Flashback
A look back at this day in film history
December 08
Something Wild November 7, 1986
Something Wild opens

With both downtown New York creative subculture and Wall Street flourishing in the mid-1980s, the collision of straight, hardworking men charismatic, possibly decadent women with bohemian lifestyles was a popular theme. There was Martin Scorsese’s After Hours, John Landis’s Into the Night, and, opening November 7, 1986, Jonathan Demme’s Something Wild. Jeff Daniels plays an uptight banker who cuts loose when he is “kidnapped” on a countercultural joyride with the enjoyably kooky, black-bobbed Lulu (Melanie Griffith). They two wind up playing husband and wife at her high-school reunion (a narrative device that would recur in countless movies following), and Ray Liotta provides some third-act bloodshed with his appearance as Lulu’s ex-con ex. The film is full of cameos from directors (John Sayles, John Waters), downtown scenesters (the designer Adelle Lutz), and musicians (The Feelies). Wrote Dave Kehr for the Chicago Tribune, “It has wit, originality, color, warmth and formal intelligence. It tempers its escapist dash with a touch of darkness, and for all of its playfulness, never departs from a fundamental seriousness.... Something Wild is superbly unpredictable.” The film wasn’t a huge hit — in the States it grossed just over $8 million — but the influence of this ’80 sub-genre exists in both independent and studio film to this day.


More Flashbacks
December 8, 1978
The Deer Hunter released

In 1978, two very different Hollywood films for tackled the previously taboo subject of Vietnam: Hal Ashby's Coming Home (released in February '78) and Michael Cimino's The Deer Hunter, which debuted on December 8, 1978.

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December 8, 1861
Georges Melies Born

Born in the middle of the 19th century, Georges Méliès helped define film as the most important artform of the 20th century. The son of a shoe manufacturer, Méliès was fascinated more in stagecraft and puppetry than heels and soles. And while he eventually took over his father’s factory, he did so only to make enough money to buy the Theatre Robert Houdin in 1888. Soon he became a master showman, creating elaborate stage fantasies with magic and special effects. His life changed completely on December 28 1895, after he attended the Lumière brothers’ exhibition of their Cinématographe. From then on, he strove to marry the magic of theater with the magic of film. In 1896, a production gone wrong showed him the way. After a camera jammed, Méliès saw things wondrously disappear, then pop back in frame, as if by directed by a master magician. He started developing other special effects—a double exposure, a split screen, and a dissolve––to enhance film’s trickery. In 1902, his A Trip to The Moon became an instant classic, turning Méliès into one of film’s foremost artists. His success however could not be maintained. By 1913 his famous film company was sold off, leaving Méliès nearly penniless. Indeed the boy who turned to the arts to avoid making shoes watched as the celluloid from his films was used to patch soldiers shoes during World War I. Nearly lost to obscurity, Méliès was rediscovered in the 20s and awarded the French Legion of Honour in 1931. Now heralded as one the grandfathers of cinema, only 200 of his over 500 films remain.

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