Hand-colored vintage set photo.

There’s a Sphinx in Santa Barbara Thanks to Cecil B. DeMille, Wander Into THE LOST CITY Sept. 23

by Quendrith Johnson, Los Angeles Correspondent

When THE LOST CITY OF CECIL B. DEMILLE screens at The Egyptian Theatre Sept. 23, and the documentary’s full 30 years of footage finally gets a proper showing, it will be in the mythical city of its origin, Hollywood. Scroll back in time to 1923, the Great Director DeMille stands in blowing sand, turning back the hands of time to a Biblical Age when “The Ten Commandments” made for cinematic chaff. Pardon the “outdoor voice” on that florid description, but there’s something really wild about this film, not just an actual lost city of a film set near Santa Barbara.

Paul Iribe in specs, stands beside Cecil B. DeMille, 1923. (CecilBDemille.com)

Paul Iribe in specs, stands beside Cecil B. DeMille, 1923. (CecilBDemille.com)

It’s the cinephiles who made this thing, and kept pushing this celluloid ball up a hill for eons to find a distributor, in some kind of super-human film-worthy feat. In fact, remarkably, their efforts will pay off on Oct. 3 when Amazon, iTunes, and other platforms will finally stream this thing for the widest possible audience worldwide. So let’s go on this adventure with them, back in time to the 80’s. It all began in 1982, apparently.

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Which leads to our clunky tagline: “In 1982 Peter Brosnan heard a story about an ancient Egyptian city buried in the California desert. For thirty years he’s been fighting to dig it up.” Peter Brosnan is no relation to the lesser-known James Bond and world famous actor, Pierce Brosnan, but Pierce should really play this guy in a biopic. There is every element of human suffering and tragedy, enduring pain, and triumph not over the Red Sea, but over the red tape of petty bureaucrats, permits, and politics in this windswept saga.

 Archeologist Kholood Abdo Hintzman discusses excavation with Filmmaker Peter Brosnan. Photo by Jack McIlroy

Archeologist Kholood Abdo Hintzman discusses excavation with Filmmaker Peter Brosnan. Photo by Jack McIlroy

Here’s the approximate storyline, as the film’s notes tell it. “Have you seen “The Ten Commandments” with Charlton Heston?  Did you know that in 1923 DeMille made a silent version of “The Ten Commandments?”  He shot the film in Santa Barbara County, California, about 150 miles north of Hollywood, and built a huge City of the Pharaoh set.”

The Actual DeMille Set, Faux Pharaoh's Kingdom.

The Actual DeMille Set, Faux Pharaoh’s Kingdom.

“Designed by Paul Iribe, the “father of Art Deco,” it was the largest set in motion picture history.  When filming wrapped, the city mysteriously vanished.” The dig and film funding came in part from Cecil B. DeMille’s namesake granddaughter, Cecilia DeMille Presley, who also makes a surprise appearance in the documentary.
If you watch clips of the original 20’s picture, you can see the vanished Sphinx after the voluminous opening credits and title cards. This is a Hollywood version of the Bible after all, so it’s framed with fancy lettering and moralizing, but when the oddly Western-looking, white-faced man-made monument appears, you know it’s show time.

In the Beginning There Was Cecil B. DeMille’s Picture

Years ago, the media hopped on this fake Egyptian relic bandwagon from time to time. In 1991, “PEOPLE” magazine published an April Fool’s dated true story on this adventure entitled “Cecil B. DeMille’s Ten Commandments Set Lay Buried for 68 Years, But Filmmaker Says He Can Dig It.” By 2015, The Independent UK backdates the story to 30-year old Peter in 1982 taking on his mission to unearth 300 tons of statuary, including 21 chariots delivered by train, plus Ramses look-alike’s  to be liberated from a sandy grave. Each print outlet describes “the unmoving dunes” as a major tip-off to the fact that they were essentially Hollywood landfills, artificial berms, that is.

Iribe's Made Many a Sphinx.

Iribe Made Many a Sphinx.

Last year, Brosnan spelled it out for the “Santa Barbara Independent” newspaper as such: “It began as archaeology. When Bruce Cardozo, Richard Eberhardt, and I “discovered” the set in 1983, we realized that the tools and disciplines of archaeology would be vital to saving not just buried statues, but a record of the lives of the people who worked on the set. One of our first moves was to contact the archaeologists, including Dr. Brian Fagan (UCSB), Dr. Paul Chace (California Society of Archaeology), Dr. Ray Brandis (University of San Diego). and Dr. Robert Hoover (Cal Poly SLO), who were all early supporters of our efforts.”
Every major broadcaster through the years aired the story too. But not all gave credit where credit is due. Consider Brian Williams of NBC, here he is talking about the dig site without mentioning THE LOST CITY OF CECIL B. DEMILLE once.

Brian Williams of NBC News Aired a Segment on Dig, Doesn’t Mention the Doc, Ouch…

What could be so riveting about old plaster of Paris parts of a faux faced winged monster of Thebes with the lion’s maned human female head on a lioness’ body? Actually in the Egyptian tradition, this same creature has a male head, on a lion-esque body, and no wings. These details are less fascinating than the creator of the 1920’s movie props, a visionary, who was none other than Paul Iribe, a remarkable French illustrator whom Jesse Lasky singled out to DeMille.
According to DeMille’s official website, which published a recollection of the relationship, “Jesse Lasky recommended the French fashion illustrator Iribe to DeMille.”
“Iribe began as art director on Male and Female (1919). On The Ten Commandments (1923) he designed all settings except the Israelite camp at the foot of Mount Sinai, which was done by Francis McComas. Iribe left DeMille’s staff after designing a portion of The King of Kings (1927).”

Hand-colored vintage set photo.

Hand-colored vintage set photo.

The Art Deco feel of these pieces is authentic, in other words. Much like once-tossed cells from vintage animation, the historic cinematic value of these Iribe production designed statues also comes with an intrinsic worth at having been turned out by his own hand. Paul Iribe (1883-1935) is often called “the unsung hero of Art Deco.” In fact, as far as jewelry design, this multi-talented artist born Paul Iribarneygaray from Angoulême, France, was so influential in jewel-making he stands alone as the creator with CoCo Chanel of her “signature” shooting-stars stylized diamond neck cuff. (See his fantastic designs and learn more about that on Jewels du Jour .)

Younger Peter Brosnan

Peter Brosnan 1980’s

But back to our movie, the documentary with a provenance as impressive as a fine artwork. It’s not so much the man-hours it took to bring this documentary to the screen, but also the perseverance with which the core crew soldiered on through the years. They employed Archeologists and Geologists, some of whom quit and refused to talk about it ever again due to the frustrating nature of the project. Archeologist Colleen Hamilton was a project director and seems to have survived to the final credits. Peter Brosnan is shown at various ages dealing with a revolving door of experts in this film.

 

Editor George Artope, Director Peter Brosnan,and Producer Daniel J. Coplan sift through 30 years of footage. Photo by Kelvin Jones.

Editor George Artope, Director Peter Brosnan now, and Producer Daniel J. Coplan sift through 30 years of footage. Photo by Kelvin Jones.

The weathering on all cast and crew really shows how the sands of time do erase all traces of hype from Hollywood. But then again, some things seem to last forever in the retelling, the remakes, the 1923 Ten Commandments, the 1956 Charlton Heston – Yul Brynner version, both directed by DeMille, and now this Finding Of documentary that retraces the hidden folly of a film landfill from decades ago.
Slowly the painstaking discoveries they made on the Guadalupe-Nipomo dunes some 150 miles from Hollywood in Santa Barbara County make this doc worthy of a feature film, as mentioned. When The Nature Conservancy puts the ecological brakes on their dream, somehow they carry on like the march of time, unearthing what unnatural architecture lies beneath the wind-shorn facade.
Even the great Leonard Maltin was impressed, upon seeing it in a festival screening. He lent his name to this quote: “I’ve watched the doc and I’m very glad I did. What an extraordinary story. I thought I knew all there was to know about Peter Brosnan’s discovery of the Ten Commandments set in the California desert, but I was wrong. While documenting his obsessive, thirty-year odyssey he also traces Cecil B. DeMille’s fascinating saga. The result is a rare combination of film and cultural history. — Leonard Maltin.”

A Film Is Born: THE LOST CITY OF CECIL B. DEMILLE, Watch

So watch what happens in the Man vs. Nature Hollywood story that is THE LOST CITY OF CECIL B. DEMILLE. There will be a Q&A conversation with Peter Brosnan and his last archaeologist Colleen Hamilton after the screening on Sept. 23, at 2 pm, at the American Cinematheque’s Egyptian Theatre, 6712 Hollywood Blvd., visit here for details. Also note the doc will stream Oct. 3 on Amazon and other services, check their site for updates.

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Harry Dean Stanton Was LUCKY & Best Three Obits

by Quendrith Johnson, Los Angeles Correspondent

Harry Dean Stanton, who died Friday, Sept. 15  at age 91, was in the first movie I ever covered as a film reviewer. On Monday, Feb. 2, 1985, the New Mexico Daily Lobo in Albuquerque published a halting, lukewarm review of Wim Wenders’ PARIS, TEXAS.  It was a college try at doing this sort of thing, but years later, what strikes me about Harry Dean Stanton is that a lot of us  lived the quirky way he did on screen.

Cult of Harry

New Mexico Daily Lobo first film review by Quendrith Johnson, Feb. 25, 1985

New Mexico Daily Lobo, Feb. 25, 1985

We were all Paris, Texans, in the Wenders sense. Believing in that crazy desert lost-horizon magic of America, but also  in the art-for-non-commercial-art sense. Outsider art, the Stanton way.

Harry was our withered icon of indifference to big paychecks and brand names. We were just being our creative selves in whatever rendition of freelance “cool” he represented, to hell with healthcare.

Harry Dean Stanton went from regular Joe in TV series “Gunsmoke” to sobbing hitchhiker in the rain in seminal film TWO-LANE BLACKTOP.

Who makes that leap?

Then to ALIEN’s hesitating Everyman, or for many that guy in REPO MAN. To each audience member, he laid down private memories in whatever movies defined him for them.

No matter how long his resume, Stanton was still that off-beat, unbroken, mysterious wise guy, in the wisdom sense, smirking under there somewhere, but also sincere. He invited you to break free with him, maybe.

"Gunsmoke" Harry Dean Stanton

“Gunsmoke” Harry Dean Stanton

Tough to define Harry,  he was almost a celluloid mood swing.

Harry Dean Stanton’s last movie is called LUCKY, to be released by Magnolia Pictures two weeks after his death, on Sept. 29.

He didn’t plan it this way, but what a great title, and way to go out, in the opening light and starring credits of a new film.
My own personal way to say goodbye to him, in some kind of circular celebration from first review to last review of his work, is to quote Giacomo Puccini’s entire “Vissi d’arte” translated from the Italian aria in “Tosca.”

Harry Dean Stanton would have dug that.

Hold that operatic thought though, as it’s a style in almost all his film work.

The MISSOURI BREAKS actor wasn’t just a dramatic actor or a comedic actor, he was his own American cinematic opera icon for the ages.

He was in movies as diverse as COOL HAND LUKE, PRETTY IN PINK, GODFATHER II, ALPHA DOG, LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST, GREEN MILE, just look at all his credits.

Even in new movie, LUCKY, he plays a nonagenarian Atheist full of aphorisms worthy of a Buddhist or a retired Rodeo clown.

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Listen to the official description: “LUCKY follows the spiritual journey of a 90-year-old atheist and the quirky characters that inhabit his off the map desert town. Having out lived and out smoked all of his contemporaries, the fiercely independent Lucky finds himself at the precipice of life, thrust into a journey of self exploration, leading towards that which is so often unattainable: enlightenment. Acclaimed character actor John Carroll Lynch’s directorial debut, “Lucky”, is at once a love letter to the life and career of Harry Dean Stanton as well as a meditation on mortality, loneliness, spirituality, and human connection.”

He was an Alien among us.

He was an “Alien” among us.

Kind of over-the-top, but not topping this 91-year-old’s brilliant career and deft hand at leading us into self-reflection as we stared into the world of Harry Dean Stanton for years on screen.

So, it’s only fitting to give him the last round-up, picking the Top Three Obits so far… Why not?

Top Three Obits

Best to start with Vanity Fair, mosey on over to The Hollywood Reporter and jump over the pond to the Guardian UK.

Not one writer is enough to really sum up the wild, wide-ranging hot-foot career through film of this actor, who, although born in 1926, gave a Harry Dean Stanton stamp to my generation of  writers and film critics, not just what we wrote, but how we lived. So say an aria for Stanton…

In Two-Lane Blacktop with GTO.

In “Two-Lane Blacktop” with GTO.

 

Ad Astra, Harry Dean Stanton, But First Look at His New Movie…

Magnolia Pictures will release LUCKY on Sept. 29, just two weeks after star Harry Dean Stanton went to The Big Adios, signing off the silver screen at ninety-one.

LUCKY is…

Directed by John Carroll Lynch. Written by Logan Sparks and Drago Sumonja, and stars Harry Dean Stanton, Ron Livingston, Ed Begley Jr, Tom Skerritt, Barry Shabaka Henley, James Darren, Beth Grant, Yvonne Huff Lee, Hugo Armstrong and David Lynch.

Harry Dean Stanton (1926-2017) Lives on in Film.

Harry Dean Stanton (1926-2017) Lives on in Film.

Get LUCKY here:
Official Site I Facebook I Twitter

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LA LA LAND for Shoes, That’s FOOTNOTES Plus a Social Message

by Quendrith Johnson, Los Angeles Correspondent

Damien Chazelle should be thrilled that his movie LA LA LAND has joined the serious ranks of American films that have opened up global audiences to a renewed appreciation of singing and dancing films. The proof? French film FOOTNOTES, originally titled “Sur Quel Pied Danser,” that “opens” on VOD, Tues. Sept. 19. Although the press notes assure all that its inspiration comes from the movies of Jacques Demy and Stanley Donen of “Singing in The Rain” fame, you’ll be tempted to add Chazelle to what influenced this quirky movie.

FOOTNOTES was actually made before LA LA LAND, although without the smash success of Chazelle’s movie, this one would have a hard time finding an audience. Even harder since this footwear all-singing, all-dancing saga is a message movie.

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What’s the message? FOOTNOTES is so floaty and campy, you’ll have to see it yourself, but basically it’s about job security in the age of outsourcing.

That and the usual “don’t hate your life, follow your dreams.”

But woven in here is a power similar to LA LA LAND’s ability to elevate ordinary lives into something extraordinary. Except, since this is coming out of France, the Socialist sleight of hand swaps Tinseltown for shoe business with Pauline Etienne as Julie, our fleet-footed heroine.

She’s not Emma Stone, but she has an authentic off-center, human (non-actory) quality in common with her American counterpart.

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The way Monument Releasing describes this film is priceless because it puts a glossy spin on essentially a factory worker walk-out that would only be a drama in America.
“Julie (is) a young woman struggling to make ends meet in France’s radically changing economy. Living out of a backpack, Julie spends her days jumping from job to job until she’s finally offered a temporary stockroom position at a women’s luxury shoe factory. After making friends with the boss’s spunky receptionist Sophie and the ever-charming factory truck driver Samy, Julie thinks the hard times are behind her. But Julie’s dreams of stability collapse when management threatens to close down the factory. As her intrepid group of female colleagues get together to go on strike, Samy and the other truck drivers decide to side with the company’s scheming CEO. Julie must choose whether to keep a low profile (and a shot at permanent employment) or to resist and fight back on the picket line.”
There’s major shoe porn throughout this whole protest-driven, fair-employment plot. Opera pumps, mules, shiny flats, slip-ons, skids, sneakers, loafers, stilettoes, made of nubuck, crocodile, suede, patent leather, you name it. Even when the picketers shack up in tents, they vow to solve their problems in magical red shoes, hand-made women’s oxfords. Yet, it’s about a labor dispute whereby all these workers will be replaced by their cheaper Chinese counterparts. A global message really, with hot relevancy and a Kali, the many-armed Indian goddess, look to the official poster.

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But this isn’t NORMA RAE, the 1979 Sally Field starrer where she fights for her rights, nor is it a labor party anthem. It’s kind of a coming-of-age story through the lens of a Chazelle sensibility, a worldview that underscores how everyday life is our life, and how even being stuck in a wrong job or on a picket line or in a life rut is really the exciting plot of our lives. Add a little singing and carefully choreographed sashaying in street clothes — and you’re in a post-Studio Musical, musical.
As this movie foreshadows LA LA LAND, it also plays with its own ending in the unresolved-resolve. Without giving FOOTNOTES away, it’s a movie to watch on many different levels. It’s a diversion, and a parallel universe escape hatch from work where labor disputes can even have a melody written for the strife.
Watch FOOTNOTES Sept. 19 on most major platforms including iTunes, Amazon, Comcast, Charter, Cox, Vimeo, and various other cable operators.

Catch a Glimpse in Advance…

MONUMENT RELEASING PRESENTS

FOOTNOTES Helmer & Cast
Directed by: Paul Calori and Kostia Testut
Starring: Pauline Etienne, Olivier Chantreau, François Morel, Loïc Corbery
and Julie Victor

Official Selection of Palm Springs International Film Festival, Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival, Filmfest DC and many more; visit the French Allocine site here.

Opens on VOD Nationwide on Tuesday, Sept. 19 on all major platforms including iTunes, Amazon, Comcast, Charter, Cox, Vimeo, and various other cable operators.

France, 85 Minutes, In French with English Subtitles

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Crazy Little Thing Called DOWNSIZING from Payne with Damon, Wiig, Waltz & Hong Chau

by Quendrith Johnson, Los Angeles Correspondent

For everybody who loved the DESCENDANTS with George Clooney, but thought it was too sad, or loved SIDEWAYS with Paul Giamatt but not that comedic mean streak of Alexander Payne, here comes something to really love.

It’s called DOWNSIZING from Paramount, directed by Payne and co-written with Jim Taylor. This new comedy stars Matt Damon, Christoph Waltz, Kristen Wiig and Hong Chau from INHERENT VICE.

If it sounds like “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids,” it’s not. Actually everything gets fractionalized here. The tagline is “a big world is waiting.”

Unlike Jonathan Swift’s “Modest Proposal” this is a more practical approach to world over-population. Imagine everything at 5 inches to say 72 inch scale, or way smaller than you are right now.

But don’t get lost in the math or dubious physics of this movie, because the miniaturized world looks spectacular. And it’s a fantastic alternative to Agenda 21, the alleged United Nations plan for depopulating the earth. (What? Google it up. Scary.)

But First a Tiny Peak at DOWNSIZING

Meanwhile, it’s a small world after all in Alexander Payne’s brilliant rendition of what happens when big ideas turn regular-sized people into scale-model minds on a grand tableau.

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DOWNSIZING just unspooled this week at Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), plus these photos prove the great cast chemistry.

Paramount’s Official Small Print on This Movie

Downsizing imagines what might happen if, as a solution to over-population, Norwegian scientists discover how to shrink humans to five inches tall and propose a 200-year global transition from big to small. People soon realize how much further money goes in a miniaturized world, and with the promise of a better life, everyman Paul Safranek (Matt Damon) and wife Audrey (Kristen Wiig) decide to abandon their stressed lives in Omaha in order to get small and move to a new downsizedcommunity — a choice that triggers life-changing adventures.

A big world may be waiting, but everyone was their Actual Size at TIFF.

Directed by: Alexander Payne

Starring: Matt Damon, Christoph Waltz, Hong Chau and Kristen Wiig

Written by: Alexander Payne & Jim Taylor

Produced by: Mark Johnson, Alexander Payne, Jim Taylor.

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Facebook: /DownsizingFilm

Twitter: @DownsizingFilm, Instagram: @Downsizing, DownsizingMovie.com (refers to Facebook)

DOWNSIZING is in theaters December 22, “a big world is waiting.” See you in five inches. Hashtag? #Downsizing.

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DADDY’S HOME 2: Mel’s Like Team Spirit, That’s Gibson, Wahlberg, Ferrell & Lithgow

by Quendrith Johnson, Los Angeles Correspondent

Mel Gibson comes back from traffic court, lol, okay too soon. Mulligan. Mel Gibson comes back from his Hollywood resurrection this year with his six-pack Oscar-nominated movie HACKSAW RIDGE (2016), that won two Oscars for sound mixing and editing, to join son of anarchy Mark Wahlberg and deviant nice guy Will Ferrell in DADDY’S HOME 2, their hit franchise reteam.

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But he’s not alone in the father-figure star power value-add. Beloved veteran actor John Lithgow joins the onscreen DNA party too. And there’s sidekick John Cena, who recently made a heartfelt video that truly inspires people to ‘never give up,’ and even makes you forget who the sponsor is, seriously.  So, expect the best here as this foursome looks promising plot-wise.

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This movie drops Nov. 10 from Paramount, but it’s never too soon to get a good laugh at the Old Man’s expense, even if it’s just an onscreen version of Pops. Because? “This November, it’s every daddy for himself,” as the studio teases the trailer.

Here’s a Look Into DADDY’S HOME 2

Paramount Puts It This Way…

In the sequel to the 2015 global smash, father and stepfather, Dusty (Mark Wahlberg) and Brad (Will Ferrell) have joined forces to provide their kids with the perfect Christmas. Their newfound partnership is put to the test when Dusty’s old-school, macho Dad (Mel Gibson) and Brad’s ultra-affectionate and emotional Dad (John Lithgow) arrive just in time to throw the holiday into complete chaos.

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Directed by: Sean Anders
Star Cast: Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Linda Cardellini, John Cena, John Lithgow & Mel Gibson

DADDY’S HOME 2 – Not Love But Social Handles
#DaddysHome2
Facebook: /daddyshomemovie
Twitter: @daddyshome
Instagram: @daddyshomemovie

Again, DADDY’s HOME 2 is in theaters November 10 from Paramount.

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Noah Baumbach with Greta Gerwig at Telluride 2017.

Mumblecore No More, Greta Gerwig’s Debut Directing Film LADY BIRD Is Picture Perfect

by Quendrith Johnson, Los Angeles Correspondent

Raise your hand if you think Soairse Ronan should have won Best Actress for BROOKLYN. Anyone?  Yes, it’s an exercise in futility since Ronan was only a nominee in 2016. Lucky for her, Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut LADY BIRD, from A24 films and just shown at the Telluride Film Festival, is where Soairse gets redeemed.

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Or, you could say given a second chance to make a first impression as an emerging woman trapped inside the body of a high school girl. LADY BIRD looks to be the Oscar moon shot for both lead and director, plus a likely script nomination since Gerwig wrote the film based on (but not verbatim) her own life history.

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Growing up in Sacramento, Geriwg ended up at Barnard College and into acting. A kind of low-budget, not even indie acting turn with some non-actors, also known as genre “Mumblecore”  in the trade. Yet, she’s been Mumblecore-no-more for quite some time.
This movie, with its piercing portrait of mash-up mother/daughter/friend roles is why Gerwig can now be forgiven for that awful remake of ARTHUR (2011), the Dudley Moore classic, that she and Russell Brand trounced to death in their sequel. Sorry, Hobson, Helen Mirren was the only actor to survive that remake with her dignity intact, and only because she dies in the movie, sneaking out before its cloying crescendo.

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But back to LADY BIRD. What an exciting way to enter the Big Arena — that being the stomping ground of coveted Writer/Director credit holders. LADY BIRD features roles by Lois Smith, the darling mastermind of MINORITY REPORT whose plants snap Tom Cruise in her poisoned garden, and Laurie Metcalf as the Mom. Metcalf has just gotten better and better since her “Roseanne” TV days.
Gerwig, who just turned 34 on Aug.4, will also be known by many people as the star of FRANCES HA, directed by Noah Baumbach. Baumbach is the skilled director of SQUID AND THE WHALE, also a personal favorite film starring ex-wife Jennifer Jason Leigh, MARGOT AT THE WEDDING.
Why mention Baumbach? Because he and Gerwig have been a couple *since* his split from Leigh, which looks to have started with the making of GREENBERG, where Greta had a role.
Short story is, they’ve been a couple since 2011, and Gerwig has definitely blossomed into a director during this time.

Noah Baumbach with Greta Gerwig at Telluride 2017.

Noah Baumbach with Greta Gerwig at Telluride 2017.

LADY BIRD is being billed as a “coming-of-age” story, but it’s really a coming out story for Greta Gerwig, leaving the shadow of Baumbach. Even the language in the script, how the dialogue is structured, sounds like real-life, her real voice.
So watch for this film to make its Oscar run during Award Season coming up. (And don’t feel sorry for Daisy Domergue, she lives on as a huge talent on screen.)

Here’s a Quick Telluride Look Into LADY BIRD from A24

How A24 Describes Their New Film Is Like So…

Greta Gerwig makes her directing debut with a touching mother-daughter tale for the ages.

In Lady Bird, Greta Gerwig reveals herself to be a bold new cinematic voice with her directorial debut, excavating both the humor and pathos in the turbulent bond between a mother and her teenage daughter. Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson (Saoirse Ronan) fights against but is exactly like her wildly loving, deeply opinionated and strong-willed mom (Laurie Metcalf), a nurse working tirelessly to keep her family afloat after Lady Bird’s father (Tracy Letts) loses his job. Set in Sacramento, California in 2002, amidst a rapidly shifting American economic landscape, Lady Bird is an affecting look at the relationships that shape us, the beliefs that define us, and the unmatched beauty of a place called home.

Written and Directed by: Greta Gerwig
Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts, Lucas Hedges, Timothée Chalamet, Beanie Feldstein, Stephen McKinley Henderson, and Lois Smith

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Find out more here, from A24 (https://a24films.com/) and @LadyBirdMovie. Coming sometime in November, catch LADY BIRD.

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Not Seeing Double, Clooney Has Twins & Two Bros Coen movie SUBURBICON

by Quendrith Johnson, Los Angeles Correspondent

Guess what George Clooney and wife Amal named their twins? Romulus and Screamus. Just kidding, actually they have normal names: Ella (think Fitzgerald) and Alexander. But that’s old news. The breaking news is the images coming out of the Venice International Film Festival. It’s not kid pics so much as the SUBURBICON photo call and red carpet shots.

SUBURBICON is Clooney’s new adventure in filmmaking. It stars Matt Damon as a misfit in the ‘burbs who finds out life is not little pink houses, but ticky tacky tract-house hell. Gardner Lodge (Damon) gets the crap beaten out of him in this Coen Brothers recycle on a script dating back to March 27, 2007. But there’s a serious note.

Back then it was a 113 pages of pure unproduced Coen comedy mischief. Now it is just marvelous as Clooney joins the screenplay credit with the Grant Heslov magic, also thrown in as a producer. Julianne Moore co-stars with Oscar Isaac, who is always thrilling to watch on screen. Robert “Bob” Elswit is the DP many people will recognize, and Joel Silver’s company is on the credits with Clooney’s Smoke House Pictures.

Here’s a few more photos from Venice hot off the red carpet, and as elegant in their opposition to suburban life in America as one can possibly get. Released by Paramount, SUBURBICON is in theaters October 27, 2017. Make sure to catch it, this vintage Coen retool.

Here’s Your Inside Look at Venice’s Screener of SUBURBICON

Directed by: George Clooney

Starring: Matt Damon, Julianne Moore, Noah Jupe and Oscar Isaac

Suburbicon is a peaceful, idyllic suburban community with affordable homes and manicured lawns…the perfect place to raise a family, and in the summer of 1959, the Lodge family is doing just that. But the tranquil surface masks a disturbing reality, as husband and father Gardner Lodge (Matt Damon) must navigate the town’s dark underbelly of betrayal, deceit, and violence. This is a tale of very flawed people making very bad choices. This is Suburbicon.

Facebook: SuburbiconMovie  Twitter: @SuburbiconMovie

Instagram: @SuburbiconMovie

#Suburbicon

Paramount will release Suburbicon on Oct. 27, 2017, and the 74th Venice International Film Festival runs through Sept. 9. Find out more about Venezia here.

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Why You & Oscar Voters Have to See WIND RIVER, Renner & Gil Birmingham

by Quendrith Johnson, Los Angeles Correspondent

Jeremy Renner so far, except for his turn in Affleck’s THE TOWN where he was nominated for Best Supporting Actor in 2011, has not been known for switching up his game. Until WIND RIVER, co-starring Elizabeth Olsen with Graham Greene, that is.

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Even as Renner received a Best Actor Oscar nom for HURT LOCKER in 2010, there was almost a built-in plausibility to that character. In WIND RIVER, there’s a built-in implausibility to his hunter-tracker character that separates this performance from anything Renner has done to date. He’s ‘not that guy,’ in other words, but he plays this guy so well that Jeremy Renner deserves some recognition for this one.
What’s the movie about? An unsolved murder of a Native American woman, whose brutal end echoes a loss for Renner’s character and his First Nations wife. But that is just a starting point. Olsen is the FBI agent called in to investigate, and she’s perfectly cast. And this isn’t just a snowy whodunit, ps, not at all.
The director is Taylor Sheridan, actor from FX TV series “Sons of Anarchy,” who sharpened his storytelling skills as the writer of SICARIO (2015). He had a role in HELL OR HIGH WATER, which he also wrote, and leads us to the next actor to break out in WIND RIVER.

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Gil Birmingham, yes, that guy we’ve seen for years in movies — most notably as the affable wolf-pack father Billy Black in the mawkish TWILIGHT series. Now he gets his game upped too. In fact, Birmingham’s performance is almost a personal essay on Native American portrayal in Hollywood movies, with a performance piece aspect. Imagine, going from camp “Indian Chief” on TV series “Charmed” to serviceable in HELL OR HIGH WATER to superb in WIND RIVER. Gil Birmingham has been Everyman of First Nations’ roles on screen; in WIND RIVER, he plays out the hidden conflicted emotions of being Native and American.
Truth be told, this movie wasn’t even on the radar of must-see’s, just a recommend from a screenwriter friend. And then? Remember how WINTER’S BONE catapulted Jennifer Lawrence into prominence? Well, WIND RIVER has that feeling with the brutality of silence, bitter cold, but with First Nations people enduring the white cold and the deafening winter. It is a must-see.

Here’s Your Quick Look at WIND RIVER

The Weinstein Company (TWC) released this film Aug. 4, after a showing at Sundance earlier in the year. TWC is not even throwing it late in the year to hype their Oscar chances. But if you want to know why WIND RIVER is more compelling in many ways than a front-runner like DUNKIRK? With DUNKIRK, you’re watching a filmmaker, Chris Nolan. In WIND RIVER, you’re watching a film. Storyteller versus storytelling.

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WIND RIVER is why movies are so important, because we can share an experience and go into a story with some remarkable performances, not to mention a look into lives we don’t often see on screen with such balance and counterbalance. It’s that experience of being in the dark to see moments on screen that shed light on who we are as people, native or not, American or not, but moviegoers all.

Find the movie here on Facebook. Then go see it. Seriously.

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Anatomy of a Remake: D.O.A. 1950 to DEAD ON ARRIVAL 2017 with Emmy Nom Billy Flynn

by Quendrith Johnson, Los Angeles Correspondent

Ever wonder how much the world has changed since the half century mark? Take the case of the Edmond O’Brien noir D.O.A, released in 1950, then jump to the Dennis Quaid-Meg Ryan remake in 1988. Now step into the 2017 reboot, DEAD ON ARRIVAL. Written and directed by Stephen C. Sepher, this is one of the independent films that debuted at this year’s Rhode Island International Film Festival (RIIFF). DEAD ON ARRIVAL stars “Days of Our Lives” Emmy Nominee Billy Flynn, with D.B. Sweeney.

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Sweeney is a recognizable name to veteran moviegoers as is Chris Mulkey, whose face you’ll recognize from 1982’s FIRST BLOOD with Stallone through three decades in movies to 2014’s indie Oscar smash-hit WHIPLASH as Uncle Frank. Sepher, for the record, also an actor, wrote the De Niro crime film HEIST (2015) from his original story, and it’s interesting that D.B. Sweeney also has a role in that picture.

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But back to watching the world change.

In the 1950’s storyline, Frank Bigelow (O’Brien) is an insurance man who has notarized a harmless piece of paper that ultimately leads to his slow-poisoning after a rare-earth metal deal goes bad. The gem plot twist here dates back to Hamlet being poisoned and finding his killer. But in a movie timeframe, Bigelow only has 24 hours to solve his own murder. There are many false flags on the way to the real killer. But “Luminous Poison,” which glows in the dark as a novelty murder weapon, with a 24-hour time-lock is the DNA from this to the Dennis Quaid DOA and Sepher’s 2017 redo.
The late film critic Roger Ebert name-checked the original D.O.A. in his review of the Quaid-Ryan remake, noting it was a sexy retool. Yuppie novelist Dexter Cornell (Quaid) is a hot writer with ambition who wrongly faces off against an exotic heavy in the form of the mysterious Charlotte Rampling who he suspects is his killer. Meg Ryan is a student he cheats on his wife (Jane Kaczmerak) with, and later thinks she has poisoned him. Unraveling who the real killer is will be a shock.

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While the 2017 version doesn’t have a female lead like then-American Sweetheart Meg Ryan, this movie shows us a variety of today’s fallen lovelies. Two in the form of Bonnie, played by Scottie Thompson, with Christa B. Allen equally troublesome, taking us down the dark side of modern femininity.

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There is no Paula, the faithful secretary to Edmond O’Brien, so gone is the moralizing 1950’s message of monogamy as good for society. But there’s something intriguing about where Sepher’s worldview takes us.
Sam Collins, meaning Billy Flynn as the Bigelow character updated to 2017, is now a Big Pharma sales rep. He gets invited to a wild party held by an ethically challenged prescribing physician, who unleashes all kind of female and pharmaceutical hell for a single night that may ultimately cost Collins his life.
You’ve got topics embedded in this modern colorful noir from the dangers of vaccines to the lethality of prescription drugs and the opioid crisis in America. DEAD ON ARRIVAL now is an upscale, non-moralistic fairytale of what happens when the stylish world of affluent professionals head-ons with the underworld of gambling debts and street justice. Just as the women in this are no giggly Meg Ryan types, the men are not the Dennis Quaid hero types either.

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Sepher’s version of the Edmond O’Brien post-World War II cautionary tale is now almost reportage about the America that resulted from the polite society myths cultivated during the era of the nuclear family 50’s. No one really thinks marriage works anymore, or knows whom to trust even among their friends, family, and co-workers.
DEAD ON ARRIVAL shows us similar corrupt cops and mafia kingpins in contrast to the social climbers in an upscale backdrop of affluent New Orleans in 2017, but ultimately — and this is what makes this version fun — it’s the heavy, the bad guy, played by Stephen Sepher (sometimes credited as Stephen Cyrus Sepher) who comes clean with the true justice and explains to Sam Collins why he has been targeted in this reboot. And yet? We soon find out there’s more to the story, not with the nice neat edges of Edmond O’Brien’s plot or the Me Generation focus of the Quaid-Ryan plot, but in a a messy, screwed-up ambiguous way the world is now. Find out more about this new film at Facebook or on their website, or RIIFF’s official site.
And remember, never drink anything from an open container at a party, BYOB, bring your own bottle. DEAD ON ARRIVAL is from Kingfisher Media and offered by Vision Films.

Official Description from Kingfisher Media

DEAD ON ARRIVAL
Emmy nominated Billy Flynn stars in an ensemble cast as Sam Collins, a pharmaceutical sales rep who visits a small town in Louisiana to close the business deal of a lifetime. He finds himself in a dark world of sex, corruption and murder as he is poisoned with no antidote to save his life. Desperate for answers, with less than 24 hours to live, Sam turns to a local girl Jesse. Their path leads to a voodoo priestess who only confirms Sam’s doomed fate. On the run, caught in a deadly vertigo with no one to trust, Sam and Jesse find themselves running from police detectives, the Mob and a dirty sheriff who wants him dead. [Inspired by the 1950 classic noir thriller D.O.A.]

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What If There’s No Back to School or Normal: Ai Weiwei’s HUMAN FLOW for UN’s WHD

by Quendrith Johnson, Los Angeles Correspondent

Maybe you’ve never heard of Ai Weiwei, who turns 60 on Aug. 28. Once a pro blackjack player, Weiwei still takes huge gambles as China’s best-known living artist, conceptual artist, and filmmaker who is often jailed or at odds with his government. AIWEIwei17There’s a link to his timeline and bio below. But for tomorrow Aug. 19, which the United Nation declared “World Humanitarian Day” back in 2003, Weiwei’s new film HUMAN FLOW has heart-piercing images to share what it is to be a refugee, and why there’s not only no back to school or normal, but no back to safety.

First a Backgrounder on the UN’s World Humanitarian Day

On 19 August 2003, a terrorist attack hit the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad, killing 22 people. Among those who lost their lives was Sergio Vieira de Mello, the UN’s top representative in Iraq. Five years later, the General Assembly adopted a resolution designating 19 August as World Humanitarian Day. Every year since then, the humanitarian community has organized global campaigns to commemorate WHD, advocating for the safety and security of humanitarian aid workers, and for the survival, well-being and dignity of people affected by crises.

Now Step Into the HUMAN FLOW Directed by Ai Weiwei

“Over 65 million people around the world have been forced from their homes to escape famine, climate change and war in the greatest human displacement since World War II.  Human Flow, an epic film journey led by the internationally renowned artist Ai Weiwei, gives a powerful visual expression to this massive human migration. The documentary elucidates both the staggering scale of the refugee crisis and its profoundly personal human impact.”

“Captured over the course of an eventful year in 23 countries, the film follows a chain of urgent human stories that stretches across the globe in countries including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, France, Greece, Germany, Iraq, Israel, Italy, Kenya, Mexico, and Turkey.”

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“Human Flow is a witness to its subjects and their desperate search for safety, shelter and justice: from teeming refugee camps to perilous ocean crossings to barbed-wire borders; from dislocation and disillusionment to courage, endurance and adaptation; from the haunting lure of lives left behind to the unknown potential of the future. Human Flow comes at a crucial time when tolerance, compassion and trust are needed more than ever.  This visceral work of cinema is a testament to the unassailable human spirit and poses one of the questions that will define this century: Will our global society emerge from fear, isolation, and self-interest and choose a path of openness, freedom, and respect for humanity?”

Amazon Studios and Participant Media present, in association with AC Films, Human Flow, a film directed by Ai Weiwei.  Human Flow is produced by Ai Weiwei, Chin-Chin Yap and Heino Deckert and executive produced by Andrew Cohen of AC Films with Jeff Skoll and Diane Weyermann of Participant Media.AmazStud17PrtMd17

140 Minutes

World Humanitarian Day (WHD) is held every year on August 19 to pay tribute to aid workers who risk their lives in humanitarian service, and to rally support for people affected by crises around the world. For additional information, please visit the UN.
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Ai Weiwei’s new film will be released in a limited roll-out on Oct. 13, see website for more details.

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