24 Frames

Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Directors

Director Frank Capra to be honored with U.S. postage stamp

August 10, 2011 |  3:03 pm


The U.S. Postal Service announced Wednesday that three-time Oscar winner Frank Capra would be the second director honored in 2012 with a Great Film Directors postage stamp.

The first honoree, John Ford, was announced last week.

Capra, who began has career in silent film comedies, earned Oscars for directing the 1934 best picture winner "It Happened One Night," the 1936 social comedy "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town" and the 1938 best picture "You Can't Take It With You." Capra also directed such classics as 1937's fantasy "Lost Horizon," the 1939 political drama "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" and 1946's "It's a Wonderful Life." His final film was 1961's "Pocketful of Miracles," a remake of his own 1933 film, "Lady for a Day."

Capra died in 1991 at the age of 94.

The "forever" stamp features an illustration of Capra as well as the famed scene from "It Happened One Night" in which Clark Gable tutors Claudette Colbert on the fine art of hitchhiking. Art director Derry Noyes designed the stamp using art by illustrator Gary Kelley, who created the images using pastels on paper. The forever designation means that the stamps will remain valid for first-class postage regardless of any future rate increases.

The two other directors to be honored will be announced at a later date.


 -- Susan King

Photo: 2012 Frank Capra "forever" stamp. Credit: U.S. Postal Service 

Venice Film Festival lineup: Polanski, Friedkin, Cronenberg

July 28, 2011 |  9:40 am

David Cronenberg The 68th Venice Film Festival, which is to take place Aug. 31 through Sept. 10, unveiled its lineup Thursday morning. Besides the previously announced opening-night film, "The Ides of March," the political thriller starring and directed by George Clooney, Venice will be screening such high-profile productions as Tomas Alfredson's "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy"; David Cronenberg's "A Dangerous Method"; William Friedkin's "Killer Joe"; Steve McQueen's "Shame"; Roman Polanski's "Carnage"; and Todd Solondz's "Dark Horse."

Several of these films will also be screening at the Toronto Film Festival, which is to take place Sept. 8-19.

Venice is the first major fall film festival and is one of the first stops for filmmakers hoping the exposure will lead to Oscar gold in February.

Last year's opening-night film, "Black Swan," directed by Darren Aronofsky, went on to earn numerous Academy Award nominations, including best film and best director. Star Natalie Portman took home the Oscar for lead actress. Aronofsky is to head up the Venice jury this year. The full program can be viewed at the festival's website.


Darren Aronofsky to head Venice Film Festival jury

Oscar pundits in our forums back "Ides of March" and "War Horse"

George Clooney, Brad Pitt highlight Toronto film festival lineup

-- Susan King

Photo: David Cronenberg. Credit: Damian Dovarganes /Associated Press

'Bad Teacher' director aims for new classroom

May 4, 2011 |  6:28 pm

EXCLUSIVE: Jake Kasdan is already getting good buzz for "Bad Teacher," the raunchy Cameron Diaz comedy that opens next month. Now he looks to be gearing up for a new comedy.

The filmmaker is set to come aboard a movie called "Family Getaway," according to a person who was briefed on the project but asked not to be identified because of the sensitive nature of the discussions.

The Warner Bros. film is a dysfunctional-family tale about a clan that has to go on the run after its Thanksgiving dinner is crashed by assassins ("Little Miss Sunshine" meets Jason Bourne, is the pitch line).

The film is  based on an original script from up-and-coming writers Jeremiah Friedman and Nick Palmer, who are also writing "The Bodyguard' remake for the studio. A Warner Bros. spokeswoman was not immediately available for comment.

Kasdan has directed a number of commercial comedies, including "Orange County" and "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story." 'Bad Teacher," costarring Justin Timberlake, is drawing attention for its devil-may-care antics, particularly Diaz's. Jake is also the son of Larry Kasdan, the writer and director with "The Big Chill," "Body Heat" and "The Empire Strikes Back" among his credits.

Gibson and Palmer's "The Bodyguard" credit gives "Getaway" an added Kasdan connection: Larry wrote the original.


Cameron Diaz looks to reclaim her R-rated mojo

--Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Cameron Diaz in "Bad Teacher." Credit: Sony Pictures

What was Sidney Lumet's best film? [Poll]

April 11, 2011 |  2:36 pm

The death of Sidney Lumet this weekend evoked the legacy of a man who made some extraordinarily complex -- but highly accessible -- dramas over half a century in filmmaking. As The Times' Betsy Sharkey writes in her appreciation today, "His were grown-up stories, most often New York stories, of adults caught up in fundamental conflicts.... [Lumet was] intensely in love with humanity, forgiving of its flaws."

For decades, high school students have watched "12 Angry Men" with perhaps only a shade less appreciation than media insiders enjoy "Network." But what was his best movie? Certainly there's a case to be made for "Network" and its colorful characters and prophetic qualities. With its sharp dialogue and slow-burn revelations, "Men" made the subject of evidentiary details compelling (and helped birth the modern courtroom thriller).

"Serpico" was one of the great cinematic stories of cops and corruption, as was "Prince of the City." "Dog Day Afternoon" tread the same rich ground while also breaking a taboo. And younger film fans will remember the jewel-heist twists and family secrets of "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead," the director's last movie in 2007.

Which Lumet picture was best? Vote and tell us your thoughts below.


Sidney Lumet: An Appreciation

Award-winning director Sidney Lumet dies

--Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Henry Fonda in "12 Angry Men." Credit: MGM

Acclaimed filmmaker Sidney Lumet dies at 86

April 9, 2011 | 10:21 am


Filmmaker Sidney Lumet died Saturday. He was 86.

Lumet, whose film career spanned more than 50 years, died of lymphoma at his home in New York, said Marc Kusnetz, who is the husband of Lumet's stepdaughter, Leslie Gimbel.

Lumet had a rich and diverse career directing primarily dramatic films, often with cops and lawyers at the center. His best-known works include the influential "Dog Day Afternoon" and "Serpico," both in which he collaborated with Al Pacino.

Those movies, as well as films such as his acclaimed "Prince of the City," used a gritty New York City as a backdrop. "He also directed the enduring broadcast-news satire "Network," which many pundits now deem prophetic.

Lumet was a prolific director who continued directing well after the 1960s and '70s heyday of himself and his compatriots. In the 1980s he directed the legal thriller "The Verdict" and the radicalism tale "Running on Empty."

Lumet continued making movies into his twilight years, most recently directing Philip Seymour Hoffman and Ethan Hawke in the 2007 caper-cum-morality drama "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead."

His daughter Jenny continues in the family business as a screenwriter.

Despite four nominations, Sidney Lumet never received a directing Oscar. He was eventually given a lifetime achievement Academy Award in 2005.

-- Steven Zeitchik


Photo: "Dog Day Afternoon." Credit: Warner Bros.

'Deadpool' swims with a new director

April 8, 2011 |  2:34 pm

EXCLUSIVE: There have been few film-development realms as twisty as the search for a director of "Deadpool," the Ryan Reynolds action film based on the Marvel antihero.

Robert Rodriguez had at one time been in negotiations to direct it, but he and studio Fox couldn't make a deal. Swedish director Adam Berg was an intriguing candidate for a while, then he wasn't.

But now the Fox comic-book film appears to have found its director. According to two people who were briefed on the project but not authorized to talk about it publicly, visual-effects savant Tim Miller is set to come on and make his directorial debut with the movie. Fox could not immediately be reached for comment.

Miller knows superheroes, and Fox knows him: The filmmaker worked on effects for the studio's comic-book films such as "X-Men" and "Daredevil." More recently, he worked on effects for the visuals-heavy "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World."

Deadpool, also known as Wade Wilson, is the at times mentally unstable Marvel character who cracked snarky while perpetrating gruesome acts of violence.

Reynolds has a packed schedule, but the film has been a priority for him. The project could also become more of a priority at Fox as another of its superhero hopefuls, "Wolverine," sits without a director in the wake of Darren Aronofsky's departure.

-- Steven Zeitchik


Image: "Deadpool." Credit: Marvel


A new entrant into the Deadpool

Deadpool shows signs of life

Swimming in a murky deadpool

Betsy Sharkey's film pick of the week: Eddie O'Keefe's 'The Ghosts'

April 7, 2011 |  3:54 pm

The ghosts
Now for something a little different.

About a year ago, at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art's annual Young Directors Night -- which screens short films of emerging artists whom the museum's curators believe have the "it" factor -- I met Eddie O’Keefe. I was part of the host panel; he was one of the five live wires featured that night. He said he loved Americana, favored making films about delinquent teens and that he currently was "completely lost." Only some of that was true. His "Sun Sessions" about a teenage Elvis fanatic going through a bad breakup made everyone smile.

Earlier this week, I got a look at O'Keefe's latest ironic twist of film and fate in his new short "The Ghosts." It's a modern-day retro take on young love and class conflicts set to a cool contemporary track.  Echoes of "Rumble Fish," but not exactly, because O'Keefe's offcenter sensibility is distinctly his. That's not surprising, given that he writes, directs, acts, shoots, edits and occasionally makes sandwiches.

So for a little taste of the up-and-coming, head to a computer near you, where "The Ghosts" is playing  at www.theghostsfilm.com.

As for Eddie, he's just another Midwestern kid who came to Hollywood with big dreams. If that’s not the stuff of movies, I don’t know what is.

–- Betsy Sharkey

Photo: "The Ghosts" gang from writer-director Eddie O'Keefe's new short film. Credit: Eddie O'Keefe

Sundance 2011: From the gangs of Boston to the theaters of Park City

January 24, 2011 | 12:00 pm

Elgin It often takes directors years to make it to Sundance -- just take it from one would-be filmmaker who ranted from the crowd during the question-and-answer session at a movie on opening night here, yelling angrily that his project had been denied entrance into the festival.

Elgin James had his own struggle. James, the writer-director of "Little Birds," which premiered Sunday night in Park City, Utah, grew up as a Boston gang member who spent years tangled up in crime and homelessness. He credits Sundance Institute Labs with helping him turn things around -- that was where he developed his debut film, which stars Juno Temple and Kay Panabaker as  teenagers who flee their hometown at the Salton Sea for Los Angeles.

Before the film's premiere, James took the stage, fearful he might "throw up or start to cry," speaking emotionally about his upbringing.

"My mom was diagnosed with cancer and wrote a letter to me and each of my sisters to say goodbye," he recalled, pausing to hold back tears. "She said to be more and do more, and it wasn't too late for a second chance. I was a loser in a street gang, and I sat by her in the hospital promising and whispering to her that I would do more with my life."

While the film is told largely from the perspective of its female protagonist (Temple), it's evident that much of the plot comes from James' own experience. Temple's character is prompted to leave the Salton Sea after she shares a kiss with a boy who is a member of an L.A.-based group of hoodlums. Panabaker's character tries to stop her best friend from running away but is ultimately convinced to tag along.

Once they arrive in Hollywood, the girls are quickly lured into bad behavior: They begin by stealing candy from a convenience store but quickly find themselves contributing to a scheme in which they hold a man at gunpoint. It's clear James doesn't want to glorify this bad behavior: Panabaker's character serves as the moral compass, and he makes the gang members out to be lewd losers whose jokes often fall flat.

More unclear was how the audience received James' debut on Sunday. One Oscilloscope executive was seen departing the theater only an hour into the movie. Still, the audience's affection for James and his story was evident: Every time he took the stage, shouts and applause echoed throughout the theater. Whether that praise was for his film or for his success at overcoming his inner foes, however, was uncertain.

-- Amy Kaufman in Park City, Utah


Photo: Elgin James at the premiere of his film "Little Birds." Credit: Mario Anzuoni / Reuters.


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Sundance 2011: Montana rolls out the red carpet for one film, 'Winter in the Blood'

Sundance 2011: Can the documentary 'Buck' pull a 'Blind Side'?

'Barney's Version' director Richard J. Lewis goes from evidence to existence

December 29, 2010 |  9:00 am

It's unusual enough these days to make a movie about the broad canvas of a life. It's even more atypical if you just spent a decade on a prime-time hit about the specific details of a death.

That's the transition Richard J. Lewis, a former Canadian tennis prodigy who spent years as the executive producer on "CSI," undertook in adapting  Mordecai Richler's sprawling first-person novel "Barney's Version," which is having an Oscar-qualifying run in Los Angeles.

"I hear people say, 'You're not supposed to have a heart; you're from "CSI."' I think directors should able to jump about, not just in mediums but in genre," Lewis said in a recent interview with 24 Frames.

Despite their manifest differences, Lewis says his hallmark show, which he began working on as a director and writer nine years ago, and his new movie aren't really that far apart. "When you're telling a story in television, it's really important you pare away all the useless crap, strip everything away to its essentials," he said. "That's pretty helpful when you're trying to pack a 470-page novel into a two-hour movie."

That novel already packs in a lot itself: Richler's phenomenon (in Canada) is a verbally deft, morally complicated story about an oily television producer named Barney Panofsky (played in the film by Paul Giamatti) who's also a Renaissance man, romantic, wiseguy and a possible murderer. As he nears old age and a possible case of Alzheimer's, he flashes back on his rich and complicated life.

Continue reading »

Karyn Kusama looks to get out of the rut

July 29, 2010 |  1:14 pm

EXCLUSIVE: Former indie darling Karyn Kusama struggled with her last release, the Diablo Cody-penned, Megan Fox-starring genre tale, "Jennifer's Body."

BodyBut she'll try to get out of the rut by going into, well, "The Rut." Sources say that the writer-director is developing a new project with that name, which takes her in a slightly different direction from her previous movies.

"Body" indulged in and sent up conventions of the high school slasher movie, and her "Aeon Flux" was an action-adventure film with science-fiction and fantasy overtones. "The Rut" concerns a father-daughter relationship and centers particularly on hunting, as a daughter must learn the tricks of hunting and archery taught to her by her father after said father goes missing. (It does, however, keep Kusama with the girl-empowerment theme.)

Chloë Moretz, who after her Hit Girl turn in "Kick-Ass" can pretty much do no wrong with the fan crowd, is in talks to star as the daughter.

Kusama is an interesting example/template for many of the indie directors who are now being lured to commercial films ("Spider-Man" director Marc Webb comes to mind). Kusama was hot after her indie boxing drama "Girlfight" won both the director's prize and a grand jury prize at Sundance a decade ago and was quickly hired for the more commercial "Body" and "Flux, but both disappointed at the box office.

It's a lot easier to get out of the indie rut than it is to get out of the box-office rut.

-- Steven Zeitchik


Image: Poster of "Jennifer's Body." Credit: Fox Atomic

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