Monday, December 15, 2008

Lecture at Winona State University

On February 11th, 2009 I will be presenting a lecture as a part of the Antheneum Series at Winona State University's Krueger Library. Presentations in the series are held on the second floor of the library and are free and open to the public.

The presentation is titled "From Michael Moore to Batman: A Survey of Post 9-11 Cinema" and I will examine how filmmakers, primarily those working in Hollywood, have dealt with the attack and its aftermath either explicitly or thematically in a wide variety of genres, from documentaries to historical dramas to comic book adaptations.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Bettie Page Dead at 85

From the article at Reuters:

Bettie Page, one of America's most photographed pin-up girls during the 1950s, died in Los Angeles on Thursday from pneumonia, her agent said. She was 85.

Page was a ubiquitous sight during the 1950s, propelled to stardom when she posed for Playboy as Miss January 1955. Soon her image was gracing playing cards, record albums and bedroom posters across the country.

She stopped modeling in 1957, retreated from the public spotlight and turned to religion. She enjoyed a renaissance of sorts in the 1980s, as a new generation of fans became obsessed with her legacy.
Her agent, Mark Roesler, said Page was admitted to a Los Angeles-area hospital four weeks ago. She never regained consciousness after suffering a heart attack earlier this month.

With her dark bangs, alluring blue-gray eyes and wide smile, Page cultivated an innocent girl-next-door persona. The one-time school teacher was nice, but clearly also naughty. Some of her photos featured spanking and bondage.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Golden Globe Nominations

Here are the film nominees for this year's Golden Globe Awards.

Best movie, drama

  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • Frost/Nixon
  • The Reader
  • Revolutionary Road
  • Slumdog Millionaire
  • The Visitor
Actress, drama
  • Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married
  • Angelina Jolie, Changeling
  • Meryl Streep, Doubt
  • Kristin Scott Thomas, I’ve Loved You So Long
  • Kate Winslet, Revolutionary Road

Actor, drama

  • Leonardo DiCaprio, Revolutionary Road
  • Frank Langella, Frost/Nixon
  • Sean Penn, Milk
  • Brad Pitt, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler

Best movie, comedy or musical

  • “Burn After Reading
  • Happy-Go-Lucky
  • In Bruges
  • Mamma Mia!
  • Vicky Christina Barcelona

Actress, comedy or musical

  • Rebecca Hall, Vicky Cristina Barcelona
  • Sally Hawkins, Happy-Go-Lucky
  • Frances McDormand, Burn After Reading
  • Meryl Streep, Mamma Mia!
  • Emma Thompson, Last Chance Harvey

Actor, comedy or musical

  • Javier Bardem, Vicky Cristina Barcelona
  • Colin Farrell, In Bruges
  • James Franco, Pineapple Express
  • Brendan Gleeson, In Bruges
  • Dustin Hoffman, Last Chance Harvey

Supporting actress

  • Amy Adams, Doubt
  • Penelope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona
  • Viola Davis, Doubt
  • Marisa Tomei, The Wrestler
  • Kate Winslet, The Reader

Supporting actor

  • Tom Cruise, Tropic Thunder
  • Robert Downey, Jr., Tropic Thunder
  • Ralph Fiennes, The Duchess
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman, Doubt
  • Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight.


  • Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire
  • Stephen Daldry, The Reader
  • David Fincher, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • Ron Howard, Frost/Nixon
  • Sam Mendes, Revolutionary Road


  • Simon Beaufoy, Slumdog Millionaire
  • David Hare, The Reader
  • Peter Morgan, Frost/Nixon
  • Eric Roth, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • John Patrick Shanley, Doubt

Foreign language movie

  • Baader Meinhof Complex
  • Everlasting Moments
  • Gomorrah
  • I’ve Loved You So Long
  • Waltz With Bashir

Animated movie

  • Bolt
  • Kung Fu Panda
  • Wall-E

Original score

  • Alexandre Desplat, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • Clint Eastwood, Changeling
  • James Newton Howard, “Defiance
  • Hans Zimmer, Frost/Nixon
  • A.R. Rahman, Slumdog Millionaire

Original song

  • "Down to Earth” (performed by Peter Gabriel, written by Peter Gabriel and Thomas Newman), Wall-E
  • “Gran Torino” (performed by Clint Eastwood), Gran Torino
  • “I Thought I Lost You” (performed Miley Cyrus and John Travolta, written by Miley Cyrus and Jeffrey Steele), Bolt
  • Once in a Lifetime,” (performed by Beyonce), Cadillac Records
  • “The Wrestler” (performed by Bruce Springsteen, written by Bruce Springsteen), The Wrestler.

Monday, December 8, 2008

DVD File Open Letter on Blu-Ray

Dan Ramer, writing for the website DVDfile, has written this open letter to film studios and the Blu-ray Disc Association concerning the slow loading time on Blu-ray players. An excerpt:

This writer sincerely believes that load delays and firmware issues represent a potential impediment to mainstream consumer acceptance of Blu-ray Disc. Having become used to the snappy load times of DVD menus, BD load delays might be perceived by non-enthusiasts as a step backward. And disc incompatibilities that require significant owner participation to resolve firmware issues will cause unwelcome aggravation at best, and confusion and frustration at worst. I’d like to think that the concept David inspired might solve these problems until such time as dedicated players become so powerful that load delays are a non-issue and Profile 2.0 (or higher) players dominate and overwhelmingly are connected to the Internet (or BD-J issues are all resolved, just like DVD playback glitches eventually went away). I can only hope that the studios and the BDA consider this suggested solution as a positive strategy that will help grow the Blu-ray Disc format. I, for one, very much want the Blu-ray Disc format to become a rousing financial success so I can continue to enjoy film from the very best high definition delivery system ever offered.

This is something to keep in mind in the midst of the holiday shopping season. There is a big push to move Blu-ray players this year but consumers may be wise to wait for the next generation of players which will probably address some of these issues and run more smoothly.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Final New Hollywood Show

All good things must come to an end and on December 7th, Sounds of Cinema will air the final episode of this year's New Hollywood Series.

The year 1968 is generally regarded as the start of the New Hollywood era, the special period of time between 1968 and 1980 when filmmakers has more control over their work than any period since the pre-studio era. The period saw the arrival of a new generation of filmmakers including Francis Ford Coppola, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Martin Scorcese, Peter Bogdanovich, and William Friedkin. These filmmakers were products of the counter cultural generation and they carried the revolutionary spirit into the cinema.

Throughout 2008, Sounds of Cinema has taken a close look at some of the films of this period including critical darlings such as The Godfather, The Graduate, and Raging Bull and box office blockbusters like Jaws and Star Wars. The series has also included a look at films not often included in other discussions of the period (but should be) such as Planet of the Apes, Night of the Living Dead, and Halloween.

On this Sunday's program, the show will cover two films: American Graffiti and Easy Rider, including music from both pictures. It's a fitting end to the series since Easy Rider is widely regarded as the film that initiated the era and both pictures feature rock and roll soundtracks reflective of the time.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Monday, November 24, 2008

MSNBC: America on Film

In time for the Thanksgiving holiday, MSNBC has posted this article by Erik Lundegaard on his top picks for American epics, defining his criteria as a grand, romantic, or nostalgic story about Americans set in America. Here is an edited version of his list:

5. “Dances with Wolves” (1990) “Lawrence of Arabia” topped AFI’s list of great epics, and, in terms of story (if not greatness), “Dances” is an American “Lawrence”: the rebellious white man going native.

4. “Malcolm X” (1992) The most powerful of his conversions is the one in prison. Malcolm’s knowing hustler smile runs into the blank wall of Brother Baines’ (Albert Hall) certitude until, forced to question why he straightens his hair, and why black is always negative and white is always positive, his knowingness crumbles and he admits he doesn’t even know his own name.

3. “The Right Stuff” (1983) True, most epics are nostalgic and this one’s cynical — cynical about the way heroes are sold to the public — but it doesn’t mean the men who are sold, the seven Mercury astronauts, aren’t heroes. It’s the process the movie is cynical about.

2. “Gone with the Wind” (1939) The most popular movie of all time (adjusted for inflation) is a story between a callow woman and a cad, in which the abolition of slavery is mourned . . . Yet somehow it still works. Maybe because, despite the abundance of dashing silhouettes against red skies, the movie is too smart to believe in such romance.

1. “The Godfather – Parts I and II” (1972-74) This usually gets dumped into the gangster genre, but there is no better example of the American epic than these two films . . . If the tragedy of the first film is that Michael becomes his father (he becomes Godfather), the tragedy of the second film is that Michael isn’t enough like his father . . . Did it have to wind up this way? Vito traveled west to New York but carried something with him the entire time. Michael traveled west to Nevada but lost something in the process — if he ever had it.

Lundegaard explains American epics that didn’t make his list here.

After looking at Lundegaard's suggestions, here are some other contenders for American epics that ought to be considered:

  • Gangs of New York
  • Goodfellas
  • There Will Be Blood
  • Roots (mini-series)
  • John Adams (mini-series)
  • Forrest Gump
  • Birth of a Nation
  • Nixon
  • The Best Years of Our Lives
  • The Wild Bunch
  • Stagecoach

Any other suggestions?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Andy Wardinski Returns to Sounds of Cinema

Just in time for Thanksgiving, Andy Wardinski, my older brother, returns to Sounds of Cinema to co-host the show and pick the music for the episode airing Sunday, November 30.

Andy previously co-hosted an episode in May 2006. Andy's selections are primarily an ecletic mix of songs from the 1980s including Queen's theme song from Flash Gordon and music from Hoosiers and Ferris Bueller's Day Off.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Sounds of Cinema Delayed in Winona

Due to Winona State University Women's Soccer, the programing on 89.5 KQAL FM will be delayed this Sunday. Sounds of Cinema should air at about 5pm, unless the game runs late.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Spoiler Alert

Watch these guys spoil 100 popular movie surprises in under five minutes:

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Dear John Letter to Saw

MSNBC has posted this very funny break up letter from film critic Dave White to the Saw franchise. Here is an excerpt:

I remember our first date, “Saw.” You showed up on that tricycle and freaked me out. Then you made that guy from “Princess Bride” cut off his own foot. Then you got someone to go hide in a little kid’s bedroom closet and be a real live boogeyman.

The sexy do-or-die scenarios you rigged up were diabolical. You featured Monica Potter (an actress whose budget Julia Roberts-isms I find weirdly appealing). You were cheap and grainy and ugly and you rattled me. I had spooky dreams about you afterward, “Saw.” I knew it was love.

But you really blew it on the follow-through. You proved with each sequel that you were a one-trick doom-pony. The do-or-die setups remained somewhat interesting as the second and third and fourth remixes played on and on. But not always.

For example, what was with the hair-pulling machine in that last one? Hair-pulling? I can see meaner behavior on any Bravo reality show. Rachel Zoe, even without her squadron of crying assistants, could think up better ways to do someone in. Worse, it was clear that your heart wasn’t in it.

The urgency and evil glee that once informed your moralistic game-playing is on the wane, and your Halloweeny antics feels less and less compelling all the time. There’s nothing at stake anymore. Any random episode of Cartoon Network’s “Metalocalypse” has cooler deaths, funnier bloodshed and more narrative justification than you do.

And then you killed main baddie Jigsaw and it felt like you might go away gracefully and let me off the hook. But then you resurrected Jigsaw (sort of) and now you’ve decided to pursue these weird casting decisions: Luke from “Gilmore Girls?” What’s he going to do? Talk to me so fast my ears fall off?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

TIME: Jean-Claude Van Damme Kicks His Own Ass!

By Richard Corliss

To the uninitiated, a movie called JCVD sounds as if it's about Jesus getting the clap. But action fans will recognize the acronym of kick-boxing action star Jean-Claude Van Damme — the former European middleweight karate champ who became known as the Muscles from Brussels for headlining such middling fare as Universal Soldier and No Retreat, No Surrender.

That was in the '80s and early '90s. In the past decade, as his films have gone direct-to-video, Van Damme's career trajectory has been direct-to-commode. So he must have figured he had nothing to lose when Brussels-based director Mabrouk El Mechri offered Van Damme the chance to play himself, more or less, as a hapless has-been who gets enmeshed in a bank robbery. He was right: JCVD — which opens this weekend in New York City, and Nov. 14 in Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, San Jose and Washington, D.C. — is the best movie Van Damme ever made (granted, not the highest encomium), and a cogent, probing, funny critique on celebrity in its downalator phase.

Van Damme's athletic forte, kick-boxing, is like soccer in a boxing ring — except that instead of kicking a ball you kick someone in the balls. The opening scene of JCVD gives the star a showcase and a workout. Van Damme dodges bullets and bad guys; he gets singed by a blowtorch and whacked by an opening car door. In return he uses all the artillery and furniture around him — a machine gun, a revolver, a knife, a pole, a barrel, hand grenades and his fists and feet — to kill or disable a couple dozen ruffians. The cool gimmick: the whole three-minute scene is accomplished in one shot; no cuts, no stunt doubles. (This is apparently unusual for Van Damme. One director who had worked with him said to me that the star employed 12 guys to double him in the more draining action bits, "like walking across a room.")

It's all part of a movie Van Damme is shooting, but something goes wrong toward the end of the scene, and when he complains to the Asian director, he is contemptuously dismissed. (Van Damme was the first Western action star to work with the best Hong Kong directors: Corey Yuen for No Retreat, No surrender, John Woo for Hard Target, plus two films with Tsui Hark and three with Ringo Lam. Few of them enjoyed the experience; it was like a surcharge on their visas to Hollywood.) This time, however, he begs to do a retake, though it will exhaust his well-sculpted but battered 47-year-old body. The director will have none of this: "He still thinks he's making Citizen Kane?"

Our depleted hero has also been getting heat from a custody case back in L.A. At the hearing, his ex-wife's attorney accuses him of being a poster boy for mindless violence: "How does this actor play Death? Let me count the ways: mangled under the wheels of a truck, strangulation, fracturing the skull, taking out the tibula, laceration, crushed under the wheels of a car, death by strangulation, crushed ribs, fracturing the skull, gouging the eyes..." It's a catalog that would send mothers fleeing from him in horror, and Van Damme's dwindling army of fanboys rushing to video stores.

The JCVD script, by El Mechri and Frederic Benudis , brings Van Damme back to Brussels where cab drivers and video-store hounds still recognize him, but nothing else is going right. His agent's screwing him, the court case has gone against him, he's low on funds... and now, as he enters a bank to try to cash a check, he finds it's been commandeered in a heist. The cops on the street figure Van Damme must have cracked and gone to the dark side, while the robbers are only too happy both to exploit his fame and taunt him for being unable to overcome their guns with his kick-boxing. Even Van Damme's mom believes he's the perp, not the victim, of the hostage takeover.

In Run, Lola, Run fashion, the hostage scene is played three times with subtle, crucial variations, each replay revealing more of the mystery. The climax has a few different outcomes too. But El Mechri's interest is in playing with the "real" legend of a washed-up star. It seems pretty unsparing. With the star looking puffy and played out, and with so many references to his off-screen philandering and drug use, the movie bears comparison to Mickey Rourke's turn in The Wrestler, which like JCVD played the Toronto Film Festival, and which opens in the U.S. next month. (It happens that El Mechri's previous feature, Virgil, was also about a fighter on the skids.) But JCVD is sharper, crueler, way funnier than The Wrestler. The movie is a vision of the wages of fame that's part parody, part exposé, part justification.

The clincher is an unbroken 6-1/2 min. take of Van Damme in close-up, as the star makes a confession of his personal and career sins. "What about drugs?" he asks. "Because of a woman — well, because of love — I tried something and I got hooked. ... I was wasted mentally and physically, to the point that I got out of it." At the end he gives his apologia and renders a harsh sentence: "It's not my fault if I was cut out to be a star. I asked for it. I asked for it, really believed in it, When you're 13 you believe in your dream. Well, it came true for me. But I still ask myself today what have I done on this earth?" Through his tears he shouts, "Nothing! I've done nothing!"

So Monsieur Macho ends up crying. It is the finest, most scab-pulling performance I've seen this year, and I'm not kidding. Van Damme has been known as a martial-arts legend, movie star and pain in the ass. But never an actor — until now. By the end of his confession he could be like Robert Downey, Jr., playing Jean-Claude Van Damme. Except that there's less bravado, more real pain, because the Muscles from Brussels looks as he's giving one hell of an emotional battering to himself.

Except he's not, the director says in press notes. He's acting — in the greatest action-passion scene Jean-Claude Van Damme has ever pulled off.


Thursday, October 30, 2008

REMINDER: Sounds of Cinema Halloween Special

Tune in October 30th and 31st for the Sounds of Cinema Halloween Special. I've been doing special Halloween shows for many years and I can honestly say this is the best one. It is very scary and makes for a fun listen, including music from films such as Friday the 13th, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Saw, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and House of 1000 Corpses. Whatever you may be doing for Halloween, this will make a great soundtrack for it.

The show can be heard:

89.7 KMSU FM in Mankato on Thursday, October 30th, 2008 at 11pm.

89.5 KQAL FM in Winona on Friday, October 31st, 2008 at 11pm.

Remember that if you're not in the broadcast area you can hear the show online at either station's website.

UPDATE: The show has been rescheduled to air on 89.7 KMSU FM in Mankato at midnight Halloween night.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Dreyfuss on W.

Here is footage of Richard Dreyfuss on "The View" talking about his role as Dick Cheney in W. He says the film is 6/8 of a great film and does not give it a great review. Like many viewers he struggles with the ending, but as my review airing on Sunday states, the film portays Bush as a man who is hollow and has no consciousness, like Patrick Bateman in American Psycho.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Watch Freddy Sell Himself

Here is a vintage Youtube video of Media Entertainment's promo to video stores and other video vendors to promote the home video release of A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors.

The first two Nightmare film had little national recognition and were largely a grassroots phenomenon. Nightmare 3 was the first time it was heavily marketed to the audience and the result was both a higher grossing picture but also an overexposure of Freddy Krueger that doomed the series until Wes Craven's New Nightmare.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Sounds of Cinema Halloween Special

A very special Halloween episode of Sounds of Cinema is set to air late night on October 30th and 3st. It will feature a minimum of talk and a maximum of music and sounds from Halloween related films.

89.7 KMSU FM in Mankato on Thursday, October 30th, 2008 at 11pm.

89.5 KQAL FM in Winona on Friday, October 31st, 2008 at 11pm.

Remember that if you're not in the broadcast area you can hear the show online at either station's website.

Be sure to tune in and let Sounds of Cinema provide the soundtrack for your Halloween.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Newsweek Article on 'W'

W, Oliver Stone's biopic of George W. Bush, comes out this week and most reviews so far have been favorable. This article from Newsweek is also positive and makes some interesting comments about the perils of adapting history to the screen:

Through most of the undistinguished history of films about American presidents, concern for truth has been in short supply. From "Young Mr. Lincoln" (1939) to "Wilson" (1944) to "Sunrise at Campobello" (1960) to "The Missiles of October" (1974), to the many other, often cheap and cheesy films that populate cable television and direct-to-video products, the purpose of these movies has mostly been hagiography, propaganda or both. "Young Mr. Lincoln" (with Lincoln played by Henry Fonda) portrayed a saintly lawyer engaged in an idealized and implausible battle for justice. "Wilson" is a mediocre and now justly forgotten film that won five Academy Awards because of its usefulness to the debate over the aftermath of World War II. "Sunrise," drawn from a Broadway play, was a tribute to Franklin Roosevelt's courageous conquest of polio (a conquest that in reality never occurred) and a portrayal of a "great American love story" that was in fact the story of a broken marriage never repaired. "The Missiles of October" conveyed not the muddled confusion of a seemingly intractable crisis, but a stark moral conflict in which wisdom defeated rashness.

Of Stone's take on the 43rd president, Alan Brinkley has this to say:

Stone, like most others trying to chronicle their own time, has undoubtedly made educated guesses about Bush that will turn out to be wrong. But "W." is, nevertheless, different from most earlier movies about presidents (including Stone's own). Whatever its qualities as a dramatic film may be, however its portrayal of Bush may fare in the light of history, it is on the whole an honest effort to find some truth in the blizzard of partisan battles over almost everything associated with this presidency. There are no conspiracy theories, no wild speculations, no paranoia. Stone's film is not hagiography. It is not propaganda. It is, surprisingly, more or less fair.

I'll be screening and reviewing the film in due course and give my assessment then. But so far this is promisng.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

89.7 KMSU FM Pledge Drive

89.7 KMSU FM "The Maverick" is now in the midst of their Fall pledge drive. For those of you listening to this show from 89.7 in Mankato, 91.3 FM in Austin, or Albert Lea on 91.9 FM, this is your opportunity to support the station and keep original, locally produced programming coming to you. To make a pledge, call 507-389-5678 or 1-800-456-7810 or send in an email pledge here. If you email or call after business hours and get voice mail, please leave a message with your name, phone number, address, and the amount you would like to pledge. Please do not send or leave credit card information.

Because of the drive, the episode of Sounds of Cinema broadcast from 89.7 KMSU FM this Sunday will be a special pledge drive edition. The episode broadcast from 89.5 KQAL FM in Winona will continue the the Halloween-themed programing ongoing throughout the month of October.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Sounds of Cinema Gets Scary for October

Starting this weekend, Sounds of Cinema will feature weekly themes geared toward Halloween. To start, the episode airing October 5 will focus on the "Humor of Horror" - movies that make us scream and laugh at the same time - and will include music from Scream, Army of Darkness, and Beetlejuice. Tune in each week for a different theme and DVD recomendations to match.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Sounds of Cinema now on myspace!

You can now find Sounds of Cinema on myspace!

The profile will include audio files of my film reviews.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Paul Newman Dead at 83

Acting legend Paul Newman dies at 83

WESTPORT, Conn. - Paul Newman, the Academy-Award winning superstar who personified cool as the anti-hero of such films as "Hud," "Cool Hand Luke" and "The Color of Money" — and as an activist, race car driver and popcorn impresario — has died. He was 83.

Newman died Friday after a long battle with cancer at his farmhouse near Westport, publicist Jeff Sanderson said. He was surrounded by his family and close friends.

Read the full story here.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Maverick at the Movies now Sounds of Cinema

Maverick at the Movies is now completely changed over to Sounds of Cinema, including a new URL and some redesign of the website:

Some other aesthetic changes will occur in the coming weeks and months and be sure to update your bookmarks, although this blog will remain.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

MOA hopes real butter, wine will woo movie fans
By Gita Sitaramiah

The movie complex at the Mall of America is closed for a serious and some say much-needed renovation to attract more moviegoers.

Can wine, dessert, popcorn with real butter and revamped auditoriums draw crowds? Time will tell. The 14-screen cinema will reopen Friday afternoon while work continues to replace old seats and upgrade two screens to digital sound and 3D-image capabilities. In addition, a no-kids-allowed VIP theater at the complex will serve wine at specified times.

The Bloomington megamall will operate the 16-year-old movie complex as Theatres-Mall of America. It had been run by the AMC Theatre chain and before that by General Cinema.

"It gives us the freedom to do some special things, like bringing in more independent films and doing movie marathons... around the holidays," said mall spokesman Dan Jasper.

East metro cinema owner Nathan Block believes the mall's movie complex needed the upgrade but is skeptical the film rotation will change much given that blockbusters pay the bills at cinemas with fewer screens.

"If they really wanted to bring in special events and more independent films, they should have put in four more screens," said Block, owner of the $2-a-seat Plaza Maplewood and discount first-run Woodbury Theatre.

Block does laud the effort to spruce up the mall's movie complex, however, saying it faces competition from megaplexes that have popped up in the area. Trying to attract more mature crowds with wine and a 21-and-overcinema is something of a gamble but not a bad idea since surveys say the major reason people aren't going to movies is patron behavior. That includes ringing cell phones and nonstop texting.
"That's just driving everybody crazy," he said.

Steve Mann, owner of Mann Theatres including the Grandview and Highland in St. Paul, said he and other operators need to look at adding 3D technology. No matter the changes made, he suspects the economy will impact movie-going frequency this fall and winter.

"I think we'll feel the pinch, too," he said.

A movie-going slowdown already may be underway. This past weekend's $67.7 million overall box office gross was the lowest since 2003, the Associated Press reported, citing data from Media by Numbers.


Thursday, September 4, 2008



(Sept. 4, 2008) -- After 20 years of making groundbreaking films and setting box office records -- from "Roger & Me" to "Bowling for Columbine" to "Sicko" – Oscar-winning filmmaker Michael Moore has decided to thank his many fans by giving them a download of his newest film, "Slacker Uprising," for free. This will be the first major feature-length film by a noted director to debut for free via the internet.

"Slacker Uprising" traces Michael Moore’s 62-city tour of the swing states during the 2004 Presidential election and records the thrilling -- and frightening -- response he received across the country.

Moore, who has made three of the five top-grossing documentaries of all time (including “Fahrenheit 9/11”), said he is doing this giveaway for personal reasons. "I realized that in a few months it will be the 20th anniversary of my first film, 'Roger & Me'," he said. "I've been very blessed and fortunate to have so many people come to my movies over these two decades, I decided why not bypass the studios and the exhibitors and make one that the fans can have for free, as a show of my profound appreciation of their support."
The free download is being organized and distributed by Robert Greenwald's Brave New Films. The download itself is being offered, free of charge.

Neither Moore nor Brave New Films will make any money from the film, which had a budget of over $2 million. "This is being done entirely as a gift to my fans," said Moore. "The only return any of us are hoping for is the largest turnout of young voters ever at the polls in November. I think 'Slacker Uprising' will inspire million to get off the couch and give voting a chance."
“Our mission here at Brave New Films is to get out a message of social justice,” said Greenwald. “This year, that means getting people to take a close look at what’s at stake in this incredibly important election. You can find literally no better storyteller in the world for that purpose than Michael Moore. Michael is a genius and an inspiration to people all over the country. This new movie is a gift to our country in this critical moment, and we’re honored to be distributing it for free over the internet.”

Moore's goal four years ago was to convince millions of non-voting "slackers” -- mostly between the ages of 18-29 -- to give voting a try. Starting out in Elk Rapids, Michigan, in front of an audience of 400, the tour caught on like wildfire with up to 16,000 slackers each night coming to see Moore and his traveling band of speakers, comedians, and musicians.

To encourage the slackers to show up, they were offered a clean change of underwear, Ramen noodles, and a promise that no event would start before noon and no politician would be allowed to speak. These enticements filled basketball arenas and football stadiums every night on the "Slacker Uprising Tour."

Part concert tour, part stand-up comedy performance and part rock concert, SLACKER UPRISING is an uplifting and patriotic look at the birth of a new political generation in America -- a generation of young people who would signal the era of “Obamania” that would take place just four years later.

Along with Moore's appearance, "Slacker Uprising" features live performances or appearances by Eddie Vedder (of Pearl Jam), Roseanne Barr, Joan Baez, Tom Morello (of Rage Against the Machine), R.E.M., Steve Earle, and Viggo Mortensen.

To view a trailer and a scene from "Slacker Uprising," go to

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

IMPACT Film Festival

The IMPACT 08 Film Festival is on in the Twin Cities and will run throughout the Democratic and Republican conventions. Find out more about the festival, including films being screened, here:

Monday, August 25, 2008

Land Shark

Atlanta Falcons Lose Out To Awful Jaws Sequel
by Dave the Falconer on Aug 22, 2008 11:09 AM EDT

Through no fault of their own, the Atlanta Falcons keep finding new lows to plummet through, kinda like a rhino through a pagoda.

This time it's the NFL's typically arcane policy on games that don't sell out. Specifically, the rule says that if a pre-season game doesn't put enough butts in the seat, local television stations can show it on tape delay or ruin themselves financially by buying all remaining unsold tickets and broadcasting the game live.

So as a result, MyNetworkTV affiliate WATL is showing the game at 10 p.m. EST, with the Falcons now suffering the embarrassment of running after Jaws: The Revenge, which is an affront to decent, movie-loving Americans everywhere. Further proof that for all the wonderful things it does for fans, the NFL's TV policies could use a huge overhaul.

On the plus side, after following one of the bigger bombs in movie history, the Falcons should look pretty terrific Friday night.


Sunday, August 10, 2008

Maverick at the Movies is now Sounds of Cinema

Starting this weekend, Maverick at the Movies becomes Sounds of Cinema!

Since its inception in May 2004, this show was recorded and broadcast from 89.7 KMSU FM 'The Maverick' in Mankato, Minnesota. As of now, the program will be recorded at 89.5 KQAL FM in Winona and broadcast from both stations, so a name change was in order. Aside from a few aesthetic changes to the show, the format will remain the same.

Sounds of Cinema can be heard every Sunday at 11am (CST) on 89.7 KMSU FM in south central Minnesota and across the world at KMSU's website. The show can be heard Sunday 4:05pm (CST) on 89.5 KQAL FM in southeastern Minnesota and western Wisconsin and across the world on KQAL's website. A new website will be on the way in the near future, but for now full text reviews, play lists, and other supplementary information can be found at .

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince trailer

LA Times: Dark Knight to Unseat Titanic?

'The Dark Knight' enters 'Titanic' territory
By John Horn, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer July 29, 2008

It's as hallowed a statistic to Hollywood as Joe DiMaggio's
56-game hitting streak is to baseball: "Titanic's" record box-office gross of $600.8 million. All of a sudden, that mark might be within " The Dark Knight's" reach.

Distribution executives have started debating in earnest the potential total "Dark Knight" haul, which already has passed $300 million and is projected to eclipse the $400-million mark on Aug. 4 or 5. Although half a dozen industry insiders surveyed Monday said "Titanic's"
record appeared safe for now, the majority of distribution executives placed the film's probable final gross just past $500 million, thanks in part to repeat business from across the audience spectrum.

That would make "The Dark Knight" the second-highest grossing film of all-time, ahead of 1977's "Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope" (whose combined theatrical releases total $461 million) and 2004's "Shrek 2" ($436.7 million).

Full story here.

Monday, July 28, 2008

W Trailer

The trailer for W, Oliver Stone's bio-pic of George W. Bush, is now online. When I first heard about this film I was not sure if it would work, but it looks like Stone has made his first official comedy (not counting Natural Born Killers) and it might just work.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Variety: SAG nixes AMPTP's final offer

SAG nixes AMPTP's final offer
By Dave McNary, Variety

SAG's still not ready to close a deal with the majors -- signaling that the thesps' contract stalemate will linger on into the late summer.

The guild on Thursday officially rejected the final offer by the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers on grounds the pact falls short in such areas as new media and DVD residuals, along with product integration and force majeure protections.
SAG made several counteroffers but the majors insisted they're done negotiating and that the final offer is indeed final.

SAG president Alan Rosenberg told Daily Variety that guild leaders also spurned the majors' request that the offer be sent to the guild's 120,000 members.

"We're not ready to send this to our members," he added. "We can't recommend a deal that they won't approve."

The AMPTP responded by saying that any further delay in reaching a deal is a "disservice" to the thousands of working people already being harmed by the production slowdown. "The last thing we need is a long, hot summer of labor strife that puts even more pressure on a badly struggling economy and deprives audiences of the entertainment they clearly desire in such difficult times," it added.

SAG national exec director Doug Allen took issue with the characterization that SAG had rejected the final offer.

"We accepted pieces of their offer," he said. "And we made several big moves in their direction. So to say we rejected is not fair."
The congloms responded by blasting SAG leaders for foot-dragging and being unrealistic in believing that SAG deserves a better deal than the DGA, WGA and AFTRA.

"Today's meeting demonstrated that SAG's Membership First contingent unreasonably expects to obtain more in these negotiations than directors, writers and other actors obtained during their negotiations. AMPTP has already achieved four major labor agreements this year," the AMPTP said. "The refusal of SAG's Hollywood leadership to accept this offer is the latest in a series of actions by SAG leaders that, in our opinion, puts labor peace at risk."

Rosenberg and Allen would not disclose the guild's counterproposals but it's believed SAG agree to the congloms' proposed salary minimums. But the guild held back on other major concessions such as insisting on jurisdiction over all new media and keeping a DVD residual hike on the table.
SAG's negotiating committee meets today but it hasn't set another get-together with the AMPTP.

It's unclear what happens next. SAG's official rejection of the final offer and AMPTP's request for a membership vote sets the stage for a possible move by the majors to declare an impasse and impose the terms and conditions of the new offer.

SAG's rejection came even though its strike threat has waned due to the ratification on Tuesday of AFTRA's primetime pact despite SAG's fervent lobbying of its 44,000 members who also belong to AFTRA. Because of the high hurdle SAG faces in getting 75% of its members to back a strike, speculation is mounting in the biz that studios may gamble on moving forward with new feature productions despite the uncertainty created by the SAG contract limbo.

Rosenberg said SAG still hasn't scheduled a strike authorization vote. SAG's previous contract expired June 30.

In the days leading up to Thursday's meeting, SAG leaders had given every indication that the guild was going to spurn the AMPTP's deal and opt to extend the talks. For their part, the congloms say their offer, made a few hours before SAG's contract expired last week, contains more than $250 million in pay increases over three years -- with terms matching the just-ratified AFTRA primetime deal.

SAG's rejection came two days after it lost leverage by failing to defeat the AFTRA deal, which was approved by 62% of those voting. And Thursday's rejection imperils the guild's prospects of obtaining an additional $10 million for members via a retroactivity provision that takes effect if the guild ratifies the deal by Aug. 15.

In addition, AFTRA is now free to cut into SAG jurisdiction by signing new TV shows shot on digital to its deal.

Although the majors may move soon to impose the new contract terms, there's a growing consensus that they may not opt to go with the impasse strategy. That route contains the potential drawback that SAG would probably be able to go to court and tie up implementation of the new terms and conditions.

Instead, the lack of resolution plus SAG's failure to defeat the AFTRA deal have led to a growing consensus among producers that SAG's not going to strike -- as long as the congloms don't inflame the situation by locking out actors.

For SAG, the 75% support required in a strike authorization vote is a longshot given the worsening economy, the lingering hangover from the WGA strike and SAG's inability to persuade enough of its 44,000 members who also belong to AFTRA to vote down that deal. A strike authorization vote would take about three weeks.

Producers had pulled the plug on most film shooting by June 30 due to the uncertainty over a SAG strike. But more than a dozen TV series and pilots remained in production along with some of the 355 indie features that signed guild waivers -- and with SAG looking unlikely to strike, that activity may begin returning to normal levels sooner rather than later.

One attraction for companies pondering that route at this point: Productions would be shot under the less expensive terms and conditions of the expired SAG deal.


Sunday, June 29, 2008


Maverick at the Movies will be recorded and broadcast from 89.5 KQAL FM in Winona, Minnesota, starting in the very near future. Details are soft at the moment, but the expansion is definite. The program will continue to be available on 89.7 KMSU FM in Mankato, Minnesota.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

AFI's Top 10 Genre Films

The American Film Institute has released yet another list, this one selecting ten different genres and identifying their picks of the ten greatest films in each of them. You can find the lists and supplementary material here.

The Lists:

  1. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, 1937
  2. Pinocchio, 1940
  3. Bambi, 1942
  4. The Lion King, 1994
  5. Fantasia, 1940
  6. Toy Story, 1995
  7. Beauty and the Beast, 1991
  8. Shrek, 2001
  9. Cinderella, 1950
  10. Finding Nemo, 2003

Not a bad list, although it's very Disney heavy and family friendly. I would prefer Beauty and the Beast closer to the top, if not at the top, since the animation in it is so well done. It also would be nice to see some more diverse films and pictures that aren't geared for children like South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut or Waking Life.


  1. The Wizard of Oz, 1939
  2. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, 2001
  3. It’s a Wonderful Life, 1946
  4. King Kong, 1933
  5. Miracle on 34th Street, 1947
  6. Field of Dreams, 1989
  7. Harvey, 1950
  8. Groundhog Day, 1993
  9. The Thief of Bagdad, 1924
  10. Big, 1988

The top half of the list is fairly predictable and it's nice to see a film like The Thief of Bagdad included here. I'm also happy that they looked beyond sword and shield fantasy like Lord of the Rings and include Field of Dreams and It's a Wonderful Life. Big and Groundhog Day are a surprise. They are not bad films but I think something with more depth to it like The Fountain would be nice to see here instead.


  1. The Godfather, 1972
  2. Goodfellas, 1990
  3. The Godfather Part II, 1974
  4. White Heat, 1949
  5. Bonnie and Clyde, 1967
  6. Scarface: The Shame of a Nation, 1932
  7. Pulp Fiction, 1994
  8. The Public Enemy, 1931
  9. Little Caesar, 1930
  10. Scarface, 1983

This is probably the best list. I'm very happy to see both versions of Scarface here. I think The Departed was actually superior to Goodfellas, but at this point it's probably too recent of a film to make an AFI list just yet.

Science Fiction

  1. 2001: A Space Odyssey, 1968
  2. Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope, 1977
  3. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, 1982
  4. A Clockwork Orange, 1971
  5. The Day The Earth Stood Still, 1951
  6. Blade Runner, 1982
  7. Alien, 1979
  8. Terminator 2: Judgment Day, 1991
  9. Invasion of the Body Snatchers, 1956
  10. Back to the Future, 1985

Any one of these are terrific examples of science fiction, but I would take the original Terminator over the sequel and Robocop over Back to the Future. Star Wars really does not belong on this list; the film is a fantasy with high technology, and should be on that list instead, probably in place of Miracle of 34th Street. Similarly, Alien is primarily a horror film.


  1. The Searchers, 1956
  2. High Noon, 1952
  3. Shane, 1953
  4. Unforgiven, 1992
  5. Red River, 1948
  6. The Wild Bunch, 1969
  7. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, 1969
  8. McCabe & Mrs. Miller, 1971
  9. Stagecoach, 1939
  10. Cat Ballou, 1965

A pretty solid list, although I would recommend Dances With Wolves in place of Cat Ballou and The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly in place of Shane. I would love to see Soldier Blue, Tombstone, and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance here as well.


  1. Raging Bull, 1980
  2. Rocky, 1976
  3. The Pride of the Yankees, 1942
  4. Hoosiers, 1986
  5. Bull Durham, 1988
  6. The Hustler, 1961
  7. Caddyshack, 1980
  8. Breaking Away, 1979
  9. National Velvet, 1944
  10. Jerry Maguire, 1996

I question placing Jerry Maguire on this list. Although it is about a sports agent, the football is primarily in the background. Also, Raging Bull is primarily a bio-pic, one of the genres ignored by the AFI.


  1. Vertigo, 1958
  2. Chinatown, 1974
  3. Rear Window, 1954
  4. Laura, 1944
  5. The Third Man, 1949
  6. The Maltese Falcon, 1941
  7. North By Northwest, 1959
  8. Blue Velvet, 1986
  9. Dial M for Murder, 1954
  10. The Usual Suspects, 1995

The distinction between this list and the gangster film get a little muddled with films like The Usual Suspects, Chinatown, and Blue Velvet.

Romantic Comedy

  1. City Lights, 1931
  2. Annie Hall, 1977
  3. It Happened One Night, 1934
  4. Roman Holiday, 1953
  5. The Philadelphia Story, 1940
  6. When Harry Met Sally ..., 1989
  7. Adam’s Rib, 1949
  8. Moonstruck, 1987
  9. Harold and Maude, 1971
  10. Sleepless in Seattle, 1993

This is a very specialized category and there is not much I can challenge, although I would suggest Napoleon Dynamite in place of Sleepless in Seattle. I am happy to see Harold and Maude here.

Courtroom Drama

  1. To Kill a Mockingbird, 1962
  2. 12 Angry Men, 1957
  3. Kramer Vs. Kramer, 1979
  4. The Verdict, 1982
  5. A Few Good Men, 1992
  6. Witness for the Prosecution, 1957
  7. Anatomy of a Murder, 1959
  8. In Cold Blood, 1967
  9. A Cry in the Dark, 1988
  10. Judgment at Nuremberg, 1961

Another highly specialized genre. Not much to argue with here although Judgement at Nuremberg at number ten could probably be flipped with A Few Good Men at number five.


  1. Lawrence of Arabia, 1962
  2. Ben-Hur, 1959
  3. Schindler’s List, 1993
  4. Gone With the Wind, 1939
  5. Spartacus, 1960
  6. Titanic, 1997
  7. All Quiet on the Western Front, 1930
  8. Saving Private Ryan, 1998
  9. Reds, 1981
  10. The Ten Commandments, 1956

This list has several films that don't belong here. Schindler's List, Titanic, and Saving Private Ryan are solid movies but they are not epics. They do not have the kind of narrative scope becoming of the genre. Dances With Wolves, Gladiator, Kingdom of Heaven, and Braveheart would be more appropriate.

Criticism of the AFI's List

As I have often said, I have problems with AFI and their lists. Like the MPAA, the AFI caters to studio and corporate interests with a preference for big Hollywood films by and staring major Hollywood figures. Hollywood is fine and big budget studio pictures are fine; I have no problem with large productions and I certainly would not dismiss a film because it made money. However, there are no independent films and some suspect titles on their lists. Last year's 100 Films list included The Sixth Sense and Titanic; while I do enjoy those films, I don't think they should be categorized next to Casablanca and Vertigo.

This particular list has some inherent problems. First, a lot of films, especially those made today, crisscross genres. For instance, Lord of the Rings is found on the fantasy list but it could easily qualify as an epic. Second, the selection of genres on this list is apparently arbitrary. Courtroom Drama and Romantic Comedy are very particular and do not match with the more general categories.

Alternative Lists

It's possible that the AFI ignored some genres, like Musicals, because they have dealt with the topic in another list, but in the cases of Horror and Documentary the AFI has refused to acknowledge them at all in their lists, and this is highly suspect because these genres are most independent of the studio system.

What follows are alternative lists for genres that the AFI ignored. These are not definitive list, just ten suggestions for each category, listed in no particular order. I've conformed to the AFI's rule of only American films.


  • Dreamgirls
  • Chicago
  • West Side Story
  • Yankee Doodle Dandy
  • The Nightmare Before Christmas
  • The Rocky Horror Picture Show
  • The Doors
  • Little Shop of Horrors, 1986
  • The Sound of Music
  • Pink Floyd: The Wall


  • Psycho, 1960
  • Jaws
  • The Hills Have Eyes, 1977
  • A Nightmare on Elm Street
  • The Silence of the Lambs
  • Night of the Living Dead, 1968
  • Frankenstein, 1931
  • Halloween 1978
  • The Exorcist
  • The Thing, 1982


  • Stripes
  • Ghostbusters
  • Dumb and Dumber
  • Some Like It Hot
  • The Big Lebowski
  • Caddyshack
  • Duck Soup
  • Annie Hall
  • Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
  • The Gold Rush


  • Platoon
  • Apocalypse Now
  • The Thin Red Line, 1998
  • Saving Private Ryan
  • The Longest Day, 1962
  • Patton
  • The Deer Hunter
  • Coming Home
  • Full Metal Jacket
  • Letters from Iwo Jima


  • Raiders of the Lost Ark
  • Die Hard
  • Treasure of the Sierra Madre
  • The African Queen
  • The Adventures of Robin Hood
  • Kill Bill
  • Enter the Dragon
  • Lethal Weapon
  • Superman: The Movie
  • First Blood


  • Titanic
  • Romeo and Juliet, 1968
  • Gone With the Wind
  • The Graduate
  • Out of Africa
  • The English Patient
  • As Good As It Gets
  • An Officer and a Gentleman
  • Brokeback Mountain
  • From Here to Eternity


  • Vernon, Florida
  • Bowling for Columbine
  • When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts
  • The Fog of War
  • Hearts and Minds
  • When We Were Kings
  • Woodstock
  • Nanook of the North
  • Jazz, 2001
  • Why We Fight, 1943-45

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

EW on Sydney Pollack

Entertainment Weekly's website has a short but interesting piece reflecting on the career of Sydney Pollack, who passed away earlier this week. Here is an excerpt:

Sydney Pollack made movies for grownups. He didn't make movies about teenager-stalking slashers or CGI monsters or men in tights (well, except for Tootsie). The director, who died yesterday at 73, seems like the last of a breed, a filmmaker who specialized in old-fashioned, star-driven, sweeping romances and epics of the kind that used to win Oscars but that Hollywood has all but forgotten how to make. (About the only other director of recent years who still made such anachronistic spectacles was Pollack's producing partner, Anthony Minghella, who died just two months ago.) It's hard to imagine anyone trying nowadays to make a romance with the sprawl and scope of The Way We Were or Out of Africa, movies with artistic ambition, star-powered glamour, and faith that there are enough adult ticketbuyers to make them hits without pandering.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

New Hollywood Series: Apocalypse Now

For this Memorial Day, and in continuation of the ongoing New Hollywood series here on Maverick at the Movies, today's episode features a condensed version of the two-disc, 96 minute the soundtrack to Apocalypse Now released by Elektra Records, trimmed to fit within the show’s length and edited to conform to FCC regulations on content. The soundtrack album is unique in that it includes the music, dialogue, sound effects, and narration, making the album play very much like a radio drama.

Directed by Francis Ford Coppola, Apocalypse Now was released in 1979 amid press stories of a chaotic shoot in south East Asia and the film had the distinction of being one of the first studio pictures to deal with the Vietnam War. Based on Joseph Conrad’s novella Heart of Darkness, Apocalypse Now tells the story of Captain Willard, an American soldier back on tour in Vietnam, who is given a secret mission to assassinate an American colonel who has gone insane deep within the South East Asian jungle. On Willard’s journey he confronts his own doubts about the war, his allegiance to his country, and even his own sanity.

The picture is structured to take its protagonist through the Vietnam War, but also through civilization, gradually stripping away social and technological signs of human advancement and returning man to a primal state of nature. By doing this film is able to take a look into the origins of violence and the nature of warfare, making Apocalypse Now a deeper exploration of the Thanatos drive.

As a technical exercise, Apocalypse Now has some great examples of visuals and sound working together. The helicopter attack is an iconic piece of film history with a sensory overload of explosions, camerawork, and music that satirizes the contemporary war film (and is quite clearly referenced—without irony—in Rambo: First Blood – Part II).

There are some great performances in the film. Marlon Brando gives the last great performance of his career as Colonel Kurtz, a tortured soul burdened with terrifying insight into the truth of war and the worst elements of human existence. Martin Sheen stars as Willard, a conflicted army captain who has lost his way in the amoral nature of warfare. Willard’s journey and his narration of the tale provides the film with direction and shapes the themes of the story, making them much clearer than if they were just presented visually and Sheen’s performance is the glue that holds the film together. Apocalypse Now also has some terrific supporting performances by Robert Duvall as the reckless Colonel Kilgore and Dennis Hopper as an eccentric photojournalist.

In 2001, Francis Ford Coppola released Apocalypse Now Redux, a re-edit of the film that adds nearly an hour of footage. Unlike some other director’s cuts, Redux adds entire new sequences that build upon the themes and further develop the characters. The most interesting addition is a sequence on a French plantation in Vietnam. Admittedly, the new scenes to grind the narrative to a halt in places, but Redux makes for an interesting alternative cut of the film.

While it’s one of the most controversial war films of all time, it’s also one of best, a film that mixes art house style with Hollywood spectacle to create an engaging and sophisticated portrait of modern warfare set against the primeval barbarity of human nature.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Apocalypse Now on Memorial Day Weekend

A special presentation of the soundtrack to Apocalypse Now will air on Maverick at the Movies on Sunday, May 25th. The episode will feature an abridged version of the 2-disc soundtrack released by Elektra/Asylum Records which features not just the music but the dialogue and sound effects as well, playing out the story like a radio drama.

From the 50 Yard Line

The feature length film From the 50 Yard Line will be shown at Mankato West High School May 23rd, 2008 at 7:30p.m. Tickets will be $7 a piece. The screening is sponsored by the Mankato Area 77 Lancers.

Monday, May 19, 2008

LA Times on Spielberg

Peter Rainer has written an interesting essay on the career of Steven Spielberg. Dealing with a director who has come to epitomize commercial interests and contemporary Hollywood power, Rainer cuts between praising Spielberg's success as an entertainer and criticizing him for supposed lack of substance. Here are some excerpts:

The directors of Spielberg's generation who came up in the late '60s and early '70s, many of them film-school-trained, were the first in America to push their encyclopedic passion for movies right into the forefront of their work. Their rebellion against Old Hollywood was essentially a pose, since directors like John Ford, Howard Hawks and Frank Capra were mainstays of their mindscapes. Old movies functioned for these filmmakers as primary experiences -- touchstones of inspiration -- in the same way that poetry or literature might have functioned for an earlier generation of artists.
Spielberg, however, came from a somewhat different place. He never officially attended a major film school. His heroes were the big-picture guys like David Lean and Stanley Kubrick or versatile old studio hands like Michael Curtiz and Victor Fleming -- directors who could be counted on to deliver reliable commercial entertainment (and sometimes more than that). While many of his '70s confederates, who also were to include such directors as Terrence Malick, Jonathan Demme and Philip Kaufman, were attempting to work outside the industry, or subvert it from within through sheer force of artistry, Spielberg was directing episodes of "Night Gallery" and "Marcus Welby, M.D." and then moving on to sharks and flying saucers.
The career trajectory of Hollywood directors before the '70s typically followed the winding path from unpretentious to "prestigious" (i.e., Oscar-worthy). Take, for example, George Stevens, who went from "Alice Adams," "Swing Time," "Gunga Din" and "The More the Merrier" to "A Place in the Sun," "Giant," "The Diary of Anne Frank" and "The Greatest Story Ever Told." Most of the '70s directors did their best to avoid this syndrome or at least held out for as long as they could. Coppola's "Apocalypse Now," a deranged movie about a deranged war, could never have been mistaken for a respectable war epic. Scorsese's biblical movie was "The Last Temptation of Christ."

But Spielberg, being the most attuned of his generation to the mojo of Hollywood, was naturally the director who most wholeheartedly fell into the prestige trap. Whatever their merits, and in some cases they are considerable, films such as "The Color Purple," "Empire of the Sun," "Schindler's List," "Amistad," "Saving Private Ryan" and "Munich" are all deeply conventional in terms of how the world is comprehended. Some of these films may be better made, or, in the case of "Schindler's List," more richly felt than their Old Hollywood counterparts. But all are afflicted with a kind of transcendent Stanley Kramerism. We are made to understand that moral lessons are being imparted and that, in the end, tomorrow will somehow be a better day.
FOR A director of conscience who can make his camera do anything, the realization that he has it in him to inspire absolute dread must be supremely unsettling. (I'm not thinking of "Jaws," which was comic-book dread.) What surely must prey upon Spielberg as he gets older are not the bliss-outs he is uniquely capable of creating but the horrors. The Normandy Beach landing in "Saving Private Ryan" goes way beyond the usual technical exercise; it's a fury against the flesh. In "Minority Report," Tom Cruise's John Anderton, the chief of the Department of Pre-Crime in the District of Columbia, stands before a floating computer interface and, arms waving like an impresario, whisks around its midair crime scene visuals. It's a nightmare representation of the director as puppet master, and it comes with a kicker: Anderton, whose mind is a mausoleum of horrific images, is himself a murderer-to-be.

The filmmakers of Spielberg's generation wanted to take over Hollywood and change the face of an art form. And for a brief period, until the blockbuster syndrome kicked in in the mid-'70s, they did just that. Along with Lucas, Spielberg is often blamed for shutting down the renaissance, as if without "Jaws" and "Star Wars" it never would have occurred to anybody in Hollywood to come up with high concepts and saturation marketing. "I hate Spielberg," a young filmmaker told me at a movie festival recently when he heard I was going to be writing about him. "He killed the indie film." And then he added, "But I loved 'Jaws.' "
This doesn't mean Spielberg gets a free pass. Some of the cottages in his cottage industry have all the allure of McMansions. He has yet to make a movie that revels in the commonplace; for him, the ordinary is always (yawn) a springboard to magic. He has never made a movie with more than a trace of carnality. His world view is cut-rate Manichean -- darks and lights and not much gray in between. It's a pity he shelved his plans to make a movie about his childhood idol, Charles Lindbergh, the all-American aviator and Fascist sympathizer. Now there's a character who would have put Spielberg to the test. Instead, he's gearing up to make "Lincoln" with Liam Neeson, which sounds like a snooze. And "Jurassic 4" is on the radar.

Spielberg is still the teacher's pet of his class, but the difference is that now he owns the schoolhouse. Maybe for a while he should try being a truant.

I don't think Rainer gives Jaws or Close Encounters of the Third Kind enough credit, discounting them as comic book fantasy. I don't think that's fair or accurate; Jaws is a great horror story cast in the mold of a Corman film, but it reaches beyond that genre mold as a criticism of capitalism and the struggle of one man's conscience against forces of nature, both human and aquatic. Close Encounters, on the other hand, is really a religious film with science fiction symbols. Rainer's argument that the aliens are benign from the opening is not true; view the home invasion when the extraterrestrials kidnap a young boy. It is among the scariest scenes in any Spielberg film ever. The film is about faith and uses religious references (lights in the sky, visions, climbing a mountain to have communion with the gods) to tell a story of revelation just as Scorsese used these kinds of references in films like Raging Bull to communicate themes of sin and redemption.

Rainer's lament that Spielberg has never dealt with the commonplace is a silly but often floated argument against both the filmmaker and against the science fiction and fantasy genres. If one thing has marked Spielberg's entertainment, not to mention his most successful proteges like Robert Zemeckis and Peter Jackson, it is the ability to place the personal into the fantasy. I've already made the case for Jaws and Close Encounters. Indiana Jones reconciles with the father that was never in his life and Jurassic Park takes on the perils and responsibilities of technology. Minority Report and War of the Worlds are about our post-9/11 world and place issues like broken families and distrust of social institutions against an action-adventure background. It is significant to mention that nearly all of the 9/11 and post-9/11 narrative films have been unsuccessful at the box office, even some that were quite excellent like United 93, but both of Spielberg's films were big hits. And there are plenty of reasons for that (star power, Spielberg's name recognition, etc.) but the fact remains that the films that nestled difficult subject matter within supposedly escapist fare were best received by audiences.

It's true that Spielberg often puts entertainment before substance, the Indiana Jones films being the primary examples. And his filmography is certainly not perfect; consider The Lost World. But a creative writing instructor once told me, quite wisely, that a storyteller's first obligation is to be entertaining. An entertaining story with no substance will keep an audience's attention although it will be disposable. A substantive story with no entertainment value will reach no one. A great story, whether it's about a giant shark or a Greek myth, will both entertain us while telling us something true and substantive about the world. And just because a story is optimistic doesn't make it shallow. Optimism is not to be shunned if it's authentic, and Spielberg's films are box office successes partly because audiences respond to that optimism.

As it is, Spielberg has won two Best Director Oscars and made many of the most popular and successful films of all time, so he probably doesn't need to sweat what the bloggers and the critics and the columnists think. While some critics will hound his work to the end either because he's just too damn optimistic or because he's made too much money, I would liken Spielberg's legacy to John Ford or Frank Capra. Both made some great films that were widely entertaining and had substance to them.

Could Spielberg do something more challenging or extremely dark and depressing? Probably. And Salvador Dali could have painted a vase or a bowl of grapes. But that's not what marked Dali's work and to complain that Spielberg's films do not mirror the tone or point of view of Coppola's or Scorsese's work is a ridiculous condition.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Variety: Studios Redefining 'Chick Flicks'

Peter Bart
Fri., May 9, 2008, 1:58pm PT

Is the expression "chick flicks" a put-down?

Movie marketers think of "chick flicks" in a positive sense -- films that appeal to female sensibilities but also transcend gender boundaries. But talk to folks like Tina Fey and Amy Poehler and they wince at the "chick flick" tag. To them, it suggests pandering to women's tastes, which they insist their film, "Baby Mama," doesn't do.

Now along comes Manohla Dargis, the New York Times' lead female critic, with her unique take on the issue. According to Dargis, the argument over "chick flicks" is irrelevant because no movies are being made for women anymore. Hollywood is now perpetuating "the new, post-female American cinema," she avers.

This will come as news to studio chiefs who feel their summer slates embrace more cross-gender comedies -- indeed, more chick flicks -- than ever before. How about "Mamma Mia" and "Sex and the City" for starters?

Baloney, retorts Dargis, who dwells in her own definitional universe. "The girls of summer are few in number and real women (in film) are close to extinct," she blurts. As for the feature version of "Sex and the City," fans of the HBO show know that "its four bosomy buddies are really gay men in drag." And Meryl Streep? She's just earning a big payday in a "jukebox musical."

I sense several arguments brewing here. Sarah Jessica Parker will doubtless be displeased that her movie has been instantly transgenderized. Meanwhile, the producers of "Mamma Mia," perhaps the most popular sing-along in show business history, might resent their show being dismissed as a jukebox.

But then Dargis also has her theories about guy films, as well. It's her view that the protagonist in "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" -- a sensitive type prone to crying jags -- is "basically another chick." Indeed, the actor, Jason Segel, is so "softly plumped, he even looks as if he could fit into an A cup." Fearing this characterization, that's perhaps why Segel, who also wrote the script, injected two scenes displaying his full frontal phallus.

While the Times' critic obviously suffers from sexual disorientation -- maybe that's what happens when you see too many movies -- her syndrome points up the problems in deciding what is, or is not, a chick flick. I've always thought -- perhaps simplistically -- that a chick flick is, basically, a good date film. The difference is that it's the girl who motivates her guy to buy the ticket.

And the guy is usually grateful. That was certainly the case with movies like "Sleepless in Seattle," "My Best Friend's Wedding," "The Devil Wears Prada" or even "Juno." All were breakout films because their appeal transcended gender.

On the other hand, I find myself resisting movies that seem, on the surface, to be mega-chick flicks. Any title with the words "Traveling Pants" worries me. I never want to meet anyone named "Miss Congeniality" and when stars like Julia Roberts decide to make "issue pictures" like "Mona Lisa Smile," I take refuge in zit flicks like "Speed Racer."

The coming weeks, however, will offer a substantial number of films that, on the surface, sound as though they'll carry broad audience appeal. Think of "What Happens in Vegas," "The Love Guru," "Get Smart" or "The Pineapple Express."

There'll be more comedies than ever this summer, and some of them will be aggressively cross-gender, and more of the thrillers, too, probably will appeal to women as well as men. The model may turn out to be "Iron Man": Its protagonist (Robert Downey Jr.) is a lot hipper than previous superheroes, isn't scared of women like "Superman" or addicted to kinky gear like "Batman" or anatomically overequipped like "The Incredible Hulk." I suspect many women will find "Iron Man," to be downright sexy in his own clanky and clunky way.

Hence, I suspect that several chick flicks will end up on the "sleeper hit" list by fall, even though they may get kissed off by some critics who clearly need to get a life. Even a transgender one.


Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Street Fighter

A double feature of The Street Fighter and Return of the Street Fighter starring Sonny Chiba (no, not the video game crapfest starring Jean Claude Van Damme) will be shown Saturday, May 31st at 7pm in the Weicking Center Auditorium on the Minnesota State University campus.

Admission is free and Shuffle Function is sponsering the screening. Find out more at their blog.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Meet KMSU Radio Stars at Movies 8

Some members of the 89.7 KMSU FM staff will be manning a table at the Cinemark Movies 8 in the River Hills Mall before the screening of This American Life tonight at 7pm. If you are available, stop by and say hello.

Friday, April 25, 2008

First Blood at Movies 8

First Blood, the original Rambo film, will be shown at Movies 8 in the River Hills Mall on May 15th, 2008 at 7:30pm. It is a special presentation, one night only, and will cost a little more than the average movie ticket. After the film has finished there will be a viewing of the original ending to the picture and an interview with Sylvester Stallone.

Find out more here.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

This American Life: In Theaters

The television version of Ira Glass' "This American Life" will be broadcast live via satellite on Thursday, May 1st at Movies 8 in the River Hills Mall, Mankato at 7:00 p.m. For tickets, visit the Movies 8 box office.

The radio version of "This American Life" can be heard every Sunday at 1:00pm, two hours after Maverick at the Movies.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Minneapolis - St. Paul International Film Festival

The Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival is underway. Check out the website for details.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Lucas on Indiana Jones

Contact has an excerpt of an interview with George Lucas about the new Indiana Jones film, due out next month. Lucas is surprisingly candid about his fears that the film will not match expectations and will be met with the same kind of backlash that Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace recieved.

Indiana Jones producer George fears the forthcoming sequel is doomed to suffer the same critical failure as his much maligned Star Wars prequels.The producer has brought the swashbuckling franchise back to life, 19 years after Harrison Ford's movie archaeologist last appeared in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.But, as the release of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull draws close, Lucas admits he is terrified die-hard fans will turn their backs on the movie - in the same way Star Wars devotees did after he reignited the sci-fi franchise. He says, "We're not gonna have adoring fans sending us e-mails saying how much they loved the movie. We're gonna have a bunch of angry people saying, 'You're a bunch of a**holes, you should never have done this. You've ruined my life forever.'"

Sunday, April 13, 2008

KMSU FM Spring Pledge Drive

89.7 KMSU FM, The Maverick, is currently holding its spring pledge drive. Your donations, however much they may be, are greatly appreciated and necessary to keep the station on the air. Please support independent radio in the southern Minnesota area by making a pledge. You can call into the station at 507-389-5678 or 1-800-456-7810. You can also visit the contact page of the station's website and send an email. If you leave a voice mail message or send an email, please leave your name, address phone number, and amount you would like to pledge. If using a credit card, please do not send any card information, as this is not secure.

You can find more information on how donations help KMSU here.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

New Hollywood Series: Raging Bull

The Maverick at the Movies series on New Hollywood films continues on today's episode with a look at Raging Bull, Martin Scorsese character study of boxer Jake La Motta.

Scorsese was one of the most important filmmakers to emerge from the New Hollywood period (1968 - 1980), starting with Mean Streets and continuing with Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, New York, New York, and Taxi Driver. Raging Bull was released at the very end of the New Hollywood period and was one of Scorsese's greatest artistic achievements of his career and his best film of the period.

Raging Bull very much embodies New Hollywood tendencies:
  • The protagonist is a very difficult character.
  • The film features a lot of violence in the ring but also on the streets and in the home.
  • The film travels into uncomfortable or taboo territory and uproots myth of the 1950s Leave It to Beaver home and puts infidelity and violence there.
  • The film deals with subtext that is personal to the director, which in this case includes struggles with masculinity, life in the Bronx, Catholic imagery, and a chaotic home life.

The music of Raging Bull is interesting and is one of the key ways in which the film succeeds both as a personal work in Scorsese filmography and as a piece of cinematic art. On the show I've divided up the music into three categories:

Italian Music
This comes in two forms. First, rather than use a score produced exclusively for the film, Raging Bull features selections by composer Mascagni. This gives the Italian flavor to the environment La Motta lives in and comes from. It is a beautiful but mournful piece of music that comes in contrast to the scenes of brutal violence and underscores the tragedy of La Motta's story. Second, the film also features pieces like "Vivre" by Carlo Buti which also sets the ethnic setting of the story.

Lounge Music
Many scenes in the film take place in bars or clubs and music by Gene Krupa and His Orchestra or Russ Columbo and Nat Shilkret’s Orchestra create atmosphere. This music is often included as source music, which means that it comes from a radio or background performances.

Pop Music
Other source music in the film comes from recognizable music and Hollywood figures like Marilyn Monroe, Ella Fitzgerald, and Tony Bennett, among others. This music places the film in a particular space and time. There are few visual cues in the film that tell us when the film takes place, but music selections by these figures places the audience in the decade.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

New Hollywood Series: 2001: A Space Odyssey

New Hollywood Series:
The year 1968 is recognized as the start of the period sometimes called the Golden Age of American cinema. Whether that label is true is debatable, but it was a unique and special period of time between 1968 and 1980 where filmmakers had more control over their work than in any previous generation of filmmakers since the pre-studio era.

By 1968, the old studio system that had been in power throughout the 1940s and 50s was dead, ownership of the film studios was changing and there was an emerging independent film scene, although it would not be commercially viable for a couple more decades.

This time is often referred to as New Hollywood and it was a period that saw the emergence of filmmakers like Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, Steven Spielberg, Peter Bogdanovich, George Lucas, Sydney Lumet, and William Friedkin, among others. The films of this crowd were marked by innovative film techniques and a willingness to push boundaries of sex and violence while also making deeply personal films. The filmmakers were products of the counter-culture generation and they carried the revolutionary spirit into the cinema.

Throughout the year of 2008 we’ll be taking a close look at the films from the New Hollywood era here on Maverick at the Movies, celebrating the 40th anniversary of this extraordinary period of American film making.

There are filmmakers who got their start during this period who are not often considered New Hollywood, but nonetheless made films that share New Hollywood traits and have continued to impact contemporary film. This is especially true in the horror genre where Wes Craven, Tobe Hooper, George A. Romero, and John Carpenter all made significant contributions to cinema but working outside of the mainstream system.

One filmmaker whose work from this period is extremely influential was Stanley Kubrick. Films like Dr. Strangelove: or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, Spartacus, and Lolita, were released ahead of the New Hollywood movement but established some of the trends and auteur attitudes of their films.

The year 2008 marks the 40th anniversary of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. With the recent passing of screenwriter Arthur C. Clarke and the continued influence of the film, today’s episode of Maverick at the Movies is dedicated entirely to this film.

The Score:
Overture: Atmospheres (Gyorgy Ligeti)
Title Music: Also Sprach Zarathustra (Richard Strauss)
Music is a key way 2001 links old and new Hollywood. The film opens with an overture played over a black screen. Overtures were popular in classic Hollywood epics like Lawrence of Arabia, but Kubrick’s film puts it over a black image and chooses sounds that are creepy and do not establish a theme that is carried throughout the film. The film does use a big orchestral sound, which was largely done away with in the early years of New Hollywood and would not see a return until Star Wars in 1977.

From Earth to the Moon: The Blue Danube (Johann Strauss)
This music is used in scenes of space travel and gives a sense of beauty and wonder to the images. It contrasts with the scenes later in the film that have little or no sound, where space becomes a cold, empty, and dangerous place. But for now it’s full of wonder.

TMA-1: Lux Aeterna (Gyorgy Ligeti)
This piece starts out with an innocent sound but by the end it builds to distortion and becomes frightening and the first indication that something may go wrong. The piece also has a spiritual or religious component to it, embodied by the use of choir, that supports some of the themes of spiritual awakening in the film.

Discovery: Adagio (Aram Khachaturian)
This piece scores the music for space travel and is astoundingly similar to music by Jerry Goldsmith in Alien and James Horner in Aliens.

Star Gate: Requiem for Soprano, Mezzo Soprano, Two Mixed Choirs, and Orchestra (Gyorgy Ligeti)
Star Gate II: Atmospheres (Gyorgy Ligeti)
Transfiguration: Also Sprach Zarathustra (Richard Strauss)

The music of 2001 exits the same way it came in with Ligeti and Strauss. Stargate and Stargate II take us through the hell of spiritual and intellectual growing pains experienced by our protagonist; some of Kubrick’s visuals in the these scenes are akin to what he later did in The Shining, although to a very different end. The visuals get continuously more abstract and the music supports those visuals with rising dissonance.

The music selection bookends the film, taking a challenging film and making it more accessible by appealing to traditional storytelling principals. The use of Strauss’ music is interesting to the ending; "Also Sprach Zarathustra" is adapted from Friedrich Nietzsche’s work. One of Nietzsche’s key ideas was that a new breed of human being, the ubermensch or super people, would rise and lead humanity into a more enlightened age; the use of Strauss' interpretation of Nietzsche melds with the final images of the star baby.

Final Thoughts:
2001: A Space Odyssey has influenced nearly every major science fiction and fantasy film since its release from Star Wars and Alien to Star Trek: The Motion Picture and The Matrix, and for that reason alone it is worth viewing by film and science fiction aficionados. Concepts like hibernation, artificial intelligence, and realistic space travel were presented in this film in ways that have been alluded to, imitated, and downright ripped off ever since.

2001 represents an honest attempt to make an intelligent, pure science fiction film and the picture is able to reach into the possibilities of the genre. While many science fiction films deal with fantasies of intergalactic politics and warfare, the issue truly central to the genre is the relationship between humans, their civilization, and technology, and this is where 2001 shines. Spanning from the dawn of humanity to a future where humans take the next turn in their evolution, 2001 establishes themes of dehumanization and mechanization and a uses deep and sometimes abstract symbolism to take humanity to a new level where it is reaches a new beginning.

2001: A Space Odyssey demands a lot from its viewers and those who are willing to engage the film will be rewarded. It may take a second or third viewing to understand the film and even those who have viewed it multiple times debate the picture’s ultimate meaning. But what 2001 proves is that film can be a medium for serious intellectual and entertaining expression.

Thursday, March 20, 2008


This week has seen a number of deaths in the entertainment world. Here is a run down:

Arthur C. Clarke - Author of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Paul Scofield - Actor who appeared in Quiz Show, King Lear (1971), Hamlet (1990), and A Man for All Seasons (1966).

Anthony Minghella - Director of The English Patient, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Cold Mountain, and Truly, Madly, Deeply.

Ivan Dixon - Television and film actor who performed in Car Wash, A Raisin in the Sun (1961), Hogan's Heroes, Clay Pigeon, The Fugitive, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., and The Twilight Zone. He also directed episodes of The A-Team, The Waltons, Magnum P.I.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

LA Times: Final Harry Potter Book Will Be Split Into Two Movies

By Geoff Boucher, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
March 13, 2008

For "Harry Potter" and Hollywood, eight is the magic number.

Warner Bros. Pictures and the producers behind the $4.5-billion film franchise featuring the beloved boy wizard will split the seventh and final novel in the J.K. Rowling series into two films.

"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I" will hit theaters in November 2010, followed by "Part II" in May 2011, a decision that is being met around the world with fans' cheers but also plenty of cynical smirks. The publishing industry is learning to live without new "Potter" releases, but Hollywood just pulled off a trick that will keep its profitable hero on his broom into the next decade.

Any twist in the "Potter" universe is the stuff of global news bulletins. The books were a publishing sensation. And to an entire generation, the film saga has become a heartfelt touchstone on the level of "The Wizard of Oz" and as culturally and commercially ubiquitous as the "Star Wars" series. For all those reasons, everyone involved in the franchise is jumping forward to say an eighth film would be to serve the story, not the bottom line.

Daniel Radcliffe, the star of the franchise, said it was the dense action of the final novel that made the decision, not any executive or ledger.

"I think it's the only way you can do it, without cutting out a huge portion of the book," Radcliffe said. "There have been compartmentalized subplots in the other books that have made them easier to cut -- although those cuts were still to the horror of some fans -- but the seventh book doesn't really have any subplots. It's one driving, pounding story from the word go."

The same could be said about the relentless "Potter" franchise, which hit screens for the first time in 2001. The five "Potter" films to date have averaged $282 million in U.S. grosses, but the overall receipts go well beyond that. The faces of the stars stare out from DVDs, video games, tie-in books, toys, clothing, candy wrappers and a staggering array of other items. By some estimates, the brand represents a $20-billion enterprise, and that's without the planned "Potter"-themed complex opening next year at the Universal Orlando Resort in Florida.

Extending the "Potter" franchise is a boon to the studio and to its parent, media giant Time Warner, where recently named Chief Executive Jeffrey Bewkes is reining in costs with moves such as the recent gutting of New Line Cinema. Time Warner's stock price has stagnated since its merger with America Online eight years ago.

Right now, Radcliffe and his costars are filming the sixth installment in the franchise, "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," at an old aircraft factory outside London. "It's been brilliant," Radcliffe said of the production. "It's also, I think, the funniest of the films so far."

Radcliffe is now 18 and, by the final film, will have spent half of his life in the role of the scarred orphan who finds friendship and danger within the stone corridors of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Each film (following the construct of the novels) has been framed by a school year. Producer David Heyman, a key figure in the films from Day One, was reluctant to depart from that and make the last book into two movies.

"Unlike every other book, you cannot remove elements of this book," Heyman said. "You can remove scenes of Ron playing Quidditch from the fifth book, and you can remove Hermione and S.P.E.W. [Society for the Promotion of Elfish Welfare] and those subplots . . . but with the seventh, that can't be done."

Rowling, who signed off on the idea of a two-part finale, has been a more frequent visitor to the sixth movie's set than with previous installments. One big reason is that she is no longer busy trying to finish the "next" "Potter" book; she walked away from her signature character in July, when the climactic "Deathly Hallows" hit stores and sold a record 11 million copies in its first 24 hours on shelves.

Alan Horn, president and chief operating officer of Warner Bros. Entertainment, will be in Las Vegas today to talk up the "Potter" plans at ShoWest, a key annual conference of movie exhibitors. Horn said Wednesday that "it would have been a disservice" to downsize "Deathly Hallows" into one film.

"This way, we have an extra hour and a half, at least, to celebrate what this franchise has been and do justice to all the words and ideas that Jo has put in the amazing story," Horn said. "This is the end of the story too. We want to celebrate it. We want to give a full meal."

David Yates, director of the fifth and sixth films, will return and make the final two films concurrently. Screenwriter Steve Kloves also returns, and, by the completion of the franchise, he will have written seven of the eight films.

They will be adapting a seventh book with 759 pages packed with action and twists and turns in the race toward the final conflict between Potter and the dark lord who murdered his parents, the serpentine Lord Voldemort. Reviewing last summer for The Times, Mary McNamara wrote: "What Rowling has achieved in this book and the series can be described only as astonishing. Just as her characters have matured, the language and tone of the books have grown in sophistication and lyricism. But she has never lost the sense of wonder that has propelled her into literary legend."

After the dust settles, the book ends with an epilogue that finds the main characters -- Harry, Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley -- grown up, married and 19 years removed from Hogwarts. Horn said that particular denouement has the filmmakers fretting about how to keep the young familiar stars on the screen just before it goes dark.

"That," Horn said, "is something we will need to deal with. People have watched these kids grow up, and it's been very special to do so. That's important to us."

Heyman said splitting "Deathly Hallows" is the right narrative formula, but the next problem is figuring out the division. As he put it: "The question will be, where do you break it? And how do you make them one but two separate and distinct stories? Do you break it with a moment of suspense or one of resolution?"

Horn said that screenwriter Kloves has already latched on to an approach that might work. Rowling could not be reached for comment, but the most recent entry on her website journal declared that "Hallows" stands as her favorite among the novels -- and that saying goodbye to Harry is never easy.

"It was the ending I had planned for 17 years, and there was more satisfaction than you can probably imagine in finally sharing it with my readers," Rowling wrote. "As for mourning Harry -- and I doubt I will be believed when I say this -- nobody can have felt the end as deeply as I did."