Thursday, December 31, 2009

Was 2009 the Year of Puking?

Here is an amusing article from Cinematical which asks the important question: was 2009 the year of vomit in film?

As of June, we'd seen it in Adventureland, The Haunting in Connecticut, Drag Me to Hell, Observe and Report, The Hangover, Year One, My Sister's Keeper, and I Love You, Man. Since that first post, I spotted 10 more: The International, Miss March, Thirst, District 9, Jennifer's Body, Zombieland, The Road, The Fourth Kind, Gentlemen Broncos, and Precious. That's 18 puke movies in one year. A new record?? I can only assume.

Why the excess of ralphing? The obvious answer would be that it's funny, and movies have lately been pushing new boundaries to get shock laughs. That's why we've been seeing more full-frontal male nudity, too. You used to get a laugh just by suggesting someone was barfing or naked; now you can get a bigger laugh by actually showing it.

Just something to think about while you are out on New Year's Eve . . . or tomorrow while you are recovering from it.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Library of Congress Film Board Announces New Additions

The National Film Preservation Board of the Library of Congress has added twenty-five new films into its archives, including Michael Jackson's "Thriller" music video directed by John Landis. Here is a full list of new films:

  • Dog Day Afternoon (1975)
  • The Exiles (1961)
  • Heroes All (1920)
  • Hot Dogs for Gauguin (1972)
  • The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957)
  • Jezebel (1938)
  • The Jungle (1967)
  • The Lead Shoes (1949)
  • Little Nemo (1911)
  • Mabel’s Blunder (1914)
  • The Mark of Zorro (1940)
  • Mrs. Miniver (1942)
  • The Muppet Movie (1979)
  • Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)
  • Pillow Talk (1959)
  • Precious Images (1986)
  • Quasi at the Quackadero (1975)
  • The Red Book (1994)
  • The Revenge of Pancho Villa (1930-36)
  • Scratch and Crow (1995)
  • Stark Love (1927)
  • The Story of G.I. Joe (1945)
  • A Study in Reds (1932)
  • Thriller (1983)
  • Under Western Stars (1938)

Monday, December 28, 2009

End of the Year and Decade Shows

In the coming weeks, Sounds of Cinema will air two special episodes to commemorate the end of 2009 and the end of the first decade of the twenty-first century.

On Sunday, January 3rd, I'll take a look at the past decade of cinema with my picks of the films that defined the past ten years.

And on Sunday, January 10th, I will review the films of 2009, selecting my picks of the best and worst films of the year. Tune in to see if your favorites made the list.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Dan O'Bannon RIP

Science fiction screenwriter Dan O'Bannon has died. His credits included Alien, Blue Thunder, Return of the Living Dead, and Total Recall.

From Empire Online:
A USC graduate in the same year as John Carpenter, O'Bannon was instrumental in Carpenter's cracking (and crackpot) first feature Dark Star, serving as co-writer, FX supervisor, production designer and editor, and playing Sgt Pinback (who turns out not to be Sgt Pinback at all). O'Bannon is the one who chases the beachball alien all over the spaceship; an idea that would sort of resurface later...

O'Bannon did some FX work on Star Wars in 1977, but is best known for kickstarting a different franchise. While authorship of Alien as we know it today is down to a number of people, there's no question that O'Bannon's Star Beast screenplay set the ball rolling, and he brought many of his colleagues from Alejandro Jodorowsky's aborted Dune to the project. The rest is movie history.

He wrote Blue Thunder and Life Force, and had two cracks at Philip K Dick, adapting We Can Remember It For You Wholesale and Second Variety into Total Recall and Screamers. Some say his Moebius-illustrated Heavy Metal comic The Long Tomorrow was a big visual influence on Blade Runner.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Precious vs. The Blind Side

ABC News features this article about the disparity in reception by African American audiences to the films Precious and The Blind Side. According to the article, Precious is raising criticism but The Blind Side has been recieved more positively or at least indifferently. Here is an excerpt from the piece:

Chicago Tribune film critic Michael Phillips finds the discrepancy puzzling.

"While everyone is fussing about 'Precious,' a movie like 'The Blind Side' is going to make a pile of dough and seems far more racially patronizing," said Phillips, the white co-host of the syndicated show "At the Movies."

"'The Blind Side' is telling a really good story about one African-American character completely through the perspective of the white family."

"That's absurd and patronizing in itself," Armond White, chief film critic of The New York Press, said of Phillips' comments.

The reason for the discrepancy, said White, who is black, is simple.

"Some black people find 'Precious' offensive and they don't find 'The Blind Side' offensive," he said. "There's more humanity there. 'Precious' is like a horror show, a freak show. There's nothing but misery, debased behavior and degradation. One film is about Samaritan-ism, humanism, kindness, love and brotherhood, and the other is about degradation and ignorance.

"I'm happy that people aren't buying it ['Precious'] and prefer to buy 'The Blind Side,'" he added.
I have not the seen either of these films yet so I'm unable to render my own verdict. At this time, however, The Blind Side is certainly the more visible of the two films, as it has a recognizable star in one of the lead roles, and has been distributed broadly and aggressively. Precious, on the other hand, is playing in limited release and features mostly lesser known actors.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The End of Studio Briefing

As regular listeners to Sounds of Cinema are aware, every episode includes a news update in the first half of the show featuring articles from Studio Briefing. However, Studio Briefing has sent out this message, titled "We've Been De-googled!" which explains they have been forced to shut down.
Dear Readers,

As many of our longtime readers are aware, Studio Briefing is the longest-running entertainment-industry news publication on the Web. Launched as a fax-only subscription in 1992, we went online the following year when News Corp's Delphi Internet Services became our first Internet outlet, and we have existed as a paid subscription service and a syndicated online news service ever since.

With many of our client websites battered by the current economy and some of them biting the dust, we were encouraged by a few industry warhorses to lauch a unique blog that would link the items in our daily digest directly to the source material and give readers the opportunity to discuss them. We unveiled the blog last April, augmenting our items with a few images and YouTube videos, and were gratified by the response -- with many new readers registering their thanks for our no-frills presentation that provided a fast-reading overview of the issues and events affecting “the biz” in a compelling style.

To draw revenue from the blog, we initially included ads from Google Adsense, and to help attract attention to it, we purchased ads ourselves from Google AdWords that appeared on related entertainment-industry websites. But a few months after we launched we received a boilerplate notification from Google that had been "disabled" because it did not comply with Google policies. The notice was vague, failing to specify which policies we had violated. We have been trying to obtain an explanation ever since, without luck.

Not only did Google delete the Adsense advertisements appearing on the blog, but it diverted its spider from the site as well. As a result, ceased being cited in Google search results. Then, a few weeks ago, we received word that Google had also halted running our Adword advertisements “due to one or more serious violations of our advertising policies related to Landing Page and Site Quality.” Whatever that means. Moreover, it added, “We are unable to accept advertising from you in the future. Please note that future accounts you open will also be disabled.”

We have repeatedly asked Google to explain its decision and to provide guidance on how to bring into compliance with its policies. Our messages have either been ignored or we have received copies of their original boilerplate notifications.

We are in no position to battle Google on this. And without being included in Google search results we cannot draw sufficient readers to remain viable. We are therefore left with no alternative but to shut down.

We thank you for checking us out during the past months, and please check back here on occasion. We’re still hoping that a White Knight might ride to our rescue.

Lew Irwin

P.S. And if you’re interested in an email subscription (the edition includes no ads and subscribers get it first), we’ll make a special rate available to readers of this blog. Simply drop us a line, and we’ll provide details. We’d also like to hear your suggestions.
If what Irwin has written here is correct, the implications of Google's actions are frightening for anyone operating on the web, as they were effectively able to "quarantine" Studio Briefing and lead to its demise in a very short period.

As for Sounds of Cinema, the future of the news segment is at this point uncertain. I will have to search for another source or abandon it altogether. I have determined that the show, and especially this segment, not fall prey to the celebrity gossip that so much "entertainment news" has devolved into. There is very little serious treatment of the cinema in popular media and seeing another outlet go belly up is disheartening.