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Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Directors

Awards season comes early: Directors Guild OKs movie screeners

May 7, 2012 |  1:08 pm

Michel Hazanavicius

Hollywood's award season might not kick off for another few months, but when it does, campaigners will have some new names to add to their movie screener mailing list: The Directors Guild of America has reversed a long-standing policy that prohibited its members from watching on screeners films in contention for the organization's annual awards.

The DGA will follow the actions of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences, the Screen Actors Guild and other industry organizations, which allow their voting members to watch eligible films on DVD or online screeners.

"There's nothing better than watching a movie on the big screen, exactly as the director intended," DGA President Taylor Hackford said in a statement. "But it's not always possible for our members to get to the theater to see every film in awards contention. For that reason, the national board has decided to allow members to receive 'for your consideration' screeners."

The DGA was the last holdout in allowing members to view screeners (though, in truth, a certain percentage of its members, those who belong to other guilds or the film academy, likely had already been receiving the DVDs in the mail). The group crafted the policy to counter any potential bias in favor of larger studio films with more marketing means, fearing those movies would have an advantage over smaller, independently made films unable to spend the funds necessary to distribute DVDs.

The guild said it changed course to appease its membership, both those living outside metropolitan areas and others unable to attend theatrical screenings.

The DGA's national board made the decision at its meeting Saturday.

The guild said it would continue to operate its theatrical screening program in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, San Francisco, London and Washington, D.C.

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--Nicole Sperling

 Photo: "The Artist's" Michel Hazanavicius won the DGA's top prize at the body's 2012 awards ceremony. Credit: Chris Pizello /Associated Press.


‘Catching Fire:’ Will it turn out OK without Gary Ross?

April 13, 2012 |  2:45 pm

 

Hungerlaw
Gary Ross’ decision to walk away from “Catching Fire” and “The Hunger Games” phenomenon he helped create yields a double-barreled question: What will the franchise look like without him, and what will his career look like without it?

The answers depend, of course, on who Lionsgate hires  to take Ross’ place, and on what the director decides to do with his suddenly wide-open schedule. But there are precedents for director swaps on big-name movies that could prove encouraging or disheartening, depending on your point of view.
 
Many fans clearly want Ross back. A poll on 24 Frames asking who should direct the new film saw “Bring Ross back, no matter what it takes” collect more votes than all the other responses combined. But these fans would be wise to look at cases where a director left a project midstream.

In a number of instances, a situation where a movie seemed in disarray without its original director worked out for the best.

It looked like “Gone With the Wind” was doomed when original director George Cukor was fired by producer David O. Selznick three weeks into production. Olivia de Havilland and other actors begged Selznick to reinstate him. Instead, the producer brought in Victor Fleming, who at the time was making “The Wizard of Oz.” Things turned out pretty nicely for both films.

“A lot of times what seems like a curse in these director situations can be a blessing," Ron Base, an author of numerous books about Hollywood history, told 24 Frames. "The new director comes in with something to prove."

There are less heartening instances. In the early 1960s, “One-Eyed Jacks” looked as if it could be a world-beater when Stanley Kubrick signed on to direct the Western, based on a script from Sam Peckinpah.

But Kubrick was fired shortly after, and Marlon Brando wound up taking a turn behind the camera. The resulting movie was a mixed bag at best. Brando’s directing career fared even worse — he’d never helm another movie.

Recent Hollywood history suggests that, “Harry Potter” notwithstanding, sequels work best when the same director stays with them. “Jurassic Park” took a pretty big dive when Joe Johnston stepped in for Steven Spielberg.  In contrast, a franchise conceived and helmed by one person over the course of its life tends to turn out pretty well (see under: Peter Jackson and the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy).

In some cases, films don't look better or worse under a new director; they just look very different. Here’s a fun thought experiment: How would “Bonnie and Clyde” have turned out had it been helmed by the filmmaker who initially agreed to direct it, Francois Truffaut?

Truffaut made “Farenheit 451” instead, a film that received mixed reviews, though turning down "Bonnie" didn’t hurt his stature as a pioneer of the French New Wave. Under the hand of Arthur Penn, “Bonnie and Clyde” turned out pretty well too.

Today’s Hollywood differs considerably from that of previous eras: As publicly traded companies, studios tend to be more conservative than they've ever been, and their level of involvement is high. A franchise like “The Hunger Games” also builds off a well-known body of work in a way that discourages unexpectedness or wild reinvention.

Fans may be wringing their hands about the Ross departure. But very few directors these days can, on their own, drive a beloved property into the ground -- or, for that matter, come up with a surprise masterpiece.

RELATED:

'Catching Fire' director: Is it an impossible job?

Catching Fire': Is Gary Ross back to his old ways?

‘Catching Fire’ director: Lionsgate eyeing Cronenberg, Cuaron

'Catching Fire' Gary Ross will not direct 'The Hunger Games' sequel

'Hunger Games': Gary Ross on hunting the job and Jennifer Lawrence

 -- Steven Zeitchik

Photo: Gary Ross' "The Hunger Games." Credit: Lionsgate


'Fifty Shades of Grey': Who should direct?

March 30, 2012 | 10:29 pm

  Who should direct '50 Shades of Grey'?
E.L. James, the author of the erotic e-book “Fifty Shades of Grey,” created a stir when Universal Pictures and Focus Features acquired the film rights to her trilogy of explicit books earlier this week. The series tells of a chaste college graduate named Anastasia Steele and the S&M-inflected romance she finds herself in with dashing billionaire Christian Grey.

“Shades” was a hot property in more ways than one, having already sold gazillions of copies to discreet, Kindle-carrying women all over the English-speaking world.

But now begins a more arduous process: attaching a filmmaker. Given the provocative nature of the subject matter, finding the right helmer won’t be easy. Allow us to offer a few suggestions:

Michael Bay. Sure, James’ book had plenty of raunchy sex. But where were the things moviegoers really care about, like secret government-created alien-fighting machines? “Grey” will be jazzed up considerably with the addition of Autobots and Decepticons, a true story of opposites. There is, after all, no tale of becoming quite like the tale of a car becoming a robot. Grey inflicts hurt on his partner using 30-ton robots, which brings nearly as much pain as watching a Michael Bay movie.

Nicolas Refn. Christian Grey wears a scorpion jacket and eats toothpicks. He and his lover take long drives to nowhere over '80s electropop. Forks are jammed into various body parts. The movie reaches a crescendo in its piece de resistance love scene, which takes place backward.

Marc Webb. Young Christian Grey works at a greeting card company and, when he’s not getting advice from his impossibly precocious sister or angsting about the state of his romantic life, kicks back with a little office karaoke. Anastasia Steele is an ethereal presence who doesn’t believe in love. They enter a complex relationship in which he decides to cause her pain, largely by playing her Morrissey songs over and over.

Judd Apatow. Every hot romance needs a little bromance. Apatow's "Fifty Shades" has Anastasia feeling neglected -- all Christian wants to do is smoke pot and talk about comic-book superheroes with his buddies. Challenges further ensue when Anastasia begins to question why anyone would want to be in an S&M relationship with Seth Rogen. All is resolved, however, when Christian and his friends take a break from trash-talking each other long enough for a tearful airport scene. The movie is notable for being the first Apatow film he doesn't want his wife to star in.

Sofia Coppola. Focus could reach into its own vaults and pull out “Somewhere” helmer Sofia Coppola. Grey and Steele live in a hotel. Sometimes they order room service. A car goes endlessly around a track. Someone cooks breakfast. The movie ends.

Martin Scorsese. Christian Grey begins the film by ordering mob hits on various members of Steele’s family, because she double-crossed the people who double-crossed her double-crossers. In fact, the hero is about to order a hit on Steele when he realizes that she owns an early 20th century print of Julien Duvivier's “La Belle Equipe,” which, Grey tells her, no human being should ever be without. He then gives her a three-hour lecture on the importance of preserving early cinema. She finds it a peculiar form of torture.

RELATED:

'50 Shades of Grey' aims for the movies

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'50 Shades of Grey' has studios hot and bothered

--Steven Zeitchik

twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: "Fifty Shades of Grey." Credit: Vintage Books


Martin Scorsese on being reviewed: 'You can't be bothered'

January 25, 2012 |  1:03 pm

There are certain external indicators filmmakers can look to when trying to evaluate the quality of their work — positive reviews, triumph at the box office, awards gold — but even these are imperfect measures. So how and when do filmmakers know if they've made a good movie?

At the recent Envelope Directors Roundtable, Martin Scorsese ("Hugo"), Michel Hazanavicius ("The Artist"), Alexander Payne ("The Descendants"), George Clooney ("The Ides of March") and Stephen Daldry ("Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close") addressed that question.

"I have a problem: I always think it's good," Hazanavicius said of his work. "So I think I'm not a good judge, really." But, he added, "What's true one day in October on a set, it's not the same truth four months later in an editing room. So I try to trust what I wrote, to trust what I storyboarded and to let things happen on set."

Payne said he has confident days and not-so-confident days: "Some days I am Orson Welles," he said. "Other days I am the worst loser, impostor, know-nothing, wannabe filmmaker in the world. I believe both with equal conviction."

Scorsese added that it's important to focus on the work and have confidence, without paying too much attention to concerns like movie reviews. "If you read the good ones, you might believe those, and if you read the bad ones, you certainly believe those," Scorsese said. "At a certain point, you've got to work."

Check out their full conversation in the video above.

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Directors Roundtable: All seven videos

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— Oliver Gettell


George Clooney on directing: 'Forward momentum' is important

January 23, 2012 |  6:40 pm

Whether a director is trying to coax a nuanced emotional performance or a death-defying stunt from an actor, earning their trust is an important part of the job.

Filmmakers George Clooney ("The Ides of March"), Stephen Daldry ("Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close"), Martin Scorsese ("Hugo"), Alexander Payne ("The Descendants") and Michel Hazanavicius ("The Artist") recently visited the Envelope Directors Roundtable and discussed how crucial trust is on a set and how they establish it.

Clooney, who has worked on both sides of the camera, offered a different perspective. As an actor, he said, he inherently has faith in directors whose work he admires. "If I've seen movies of yours that I like and think are good," he said, "then I automatically have a trust."

One of the challenges Clooney has faced in his transition to directing has been earning that same measure of trust with his own casts. "That's a tricky thing to do," he said, but he attempts to do so by keeping things moving, having a point of view and being confident in his choices. "If actors smell blood in the water, the first thing they do is sort of take over," he said.

Hear more of what Clooney and his peers had to say in the video above, and check back tomorrow for a new video from the roundtable.

RELATED:

Alexander Payne on directing: casting is 'first among equals'

Stephen Daldry: Young Thomas Horn is 'a proper leading man'

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— Oliver Gettell


Stephen Daldry: Young Thomas Horn is 'a proper leading man'

January 19, 2012 | 12:02 pm

Alexander Payne Michel Hazanavicius Stephen Daldry Martin Scorse and George Clooney

Never work with children or animals, says the old show-business adage — advice largely ignored by five of this year's top directors.

In a visit to the recent Envelope Directors Roundtable, filmmakers Stephen Daldry ("Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close"), Martin Scorsese ("Hugo"), Alexander Payne ("The Descendants"), Michel Hazanavicius ("The Artist") and George Clooney ("The Ides of March") spoke to The Times' John Horn about some of the unique challenges of working with kids and dogs.

In the case of Daldry and Thomas Horn (no relation to John), the 14-year-old star of "Extremely Loud," the director had to work around regulated hours, schooling sessions and meal breaks. "You don't have them for long," Daldry said of child actors.

Luckily, Thomas' talent made up for the extra work. "In terms of his professionalism and dedication and his preparation and his charm on set and his clarity and intelligence — no issues at all," Daldry said of the young actor, a first-timer. "He was fantastic."

Scorsese rattled off a list of challenges he faced shooting "Hugo": two child actors (Asa Butterfield and Chloe Moretz), a 3-D camera rig, dogs — "and then Sacha Baron Cohen," he deadpanned.

See more of what the directors had to say in the video below, and check back for more clips from the Directors Roundtable on Friday and next week.

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George Clooney, director: I look for films 'in my wheelhouse'

Martin Scorsese: Doing just one shot makes a fine 'first half-day'

Alexander Payne: Machinery of filmmaking mars 'intimacy of a shoot'

— Oliver Gettell

Photo: Directors Alexander Payne, from left, Michel Hazanavicius, Stephen Daldry, Martin Scorsese and George Clooney gather to discuss their craft. Credit: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times


Alexander Payne: Machinery of filmmaking mars 'intimacy of a shoot'

January 18, 2012 |  2:20 pm

George Clooney, Martin Scorsese, Stephen Daldry, Michel Hazanavicius, and Alexander Payne (from left) joined The Times' John Horn (in blue shirt) to talk about the art of moviemaking at the Envelope's Directors Roundtable

Given all the moving parts involved in making a motion picture, it's inevitable that things will go wrong and bad days will be had. When that happens, it's up to the director to get things back on track.

At this year's third annual Envelope Directors Roundtable, filmmakers Alexander Payne ("The Descendants"), Stephen Daldry ("Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close"), Martin Scorsese ("Hugo"), George Clooney ("The Ides of March") and Michel Hazanavicius ("The Artist") shared some of their setbacks and off days with Times film reporter John Horn.

Payne groused about the logistical nightmare of shooting on the water: "For a nice little scene of a couple people spreading ashes," he said, "it's like we call out the damn National Guard."

Daldry recounted a time when David Kross, a young actor in his previous film "The Reader," broke his arm shooting a stunt that didn't even make the final cut of the movie. Fortunately, though Kross was initially expected to be out three months, "He was back the next day," Daldry said.

Some days, Scorsese said, "you don't have the spark. Something is lost." And, he added, "you know it."

To hear more about the directors' mishaps, and how they dealt with them, watch the video below. And check back for more clips from the Directors Roundtable throughout the week.

RELATED:

9/11 drama puts director Stephen Daldry to the test

George Clooney on directing: I look for films 'in my wheelhouse'

Martin Scorsese: Doing just one shot makes a fine 'first half-day'

— Oliver Gettell

Photo: George Clooney, left, Martin Scorsese, Stephen Daldry, Michel Hazanavicius, and Alexander Payne joined The Times' John Horn, third from left, to talk about the art of moviemaking. Credit: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times


Martin Scorsese: Doing just one shot makes a fine 'first half-day'

January 17, 2012 |  5:24 pm

Martin Scorsese, Stephen Daldry and George Clooney before the Envelope's Directors Roundtable
Even big-time filmmakers aren't immune to a bit of anxiety when it comes to the first day on set. One prominent director admits that all the apparatus of a Hollywood production puts him on edge: "I'm always fearing it's going to mar the intimacy of what I'm hoping to shoot."

Another finds himself grappling with self-doubt: "It's really scary for me. I think to myself, 'Why did I want that? Why did I ask all these people to make something?' "

At The Times' recent Directors Roundtable, filmmakers Alexander Payne ("The Descendants"), Michel Hazanavicius ("The Artist"), George Clooney ("The Ides of March"), Stephen Daldry ("Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close") and Martin Scorsese ("Hugo") talked about how nerve-racking it can be to start a new film, and how they deal with it.

Daldry and Scorsese said they often ease into a shoot with tests, rehearsals or single shots. On the other hand, Payne acknowledged that sometimes one has to dive right into a big scene, as logistical issues forced him to do on "The Descendants." And Clooney shared a crafty directing trick he borrowed from Sidney Lumet.

Hear more of what they had to say in the video below. Check back for more clips throughout the week.

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The return of Alexander Payne

Michel Hazanavicius takes a gamble on silent film

George Clooney on directing: I look for films 'in my wheelhouse'

— Oliver Gettell

Photo: Martin Scorsese, Stephen Daldry and George Clooney before the Envelope's Directors Roundtable. Credit: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times


George Clooney on directing: I look for films 'in my wheelhouse'

January 16, 2012 |  4:30 pm

George Clooney and Martin Scorsese at The Envelope's directors roundtable
Every film begins with a decision — not whom to cast, where to shoot or how much to spend, but simply what to make. At The Times' third annual Directors Roundtable, five of the year's top filmmakers came together to discuss their current Oscar-contending films and their creative processes, which start with that first choice of what story to tell.

In this first excerpt from the roundtable, directors George Clooney ("The Ides of March"), Stephen Daldry ("Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close"), Michel Hazanavicius ("The Artist"), Alexander Payne ("The Descendants") and Martin Scorsese ("Hugo") talk to The Times' John Horn about how they decide which movies to bring to life.

"I've been lucky enough to experience different reasons for making pictures," Scorsese says. "Primarily the ones that I've always been very passionate about are the ones I've simply had to get made at one point or another, and I was pretty lucky to get them made over the years."

Hazanavicius adds, "There's a hunch, something that tells you there's a good movie to make, and there's a movie I can be comfortable with for two years or three years [while making it] and actually the rest of your life, because you have to live with it."

See all of what the directors had to say in the video below, and check back every day this week for a new clip from the roundtable.

RELATED:

Golden Globes: Martin Scorsese wins best director

9/11 drama puts director Stephen Daldry to the test

George Clooney on Alexander Payne: 'He doesn't work enough'

— Oliver Gettell

Photo: George Clooney and Martin Scorsese at the Envelope Directors Roundtable. Credit: Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times.


Gold Standard: Predicting the best director Oscar nominees

November 12, 2011 |  7:00 am

Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo in The Artist
As the movie awards season progresses, the Gold Standard column will handicap the current state of the races in The Envelope and at 24 Frames — ranking them by likelihood of a nomination. Check back often for updates. Here, we look at the director contenders.

DIRECTOR
1. Michel Hazanavicius, “The Artist”
2. Alexander Payne, “The Descendants”
3. Stephen Daldry, “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close”
4. Steven Spielberg, “War Horse”
5. Terrence Malick, “The Tree of Life”

Bubbling under: David Fincher, “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”; Bennett Miller, “Moneyball”; Martin Scorsese, “Hugo”; Tomas Alfredson, “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”; Clint Eastwood, “J. Edgar”; Woody Allen, “Midnight in Paris”

For your consideration: Steve McQueen, “Shame.” Can a movie that explicitly explores the depths of sexual desire be accessible (at least when compared to McQueen’s hell-on-earth, prison-strike debut, “Hunger”) and (please don’t judge us) even relatable on some basic, human levels? Answer to both: Yes, in McQueen’s impeccably crafted “Shame.”

Analysis: Daldry has never not been nominated. (Even for “Billy Elliot.” Really.) People have been seen crying during the “War Horse” trailer. (Probably not the same people who will be voting for Fincher and “Dragon Tattoo,” but still …) And Malick? Maybe voters don’t grasp everything going on in “Tree,” but there is an innate understanding that some pretty deep thoughts are being beamed their way on a level few filmmakers attempt.

RELATED:

The Gold Standard: Predicting the best picture race

— Glenn Whipp

Photo: Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo star in "The Artist." Credit: The Weinstein Co.


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