Long before the days when computers could bring any conceivable image to life on the big screen, we had Ray Harryhausen: a visual effects pioneer who championed the realization of breathtaking scenes, creatures, and worlds in the early days of Hollywood. The Ray and Diana Harryhausen Foundation shared the sad news on Tuesday that the cinematic great has passed away at the age of 92 for unspecified, leaving behind wife (and the organization's fellow namesake) Diana Livingstone Bruce, and a legion of grateful film buffs who have devoured his work for decades.
In the business since the 1940s, Harryhausen has contributed to some of the greatest, most important exploits in film history, most notably science fiction and fantasy. As a visual effects artist and technician, Harryhausen breathed life into greats like Mighty Joe Young, It Came from beneath the Sea, 20 Million Miles to Earth, and Mysterious Island. He went on to explore new creative ventures as a producer, crafting Jason and the Argonauts and Clash of the Titans later in his career.
Having assisted Oscar-winning special effects artists like King Kong animator Willis O'Brien, Harryhausen eventually received his own honor from the Academy. In 1992, the animator won the Gordon E. Sawyer Award for a career of technological contributions.
Along with physical prizes, blockbuster filmmakers like Peter Jackson, Geroge Lucas, Tim Burton, James Cameron, and Steven Spielberg have named Harryhausen as a major influence. Lucas as said that, 'Without Ray Harryhausen, there would likely have been no Star Wars."
Harryhausen's work on the big screen charted the course for today's vast cosmos of animation, CGI, and motion capture technology. Film has the legendary artist to thank for expanding the very idea of possibility.
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It was the trickle of pee heard around the world. Cannes attendees were aghast and/or amused an infamous scene from The Paperboy that shows Nicole Kidman urinating on Zac Efron; this is apparently a great salve for jellyfish burns which were covering our Ken Doll-like protagonist. (In fact the term protagonist should be used very loosely for Efron's character Jack who is mostly acted upon than active throughout.)
Lurid! Sexy! Perverse! Trashy! Whether or not it's actually effective is overshadowed by all the hubbub that's attached itself to the movie for better or worse. In fact the movie is all of these things — but that's actually not a compliment. What could have become somethingmemorable is jaw-droppingly bad (when it's not hilarious). Director Lee Daniels uses a few different visual styles throughout from a stark black and white palette for a crime scene recreation at the beginning to a '70s porno aesthetic that oscillates between psychedelic and straight-up sweaty with an emphasis on Efron's tighty-whiteys. This only enhances the sloppiness of the script which uses lines like narrator/housekeeper/nanny Anita's (Macy Gray) "You ain't tired enough to be retired " to conjure up the down-home wisdom of the South. Despite Gray's musical talents she is not a good choice for a narrator or an actor for that matter. In a way — insofar as they're perhaps the only female characters given a chunk of screen time — her foil is Charlotte Bless Nicole Kidman's character. Anita is the mother figure who wears as we see in an early scene control-top pantyhose whereas Charlotte is all clam diggers and Barbie doll make-up. Or as Anita puts it "an oversexed Barbie doll."
The slapdash plot is that Jack's older brother Ward (Matthew McConaughey) comes back to town with his colleague Yardley (David Oyelowo) to investigate the case of a death row criminal named Hillary Van Wetter. Yardley is black and British which seems to confuse many of the people he meets in this backwoods town. Hillary (John Cusack) hidden under a mop of greasy black hair) is a slack-jawed yokel who could care less if he's going to be killed for a crime he might or might not have committed. He is way more interested in his bride-to-be Charlotte who has fallen in love with him through letters — this is her thing apparently writing letters and falling in love with inmates — and has rushed to help Ward and Yardley free her man. In the meantime we're subjected to at least one simulated sex scene that will haunt your dreams forever. Besides Hillary's shortcomings as a character that could rustle up any sort of empathy the case itself is so boring it begs the question why a respected journalist would be interested enough to pursue it.
The rest of the movie is filled with longing an attempt to place any the story in some sort of social context via class and race even more Zac Efron's underwear sexual violence alligator innards swamp people in comically ramshackle homes and a glimpse of one glistening McConaughey 'tock. Harmony Korine called and he wants his Gummo back.
It's probably tantalizing for this cast to take on "serious" "edgy" work by an Oscar-nominated director. Cusack ditched his boombox blasting "In Your Eyes" long ago and Efron's been trying to shed his squeaky clean image for so long that he finally dropped a condom on the red carpet for The Lorax so we'd know he's not smooth like a Ken doll despite how he was filmed by Daniels. On the other hand Nicole Kidman has been making interesting and varied career choices for years so it's confounding why she'd be interested in a one-dimensional character like Charlotte. McConaughey's on a roll and like the rest of the cast he's got plenty of interesting projects worth watching so this probably won't slow him down. Even Daniels is already shooting a new film The Butler as we can see from Oprah's dazzling Instagram feed. It's as if they all want to put The Paperboy behind them as soon as possible. It's hard to blame them.
Spider-Man 2 sets DVD release date
Fans anxious to get their hands on the Spider-Man 2 DVD will have to wait a bit longer than they did for the original Spider-Man's home release. Variety reported Thursday that Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment is releasing Spider-Man 2 to DVD Nov. 30--a month later than the release of the original, back in 2002. Columbia is hoping to curb the problem it had two years ago when it shipped millions more Spider-Man DVDs than actually sold. The November release date also means Columbia can focus their attention on the Seinfield series DVD set, which will be released just before Thanksgiving. Fans will also be able to purchase a two-pack with DVDs of both Spider-Man movies for $39.95. The first DVD edition of Spider-Man 2, however, will have 10 hours' worth of bonus features and commentaries.
Publicist Lizzie Grubman gets reality show
MTV is launching a reality show starring infamous publicist-to-the-stars Lizzie Grubman, who is better know for serving 37 days in jail backing her sport utility vehicle into a crowd of Hamptons clubgoers three years ago. PoweR Girls will follow Grubman and her public relations team behind the velvet rope as they live, work and play in Manhattan, Los Angeles, the Hamptons and Miami, the AP reports. The series, picked up for six episodes, will premiere in spring 2005. "I'm looking forward to MTV viewers seeing the hard work and long hours it takes to run your own business," Grubman said in a statement Wednesday. According to her Web site, her celebrity clients include Britney Spears, Russell Simmons, Sean "P. Diddy" Combs and Gloria Estefan.
Regis Philbin sets world record
Regis Philbin has set a world record for the most hours logged on television, the AP reports. Friday's broadcast of Live with Regis and Kelly gives Philbin 15,188 hours on the tube-giving him the Guinness World Record for most hours on camera. According to Guinness World Records researcher Stuart Claxton, that's more than broadcaster Hugh Downs. "Now it's all a big blur," Philbin told the AP Thursday as he looked back on his career that began as a San Diego news anchor in 1958. "When you look back that's a lot of hours on TV." Philbin, 72, has hosted the nationally syndicated Live in all 16 of its seasons--previously with Kathy Lee Gifford and now with Kelly Ripa. In his 46-year career, Philbin has hosted numerous news and entertainment shows, including the hit prime-time ABC game show, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?.
Autographed guitars auctioned to help Charley victims
Clear Channel Communications Inc. is auctioning off guitars autographed by musicians such as Britney Spears,Tom Petty and Kenny Rogers to raise money for Hurricane Charley victims in Florida, the AP reports. The radio giant said the online auction of 43 guitars signed by celebrities started Thursday and will end Sept. 20. All proceeds will be split between displaced families and the American Red Cross. Linkin Park, Stone Temple Pilots, Nickelback, ZZ Top, Tim McGraw and Shakira are also participating in the auction, which also includes a non-musical with instruments signed by conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh and comedian Mike Myers. The guitars are being offered on Clear Channel's StormAid.com Web site.
Sheryl Crow joins Vote for Change tour
Sheryl Crow, Jack Johnson and Crosby, Stills & Nash have joined the willing-to-rock coalition of musicians trying to unseat President Bush in November. Crow and the rest were added to the Vote for Change tour, which boasts a lineup of nearly 20 artists including Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Pearl Jam and Dave Matthews Band. Concert promoters told the AP Thursday the musicians will perform at some 38 shows in 32 cities in election swing states over the course of 12 days in October. Money generated from the concerts will go to America Coming Together (ACT), which promises on its Web site to "derail the right-wing Republican agenda by defeating George W. Bush." The shows will be presented by MoveOn PAC, the electoral arm of the liberal interest group MoveOn.org.
N.C. governor declares Saturday Fantasia Barrino day
North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley has proclaimed Saturday as Fantasia Barrino Day to mark the day she makes her first major singing appearance in her home state since winning the American Idol crown in May, the AP reports. Barrino is "a true testament to what happens when you put your heart and soul into your dream," Easley said in a statement, adding the singer "has shown through her amazing talent and larger-than-life personality that goodness does really grow right here in North Carolina." Barrino, who is of High Point, will perform in Winston-Salem with fellow American Idol contestants Saturday night, on the American Idols Tour 2004.
Neverland manager testifies in pretrial hearing
The property manager of Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch testified Friday that sheriff's deputies last year searched areas of the estate not specified in a warrant, The Associated Press reports. The testimony came at a pretrial hearing in which defense attorneys are trying to limit the evidence prosecutors can produce at Jackson's Jan. 31 trial. During the hearing, Joseph Marcus testified he initially cooperated when the horde of investigators arrived but objected when officers wanted to search areas that were not on the warrant. He said a deputy told him he would call and have the search warrant amended, but Marcus said that was not done as far as he knows, and the search went ahead anyway. Jackson, 45, is charged with committing a lewd act upon a child, administering an intoxicating agent and conspiring to commit child abduction, false imprisonment and extortion. He has pleaded innocent and is free on $3 million bail.
Private eye testifies in Blake case
A 70-year-old private investigator is expected to testify before Superior Court Judge Darlene Schempp on Friday--months ahead of time in Robert Blake's murder trial, the AP reports. The request was made by prosecutors who said that because of his age, William Jordan may be unavailable at the time of the trial, the AP reports. The Baretta star is charged with killing his 44-year-old wife, Bonny Lee Bakley, in 2001. She was found shot to death in their car outside a restaurant where they had just eaten. Blake hired Jordan in September 2000, in anticipation of child custody proceedings and according to phone records included in court filings, spoke with the private eye frequently up to the time of Bakley's murder. The trial is now scheduled to start Nov. 1. Blake, meanwhile, is free on $1.5 million bail but remains under house arrest.
The Komodo dragon that took a bite out of San Francisco Chronicle executive editor (and Sharon Stone's hubby) Phil Bronstein last June, has injured his own left foot. The 6-foot-10 reptile allegedly tripped and suffered a hairline fracture while climbing down a ledge at the Los Angeles Zoo, according to PageSix.com. The bedridden dragon was not able to attend the unveiling of the zoo's new $450,000 "Dragon of Komodo" habitat.
Richard Gere told ABCNEWS Radio that the best way for Americans to deal with the Sept. 11 attacks is with "the medicine of love and compassion." Gere, a vocal advocate of Buddhism, said the terrorists are creating horrible future lives for themselves because of the negativity of this karma, and stressed the importance of compassion for everyone.
Microsoft's new advertising campaign for Windows XP kicks off today, ten days before the products official Oct. 25 launch, The Associated Press reports. The campaign, the company's biggest since Windows 95, features a 60-second TV spot set to the tune of Madonna's pop hit, "Ray of Light."
Albert Finney will play Winston Churchill in an upcoming TV movie, The Associated Press reports. A Lonely Star, which begins shooting this week, is set to air on BBC television next year. Vanessa Redgrave will play Churchill's wife Clemmie.
Rap group D12 performed at a suburban Detroit Bar Mitzvah, says ABCNews.com. Ethan Weisman, a real estate developer, hired the popular Hip-Hop group to make a half-hour appearance at the party and sign autographs.
A little-known Australian actor has landed the lead role in Ang Lee's next feature, a big-budget adaptation of Universal's The Hulk. According to Variety, Eric Bana will play Bruce Banner, a scientist who morphs into the green-skinned Hulk, when production begins in March.
The WB is going ahead with two new reality series for 2002, Variety reports. Classmates will follow a group of 12 to 16 high school alumni at their ten-year reunion. The Most Talented People in America will follow one of the show's executive producers to regional casting calls in six U.S. cities and document his search for possible future stars.
Fox has nixed plans to launch a Fox Classics 24-hour digital network which was to feature reruns and movies from the 20th century Fox library, reports Variety. Fox blames a sluggish economy as well as low demands among cable operators for new networks.
The European Union may block major record labels from moving forward on their planned music download services, the BBC reports. Some politicians fear that services like Pressplay and MusicNet would be anti-competitive and unfairly dominate the market, restricting opportunities for independent download sites.
The mood was somber and celebrity little more than a means to an end when tonight's telethon, America: A Tribute to Heroes, was shown on every major network and most of the major cable channels. There was no audience applauding; there was no audience, period, except those at home. There were no introductions; that wasn't the point, as celebrity speakers made clear throughout the night by telling the stories of the many heroes who lost their lives and saved the lives of others.
To commemorate Sept. 11, a day that could easily be thought of as "the day the music died," talented and famous faces came together for an evening of songs, stories, and yes, the occasional call for contributions.
The speeches tonight came in all varieties, all impassioned, some tearful, others awkward. A clearly nervous Jim Carrey spoke of Winston Churchill, then told the story of heroes who saved a woman by carrying her down 68 flights of stairs. George Clooney spoke of John Perry, a New York City policeman who'd filed his retirement papers the morning of Sept. 11, but heard of the tragedy and went to help. He never came back, Clooney said.
Cameron Diaz told stories of teachers who saved children at schools near the World Trade Center. Robin Williams talked of a hero who'd saved lives in the 1993 bombing and again this time, only last Tuesday he didn't make it out himself. Jimmy Smits spoke of police heroes, "cops who are willing to sacrifice their lives in an instant, for people they do not know." Julia Roberts spoke tearfully of heroes at the Pentagon, and the flying of the flag and the applause that greeted it.
Kelsey Grammer, who lost a co-worker aboard one of the flights that crashed, quoted words of strength from John F. Kennedy. Clint Eastwood talked gruffly of a day that would live in infamy.
Tom Hanks, Tom Cruise, Calista Flockhart, Conan O'Brien, Sarah Jessica Parker, Ray Romano, Jane Kaczmarek, Sela Ward, Chris Rock and Dennis Franz also spoke.
With some of the biggest names in music on the bill, America: A Tribute to Heroes was bound to be good. Bruce Springsteen opened with a candlelit acoustic performance of "My City of Ruins." Willie Nelson closed the two-hour event with "God Bless America," backed by an all-star cast of celebs who had been manning the phones all night. Does it get any better than that? Cut the album; give the proceeds to charity. We're there.
Of course, there were those who pointed out the reason for the event in their songs. Stevie Wonder, who followed The Boss, sang, "Love's in Need of Love Today," with the rather pointed line, "Don't delay, send yours in right away." Wyclef Jean's version of "Redemption Song" was peppered with cries of "Brooklyn" and "New York City" and "we've got to full-fill that book," which he sang while pointing to the phone bank.
The much-maligned Mariah Carey sang the only song she could under the circumstances, "Hero," of which she said, "When I wrote this song," she said, "it had a lot of meaning for me, and tonight it has even more meaning." Well said.
U2 appeared from London. Billy Joel tossed off a powerful rendition of "New York State of Mind" with a firefighter's helmet perched atop the piano. Faith Hill, Enrique Iglasias, Alicia Keys, a bearded and shaggy Tom Petty (with requisite Heartbreakers), a cowboy-hatted Neil Young performed as well. The Dixie Chicks were spot on, and Dave Matthews did an impressive solo acoustic tune.
Jon Bon Jovi did "Living on a Prayer"; Sting dedicated his performance of "Fragile" to a friend who died in the attacks. Sheryl Crow performed, and Paul Simon sang "Bridge Over Troubled Water."
Robert De Niro, Jack Nicholson, James Woods, Meg Ryan, Cuba Gooding Jr., Whoopi Goldberg, Goldie Hawn, Kurt Russell, Ben Stiller, Penelope Cruz, Danny DeVito, Halle Berry, Adam Sandler, Mike Myers, Benicio Del Toro, Cindy Crawford, Sylvester Stallone, Mark Wahlberg, Michael Keaton, Brad Pitt, Sally Field and other famous faces were seen answering phones at the telethon bank or singing backing vocals on the finale of "God Bless America."
The stars also took the time to make a point about the evils of racism and hate. Several Arab children spoke of the tragedy and its affect on their lives, then Will Smith appeared on stage, with Muhammad Ali, whom he'll be portraying in the forthcoming Ali.
"It was hate, not religion that motivated the attacks," Smith said.
Then Ali spoke. "I'm here because of the troublin' thing that happened the other day. I'm a Muslim, and I've been a Muslim for 20 years…. I think people should know the real truth about Islam. You know me, I'm a boxer…and a man of truth, and I wouldn't be here defending Islam if it was really like the terrorists made it look…. Islam is peace."
Later in the show, Lucy Liu said "America's greatest enemy is hatred itself."
The telethon was Hollywood's effort to generate contributions for the September 11th Telethon Fund, which is administered by the United Way and guaranteed to be distributed 100% to the victims of the terrorist attacks on America last week and their families.