The Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film published findings this month which indicate that out of nine hundred seventy independent films, women’s representation among writers and executive producers increased six percent this year, according to Ms.Unfortunately, only thirty-two percent of the writers, executive producers, producers, editors, directors, and cinematographers surveyed are women, and male-directed independent movies are screened twice as often at film festivals as those directed by women. Furthermore, Jane Fonda, Robin Morgan, and Gloria Steinem’s Women’s Media Center says just three percent of science fiction and superhero pictures released this decade were directed by women; however, the path to change is clear, as “Indie Women: Behind-the-Scenes Employment of Women in Independent Film” outlines that seventy-two percent of writers behind female-directed films in 2019 are women.
With the 2010s coming to a close, the time has come to reflect back on all the industrial and social progress of the decade which shapes the trajectory film is taking into the future, according to IndieWire. Beginning with Matthew McConaughey’s “McConaissance” in 2011 and ending with the Walt Disney Company’s acquisition of Twentieth Century Fox in March, the last ten years have seen the rise of the streaming wars as well as the first steps toward diversification in representation. Between the Sony Hack of 2014, Netflix carving out its romantic comedy niche in 2017, Universal’s failed “dark” cinematic universe that same year, and the 2019 Writer’s Guild of America strike, the ‘20s are sure to change filmmaking even more from what it is right now.
Anthony Russo and Joe Russo’s Avengers: Endgame (2019) has surpassed James Cameron’s Avatar (2009) as the top-grossing film of all time, according to CNBC. However, Hollywood doesn’t adjust box office records for inflation due to a number of variables, such as the new forms of entertainment accessible to modern audiences, evolving movie content, and the dozens of inflation rates across global markets. But Comscore, a media analytics company, divided the average ticket price the year a picture was released into its gross to estimate the number of tickets sold (still not an exact science, since averages are imperfect data), and ranked the top ten grossers as follows, from lowest to highest: David Hand, William Cottrell, Wilfred Jackson, Larry Morey, Pierce Pearce, and Ben Sharpsteen’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937); William Friedkin’s The Exorcist (1973); David Lean’s Doctor Zhivago (1965); Steven Spielberg’s Jaws (1975); Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments (1956); James Cameron’s Titanic (1997); Steven Spielberg’s E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982); Robert Wise’s The Sound of Music (1965); George Lucas’s Star Wars (1977); and Victor Fleming’s Gone with the Wind (1939).
Santa Monica-based comedy actor Chris McDonnell’s McDick (2017) is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video with around a thousand views so far, according to the Santa Monica Daily Press. The film stars McDonnell, Mo Collins, and Danny Trejo, with the director playing a detective who gets himself fired and becomes an incompetent private investigator in the tradition of Blake Edwards’s The Pink Panther (1963). The movie was something of a years-long passion project for the New Jersey-born McDonnell, who called in favors from his friends in the Los Angeles filmmaking community and raised a budget of $150,000 after moving there in 2002.
A silent film star named Dorothy Gibson co-wrote and acted in Etienne Arnaud’s one-reeler, Saved from the Titanic (1912), twenty-nine days after surviving the sinking herself, according to The A.V. Club. Gibson’s character in the film wears the same clothes the actress wore the night of the disaster, and even though the picture was an international hit, the only known prints were lost in a fire two years into its release, in one of the worst cinematic tragedies of the era. Gibson had been part of movie history since “Hollywood” was located in Fort Lee, New Jersey – indeed, she was one of the first performers to reach stardom – and only one of her flicks still exists.
Digital Film Academy founder Patrick DiRenna sat down with reporter Travis Bean to discuss the success of alumnus Chadwick Boseman, star of Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther (2018), according to Forbes. DiRenna says Boseman is as chameleonic as Gary Oldman and as charismatic as Keanu Reeves, citing his performances as diverse historical figures like Jackie Robinson, James Brown, and Thurgood Marshall in Brian Helgeland’s 42 (2013), Tate Taylor’s Get On Up (2014), and Reginald Hudlin’s Marshall (2017), respectively. The Digital Film Academy operates under the thesis that great film performances are the result of great filmmaking, and DiRenna says Boseman’s student mentality equipped him to succeed in the collaborative medium that is the cinematic arts.
Insiders say the United Kingdom could lose its independent film industry in the war between American streaming services like Netflix, Disney, and other competing studios launching their own subscription platforms, according to The Guardian. Indeed, Netflix is opening a permanent production base in Shepperton Studios worth more than ten billion pounds, compared to the eleven million-pound budget at BBC Films and the British Film Institute’s fifteen million pounds. Andy Paterson, co-producer of Jonathan Teplitzky’s The Railway Man (2013), predicts that the streamers will act as something of a new classical Hollywood studio system, conquering world cinema from the United States.
Imagine picking up a kitten for the first time, or maybe even a human baby. Alternatively seeing the sunrise or visiting the zoo. There is exactly one song that comes to mind in each of these scenarios, the iconic “Circle of Life.”
Whether performing a jumbled collection of syllables to reach for the legendary Zulu solo at the beginning or howling the chorus on seeing a baby, the song has permeated our everyday lives in a way never matched even by the likes of “Let It Go.”
It changed how major films introduce their themes, characters, and titles. The now over-saturated late title drop had been done in a few action movies previously, but “Circle of Life” codified how to make it work; awe-inspiring score and animation all seeped in operatic sincerity.
Even in the musical adaptation it alone could be worth the price of admission with gorgeous puppets and costumes surrounding Pride Rock as it rises over the stage.
As the essential jaw-dropping opener, Disney had set their own stakes and standards at and impossibly high level for this remake.
Sandra Reid has publications in The Rowdy Scholar and Spectrum along with articles in The Metropolitan.
“Song review: ‘Circle of Life’”
By Hunter Goddard
It is all too easy for the unimaginative filmmaker to consign the music in their film to forgettable background noise, but sometimes, a song can elevate the motion picture accompanying it into something immortal: an experience; a memory; a dream.
Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff’s animated musical, The Lion King (1994), is bookended with the choral leitmotifs of its signature track, “Circle of Life.”
This circular structure sings with the lyricism of Walt Disney’s Renaissance, and echoes with the poeticism of the film’s Shakespearean themes.
Composed by Elton John, written by Tim Rice, and performed by Carmen Twillie (who sings the English verses) and Lebo M. (who sings the Zulu), the record was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song.
It is the sunrise and sunset of the movie, the birth and death, the love and agony. Its notes soar to vertiginous heights while its vocals reach lows beneath our very skin, crawling along the goosebumps it raises on our flesh and the chills it strikes down our spines.
Such tonal polarization surrounds us with the picture’s epic theses of our history shaping our destiny, and the passionately drawn vistas of Simba’s birth at the beginning, then his own cub’s at the end, harmonize with each other divinely.
Ultimately, “Circle of Life” is a songwriting at its most cinematic, so vital to the imagery onscreen, visual and audio together collaborate into a whole greater than the sum of its parts.
Once upon a time, there was a girl, and the girl had a shadow…
If you don’t know what to watch next, Jordan Peele’s Us (2019) is available on Amazon Prime.
The psychological horror film had the all-timesecond-best opening weekend for a live-action feature after James Cameron’s Avatar (2009), and the third-best behind Andy Muschietti’s It (2017) and David Gordon Green’s Halloween (2018), but the best for an original horror script.
Peele, who won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for his directorial debut, Get Out (2017), is also the screenwriter for Us.
On Rotten Tomatoes, ninety-four percent of critical reviews aggregated for Us are positive.
Lupita Nyong’o and Winston Duke star as Adelaide Thomas and Gabe Wilson, who visit the family lake house in Santa Cruz with their children, Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph) and Jason (Evan Alex).
Adelaide is doubtful about the trip because of the mysterious, traumatic event which befell her at the beach when she was a child. Their first night there, a family of four strangers invade the Wilsons’ home and reveal themselves to be their doppelgängers as the Wilsons fight for survival.
Together, Us and Get Out showcase not only Peele’s genius for the horror genre, but also his talent for filmmaking in general.
His background in comedy does not arrest his passion for horror, but rather refines it with laugh-out-loud dialogue that endears you to the cast all the more devastatingly when the terror comes to claim them.
Us is as rich with subtext as its predecessor, yet speaks with a voice all its own. Where Get Out is a slow-burn suspense thriller, Us is a fast-paced horror show.
Nevertheless, between the two, Get Out is the superior movie, but only because it is so difficult to meet, much less exceed. Get Out is one of the greatest pictures of our time, and one of the most important horror pictures ever, a once-in-a-lifetime masterpiece.
This isn’t to say that Us isn’t still a scissor’s cut above the competition, because it is. Nyong’o’s dynamic performance alone, characterizing both hero and villain, deserves multiple viewings in order to truly experience each layer of nuance she delivers to this dual role.
In a way, Us is more subtle and sophisticated than Get Out, a thematic cocktail of motifs and visual metaphors and double meanings as open to interpretation as a hall of mirror is infinite with reflections.
Us might have been stronger, in fact, if it was more ambiguous, but as it is, it is still a horror piece more lovingly choreographed than the mainstream, cheaply-shot Hollywood release made for no other reason than to rake in an easy profit.
And that twist ending will echo through you forever.
Leading man Jack Reynor is quoted as saying the cast of Ari Aster’s Midsommar (2019) sat thunderstruck through their first viewing of the horror film in New York earlier this month, despite knowing everything about the narrative, according to Entertainment Weekly. Reynor says the first two acts of the follow-up to Hereditary (2018) are brimming with gallows humor, but the final third is artfully crafted to overwhelm the audience a la Nagisa Oshima’s In the Realm of the Senses (1976). Reynor co-stars alongside Florence Pugh as an American couple who visit a secluded Swedish commune while travelling across Scandinavia, where a cult awaits them.