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Thompson on Hollywood

The Glorious Movie Posters of 2011

Need some inspiration for decorating your movie-lover-hipster walls? Check out Flavorwire's 30 best movie posters of 2011 for inspiration. Here's a few of our favorites.
  • By Anne Thompson and Sophia Savage
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  • January 3, 2012 2:42 PM
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  • 2 Comments

Immersed in Movies: Jack Fisk Climbs The Tree of Life, Making Of Video

Production designer Jack Fisk is not only one of Terrence Malick's oldest and most trusted collaborators (they've been together since "Badlands," the director's first film from 1973), he's also the architect of his cinematic playground. Thus, when Malick tells Fisk, "You get it together and we'll come and shoot," it's the equivalent of saying, "Let's put on a show." Only with the metaphysical Malick, it's like no other picture show ever produced or experienced. And although Fisk won't go so far as to suggest that "The Tree of Life" represents a summary statement for Malick about the coalescing of nature and grace, he admits it's very personal. In fact, he recalls the first time that Malick told him about the impressionistic memory film about growing up in Austin, Texas, in the '50s. "When I was working on 'Mulholland Drive' [in 2001], we met for lunch at Hamburger Hamlet and he gave me 20 pages of script and asked me to read it in the restaurant," Fisk describes. "I remember it being hard to sit and read in the restaurant, but it was just so personal and he was so excited about it." A couple of years later, Malick asked Fisk to accompany him on a scouting trip to check out some small towns around Austin. Joined by cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, they soaked up the region on and off for the next three years. But this wasn't Guadalcanal ("The Thin Red Line") or the Chickahominy River ("The New World"); this was Malick country, where he grew up, so it was a challenge finding a place that he had never seen or heard of. Still, Fisk managed to find just the timeless town they were searching for: Smithville, 40 miles outside of Austin. "It was a great little town," Fisk adds. "There weren't as many houses in a block that you find today and, with taking out some fencing, we could really open up one yard to the next and make it feel like I remember places back in the early '50s in Illinois. And Terry and I had similar childhoods so we were working from the same reference point. It was easy because I knew exactly what he wanted to achieve: a small town with 500 people." Most important, it helped evoke childhood memories of playing outside at dusk and between yards and seeing lives through windows, as Fisk suggests. "My wife [Sissy Spacek, who starred in 'Badlands'] is from Texas and she told me so much about her childhood that it also became part of my research. It went into the big stewpot. Like Terry, she also had been chasing DDT trucks in the '50s. She knew all her neighbors and the local phone operator. And like Terry she also lost her brother when he was a teenager and it just tugged at her emotionally. I was more fortunate: I lost my father at an early age but didn't lose any brothers or sisters, so I saw it differently as I immersed myself in the period." So Fisk and the art department covered up the metal buildings with wood and painted harsher colors; took out modern play sets; removed trees that didn't belong and brought in others; planted gardens; and hid modern windows with chicken coops and anything else they could find. "This gave Terry a playground of about five square blocks where he could pick up a camera and just walk down the street and shoot," Fisk continues. "There wasn't anything glaringly wrong for 1957. Terry doesn't use storyboards and he doesn't even plan shots that far ahead. He's always looking for spontaneity. He loves to be surprised; he says he likes to approach it like a documentary. He delights in not being locked into a plan and is always trying to find something fresh and real in the environment. He'll throw a little chaos into a scene just to get a reaction that nobody planned. He'll put a kid into a scene or a dog." And with a rich ensemble cast (including New York Film Critics Circle winners Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain as well as Sean Penn and newcomer Hunter McCracken), Malick had plenty to play with. Indeed, the philosophically-minded director writes scenes that can be shot anywhere: a moment crafted for a living room could just as easily be shot in front of a restaurant downtown or in a field out in the country, according to Fisk. "We all know things are going to change, which is why I try to be on set all the time," the production designer says. "I remember talking to a set decorator [Jeanette Scott] and discussing that Terry wanted a location on the Colorado River that he hadn't seen yet. She wanted to know when he wanted to see it and I told her not until after lunch. 'Oh, no problem,' she said. We had gotten so used to moving so quickly that three or four hours seemed like a luxury." In contrast to the soft and colorful childhood memories, the modern section set in Houston featuring Penn is architecturally cold and claustrophobic with glass and stone. "There were trees in their yard that the kids would climb on, but in Houston there were trees inside the glass lobbies of buildings so the contrast was not only remarkable but wonderful for the story," Fisk offers. "We've worked since the first days of 'Badlands' with minimal augmentation of the locations or sets, because we found it was so powerful to just choose a few things to represent the place we were telling about. " Fisk has since completed another film with Malick, which he describes as "'Tree of Life' on steroids." The untitled love story stars Ben Affleck and Rachel McAdams about a man who reconnects with a woman from his hometown while struggling with his marriage. Of course, it's deeply personal, but this one's shot in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. (Rachel Weisz talks about making that film here.) "One morning Terry showed up and said he needed a location with some water and we pretty much had scoured the town," Fisk relates. "But John Patterson, the location manager, and I went down some back roads where the city was digging a culvert and it had been flooded by a lot of rain. And it became a magical location in the backyards of a neighborhood. We went running back and told Terry and John called the city manager asking for permission to shoot there and the construction people said they would shut off their equipment for three hours. And the whole company rushed over in vans and we shot a scene. "Terry's found a way of working that's much more spontaneous and I've never seen him so happy making films. And we're about to start another one in June, this time in Los Angeles, followed by another one, so he's not only more excited and passionate about working but he's doing it more often." Meanwhile, to help stir some more Oscar heat, Fox Searchlight will bring back "The Tree of Life" to LA (December 9th-December 15th at the Music Hall). There will be Q&A discussions with producers Dede Gardner, Sarah Green, Nic Gonda, cinematographer Lubezki (who also took NYFCC honors), editor Mark Yoshikawa, costume designer Jacquie West, and supervising sound editors Craig Berkey & Erik Aadhl. These will occur after each 8:00 pm screening and on the 10th after the 5:00 pm and 8:00 pm screenings.  
  • By Bill Desowitz
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  • December 2, 2011 1:02 PM
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  • 1 Comment

Academy Celebrates 40th Last Picture Show Anniversary with Restored Definitive Director's Cut

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences celebrates the 40th anniversary of The Last Picture Show with a digitally restored "Definitive Director’s Cut" on Thursday, November 17, at 7:30 p.m. at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater. After the screening the Academy is hosting a cast and crew reunion including director (and indieWIRE blogger) Peter Bogdanovich, his one-time romantic muse Cybill Shepherd and Cloris Leachman. Sadly, Ben Johnson as well as Bogdanovich's ex-wife, the film's production designer Polly Platt, are no longer with us. And where are Jeff Bridges, Timothy Bottoms and Ellen Burstyn?
  • By Anne Thompson
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  • October 27, 2011 11:15 AM
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  • 1 Comment

John Orloff Talks Anonymous, Shakespeare, Emmerich, Ifans, Redgrave, Stratford vs. Oxford

John Orloff Talks Anonymous, Shakespeare, Emmerich, Ifans, Redgrave, Stratford vs. Oxford
One of the surprises of the season is Roland Emmerich's Anonymous, which opens Friday amid ongoing controversy over its premise: that William Shakespeare did not write his plays and poems, and the Earl of Oxford did. Screenwriter John Orloff has been obsessed with this mystery since his college days; the screenplay served as his ticket of admission to Hollywood. First, Shakespeare in Love put Anonymous on the back burner, to be resurrected decades later by German digital master Emmerich, best known for such action adventures as Day After Tomorrow and 2012. Emmerich helped, for better or for worse, to turn Orloff's identity crisis into a rip-roaring Elizabethan succession drama, with Queen Elizabeth --played by the always riveting Vanessa Redgrave--at the center of dangerous head-lopping court intrigue. Emmerich was able to deploy his considerable digital filmmaking chops to shoot this elaborate period piece in Germany with an ensemble of character actors-- led by Redgrave and Rhys Ifans, in an uncharacteristically glamorous role--for just $30 million (think George Lucas or Zack Snyder). Emmerich even filmed one scene with three actors at different times and locations and merged them seamlessly. (We reveal the scene below, with trailer.) The movie could nab some tech nominations. Here's Orloff's Q & A for Sneak Previews.
  • By Anne Thompson
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  • October 27, 2011 5:31 AM
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In The Tree of Life, Malick's Experimentation Gets Under the Skin

In The Tree of Life, Malick's Experimentation Gets Under the Skin
With the debate about its Oscar chances heating up and the film now available on DVD and Blu-ray, Matt Brennan’s “Now and Then” column this week revisits Terrence Malick’s Palme d’Or-winning The Tree of Life. The Tree of Life marks director Terrence Malick’s fifth feature in the 38 years since his debut, Badlands. It’s an output that might seem thin at first glance: Woody Allen, in the same period, directed 40 (!) films, some of which (Annie Hall, Husbands and Wives) deserve to be saddled with the word “classic.” But Mailck’s genius — and, watching The Tree of Life again, I think that’s a fair word to use — can’t be seen in traditional terms. Owing more to the 1920s “cinépoems” of Man Ray, Fernand Léger, and Joris Ivens than to Hollywood narrative films, The Tree of Life, whatever failings it may have, reconfirms just how beautiful and emotionally compelling experimental filmmaking can be.
  • By Matt Brennan
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  • October 17, 2011 6:46 AM
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My Week in New York: Hugo, War Horse, Turin Horse, Parties, Marilyn, Book of Mormon

My Week in New York: Hugo, War Horse, Turin Horse, Parties, Marilyn, Book of Mormon
Monday night's mystery screening of Martin Scorsese's work-in-progress 3-D Hugo (featurette below) marks my last screening at this year's New York Film Festival. The reason that the movie was shown without completed effects or a final score (by Howard Shore) is that it's a cinephile's dream, and the NYFF audience couldn't have been a more receptive crowd. While the movie should work with families over the Thanksgiving holiday, and producer Graham King (nervously pacing in the rear of the theater as ushers passed out 3-D glasses) assured me that they wouldn't have shown the film if the movie wasn't going to finish on time, Paramount wanted to build buzz for the film via the festival and this was the only way to do it.
  • By Anne Thompson
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  • October 11, 2011 4:22 AM
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Trailer Watch: Scorsese's Magical Hugo Conjures Beloved Family Classics

Brian Selznick, the author of The Invention of Hugo Cabret, a 2007 genre-bending children’s book, was inspired by turn of the 20th-century film pioneer Georges Méliès. Perhaps that's why Selznick’s book seems to translate so easily to the screen.
  • By Maggie Lange and Anne Thompson
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  • July 15, 2011 4:38 AM
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Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris Follow-Up, The Bop Decameron, Adds Cast, Starts July 11 in Rome

Midnight in Paris is shaping up as not only Woody Allen's widest release ever (1038 screens, more than Anything Else), but the filmmaker's biggest hit ever; it's on track to outscore Hannah and Her Sisters's $40 million domestic gross. Midnight in Paris dropped only 10% last weekend, for a total $21,799,214.
  • By Anne Thompson and Sophia Savage
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  • June 20, 2011 7:59 AM
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  • 1 Comment

Cannes Review: Why is Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides in Fest?

Cannes Review: Why is Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides in Fest?
What motivates a groggy, jet-lagged scribe to crawl out of bed for an 8:30 AM press screening of Pirates of the Caribbean? Schadenfreude. The word on the Croisette was that the fourth Pirates installment was lousy. Safe to say I wasn't expecting to have a good time. (I didn't even see Number Three, even though it boasted Chow Yun-Fat.)
  • By Anne Thompson
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  • May 14, 2011 10:48 AM
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  • 1 Comment

SXSW Video: Catherine Hardwicke Talks Red Riding Hood, Twilight, Women in Hollywood

SXSW Video: Catherine Hardwicke Talks Red Riding Hood, Twilight, Women in Hollywood
Women directors really do have a tough time. So many factors work against them, no matter how successful they are, in terms of what the powers that be will let them do. Big-budget action films? Mimi Leder and Kathryn Bigelow are among the few who have been allowed into that club. Back in the day when Renny Harlin and Rachel Talalay both directed hit horror sequels, he got a career and she didn't. Even after Twilight, Hardwicke couldn't land the gig directing The Fighter, which went to a director, David O. Russell, who had been in movie jail. It's a boys' club, one in which failure for women is not tolerated. After she turned down the Twilight sequel because it was on a fast track and she wanted more time, Hardwicke tried to make Hamlet with Emile Hirsch, but has yet to raise the money.
  • By Anne Thompson
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  • March 13, 2011 12:31 PM
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  • 3 Comments

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