24 Frames

Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Family Films

Around Town: Max von Sydow plays chess with death again

February 2, 2012 |  6:00 am

Max von Sydow

One of international cinema’s most acclaimed actors, Max von Sydow, who is best known for his iconic work for director Ingmar Bergman, visits the American Cinematheque’s Aero Theatre on Monday evening.

 The Aero is screening the seminal 1957 Bergman film “The Seventh Seal,” in which Von Sydow stars as a medieval knight playing chess with Death, as well as his latest film, “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close.” Von Sydow, now 82, is nominated for a best supporting actor Oscar as an elderly man who  speaks only via the “Yes” and “No” printed on the palms of his hands.

Film Independent at LACMA presents "An Evening With Gary Oldman" on Friday at the Leo S. Bing Theatre. FIlm Independent curator-historian Elvis Mitchell will lead the conversation with the versatile British actor who has just earned his first Oscar nomination for "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy." The evening will also feature screenings of 1990's "State of Grace" and 2000's "The Contender." The 5 p.m. screening of "State of Grace" is a free, members-only event for Film Independent, LACMA Film Club, New York Times Film Club and Los Angeles County Museum of Art members. But the conversation with Oldman and "The Contender" screening are open to the public and the regular admission applies.

Also on Monday, Oscar nominees Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill will be in conversation followed by a screening of "Moneyball." It is a free event, but only for members of Film Independent, LACMA Film Club, New York Times Film Club and LACMA members. http://www.filmindependent.org/lacma 

 On Saturday at the Cinematheque’s Egyptian, screenwriter Larry Karaszewski (“Ed Wood”) screens “The Loved One,” the 1965 adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s satire of the Southern California funeral business that was directed by Tony Richardson. Karaszewski will have a discussion after the screening with two of the film’s stars, Jonathan Winters and Robert Morse, as well as cinematographer Haskell Wexler, who was also one of the dark comedy’s producers. http://www.americancinematheque.com

 UCLA Film and Television Archive presents the 20th-anniversary screening of Tom Kalin’s “Swoon” on Friday evening at the Billy Wilder Theater. The atmospheric black-and-white drama explores the relationship between Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb, who caused a sensation in the 1920s when they murdered a child just for the thrill of it. Kalin, actor Craig Chester and scholar B. Ruby Rich will be on hand for a discussion. Also screening is the 1990 short “Jollies” by Sadie Benning. http://www.cinema.ucla.edu

 Film Independent at LACMA shines the spotlight on controversial Danish director Lars von Trier on Thursday evening at the Leo S. Bing Theatre with a screening of 1991’s “Zentropa,” a noirish thriller set in post-World War II Germany, and his 1987 version of “Medea,” which was made for Danish TV. http://www.filmindependent.org/lacma

The New Beverly Cinema is getting in the Von Trier act Friday and Saturday with his downbeat 2011 film “Melancholia,” as well as Jeff Nichols’ 2011 indie “Take Shelter,” with Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain, another movie with an end-of-the-world vibe.  http://www.newbevcinema.com

“With Her” is a new documentary short by Laurent Morlet that follows Marilyn Monroe’s dedicated fans belonging to the Marilyn Remember club. The film screens Thursday evening at the Egyptian Theatre, followed by a discussion with Morlet and two members of the fan club. Screening is free to all current Cinematheque members.

The Cinematheque continues with its “Castles in the Sky: Miyazaki, Takahata and the Masters of Studio Ghibli” on Thursday evening at the Aero with the rarely screened 1993 tale of adolescence and teenage isolation, “Ocean Waves.” The film is not available in North America on DVD.  Friday at the Egyptian is Miyazaki’s 1997 anime epic “Princess Mononoke.” On tap for Tuesday at the Egyptian is Miyazaki’s 2002 Oscar-winning “Spirited Away.” And Wednesday’s offering at the Aero is 1999’s “My Neighbors the Yamadas,” directed by Isao Takahata.

 Screening Friday at the Aero is the Los Angeles premiere of the 2011 documentary “Splinters,” which follows four surfers in Papua, New Guinea.  Director Adam Pesce and producer Perrin Chiles will be on hand for a post-screening discussion. http://www.americancinematheque.com

 UCLA’s Film and Television Archive’s “Spencer Tracy: That Natural Thing” continues Sunday at the Billy Wilder Theater with two rarities from the actor’s early years at Fox: 1933’s “Shanghai Madness” with Fay Wray, and 1932’s “Painted Woman” with Peggy Shannon.

 Wednesday’s archive double bill at the Million Dollar Theatre in downtown Los Angeles offers two acclaimed film-noir thrillers: Joseph Lewis’ 1955 production “The Big Combo,” which has been restored by the archive, and Andre de Toth’s “Pitfall” from 1948, starring Dick Powell and Lizabeth Scott. Noir historian Alan K. Rode will be on hand to talk about the films. http://www.cinema.ucla.edu

 LACMA’s Tuesday matinee is Stanley Donen’s 1963 romantic thriller “Charade,” starring Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn and Walter Matthau in a bad-guy role. http://www.lacma.org

 The New Beverly Cinema celebrates the career of the burly Irish actor Brendan Gleeson on Thursday evening with a double bill of two of his best recent films: 2011’s “The Guard,” for which he received a Golden Globe nomination, and 2008’s “In Bruges.”

 Two family films from 1987 are scheduled from Sunday through Tuesday: "Harry and the Hendersons” and “*Batteries Not Included,” with Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy. Joe Carnahan, who directed this past weekend’s No. 1 film “The Grey,” visits the New Beverly on Wednesday with a screening of his 2002 film “Narc” and his 2006 caper “Smokin’ Aces.” http://www.newbevcinema.com

“Music + Image,” a program at REDCAT on Tuesday evening, features video art set to music. The works featured come from screenings and exhibitions at the Long Beach Museum of Art. http://www.redcat.org.

 The Skirball Cultural Center presents the 2007 documentary “A Walk to Beautiful” on Thursday evening. Directed by Kate Grant, who will participate in a question-answer period, the award-winning documentary follows the lives of five Ethiopian women who have been ostracized by their communities because they suffer from fistula after childbirth.

Tuesday’s free matinee is the 1969 drama “Staircase,” starring Rex Harrison and Richard Burton as a gay British couple who work as hairdressers. It was directed by Stanley Donen. http://www.skirball.org

The Seven Dudley Cinema at Beyond Baroque on Thursday evening  presents experimental films by Venice dancer-filmmaker Nathasha Maidoff and works by other experimental moviemakers. http://www.laughtears.com/7dudleycinema.html

 “Cine Love,” a series of romantic French movies, begins Tuesday at the Theatre Raymond Kabbaz in West Los Angeles with “I Do,” a 2006  romp directed by Eric Lartigau and starring Charlotte Gainsbourg and Alain Chabat. http://www.trk.us.com

 The Hollywood Heritage Museum’s “Evening @ the Barn” on Wednesday evening presents “Inside the Hollywood Fan Magazine” with historian Anthony Slide. http://www.hollywoodheritage.org


"Max von Sydow's career speaks volumes"

 -- Susan King


Photo: Max von Sydow in "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close." Credit: Francois Duhamel/Warner Bros.

DGA names 'The Artist's' Michel Hazanavicius best director

January 28, 2012 | 11:17 pm

Scorsese payne hazanavicius fincher dga

This post has been corrected. See the note below for details.

The Directors Guild of America on Saturday evening named Michel Hazanavicius best film director of 2011 for “The Artist,” the nostalgic black-and-white, nearly silent movie that hearkens back to the time of transition in Hollywood from silents to talkies. It is the first guild win for the 44-year-old French filmmaker.

"It's maybe the highest recognition I could hope. I really love directors, I over-respect directors. This is very moving and touching to me," he said, receiving a standing ovation. "Best director -- I really don't know what that means. All movies are different, so it's a strange thing to try to compare them and say which is best, but I'm very happy to get this. Thank you."

The other nominees were Martin Scorsese ("Hugo"), Woody Allen ("Midnight in Paris"), David Fincher ("The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo") and Alexander Payne ("The Descendants").

PHOTOS: Directors Guild of America Awards

The DGA feature film awards are considered one of the most dependable bellwethers for the Academy Awards for best director. Over the past 63 years, the DGA and academy have disagreed on their choices only six times. The last time was nine years ago when Rob Marshall won the DGA award for “Chicago” and Roman Polanski was named best director by the academy for “The Pianist.”

Hazanavicius had already been named best director by the New York Film Critics Circle and the Critics Choice Movie Awards. He was in contention for a Golden Globe and is nominated for a BAFTA and Independent Spirit Award for best director.

Last week, “The Artist” won the Producers Guild of America award, which is one of the indicators for the best film Oscar. On Tuesday, “The Artist” earned 10 Oscar nominations, one less than the top nominee “Hugo.” Hazanavicius is up for three of those Oscars for director, screenplay and editing.

The 64th annual DGA Awards were held at the Grand Ballroom at Hollywood and Highland. Recent Golden Globe winner Kelsey Grammer was the host of the evening, succeeding Carl Reiner, who had become an institution at the event, hosting 24 times. Reiner agreed to host for a final time at the 2011 ceremony.

"Welcome to what will be a glorious night....for some of you. Last year we celebrated the DGA awards of biblical length -- it was so long, the Mayans could not predict an end," he said. "The director's cut was two hours shorter. Even James Cameron said, 'it was too long.'"

Before being named the night's big winner, Hazanavicius was presented with his nominee medallion by his two stars, Berenice Bejo and Jean Dujardin. Upon taking it, he said: "It's a thrill to be here and to be among these wonderful directors. I'm honored," he said in accepting the medallion. "Maybe you haven't noticed but I'm French. I have an accent and I have a name that is very difficult to pronounce. I'm not American and I'm not French, actually. I'm a filmmaker. And I made a film about my love for Hollywood. We create stories that tell people they are not alone. We separate life from shadows. Hollywood helped me grow up. I believed in values like courage, perseverance and integrity."

"I made this film as a love letter to Hollywood. I feel like I am being accepted by you -- not you as Americans but as filmmakers. So thank you." And he added:  "For my wife Berenice, I'm so glad we shared this together and I love you."

The guild gave James Marsh the award for feature documentary for "Project Nim."

The DGA award for best directing in a TV comedy series went to Robert B. Weide, "Curb Your Enthusiasm" ("Palestinian Chicken").

In accepting, Weide said: "I have very mixed feelings about this because this means that I just lost a $300 bet to my wife, Linda. Why do they call this a medallion? It's a plate. I understand when you go to Don Mischer's house for dinner, you actually eat off of these."

Other awards handed out Saturday night:

Movies for Television and Mini-series: Jon Cassar, "The Kennedys"

Dramatic TV series: Patty Jenkins, for the pilot of "The Killing"

Musical variety TV: Glenn Weiss, for the 65th annual Tony Awards 

Reality TV programs: Neil P. Degroot, for "Biggest Loser"

Daytime TV serials: William Ludell, for "General Hospital" ("Intervention")

Children’s programs: Amy Schatz, for "A Child's Garden of Poetry" 

Commercials: Noam Murro

Three special awards were also presented. Ed Sherin was named an Honorary Life Member; Katy Garretson received the Frank Capra Achievement Award; and Dennis Mazzocco recieved the Franklin J. Schaffner Achievement Award.

[For the record, 5:30 p.m. Jan. 29: A previous version of this post misspelled the last name of "Project Nim" director James Marsh as March.]


Oscar nominations: Woody Allen, Martin Scorsese top list for best director

Oscar nominations: Who's been hottest so far this awards season?

'The Descendants' expands rapdily, 'The Artist' slowly

-- Jasmine Elist and Susan King

Photo: Directors Martin Scorsese, Alexander Payne, Michel Hazanavicius and David Fincher attend the 64th Annual Directors Guild Of America Awards Meet the Nominees Breakfast held at the DGA on Saturday.Credit: Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for DGA 


How many new Snow White movies does the world need?

November 1, 2010 |  7:06 pm

The answer: many, at least as far as Hollywood is concerned.

The movie business has been scrambling for the past several months to bring the classic fairy tale — most famously incarnated 73 years ago in Disney's first feature-length animated film — back to the big screen.

Now we're getting closer to seeing a new version. Or three new versions.

The upstart distributor Relativity confirmed Monday afternoon that the commercials director Tarsem Singh — he of the sweeping "The Fall" a few years back — will be directing the company's version of the fairy tale. The movie is a more classic take on the Brothers Grimm story (about a beautiful princess who is forced to flee her evil stepmother and then takes refuge with titular little people, of course). Singh is finishing up his swords-and-sandals film "Immortals" and then will get to the land of princes and evil queens.

Continue reading »

Sony hears the roar of Christian the Lion

July 6, 2010 |  7:34 pm

Contemporary studios love movies with pre-awareness, and they love family films, so you can understand why Sony would be enamored of the story of Christian the Lion, which takes all that and throws in a tearful animal reunion for good measure.

What in the name of Gunther Gebel-Williams are we talking about? The above viral-video sensation -- about a couple of wacky Australians who raised a lion, sent it back into the wild and then went out to find it -- which is being developed as a feature.

There had been some early word that the studio was interested in a movie about John Rendall and Ace Bourke  who nearly 40 years ago, bought a lion cub at Harrod's department store, raised it and frolicked with it, only to set it free and have it recognize them a year later.  (Hey, it was the '70's.) Now that film is officially moving forward. The studio has brought on writers Piers Ashworth and Nick Moorcroft, who are behind the upcoming John Landis movie "Burke and Hare," to write a script for the adventure story that will be produced by Hollywood mega-producer Neal Moritz (he was behind "Fast and Furious" and "I Am Legend," the latter about a different kind of wild creature) and his Original Film production banner.

A piece of an older documentary about the pair had previously been remixed to the music of Whitney Houston and found millions of viewers on YouTube, and producers are hoping that the built-in love will carry over.

There are echoes of Werner Herzog's "Grizzly Man" (with a happier ending) in the Christian the Lion story, as well as shades of "Everybody Loves Whales," an equally feel-good period story about the rescue of several trapped whales that Warner Bros. is eyeing as a feature with Drew Barrymore. [UPDATE -- Universal reminds us that, while Warners initially developed, it has picked it up, and is set to go into production later this year.]

Sony is already in the beastly business;  it has high hopes for the upcoming "The Zookeeper," which uses a bevy of animals to help Kevin James find romance. With all-ages films doing well, you can understand why a studio would beat their chest about this sort of picture. Plus it has lions acting like puppies. Get the Kleenex ready.

--Steven Zeitchik


Video: A portion of the documentary A Lion Called Christian. Credit: Timeless Multimedia


Sony will open the cage on The Zookeeper nine months later

Is a multiplex full of family films the future of moviegoing?

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Is a multiplex full of family films the future of moviegoing?

June 21, 2010 |  9:30 am

So it turns out the box office is not a place of hopelessness and despair.

It's just a place of hopelessness and despair for those of us who are not young children.

That may sound a little dramatic, especially since movies aimed at sophisticated adults -- i.e. "Winter's Bone" and "Cyrus" -- are performing well within their (very) limited parameters. But for the bigger-budgeted films, the kinds that studios spend most of their time and money producing, it's barely an exaggeration. For the second week in a row this summer, the box office showed signs of life. And for the second week in a row, the instrument providing the CPR was a movie aimed at (and seen by) kids and the parents who take them, as "Toy Story 3" grossed an eye-popping $109 million.

That follows last week's surprise $56 million of "The Karate Kid" (a movie performing so well that it didn't seem to suffer from the encroachment of "Toy Story," which sought almost exactly the same audience, this week).

And it further follows a litany of disappointments for movies aimed at everyone else, as everyone else seems to be rejecting what studios are offering them -- the teen and 20-something action junkies who didn't turn out for "Prince of Persia" or "The A-Team," the 30- and 40-something women who didn't turn out for "Sex and the City 2," the young comicbook fans who didn't turn out for "Kick-Ass," the, well, whoever it was studios were aiming at with "Jonah Hex."

Of course adults went to see, and in many cases enjoyed, both "Toy Story" and "The Karate Kid" (we did when we saw the latter last week). But it's impossible not to notice a trend in all this: Families are the ones going to the movies these days. Perhaps the only ones.

That's not just a summer phenomenon. Almost every big hit among the 2010 releases has been a movie whose primary, if not overwhelming, audience is children 12 and under -- "How to Train Your Dragon," "Shrek Forever After," "Alice in Wonderland." Ditto for the year's biggest sleeper, "Diary of a Wimpy Kid." In fact, there isn't a single big-studio movie aimed at children that failed, save perhaps for "Marmaduke" (and some would argue that wasn't a movie).

Many of the film world's most prominent disappointments, meanwhile, have been movies aimed at teens, 20-somethings and early 30-somethings, and films that went hard after them like "Hot Tub Time Machine," "Get Him to the Greek" and "Cop Out" (not to mention movies that target actual adults rather than, um, overgrown adolescents).

There were a few scattered exceptions -- "Valentine's Day" and "Shutter Island" both did very well drawing adults. (And one major exception, "Avatar," drew all audiences, though that movie is sui generis and came out in 2009 anyway.) But by and large it's been a growing box-office truth. Get the kids and you'll get the dollars. Otherwise, as a studio executive, you may see red (as your knuckles go white and your hair goes gray).

This trend is of course at least partly testament to the quality of family films. It used to be that kids went to see almost anything thrown at them, so as a result the studios threw pretty much anything at them. But the last few years have brought a conspicuous rise in the quality of family entertainment, led chiefly by animated movies, which makes adults more willing to come and see them too.

But we also shouldn't be too taken aback by this trend for another reason. The move to the family film is a continuation of the phenomenon of the great shrinking audience that Hollywood has seen (and in many ways enacted) over the past few years. First, it was filmgoers over 30 whom the studios abandoned -- which they did by closing down the specialty divisions that made movies for that audience -- to concentrate on films made for fanboys.

Now, with so many movies aimed at young males flopping this year, it may not be long before they move away from those too. "Iron Man 2" was a strong performer (in part due to all the goodwill that existed for the first movie). But is there a studio on Earth that wouldn't want any one of the big animated hits over, say, "Clash of the Titans"? Or "The Wolfman"?

There's no way of knowing how panicky studio executives will react to all this. But if past experience is any indication, they tend to overcompensate in the direction the wind is blowing. So family films that are in development will get pushed up the pipeline; movies aimed at everyone else get pushed back. And before you know it (usually in two or three years, when the winds may have changed direction again), we could see a multiplex full of movies the whole family can enjoy.

Smart movies aimed at kids aren't a bad thing, of course; Hollywood could certainly use more "Toy Storys" and "Dragons." But if those are the only options at the multiplex on a Saturday night, that hardly seems welcome either.

Sociologists and psychologists will give reasons why children are the only ones going to the movies. And film pundits will offer their own explanations -- namely, many of the movies aimed at people 13 and over aren't very good (four words: "The Bounty Hunter," and "Killers"). But the reasons are in a sense less important than the consequences. Studio executives like to avoid risk (the only the thing, it can sometimes seem, that they're passionate about these days). And making a movie for anyone other than families means taking a huge risk. A family film, on the other hand, will deliver a happy ending almost as certainly as a climactic fight scene in the "The Karate Kid."

-- Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Toy Story 3. Credit: Pixar/Walt Disney Pictures


Toy Story 3 appears blessed; Jonah Hex appears cursed

Toy Story 3 opens at No. 1

Diary of a Wimpy Kid could augur a post Harry-Potter boom

Does the new Karate Kid do the original justice?

Clicking on Green Links will take you to a third-party e-commerce site. These sites are not operated by the Los Angeles Times. The Times Editorial staff is not involved in any way with Green Links or with these third-party sites.


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