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Director Patty Jenkins

As earlier periods of motion picture history could be described as the heyday of the Western or the Musical, we are clearly living in the age of the Superhero.  It seems like each summer brings the need for new articles on the evolution of the form — from Heroes for America! (And now the world.) or A Stink Bucket of Disappointment” or just some criminally wacky fun? (which was certainly far more the former than the latter) — and the current moment certainly calls for a nod in the direction of the upcoming release of the feature length film Wonder Woman. 

Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot shooting Wonder Woman

Now, finally, a contemporary major studio release that features a female superhero — and not only that, but the most popular super-heroine in comic book history, a character created by William Moulton Marston as a testament to the power, independence, and strength of character of the women in its creator’s life.  For a story at least as interesting  and jaw-dropping as anything that screenwriters can whip up, Jill Lepore’s The Secret History of Wonder Woman delves into the incredible stories of Olive Byrne and her mother Ethel Byrne (and aunt Margaret Sanger), of Marston and his wife Elizabeth Holloway and their unconventional family, and of the genesis and early years of Wonder Woman. 

For this movie, another milestone is being reached: it is directed by a woman, Patty Jenkins.  The only previous feature film directed by Jenkins is the feature Monster, (which she also wrote), starring Charlize Theron in an Academy Award-winning performance as Aileen Wuornos, the infamous serial killer who died by lethal injection in 2002.  Since then, Jenkins has been directing television shows, particular for the pilot of The Killing (another production featuring a strong female protagonist), Entourage, and Betrayal.  Now, Jenkins has directed the highly anticipated feature Wonder Woman, starring Gal Gadot and Chris Pine, written by Allan Heinberg.  Here is a video interview with Jenkins about the movie, and here is an interview from FilmInk.

Hahaha, as if Jonathan Demme were ever to make a “Part 2” movie!  This video should be very moving for American movie lovers, and cinephiles from around the world.

Science is Back

In the currents and eddies of media making, popular culture, and idea flow, it can be hard to predict when and how messages become fresh or cool or accessible.  And among fortuitous, of-the-moment occasions, the return of Bill Nye could not seem more apt.  So here is a cross-curricular message for our friends from the world of Science: Bill Nye Saves the World is streaming on Netflix.  Not only that, but a documentary about the man and his career has been produced, Bill Nye: Science Guy, which premiered at SXSW.

Today marked the passing of a director whose career was undoubtedly one of the most interesting and unique of the past several decades: Jonathan Demme.  This fine obituary by Bruce Weber for the New York Times provides a strong overview of Demme’s career; for Demme’s impact on collaborators and friends, this article from Variety provides many moving testimonials, in addition to these words from director and actress Jodie Foster.  From among his works, my favorite will remain Something Wild, undoubtedly one of the most original works of its decade (with a killer soundtrack and as-always-stellar work from sound designer Skip Lievsay) and a movie that would certainly stand alongside Melvin and Howard in demonstrating Demme’s strengths as a chronicler of American society, a great director of actors, and a man with a musical soul.  It should also be noted that while he is justifiably celebrated for directing the Talking Heads concert movie Stop Making Sense, his beautiful video for New Order’s The Perfect Kiss is also an absolute treasure.

Decades ago, Princeton professor P. Adams Sitney first integrated these lessons into his work on cinematic history and its hidden lessons, along with adventures in the Avant-Garde.  Check out the embedded video above and your eyes (and mind) may be opened a bit more.

Speaking of dispelling illusions, here is a related recommendation — Race: The Power of an Illusion is an exceptional documentary referenced in Moving Images and which explores the complex story of what we call “race” in AmericaYou can learn more about it here.

In our series of posts about Women Pioneers of the Cinema, a few years ago we highlighted the work of one of the most important filmmakers in movie history: Alice Guy Blaché.  For some further information about this groundbreaking creator and studio head, you can check out this brief piece with video links from Open Culture.  Or, you can go straight to this short but informative video.  It is titled “The First Woman Filmmaker Nobody’s Heard Of” — well, that might be the case unless you learned about filmmaking and media literacy from Moving Images and mediateacher.net.  

And do you want an exciting piece of news?  There is a documentary in the works about this inspiring pioneer: Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blaché, directed by Pamela B. Green.

A moviemaker who blazed many trails, some of which that led to false paths and others that seemed to meander through Indiana Jones-styled jungle thickets or lost treasure labyrinths, Orson Welles continues to provide many lessons to directors, editors, sound designers, and everyone else involved in moving image creation.  Here is a highly recommended article on a lesser-known ahead-of-its-time innovation in his work: the video essay, as seen in F for Fake.  And the tale of rediscovering and rebuilding one of his “lost temples” of filmmaking (which was reported on in this blog a couple of years ago)— The Other Side of the Wind — goes on.   In a perfect 21st century twist worthy of the director of Citizen Kane, Netflix is the studio that has stepped in to finance this elusive, decades-old project through to fruition.