Obits

horner

As both a musician and a long-time film score aficionado, it grieves me that my first post as an official contributor for AwardsDaily will be an obituary for James Horner. The prolific, longtime film composer died in a plane crash near Santa Barbara on Monday. Horner was only 61 years old, and leaves behind a wife and two daughters.

Although Horner was already an accomplished classically-trained musician and composer before his cinematic career, Horner started in Hollywood the same way that Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, and (future collaborators) Ron Howard and James Cameron did: working for Roger Corman on B movies. And like the others, it did not take long for Horner’s work to garner attention in Hollywood. Horner’s breakthrough into the mainstream came in 1982 with his score on Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan; not long after, Horner would receive his first Academy Award nomination for his work on Aliens.

Speaking of Aliens, one particular thing from Horner that furthered my already deep appreciation for the art (and challenges) of film composing was his frank assessment on his first partnership with James Cameron. Given that Horner’s work on the sci-fi classic was Oscar-nominated and has achieved an iconic status (especially the climactic cue, “Bishop’s Countdown”) one might never believe that the score was, in fact, only around “80% complete,” and created under extremely difficult circumstances. Horner recounts the experience here: Interview with James Horner about “Aliens”

Cameron and Horner parted ways after that troubled collaboration. Fortunately, both would made amends and eventually reunited to great success on Titanic and Avatar. Horner was reportedly also set to return to scoring duties on the Avatar sequels.

Musically, I define Horner by his preternatural ability to compose a heart-tugging melody, by his innate talent at creating soaring cadences. I have long considered Horner to be on par with John Williams in invoking awe and wonder with his cues, with evoking emotional pathos from audiences. As he stated in a 2009 interview with the Los Angeles Times, “My job… is to make sure at every turn of the film it’s something the audience can feel with their heart. When we lose a character, when somebody wins, when somebody loses, when someone disappears — at all times I’m keeping track, constantly, of what the heart is supposed to be feeling. That is my primary role.”

I know some of my fellow film score nerds have given Horner grief over the years for referencing and repurposing older cues/motifs in his later works, but personally I never really had a major issue with it. Horner is certainly not the first artist, musical or otherwise, to be self-referential to some extent.

Before his untimely end, Horner’s career would come to include scoring over 100 films (including 3 Best Picture winners), two Oscars (both for Titanic) and eight additional Oscar nominations. His was an accomplished career by any stretch of the imagination, and I’m sure he was an inspiration to many aspiring film composers.

I end this tribute with five of my favorite compositions from Horner’s repertoire. Note that this is a very small sample from a very productive composer, and I definitely left out quite a few others, so please feel free to share your favorites as well in the comments.

“Charging Fort Wagner” from Glory (1989, dir. Edward Zwick):

“One Last Wish” from Casper (1995, dir. Brad Silberling):

“All Systems Go – The Launch” from Apollo 13 (1995, dir. Ron Howard):

“If We Hold On Together” from The Land Before Time (1988, dir. Don Bluth):

“Becoming One of the People, Becoming One with Neytiri” from Avatar (2009, dir. James Cameron):

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Peter Jackson’s go-to cinematographer has died of a heart attack at the very young age of 59. The brilliant cinematographer lensed all of Jackson’s Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies, but also King Kong and probably my favorite of his, The Lovely Bones – the reason it’s my favorite is that you can really see how good he is when there are less visual effects taking center. He was a master of the craft. He will be greatly missed and was far too young to die.

AFI Fest pays tribute with special screening for Sophia Loren

Though it’s not today’s news but it’s worth mentioning, Richard Glatzer finally lost his battle with ALS and died on Tuesday. He wrote Still Alice with his husband Wash Westmoreland.

From The Huffington Post, “During the 23-day shoot, Glatzer communicated with one finger using a text-to-speech app on his iPad. By the time of the press tour for the film in late 2014, Glatzer was only able to communicate by typing on the device with his big toe.”

Said Westmoreland:
“I am devastated. Rich was my soul mate, my collaborator, my best friend and my life. Richard was a unique guy— opinionated, funny, caring, gregarious, generous, and so, so smart. A true artist and a brilliant man. I treasure every day of the short twenty years we had together,” he said. “I cannot believe he has gone. But in my heart and the hearts of those who loved him he will always be alive.”

What a shame – they collaborated previously on Quinceañera. As collaborators, they will be missed.

A. O. Scott, in his remembrance of David Carr:

“For a while, a few years ago, there was a weekly video on the New York Times website called The Sweet Spot, taped during off hours in the cafeteria on the 14th floor. The idea was that it would be an informal, incisive discussion of various developments in the world of culture and media. Sometimes it managed to live up to its name, and sometimes it didn’t, but for me the show — or webcast, or schmooze fest, or whatever it was — had a much simpler reason for being: It guaranteed that I would have a few hours a week in the company of David Carr. For anyone who cared about journalism, there was simply no better place to be.”

Let’s share some of those episodes.

Oscars 2013: How Social Media Played a Role – The Sweet Spot

Oscars 2013: Watching the Academy Awards With… – The Sweet Spot

Oscars 2013: How Could the Oscars Be More Exciting?

Times Square Thoughts – The Sweet Spot

A Trip to MoMA – The Sweet Spot

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When I saw the news that David Carr died it came as a brief notification on my iphone. When I touched my phone screen it disappeared. What could the New York Times have been saying about David Carr? Why would his name be on a news alert? I still refuse to believe it’s actually true. Surely he’s playing some kind of trick on all of us to illustrate how fast information travels now. It has to be a trick. He was only 58. I just spoke to him on the phone. He just moderated a Q&A with Laura Poitras on CitizenFour. He was here and then he was gone.

There are so many things that can and will be written about him. So many stories will be shared because he was that kind of person. He touched and saved and inspired and entertained and enlightened so many people. As evidenced by everything that will be written about him, you will soon see just how far his reach extended. I can only share with you how he touched my life, how he changed me, just by looking my way.

It was 2006, The New York Times had just hired an Oscar blogger to help generate, I suppose, income from those lucrative Oscar ads. He was actively trying to help save The New York Times. But he was also working for a living to support his family. The Oscar race had never seen anyone like David Carr and will never see anyone like him again. It’s sort of like driving a Ferrari to deliver the mail. Any old reporter would do but they got David Carr – whip smart, funny, fearless. His columns on the Oscars really did represent the high bar – that was as good as it gets. Even writing this now I’m thinking, why even bother if he isn’t here to read it?

That year he first worked the Oscar beat, he contacted me. I don’t know why. He liked the egghead way I covered the race, he said, but I think it was more that thing in him that always seeks out the underdog. In 2006, we hung around a bit. I first met him for coffee at the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf down in the middle of Los Angeles. He was wearing his usual thick grey coat, smoking like a chimney and drinking coffee. Always coffee and smokes. And that scarf and that coat. And that wonderful funny catbird grin. He was asking me about me, why I was running one of the most popular Oscar sites online but was working as a janitor and a teacher’s aide to make ends meet. He hired me to transcribe his interviews when he was doing research for his book, The Night of the Gun. He paid me good money for the work and kept asking me why I wasn’t making money on my site.

Transcribing those interviews I learned a lot about his life – the good, the bad and the ugly. Maybe because of that, he knew I knew a lot more about him than I probably should as a work colleague. But it didn’t really change how I viewed him or our friendship – it just meant that I knew some of the pain, saw some of the ghosts. He was honest, straightforward and one of the kindest people I’ve ever known.

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Here he is with Jill in 2010.

We went to dinner a few times, once at the Smokehouse in Burbank. Swanky. We ate with his wonderfully funny, beautiful wife Jill whom he could never stop talking about. He could drag me out anywhere, to any terrible party, to any restaurant because there was no way I was going to pass up a chance to talk to David Carr. I used to never go to parties in Hollywood, and was never invited. I remember him taking me to one at the Chateau Marmont. “David Carr, New York Times,” he would say and the crowd would part like the red sea. “This is Sasha Stone of Oscarwatch,” he would say to people and they would just stare back at me blank-eyed, having no idea whatsoever who I was. But David treated me like a somebody. He treated me like I mattered, like what I thought was important, like what I said made a difference.

Conversations with him were fluid – they went all over the place but they always went deep. We hardly ever talked business and when we did he would always say “going on the record.” He talked to me as though I understood half the names and things he brought up, as though as I was an actual professional – I did my best to keep up but knew that asking the whos and the whats was beside the point – whatever he was saying, the way he was saying it, was more important than the specifics.

One day he caught me on my cell phone as I was going to clean one of the buildings while working part time as a janitor. I told him what I was doing and where I was going. The very next time I saw him he advised me that it was time to hold my breath and take a leap of faith. I followed his advice, figuring if he thought I was capable – maybe I was capable. He completely changed the way I ran my business, and thus, changed my life. I owe him everything.

His covering the Oscar best wouldn’t last long. He stood it until he couldn’t stand it anymore. He quit being the Carpetbagger and eventually wrote the media column at the Times, which was a much better fit. Coverage of the Oscar race would never get that good again.

“Sashino!” his conversations would always begin. Even after he stopped covering the Oscars he would usually call me once a year right before the Oscars to talk about the race. I think I spoke with him once every year for eight years.

The last time we spoke he said, “You’re a Gone Girl person, right?” He asked me a few weeks ago. “Absolutely,” I said. “Me too,” he said. “You know me. I like MOVIE movies.”

He thought Boyhood would have trouble winning because it was too subtle for Oscar voters. He watched everything and was the best Oscar predictor I knew. After we spoke for a while, catching up on things like we usually do, I got the chance to thank him for turning my life around. I don’t know why I brought it up during our conversation but I know enough now that nothing should ever wait. You should not hold up a thought when you have someone’s attention. I told him how much I appreciated his giving me that advice back in 2006 and how it changed things for me and my daughter. He said, “Oh yeah?” I guess he’d never known.

“Like you, I’m at home working in my jimmer jammies,” he wrote to me a little while back. I’m sure he had the same shorthand with so many of his friends – and he has thousands of them and they probably all feel like they were this close to him. But the shorthand was so great – “see ya bye.” He would sometimes say. “love you bye.” Or the last thing he wrote “admit that you miss me. Lord knows I miss you.” He was just the kind of person who made you feel like you made their day just by saying hello.

I’m sorry that words fail me expressing what a loss this is – there are some people who can’t be replaced because they’re made of such stuff. He was an accidental combination of disasters and miracles. He was barely alive, David Carr, battled cancer and various other physical ailments and by all rights, as he always said, he shouldn’t have lived as long as he did. He was stitched together by a beating heart and a will to live because he had a family worth living for.

There are people who are lighthouses. Maybe they look almost ordinary in the daylight but once they shine a light on you, or make your path clearer and more defined. I will keep my memories of him in a place mostly out of reach, reserved for special occasions when I’m feeling low. He knew I wasn’t perfect. He watched my very public mistakes. But it never mattered to him. He was my friend and that was that. If nothing else, there was always that. I could point to my friendship with him and say, he thought I was worth knowing.

TimesTalks Presents A Conversation With George Clooney And Alexander Payne

The last time I saw him he’d flown out here to do a Times Talk with George Clooney and Alexander Payne for The Descendants. He was one of the only people who could out-Clooney Clooney. He introduced me to Clooney backstage, in fact, doing the old David Carr thing. Clooney probably thought I was some long lost cousin come to watch David do the Q&A.

The very last communication we had was about two things. The first? The Serial case. “He did it,” he wrote to me. He was the kind of person who had to know everything about everything and he was all over Serial, of course, even moderating a discussion at The New School just last week.

He also gave me some advice about engaging on Twitter with people. He wrote:

It’s got nothing to do with what you say. they want what you have and can’t stand that you have it.

just block them. easy as that. just block and move on. no drama, no dialogue, no beseeching to let you be. just leave them out there yelling down a hole.

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David Carr leaves a massive footprint. Not just in the work he’s generated over the years. That he took out time to write a defense piece of Ava DuVernay’s Selma shows you who he was in his heart. He stood up for the underdog. He hated bullies. He was always up for a fight against the bad guys. There is no replacing him in any way.

But it’s worth noting that he died in the newsroom of the paper he loved.

So here’s me admitting I miss you, David. Wherever you are my dear friend, thank you for lighting the way. Thank you for the hundred thousand smart things you said, what you gifted me with, what you taught me — I am so grateful.

Love you bye. —Sashino.

Leslie Caron Gives Mike Nichols An Oscar

His career spanned six decades. He created some of the most iconic movie moments of the past half century. Today Hollywood paid tribute to EGOT director Mike Nichols who passed away at the age of 83. Take a look at some of the tributes.

Meryl Streep who worked with Nichols on Silkwood, Heartburn and Angels In America eloquently paid respect:

“An inspiration and joy to know, a director who cried when he laughed, a friend without whom, well, we can’t imagine our world, an indelible irreplaceable man.”

Kevin Spacey tweeted:

Julianne Moore tweeted:

Hugh Jackman tweeted:

Julia Roberts told The Hollywood Reporter:

“His musing were like pearls, his jokes were timeless and perfectly placed, his stories ? detailed and wholly entertaining, his warm embrace was where you wanted to live forever. He was my most cherished friend.” ?”Closer,” and “Charlie Wilson’s War”

Ron Howard tweeted:

Cher who worked with Nichols on Silkwood, tweeted her tribute, calling Nichols “dad”

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Mike Nichols, the Oscar-winning director of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf and The Graduate, has died at the age of 83. I first saw those two movies on TV when I was in middle school. It was clear to me even then, even to a tween at the beginning of my adventures in Oscarology, that the films of Mike Nichols represented something unique. Something previously unseen. Because, before the mid-’60s, few American directors ever had the right combination of clout, talent and balls to film such things. It seemed to 7th-grade me that Mike Nichols must surely have helped pull American movies out of the strangle-hold the self-imposed “production code” had used to enforce stale ideas of onscreen morality for nearly 30 years. I wasn’t sure about details because I was still groping around to connect the dots, but anybody with eyes and ears could see and hear how movies had grown up in the ’60s virtually overnight. To a pubescent kid the difference was stark: there were movies where sex was whispered about and then suddenly there were movies where sex was yelled and screamed about, movies where sex was no longer a hint but the primary hot topic. Those late-night TV broadcast were my first introduction to Mike Nichols. Because by then his movies were already classics, Nichols was one of the first contemporary directors whose name I latched onto. It took a while longer for me to understand that his position on the cusp of that dramatic change in American cinema meant something more: Mike Nichols was largely responsible for that change.

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Richard Attenborough, who guided Gandhi to 8 Oscars including 2 for himself, has died at the age of 90. In 1947 he played a lowlife yob in Brighton Rock, one of my favorite films noir and #15 on the BFI list of Best British films of all time.

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Ah, as if our hearts could not break any harder for Robin Williams. Just announced via press release from his wife:

“Robin spent so much of his life helping others. Whether he was entertaining millions on stage, film or television, our troops on the frontlines, or comforting a sick child — Robin wanted us to laugh and to feel less afraid.

Since his passing, all of us who loved Robin have found some solace in the tremendous outpouring of affection and admiration for him from the millions of people whose lives he touched. His greatest legacy, besides his three children, is the joy and happiness he offered to others, particularly to those fighting personal battles.

Robin’s sobriety was intact and he was brave as he struggled with his own battles of depression, anxiety as well as early stages of Parkinson’s Disease, which he was not yet ready to share publicly.

It is our hope in the wake of Robin’s tragic passing, that others will find the strength to seek the care and support they need to treat whatever battles they are facing so they may feel less afraid.”

There are no words.

5 Stages of Parkinson’s

Parkinson’s disease (Parkinsonism) is marked by the presence of certain recognizable symptoms. These include uncontrollable shaking or tremor, lack of coordination, and speaking difficulties. However, signs vary and symptoms may worsen as the disease progresses.

Many doctors who diagnose this brain disorder rely on the Hoehn and Yahr rating scale to classify the severity of symptoms. The scale is broken into five stages based on disease progression. The main symptoms include:

uncontrollable trembling and tremors
slowed movement (bradykinesia)
balance difficulties, and eventual problems standing up
stiffness in limbs

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The reactions to Robin Williams’ death have been all over the place, as one should expect under such circumstances; nobody knows how you’re “supposed” to react. We’ve only been living with the internet for roughly ten years, such as it exists now. Social media rules the day now. All of our news is shared at one time. There isn’t a lot of time reflection. Big moments like this tend to bring out the full spectrum of human emotional expression. Grief, anger, confusion – you name it, we’re feeling it and tweeting it.

The Academy tweeted a picture from Disney’s Aladdin that said “Genie, you’re free.” This prompted the Washington Post to wag its finger at the Academy for seeming to “encourage” suicide.

More than 270,000 people have shared the tweet, which means that, per the analytics site Topsy, as many as 69 million people have seen it.

The problem? It violates well-established public health standards for how we talk about suicide.

“If it doesn’t cross the line, it comes very, very close to it,” said Christine Moutier, chief medical officer at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. “Suicide should never be presented as an option. That’s a formula for potential contagion.”

Moutier is referring to a well-documented phenomenon, better-known as “copycat suicide,” in which media coverage or publicity around one death encourages other vulnerable people to commit suicide in the same way. Adolescents are most at risk of suicide contagion; in recent years, groups like AFSP have also become particularly attentive to the role the Internet plays in romanticizing notorious or high-profile deaths, something it has long asked both the news and entertainment industries to avoid.

There are several things wrong with this attack on the Academy but let’s start with the most basic: that is what happens at the end of Aladdin – the genie is FREE.

They’re saying that the Academy is saying suicide finally set Robin Williams free and that to encourage such an untruth is irresponsible. Sure, if you are counting on the Academy to dictate human behavior, holding them accountable for what people do by reading one of their tweets, hand over all power of personal choice and abandon any notion of people thinking for themselves.

Sorry but any kind of potential copycat suicides that are going to come out of this ain’t gonna be from the Academy’s tweet but rather the massive amounts of love and attention Williams in receiving in the wake of his death, as well he should. It is made more intense by social media, no doubt. Suicides rates are already high and there is a very good chance they will rise after Williams’ suicide.

The New York Times says:

When Marilyn Monroe killed herself in August 1962, the nation reacted. In the months afterward, there was extensive news coverage, widespread sorrow and a spate of suicides. According to one study, the suicide rate in the United States jumped by 12 percent compared with the same months in the previous year.

Mental illness is not a communicable disease, but there’s a strong body of evidence that suicide is still contagious. Publicity surrounding a suicide has been repeatedly and definitively linked to a subsequent increase in suicide, especially among young people. Analysis suggests that at least 5 percent of youth suicides are influenced by contagion.

They go on to say:

Experts also say articles should include information about how suicide can be avoided (for instance, noting that the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24 hours a day at 800-273-8255).

They also recommend avoiding coverage that describes death as an escape for a troubled person. One example was the 1994 death of Kurt Cobain of Nirvana, who was beloved among young music fans, including in Seattle, where his career rose and where he was found dead. Local coverage of his suicide was closely tied to messages about treatment for mental health and suicide prevention, along with a very public discussion of the pain his death caused his family. Those factors may explain why his death bucked the pattern. In the months after Mr. Cobain’s death, calls to suicide prevention lines in the Seattle area surged and suicides actually went down.

“It’s different from any other cause of death,” said Christine Moutier, the chief medical officer at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. “When someone dies of cancer or heart disease or AIDS, you don’t have to worry about messaging it wrong.”

The Academy’s tweet implied that the genie’s suicide was an escape without following up the tweet with a suicide prevention hotline, like that is going to help anything. Look, this ship has sailed. The whole world is morning the loss of a great human being. Sorry to be the one to say it, but does anyone out there covering the Williams story not talk about his suicide as a way out of the pain? The alternative is to say it wasn’t a way out and that he should not have done it and that it was the wrong choice. But to do that people would have to disengage from the grief and love they feel for the actor. Understanding and compassion for what he was suffering with it is the unavoidable conclusion.

Me, I wish I could have pulled him back from the brink – or that someone could have. I wish he would have waited just one more day. Maybe it would have gotten better. I would urge anyone reading this who even thinks briefly about suicide to wait a day, to reach out to a suicide hotline prevention center or talk to someone. One of the hardest things about people who kill themselves is that no one knows they’re going to do it. They know. They’re resolved to do it but they keep it from everyone for fear of someone stopping them.

There are no easy answers. But I think the Washington Post is misplacing their blame in this instance.

In the meantime, this is what David Foster Wallace said about suicide from severe depression:

“The so-called ‘psychotically depressed’ person who tries to kill herself doesn’t do so out of quote ‘hopelessness’ or any abstract conviction that life’s assets and debits do not square. And surely not because death seems suddenly appealing. The person in whom Its invisible agony reaches a certain unendurable level will kill herself the same way a trapped person will eventually jump from the window of a burning high-rise. Make no mistake about people who leap from burning windows. Their terror of falling from a great height is still just as great as it would be for you or me standing speculatively at the same window just checking out the view; i.e. the fear of falling remains a constant. The variable here is the other terror, the fire’s flames: when the flames get close enough, falling to death becomes the slightly less terrible of two terrors. It’s not desiring the fall; it’s terror of the flames. And yet nobody down on the sidewalk, looking up and yelling ‘Don’t!’ and ‘Hang on!’, can understand the jump. Not really. You’d have to have personally been trapped and felt flames to really understand a terror way beyond falling.”

I do understand the Washington Post is just trying to remind people not to romanticize the suicide but I want to remind them back that this was a Disney animated movie tweet out from the Motion Picture Academy, not a statement by the President of the United States.

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By Michael Grei

Lauren Bacall (1924-2014),Here is a list of what I consider her best work in Film.


1. To Have and Have Not
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Lauren Bacall with her honorary Oscar following The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences 2009 Governors Awards. Acceptance speech after the cut.

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Heartsick to report more sad news.

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Robin Williams Insomnia 001

We all thought we knew who Robin Williams was when we first met him back in the 1970s. Funny, stream of consciousness, able to take on different voices, impersonations, scathing humor all in rapid-fire succession. The funny thing was we had no idea who he really was, what he was capable of as an artist, and how deep his compassion went when it came to giving back. There are so many tributes all over the web — it seems pointless to write yet another one. Instead, I’ll talk about what I thought Robin Williams’ best roles were and why.

It’s hard to imagine any other comedian unpeeling before our eyes the way Williams did — starting broad with Popeye but not too soon after that turning up in movies that hovered somewhere between funny and serious. He was one of the few who could drop the schtick when things got serious and people would stop laughing.  In these moments it was clear that he could be funny — really funny when he turned it on — but that was merely the packaging.

Probably the film most like him, though, was The Fisher King. Because so many people have already written about it by now, it seems pointless to go into it but that was the story of a man wrestling with crippling demons. A magical, verbose, imaginative man full of heart and exuberance.

But as an actor, Williams liked to challenge himself and one of the ways he did that was by playing a bad guy. He did this hardly ever and most of the time it wasn’t the side of his personality people wanted to see. That he went there at all, given that fact, is a testament to his commitment to the craft.

In Insomnia, Christopher Nolan’s exceptional but misunderstood and mostly ignored cop thriller, Williams plays a psychotic. I remember at the time people weren’t quite ready to accept him in that role — there was much huffing and puffing about the movie being good until he showed up. That was another example of critics, and maybe filmgoers, wanting a film to follow a more traditional pattern, without letting it make its way naturally. Williams is creepy, and mean. You don’t expect him to go there but he goes there completely.

When Insomnia first came out, in typical Nolan fashion, no one knew much about it, or about him. The last thing anyone was expecting was to see Robin Williams turn up as the killer. Nolan’s film is so brilliantly complex and yet it did not seem to get much traction from critics, audiences or industry voters. Perhaps they were expecting something along the lines of Silence of the Lambs. But this isn’t a film about catching a killer so much as it is a film about a cop covering his ass as he tries to maintain his sanity amid crippling insomnia. As the years have worn on, I return to Insomnia again and again because I believe it to be among Nolan’s best films.

There is nothing so sad as Robin Williams in One Hour Photo. He exposes a kind of deep loneliness, a disconnectedness from love and family. It is perhaps thought of as one of his best dramatic turns because he never loses his compassion for the character. Williams might have had to work a little harder to be taken seriously, but he also never rejected nor separated himself from the Robin Williams we all grew up loving. Like Steve Martin, Billy Crystal, Bill Murray, Woody Allen and Jim Carrey, comedians make fun of the darkest corners of the human experience. He was clearly full of deeper pain than anyone knew.

How does one reconcile saying goodbye to Robin Williams? It isn’t easy. To quote his daughter, we’ll just keep looking up.

In Law and Order SVU:

In One Hour Photo:

Robin Williams is hard to say goodbye to. He’s unforgettable. It wasn’t just his work as an actor – it was his bigness as a human being. He helped found Comic Relief charity foundation, he performed for the troops in Iraq:

After his heart surgery he talked to Ellen about meeting Koko the Gorilla.

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Robin Williams, who won an Oscar in 1998 for Good Will Hunting, died Monday at age 63 of an apparent suicide, according to the Marin County Sheriff’s Department.

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The New York Times describes James Garner’s career and persona beautifully: “James Garner, the wry and handsome leading man who slid seamlessly between television and the movies was best known as the amiable gambler Bret Maverick in the 1950s western Maverick and the cranky sleuth Jim Rockford in the 1970s series The Rockford Files. Mr. Garner was a genuine star but as an actor something of a paradox: a lantern-jawed, brawny athlete whose physical appeal was both enhanced and undercut by a disarming wit. He appeared in more than 50 films, many of them dramas, but as he established in one of his notable early performances, as a battle-shy naval officer in The Americanization of Emily (1964) — and had shown before that in Maverick” — he was most at home as an iconoclast, a flawed or unlikely hero. An understated comic actor, he was especially adept at conveying life’s tiny bedevilments.”

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My 10 favorite James Garner movies.

The Great Escape (1963)
The Children’s Hour (1961)
The Americanization of Emily (1964)
Grand Prix (1966)
Murphy’s Romance (1985)
36 Hours (1965)
Victor Victoria (1982)
The Thrill of It All (1963)
Move Over, Darling (1963)
Support Your Local Sheriff! (1969)

Honorable mention for Garner’s smaller role in an undervalued film, Sayonara (1957). Always felt he was always a much better match for Doris Day than Rock Hudson. I’ve probably seen The Great Escape a dozen times.

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Louis Zamperini has passed away at the age of 97. Olympic athlete and World War II hero, Zamperini was the subject of Laura Hillenbrand’s biography which has been adapted for the forthcoming film, Unbroken, directed by Angelina Jolie.

Zamperini’s family released a statement saying, “Having overcome insurmountable odds at every turn in his life, Olympic runner and World War II hero Louis Zamperini has never broken down from a challenge. He recently faced the greatest challenge of his life with a life-threatening case of pneumonia. After a 40-day long battle for his life, he peacefully passed away in the presence of his entire family, leaving behind a legacy that has touched so many lives. His indomitable courage and fighting spirit were never more apparent than in these last days.”

Universal Pictures, who are behind Jolie’s movie, issued this tribute:

“We are so profoundly sad at this moment and all of our thoughts and prayers are with the Zamperini family. Louis was truly one of a kind. He lived the most remarkable life, not because of the many unbelievable incidents that marked his near century’s worth of years, but because of the spirit with which he faced every one of them.

Confronting challenges that would cause most of us to surrender, Louie always persevered and always prevailed, and he spent the better part of his lifetime sharing the message that you could do the same. His example of grace, dignity and resilience inspired all of us lucky enough to know him and the millions who got to know him from the pages of Laura’s book. We move forward to the release of Unbroken with a renewed sense of responsibility in bringing Louie’s abundant life and indomitable spirit to the screen. Now more than ever, we join Angelina in honoring the lessons and legacy of this extraordinary man who has meant so much to so many.”

Zamperini was a World War II survivor, a prisoner of war, and was an Olympic long distance runner, participating in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. He captured the attention of Adolf Hitler, who requested a meeting with the young Zamperini and told him, “Ah, you’re the boy with the fast finish.”

In 1941, Zamperini joined the US Army and fought in the Pacific. He was captured and held as a Japanese prisoner of war for two years.

Laura Hillenbrand wrote his biography in 2010, Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. The Cohen brothers adapted the film and Jolie directed the film. Unbroken, begins in 1943.
Jolie says, “It is a loss impossible to describe. We are all so grateful for how enriched our lives are for having known him. We will miss him terribly.”

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Louis Zamperini embraced by his family upon returning home after WWII.

(submitted by Jazz Tangcay)

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Watch this great interview with Paul Mazursky by David Poland over at Movie City news.

Mazursky was nominated for writing Enemies: A Love Story, Harry and Tonto, Bob, Ted, Carol and Alice, and for Best Picture for An Unmarried Woman.

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The Good, The Bad and the Ugly and The Misfits were just two memorable roles by Eli Wallach, who passed away today at 98 years old.  His last role was in Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. It was always nice to see him in a movie, even when it wasn’t the greatest movie. Wallach had a nice bit with Kate Winslet in  The Holiday playing an old screenwriter.

Rest in peace.

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Ruby Dee died peacefully in her sleep at 91 years old. Thanks to Natasha for the news. Dee was nominated for American Gangster, though not Do the Right Thing, a major oversight.

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