HISTORY SPOTLIGHT: The Bounty

The mutiny on the Bounty.

It’s been mythologized, contextualized, and debated for a couple centuries now. The villainous Captain William Bligh versus the tragic victim of circumstances, First Officer Fletcher Christian.

Historians still differ about what actually went down on the infamous ship. And while Bligh has been a lightning rod for criticism, some revisionist scholars have been more sympathetic towards him — and conversely, more harsh in their criticism of the mutinous Christian.

The story has refused to die over the decades and centuries since, as it has been kept alive — first by novelists Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall, who penned the initial Mutiny on the Bounty novel, shortly followed by two other novels focusing on the aftermath (Pitcairn’s Island and Men Against the Sea). Several films have been made based on these events as well, two of which launched the careers of Errol Flynn and Clark Gable, and another which starred Marlon Brando in his prime. A fourth film (simply called The Bounty) painted a more sympathetic picture of Bligh and gave both him and Christian a more nuanced portrayal.

By now, the background and essentials of the story are well-documented. But never fear, dear reader. I’ll fill you in just in case.

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Part 1: Background

The HMS Bounty was commissioned in 1787 for the purpose of transporting breadfruit plants to Jamaican plantations by way of the South Pacific (more specifically, Tahiti).

William Bligh was a former mentee of the accomplished Captain James Cook (1728-1799), who mapped and chartered much of the Pacific — including Australia and New Zealand — over three separate voyages before getting murdered by Hawaiian warriors on the third journey. Bligh served as Cook’s navigator on those trips and was from a prominent naval family in Britain.

Fletcher Christian was Bligh’s master’s mate, having sailed with the captain on two previous voyages and garnered a reputation as a skilled navigator. Only 23 years old at the time, Christian came from a wealthy family of lawyers, but chose to be a sailor contrary to his parents’ wishes.

The entire journey — from London to Tahiti to the West Indies and back to London — was to take an entire two years. There were 46 men aboard the Bounty during its long journey — 44 midshipmen and two civilians. After making the treacherous journey around Cape Horn, the crew stayed in Tahiti for several months, growing breadfruits in a tropical environment and planning to take them to Jamaica at a later time. However, Bligh grew increasingly irascible and became more and more demanding of his crew. Christian, in particular, became a key whipping boy and discontent grew rapidly among the crew.

The Bounty left Tahiti in April 1789. While the crew may have been slightly disgruntled, none suggested any serious talk of rebellion. After the Bounty made a supply run in the Friendly Islands (modern-day Tonga), the mutiny occurred in the early morning hours of April 28th. Christian overestimated how many men would be behind him during the mutiny; nonetheless, he cast Bligh adrift, along with 18 of his men. In addition to the core group of mutineers, several Bligh loyalists were forced to remain against their will due to a lack of lifeboat space.

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Part 2: Initial Analysis

The prevailing narrative of the story is that Bligh was, at best, an unpredictable control freak, or at worst, a wicked tyrant — thereby portraying Christian as either a tragic victim of circumstances or a justifiably pissed-off rebel. This account has been the one that’s been dramatized most frequently, first in the book trilogy and later in most of the film adaptations. However, over the years, academics, historians and analysts alike have begun to be more sympathetic towards Blight and unsympathetic towards Christian.

This was first epitomized in the 1984 film The Bounty, which starred Anthony Hopkins as Bligh and Mel Gibson as Christian. The movie, directed by Australian filmmaker Roger Donaldson, was much more revisionist than previous dramatizations, and Gibson later went on record as saying that the depiction didn’t go far enough — arguing that Christian should’ve been portrayed as the clear villain from the get-go.

(Side note: The 1984 film is not based on the original Mutiny on the Bounty novel, but rather on a different book called Captain Bligh and Mr. Christian, first published in 1972 by historian Richard Hough).

Regardless, what logical conclusion can we take from the Bounty incident? Was the mutiny justified? And more importantly, what happened in between all the pivotal and memorable moments, both before and after the mutiny?

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Part 3: Reading between the lines

Truthfully, the roots of the mutiny can be found in Tahiti, where the crew of the Bounty spent five months. Upon their arrival, the Bounty‘s crew were ordered by Bligh to keep a careful eye on the breadfruits’ growth, but overall, their duties were light during their five-month stay. Bligh had a good relationship with the Polynesian natives, as he had made contact with them many years prior while traveling with Captain Cook. Bligh presented gifts to the Tahitian chiefs in exchange for the breadfruit plants; they happily accepted and were, by all accounts, very hospitable.

Maybe too much.

Christian and the rest of the crew were weary of the sea, and were more than content to get some R&R in this tropical paradise. Given that most of the crewmen were 15-25 year old men, they were beyond willing to drink rum, lounge on the beach, and socialize with the Tahitian women — who, back in the day, traditionally went topless.

Bligh continuously stressed discipline, but by that point, the crew (including Christian) weren’t in the mood to be bothered. A frustrated Bligh began to impose greater punishment on those who he deemed lazy, boorish, or worse. However, Bligh had rarely been a strict disciplinarian towards his crew during their long voyage, and was even seen by some as playing favorites with Christian.

Bligh was initially tolerant of his crew’s boozing and womanizing after the first few weeks in Tahiti, so his spurts of fierce discipline seemed to come out of nowhere — be it floggings, forcible rum rationing, or other punishments. In addition, Christian was frequently singled out and humiliated in front of the other crew and the natives. “Such neglectful and worthless, petty officers I believe were never in a ship such as are in this,” Bligh wrote angrily in his diary.

On January 5, 1789, three disgruntled members of the Bounty crew — John Millward, William Muspratt and Charles Churchill — deserted the rest of the crew in a small boat, taking some food, weapons and ammunition with them. Churchill left a list of crew names on a piece of paper on the Bounty that Bligh later found. This list apparently included both Christian and fellow crewman Peter Heywood. Incensed, Bligh soon captured the would-be deserters and had them severely flogged.

An increasingly paranoid Bligh began to rapidly increase the workload as the crew began to fill the lower cabins with the breadfruits; the Bounty finally left Tahiti on the morning of April 5th. Despite being irritated at having to leave, the crew were actually in fairly good spirits for the next few weeks, according to the diary of crewman James Morrison.

However, Blight continued to target Christian for minor offenses and seemed to be completely clueless about how his authoritarian approach was affecting morale. For example, when the Bounty reached the Tongan islands for additional water and supplies, Bligh warned Christian that the natives were unpredictable, having had skirmishes with them during his journeys with Captain Cook. However, he forbade Christian from bringing any muskets ashore with him in case things went awry. Christian was harassed by the Tongans, who stole the ship’s anchor and denied him any further access to the islands. Additionally, Bligh later accused Christian of stealing coconuts from his own private supply, despite Christian denying it. In retaliation, Bligh ordered his crew to ration food and rum.

Then the mutiny happened. It is believed that the mutiny itself was organized by Christian alone, although he had previously grumbled to fellow officers Edward Young and George Stewart. Neither of them encouraged Christian to desert, but suggested that he would likely have the crew’s support if he chose to revolt. Christian definitely didn’t have the foresight to know who would remain loyal to Bligh or not. Nonetheless, he had the leverage, and that’s what mattered in the end. “Never fear, lads, I’ll do you justice if ever I reach England,” Bligh called to his loyalists who remained onboard the Bounty.

Part 4: Bligh’s return and fate

Bligh and his men eventually navigated their way to the Dutch East Indies (modern-day Indonesia) while rationing food and supplies. They tangled with the Tongan natives (again) and nearly got cannibalized in Fiji. Six men ultimately died on the return trip home.

Bligh finally arrived in England in 1790, and the news of the mutiny proceeded him. The Royal Navy court-martialed Bligh and then dispatched the HMS Pandora to round up the mutineers and send them back to England to be tried for treason.

In March 1791, the Pandora finally reached Tahiti and found several of the mutineers. Three of them surrendered immediately, and the remainder were rounded up within a week’s time. However, there was no sign of Christian.

Tragically, on the return trip, the Pandora ran aground on the Great Barrier Reef — 35 men were lost, including four mutineers. In September 1791, they arrived in Kupang, Dutch East Indies, where 16 crewmen also died, mostly from disease. In total, only 78 of the 134 men aboard the Pandora made it back safely to London.

Out of the 10 mutineers that were brought to trial, six were found guilty and four were innocent. Only three out of six were executed, as one got off on a technicality and two others were pardoned.

Bligh was exonerated for his actions in his court-martial and he remained in the Royal Navy. He undertook a second breadfruit expedition to the West Indies in 1793 and later become governor of the colony of New South Wales in 1805. The fledgling Australian penal colony was notorious for its rough conditions, and Bligh’s no-nonsense approach was seen as a perfect fit.

Unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way. In a bit of deja vu, the New South Wales army corps rebelled against Bligh, arresting him and declaring martial law in what is now known as the “Rum Rebellion.” To date, it is the only successful armed government takeover in Australian history. Bligh returned to England, where he died in 1817 at the age of 63.

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Part 5: Pitcairn Island

Meanwhile, Christian & Co. had unsuccessfully attempted to colonize the island of Tubuai before electing to return to Tahiti. At this point, the party consisted of Christian, 12 mutineers, and four Bligh loyalists. Christian eventually decided to take several men and a handful of Tahitians with him on a journey further east to Pitcairn Island, where they hoped to set up another colony. Many of the other mutineers stayed behind in Tahiti.

Once Christian and the remaining mutineers got to Pitcairn Island, they set the Bounty ablaze. The island itself was prohibitively isolated, filled with lush vegetation and plenty of raw materials in order to help sustain its new population. For awhile, the mutineers and their Tahitian companions coexisted peacefully, and many of them settled down and had children, including Christian.

Eventually, conflict broke out. Many of the Tahitian men were disgruntled at the hard labor they were expected to do, while debate arose among the mutineers about whether or not the Tahitians should be considered their slaves or fellow free settlers. Christian also became increasingly quiet and withdrawn during this time.

The Tahitians revolted against their former allies in September 1793, when they executed six mutineers. But only a few months later, all of the Tahitians who planned the murders were killed themselves, possibly by the mutineers’ wives as revenge. Christian was murdered, too — according to one account, he was shot while working in a field and his body was then dismembered with an axe.

Two of the four surviving mutineers, Ned Young and John Adams, grew weary of the violence and attempted to bring peace to Pitcairn. They reasoned that the copy of the Bible that was on the Bounty would be a good place to start. The two men taught the Tahitians and their children how to read and write, and also preached the Gospel.

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In 1808, an American ship, the Topaz, stumbled upon Pitcairn. To their amazement, they found a thriving colony on the island that was filled with friendly, peaceful people, as opposed to drunken, disorderly mutineers and their children.

However, with a potential war against France looming, the Brits weren’t overly concerned with the fate of Christian’s men and word of their whereabouts didn’t reach London until two years later. By that point, Adams was the only surviving mutineer (he didn’t die until 1829) and was later given amnesty. The British officially colonized Pitcairn in 1838.

To this day, the mutineers’ descendants still live on Pitcairn. A large number of descendants also live on Norfolk Island, an external territory of Australia where several settlers temporarily relocated due to overcrowding on Pitcairn in the 1850s. In the latter half of the 19th century, the entirely Anglican population converted to Seventh-day Adventism due to the efforts of American missionary John Tay.

Due to its extreme isolation, Pitcairn has no airport and is classified as a British Overseas Territory, although they use the New Zealand dollar as currency. With a mere 50 inhabitants, Pitcairn is the least populous jurisdiction on the planet. Many of the residents still have surnames such as Young, Adams and Christian.

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Coaches on the rise (2018)

Rhett Lashlee ADAY on Saturday, April 19, 2014 in Auburn AL Lauren Banrard

Rhett Lashlee — Offensive Coordinator, SMU

Lashlee goes way back with Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn — he quarterbacked a record-setting offense for Malzahn at Shiloh Christian School in Springdale, Arkansas before following his mentor into the college game, first at Arkansas State (2012) followed by Auburn (2013-16). He transformed a previously stagnant offense at UConn last season before joining forces with Air Raid guru Sonny Dykes at SMU. Lashlee is still only 35 and has an infectious energy that pays dividends in recruiting. Look for him to get a head coaching shot sooner rather than later, most likely at a mid-major school in the south.

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Neal Brown — Head Coach, Troy

Amazingly, Brown is still at Troy after a fantastic 2017 season that saw the Trojans stun LSU on the road and claim a share of a Sun Belt championship. Brown’s exciting Air Raid offenses have lit up the scoreboard frequently, while his defenses have been marked by speedy playmakers who create turnovers at just the right time. Brown has won two bowl games in two years and has a combined 13-3 record in conference play. While he has no shortage of big-time offers, don’t be surprised if Brown waits for the perfect opportunity to become a head coach at a higher-profile program.

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Beau Baldwin — Offensive Coordinator, Cal

Born in Santa Barbara, California and raised in Spokane, Washington, Baldwin has a sterling resumé: he’s a former quarterback with plenty of experience in innovative offensive systems, and he’s also experienced at the lower levels of Division 1. Baldwin coached at Eastern Washington from 2008-2016, posting an overall 85-32 mark, six FCS playoff appearances, and one FCS national title (2010). Baldwin was rumored to be a finalist for the Oregon State job this past offseason until it went to Jonathan Smith, so look out for his name when the 2018-19 coaching carousel starts spinning.

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Ryan Day — Co-Offensive Coordinator, Ohio State

At this point, I’m basically contractually obligated to put at least one Urban Meyer assistant on these lists. What can I say? The Ohio State boss can flat-out coach. So can all of his assistants from top to bottom, and Day is no exception. In addition to Meyer, the 39-year-old Day coached under Chip Kelly at New Hampshire, Steve Addazio at Temple and Boston College, and even got some NFL experience under his belt (with the 49ers and Eagles). Day could be an ideal fit at a lower-level Group of Five program that needs a shot in the arm offensively.

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Mike Elko — Defensive Coordinator, Texas A&M

Elko has been a high-riser in the coaching ranks in recent seasons, and for good reason. His defenses have been among the most statistically impressive in the FBS. He worked under Dave Clawson at Bowling Green (2009-2013) and Wake Forest (2014-2016) before engineering an eye-opening turnaround at Notre Dame last season. Seeing Elko’s lasting success, Jimbo Fisher immediately hired him when he took over at Texas A&M this past offseason. The jury’s still out on whether Fisher is the long-term right choice for the Aggies, but Elko is likely to get plenty of calls coming his way this coming winter for coaching vacancies.

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Walt Bell — Offensive Coordinator, Florida State

There’s a lot to like about Bell, who cut his teeth under spread offense wizards like Larry Fedora (Southern Miss, North Carolina) and Blake Anderson (Arkansas State). In 2016, he was scooped up by D.J. Durkin at Maryland, where he made an offense hum for two seasons despite dealing with tons of injuries at quarterback. Seeing his potential, Willie Taggart tabbed him as his new coordinator this past winter in Tallahassee. If Florida State’s offense gets back to its lethal standard, watch out…

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Alex Grinch — Co-Defensive Coordinator, Ohio State

The 37-year-old Ohio native is back in his home state after earning rave reviews for his revamping of the Washington State defense for the past three seasons. Grinch earned nominations for the Broyles Award all three years (given to the nation’s top assistant coach) and helped the Cougars improve dramatically in forced turnovers and yards allowed.

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Chip Lindsey — Offensive Coordinator, Auburn

Another Gus Malzahn disciple, Lindsey first got into the college game in 2010. Since then, he’s been a coordinator for high-powered spread offenses at Southern Miss, Arizona State, and now Auburn. Given Malzahn’s coaching tree and their track record, Lindsey will certainly be another name to watch in the near future.

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Manny Diaz — Defensive Coordinator, Miami

Remember Miami’s supersized turnover chain last year? You can thank Diaz for that. The well-traveled Florida native has managed to make an impact at every stop he’s been, starting with his first DC position at Middle Tennessee in 2006, followed by Mississippi State (twice), Louisiana Tech and Texas. He could be in high demand if the right job opens.

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Seth Littrell — Head Coach, North Texas

A former Oklahoma Sooner running back, Littrell has already gotten Mean Green fans as excited as they’ve ever been in the modern era. While a 14-13 record in two seasons might not sound earth-shattering, Littrell’s teams have featured explosive offenses, gone 10-6 in conference play and been to back-to-back bowl games. With another big season in Denton, the 40-year-old Littrell might be on Power Five teams’ radars.

Roman J. Israel, Esq. (2017)

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An experienced lawyer struggles to transition to his new position after his longtime partner dies unexpectedly.

Roman J. Israel (Denzel Washington) is a veteran lawyer who primarily focuses on preparing briefs for civil rights cases. His longtime partner and mentor, William Jackson, is a respected figure among the black community in Los Angeles who has elevated the plea bargain deal to an art form. While naturally introverted and socially awkward, Israel has a brilliant legal mind and is well-regarded by his legal peers.

When Jackson passes away of a sudden heart attack, his firm goes bankrupt and Israel is forced to take a new job with an up-and-coming firm run by Jackson’s former assistant, George Pierce (Colin Farrell). While initially skeptical of Pierce’s motivations, Israel needs the money and Pierce believes that the veteran lawyer has the potential to make a real difference. Israel has a passion for authentic justice, but he doesn’t fit in well at the new firm, being viewed as a dinosaur by the other lawyers, and faces an uphill battle to prove himself in a new environment. However, Israel manages to take on a few cases that could dramatically influence the future of his career — perhaps sooner rather than later.

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Roman J. Israel, Esq. is an intriguing film. As usual, Washington is outstanding in the title role. It really is unlike any character he’s played before, and Washington earned his eighth career Oscar nomination off the strength of his performance.

However, the movie itself is a mixed bag. It doesn’t have a traditional me-against-the-world mentality that its plot might suggest, but it’s still fairly well-shot and well-written. Colin Farrell gives a solid performance as George Pierce, but his character is a little underdeveloped. The plot lacks depth overall, and I felt like some of the subplots were either resolved too quickly or didn’t really affect the rest of the story. Additionally, some viewers might not be compelled to watch a film in which Washington doesn’t play one of his usually charismatic roles.

The director/writer of the film, Dan Gilroy, is a veteran screenwriter who first began branching out into directing in with Nightcrawler, the 2014 thriller starring Jake Gyllenhaal which I really enjoyed. Gilroy does a solid enough job with the material, but the unusual tone might not be good enough for hardcore fans of legal thrillers. Unfortunately, Roman J. Israel, Esq. doesn’t quite do enough in order to capitalize on yet another stellar performance from Washington.

Grade: C+

  • Written and directed by Dan Gilroy
  • Produced by Todd Black, Jennifer Fox and Denzel Washington
  • Director of Photography — Robert Elswit
  • Music by James Newton Howard
  • Edited by John Gilroy
  • Starring Denzel Washington, Colin Farrell, Carmen Ejogo, Amanda Warren, Lynn Gravatt, Hugo Armstrong, Amari Cheatom, DeRon Horton, Sam Gilroy, Tony Plana, Niles Fitch
  • Rated PG-13 for language and some violence.

TRIVIA

  • Director Dan Gilroy decided to re-edit parts of the film after initial test screenings at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival, resulting in the removal of 12 minutes of footage.
  • In the film, Israel has a noticeable gap between his front teeth. In reality, Denzel Washington had this gap filled when he was in high school, but chose to remove the dental caps for the filming.
  • Dan Gilroy’s second collaboration with DP Robert Elswit and editor John Gilroy (his twin brother). The trio all worked on Nightcrawler together.
  • In addition to the Academy Award for Best Actor, Washington was also nominated for the same category at the Golden Globes, the SAG Awards and the NAACP Image Awards.
  • Washington’s nomination made Roman J. Israel, Esq. the only 2018 Oscar nominee for acting that was not also nominated for Best Picture simultaneously.

Second-year coaches ready to make a big leap

It seems like every year, there’s a handful of unexpected teams in college football that defy expectations under second-year head coaches. While there are certainly a number of quick-fix jobs every year in the FBS, the first year of any coach’s tenure is typically a bit of a bumpy transition. The second year is usually when things start clicking on all cylinders, and there’s a greater chance that the players on the roster have 100% bought into what the new regime has been preaching.

So here are a handful of second-year coaches whose teams have potential to make a big leap:

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Geoff Collins, Temple

The Owls got off to a mediocre start in 2017 as Collins — the former defensive coordinator at Florida — took the reins. But Temple finished the season with four wins in five tries, including a convincing bowl victory over Florida International. Collins is an excellent recruiter and his defense already looks like one of the best in the American Athletic Conference. It’s unlikely that the Owls can catch UCF or USF in the East Division this season, but they’ll certainly make the race interesting.

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Jay Norvell, Nevada

Norvell was a highly-touted offensive mind who arrived in Reno ready to tailor-make the Wolf Pack’s offense in his image. Historically a run-dominated offense, Nevada instead went with an Air Raid courtesy of offensive coordinator Matt Mumme (son of former Kentucky head coach Hal Mumme). While the Pack started 0-5, they rebounded down the stretch and even upset rival UNLV in the season finale to deny them bowl eligibility. With more seasoning, the Nevada offense could be even more dangerous behind strong-armed QB Ty Gangi and a deep group of receivers.

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Justin Wilcox, Cal

Wilcox came to Berkeley last year after stints as a defensive coordinator at a number of high-profile programs, including USC, Wisconsin and Boise State. In year one, he turned around a previously woeful Cal defense and got the Bears to within one game of bowl eligibility. With better luck in close games, the Bears could take the next step in the difficult Pac-12 North.

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Tim Lester, Western Michigan

Let’s be clear: there was going to be an inevitable letdown in Kalamazoo after P.J. Fleck’s departure following the magical undefeated regular season of 2016. But Lester, a WMU alum, did an admirable job getting his new players to buy in. Despite a rash of injuries, the Broncos competed well and identified a handful of new stars on both sides of the ball. While the Broncos got the six wins needed to reach bowl eligibility, they were not invited to one. You can bet that Lester will use that as fuel to motivate his players entering year two.

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Luke Fickell, Cincinnati

The talent level has seriously dropped off at Cincinnati following Tommy Tuberville’s resignation, so Fickell was bound to have some hiccups in his first season. The longtime Ohio State assistant is unfazed though, and his fiery attitude seems to have rubbed off on his players (Fickell also landed the Group of Five’s top recruiting class in February). The Bearcats don’t have a ton of proven firepower right now, but their level of raw talent is as good as its been in years. They’re a sleeping giant in the AAC.

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Brent Brennan, San Jose State

Brennan was an intriguing hire at SJSU, a place that has seen its share of booms and busts in its gridiron history. His first season was certainly rough: The Spartans led the nation in turnovers lost, their offensive line was a turnstile, and the defense wasn’t prepared to carry a disproportionate load. However, things could settle down in year two of the Brennan era. He’s been recruiting well (particularly at the skill positions), the defense is more experienced, and the quarterback position might be settled for the first time in awhile. The Spartans probably won’t make the postseason in 2018 due to a tough schedule, but the future looks bright.

All the Money in the World (2017)

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Based on real-life events, this film chronicles the account of billionaire J. Paul Getty and his refusal to pay ransom money after his teenage grandson is kidnapped in Italy.

In 1973, American oil tycoon J. Paul Getty (Christopher Plummer) is the wealthiest man in the world, occupying a sprawling estate in rural England and running a global empire bearing his family name. His 16-year-old grandson J. Paul Getty III (Charlie Plummer) — known as Paul to his friends — is kidnapped in Rome by Ndrangheta, the notorious mafia group.

Paul’s traumatized mother, Gail (Michelle Williams), appeals to her former father-in-law for help. It is revealed that she divorced Paul’s father due to his substance abuse problems, and rejected any alimony in order to get full custody; therefore, she has no means to pay the $17 million the mafia is requesting.

The billionaire Getty, known as a notorious miser, refuses to pay the ransom, arguing that doing so would make him appear weak and/or vulnerable, as well as potentially encourage copycat kidnappings of his other grandchildren. The media frenzy becomes increasingly intense, as they don’t know that Gail is unable to pay the money herself. This leads Getty to arrange for his advisor, former CIA agent Fletcher Chase (Mark Wahlberg), to further investigate the kidnapping and negotiate Paul’s release.

Meanwhile, Paul’s captors are surprisingly courteous towards him at first due to his quiet and passive nature, but as the weeks go on, they grow increasingly impatient and continue to demand the ransom money. With Getty still unflinching, it seems that it’s up to Chase and Gail to get creative — and fast.

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All the Money in the World is loosely adapted from John Pearson’s book Painfully Rich: The Outrageous Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Heirs of J. Paul Getty, published in 1995. The film, directed by legendary Ridley Scott, contains a footnote that some events in the movie were changed for dramatic purposes, as per usual with these types of films.

Scott had reportedly been interested in directing the project, as the script (written by David Scarpa) had been a hot commodity in Hollywood. “I just consumed it,” Scott said. “I knew about the kidnapping, but this story was very, very provocative….there are many facets of the man Getty that make him a really great study. There’s this great dynamic. It was like a play, and not a movie.”

The 80-year-old Scott shot the movie mostly in England and Italy during the summer of 2017. With an all-star cast of Mark Wahlberg, Michelle Williams and Kevin Spacey as J. Paul Getty, the movie was being pegged as a serious Oscar contender.

And then disaster struck.

As we’ve all heard by now, Kevin Spacey was accused of sexual assault by former teen idol Anthony Rapp when they did a show on Broadway together in 1986 (Rapp was 14 at the time). Shortly thereafter, a number of other male celebrities accused Spacey of similar misconduct.

Disgusted by the Spacey revelations, Scott immediately cancelled the movie’s pending premiere at AFI Fest and planned to reshoot all of Spacey’s scenes.

Scott’s producers — and the studio executives — thought he was nuts. After all, the film was already shot and edited, it had already started its Oscar marketing campaign, the movie’s premiere was less than a month away, and the trailer featuring Spacey had already been released.

Nevertheless, on November 8, Scott announced publicly that All the Money in the World would be reshooting all of Spacey’s scenes (a good chunk of the movie) and replacing him with Christopher Plummer, while still getting everything done in time for the film’s initial premiere, December 18th.

All of the reshoots were done in just over a week during the Thanksgiving holiday at a cost of $10 million. Coincidentally, Plummer had actually been Scott’s first choice for the role of Getty, so the venerable Canadian actor had little difficulty memorizing his lines and getting comfortable with the role.

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I really enjoyed this movie. While a bit long (two and a half hours), All the Money in the World features some incredible acting and cinematography. It’s an intense true story that highlights the desperation of a woman trying to find her son, while also showing what the film’s title itself — having all the money in the world — does to people.

All the Money in the World allows its entire cast to shine; I’ve long been fans of both Wahlberg and Williams. Wahlberg is a versatile actor who always brings a lot of depth and charisma to his roles, while I’ve always felt that Williams is seriously underrated, despite typically choosing very good scripts and working with many different directors. And quite frankly, Christopher Plummer is Christopher Plummer — an absolute legend — and he got an Oscar nomination out of it at the age of 88.

All of Scott’s movies are beautifully shot, and this is no exception. The use of music was also pretty solid and gave an otherwise slow-paced film a real sense of urgency and drive. I also thought that Charlie Plummer (no relation to Chris) gave an earnest and restrained performance as 16-year-old Paul Getty that felt both appropriate and believable.

Despite some minor flaws, I really enjoyed All the Money in the World and I have to give a serious hats-off to Ridley Scott for rescuing a film — and simultaneously, letting it reach a much higher level, when it could have been much easier to shelve the project altogether and forget about it.

Grade: B+

  • Directed by Ridley Scott
  • Produced by Ridley Scott, Chris Clark, Quentin Curtis, Dan Friedkin, Mark Huffam, Bradley Thomas and Kevin J. Walsh
  • Written by David Scarpa
  • Based on the book Painfully Rich: The Outrageous Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Heirs of J. Paul Getty by John Pearson
  • Director of Photography — Dariusz Wolski
  • Music by Daniel Pemberton
  • Edited by Claire Simpson
  • Starring Christopher Plummer, Mark Wahlberg, Michelle Williams, Charlie Plummer, Timothy Hutton, Andrew Buchan, Romain Duris, Marco Leonardi, Giuseppe Bonifati, Nicolas Vaporidis
  • Rated R for language, some violence, disturbing images and brief drug content.

TRIVIA

  • Plummer said that he was prepared to play J. Paul Getty on short notice because he had previously been considered for the role and had read the script. He had less than two weeks to memorize his lines, but did have the advantage of having met the real Getty in London at a couple of parties during the 60s.
  • Ridley Scott elected not to show Plummer any footage of Spacey in character, or even tell him how Spacey played the scenes. When finished, Scott found both performances to be quite different and equally effective in their own particular styles.
  • The film’s reshoots took eight days to film at a cost of $10 million.
  • Michelle Williams said that she would have been unable to promote the film if Kevin Spacey had stayed in it, because she felt so much sympathy for the people that he had hurt.
  • This was the second time Scott was faced with drastic re-shoots during his career. Previously, he almost had to abandon Gladiator due to the untimely death of Oliver Reed.
  • Scott said an interview that one of the more interesting aspects of the reshoots was the fact that Spacey played Getty as a more explicitly cold and unfeeling character, while Plummer’s take on the role showed both a warmer side to the billionaire and the same unflinching refusal to simply pay off his son’s kidnappers.
  • Scott has gone on record as saying that Spacey or his representatives had not contacted him since the news about Spacey’s history of sexual harassment came out, and added that he had no plans to ever release the footage with Spacey to any public viewing forum.
  • Mark Wahlberg had already lost 30 pounds for his next role when the reshoots happened; as such, his costumes had to be refitted.
  • Angelina Jolie and Natalie Portman both turned down the role of Gail Getty before Michelle Williams was cast.
  • Although it is extremely rare, this was not the only time a major character had to be recast in a Hollywood film after the filming was almost or entirely completed. For instance, after more than half of the movie Solomon and Sheba was done, the film’s star Tyrone Power, who played Solomon, suddenly died and had to be replaced with Yul Brynner. All of his scenes were then re-shot. Also, Michael J. Fox had to replace Eric Stoltz as Marty McFly in the first Back to the Future movie, even though at least one third of the movie was already completed with Stoltz in the role. In that instance, the filmmakers thought that Stoltz’s version of Marty was simply coming off as too serious.
  • Michelle Williams was paid over 1,000 times less than Mark Wahlberg for the reshoots. Wahlberg was paid $1.5 million, while Williams received just $1,000 for the week’s work. Many reports used this in order to highlight the perceived gender wage gap in Hollywood, neglecting to mention that Williams herself requested to go without the pay entirely, or that Wahlberg shot many more of the reshoot scenes with Plummer than she did.

 

ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: Alan Dale

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Alan Dale commands your attention onscreen, and it’s not just due to his authoritative looks and intense expressions. I can almost guarantee you’ve seen the 71-year-old Kiwi actor in a film or TV show without realizing it was him.

To many, Dale is easily recognizable due to his presence on many popular shows, including his turn as the U.S. Vice President in 24, as an aloof, cold family patriarch in The O.C., and as a magazine mogul in Ugly Betty. Dale’s work ethic and on-set friendliness belie a hard-fought road to become a key character actor in Hollywood. After all, his becoming an actor was almost an afterthought.

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Dale was born and raised as one of four children in the seaside city of Dunedin, New Zealand. Growing up lower-middle class, Dale’s family didn’t have a TV, but he always enjoyed going to his local theatre and watching shows. At the tender age of 13, Dale performed for the first time at a school concert, doing an impression of American comedian Sheldon “Shelley” Berman. After moving to Auckland, Dale’s parents — who were fellow drama buffs — opened an amateur theatre. During shows, they often asked young Alan to operate the stage equipment that was used for weather effects.

Despite having a keen interest in the arts, Dale elected to primarily focus on rugby, as he was a talented player during his school days. By the age of 21, Dale decided to focus on acting full-time. “The acting fraternity didn’t like footballers and the footballers didn’t like actors,” Dale once remarked. “Acting gave me the same buzz and there was the chance of a longer career.”

Dale looked into theatre companies around New Zealand, but there weren’t many opportunities, so he went after other work. He dabbled in modeling, sold cars and real estate, and was even a milkman for awhile. One day, Dale was listening to his local radio station when the DJ abruptly quit in the middle of the set. “I had a shower, went to their office and said I could do better. They gave me a go, and then the day I was offered an afternoon show, I also got a call from the TV network, where I had tried the same trick — and landed my first series.”

Just like that.

By the time he turned 27, Dale had decided to fully pursue professional acting. He got a small role in a production of The Royal Hunt of the Sun at the Grafton Theatre in Auckland, as well as a spot on the New Zealand TV drama Radio Waves. This was what convinced him to permanently give up rugby.

However, over the next few years, work soon slowed down, and Dale decided to move to Sydney, Australia in 1979. He had hoped to apply for the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA), but was deemed too old for the course. Shortly thereafter, his wife Claire divorced him before moving back to Auckland, while Dale remained in Sydney with their two sons. Thankfully, Dale soon found work on the Aussie soap opera The Young Doctors, playing Dr. John Forrest for a three-and-a-half year stint.

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Dale’s performance on The Young Doctors was well-received in Australia and opened the door for him to star on another long-running Aussie soap — Neighbours. Portraying the character of Jim Robinson, Dale received warm reviews for his role on the show, staying on for eight years, but some personality differences began to emerge on-set. While Dale enjoyed playing Robinson and the pay was solid, he felt that the producers and showrunners didn’t understand where the show was going.

“You were a totally replaceable commodity. The production company didn’t put any value on any of the people appearing in the show,” Dale recalled later. By 1993, things were going south quickly, and the show’s creators killed Dale’s character off.

Over the next few years, Dale struggled to avoid typecasting and found it difficult to secure any major gigs apart from voiceover roles. He got thrown a life raft in 1999, when a made-for-TV American film called First Daughter was filmed in Australia. Dale landed a role and impressed the director with his talent. “I found I could do an American accent and decided to go for the launch (in Hollywood) in August 1999. By January 2000, I was living there.”

Not many actors move to LA at the age of 52. But then again, Dale has never followed a straight-forward path to the screen.

By this time, he had remarried and had two more sons, and they decided to make the leap and try to start afresh in the US. Here, Dale enrolled in formal acting training for the first time. As it turned out, his American acting coach offered some great advice: “You might want to play great roles, but truth is you will get cast as a specific type. Just work out your type.”

“The others in the class said I was a bit Anthony Hopkins and a bit Sean Connery, and that went into my head. I thought, if I go for roles those guys would go for, I’m more likely to get them,” Dale explained.

After landing a surprise four-episode stint on ER, Dale’s American acting career took off. Suddenly, the ex-soap opera star was insanely busy. “A lot of the American middle-aged faces were too familiar,” Dale said. “I came along and people were saying ‘Who is this great new guy?’ And I was cheap. After Neighbours, common sense says trade down, but I thought I’d try the opposite. If you get punched in the balls by someone bigger, it doesn’t hurt any more than being punched in the balls by someone smaller.”

After ER, Dale appeared on The Practice, The X-Files, 24, CSI: Miami, and The West Wing. Showing a penchant for playing authority figures, Dale managed to carve out a niche on American TV.

In 2003, Dale landed his first major role as a main cast member — on the beachside drama The O.C. In the show, Dale received further critical notice for his portrayal of Caleb Nichol, an unemotional, wealthy property developer whose clashes with his immediate family (daughter Kirsten Nichol Cohen and son-in-law Sandy Cohen) were a key source of tension in the show. While widely categorized as a “teen drama,” The O.C. also had a talented adult cast of characters, which allowed Dale to rub elbows with big-time acting veterans like Peter Gallagher.

 

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In addition to his stint on The O.C., Dale also appeared in recurring roles on Ugly BettyNCIS, and Lost. From 2009-2011, he also had notable guest starring parts on shows such as Californication, Burn Notice and Entourage. Dale also humorously paid homage to his home country as a guest star in an episode of Flight of the Conchords, in which he played the Australian Ambassador, who teases the show’s lead characters, Bret and Jemaine, for their Kiwi heritage.

Speaking of which, Dale has always had a sense of humor about his roots — as a young Kiwi actor who happened to make a lasting impression on a classic Aussie TV show.

“I like both places, but I get a lot more respect and recognition from Australia than I do in New Zealand,” Dale admits. “New Zealanders don’t want to know me at all, really. I’ve been Australian for 20-odd years. Everywhere I went I was the guy from Neighbours, so I was Australian. Then when I came here to Hollywood, because I have a New Zealand passport, I became a New Zealander again. It’s odd.”

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Despite enormous success on the small screen, Dale has remained close to his theatre roots. In 2008, he played King Arthur in the West End production of Spamalot, which also allowed him an extended chance to enjoy time with his son Simon, a radio announcer based in London. In addition to theatre, Dale has made small supporting roles in various films, including The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

Throughout the ups and downs of a career that has literally taken him around the globe, Dale says that he always keeps the words of Winston Churchill close to him: “Never give up. Never, never give up.” True enough, Dale has managed to find success in an unlikely environment after facing an uphill climb to get there to begin with.

Dale currently resides in Manhattan Beach, California and also has properties in Australia and New Zealand. His second wife, Tracey Pearson, is a former Miss Australia; they met at the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne back in 1986. Together, they have two sons, Nick and Daniel, while Dale also has two grown sons from his first marriage: Simon, a radio announcer who lives in the UK, and Matthew, a US-based actor and writer.

My 10 favorite directors

I’m going to do something a little different today. As an aspiring filmmaker, there are obviously lots of influences that I can look up to, but I think one of the more important things to do as a director is to craft your own unique voice, while also recognizing and paying tribute to the artistically-minded people who helped you develop your craft.

So without further ado, in no particular order, here are 10 favorite directors who have, in some way or other, influenced me. Some I don’t like as much as others, but all have directly or indirectly inspired me, given me a fantastic film to add to my collection, etc.

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Quentin Tarantino

  • Nationality: American
  • Born: March 27, 1963 (age 55)
  • Bio: One of the most defining cinematic voices of the past two decades, Tarantino was born in Knoxville, Tennessee and grew up in Torrance, California. A high school dropout who was a major cinefile as a teenager, Tarantino was largely self-taught and self-funded as an amateur filmmaker; he went through many setbacks before his first film, Reservoir Dogs, was an unexpected hit at the 1992 Sundance Film Festival. Two years later, Pulp Fiction became a massive critical and commercial success, earning multiple Academy Award nominations, and propelling Tarantino to international stardom. Tarantino almost always writes his own films, and is known for frequent collaborations with actors and crew alike. He has been nominated for seven Oscars, winning two (both for Best Original Screenplay), and his films have grossed over $649 million worldwide.
  • Favorite film/Why I like their work: Tarantino films are synonymous with graphic violence and black comedy, but they’re also always intriguing from a plot standpoint. Many of his films feature large ensemble casts (Jackie Brown), are based on historical fiction (Django Unchained, Inglorious Basterds) or are told in non-linear fashion (Pulp Fiction). His use of music is always excellent. I personally love both Pulp Fiction and Inglorious Basterds, which are eminently quotable movies. I also really loved Django Unchained, a hugely entertaining flick that features one of Jamie Foxx’s best performances.

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David Fincher

  • Nationality: American
  • Born: August 28, 1962 (age 55)
  • Bio: Fincher got his artistic influences from his father, a journalist/author, and began making Super8 films when he was still in elementary school. Born in Colorado, Fincher spent his pre-teen and teen years in northern California and later in Ashland, Oregon, where he graduated from high school. Originally working in visual effects, Fincher later transitioned into film, primarily working in commercials and music videos for prominent artists, such as Madonna, Michael Jackson, and the Rolling Stones. His big break was with Se7en, the 1995 psychological thriller starring Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt. Following the financial and critical success of Se7en, Fincher directed several other notable films in the 90s and 2000s, including Fight ClubThe Social Network, Zodiac and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Fincher’s wife, Céan Chaffin, serves as his co-producer on many of his films.
  • Favorite film/Why I like their work: It’s a three-way tie for me. Fight Club has all the elements of a psychological thriller, but it’s also a fun black comedy and a scathing social commentary. Se7en has one of the most memorable twist endings of all time and an intensely creepy villain who never actually commits his crimes onscreen. And The Social Network brilliantly encapsulated the struggle over a website that changed the world, while featuring breakout performances from Jesse Eisenberg and Andrew Garfield. All of Fincher’s films feature beautiful cinematography and distinctive production design, while also boasting sharp dialogue and outstanding performances. Some of Brad Pitt’s best movies have come in his collaborations with Fincher.

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Stanley Kubrick

  • Nationality: American (lived most of his adult life in England)
  • Born: July 26, 1928
  • Died: March 7, 1999 (age 70)
  • Bio: The Bronx native made some of the 20th century’s most defining films. Despite earning mediocre grades in school, the young Kubrick was a wunderkind as a photographer and eventually made a number of classic films as well. Known as both a perfectionist and a recluse, Kubrick’s films frequently feature both optimistic and melancholy tones, with characters that can be either violently emotional or not emotional at all. Despite being highly-acclaimed as a master of the cinema, Kubrick eschewed the spotlight and primarily lived and worked in England for the majority of his career. Nearly all of his films were adapted from novels or short stories.
  • Favorite film/Why I like their work: Like Tarantino, Kubrick may be an obvious choice on this list, but I’ve always enjoyed his films. While 2001: A Space Odyssey is widely-regarded as Kubrick’s crowning achievement, I’ve always preferred A Clockwork Orange and Full Metal Jacket, as both are challenging films that speak much about the human condition (in addition to being extremely well-made in general). Controversial during his time, Kubrick nonetheless had many major critical successes, including The Shining, which received polarizing reviews at the time, but is now considered one of the first epic horror films. Kubrick even dabbled in domestic drama (Lolita, Barry Lyndon) and also made Dr. Strangelove, a brilliant political satire; it’s often said that the director “never made the same picture twice.” Kubrick’s films have exquisite cinematography and were also known for their evocative uses of music.

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Edgar Wright

  • Nationality: British
  • Born: April 18, 1974 (age 44)
  • Bio: Born in Dorset, England and raised in Somerset, Wright first made his mark in British TV, creating the comedy series Asylum and Spaced. Both became cult classics, while the latter began Wright’s extremely fruitful collaborations with actor/writer/comedian Simon Pegg. The two Brits teamed up again for 2004 horror-comedy Shaun of the Dead, which received a limited release, but was a big box office success that brought them both into the international spotlight. They followed it up with Hot Fuzz, a 2007 action-comedy, and The World’s End, a sci-fi parody, in 2013. Together, the three films are known as the Cornetto Trilogy, because all three films feature different types of Cornetto ice cream. In addition, Wright also directed 2010 cult classic Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, as well as the critically-acclaimed 2017 action-caper Baby Driver.
  • Favorite film/Why I like their work: I adore the Cornetto Trilogy. Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead are among my favorite comedies; they both blend graphic violence with hilarious jokes and gags, while also having an authentic feel to them. Hot Fuzz is a parody of over-the-top buddy-cop flicks, but still looks and feels like a real action film and has a fun plot with lots of twists and turns. Similarly, Shaun of the Dead looks and feels like a classic zombie movie, but is still uproariously funny and has great characters to boot. Baby Driver was an incredibly entertaining ride and featured some memorable performances as well as an extremely likable protagonist.

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Nicolas Winding Refn

  • Nationality: Danish
  • Born: September 29, 1970 (age 47)
  • Bio: Both of Refn’s parents were in the film industry, so he knew what to expect. He was born in Copenhagen and also spent some time in New York as a kid. A film school dropout, Refn made several indie films in his home country, attracting a notable cult following on the arthouse circuit. His 2008 film Bronson featured a non-linear storyline and a riveting performance from Tom Hardy, while Refn gained significant critical notice for Drive (2011) and Only God Forgives (2013), both violent revenge movies which starred Ryan Gosling. In 2016, Refn made The Neon Demon, which received mixed reviews at the Cannes Film Festival, but was praised for its acting and cinematography.
  • Favorite film/Why I like their work: Drive will always be one of my favorite action movies, while I really enjoyed the cinematography and experimental nature of Only God Forgives. Bronson was not a perfect film by any stretch, but it was still a great, micro-budget character study that featured plenty of Tom Hardy charisma. The Neon Demon featured extreme violence and disturbing images, but still had some stunning visuals and solid performances. His films also have euphoric soundtracks, usually composed by frequent collaborator Cliff Martinez. Refn is unafraid of going against the grain, which can sometimes miss the mark, but I still have a lot of respect for his filmmaking methods.

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Clint Eastwood

  • Nationality: American
  • Born: May 31, 1930 (age 87)
  • Bio: Eastwood grew up all over the West Coast and first got into the film inudstry in the 1950s. He soon became an icon due to his portrayal of “Dirty” Harry Callahan, as well as his ubiquitous Westerns. Eastwood first got into directing while at the height of his fame in the 1970s, and has since made numerous acclaimed films, including Oscar gold such as American Sniper and Million Dollar Baby, as well as Invictus, Changeling, Flags of our Fathers, Letters from Iwo Jima, and Gran Torino. As a director, Eastwood works at a rapid pace, rarely rehearsing and trying to complete most scenes in two or three takes. Many of Eastwood’s movies feature smooth cinematography and minimal lighting in order to convey a film noir feel.
  • Favorite films/Why I like their work: Letters from Iwo Jima is one of the best war films of the 21st century, and I also count Gran Torino (in which Eastwood also starred) as one of his best works. Mystic River is an underrated film that featured an excellent, Oscar-winning performance from Sean Penn, while Unforgiven stands as a modern-day Western classic. Eastwood’s streamlined style of filmmaking frequently works to his advantage, and I’ve always thought his movies are undeniably entertaining and beautifully shot.

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Mel Gibson

  • Nationality: American/Irish (permanent resident of Australia)
  • Born: January 3, 1956 (age 62)
  • Bio: One of 11 children, Gibson was born in New York and moved to Sydney, Australia with his family at the age of 12. Straight out of drama school, he starred in the post-apocalyptic classic Mad Max, as well as several other major films in what was dubbed the “Australian New Wave” of cinema. The first Aussie actor to ever receive a million-dollar salary for a movie, Gibson pursued a mixture of drama and action roles throughout the 80s and 90s, most notably with the Lethal Weapon series. Later on, he got into directing, starting with 1993’s The Man Without a Face and culminating in the multiple Oscar-winning Braveheart two years later, in which he also starred. Gibson spent nearly a decade away from the director’s chair before making a huge return with the controversial Biblical drama The Passion of the Christ (2004), an unprecedented box office success. Shortly thereafter, he made another splash with Apocalypto, a foreign-language action film that focused on the decline of the ancient Mayan civilization. After another hiatus from directing (plus well-publicized personal problems) Gibson came back again in 2016, directing war film Hacksaw Ridge, which received several Oscar nominations.
  • Favorite film/Why I like their work: It’s safe to say that all of Gibson’s films are visceral experiences, featuring intense violence and breathtaking cinematography. Braveheart is undeniably a classic that helped rejuvenate the historical epic genre, while Apocalypto pushed many boundaries in terms of narrative storytelling. Gibson should be praised for using visuals to convey so much; many of his films feature sparse dialogue and — in the case of The Passion and Apocalypto — foreign languages. Much of Gibson’s filmmaking influences come from Aussie New Wave directors, particularly Mad Max creator George Miller, who famously quipped that his movies were like “silent films, but with sound.” Similarly, Gibson lets his films’ images do the talking the majority of the time, to frequently powerful effect, and his movies also have deceptively simple plots told in unique ways.

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Taika Waititi

  • Nationality: New Zealand
  • Born: August 16, 1975 (age 42)
  • Bio: Born to a Māori father and a Russian-Jewish mother, Waititi grew up in Wellington, New Zealand before attending film school at nearby Victoria University. There, he met future collaborator Jemaine Clement, and the duo performed in comedy ensembles together. Waititi directed an Oscar-nominated short film in 2004 called Two Cars, One Night and later followed it up with several indie box office successes in his home country, including Boy and Eagle vs Shark. He and Clement teamed up to direct horror-comedy What We Do in the Shadows, which got rave reviews at Sundance. In 2016, Waititi made the universally-acclaimed adventure comedy Hunt for the Wilderpeople before heading to the Marvel cinematic universe, directing Thor: Ragnarok in 2017.
  • Favorite film/Why I like their work: A perennial darling at Sundance, Waititi has an entertaining batch of films. My personal favorite is What We Do in the Shadows, a larger-than-life passion project that is destined to become a cult comedy classic. Boy succeeds as both an exploration of adolescence as well as the challenges of growing up in a difficult family situation. Hunt for the Wilderpeople is both entertaining and beautifully shot, using its fish-out-of-water premise as more than just a one-off joke. Waititi’s use of humor punctuates everything he does, even in larger-budget fare such as Thor: Ragnarok. The director’s endearing goofiness and down-to-earth personality serves him well in a film landscape that needs voices like his.

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Martin Scorsese

  • Nationality: American
  • Born: November 17, 1942 (age 75)
  • Bio: Scorsese is a living legend in the world of cinema. Born and raised in New York to Catholic parents, he suffered from asthma as a child and couldn’t play sports with his friends; therefore, he found a second home at the movies. After briefly considering entering the priesthood, Scorsese chose instead to attend NYU, earning both a Bachelor’s and Master’s before entering the world of cinema. Scorsese has always managed to make entertaining, brilliantly-written fare with indelible images. You never forget a Scorsese film when you’ve seen it, and there’s a reason he’s managed to stay relevant as long as he has. Many of his films focus on violence, crime, and Italian-American identity, but also feature somber, philosophical musings on life, faith, and family. Scorsese’s surprisingly diverse filmography also includes satire (The King of Comedy, The Wolf of Wall Street) and even a children’s movie (Hugo).
  • Favorite film/Why I like their work: Both Goodfellas and Taxi Driver rank among the all-time classics for a reason, and The Departed is another brilliant Scorsese power-punch. I also think that The Wolf of Wall Street is an outstanding black comedy that features a tour-de-force performance from Leonardo DiCaprio, while the low-key religious tearjerker Silence also deserves more credit.

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Denis Villenueve

  • Nationality: Canadian
  • Born: October 3, 1967 (age 50)
  • Bio: Villenueve, a Quebec native, began making films as a 30-something in local competitions before successfully directing his first feature in 1998. Villenueve dabbled in both English and French language productions before making his first major studio film, Prisoners, in 2013. The movie, a domestic thriller starring Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal, was a major success and marked Villenueve as a newcomer to watch. Since then, he’s made one film per year, most recently Arrival — which earned him a Best Director nomination at the 2017 Oscars — and Blade Runner 2049, the long-awaited successor to the 1982 sci-fi hit starring Harrison Ford. He also directed the action-thriller film Sicario, which starred Benicio del Toro, Emily Blunt and Josh Brolin.
  • Favorite film/Why I like their work: Villenueve knows how to mesmerize. All of his films have stunning cinematography and powerful performances. Prisoners is an intense story with some eerie images. Arrival is a philosophical sci-fi movie that grew on me — the more I thought about its deeper meaning as the credits rolled, the more I loved it. And Blade Runner 2049 was a fun, well-crafted adventure that did exactly what it should have done. I’m looking forward to seeing what else he does in the years to come.

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

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Damien Chazelle

  • Nationality: American
  • Born: January 19, 1985 (age 33)
  • Bio: The son of two college professors, Bernard and Celia, Chazelle was born in Rhode Island and raised in New Jersey. Originally aspiring to be a jazz drummer, Chazelle began to take an interest in filmmaking while in high school. He graduated from Harvard in 2007 and made his first big impression with Whiplash, a multiple Oscar nominee in 2014. Chazelle followed it up with La La Land, a free-spirited musical starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. The film takes a whimsical and sincere approach life, love, and career choices in the Hollywood industry and ended up winning seven Oscars (infamously, Best Picture was not one of them). Up next, Chazelle is reuniting with Gosling in an adaptation of First Man, the official biography of legendary astronaut Neil Armstrong.
  • Favorite film/Why I like their work: La La Land and Whiplash are two very different films, but both are beautifully shot and have outstanding performances. Chazelle’s innovative spirit and rapid-fire dialogue complement each other well. His musical background allows him to take special interest in film scoring — Chazelle’s frequent music collaborator, Justin Hurwitz, was his roommate at Harvard. From the manic intensity of Whiplash to the soaring music numbers of La La Land, Chazelle is able to draw upon so many different emotions in his audience. I can’t wait until First Man hits theatres in October.

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Craig Gillespie

  • Nationality: Australian
  • Born: September 1, 1967 (age 50)
  • Bio: Born and raised in Sydney, Gillespie moved to New York to study advertising at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan. He moved from advertising to directing commercials in the mid-90s and made his first feature film in 2007. His breakthrough film was Lars and the Real Girl, starring Ryan Gosling as the dopey-but-good-natured title character who falls in love with a sex doll. Gillespie later helmed the 2011 horror remake of Fright Night, as well as baseball drama Million Dollar Arm. In 2017, he directed Margot Robbie — a fellow Aussie — in I, Tonya, which explored controversial figure skater Tonya Harding and the infamous 1994 attack on Nancy Kerrigan that led to Harding’s ban from professional skating.
  • Favorite film/Why I like their work: Lars and the Real Girl was my first exposure to Gillespie. Despite being a box office flop, the movie had a tone that was simultaneously humorous and sincere, and had a real heart in spite of an oddball premise. “Dramedys” are a famously hard genre to grasp as a director, and Gillespie nailed it. I also really enjoyed I, Tonya, which was both entertaining and funny despite featuring a plethora of unlikable characters.

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Peter Weir

  • Nationality: Australian
  • Born: August 21, 1944 (age 73)
  • Bio: Weir is another product of the Australian New Wave movement. The Sydneysider made Picnic at Hanging Rock and Gallipoli in his early career; the latter film was a landmark picture focusing on the exploits of Aussie soldiers at the Battle of Gallipoli in World War I. Weir later directed the period-piece political romance The Year of Living Dangerously, as well as Witness, a mystery-thriller starring Harrison Ford. However, Weir’s best known films might be the legendary Dead Poets Society starring the late Robin Williams, The Truman Show with Jim Carrey, and 2003’s Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, which starred Russell Crowe and received 10 Oscar nominations.
  • Favorite film/Why I like their work: Obviously, Master and Commander, Witness, The Truman Show and Dead Poets Society are bound to get all the love if you’re familiar with Weir’s work (to be sure, all three are outstanding). But his earliest films are also a must-see. Gallipoli captures a watershed moment in WWI, when Australia and New Zealand came into their own as countries. The Year of Living Dangerously captures a wartime romance in 1960s Indonesia and features several stirring performances.