George Miller Retrospective At The American Cinematheque

One of the best filmmakers on the planet and he’s 77 years old

Am I writing about an American Cinematheque retrospective again? The answer is yes. For George Miller, the answer will always be, yes, I will write about this director.

Miller is a lot of things that might surprise you. He’s the son of Greek immigrants to Australia. He’s a physician who completed his residency and then became a doctor. He’s a fraternal twin.

But most of all, he’s a writer and a director of some of the most iconic films ever made. Miller also has an eclectic career as a filmmaker. While you may know him best as the director of the Mad Max series, especially MAD MAX: FURY ROAD, he’s also made tragic family dramas about parents who take the medical care of their child into their own hands, LORENZO’S OIL, the charming and gentle BABE, the animated children’s film HAPPY FEET, the adaptation of John Updike’s novel, the dark fantasy, THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK, and a segment of TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE, one of its best received, “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet”.

The Cinematheque is doing this short retrospective, with taped introductions by Miller because he’s actually shooting the MAD MAX series prequel/spin-off film FURIOSA in Australia.

LORENZO'S OIL

The series begins tonight with LORENZO’S OIL. You can purchase tickets here. It is the story of Michaela and Augusto Odone trying to find a cure for their beloved son Lorenzo who has a rare fatal genetic disease called Adrenoleukodystrophy. It’s a disease that is so rare that up until the time when the Odones pushed for a cure, the only treatment was to accept that your child was going to die in a crushing and horrific way, suffering a progressive paralysis and breakdown of the myelin nerve sheathes and white matter of the brain that would render them unable to communicate, breathe and cause them to suffer from progressive dementia.

The American Cinematheque’s website describes the film thusly, “Nick Nolte and Susan Sarandon star in this powerful drama based on a true story. For Augusto and Michaela Odone (Nolte and Sarandon), the news that their five-year-old son, Lorenzo, has a rare terminal disease is sobering, to learn there is no known cure is devastating. Despite the prognosis, the Odones embark on an extraordinary mission of love, consulting and sometimes colliding with the world’s top doctors and scientists in the quest to save their son. Their relentless struggle tests their marriage, their beliefs and the boundaries of conventional medicine in this critically acclaimed hit from director George Miller.”

MAD MAX: FURY ROAD - BLACK AND CHROME

On Friday, August 26, the sold-out screening of MAD MAX: FURY ROAD — BLACK & CHROME happens at the Los Feliz. There’s always a stand-by line at the Cinematheque though.

The Cinematheque website describes the film thusly, “More than 30 years beyond THUNDERDOME, George Miller (Academy Award nominee for Best Director) revisits his post-apocalyptic demolition derby. Tom Hardy takes the reins as drifter ex-cop “Mad” Max Rockatansky, whose wasteland survival skills are matched by those of Charlize Theron as Furiosa; together they hope to liberate the wives of the tyrannical Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne — original MAD MAX baddie the Toecutter) in Miller’s critically acclaimed, nonstop thrill ride.”

HAPPY FEET

On Saturday, August 27, the Cinematheque is screenings the animated film HAPPY FEET as a family matinee at 1:30 p.m. You can buy tickets here.

The Cinematheque’s website describes the film thusly, “Every penguin has a song in his heart . . .Except musically challenged Mumble (Elijah Wood). In frozen Antarctica, where penguins sing to woo a mate, Mumble’s talent is dancing: When his fellow penguins start to croon, Mumble’s feet want to move. Even worse, Gloria (Brittany Murphy), the object of Mumble’s affection, only wants to hear a song from Mumble’s heart. But when encroaching fishermen threaten the penguins, the colony is saved by Mumble’s valor, and Gloria’s heart is won by his dancing, Happy Feet. Directed by George Miller and featuring the voices of Hugh Jackman7, Nicole Kidman, Robin Williams and crocodile hunter Steve Irwin.”

At 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, August 27, the series concludes with a double feature, the only one held at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica, of George Miller’s newest film THREE THOUSAND YEARS OF LONGING and his classic film of women and magic, THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK. This screening is also sold out but is free and there’s always the stand-by line.

THREE THOUSAND YEARS OF LONGING

The Cinematheque’s website describes THREE THOUSAND YEARS OF LONGING thusly, “In George Miller’s new epic fantasy, Tilda Swinton stars Dr. Alithea Binnie, an academic…a creature of reason. While in Istanbul, she happens to encounter a Djinn (Idris Elba) who offers her three wishes in exchange for his freedom. At first, she doubts that he is real and she knows all the cautionary tales of wishes gone wrong. But the Djinn pleads his case, and eventually she is beguiled and makes a wish that surprises them both!”

THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK — Yes, I really love the curse sequence

It describes THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK thusly, “Jack Nicholson stars as “the devil” opposite three witches played by Susan Sarandon, Cher and Michelle Pfieffer in this offbeat thriller with a comic twist by George Miller. In the quaint New England town of Eastwick, Alexandra, Jane and Sukie yearn to meet the man of their dreams. One rainy night, the women each express an overpowering need for just one dynamic male capable of challenging their liberated spirits, a man who could become their inspiration, their joy, their … everything. But take care with what you dream, for your dream may come true … as it does for the Witches of Eastwick. Based on the best-selling novel by John Updike.”

BABE: PIG IN THE CITY

Finally, there is a second family matinee, this time a double feature of BABE and BABE: PIG IN THE CITY. You can purchase tickets here.

The Cinematheque website describes BABE thusly, “George Miller produced and co-wrote this adaptation of Dick King-Smith’s 1983 novel, which tells the inspirational story of a shy Yorkshire piglet who doesn’t quite know his place in the world. But when Farmer Hoggett (James Cromwell) wins him at the county fair, Babe discovers that he can be anything he wants to be — even an award-winning sheepdog! With the help of a delightful assortment of barnyard friends, the heroic little pig is headed for the challenge of his life in this endearing and fun-filled classic. Winner of Best Visual Effects at the 1996 Academy Awards.”

And BABE: PIG IN THE CITY thusly, “George Miller directs this imaginative sequel, which takes the three musketeers, Babe, Ferdy and Mrs. Hoggett, on a crusade into the midst of a large city where despite incredible obstacles, they’re able to turn enemies into friends, raise enough money to save the farm and combine the two worlds into one. Once again, it’s Babe’s kind and steady heart that achieves miracles, in this delightful, yet surprisingly darker installment.”

This retrospective is a great opportunity to see some of Miller’s films that aren’t as well known to the public and dive into his eclectic film oeuvre before THREE THOUSAND YEARS OF LONGING and the release of FURIOSA. There’s really so much more to his filmmaking than just the action films that he is best known for and it's well worth your time to explore what else Miller has made. The films in this series are even more emotional at their core than MAD MAX: FURY ROAD and deserve to be seen.

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