apocalypse now

Today in Movie History: August 15

Disaster or masterpiece? That distinction can hinge on the razor’s edge sometimes, especially when an ambitious, talented and possibly crazy filmmaker is involved. Case in point: Apocalypse Now, Francis Ford Coppola’s effort to encapsulate the war in Vietnam as seen through a variation of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. The shoot was infamous for its delays, debacles and outright danger, …

bonnie-and-clyde-12

Today in Movie History: August 13

When you talk about movies that change the way movies were made, the list is very short. But it inevitably includes Bonnie and Clyde, Arthur Penn’s wild version of the infamous Depression-Era outlaws that became a symbol of the 60s counter-culture. Its avant-garde filmmaking techniques stood in stark contrast to Hollywood’s active creative stagnation at the time, and its tale of doomed rebellion resonated …

Buckaroo Banzai

Today in Movie History: August 10

I was tempted to start with Red Dawn here, because when you’re talking batshit crazy movies it should be at the top of the list. But I’m going to follow my heart and go with The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai: Across the 8th Dimension, one of the most absurdly marvelous things the 80s ever produced. It jump-starts its own comic-book universe …

The-Abyss-Water-Face

Today in Movie History: August 9

Stories of the infamous shoot for James Cameron’s The Abyss are almost as harrowing as the movie itself. The director’s penchant for perfectionism led him to engineer an unprecedented underwater shooting schedule, pushing cast and crew to the limits, and endangering people’s safety more than once. One particularly grueling evening triggered a furious emotional meltdown from actress Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, still spoken of in …

StandbyMe

Today in Movie History: August 8

Rob Reiner was still known as a comedic filmmaker when he tackled Stand by Me, based on a nostalgic Stephen King story that ran dead-set against the author’s own reputation as a scare master. It turned out to be one of the best King adaptations to date, with strong performances from a very young Wil Wheaton, Jerry O’Connell, Corey Feldman and …

MSDUNFO EC013

Today in Movie History: August 7

The Western, as a genre, has supposedly been on death’s door since Heaven’s Gate, though it has continued in fits and starts, and still sees its share of memorable films crop up. None rose higher than Unforgiven, Clint Eastwood’s farewell to the genre that made him famous, and easily one of the greatest films on his impressive resume. It explores notions of violence …

the-sixth-sense-1

Today in Movie History: August 6

Today marked a trio of notable films — well, okay, two notable films and one amusing outlier — all released the same year. The one everyone was talking about at the time was The Sixth Sense, M. Night Shyamalan’s calling card about a terrified little boy (Haley Joel Osmond) who can see ghosts and a troubled therapist (Bruce Willis) who resolves …

Damon_motorcycle

Today in Movie History: August 3

Jason Bourne has been through his ups and downs at the moves. Yet it’s important to note just how improbably successful this series has been overall: turning a turgid series of bestselling airport paperbacks into the most muscular and credible spy franchise since James Bond. Director Paul Greengrass and star Matt Damon deserve the lion’s share of the credit for that. …

Heat of the Night

Today in Movie History: August 2

We have two movies about the night, and what happens in them on this date. We’ll start with In the Heat of the Night Hollywood’s always-late-to-the-party attempt to discuss the changing face of race relations in America. Though straightforward and by-the-numbers in many ways, Norman Jewison’s murder mystery plot — in which a black Philadelphia detective (Sidney Poitier) is tasked …