Elliott Smith in Film

Musician Elliott Smith has made an abundance of legendary contributions to cinema, both in his short lifetime (he passed away at the age of 34 in 2003) as well as posthumously. He is, arguably, the greatest singer-songwriter of his generation. In film, Smith is, perhaps, most well-known for his tracks on Gus Van Sant’s Good Will Hunting in 1997, namely, his Oscar-nominated “Miss Misery.” That song played over the oft-quoted “Had to see about a girl” scene. Although Smith lost to Céline Dion’s (of whom he used to do a spot-on impression) “My Heart Will Go On” at the Academy Awards, “Miss Misery” and Good Will Hunting launched him from indie musician to somewhere in between the stratospheres of successful and superstardom overnight.

The Nebraska-born, Texas-raised, Portland transport’s hauntingly graceful tracks have also been featured in several other prominent films and television shows, including many indelible scenes. His hollow, whispery voice, forever yearning for a different reality, remains a staple in film. If Van Sant hadn’t run out of music to listen to on a cross-country road trip and been forced to listen to discarded soundtrack music for To Die For, perhaps Smith’s brilliance wouldn’t have been exposed to the masses. And he wasn’t exactly the type of person capable of bearing the pressures of fame. He had enough demons, as it was. However, fame was inevitable for someone as talented as Smith. Alas, it’s a delicate, almost selfish relationship we, as fans and admirers, have with artists. They create. We consume, and consume, and consume. If their art is deemed mainstream, we become exponentially more voracious. Sometimes, it can destroy a person. Sometimes, it can enable their most dangerous temptations. Sometimes, it can awaken their most sinister demons.

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Eurovision Song Contest The Story of Fire Saga wheel

On the July 3, 2020 episode of /Film Daily, /Film editor-in-chief Peter Sciretta is joined by /Film managing editor Jacob Hall, weekend editor Brad Oman, senior writer Ben Pearson and writer Chris Evangelista to discuss what they’ve been up to at the Water Cooler.

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(Welcome to Out of the Disney Vault, where we explore the unsung gems and forgotten disasters currently streaming on Disney+.)

Despite Mr. Boogedy (which I previously wrote about for this columnnever becoming the TV show it was meant to be, the Disney powers-that-be thought that the horror parody about a family of pranksters being haunted by a ghost absolutely warranted a sequel. Long before shows like Lost or movies like the Marvel Cinematic Universe got audiences used to watching a new chapter in a story without spending time to recap the previous chapter, Disney decided that audiences didn’t need to remember what a 45-minutes made-for-TV movie from a year earlier was about, and could simply jump into its sequel. 

The result is The Bride of Boogedy, a sequel that drops most of its scary elements to instead tell a comedic tale of parents just not believing their kids, seances, and lots of Halloween pranks. 

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Edward Scissorhands is more than a gothic fairytale. It’s more than a suburban satire. It’s a complex film about systemic societal and economic change. Writer Caroline Thompson, director Tim Burton, costume designer Colleen Atwood, and production designer Bo Welch convey timely themes of classism, diversity, and suburban vapidity (post-war Suburbia through the Reagan Era suburban revival) through the use of snow, Edward’s (Johnny Depp) peculiar, unchanging outfit, the suburban setting, and a stealthily symbolic mansion. The story of Edward Scissorhands was conceived during Burton’s awkward suburban childhood upbringing in Burbank, California. It can be dated back to a single drawing in Burton’s teenage years of an early iteration of the Scissorhands character, which represented Burton’s feeling of isolation, his inability to maintain friendships, and communicate effectively with his peers.

In Burton’s biography by Helena Bassil-Morozow titled, Tim Burton: The Monster and the Crowd: A Post-Jungian Perspective, he explained, “I never really fell out with people, but I didn’t really retain friends. I get the feeling people just got this urge to want to leave me alone for some reason, I don’t know why exactly. It was as if I was exuding some sort of aura that said ‘Leave me the fuck alone.’” What began as an auteur-in-the-making’s lack of belonging in his own neighborhood grew into an intelligent allegory for suburban America and humankind’s manmade, pun intended, prejudice against anything that is considered different from the current norm.

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(Welcome to Now Scream This, a column where horror experts Chris Evangelista and Matt Donato tell you what scary, spooky, and spine-tingling movies are streaming and where you can watch them.)

Matt: According to the calendar, holidays are still a thing? Happy whatever, America! Now let’s all celebrate like I had to for my lockdown birthday…by doing nothing. Stay home. Cook some hot dogs over a flaming pile of dollar bills while blasting that Team America song or whatever you do on the 4th Of July. Just, pretty please, keep the current situation in mind? Pandemics don’t respect nationwide vacation days. Watch some Americana-themed horror movies from your couch and ensure social distancing. Chris and I have some streaming recommendations that should resonate awful loudly right about now.

Chris: It feels extra strange to celebrate America right now, because of, well…everything. But hey, it’s the 4th of July weekend, baby! And that means it’s an excuse to drink booze, eat grilled food, and watch horror movies (not that I need an extra excuse to do aunt of those things). And since America can be such a nightmare, Matt and I decided to highlight some good old American horror stories (and no, I’m not talking about the show that everyone hates but keeps watching anyway). 

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(Welcome to The Movies That Made Star Wars, a series where we explore the films and television properties that inspired George Lucas’s iconic universe. In this edition: The Rain People (1969) and Filmmaker: a diary by george lucas (1968))

In order to dive deeper into the films and filmmaking techniques and style of George Lucas, it’s practically required to dive into the early work of Francis Ford Coppola. 

“The way I make movies I learned from Francis,” George Lucas said in a 1977 interview with the LA Times. “I was his right hand for 10 years. I absorbed his idiosyncrasies. Yet we’re exact opposites, 180 degrees apart; as a result, we’re each other’s foil.”

Today, we’ll dive into The Rain People and Filmmaker, both films made in tandem in the late 1960s. The Rain People was a film made on the road, shot across a number of states. Francis Ford Coppola wanted to make a personal film and wrote his script and told Warner Brothers he was making it. This was the first film to be produced by American Zoetrope. George Lucas tagged along on the production, filming the behind the scenes documentary, Filmmaker, solo, with a 16mm camera and a Nagra audio recorder.

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the old guard review

If there’s one thing we can all agree on in these divisive times, it’s that the sight of Charlize Theron kicking some ass is fun. Be it Mad Max: Fury Road or Atomic Blonde, Theron has the physicality and screen presence that makes the sight of her throwing down and pummelling some fools spectacular cinema. So why then is The Old Guard, a movie where Theron does almost nothing but fight, so dang dull?

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Best in Show

(Welcome to The Quarantine Stream, a new series where the /Film team shares what they’ve been watching while social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.)

The Movie: Best in Show

Where You Can Stream It: Hulu

The Pitch: The tension is palpable, the excitement is mounting, and the heady scent of competition is in the air as hundreds of eager contestants from across America prepare to take part in what is undoubtedly one of the greatest events of their lives – the Mayflower Dog Show. The canine contestants and their owners are as wondrously diverse as the great country that has bred them.

Why It’s Essential Viewing: Christopher Guest has been playing in the fake documentary format since the 1980s. Not only did he write and star in the rock mockumentary This Is Spinal Tap (where he’s responsible for the famous scene where the amps go up to 11), but he brought some of the same comedic sensibilities to Synchronized Swimmers, one of the most famous pre-recorded Saturday Night Live sketches of all time. But for my money, Christopher Guest’s biggest laughs and finest characters come from Best in Show, a mockumentary that follows a variety of eclectic dog owners who are preparing to participate in the Mayflower Dog Show. Thanks to an outstanding ensemble cast and a penchant for improvisation, this movie is pure comedy gold, and there are some good dogs for you to enjoy too. Read More »

Fallout TV Series

War. War never changes. But the television landscape sure does, because the thought of a show based on the Fallout video game series seemed downright impossible when the franchise debuted in 1997. But here we are: it’s 2020 and Amazon is bringing the post-apocalyptic science fiction story to the small screen, with Westworld creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy heading up the project.

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Erased Anime

(Welcome to Ani-time Ani-where, a regular column dedicated to helping the uninitiated understand and appreciate the world of anime.)

Everyone wishes they could rewind time and fix their mistakes, hoping that by fixing just one thing, your entire life would be better. What if you could actually do it? What if you could pinpoint the exact moment things started to go wrong for you and your friends, and you could go back and prevent it all from happening?

That’s the life of Satoru, a 29-year-old manga artist and pizza delivery driver who’s at the center of an anime called Erased. He also possesses a special ability he calls “revival.” When tragedy is about to strike, Satoru is sent back a few minutes before the accident, which he’s used to save many lives — think Final Destination without the Death-coming-back-for-payback part. 

The problem comes when Satoru is wrongfully accused of murdering a person close to him. This prompts him to be sent back to the past again, this time 18 years to the past — to 1988. Here, Satoru realizes the murder is connected to a series of child kidnappings and killings that terrorized his hometown, and he’ll do everything he can to prevent the death of one of his classmates. From there, Erased becomes as much a sci-fi murder-mystery as it is an exploration of trauma, child abuse, and loneliness, and it is one hell of a nail-biting thriller.

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