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September 28: Happy Birthday John Sayles and Brigitte Bardot


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Independent filmmaker John Sayles celebrates his 67th birthday today.  After attending Williams College, Sayles wrote a couple of novels in the mid-1970s, and then began writing scripts for some of Roger Corman’s films, such as Piranha and Battle Beyond the Stars.  He took some of his early earnings as a screenwriter and used them to make his first feature, Return of the Secaucus 7, which is sometimes thought to have inspired a cycle of “reunion” films and TV Series (e.g., The Big Chill).  It made about $2 million at the box office on a $60,000 budget and received very positive reviews.

Sayles has made close to 20 features since then.  A few representative titles would include Matewan, Eight Men Out, Limbo, Casa de los Babys, and Silver City.  He has also directed a few videos of Bruce Springsteen songs, worked as a script doctor for films like Apollo 13, and wrote an early draft of a screenplay for the film that became E.T.  His most successful film in mainstream terms has probably been Lone Star, which brought Sayles his only Oscar nomination, for Best Original Screenplay.

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Movieline Cover Gallery 2007-2011

Movieline Gallery 2003-2004

September 28: Happy Birthday Naomi Watts and Mira Sorvino


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Naomi Watts, who turns 48 today, was born in England but moved to Australia in her teens, so her acting career began in Australian film and television.  She began working in Hollywood in the 1990s, but much of her filmography during that decade is, many would agree, undistinguished.  She co-starred in the dystopian sci-fi comedy Tank Girl, which has at least some cult classic credibility, and her performance in Persons Unknown, a 1996 thriller, is worth noting (for reasons that will be clear before the end of this article).

It wasn’t until David Lynch cast her as Betty Elms in Mulholland Drive that Watts began to break out as a star.  A year later, she headlined Gore Verbinski’s horror film The Ring, a critical and commercial success, and then was cast in a central role in the first Hollywood film made by Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu:

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Review: St. Vincent


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They say that there are no new stories, just variations on the same old ones. Sometimes the measure of true talent is how a group of artists is capable of elevating relatively predictable material to make it emotionally impactful and revelatory. The newest Bill Murray vehicle St. Vincent falls into this category of achievement.

St. Vincent is a very familiar story of redemption through opening up to the people around us and really learning who they are. There are many examples of these kinds of stories, especially with a child being the catalyst for bringing down carefully constructed walls against the outside world. Nick Hornby’s novel About a Boy, which has been made into both a film and a TV show, comes to mind. These stories, especially in their movie forms, have a tendency to be a little treacly and simplistic, even in their best incarnations.
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