Posted by davidkalat on May 18, 2013
This week TCM debuts some super-rare Harold Lloyd shorts from the early years of his career. I cannot overstate the significance of this find.
I was asked by TCM to write some material for the web site to introduce Harold Lloyd in general and some of these shorts in particular, but the specific remit of that assignment was kind of limiting, so I have a lot else to say about these films that didn’t fit into the website content. But hey—I have a blog!
Posted by Kimberly Lindbergs on May 16, 2013
I’m fond of mysteries that evolve through conversation and unravel in small spaces such as Alfred Hitchcock’s ROPE (1948) and Robert Hosseins DOUBLE AGENTS (1959). The claustrophobia they evoke seems directly linked to our primal fears and primitive suspicions. One of the most interesting films in this vein is Giuseppe Tornatore’s A PURE FORMALITY aka Una Pura Formalita (1994). I recently revisited this opaque thriller after almost 20 years and was surprised by how effective it still was. Even though I was well aware of the surprise twist ending I was mesmerized from start to finish thanks to Tornatore’s deft directing choices, Pascal Quignard’s brilliant dialogue and the masterful performances etched out by two powerhouses of European cinema; Gérard Depardieu and Roman Polanski.
Posted by Kimberly Lindbergs on May 9, 2013
Today TCM in celebrating the French actor Alain Delon and showing a batch of films he appeared in so I thought I’d join in the fun and share some photos of my small but much loved personal collection of Delon memorabilia. Delon happens to be one of my favorite actors and I’ve written about him as well as some of the films he’s appeared in before so it probably won’t surprise some readers that I’ve occasionally purchased memorabilia associated with the “Ice-Cold Angel.” This odd assortment of items I’ve managed to accrue over the last 18 years or so might not be worth much to anyone but me but I thought some readers might appreciate getting a peek at a fellow film buffs budget conscious passion.
Posted by R. Emmet Sweeney on May 7, 2013
Approximately every English-language publication in existence has run an “Is Television Better than the Movies” piece over the past few years. I will bravely buck the whims of headline writers and declare I don’t know why we have to choose. For every Louie or The Wire, there are eight billion CSIs, and a similar ratio holds for the silver screen, as long as your definition of “movies” expands beyond Hollywood. Part of the made-up race to declare TV king involves the influx of big-screen talent to the small, including David Fincher (House of Cards), Kiyoshi Kurosawa (Penance) and Michael Mann (Luck). The most successful auteur-to-TV transition I’ve seen so far though, is Jane Campion’s in her BBC/Sundance Channel miniseries Top of the Lake, starring Mad Men‘s Elisabeth Moss. Now available to stream on Netflix, it’s yet another police procedural, but the mystery is incidental to its exploration of the toll paid by women’s bodies in the hyper-masculine backwoods of Queenstown, New Zealand, where a young girl would prefer to disappear than endure it.
Posted by R. Emmet Sweeney on April 30, 2013
As May approaches, the film world turns its eyes to the Cannes Film Festival, which will host world premiere screenings from the likes of Jia Zhangke and Alexander Payne at its Grand Théâtre Lumière. I, however, will be celebrating the Edward L. Cahn Film Festival, taking place on my mustard stained IKEA couch in Brooklyn. No accreditation was necessary aside from an active Netflix account, and travel time was limited to trips to the bathroom. Cahn, born in Brooklyn, was a promising director of incendiary corruption dramas at Universal (Afraid to Talk, Laughter in Hell) before spinning his wheels for MGM short subjects in the late ’30s. He re-emerged as a pathologically prolific director of B-Westerns and gangster films in the 1950s, at AIP and the various companies of Robert E. Kent. Seventeen of these grim 1950s features are available to stream on Netflix, but all are due to expire from the service tomorrow [UPDATE: only OKLAHOMA TERRITORY and IT, THE TERROR FROM BEYOND SPACE expired, the other 15 were renewed], along with almost 1,000 other titles (check here for the full list). So I attempted to watch Cahn’s films with as much speed and urgency as he made them.
Posted by R. Emmet Sweeney on April 23, 2013
“Nobody can beat Bruce Lee, everybody can beat me” -Jackie Chan
Failing as a stoic Bruce Lee clone early in his career, Jackie Chan discovered that audiences preferred him as a cheery masochist, enduring abuse for fun and profit. His kung-fu clowning in Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow and Drunken Master (both 1978) established a persona he would tinker with the rest of his career. When he shifted from martial arts period pieces to modern day action thrillers in the 1980s, his drifting fool becomes professionalized, an innocent goofball in uniform. His masterpiece of this period is Police Story (1985), which was recently issued on Blu-Ray by Shout! Factory, along with its initial 1988 sequel, Police Story 2 (1988). Chan has made five Police Storys to date, with a sixth in production set for release later this year, but the original remains his (and my) favorite.
Posted by R. Emmet Sweeney on April 16, 2013
Since its inception Hollywood has been the plaything of the super rich, an ideal medium for ego stroking and favor doling. William Randolph Hearst famously bankrolled the career of his talented mistress, Marion Davies, while Howard Hughes worked out his fetish for flying machines and bra technology. Many of these captain of industry vanity projects have been forgotten, however, including the output of one-time Fabergé fragrance CEO, George Barrie. A born entrepreneur, he built up a cosmetics company from his garage and invented Brut cologne, allowing him to fund a series of sex comedies in the 1970s. An amateur songwriter, he used the films as excuses to promote his tunes, and received Oscar nominations for his work in A Touch of Class (1973) and Whiffs (1975). The Warner Archive recently released un-restored versions of Whiffs and I Will, I Will…For Now (1976) on DVD, both starring Elliott Gould, giving a sense of what corporations thought scent consumers wanted to watch in the 1970s.
Posted by Kimberly Lindbergs on April 11, 2013
I recently set aside some time to watch all six of Universal’s Inner Sanctum Mystery films starring Lon Chaney Jr. Seeing these relatively short (60-67 minute) B-movies back to back over a couple of days was a joy and I found new things to admire and appreciate about the film’s leading man. But afterward I made the mistake of scouring through various film books and poking around websites looking for background information about the movies and I really shouldn’t have bothered. What I found angered me, then it depressed me and finally it just made me sad so I decided to share my frustration with you, dear readers.
Posted by R. Emmet Sweeney on April 9, 2013
To the Wonder, Upstream Color and Spring Breakers have been speaking to each other in my head. I would rather they go away so I could do my taxes, but here we are. Terrence Malick’s To the Wonder, which opens in limited release this week, is a memory movie, swirling around a couple straining to recapture the ecstasy of love’s first blush. The couple in Upstream Color have nothing to recapture, their minds wiped by parasites, forced to forge new identities by pulling from the world and each other. Spring Breakers is also a kind of love story, one in which kids with dwindling Great Recession prospects escape into the sticky embrace of pop culture. All use a structure filled with repetitions and a slippery sense of time, with flash forwards and flash backs bending their linear timelines into circles.
Posted by R. Emmet Sweeney on April 2, 2013
When director George Sherman passed away at the age of 82 in 1991, he was noted only for the quantity of his output. The obituaries in both the Los Angeles and New York Times pointed out the “175″ credits he had accrued as a director for screens both large and small (IMDb lists 126), although nothing as to their quality aside from their “low-budget” origins. I recently enjoyed some of Sherman’s Three Mesquiteers Westerns that he made for Republic (which I wrote about here), but a recent column by Dave Kehr has made me ravenous for more. Reviewing Dawn at Soccoro (1954, released as part of a TCM Vault Collection), Kehr describes him as “experimental”, and the film as, “a western that might have been imagined by Kafka.” Fortuitously, more of Sherman’s work has been reaching home video. Last month Universal released a budget-priced “Classic Westerns” set of 10 films that include two Shermans: Comanche Territory (1950) and Tomahawk (1951), while Olive Films finished off their stash of John Wayne Mesquiteers films with Wyoming Outlaw (1939).
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