History/Trivia: A Pictorial History of the MGM Logo
How is it that MGM decided to put a lion on its payroll and act as studio mascot and corporate logo centerpiece? “Löwe” is German for “lion” and many are quick to credit studio co-founder Marcus Loew with the idea. Loew’s Metro Pictures merged with Samuel Goldwyn Pictures, and Louis B. Mayer, in 1924 to form M.G.M. One problem: Goldwyn Pictures had been using a lion in its logo since 1917, years before the consolidation.
The actual identity of the logo’s original designer also remains a mystery. Depending on which Wikipedia page you believe, the roaring emblem was created by either Paramount Art Director, Lionel S. Kress or Hollywood publicist, Howard Dietz. There must be better documentation than what’s online — there always is. Can anyone help a brother out?
Throughout the years M.G.M. has gone through a total of 7 lions. What follows is in a chronolionogical order. Most of these — particularly the oddball idents sprinkled throughout — are from my personal stock. Thanks to Moviepedia and Wikipedia for helping to fill in a few missing cats.
Filmmaker Spotlight: Idris Elba
No recent actor today conjures up more gravitas than Idris Elba. With his commanding figure, deep English accent, and cool demeanor, Elba has been positively typecast as a leader and strong authority figure.
Born on 6 September, 1972 in London, Idris Elba is the son of a Sierre Leonean and a Ghanian. As a young man, he worked as a DJ under the name Big Driis but began auditioning for television parts by his late-twenties. He rose to prominence in 2002 as drug lord Russell “Stringer” Bell in the HBO series The Wire. He continued to work in television, playing characters such as Charles Miner in The Office and the eponymous character in Luther.
Idris Elba's film work began in 2006 when he signed on as the lead of Tyler Perry’s Daddy’s Little Girls. He subsequently appeared in films such as American Gangster, Takers, Thor, Prometheus, Pacific Rim, and Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. In many of his films, he plays strong-but-silent authority figures; often exerting gravitas and dignity in his performances, Elba became associated with everything that was suave and refined.
Very few actors today command the presence that Elba does. His roles, his performances, and his appearance hearken back to the days of Cary Grant and Clark Gable, when leading men had debonair demeanors and dashing good looks. Although Elba exists in a blockbuster-driven world, he still manages to bring the sense of old-school class that permeated the Golden Age of Hollywood.
Pick of the Week: To Catch a Thief (1955)
To Catch a Thief is one of Hitchcock’s most beautifully-shot films and his most light-hearted thriller, thanks to the magic of shooting in Monaco, which left such an indelible impression on co-star Grace Kelly that she decided to become the country’s princess.
The first of Hitch’s films to be shot in VistaVision, which had a superior resolution and finer grain projection than CinemaScope, Hitch took full advantage of the format and included many exterior and establishing shots of Monaco. Probably one of his most romantic films, To Catch a Thief is colorful and vibrant, showing off the beautiful vineyards and estates of the French Riviera. Cary Grant plays his usual suave, sophisticated, and intelligent leading man who ends up with the beautiful leading lady.
Grace Kelly’s golden gown was designed by the great Edith Head, who would go on to be nominated for Best Costume Design for the film.
This was the film that signaled Cary Grant’s return to acting, after announcing his retirement in 1953, due in part to the rise of method actors like Marlon Brando, and due in part to the way Charlie Chaplin was treated by the American government. He would go on to act for another 11 years, resuming his relationship with Hitch once more in North by Northwest.
itsberry-fabray said: I was actually referring to his saying that filmmakers see Citizen Kane only because they feel an obligation, and also that the reason Kane is so heralded is because of its visual innovations and that no one cares for its screenplay or heart or anything, but if that's how you wanna respond whatever.
And your entire comment on Kubrick made no sense whatsoever. There was a logical disconnect, and I’m skeptical that I read you correctly, because it sounds like you’re saying filmmakers shouldn’t use images to tell a story. And I don’t know what universe you live in where Barry Lyndon is regarded as his masterpiece. 2001 is much more acclaimed.
Is that not true? Don’t filmmakers see Kane because they keep hearing about how it’s considered “the greatest film ever made” and they want to see what all the fuss is about? Has there been a movie-lover who stumbled upon Kane without knowing anything about it and decided to watch it because it looked interesting?
Look, I understand where you’re coming from; one of my teachers, Roger Ebert, has been one of Kane’s biggest supporters for the past half century and I agree with him that it’s a cinematic masterpiece, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t take into consideration someone else’s view.
What the lecturer was simply saying was that the reason for its universal recognition and acclaim started with the cinematography. Welles’s use of chiaroscuro, shot structures, the deep-focus lens, etc. Everything else - storytelling, screenplay, etc. - came after people fell in love with the techniques; when film theory was born in the 60s and people began to analyze and deconstruct the story and its characters. But at its essence, Kane's cinematography was what launched the film into the public eye.
I live in this universal. I live in a universe where film lovers can debate about movies without having to resort to insults, sarcastic remarks, or heightened and dismissive emotions. Let’s try to talk without resorting to an “I’ve had enough of you” mood, okay?
The thing with Kubrick is that he essentially became the de facto director of photography for every one of his films, and simply gave the credit to the on-set cinematography, be it Geoffrey Unsworth or John Alcott. Here’s my question, if you think 2001 is much more acclaimed, why did you put Eyes Wide Shut higher on your list? Yes, 2001 was an incredibly innovative and eye-popping film, but today, the story is regarded as a bit slow; it’s the special effects that most people remember. Barry Lyndon has a perfect combination of behind-the-camera and in-front-of-the-camera innovations. The amount of work that Kubrick went through to completely recreate the atmosphere of the 18th century makes it such a celebrated and highly regarded film.
I’m failing to pin-point the “logical disconnect” you remark on in my response. Some filmmakers are fantastic at story, and some are fantastic at visuals. Most are a mixture of both, but usually one outweighs the other. Christopher Nolan is a filmmaker who has strong story sensibilities, but his visuals are often repetitive and overshadowed by his heavy use of symbolism. Tim Burton is another example. Stylistically incredible, storytelling hit and miss. The Coen Brothers’ filmography is full of different and exciting films, and the cinematography by Roger Deakins is the reason why. When you think about The Big Lebowski, what do you remember most - the story or the visuals?
Sight & Sound's poll voted Vertigo above Kane last year. Your thoughts?
itsberry-fabray said: I'd tell that guy who lectured about Citizen Kane to shove it, because if that's what he really thinks, then he knows /nothing/ about cinema.
Well that may be your opinion, but he has 30 years of experience in the film industry and is a respected Southern California filmmaker and artist, having been mentored by Robert McKee and Drew Struzan.
The thing is, what makes your opinion of cinema better than his? On your page, you state that Eyes Wide Shut is one of the “15 Greatest Films”, but what’s your reason behind this? Many filmmakers fail to separate storytelling and narrative structure with cinematography and techniques. One works behind the camera, one works in front. To be a good filmmaker, you should have experience with both sides. That’s why Barry Lyndon is regarded as Kubrick’s masterpiece, not Eyes Wide Shut.
I wouldn’t dismiss him so quickly.
Is Citizen Kane Truly “The Best”?
Filmmakers, critics, and theorists for the past century have consistently piled acclaim to Orson Welles’s magnum opus, Citizen Kane, naming it the greatest film of all time because of all its technical achievements and narrative structure. Roger Ebert, arguably the greatest film critic of all time, gives numerous reasons for its title.
"Citizen Kane is arguably the most important film, for two reasons: It consolidated the film language up until 1941 and broke new ground in such areas as deep focus, complex sound, and narrative structure. The other reason is that it demonstrated the auteur theory 25 years before it was being defined (of course that theory was already being demonstrated in silent days). It was "a film by Orson Welles." It dramatized that the controlling author of a film, especially a great film, is usually its director, not its studio, producers, writers or financial backers. A movie studio, Welles said, is the best toy train set a boy could ever hope for."
The thing is, why do we continue to judge a film based on its relevance during its time and not during the period relative to us? Citizen Kane may have been groundbreaking for the 1940s and a colossal achievement, but if made today, would it still hold up?
At a cinematography and storytelling lecture I attended in late November of 2013, the lecturer asked of us, "How many of you have seen Citizen Kane? How many of you enjoyed it? How many didn’t enjoy it?" He raised his own hand. "Kane is one of those films that filmmakers see because they feel an obligation to," he explained. He proposed the reason for its endurance in the public eye is due to the fact that cinematographers fell completely in love with the visuals of the film and haven’t shut up about it since. It has nothing to do with the story or the characters, but the fact that Welles utilized different artistic styles to emphasize mood and texture.
So in what way is Citizen Kane “the greatest”? That’s for the moviegoer to decide.
Frozen (2013) Review ★★★½
The marketing for the latest Disney flick, Frozen, has gone two ways. Both ways are perfect for the respective demographic they wish to lure in. On one hand, Disney has isolated the comic relief sidekick, the snowman Olaf (voiced by Josh Gad), in nearly every one of their commercials, singling him out as the most prominent character of the film, in an attempt to get the younger kids to watch the movie. On the other hand, they’ve tried to brand the film as “The Greatest Disney Animated Event Since The Lion King”, in an attempt to lure in the older, Broadway-loving audience. In fact, the cast of Frozen consists of Broadway and theater performers.
Frozen is the story of two sibling princesses, the older Elsa (Wicked’s Idina Menzel), who has the ability to create ice and snow from deep-rooted magic within, and her perky and adorable, but otherwise normal younger sister Anna (Kristen Bell). When the magic inside Elsa becomes too strong to control (in a vein that’s similar to Carrie), she cuts her sister out from her life and attempts to live a life of solitude. However, this is deemed fruitless, when during her coronation ceremony, Elsa accidentally reveals her magic and brings an eternal winter to the kingdom of Arendelle. She flees the kingdom, but her optimistic sister believes she can redeem her. Anna leaves her handsome and honorable fiancée Prince Hans (Santino Fontana) in charge. Along the way, she meets up with mountain climber Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), his reindeer companion Sven, and a talking snowman of Elsa’s doing, the aforementioned Olaf.
Directed by longtime Disney veteran and animator Chris Buck and screenwriter Jennifer Lee, the film is as artistically beautiful as it is story-driven. Chris Buck brings his classic Disney sensibilities (he previously directed Tarzan) to the plate, using his Disney heritage to craft something the Nine Old Men would be proud of, while Jennifer Lee brings a newer, more modern approach to the film, allowing today’s audience to relate to it a bit more.
The way the media has been building up this film, and the amount of hype that it has been getting from fans and filmmakers alike made it seem as if it might actually be one of the greatest Disney films since The Lion King, in terms of its epic scope, in terms of emotional depth, and in terms of story. Despite some extremely great points, the film doesn’t exactly reach the heights that those Disney films of the 90s did. It is indeed a powerful film, with a strong cast of Broadway performers and almost seamless dialogue-to-song transitions, making the film feel more musical theater than Disney classic, but its main era of weakness was the story. Had the film continued on its path in expanding the character relationships, the film would’ve been much more engaging.
Idina Menzel is perfect as Elsa, with her ability to belt out musical numbers, including a song called Let It Go, which will probably be nominated for an Oscar. With Tangled and Frozen, and to a lesser extent, The Princess and the Frog, the princesses of late have been perky, ditzy, sometimes clumsy teenagers, the type of female that girls today would relate to more; however, Elsa brings a return to the regality and poise of the princesses of old. Her elegance, her properness, and her broad, sweeping gestures makes us fall in love with her. This relationship between Elsa and Anna is the driving force of the film, and ought to be explored more. There are only a number of scenes where they’re together and they share heart-to-heart conversations, but those are the best scenes of the film. It echoes the relationship between Menzel’s Elphaba and the character of Glinda in the musical Wicked.
The story structure is a bit cluttered and the plot is extremely busy, constantly cutting to more and more action, without giving us a chance to catch our breaths. In films like The Lion King and The Little Mermaid, the quiet scenes are often the ones that define the film. When Simba encounters Rafiki in a secluded glade and Rafiki gives him the advice of, “The past can hurt, but the way I see it, you can either run from it, or learn from it,” or the moment when Ariel rescues Prince Eric and simply looks at him, with an instrumental reprise of Part of Your World building in the background. Frozen immediately starts off with action and bombasity, which is exciting and fantastic, but it continues this way with constant action sequences and plot twists, only slowing down towards the end.
The songs are written by Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, the husband-wife team responsible for Avenue Q and The Book of Mormon. The songs are an immediate hit and extremely catchy, often playing melodically in the background. For the First Time in Forever is one of those great show-stopping musical extravaganzas and Do You Want to Build a Snowman is poignant and endearing. At times, the film seems tonally conflicted with the music. It wants to be loud and belting, brimming with musical motifs and stylistic choices, but other times, it tries to be atmospheric, with the naturalistic Celtic-esque Scandanivian score provided by composer Christophe Becke, with its melodic flutes and angelic choir that remind us of James Newton Howard or James Horner.
Frozen borrows from some excellent source materials and crafts a wholy original and exciting tale. It has the heart that Disney so brilliantly puts in each of their films (except Home on the Range) and is a sign of the modern world seeping into classic fairy tales.
A short, Get a Horse!, preluded the film. It is entertaining and nostalgic, using archival recordings of Walt Disney doing Mickey Mouse to create that classic feeling. Although it’s very creative and does really inventive things with 2D and CG, I only wish it embraced 2D more.
Yesterday was Thanksgiving, and I spent the day with several friends watching terrible movies. When we turned on the TV, we were greeted with the end ofHarry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and the beginning of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, a sign that ABC Family was once again showing their weekly Harry Potter marathon.
Of course, that wasn’t nearly bad enough for us, so we decided to watch a truly camp movie, The Touch of Satan. We found a Mystery Science Theater 3000 version on Netflix. We grew weary of that film and started another film, the bastardized Miramax version of The Thief and the Cobbler. Although the animation at times is beautiful, the decisions made by Miramax completely ruined what would’ve been Richard Williams’s masterpiece.
Finally, we settled on one of the greatest worst movies of all time, Troll 2. Three scenes stuck out in particular. 1) The “You can’t piss on hospitality!" line, 2) The infamous "Oh my Goooo-”, and 3) The popcorn sex scene.
Movie buffs and cinephiles often write extensively about some of the greatest movies ever made; entire novels have been written about Citizen Kane orLawrence of Arabia, but I’ve always felt that, to be a true movie lover, you have to embrace the good as well as the bad. The website Trailers From Hell is a shining example of this, featuring some of the film industry’s greatest directors shedding light on some terrible, god-awful films, not because they enjoy them, but because they find them so fascinating.
Although I would encourage everyone to watch the Troll films without commentary or MST3K-esque liners, not everyone can stomach awful movies, so instead, here is a review of them by filmmaker James Rolfe.
History/Trivia: Return of the Jedi, dir. Steven Spielberg
After the release of Empire Strikes Back, George Lucas was fined $250,000 by the Directors Guild of America for not including opening credits for the first twoStar Wars films, instead opting for the now-famous title crawl and action sequences. Because of this, Lucas quit the Directors Guild and had to find a non-union director to complete the trilogy.
His original choice was long-time friend Steven Spielberg, who had just finished Raiders of the Lost Ark and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. This was Steven Spielberg at his action-adventure peak, when he was beginning to set the standard for Hollywood adventure flicks.
However, because of the DGA disagreements, Lucas eventually hired Welsh director Richard Marquand onto the project.
Filmmaker Spotlight: David Heyman
No film producer has been more responsible for the UK’s newfound prominence in the world of Hollywood than David Heyman, the man who went on to adapt the Harry Potter books into films.
Born on July 26, 1961 in London, Heyman is the son of John Heyman, a producer for films such as The Go-Between and Jesus, as well as a stage version of Hamlet starring Richard Burton. His mother is Norma Heyman, an actress and Oscar-nominated producer of Dangerous Liaisons and Mrs Henderson Presents.
David Heyman got his start in the film industry when he moved to the United States and worked on A Passage to India, the final film of David Lean’s career. He subsequently became a creative executive at Warner Bros., followed by a stint as Vice President for United Artists before returning to independent producing.
In 1997, Heyman returned to London and founded his own production company, Heyday Films. When he stumbled upon a book called Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, he believed it was a “cool idea” and pitched it to Warner Bros. He became the de facto producer of the entire film franchise, dealing with everything from casting to finances to special effects to publicity.
Inbetween his duration as the producer of the Harry Potter franchise, David Heyman found time to produce other films including The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, I Am Legend, Yes Man, We’re the Millers, and Gravity.
Because of his success with the Potter franchise, Heyman is now seen as one of the foremost British producers in the film industry.