Florida Man (and Florida Woman) is everywhere in the movies.
Check out Steve Dollar’s thoughtful and entertaining piece for Flamingomag.com.
Florida Man (and Florida Woman) is everywhere in the movies.
Check out Steve Dollar’s thoughtful and entertaining piece for Flamingomag.com.
In light of the remake of “Papillon,” a few quick thoughts about the original. I caught it when it was first released, in Lakeland, with my dad. I was 12. I recall that it:
A) Was a gripping, “manly” adventure yarn.
B) Featured sturdy performances by Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman.
C) Was REALLY long (at 2 1/2 hours).
D) Featured nudity, in a scene with the female “natives”; was the first time I remember seeing nudity at the movies.
E) Was a kind of “hard” PG, before the PG-13 rating came along.
Just looked up some info about the original film — had forgotten that the screenplay was by Dalton Trumbo.
I have fond memories of catching “The Blair Witch Project” when it began its theatrical run in 1999. Yeah, it spooked me a bit, even though I caught the movie in the middle of the afternoon, at a critics’ screening. I remember being happy to get out of the dark theater and step into the bright Florida sunshine. I benefited from seeing “Blair Witch” early, before it exploded, the hype machine went into overdrive, and the naysaying kicked in.
Yes, the film, shot in video on handheld, sometimes herky-jerky cameras, is built on a simple, straightforward premise — three twentysomething student filmmakers on a quest for a mythic evil character get lost in the woods, and their fear and paranoia, captured in occasionally extreme close-ups, keeps building until the creepy conclusion. The dialogue was largely improvised.
The $60k flick, one of the most successful independent films of all time, made an astounding $250 million at the worldwide box office, and practically created the “found-footage” horror subgenre (and was followed by two awful sequels).
Despite its enormous success, some folks really disliked “Blair Witch.” At the very least, the film’s producers deserve credit for a brilliant marketing scheme, built around something of a hoax: We’re told that what we’re seeing on screen is exactly what the “filmmakers” experienced, and that the video was found inside a camera after the three had, variously, been found dead or simply vanished. The actual filmmakers also released a Sci-Fi Channel “documentary” — made from whole cloth — on Blair Witch history and lore.
Daniel Myrick, who wrote, directed and edited “Blair Witch” with Eduardo Sanchez, will be on hand for a “Blair Witch” screening at Tampa Theatre on Friday, Aug. 25 at 10:30 pm. Afterwards, he’ll do an audience Q&A.
Myrick, who recently signed a three-picture deal with the new filmmaking arm of the site iHorror, is expected to talk about his next film, “Skyman.” The docu-drama, produced by Joe Restaino and the iHorror team, will be partly filmed in Tampa, and is slated for release next year.
CRAZY RICH ASIANS: Stars Constance Wu, Henry Golding, Michelle Yeoh, Gemma Chan, Lisa Lu, Awkwafina, and Ken Jeong; written by Adele Lim and Pete Chiarelli; directed by Jon M. Chu; 120 minutes; Rated PG-13. Critic’s rating: B.
Nothing wears quite as well, particularly on the big screen, as snooty characters — especially those on the racist, bigoted tip of the self-righteous spectrum — getting their comeuppance.
That’s how, in the prologue of “Crazy Rich Asians,” we’re introduced to several of the film’s central characters: In 1995, a family group including Singapore mom Eleanor Young (Michelle Yeoh) and her son Nick (Henry Golding) attempt to check in to an upscale London hotel, having already made a reservation. A white manager, nose placed firmly in the air, suggests that the party should look for a place to stay in Chinatown.
Eleanor promptly makes a phone call, returns to the front desk, announces that the Youngs are now the proud owners of the joint, and advises the staff to get her room ready.
A little more than two decades later, a young invitee to a swanky party at the sprawling, impossibly luxurious Young compound in Singapore describes the family as being akin to royalty, “posh and snobby — sposhy.” And Eleanor engages in a bit of stereotyping herself, taking pains to let others know that she appreciates the difference between Asians like herself and, you know, interloping American-born Asians.
So are we watching a revenge-is-a-dish-best-served-cold fantasy morph into a cautionary tale of how the Golden Rule — treat others as you would have others treat you — is so easily forgotten when one comes into enormous wealth and accompanying power? Is it a perceptive deep dive into the personal politics of intra-group stereotyping?
There’s much to like about “Crazy Rich Asians,” a highly anticipated adaptation of Kevin Kwan‘s bestselling 2013 novel of the same name, including some winning performances by Yeoh (“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”), newcomer Golding, Constance Wu (television’s “Fresh Off the Boat”) as Henry’s love interest Rachel, rapper/actress Awkafina (“Ocean’s 8”) as her comic sidekick Goh Peik Lin, an underused Ken Jeoung (The “Hangover” films, television’s “Community”), and others in the oversized cast.
It’s impossible, too, not to be taken by director Jon M. Chu’s skill in stitching together a multigenerational patchwork of Nick’s family and friends, to whom NYU prof Rachel is introduced when she treks to Singapore to attend the wedding of her beau’s best friend.
The achievement takes on greater meaning when placed in a broader context: Unbelievably, and to Hollywood’s discredit, the nearly all-Asian cast represents the largest such onscreen gathering in a La La Land production since “The Joy Luck Club,” a quarter-century ago. The sole white faces — tokens? — are the blink-and-you’ll miss ’em characters in the prologue, and gyrating bikini-clad girls at the out-of-control bachelor party on a barge in international waters.
So it’s a legit and welcome cultural achievement, even more towering in the light of Hollywood’s generally shameful treatment of Asian actors, previously mostly relegated to small roles (usually immigrant strivers or villains) and sometimes even played by Caucasians.
And yet, like its source material, Chu’s movie is fairly boilerplate romcom, the tale of a middle-class girl who falls in love with an uberwealthy boy. The two must figure out a way to bridge a cross-cultural gap that’s a bit more unique — okay, more exotic — than your average royalty-versus-commoner or Sharks-vs-Jets conflict. Spoiler alert: Boy loses girl, and emotional anguish ensues, before boy wins girl again.
Chu throws in some artfully photographed Singapore travel sights — a bustling courtyard packed with street-stall hawkers selling delicacies, the Marina Bay Sands Skypark across three 55-story hotel towers, the Supertree Grove — and upscale consumerist porn, and one of the most elaborately staged and most gorgeous wedding sequences ever caught on film. Not to mention direct or indirect references to reality-show flavors then and now, including the likes of “The Bachelor,” the “Real Housewives” series, “Queer Eye” (except this time for the straight gal), beauty makeover shows, and “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.”
The result is a slick, handsomely produced modern Cinderella-story concoction that’s uniformly pleasant, frequently very funny, and manages to resolve all the key conflicts in 120 minutes or less. Also: It’s a bit overlong but somehow slightly undercooked.
“Crazy Rich Asians” is a romcom that really wants to be loved, an easy-on-the-eyes feelgood party that appears to invite all comers. It’s so money, baby, and it knows it. If Chu’s movie is as successful at the box office as it looks to be, it will result in the greenlighting of two follow-up films spun from Kwan’s sequel novels and break some racial barriers that should have and could have been knocked over 25 years ago. Is that enough?
Is Florida’s film industry running on fumes?
Several major, notable films, of course, have recently been made in the Sunshine State.
“The Florida Project,” shot on 35mm film in and around Kissimmee at a cost of about $2 million, yielded more than $10 million at the U.S. box office. The 2017 movie, directed, written, shot, edited, and co-produced by Sean Baker, landed a best supporting actor Oscar nomination for Willem Dafoe.
Barry Jenkins‘ “Moonlight” was shot digitally on location in Miami for $4 million and generated more than $65 million in box-office receipts worldwide, including nearly $28 million in the U.S. & Canada. The 2016 film won three Oscars, including best picture, and additionally notched five Oscar nominations.
Both films were critically lauded, racking up glowing reviews and landing on many year-end Top 10 lists assembled by critics and critics’ groups. The Florida Film Critics Circle honored director-writer Jenkins with its Breakout Award, and gave its annual Golden Orange Award to the cast and crew of “Moonlight.” The FFCC last year gave the Golden Orange to “The Florida Project.”
Walt Disney Studios spent more than $134,000 in Polk County while shooting director Thea Sharrock‘s “The One and Only Ivan” over a three-day period beginning June 20 in four locations around Lakeland — Southgate Shopping Center, Dobbins Park (both in my old ‘hood, BTW), the Silver Moon Drive-In, and on West Palm Drive.
That’s according to Visit Central Florida, as reported by Paul Guzzo in the Tampa Bay Times. The producers of the film, a vehicle for “Breaking Bad” star Bryan Cranston, above (pic posted by ABC Action News), spent their production on 363 hotel room nights, local cast, catering, miscellaneous expenditures, and locations and associated fees, Guzzo wrote. “Ivan,” a live-action/CGI hybrid movie based on the 2012 children’s book of the same name, is scheduled for release in summer 2019.
And Florida is home to at least three television series: MTV “reality” show “Siesta Key” (Sarasota County), PBS’s sketch-format show “Kid Stew,” created by superstar mystery novelist and Palm Beach resident James Patterson (South Florida), and TNT’s comic drama “Claws” (Manatee County).
In the early 1900s, when it was home to more than 30 movie studios, Jacksonville was dubbed “The Winter Film Capital of the World.” The north Florida city made a sunny, affordable alternative to New York and New Jersey, then the location — pre-Hollywood — for most film productions.
Flash forward more than a century: Big-dollar movie production in Florida largely has hit the skids in the wake of the 2015 expiration of the state’s tax incentives for filmmakers.
More than 60 major film and television productions opted out of shooting in Florida in recent years, at a cost of about $1 billion in lost revenue, according to Film Florida, a not-for-profit entertainment production trade association. That doesn’t include the collateral damage: Nearly 90,000 lost cast and crew jobs.
“Due to the lack of competitive incentives, productions are going elsewhere,” Variety noted last year, pointing to producers’ decisions to shoot Florida-set scenes in Ben Affleck’s “Live by Night,” and “Gifted,” starring Octavia Spencer, in Georgia.
HBO’s “Ballers” series, starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, below, and once based in Miami, left to take advantage of California’s more appealing tax incentives. The third and final season of Netflix original “Bloodlines” nearly left the Florida Keys for the same reason.
During the five years they were in effect, Florida’s incentives — a 20% base tax credit in 2010, with additional 5% increases for shooting in the off-season (June 1-Nov. 30) and for family-friendly productions — meant that the state essentially paid out nearly $300 million. But Florida gained from filmmakers’ production expenditures in the state of more than $1.25 billion, according to Variety. The production activity also drove the creation of nearly 120,000 jobs.
Several sequences in “Iron Man 3” were shot in the state during that period, along with the features “Rock of Ages,” “Step Up Revolution,” “Pain & Gain,” and the Starz series “Magic City.”
“The Infiltrator,” also starring Cranston, was partially filmed in 28 locations around the Tampa Bay area in April 2015. Hillsborough County spent about $250,000 to bring the film to the area, and the county benefited from $490,000 in direct expenditures and $145,942 in indirect spending, according to a report by Tampa marketing research firm HCP. (Producers of the $25 million film said that they would have filmed the bulk of the movie in Florida had the incentives been more attractive).
Got Tax Incentives?
Thirty-five states and Puerto Rico offered substantial filmmaking tax incentives — some, like Oklahoma, as high as 35% — as of April 1, according to data assembled by Cast and Crew Entertainment Services.
Florida is out of the running. But other Southern states are getting busy: Kentucky is offering at least 30% in incentives, followed by Alabama (25%+), Louisiana (25%+), Tennessee (25%), North Carolina (25%), Georgia (20%+), South Carolina (20%+), and Arkansas (20%+).
The state of Florida does, however, offer a “Film in Florida Sales Tax Exemption,” a narrowly defined sales- and use-tax exemption to those engaged in film and television production. The exemption is restricted to “the purchase or lease of certain items used exclusively as an integral part of the production activities in Florida,” according to information on the state’s Department of Revenue web site.
Building a Wall to Keep Out Hollywood
So why did Florida’s GOP-dominated legislature back away from providing economic incentives to moviemakers?
Blame it on “ideological” opposition to Hollywood productions, says Gwen Graham, a Democratic candidate for Florida governor.
“It’s a philosophical problem. That’s what it is,” she recently told a roomful of Sunshine State film and television production professionals, including John Lux, executive of Film Florida, according to a report by Scott Powers of FloridaPolitics.com.
Lux, Michael Jordan of MJJ Entertainment and Filmotechnic USA, Winter Park-based actor Tom Nowicki (“The Blind Side,” “Remember the Titans”), UCF film professor Lisa Mills, and other industry stakeholders met last week at Edgewood-based Adrenaline Films.
“(They) argued that the costs to Florida include the losses of high-paying jobs associated with each production, the potential to develop permanent film production businesses in Florida, the tourism boost a movie or TV show can provide, and a source for careers for actors and college graduates coming out of Florida’s film schools,” Powers wrote.
Graham and her Democratic primary rivals — the ones without recognizable surnames — have all vowed to bolster the state’s film industry.
The state’s efforts to attract film productions largely have failed because “leadership in the Florida legislature is not in the mindset of having public/private partnerships,” as Rep. David Silvers (D-Lake Clarke Shores), below, told Philip’s Flicks.
Silvers, who represents a district located in central Palm Beach County, last year again filed a bill, HB 341, calling for the creation of the Florida Motion Picture Capital Corp., as part of his ongoing quest “to bring the film industry back to Florida.”
“Regardless of this mindset, I filed the bill the last two years because I want to ensure that the Florida film and digital media industry knows that some of the legislators support the industry and understand the positive impact on our economy,” he said.
According to the Tampa Bay Business Journal, the proposed corporation, instead of offering tax credits or rebates, was designed to operate “under a more traditional investment model where the group would directly invest in a film with the hopes of making money on the back end. Revenue derived from those investments would be reinvested into the corporation for future films. The bill does not specify how the corporation would be initially funded, but lays out a framework to collect local and state funding.”
In March, the bill died in the Florida House’s Careers and Competition Subcommittee.
“I plan on filing this legislation upon my reelection,” said Silvers, a freshman legislator facing attorney Edgardo Hernandez in the November primary. Silvers said he’s unaware of any other ongoing efforts by legislators or state officials to bring more Hollywood dollars to the Sunshine State.
The film industry may be undergoing a sea change in movie-production locations, according to a recent report by FilmL.A. Only 10 of the top 100 movie moneymakers were shot in California in 2017. The Golden State finished fourth, behind Canada (20 of the biggest box-office hits), the U.K. and Georgia (15 each).
On the heels of Miami-Dade County’s rebate of $100k for film or TV productions spending at least $1 million in the county, ArtCenter/South Florida is putting its focus on indie filmmakers by making $50k available to each of two movies shot in Miami.
The New Cinematic Arts Residency will be led by Jason Fitzroy Jeffers, below, a local filmmaker and the director and co-founder of the Third Horizon Film Festival,” Hans Morgenstern wrote in Miami New Times. “He says the program fills a void for those, like him, who have found themselves with a successful short film but nowhere else to go from there.”
Applications for the funding are available through Sept. 18 at artcentersf.org/cinematicarts.
Meanwhile, the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau gave $313,000 to NZK Productions Inc. to shoot a single episode of “reality” romance show “The Bachelor,” according to the Miami New Times. Your resort tax dollars at work.
Have Florida film news? Contact Philip Booth at email@example.com
As you’ve heard by now, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences wants to add an Oscar for outstanding achievement in “popular film” to the mix in 2019.
On the surface, it seems like a cockamamie, ill-advised plan. A few quick thoughts:
Classic, or, at least, older films still draw crowds to historic movie theaters. Summer classic movie series are playing three 1920s-vintage movie palaces in the Sunshine State:
Meanwhile, outdoor summer movie screenings continue in South Florida, with “Coco” Aug. 10 in Pompano Beach, and “Dazed and Confused” Aug. 16 in Dania Beach. (South Florida Sun-Sentinel)
The Lake Worth Drive-In, a twin-screen facility’s that’s the last drive-in movie theater in Palm Beach County, opened in 1968. It’s one of the seven outdoor movie theaters still open in Florida.
The others: Swap Shop Drive-In, Fort Lauderdale; Joy-Lan Drive-In, Dade City; Silver Moon Drive-In, Lakeland; Ocala Drive-In; Ruskin Family Drive-In; Fun Lan Drive-In, Tampa. (Palm Beach Post)
Got Florida film news? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
MISSION IMPOSSIBLE — FALLOUT: Stars Tom Cruise, Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames, Alec Baldwin, Henry Cavill, Rebecca Ferguson, and Angela Bassett; written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie; 147 minutes; Rated PG-13. Critic’s rating: B+
What does “Mission Impossible — Fallout,” which handily scores a slamdunk as the most riveting, most highly adrenalized action film of the summer, have in common with slasher movies and chopsocky fare?
It’s the relentless, sometimes breathtaking, sweeps-you-away-despite-the-sheer-preposterousness action, stupid.
Just as the aforementioned genres are all about cruel, bloody murders, and ferocious kung fu battles, respectively, alternating with in-between content that often amounts to soggy filler, the new “MI” and the most accomplished of its ilk are all about artfully staged combat — frequently hand-to-hand — and thrilling chases, this time via cars, motorcycles, and helicopters.
And about that exposition, which, you know, just slows things down, but nevertheless is delivered with absolutely straight faces by a roomful of gifted actors: Does the identity of the villain really matter, not to mention what, exactly, he or she plans to do to the world if not foiled by our intrepid hero?
The sixth installment in the “MI” series, a franchise that, unbelievably, dates back 22 years, again stars the world’s most famous Scientologist, the age-defying Tom Cruise, now 56 but 33 in body-specimen years, as unstoppable IMF (Impossible Mission Force) agent Ethan Hunt.
Expertly furrowing his eyebrows to better telegraph his seriousness, at the film’s start, in some dark lair in Berlin, Hunt takes in a snappy video presentation delivered via an electronic device disguised inside a copy of Homer’s “Odyssey.”
Get it? This way lies a long, treacherous journey, to be marked by many dangers, temptations, and hair-raising escapes. Then, just as we expected, the capper: “This message will self-destruct” is accompanied by a poof of smoke, in a nerdy but lovable bit that dates back to the ’60s/’70s TV show. Now you see it, now you don’t.
Of course, the old series never aspired to the technical brilliance of the new movies, the last two of which have been directed by Christopher McQuarrie. In those terms, this one’s an absolute stunner, an adrenaline-fueled marvel of perpetual motion and brilliantly directed set pieces. In some respects, it makes James Bond movies seem altogether laidback by comparison.
(If the title of the new “MI” reminds you of “Skyfall,” the 2012 Bond film that was also one of the best in that action series, you’re not alone).
Sure, 007 makes loads of hair-raising escapes, tossing out clever throwaway lines and bagging the babes along the way. But MI’s Hunt runs, runs, runs, leaps, falls, and runs some more, like the Energizer Bunny of superspies, and he does so with nearly as much style and grace as 007. Bonus: Ethan’s supporting pals and bosses — including funny guy Benji (Simon Pegg), lovable and loyal hulk Luther (Ving Rhames), and superiors Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin) and Erica Sloan (Angela Bassett) — are, honestly, a lot more excitable and more fun than Bond’s stuffy stiff-upper-lip crew.
This time, saving the world entails a mission, should Hunt accept it, involving retrieving three missing plutonium cores from a group of anarchists known as the Apostles. The designated baddies include an international criminal named John Lark and hirsute villain Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), back on duty from the last installment, “Rogue Nation,” also directed by McQuarrie and clearly superior to the earlier “MI” movies.
Femmes, potentially also fatales, are here, too, courtesy of Brit agent Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), possessed of mad motorcycle and sniping skills, and a mysterious negotiator/flirt named the White Widow (Vanessa Kirby).
Spicing up the mix are hard-bodied CIA straight arrow August Walker (Henry Cavill), a frenemy to Hunt who may or may not be on Team Western Civilization, and, oddly, Ethan’s ex-wife Julia (Michelle Monaghan), last seen in the series’ 2011 entry, “Ghost Protocol.”
Yes, there will be masks, a high body count, explosions, a ticking bomb, a race against a deadline — 72 hours — and travelogue-worthy mad dashes through Paris (cue the Arc de Triomphe and the catacombs), London (cue the Tate Modern museum and the Thames), and Kashmir. And Wolf Blitzer.
But mostly, the latest, longest — at 2 1/2 hours — and maybe greatest “MI” are those carefully constructed, elaborately arranged, elongated action sequences, including an endless bout of mostly flesh-on-flesh male brawling in an all-white bathroom inside the cavernous Grand Palais, made over as a pulsating nightclub and, even more astonishing, a cat-and-mouse helicopter chase in the Himalayas that concludes with literal cliff hanging.
I’m getting winded just thinking about it all. But, as characters utter more than once in the film, they’ll “figure it out” before everything is said and done. And the getting there will keep us glued to the screen until the credits roll.
Got Florida film news? Email me at email@example.com
Game of Shorts: Nearly 400 shorts will compete for prizes at the 14th Annual Hollyshorts Film Festival, Aug. 9-18 at TCL Chinese Theater; Lisa Edelstein‘s “Unzipping,” Jesse Bradford’s “The Day of Matthew Montgomery,” and films featuring “Game of Thrones” stars are on the bill (Hollywood Reporter; related coverage via Broadway World).
When Jane Met Michael: Vietnam War veterans protested Jane Fonda‘s appearance Wednesday at the 14th annual Traverse City Film Festival (TCFF), where she made appearances to promote the HBO documentary “Jane Fonda in Five Acts. She accepted the fest’s lifetime achievement award, and appeared on a politics-oriented panel with filmmaker Michael Moore, founder of the northern Michigan fest (WaPo).
Black Films Matter: African-American cinema is celebrated at the Blackstar Film Festival; the seventh edition, Aug. 2-5, features 82 features, documentaries, short films, and experimental films from 18 countries (Philly Voice; related coverage via Vogue, Philadelphia Inquirer, and Hollywood’s Black Renaissance).
See the movies by the sea: The Long Beach (NY) International Film Festival‘s seventh edition offers Dianne Dreyer’s “Change in the Air” and 7 other features, 8 documentaries, and 36 shorts; LBIFF runs Aug. 1-4 (Long Island Herald).
Reel Polar: The Mo Tif Film Festival debuts in Fairbanks, Alaska this weekend, Aug. 3-5; categories include Alaska, experimental, short, feature, documentary, animation, music video and mobile production (Daily News-Miner).