“The paradox, of course, was that while ripping itself free from genre conventions, Night of the Living Dead inadvertently established a new genre of its own. While refusing explanations and rationales in the face of real-world horrors, it helped open the way (with the contemporaneous Rosemary’s Baby) for the curious convergence of conspiracy theories and demonism in seventies cinema. But while it marked a breakthrough for independent movies—critics would no longer be so quick to write off filmmakers who worked in the provinces, or to snub pictures that seemed destined for the drive-in—Night of the Living Dead did not immediately elevate the career of the man who was its director, cocinematographer, editor, and cowriter.” Stuart Klawans rates Romero’s Night of the Living Dead sui generis—less distilling the mood of its times that presciently feeding the anarchic years of its rise to prominence, less summation of filmic horror traditions than a strange lope through various genres that finally culminates in a glimpse of terror Klawans can only find precedent for in Goya.
“Cinema hasn’t always been responsive, but it’s left some breadcrumbs; I just need to go back to find the trail. Hence this is the first entry in a new biweekly column in which I return to the hunt, back through the annals of my movie-watching, and try to uncover the queerness in the films of years past. The plan is to delve into one film per year per column, hopscotching through the decades, and hopefully discovering or rediscovering themes, images, and emotional registers in films I may not have previously noticed or fully analyzed or come to terms with. The queer twist could be obvious, right there on the surface, in a character or a plot turn; it could be hidden, barely perceptible in a casual viewing; or it could be completely imagined—but what is cinema if not an art of the imagination?” Michael Koresky launches a new, sure-to-be classic series of inquiries into queer cinema with Fosse’s paradoxically aggressively straight (though, and this is much of Koresky’s point, far from heteronormative) All That Jazz.
“A freewill, and freewheeling, Hollywood maverick, Cage seems to have been born a B-movie hero, with a gun in one hand and a driving wheel of a Chevy convertible in another, with sad eyes like those of a romantic film noir gangster, a voice monotonous and hollow like a sound of an old car rushing along the highways of the land of the free, the home of the brave, from Wilmington, North Carolina, to Las Vegas. Or wherever. The road itself is what matters….” Andrei Kartashov waxes rhapsodic about Nicolas Cage, so earnest and ridiculous as only America can intertwine those modes that it makes sense to follow Cage’s own lead and call him less an actor than a shaman.
“When I got to New York, I felt, “I am entitled to walk into these rooms. I’m entitled to audition. I’m entitled to ask for stuff.” Acting is a tremendously insecurity-making profession. I always feel insecure and I always feel confident. They’re slammed up against each other and it’s a constant balancing act.” I’d never have guessed insecurity haunted Holly Hunter, but she raises it as a key theme in her life as she discusses working with Campion, the Coens, and cable TV with Stacey Wilson Hunt.
“As far as the creative thing goes—that was a conscious choice. Everybody in a romantic comedy of the Nineties, or in any studio picture, usually they’re, like, architects. Or the dilemma is “He’s trying to make partner.” [Laughs] What I connect to is, “I’m 26. Let me spend three months to try and write this book and see if I can make it as a novelist.” […] But the notion of twentysomething people trying to pursue careers related to their artistic interests [onscreen]—that was uncommon for that time. And certainly for black people.” Theodore Witcher talks with Danny King about the making of Love Jones, why he feels more confident about finally directing his second feature now than he did in any of the 20 years since, and how James Gray’s cameo got cut out of the film.
“A DP learns something from a director and then brings it to another director. It is very important, and it creates a reason for a director to change DPs every once in a while because he will learn new tricks. I shot a pilot in New Orleans recently for American TV with Houda Benyamina, the director of Divines. She doesn’t have so much experience, but she is extremely smart, extremely hard-working, full of will, an iron lady—but she told me how much she was learning from me, and I’m quoting that not because she was learning from me, but because she was learning from me having myself learned from other directors.” Robert Horton talks with cinematographer Denis Lenoir about working with Assayas, Leconte, Hansen-Løve, and more.
Neven Udovicic offers a gallery of Albanian movie posters: skilled artists working in a more realist, anti-formalist mode than what was allowed in Poland or Cuba, though even the most repressive of Eastern European dictatorships had something of a thaw in the late-60s, early-70s. Via Movie City News.
John Gavin was one of the chiseled beefcake leading men in the Rock Hudson mode of the late 1950s and 1960s who never quite broke into superstardom even after starring in such hits as Douglas Sirk’s Imitation of Life (1959), Kubrick’s Spartacus (1960) as Julius Caesar, and Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960). He made his debut in Behind the High Wall (1956) and went on to such films as A Time to Love and a Time to Die (1958), Midnight Lace (1960) with Doris Day, Romanoff and Juliet (1961) with Sandra Dee, Backstreet (1961) with Susan Hayward, and the musical Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967) with Julie Andrews. He starred in two short-lived TV shows, Destry (1964) and Convoy (1965), and one installment of the European “OSS 117” secret agent series, OSS 117: Murder For Sale (1968), and came close to playing James Bond after George Lazenby was let go. He spent the next decade mostly on TV and, after retiring from acting in the 1970s, he was appointed Ambassador to Mexico by President Reagan. He passed away at the age of 86. More from Ronald Bergan for The Guardian.
Actor Reg E. Cathey had small roles in Clear and Present Danger (1994), The Mask (1994), and Seven (1995) before making his name on TV and cable. After appearing on Homicide, he co-starred in the HBO miniseries The Corner (2000) and had a recurring role on Oz (2000-2003) but really broke through as the mayor’s political adviser on The Wire (2006-2008) and earned an Emmy for his recurring role on House of Cards (2013-2015). He also appeared on the big screen in The Machinist (2004), Everyday People (2004), Arbitrage (2012), St. Vincent (2014), and Fantastic Four (2015), and starred in the Cinemax series Outcast (2016-2017). He died this week at the age of 59. Matt Stevens for The New York Times.
Composer Jóhann Jóhannsson came to the movies from the indie rock scene of Iceland, scoring his first films in 2000 followed by shorts and TV shows, when Denis Villeneuve tapped him for Prisoners (2013), the beginning of a collaboration that continued through Sicario (2014) and Arrival (2016). While continuing to work on Icelandic films, he also scored The Theory of Everything (2014) and the upcoming Mary Magdalene (2018). He passed away this week at the age of 48. Nick Allen for RogerEbert.com.
The weekly links page is compiled and curated by Bruce Reid, with obituaries curated by Sean Axmaker.