Flashback
A look back at this day in film history
December 05
October 12, 1990
Burnett's slow-burning Anger

When African American writer-director Charles Burnett’s To Sleep With Anger was released on this day in 1990, it was technically being deemed his “first feature.” However, Burnett already was well-known for his 1977 film Killer of Sheep and its follow-up My Brother’s Wedding (1983); both films played at festivals like Toronto, Berlin and New Directors, New Films during the early 1980s but never found distribution and were widely looked upon as “lost classics” from the formative years of American independent filmmaking. (Both films were re-released to huge acclaim last year by Milestone Films.) To Sleep With Anger, though, solidified Burnett’s reputation as a highly accomplished filmmaker with its tale of Harry (Danny Glover), a charming troublemaker who comes to stay with a Southern black family and disrupts and destabilizes it by causing unrest among the patriarch’s sons. Combining elements of fable and magic realism, Burnett’s family drama is seen by some as a film about the personification of evil or the devil (Harry claims to have given himself to the powers of darkness), yet film critic Howard Schumann maintains that it is “not about the so-called "Devil," or about the evil in our midst, as some reviewers seem to think. Rather, it is about a paradoxically benign force that can spur conflict and resolution, thereby helping people to grow and move to a new level.”


More Flashbacks
December 5, 1963
Charade released

When Charade, director Stanley Donen’s distinctly Hitchcockian Euro thriller starring Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant, was released on December 5, 1963, it represented the end of a very long road scriptwriter Peter Stone had taken to bring his work to the big screen.

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December 5, 1976
Bound for Glory Remembers Woody

On this day in 1976, Bound for Glory was released, a vivid cinematic portrait of one of the 20th century's most compelling counterculture heroes, writer and folk singer Woody Guthrie. Based on portions of Guthrie's memoir of the same name, the film was directed by Hal Ashby who – after the record breaking box office success of his previous picture, the Warren Beatty sex comedy Shampoo – had been given carte blanche for his follow-up. Though Bound for Glory ended up becoming an Oscar contender that year (going up against films like Network and Rocky for Best Picture), the movie’s production had not been without its problems. Firstly, Ashby couldn't get his first choice actors to play Guthrie and ended up casting TV's Kung Fu star David Carradine, and then production went massively over schedule and almost twice over budget as the logistics of a huge period film – not to mention the director's cocaine habit – led the film to becoming something of a runaway train. Though one of the few quintessentially American films released in the bicentennial year, Bound for Glory lost out in the major categories at the Academy Awards (instead taking Best Cinematography and Best Score) and, due to the lack of attention Ashby's films in general receive nowadays, remains unfairly overlooked as one of the finest biopics of its period.

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