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Tuesday
Dec202016

TWELVE DAYS OF CINE-MAS: SIX STUDIO SCORECARDS

TWELVE DAYS OF CINE-MAS
A traditional festive countdown, reflecting upon my 2016 movie-watching moments...

SIX STUDIO SCORECARDS
They are the big six; the studios that have shaped Hollywood history. Today, the red-&-black ink ledgers that only the likes of Louis B Mayer, the Warner brothers or Lew Wasserman were privy to are open books for all to see. And the marketplace is filled with mini-majors (like Lionsgate) and small, savvy operators (like Megan Ellison’s A24). So, in 2016, which studio heads slept easy at night and who woke every day feeling the burning glare of the stockholders…

(Combined domestic/international, in US$; as of December 18; Source: ShowBuzzDailyBox Office Mojo)

1. DISNEY: 2016 Worldwide Gross - $6.426billion; Market Share – 24.2%
HITS: Captain America: Civil War (#1; $1.153b; pictured, below); Finding Dory (#2; $1.027b); Zootopia (#3; $1.24b); The Jungle Book (#4; $966m); Doctor Strange (#10; $667m); Rogue One A Star Wars Story* (#11; $576m); Moana* (#25; $308m)
MISSES: Alice Through the Looking Glass (#26; $229m); The BFG (#39; $178m); The Finest Hours (#80; $52m) The Light Between Oceans (#102; $23m).
ANALYSIS: The studio’s red inkers (the expensive underperformance of Alice Through the Looking Glass; the non-starters like The BFG and The Finest Hours) have faded from memory in the wake of the combined box office might of the Marvel line-up, a resurgent in-house animation division (Zootopia; Moana) and smart property relaunches (The Jungle Book; Pete’s Dragon, which hit $144m). And there are still the first two weeks of Rogue One grosses to round out the year! The undisputed box office champ of 2016.

2. WARNER BROTHERS: 2016 Worldwide Gross - $4.499billion; Market Share – 17.8%
HITS: Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice (#6; 873m); Suicide Squad (#7; $746m); Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them* (#9; $740m); The Legend of Tarzan (#19; $357m); The Conjuring 2 (#24; $320m); Sully (#30; $228m); Central Intelligence (#31; $217m); Lights Out (#47; $149m)
MISSES: Collateral Beauty* (#109; $20m; pictured, right); Keanu (#108; $20m); The Nice Guys (#89; $36m**); Barbershop The Next Cut (#79; $54m); War Dogs (#65; $86m)
ANALYSIS: The WB fought off a savaging by critics and fanboy backlash to post big numbers on their DC blockbusters and successfully recaptured that Potter magic to find fantastic returns on JK Rowling’s return. The big profits stemmed from mid-budget horror hits The Conjuring 2 and Lights Out; did well to position the upmarket Eastwood/Hanks pic Sully as both a prestige title and box office performer. Dropped the ball on The Nice Guys (which seemed a pre-elease sure thing); counter-programming the underwhelming (and terribly titled) Collateral Beauty against Rogue One hasn’t work.

3. 20TH CENTURY FOX: 2016 Worldwide Gross - $3.963billion; Market Share – 13.4%
HITS: Deadpool (#7; $783m; pictured, below); X-Men Apocalypse (#12; $544m); The Revenant (#13; $533m); Kung Fu Panda 3 (#14; $520m); Ice Age Collision Course (#17; $407m); Independence Day Resurgence (#18; $390m); Trolls* (#23; $328m)
MISSES: Rules Don’t Apply* (#134; $4m); Morgan (#126; $8m); The Birth of A Nation* (#117; $16m); Keeping Up with The Jones (#94; $29m); Eddie the Eagle (#81; $46m); Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates (#70; $77m).
ANALYSIS: The infectious sense of fun that the marketing team clearly had with the release of Deadpool caught on with audiences. Stood by Leo with an all-or-nothing Oscar campaign for The Revenant, though Best Picture loss must have lead to head-scratching. Worked hard to counter negative buzz, pre- and post-release, on X-Men Apocalypse (“Memo from head office: Don’t choke women in your key-art”). Delivered good returns on ready-made family hits (Ice Age and Kung-Fu Panda sequels; Trolls), but couldn’t find mid-level performers. Felt like Beatty’s bomb, Rules Don’t Apply, was marked ‘ Too Hard Basket’ from early in the campaign.

4. UNIVERSAL: 2016 Worldwide Gross - $3.011billion; Market Share – 12%
HITS: The Secret Life of Pets (#5; $875m); Warcraft (#15; $433m); Jason Bourne (#16; $415m); Bridget Jones Baby (#34; $212m); The Girl on The Train (#40; $175m; pictured, below).
MISSES: Popstar Never Stop Never Stopping (#123; $9m); Kevin Hart What Now? (#104; $23m); Hail, Caesar! (#77; $63m); The Boss (#69; $79m); My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 (#64; $89m); Neighbours 2 Sorority Rising (#60; $108m)
ANALYSIS: Universal’s one big, ambitious role of the dice, Duncan Jones’ Warcraft, was butchered domestically yet rose to the challenge globally; kudos to the international marketing teams, who did what their bosses couldn’t, silencing the critics and convincing the fans. Otherwise, it was a play-it-safe, steady-as-she goes slate – an animated hit, a slew of ok sequels, one surprise hit in lit-adaptation The Girl on The Train (again, despite the baying of critics). Proved with their mirthless raft of ‘funny’ films that, apparently, both dying and comedy can be easy.

5. SONY PICTURES: 2016 Worldwide Gross - $1.789billion; Market Share – 8.2%
HITS: The Angry Birds Movie (#20; $350m); Ghostbusters (#29; $229m); Inferno* (#32; $217m); The Magnificent Seven (#42; $161m); Don’t Breathe (#44; $153m); Sausage Party (#50; $140m); The Shallows (#54; $119m)
MISSES: Pride and Prejudices and Zombies (#115; $16m); The Brothers Grimsby (#97; $25m); Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk* (#96; $26m; pictured, right); Risen (#82; $46m); Money Monster (#63; $93m); The 5th Wave (#57; $110m).
ANALYSIS: It was Angry Birds then daylight for the SPE crowd. Their phone-app property made the leap to bigscreen glory (financially, at least), but the rest of the bunch proved frustratingly blah (Inferno; The Magnificent Seven) or bound by genre (Don’t Breathe; Sausage Party). Must be still shaking their collective head at what they had to overcome to give Ghostbusters a fair go; all things considered, a global gross of $229m was not too shabby. The Shallows seemed primed for bigger things, but couldn’t quite break out. Of the duds, Money Monster must’ve been the biggest letdown, with a Cannes world premiere and old-school star power (Clooney, Roberts, Foster) failing to ignite interest.

6. PARAMOUNT: 2016 Worldwide Gross - $1.338billion; Market Share – 7.7%
HITS: Star Trek Beyond (#21; $343m); Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Out of The Shadows (#28; $246m); Jack Reacher Never Look Back (#43; $160m); Arrival* (#48; $144m); 10 Cloverfield Lane (#59; $108m)
MISSES: Whiskey Tango Foxtrot** (#102; $23m; pictured, right); Florence Foster Jenkins** (#95; $27m); Zoolander 2 (#78; $56m); 13 Hours The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi (#75; $69m)
ANALYSIS: Arrival is making a late run for box office glory, but in every other respect it was a year to forget for Paramount. Was relieved when the choice to let Fast & Furious guru Justin Lin liven up the Star Trek franchise worked out, but other prime properties (TMNT; Cruise’s Jack Reacher) left critics and audiences soured. Like Sony and Fox, the art of pumping up mid-level entrants into box office leaders seems to be a lost one; 10 Cloverfield Lane had buzz and opened big, but fell short of its promise. Terribly missed opportunity with Tina Fey’s terrific Whiskey Tango Foxtrot; coulda been this generation’s M*A*S*H, but turned to mush. Downbeat year had far-reaching consequences; amongst a raft of layoffs by Viacom overlords, long time Australian boss Mike Selwyn and marketing head Kate Smith were walked.

*Still in general release
**Domestic only; International release via distribution partners.

Monday
Dec192016

TWELVE DAYS OF CINE-MAS: SEVEN CARTOON CLASSICS

TWELVE DAYS OF CINE-MAS
A traditional festive countdown, reflecting upon my 2016 movie-watching moments...

SEVEN CARTOON CLASSICS
“Animation can explain whatever the mind of man can conceive,” said Walt Disney. In 2016, the unique minds of many talented men and women conceived some beautifully profound and wonderfully entertaining animated films….

ZOOTOPIA (Dirs: Byron Howard, Rich Moore, Jared Bush; USA, 108 mins).
Production company: Walt Disney Animation Studios.
Plot: When Judy Hopps becomes the first rabbit to join the police force, she quickly learns how tough it is to enforce the law. Determined to prove herself, Judy jumps at the opportunity to solve a mysterious case, even if that means working with wily fox Nick Wilde.
What the critics said: “In looking humorously — and also sensitively — at the pitfalls of bias and fear-mongering, the terrific script by Jared Bush and Phil Johnston offers a host of essential lessons for our fractious times… It's going to take a lot to beat Zootopia for this year's animated film Oscar.” – Los Angeles Times 

THE RED TURTLE (Dir: Michael Dudok de Wit; France/Belgium, 80 mins)
Production companies: Prima Linea Productions, Why Not Productions, Studio Ghibli, Wild Bunch.
Plot: A man marooned on a desert island tries desperately to escape, until one day he encounters a strange turtle that will change his life.
What the critics said: “[This] tiny artistic treasure might as well be the adaptation of a little-known Hans Christian Andersen classic, or else perhaps that of a folk tale brought back from some remote South Pacific island. But no, this captivating archetypal narrative springs from the mind of its director, and the result is the most purely auteurist project to be found at the Cannes Film Festival this year.” – Variety 

KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS (Dir: Travis Knight; USA, 101 mins)
Production company: Laika Entertainment
Plot: Kubo lives a quiet, normal life in a small shore side village until a spirit from the past re-ignites an age-old vendetta. This causes a maelstrom of havoc, as gods and monsters chase Kubo who, in order to survive, must locate a magical suit of armour once worn by his late father, a legendary Samurai warrior.
What the critics said: “The action is gorgeously fluid, the idiosyncratic 3-D visual conceits (including floating eyeballs undersea) are startling, and the story and its metaphors resolve in unexpected and moving ways.” – The New York Times 

LONG WAY NORTH (Dir: Rémi Chayé; France/Denmark, 81 mins)
Production company: Sacrebleu Productions, Maybe Movies
Plot: 1882, Saint Petersburg. Sasha, a young Russian aristocrat, has always been fascinated by her grandfather's life as a renowned explorer. When he fails to return from an expedition to the North Pole, Sasha must save her family's honour, running away to the Great North on her grandfather's trail in search of his famous ship.
What the critics said: “Chayé’s animation removes the outlines of figures, retaining only the blocky colour fills, in a manner that evokes silk-screen prints. It’s visually striking, even when presenting a storm at sea, a rampaging polar bear or a creepy abandoned lifeboat…It’s a beautiful trip, even if it’s a little chilly and sad when it finally gets to where it’s going.” – Washington Post 

YOUR NAME (Dir: Makoto Shinkai; Japan, 106 mins)
Production company: Komikkusu Wêbu Firumu
Plot: Mitsuha and Taki are two total strangers living different lives. But when Mitsuha makes a wish to leave her mountain town for the bustling city of Tokyo, they become connected; she dreams she is a boy living in Tokyo, while Taki dreams he is a girl from a rural town he's never been to. What does their newfound connection mean? And how will it bring them together?
What the critics said: “As the film swings back and forth between mountain shrines and Shinjuku Station, it eloquently and elegantly expresses not only teen confusion but also the tensions between old and new Japan.” – Sight & Sound 

SEOUL STATION (Dir: Sang-ho Yeon; South Korea, 95 mins)
Production Companies: Finecut, Studio Dadashow)
Plot: A prequel to South Korea’s blockbuster zombie epic Train to Busan; Seoul Station becomes Ground zero for a zombie-like outbreak. Soon, the streets are overrun by the infected and the city of Seoul declares martial law. Meanwhile, a runaway teenager named Hye-sun and her boyfriend Ki-woong try to find each other amidst the chaos.
What the critics said: “The film maintains a nihilistic register throughout, and the twist at the end is surprising specifically for how it falls outside of the purview of the zombie genre, instead emerging from the characters’ interpersonal drama prior to the outbreak.” – The Playlist 

SAUSAGE PARTY (Dirs: Greg Tiernan, Conrad Vernon; USA, 89 mins)
Production company: Point Grey Pictures
Plot: The products at Shopwell Grocery Store believe in a code that helps them live happy lives on the shelf before they leave for ‘The Great Beyond’. But a botched attempt at freedom leaves a sausage named Frank stranded, leading to a journey that uncovers the truth behind their beliefs.
What the critics said: “The film’s greatest strength is its screenplay, penned by Kyle Hunter, Ariel Shaffir, (Seth) Rogen and Rogen’s frequent collaborator, Evan Goldberg. The quartet instil truly fascinating philosophical and religious subtext into the story, which largely plays as an existential tale about finding the meaning of life.” – Screen Rant 

Sunday
Dec182016

TWELVE DAYS OF CINE-MAS: EIGHT WONDROUS ONE-SHEETS

TWELVE DAYS OF CINE-MAS
A traditional festive countdown, reflecting upon my 2016 movie-watching moments...

EIGHT WONDROUS ONE-SHEETS
Much was made in 2016 that the elegance and artistry of the great movie posters of yesteryear is dead and gone. Like the movies they spruik, key-art imagery is focus group tested and voted on in LA boardrooms with scant regard for aesthetics. Of course, there are the exceptions…(and, yes, the Star Trek Beyond quad art is not a one-sheet, but it is beautiful, so consider it a bonus.)

DREAMLAND
Dir: Robert Schwartzman
Stars: Johnny Simmons, Amy Landecker, Jason Schwartzman and Beverly D’Angelo.
Plot: Part-time pianist Monty Fagan begins a May-December romance that upends his home life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE FAMILY FANG
Dir: Jason Bateman
Stars: Jason Bateman, Nicole Kidman, Christopher Walken and Kathryn Hahn.
Plot: A brother and sister return to their family home in search of the world famous parents, who have disappeared.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LO AND BEHOLD, REVERIES OF THE CONNECTED WORLD
Dir: Werner Herzog
Plot: A journey through a series of provocative conversations that reveal the ways in which the online world has transformed how virtually everything in the real world works.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AVA’S POSSESSION
Dir: Jordan Galland
Stars: Louise Krause, Carol Kane and Dan Fogler.
Plot: Ava Dobkins is recovering from demonic possession. With no memory of the past month, she is forced to attend a Spirit Possession Anonymous support group, in the hope she can reconnect with her friends, get her job back, and figure out where the huge bloodstain in her apartment came from. But, plagued by nightmarish visions, she fears the demon is trying to come back.

 

 

 

 

 

ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY
Dir: Gareth Edwards
Stars: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna and Ben Mendelsohn.
Plot: Jyn Erso, a Rebellion soldier and criminal, is about to experience her biggest challenge yet when Mon Mothma sets her out on a mission to steal the plans for the Death Star. With help from the Rebels, a master swordsman, and non-allied forces, Jyn will be in for something bigger than she thinks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

TONIGHT SHE COMES
Dir: Matt Stuertz
Stars: Jenna McDonald, Frankie Ray, Adam Hartley and Larissa White.
Plot: After a girl goes missing, two of her friends and a mysterious set of strangers find themselves drawn to the cabin in the woods where she disappeared. They will laugh, they will drink, they will kiss, they will make love, and they must all die.

 

 

 

 

 

 

JACKIE
Dir: Pablo Larrain
Stars: Natalie Portman, Peter Sarsgaard, Greta Gerwig and Billy Crudup.
Plot: Following the assassination of her husband, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy fights through grief and trauma to regarin her faith, console her children and define her husband’s historic legacy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

VINTAGE TOMORROWS
Dir: Byrd McDonald
Featuring: William Gibson, Coy Doctorow and Bruce Sterling.
Plot: An examination of Steampunk's origins, explosive growth, and cultural significance. Is the Steampunk movement a homogenized, privileged subculture or a reclamation of technology from the hands of Silicon Valley?

Saturday
Dec172016

TWELVE DAYS OF CINE-MAS: NINE SORRY SEQUELS

TWELVE DAYS OF CINE-MAS
A traditional festive countdown, reflecting upon my 2016 movie-watching moments...

NINE SORRY SEQUELS
Hollywood’s bottom line took a beating in 2016 when audiences turned their noses up at that revered cash cow, the sequel. Not all, of course; Captain America Civil War kept the Marvel flag flying. But only a year ago, Jurassic Park, Star Wars and Fast & Furious rehashes earned mega-bucks. So which nine flaccid follow-ups stand out as part of the problem…?

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES: OUT OF THE SHADOWS
The ‘Dads with sons’ crowd bolstered this rush-job follow-up to the 2014 surprise hit to the tune of US$82million, but that represents a nearly 50% drop in takings. These kinds of sequels – ‘brand abuse’ fodder used to fill seats for 10 or so days before disappearing to Netflix – are what do immeasurable damage to consumer confidence. There were too many of these shallow cash grabs in 2016. The Numbers: Opening weekend was off 46% from 2014. Represented one of producer Michael Bay’s lowest wide release launches.

ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS
This year’s Pan; a garish, charmless cash-grab, Disney shoe-horned ill-suited director James Bobin (who had already dropped the ball on another sequel, Muppets Most Wanted) when Tim Burton, who helmed the blockbuster original in 2010 (??) Everything felt manipulative and manufactured, and audiences weren’t conned. Depp’s falling star and scathing reviews (30% on Rotten Tomatoes) didn’t help. The Numbers: Alice in Wonderland opened to US$117million in 2010 vs Alice Through the Looking Glass topped out at US$27million; down 77%.

THE HUNTSMAN: WINTERS WAR
In 2012, magical elements came together to turn Snow White & The Huntsman into a sleeper hit. Leading lady Kristen Stewart was hot of Twilight; Chris Hemsworth was on the cusp; the trailer sold the film as an action fantasy epic, just as the Lord of The Ring crowd were feeling forgotten; and, director Rupert Sander’s film punched above its weight, delivering stunning visuals and exciting plotting. The sequel? It stunk. Despite pay-chequeing a trio of top actresses (Charlize Theron, Jessica Chastain, Emily Blunt) and securing a disinterested Chris Hemsworth to front up again, this was a tired, boring, cynical second role of the dice. The Numbers: Snow White & The Huntsman conjured US$155million after a healthy US$56million first weekend vs Winter Wars’ putrid US$19million opening salvo, on its way to a meagre US$44million; off around 65%.

ZOOLANDER 2
Another ‘Why bother?’ sequel, too long after the original for anyone to care. Opening numbers weren’t too bad; 15 years ago, Ben Stiller’s fashion industry send-up earned US15million, while his sequel hit US$13million. But then the reviews dropped (“Agonizingly paced and bewilderingly outdated”; “The worst thing Ben Stiller has ever done”) and audiences sniffed a stinker. The Numbers: #1 found most its love on home video, its US$45million box office take in 2001 qualifying it for sleeper status at best; the sequel sputtered to US$28million.

JASON BOURNE
Bringing back Matt Damon and series director Paul Greengrass in the franchise they emboldened seemed a good investment. But the script was murky, uninteresting; the small-scale intensity and human interest element of the series best episodes was gone. This fifth instalment felt undercooked and overmarketed, now resembling the soulless action sequels that past Bourne franchise entries had subverted. Not even the presence of ‘It Girl’ Alicia Vikander was enough to woo critics. The Numbers:…were good. Topped out at US$162million domestically, more again worldwide. But have you ever met anyone who liked it? Testament to Damon’s popularity in the role, but #6 (ugh) must be better.   

BAD SANTA 2
The crude/sweet vibe of the beloved Christmas black comedy original was always going to be nigh impossible to recreate. But did the sequel have to be so needlessly crass and heartless? Billy Bob Thornton hadn’t headlined a cinema release in God’s knows how long, and his recent support turns had been in expensive duds Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, Entourage and Our Brand is Crisis. Thirteen years after the original built word-of-mouth on its way to a super-profitable US$60million, the sequel… The Numbers: …bombed from Day 1, playing to 2920 thinly patronised theatres for an anaemic opening gross of US$6million; final tally, US$17million.

X-MEN APOCALYPSE
It was only two years ago that Bryan Singer, returning to the franchise that he launched so spectacularly, got some of the best reviews of his career for X-Men: Days of Future Past. In 2016, everything went wrong for the filmmaker and his beloved series, with the latest edition, X-Men: Apocalypse, getting some nasty notices and opening limply in the prime May 27 summer season slot. All the actors looked over it, none more so than Michael Fassbender, who really should give all that money back. A thoughtless ad campaign that featured Jennifer Lawrence being grabbed by the neck ensured bad press; Singer’s ambitious use of next-wave effects backfired, with fanboys complaining of the ‘video game look.’ The franchise has stagnated. The Numbers: The US$65million opening was down 28% on the last instalment, suggesting the fanbase demographic were the only ones who showed. That’s not ideal when your cast boasts Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence and Oscar Isaac. Still clawed it’s way to an ok US$155million, but that’s $80million down on Days of Future Past.    

FINDING DORY
Yes, it does seem ridiculous to cite this follow-up as being part of the ‘sequelitis’ problem. It topped US$1billion globally, US$486million domestically; for inflation, that’s kind of on par with the 2003 original. But what we question in the case of Finding Dory is the quality. Pixar set a high standard for themselves, and this story seemed rushed, was certainly without warmth or laughs, and lacked the visual artistry of the original (and most other Pixar pics). One theory is that the company was coming off their first real dud in The Good Dinosaur and needed a sure thing to appease shareholders, meaning this was fast-tracked for a 2016 release before it was entirely ready. The Numbers: They were fine.

NEIGHBOURS 2: SORORITY RISING
Audiences decided, “Nope, don’t need it, don’t want it” from the start. The problem with lightning-strike-twice follow-ups – films that try to recapture the chemistry and dynamic of comedies, in particular - is that THEY NEVER DO! Actually, Neighbours 2 wasn’t that bad a film, but even those that liked the first film felt that once was enough. A little Seth Rogen goes a long way, and Sausage Party was getting lots of coverage, perhaps undercutting Neighbours’ pull. The Numbers: Opened a whopping 56% below the original; closed US$100million behind its predecessor. Internationally, 150+% less than #1.

Friday
Dec162016

TWELVE DAYS OF CINE-MAS: TEN SOARING SPIRITS

TWELVE DAYS OF CINE-MAS
A traditional festive countdown, reflecting upon my 2016 movie-watching moments...

TEN SOARING SPIRITS
In a year that saw the passing of so many greats from the world of cinema, there were many more who weren’t afforded the farewell they richly deserve…

ALICE DRUMMOND, Actress (pictured, above; with Awakenings co-star Robin Williams); died November 30, aged 88.
Alice Drummond’s most beloved bigscreen moment amounted to barely 3 minutes of screen time, most of which was spent pushing a trolley around the basement archives of the New York Public Library. But Alice Drummond’s encounter with the vaporous apparition that kicks off Ghostbusters sets the tone for what would become the biggest comedy of all time. Her character didn’t even have a name in Dan Aykroyd’s and Harold Ramis’ script, so Bill Murray, as Dr Venkman, improvised, “Alice, I’m going to ask you a couple of standard questions, okay…?” From her debut in Carl Reiner’s Where’s Poppa? (1970), she carved an invaluable character actor niche for herself, which also included roles in Hide in Plain Sight (1980), Eyewitness (1981), The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (1982), Awakenings (1990) and Ace Ventura Pet Detective (1994).
We’ll never forget… her deadpan delivery, turning lines like “My uncle thought he was Saint Jerome” (in Ghostbusters) or “Dan Marino should die of gonorrhoea and rot in hell” (in Ace Ventura Pet Detective) into pure gems.

DON CALFA, Actor; died December 1, aged 76.
With his distinctive looks and great character actor presence, Don Calfa spent a career stealing scenes, however small, from some of Hollywood’s biggest stars. The Brooklyn native quit high school to acquire his SAG card and began a career in front of the camera with 1968 underground oddity No More Excuses for director Robert Downey Sr. It was the first of 88 film and TV credits, working with directors such as Peter Bogdanovich (Nickelodeon, 1976), Martin Scorsese (New York New York, 1977), Blake Edwards (10, 1979), Steven Spielberg (1941, 1979) and Warren Beatty (Bugsy, 1991).
We’ll never forget… the two vividly realised comedic roles that became fan favourites - bumbling hitman Paulie in Weekend at Bernies (1989) and mortician Ernie Kaltenbrunner in Return of The Living Dead (1985).

PAUL SYLBERT, Production Designer; died November 19, aged 88.
Some of the most beautifully composed frames in Hollywood film history have been the work of Paul Sylbert, the New Yorker who designed and dressed sets during the early days of television before a distinguished film career. Following active service in Korea, he relocated to Los Angeles and was soon crafting the visual texture of such films as One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest (1975), Kramer Vs Kramer (1979), Blow Out (1981), Ishtar (1987) and Biloxi Blues (1988). His beautiful work was twice recognised by the Academy; he won his only Oscar in 1978 for Heaven Can Wait then, 13 years later, earned a nomination for The Prince of Tides (1991).
We’ll never forget… the combined body of work left by Paul and his twin brother, the late Richard Sylbert, also one of Hollywood’s greatest ever production designers (Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?; Shampoo; Chinatown; Reds; The Cotton Club).

SONIA BORG, Scriptwriter, Producer; died February 4, aged 85.
Many hours of great drama during the formative years of Australian television can be credited to Sonia Borg. The Viennese immigrant landed at Crawford Productions after her Shakespearean touring troupe had brought The Bard’s work to Hong Kong, India and beyond; once in Melbourne, she produced, directed and acted in such landmark series as Homicide, Division 4, Matlock, Rush, Power Without Glory and I Can Jump Puddles (pictured, right; with actor Leonard Teale). The Australian film industry will always remember her as the writer of the classic film adaptation Storm Boy, family pics Blue Fin and Dusty and, exhibiting her versatility, the Tarantino-endorsed killer-croc pic Dark Age.
We’ll never forget… “Birds like him, never die.”

MARGARET WHITTON Actress; died December 4, aged 67.
In an acting ensemble that included Charlie Sheen, Tom Berenger and Wesley Snipes, somehow the ballsiest cast member of them all was Margaret Whitton, as hardbitten club owner Rachel Phelps in David S. Wards’ Major League. So indelible was her impact on the testosterone-fuelled comedy, it would be the role that defined her character actor career, despite years spent on stage (she debuted on Broadway in Neil Dunn’s acclaimed  Steaming) and television (The Doctors; Miami Vice). An inauspicious debut in 1975’s Teenage Hitchhikers led to a Hollywood career that included The Best of Times (1986), 9½ Weeks (1986), The Secret of My Success (1987), Ironweed (1987) and Man Without a Face (1993).
We’ll never forget… that locker-room cool; her sexy, steel-willed persona that brought a sweaty, sweary bunch of manly men to their knees.

ALBERTO SEIXAS SANTOS, Director; died December 10, aged 80.
One of Portugal’s most respected filmmakers, Santos was elected President of the Portuguese Film Institute in 1976 at the age of 40. Beginning his career as a film critic, he studied film production in Paris and London before becoming an integral creative force in the ‘Novo Cinema’ movement of the late 60s. His first feature, the politically-charged drama Brandos Costumes, screened at the Berlin Film Festival. A committed advocate of his native film industry, he formed the film collective Grupo Zero, which encouraged free-spirited and socially conscious works.
We’ll never forget… his divisive 1999 drama Mal (Evil), a multi-strand narrative that examines gender roles and social ills in contemporary Lisbon; a Best Film winner at Coimbra Caminhos do Cinema Português and Golden Lion nominee at the Venice Film Festival.

TADEUSZ CHMIELEWSKI, Director; died December 4, aged 89.
Considered the godfather of post-war Polish comedy and one his nation’s most accomplished filmmakers, Chmielewski was shooting his breakout hit Ewa chce spac (Eva Wants to Sleep) only two years after graduating from the prestigious National Film School in 1954. When it earned Film and Screenplay honours at San Sebastian, Chmielewski became a national celebrity and outspoken advocate for his film industry peers. When not directing his own hits (Walet Pikowy, 1960; Pieczone golabki, 1960; How I Unleashed World War II, 1970), he would write for the likes of Andrzej Czekalski (Pelnia nad glowani, 1983) and Jacek Bromski (U Pana Boga za piecem, 1998). He was recognised for his unified approach to the national cinema when elected as Vice President of Polish Filmmaker’s Association (1983-1987) and was given the Medal for Merit to Culture in 2010.
We’ll never forget… his active service with the National Armed Forces during and after World War II while still in his teens.

DAVID HAMILTON, Director; died November 25, aged 83.
Ailing health and the sordid details of an alleged sexual assault kept British filmmaker and photographer David Hamilton a virtual recluse in his final years; he died from an apparent suicide in his Paris apartment. At the height of his fame, his controversial portraits of naked, often pre-teenage girls and young women were both celebrated and reviled by the mid-70s cognoscenti. Graduating from stills to film, he maintained his grainy, soft-focus aesthetic and artistic obsession with the nubile female form and blossoming sensuality. His narrative feature debut, Bilitis (1977) was an arthouse sensation; the follow-up, Laura (1979) a worldwide hit. Subsequent works Tendres Cousine (1980), A Summer in St Tropez (1983) and First Desires (1983) were more of the same and dwindled in popularity.
We’ll never forget… how he defined his subject matter when questioned in 1995: ““Nudity and purity, sensuality and innocence, grace and spontaneity; we made contradictions of them. I try to harmonize them, and that’s my secret and the reason for my success.”

SULABHA DESHPANDE, Actress; died June 4, 2016, age 79.
One of India’s most beloved character actresses, Sulabha Deshpande featured in over 73 Bollywood films and countless hours of television since her debut Silence! The Court is in Session in 1971. Much of her film work was to support her philanthropic arts, which included the groundbreaking experimental theatre group Rangayan and the establishment of new Marathi and Hindi theatre groups throughout the 70s and 80s. Her key film roles were in Arvind Desai Ki Ajeeb Dastaan (1978), Gaman (1978), Bazaar (1982), Ijaazat (1987) and English Vinglish (2012).
We’ll never forget… her undertaking to introduce children to the joys of live theatre, a goal that led to the establishment of the junior theatre company Chandrashala in the mid 70s.

FAN HO, Director; died June 19, aged 78.
Considered one of China’s most acclaimed photographers, Fan Ho graduated to feature directing in 1970 with the hit film Mei (Lost). He was oon signed to the Shaw Brothers stable, where he delivered such artistically pleasing and wildly popular works The Girl With The Long Hair (1975), Innocent Lust (1977) and Notorious Frame Up (1978). A split from the giant studio led to a lean period until, in 1982, he returned with the evocative works Expensive Tastes (1982), Two for the Road (1984) and Smile Again (1985). Late in his career, his tastes became increasingly provocative; his final films were the tasteful if fleshy I Desire (1987), Brief Encounter (1988), Erotic Nights (1989) aand Temptation Summary (1990).
We’ll never forget… that five of his films have been selected for preservation status, earning a spot in the ‘Permanent Collection’ of the National Film Archives of Taiwan and Hong Kong.