obits

Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert - film critic, journalist, screenwriter, and the first film critic to win the Pulitzer Prize, has passed away after a long battle with cancer. He is survived by his wife Chaz, along with a step-daughter and two step-grandchildren. The news comes just two days after Ebert posted on his own blog about taking as self-described “leave of presence” from some of his heavy workload to focus on new projects and movie reviews he was passionate about. His is a tremendous loss to the world of film, from critics to creators to fans. The news was first reported by Neil Steinberg at Ebert’s own home paper, The Chicago Sun-Times, and we point you to his lovely, thoughtful obituary for an indelible portrait of the man. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends.

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Tony Scott

Tony Scott – the director of Top Gun, True Romance, Man on Fire and many others – has died. According to USA Today, the filmmaker jumped off of the Vincent Thomas Bridge at the Port of Los Angeles, leaving a suicide note in his parked car.  He was a husband and father to two young children. Scott was certainly a trailblazer – creating a model for other commercial directors to break into feature film production – and he was also a fierce creator who rose to the top of the Hollywood list when it came to action directors. He was known for frequently partnering with the same group of actors including Denzel Washington, Christopher Walken and James Gandolfini. Of course, he also produced much of his work alongside brother Ridley Scott and was perhaps the only man on the planet who could make a washed-out red baseball cap look cool. He leaves behind a lot of stories, but that’s never quite enough is it? Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends.

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Chris Marker

Documentarian, experimental filmmaker, essayist, photographer, multimedia guru, and all-around Renaissance Man Chris Marker passed away in his home country of France yesterday, allegedly his 91st birthday. Marker had a long, accomplished, celebrated, and prolific career as a pioneer of what is now known as the essay film – a form of documentary that artistically investigates a thesis rather than seeking to “objectively document” its subject. Marker, along with other French cinematic pioneers Alain Resnais and Agnès Varda, was part of the Left Bank Cinema movement of the 1950s, a coalition that influenced and overlapped with the French New Wave. Marker made many powerful and expressive non-fiction films, but he was perhaps most famous for his sole fiction film, La jetée (1962), a time travel short told masterfully through still images.

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Ernest Borgnine Oscar

Oscar winner Ernest Borgnine died Sunday in Los Angeles, according to Variety. He was 95. The consummate character actor was the oldest living Best Actor recipient (having won for his brilliant turn as a love-seeking butcher in 1955′s Best Picture winner Marty). Throughout his career, he played a wide spectrum of characters – getting to strangle Lee Marvin, calling upon his own military experience for several roles, and escaping from New York with Kurt Russell. He played towering figures and bit parts with equal gusto and shared a grand sense of passion and dedication to his art. There are more than a few of his films available to watch instantly, and Quint over at AICN (who had the privilege of speaking with the man) has a fantastic feature honoring Borgnine, There are few actors so skilled, humble and beloved. It’s funny, then, that is last role should be in The Man Who Shook the Hand of Vicente Fernandez as a bitter old man looking back on a life lived without meaning. From the way fans, friends and family speak of him, it’s easy to see that that final role might be the furthest from his true personality. He will be greatly missed.  

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Nora Ephron

On June 26th, writer/director Nora Ephron died at the age of 71. According to CNN, she was undergoing treatment for acute myeloid leukemia. After a stellar career as a journalist and essayist – writing sharply and often with caustic humor – she got her start in film with television (writing an episode for Adam’s Rib in 1973 and penning the TV film Perfect Gentlemen in 1978. Her first feature as a writer was Silkwood, a biopic exploring the mysterious death of whistle-blower Karen Silkwood which earned Ephron an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay and began a professional relationship with Meryl Streep.

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Tim Hetherington, the director of last year’s Academy Award Nominated and Sundance Grand Jury Prize Winning war documentary Restrepo has been killed alongside photographer Chris Hondros while filming in Libya. Three other journalists were said to have been injured in the same mortar attack, but details are still sketchy. Hetherington’s last Twitter update eerily points to the danger that he and the other journalists were facing, and also seemingly criticizes international forces for their lack of involvement in the current uprising: “In besieged Libyan city of Misrata. Indiscriminate shelling by Qaddafi forces. No sign of NATO.” Hetherington’s film Restrepo was a documentary about a hotly contested military outpost that was set in one of the most dangerous valleys in Afghanistan. It gained notoriety not only for its craftsmanship, but also for the way it took the viewer inside of deadly war situations, like maybe no other footage before it had. In addition to that film, Hetherington also did several pieces on Afghanistan for ABC’s Nightline. The executive producer of Nightline, James Goldston, is quoted as saying, “Tim was one of the bravest photographers and filmmakers I have ever met.” Source: ABC News

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Legendary American filmmaker Sidney Lumet passed away today of lymphoma at the age of 86. Lumet has had a long and distinguished career directing films and television. Perhaps what’s most remarkable about Lumet’s filmography is that he made good movies in nearly every single decade that he worked, and the time between his first film and his last film was exactly fifty years (1957-2007). Lumet, in short, embodied American film history from the 1950s to now. Lumet started out as a child actor on Broadway. After returning from service in WWII, he started directing television programs like Playhouse 90 and Studio One, before making a television version of the play 12 Angry Men before turning it into his first feature film in 1957. Much of Lumet’s career can perhaps be characterized as a series of firsts. For example, his film The Pawnbroker (1964) was the first studio film to seriously deal with traumatic memories of the Holocaust and with Jewish guilt, as well as the first to have significant frontal nudity. Dog Day Afternoon (1975) was one of the first studio films with an open homosexual as its main character. Lumet was known for challenging censorship and pushing boundaries throughout much of his career.

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The sex symbol of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and the follow-up Gentlemen Marry Brunettes, Jane Russell, has passed away at the age of 89. She first appeared in The Outlaw, after Howard Hughes discovered her and the two body parts that become both a signature of her style and of the controversy she would help create. Her most iconic role, of course, is alongside Marilyn Monroe in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes where she crooned “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” in a court room (complete with a bejeweled costume and dance moves). Although the actress went on the record saying she wasn’t happy with her film output (most likely because she never got anything beyond bubbly comedic roles that played off her hair color and chestly endowments), she left beyond a lot of solid films from the 40s, 50s, and 60s for audiences to continue to enjoy. You can watch Gentlemen Prefer Blondes instantly, and you can watch her sing in court below:

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John Barry, the prolific and almost peerless film composer, has died of a heart attack. The beauty and complexity of his work cannot be overstated – a fact bolstered by his five Oscar wins (for Out of Africa, The Lion in Winter, Born Free (2 wins), and Dances With Wolves). Of course, Barry will be less known for the statues and more known for his decades of collaboration on the James Bond franchise. He worked on eleven of the first Bond movies starting with Dr. No and ending with The Living Daylights. Barry worked on or has had his music included in 143 films. It’s a massive achievement, and one that leaves the question of which score is the best open to a wild range of interpretation. Do you go with the brassy edge of the Bond music? The sheer hugeness and intensity of the Zulu score? The sophisticated jungle rhythms of the 1976 King Kong remake? The man left behind some impeccable work – film scores that should be studied and emulated for years to come. Not to mentioned enjoyed by movie fans of all stripes. He will absolutely be missed.

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Peter Yates, the greatest American filmmaker to ever be born in Britain and live there his whole life, died Sunday as the result of a prolonged illness. Yates got his start as a feature director in the early 1960s and made the jump into a new era of filmmaking with Bullitt and Breaking Away coming in back to back years. The first, hitting theaters in 1968, is credited with inventing the cinematic car chase and remains one of the best examples of the element that’s now common place in most action movies. The second is a completely different beast altogether; it’s the thoughtful coming of age story that captures Americana and teenage life better than most American directors could.

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Pete Postlethwaite was a legend in the world of character actors. He was the essential “That Guy” that your friends maybe didn’t know by name (which you couldn’t believe) but knew immediately upon seeing his big sad eyes and round mountain of a nose. Postlethwaite played more iconic characters than almost anyone else in the business. He was Kobayashi in The Usual Suspects, the Old Man in James and the Giant Peach, and Father Laurence in Romeo + Juliet. He also kept busy by appearing in Clash of the Titans, Inception, and The Town (and playing characters that would cut your rose bud right off its stem in each). Pete Postlethwaite died after battling cancer at the age of 64. He’s gone, but he’s left a legacy of ridiculously wonderful films behind, and will see the screen again in Killing Bono – the last film of his long and illustrious career.

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Blake Edwards, born William Blake Crump, first got his break into entertainment on the “War of the Worlds” radio production from Orson Welles in 1938 and would go on to start a film career in the early 1940s. That career would blossom into a massively prolific stint in film as a writer, director, producer and actor. His legacy includes creating The Pink Panther series; directing classics like 10, Days of Wine and Roses, Victor/Victoria, Operation Petticoat, and Breakfast at Tiffany’s; and enduring as a comedic icon that has influenced the greats of the last fifty years. Sadly, Edwards died at the age of 88 this morning.

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It’s a rare thing that two films would define a genre, but that’s exactly what Airplane! and The Naked Gun do for spoofs. They are the ultimate in that brand of comedy, simultaneously showing how funny drama can be and how difficult mining the laughter truly is. It’s an even rarer thing that a single actor would so thoroughly define a particular brand of storytelling. Leslie Nielsen made people laugh by not laughing. It’s a trait not shared by anyone else in the comedy world. Yet Nielsen consistently took every absurd situation he found his characters in, treated it with life or death certainty, and delivered punch lines without even seeming to notice them.

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George Hickenlooper, the director of Factory Girl and the forthcoming Casino Jack, died on Friday at the far too young age of 47 from apparent natural causes. He was a noted narrative and documentary filmmaker whose stand out work was Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse which chronicled the production nightmare of Francis Ford Copolla’s Apocalypse Now and stands as one of the best examples (alongside Burden of Dreams) of documentaries about filmmaking. Hickenlooper died in Denver while doing press for Casino Jack, the film about disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff that sees a release in December. [Denver Post]

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Hollywood has apparently traded in the “rule of threes” in favor of a much higher multiple when it comes to celebrity deaths. Tony Curtis, Sally Menke, Greg Giraldo, Gloria Stuart… and now one more name is added to the recent list of losses. Stephen J Cannell died yesterday at his home in Pasadena. If you don’t recognize his name then it may be because you don’t like televised fun. Because if you watched TV in the 70′s, 80′s, or 90′s the odds are you’ve seen and enjoyed his work in at least one lighthearted action show. The list of TV shows he created and/or wrote episodes for is staggering… a small sampling includes recognizable series like Adam-12, Baa Baa Black Sheep, Baretta, The Rockford Files, The Greatest American Hero, Hardcastle & McCormick, Riptide, The A-Team, Stingray, Wiseguy, and 21 Jump Street. Again, that’s just a fraction of his work.

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Fraker was not only a visionary, he had the range and ability to shoot any project put in front of him.

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The world has lost a cinematic rule-breaker. What’s your favorite Dennis Hopper film?

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The actor passed away after an accident in his home.

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We celebrate the life and career of a barrier-breaker and woman whose voice could take your breath away.

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We have to say goodbye to the King of the Wild Frontier – Fess Parker.

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published: 04.20.2014
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published: 04.20.2014
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published: 04.20.2014
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published: 04.20.2014
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