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E.t. The Extra Terrestrial (#110 of 6)

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.

If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot Steven Boone’s Top 10 Films of All Time

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If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot: Steven Boone’s Top 10 Films of All Time
If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot: Steven Boone’s Top 10 Films of All Time

There are simply too many amazing films—thousands, really—that could occupy every slot on this list just as confidently as the ones that are here. So I chose great ones that, whether or not it was the authors’ intent, protest the way systems, traditions and institutions threaten to break or trap individuals. Some celebrate how people manage to hold onto themselves or each other during the assault. Others dramatize defeat (see numbers five, six, nine, and 10). This quality in movies is more desperately needed right now and more enduring over time than such film critic checklist items as technical virtuosity and screenplay structure. The vast majority of people who watch movies are the ones who bear the yoke, and last century’s problem was too many films made to satisfy those who wield the whip. We, the people, are still stuck in that false reality of virtual freedom, every time we turn on the TV, click through a corporate banner ad, or look up and see more billboard than sky.

Take Two #13: Jaws (1975) & Piranha (1978)

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Take Two #13: <em>Jaws</em> (1975) & <em>Piranha</em> (1978)
Take Two #13: <em>Jaws</em> (1975) & <em>Piranha</em> (1978)

[Editor’s Note: Take Two is an occasional series about remakes, reboots, relaunches, ripoffs, and do-overs in every cinematic genre.]

This past summer should have belonged to Joe Dante. Matinee, his 1993 masterpiece and his most seemingly personal film, finally made its way to DVD in the spring. Piranha, his shoestring 1978 debut, was then released on DVD on August 3, mere weeks before Miramax released a $20 million nominal remake, Piranha 3D, that did surprisingly good business. And all the while, Dante was sitting on a finished 3D feature of his own, The Hole, which had been positively received at the Venice Film Festival.

But anyone who’s followed Dante’s career could have seen the inevitable disappointments coming. Universal released the Matinee DVD almost silently, with not even a commentary track among its spare special features; Piranha 3D gave no credit to the earlier film’s director, despite his clear creative imprint; and as of this writing, The Hole still languishes without an American distributor. The sole unblemished success of the bunch was the Piranha DVD, which came out as part of Shout! Factory’s lovingly packaged “Corman Classics” series.

5 for the Day: Childhood

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5 for the Day: Childhood
5 for the Day: Childhood

By the time in Where the Wild Things Are when Alexander the Goat (voiced, appropriately, by Paul Dano) asks Max if he can make the sadness go away and I nearly shouted, “Dear God, I hope so!”, my patience had been pretty much exhausted. I didn’t hate the movie. I came away respecting its effort and ambition (as well as its eloquent defenders, who are welcome to argue otherwise here); I just didn’t feel the kind of pleasure watching it that I’ve felt while watching my favorite films about childhood. Where the Wild Things Are doesn’t condescend to its protagonist; but it does seem to regard his universe with a distinctly adult sense of ennui. My selections below, on the other hand, evoke for me what it’s like to be a kid. All five movies—even at their saddest and scariest moments—give their young characters complete ownership of their respective worlds.

A Matter of Trust: Pixar and Its Step-Sibling

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A Matter of Trust: Pixar and Its Step-Sibling
A Matter of Trust: Pixar and Its Step-Sibling

Sometimes, I don’t know how I feel about Steven Spielberg.

Not because of his movies, understand; I have my favorites, my occasional dislikes, the same as everybody else. No, it’s something else.

There’s an old story, that while working on Jaws, Spielberg and George Lucas were screwing around with the animatronic shark after-hours, putting their heads in its mouth and such, and managed to break the thing. They took off into the night, laughing but nervous for breaking something so expensive. I always conflate that story in my mind with Bill Gates, on the verge of changing computing for the whole world forever, getting behind the wheel of a bulldozer, racing it, and slamming into a parked car.