Director Sydney Lumet‘s 1973 undercover police drama Serpico earned Al Pacino his second Oscar nomination for Best Actor. While it was another in a long-running streak of Oscar nominations for Pacino that resulted in no wins until 1992’s Scent of a Woman, Serpico‘s other Oscar nomination was for Best Adapted Screenplay for screenwriters Waldo Salt (Midnight Cowboy, The Day of the Locust) and Norman Wexler (Saturday Night Fever, Staying Alive). Although Serpico proved to be the last Oscar-worthy project of Wexler’s, Waldo Salt had a much longer, and much darker story in Hollywood screenwriting history.
Waldo Salt was born on October 18, 1914 and grew up in Chicago an accomplished academic. He was so accomplished, in fact, that he graduated from Stanford University at the same time his friends were graduating from high school. Shortly thereafter, Salt was in Hollywood working as a screenwriter for MGM. There he worked on and assisted with various writing projects, but his first solo writing adaptation was with a 1937 film called The Bride Wore Red. The next year, Salt joined the American Communist Party, putting himself on the radar for the House Un-American Activities Committee during the Red Scare/McCarthy era 12 years later. Continue reading →
Birdman (Or The Unexpected Virtue Of Ignorance) saw a limited theatrical release back in November 2014, but now you can catch it on the big screen once again as the film is experiencing a special re-release having received 9 Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, Best Actor (Michael Keaton), Best Supporting Actor (Edward Norton), Best Supporting Actress (Emma Stone), and Best Director (Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu). Actors Michael Keaton and Edward Norton both deliver excellent performances, but Emma Stone really deserves a lot of credit for this one; her performance as Keaton’s attention-depraved daughter recovering from time in rehab is easily her best yet, and she definitely makes the jump from pretty-face roles to serious and talented actress, much like Jennifer Lawrence’s performance in American Hustle last year. Director Inarritu’s stylistic approach to the storytelling is also incredibly unique. Rather than cutting from scene to scene to show story progression and time-lapse, he transitions one scene to the next by having characters walk into the current scene or camera view, and then follow that new character into the next scene using the same single camera view, giving the film a sort of real-time flow while covering the course of several days. Birdman has also earned Inarritu and co-writers Nicolas Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, and Armando Bo an Academy Award-nomination for Best Screenplay and Emmanuel Lubezki a nomination for Best Cinematographer. So if you get a chance try to see this one before it leaves theaters again. It’s definitely worth your time.
A remake of director William Wyler‘s 1959 epic Ben-Hur is currently in the works at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Paramount Pictures, and the producer’s and director Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter) are working hard getting the pre-production check list in order. Thus far the cast includes actors Jack Huston (Boardwalk Empire, American Hustle), Morgan Freeman (The Shawshank Redemption, The Dark Knight), Toby Kebbell (Wrath of the Titans, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes), and Nezanin Boniadi (Iron Man, The Next Three Days), with Rodrigo Santoro (Love Actually, 300: Rise of an Empire) making an appearance in the role of Jesus Christ. The story of Ben-Hur comes from the 19th-century book by Lew Wallace titled Ben Hur: A Tale of Christ, which tells the story of a Jewish prince who is betrayed by his Roman friend and sent into years of enslavement, only to regain his freedom and return to seek his vengeance. The original movie starred Charlton Heston, Jack Hawkins, and Stephen Boyd and won 11 Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Actor (Heston), Best Director (Wyler), Best Cinematographer (Robert Surtees), and Best Supporting Actor (Hugh Griffith). The new movie is expected to be in theaters sometime in 2016, so we’ll be following it for a while; in the meantime you should definitely check out the original; you can find it available on both DVD and Blu-Ray disc.