I love her facial terrain...
I love her facial terrain...
Marilyn Monroe in 1962. (Bert Stern / Taschen)
December 12, 2011
Georges Méliès built the first movie studio in Europe and was the first filmmaker to use production sketches and storyboards. Film historians consider him the "father of special effects" (Getty Images)
November 28, 2011
British film director Ken Russell with British model Twiggy during the filming of the movie "The Boy Friend" in 1971. (Associated Press)
November 28, 2011, 3:14 a.m.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department announced Thursday that it was reopening its case into the 1981 death of actress Natalie Wood, which has been one of Hollywood's most enduring mysteries.
Officials then ruled her drowning death while boating off Santa Catalina Island was an accident. But there has been much speculation about what happened in the boat.
"Recently sheriff’s homicide investigators were contacted by persons who stated they had additional information about the Natalie Wood Wagner drowning. Due to the additional information, Sheriff’s homicide bureau has decided to take another look at the case," the department said in a statement.
Wood and Robert Wagner first married in 1957 and divorced five years later. Both went on to marry other people -- and have children -- only to remarry in 1972.
In 1981, Wagner and Wood had invited Christopher Walken to be their guest that Thanksgiving weekend on Catalina aboard their boat the Splendour. On the evening of Nov. 29, they had dinner and drinks at Doug's Harbor Reef. They returned to the boat and continued to drink until a heated argument erupted between the two men. Wagner told The Times in 2008 that it concerned how much of one's personal life should be sacrificed in pursuit of one's career; he was upset that Walken was advocating that Wood give all to her art, even at the expense of her husband and children.
Wood left to go to the master cabin's bathroom. Wagner says he and Walken eventually calmed down and said good night. When he went to bed, he says, Wood wasn't there. It is believed that the dinghy had gotten loose and Wood came up on deck to tie it up.
"I have gone over it so many millions of times with people. Nobody heard anything."
Photo: Robert Wagner and Natalie Wood at the 1979 Hollywood Christmas Parade. Credit: Los Angeles Times; 1981 L.A. Times front page.
In his poem “The Way West, Underground,” from his collection “Turtle Island,” Gary Snyder writes vividly of “The split-cedar/smoked salmon/cloudy days of Oregon,/ the thick fir forests.” The book’s title refers to an indigenous creation story in which North America emerged from some soil placed on the back of a turtle by a woman who fell from the sky. In some versions of the story a muskrat helps her. The woman in Christopher Munch’s lovely, delightfully idiosyncratic “Letters From the Big Man,” resplendent with its own dense forests and cloudy Oregon days, has already fallen to earth and is looking for a way back up or maybe just forward. She gets help from a sasquatch.
That would be the Big Man (Isaac C. Singleton Jr., fantastically kitted out in fur and makeup), one of the more eccentric characters recently to hit the Big Screen. By virtue of his mythological status (um, perhaps), the Big Man is decidedly a more unusual movie presence than the woman, Sarah, though she too is unusual. A strong presence strongly played by Lily Rabe, Sarah, a former United States Forest Service employee, is the type of independent woman who, in American cinema, has moved off the threatened and onto the endangered list. Through many miles, narrative switchbacks, a drib of politics, a drab of shamanism, she and the Big Man develop a beautiful friendship.
The movie opens with Sarah packing up some belongings in an apartment and clearly leaving a man, seen with her in a photo, and a life behind. She tosses what she wants in a truck that she has adorned with primitive decorations, chucks the rest of her stuff and drives out of the city and into the woods. Mr. Munch, whose earlier films include “The Hours and Times,” handles this efficiently. But he doesn’t reveal what a splendid eye he has until he switches to some aerial shots of Sarah driving on a road that winds like a ribbon through a forest, a point of view that suggests that of an eagle — thereby introducing the idea of nonhuman perspectives — and underscores her isolation.
She isn’t alone for long, although she seems to ache, at times almost irritably, for solitude. There is a stop at a ranger station, where she borrows a kayak from an old friend, Penny (Fiona Dourif). Leaving her truck and friend behind, Sarah paddles off on a swift river, a sometimes perilous-looking voyage that signals her resolve and athleticism (and recklessness: she isn’t wearing a helmet), and shifts the movie into a sustained pastoral register.
What beauty Mr. Munch finds between the sheltering sky and rushing water. As he and his wizardly crew (including the cinematographer Rob Sweeney, expertly working in digital ) bring the vibrantly hued landscape, dappled in greens, reds and gold, alive on screen, Sarah becomes just one part of what is clearly a much bigger picture.
Sarah ditches the boat and slips into the woods with such visible confidence that it’s apparent that this is where she belongs. (Mr. Munch likes to put Ms. Rabe in short shorts, showing off strong, shapely legs that look as if they could run in an Ironwoman triathlon or snap a man in two.) Now a struggling artist, she is doing field research for her old employer in the wake of a fire. After a quiet interlude her solitude is interrupted by the two male characters who will vie for her attention for the rest of the story: a friendly hiker, Sean (Jason Butler Harner), who turns out to be an environmental activist, and a more rarefied interloper, a sasquatch, an elusive, transformative presence.
For a character in a character study, Sarah is something of a puzzle at first, and almost off-putting. When Penny hugs her goodbye, Sarah doesn’t hug back, and when she meets Sean, she shuns the usual niceties and instead asks if he has a weapon, before flashing her gun. (This doesn’t register as Freudian but prudent, especially given the drug gangs who set up shop in forests.) Later, after she leaves the woods, where she sensed a pair of eyes on her — and no wonder, sasquatch is on the watch — and moves into a secluded cabin elsewhere, she assumes a more distinct, ruggedly individualistic figure of the neo-frontierswoman, one who probably read the Transcendentalists in school and now generates her own electricity to run her laptop.
In “Walden,” Thoreau writes of a starving, exhausted man lost in the woods whose loneliness is relieved by “grotesque visions” that he takes to be real. The sasquatch in “Letters From the Big Man,” a beguiling, Buddha-like figure who occasionally enjoys a wild-thing tantrum, offers Sarah — starving, the movie suggests, like the rest of us — companionship of a type, as well as a new, moving way of being.
As the story unwinds, Mr. Munch piles on the plot, mixing in romance, American Indian mythology, environmental fights and a government conspiracy that would be narratively unsustainable if his generosity toward his characters, his seriousness and faith in his story, didn’t make it all seem perfectly reasonable. And funny: I wish, Sarah muses to the Big Man, I had a man like you. Maybe she does!
Does Marilyn Monroe haunt the Hollywood Roosevelt? (Matty Zimmerman / Associated Press)
October 31, 2011
PARIS — The French movie “The Artist,” which opened in Paris last week and arrives in the United States in November, is one more hymn to Hollywood at the dawn of the age of the talkies. Everything about it is familiar: the chauffeurs in uniform, the elegant mansions and the sad tale of a handsome silent-movie star who fails to make the leap.
Jean Dujardin, left, and Bérénice Bejo, in Michel Hazanavicius’s silent film ‘‘The Artist.’’
But there’s something very different, even startling about this film: It is black and white, and wordless (except for one exchange, spoken at the end, with a heavy French accent). There is no violence, no sex — not even a kiss.
Such old-fashioned modesty might seem like a gamble in an era of frontal nudity, 3D and surround-sound, but it is precisely this retreat into the past that has won “The Artist” acclaim — first at the Cannes film festival in May, where Jean Dujardin, who plays the lead, won best male actor; then at Telluride in Colorado, then at San Sebastian in Spain, where the film won the audience award; and now among French moviegoers.
With an assist from Harvey Weinstein, who snapped up U.S. rights to the movie for a reported seven-figure price, “The Artist” is being touted as contender for the Oscars. It would be the first silent movie to win a best picture award in 83 years.
The French press, eager for a follow-up to Marion Cotillard’s Oscar in 2008 for her portrayal of Edith Piaf, is already gushing. “The Silence Is Golden,” was the headline in the weekly magazine Paris Match.
In a recent interview by telephone, Michel Hazanavicius, the 44-year-old director, conceded that the project had been a risk, but not for him. The biggest gambler, he said, was the producer Thomas Langmann, who not only backed the film, but also concurred with the idea that it had to be shot in Hollywood and nowhere else.
“It was my intuition to make the film that I made,” said Mr. Hazanavicius, who also wrote the script. “So for me, the principal risk was that the film wouldn’t keep its promise. That’s true of any film.”
It took 35 days and €10.3 million, or $14.2 million, to film the movie, mostly at Warner Bros. Studios, which gave the director and his two French stars — Mr. Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo (Mr. Hazanavicius’s partner in real life), who plays the rising star of the talkies — a crash course in Hollywood legend. After two weeks of mouthing dialogue in French, Mr. Dujardin and Ms. Bejo switched to English, along with the rest of the cast, which includes James Cromwell as a chauffeur and John Goodman as a producer.
“The Artist” is above all an homage to the films of the silent era, and to later movies — “Sunset Boulevard” among them — that captured their glamour. Mr. Weinstein, in an article in the Hollywood Reporter, said that the movie has “restored his passion for the joy of cinema.” Elsewhere, he has described it as a “delicate flower,” not necessarily a category with box-office appeal.
Mr. Hazanavicius hopes that the lure of Hollywood will draw American audiences. “The ones who have seen it have been touched by the film,” he said, “because it talks about their history. This isn’t a European film; it is a return to a very American source.”
There is also the advantage of a silent film, which is that it presents no language barrier for non-French audiences. “It is a kind of a utopia, not having a language,” Mr. Hazanavicius said.
Film critics have had a field day spotting the cinematic references; the orchestral music by Ludovic Bource has echoes of old movie scores. But Mr. Hazanavicius said he was more intent on honoring the era’s traditions and to some extent, techniques.
“I tried to respect the films I was referring to by working within the rules of those times,” he said, “I didn't want to mock them.”
There is a love story that runs through the film, but in keeping with the guidelines of the morals-monitoring Hays Code of 1930, Mr. Dujardin and Ms. Bejo only hug, never kiss. At the end, the two movie stars come together — and the climax is a long tap-dance sequence. “The dance scenes are the love scenes,” Mr. Hazanavicius said.
Yet Mr. Hazanavicius insisted that his actors act as they always do, avoiding the stylized hamming that marked the silent era. “That would have been absurd,” he said.
Slipping back and forth between the “then” and the “now” keeps the film nimble, and accessible. The melodrama is undercut by light comic touches, including a beguiling Jack Russell terrier who bows and rolls over dead, and the splendor of old Hollywood is beautifully rendered by what the newspaper Le Monde called a “digital magic,” which combines pixels with painterly touches.
At an pre-opening screening in Paris last week, Mr. Hazanavicius and Mr. Dujardin — longtime collaborators on spy-movie spoofs — reassured the audience about the challenge of watching a full-length silent movie. “Don’t be afraid,” Mr. Hazanavicius said.
He has discovered that many find the silence seductive. “People come out of the theater talking about it,” he said. “There is something very sensual about the silence; it can say a lot of things.”
In an interview with the French paper Le Parisien, Mr. Dujardin said that the movie was “good” for people. In Mr. Hazanavicius’s view, the film echoes the romantic comedies of the 1930s, when people were looking for a refuge from the Great Depression. “Fundamentally, the story I am telling is very nice, it has no subversive message,” he said. “That function of cinema still exists.”
September 13, 2011, 4:45 pm Happy Birthday, Roald and JamesBy PAMELA PAUL
Today would have been Roald Dahl’s 95th birthday had he not died at the age of 74 in 1990. This year also marks the birthday of one of his most beloved books, “James and the Giant Peach,” which was published in the United States 50 years ago. (Interestingly, it wasn’t published in Britain, Mr. Dahl’s home until six years later.)
“James and the Giant Peach,” which was adapted into an animated film in 1996 (featuring Susan Sarandon, in an especially cunning casting move, as Miss Spider), has sold over 12 million copies worldwide and been translated into 34 languages. The story of James Henry Trotter, whose parents are viciously devoured by a rhinoceros on the streets of London and who then moves in with two cruel aunts only to relocate to a giant peach, has entertained generations of children with its parable of fantasy and escape.
Mr. Dahl was intimate with the particulars of cruel childhood through personal experience, the details of which he laid out in “Boy,” his memoir of early life. The book rivals George Orwell’s celebrated essay, “Such, Such Were the Joys,” in its depiction of the arbitrary ruthlessness of English boarding school life. An episode involving the removal of his adenoids in Norway is no more pleasant.
Matters work out much more cheerfully for James Henry Trotter, who, at the end of “James and the Giant Peach,” is welcomed as a hero by the Mayor of New York. Similar satisfactions await the protagonists of Mr. Dahl’s other children’s books, even as a harsher fate is delivered to the Veruca Salts of the world.
“Oh, James, James! Could I please have just a tiny taste of your marvelous peach?” a little girl asks James at the book’s end as dozens of children gather to greet him on the streets of New York. “Of course you can!” James answered. “Everyone can have some!”
And they have.
Harrison Ford plays Indiana Jones in a scene from "Raiders of the Lost Ark." (Lucasfilm)
Indiana Jones, played by Harrison Ford, prepares to snatch a golden idol from a South American temple in "Raiders of the Lost Ark." (Lucasfilm)
Indiana Jones flees from a giant rolling boulder used to safeguard an ancient temple in a scene from "Raiders of the Lost Ark." (Lucasfilm)
Indiana Jones, played by Harrison Ford, confronts his lost love Marion Ravenwood, played by Karen Allen, in a scene from "Raiders of the Lost Ark." (Lucasfilm)
Marion Ravenwood, played by Karen Allen, contemplates the sought-after headpiece to the Staff of Ra in a scene from "Raiders of the Lost Ark." (Lucasfilm)
Indiana Jones, played by Harrison Ford, in a scene from "Raiders of the Lost Ark." (Lucasfilm)
Indiana Jones, played by Harrison Ford, makes sure the setting sun is in precisely the right position as he prepares to uncover the location of the Ark of the Covenant in a scene from "Raiders of the Lost Ark." (Lucasfilm)
Indiana Jones, played by Harrison Ford, in a scene from "Raiders of the Lost Ark." (Lucasfilm)
Indiana Jones fights a Nazi-hired assassin at a street bazaar in Egypt in a scene from "Raiders of the Lost Ark." (Lucasfilm)
Indiana Jones and Marion Ravenwood in "Raiders of the Lost Ark." (Lucasfilm)
Sallah, played by John Rhys-Davies, and Indiana Jones, played by Harrison Ford, lift the Ark of the Covenant out of its resting place in a scene from "Raiders of the Lost Ark." (Lucasfilm)
Marion Ravenwood, played by Karen Allen, in a scene from "Raiders of the Lost Ark." (Lucasfilm)
Karen Allen plays Marion Ravenwood in "Raiders of the Lost Ark." (Lucasfilm)
Indiana Jones, played by Harrison Ford, carries Marion Ravenwood, played by Karen Allen, in a scene from "Raiders of the Lost Ark." (Lucasfilm)
Indiana Jones is surprised by a venomous cobra in the forbidding Well of Souls in a scene from "Raiders of the Lost Ark." (Lucasfilm)
Nazi Col. Dietrich, played by Wolf Kahler, left, French archeologist Renée Belloq, played by Paul Freeman, and the evil Toht, played by Ronald Lacey, examine the contents of the Ark of the Covenant in a scene from "Raiders of the Lost Ark." (Lucasfilm)
Marion Ravenwood and Indiana Jones try to avoid the powerfully destructive forces unleashed by the Ark of the Covenant in a scene from "Raiders of the Lost Ark." (Lucasfilm)
Harrison Ford plays Indiana Jones in a scene from "Raiders of the Lost Ark." (Lucasfilm)
Steven Spielberg, directs Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones on the set of "Raiders of the Lost Ark." (Lucasfilm)
Harrison Ford and Karen Allen pose for a publicity photo during location shooting in Tunisia for "Raiders of the Lost Ark." (Lucasfilm)
Karen Allen poses for a publicity still for "Raiders of the Lost Ark." (Lucasfilm)
Director Steven Spielberg uses a vast miniature set of the Tunisian desert to plan a complex shot for "Raiders of the Lost Ark." (Lucasfilm)
George Lucas, left, and Harrison Ford take a break from the production of "Raiders of the Lost Ark," circa 1980. (Lucasfilm)
Harrison Ford, left, and George Lucas take a break from the production of "Raiders of the Lost Ark," circa 1980. (Lucasfilm)
Executive producer and story creator George Lucas, left, poses with director Steven Spielberg on location in Tunisia during the production of "Raiders of the Lost Ark." (Lucasfilm)
Harrison Ford watches director of photography Douglas Slocombe, director Steven Spielberg and art director Leslie Dilley set up a shot of the Chachapoyan Fertility Idol for a scene in "Raiders of the Lost Ark." (Lucasfilm)
In honor of the 30th anniversary of “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” Emmy-winning writer and producer Damon Lindelof, in a guest essay for Hero Complex, describes seeing the action-adventure film for the first time when he was 8 years old. Let’s just say the movie made an impact on Lindelof, whose credits include “Lost” and the 2009 “Star Trek” reboot. Read his essay below, and enjoy photos from the set of “Raiders” and the film itself in the gallery above. Be sure to click CAPTIONS ON.
I remember with great clarity the last time I peed my pants.
This was not, contrary to later reports, an “accident.” It was a decision I made of sound mind and body and one that I make no apologies for. Despite overwhelming opportunity to release my bladder the way most civilized people do (that would be into a toilet), I made a conscious choice to do otherwise. I offer only two points in my defense; The first is that I was 8 years old. The second, and much more relevant, is that I was in a movie theater watching “Raiders of the Lost Ark” for the very first time. And there was not a chance in hell I was missing a single second of that glorious movie.
Truth be told, I had initially resisted the idea of going to see “Raiders.” I was much more interested in seeing “Clash of the Titans,” which opened the same day and had a Pegasus in it. Ultimately, however, my dad argued that “Raiders” was the superior pick because it had Han Solo. I narrowed my eyes suspiciously — “But… Han Solo is frozen in carbonite.”
“This movie happened before that.” My dad responded.
“How could it happen before a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away?” I reasoned.
“Because this was longer ago.”
“How much longer?”
My dad leaned down, quite serious, and whispered, “The 1930s.”
And thus, I was effectively duped into seeing what even now, three decades later, stands as one of the most perfect movies ever made.
And here’s the thing: Although it’s easy to reduce “Raiders” to a “popcorn” movie — a piece of escapist adventure with fantastic action — very rarely is it appreciated for its pure innovative genius. This is something people seemed to be well aware of back in 1981 (it was nominated for a best picture Oscar), but over time, the legacy of “Raiders” seems to neglect just how incredibly revolutionary it was as a film. Therefore, as a debt of gratitude (and for everything I’ve stolen from it in my own work), I feel it’s only fitting to write a long overdue love letter to one of my favorite films ever. So without further ado…
Dear “Raiders of the Lost Ark,”
You are awesome. God, you are awesome.
I have seen you, in your entirety, more than one hundred times. I know there are folks out there that have seen you more than that, but they don’t know you like I do.
I really know you. I know what music you listen to and where your scars are. I know that you like to be kissed where it doesn’t hurt. And I’m sorry if that seems a little “creepy,” but hey, you’re into snakes and melt people’s faces off, so we’re speaking the same language, are we not?
So what, exactly, is it that I love most about you, “Raiders of the Lost Ark”? Man … I don’t even know where to start. But let’s get past the obvious stuff that all your other admirers seem so dazzled by (the whip!!!) and talk about what truly makes you unique.
I could go on for pages about just the little things. Like the sound you make when Indy punches someone in the face. Or that Marion’s superpower is drinking. And don’t even get me started on the coat hanger. Where did that Nazi even get that thing? Did he special-order it? “I need somezing that vill terrify people when I take it out, but then give them a false zense of relief when I reveal it is simply somezing on vich to hang my coat.” Seriously. The best. But I know you’ve probably heard it all before and therefore, I’ll stick to the big stuff. First and foremost…
I love you because Indiana Jones is a nerd. Granted, a highly capable nerd who knows how to ride horses and fight real good, but still, at his core, Indy is an academic who’s motivated purely by his desire to find and retrieve really cool stuff so he can put it in a museum where other nerds can appreciate it. Also, he wears glasses and gets nervous when hot female students write the words “Love You” on their eyelids. Do you have any idea how much commitment is involved in writing “Love You” on your eyelids? It’s really hard! Not that I’ve ever done it.
Because I haven’t.
And while we’re on the subject of Dr. Jones, here’s another thing I love about him. He’s actually scared of stuff. This doesn’t seem like something that should be celebrated, but it’s actually quite rare for the hero of a movie to be scared of anything. Do you know what Green Lantern is afraid of? Fear. He is afraid of being afraid. Does that even make sense? Here’s what makes sense to be afraid of — Hissing Cobras and Gigantic Bald Nazis with mustaches trying to kill you. And it was perfectly OK for me to be scared of them because Indy was too.
You know what else is wonderful about you? That over and over and over again, Indiana Jones has failure rubbed in his face, yet he refuses to give up. He gets the Golden Idol…. But it’s snatched away by a Frenchman. Indy finds the Well of Souls and recovers the Ark. It too gets taken away from him. Same Frenchman! Now Indy gets back the Ark and … oh no, Nazi submarine! They take the Ark and Marion… but Indy gets the drop on them with a bazooka! And yet, he can’t bring himself to destroy the Ark, so Indy is captured.
By the Frenchman.
Yeah, I know his name is Belloq. And I’m pretty convinced that he is another reason I love you so much. Because quality French bad guys are hard to come by and Belloq is la crème du la crop.
And so, we now arrive at your ending. This, more than anything else, is why my love for you is an undying one. Because we all know how movies like you are supposed to end. The hero fights off a bunch of evildoers, saves the girl, gets the thingamabob away from the bad guys before they can do any harm with it and then say something kinda cool before he rides off into the sunset.
But this, sweet Raiders, is not what you did.
Your big climax is not affected by Indiana Jones at all. He’s tied to a pole with Marion the whole time, completely helpless as Belloq and his Nazi pals open the Ark. And while most heroes would perform some incredible act of selfless bravery, what does Indy do? He shouts at Marion to not even look at whatever is coming out of the very thing he has coveted for your entire duration. And you know what?
I listened to him.
For the first 20 or so times I watched you, I shut my eyes tightly as I heard the Nazis scream for what seemed like five minutes. And when they finally stopped, I slowly peeked out to find Indy doing exactly the same thing.
In that moment, we were one. Terrified. Awestruck. And most of all, relieved that it was finally over.
Now I fully appreciate that Indy was rightly pissed that the Ark was ultimately taken away by the same shady Intelligence dudes who hired him in the first place (“Top people” indeed. Hrrrmumph!). but if they hadn’t, I wouldn’t have been treated to your final crowning achievement. I would never have seen the Ark, now packed unceremoniously in a simple crate, being wheeled down an impossibly long aisle in the largest warehouse ever. And for reasons I am far too lovestruck to fully articulate, let me leave it at this –
In a world where movies and TV shows often end in ways that are sometimes unsatisfying bordering on outrage-inducing (yeah, yeah, I know), your ending, darling Raiders, is absolutely, exquisitely perfect.
And that is how I shall always remember you. Locked away safely in the warehouse that is my heart … fully aware that it’s highly possible that you will burn a hole through my chest or at the very least, make the rats inside me run around in uncomfortable backward circles.
I love you.
Always have. Always will. And I am deeply grateful for the countless hours we have spent together. I will treasure them more than you can ever know.
Your Biggest Fan,
P.S. Do you have a mailing address for “Close Encounters of the Third Kind’”? She left her T-shirt at my apartment.