Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Fun Film Fact 08/31/11

THE QUEEN (2006)
In order to transform herself into Queen Elizabeth II, Helen Mirren would regularly watch footage of the queen and she kept many pictures of HRH in her trailer. Her transformation was so complete that many crew members said that whenever they talked to Mirren or were even near her, their body language would change automatically. They would assume a respectful stance: good posture and hands folded behind their backs.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Fun Film Fact 08/28/11

Morgan Freeman and Nelson Mandela had been friends for a long time and Mandela had often said that only Freeman could portray him, so Freeman was the first actor to be cast. Over the years Freeman has been attached to many Mandela projects that were never produced and Invictus was the film that finally got made. Freeman's characterization was incredible so, personally, I hope Morgan Freeman plays Nelson Mandela again. Michael Sheen has played Tony Blair three times, so why not?

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Fun Film Fact 08/27/11

The movie filmed in 157 different locations throughout North America, but it was shot in just 52 days.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Fun Film Fact 08/26/11

When Kate Winslet first became famous she was nicknamed "Corset Kate" because almost all the films that made her famous were period pictures: Sense and Sensibility (1995), Jude (1996), Hamlet (1996), Titanic (1997), Quills (2000). 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Fun Film Fact 08/25/11

There are 237 f-bombs in this movie, which makes it the movie with the most uses of the F word to win Best Picture at the Oscars.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Fun Film Fact 08/24/11

This movie marked the first time in film history that IMAX cameras were used. When the movie was filmed there were only four IMAX cameras in existence and one of them was destroyed by a stunt car during the filming of the chase scene between the Joker and the SWAT vans. IMAX cameras cost $500,000. OOPS.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Fun Film Fact 08/23/11

Formation of dominoes that V tips over to form the letter "V" took 22,000 dominoes, 4 professional domino assemblers and 200 hours to set up.

This video has the violent riot clips edited out, but you get the point. (No spoilers in this clip, I promise.)

Click here if you want the full, EPIC montage. Beware of spoilers!

The Virtual World of Andy Serkis

The invention of motion capture has revolutionized the science of film-making. Motion capture (called mocap for short) is a way of creating realistic movements. It is the process of capturing a real object (usually a person) in a 3D space and mapping it onto a computer generated object. Here's how it works: The actor is filmed in a mocap studio that is surrounded by special cameras. The actor wears a skin-tight body suit that has markers placed in strategic locations all over it. The markers are detected by the mocap cameras. Using special software, the actor's movements are translated onto a digital character that is then fully animated. (Does that make sense? I just spent about half an hour trying to word that in the least confusing way possible.)

The mocap suit:

Are you intrigued? Read more after the jump.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Fun Film Fact 08/22/11

At the end of the film when we see the Pevensies all grown up Old Lucy is played by Rachael Henley who is the older sister of Georgie Henley who plays young Lucy.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Favorite Movie Teachers

I'm back! While I was on vacation I cooked up a new 'favorites' list.

In honor of the new school year I'm going to write about my favorite teachers from the movies. There are many movies whose central character is a teacher, but as I was compiling this list I found that most of my favorite movie teachers are not main characters. They are supporting characters who mentor and teach the main characters. I find that I adore these teachers because of how they affect and change the lead characters. If the teacher is important to the hero, then they are important to me, the viewer.

Now, before I go on, I would like to admit that I have a gaping hole in my cinematic knowledge. Almost every list of Best Movie Teachers you can find has Mr. Chips from Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939). I know and love the book, so I know and love Mr. Chips, but sadly I have not yet seen the film. I know, I know. Shame on me. So, that's why Mr. Chips is not on this list. Moving on...

This list includes a wide array of teachers. Of course there are school teachers, but I've also included some coaches and a few wise old sages. As was the case with my Fathers Day list, this not a list of the "best" teachers, just my favorite teachers. I tried REALLY hard to choose 10 teachers, but I couldn't let one of them go, so here are my top 11 teachers:

#11 Economics Teacher
Played by Ben Stein

"Bueller... Bueller..." It's probably the most famous monotone line ever. Even if you haven't seen Ferris Bueller you've at least heard that line. I have had more than one teacher who quotes that line when they ask a question and no one raises their hand to answer it.

#10 Dewey Finn
Played by Jack Black

Usually I can't stand Jack Black, but he is perfectly cast in The School of Rock. He plays a washed-up rocker who impersonates a substitute teacher at a fancy prep school to make some money. Instead of teaching the curriculum, Dewey turns his class of 10-year-olds into a rock band. At first he seems completely incompetent, but it turns out that Dewey is great teacher. Of course he's not teaching what he's supposed to be teaching, but he relates to the kids in way their parents and other teachers just don't and the class grows to love him. Dewey also manages to loosen up the strict principal of the prep school, played by Joan Cusack. Black and Cusack are a fantastic comedy duo.

#9 Erin Gruwell
Played by Hilary Swank

Freedom Writers is based on the inspiring true story of Erin Gruwell. In the film Gruwell is an idealistic young teacher whose first teaching job is at Woodrow Wilson High School in Long Beach, California. Most of the students in the school live in serious poverty and will be lucky if they graduate. Almost every student is part of a gang. The Latinos hate the Cambodians who hate the blacks and so on. The film follows one of Gruwell's classes through their freshman and sophomore years. Slowly, but surely, she is able to get through to her students. She teaches them to love reading and writing, but she also breaks down the barriers between the many gangs in her class. She teaches them tolerance and the importance of applying themselves. Hilary Swank seems to be Hollywood's go-to actress for gritty, real-life stories (Boys Don't Cry, Conviction) and, as always, she is amazing. 

#8 Professor Remus Lupin
Played by David Thewlis

There are many teachers in the Harry Potter series. I considered putting Severus Snape on this list, but, though I love him dearly, I don't love him because he's a teacher. In the films Professor Lupin is probably the most well drawn-out teacher. Some would argue that Dumbledore is a better teacher than Lupin and, though that is true in the books, we don't see Dumbledore do much teaching in the movies. Keep in mind this list is based on the films, not the books. Lupin is the first professor that Harry sees as more than teacher. Lupin teaches him how to defend himself against dementors, but he is also a window to the past. Before Harry meets Lupin he knows almost nothing about his parents. Lupin is the first person who can talk to him intimately about Lily and James and their relationship quickly moves from teacher/student to father/son. A lot of Potter fans don't like David Thewlis, but I think he is perfect casting. He was first considered for Professor Quirrell in Sorcerer's Stone but the part went to Ian Hart, leaving Thewlis available to play Lupin. He captures Lupin's strong, gentle qualities, but he is also able to portray his defeated, broken side.

#7 Sam Mussabini
Played by Ian Holm

Sam Mussabini is Harold Abrahams' running coach. Abrahams is determined to become the fastest man in the world, so he seeks out Sam to help him achieve perfection. Harold is stubborn, but eager to learn and Sam is best coach in the business. Sam is blunt and straight-forward with Harold, but he is also great comic relief in the film. Abrahams is a Jew and Mussabini is half-Arab and together they are victims of racism and doubt. Though much of England looks down upon them, they never waiver from their ultimate goal: to win a gold medal at the Olympic Games. Ian Holm nabbed an Oscar Nomination for this role. (P.S. You may have noticed that Chariots of Fire shows up on a lot of my lists. I promise I'm not trying to shoe-horn it in everywhere. I just believe it is one of the greatest films ever made, so I find it fits into a lot of my 'favorites' lists.)

#6 Ms. Norbury 
Played by Tina Fey

In the crazy, dramatic, frenzied girl-world of Mean Girls Ms. Norbury is the voice of reason. She is the smart, down-to-earth high school calculus teacher that everyone wishes they had. Mean Girls is meant to be satirical, so a lot of the characters are over-the-top, but Ms. Norbury stays very real. Her personal life stinks, but she is still a great teacher and she turns out to be a great role-model for her students. When the Burn Book written by the Plastics causes mayhem and destruction in the school, the other teachers turn to Ms. Norbury to sort things out. As a confident(ish) woman she is able to talk to the high school girls in way that makes them understand how horribly they treat each other and how it can be fixed. Tina Fey also wrote the screenplay. I basically worship her. She is the smartest woman in comedy these days. 

#5 Charles Xavier
X-MEN (2000)
Played by Patrick Stewart

Professor Xavier runs a private school for young mutants. He provides a safe place for them to learn to control and use their superpowers. These mutants who grow to be X-Men and -Women have been ostracized by society and Professor X's school gives them a place to belong. For most comic book heroes being super means a lonely existence, but I like how Professor X brings all the X-Men together at his school. In most other superhero movies the hero learns to use his powers by himself, but in X-Men the students are taught by more experienced supers. I think Professor X's school gives the X-Men franchise a unique place in the superhero genre.

#4 Miss Dodger
Played by Patricia Clarkson

Phoebe in Wonderland is a wonderful little indie film that tells the story of a young girl Phoebe, played by Elle Fanning (Dakota's younger sister), who has Tourette's Syndrome and OCD. When she is cast as Alice in her school's production of "Alice in Wonderland" she finds that her ticks and distressing mannerisms go away when she is performing. She is encouraged to immerse herself in the world of theater by her drama teacher Miss Dodger. Miss Dodger teaches her students the power of imagination and teamwork. She takes particular interest in Phoebe and helps her tackle her real-world problems as well. I really like this movie because I can relate to the notion that while you perform on stage, the real world takes a backseat for a while. I would say Phoebe in Wonderland is not a fantastic movie, but it sure is great. It has a bit of a weird, fantasy edge and I would have preferred that it stayed more real and grounded, however, Elle Fanning's acting is incredible. She was only nine when it was filmed and it's a pretty heroic performance. 

#3 Obi-Wan Kenobi 
Played by Alec Guinness

Obi-Wan Kenobi a classic example of a wise old sage. He is the first person to teach Luke about the ways of the Jedi and he sets Luke on the path that leads him to countless acts of heroism and bravery. I love it when a character like Obi-Wan has a great back story. It makes the character more real if we know the life he lived before he met our hero. Too often audiences are asked to just believe that a character is worldly and wise or battle-worn without being told how he became that way. Obi-Wan has studied the ways of the Jedi for decades, he fought in the Clone Wars and he saw how the Empire came into power. With his experience and knowledge he guides Luke toward his destiny. Even in death Obi-Wan influences Luke.

#2 Miss Stubbs
Played by Olivia Williams

In An Education 16-year-old Jenny is swept away by a much older man who introduces her to art and music and culture that she's only ever read about in school. In the beginning scenes we see Jenny being very active in class. She is the smartest student in the school and her English teacher, Miss Stubbs, knows she has a great future ahead of her. Miss Stubbs sadly watches as Jenny is carried away by a dangerous relationship. She does her best to steer Jenny in the right direction, but as Jenny's beau introduces her to more and more, she begins to feel wise beyond her years. She is more blunt with Miss Stubbs and even talks down to her. Jenny leaves school when she gets engaged to David, leaving behind the opportunity to go to college. When the relationship falls apart Jenny has nothing. She is not allowed back in school, so she goes to Miss Stubbs to ask for help. Despite the way Jenny has treated her, Miss Stubbs is forgiving and helps Jenny get her life back on track. I really like Miss Stubbs because I think she is the kind of woman Jenny will someday grow up to be: strong and intelligent, but also kind and patient.

#1 Ms. Edmunds
Played by Zooey Deschanel

Out of all my favorite teachers Ms. Edmunds is the one I would most like to have as a real-life teacher. Ms. Edmunds is the young music teacher at Jess and Leslie's school. Jess is a quiet, lonely kid who loves to draw and use his imagination. Jess has four sisters, so he gets very little attention at home. His father is disappointed that Jess would rather draw than work at the family hardware store and his mother is always too busy to spend any time with him. Though the film is mainly about the friendship between Jess and Leslie, Ms. Edmunds is very important to Jess as well. She encourages Jess to explore his creative side. In one of my favorite scenes she takes Jess into the city to an art museum. In that scene she seems like more of a big sister than a teacher. I am so happy that Zooey Deschanel is acting now. She started out as a singer in her band called She and Him. Her first big movie was Elf. She's a great actor and she has such beautiful, expressive eyes. She lights up the screen in this movie. The scenes where she is singing in class are just luminous. 

And there you have it. My favorite movie teachers.
Who are some of your favorites?

Friday, August 12, 2011

Favorite Movies Set In The United Kingdom

Tomorrow my family is going on a ten day trip to London and Ireland, so I will not be posting during that time. Before I go, however, I thought I'd write about my favorite movies set in the United Kingdom.

Casablanca is my favorite movie and Chariots of Fire is my second favorite. It is the story of the British running team that competed in the 1924 Olympics. The story focuses mainly on two of the runners: Harold Abrahams, played by Ben Cross, and Eric Liddell, played by Ian Charleson. Abrahams, a Jew, is the victim of racism and doubt. He runs with a fierce determination to prove all his naysayers wrong. Liddell is a devout Christian who is torn between his passion for running and his devotion to God. His character is summed up in one of the greatest cinematic quotes of all time: "I believe God made me for a purpose. But He also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure." Though I am not a runner and I know very little about the world of running Chariots of Fire never ceases to move me. It has profound themes of faith, duty to one's country, determination and acceptance.


This movie is the real-life story of Michael Collins, the man largely responsible for establishing the Irish Free State in the 1920s. Liam Neeson plays Collins in one of the greatest performances of his career. Collins was a mighty leader. I saw this movie for the first time tonight and I loved it. According to the historian who lives in my house the film is almost exactly historically accurate. The film also stars Alan Rickman as Eamon De Velara. The only weak link in the movie is Julia Roberts who is terribly miscast as part of the love triangle that included Collins and his best friend Harry Boland. Her accent is just awful. There are many actresses that could have played the part beautifully. Other than that, Michael Collins is a powerful film.

Shakespeare In Love is a fictional story about how William Shakespeare wrote Romeo and Juliet. The film stars Joseph Fiennes as Shakespeare and Gwyneth Paltrow as Viola, the young woman who pretends to be a man so she can be an actor. I'd say that Shakespeare in Love is part drama, part romantic comedy. The writing is so witty and the drama feels very real. The film is also about the beginning of show business and it makes fun of all the cliches of the biz. The movie won a whopping 7 Academy Awards.

The Damned United is the real-life story of Brian Clough, England's most famous football coach. (I'd call it soccer, but it just doesn't sound right.) Clough was the most successful football coach in history until he became the coach of Leeds United. He only lasted 44 days as coach of Leeds. Michael Sheen is one of my favorite actors and he captures the vanity and abrasive qualities of Clough, but also his gentler side and his insecurities. Before he became an actor, Sheen was on his way to becoming a professional football player and he gets to show off his skills in the movie. The film co-stars Timothy Spall as Peter Taylor, Clough's right-hand man. There aren't very many good movies about the football world, which is why The Damned United is such a gem. It's just an all-around great sports movie.

My least favorite film genre is Romantic Comedy because there are SO many terrible rom-coms, but I just can't resist Notting Hill. It's a great movie about a normal owner of a bookstore who falls in love with a famous actress. Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant have great chemistry. A staple of romantic comedies is the group of quirky, strange friends and family members of the lead characters. I usually find these characters really annoying, but Will's circle of friends strike a nice balance between weird and loveable.

I love all the Monty Python movies, but The Holy Grail is by far my favorite. It's just downright hilarious and it's a wonderfully quotable movie. Whenever I need a good laugh I watch The Holy Grail. My favorite scene is the Holy Hand Grenade scene. "Though shalt count to three. No more. No less... Four thou shalt not count, neither count thy two, excepting that thou proceed to three. Five is right out."

Finding Neverland is the true story of J.M. Barrie and the family that inspired him to write Peter Pan. The film stars Johnny Depp in his greatest role, in my opinion. Kate Winslet plays the widowed mother of four boys. To put it simply, this movie is amazing. It is just beautiful. Of course Depp and Winslet are wonderful, but the kids who play the boys are fantastic as well. The boy who becomes closest to Barrie is Peter, played by Freddie Highmore. Highmore delivers a powerful, heart-breaking, and inspiring performance. The film also stars Dustin Hoffman as the owner of the theater that puts on Barrie's plays. The movie nabbed an Oscar nomination for Best Picture which is unusual for a movie rated PG.

And there you have it. A few of my favorite movies about the U.K.

Let me know your favorites in the comments :)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Fun Film Fact 08/11/11

THE HUNGER GAMES (Currently being filmed, Release date set for 3/23/12)
When Elizabeth Banks was cast as Effie Trinket the make-up artist bleached her eyebrows as part of the crazy look that all the people from the Capitol have. So currently Banks looks like she has no eyebrows. It's all part of the job...

Unfortunately, there are no photographs of this new look.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Fun Film Fact 08/10/11

In one of the deposition scenes Divya Narendra says, "Mark was the biggest thing on a campus that included 19 Nobel laureates, 15 Pulitzer Prize winners, 2 future Olympians, and a movie star." The movie star mentioned is Natalie Portman. The screenwriter, Aaron Sorkin, contacted Portman for help on the script. She was able to tell him what the vibe on campus was like when Facebook exploded.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Fun Film Fact 08/09/11

The platform attendant at King's Cross station, the one who asks Harry "You think you're funny, do you?" is a real King's Cross employee. The filmmakers liked him so much that they brought him back for Chamber of Secrets. He's the one who yells at Harry and Ron when they crash into the barrier that's been sealed by Dobby.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Fun Film Fact 08/08/11

Composer John Williams composed the iconic "Hedwig's Theme" before seeing a single frame of the movie. Warner Brothers was putting together a promotion that needed music, so they asked Williams to quickly write something. Isn't that crazy given that "Hedwig's Theme" is now one of the most recognizable pieces of movie score? I'd say it's right up there with Chariots of Fire and Star Wars. 

Take a listen:

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Fun Film Fact 08/07/11

Nine-year-old Georgie Henley, who played Lucy, had a bucket on set that she called the "Potty Mouth Bucket." Whenever a cast or crew member swore around her they had to put $2 into the Potty Mouth Bucket.

Check out this great interview where she and James McAvoy (Mr. Tumnus) talk about it. I'd recommend watching the whole interview because it's very cute and funny and Georgie is an extremely smart 9-year-old, however, if you're in a hurry, skip to 3:05 to hear about the Potty Mouth Bucket.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Fun Film Fact 08/06/11

STAR TREK (2009)
In the scene where the U.S.S. Enterprise comes out of warp speed and finds the rest of the armada destroyed by the Romulans, the filmmakers decided to have some fun. If you look closely during that scene you can see R2-D2 from the Star Wars movies fly past the Enterprise in the debris from the destroyed ships.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Fun Film Fact 08/05/11

The song "Come What May" is the only original song in the film, so it was the only song that could have been nominated for Best Original Song at the Academy Awards. It was disqualified, however, because it had been written for director Baz Luhrmann's previous film William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet (the one with Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes). It was not used in Romeo and Juliet, but since it had been written for a film other than Moulin Rouge the song couldn't be nominated for the Oscar.

Oscar or not, "Come What May" will always be my favorite song from the movie. It's SO beautiful!! (And come on, who doesn't love Ewan McGregor in this scene? He always does dark, serious movies so I love how happy he is in this movie. Well, happyish...)

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Fun Film Fact 08/04/11

When Julie Andrews moved to Los Angeles to film Mary Poppins, Disney rented a house for her to live in. While filming The Princess Diaries 37 years later, Andrews discovered that the director of The Princess Diaries, Garry Marshall, now owned and lived in that same house.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Fun Film Fact 08/02/11

Audrey Hepburn won the role of Ann because of the now-famous audition tape. The cameraman was told to keep filming even after Hepburn had finished the audition scene. She was filmed as she was waiting around and being interviewed. The unrehearsed, spontaneous moments captured won her the role.

Here's a little taste of it:

Monday, August 1, 2011

Fun Film Fact 08/01/11

The song that Pippin (Billy Boyd) sings to Lord Denethor that plays as the Gondorian army rides to reclaim the city of Osgiliath was written by Billy Boyd two days before the scene was shot. The writers gave him the lyrics they wanted and Boyd wrote the music.

Billy Boyd is an amazing musician. He's the lead singer for a band called Beecake. They're pretty awesome. This is their song "Rip It Up."