Posted by Nathaniel Thompson on January 4, 2017
There’s something really special about transitional films in a director’s filmography, and it almost always drives critics insane when those movies first open. Case in point: Stardust Memories (1980), Woody Allen’s first film of the 1980s (or last of the 1970s if that’s how you prefer to count decades) and a challenging gauntlet thrown down by the director after two of his ambitious films, the austere drama Interiors (1978) and his most iconic ode to his favorite city, Manhattan (1979). There was a lot of chatter at the time about the “Serious Woody Allen” (the name of a little retrospective running right here, by the way), with admirers and detractors alike honing in on the increasing Ingmar Bergman influence that had been dotted through several of his films before leaping to the forefront in both Love and Death (1975) and Interiors. So what did Allen do? He pulled a Fellini instead, and for years, no one knew what to make of it. [...MORE]
Posted by Susan Doll on February 8, 2016
I remember when Peter Bogdanovich’s Nickelodeon was released in the 1970s. While I loved the film, I turned to my companion and remarked, “The reason I like this movie is the very reason why it will not be a hit at the box office.” Over the weekend, I caught the Coen Brothers’ Hail, Caesar!, and the same thought occurred to me. Both films are fictional tributes to the film industry of another era and abound with references to actual incidents, people, and classic movies. Cinephiles, movie fans, TCM viewers, and those old enough to remember post-WW II Hollywood will recognize and get a kick out of many of the references in Hail, Caesar! I truly hope this specialized group of viewers will catch this film in the theater to support it. Other movie-goers—the young demographic that the big studios prize so much, the family audience that made Kung Fu Panda 3 the top box-office movie for two weeks in a row (good grief!), or those looking for a laugh riot as per the trailer—will not be appreciative.
I love movies about the history of movies by auteur directors who know and appreciate that history—Bogdanovich’s Nickelodeon, Scorsese’s The Aviator, Truffaut’s Day for Night, Altman’s The Player, Blake Edwards’ Sunset. Even if the films are critical of Hollywood, they speak in a language that I know. These films are not the same as exposes of Hollywood, or movies about the movies, such as Sunset Blvd., The Bad and the Beautiful, Hearts of the West, or A Star Is Born, because the referencing is part of the fabric or texture of the narratives. Yet, it is the referencing that goes over the heads of most viewers, dooming the films to a less-than-stellar performance at the box office. [...MORE]
Posted by Pablo Kjolseth on May 31, 2015
A few weeks ago I had a conversation with Tim Kirk, producer of Room 237, The Nightmare, and other titles. We talked about commentary tracks because he is releasing something called Director’s Commentary: Terror of Frankenstein. The normal order of business would be to simply re-release Terror of Frankenstein (Calvin Floyd, 1977), and then add a commentary track as a bonus. Sadly, the only existing elements that remain for Terror of Frankenstein are sketchy at best and not worth revisiting in and of themselves. A serendipitous conversation, however, between Kirk and Terror of Frankenstein star Leon Vitali opened the door to a mysterious world behind Floyd’s surprisingly faithful adaption of Mary Shelley’s story. Given Vitali’s work with Stanley Kubrick, he is already the subject of a few conspiracy theories himself, but what Vitali reveals in his commentary track to Terror of Frankenstein suggests that method-acting can go too far. It might even lead to murder. [...MORE]
Posted by Kimberly Lindbergs on January 8, 2015
I know what you’re thinking. Another list?! Forgive me my trespass but as a member of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists I’m asked to compile a list of my favorite films each year and I wanted to share some of my viewing highlights with you. These are the films that have been occupying my thoughts in recent weeks and many of them haven’t gotten the critical attention that I think they deserve. What follows is an alphabetical list of my 15 Favorite Films from 2014 along with some comments. I had hoped to write more about them all and why I find them worth recommending but I managed to sprain my hand last week, which has limited my typing abilities so some films only get a sentence or two. That said, I hope you’ll find some of my viewing suggestions worth investigating further.
Posted by Pablo Kjolseth on February 23, 2014
“I thought you might want to go to the picture show. Miss Mosey is having to close it. Tonight’s the last night.” – Sonny Crawford (Timothy Bottoms)
How is it that nobody has done a modern version of The Last Picture Show? I realize that Peter Bogdanovich’s 1971 film, based on the novel by Larry McMurtry, is about much more than Miss Mosey having to close down the movie theater due to dwindling business and the rise of television, but let’s face it: the death of the Royal Theater in a small town, circa 1952, serves as a larger emblem of the many chapters in life that open and close for the characters of Anarene, Texas. It does so in ways that are understandable for anyone going through adolescence, their mid-life, and even death. Still: so much is implied by the four simple words of the title that it’s no surprise the book caught the eye of someone like Bogdanovich.
Posted by Susan Doll on October 7, 2013
Episode 6 of The Story of Film: An Odyssey airs tonight and tomorrow night on TCM. Titled, “1953-1957-The Swollen Story: World Cinema Bursting at the Seams,” this episode continues the exploration of Hollywood and world cinema of the 1950s that was begun in Episode 5. In regard to Hollywood, the career of musical director Stanley Donen and the impact of McCarthyism were discussed last week, while James Dean and the era’s glossy melodramas are briefly mentioned tonight, along with On the Waterfront. While musicals, McCarthyism, melodramas, and Marlon’s Method do characterize Hollywood cinema in the 1950s, the decade represented so much more for the American film industry.
Posted by Pablo Kjolseth on December 2, 2012
Last night Alex Cox and I sat down for a private screening of O Lucky Man! (Lindsay Anderson, 1973). Alex had met both Anderson and Malcolm McDowell back in the seventies, and had even presented Anderson with a script for a film that never got made (Scousers). At one point Alex, who had not seen O Lucky Man! in a very long time, couldn’t help but blurt out that “it’s even better than I remember!” Alex was also surprised by how certain sequences in the film had clearly influenced his own Highway Patrolman (1991), and we both marveled at how, despite being almost 40 years old, the film retained all its original power and packed a prescient edge. O Lucky Man! is even more relevant now to the U.S. because at the time of its release it was chronicling the nervous collapse of English society from an engineering country to a service country. It’s the same spasm that now grips the U.S. psyche. [...MORE]
Posted by Pablo Kjolseth on October 21, 2012
Room 237 (2012) is a documentary by Rodney Ascher that delves into several different theories that might lurk behind the infamous door of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (1980). Anyone who watches The Shining at face value alone will walk away having seen a horror film about an alcoholic and abusive writer who is haunted by ghosts until he goes mad. But when you take into consideration the fact that Kubrick was reading a lot of Freud in preparation for shooting The Shining, and that he was also deep into Jungian concepts about the duality of man, suddenly The Shining takes on other meanings as well, all of which are aided by Kubrick’s fastidious nature and his love for symmetry. These complexities are all well documented in the impressive tome released by Taschen titled The Stanley Kubrick Archives. Room 237 does not go down these well trod paths of analysis, but rather goes off the beaten path and down five completely different rabbit-holes. [...MORE]
Posted by Susan Doll on October 1, 2012
The highly anticipated Hitchcock opens the AFI Film Festival on November 1. Based on the book Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho, the drama interprets the behind-the-scenes production of one of the 20th century’s most influential films. I have not seen a trailer for the film, but based on the publicity stills, the makeup on star Anthony Hopkins results in an uncanny likeness of Hitchcock. Writer-director Sacha Gervasi (Anvil: The Story of Anvil; scriptwriter for The Terminal) lacks a sufficient track record to predict the quality of the drama, but Hopkins is sure to offer an interesting interpretation of the Master of Suspense. In addition to Hitchcock, a film called The Girl, which focuses on the director’s relationship with Tippi Hedren, is in the works. Toby Jones stars as Hitchcock, and Sienna Miller costars as Hedren.
Hitchcock and The Girl belong to that genre generally described as “movies about the movies,” a category irresistible to most film lovers. In doing research for this blog article, I was surprised at the diversity of the films that fall into this genre. There are biopics about beloved actors (Man of a Thousand Faces; The Story of Will Rogers); biopics that examine the adverse effect of Hollywood on the individual, particularly the star system and publicity machine (Frances; Harlow); dark exposes of those industry insiders corrupted by fame and power (Sunset Boulevard; A Star Is Born; The Bad and the Beautiful; Hollywoodland); and comic musings about the nature or history of Hollywood filmmaking (Sherlock, Jr.; Singin’ in the Rain).
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