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Brad Bird celebrates his 59th birthday today. He worked briefly as an animator for Disney in the 1980s, and later was a creative consultant on The Simpsons. In the late 1990s, he wrote and directed his first animated feature, The Iron Giant, which wasa box office failure in the US but a critical success, enough of one that Pixar was willing to produce Bird’s second feature, an animated film about a family of superheroes—in which Bird also had a voice cameo:
Before my recent contributions to LeBlog I’d been on an almost two year hiatus. There was a litany of reasons for this: working 80 hours a week, becoming a high school teacher, moving across the country to Orlando, FL, almost getting shot, getting married, and moving back across the country to Texas. On this site I’ve previously extolled my theatrical endeavors and history, but over the last few years I’ve done something a little different: I’ve gotten into film acting and filmmaking.
Now, don’t get too excited; you’re not going to see me in anything. It has been mostly acting in local shorts and beginning to dip my toes into producing my own. So, what this article is about is mostly to shamelessly promote a few of the projects I’ve been in before (they vary in quality) and share where I’m looking to go with it.
Today we have the birthdays of some giants from the world of music. We’ll begin with The Boss.
Bruce Springsteen celebrates his 67th birthday today. Born, as most know, in New Jersey, he began his career playing at colleges and clubs along the east coast from Massachusetts down to Virginia. He was signed by Columbia Records and released two albums in 1973, to positive reviews, but initially poor sales. Given a final chance by Columbia, he worked for over a year on the album that would be his first big hit and his breakthrough:
As the 1990’s started, Kenneth Branagh was flying high. He was nominated for Best Actor and Best director for his directorial, an adaptation of Henry V. Two years later, he was set up in Hollywood directing and starring in the thriller, Dead Again. It’s been twenty-five years since Jeffrey Lantos interviewed Branagh for the September ’91 issue of Movieline magazine and a lot has changed. Branagh is divorced from his then-wife-and-costar, Emma Thompson. His movie career was derailed for a while although he has had some recent hits with Thor and Cinderella. This article contains hints of what was to come as the theater sensation went Hollywood. Lantos makes the odd choice to have Branagh direct him in a scene mid-interview.
It is not a secret that TV is in a golden age. As films move toward more episodic adventures where the stakes are low and only seem there to set up further installments (ahem, Marvel) movies are beginning to look like very expensive TV show episodes that take 3 years to produce. So, as the style of storytelling changes on the big screen, so has the small screen. TV shows, mini-series, and event films have begun to steal away a lot of the prestige, daring, and original stories that used to exist only in the cinemaplex. So here, we will look at 15 shows that’ll save you that $20 movie ticket and give you a better conversation for the water cooler the next day.
On a day where there are no earthshaking names celebrating birthdays, our headliners are a pair of relatively young actresses who are both known for their television work in some acclaimed science fiction series.
Billie Piper, who turns 34 today, began her entertainment career as a British teenage pop star. When her first single debuted at #1 on the British charts in 1998, she became the youngest singer ever to achieve that particular success. After a few years in music, Piper decided to switch to acting. At about that time, the BBC decided to revive Doctor Who, with Christopher Eccleston cast as the latest incarnation of the title character, aka the Ninth Doctor. Piper was cast as his companion, Rose Tyler; when Eccleston left the series, Piper continued to play Rose opposite the Tenth Doctor, David Tennant.
Peter Bogdanovich became an A-list director in 1971 with The Last Picture Show. The Oscar-winning drama wasn’t Bogdanovich’s directorial debut. But it was his first big movie after cutting his teeth on a couple of Roger Corman productions. In the nearly two decades between The Last Picture Show and its sequel, Texasville, Bogdanovich became a cautionary tale. He left his wife, who had contributed greatly to his early success, to live with his leading lady, Cybil Shepherd. Together, they became one of the most mocked couples in Hollywood.
After they split, Shepherd’s career rebounded on television. But Bogdanovich continued to spiral with another doomed love affair that brought with it even more notoriety. In the September 1990 issue of Movieline magazine, Stephen Rebello dissected what the hell happened to the once-promising director.
Alice Through the Looking Glass is arguably one of the most surprising box office bombs this year. While I don’t think anyone predicted that it was going to replicate the box office success of its predecessor, I don’t think anyone thought it was going to bomb just as badly (if not worse) as The Lone Ranger and John Carter.
But why did it bomb?
Here are my theories:
We have some big name birthdays today.
Bill Murray celebrates his 66th birthday today. The actor and comedian started his career at Chicago’s Second City troupe, and in 1977 he joined the cast of Saturday Night Live for its second season. His first starring role in film came in Meatballs in 1979, directed by Ivan Reitman, and he appeared in two more films directed by Reitman in the next 5 years, the military comedy Stripes, and then a film about paranormal activity that remains, in inflation-adjusted terms, the biggest hit of Murray’s career:
When it comes to theme park attractions, 3-D movies don’t tend to be headliners. They are a staple of Orlando theme parks because of their high capacity and the fact that they allow guests to sit down and enjoy some A/C in the hot Florida sun. This year, one such attraction celebrates 20 years at Universal Studios Orlando. Many would argue that for the past two decades, T2 3-D has been the best 3-D movie to be found in central Florida. That’s probably because James Cameron oversaw the development of the attraction himself and the result was far more ambitious than any 3-D movie before or since. The cast from the second Terminator movie reunited for this theme park-only sequel which continues to entertain hot, tired guests.
The September 1996 issue of Starlog magazine included an incredibly detailed account of the attraction when it was new.
The next three days present some interesting issues when it comes to selecting headliners. Wednesday is packed—there are five or six people who would be clear-cut headliners most days of the year. But on either side we have days where the list is a lot thinner. So, today is going to be “buon compleano” day, as we have a pair of headliners who are Italian (although both have worked in English-language films).
Sophia Loren turns 82 today. She began acting in Italian cinema as a teenager,and began getting starring roles before she turned 20. In the late 1950s she began to appear in Hollywood features, signing a 5-picture deal with Paramount. One of the first was a Eugene O’Neill adaptation, Desire Under the Elms, with Loren as the young Italian wife of a farmer with sons from previous marriages:
Sharon Stone’s smiling face graced the cover of the September 1996 issue of Movieline magazine. But when editor Virginia Campbell interviewed the actress for the cover story, Stone didn’t discuss her personal life or her career. She was there to promote her pet cause as the AmFAR’s Chair for the Campaign for AIDS Research. Before you roll your eyes cynically, it should be noted that Stone has continued working to raise money for AIDS research for the last two decades.