#DFNYPlus: Lost Horizon (1973) – Charles Jarrott, Director

“How do I know this is part of my real life? If there’s no pain, can I be sure I feel life?  And would I go back – if I knew how to go back?”

I was recently asked to try to single out a film that had had a memorable impact on me as a child.  This question brings up a flood of my earliest film memories — Santa Claus fighting the devil (still no idea what that was!), Disney animations, the Incredible Shrinking Man, etc. — but the one movie that I remember seeing most vividly at a very early age has to be the 1973 remake of Lost Horizon.  It is actually a musical remake of the 1937 classic film from Frank Capra, which was itself an adaptation of the 1933  best-selling novel by James Hilton.

Despite being included in the book “The Fifty Worst Films of All Time” (co-written by film critic Michael Medved), it holds a special place in my heart as one of my earliest film-going memories, which was at a movie birthday party for my sister and her friends around winter 1973.  Although it wasn’t available on VHS or DVD until 2011, I feel like I’ve seen it hundreds of times.  This is most likely due to the fact that my family had the soundtrack, and I’ve listened to it so many times that I have most of the lyrics memorized.  In fact, the song “If I Could Go Back” (lyrics above) made such an impression on me that as a college student I recorded the album onto tape to bring with me on my first trip outside of the country to Shanghai, China.  I suppose my anticipation of going to such a foreign location (at least it FELT very foreign in 1992!) brought back memories of this film with travelers going to distant lands and wondering where they would be happiest.

That brings me to the plot of the 1973 musical – which is pretty close to the 1937 Capra film, with the exception of the additional musical and dance sequences.

A group of disparate travelers are fleeing a revolution in an unknown country.  Their plane just manages to escape but then crashes in the Himalayas.  The group is eventually rescued and brought to “Shangri-La”, a paradise hidden in snow-covered mountains, where the weather is always perfect and none of the residents age (except for the High Lama, for reasons that are never explained).  It turns out that the group was brought to Shangri-La so that Richard, their unofficial leader and a well-known diplomat/peace activist, could take over for the High Lama after his death.  Once Richard learns this fact, he begins to debate with himself the benefits of eternal peace and happiness vs. living in the reality of the outside world as indicated in the above song.

And speaking of Lost Horizon’s songs, I have an unusually high level of tolerance for them due to my childhood nostalgia for the film, but songwriter Burt Bacharach states in his 2013 autobiography that Lost Horizon almost ended his career and DID end his working relationship with lyricist Hal David.  Apparently they were unable to take the advice of one of the film’s songs, “Living Together, Growing Together”!  As far as the dance sequences are concerned, aside from dancer Bobby Van’s scenes, the less said about them, the better (The title of “The Things I Will Not Miss” is a perfect description of my feelings about that song’s dance routine).

I realize that this is a film with many flaws (my sister’s opinion notwithstanding), but it’s still one that I can enjoy anytime – particularly for the soundtrack when I’m considering escaping to some exotic land – “…and this all can be mine, why can’t I make myself believe it?”.

Lost Horizon (1973) at IMDB

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#DFNYPlus: Seven Samurai (1954) – Akira Kurosawa, Director

I honestly can’t remember the first time I saw “Seven Samurai” – it feels like an old friend (or seven!) that has been in my life for as long as I can remember.  As someone who had started studying judo at 11 and then karate at 15, I can’t remember a  time when I wasn’t thinking of castles with stone walls being scaled by ninjas being fought off by sword-wielding samurai.  Something about this film from a country I knew almost nothing about just spoke to me, and even after 20-plus viewings, if I see it on television, it could be 2am, and I still can’t turn it off – despite its 3 ½ hour length!

The premise of Seven Samurai is pretty simple – a small farming village is tired of constantly being raided by bandits for their crops, so they decide to try and hire samurai to defend themselves.  But they have almost nothing to provide as payment besides small quantities of rice (while they eat millet in the meantime).

The first samurai they encounter is the noble Kanbei, who will eventually become the group’s leader.  He is first seen rescuing a child from a madman, and his unique strategy and skill is witnessed by the privileged youth Katsuhiro, which leads him to want to become Kanbei’s disciple and gain real-world experience.

Along with the village’s two representatives who have been sent to enlist samurai, the group eventually picks up three more of them – an archer, an old friend of Kanbei, and a good natured fighter who would definitely be the “Happy” of this other famous group of seven characters who would never be mistaken for dwarves.  But the outstanding figure as far as swordsmanship is concerned, has to be the stoic Kyuzo. From the first moment we see him, we know he’s someone to be feared, and it shouldn’t be surprising when he nonchalantly runs out alone to take on several bandits who have infiltrated their camp.

Rounding out the group is the legendary Toshiro Mifune as Kikucho, the samurai of questionable lineage who has some of the most comic as well as tragic scenes in the film.

The swordfights are breathtaking and the battle scenes are epic, as you would expect from a Kurosawa samurai film – but it is also comprised of several small moments.  Katsuhiro getting a surprise about a suspected intruder he chases through the woods, the villagers consulting with the “old man” of the village about how they should proceed, as well as many emotional moments from the villagers and the samurai themselves.

I didn’t know much about Japan when I first saw Seven Samurai, but now, after having lived there for a year studying aikido and also having studied the Japanese language for over 15 years, I wish I could see it again through the eyes of that young kid going to the dojo for the first time.  This is definitely a movie that must be seen, I can’t recommend it highly enough.  5*

Seven Samurai at IMDB

Actor Paul Easom on Filming Ken Russell’s “The Lair Of The White Worm”

I worked on “The Lair of The White Worm” in 1988 and was supposed to work with him again on “Prisoner of Honor” the Dreyfus affair in ’91.  My memories of the shoot are a bit obscure, but I do remember that he was quite a scary man!  He had a ferocious bark which he would let loose constantly on the poor actors – fortunately, I was hired as a dancer, and he loved movement and dance, so from our perspective he treated us a little kinder. In the film we were “nun-raping gladiators”,  I recall having to stand around the set totally naked from the waist down, with this very heavy armour plated jacket cutting into my flesh, and having to run into frame endless takes, whilst raping a bunch of praying Nuns! I was partnered up with a lady named Tina who was a stripper by profession.  Mr Russell took great delight in filming these scenes – by the way, we were also “raping witch doctors”, with huge phallic penises attached to us.  We then had to dance around this poor actress before impaling her with our penises from every angle- horrid. It appeared that for any intricate acting scenes, Ken would do minimal takes, whilst the rape scenes seemed to go on forever! In one instance, we shot a scene involving me, my friend Andy and two nuns over a dozen times – with cameras pointed at our genital-areas, us frantically gyrating and  with Prokofiev blasting out on the sound stage.  There was a funny moment when he looked at my friend Andy, who was very camp, and said,  “I think you better do her doggy style, dear!”

Later, on the other picture, I was supposed to be a male trans-prostitute, but unfortunately had to pull out as I had another job. But it was quite an experience working for Ken, although it was only a week’s work…!

Paul Easom’s IMDB Page:

 

#DFNYFocus on: Women In Media’s Tema L. Staig

Tema L Staig runs Women In Media, a networking group that connects above and below the line women and the men who love making movies with them. WiM works closely with Seeking Our Story and a number of film festivals

DFNY: Which film do you love that might surprise people?
TLS: Raw by Julia Ducournau. I was surprised at how much I loved it, since I had heard that viewers at The Toronto International Film Festival needed EMT’s. The grossest part is not your typical gross out – and speaks to what it really means to be a human animal. It’s absolutely brilliant.

DFNY: If you could pair up any two actors/actresses, living or dead, which two would it be & what kind of film?
TLS: Early 1970’s Catherine Deneuve and Pam Grier in anything directed by Anna Biller.

DFNY: Which film has had the biggest impact on you personally, and why?
TLS: Alien. It has a perfect three act structure, both in terms of story and visuals. Also, Ripley is a role model for everyone – keep your head and know your stuff so you can kick ass and live on for a few sequels.

DFNY: If you could have one prop from any film what would it be?
TLS: A Spinner flying car from Blade Runner.

DFNY: Is there any subject matter which you would not make/watch a film about?
TLS: Yes. I don’t like films with graphic abuse of children.
Ms. Staig is also a Production Designer in LA. She has Art Directed and Production Designed numerous features, commercials, and shorts (“Kissing Jessica Stein”, “Happy Hour”, and “Battlefield America”) as well as commercials and music videos. She participated in the first IFP Project Involve: NY fellowship, where she had the opportunity to assist the Production Designer for “American Splendor”. She also teaches Design for Theater, Film, and TV at Los Angeles City College.

Women in Media Website

Tema L. Staig’s IMDB Page

#DFNYFocus on: Screenwriter Michael Caleo

Emmy-Nominated Writer of The Sopranos, Luc Besson’s Film The Family, and Creator of Ironside Television Reboot

DFNY: Which film do you love that might surprise people?
MC: The Little Mermaid. Love that Movie. Great music.

DFNY: If you could pair up any two actors/actresses, living or dead, which two would it be & what kind of film?
MC: Lee Marvin/James Cagney. Heist Film like Heat

DFNY: Which film has had the biggest impact on you personally, and why?
MC: The Shining. Scared the shit out of me and made me cry laughing at the same time.

Q: If you could have one prop from any film what would it be?
MC: Painting of two Dogs from Goodfellas

Q: Is there any subject matter which you would not make/watch a film about?
MC: Kids or animals being harmed.

Michael Caleo’s IMDB Page:

DFNY Interview with Artemis Film Festival founder Melanie Wise

Actor, Producer, Editor, Founder, Artemis Film Festival … gym rat

 

DFNY:  First off,  why the name Artemis? Does it have any special significance for you?

MW: Artemis is the Matron of the Amazons and Goddess of the Hunt.  We wanted a symbol and moniker that completely epitomized the empowered feminine principal.  In today’s society, if I mention a hunt, most people would normally associate that with men.  And here we have an archetype who so completely mastered the hunt, she’s the matron saint of it. Matron of the Amazons, Artemis is only associated with strong, powerful, empowered women.  We wanted our name to represent the fully flowered embodiment of  physical strength, skill and power.  Artemis is all of THAT!  And our festival is the very first solely dedicated to women in action.


DFNY: What was the evolution of the festival?  Was it difficult to find supporters early on,  or did you receive a lot of encouragement? How has the response to the festival generally been?

MW: Actually, it came about very VERY quickly!  The idea was Sean Newcombe’s (another of the founders) and from conception to execution of our first year was literally 6 months.  I was kinda worried we’d be laughed outta the park for the idea (even tho I just loved it!), we opened submissions and got beat over the head with them our first year.  People from all over the world reached out, showed their excitement, and sent us their films.  We’ve been able to celebrate and support stuntwomen (without whom we would not have female heroes onscreen at all),  recognize several Hollywood luminaries at each event, steadily grown our audience base, and most importantly, lend a voice furthering equality.  People really dig our festival.  I think that it’s very safe to say given our first two years of operation were completely fan backed.  We are currently crowdfunding for our 3rd edition, and we’ve already raised 40% of our goal.  I would say our response has been incredibly good!! We are very pleased, proud, and honored to be able to offer the festival.  


DFNY:  I guess that would mean Sean is Apollo!   What was your goal in starting the festival?  How have you seen it grow/develop?  Where do you see it in five years?

MW: We were first content creators – a small band of people who’ve loved physically strong female leads for a long time.  In doing our best to push content with action centered female leads and failing very miserably, we thought if we wanted to see more of this type of content in the world, creating a space for it to play would be key in making that shift.  It’s been very amazing to see more filmmakers focus on action and empowerment, and we’ve seen a shift start to occur within the years the festival has been alive.  I would hope in five years, we will be the festival that offers people everywhere a place to find inspiration, pushes the boundaries of parity to reach further equality for women in all walks of life, breaks new female action heroes and stuntwomen, becomes a happy stomping ground for distributors to find new content, have a festival that occurs on more than one coast, more than one country, creates the conditions to produce original content on a regular basis …. I could go on and on and on!


DFNY: What are some of the standout films that have been in the festival?  How have they fared afterwards?  

MW: We have had the amazing pleasure of screening truly awesome films.  We get to screen films that spotlight women in history that most people don’t even know about.  I really love showing these films because women get to learn the legacy of really badass stuff that other women have done and  by learning about it, they broaden their own horizons.  If you ever get a chance to see Flying Queens: A Basketball Dynasty, Warrior Women: A Vision of Valor, Wings of Silver: The Vi Cowden Story, Aviatrix, Skydancers, Women Outward Bound, Fight Like a Girl, do not miss the opportunity.  We show films that chronicle important and astounding feats of social activism – India’s Daughter or the documentary short Power – these films absolutely move people to action.

We get the most amazing narrative shorts.  We generally program thematically, for instance we may have a block called Pulp Action and all the shorts in that screening will be pulp fiction style actioners starring women, or Sci-Fi Femmes or Swordswomen and Superheroes.  Our blocks of short films are some of the funnest screenings we have.- kick ass action, humor, great stories … just FUN.

We have had a few films that screened at our festival go on to be distributed.  Narratives Awaken and Two Down and the documentary Sky Dancers were 2015 screeners and went forward to distribution.  From our last edition narrative Never Let Go and documentary SMART also went onto be distributed.  Last year we had the extraordinary luck of premiering No Touching, a horror short starring Zoe Bell and Heidi Moneymaker (two of the world’s top stunt women).  Tho, that may not have been luck at all … I’d been trying to hunt that film down since our first year, and luckily in late 2015 I was able to reach them for our 2nd year.

The very cool part about a festival that focuses on action and empowerment: you don’t really get boring films.  Our screenings are generally pretty exciting stuff! And our current edition is certainly going to be our best event thus far 😀


DFNY:
How has the festival impacted you personally? Lessons learned?   Do you now spend more time on the festival than on your career, or has a symmetry developed?

MW: I grew up on a farm and I do think farm folk are generally pretty hard workers and I’ve considered myself a hard worker my whole life.  AND! I’ve learned, quite thoroughly over the last three years, what it means to work like a rented mule!!!  We’ve grown quickly, and have lots of plans we hope to germinate in the future, so we’ve been very busy working to bring those things to life.

On a more important note of learning, and some folks will want to shoot me for saying this: the things I’ve seen tell me that women have much to learn on the front of supporting other women.  And until such time as women truly learn to support other women, I do believe we will struggle with parity issues.  Women are more than half the population, make the majority of choices in purchasing in developed countries …. and we are having a problem with parity???  Does anyone else see the glaring hole here?  Women have far more power and influence than they realize and it is time to really take up that mantle, use the power and influence they do have, and make a difference.

Symmetry?!?!?! HA!!! What’s that?  Short answer: no, haven’t learned that AT ALL!


Further Quotes from the Artemis team:  

Sean NewCombe, Co-Founder:  We felt we were starting a movement not just in film, but in culture. We felt the excitement of something we thought was revolutionary.  The 21st century will be defined by the rights and power of women.

Zac Baldwin, Co-Founder:  It has been very gratifying to see a lot of filmmakers putting out content that audiences LOVE and incredibly gratifying to show that content.

Megan Hubbell, Marketing and Media Dev. Mgr.: I really love badass women and wanted to be a part of something that celebrated them.  We were the first … AND I got a really cool T shirt too!

Indus Alelia, Public Relations & Outreach Mgr.: The Artemis Women in Action Film Festival makes me proud to be a woman. I’m so happy to be part of a group and a project geared toward empowering all types of women in all types of action, be it stunts or the often times more dangerous world of speaking one’s mind.

Women Kick Ass Project 3 – Crowdfund for year 3 of the festival; campaign runs till 3/28/17:  www.WomenKickAss.com  The only place to get tickets and passes is currently on our crowdfunding page.  We’ve also got some really cool custom T’s available there …. and lots of other nifty stuff!

Artemis Film Festival:  www.ArtemisFilmFestival.com

2017 Edition Dates:  April 20-23rd 2017

Locations:
Thursday, April 20 – The Ahrya Fine Arts Theater, Beverly Hills
Friday-Sunday, Apr 21-23 – The Monica Film Center, Santa Monica

#KinemaJunpo’s Top 10 Movies For 2016 – Via Sawako Omori, Film Journalist / Translator #大森さわこ

Here are the Top Five Japanese and Top Five Foreign Films From Kinema Junpo’s Annual List of Best Films:

Japanese Films:
1) Kono-Sekai-No-Katasumini (animation) この世界の片隅に
2) Shin Godzilla  シン・ゴジラ
3) Fuchi-Ni-Tatsu  淵に立つ
4) Distraction  Babies ディストラクション・ベイビーズ
5) Nagai-Iiwake  永い言い訳

Foreign Films:
1) Sully
2) Carol
3) Bridge of Spies
4) Trumbo
5) Mountains May Depart( by Chinese director Jia Zhangke)

See here for the rest:
http://www.kinenote.com/main/kinejun_best10/