Saturday, April 30, 2011

Fast Five Opening Day Numbers

Unbelievable - Fast Five is posting some incredible box office numbers for opening day ($33.2 million). This movie's opening day success only confirms to me that this series is not ending at five films, but will continue on - and it also suggest, that perhaps the summer movie season has started early this year.

I have no idea how far this series is going to go - and certainly there is no end to the exotic locations that can be used to shoot street racing - so at five films in the Fast & the Furious series seems like a staple to expect over the course of the rest of this decade ahead.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Reel People: Keira Knightley is Sabina Spielrein

The film is A Dangerous Method, which is directed by David Cronenberg, with a screenplay by Oscar winner Christopher Hampton, based on his own play (The Talking Cure) and the non-fiction book A Most Dangerous Method: The Story of Jung, Freud, and Sabina Spielrein by John Kerr.

Sabina Spielrein

Sabina Spielrein was born in 1885 to a wealthy Jewish family in Rostov, Russia. In 1904, after a series of nervous symptoms, her parents send her Zurich, Switzerland to be treated. There she is treated by Carl Jung with Sigmund Freud's new method, psychoanalysis.

After being released from clinic a year later, she continues to meet with Jung and decides to pursue her own studies in psychoanalysis. During this time she was romantically linked to Carl Jung and a series of correspondences have since been released between Freud and Jung regarding Sabina.

Sabina's doctoral thesis, "A Case of Schizophrenia" is completed by 1911, and she becomes one of the first female psychoanalysis.

Despite being linked to Freud and Jung romantically, she marries Pawel Sheftel, a Jewish Russian doctor in 1912. They have a daughter, Ranata in 1913. She continued to be associated with the Vienna Psychoanalytical Society, and when her husband returned to Russia she remained with Ranata.

While Sabina had many of her own important contributions to the field, she most noted for an early presentation relating to sex drive having an instinct bent on destruction as well as transformation. These ideas are said to have influenced Freud's famous theory of "death drive" as well as Jung's famous theories on "transformation."

Through the early 20s she shifts her focus to child psychology, and returns to Russia to reunite with her husband. In 1923 she even begins a kindergarten in Moscow named "The White Nursery." This would be closed down three years later after claims of sexual perversion on children.

Sabina and her husband Pawel have their second child, Eva, in 1926.

1936, Sabina's life in Russia changes as Stalin prohibits psychoanalysis and also has her brothers, father, and husband deported. They are executed shortly following deportation, during what is commonly called "The Great Terror" or "The Great Purge" in Russia.

In 1942, along with many other Russian Jews, German soldiers kill Sabina and her two daughters.

A Dangerous Method

The film A Dangerous Method occurs prior to WWI, and tells the story and interaction of Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, and Sabina Speilrein.

In addition to Keira Knightley playing Sabina Speilrein, Viggo Mortensen plays the part of Sigmund Freud and Michael Fassbender will play the part of Carl Jung.

Other stars include Vincent Cassel who will portray Otto Gross a young psychologist who studied under Freud, and Sarah Gaddon as Emma Jung, the wife of Carl.

Keira Knighley has received one Oscar nomination (Pride & Prejudice) and a role like this, if the film is well received, makes one wonder if Keira Knighley will score another Oscar nomination or perhaps even a win for her portrayal of this
Reel (Real) Person?

Saturday, April 23, 2011

More Potential Fourquels

With 5 Forequels on the 2011 film calendar - it might be reasonable, depsite how riduculous it may sound to consider the possibilities of what films Hollywood could be considering a fourth installment to. Generally, I feel like most people reading this will detest most of these ideas - but feel free to share your thoughts positive or negative towards these potential franchise continuations.

I've heard of some of the below already in development. I've included in parenthesis the dates of the previous installments. And some of these might seem more appropriate with modified title than the generic "4" placed after them below -and of course some might even opt for roman numberals using the IV after it's series name.

Here's some "proposed" Future 4th installments:

• Ape Woman 4 (1943, 44, 45)
• Austin Powers 4 (97, 99, 02)
• Back to the Future 4 (85, 89, 90)
• The Bad News Bears 4 (76, 77, 78)
• Barbershop 4 (02, 04, 05)
• Beverly Hills Cop 4 (84, 87, 94)
• Big Momma's House 4 (00, 05, 11)
• The Black Stallion (79, 83, 03)
• Blade 4 (98, 02, 04)
• The Bourne _____ 4 (02,04, 07)
• La Cage Aux Follies 4 (78, 80, 85)
• Cannonball Run 4 (81, 84, 89)
• Captin Nemo 4 (54, 61, 69)
• The Chronicles of Narnia 4 (05, 08, 10)
• Creature from the Black Laggon 4 (54, 55, 56)
• Crocodile Dundy 4 (86, 88, 01)
• Flash Gordon 4 (36, 38, 40)
• The Fly 4 (58, 59, 65)
• Friday 4 (95, 00, 02)
• From Dusk Till Dawn 4 (96, 99, 00)
• Goal! 4 (05, 07, 09)
• The Godfather 4 (72, 74, 90)
• The Grudge 4 (04, 06, 08)
• Infernal Affairs 4 (02, 03, 03)
• It's Alive 4 (74, 78, 87)
• Jeepers Creepers 4 (01, 03, 11)
• Jurassic Park 4 (93, 97, 01)
• Look Who's Talking 4 (89, 90, 93)
• The Lord of the Rings 4 (01, 02, 03)
• Mad Max 4 (79, 81, 85)
• Major League 4 (89, 94, 98)
• Matrx 4 (99, 03, 03)
• Mighty Ducks 4 (D4?) (92, 94, 96)
• Mr. Belvedere 4 (48, 49, 51)
• The Mummy 4 (99, 01, 08)
• The Never Ending Story 4 (84, 90, 94)
• Oceans Eleven 4 (01, 04, 07)
• Poltergiest 4 (82, 86, 88)
• Porky's 4 (82, 83, 85)
• Predator 4 (87, 90, 10)
• RoboCop 4 (87, 90, 93)
• Rugrats 4 (98, 00, 03)
• Rush Hour 4 (98, 01, 07)
• The Santa Clause 4 (94, 02, 06)
• Spider-Man 4 (02, 04, 07)
• Step Up 4 (06, 08, 10)
• Super Fly (72, 73, 90)
• Toy Story 4 (95, 99, 10)
• Transformers 4 (07, 09, 11)
• Underworld 4 (03, 06, 09)

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Five Fourquels in 2011

Who needs a trilogy or even a sequel any more when you can have a fourquel - or at least a fourth installment of a film in a multi-part series.

This year has five films coming out in this fourth installment category. The first has just recently come out Scream 4 and the other four are to follow later this year.

In addition to Scream 4, the other films are (1) Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol, (2) Pirates of the Carribbean: On Stranger Tide (3) Spy Kids 4: All The Time in The World (4) The Twillight Sage: Breaking Dawn - Part I.

It's interesting because in regards to these 5 films that are entering their fourth installment - only one of these is at all intriguing to me - despite the fact that these films could be expected to be some of this years biggest films.

Do you think you can guess which one intrigues me? How about you - you rushing out to buy tickets to any of these films at the theater?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Marilyn Monroe: How Her Image Made Me Feel

Tonight, I was at a restaurant that had a Marilyn Monroe bathroom motif. I think the theme of this Italian restaurant's bathroom was to create a sexy type of bathroom ambiance.

In recently putting together the post about the story of Marilyn's Monroe's life, I saw this picture first in the room, and every single one of them really made me sad. The story of Marilyn's life was very much heart breaking. I hurt for the little girl Marilyn who's life took a wild ride of tail spins.

I don't know if this is a common experience, but in knowing the story of Marilyn's life, her image is one of sadness to me.

(And yes, it was weird to take a picture of a picture in a bathroom)

Monday, April 18, 2011

Simon Takes A Walk...

I felt like I should blog. But I didn't have anything to say. So I made this instead.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Looking For Trends in Recent One-Word-Title Films

In the list of Oscar winning one-word-title films, it’s pretty clear that generally these are the biographical films that use a single name (Amadeus or Ghandi, for example) as a strong way of suggesting that this film is a definitive source for the telling of this biographical person’s defining moments.

But in today’s film culture, these types of films (think Capote in recent years) can often be respected, but aren’t the big films.

But one-word-title films are not rarities, in fact there’s something “cheap” about them – and by “cheap” I do not mean low-budget, often the opposite. Typically one-word-title films are going to be films that are thrillers or films that are designed for sequalization and so the shorter the title the better so you can slap those numbers after the title (this one word title issue has to help a film like Scream 4, over say the idea of I Know What You Did Last Summer 4).

There also seems to be a recent tendency to make animated films with one word titles, I’m not sure if that’s sequel directed, or something that Pixar introduced. It could be worth further investigation, but a clear trend worth noting & re-visiting.

With that in mind, I thought I would present a simple list of the one word title films that have already come out in the first four months of 2011. Some of these have been some of the bigger films of 2011 so far, they include:

• Beastly
• Hanna
• Hop
• Insidious
• Limitless
• Miral
• Paul
• Rango
• Rio
• Sanctum
• Unknown

Quite a few films fit this category, especially considering the fact we can anticipate this weekend will see 6 one-word-title films in the top 10 (Rio, Insidious, Hop, Hanna, Arthur, Limitless) not even counting Scream 4, a sequel of a one word title film.

Do you see trends?

One Word Title Oscar Best Picture Winners

Of the past 83 Oscar winners, 21 of the films (just over a quarter) have had one word titles. As I got going through the list, I was not surprised to see one word titles as nouns to be the predominant winners, and not just that, but proper nouns.

Apart from nouns, the list only has one adjective (Unforgiven, which isn’t even in the dictionary), and one title that can be a noun, adjective or verb, and in this case could easily be argued as a noun or a verb (Crash).

Wings (1927)
Cimarron (1931)
Cavalcade (1933)
Rebecca (1940)
Casablanca (1943)
Hamlet (1948)
Marty (1955)
Gigi (1958)
Ben-Hur (1959)
Oliver! (1968)
Patton (1970)
Rocky (1976)
Ghandi (1982)
Amadeus (1984)
Platoon (1986)
Unforgiven (1992)
Braveheart (1995)
Titanic (1997)
Gladiator (2000)
Chicago (2002)
Crash (2005)
Argo (2012)
Spotlight (2015)
Moonlight (2016)

There's something bold about a one word title film - something definitive about it. When I see one word title films now I usually think they're a lack luster thriller - but maybe those are usually verbs and adjectives.

**2013 UPDATE:
At the 85th annual award ceremony held in early 2013, three of the nine nominees were one-word titles. While Amour and Lincoln did not win the Oscar for best picture, Argo did win, making it the 22nd one word title film to win best picture. It to is also a noun.

**2016 UPDATE:
At the 88th Academy Award ceremony held February 28, 2016, Spotlight became the 23rd one word title winner.

**2017 Update:
At the 89th Academy Award ceremony held February 26, 2017 Moonlight became the 24th one word title winner.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Special One in the Tank, or a School of Fish

Half empty, half full. I'm not trying to be a pessimist or a mystic dreamer.

I'm just reflecting. One of things that is frustrating about today's world is that when we are in a small tank, it's easy to be special. Yet, in the big masses we're part of a collective and so unspecial.

I write this reflecting particularly on corporate America, but can apply it to many other scenarios.

In a corporate world many times we are "special." Perhaps we're the only man or woman fit for a certain job, or commended for a certain achievement.

We work hard. We come home tired. But sometimes we're even proud.

We are an important fish in our small fishbowl, but talk to another fish, in another fishbowl and your complicated special this and that is distant and not special to there small fishbowl.

And while I find something redeeming in the special fish in the small tank or the collective swimming of a school of fish all doing their thing in a collectively special way, it makes me...

...a little sad because I think of how unspecial some of our praised accomplishments are. makes me feel free that we can just be us and not strive to be the special fish in a small tank. makes me feel challenged to find a bigger tank to be a special fish in a big tank. makes me contemplate what is really great.

Photo via Larry Smarr's Underwater Fish Photos.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Reel People: Michelle Williams is Marilyn Monroe

The film is My Week with Marilyn directed by Simon Curtis and a screenplay written by Adrian Hodges, based on the book The Prince, the Showgirl, and Me: Six Months on the Set With Marilyn and Olivier by Colin Clark.

Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn Monroe (born Norma Jean Mortenson) was born in Los Angeles County Hospital on June 1, 1926, but was baptized as Norma Jean Baker, the surname of her mother's first husband, not the name of her birth father, Martin Mortenson. Mortenson was her mother's most recent husband's name but it is believed, and he was listed on the birth certificate. It is suggested by Marilyn Monroe, as well as the timeline of events, that this man was not her father. Monroe suggests it was another man, Charles Stanley Gifford.

Marilyn's mother, Gladys Pearl Baker placed Norma Jean in foster care due to her own mental instability. Marilyn would go to live with Albert and Ida Bolender. Gladys would try to get Norma Jean from the Bolender's many times, and finally succeeded when Normal Jean was seven. But a mental breakdown soon occurred with Gladys and Gladys was admited to a mental institution. Norma Jean became a ward of the state and was put in the care of Grace McKee, one of Gladys' friends.

Grace was captivated with Jean Harlow and would tell Marilyn how someday she would be a movie star. When Grace McKee was married to Ervin Goddard in 1935, Norma Jean was 9 years old, and was passed along to the Los Angeles Orphans Home, and then a series of foster homes. Adoption efforts were hindered because Gladys wouldn't sign adoption papers.

Grace and Ervin Goddard would even bring Norma Jean back into their home for a time, but after a series of attempted sexual assults by Ervin Goddard. Norma Jean was then sent to live with her great-Aunt Olive Brunings where it is believed she was sexually assaulted by one of Oliver's sons at the age of 12.

From the Brunings she was then sent to live with another aunt, Ana Lower. She lived her for a few years and it was one of her most stable times in her life. Yet, do to health problems she was sent back to the home of Grace and Ervin Goddard. When the Goddard's began talk of moving to Virginia it became a problematic situation of what to do with Norma Jean.

Norma Jean's idea was that she get married so she didn't have to be moved around, and this was agreed upon by her family and James Dougherty and his family. James Doughery was a boy in the neighborhood when he graduated from high school. They were married June 19, 1942. When Dougherty joined the Merchant Marine in 1943, Norma Jean moved into her inlaws home. Dougherty would ship off to the Pacific front of World War II in 1944.

Norma Jean got a job working for Radioplane Munition Factory during the war, and was discovered by an army photographer who shot a picture of her for Yank magazine. This led to a new career in modeling, especially after she bleached her hair platinum blonde. She would work for Blue Book Modeling Agency. Her husband would see her in a shipmates magazine, and wrote to her telling her that her modeling career would need to end when he returned home. Norma Jean ignored his letters and would file for divorce when he returned from overseas. They were divorced in 1946.

Ben Lyon with 20th Century Fox discovered Norma Jean, not liking her name changed it to Carole Lind (combining Carole Lombardi with Jenny Lind). This quickly changed when Ben and his wife spent time with Norma Jean and they decided on using the name Monroe (her mother's maiden name, as Jeanne Harlow used her mother's maiden name). The plan was Jeane Monroe, but do the high number of Jean's in film Ben suggest an alliteration and they settled on Marilyn Monroe.

Marilyn's first film roles were small roles in 1947, her first as uncredited film operator in The Shocking Miss Pilgrim. Most the films were not released until 1948 after her contract expired with 20th Century, so she signed up to take some nude photographs, signing her contract as Mona Monroe.

She received a film contract in 1948 with limited work, most notably she was in a low budget musical Ladies of the Chorus.

She did get a role of some substance in the successful films The Asphalt Jungle and All About Eve and following the film's release, her agent Johnny Hyde helped negotiate a seven year contract with 20th Century Fox in 1950.

Her career began to bloom, she enrolled in school at UCLA, and Monroe was even a presenter at 23rd Annual Academy Awards.

When nude photos taken before her career began taking off surfaced, she decided to be forthcoming about the photographs and explain her economic hardship and why she allowed the photos to be taken, and Hollywood and the press accepted Monroe's story with sympathy and began asking more questions about her past which drew out increasing Hollywood style sympathy.

In 1952, Joe DiMaggio began dating Marilyn Monroe. And after a few film successes (based in part on Monroe's rising star status and the opportunity for better roles), and by January 1954 they would get married.

It was during 1954 that Monroe took on reluctantly the role in the film There's No Business Like Show Business for the staring role in The Seven Year Itch. This film, famous for the subway grate the blows up Monroe's skirt was a filming spectacle that greatly bother Joe DiMagio and seems to be at least some part for their divorce that occurred in November 1954.

In 1955 Marilyn Monroe began dating the playwright Arthur Miller. Also during this time she received acting lessons from Constance Collier (who she met via Truman Capote). On New Year's Eve, Marilyn Monroe signed a four film contract with 20th Century Fox where she could do 4 films as the star over 7 years with the ability to reject script, director or cinematographer.

Her first film in this deal was Bus Stop (1956, directed by Joshua Logan).

She would shortly later marry Arthur Miller in 1956 in a hasty ceremony and Monroe would convert to Judaism shortly before. Then they would fly to England to met up with Laurence Olivier and Vivian Leigh to begin her next film.

Not part of the film deal, she made the British film The Prince and the Showgirl (1957, directed by Laurence Olivier). The film was known for some tension especially with some critique of Monroe's acting as she was highly coached by her drama coach Paula Strasberg. The film was highly acclaimed in Europe.

After filming she became pregnant, but suffered a miscarriage. She would never have a child.

She also during this time stared in Billy Wilder's film (not part of the four film deal) Some Like it Hot. Her role in this film would win her the Golden Globe.

Monroe would develop a dependency on persecution medicine and alcohol, and also began seeing a psychiatrist. She would also during this time do her second film in the film deal, The Misfits, directed by John Huston, and written by her husband Arthur Miller, but by the time this film was being made Miller and Monroe were divorced.

The third film in the 4 film 20th century film deal was Something's Got to Give directed by George Cukor, this began filming in 1962. She was pushing the envelop by filming nude swimming scenes and allow Life magazine to publish some semi-nude photos. She was fired when she didn't show up multiple days for filming.

It was during this time that Marilyn Monroe had the famous performance of singing "Happy Birthday" on May 19, 1962 at an early birthday celebration for John F. Kennedy at Madison Square Garden.

After a publicity tour, Marilyn Monroe died on August 5, 1962 Monroe would be found dead of poisoning/overdose with a probable cause being suicide, despite other rumors that circulated.

My Week with Marilyn

The film is based on the filming of the 1957 The Prince and the Showgirl. The film focuses on a week that Laurence Oliver spent escorting Marilyn around England after Arthur Miller left England.

In addition to Marilyn Monroe being played by Michelle Wiliams, the part of Sir Laurence Oliver will be played by Kenneth Branaugh.

Also portrayed in the film, Dominic Cooper plays fashion photographer Milton Greene, Julia Ormond plays Vivian Leigh, Dame Judi Dench plays actress Dame Sybil Thordike, Dougray Scott plays Arthur Miller, Eddie Redmayne plays Colin Clark, and Emma Watson plays wardrobe assistant Lucy.

Double Oscar nomination Michelle Williams will be playing the famous never Oscar nominated star Marilyn Monroe. Will Williams score an Oscar nomination or even a win for portraying this Reel (Real) Person?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Pre-Thoughts on the film "Seven Days in Utopia"

I recently shared some thoughts on the book Golf's Sacred Journey: Seven Day at the Links of Utopia by David L. Cook, PhD. I mentioned that this book was being adapted to film. It is currently set for release in August 2011.

As I read the book (a book designed as motivational fiction directed towards male golf enthusiast) I found some parts of the book easy to imagine as a film, while others parts seemed to be less than filmable. And when I say "less than filmable," I say this with the thought in mind that there were some very "talky" scenes that if filmed word for word would end up making this move the golf version of Before Sunrise.

I think the casting of this film seems right, with a cast that takes two of the leads from 2010's film Get Low, Oscar winner Robert Duvall and Lucas Black.

In the film, Robert Duvall plays the old inspiration golf instructor, who owns a small town Texas golf-course.

Lucas Black plays Luke Chisolm, a young golfer who wants to make the pro-tour but allows his emotion to destroy his best golf games.

Golf movies have a unique place in the world of sports films, and so it's hard to say what type of crowd this film might generate (will this attract the Legend of Bagger Vance Crowd or disappoint like Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius).

Another angle to consider is the looming question as to whether this film will carry the spiritually charged Christian message into it's on screen film conversion or will that be down played. If played up it could attract a crowd that is similar to this weekends recent released film Soul Surfer about Bethany Hamilton the Christan surfer with a lot of perseverance who lost her arm to a shark attack and continued to surf.

The character list for the film I'm seeing indicate that this film will probably have more plot than the actual novel, and so I'm curious to see what role is given to Melissa Leo and if it's of any substance as I don't recall a character named Lily in the novel, in fact, everyone is just background to what is the Johnny and Luke story. Will the film be the same or will it add more?

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Golf's Sacred Journey: Seven Days at the Links of Utopia

A few weeks back I started reading Golf's Sacred Journey: Seven Day at the Links of Utopia by David L. Cook.

My wife saw me reading it and said... "What are you reading?" (much like she did when she saw me reading the Cowboys & Aliens graphic novel).

In the same way reading a science fiction comic (Cowboys & Aliens) was odd so was the thought of me reading this book (pictured right) that is clearly about golf, and who's image seems to reflect a special significance to Texas. But like Cowboys & Aliens, my interest was peaked upon hearing the book would be made into a film, to be directed by Matt Russell.

The book is fiction, and tells the story about a discouraged golfer who finds himself getting a chance to reconnect to the game, his life, and his eternity through an older gentleman in a small town, Utopia, Texas.

While fiction, the book is a summary of what is assumed to be much of the motivational teachings of David L. Cook, PhD, who is a motivational speaker and trainer known primarily for working with golfers as well as the San Antonio Spurs from 1996-2004.

As the title suggest, the story primarily takes place over 7 days, where the discouraged young golfer meets an older rancher (Johnny Crawford) who teaches him about various aspects of golf in unconventional ways that involve getting to the heart of his game, and believing in himself, and ultimately looking towards what his own eternity looks like apart from his golf game.

I must be honest, because the meat of the book, bookended between more narrative chapters, are motivational sections, some sections clearly did not interest me and I was ready to get through them. Of these the one that had me painfully churning through was a section where Johnny takes the professional golfer trout fishing. Maybe I deserve to loose my man card, but as both golf and fishing don't interest me the comparison between the two was pretty painful.

At the same time, while I'm not interested in golf, I am someone who is interested in mentorship, teaching, and helping others experience personal development I was able to enjoy the lay out of some his teaching styles and methods, and even get a sense of personal motivation from the concept of what it is like to be a Johnny, as a man who helps out another man in his life.

So perhaps there is something here for a variety of people.

Dr. Cook comes at the story with a relaxed and honest story, which also embeds into the tale a Christian evangelistic message as well. This element is honest, and I imagine that causes some to embrace this novel while others could have a tendency to shy away. It's blatantly included, just as much as golf messages about seeing, feeling and trusting are included. He also makes a passionate push for not only Jesus, but a change in golf putting to face-on putting style (his point, truth should always trump tradition).

At around 150 pages, and endorsements from motivational speakers (Zig Ziglar), NBA MVPs (David Robinson), Golf champs (To Lehman, Larry Mize, Stan Utley, Scott Simpson, Aaron Baddeley), and Christian authors (Max Lucado), it's an interesting book that crosses a handful of genres. This crossing of genres will either make you interested because it crosses one of yours, or you might pass it by because it seems the furthest away from your typical reading. In all honesty, I'm glad I read it.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Reel People: Leonardo DiCaprio is J. Edgar Hoover

The film is J. Edgar and is directed by Clint Eastwood and is written by Oscar winner Dustin Lance Black (Milk).

John Edgar Hoover

J. Edgar Hoover was born in Washington DC on New Year's Day in 1895. He was born to Dickerson Naylor Hoover, Sr. and Anna Marie.

J. Edgar Hoover went to college at George Washington University, where he obtained a law degree in 1917. During his time in school he worked for The Library of Congress.

Upon graduating, Hoover would work for the United States Justice Department, quickly rising to a post of head of the general intelligence division for the Bureau of Investigation within the Justice Dept, which was one leap away from the post of deputy head (a position he acquired in 1921), followed by being appointed by the attorney general as the acting director of the Bureau of Investigation. This was formalized that year by President Calvin Coolidge making J. Edgar Hoover the 6th director of Bureau of Investigation, a bureau that had begun in 1908.

During this time Hoover would also become a member of the fraternal organization, the Freemason's where he held the highest degree, as a "Master Mason."

From the issues of WWI with attempts to deport radical leftist in the raids under the leadership of attorney general A. Mitchell Palmer, to in his initial years concentrating on prohibition and bootleggers. From here, Hoover would transition to the gangster wars of the 1930s. Because cars were stolen and driven across state lines, these gangster's like John Dillinger, because federal offenders and Hoover had the opportunity to go over them with federal resources.

It was during this time that the Bureau of Investigations was renamed the Federal Bureau of Investigation, marking Hoover as the first director of the FBI. Much of this was due to the high profile nature of the matters that Hoover and his G-Men.

From the time that Hoover became head of the Bureau of Investigation in 1924 to the transition to the FBI in 1935, Hoover would lead the FBI until his death, May 2, 1972. This made him by far the longest director of the FBI ever, with 5 other FBI directors appointed since his death (11 if you include acting, not appointed directors).

His FBI career became most marked by his efforts with gangsters, prohibition, a general denial of organized crime, wire taping, and spying.

Hoover's ability to move from the trends of the times meant he would go from prohibition, to gangsters, to German counter-intelligence, to soviets, to political radicals to the investigation of the death of President John Kennedy.

Because of Hoover's long running career the presidential cost of dismissing Hoover seemed too great, and so it was he served until his 1972 death. This meant he was director of the FBI under the presidents Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Richard Nixon.

He died of a heart attack and was buried in Washington D.C.

J. Edgar Hoover's personal life was somewhat of a mystery clouded by rumors of various relationships with people like actress Dorothy Lamour in 1930s or Ginger Rogers' mother Lela Rogers. But the largest rumor and point of disagreement between various biographers involves Hoover's sexuality, and the question of whether he was gay.

The speculation of Hoover's gay life also comes with the speculation relating to Hoover's closest friend Clyde Tolson who was the associate director of the FBI, a position he held in 1947, after having worked with Hoover on a variety of high profile cases in the earlier decades. His close working relationship with Hoover also seemed to lead to at least a friendship that meant that they regularly spent time together away from work including regular meals together, vacationing and going to night clubs.

When J. Edgar Hoover died he left his home and estate to Tolson. Tolson died shortly after Hoover in 1975 and is buried near Hoover's grave in Congressional Cemetery in Washington DC.

J. Edgar

The film J. Edgar is said to focus primarily on Hoover's earliest days including the Palmer Raids and the Lindbergh baby trial, as well as extensively on the potential relationship with Clyde Tolson, although how this relationship will be portrayed onscreen, particularly with a screenplay written by Dustin Lance Black, the gay activist who won an Oscar for his screenplay about Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California.

Leonardo DiCaprio portrays Hoover, while the role of Tolson is played by Armie Harmer (known primarily for playing Cameron and Tyler Winkelvoss in The Social Network).

Naomi Watts plays Helen Gandy, Hoover's secretary, whom he highly praised. Gandy is partially famous for her destroying many government records and documents belonging to Hoover after he died, documents that have led to much speculation about what Gandy was protecting. These documents were claimed to be personal property of Hoover.

Judi Dench plays the part of J. Edgar's mother Anna Marie Hoover.

Roles have also been cast for Charles Lindbergh (Josh Lucas) and the German accused of the death and abduction of the Lindbergh baby, Bruno Hauptmann (Damon Herriman).

The film will also feature portrayals of Norman Schwatkof (Dermot Mulroney), Robert F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, A. Mitchell Palmer, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Richard Nixon.

With 3 nominations thus far, Leo DiCaprio is no stranger to the Oscar ceremony. In the role of this iconic and controversial figure will DiCaprio score another nomination and perhaps even a win for his portrayal of this Reel (Real) Person?

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Watching Films From The Breen Era

Recently I have watched to films which have a level of complexity often not found in movies from the 1940s. These films were the The Big Sleep (1946) staring Humphry Bogart and Lauren Bacall and Kings Row (1942) staring Robert Cummings and Ronald Reagan.

In watching this films (both adapted from novels) it's very clear in watching them that there is something lost in the translation from the original text to the screen. Thanks the Internet, I don't have to rush out and buy a copy of or Herny Bellamann's Kings Row.

I didn't watch these two films back-to-back as companion films, but they really serve as great examples of films impacted by the Hays Code, in which in the name of decency these scripts and stories were edited with enough remnant of the original story to just be confusing.

You watch The Big Sleep and wonder why those people are clearing out the bookshop and why a big to do is made about the fake cover of the bookshop. What is that about? Hello, trusty Internet. Oh, the dead guy was a pornographer and he didn't sell rare books he sold pornography in connection with the mafia. Those scenes now make sense.

You watch Kings Row and you watch this crazy doctor guy lock up his daughter and wife in a house and you think what is up with that and why is that gift becoming crazy. Hello, trust Internet. Oh, the crazy girl was being raped by her father and the incest was being hidden giving the daughter the appearance of mental insanity when something different was going on. Those scenes now make sense.

I typically find a film that doesn't deal with these censored elements because frankly concepts like pornography and incest are topics that I do not want to see in a film. These topics were edited from scripts in this time, along with other such ideas of sex, mixed race couples, or other things that would be viewed as too objectionable for film, particularly at that time.

This was particularly strong for 1940s era film. The Motion Pictures Production Code (in place from 1930 to 1968) was at it's highest point of film content censorship when Joseph Breen was appointed head of the Production Code Administration (PCA) in 1934. He retained this role until retirement in 1954, and his influence is clearly seen in both of these films.

Perhaps it's because they came from novels and certain plot points were built into the stories and hard to work out without leaving vagueness and gaps to the film viewer. But in many ways it colors films from this industry, and whether that is a negative or positive thing, I have to imagine it depends, sometimes things like implied sexual relations seem far perferable to overtly sexual themed content.

But I do know that I wish these movies came with their own Cliff Notes-like insertions (or "Pop Up Video" style subtitles) that could be turned on during this films to explain what is clearly a gap in the film.

Or perhaps you could argue these gaps have their own sort of film magic behind them, because they create a complexity in a film that can be looked at with mysertery and potential, allowing the viewer to fill in the gaps on their own. In the film The Big Sleep this seems to work, where as the gaps in Kings Row only make for a disjointed story that comes across a jumbled mess of a film.

○Humphry Bogart image from Democatic Undergrond over a discussion of the hollywood cliche of woman becoming beautiful when they take off their glasses.
○ Ronald Reagan image from Kings Row from The Best Picture Project.