Stop-motion effects pioneer Ray Harryhausen died today, with his passing confirmed by his family. The filmmaker, who retired from features in 1981, leaves behind a relatively small but incalculably influential body of work. In films produced between 1955 and 1981 his stop-motion animated skeletons, dinosaurs, and other beasts almost universally became icons of sci-fi and fantasy filmmaking. Though he hasn’t worked in features for over thirty years, echoes of his work continue to resound today.
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Roger Ebert, long the chief film critic at the Chicago Sun-Times, and the man who did more to define the popular dialogue about movies than any other person, has died at the age of 70.
The Sun-Times reports his passing. Ebert had battled cancer for many years; the disease infected his jaw and cost him his ability to speak in 2006. Earlier this week he announced a “leave of presence” from his position at the paper, citing a cancerous relapse.
Throughout the past decade, illness did not deter Ebert, who became an even more voluminous writer after losing his power of speech. He used Twitter to create a constant dialogue with his audience and the world at large, evolving from a film critic to cultural commentator. Ebert’s opinions, particularly those on video games, were not always popular. No matter the subject, however, Ebert wrote honestly, with an openness that avoided cheap shots and welcomed dialogue with readers. For a man whose voice and words carried so much weight, he’ll be remembered as someone who listened.
How many people become more vital, and more engaged with the world, in their sixth decade of life? I’ve watched and read Ebert since the late ’70s, beginning with his early sparring sessions with Gene Siskel on Sneak Previews, but over thirty years later the man was more of a cultural force than ever.
Roger Ebert taught me to do what you love, to do it with passion and honesty, and to face difficulties with dignity. He was the cinematic mentor for multiple generations. Ebert inspired countless readers to follow their own voice, but none will ever be quite what he was.
Posted on Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013 by Angie Han
Jane Nebel Henson, former wife and creative partner of Muppets creator Jim Henson, has died, as announced by the Jim Henson Co. She was 78.
While a student at the University of Maryland, Henson teamed with her future husband to create the WRC-TV show Sam and Friends, which featured the first appearance of a Kermit prototype. In later years, she served on the board of the Jim Henson Foundation, and created the Jim Henson Legacy to promote her late husband’s work following his death in 1990.
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Don Payne, the screenwriter who worked on Thor and Thor: The Dark World, passed away yesterday, according to his family. The family has not released any details regarding the cause of death, though a battle with cancer has been reported. Read More »
Posted on Friday, February 8th, 2013 by Angie Han
Everyone has an opinion in today’s Star Wars Bits. After the jump:
- Zachary Quinto and Roberto Orci are happy for J.J. Abrams,
- Read the official statement from Disney announcing the spinoffs,
- Author Timothy Zahn has thoughts on young Han Solo casting,
- Check out an epic, action-packed fan-made trailer for Episode VII,
- And legendary makeup artist Stuart Freeborn has died at the age of 98.
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David R. Ellis, the man who directed Snakes on a Plane, a film that helped change the relationship between movie studios and the internet in a big way, has died unexpectedly in Johannesburg, South Africa. He was 60 years old.
The LA-born filmmaker made his way up through the Hollywood ranks in classic fashion, starting out as an actor and stunt man, then working as a stunt coordinator (To Live and Die in LA, Scarface, Patriot Games) and second unit director, holding that last title on films such as Waterworld, the first Harry Potter film, and The Matrix Reloaded.
Ellis eventually moved into directing, and made the best film in the Final Destination series: Final Destination 2, with that thrilling and horrific highway collision opening. He also directed films such as Cellular, Snakes on a Plane, and last year’s Shark Night 3D. He briefly went back to his second unit director role for Akiva Goldsman’s directorial debut, Winter’s Tale, with Colin Farrell, Will Smith, Jennifer Connelly and Russell Crowe. At the time of his death, Ellis was in South Africa prepping his live-action adaptation of the anime Kite, which would have reunited him with Snakes star Samuel L. Jackson. The cause of his death is unknown. [Deadline]
You might not know the name Harris Savides, but you know his work as a cinematographer. An award-winning stretch of music videos, including R.E.M.’s ‘Everybody Hurts’ and Nine Inch Nails’ ‘Closer,’ led to an impressive his feature film debut, David Fincher‘s The Game, in 1997.
What followed was a long stretch of films with Gus Van Sant (Finding Forrester, Gerry, Elephant, Last Days, Milk) and feature work with directors such as Ridley Scott, Sofia Coppola, and Noah Baumbach, during which Savides mastered a distinctive style that defined a wonderful mid-point between realism and pure cinema. His twin recreations of ’70s San Francisco (in Zodiac and Milk) could be the new standard for integrating practical and digital effects to create a compelling recreation of a period location. Savides did some of the best digital work in the early days of the format, and was one of the cinematographers whose style could flow from film to digital with apparent ease.
Now we’ve learned that Savides died today at the age of 55. The cause of death is not widely reported, but there are hints of a serious illness faced by the cinematographer in the last few years. His last film work will be seen in Sofia Coppola’s next film, The Bling Ring. Read More »
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Briefly: Tragedy has befallen Gore Verbinski‘s latest film, The Lone Ranger. A crew member passed away while setting up some kind of underwater scene on Friday. Disney has yet to release his name or job description but confirmed the terrible loss in a brief statement.
We regretfully confirm that a Lone Ranger crew member has passed away after being taken to a local hospital. Our hearts and thoughts are with his family, friends, and colleagues at this time, and our full support is behind the investigation into the circumstances of this terrible event.
The Lone Ranger stars Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer. It’s scheduled for release July 3, 2013. [Deadline]