James Horner. 1953 – 2015

Composer James Horner passed on yesterday in a plane crash while flying his Embraer EMB 312 Tucano turboprop aircraft. Horner, like many film score composers, has a massive list of film credits, including most of James Cameron’s filmography (From Aliens to Avatar), most of Ron Howard’s filmogarphy (From Willow to A Beautiful Mind), most of Mel Gibson’s directed films (Braveheart to Apocalypto) and so many more. Take a ride with the Fire-mares below from the camp classic Krull.

The Guardian has more.

Rick Ducommun. 1959-2015

Canadian comedian Rick Ducommun, who is special our hearts for playing Tom Hank’s busybody neighbour, Art Weingartner, in The ‘Burbs, has died. This is according to Joe Dante’s Facebook and Twitter pages which offer no further details. Dante was one of the few directors who cast Ducommun (who also had a small part in Gremlins 2) and the only director who gave him a significant role, I am expecting the news to be accurate.

Ducommun had a brief flash on the stand-up circuit with his very non-PC 1989 HBO Comedy Special, “Piece of Mind” and a set for Comic Relief III, and was also in very minor roles in Die Hard (where along with his scene in The ‘Burbs he is responsible for cutting the neighbourhood power off) and Groundhog Day (where he played the barfly.) For very sharp eyed viewers he was also a prison guard in Spaceballs, and a helicopter pilot in The Hunt For Red October.

He will always be Art Weingartner to us. Hey Art! You’re wife is home.

R.I.P.

Christopher Lee. 1922 – 2015

Iconic actor Christopher Lee has passed on at the age of 93. He leaves behind a fascinating career in which he specialized in intimidating figures of intelligence and power. For the UK’s Hammer studios, Lee made dozens of films (and 20 of those co-starring with Peter Cushing), where he played a very raw and masculine version of Dracula, often.

I will always have a fondness (and fear) of his Lord Summerisle in Robin Hardy’s The Wickerman, a cultured Scottish lord who presides over an island of pagans whose apple crop is dying and extra measures have to be taken to make the land fertile again. Lee sings, struts, dresses in drag and never once loses his authority or dignity in the role, right up to the harrowing ending.

Lee also played Scaramanga, the Bond villain in 1974’s Man With The Golden Gun. While quiet in the 1980s, he started to get small roles in the 1990s with his white hair, such as Richard Lester’s Return of the Musketeers, Joe Dante’s Gremlins and Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow before making a full career resurgence in the 2000s with The Lord of The Rings, where he played the fallen wizard, Saruman. After that, George Lucas used him extensively in the Star Wars Prequel trilogy (dovetailing nicely with Peter Cushing’s authoritative role in the original trilogy.) With his career back in full swing, top projects such as the remake of Charlie and The Chocolate Factory made fine use of his tall figure. Even Martin Scorsese found a nice against-type role for Lee in his tribute to all things cinema, the children’s adventure, Hugo.

With such a prolific career and legacy, an onscreen career that spans 8 decades, there is no other actor quite like Christopher Lee, a man of intelligence, taste and dignity, he was one of a kind and will be missed.

The Guardian has more.

Geoffrey Lewis. 1935-2015

Character actor Geoffrey Lewis passed on yesterday leaving a legacy of hundreds of wonderful character parts. He appeared in everything from Clint Eastwood westerns to The Devils Rejects and Fletch Lives.

Personally, I always used to confuse him with fellow character actor Marshall Bell, who I assume, both he fought tooth and nail for the same time of roles; namely grizzled, slightly authoritarian, often sympathetic but just as likely, a turncoat or a villain. Notably, Lewis is also the father of actor Juliette Lewis, who can be equally feisty and unpredictable on screen as her father ever was.

The Guardian has more.

Manoel de Oliveira. 1908-2015

Our oldest living filmmaker, prolific Portugese director, Manoel de Oliveira, has passed on at the incredible age of 106. To put things in perspective, his first work in the film industry was in the SILENT FILM era; specifically 1927. And his career spanned more than 60 Features, Documentaries and short films. Although I do not believe I saw a single one of his many films, much of which are from an industrious run in the past 20 years, his passing underscores once again to me, just how young filmmaking is as an artform.

Working steadily into his hundreds, Manoel de Oliveira’s final feature screened in 2012 at the 69th Venice International Film Festival; Gebo and the Shadow stars Michael Lonsdale, Jeanne Moreau, Claudia Cardinale, Leonor Silveira, Ricardo Trêpa and Luís Miguel Cintra and is based on the play The Hunchback and His Shadow by Raul Brandão.

The Guardian has more.

Albert Maysles 1926-2015.

“Making a film isn’t finding the answer to a question; it’s trying to capture life as it is.”

he elder half of the famous Maysles documentary filmmaking team, Albert Maysles died yesterday at 88. David (who passed on in the late 1980s) and Albert documented The Rolling Stones in one of the best documentary films ever made, Gimme Shelter, shot during the infamous Altamont Concert; a touch-point considered the end of the Hippie movement, and the beginning of the flower-power narcotics hangover. (We did a Movie Club Podcast on the 1970 doc here.) They were leading proponents int the Direct Cinema Movement which aimed to minimize cinema tricks in the documentary form to represent their stories honestly (and as the name states, directly.) They also documented The Beatles, IBM, The extended Kennedy family (Grey Gardens)the dynamic of the modern salesman in the classic documentary, Salesman. In his solo career Albert Maysles made an equally diverse stretch of films from the 1950s all the way up to 2009. Maysles was a titan of the documentary field, as important to its development as Robert J. Flaherty, Frederick Wiseman, Werner Herzog and Errol Morris.

The New York Times has more.

Leonard Nimoy: 1931-2015

With much sadness, I report that Leonard Nimoy, Actor, Director, Singer, Photographer, Poet, purveyor of Vulcan logic-and-heart-of-gold, has passed on. Whether you were a Star Trek fan (he was in pretty much every reboot and incarnation of the show in some capacity), an admirer of the 1978 remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, or just enjoyed songs about Hobbits, Nimoy always delivered the goods.

Not to be too obvious, but he lived long and prospered, and his legacy allows that we benefit from such fine work.

The Hollywood Reporter has more.

Mike Nichols – 1931 – 2014

Comedian, stage director, and one of Hollywood’s great film directors, Mike Nichols has passed away at 83. Blasting onto the movie scene with Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf in the mid 1960s, a film that was nominated for nearly all the major Oscars that year (it won for actress, best supporting actress and cinematography), and closing his career with the quite underrated Charlie Wilson’s War, Nicols made accessible satire a specialty, a feat that is not easy to do. Along with Catch-22, Carnal Knowledge, The Graduate, The Birdcage, Working Girl, Closer, Biloxi Blues and the pure paycheck flick Day of the Dolphin, his career made fine use of movie stars, while always finding a way to the take ‘celebrity vehicle’ out of the equation.

Along with Billy Wilder, Preston Sturges and Ernst Lubitsch, before him, Nicols’ voice is already missed as one of the most intelligent human-comedy directors Hollywood has ever employed.

The Guardian has more.