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CinemaScope: Billy Wilder’s The Apartment screening at BAM

Image via Film Flammers

Image via Film Flammers

Over the next two weeks, New York City’s BAM is showcasing some of the best-looking American black and white film in its series Black & White ‘Scope: American Cinema. “Scope” in this sense refers to “CinemaScope” which was a type of lens commonly used at the time for shooting wide screen movies. Essentially, these lenses made it possible to compress a wide-angle panoramic scene into a smaller typical 35mm frame. When these images were then projected through a companion lens, the image was presented in its original panoramic, wide screen glory. The origins of CinemaScope are simple; in the 1950′s, the film industry was starting to feel pressure from a new competitor for their audiences’ time: television. There was definitely a feeling that audiences would stop going to the movies if they could just want programming on their television sets instead.  Continue reading

Throwback Thursday: Before Sunrise (1995)

image via imdb.com

image via imdb.com

Richard Linklater’s 1995 indie classic Before Sunrise epitomized the forward thinking of the cinema in the 90′s and launched the career of many artists who are still prominent to this day. On the surface it breaks almost all of Hollywood’s cinematic rules with scenes consisting entirely of one shot and elongated dialogue that seems do little service to the plot. Still, Before Sunrise is intensely romantic and accomplished what few films can within the rigid construct of mainstream cinema.  Continue reading

Did You Know: Richard Linklater

Photo by Michael Kovac - © 2015 Michael Kovac via imdb.com

Photo by Michael Kovac – © 2015 Michael Kovac via imdb.com

Every filmmaker has a given focus within their genre. What I mean by that is, either consciously or subconsciously, every filmmaker circles around the same theme for a majority of their career. In the case of Richard Linklater, his obsession with living in the moment has permeated every one of his films and helped him leave a mark on the art form that few have been able to achieve. His latest film Boyhood received some of the highest honors and was in the running for Best Picture at this year’s Academy Awards. However, there is quite a bit about Linklater that remains a mystery. Perhaps after reading this blog, some of that will become a bit clearer and you can look at his films from a different perspective.  Continue reading

The Hollywouldn’t-ness: Latinos on Film

Image via ScreenRelish

Image via ScreenRelish

The 87th Academy Awards aired last night and the lack of diversity in the industry seemed to be in the front of everyone’s minds. Many were already on edge regarding the perceived snub of the film Selma. Patricia Arquette proclaimed it “time for women” in her acceptance speech (while simultaneously ruffling some feathers in other under-represented groups in Hollywood). And then later, in presenting the top honors of Best Picture to the film Birdman, Sean Penn made a seemingly unfortunate green card joke about director, producer and co-writer of the film, Alejandro González Iñárritu, who happens to be Mexican.  Continue reading

What to Watch: The Lazarus Effect

Photo by Daniel McFadden - © 2013 - Back to Life Productions

Photo by Daniel McFadden – © 2013 – Back to Life Productions via imdb.com

Infamous horror movie production studio Blumhouse Productions has been responsible for the resurgence of the genre without the need of a found-footage gimmick. They may have started with the Blair Witch Project model with The Paranormal Activity series but since the release of films like Insidious and The Purge, Blumhouse Productions has seen that narrative horror is far from dead. Their latest effort The Lazarus Effect opens this Friday and continues the journey into the world of supernatural horror.  Continue reading

Prince of Darkness: Cinematographer Gordon Willis Retrospective

Still of Woody Allen and Diane Keaton in Manhattan (1979) via iMDB.com

Still of Woody Allen and Diane Keaton in Manhattan (1979) via iMDB.com

When most people think of filmmaking, they often think of actors, writers and directors — and sometimes exclusively in that order! As I’ve written about here before, it is more accurate to say it takes a village to make a movie. It’s pretty obvious that you need actors to appear in front of the camera and writers to figure out what they will say when they are in front of the camera, but you also need a cinematographer to ensure they look good in front of the camera. Good is relative as, with a grittier text, the director may want a less polished look. The cinematographer works to help set the scene for the story the director wishes to stage.  Continue reading

Throwback Thursday: The Little Shop of Horrors (1960)

© 1960 - The Filmgroup via imdb.com

© 1960 – The Filmgroup via imdb.com

Before Lloyd Kaufman, Sam Raimi and even George Romero there was Roger Corman. The independent producer broke ground on what would eventually lead to the exploitation genre and the birth of the post-modern horror film. In 1960, nearly eight years before Night of the Living Dead, Corman spent two days filming a quick script that would forever be linked to his legacy. That movie is The Little Shop of HorrorsContinue reading

Did You Know: Roger Corman

image via imdb.com

image via imdb.com

Roger Corman is a name that will produce a different response depending on who you speak to. To some he was a mentor. To others a rebellious force that changed Hollywood before anyone knew it happened. The famed director and producer helped launch the careers of some of Hollywood’s biggest names in the 70′s and 80′s, all while breaking the usual business conventions of the era. He was a true entrepreneur at a time when people didn’t think it was possible to make a small fortune from independent cinema. Corman’s career would show that the key to success isn’t necessarily originality but instead a willingness to make something work with the little you have in front of you. Continue reading

Breaking Down the Oscars: Best Picture Nominees and Their Budgets

Photo by Martin Scali - (c) 2014 - Fox Searchlight Pictures via iMDB.com

Photo by Martin Scali – © 2014 – Fox Searchlight Pictures via iMDB.com

With the 87th Academy Awards right around the corner, now is the time for critics and movie lovers to start making predictions about which films will win big and which may go home empty-handed. While there is actually an accounting firm enlisted to tally up the votes by the Oscar voters (who, by the way, are about three-quarters male), the votes cast represent a qualitative approach to measuring the success of a film. By qualitative, I mean subjective; the voter’s enjoyment of the film (or not) is pretty much the criteria for whether he or she may vote for it to win Best Picture. But rarely do we look at these films in a quantitative way based solely on their profitability (box office take relative to production budget).  Continue reading

What to Watch: Hot Tub Time Machine 2

Photo credit: Steve Dietl image via imdb.com

Photo credit: Steve Dietl image via imdb.com

To make a sports reference, February is like the off-season for Hollywood. The releases are smaller and tend to not be the kind of films that make waves. The impending Academy Awards also affects releases as studios don’t want their potential 2016 contenders to be overshadowed by the current campaigns. For that reason we have a week with only three major releases, two of which would fall under the category of silly comedy.  Continue reading