I didn't read the novel Gone Girl. I didn't even know Gillian Flynn's 2012 novel existed until I started seeing a few random cinephile blog posts about a possible new ending she was writing to her own adapted screenplay. But then I saw David Fincher's name attached as director. I sat up straight and paid attention. This was serious weight at the helm. Then I saw Ben Affleck's name- wait...huh? Fincher-Pitt...yes. Fincher-Penn...yes. Fincher-Affleck...uh, no.
Gone Girl, the film, is a story about the disappearance of Amy Elliot-Dunne, played with full force by Rosamund Pike. She and her husband Nick Dunne (Affleck) live in the small town of North Carthage, Missouri. The two met, and married, while living in New York City and working as magazine writers.
Nick was a transplant. Amy had the security of a trust fund thanks to her mother's (Lisa Banes) successful string of children's stories, loosely based on her Amy's childhood. Nick moved the two of them back to his hometown so he could care for his ailing mother. Amy didn't mind, although Nick never asked. After a morning spent with his twin sister Margo (Carrie Coon) at the bar they both own, Nick walks into his home to find a shattered coffee table and a missing wife. Local police are called. Days quickly go by. The investigation escalates. And soon enough Nick becomes the focus of the investigation into his wife's disappearance and a national media punching bag. Let the ride begin.
It has been quite a while that I've looked forward, or got juiced up, to see a film. Fincher is a director that has been close to greatness with his previous films (Se7en, Fight Club, The Game, The Social Network). His movies are spot on with the times, but he hasn't created a film that holds up well. A classic. He has received great acclaim and awards. His films are finely crafted and beautifully shot (this time with long-time collaborator Jeff Cronenweth, son of legendary cinematographer Jordan Cronenweth.). Recently, his musical collaborations with Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross have lent a serious new level to match the weight of his films. But they've always stopped short of great, often because of a too overbearing dark tone that covered up a great script and great acting.
That stops with Gone Girl. It is a dark and haunting film, but not because Fincher says it has to be, but because it calls for it. Fincher has grown to that level of great director that he understands that. This movie is his vision but it doesn't interrupt the story. There is total balance. To date it is his masterpiece.
Back the Fincher-Affleck combination. Affleck has always had the feel of an old school movie star-light. His choice of roles has been suspect. We'll wait and see on his turn as The Batman (his second go as a tight wearing good-guy, by the way.) But he owns his role as Nick Dunne. His character is handsome and charismatic and missing something inside. It's a role made for Affleck and he serves it well. It is not just Affleck that absorbs his character. So subtly believable is his twin sister Margo that you ride her emotions, hand-in-hand. Then there's Neil Patrick Harris as Desi, Amy Dunne's college boyfriend. His desperation, soaked by decades of the long lasting effect of their break-up, has everyone sympathizing with him, even as he does his best twist on Anthony Perkins.
Gone Girl is an old-fashioned thriller. A story begging for a big screen. There is plenty to pick on- the thin, generic take on small-town America, a New Orleans accent by way of Georgia, a few cardboard supporting characters. But this is on reflection. It is devilish, jump-in-your seat fun and it doesn't disappoint.
~ Wade Sellers
If you're in the mood for a short road trip and short films this weekend then travel up to Spartanburg for the third year of the Expecting Goodness Film Festival. Two films from Soda City will be screened as part of the program this year. So Beautiful, by filmmaker Joshua Foster is adapted from Jasper Editor Cindi Boiter's short story "Alvin & Alvie." So Beautiful tells the story of a father and his struggling relationship with his daughter after the death of his wife. The film is a touching slice of time between father and daughter.
Columbia filmmaker Jeff Driggers presents his short “Happy Hour”. The film centers around the thoughts of one woman in a bar. It is a simple story about a complex character. This is Driggers' second year participating in the festival.
The Expecting Goodness Film Festival will present two shows on Saturday, June 14th at the Chapman Cultural Center. The first screening starts at noon, and the second will take begin at 7 PM. Tickets may be purchased through the Expecting Goodness website at www.expectinggoodness.com.
Filmmaker Jeff Miller was sitting in a coffee shop in Los Angeles brainstorming ideas for a new screenplay. “Paul Bunyan came to me,” said Miller. “Why do people think he's so friendly? I mean, here's this giant guy that walks around carrying an axe. There could be some sinister back story there.” From that thought, Miller wrote his first draft of Axe Giant: The Wrath of Paul Bunyan. The film tells the story of young adults at a first-time offenders’ boot camp who discover that the legend of the giant lumberjack Paul Bunyan is real, but is much more horrifying than they could have imagined. The film stars B-movie legends Joe Estevez and Dan Haggerty (TV’s Grizzly Adams).
Miller's film will have its South Carolina premier at the Nickelodeon Theater on June 8th at 9:30 PM.
Miller is a Columbia native, and a graduate of the University of South Carolina's Media Arts program. While in Columbia, he produced three horror films: Freakshow and Hellblock 13, directed by Paul Talbot, and Head Cheerleader, Dead Cheerleader, directed by Miller himself. The success of these films encouraged a move by Miller to Los Angeles in May of 2001 to continue his filmmaking efforts. At first the experience was not what he expected. “I spent a lot of time taking meetings at studios and nothing would come from it. It felt like a waste of time,” Miller says.
Gunnar Hansen, who played Leatherface in the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, had also starred in Miller's film Hellblock 13. Hansen and Miller remained friends, and stayed in touch with each other after Miller moved to Los Angeles. “A few months after I moved to LA, Gunnar introduced me to Gary Jones.” Jones had made a name for himself working in the special effects department on films such as Evil Dead 2 and John Woo's Hard Target. Miller and Jones had lunch, and found out they shared a love of horror films.
Their first project together was the film Jolly Roger: Massacre at Cutter's Cove. The film was eventually sold, and aired on the Sci-Fi Channel.
So when Miller pitched the idea of a new twist on the Paul Bunyan tall tale, Jones was interested in tackling idea. “We started the project in 2007”, Miller explains. “At first it did not work out the way we had planned. We went back and completed many drafts of the script before eventually getting a draft we were happy with.” The pair also made a change in how they approached raising funding for the film. “I went back to the old way of how I financed my films - raising money from friends and family.”
With financing in place, production began in late 2010, and completed in early 2011. Filming took place in southern California outside Los Angeles, and on location in Ohio and Michigan. “Post production was a different process. We have over five hundred visual effects shots in the movie,” Miller explains.
The film was completed two days before its premier at the Shockfest Film Festival of Hollywood in 2012. At the festival, the film received the Audience Award for Best Film, and Miller received the Best Writing award for his screenplay.
After the festival, Miller was contacted by a company in Minnesota who offered to distribute the film theatrically. “I told him please try to get it in the Nickelodeon in Columbia.” Due to scheduling conflicts Miller won't be able to make the trip back home, but to have his latest project screen in his hometown excites him. “It's a great feeling to have it play in Columbia. I know friends and family will be excited to see it.”
Axe Giant: The Wrath of Paul Bunyan
Nickelodeon Theater - June 8th at 9:30 PM
Tickets are available online at www.nickelodeon.org , or at the theater box office.
~ Wade Sellers
Friday night with Melinda Cotton in the hotel bar: Kari Jackson called us brave—“us” being the writers who submitted short stories (their darling lambs) to the Expecting Goodness Film Festival, where twelve of them, shorn, would premiere as ten-minute films. OK, not shorn. Massaged, tweaked, re-imagined, visualized. Those characters that had gamboled through our minds? About to be up on the David Reid Theatre screen, in Spartanburg.
Earlier this evening, I sat with Matthew Fogarty (whose reading of “Denouement” rocked) and found out that we have more in common than Columbia: Neither of us had seen the films that tomorrow will be shown to a sold-out house, and both of our filmmakers had ditched our titles. “Denouement” was now “Resolution”; my “Simon of the Dessert” had become “Grace” (Bunuel does have a lock on the film title).
No matter. This is “a writer’s film festival.” We all are expecting goodness—that’s the name of the festival, and Kari, the festival’s associate director, has us feeling optimistic and bold. But at the end of the reading, which none of our filmmakers attended, Matthew and I are wondering—in a good, expectant way—what we’ll see tomorrow.
Melinda Cotton, the remaining Columbia writer, is better than optimistic. Her filmmaker, Durham Harrison, kept her involved throughout the process. Even let her attend the shoot. “I told him, ‘Here’s my heart,’ ” she said, referring to her story “Grammy’s Keys.” (Her filmmaker, his filmmaker: Writers can be possessive—anything for the illusion of control.)
Question: What if the movie I had running in my head while writing the story is not the movie that Adam had in his when he wrote the script?
Answer: It probably isn’t. And it doesn’t matter. Really, it doesn’t.
The morning after:
The Expecting Goodness Film Festival was a feat of organization, from the “red carpet” photo opps for the filmmakers and writers to the stick-to-the-schedule precision that had a seven-or-so-hour event wrap just about on time. Not that anyone attends a film festival for anything other than the films. All of them had merit; a few were exceptional. Among the standouts was “Pretty Pitiful God,” by Columbia’s Jeffrey Driggers and Drew Baron, based on a short story by Deno Trakas (and featuring two of the Almor brothers, Itai and Gaal). Not only did it win the Jasper’s Pick Award but also a shout-out from Paris MTN Scout. “Resolution” made it to the screen only as a half-finished music video; “Grace,” which had almost nothing to do with my story, was a fabulous, comic riff on love and obsession.
Besides the six Expecting Goodness participants already mentioned, filmmakers Ron Hagell, Shirley Ann Smith, and John Daniel Fisher (who won Best Emerging Filmmaker for “Remember, No Thinking”) also live in the Columbia area. The Nick will show all of the films from the Expecting Goodness Film Festival at a special screening on May 21 at 5:30 PM.
~ Susan Levi Wallach
by Christopher Rosa, Jasper Intern
The movies are moving. And it is causing a swirl of emotions.
The Nickelodeon Theatre, Columbia’s flagship local film theatre, and one of the most acclaimed in all of the Southeast, will be moving to a new home starting on August 31, 2012. The theatre will be taking a trip down Main Street, from its original 937 address to 1607. The move, according to Nick marketing director Isaac Calvage, has been in the works for several years now. “The Nickelodeon Theatre simply has needed to expand our offerings and capacity. We currently have a maximum of 75 seats in an aging building, and we needed to expand. In our current location, we simply do not have space to grow.”
Physical expansion was certainly a top priority for Nick leaders as they planned this move; however, the new space will allow them to artistically expand as well. “The move will also allow us to delve deeper into experimental film, and also show more mainstream independent films. The Nick is also really excited that we'll own our space. We're currently just renting this building.”
The move from 937 Main to 1607 Main is quite the financial endeavor. What sealed the deal for the move were two generous donations from the Ford Foundation and the Nord Family Foundation. Both were integral to the Nick’s journey up the street. “We could not have been more excited to receive grants from such truly inspiring organizations. The fact that they really want to invest in creative place-making, further encourages us that this move is absolutely the next step for the Nick. These prestigious organizations are making it possible to make our move,” Calvage said.
Picking the spot to move was a difficult decision, but 1607 was eventually chosen for its already rich cinematic past. “1607 Main St. was the former home of the State Theater, and then later the Fox Theater. It is also the only remaining theater that was left on Main St. All of the other spaces were either demolished, or completely changed into other spaces. We want to save the cinema history of our city, and also provide a new space on Main Street to help revitalize downtown,” Calvage notes.
Calvage also believes that the new location will have a positive economic impact on the surrounding area. “When we open, we will be open 7 days a week providing a space that is open not only in the daytime, but also at night, and we're projecting that we'll welcome 60,000 unique visitors to Main Street each year, which means that those folks are also spending money in our downtown restaurants and shops.”
The new space is going to be innovative in both its interior and exterior. “We are expanding to offer media education and filmmaker services in the future. Once the capital campaign is fully finished, we will also be opening a second screen, which has a capacity of 192 seats, and which will allow us to offer two different films at one time. We have improved concession areas, bathrooms outside of the movie theater, and greatly improved offices for our ever-growing staff,” Calvage beams.
The new Helen Hill Media Education Center is of particular interest. Calvage cites the digital age as the primary reason for the center’s inception. “In this modern age, where media is thrust at us from every direction, it is important to be able to analyze and interpret these messages, and their roles in our lives.”
There is only a little over a month left in the old space. “We are feeling great, but are quickly realizing how little time is left here. We are so proud to be offering the 33 films. 33 years retrospective at our current location, and we hope the community will use this as a time to say goodbye to this theater,” Calvage says.
The 33 films. 33 years event is a commemorative cinematic experience that pays tribute to the dozens of movies shown at the Nick. One film from each year that the Nick’s doors have been open to the public will be screened. Titles and dates are as follows:
'79 - Sunset Boulevard - Friday, August 10 at 5:30pm
'80 - Casablanca - Friday, August 10 at 8:00pm
'81 - The Seventh Seal - Saturday, August 11th at 5:30pm
'82 - Annie Hall - Saturday, August 11th at 8:00pm
'83 - Breaking Away - Sunday, August 12th at 3:00pm
'84 - Rashomon - Sunday, August 12th at 6:30pm
'85 - Weekend - Monday, August 13th at 5:30pm
'86 - Monty Python's The Meaning of Life - Monday, August 13th at 8:00pm
'87 - Rear Window - Tuesday, August 14th at 5:30pm
'88 - Touch of Evil - Tuesday, August 14th at 8:00pm
'89 - Heathers - Wednesday, August 15th at 5:30pm
'90 - Do the Right Thing - Wednesday, August 15th at 8:00pm
'91 - Cinema Paradiso - Thursday, August 16th at 5:30pm
'92 - Slacker - Thursday, August 16th at 9:00pm
'93 - Like Water for Chocolate - Friday, August 17th at 5:30pm
'94 - Orlando - Friday, August 17th at 8:00pm
'95 - Three Colors (Blue/White/Red) - Saturday, August 18th at 3:00pm (Blue) 5:30pm (White) 8:00pm (Red)
'96 - Bottle Rocket - Sunday, August 19th at 3:00pm
'97 - Waiting for Guffman - Sunday, August 19th at 5:00pm
'98 - Smoke Signals - Monday, August 20th at 5:30pm
'99 - Buena Vista Social Club - Monday, August 20th at 8:00pm
'00 - Timecode - Tuesday, August 21st at 5:30pm
'01 - Yana's Friends - Tuesday, August 21st at 8:00pm
'02 - 8 Women - Wednesday, August 22nd at 5:30pm
'03 - Bowling for Columbine - Wednesday, August 22nd at 8:00pm
'04 - Lost in Translation - Thursday, August 23rd at 5:30pm
'05 - Junebug - Thursday, August 23rd at 8:00pm
'06 - The Squid and the Whale - Friday, August 24th at 6:00pm
'07 - Volver - Friday, August 24th at 8:00pm
'08 - Man on Wire - Saturday, August 25th at 2:30pm
'09 - Let the Right One In - Saturday, August 25th at 5:00pm
'10 - A Single Man - Saturday, August 25th at 8:00pm
'11 - The King's Speech - Sunday, August 26th at 2:30pm
'12 - The Artist - Sunday, August 26th at 5:00pm
The last screening will be followed by a party on August 26th to officially say goodbye to the 937 address. The new Nick will open its doors on August 31st. “We cannot believe the success we have had. It is our goal to become more than a movie theater, and really be a community center, as well as a resource for filmmakers and film education in the realm of media literacy,” Calvage says.
By Saturday, you may already be worn out after attending the Jasper Launch Party, openings of three plays (at Workshop, the USC Lab Theatre and the Trustus Black Box) and the new H. Brown Thornton exhibition at if Art Gallery. So before you head out to the Greek Festival or the USC game, you might be looking to relax with a good ol' fashioned movie to watch on tv.
AMC runs the Charles Bronson-Toshiro Mifune film Red Sun at noon on Saturday 9/17, and yes, we did say Bronson and Mifune! Technically an Italian/Spanish/French co-production, the movie was shot in the Andalusia region of Spain, but in English, with an almost entirely European cast, by a British director, and released overseas in 1971 as Soleil Rouge. And did we mention Toshiro Mifune turns up as a lethal samurai warrior?
It's unclear exactly how this film came together, whether the story was the brainchild of its four credited screenwriters (most with backgrounds in American television including westerns, and one, William Roberts, who co-wrote the screenplay for The Magnificent Seven) or if the producers simply had some available international stars and a location, and started from there; Ted Richmond was a veteran American producer of westerns, who had recently done Villa Rides and Return of the Seven, and went on to produce Papillon with the same French partner as this film.
All of that said, the international cast actually works very well. Bronson - who wasn't quite enough of a pretty boy in his youth to be a big leading man in the US, but made a fortune playing Americans in European films - portrays a traditional, loveable bad guy named Link, on the trail of an even badder bad guy, "Gauche," played by French actor Alain Delon. A reference is made to Gauche (i.e. a French version of a cowpoke named "Lefty") being from New Orleans, but it's unclear if he's supposed to literally be a Cajun or Creole, or just a Frenchman who has come to America. Either way, he dresses as more of a slick, refined gambler, while Bronson has more of the traditional cowboy look, and so it works just fine. Along the way they interact with several ladies of the evening, played by French temptress Capucine and Swiss beauty Ursula Andress. Again, it makes sense for foreign girls to be working as prostitutes in a new nation of immigrants, and Capucine has a fairly Latin look anyway, so honestly, you assume she's Mexican (her character is called "Pepita") and the nuances of her accent don't matter. Many of the supporting cast are clearly Italian, with names like Barta Barri, Guido Lollobrigida and Gianni Medici.
(You can just imagine that pitch to distributors: 'We've got Lollobrigida!" "Great! Gina?" "Errr...no....Guido Lollobrigida.")
Since only the leads and a very few supporting cast members have any lines, and since the scenes alternate between regular "desert" scrub brush, snowy Rocky-ish mountains, and some really convincing tall grass (I mean convincing as in "wow, we have grass just like that in Missouri") you really would assume this was shot in the US. It's directed by British filmmaker Terence Young (best known for Bond films like Thunderball, From Russia w/ Love and Dr. No, which introduced the world to Andress a decade earlier.) Mifune turns up when visiting Japanese dignitaries are robbed, and he vows to avenge them. If you think he and Bronson may cross paths, fight, engage in several clashes of culture, and eventually develop respect for each other, you know not just Hollywood, but film conventions in general. Both were in their early 50's when this came out, and it's interesting to note that it's the only time that a member of the 7 Samurai and one of the Magnificent Seven did a project together.
Oh, and did I mention that Comanches attack, and everyone has to band together to fight them off? There's a really neat climactic battle scene in the middle of that tall grass that's extremely well shot and edited. Music is by Maurice Jarre (The Longest Day, Lawrence of Arabia, Doctor Zhivago, Ryan's Daughter, even Fatal Attraction) and is excellent. Parts are the very familiar "western" type theme we hear in so many films, with swooping strings, punctuated by French horns and trumpets. But at other times there's an intriguing jazz score, much like the Planet of the Apes theme, with primarily percussion, possibly a little bass, I think some percussive banging on the very lowest keys of a piano, possibly even some xylophone in there, but all sharps and discordant notes.
According to Mifune's IMDB bio, "Even though Mifune worked hard to learn his English-speaking roles phonetically, his voice was always dubbed in the American films in which he appeared." If that is indeed the case here, it's an excellent dubbing job; Mifune was speaking every word, and matching them with appropriate emotions just perfectly.
Red Sun, aka Soleil Rouge, airs this Saturday (9/17) at high noon on AMC.
-- August Krickel