The Story of Film Part 5: Post War Cinema

Our last column on Mark Cousin’s The Story of Film left us in 1939, as the clouds of war rolled in. By the early 1940’s, the world was fully embroiled in the conflict of World War 2. Film production in most countries either slowed down or closed entirely. Films still being made were full of propaganda and featured stalwart characters fighting their country’s enemies for the glory of their nation. It would not be until the war ended that world cinema began to grow again.

The most interesting development in American cinema would be the inauguration of a new genre: Film Noir. Literally translated from the French as “black or dark film,” these Hollywood crime dramas featured sleazy criminals, double-crossing dames, and hapless losers – often former soldiers – caught in life-threatening games of cross & double-cross. Noir captured a feeling of despair and helplessness, opposing Technicolor with a moody black & white style deeply indebted to German expressionism.

Fittingly, one of the great Noir directors was a German emigre: Fritz Lang. Lang was one of the prime architects of the genre from early “proto-noirs” such as Fury and Hangmen Also Die to later classics such as Scarlet Street and The Big Heat. Another émigré who made his mark was Billy Wilder, whose film Double Indemnity is often considered the pinnacle of the form. American-born filmmakers also contributed with John Huston directing the early Noir The Maltese Falcon and Howard Hawks directing the film of Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep. Even the director of Citizen Kane, Orson Welles, would contribute to the genre with such films as The Stranger and The Lady From Shanghai. Continue reading “The Story of Film Part 5: Post War Cinema”

That Encouraging Voice in Your Ear

I’m a self help fan who hates reading self help books. When it comes to encouraging words, I want to hear them, preferably while I go about my household chores, tend my garden, or take a walk in the park. These encouraging little talks between me and my iPod are just the thing to add more creation to my recreation, or to revivify a draining commute. Here are a few recent self-help audiobooks written and read by seasoned performers that make for great listens.

Creative Quest, by Questlove. Continue reading “That Encouraging Voice in Your Ear”

Seattle Repertory Theatre’s “Come from Away”: Beyond the Theater

     – Posted by David W.

Most of us can remember where we were and what we were doing on September 11, 2001,Come From Away Poster but few outside the tragic loci of that day’s events can have as dramatic a memory of them than the residents of the small Newfoundland town of Gander. It was to Gander that 39 planes carrying 6,595 passengers from all over the world were diverted when American airspace was closed. What happened next was a small miracle, memorably recounted in Jim DeFede’s book The Day the World Came to Town, and now the inspiration for the musical Come From Away, opening at the Seattle Repertory Theatre this Friday, with a preview at the Central library today at noon.

It has often been observed how tragic events can draw people closer together, and help us to bring out the best in each other. Here are some other titles that explore how this happens. Continue reading “Seattle Repertory Theatre’s “Come from Away”: Beyond the Theater”

Documentaries from SIFFs gone by

As I pore over the hundreds of screenings at the Seattle International Film Festival every year, I find myself focusing on two categories – documentaries and Scandinavian films. Here are some of my favorite documentaries from SIFFs gone by.

Click here to view Every Little Step in the catalogEvery Little Step is about the making of “A Chorus Line” on Broadway. Yes, it’s about actors auditioning for a musical about auditioning for a musical. Interviews with composer Marvin Hamlisch when the musical premiered in the mid-1970s are interspersed with actors auditioning for roles and the producers making casting decisions for the 2006 Broadway revival. It’s every bit as Continue reading “Documentaries from SIFFs gone by”

Last Minute Gift Ideas: Best Musicals

Need help finding a last-minute gift for Broadway-loving friends? Here are a few suggestions of recent original cast recordings that should brighten their holidays! Three of these shows were nominated for the 2008 Tony Award for Best Musical and the fourth one is in the running for a nomination for 2009.

In The Heights”, by 28 year-old Lin-Manuel Miranda, won the Tony Award for Best Musical earlier this year. Set in the melting pot of the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan, In The Heights brings a multitude of musical styles together, including Continue reading “Last Minute Gift Ideas: Best Musicals”