Death at a Funeral

  • Director:  Frank Oz
  • Writer:  Dean Craig
  • Producer:  Sidney Kimmell  /  Laurence Malkin  /  Diana Phillips  /  Share Stallings
  • Stars:  Matthew MacFadyen, Rupert Graves, Peter Dinklage, Keeley Hawes
  • Studio:  MGM
  • Award Nominations:  none that I track
  • Length:  90 min
  • Genre:  Comedy  (Black)
  • MPAA Rating:  R
  • Release Date:  17 August 2007  (#154 – 2007)
  • Box Office Gross:  $8.58 mil
  • My Rating:  ***.5
  • My Rank:  #40 (year)
  • Nighthawk Nominations:  none
  • Nighthawk Notables:  none

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A Century of Film

Costume Design

Costumes have been important since the early days of cinema.  Imagine what some of the classic silent films like Intolerance or Hunchback of Notre Dame would have looked like without good costumes.  But once Technicolor arrived and things could really pop on-screen costumes went to a whole new level.  So it’s completely ridiculous that the Academy waited until 1948 before giving out an award for the category; they missed out entirely on the career of one of film’s greatest designers in Adrian and missed the chance to heap another award on Gone with the Wind (even if my own award goes to Wizard of Oz).

But, the Academy did finally come around in 1948 even if other awards groups would take much longer.  Since then, they’ve often done a good job (read the note after my Top 5) and think of some of the costumes through history that have made a film so memorable, from the brilliant work in Amadeus to the green dress in Atonement.

My Top 5 Costumes in Film History:

  1. Amadeus
  2. Dangerous Liaisons
  3. Barry Lyndon
  4. Bram Stoker’s Dracula
  5. Marie Antoinette

This is the rare category where I don’t have to spend any time debating what my #1 pick is all-time.  It’s interesting that all five of these films won the Oscar (as, of course, they all deserved to) but all five of them lost at the BAFTAs which I find to be really strange. (more…)

It is worth remembering that this blog began 13 years ago tomorrow.  It grew out of a project that Veronica had to do in library school (create a website) that she designed to allow the family members who we weren’t seeing very often (which was all of them as we had recently moved to Boston) to watch Thomas as he grew up.  So the Welcome to our new blog. was filled with pictures from Thomas’ third birthday.  Sadly, we’re about to move again (just 50 yards down the hall to a bigger apartment), so this is the fourth of his last seven birthdays with most of our stuff in boxes (not to mention all the stuff we normally do for his birthday – the Zoo, movies – closed because of COVID).  But today we are celebrating our boy (who’s not learning how to drive so don’t even ask) by taking a look through the years. (more…)

The Song of Achilles

  • Author:  Madeline Miller
  • Published:  2012
  • Publisher:  HarperCollins
  • Pages:  378
  • First Line:  “My father was a king and the son of kings.”
  • Last Lines:  “In the darkness, two shadows, reaching through the hopeless, heavy dusk.  Their hands meet, and light spills in a flood like a hundred golden urns pouring out of the sun.”
  • Acclaim:  Orange Prize for Fiction
  • Film Version:  none
  • First Read:  Spring 2018 / Spring 2020

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There has been a recent trend going around on Facebook apparently in which people put up 10 albums that influenced them.  The problem is that it’s supposed to be just one album at a time and you’re not supposed to list the reasons why it influenced you.  What’s the point of that?  Why list something that was influential but not give any idea as to why?

Well, my brother Kelly thought the same thing.  He put together a list of the 10 albums that really influenced him.  Except there are a few things.  1 – He didn’t want to put up just one a time because it works better as one story.  2 – He wanted to make certain to include that story as part of it.  And 3 – Like me, he’s not on Facebook.  So when he sent me his list to read, I offered to put it up on the blog for him.  So here, in my older brother (six years) Kelly’s own words, are his 10 albums that influenced him: (more…)

A Century of Film

Adapted Screenplay

It didn’t take long for screenwriters to realize that what had been successful in other mediums could be successful in film as well.  After all, what is probably the first great film, A Trip to the Moon, came from H.G. Wells before Melies visualized it. (more…)

A Century of Film

Original Screenplay

It’s a bit difficult to write the history of original screenplays on film.  First of all, it’s been hard to determine, a lot of times, over the years, if a film truly is original or not.  When the old oscars.org site existed they listed films by a source author which was really helpful for determining if something was adapted or not but not perfect as sometimes the “source” was just a screen story or an idea.  There were also occasions where they didn’t list anything, the same way that sometimes the IMDb or Wikipedia don’t list a source material and I end up considering something original until someone points out that it’s not. (more…)

Hulk

  • Director:  Ang Lee
  • Writer:  James Schamus  /  Michael France  /  John Turman
  • Producer:  Avi Arad  /  Larry Franco  /  Gale Anne Hurd  /  James Schamus
  • Stars:  Eric Bana, Jennifer Connelly, Nick Nolte, Sam Elliott, Josh Lucas
  • Studio:  Universal
  • Award Nominations:  VES
  • Length:  138 min
  • Genre:  Action  (Comic Book – Marvel)
  • MPAA Rating:  PG-13
  • Release Date:  19 June 2003  (#14 – 2003)
  • Box Office Gross:  $132.17 mil
  • My Rating:  ***
  • My Rank:  #108 (year)
  • Nighthawk Nominations:  none
  • Nighthawk Notables:  none

Perhaps the first thing to point out about Ang Lee’s Hulk is that it was the fourteenth highest grossing film of 2003 but it had the sixth largest opening weekend of 2003.  Hulk earned 47% of its total domestic gross in its opening weekend.  Today, that’s not a surprising number and it happens several times each year and several films with far higher opening weekends have had a higher percentage of their total gross come from that number (mostly comic book films and Twilight films).  But back in 2003, it was unheard of.  Indeed, up until 2009, it continued to be almost entirely unheard of (that was when a film with a higher opening weekend (X-Men Origins: Wolverine) finally broke Hulk’s record).  How bizarre was it that Hulk opened so well and then faltered so badly?  I haven’t finished my own spreadsheet so I can’t properly do a comparison like this and Box Office Mojo’s new site doesn’t allow for an easy determination for that answer, but before Hulk, no film with an opening weekend over $20 million had ever earned that much of its total gross in its opening weekend.  Given its massive opening weekend (the 16th largest ever at the time, larger than any pre-1997 film and larger than any pre-2001 film except Lost World and Phantom Menace), it was expected to do much more.  Of the 15 films above it, the next highest percentage was 39.8% and only two films were above 35% (a number, that if Hulk had reached, would have been a domestic gross of $177 mil instead of $132).  What all of that says (with interesting statistics) is that lots of people went to see Hulk initially but either they didn’t tell their friends to go see it or they didn’t go back to see it again.  And I suppose I can relate to that.  Of the 15 higher grossing opening weekends to that point, I saw 10 of them in the theater and six of those I saw multiple times including the other two comic book films on the list, both of them Marvel (relevant in a minute).  Hulk had been an interesting film but it wasn’t a compelling film and it didn’t draw me back to the theater like Spider-Man and X2 had. (more…)

A Century of Film


Film History Through 1929

I’m certainly not going to discuss all of film history through 1929.  That has been done in numerous books in far more detail than I could ever discuss here.  There are some important dates that should not be ignored like 1912 (the release of Richard III, the oldest surviving feature-length film), 1915 (the release of The Birth of a Nation), the formation of the major studios (remember that what you think of as major may not meet that definition – it’s the five studios that both distributed films and owned theaters to which they could distribute the films and those were Fox, MGM, Warners, Paramount and RKO Radio, the last of which began releasing films in 1929, thus cementing the status of the five majors) and the double whammy of the introduction of sound with The Jazz Singer and the inception of the Academy Awards. (more…)

Astonishing X-Men

(4 volumes or two larger volumes or one omnibus)

  • Author:  Joss Whedon
  • Artist:  John Cassaday
  • Published:  2004-2007
  • Publisher:  Marvel Comics
  • Pages:  656
  • First Line:  “Mommy is screaming.”
  • Last Lines:  “You take what you can get.  Cause it’s here, and then gone.”
  • Film Version:  none, although elements from the first volume were used in X-Men: The Last Stand
  • First Read:  Winter 2006 and then ongoing until it ended

Back in 2007, I wrote a piece entitled “Whedon, You Stupid Bastard” with the intention of sending it to one of a couple of websites that I occasionally contributed pieces to, but in the end, I didn’t.  But I still have the piece sitting on my computer and parts of the piece below are straight from that piece (the parts in red), written back when things in my life were a lot different. (more…)