Flashback
A look back at this day in film history
December 22
October 15, 1999
Fight Club released

Ten years ago today, David Fincher’s Fight Club electrified American filmgoers with its dark and compelling vision of a disenfranchised generation of young men. The film, based on the novel of the same name by Chuck Palahniuk, told the story of an unnamed narrator (Edward Norton) who is drawn into an underground organization – in which men bond by pounding the shit out of each other – after he befriends one of its leaders, the charismatic anarchist and soap salesman Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt). Palahniuk had been inspired to write the book after he had noted the failure of his colleagues to acknowledge visible bruises he’d received after being beaten up one time. The novel’s uncompromisingly bleak and graphic vision of society made it a difficult film to adapt for commercial audiences (there was an infamous script report by a Fox reader slamming the project), however the challenge seemed perfect for director David Fincher, who brought his Se7en star Pitt on board as one of the leads. On its release, the star power of Pitt and Norton helped the film to be #1 at the box office on its opening weekend, however it ultimately was a disappointment commercially. Critics were split on the film at the time, with many disturbed by its uncompromising vision of violence, comparing it to Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange. However in the decade since its release, Fight Club has achieved cult status (greatly helped by its continued life on DVD) and has become accepted as one of the essential films of the 1990s.


More Flashbacks
Around the World in Eighty Days Dec. 22, 1956
Around the World in Eighty Days Premieres

Based on the novel by Jules Verne, the 1956 film Around the World in 80 Days, which opened in L.A. on December 22, 1956, was the kind of glorious cinematic jape that rarely is produced anymore.

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December 22, 1993
Philadelphia breaks the AIDS barrier

A few days before Christmas, Jonathan Demme’s groundbreaking AIDS melodrama hit screens, just in time for Academy consideration. A month later the film was duly rewarded, garnering five nominations, with Tom Hanks winning for Best Actor and Bruce Springsteen winning Best Song. But the road to Philadelphia was neither straight, nor clear. Years earlier, producer Scott Rudin worked with screenwriter Ron Nyswaner to get a film about AIDS started. The two looked at a range of stories, including that of Geoffrey Bowers, a New York City attorney who was fired after he showed signs of HIV in 1986. Rudin sold the concept to TriStar who worked with Jonathan Demme (who’d just won an Oscar for Silence of the Lambs in 1991). For Rudin and Nyswaner, both gay men who’d experienced the deaths of many friends, the issue was personal. Likewise for Demme, who dealt with illness and death of his wife’s best friend: “When Juan [Botas] said he was HIV positive, I reacted in the only positive way I could, which was to try to work somehow.” While Demme made Philadelphia to be “targeted for the malls," he wanted the set to be true to the people dealing with the epidemic. Of the 53 gay men cast in the film, nearly 43 died within the next year. At one point, Demme was forced into a fight with TriStar over casting openly gay actor Ron Vawter; the studio wanted to reject him because they could not take out insurance on him. Demme only had to point out the cruel irony of the studio firing an actor in a film about someone being fired for having HIV.

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