI will take viewers from trick films made at the turn of the twentieth century by J. Stuart Blackton to a sneak-peek screening of Inside Out. “This celebration of animation is really just the beginning of what I hope will be an ongoing series on filmmaking crafts,” according to Patrick Harrison, the Academy’s Director of New York Programs and Membership. “The Academy gives out awards in 24 categories of filmmaking. We have an opportunity to educate both the … More

Patrick Osborne talks about ‘Feast’

One of five animated shorts nominated for an Academy Award, Feast is the first film directed by Patrick Osborne. An animator who has worked on Disney features like Bolt and Tangled, Osborne received approval for Feast on the basis of a pitch he gave to the shorts program at Walt Disney Animation Studio. Last week Osborne was in New York City to promote Feast. We talked at a midtown Manhattan Disney office. The bulk of the interview appears on the Film Journal website. Osborne is soft-spoken and very articulate, and given the chance he’s also pretty funny. I’ve included some extra material here. On first seeing the finished Feast I wasn’t too like “crazy theater experience person” before this, but … More

NY Times to Selma Filmmakers: Wait Your Turn

Media attention has shifted from Selma to American Sniper, largely because the former movie is struggling at the box office while the latter is breaking records. Selma and its director Ava DuVernay are still drawing attention, but not really for the movie itself. Opinions about the veracity of Selma have subsided into asides about Oscars snubs and DuVernay’s future plans. Scott Mendelson’s recent piece for Forbes — Why I’m Glad ‘Selma’ Director’s Next Film Is Not A Marvel Movie — is typical.  Mendelson writes about DuVernay’s Hurricane Katrina project with actor and producer David Oyelowo; cites two other pieces on the director; and weighs in on whether or not she should direct a Marvel superhero movie. In a sense the … More

‘Sniper’ Backlash

Selma is under attack for refusing to accept the status quo—that President Lyndon Johnson did all he could to advance a civil rights platform.  By depicting Johnson as preoccupied with other issues, even recalcitrant about black demonstrations, director Ava DuVernay has been criticized by everyone from Joseph Califano to Maureen Dowd. The impact has been real, both on the movie’s box office and on its Oscar nominations.  Selma is being punished for being too liberal. American Sniper, on the other hand, is drawing flak for being too conservative.  Originally scheduled for release in 2015, Warner Bros. pulled up its opening day to qualify for this year’s Oscars, a move that resulted in six nominations. Initial industry reviews for Sniper were … More

Decoding ‘Selma’ and ‘American Sniper’

  Obscuring the current Oscar race are trumped-up political controversies regarding Selma and American Sniper, proving that censorship and political correctness cut both ways. First detractors claimed that Selma did not portray President Lyndon Baines Johnson correctly, neglecting his role in the passage of civil rights legislation.  In a Washington Post op-ed, former Johnson aide Joseph Califano went so far as to accuse Selma director Ava DuVernay of “taking dramatic, trumped-up license” by showing Johnson “at odds with Martin Luther King, Jr.” Through poor writing, Califano implied that Johnson was responsible for the march in Selma, and bizarrely insisted that the “movie should be ruled out this Christmas and during the ensuing awards season.” Op-ed writers around the country jumped … More