Goodbye to Language
Jean-Luc Godard's latest free-form essay film may be, more than anything else, a documentary of a restless mind.
* This filmography is not intended to be a comprehensive list of this artist’s work. Instead it reflects the films this person has been involved with that have been reviewed on this site.
An obituary for the legendary Lauren Bacall.
May 2014 Blu-rays of note.
A history and appreciation of R.W. Fassbinder on the launch of a retrospective screening series at the Lincoln Center.
Recent releases on Blu-ray, including Cat People, Death Wish, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, and more.
A box set of early Fassbinder films sees him working through pastiches of film noir and melodrama as he fins his way to his distinctive themes and style.
OK, this is where it really gets interesting. Forget the consensus Top 50 Greatest Movies of All Time; let's get personal. Sight & Sound has now published the top 250 titles in its 2012 international critics poll, the full list of more than 2,000 movies mentioned, and all the individual lists of the 845 participating critics, academics, archivists and programmers, along with any accompanying remarks they submitted. I find this to be the most captivating aspect of the survey, because it reminds us of so many terrific movies we may have forgotten about, or never even heard of. If you want to seek out surprising, rewarding movies, this is a terrific place to start looking. For the past few days I've been taking various slices at the "data" trying to find statistical patterns, and to glean from the wealth of titles some treasures I'd like to heartily recommend -- and either re-watch or catch up with myself.
I know we're supposed to consider the S&S poll a feature film "canon" -- a historically influential decennial event since 1952, but just one of many. I don't disagree with Greg Ferrara at TCM's Movie Morlocks ("Ranking the Greats: Please Make it Stop") when he says that limiting ballots to ten all-time "best" (or "favorite," "significant," "influential" titles is incredibly limiting. That's why I think perusing at the critics' personal lists, the Top 250 (cited by seven critics or more) and the full list of 2,045 films mentioned is more enjoyable pastime.
It's wise to remember that, although the top of the poll may at first glance look relatively conservative or traditional, there's a tremendous diversity in the individual lists. Even the top vote-getter, "Vertigo," was chosen by less than one quarter of the participants.
UPDATED (08/01/12): Scroll to the bottom of this entry to see my first impressions of the newly announced critics' and directors' poll results.
Vittorio De Sica's "Bicycle Thieves" (1948) topped the first Sight & Sound critics' poll in 1952, only four years after it was first released, dropped to #7 in 1962, and then disappeared from the top ten never to be seen again. (In 2002 only five of the 145 participating critics voted for it.) Orson Welles' "Citizen Kane" (1941) flopped in its initial release but was rediscovered in the 1950s after RKO licensed its films to television in 1956. From 1962 to 2002 "Kane" has remained at the top of the poll (46 critics voted for it last time). This year, a whopping 846 top-ten ballots (mentioning 2,045 different titles) were counted, solicited from international "critics, programmers, academics, distributors, writers and other cinephiles" -- including bloggers and other online-only writers. Sight & Sound has announced it will live-tweet the 2012 "Top 50 Greatest Films of All Time" (@SightSoundmag #sightsoundpoll) August 1, and as I write this the night before, I of course don't know the results. But, for now at least, I'm more interested in the process.
Given the much wider and younger selection of voters in 2012, ist-watchers have been speculating: Will another movie (leading candidate: Alfred Hitchcock's "Vertigo," number 2 in 2002) supplant "Kane" at the top of the list? Will there be any silent films in the top 10? (Eisenstein's "Battleship Potemkin" and Murnau's "Sunrise" tied for #7 on the 2002 list, but the latter was released in 1927 with a Fox Movietone sound-on-film musical score and sound effects.)
Though there's been no rule about how much time should pass between a film's initial release and its eligibility (the Library of Congress's National Film Registry requires that selections be at least ten years old), most of the selections ten to have stood the test of time for at least a decade or two. The newest film on the 2002 list was the combination of "The Godfather" (1972) and "The Godfather, Part II" (1974) -- but they won't be allowed to count as one title for 2012.
When I first started watching "Dynasty", I didn't know what the word 'dynasty' meant. Aaron Spelling's oil-and-soap opera first aired in Poland in July 1990, nine years after its American premiere and a mere year after the fall of the Berlin wall. It was the latter event that had exposed my native land to the consumerist ravishment we all secretly craved. I was eight, the world became new, and even though McDonald's was still stalling, "Dynasty" was here already: airing every Wednesday and gluing the entire nation to its old-type tube screens.
• "The Rack" (1956) • "Until They Sail" (1957) • "The Prize" (1963) • "Tales of Tomorrow: Ice From Space" (1953)"The Rack," "Until They Sail" and "The Prize" are now available on made-to-order DVD from the Warner Archive Collection for $19.95 each. "Tales of Tomorrow" can be viewed on Hulu Plus and Amazon Instant Video.
by Jeff Shannon You would think that every film Paul Newman ever appeared in would be readily available on home video, right? Guess again. One of the best films from Newman's early career has managed to slip through the cracks of home-video distribution for decades, and unless you're old enough to have seen it in theaters or on TV over the years, it's possible you've never even heard of it. So when I heard that "The Rack" (1956) was available on home video for the very first time, I couldn't wait to break the news to Stewart Stern.
For anyone who's wondering "Stewart who?" there's a convenient shortcut you can use when discussing the impressive life and career of Stewart Stern. All you have to say is, "He wrote 'Rebel Without a Cause.'" Uh-huh, that one. With a credit like that, any screenwriter could legitimately claim a slice of movie immortality, like James Dean did as the now-iconic star of Nicholas Ray's 1955 teen-angst classic. But to say that Stern only wrote "Rebel" is a bit like saying Frank Lloyd Wright designed a house. In the course of his distinguished, decades-spanning career, Stern wrote rich, psychologically perceptive scripts that were magnets for great actors and great acting: His script for "The Ugly American" (1963) gave Brando plenty to chew on; his Oscar-nominated script for "Rachel, Rachel" (1968) gave Joanne Woodward what is arguably the best role of her career (under the direction of her husband, Paul Newman; they also earned Oscar nods); and Stern's Emmy and Peabody-winning teleplay for "Sybil" (1976) transformed cute TV actress Sally Field into an Emmy winner with a pair of Oscars in her future. A few years later, Stern left Hollywood, weary of the rat race and struggling with writer's block, the delayed effect of post-traumatic stress from service in World War II. In the mid-'80s, Stern relocated to Seattle and never looked back. And while Stern may have been a nephew of Paramount Pictures founder Adolph Zukor, with additional family ties to MGM moguls Arthur Loew Sr. and Jr., his closest Hollywood connection was more personal and more warmly indicative of the man's soul and spirit: For 55 years, Stewart Stern was one of Paul Newman's very best friends.
• Bill Stamets and Roger Ebert
The 46th Chicago International Film Festival will play this year at one central location, on the many screens of the AMC River East 21, 322 E. Illinois. A festivalgoers and filmmakers' lounge will be open during festival hours at the Lucky Strike on the second level. Tickets can be ordered online at CIFF's website, which also organizes the films by title, director and country. Tickets also at AMC; sold out films have Rush Lines. More capsules will be added here.
Elevating the Oscar winners:
At MSN Movies, Richard T. Jameson and Kathleen Murphy continue their tradition of conjuring indelible cinematic moments of the previous year -- made all the more indelible by their luminous descriptions of them. A few samples, from some terrific movies, and some not-so-terrific ones:
• In "The Edge of Heaven," a brown ribbon of road glowing under the last shrinking patch of blue in a lowering, end-of-day sky ...
• "In Bruges": The twinkle and the glower: First views of the "Belgian s---hole" by, respectively, Ken (Brendan Gleeson) and Ray (Colin Farrell) ...
• In "Revolutionary Road," April stands in milky light with her back to us, gazing out her picture window as blood pools at her feet. Hats off to Douglas Sirk . ...
• As a hospital explodes in the background, a nurse sporting an obscene mask of white, black and red greasepaint totters in the street, gazing into the camera as though daring us not to get off on the way the Joker plays in "The Dark Knight" ...
• "I was a guard!" -- the courtroom profession that instantly defines the literal and moral limits of Hanna Schmitz's (Kate Winslet) imagination, and perhaps a nation's, in "The Reader" ...
• In "Che," the most romanticized revolutionary ever (Benicio Del Toro) staggers up a steep wooded hillside, wheezing with asthma. ...
• A scene of pastoral skinny-dipping suddenly turns cold and black with the threat of death, and in "Tell No One," nothing afterward is as it seems. ...
• Wendy (the superb Michelle Williams) gazes helplessly from the backseat of a cop car as her tethered golden Lab recedes from view -- the first in a cascade of losses in "Wendy and Lucy."...
• "The Happening": Mark Wahlberg delivering a monologue to a houseplant, just in case ...
• "Let the Right One In": At snowy evening, a man making his way home passes out of a tunnel, and the dark little creature Eli drops on him as if from above the screen itself. ...
• "Burn After Reading": Chad Feldheimer's last grin (Brad Pitt, sublime) ...
Many more here.
Care to contribute some of your favorite movie-moments from the past year?
Q. In your review for "The Dark Knight," you say that the Joker is a product of his father's poor treatment, but that's just one story he uses to explain his scars. Another is that he did it for his wife, and Batman interrupts before he offers a -- most likely -- different story. I think the point was that he doesn't have a cause. Who's wrong here?
You must remember this: one of the movies' iconic images.
Further reflections on the 2006 Conference on World Affairs in Boulder, CO: John Lennon said life is what happens to you when you're making other plans. Life is also the process of finding connections between everything that happens to you (there he goes with that "We're all pattern-seeking animals" thing again!). So, last week at the CWA, three panels I was on ran together in my head in ways I think are interesting. But then, it's my head we're talking about, so I'm probably inclined to think my digressions and free-associations are interesting, otherwise I wouldn't have spent so much time mucking about with them.
It was a year when more movies opened than during any other year in memory. A year when the big Hollywood studios cast their lot with franchises, formulas, sequels, and movies marketed for narrow demographic groups--focusing so much on "product" instead of original work that they seemed likely to be shut out of the Oscars, as they were essentially shut out of the Golden Globes. A year when independent and foreign films showed extraordinary vitality. A wonderful year, that is, for moviegoers who chose carefully, and a mediocre year for those took their chances at the multiplex.
Q. Recently I came across an Italian poster for the 1952 John Wayne movie "Big Jim McLain." In Italy, it seems, the movie was called "Marijuana." Fascinated, I rented the movie, and found out it was an anti-communist film that starred the Duke and James Arness as HUAC investigators out to break up a ring of communists in Hawaii. There was no mention whatsoever of marijuana in the movie. My guess is that, as communism was not considered inherently evil in Europe in the 1950s, they changed the plot of the film to have Wayne and Arness chasing a drug gang. But to do so, they would have had to reshoot a considerable amount of the movie. Is this what happened, or is there some other explanation for the Italian title? (Jeff Schwager, Seattle, WA)
TORONTO--We have a saying in Chicago: Don't drive the Dan Ryan expressway until you've driven it three times. Nobody should see Todd Haynes' "Far from Heaven" unless they've seen a lot of movies, especially from the 1950s. Unless you know what he's doing, you're likely to hate it.
In the 1970s Rainer Werner Fassbinder was a familiar presence at film festivals, invariably clad in black leather, a cigarette always in his hand, a scraggly mustache drooping over lips that seemed curled in constant ironic amusement. He traveled with a pack of friends, lovers and associates, and at Cannes, for example, you expected them all to turn up sometime after midnight at Le Petit Carlton, the little all-night bar where the party spilled out into the street.