Musings on the Spielberg VS Netflix Debate

Hello readers! Today is the fifth and up until a couple of years ago, it’s customary that I post five random movie news/tidbits/query under the Five for the Fifth series. Well, this topic would certainly be part of that series today!

I had thought about this quite a bit since I heard about Steven Spielberg’s plan to push for the Academy to ban Netflix from Oscars at its annual post-Oscars meeting. Spielberg is the Academy Governor of the directors branch and this is what his company Amblin spokesperson is quoted as saying:

“Steven feels strongly about the difference between the streaming and theatrical situation… He’ll be happy if the others will join [his campaign] when that comes up [at the Academy Board of Governors meeting]. He will see what happens.” (per Variety)

I didn’t know this but apparently Spielberg has said in the past that Netflix films should only be eligible for Emmys rather than Oscars. Again per Variety, this is what he said back in 2018: “You certainly, if it’s a good show, deserve an Emmy, but not an Oscar. I don’t believe films that are just given token qualifications in a couple of theaters for less than a week should qualify for the Academy Award nomination.”

This news was first reported by Indiewire, and it lists some of the complaints from Hollywood studios against the streaming service. Among others, the fact that Netflix doesn’t report box office and that it doesn’t respect the 90-day theatrical window. ROMA only spent spent 3 weeks in the theatre before it’s shown on Netflix.

Now, this is what Netflix responded with on Twitter a couple of days later, without mentioning Spielberg by name…


Now, when I first read Spielberg’s comment, I was already unnerved by it. My initial reaction is that he’s just a big Hollywood elite who does not like change, especially one that threatens his own status and tradition he holds dear. No doubt that ‘threat’ got bigger when Netflix’s ROMA got no less than 10 nominations at the Oscars this year AND won three, including Best Foreign Language film.

Now, I don’t have to be a filmmaker to realize how tough it is not only to get a film made, but to get it distributed. An indie filmmaker would be lucky to get even a limited theatrical release, and few could expect to get a wide release the way a standard legacy (studio) system would. The title of the IndieWire article alone says it all about what this ‘battle’ means for the underdogs, aka indie filmmakers…

The Spielberg vs. Netflix Battle Could Mean Collateral Damage for Indies at the Oscars

I recognize that many of the films Netflix campaign aggressively for Oscars were about people of color AND were made by people of color who are still very much a minority under the Hollywood legacy system… Beasts of No Nation (Cary Joji Fukunaga), 13th (Ava Duvernay), Mudbound (Dee Rees), and Roma (Alfonso Cuarón).

So naturally, as a filmmaker of color myself who’s trying to get a feature made, I experience it firsthand how arduous it is to get the chance to make a film. Indie filmmakers don’t get the privilege to expect ANY theatrical release, and many consider getting even a streaming release as a huge accomplishment. Thus I see Netflix as an ally to independent filmmakers, and also filmmakers of color. Based on the films they’ve made/distributed, they seem committed to inclusive storytelling which can only be a good thing for film fans everywhere. But of course that’s still somehow seen as a challenge to the ‘status quo’ who only says they support ‘diversity’ if it aligns with their own success and pocketbooks.

As a film fan, I have increasingly choose to see films on my TV rather than going to the theater. Yes, as a press member I do get invited to advanced screenings, but if I miss some of those films, I often choose to wait until it’s available on VOD. Now, when I know it’s a Netflix film or an Amazon Studio film, I’m glad to know that I can see it sooner and without paying extra because I already have subscriptions to both streaming services. So to me, the quality of a film and its legitimacy to be regarded as a motion picture (read: its Oscars-eligibility) has no bearing on where it’s presented. Spielberg seems to say that there is one way to see a movie and that is on the big screen. I think that communal way of film viewing will never go away, and I still do enjoy seeing some films on the big screen (even in IMAX if it’s made specifically for that giant screen), but there is really no wrong way to see a movie.

Many Hollywood studios don’t like the fact that Netflix doesn’t report theatrical grosses. They are starting to share some metrics of audience viewerships (per BGR.com) so perhaps they’d do the same with theatrical release numbers in the future? Not that it matters to me, the audience member, nor should it have any bearing in the quality of a film.

Even before the Spielberg news came out, Alfonso Cuarón already weighed in on this subject to Variety:

There needs to be greater diversity in how we release our films. Distribution models need to be more flexible, depending on the film. You cannot impose the release strategy of a tentpole film on a smaller film. You may need fewer theaters and longer runs or models in which the so-called window is shorter. We’re thinking in one single paradigm. It’s a moment to start opening up paradigms. Right now it’s a confrontation between economic models. It’s not like one model benefits cinema, and the other does not.


Now, I’m NOT writing this because I’m on the side of a multi-billion dollar streaming company. In fact, I’ve been a longtime fan of Spielberg, but his comments shows him as being out of touch and elitist who wants to maintain his status quo. He’s a product of the studio system where minorities (women, people of color, disabled, etc) struggle to get in and tell their story.

I came across this thread from Franklin Leonard, the founder of The Black List (an annual survey of Hollywood’s executives’ favorite unproduced screenplays), and it’s hard to argue with his points…


Yes I realize some of you might argue that Netflix is not an ‘underdog’ company that deserves our sympathy. After all it spent about $50 million for Roma‘s Oscar campaign alone. So perhaps the argument should be about limiting spending on Oscar campaigns? I personally can’t stand studio’s award campaign, that’s one of the worst things about award season for me. But if the film Netflix or other streaming service is promoting is a worthy one, who’s to say it’s not eligible to be included in the Oscar race??

As I have just seen a Netflix Original Film last night, TRIPLE FRONTIER. It’s the first time I saw a Netflix film on the big screen, surely the first of many. At the film premiere, no doubt this topic was all the buzz. One of the film’s star who’s also a filmmaker, Ben Affleck, is naturally supportive of Netflix, saying that “they’re helping define the future of cinema and distribution” (per Deadline).

Per Cinema Blend, Affleck spoke of his rationale why he wouldn’t be in Spielberg’s camp in trying to disqualify streaming films (even those that has limited theatrical release) from competing at Oscars…

We certainly approached [Triple Frontier] as any other movie. There’s no difference when you’re making it between what the platform is that it’s going to be seen on. I do think Netflix is doing more interesting stuff in creating a more cinematic experience for the home. More people, more viewers, bigger TVs, bigger sound. They’re doing Dolby Cinema color correction, they do Dolby Atmos sound mixes. So they’re sort of synthesizing the theatrical with the home viewing experience in a kind of interesting way. It’s all changing very fast.


Netflix continues to work with big names in filmmaking, (One of Triple Frontier‘s executive producers is Kathryn Bigelow) and they’ve got Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman with its all-star cast (DeNiro, Pacino, Harvey Keitel) which will likely get an even wider release than ROMA. I personally think it’s an exciting time as a film fan as we have more options for content and how we want to see them.

So in conclusion, I’m glad there are streaming services like Netflix exists. I’m lucky that I live in a city where there are plenty of cinemas. But even so, there are always smaller films that I want to see that don’t get shown or they’re shown only in 1-2 theaters in Minneapolis for 2 weeks tops. I’d imagine people in rural or remote areas don’t even get that same privilege, but it’d be easier for them to subscribe to streaming services like Netflix.

In the end, I believe in options… I like to be able to see movies wherever and whenever I want. In the ideal world, the theatrical and streaming model should co-exist. Just because something has been done one way for so long doesn’t mean it has to be the ONLY way.


So what do you think of this Spielberg VS Netflix debate? Let’s hear it!

 

Musings on my childhood favorite – Disney’s The Little Mermaid (1989)

Happy weekend!! Hope you’re all doing well. It’s  I’ve been quite preoccupied with a bunch of stuff this week I barely have time to write anything for the blog.

But hey, I finally did get approved by Rotten Tomatoes! Yes I know I know, I could’ve done that years ago but I guess I just never took the time, but hey, better late than never. To clarify, this blog FlixChatter is NOT a Tomatometer-approved site, but I, Ruth Maramis, am an RT approved critic 🍅So check out some of reviews I’ve submitted, A Star Is Born, Alita: Battle Angel, Cold War, etc. Oh and my first ROTTEN review: A Christmas Prince, ha!

Now, about the main topic at hand…

I actually pre-ordered the Anniversary Edition blu-ray in early February, and finally picked it up a day after it’s official release on Feb 26.

The Little Mermaid is one of my favorite Disney Princess movies. When it was first released in 1989, I was in my early teen. If I were to rank my fave Disney princesses, I’d say Ariel would be in my top three (along with Sleeping Beauty‘s Aurora and Beauty & The Beast‘s Belle).

It’s been decades since I saw the movie in its entirety, and to see it in its gloriously stunning, sharp HD is such a treat! The story features a precocious, fanciful teenage mermaid who dreams of being part of the human world. I can see how this resonated with me as an Indonesian teen growing up in Jakarta, as I too was dreaming of moving away from home and going to the ‘land of dreams’ that is America! Now that I’ve been living in the US for over 20 years, more than I lived in my homeland, I can still identify with Ariel.

We can all identify with kids rebelling against strict parental rules that forbids them from doing what they want. When her dad, King Triton, finds out her vast collection of human memorabilia… and worse, that his favorite daughter has fallen in love with a human, he destroyed her room (a sacred place for any teenager!). A perfect moment for the evil sea witch Ursula to snatch her into her trap. The ‘poor unfortunate souls’ are all of us who’ve succumbed to temptation throughout our lives, some of which comes with dire consequences.

Now, the part about her giving up everything she is, even her own identity, for a guy she doesn’t even know… well, that’s where the Disney princesses narrative has become oh-so-passé, even long before the #MeToo era. Basically Ariel made a deal with the devil, trading in her voice, identity and more for a pair of feet in order to get her man. That’s why I got such a kick out of Ralph Breaks The Internet‘s hilarious-but-accurate commentary on Disney princesses!

Perhaps if you compare to Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella, The Little Mermaid is just slightly more ‘progressive’ in that we get to see the prince–AND princess–actually get to know each other (albeit sans dialog as she’s been rendered mute). I suppose three days is better in getting to know someone than three hours (or even less in the case of Snow White!). I also think Eric is perhaps the hunkiest of the Disney princes, voiced with masculine vigor by Christopher Daniel Barnes.

This movie also boasts a memorable and rather fun villain in Ursula (voiced perfectly by Pat Carroll). I was a bit scared of her initially, ok maybe scared is a strong word, her dark underworld and witchery is rather eerie and unsettling. But watching it now, I’m hugely amused by her sassy attitude and her gravely voice. Her voluptuous octopus lower body and bold red lips and stylized white hair is like a blend between Cruella de Vil and Devil Wears Prada‘s Miranda Priestly.

Apparently Disney originally wanted to tell the original Hans Christian Andersen tale that’s got a much darker ending. But I doubt that would sit well with kids, though the altruistic nature of the protagonist in the book would appeal more to adults. In this version, the obvious problematic issue with Ariel is that despite all the privileges she has (and there are many), she can never be truly happy unless she gives up her identity and becomes another being entirely. I guess with Disney movies, one must not overthink it which would lessen the enjoyment.

I wasn’t one of those girls who’d collect every Disney memorabilia I could get my hands on, but I remember buying a Sebastian stuffed toy and kept it for a long time! Seeing this decades later, I still adore Sebastian the Crab who’s got the arduous task of being Ariel chaperon. He’s still one of my all time favorite Disney characters, and for a diminutive crustacean, Sebastian’s actually got a pretty strong character arc. I LOVE the way he’s drawn… the way his jaw drops whenever Ariel did something unthinkable, how his legs quiver when he’s confronted by King Triton… he’s SO much more than a comic relief, and thanks to Samuel E. Wright, he’s certainly one of the best-voiced character in the vast Disney universe!

Speaking of voices, Broadway star Jodi Benson‘s voice as Ariel is absolutely perfect. As I’m watching the behind the scene feature, Alan Menken & the Leading Ladies, it’s amazing how Benson still sounds exactly like Ariel 30 years later! I suppose most of the leading ladies featured there still sound like their characters, but Benson seems to have the right personality as well.

Surely the music is often the highlights of the Disney Princess movies, thanks to the genius of Alan Menken and his lyricist partner, the late Howard Ashman. I usually love the ballads that the princesses’ sing, but in The Little Mermaid, the highlight has got to be Under the Sea!

No wonder the movie won two Oscars for Best Original Song and Best Original Score. The movie is a rare double nominee in the music category as the whimsical song Kiss the Girl was also nominated!

Per IMDb Trivia, this was ‘the last Disney animated feature to use hand-painted cels and analog camera and film work. 1,000 different colors were used on 1,100 backgrounds. Over one million drawings were done in total.’ That’s truly astounding and it looks absolutely breathtaking. I LOVE the underwater world of the kingdom of Atlantica, I’d say it’s way more beautiful to look at than the recent underwater universe of Aquaman.

I have just started watching the Bonus Features, and the one I enjoyed the most is the Art of Live Action Reference where models would act out the characters in order to help the artists draw them better. It’s amazing how much the two actors who play Ariel and Eric resemble their animated characters! They also get to improvise the mannerism that we get to see in the final movie.

I love just how expressive Ariel is, her wide-eyed wonder and long, flowing red mane is iconic. Animation effects have come a looong way since then, but I think The Little Mermaid still holds up pretty well. Naturally Disney has done a great job remastering their old classics to ensure the colors look vibrant and the details are sharp, but overall the animation style itself is still a marvel to look at.

So yeah, I still very much enjoy The Little Mermaid, despite some of its narrative problems I mentioned above. It’s certainly a gorgeous movie and rewatching it was a pretty satisfying walk down memory lane.


Have you seen The Little Mermaid or seen it recently? What did YOU think?

Musings on 2019 Oscars nominations

Well it’s one of those mornings that cinephiles always wait for year after year… the morning Oscar nominations are announced. I for one don’t go out of my way to wake up early to see it live, but when I woke up, of course I immediately tried to see who’s shortlisted.

Right away I noticed that it’s perhaps the most diverse lineup of nominees… though it’s by no means perfect. The Academy’s more-inclusive picks would likely keep those #OscarsSoWhite hashtags at bay… at least for now.

So here are some obligatory random comments (good & bad) about 2019 nominations:

• Not a single female directors nominated?? 😦

The UN Women twitter pic above is downright disheartening, especially since I think there are a bunch of worthy films from female directors… Josie Rourke with Mary, Queen of Scots and Debra Granik with Leave No Trace, among others. While you’re at it, check out my interview with Debra on making the film.

Granik directing Thomasin McKenzie in LEAVE NO TRACE

Netflix is becoming even more of a force to be reckoned with… rivaling big studios in raking in nominees. It’s got 15 nominations thanks to Alfonso Cuarón’s ROMA leading with 10 nods, including the coveted Best Picture. How awesome that first-time actress Yalitza Aparicio got a nod in Best Actress, she’s apparently a preschool teacher who didn’t know much about the film industry and barely spoke any English at the time. [Note to self: gotta watch ROMA this weekend!]

Speaking of a Foreign Language film that’s highly-personal to the filmmaker AND set in black & white, glad to see COLD WAR getting recognition with 3 Oscars, including Best Director for Paweł Pawlikowski.


I LOVE this sultry, intensely-passionate romance drama, which was inspired by the love story of Pawel’s own parents!

Whoa! Sixth nominations!! I thought her performance as Lynne Cheney in VICE (once again co-starring with Christian Bale) was terrific. Sadly I don’t think this is Amy Adams‘ year yet, I’m convinced Regina King will take home the statuette.

Happy to see documentary filmmaker Bing Liu getting an Oscar nom on his first film Minding The Gap, wow! I got to meet him last year when he received an award from MSPIFF, here he is with Minnesota’s own film legend Al Milgrom. I actually missed his film at the fest, that’s one I gotta watch real soon!

I know there’ll be all kinds of people hating on Black Panther getting a nomination. But you won’t be hearing it from me. I think it’s well-deserved… a masterful work by director Ryan Coogler that made it so much more than a superhero movie. I highly doubt it’ll actually win Best Picture though, but it’s already made history for being nominated. Oh and with seven nods, I have a feeling it’ll win a couple forBest Costume Design (Ruth E. Carter) and Best Production Design (Hannah Beachler). How awesome would it be if both black women win in those categories!!

It’s no surprise Bradley Cooper is an Academy’s favorite, but I thought he deserved a Best Director nod as much as his acting one. Can you believe it he’s been nominated for an Oscar four times?? Just like his former co-star Amy Adams though, I don’t think this is his year to win an acting Oscar.

Where’s Won’t You Be My Neighbor? for Best Documentary??? The Mister Rogers biopic seems poised to be shortlisted… it certainly one of the most moving films I’ve seen all year! I’d say that’s one of the biggest snubs this year.

I know some people are outraged that If Beale Street Could Talk and First Man didn’t get more love. Barry Jenkins and Damien Chazelle were each other’s biggest rival two years ago with Moonlight & La La Land, and I heavily championed Moonlight to win. But this year, I wasn’t as in love with If Beale Street Could Talk though I find it far more moving and memorable than First Man. So no, no complaints from me that neither one of those movies get a nod.

Now I haven’t even seen You Were Never Really Here but based on what I read so far, sounds like Joaquin Phoenix AND writer/director Lynne Ramsay are both snubbed this year.

I have to catch up on three Best Picture nominees… BlacKkKlansman, Bohemian Rhapsody and Roma. Of the five I have seen, my least favorite is actually The Favourite [gasp!] Now, I didn’t hate the movie [please don’t resort to hyperbole like the rest on social media], I just don’t think it was as great as the critics made it to be and I actually find it irritating at times. My friend Cindy just did a post about it which highlights some of the things that bothered me. I do think all three actresses are terrific playing such hard-to-root-for characters. I’m especially thrilled to see Olivia Colman finally getting the recognition she deserved!

Olivia Colman in The Favourite

My last comment is on a highly controversial movie Green Bookwell, I’m glad it got nominated! I’ve mentioned it on my Top 10 list post that I see this movie as a beautiful story of friendship set during the dark times in American South ripe with racial discrimination. I’m also thrilled to see Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali each get an acting nod! I’ll be torn between Viggo and Christian Bale in the Best Actor race… my gut says this will be Bale’s year to get another Oscar.

Well, there are more that could be said about this year’s nominees but if I continue, I’ll never post this thing.


The 91st Annual Academy Awards will air on Feb. 24 on ABC.


Well, everyone’s got an opinion. What are your thoughts on the Oscars nominations?

Merry Christmas! FlixChatter Team’s Favorite Christmas Movies

Merry Christmas everyone! It’s Ruth here and it’s Christmas Day here in the Twin Cities where our blog team and I live. It’s actually an unusually brown Christmas with just a few leftover snow on the ground, nary a flurry in sight!

I’ve made a ton of Christmas posts over the years, such us the one from 2016 highlighting favorite Christmas movie moments. The last holiday-related post I did was this relay race to list 10 Best Christmas Movies where I picked this 2005 WWII drama Joyeux Noël.

Well, I thought this year I’d invite my blogging team to tell us their favorite Christmas movies, or the go-to movie(s) they’d watch often during the holiday season. So read on below and see if you share some favorite Christmas movies!


Laura Schaubschlager

Choosing one “go-to” Christmas movie is tough; it’s one of my favorite times of the year, and I have several movies I have to watch for nostalgia’s sake. If I absolutely have to pick one, though, I’ll go with Home Alone. Sure, the plot doesn’t necessarily hold up today (with current home security systems, smart phones, and today’s airport check-in procedures, I don’t think the story would progress past the first 15 minutes now), but it’s still a classic.

The cast is fantastic, with Macaulay Culkin securing his place as the child actor of the early 90’s (and my first celebrity crush) as Kevin McCallister, Catherine O’Hara and John Heard successfully striking a balance of infuriatingly clueless and genuinely loving as his parents, Kate and Peter, and, of course, Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern hamming it up as the hilarious “Wet Bandits,” Harry and Marv.

The movie is full of memorable scenes and dialogue that are still parodied and referenced even after nearly 30 years, and it’s rich with Chrismas imagery, but the soundtrack is what makes it most enduring to me. In addition to classics like Brenda Lee’s Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree and The Drifters’ White Christmas (songs that, to this day, I can’t hear without associating them with specific scenes from this film), the score includes music from iconic composer John Williams, and if you don’t get a little choked up hearing Somewhere in my Memory, his big theme for the film, you might be a bit of a Grinch.


Ted Saydalavong

I tend to watch Home Alone and Die Hard often during the Christmas season. Throughout my teens Home Alone was a staple during the holidays with my parents and siblings. It’s the first film we watched together around Christmas many years ago. For those old enough to remember, studios tend to leave successful films in theaters for a long time and Home Alone was a massive hit back in the holiday season of 1990. So, it didn’t come out on video until the next holiday season and that’s when I first saw the film with my family.

I couldn’t remember exactly when I saw Die Hard but it wasn’t during Christmas season but somehow I’ve watched at least once a year before Christmas. I think the film wasn’t considered by some as a Christmas film probably a decade after its release in theaters. For a while people just think it’s a great action film but throughout the years, it somehow became known more as a Christmas film. Of course they are some who would argue that’s it’s not a Christmas film. To me it’s a great action film that happens to take place during Christmas time, I don’t really care if it’s an official Christmas film or not.

Another film I tend to watch during the holidays is The Long Kiss Goodnight. A big budget action/adventure with a female lead that I thought was way ahead of its time. Unfortunately, it was a box office dud but I think it has sort of a cult following.


Vitali Gueron

My first favorite Christmas movie is Home Alone (1990), directed by Chris Columbus and starring Macaulay Culkin as Kevin McCallister. Kevin is a bratty but smart 8-year-old boy who’s mistakenly left behind by his his family when they fly away to Paris for Christmas vacation. Kevin at first absolutely loves being home alone, especially away from his bullying big brother Buzz (Devin Ratray) but soon he has to defend his family home from two unsuspecting burglars, Harry and Marv (played respectively by Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern). Since Kevin convinces himself that he is not afraid to be home alone, he decides to defend his family home from the burglars and rigs the house with booby traps to take on the bandits. This is where all the fun ensues, and when Harry and Marv break in, Kevin spring the traps and they suffer various minor injuries. Kevin also learns a lesson when he befriends Old Man Marley (Roberts Blossom), his neighbor who Kevin previously misjudged as being a serial killer who murdered his family. What Kevin learns is that forgiveness is a very important character trait, no matter how late it comes. I think it brings a nice message of love and forgiveness that anyone watching can relate to. The film was also nominated for two Academy Awards: Best Original Score (written by John Williams) and Best Original Song for “Somewhere in My Memory” (again by John Williams). I try to watch this movie at least once during the holidays.

My second favorite Christmas movie is Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992), directed by Chris Columbus and with Macaulay Culkin reprising his role as Kevin McCallister. This time, Kevin is little order, a little smarter but also a whole lot more likely to get lost by his family.

This time, Kevin and his family decide to take a trip to Florida, but because of a power outage, their alarm clocks don’t wake them up in the morning which makes them late for their flight. In all of the rush and confusion, Kevin ends up taking the wrong plane and instead of Florida, he ends up in New York City. Once there, instead of freaking out, Kevin decides to make the most of it and to tour the city. Meanwhile, the “Wet Bandits”, Harry and Marv (Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern reprising their roles), have traveled to New York City after escaping during a prison riot and have a new name for themselves: the “Sticky Bandits”. Kevin goes to Central Park and meets a homeless woman (Brenda Fricker) feeding the pigeons, but gets scared because she doesn’t talk and has birds all over her. He then goes to the Plaza Hotel, where he uses his dad Peter’s credit card to check in. One of the most poignant but heartwarming parts of the movie comes when on Christmas Eve, Kevin visits a toy store where he meets its philanthropic owner, Mr. E.F. Duncan (Eddie Bracken). Kevin learns that the proceeds from the store’s Christmas sales will be donated to a children’s hospital, and provides a donation.

As a token of appreciation, Mr. Duncan offers Kevin a pair of ceramic turtledoves as a gift, instructing him to give one to another person as a sign of eternal friendship. Kevin goes back to Central Park to apologize to the Pigeon Lady, and give her his other half of the pair of ceramic turtledoves. Of course, he “coincidentally” bumps into the Wet Bandits, who remember him, and then another round of booby traps are set in an abandoned house that use to belong to Kevin’s uncle. The best part of the movie comes at the end when Kevin reunites with his mother at the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree after he wishes for no presents for Christmas but rather a fast reunion with his family. I love watching this movie back to back with the first Home Alone.


Holly Peterson

There is nothing better than sitting down with a cup of warm, homemade eggnog and a favorite Christmas movie. My two favorites, perhaps predictably, are polar opposites. I’m nothing if not inconsistent. 😉

A viewing of Die Hard (everyone’s favorite is it or isn’t it this year: spoilers, it is) followed by a viewing of Love Actually always get me into the Christmas spirit.

Wishing all of our readers a Happy Holiday season, filled with a family that looks out for you and a love story that is worth telling year after year. Yippee Kai Yay!


Ruth Maramis

For me, my go-to Christmas movies have remain the same over the years and it’s one I can watch any time of the year. I’m a self-professed Anglophile and a huge fan of Richard Curtis’ work (Four Weddings and a Funeral, Bridget Jones’s Diary, Notting Hill and Love Actually). In fact, one of my all time favorite Christmas-themed episode in a TV series is The Vicar of Dibley’s Christmas Special that I’ve highlighted in this post.

This is also a good episode to ogle the the handsome stranger, Richard Armitage (ehm)

So it’s no surprise that Love, Actually is one I can watch time and again, especially during the holiday season. I love that Curtis’ able to balance pathos, irony and absurd humor so perfectly in this scene set in a shopping centre during the hustle and bustle of the Christmas holiday. Absolute classic.

Now, You’ve Got Mail isn’t exactly a Christmas movie per se, but it has several significant Christmas scenes that I’d like think of it as such. Whenever I’m feeling nostalgic and a tad sentimental during the holidays, I’m usually in the mood to watch this Nora Ephron classic. This scene in particular often gets me teared up… I love the setting itself of a winter day in NYC with the sparkling and festive Christmas tree, but it also captures the sentiment of feeling lonely and missing the one you love so perfectly. It’s a beautifully-emotional scene that shall always remains timeless.


So friends, now that we’ve shared ours…

… tell us your favorite or go-to Christmas movie(s)!

Rest in peace STAN LEE … thank you for all your entertaining + inspiring creations

Today the world lost a beloved legendary comic book writer who’s been entertaining and inspiring us for decades. Stan Lee died today, he was 95.

The co-creator of SO many iconic Marvel characters — Spider-Man, Iron Man, Black Panther, Thor, the X-Men, and the Fantastic Four — Stan Lee was larger than life. There’s even a Wiki page dedicated to ALL of the fictional characters he created or co-created. Some even called him a real-life superhero, and rightly so. He was an inspiration to many, and was a pioneer in his field as a comic book artist… he broke down barrier between artists and audiences as THR pointed out in this article, and he condemned racism and bigotry through his heroes in his comics, as well as directly using his Marvel “Stan’s Soapbox” column in 1968…

I remember reading how Stan Lee often felt that what he did (as a comic writer, editor and publisher) wasn’t really important work… as many people in entertainment could relate to. But of course his work inspired millions, as many people would attest today as we all mourn him.


I watched his documentary With Great Power: The Stan Lee Story at Twin Cities Film Fest in 2011 and wrote a brief review of it here. His characters resonated with people as they too had real problems and real angst that people can relate to. X-Men for example, deal with a message for tolerance for outcasts, real-life themes that are still pertinent to this day that elevate the comic-book stories to be more than simply entertainment.

I greatly admire him and am one of those millions who are entertained as well as inspired by his creations. I read a bunch of articles about Stan Lee today, but one of them stood out to me because it came from a personal experience: What 20 Years of Lunches With the Comics Legend Taught Me. Apparently the ‘private’ Stan Lee wasn’t that different from ‘public’ Stan Lee and he’s just as eccentric (in a fun way) as I had imagined.

Naturally, tributes have been pouring in all day from various celebrities … this one from Captain America himself echoes my sentiment about Stan Lee… and clearly, not every superhero wore capes.

Let me end this small tribute with this video of every Stan Lee cameos from 1989. In fact, I had just seen his cameo (in cartoon form) in Ralph Breaks The Internet as one of the main characters was in the Oh My Disney fansite.

I always enjoy seeing Stan the Man in all his cameos, but some are more memorable than others. My top three favorite cameos are:

  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier – “I am SO fired!”
  • Captain America: Civil War: “Are you Tony Stank?”
  • Thor Ragnarok: “My hands aren’t as steady as they used to be.”

You’ll be sorely missed, Stan Lee… but your legacy shall live on forever.


What’s your favorite Stan Lee’s comic book creation… or if that’s too tough to answer, what’s your fave Stan Lee cameo(s)?

HALLOWEEN SPECIAL: Count Orlok’s Nightmare Gallery – Salem’s Horror Museum

Special Halloween’s Post courtesy of
LAURA SCHAUBSCHLAGER

It’s almost Halloween’s Eve and today we’ve got a special post from our horror correspondent Laura, who’s recently traveled to Salem to celebrate her birthday! While there, she got to talk with the founder/owner James about the popular attraction, which boast an amazing artistry and production details that would attract horror actors as well as horror fans.

So enjoy her writeup below from her visit to COUNT ORLOK’s NIGHTMARE GALLERY:

As most of you regular FlixChatter readers know, I’m the resident horror writer. I cover other genres, but horror is my wheelhouse. So when I visited Salem, MA over my birthday weekend and found out they had a horror movie museum, you know what was at the top of my list of things to do. Count Orlok’s Nightmare Gallery has been a Salem staple for the past 11 years and is a must-see for horror fans and movie buffs alike, filled with incredibly detailed wax figures of famous horror characters, from silent films to Universal Monsters to 80’s slashers and everything in between, all including plaques listing interesting production info about the movies. I thought it would be fun to visit it myself and write about it as a Halloween feature for the blog.

Even if this isn’t posted by Halloween, Count Orlok’s is absolutely worth learning a little more about. I had the immense pleasure of speaking with James, Count Orlok’s Nightmare Gallery’s founder, about the museum and its beginnings, the impressive list of horror celebrities who have visited it, and the horror genre in general.

Count Orlok’s Nightmare Gallery opened in September of 2007 on Derby Street in Saelm, after having been a traveling museum based out of Newport, RI simply known as “The Nightmare Gallery.” The name was changed to Count Orlok’s Nightmare Gallery mostly to avoid being confused with “The Nightmare Factory,” a haunted house attraction in the same town. The name Count Orlok was chosen partially because the iconic Nosferatu villain fell under public domain, and partially because of the air of mystery the name provided; “Not many people know the name is from that movie,” James informs me. The museum moved to a new location on Essex Street just this fall, after the landlord of the first location said he might not be able to renew the lease after a couple more seasons due to a park going in next door. Fortunately, the new location has worked out well; there’s an entire basement level that hasn’t been opened yet, but will contain even more exhibits, including a collection of Hammer Horror characters.

On the topic of the exhibits, I cannot begin to describe how lifelike these wax figures are. 1990’s It’s version of Pennywise, for example, is so detailed that it’s hard to believe a 44-year-old Tim Curry didn’t time travel to the museum in his full clown garb. It turns out that this figure is actually the museum’s first one made by 3D printer; they had another excellent Pennywise statue before, but James is always making sure they have the best versions possible for whatever characters he can find. The sculptors who provide the figures are a mix of people who have worked in film, newcomers at the edge of breaking into the industry and are creating in L.A., and some who have nothing to do with the film industry and are simply very talented artists. While plenty of the sculptures are permanent fixtures, James is always looking to add new ones when he can. “In the back of my mind, I keep a vague rolodex of monsters people have wanted to see in the past,” he explains. “If I happen to find them, I will try to bring it to my museum.” In addition to the exhibits, there is a small theater in the back of the museum where they screen public domain horror movies (Vincent Price’s House on Haunted Hill had just started while I was there). James also plans on using this space for special presentations on things like how the monsters are made, how he started collecting, etc.

“Horror movies in particular give you an escape that’s not entirely comfortable, that gives you a touch of anxiety, makes your adrenaline pump.” – Museum founder/owner James

Wax sculptures aren’t the only horror figures that frequent Count Orlok’s. The museum often hosts prominent horror celebrities (my visit landed right between a visit from Friday the 13th’s Kane Hodder and Halloween’s Tony Moran, so I clearly need to plan my trip better next time). Tony Moran, the unmasked face of Michael Myers in the original Halloween, was actually the museum’s first celebrity guest in 2009, and is a frequent visitor. Other notable guests include Dee Wallace, whose horror credits are too many to list here (seriously, look at her IMDB page), and whom James effusively describes as “very sweet, such a love,” telling me about how she met with fans outside the old location on one of the very coldest nights of October, keeping a wide smile on her face the whole time despite the freezing weather. The museum has also hosted Doug Bradley, AKA Pinhead from Hellraiser (the noise I made when James told me he got to walk through the museusm with Pinhead chatting about Pinhead might not have been human). And those few are only a small handful of the actors Count Orlok’s Nightmare Gallery has hosted.

At the end of our interview, I asked James a question I get a lot: what is it that you like about horror movies? “It’s a very unique escape from reality,” he muses. “Horror movies in particular give you an escape that’s not entirely comfortable, that gives you a touch of anxiety, makes your adrenaline pump.” He was hooked at a young age, when as a kid, he saw a commercial (he thinks maybe for Energizer batteries) with Vincent Price that ended with Vincent’s eyes glowing green. “I was enthralled,” James says. “It was very atmospheric…the atmosphere gets people.” His love for the genre grew as he got older, beginning to collect wax monster heads at 13 or 14, after having seen a neighbor’s impressive collection at a home haunt (a haunted attraction in someone’s actual home) a couple years earlier and learning from them about how to be discerning about collecting, getting numbers of potential resources, browsing catalogues, etc. Needless to say, the guy has been in the game for a long time, and that dedication shows in every square inch of his museum.


Even if you’re not a horror fan, Count Orlok’s Nightmare Gallery is a must-see attraction in Salem, just for the artistry alone. If you live in the area or plan on visiting the East Coast, definitely add this to your itinerary. You can learn more at www.nightmaregallery.com or follow them on Facebook under Count Orlok’s Horror Gallery.

Valentine Special – A tribute to the film-related influences that inspire ‘Hearts Want’

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!

Today is actually the only night where I don’t have somewhere to be this week which is a treat for me. So my hubby and I are going to get some takeout from one of our fave restaurants (most likely Thai) while my hubby treat us w/ some chocolate-dipped strawberries for dessert. #yum

I often post something romance-related on V-day, such as favorite unconventionally-romantic films, cinematic romances or favorite romantic couples. But for this year I thought, since my short film is an indie romance, why not share some of my film influences (whether it’s authors, filmmakers, talents or films) over the years. My short film is a subset of the feature screenplay of the same name. It centers on former lovers Lily & Jacques who reunite for a play by their drama teacher after seven years apart.

If you haven’t seen it yet, below is the teaser to my short film…

Jane Austen

This is no surprise at all to those who’ve read my blog regularly or follow my filmmaking journey. I mentioned in my the film’s crowdfunding campaign that the story is partly inspired by my favorite Austen novel, Persuasion.

There’s something so timeless about long lost love and second chances… and how the heart doesn’t always fully recover no matter how long time has passed.

A man does not recover from such a devotion of the heart to such a woman… He ought not. He does not.
– Captain Wentworth

Seven years has passed when Anne Elliot were reunited with Captain Wentworth, but he hasn’t forgiven the fact that she had broken their engagement. The agony of repressed feelings and fear of losing the ones they truly love is something so relatable even in modern society… and the fact that the story is told from Anne’s perspective, a woman, makes it all the more significantly poignant.

I love that in Persuasion, Anne pointed out to Wentworth’s friend Captain Harville that many literary works in that day were all written by men. ‘Men have had every advantage of us in telling their own story’ Anne says. That’s all the more reason I wanted to tell Hearts Want from the woman’s perspective, who also has to own up to the decision she made seven years prior when she left the man she loved.

The beauty of Austen’s work is that they’re filled with wonderful, fully-formed female characters! Yes there are iconic men like Mr. Darcy and Captain Wentworth, but for me, it’s the inner strength of Anne Elliot and Elinor Dashwood that always inspire me. Their patience and endurance seems like a lost art in today’s world, but don’t let their demure demeanor fool you, nor mistake their perseverance for weakness. As I’ve mentioned in this post, Elinor loves ardently but she’s also fiercely realistic and principled, and she perseveres despite her emotional suffering. In essence, she is a survivor.


Phantom of the Opera (2004)

Though I don’t go to the theatre as much as I would have liked, I’ve always been fascinated by the world of theatre. I have seen Phantom of the Opera three times on stage, including the not-so-successful sequel Love Never Dies in Adelphi Theatre, London.

The critics panned this cinematic adaptation but I LOVE the lush visuals and sensuality of this POTO adaptation. There’s such a titillating mystery of love in a historic, vintage theatre. The setting of where a film is set can add so much to the atmosphere and mood of the film, especially in a romance. That’s part of the reason I set the love story of Hearts Want in a theatre and I insisted that we filmed it in 100+ year-old The Southern Theatre in Minneapolis. It may not look like it from the outside but the inside could’ve been an antique theatre somewhere in Europe.


Amma Assante’s Belle

As a fan of period dramas, I’ve seen a boat load of them, but it’s rare to see a strong woman of color at the center of the story. Belle is a historical romance set in 18th century England, so naturally it’s scandalous for a prominent figure in London society to take in a mixed-race girl as an adopted daughter.

Gugu Mbatha-Raw in ‘Belle’

I love that Belle is an intelligent, elegant and headstrong woman who isn’t afraid to speak her own mind. Gugu Mbatha-Raw is exquisite in the title role and her beauty definitely inspires my female protagonist Lily, who’s a mixed-race woman born in London.


Jane Eyre

True love is never easy. It doesn’t get more tumultuous than Jane & Rochester’s gothic romance. As the old adage says… “If you love someone set them free. If they come back they’re yours; if they don’t, they never were.” Easier said (or watched) than done, surely.

Every time I watched a Jane Eyre adaptations (the 1983 with Zelah Clarke & Timothy Dalton and 2006 version with Ruth Wilson & Toby Stephens are my personal faves), I’m always in awe of Jane’s resolve to stick to her principles.

Inspiration can truly come from many forms. I don’t usually listen to pop music, my car radio is always tuned to Classical MPR, so I often come across certain songs from YouTube. I remember seeing this music video of 1983 Jane Eyre set to a song called The Reason. I thought the lyrics about being sorry for the hurt one’s caused and wanting to start anew resonates with me so much… we all have made mistakes in the past, don’t we all wish we get a second chance to make things right?


Stanley Weber

Every writer needs a muse 😉 This dashing Frenchman isn’t exactly the first actor who’ve inspired me in my literary journey. A certain Scotsman actually inspired me to write a novel that I never got around to finishing.

But Stanley is the first actor who’ve inspired my first screenplay! It just so happens I had seen him in a British rom-com (Not Another Happy Ending) as I just started writing my script and I was instantly smitten.

Photo by Madame Figaro magazine

Yes, the tall, wavy-haired, blue-eyed actor is extremely easy on the eyes, but the more I learned about him, the more I was intrigued by his versatility as an actor (juggling theatre, tv and movies in his native France and beyond) as well as his zest for life. I’d think that people who has such a passion for life would just be as passionate about love when he falls for someone. The Parisian also seems like a free spirit with a voracious love for the ocean (hence the sailing scene in Hearts Want), motorbikes, and traveling. Heck even his Instagram photos are inspiring!

If I had a time machine, I’d transport myself to Théâtre de l’Atelier in Paris to see Stanley on stage in Eugene O’Neill’s Anna Christie. Interestingly enough, the play has a Minnesota roots as the protagonist is from St. Paul! There are similarities between the play’s male character Mat Burke to Hearts Want‘s Jacques, in fact, my feature script opens with a scene from this very play!

So yeah, thank you for the inspiration Stanley… he’s definitely my dream leading man if I ever get to make the full version of Hearts Want 😉

Casablanca/Roman Holiday

The ‘love is letting go’ theme is perhaps more beautiful to witness in the movies than to experience in real life. Few romances are as heart-wrenching as the love story of Rick and Ilsa set during WWII. The WWII-themed play at the beginning of Hearts Want‘s short was partly inspired by this film, though the leather bomber jacket Jacques’ sporting is directly inspired by Gregory Peck’s 12 O’Clock High.

Speaking of Mr. Peck, some of you might know I was at one time obsessed with him. In fact I still owned a bunch of his dvds. The one that gets played a ton is Roman Holiday, and that beautiful but bittersweet finale gets me every single time.

I’ve mentioned that exquisite scene in my tribute to Roman Holiday

Joe walking alone in the empty palace corridor as everyone has left, his steps echoing as he reluctantly leaves the building. As he passes the two guards, he still takes a glimpse towards the stage once more. Empty. The music swells up, forcing us to realize they’re never going to see each other again. Joe keeps on walking towards the camera and disappears, carrying the memory of that day in Rome that he too will cherish for as long as he lives. Best. Finale. Ev-er.


Her

I remember seeing this film on a nearly empty theatre at a press screening and I almost couldn’t move when the end credits rolled. It’s the story of a lonely writer dealing with an impending divorce who finds love when he least expects it. There’s such a captivating male vulnerability in Joaquin Phoenix’s soulful performance as he slowly but intensely falls for his AI Samantha (voiced brilliantly by Scarlett Johansson).

The euphoric joy and intense sadness he feels for Samantha is so palpable, it’s perhaps one of the most emotional love story I’ve ever seen. Just because the love story is not between two human beings doesn’t make it less emotional. Samantha said it best…

“Falling in love is a crazy thing to do. It’s kind of like a socially-acceptable form of insanity.”


Age of Innocence

I recall a review that says something about the spirit of the exquisite romantic pain depicted in this film. It’s certainly one of the most painfully-exquisite portrayal of unrequited love.

Newland Archer: You give me a first glimpse of a real life, and you ask me to carry on with a false one. No one can endure that.

Ellen Olenska: I’m enduring it.

This may not be a violent film from Scorsese in physical term, but it’s certainly a vicious one in terms of matters of the heart. Visually-ravishing as well as a visceral depiction of the agony of love. I guess I’m a sucker for tragic tale of impossible love, which has been done countless times, but few are as beautifully-crafted as this one.


Notting Hill

Last but not least… I have to include at least one rom-com and nobody does the genre as well as Richard Curtis! The Anglophile in me naturally gravitates towards the London scenery, which is practically a character in itself in the film! It really makes me want to set my story in England, though I ended up choosing a small seaside town south of London that has a prominent theatre Hearts Want, it’s called Chichester. There is one a similarity between Julia Roberts’ Anna Scott in that my protagonist Lily is a successful actress, but of course the circumstances of the story is completely different.

In any case, I thought the opening scene is the perfect introduction to the film’s protagonist and the world he lives in.


Ok so I don’t necessarily count Shakespeare as one of my major influences, despite having seen quite a number of his plays. But I’ve always admired playwrights, hence I have a playwright (Martin) as a prominent character in my feature script and Hearts Want is the name of his play that reunited Lily & Jacques.

The Bard certainly knows a thing or two about writing romances. As he says in A Midsummer Night’s Dream…

The course of true love never did run smooth.


Thoughts on these talents/films? What are some of your own film influences?

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