Sunday, January 02, 2011

Camera Obscura: Secrets of IMDb; Seeking Greta Gerwig; Olga Kurylenko Battles Romans

For most of us, the Internet Movie Database has always been there. It has always been the best and most complete movie information site ever. Ever.

And while I've been profoundly grateful for it, I had not really considered how it came to be - until this report last Friday told the tale of Colin Needham, who created the site, still manages it and how it became an industry and a public juggernaut.

Colin is 43, and began the site with information he collected himself in 1990. Today, pros use the site in ways no one foresaw:

I have been told that when people ring up for an appointment with someone important in Hollywood the personal assistant or secretary checks where they are ranked on IMDb before their call is put through."

And Colin, who remains as CEO though he sold the company to Amazon in 1998 for cash and stock (oh, that has to be an stunningly wealthy investment) now walks the red carpet himself.

I took my daughters to the premiere of the new Narnia film in Leicester Square a couple of weeks ago and it was magical. There was snow falling and the stars were all there. I get to play cool dad and introduce my daughters to film stars. When we got into the cinema there were two seats in front of us draped in gold. Two buglers came on to the stage and then the Queen came in and sat down in front of us, it was quite an amazing moment."

Obsessions with movies can bring unimaginable rewards.

Which leads me to the next topic worth sharing.

Go and find the 2010 movie "Greenberg" now. There's much to recommend in the movie, but the real jewel here is actress Greta Gerwig. She's a writer/actress/director and has a hefty indie film resume ("Hannah Takes The Stairs", "Baghead") and in this film she plays a young California girl named Florence who is warm and rather timid and a little she's lost, but agreeable to what is or might be. She connects - and doesn't connect - with her world and with the manic mind of the lead character Roger Greenberg played by Ben Stiller in one of his best performances too.

But this is Florence's movie through and through. And her performance is spectacular, though never demanding. One fine example of her ability her begins with the film's opening, as she is driving through L.A., asking "Will you let me in?" quietly to another car, and sometimes she smiles slightly to herself, eyes bright, scanning her world. And then towards the end of the film, she's driving again, but her entire demeanor is starkly different. Again she asks "Will you let me in?" of another car, but there's no hope in her voice, her eyes are dulled with worry, there are no smiles.

Gerwig has turned in strong work before, but with Florence, she owns the movie and the screen. You'll be hearing much more from her.

Oh and since I'm talking about IMDb and Greenberg, I had noted the movie was co-written by actress Jennifer Jason Leigh, another startlingly fine actress outside the Hollywood mold ... but it wasn't until I was reading her bio on IMDb that I discovered she's the daughter of an actor who I sort of grew up with, with roles in films and TV from "The Blackboard Jungle" to "Twilight Zone: The Movie." Thanks IMDb!


One more current film crush.

That's actress Olga Kurylenko, who's from the Ukraine, and captured my eye in the movie "Hitman", (another performance which pretty much made the movie) and then landed a plum role in the last James Bond film "Quantum of Solace".

The picture above is from 2010's "The Centurion", which was utterly ignored by critics and media, about a small band of Roman soldiers in Great Britain in 117 A.D., fleeing for their lives from Celtic Picts chasing them from their homeland. Olga plays a Pict warrior named Etain who is mute and ferocious. Michael Fassbender plays the lead Roman solider. Silly gratuitous violence? Yes. Action-packed? Oh Yes.

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