Comedian/TV show host Jon Stewart recently made his directorial debut with Rosewater, based on the memoir by Maziar Bahari. So who did he cast to play the two main Iranian players in this Tehran-set drama? Non-Iranians. He's not alone: although there are a few Persian actors working in Hollywood - House of Sand and Fog's Shohreh Aghdashloo and Iron Man's… read more!
The recently-released Gone Girl, as you may know, has a screenplay written by Gillian Flynn, author of the novel on which the film is based. It is Flynn's first produced screenplay; time will tell if it is her last. If so, she will join the illustrious ranks of these other great writers who each wrote exactly one script that became… read more!
It's been a recent fad for Hollywood actors to publicly declare that they're going to retire: Shia LaBeouf, Alec Baldwin, Brad Pitt and Jessica Lange have all made such threats in recent years. But to actually engineer a proper last film? Well, it's harder than it looks. After all, so much can go wrong between start and finish – how… read more!
Ever since the mid-'90s, I've kept tabs on the number of new releases that I catch in movie theaters. Between 1999 and 2004, I saw an average of 70-80 each year. Recently, however, that number has dwindled to about 40, sometimes less. What happened? I found at least nine reasons for the change. Although this list is based on my… read more!
Many of today's longest-lasting jazz/pop standards were originally written for movies in the 1930s and 1940s. So many, in fact, that it's futile to list them. (A few standouts: "Cheek to Cheek", "Jeepers Creepers", "Lullaby of Broadway", "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B", "Chattanooga Choo Choo" - and those were just the ones nominated for Oscars!) But here are… read more!
I have to confess something. The Internet has, relatively recently, seen an explosion of "professional" list makers, because pop culture lists generate lots of page views and thus lots of ad views. As a result, it's becoming increasingly difficult for me to write about something that hasn't already been covered by someone else. Take this particular subject: there are at… read more!
There are not many Hollywood actresses who became bona fide stars just by playing, well, plain and/or obnoxious characters. Two-time Oscar winner Shelley Winters was one of them. (Oh, go ahead and say "she was beautiful in her own way", but let's cut through the B.S.) Unfortunately, being a plain and/or obnoxious female character often gets you killed, as far… read more!
I'm not Mr. Adventure, but I do travel abroad more often than the average American. I've been doing it long enough to remember when American Express traveler's cheques were almost your only option for obtaining currency abroad. Today, of course, you can use your credit and ATM cards as freely as you can in the US – at least in… read more!
I just got back from vacation and am fighting jet lag, so this pop culture quickie should be self-explanatory. The boogie. In 1978, when the Jackson 5 were simply "The Jacksons" and Michael was just a year away from Off the Wall, the brothers released an album called Destiny. Its hits: "Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)" and "Blame… read more!
In less than a week, I shall turn 44. Funny, I don't feel that old. In fact, it always seems as though I am just at the beginning of my career. But as I'm sure everybody half my age will happily remind me, 44 is getting up there. There are people my age who are grandparents. Teddy Roosevelt was President… read more!
Why try to handicap the 2013 Academy Awards as early as June, when most of the likely Oscar hopefuls haven't even been completed, much less seen? Because predicting things is fun! And because I thought it would be interesting to keep a record of how expectations for cinema's highest honor can change over time, based on hype, critical reactions, and… read more!
The Academy Awards are just around the corner, and once again they are being held in Hollywood, in what is now known as the Dolby Theatre. But the Oscars have hopped around all of Los Angeles since the first ceremony in 1929. In chronological order: The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. Just across the street (and down a block) from the Dolby… read more!
I've seen a few lists like this one, but their obvious choices left me wanting more. After all, just because you call your film Escape from New York or Saving Private Ryan doesn't necessarily mean the characters will escape from New York or save Private Ryan (even though they do); the titles are meant as commands or mission statements. The… read more!
Behold: The Prestige Picture. Take an A-list director, cast A-list stars in challenging roles, center your story around a serious topic, and bring on the Academy Awards! But what happens when critical acclaim, audience adoration, and "Oscar buzz" fail to materialize? Ask these nine films from 2013, all of which must have sounded like frontrunners during production, but lost the… read more!
It's December, and many of us are about to embark upon the annual task of sending out Christmas cards to our friends and loved ones. It's pretty much the only personal snail mail we deal with anymore, so allow me to horn in on your holiday plans with my unsolicited advice. If you receive a card from someone, send them… read more!
The 1930s were a sort of Golden Age of weird, spooky, offbeat Hollywood productions. But it's hard to call these "horror flicks"; while they may have elicited a few screams from grandma, their actual content was obviously far less gory or terrifying than horror films today. Thus I'll call them "chillers" instead. Note that most were made after the concept… read more!
I've always liked that game where you add the word "the" to the beginning of famous movie titles in order to make them sound stupid: The Psycho, The Grease, The Snatch, etc. Amusingly, some real-life movie sequels have actually employed this tactic (e.g., The Wolverine, The Final Destination). And then there's that Los Angeles tradition of sticking the word "the"… read more!
Our ever-litigious society has contributed to innumerable stories of ridiculous legal demands. Like when a band from the United Kingdom is forced to change its name in the United States because an (almost invariably obscure) American band who happened to snag the name first sues them over the rights. Rather than fight these Yank musicians and their lawyers, most Brits… read more!
The Finns are kind of an obscure people. And I know, because I'm one of them. (My father hails from Norway, but the family name Tapio is definitely Finnish in origin: Tapio was the god of the forest in old Finnish folklore, and is a common first name in Finland today.) There are a few internationally known citizens of Finland,… read more!
Surprisingly, not many people know much about milestones in the evolution of cinema. Sure, you could probably name 1927's The Jazz Singer as the world's first "talkie" (meaning the first feature film with synchronized sound taken from live recorded audio). And if you're a real movie trivia buff, you might remember that 1952's Bwana Devil was the first color 3-D… read more!