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Archive for the ‘Directors’ Category

Devon Michael with Natalie PortmanA NYTimes OpDoc piece was published recently and it concerns a topic close to the hearts of generations of movie viewers, each with their own reference points related to the genesis and evolution of this storytelling universe: Star Wars. In this case, the issue being explored is the impact of media on a particular group of people sometimes involved in its creation and subsequent life in culture: child actors.

For the production of the opening movie of the second trilogy of stories created for the Star Wars movies (in this case the prequels to the original three, which would become episodes I-III), George Lucas needed to cast a central role: young Anakin Skywalker, who would become Darth Vader.

This short documentary recounts the experience not of Jake Lloyd, who was cast in this role, but of a young man who was almost cast in this role: Devon Michael. In this piece directed by Ben Proudfoot, titled Almost Famous: The Unchosen One, viewers explore the journey of this young child actor and the impact of losing out on this once-in-a-lifetime casting opportunity. It is a very powerful story. (As well as quite an insight on George Lucas as a director, when one considers the audition performance and acting qualities displayed by Devon Michael, who was not selected for the role.) Extremely compelling viewing for media students, especially those who are into the Star Wars galaxy of storytelling, from those who grew up in the 70’s or very young viewers whose first experiences are in the episodic series The Mandalorian or The Book of Boba Fett.

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Wendell and WildIn the “year without a (real) Halloween,” what more appropriate news could be posted than this “in case you haven’t heard” piece: Henry Selick is director for Wendell and Wild in collaboration with Jordan Peele and Keegan Michael Key, along with composer Bruno Coulais (who scored Selick’s classic Coraline).  Let’s keep hoping for a release date that’s not too far off: we need this one! 

Earlier this year, Selick received a highly deserved Winsor McKay award from the International Animated Film Society.  Check out this link which features Selick’s induction with a moving introduction from animator Jorge Gutierrez.  

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In earlier posts, mediateacher.net has featured posts that highlight lessons that can be learned from study of movies from the Star Wars franchise, particularly with Rogue One and innovative work in sound design.  Along with the superbly detailed book The Making of Star Wars: The Definitive Story Behind the Original Film by J.W. Rinzler, there is this YouTube video that explores how George Lucas arrived at his final cut of Star Wars through the work of his editors Paul Hirsch, Richard Chew, and Marcia Lucas) and which can be very eye-opening to students about the development of story and the power of the editing process (and all of the stages of movie production) in arriving at the definitive version of a film.

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So there are lists all over the place, of course, to mark raves and disses across the spectrum of motion picture media, for the year or the decade past.  I really liked this one with a nice theme curated by the folks at Criterion: Hidden Gems of the 2010s. And it’s worth it just to see the suggestion for Twin Peaks to “become part of the core curriculum of high schools across this country.” Hahaha, we’ll see about that!

And for documentaries? Try this list from Paste, which has informative intros for their 30 choices.

There was this interesting piece from a couple of years ago picking 25 best movies for this century so far (until then, at least), and it has a link to choices from Sofia Coppola, Denis Villeneuve, and Alex Gibney, among others. Speaking of Villeneuve and Coppola, Dune and On the Rocks are both due in 2020!

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Agnes Varda making first feature “La Pointe Courte”

Couldn’t resist that title.  In Chapter 8 of Moving Images, students explore the positions that correspond to the filmmaking tasks for which they have been developing skills throughout their work with the textbook.  These jobs have been in a pretty constant state of flux for a number of years as the processes of the digital media pipeline and business of media production continue to evolve and transform.

Recently a very interesting piece by Cara Buckley on gripping appeared in the New York Times: What is a Grip?  The Few Women Doing the Job in Hollywood Explain.”  Check out this article to find some answers along with insights and inspiration.

On a topic related to a core theme of this article, mediateacher.net notes the deeply sad news of the passing of Agnès Varda, one of the most important filmmakers of this era and a truly inspiring creator and visionary.

And to continue with another follow-up (related to the earlier references in multiple ways!) to working in the movie industry, here is an interview with Jessica Lee Gagné, the cinematographer of the stunningly shot Escape at Dannemora, a Showtime 7-part miniseries directed by Ben Stiller, released a few months ago to widespread acclaim.  Amazing work both behind and in front of the camera.

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