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Back To The Future (#110 of 9)

Summer of ‘89: Surely, You Can’t Be Serious! Young Einstein

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Summer of ‘89: Surely, You Can’t Be Serious! <em>Young Einstein</em>
Summer of ‘89: Surely, You Can’t Be Serious! <em>Young Einstein</em>

Its trailer trumpets that Young Einstein is a film “Warner Bros. is proud to present.” While the studios say that about all their films, Warner Bros. went out of its way to prove it, as the company spent $8 million to advertise a film written, directed by, and starring someone completely unknown to American audiences. They hoped for a replay of Crocodile Dundee which, like Young Einstein, did big business in its native Australia before being imported to the States. But as the Bible tells us, pride goeth before destruction: While Crocodile Dundee yielded a $174 million take at the 1986 American box office, an Oscar nomination, and two sequels, Young Einstein settled for a paltry $11 million in receipts and a one-way ticket to obscurity.

Technically speaking, the film did make a profit. Warner Bros.’s marketing machine got audiences to come out to see the unforgettably named Yahoo Serious reimagine German-born Princeton, NJ native Albert Einstein as the son of Tasmanian farmers. In addition to playing the Aussie-fied Einstein, Serious also wrote and directed the film, and the opening credit announcing his auteur status is Young Einstein’s biggest laugh: It reads “A Serious Film.”

A serious film this is not. Young Einstein begins in a Tasmanian village complete with its own Tasmanian devil. It’s an appropriate opening as this is one big Looney Tunes cartoon, where people get hit with heavy items, go flying through the air, and emerge from explosions and electrocutions covered in smoke and disturbingly appearing as if they’re wearing blackface. A true-life figure’s history is retold with little regard for the truth, and the main character is a funny-looking wiseass who’s smarter than everyone around him.

Box Office Rap The Wizard of Oz and the IMAX Cancer

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Box Office Rap: The Wizard of Oz and the IMAX Cancer
Box Office Rap: The Wizard of Oz and the IMAX Cancer

“The last time I checked, I owned the films that we’re in the process of colorizing…I can do whatever I want with them, and if they’re going to be shown on television, they’re going to be in color.” These are words spoken by media mogul Ted Turner in 1986, as reported by the Los Angeles Times, defending his decision to colorize classic black-and-white films for television airwaves, most famously Casablanca, leading Roger Ebert to call its colorized airing “one of the saddest days in the history of movies.” That sadness, Ebert claimed, comes from knowing that even the most beloved classics aren’t safe from “computerized graffiti gangs.” Well, this weekend, The Wizard of Oz boots Riddick from IMAX theaters, coming at viewers not only in the format’s scale-oriented excesses, but also in 3D. Thus, though we may still refer to the film as The Wizard of Oz, Warner Bros. is going with The Wizard of Oz: An IMAX 3D Experience. So, a question becomes pertinent: How is turning a 1939 Technicolor film into a 2013 IMAX 3D “experience” any different from Ted Turner colorizing Casablanca?

Poster Lab: Drew: The Man Behind the Poster

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Poster Lab: <em>Drew: The Man Behind the Poster</em>
Poster Lab: <em>Drew: The Man Behind the Poster</em>

In a column devoted to the art of movie poster design, it would be criminal to not highlight the one-sheet for a documentary about Drew Struzan, the most influential and notable film poster illustrator of the last four decades, and the strongest name to be tied to movie cover art since Saul Bass. As much a cult hero as an artist whose work has beguiled the masses, Struzan has been commissioned by geek superfans like Kevin Smith, who turned to the illustrator when whipping up promo material for Mallrats, and famously brought to prominence by blockbuster maestros Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, who’ve hired Struzan time and again for the likes of E.T., Hook, and, of course, Star Wars. Also the man behind the iconic paintings that heralded each Indiana Jones film and Blade Runner (the latter causing a fan-fueled stir when the studio opted for work by John Alvin instead), Struzan may just be Harrison Ford’s definitive portrait artist, repeatedly nailing the actor’s likeness for two classic franchises, and for the film that many would call Ford’s greatest.

15 Famous Movie Bullies

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15 Famous Movie Bullies
15 Famous Movie Bullies

Serving as the latest bit of evidence that a camera, a cause, and a whole lot of headline-friendly promotion can net unwarranted prestige, the Harvey Weinstein-backed Bully begins its nationwide rollout this weekend, its demand to be liked carrying an ironic whiff of oppression. From the schoolyard to the psych ward, the bully was a cinematic staple well before becoming a hot-button news topic, and we’ve got examples to prove it. The meanies in Lee Hirsch’s new doc may commit acts of school-bus terrorism, but they’d cower to these soul-crushing jerks.

Imagining Sisyphus Happy: A Groundhog Day Retrospective

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Imagining Sisyphus Happy: A Groundhog Day Retrospective
Imagining Sisyphus Happy: A Groundhog Day Retrospective

For 16 years, Groundhog Day has been hailed as a meditation on self-redemption. But to pigeonhole it into one overarching theme would be an insult to the layered precision, and perfection, of Harold Ramis’s 1993 masterpiece, which ventures into the heart of darkness and despair to ultimately emerge unharmed, but not unmarked. This story of a man doomed to relive the same day over and over again is not concerned about tomorrow. A true absurdist triumph, it cares not what the destination might be, for it knows that the pursuit of meaning is itself meaningful whether or not that pursuit is eventually rewarded. Life might very well lack purpose, and it might very well be a struggle. But that doesn’t mean you have to be an asshole about it.

A shot of a blue sky (cotton-white clouds floating, lazily, across the screen) opens the film. Every few seconds the shot changes—yet it remains the same. The sky is blue, the clouds as pearly as before and still in their hazy dance, even though they are not the same as the ones from the previous shot. It is a visual metaphor that permeates the rest of the film. That it is intertwined with an otherworldly small town marching band track only adds to the positively Lynchian feel.