In our Summer Movie Preview, you’ll find a lot of bankable directors like J.J. Abrams (Star Trek Into Darkness) and Roland Emmerich (White House Down) doing what they do best. But amid all the summer hoopla, explosions, and laughs, you’ll also be hearing from a number of exciting new voices — like Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, who co-wrote 2011’s The Descendants with Alexander Payne, and who make their directing debut this summer with The Way, Way Back, an homage to 1980s coming-of-age comedies, starring Steve Carell, Toni Collette, and Sam Rockwell. First-time feature director Joseph Gordon-Levitt also stars in his hilarious, insightful, and supremely confident comedy Don Jon as a lady-killing lunk who gets schooled by Scarlett Johansson and Julianne Moore. Ryan Coogler’s Sundance-award-winning Fruitvale, starring Octavia Spencer and Michael B. Jordan, looks into the 2009 killing of 22-year-old Oscar Grant by an Oakland transit cop. And Seth Rogen (with co-director Evan Goldberg) does double duty in front of and behind the camera for the wildly funny apocalypse movie This Is the End.
Sadly, just as these directing careers are getting off the ground, we lost two extraordinary filmmakers to cancer: The Spanish director Bigas Luna, most famous for discovering Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem for the 1992 movie Jamon Jamon, died at age 67 on April 5; and Les Blank, who specialized in documentaries about visionaries and dreamers (check out his 1982 Burden of Dreams, about Werner Herzog’s quixotic quest to make Fitzcarraldo, and his 1965 Dizzy Gillespie), passed away at age 77 on April 7. And while audiences may not know the name, stars, filmmakers, and executives in Hollywood will gather on May 2 to celebrate the life of Eli Richbourg, a 42-year-old writer and producer who worked on A Time to Kill, Phone Booth, and several other Joel Schumacher films, as well as MTV’s Emmy-winning pro-social campaigns. He was working in film development for Ubisoft when he died of a brain aneurysm in March. Eli was a friend of mine, and one of those rare individuals universally loved in the entertainment industry. We will miss him and the opportunity to see where his considerable talent and wealth of goodwill could have taken him.