More Indiana Jones IV rumours and spoilers.

This article in yesterday’s New York Observer about the upcoming Yale University shoot mostly talks to giddy extras about their costumes and so forth, but it does offer these plot details:

Filming of the four-quel, tentatively titled Indiana Jones and the City of the Gods and directed by Steven Spielberg, begins June 28. “It’s the opening scene of the movie,” Ms. Dunn burbled excitedly. “[Harrison Ford] is teaching a class and he hears some noise outside, which turns out to be an anti-Communist rally, and he goes out to investigate and he recognizes one of his old rivals from one of the other movies and he jumps on a motorcycle and ends up being chased by some guys in a car.”

That’s not all. “I’ve heard rumors that the archeological artifact that they’re looking for is the fountain of youth,” Ms. Dunn said. “But I don’t know.”

Take this with the usual grains of salt. Me, I’m wondering if any of Indy’s “old rivals” were left alive in the other movies.

Exclusive pics from the set of Tin Man.

Some friends of mine live near a park in New Westminster, where the mini-series Tin Man is currently being filmed. So they sent me these pictures — and of course, I was immediately envious, because, as I have said here before, I adore Zooey Deschanel.

Deschanel is playing DG, the Dorothy surrogate, and that’s Raoul Trujillo as Raw, the Cowardly Lion surrogate, next to her. My friends also posed for another picture with Alan Cumming, who plays Glitch, the strikingly effeminate Scarecrow surrogate.

Yippie-ki-yay, and all that.

If you’re the kind of person who enjoys parsing the meaning and significance of words and catchphrases, and if you’re the kind of person who likes to ponder the relationship across time and space between the individual and community, and if you’re the kind of person who enjoys getting academic about matters profane, then you may find Eric Lichtenfeld’s tribute to the Die Hard franchise‘s most famous one-liner just as stirring and moving as I did:

Most one-liners articulate the hero’s self-regard (or in Harry Callahan’s case, regard for his .44 Magnum), and why shouldn’t they? The action genre is primarily an exercise in hero-worship. But Die Hard‘s wisecrack is remarkable for how it refers not to one hero but to a tradition of heroism. It is a line born of pride, not of ego.

When terrorist-slash-exceptional thief Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) taunts hero John McClane (Bruce Willis), “Who are you? Just another American who saw too many movies as a child?” and asks this “Mr. Cowboy” if he really thinks he stands a chance, McClane’s answer—”Yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker”—marks the moment that McClane, an everyman, assumes the mantle of America’s archetypal heroes: Roy Rogers, John Wayne, Gunsmoke‘s Marshall Dillon, and others who have been so vital to American boyhood. Unlike the many action-movie one-liners that are rooted in the hero’s narcissism, McClane’s stems from our collective wish-fulfillment. He is not referring to himself, not suggesting an “I” or a “me” but an us. And considering the European Gruber’s appreciation of fashion, finance, and the classics, McClane’s comeback acquires an additional subtext: Our pop culture can beat up your high culture.

In John McClane’s stance, there lies a bravado that bridges two American traditions. “Yippee-ki-yay” summons America’s mythic, gunfighter past, while “motherfucker” belongs to the modern action movie. Seen in this light, the line also recalls the macho cinema of the 1970s, when Clint Eastwood, Charles Bronson, and Don Siegel helped create the action genre while continuing to trade in Westerns.

A quarter of the line (or half, depending on how you count) is profane, and yet “Yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker” is actually a delicate wisecrack. Underscoring the line’s bridging of generations is the symmetry of its construction. On either side of the comma, past and present each get four syllables. This balance is manifested in the evenness of Willis’ first—and best—delivery of the line. Subtly, he eases off “fucker,” the word that, by virtue of its syntactical position, and its very nature, we might expect to land hardest on our ears. That Willis does not employ the same deftness in the sequels is a pity. The phrase is most effective not as a buildup to some hammer punch, but as one seamless unit of defiance.

Incidentally, I still find it hard to believe that it has been 19 years since the first film came out — 19 years since I was a 17-year-old college student going to the movie with my friend Doug and hoping the ticket vendor wouldn’t ask to see our IDs. This series has been around for more than half my lifetime, now. Wow.

Yet another movie not screened for critics.

Horror flicks are often let loose on the public without being shown to critics first, so it comes as no surprise that Captivity will open July 13 with no press screenings. It will, however, be screened “at an expected showing for women’s groups in New York, at which [producer Courtney Solomon] wants to engage in a town-hall-style debate with detractors,” according to the New York Times.

The most shocking item in this story, for me, is the revelation that this bit of “torture porn” is directed by Roland Joffé, who once made Oscar-worthy historical dramas like The Killing Fields (1984) and The Mission (1986). Then again, I guess his fortunes did take a dive when he collaborated with Demi Moore on that tawdry, bodice-ripping remake of The Scarlet Letter (1995).

“The Forgotten Indiana Jones” — a filmmaker!

The silent era is a continuing source of fascination and frustration for Bible-movie buffs. Fascination, because religious themes were very common then, and filmmakers were often quite bold — for better and for worse — in how they developed these themes. And frustration, because so few of these films exist any more.

I am reminded of this once again because The Villages Daily Sun in Florida posted a story the other day on Dr. Edgar J. Banks, an archaeologist and so-called “original Indiana Jones” who also made some films — all of them, apparently, now lost to us:

Separating fact from fiction is difficult. Very little has been written about the adventurer who looked for the Ark of the Covenant, climbed Mount Ararat in search of Noah’s Ark, and left behind an impressive array of artifacts. . . .

The following facts are irrefutable: Banks excavated Bismya (the ancient city of Adab) during an expedition sponsored by the University of Chicago in 1903-04; he sold thousands of artifacts after returning to the States; and he spent several years lecturing and writing books and magazine articles.

And he made motion pictures with famed director Cecil B. DeMille. . . .

“They were involved in a company known as Sacred Films,” Wasilewska said. “The films were not only ‘Sacred,’ they were secret. The company wasn’t registered anywhere. But it really did exist.”

That incredible claim is supported by about 200 old movie stills from sets of Biblical epics Banks’ late daughter, Daphne McLachlan, left to her children.

“In 1920, at the beginning of moviemaking, a lot of people were making movies about Biblical events. But they were all poor-quality, low-budget productions,” Wasilewska said. “This was very different. This was high-class, very professional. It was a secret company, but many important people were involved, including famous actors and actresses.”

What became of the films is one of many puzzles related to Banks. . . .

I would very much like to get a peek at those old movie stills. I wonder if any of them might actually be from other biblical films of the era, however obscure, that we do know about.

(Hat tip to for linking to the Daily Sun story.)

PG ratings — not really for grown-ups

Last year — following a controversy that partly concerned the question of what the PG rating means with regard to a film’s suitability for families — I kept track of all the G- and PG-rated films that cracked the weekly top ten lists, to see how many of them were aimed primarily at families or children, and how many of them were basically for grown-ups. Now that we are almost half-way through this year, I figure it’s time for an update.

The G- and PG-rated films that have cracked the weekly top ten lists so far break down into the following categories (with the ones that were #1 at the box office for at least one week in bold):

Family films (for children, tweens, or religious audiences):
  1. Happily N’Ever After
  2. Arthur and the Invisibles
  3. Bridge to Terabithia
  4. Amazing Grace
  5. TMNT
  6. The Last Mimzy
  7. Meet the Robinsons (G)
  8. Firehouse Dog
  9. Are We Done Yet?
  10. Shrek the Third
  11. Surf’s Up
  12. Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer
  13. Nancy Drew
  14. Evan Almighty
  15. Ratatouille (G)

Inspirational true-story sports movies set in the ’60s or ’70s:

  1. Pride

Films for grown-ups that just happened to be rated PG:

  1. The Astronaut Farmer

As you can see, the bulk of the new films that got the G or PG rating in the United States have been “family” movies, just like last year.

JUL 4 UPDATE: I have bolded the above reference to Ratatouille, to take into account its #1 status last weekend.