The day a movie turns a profit, the vultures come out to pick. More often than not when a movie becomes a hit, people accuse the filmmakers of stealing their ideas and sue them for a taste of the profits. A recent example is the highest grossing movie of all time, Avatar. Writer director James Cameron and Lightstorm Entertainment are reportedly fighting multiple lawsuits concerning the film, one in particular from a man named Gerald Morawski who accuses Cameron of stealing his pitch about a war between a native tribe and a mining company.

To combat this lawsuit, the filmmaker wrote a 45-page text for the court, nearly a small autobiography, detailing all the points in his life where Avatar began to blossom into an idea. They date back to his childhood. One of the biggest examples, though, is a short film he created in 1978 called Xenogenesis, which Cameron says in the document, contains material that “may be used in the Avatar sequels.” What could that mean? Watch the film yourself and discuss below. Read More »

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The internet can be a miracle. Years ago, we might have read about the very early work of certain filmmakers — commercials, short films, and so-called ‘industrials,’ aka informative films made for companies or schools — but they were often very difficult to find. We knew about these journeyman periods from various directors, but couldn’t easily view them. Now, when someone finds a rare copy of a famous filmmaker’s early work, it takes only minutes to digitize and upload to YouTube, where it becomes part of public record once more.

Case in point: Modern Football, one of the earliest films made by the late Robert Altman (M.A.S.H., Nashville, Gosford Park).

Altman’s early film work began in the late ’40s, and until the mid-’50s he made dozens of industrials. Modern Football, made in 1951, is reportedly Altman’s second film ever. (Some peg it as his first, but I’ve seen references to another industrial from ’49.)

Few have seen this half-hour movie in the last few decades, but another filmmaker recently found a 16mm among a collection of industrials at a flea market in Kansas City. The film has been uploaded to YouTube, and you can have a look below to get a taste of Altman’s very early work. Read More »

Tim Burton isn’t the only notable director whose promise showed from early on — we have here a student film by fellow California Institute of the Arts alumnus Pete Docter, titled Winter. Docter, of course, is one of Pixar’s most prominent staff members and is best known for directing Monsters, Inc. and Up. He has also done screenwriting and animation work on Toy Story, Wall-E and various other Pixar films.

In Docter’s short film, a young child gets excited when he notices falling snow, only to find that once he’s gotten into his winter clothes, he’s so bundled up that he’s unable to actually enjoy the snow. At just one minute and 36 seconds, Winter has probably the highest joy to time ratios you’ll encounter all day. Watch it after the jump.

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NBA All Star Weekend has just concluded and besides the All Star Game, 3-Point Shootout and Slam Dunk Contest, one of the biggest happenings in the world of the basketball was a new film by Robert Rodriguez. The director of Sin City and Spy Kids teamed up with Nike and Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant, along with Bruce Willis, Danny Trejo and Kanye West, for a basketball-influenced grindhouse short action film called The Black Mamba. We showed you the poster and a few trailers for the 6 minute movie earlier this month and now, we’ve got the full film embedded after the jump. Read More »

VOTD: Spencer Susser’s A Love Story

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Last year, we featured a beautiful zombie short film titled I Love Sarah Jane. If you haven’t seen it yet, check it out right now. It was screened at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival, and many regional film festivals around the world. And aside from being awesome, it is notable for featuring Mia Wasikowska, who later became Alice in Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland.

Writer/director Spencer Susser has been working in commercials and music videos , but has finally completed his first feature film, an indie dramedy titled Hesher starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Rainn Wilson, and Natalie Portman, which premiered at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival (more here, review here).

This week our friends at FilmSchoolRejects posted a short film Susser wrote and directed in July 2005 titled A Love Story, which I had never seen before. The tagline is “love hurts” and this film is the literal example of that famous saying. The one and a half minute short stars Branden Williams & Amy Smart. Watch it now, embedded after the jump.

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Robert Rodriguez

Sin City/Planet Terror/From Dusk Till Dawn helmer Robert Rodriguez recently directed a music video for fellow Austin-based musician Bob Schneider‘s “40 Dogs (Like Romeo and Juliet),” the first single off Schneider’s latest album “Lovely Creatures.” The video stars Kat Dennings, who is probably best known from Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist and her small role in The 40-Year-Old Virgin, but she previously worked with Robert on his family film Shorts. The video was shot over a weekend around the streets of Austin. Watch the video now embedded after the jump thanks to IFC.
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After a premiere at Sundance and several themed screenings around the UK, Spike Jonze‘ roboromance I’m Here has now arrived online for viewing in its bittersweet entirety. You’ll have to set aside 30 minutes for this one, so sneaking a peek in the office while the boss isn’t looking might prove a little harder than with Ow! Charlie Bit Me or David After Dentist.

Unfortunately, the film’s sponsor/financier Absolut is strictly limiting the amount of screenings per day. As we checked, there were 700 or so available and just publishing this post will take a big bite out of that number. If you’re too late, however, I’d definitely recommend bookmarking and checking back on the morrow and maybe checking out the trailer in the meantime.

New Music Videos From David Lynch and Michel Gondry

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There’s two new music promos of note for film enthusiasts, one from a music video director who branched into movies and the other, vice versa.

You can see both Michel Gondry‘s promo clip for Mia Doi Todd and David Lynch‘s introduction clip for Ariana Delawari‘s album Lion of Panjsheer embedded below the break. There’s no way you’d get them mixed up: these works fall quite comfortably inside the expected output of their respective creators. But bear in mind that it’s a post Inland Empire digital sketch-artist Lynch we’re dealing with here, not the more painterly artist of his previous works.

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