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Frank

Can insanity, normalcy and creativity co-exist in a successful artist? “Frank” offers a unique, funny, entertaining look at what proves to be an unanswerable question.

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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.

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The AV Club picks 33 TV shows to binge on over the long weekend; a black writer explains why it's hard to watch 12 Years a Slave with a white person; how Supergirl, of all movies, changed the way Hollywood treated Thanksgiving.

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Paul Williams Still Alive; movie not so much

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"Paul Williams Still Alive" (87 minutes) will be available on VOD October 16th via (Comcast, Time Warner, Cox, Bright House, among other cable providers), iTunes, VUDU, YouTube, Amazon, Sony (Playstation), Microsoft (Zune, Xbox), Blockbuster, AT&T, DirecTV, DISH.

by Donald Liebenson

In begrudgingly recommending "Paul Williams Still Alive" to his legion of fans, I am reminded of a Rolling Stone magazine review of Janis Joplin's first solo album, "I Got Dem Ol' Kozmic Blues Again Mama!" Janis never sounded better, the reviewer said, but to enjoy her, you had to be able to tune out her backup band. A similar caveat is necessary here. Enjoyment of "Still Alive" will depend on your tolerance of writer-director Stephen Kessler, who takes Williams' joke at one point that the documentary could become the "Paulie and Steve Show" as a carte blanche invitation to intrude on the proceedings.

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On "The Rack" with Paul Newman and Stewart Stern

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• "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.

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Arthouse suspense: My month with Abbas and Joe

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For the last month, I've been watching almost nothing but Abbas Kiarostami and Apichatpong Weerasethakul movies -- and it's been the best run of good-to-great movie-watching I've had in years. How did this happen? Well, I was beguiled by their most recent pictures: Kiarostami's "Certified Copy" and Weerasethakul's "Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives" -- both prize-winners at last year's Cannes Film Festival (best actress for Juliet Binoche, and the Palm d'Or, respectively). For reasons I'll get into in a bit, the only Kiarostamis I'd seen before were two of his biggies, "A Taste of Cherry" (1997) and "The Wind Will Carry Us" (1999); and the only Apichatpong (just call him "Joe") movie I'd seen was "Blissfully Yours" (2002).

The films of both these directors have been widely (mis-)characterized as "difficult" (please see Girish Shambu's excellent rumination on that term here, if you haven't already), but that's not why it's taken me so long to familiarize myself with more of their work. I don't have any good reasons, but I'll be honest: I was put off by the critical hype for Kiarostami, which in the art-cinema world was exceeded (in my perception) only by that for Quentin Tarantino in the pop-art-cinema world. Also, I remember the press screening for "The Wind Will Carry Us" at the Toronto Film Festival and, during the final shot (which was nice but a little too on-the-nose for me), a critic behind me let out a rapturous sigh intended to be overheard by everyone in the vicinity: "Masterpiece!" I admit (I'm only human) that made me a little nauseous, and some of my critic friends who were much more involved in the festival scene than I was at the time were outspoken Kiarostami naysayers, so I didn't feel particularly motivated to seek out more of his work.

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Corn goes in one end and profit comes out the other

At home, Mark Whitacre (Matt Damon) has a business line and a personal line. You should know that because the FBI does, and so do his bosses at Archer Daniels Midland ("Supermarket To The World"™). Mark is pretty good at compartmentalizing his life, but the lines are about to get crossed a little bit.

Mark lives with his wife and kids in Decatur, IL, but he's been all over the world with ADM and he's proud of what they do, especially with corn. They make all kinds of stuff out of plain old corn, from high fructose corn syrup to lysine to ethanol -- all of which, you might say, are fuel additives, designed to juice up production of... whatever.

Celebrating ADM's miraculous line of alchemical products, Mark excitedly notes: "Corn goes in one end and profit comes out the other!" Vivid image, that. Kind of suggests Mark's chronic logorrhoea, the stream of partially digested thoughts that swirls around inside his head and occasionally gushes from his mouth. When he gets going his internal monologue (in voiceover) actually talks right over his lips and his tongue. He doesn't interrupt himself; his mouth and his brain just keep spilling over each other. I wouldn't be surprised if Damon's Mark Whitacre had a cousin named Jerry Lundegaard in Fargo.

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For Your Consideration: Anton Chigurh, Supporting Actor

View image Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem): You may think you know what you're dealing with, but believe me, you don't.

(A comment by Phillip Kelly in reply to an earlier post made me chuckle and got me thinking. He wrote: "I guess my theorizing [of] Anton Chigurh as main character doesn't stand now that Miramax is touting him for Best Supporting Actor. Too bad." That's the jumping-off place for this entry.)

The New York Film Critics Circle gave Javier Bardem its 2007 Best Supporting Actor award for his role as Anton Chigurh ("shi-GUR") in Joel and Ethan Coen's "No Country For Old Men" (which was also named Best Picture). The funny thing is, so much of the discussion of the of the movie centers around Chigurh that you'd think he was was the lead. And critical reservations about "No Country" tend to focus on interpretations of Chigurh, and whether the critic accepts him as a character or a mythological presence or a haircut or some combination thereof.

"No Country" traces the path of Sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones), from his opening narration to his closing monologue, from his nostalgia about the "old times" and his fear of the violence in this modern world to his account of two dreams about his father. Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin), sets things in motion by taking the satchel of drug money, and Chigurh spends most of the film relentlessly tracking him down, while Ed Tom follows a trail of blood to catch up with them both. None of these characters is a conventional "lead." We never even see Moss or Ed Tom come face-to-face with Chigurh. He exists in the physical world, but his presence is strongest when it's felt by these other two characters, even though they don't share screen space with him.

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No Country For Old Men: Out in all that dark

View image The light and the landscape.

View image Signs of man.

I was sheriff of this county when I was twenty-five. Hard to believe. Grandfather was a lawman. Father too. Me and him was sheriff at the same time, him in Plano and me here. I think he was pretty proud of that. I know I was.

Some of the old-time sheriffs never even wore a gun. A lot of folks find that hard to believe.... You can't help but compare yourself against the old timers. Can't help but wonder how they would've operated these times.... -- Sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) The land is black, swallowed in the shadows. The sky is beginning to glow orange and blue. This is Genesis, the primordial landscape of "No Country for Old Men." We may think we're looking at a sunset at first, but the next few shots show a progression: The sky lightens, the sun rises above the horizon to illuminate a vast Western expanse. No signs of humanity are evident. And then, a distant windmill -- a mythic "Once Upon a Time in the West" kind of windmill. So, mankind figures into the geography after all. A barbed-wire fence cuts through a field. The camera, previously stationary, stirs to life, and pans (ostensibly down the length of the fence) to find a police car pulled over on the shoulder of a highway. There's law out here, too.

View image Boundaries.

View image The law. (Do these images look sterile or "technical" to you?)

Light, land, man, boundaries, law. Each image builds subtly on the one(s) before it, adding incrementally to our picture of the territory we're entering. The establishment of this location -- a passing-through stretch of time and space, between where you've been and where you're going, wherever that may be -- seeps into your awareness. Not a moment is wasted, but the compositions have room to breathe, along with the modulations of Tommy Lee Jones' voice, the noises in the air, and Carter Burwell's music-as-sound-design. The movie intensifies and heightens your senses. Light is tangible, whether it's sunlight or fluorescent. Blades of grass sing in the wind. Ceiling fans whir (not so literally or Symbolically as in "Apocalypse Now"). Milk bottles sweat in the heat. Ventilation ducts, air conditioners and deadbolt housings rumble, hiss and roar.

"To me, style is just the outside of content, and content the inside of style, like the outside and the inside of the human body—both go together, they can’t be separated." -- Jean-Luc Godard"No Country for Old Men" has been called a "perfect" film by those who love it and those who were left cold by it. Joel and Ethan Coen have been praised and condemned for their expert "craftsmanship" and their "technical" skills -- as if those skills had nothing to do with filmmaking style, or artistry; as if they existed apart from the movie itself. Oh, but the film is an example of "impeccable technique" -- you know, for "formalists." And the cinematography is "beautiful." Heck, it's even "gorgeous." ...

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Take Mulholland Dr. to the Lost Highway, Inland Empire exit...

"I'm there right now": The lost highway goes down Mulholland Drive and through the Inland Empire...

It is possible that many people would not describe David Lynch's movies as "straightforward," but they're really pretty simple to grasp if you think of them as meditations on states of consciousness rather than chronological narratives (or, uh, "straight stories"). They still have beginnings, middles and endings and they take you from one place (or way of seeing) to another. "Inland Empire," for example, is about a Hollywood actress (who may or may not be unfaithful to her husband -- but is that the actress or the Southern gal she's playing or someone else?), a suburban wife married to a former animal handler in a Polish carny, a mistress, a Polish whore... And all of them appear to be aspects of the same woman, played by Laura Dern. Or, perhaps, all these women are aspects of one another: the actress feels like a whore, the wife is also a mistress, the whore is also an actress, the actress's character is having an adulterous affair, and so on and so on.

I think "Lost Highway," "Mulholland Drive" and "Inland Empire" are ("Twin Peaks" aside -- that's in a realm of its own) Lynch's strongest work, and they also feel like extensions of one another. The saxophonist played by Bill Pullman and the mechanic played by Balthazar Getty, the actresses played by Naomi Watts and Laura Harring, the actress played by Laura Dern -- they all seem like variations on similar ideas. ("Mulholland Dr." is basically "Lost Highway" in reverse.)

In Lynch's book "Catching the Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness, and Creativity" he describes "Lost Highway," for example, in a way that seems perfectly clear when you watch it: At the time Barry Gifford and I were writing the script for "Lost Highway," I was sort of obsessed with the O.J. Simpson trial. Barry and I never talked about it this way, but I think the film is somehow related to that.

What struck me about O.J. Simpson was that he was able to smile and laugh. He was able to go golfing with seemingly very few problems about the whole thing. I wondered how, if a person did these deeds, he could go on living. And we found this great psychology term -- "psychogenic fugue" -- describing an event where the mind tricks itself to escape some horror. So, in a way, "Lost Highway" is about that. And the fact that nothing can stay hidden forever. (The fact that Robert Blake, who appeared as the chilling Mystery Man in that film, was latter tried for the murder of his wife, adds another sinister dimension to the film, or the atmosphere surrounding it.) Dave McCoy, Editor of MSN Movies, has summarized the movie this way: "It's about a guy who kills his wife and is so horrified by what he's done that the only way he can deal with it is to become another person... and a character in a film noir, no less, where women are evil and violence can be easily rationalized."

Hey, what more do ya need? A map? Just remember: DON'T YOU EVER F---IN' TAILGATE!!! I'm sorry about that, Pete, but tailgating is one thing I cannot tolerate....

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Playboy after dark

LOS ANGELES--There are three official movie nights at the Playboy Mansion. Friday nights are for classic films, Sundays for new releases, and Wednesday night for films chosen by popular demand. "You ought to drop in on Friday," Hugh Hefner's daughter, Christie, told me. "Hef does the notes himself."

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Classic movie night at the Playboy mansion

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LOS ANGELES--There are three official movie nights at the Playboy Mansion. Friday nights are for classic films, Sundays for new releases, and Wednesday night for films chosen by popular demand. "You ought to drop in on Friday," Hugh Hefner's daughter, Christie, told me. "Hef does the notes himself."

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Interview with Robert Blake

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Robert Blake said he was fed up with being interviewed and smiling at strangers. He wanted to go someplace and listen to loud music. Fate led him to The Store, that famous Rush Street place where all the young folk congregate who aren't getting any younger.

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