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Abuse of Weakness

An examination of power, greed, emotional manipulation and simple need that is gripping and powerful to behold even if you don't know the story behind…

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The Expendables 3

If you’re over 40, this is your “The Avengers.” As slavishly devoted to the old action films of Sly and company as any Marvel Universe…

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Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

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Monsieur Hire

Patrice Leconte's "Monsieur Hire" is a tragedy about loneliness and erotomania, told about two solitary people who have nothing else in common. It involves a…

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* 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.

#183 September 4, 2013

Sheila writes: The glamorous days of air travel were already on their way out by the time I first stepped foot on an airplane (Aer Lingus, 1980) so I have always been fascinated by glimpses of what traveling by plane used to be like: the linens, the cocktail glasses, the curtains, the elegance! I came across a piece about a man, Anthony Toth, who had such a sense of nostalgia for those bygone days that he built a partial replica of a Pan Am 747 in a warehouse in Redondo Beach, where he lives. At first, the replica was in his garage, but then he realized he needed to build an upper level, so he moved the entire thing to a warehouse, where it still sits today. The local press picked up on the story, and it created such interest that you can now visit and have dinner, Pan Am style.

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The fate of the Jerryphile

I love Jerry Lewis. I love Jerry Lewis so much that I have a friend who, whenever I mention Lewis online, sends me the simple two word message "Rupert Pupkin". That, of course, is the name of Robert De Niro's deranged wannabe in Martin Scorcese's "The King of Comedy". Pupkin is so obsessed with Jerry Langford, the comedian played by Jerry Lewis, that he kidnaps him and takes his place on his talk show.

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#106 March 14, 2012

Marie writes: It's official. I have died and gone to heaven. For here below, as part of an ongoing series exploring Britain's architectural wonders, the Observer's architecture critic Rowan Moore, introduces a spectacular interactive 360-degree panoramic photograph of "The grand staircase in the St Pancras Renaissance hotel" - which I regard as one of the most beautiful pieces of architecture I have ever seen. I adore this building and always will; it's the stuff of dreams. (Click photo to enlarge.)

Go here to explore a 360 panoramic view of the grand staircase!

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Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?

May Contain Spoilers

Don Siegel's "Dirty Harry" (1971) may not be the greatest film of Clint Eastwood's career but its title character is certainly the one that best defines it. Looking back, it's hard to imagine it took five years for such an acclaimed picture to arrive here in Mexico. Censorship wasn't common in those days but there was something about "Harry." The only other feature that I can recall getting a similar treatment was "Two Minute Warning" with Charlton Heston. Both dealt with mad snipers on the loose so my guess is that someone decided it was better not to give anyone ideas.

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#85 October 19, 2011

Lesson for the day: How to have fun while wasting time... Marie writes: welcome to DRAW A STICK MAN, a delightful Flash-based site prompting viewers to draw a simple stick figure which then comes to life!  Ie: the program animates it. You're given instructions about what to draw and when, which your dude uses to interact with objects onscreen. Thanks go to club member Sandy Kahn who heard about it from her pal Lauren, in Portland Oregon.Note: here's a screen-cap of what I drew; I've named him Pumpkin Head.

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Jack Benny, 1894-1974: The man who was funny just by standing there

In October 1974, Benny canceled a performance in Dallas after suffering a dizzy spell, coupled with a feeling of numbness in his arms. Despite a battery of tests, Benny's ailment could not be determined. When he complained of stomach pains in early December, a first test showed nothing, but a subsequent one showed he had inoperable pancreatic cancer. Choosing to spend his final days at home, he was visited by close friends including George Burns, Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra, Johnny Carson and New Zealand crooner John Rowles. He died from the disease on December 26, 1974. Bob Hope delivered the eulogy at his funeral. Mr. Benny's will arranged for a single long-stemmed red rose to be delivered to his widowed wife, Mary Livingstone, every day for the rest of her life.--Wikipedia

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The call girls who sank a government

May Contain Spoilers

Michael Caton-Jones' 1989 film "Scandal" begins amidst an atmosphere of gaiety and innocence at the start of the 1960s. Bright, resplendent, sparkling visions burst before our eyes. Soon the tones will become darker. "Scandal" chronicles the multi-faceted sex scandal that erupted in the "you've never had it so good" British Tory prime minister Harold Macmillan's conservative government in 1963.

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#31 October 6, 2010

Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh at a Charity party in 1957 with Frank Sinatra and his then-wife, Ava Gardner. (click to enlarge) Marie writes: the best celebrity photos are invariably candid shots. :-)

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A Journey to the End of Taste

View image Their hearts will go on, even if they're all wet.

Who says there's no accounting for taste?¹ Maybe there is. New Yorker music critic and Alex Ross (whose brilliant book "The Rest is Noise" I wrote about last month) mentioned another book on his blog and now I've gotta get ahold of it (as Barak Obama maybe sorta allegedly did).²

It's called "Let's Talk About Love: A Journey to the End of Taste," by Toronto Globe and Mail pop music critic Carl Wilson, and it critiques a Celine Dion album. The one with the "Titanic" love theme on it. Well, kind of.

If you've been following posts and discussions around these parts recently ("Moviegoers Who Feel Too Much," "Are Movies Going to Pieces?," "Don't let this affect your opinion of Juno..."), you'll know why that title immediately grabbed my attention. And it's not because I'm a Celine Dion fan.

From a review by Sam Anderson in New York Magazine: Wilson’s real obsession here is not Céline but the thorny philosophical problem on which her reputation has been impaled: the nature of taste itself. What motivates aesthetic judgment? Is our love or hatred of “My Heart Will Go On” the result of a universal, disinterested instinct for beauty-assessment, as Kant would argue? Or is it something less exalted? Wilson tends to side with the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, who argues that taste is never disinterested: It’s a form of social currency, or “cultural capital,” that we use to stockpile prestige. Hating Céline is therefore not just an aesthetic choice, but an ethical one, a way to elevate yourself above her fans—who, according to market research, tend to be disproportionately poor adult women living in flyover states and shopping at big-box stores. (As Wilson puts it, “It’s hard to imagine an audience that could confer less cool on a musician.”)

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Gimme them old-time furrin pictures

View image You can't really like this "Seven Samurai" movie, can you? It's old and Japanese!

Here are questions cinephiles and critics still hear all the time: "Why do you like old movies and foreign movies so much? What about new movies? Aren't you just being elitist to say you like movies that are in black and white or have subtitles? Movies are supposed to be fun!" The implicit assumption is that "old movies" are outmoded movies and that new movies (with the latest technologies, unrestricted by old codes regarding sex, violence, drugs and other content) are inclined to be more liberated or superior. Oh, and that "fun" cannot be inspired by anything made before one was born. Not that there's anything inherently inferior about recent, English-language movies, either, but what's wrong with a kiss, boy? (Yes, I quote ol' Monty Python a lot.)

I like to counter this narcissistic question with another proposition: "Think of the new music you've heard that's been issued over the last year. Is more of it "better" than what's been made over the last 100 years? Would it be "elitist" to say that it's more likely you'll find more favorites from the last 99 years than from the last one? Even in purely statistical terms, it just makes sense.

Let's say I'm an even 50 years old. Well, movies themselves have only been around for about 100 years, so I would not be surprised to find that I had at least as many favorites that were made before I was born (1957) as I do that were made since the advent of my existence. Now let's assume that I am turning 30 in 2007. If I say I'm really interested in movies, then it shouldn't seem the least bit unlikely that I've seen more great movies made between 1900 and 1977 than I have between 1977 and now. Especially since so many of them are so easy to see -- whether on basic cable (Turner Classic Movies) or DVD.

I know, I know -- there are people who don't like musical styles of the past, either. They don't like punk or rockabilly or bebop or big band swing or Western swing or blues or Romanticism or Baroque music. And that's their taste, and they're entitled to it. But, if they haven't been sufficiently exposed to these styles, that doesn't mean those tastes are terribly well-rounded tastes. (This is where we could argue about whether some "opinions" carry more weight than others in a debate.) We don't have to like everything, we just need to have enough knowledge and experience to know what it is we don't like.

The question itself seems understandable, if misguided, at first hearing. Until you consider it for about three seconds. And then you see how insulting it really is, because another underlying assumption is: "You can't really like that stuff, can you?"

As Sammy Davis, Jr., one wrote: Yes, I can. (Whether Frank Sinatra says it's OK or not.)

Is Beyonce a greater singer because she's relatively new and young and recorded with the latest technology? Are Aretha Franklin and Edith Piaf and Dinah Washington and Patsy Cline and Martha Reeves and Susannah McCorkle and Billie Holliday and Astrud Gilberto automatically not as good because they recorded a lot of their best stuff earlier -- and some of it was not in English? It just depends on what you like, not on when it was new.

So, why do cinephiles and critics like old movies, and movies from other lands, so much? Maybe for the same reason oenophiles like vintage wines so much: They've stood up over time, and different regions have different styles and distinctive flavors. And maybe because it's part of the definition: Anybody who doesn't consider movies made more than 10 or 20 or 30 years ago has no business calling him/herself a critic or cinephile any more than somebody who dismisses the traditional cuisines of the world could be considered a gourmet. (I've been watching "Top Chef," you see...)

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We're not in Texas anymore... are we?

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Q: I had to laugh at elements of your review of "Friday Night Lights." You wrote: "Certainly there are countless citizens in that Texas town who lead happy and productive lives and are fulfilled without depending on high school football." Obviously you've never lived in Texas. I've lived here for five years now and I can attest that in a small town like Odessa, high school football IS everything. You mention that the Odessa stadium is "larger than those at many colleges." True. Our high school north of Austin recently completed a $20 million, 11,000-seat capacity stadium complete with AstroPlay synthetic turf and a Daktronics Prostar scoreboard. In Texas, the school funding debate rages on like it does everywhere, but they can't let the kids play on a shabby field, can they? Doug Matheson, Austin, Texas

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Politics, celebs and movie critics

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"You should learn to keep your opinions OUT of your reviews!" Every critic I know has received at least one letter like that from an indignant reader. Of course, it's an absurd proposition; critics are paid to express their opinions, and the good ones (who exercise what is known across all disciplines as "critical thinking") are also able to cite examples and employ sound reasoning to build an argument, showing you how and why they reached their verdict.

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Janet Leigh dies at age 77

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Among Janet Leigh's last interviews was one she gave in July to the Sun-Times' Miriam Di Nunzio about the DVD release of "The Manchurian Candidate." Some excerpts: On working with directors John Frankenheimer, Alfred Hitchcock and Orson Welles: "They were all geniuses. Hitchcock ['Psycho'] did not like ad-libbing at all because everything was timed to perfection in his scenes. Orson loved ad-libbing. The whole ['Touch of Evil'] script was skeletal. Frankenheimer liked spontaneity, but 'Manchurian Candidate' was too closely honed a story to really ad-lib much. There wasn't a whole lot of that going on during filming."

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John Frankenheimer: A master craftsman

To understand the special gift of John Frankenheimer, it is better to start with his stories instead of his movies. Yes, he made some of the most distinctive films of his time (and began and ended as one of the most gifted directors of drama on television) but the films were mostly serious, and Frankenheimer was a very funny man.

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