Wednesday, September 28, 2011
|Steve Bartman deflecting a foul ball from the reach of Moises Alou in the 2003 NLCS|
|Bill Buckner (rear right) chases the ball he booted in the 1986 World Series|
remake released earlier this year.
Sunday, September 25, 2011
In the fast moving Roaring 20s, one of its forgotten celebrities was Leonard Zelig, a human chameleon who would take on the appearance of anyone he was near near to. In this "documentary", we see Zelig's rise to fame and watch him fall in love with Dr. Eudora Fletcher, the determined psychiatrist who attempted to cure his condition. "Zelig" is a humorous and surprisingly touching concept film from Woody Allen. As a nod to "Citizen Kane" in what must have been an inspiration for "Forrest Gump", Allen employs the same 1920s fantasy used in "Midnight in Paris" as he inserts himself and Mia Farrow in grainy newsreel footage of the era. Gordon Willis's Oscar winning cinematography is beautiful and seamless, and its fascinating and sometimes very funny to see Allen interact with the likes of Babe Ruth, Charlie Chaplin, Bobby Jones, Pope Pius XI, and Hitler. Allen's scattershot humor indicative of his early films is also used to good effect here and it is also amusing hearing modern intellectuals such as Saul Bellows and Susan Sontag comment on Zelig's life. "Zelig" may be a funny concept stretched out to feature length, but it is still a fascinating and humorous experiment.
Saturday, September 24, 2011
A young, cinephile director tells the story of his latest production to the film's writer. Filming a true crime story, the director hires a beautiful and mysterious actress to play the lead, who is a dead ringer for the character she is playing, and with whom he begins to become obsessed. As the shooting locations bring him from England, to Italy, to Tennesse, the lines between fiction and reality begin to blur and the director seems to get sucked into the steamy and treacherous plot of his film. "Road to Nowhere" is independent filmmaker Monte Hellman's first film in 22 years and is an alternately fascinating and frustrating film. Including elements that are not explained or do not make sense, and given extended shots to insignificant actions that add a surreal element, the movie is maddening to a Lynchian sort of way. Yet, the parts we can grasp or that seem to make sense are extraordinarily engaging. "Road to Nowhere" is a film that doesn't always make sense and doesn't even seem to want to. Regardless, even if the title is apt, I was taken for a ride anyway much in the same way as Hellman's "Two-Lane Blacktop".
Friday, September 23, 2011
"Rio Bravo" (western), and "The Big Sleep" (noir). In this documentary, as Sydney Pollack narrates, Time's Richard Schickel takes us through Hawks' incredible films as the great director himself is interviewed. Listening to him, Hawks really is a compelling, authoritative figure. A hard, tough man he also comes off as intelligent and modest, rejecting claims of greatness from adoring French auteurs and asserting that he only filmed what he thought worked. "The Men Who Made the Movies: Howard Hawks" is a fascinating and insightful look into a legendary director's career.
Thursday, September 22, 2011
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Shea Stadium was opened in 1964 in the Queens borough of New York City and was the home of the New York Mets, and for a time the New York Jets. The structure has seen two World Series wins, and also acted as a concert venue hosting the likes of The Rolling Stones, Paul Simon, Led Zeppelin, and The Beatles among others. In 2009 it was set for demolition, and in 2008 a two night concert featuring Billy Joel was slated to close down Shea. Having personally had the pleasure of seeing Joel live in concert, he puts on an immensely entertaining show. With "Live at Shea Stadium" he puts on a lively performance while playing hits such as "Only the Good Die Young" and "You May Be Right" while playing lesser known album tracks such as "The Ballad of Billy the Kid" and "Everybody Loves You Now". Joined on stage by special guests Tony Bennett, Garth Brooks, and Paul McCartney, "Billy Joel: Live at Shea Stadium" is an appropriate sendoff by a master performer.
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
"The Way Back".
The Triplets of Belleville, The Illusionist). Ackerley's words have such poetry to them and they are spoken with such grace by Christopher Plummer who supplies his voice. Lynn Redgrave does nice voicework as well in what would be her last role as his demanding sister. "My Dog Tulip" is a touching film that shows both the range and power of animation.
Monday, September 19, 2011
Feeling their mortality after burying their pal, three middle aged man go on a bender that begins in their hometown New York and ends across the ocean in London as they drink, mourn, exercise, philander, and reevaluate their lives. "Husbands" was John Cassavetes followup to his acclaimed "Faces" and it is, like his other films, a plot thin reflective film that deals with human interactions and emotions. Its stars, Ben Gazzara, Peter Falk, and Cassavetes himself are incredibly strong in their roles and their characters are fleshed out particularly well. However, powerful moments get stretched out and lost in repetitively long sequences. Still, Cassavetes was a director who never followed a rubric, and I appreciate his films because they give you an opportunity to think and reflect. By not rushing and employing a traditional plot and focusing on character, they take on a richer quality. Still, I will not say they are easy going and especially here with "Husbands", again with the incredibly long sequences, it can be hard to sit still.
"The Hound of the Baskervilles", it is still highly enjoyable fare. Rathbone and Bruce project the same removed bemusement and George Zucco as Moriarty makes a thoughtful villain. Ida Lupino contributes nice work as well as a young woman caught up in Moriarty's trap. These early entries from the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle work best because they are played as lighter fare. They also act as a throwback to an older more innocent era of film, and also magnify what is wrong with the newer reboot by Guy Ritchie and what will most likely be wrong with the upcoming sequel.
Friday, September 16, 2011
"Black Swan". "The Red Shoes" is a beautiful film that is a high demonstration for the expressiveness of film.
Thursday, September 15, 2011
"Straw Dogs" was a 1971 film by Sam Peckinpah that offered a controversial and somewhat ambiguous take on courage, violence, and the definition of rape. This unnecessary remake by Rod Lurie is a little more clear where the lines are drawn and therefore makes the film less interesting. James Marsden and Kate Bosworth, reuniting from "Superman Returns", bring likability, but no complexity to their roles, which is what made the characters originally played by Dustin Hoffman and Susan George so enticing. Alexander Skarsgard has effective scenes as well, but his charater is all over the place. James Woods also has a good supporting role as a ferocious ex-football coach. Aside from the clearer stance, a few minor changes, and an even bloodier finale (its still effective but how could it not be!), this is a pretty direct remake. I've never understood why people want to do point by point remakes of classic films that have already stated their case on the subject fairly well.
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
A surgeon in Victorian London wanders through a freak show at a carnival and stumbles across The Elephant Man, a grotesquely deformed man. Seeing the benefits the man could bring to his career, he begins to lease him from his cruel "partner" for research purposes. As the surgeon begins to fathom the horrendous life the man must have lived, and sees a perceptive and sensitive side to him, he begins to secure a room for him at the hospital and give him some sense of dignity. "The Elephant Man" is David Lynch's sad and noble film on the life of John Merrick. Shot in starkly beautiful black and white, Lynch's second feature has only a few of the asides that we have come to expect from his films, and is a well made and engaging biopic. Anthony Hopkins delivers a fine performance as the decent surgeon and John Hurt's performance as Merrick is both sad and endearing, as he dons extensive makeup and speaks in low guttural sounds. John Gielgud and Anne Bancroft, whose husband Mel Brooks produced, are splendid as well in supporting roles. "The Elephant Man" makes us question our own prejudices by the way we initially react to its protagonist. The film is an example of David Lynch's talents as a director, the wonderful work of cinematographer Freddie Francis, and the great performances of his cast.
*** 1/2 out of ****
version first as it copies the original beat for beat. Anyways, Moore's performance is so rapid fire and charming, and Gielgud so great in support, that "Arthur" is a wonderfully delightful excursion.
Eastwood, Steven Spielberg, and Martin Scorsese and no one really pieces together clips as well as Schickel. "You Must Remember This: The Warner Bros. Story" is an exciting journey through the history of the Warner's remarkable movies.
Here is an outline of each of the five episodes:
Here is an outline of each of the five episodes:
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Sunday, September 11, 2011
Saturday, September 10, 2011
Peepshow Pioneers (1889-1907)
The origins of the movies are discussed which include picture flip books, projection shows, and the famous bet where photographer Eadweard Muybridge proved with a series of cameras that a horse does indeed have all four feet in the air at one time when he runs. We also see how Thomas Edison tinkered with the idea of the movies and made it in to an industry. We learn of the brilliance of early filmmakers like Georges Méliès, Edwin S. Porter, and D.W. Griffith and the rise of early stars such as Mary Pickford and Lillian Gish. We also hear the stories of Mayer, the Warners, Laemmele, Goldwyn, Zanuck, and Fox, mostly Jewish immigrants who started the studio system and eventually moved the industry west to Hollywood.
The Birth of Hollywood (1907-1920)
As the movie industry continues to explode and moguls set up shop in Los Angeles, we see the incredible success and controversy surrounding D.W. Griffith's "The Birth of a Nation", the rise of cowboy stars such as William S. Hart, Brono Billy and Tom Mix, and the great success of Max Sennett, his Keystone Studio, and his discovery of the young, impoverished, and ambitious Charles Chaplin. We also see the rise of stars like Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, producers such as Thomas Ince and Adolph Zucker, and the important roles women played not only in front of the camera but behind it as well. As the country marched into World War I, the movie industry was there to support and film it and by the end of the decade, the United States had asserted itself as the top filmmaking nation in the world.
The Dream Merchants (1920-1928)
As the movie industry has asserted itself in America, it now begins to deal with power struggles, scandals, and calls for censorship. Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks and D.W. Griffith form United Artists, Joe Kennedy develops RKO, and titan studio MGM comes into formation. Stars such as Rudolph Valentino, Lon Chaney, Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd, Gloria Swanson, Greta Garbo, and Clara Bow come into focus and moviemakers Hal Roach, Erich von Stroheim, and Cecil B. DeMille strive to bring their visions to the screen. The Academy is formed to thwart unionizing and the first Award ceremony is held in 1927 as the talkies begin to be ushered in and the industry becomes revolutionized forever.
Brother, Can You Spare a Dream (1929-1941)
The Stock Market Crash, The Great Depression, and the audience demand for talking pictures revolutionizes the film industry in the 1930s as old stars like Mary Pickford, Clara Bow, and the silent clowns fade out and a new line of stars such as Clark Gable, Bette Davis, The Marx Brothers, Judy Garland, and Shirley Temple take their place. Hollywood makes makes movie stars out of radio personalities like Bing Crosby, Busby Berkeley and Fred Astaire become kings of the musical, and atypical stars like James Cagney and Edward G. Robinson begin to rise. A demand for writers is created and Herman J. Mankiewicz and Ben Hecht heed the call and power players such as The Selznicks, The Cohns, and Howard Hughes have their day. Walt Disney promotes feature length animation, "The Wizard of Oz" and "Gone with the Wind" take audiences by storm, and the moguls have differing responses to the growing threat across the Atlantic.
Warriors and Peacemakers (1941-1950)
While Europe is at war, much of Hollywood is fearful of speaking out in fear of losing the foreign market aside from Charlie Chaplin who releases "The Great Dictator". When America finally enters the war, the film industry goes into full swing as they campaign for the troops, make propaganda films, and sell war bonds. Male stars like James Stewart and Clark Gable enlist, directors like John Ford and John Huston make war documentaries, Bob Hope and Betty Grable entertain the troops, and female stars like Bette Davis and Barbara Stanwyck greet soldiers on their way over at The Hollywood Canteen. Daryl Zanuck releases Ford's social conscious "The Grapes of Wrath" and Preston Sturges makes funny films laughing at war. John Wayne, Humphrey Bogart, Joan Crawford, Gregory Peck and Cary Grant are the preeminent film stars, Orson Welles makes "Citizen Kane", and "Casablanca" becomes an unanticipated success. After the war, new tastes develop and film noir as well as social conscious films emerge. A lawsuit by Olivia de Havilland and the work of agents like Charles Feldman and Lew Wasserman lead to more rights for stars and labor strife leads to the HUAC hearings and the Hollywood Blacklist. By the end of the 40s, The Paramount Decree will strip the moguls of their theaters and the television will become a viable threat to the industry.
The Attack of the Small Screens (1950-1960)
As television and the mobility of the 1950s draws audiences away from the movies, Hollywood embarks on a bigger is better campaign with the promotion of drive-ins, 3D, cinerama, technicolor, cinemascope, and stereophonic sound. TV stars like Lucille Ball, Sid Caesar, and Jackie Gleason reach extreme heights of popularity and Hollywood begins to lure television stars and writers and eventually enter the medium by leasing films, producing TV movies, as well as TV shows, particularly with Walt Disney. Star Power begins to combine with emotional intensity as we see stars like James Dean, Marlon Brando, Liz Taylor, Montgomery Clift, Sidney Poitier, and Burt Lancaster while Marilyn Monroe sizzles up the screen. Alfred Hitchcock and Billy Wilder make their marks as directors and Cold War fears lead Charlie Chaplin to become outspoken and exiled. United Artists and the agents at MCA begins to rise and RKO dies largely due to the eccentricities of owner Howard Hughes. We see the deaths of Louis B. Mayer, William Fox, Jesse Laskey, Harry Cohan, and Harry Warner, the resignation of Daryk Zanuck, and the overall decline of the studio system which was being supplemented by independent filmmakers such as Roger Corman.
Fade Out, Fade In (1960-1969)
As the 1960s begin with a mogul's son taking the Oath of Office and the Hollywood blacklist is dissolved, the films of the decade see a great change being influenced by the postwar film revolution in Europe and specifically the films from Italian Neorealism, the French New Wave, and specifically the films of Bergman, Kurosawa, Truffaut, Godard, Antonioni, and Fellini. Kubrick made "Dr. Strangelove" spoofing the cold war madness as well as "2001" and "Bonnie and Clyde" revolutionized American pictures. "Cleopatra" bankrupts Fox, Psycho is a hit, and Marilyn Monroe dies. Mike Nichols makes "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" and "The Graduate" and counterculture movies such as "Easy Rider" and "Midnight Cowboy" change the game as well. International films blow up such as "Lawrence of Arabia" and the Bond films, and the studios begin to develop sequels. As the decade closes and the studios become conglomerates and titans like Walt Disney and David O. Selznik die, a new generation of filmmakers await in the wings and in the crowds to take the reins and perpetuate are faith in the movies.
Friday, September 9, 2011
Thursday, September 8, 2011
Tuesday, September 6, 2011
After a night of carousing with a friend (Fred Draper) and a call girl (Gena Rowlands), a successful business man (John Marley) returns home to his wife (Lynn Carlin), with whom he seems to get along with. After dinner and some fooling around, he quickly becomes enraged and abruptly asks for a divorce, leaving the house to return to the prostitute. His wife then goes out with her friends and finds herself home alone with a swinging, mindless younger man (Seymour Cassel). "Faces" is an intentionally rough looking and uncomfortable film directed by John Cassavetes, a director whose style strikes me as more European than any American director I can think of (there's even a reference to Bergman here). Shot in grainy black and white and comprised largely of closeups, "Faces" abandons any traditional film narrative resulting in a very realistic portrait. Things are presented on screen and not explained, leaving the viewer to draw their own conclusions. The acting in the film is of the highest order as well. John Marley, who played Jack Woltz in "The Godfather", is very strong and believable as the successful and unsatisfied young man and Gena Rowlands, Cassavetes' wife and film regular, is wonderful as well. Lynn Carlin submits fine work as Marley's vulnerable wife and Seymour Cassel has a very powerful scene we don't expect when his dopey character is introduced. John Cassavetes was a visionary director who was uncompromising with his work. Here, as with much of his work, the result is brimming with authenticity.