Frank is an award winning screenwriter, freelance writer, and blogger for New York Film Academy. Hailing from the great state of New Jersey, Frank's been a New Yorker ever since he fell in love with the city while attending NYU's Tisch School of the Arts. He currently resides in New York City, where he can be seen cafe hopping throughout the week.
Over the course of cinematic history, drugs have slowly inserted their way into the narrative of more and more films. While considered taboo in earlier times, by the time Easy Rider came onto the scene in the late 60s, drugs were an integral part of major motion pictures. After Al Pacino’s unforgettable roles in films like ThePanic in Needle Park and Scarface, almost anything was fair game as the controversial genre paved the way for filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino and Darren Aronofsky.
Given the influence drugs have had on filmmaking and the filmmakers themselves, the New York Film Academy put together a comprehensive infographic called “High Cinema: Drugs in Film Infographic.”
The infographic examines both how film shape our understanding of drugs and how popular usage and legislation have shaped filmic depictions of drugs.
Have a look for yourself, but try to remain sober during your browse.
Last year undoubtedly felt like a landmark year for Black films and filmmakers. Look no further than the Academy’s decision to crown its Best Picture to Steve McQueen’s 12 Year’s a Slave. Of course, look a little further and you’ll find many other critically acclaimed and financially successful films like Lee Daniels’ The Butler, Fruitvale Station, and The Best Man Holiday. It seems as though the filmmaking industry has opened its arms to diversity, but will this momentum sustain itself or is this just another “Hollywood fad”?
The New York Film Academy has put together an insightful infographic highlighting information, stats, and influencers that have and continue to propel Black film into the Hollywood spotlight. Have a look below and share your thoughts and comments on the figures below.
With recent female-led successes like The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, The Heat, and the hit TV show Girls, women are taking Hollywood by storm, right? Not according to this infographic created by the New York Film Academy. While it’s not all disparaging news for women – there have been major strides since the dawn of film – there are still ways to go. How do you feel about these stats? We’d love to hear your comments!
As the seemingly immortal lead guiatarist, Keith Richards, says in The Rolling Stones’ new concert film Sweet Summer Sun – Hyde Park Live, “You get the smell of your own turf.” Indeed it was 44 years to the day since the last time The Rolling Stones sniffed the open lawn of London’s infamous Hyde Park. While much has happened since their June 6th 1969 free performance in front of a half a million people, nothing has changed in the spirit of their hometown faithful. From young to old, a sea of over 100,000 loyal Stones’ fans filled one of central London’s largest parks.
“It is different, it’s another world,” says lead singer, Mick Jagger. “However, having said that, I’m still doing the same thing more or less – even in some of the same clothes,” he quips in the film, before opening the lyrics to Honky Tonk Woman, draped in a white nehru shirt from ‘69. The notoriously vain singer even remarks how he’s unsure if he’ll fit into the retro shirt, even though his svelte physique hasn’t fluctuated an inch in the past five decades.
“It was a great gig…It was beautiful with the sun going down over Hyde Park,” said Jagger. “I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the Rolling Stones’ 50th than doing it on our home patch in front of 100,000 people on a glorious summer night…enjoy it… we certainly did.”
“Coming back to Hyde Park was like a full circle being drawn, and the band is in top form,” added Richards. “We thought, what could be more appropriate than having a great summer in London?”
From the moment the band steps out onto the stage, appropriately enough with Start Me Up, through to the dazzling firework and pyrotechnic display that heralded the end of the concert, The Stones pack in hit after hit such as, Satisfaction,Start Me Up, Brown Sugar, Jumpin’ Jack Flash, Gimme Shelter, and Sympathy for the Devil. There is a moment of surrealism when Jagger belts out the opening lyrics to Sympathy for the Devil, as he is precisely a man of wealth and taste, who has been around for a long, long year. Though, we’d like to think he’s far from the Devil. After all, would the Devil provide us with eternally treasured music? Perhaps.
Making it look like second nature, in typical fashion, Keith Richards wows the crowds by weaving his enigmatic guitar licks alongside Ronnie Wood’s massive solos. “I want to present it like it’s never been presented before,” said Wood, who undeniably brings that same commitment to each live performance.
Praised drummer, Charlie Watts must have an unflappable synthetic heart as he drives the band through each timeless song as if it’s the last time they’ll ever play. “It could be, but I’ve always thought that,” admits Watts.
What remains the most poignant element of the Stones’ enchanting concert event at Hyde Park are the fans who remain as passionate for the band as they did forty plus years ago. While lighters have changed to smart phones, and joints have become more potent, the raw energy and enthusiasm that fills the park has remained the same. They say rock and roll is dead, but it certainly wasn’t on this warm day in June.
THE KINGS OF SUMMER is a unique coming-of-age comedy about three teenage friends – Joe (Nick Robinson), Patrick (Gabriel Basso) and the eccentric and unpredictable Biaggio (Moises Arias) – who, in the ultimate act of independence, decide to spend their summer building a house in the woods and living off the land. Free from their parents’ rules, their idyllic summer quickly becomes a test of friendship as each boy learns to appreciate the fact that family – whether it is the one you’re born into or the one you create – is something you can’t run away from.
Perhaps as a teen you dreamed of running away from your overbearing parents for the summer to “live off the land” in a glorified fort house in the middle of the woods. Well, that’s exactly what the two main characters of The Kings of Summer do after being painstakingly frustrated with the living situation at home. Protagonist Joe Toy cannot cope with his miserable, widower father, played perfectly by Nick Offerman. So, he convinces his best friend Patrick Keenan, who cannot deal with his Hallmark cookie-cutter parents, to break ground on a self-made summer “home” in the middle of the woods. Unexpectedly joining the duo is Biaggio, the bizarrely comical third wheel. Imagine Superbad’s McGlovin with a splash of acid – that is Biaggio. His exceedingly odd, offbeat personality provides many laugh out loud moments throughout the movie.
Screenwriter Chris Galletta takes personalities from his own childhood and meshes them into a movie that occasionally plays in the same ballpark as Stand by Me and Moonrise Kingdom. Add the Street Fighter 2 gameplay and you get a feeling of 90’s nostalgia.
While the simplicity of the plot begs for something deeper, it does allow for its dialogue and eccentric moments to shine. The characters played by Offerman and Megan Mullally often steal the show, at times creating gem moments from scenes that do not necessarily further the story. For example, Offerman has a running gag about how the Wonton in his soup is too big to fit in his mouth.
Director Todd Straus-Schulson makes stylistic choices to accentuate the playfulness of the three boys as they explore their freedom in the woods. One thing Galletta and Straus-Schulson are careful about is maintaining its comedic tone throughout. Unlike other comedies that typically lose their humor in the third act, The Kings of Summer remains true to its tone up until the last scene where an old man in a wheelchair rides the elevator with the main characters.
Overall, The Kings of Summer is a light coming of age story that survives on its character actors and quirky dialogue. If you’re a fan of Ron Swanson from Parks and Recreation, you’ll want to see Offerman’s hilariously dry performance in this.
Robert Zemeckis owned the 80’s and 90’s with his classic Back to the Future trilogy, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Forrest Gump, and Cast Away. Zemeckis earned respect from critics and colleagues, while grossing quite a hefty penny at the box-office. His direction of Forrest Gump won him an Oscar for Best Director. It’s pretty safe to say that the filmmaker has established himself as one of the elite directors in Hollywood.
Before going any further into his abundance of accolades, it’s always interesting to know how exactly he broke into the industry in the first place. Well, when Zemeckis graduated from film school, he asked George Lucas the exact same question.
“You know, there’s no pattern,” said Zemeckis. “There’s no rulebook. I mean, everybody’s got his or her own success story. Having relationships is very crucial. It’s a business that’s very difficult to succeed in completely by yourself, so you have to have people who are there to support you and help you along the way. Somehow you just do it.”
Now, after twelve years devoted to motion capture films like The Polar Express and Beowulf, through his production company ImageMovers, Robert Zemeckis returns to live action. His film, Flight, stars Denzel Washington and revolves around an investigation into a pilot who manages to keep his plane from crashing. Denzel was Zemeckis’ first and only choice for the film. As if that even needed to be mentioned.
“He is pretty much one of the best actors who is alive today in the world,” replied Zemeckis. “I just felt that he was an actor who brought the power and the ability to reach down into his most inner self to pull this performance off. He’s a brilliant actor. I’ve worked with a huge roster of very, very talented people. There’s not a single person on that list that I wouldn’t work with again. So I’ve been very fortunate.”
Indeed the filmmaker has had his share of fortune in a seemingly cutthroat, difficult business to navigate. It’s a wonder whether the craft gets any easier. It has to, right?
“No. It never gets easier. It only gets harder especially as you get older. It’s just as you get older you find it more difficult to navigate through the bullshit. That’s the harder—that’s what you get tired of more than when you’re younger. When you’re younger, you’re more accepting of basically the insanity that surrounds the business. But as you get older, it’s harder to do that. But as far as the actual making of films, it’s always been difficult, and it’s always been challenging. And I think that what I do is to just look at. You have to really love what you’re doing. You have to love the screenplay so that you’re excited to get up at 4:00 in the morning and get to work.”
So, why return to live action after devoting the past decade to a slate of mo-cap projects?
“It’s a very simple answer. The script was magnificent, and it was a screenplay that in no way shape or form should be done as digital cinema.”
Zemeckis is no stranger to piloting a plane. In fact, the master director is an instrument rated pilot. His passion for flight in his personal life, made the research process all the more enjoyable.
“I think if you are familiar at all with the world of aviation, you will find that everything in the flying parts of the movie are very accurately depicted.”
See Robert Zemeckis’ film Flight in theaters, November 2nd.
From his humbling beginnings in Brooklyn, Melvin Kaminsky certainly made a name for himself. The name he made? Mel Brooks. A name synonymous with hilarious gags, one-liners, and slap-stick comedy. A career spanning from the early 50s, as a writer for Caesar’s Hour, all the way up to a series arc on Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm. If you’re a fan of Airplane!, Scary Movie, or any of the countless parodies that have made their way to the screen, you owe it all to Mr. Brooks. Hell, they even teach classes of him in film school. To put it simply, Brooks is a pioneer of the parody genre. A king of comedy, and as we know, “It’s good to be the king.”
Here’s an attempt to put on paper (or cyber paper) a ranking of his top five films. Please do not crucify me, as these are mostly interchangeable and nothing is set in stone. Why just think back to History of the World Part 1. Wasn’t Moses holding 15 Commandments before he dropped that third stone tablet?
5. Silent Movie – Yes, the whole movie is silent. Mel Brooks may be getting up there, turning 86 today, but he’s not that old. Perhaps the film was homage to Chaplin and the days of the silent era, or maybe just a personal challenge from the master of comedy. While not his best film, it certainly brings that special brand of humor that could only be a Mel Brooks film. In a time when Brooks didn’t necessarily need to take a risk, Silent Movie is definitely Brooks’ riskiest film. Marty Feldman brings a certain Harpo Marx charm to the screen at a time when the Marx Bros were all but forgotten. If you’re waiting for a parody of The Artist then look no further – look to the past for this sometimes forgotten gem from the 70s.
4. History of the World Part 1 – What other genre was popular in the 70s? The epic Biblical stories. Did Mel take care of that? You bet. History of the World Part 1, yes Part 1 of only 1, breaks down human history into separate segments from the dawn of man to the French Revolution. And what do we learn from the French Revolution? “It’s good to be the king.” From a writer who typically fast forwards through musicals, Brooks gets a full watch for his musical rendition of the Spanish Inquisition. He makes the torturous religious conversions seem so pleasant. Not to mention the scene at the last supper where Mel pushes the malt liquor to Jesus and his disciples, before being painted on the spot by Leonardo da Vinci. If only religious history was truly this fun. “Jesus Christ.” “Yes?”
3. Young Frankenstein – “Excuse me darling, what is it exactly that you do do?” Growing up in the 30s, Mel was probably accustomed to Universal’s large slate of horror films, and how couldn’t he spoof the genre? It was his destiny. And so became, Young Frankenstein. Just make sure to pronounce it, “Fronkensteen.” A movie that shows Mel’s real grasp as a director. Brooks take another risk shooting the comedy in black and white. There is a certain underlying confidence that even he doesn’t have to go too far for the jokes. Having a genius like Gene Wilder on set probably didn’t hurt. A must see for any Brooks fan. This is the original parody of scary movies and still holds as the best. You know, that Monster isn’t a bad guy after all.
2. Blazing Saddles – Mel teams up with the legendary comic Richard Pryor to create the edgiest work of his career. A spoof on the popular Western genre of the 70s, Blazing Saddles is vulgar and unforgiving. From cowboys sitting around the fireplace breaking wind, to redneck men watching as their black Sheriff drowns in a pool of quicksand. The MPAA would have a field day with this ground breaking comedy, cutting out more than half the film. Too bad our generation can’t have the same fun as the 70s once did. Come to think of it, how did he get away with this? A must see for any fan of comedy. Now, “Where the white women at?”
1. Spaceballs – “May the Schwartz be with you!” History of the World Part 1 promised “Jews in Space” and we sort of got that in Brooks’ hilarious Star Wars parody, Spaceballs. A movie quoted so often among true fans of comedy, it might as well be a handbook on how to write funny dialogue. Rick Moranis plays the feeble nerd under the intimidating Dark Helmet costume with a small tie and heavy breathing mask. A man who likes to play with his dolls, and drink his Mr. Coffee through the helmet. Just don’t call him out for any of it, or you might lose a pair. There are endless gags including, black guys literally combing the desert with a hair pick, Lonestar literally jamming Lord Helmet’s radar with raspberry jam, and John Candy playing a “Mog.” Half man, half dog. He was his own best friend. If you sit through this movie and don’t laugh you need to check your pulse, because you’re either dead or you’ll never understand comedy. In which case, you may be better off dead.
Unless you’ve never been to a theater, don’t subscribe to Netflix, or never turn on your cable, you’ve probably seen Anna Faris. Remember? She’s the ditz in Scary Movie, The Hot Chick, Lost in Translation…well, in a lot of movies. But, her character ranges and she always delivers the laughs. Anna is the go-to girl for Hollywood’s biggest comedies. Her name carries weight and she’s raking in top dollar. What more can an actress ask for? “I feel really fortunate that I’ve been able to do a variety of different characters. I hope that I continue. I hope that I get to play even more – I think in general, the theme for my characters is mostly stupidity, because even though they’re bitchy, they’re usually stupid. I’m not sure what that says about me…” Oh, Anna, you’re far from stupid.
So, where did the actress get her start? Was it film or acting school? The theater?
Keenan Ivory Wayans . “He, you know, is very dear to my heart. He gave me my first break in Scary Movie. And I know that he would really appreciate [The Dictator] – he loves humor that offends everybody equally. I’d love for him to see this. I’d love to be in the screening room as he watched it.”
The Scary Movie franchise has already released four successful movies and is in talks for a fifth. Just goes to show how landing the right project can really springboard an actor’s career.
I had a chance to chat with the Hollywood actress about her new movie. The Dictator tells the tale of a foreign dictator who risks his life to ensure that democracy never comes to the country he so lovingly oppressed. All the makings of a comedy, right? Well, did we mention the all-star comedy lineup of Sacha Baron Cohen, John C. Reilly, and the writing and directing team behind Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm? Hold while I contain my excitement…
Anna was able to give us some insight about this comedy dream set and her character, which she describes as naïve.
“She’s very idealistic, I think, to a fault. And I think it’s easy for people to take advantage of her. But I think that she definitely had some qualities that some of my other characters have had in the past, you know, that naiveté that I tend to play a lot of. And I’m starting to think that I’m just really naïve in real life.”
Would you say this was a loose set with a lot of improv? Or was it really tight and to the script?
It was very, very loose. It took a little bit of a learning curve for me. It was unlike pretty much any filming process I had ever gone through before. And you really didn’t know where the scene was going to go. We had a script and we would do the scripted version a couple of times. And then, the writers and Sasha would collaborate. And then, next thing you know, you would be headed in a completely different direction.
So it forced you to really stay on your toes, which was hard, but also, sort of an exciting challenge for an actor. I mean, he would, you know, in a scene like where he was sort of supposed to be charmed by me, he would suddenly be threatening to kill me, or like calling me like a lesbian hobbit, or you know, grabbing me on the back of my head …
Was that just for fun or is that actually part of the movie?
A lot of that became a part of the movie. It was just sort of as an actor you’re like, all right, got to be game. You know, it was improv, but it was like improv class in a sense that you just sort of roll with the punches, literally.They’ve all known each other for years, all the writers and Larry and Sacha. And so, for me, my strategy was just, you know, being open to trying anything. The audition process was really fun for me. You know, we just did a lot of improv. We played a lot.It took me like I think three months to get the role. Like they auditioned. And then, I didn’t really hear anything. And so, it was kind of – I didn’t know what was going on. And ultimately, I have no idea why they chose me. Probably because I was willing to grow my arm pit hair.
We’re sure it’s much more than arm pit hair. See Anna in The Dictator with Sacha Baron Cohen in theatres May 16th.