24 Frames

Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Ang Lee

Around Town: Return to 'Brokeback Mountain'

June 7, 2012 |  6:00 am



Oscar-winning director Ang Lee and producer James Schamus will be on hand at the Film Independent at LACMA screening Thursday evening at the Leo S. Bing Theater of their seminal 2005 drama "Brokeback Mountain."

Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana also earned an Oscar for the screenplay adaptation of Annie Proulx' short story about the love affair that develops between two young cowboys (Heath Ledger, who was nominated for lead actor Oscar, and supporting nominee Jake Gyllenhaal). Gustova Santaolalla won the Oscar for his haunting score.

In conjunction with the exhibition, "Fracture: Daido Moriyama," LACMA is continuing its "High and Low: Postwar Japan in Black and White" this Friday and Saturday. The series begins Friday evening with 1962's "Pigs and Battleships," directed by Shohei Imamura, followed by Imamura's 1966 "The Pornographers." Saturday's offerings are Toshio Matsumoto's 1969 "Funeral Parade of Roses" and Akira Kurosawa's 1963 thriller "High and Low," starring Toshira Mifune. http://www.lacma.org

The fourth annual Hollywood Brazilian Film Festival continues through Sunday at the Egyptian Theatre. The festival highlights both feature-length and short films from up-and-coming filmmakers from the South American country. Admission is free for the majority of films, but reservations have to be made online at http://www.hbrfest.eventbrite.com

The New Beverly presents two Martin Scorsese rock documentaries -- 1978's "The Last Waltz," featuring the Band, and 2008's "Shine a Light," starring the Rolling Stones. http://newbevcinema.com

UCLA Film & Television Archive's celebrating of Universal Pictures' 100th anniversary is presenting a new print Friday evening at the Billy Wilder Theater of James Whale's landmark 1931 horror film "Frankenstein," starring Colin Clive as the not-so-good doctor and Boris Karloff in his star-making role as the monster. Karloff also scares up some frights in the second feature, 1932's "The Mummy," directed by Karl Freund, who later became the cinematographer on "I Love Lucy." Historian James Curtis, author of "James Whale: A New World of Gods and Monsters," will be on hand. http://www.cinema.ucla.edu

Starting Friday, Cinefamily at the Silent Movie Theatre is presenting a week-long engagement of a new 35mm print of the 1974 Jacques Rivette French classic "Celine and Julie Go Boating," starring Dominique Labourier and Juliet Berto. http://www.cinefamily.org

Gregory Peck stars as the title character in 1950's "The Gunfighter," Henry King's landmark Western, screening Saturday at the Autry. http://www.theautry.org

Laura Dern, Cuba Gooding Jr., Greg Kinnear and Mena Suvari are scheduled to present at the 39th Student Academy Awards, Saturday evening at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater. The ceremony honors outstanding filmmakers from both the United States and abroad. Past award winners include Spike Lee, Robert Zemeckis, John Lasseter, Pete Docter and Trey Parker. Tickets are free but must be reserved at http://www.oscars.org

Long before he became Tim Burton's muse, Johnny Depp played one of the victims of villain Freddy Krueger, who wears a glove adorned with razors, in Wes Craven's 1984 horror favorite "Nightmare on Elm Street." It screens Saturday evening at Cinespia at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. http://cinespia.org/calendar

Richard Linklater's cult favorite, 1993's "Dazed and Confused," screens Saturday evening at Devil's Night Drive-In in downtown Los Angeles. http://www.devilsnight.com/drivein.htm

Grauman's Chinese Theatre is offering movies at the legendary movie palace for just 25 cents on Monday evenings in celebration of the theater's 85th anniversary. This Monday, the Chinese Theatre is screening the 1960 epic "Spartacus." Before the screening, star Kirk Douglas will be on hand for the unveiling of his refurbished hand/foot/chin prints and sign copies of his new book, "I Am Spartacus! Making a Film, Breaking the Blacklist." http://www.chinesetheatres.com 

The third annual New Media Film Festival visits the Landmark Theatre in West Los Angeles on Tuesday and Wednesday. Among the opening night films is the Los Angeles premiere of the short "Ray Bradbury's Kaleidoscope." The author, who died on Tuesday, was to have been there in person to receive the Legend Award.  http://www.newmediafilmfestival.com

The Skirball's free Tuesday matinee features the 1946 Warner Bros. romantic melodrama "Humoresque," with Joan Crawford as a wealthy socialite who sets her sights on a young violinist (John Garfield). http://www.skirball.org

Pat Boone will be on hand along with author Roland Kibbey to sign copies of "Pat Boone: The Hollywood Years"  before the screening Wednesday at the American Cinematheque's Egyptian Theatre of his 1962 musical romance "State Fair." Boone and his white bucks will chat about his experiences after the film.

The Cinematheque's Aero Theatre serves up the L.A. premiere Wednesday of the 2010 documentary "Music from the Big House," which follows Canadian blues singer's Rita Chiarelli's journey to the birth of the blues -- Louisiana State Maximum Security Penitentiary, a.k.a. Angola Prison. There will be a performance and discussion with Chiarelli after the screening. http://www.americancinematheque.com


Can 'Brokeback Mountain' move the heartland?

-- Susan King

Photo: "Brokeback Mountain" screens Thursday at LACMA. Photo: Kimberly French / Focus Features

CinemaCon: Ang Lee's 3-D 'Life of Pi' inspires early Oscar talk

April 26, 2012 |  3:08 pm

"Life of Pi"

LAS VEGAS -- 20th Century Fox showed off footage from a handful of splashy summer blockbusters, including Ridley Scott's "Prometheus" and "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter," at CinemaCon, the theater owners' convention now underway. But studio co-chairmen Tom Rothman and Jim Gianopulos made it clear that they're hopeful their biggest movie this year will be December's "Life of Pi," Ang Lee's 3-D adaptation of Yann Martel's best-selling novel.

"Ang wants to raise the bar," Rothman said. "The medium skips forward again [with 'Life of Pi'], and you will believe the unbelievable."

Indeed, the footage shown from the film seemed to inspire a resounding positive reaction from the crowd. In it, 17-year-old protagonist Pi finds himself on a cargo ship with his family and a slew of zoo animals when a storm begins to rage in the middle of the night. The young man rushes to the ship's deck to witness the intense weather first-hand when he ends up being thrown overboard and into a lifeboat with a zebra and a Bengal tiger. The 3-D technology was especially impressive in the underwater scenes, where Pi floated lifelessly for nearly a minute, and in moments when waves of bubbling water and animals came rushing toward him.

Despite the encouraging response from the crowd -- many of whom were even brought to tears and seemed quick to proclaim the movie a possible Oscar contender -- Lee immediately walked on stage and told the audience: "It's unfinished! When you see the movie, it will be a lot more moving."

In an interview after the screening, the "Brokeback Mountain" filmmaker said being compared to directors like James Cameron and George Lucas -- two directors who appeared along with Lee in a promo reel screened at the event -- made him uncomfortable.

"To be honest with you, I like to be modest," the 57-year-old said. "I would like people to get surprised about my work, instead of it being over-hyped. That's what I'd be more comfortable with. But it's a big picture. I have to go with the flow."

Lee said it was the performance of young Indian actor Suraj Sharma, chosen from more than 3,000 hopefuls, that ultimately inspired him to move forward with the technically challenging production -- even though Sharma couldn't swim when he was first cast.

"I met him, I tested him, and he held his breath for 20 seconds. So I got him a swimming coach, work-out coach -- every coach," the filmmaker said with a laugh. "He gives an emotional performance in a movie that has the look of a family film, but it's also a movie about big ideas. I hope people will spend weeks talking about it -- that's my idea of a family film."


CinemaCon: James Franco, Mila Kunis talk 'Oz' [video]

Ang Lee says his 3-D learning curve on 'Life of Pi' was huge

'Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter' director: U.S. films losing voice

--Amy Kaufman


Photo: "Life of Pi" Credit: Rhythm and Hues / 20th Century Fox

Ang Lee says his 3-D learning curve on 'Life of Pi' was huge

April 25, 2012 |  7:09 pm

“Life of Pi’s” Pi (played by Suraj Sharma) and a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker

LAS VEGAS -- Ang Lee didn't make the decision to film "Life of Pi" in 3-D lightly. For months, he agonized over whether the technology would enhance the story or come across as a gimmick. In the end, it was the number pi that inspired him to make the leap.

Making an expensive 3-D film based on an intellectual, philosophical book required Lee to take "a leap of faith to see the circle that the pi indicates," the filmmaker said at CinemaCon, the theater owners' convention now underway in Las Vegas. On Wednesday, the Oscar-winning director joined Martin Scorsese in conversation, speaking candidly about the future of 3-D and its importance in the industry.

Despite his belief in the format, Lee was open about his struggle to adapt to the technology. While filming "Life of Pi," he said, the 3-D cameras were cumbersome, and he compared working with them to "operating a refrigerator." While directing 17-year-old actor Suraj Sharma, Lee thought he was giving appropriate instructions until he watched the footage in 3-D. "I'd have to go back to him and bring his performance down because it just enhanced it so much more. It's like a new film language," Lee said, describing his learning curve as "humongous."

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Ang Lee's 'Life of Pi' to go deep next year, in 3-D

September 21, 2011 |  2:56 pm

Ang lee
Most of the movies Hollywood plans to release in 3-D in 2012 share similar subject matter -- superheroes, aliens, superheroes battling aliens. But "Life of Pi," Ang Lee's adaptation of the bestselling spiritual book about a boy stranded alone on a boat with a tiger, will be one of the first largely character-driven movies to test the format, according to Fox Filmed Entertainment Chairman and CEO Tom Rothman, who spoke to an audience of video game, visual effects and other entertainment industry professionals at the 3D Entertainment Summit in Hollywood on Wednesday.

"This book is hard to imagine as a movie," Rothman said of "Life of Pi," which Lee began shooting early this year in Taiwan and India with first-time actor Suraj Sharma as Pi. "It's got two characters, one a young Indian boy and the other a tiger. There's also a boat. And a lot of water. And that is basically it."

Rothman said of the approximately 35 3-D Hollywood movies due in 2012, "most of that quantity is genre-oriented, more male driven. 'Life of Pi' is decidedly not that."

Calling the movie "a tremendous gamble" for his studio, Rothman said Lee, who won an Academy Award for directing the 2005 drama "Brokeback Mountain," "was adamant that that movie be in 3-D."

"Ang believes he can use 3-D to envelop the audience, to transport the audience on what is a very metaphysical journey," Rothman said. "It's a different language of storytelling. He's using the stereoscope to adjust the audience's relationship to that character."

The adaptation of Yann Martel's 2001 book, from a script by David Magee, will come to screens in December 2012. 

Another 3-D movie in production with appeal outside the fanboy set is Baz Luhrmann's "The Great Gatsby," starring Leonardo DiCaprio, which is also due for release in 2012.


Last Gasp of the Gatsby House

'Life of Pi' suffers another blow

-- Rebecca Keegan

'Life of Pi' suffers another blow

May 27, 2010 |  7:12 pm

EXCLUSIVE: Speaking of difficult books and the development challenges that accompany them, here comes another example, and it's a high-profile one.

Pi"Life of Pi," Yann Martel's bestselling Booker Prize winner that has had more development go-rounds than a male Bengal tiger has mates, may  be on its way back to the development cage. Eclectic director Ang Lee had been set to shoot the movie, possibly even  in 3-D, but budget concerns appear to be putting the project on hold.

Lee and producer Gil Netter have returned to Fox 2000 with a budget that sources say is too high for the studio division. (A recent Indiewire piece  put it in the $70 million range.)

The filmmakers can still reconfigure the budget, but until they do, the film isn't moving forward. (Netter didn't immediately return a call for comment.)

That the project remains active at all is at least partly thanks to the devotion of  Fox 2000 chief Elizabeth Gabler, who has been hugely keen on a “Pi” film.

Gabler has a fair amount of clout within Fox, and Fox 2000 has been highly profitable for the studio with other mid-budget book-based movies, such as "Marley & Me" and "The Devil Wears Prada." But those films, of course, had commercial hooks. This one, about a boy named Pi who finds himself trapped on a boat with a tiger after a shipwreck that sees many other animals meet their end, could be difficult to market (and, it should be noted, difficult to film).

If the Lee version doesn't work out, it wouldn't be the first time a name-brand director took on, then wound up separating from, a "Pi" adaptation.

Genre notables like M. Night Shyamalan and Alfonso Cuaron, along with French auteur Jean-Pierre Jeunet, have all been on board to direct a version of the film at some point. Fox is generally cost-conscious, and the fact that this movie, despite its bestseller status, can be a tricky shoot has them especially concerned -- particularly given the high number of CG creatures, as well as the water-bound location, which tends to drive up budgets in general.  On top of all that, "Pi" is exactly the kind of specialized, non-tentpole movie that nearly all studios are staying away from these days.

The title character in "Life of Pi" survived a difficult 227 days on a raft floating through dangerous waters. The film project may have to endure even more.

-- Steven Zeitchik and John Horn



Photo: "Life of Pi" book jacket. Credit: Canongate Books

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