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Thursday, Apr 28, 2011
Many columns have been devoted to the successful transitions of actors such as Clint Eastwood and Ben Affleck from acting into directing, but who are some of the women that have excelled behind the camera?

D.W. Griffith wanted to be a director. But when he showed up knocking at film studio Biograph’s doorsteps, all they could offer him was a role as an actor, something Griffith already had plenty of experience with on the stage. He was happy with the work, as he remembered the days when he had to shovel coal or pick hops to make a living all too well. While his ultimate dream was to become a playwright, his dire financial situation made him decide to have a go at film screenwriting and directing as well, and it was in this that he would achieve tremendous fame with The Birth of a Nation. Not that this came easily; it was only when a last-minute cancellation by house director Wallace McCutcheon left Biograph bosses scrambling for a replacement that Griffith got his break. In 1908, his first film titled The Adventures of Dollie made its New York debut. The twelve-minute film about a kidnapped young girl floating down the river in a barrel sold twenty five copies, and Biograph offered Griffith a contract. The rest is history.


One hundred years later, not all that much has changed. Aspiring actors and actresses wait tables or take on other odd jobs awaiting that one crucial callback. And once one has a foot in the door on screen, the established networks come in quite handy when thinking about a career behind the cameras. This week, Ryan Phillippe became the latest actor to express an interest in taking on a more active role behind the scenes. The appeal is obvious. Directing is more prestigious, it allows one express his or her creative vision in ways that acting never could, is interesting financially, plus it offers better long-term prospectives when looks start waning or when one is ready for a more private existence. Numerous blogs have been written about actors who have successfully (or not so) made the transition—the undisputed number one being Clint Eastwood, while Ben Affleck is turning out to be quite the talent as well—but notably absent from the lists are actresses who did the same.  However, this certainly does not mean that there have been no actresses who have demonstrated considerable talent behind the cameras. I have chosen to focus on directors rather than producers, meaning that Mary Pickford is left out—even though she remains the most powerful woman behind the screens up until this day in her role as a producer and founder. Here are six actresses who have taken the leap:


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Tuesday, Apr 26, 2011
As Michael Scott fades into reruns, can Steve Carell continue his climb to movie star status?

In his first post-Office role, Steve Carell is playing it safe. First, he chose a familiar character—a depressed, funny, romantic everyman named Cal Weaver in Crazy, Stupid, Love (due July 29). Similar to his roles in Date Night, Dan in Real Life, and even The 40 Year Old Virgin, Carell plays a middle-aged man looking for love after a seemingly ordinary life racked with an extra dose of downers. In the sporadically funny two-minute trailer, Cal seems relatable, sympathetic, and even attractive after a comely makeover. Not a bad one-two-three punch for the funnyman (oh yeah, he’s funny, too).


While the trailer makes Carell’s top-billing clear, the other above-the-title names make Crazy, Stupid, Love seem like an even wiser choice for an actor who thrives in ensemble pieces. Just about every demographic is covered by the film’s four stars. Carell brings the Office crowd who loves Jim and Pam just as much as Michael. Julianne Moore lends respectability and Oscar cred to an otherwise youth-oriented cast. Speaking of, the enticing coupling of Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone should prove irresistible for the cinema-savvy 18-49 group. Throw in a few extra fans paying for the cast’s respective sex appeal and Carell’s production company, Carousel Productions, should expect a $20 million-plus opening weekend.


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Thursday, Apr 21, 2011
Hauer’s entire career is characterized by elusiveness; it is impossible to pinpoint him on genre, type of character, or the scale or format of the productions he stars in, and this is what makes his oeuvre so exciting. Also in 2011.

With his piercing blue eyes, blond hair, and chilling performances, Rutger Hauer is not an actor you will quickly forget. At 67, he is more prolific than ever, with around seven films (depending on which country you live in) in cinemas this year. With international successes such as Blade Runner and The Hitcher, Hauer is one of the very few Dutch actors who have forged a successful career in Hollywood, and in the process singlehandedly gave Dutch cinema a face. Hauer’s entire career is characterized by elusiveness; it is impossible to pinpoint him on genre, type of character, or the scale or format of the productions he stars in, and this is what makes his oeuvre so exciting. This Wednesday—on the first day of the Amsterdam Fantastic Film Festival—he was honored with a Career Achievement Award. With all these accolades coming his way and a whole host of new films coming our way, it is the perfect time for a guidebook to Rutger Hauer’s 2011.


The Netherlands and the United States are the two defining countries of his career. Ever since he catapulted into the limelight with the risqué Dutch Turkish Delight, Hauer has found himself going back and forth between the two. With a major starring role in Dario Argento’s Dracula 3D coming up and his recent appearance in the coldly received exorcism-thriller The Rite, Dutch journalists again confronted Hauer with the by-now completely superfluous question: what about The Netherlands? Hauer grasped the award ceremony as an opportunity to remind all those present that he hasn’t forgotten his “Dutch soul.” The grass, the water, the humor, and even the reserved attitude of the people, Hauer loves it all. He currently resides in the province of Friesland, a province all the way up north characterized by an abundance of lakes and natural beauty and the relative absence of people.


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Thursday, Mar 3, 2011
Ten movies we are looking forward to before the Hollywood Summer Hype Machine goes into overdrive.

On 6 May, the adventures of that fallen Valhalla hero Thor will officially kick off the 2011 Summer movie season. Yeah, that soon. Indeed, it does seem right around the corner, and so far, with January and February failing to ignite much motion picture passion, the popcorn overkill of the annual heatwave hype can’t come soon enough…or can it. Actually, in the next few weeks, Hollywood appears to be hedging a few of their box office bets, bringing out niche films that, while perhaps not up to par with the patented mainstream moneymakers, have the possibility of being those most valued of unexpected surprises - the sleeper. It happened with 300. It happened with Alice in Wonderland. With Rango and The Adjustment Bureau this weekend (4 March), the studios are starting to get serious, entertainment wise, with the viewing public.


At SE&L, there are ten films unfurling in the next two months that totally have our attention. Of course, we also thought that Sanctum would soar (it didn’t), that The Green Hornet would beat the current comic book trend (it did so, barely) and that The Mechanic and Drive Angry would mark the return of the Hollywood bad-ass (well…). Indeed, the Spring thaw means very little to Tinseltown. Instead, it’s all about write-offs and tax dodges, deliberate scheduling moves mandated by star contracts, business models, and the post-Oscar, pre-sunstroke malaise. Of course, every year something sneaks out and stuns viewers with its unexpected levels of fun. Perhaps one of the ten films featured here will be that artistic anomaly.


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Tuesday, Feb 8, 2011
A lot of production, distribution, and marketing companies spent a lot of time and a lot of money to air ads for movies that are six months away. Which ones will make them a lot of money instead of costing exactly that?

By now I’m sure everyone has analyzed and re-analyzed every Super Bowl commercial a few dozen times with friends, family, and that crazy internet blogger who somehow didn’t like the Darth Vader Volkswagon ad. Soon, the ads that aren’t re-aired a hundred thousand times during normal programming will drift out of your memory and into YouTube infamy. Some ads, though, need to be remembered. Some marketers count on it, and may not know if their $3 million clip was worth it til May, June, or July.


Movie previews are those of a different breed. They pop up on Super Bowl Sunday to alert you of their existence and provide enough brief, flashy images to stick in your brain for months and months. Some do it better than others. Some don’t have to try. Some are a giant waste of cash. Most are for people who won’t think too hard about them, but you are clearly not one of those people. Neither am I, so let’s dig in and debate which spots proved worthy of their hefty price tags and which won’t ever see that money again.


Key:
1 – This movie will gross less than it cost to air the ad, and it’s because of this horrid spot.
5 – Meh. It won’t help, but it probably didn’t hurt it either.
10 – I didn’t want to see it before, but I darn sure do now! Wow!


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