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Listen Up Philip

The terrific cast all delves into the material full-bore, which contributes to its peculiar resonance. Perry may hate everyone and everything, but in making a…

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Private Violence

A look at the complexity of domestic violence, especially when it comes to the difficulty of prosecuting abusers in a court of law, "Private Violence"…

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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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Cast and Crew

* 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 love and sex Gore Vidal dared not speak; critic Sam Adams is a (James) Franco-phile; the national conversation about sexual assault; a brilliant pop culture quiz; eleven Colorado counties angling to secede.

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A defense of "Boardwalk Empire"; Wes Anderson and manic pixie dream girls; Phillip Garrel's "Jealousy"; seconds on "Seconds"; a real-life Gustavo Fring?

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Slut shaming in geek culture; Rock Hudson's wife tape-recorded herself confronting her husband about his sexual orientation; how Michael Douglas used his own experience to flesh out Liberace; Carey Mulligan might play Hillary Clinton in a biopic; New Yorker cartoonists talk about the delicate art of collaboration; Upstream Color comes to Netflix instant.

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Toronto #3: "Cloud Atlas" and a new silent film

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I know I've seen something atonishing, and I know I'm not ready to review it. "Cloud Atlas," by the Wachowski siblings and Tom Tykwer, is a film of limitless imagination, breathtaking visuals and fearless scope. I have no idea what it's about. It interweaves six principal stories spanning centuries--three for sure, maybe four. It uses the same actors in most of those stories. Assigning multiple roles to actors is described as an inspiration by the filmmakers to help us follow threads through the different stories. But the makeup is so painstaking and effective that much of the time we may not realize we're seeing the same actors. Nor did I sense the threads.

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Remembering Bollywood's Beloved Uncle

Every family has that playful uncle loved for his cuddly silliness. He is that uncle who is a few syllables beyond eccentric, who does not quite follow the rules of appropriate conduct. Kids love him while his peers look down on him. For Bollywood cinema, that beloved uncle is one of Bollywood's most loved ensemble pictures, Manmohan Desai's "Amar Akbar Anthony" (1977). It is easily one of the most beloved of all Bollywood films. It is a long melodrama, an action movie, a screwball comedy, a romance, a con film, a religious devotion, and, of course, a musical.

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The 2012 Oscar lalapalooza

Do you expect "The Tree of Life" to be nominated as one of the best films of 2011? When I saw it last spring I certainly did. I assumed it was a done deal. If you'd told me then that "The Artist," a black and white silent film, was stirring up enthusiasm at Cannes, I would have said it sounded like something I really wanted to see.

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Elizabeth Taylor, pagan goddess

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Camille Paglia is known for being both brilliant and wacky (possibly wacko) -- often at the same time, which is probably when she's at her most inspired. A founding contributor at Salon.com (and co-star of "It's Pat: The Movie"), Paglia spoke on the phone to Salon editor Kerry Lauerman yesterday after the news of Elizabeth Taylor's death, and offered up an extraordinary tribute. I just wanted to share some of it with you. Lauerman begins by quoting something Paglia wrote about Taylor in Penthouse in 1992:

"She wields the sexual power that feminism cannot explain and has tried to destroy. Through stars like Taylor, we sense the world-disordering impact of legendary women like Delilah, Salome, and Helen of Troy. Feminism has tried to dismiss the femme fatale as a misogynist libel, a hoary cliche. But the femme fatale expresses women's ancient and eternal control of the sexual realm." Paglia takes it from there:

Exactly. At that time, you have to realize, Elizabeth Taylor was still being underestimated as an actress. No one took her seriously -- she would even make jokes about it in public. And when I wrote that piece, Meryl Streep was constantly being touted as the greatest actress who ever lived. I was in total revolt against that and launched this protest because I think that Elizabeth Taylor is actually a greater actress than Meryl Streep, despite Streep's command of a certain kind of technical skill. [...]

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Rock Hudson's secret

By Roger Ebert / July 20, 1986

If Rock Hudson had collapsed in Los Angeles instead of in a Paris hospital, he would have died with all of his secrets still intact.

Knowing he had only weeks or months to live, Hudson and his friends planned a scenario in which he would be taken to a condo in Palm Desert, where a hospice-like environment would be created. Male nurses, sworn to secrecy, would care for him, and when he died the cause of death would be given out as a heart attack or cirrhosis of the liver.

There would have been no mention of AIDS, no revelation that Hudson was gay, none of the personal details that are now the subject of two new books and countless magazine and TV articles.That's the opinion of Sara Davidson, whose authorized biography, Rock Hudson: His Story (William Morrow & Co. Inc., $16.95), is based on interviews with Hudson during the last 27 days of his life, and revelations by his closest friends.

"A lot of people said it was so brave of Rock to admit that he had AIDS," Davidson told me. "But actually he wanted it to be hushed up. He thought of AIDS as the plague. It made him feel unclean, and he felt it would destroy the image he had carefully built up over 35 years. If he had collapsed in L.A., he would have been taken to a place like Cedars-Sinai, a hospital used to hushing up the details of movie stars' illnesses. The news would never have leaked out, just as it hasn't in the case of several other AIDS deaths of famous people.

"But he collapsed in Paris, and the officials at the American Hospital were enraged. They didn't accept AIDS cases in the hospital, and they said either he would have to announce it, or they would. When the statement was drafted, Rock"s publicist and his secretary read it to him, and all he said was, "Go ahead, it"s been hidden long enough." He was shocked at the response to the announcement: The cover of Newsweek, the 28,000 letters of support from fans, the sudden interest in AIDS research and fund-raising. I think the response gave him a lot of comfort in his last days."

In her book, Davidson creates a portrait of a man who was homosexual all of his life, yet successfully created a screen image as a romantic lead, and kept his private life secret. "He had a gentleman"s agreement with the press," she said. "They didn"t ask the obvious questions. As a result, he developed a sort of love-hate thing with the press, based on a certain contempt. When the announcement about AIDS was approved, he said, "Throw it to the dogs."

Although Davidson"s book reveals hundreds of details that Hudson preferred to keep secret over the years, it cannot, she said, answer the question of how Hudson was infected with AIDS.

"He had the disease for a long time before it was diagnosed," she said during a recent Chicago visit. "Perhaps as long as three to five years. He may have been one of the earlier cases. When he learned that he had it, he said, "Why me? I don't know anyone who has AIDS." It was thought that perhaps Marc Christian, his last lover, was the source, but Christian tested negative. Rock wrote anonymous letters to his last three sex partners, telling them they might have been exposed, but he may have had AIDS long before meeting them. There just wasn't any obvious source of AIDS around him."

In your book, I said, you write about a trip Hudson made to San Francisco, where he and a friend went sight-seeing in some of the wilder gay leather bars. Is it possible that he engaged in sexual practices common in those bars, and got AIDS that way?

"I"m not at liberty to say," she said, somewhat surprisingly.

Were there restrictions placed on what you could or couldn"t say in the book?

"Ninety-nine percent of my original manuscript is still in the book. The parts that were taken out deal primarily with Marc Christian, who is involved in legal action. Actually, I found out a lot more about Rock Hudson's sex life than I wanted to put in the book. I know what he liked, and how, and with whom, but I didn't think it was in good taste to go into all the graphic details.

"Even so, I've been attacked for going too far. Liz Smith and Marilyn Beck were on 'Good Morning America' and they said, "With friends like Sara Davidson, who needs enemies?" But the book is the result of my conversations with Rock and his closest friends, and I believe it tells the truth."

Did Hudson engage in some of the more bizarre gay sexual practices?

"No. He wasn"t into S & M, for example. He was basically a very romantic man. He was like a woman; he'd run and tell his friends when he'd found someone new that he was in love with. He always believed there was one single right person for him, Mr. Right, and he was always looking for that person, and always finding him."

And one day, a Mr. Right gave him AIDS.

"Not necessarily. One of the possibilities is that he got it through a blood transfusion in 1981, when he was in Cedars-Sinai for open-heart surgery. The hospital is right in the middle of West Hollywood, a largely gay community, and little was known in those days about the dangers of AIDS from blood transfusions. It"s as likely a theory as any."

How much time did you really spend with Hudson? How much of the book is really his own story?

"I spent the last 27 days of his life visiting his home every day. He wanted to tell his story and he told all of his friends to cooperate with me. He had his good days and his bad days. Some days he"d be feeling well enough to come downstairs, ask for food, visit with friends. His mind would be perfectly lucid. In fact, his mind was always alert and clear. The people who say he was out of his mind at the end weren"t there to make that kind of judgment. But obviously I knew I wouldn't have nearly as much time with him as I wanted, and so before I even agreed to write the book I spent time with Mark Miller, his secretary, trying to find out what was known, and who knew it, and if they would talk. I was satisfied.

"One surprising thing was that there were so few good articles written by other people about Rock. He was not a good interview. I hired a researcher to look through clippings, and our conclusion was that in 35 years he never gave a good interview to anyone, except once for an oral history project at Southern Methodist, where for some reason he opened up and talked for hours to a professor, maybe because he thought it was for posterity. In most interviews he was wooden and impersonal. And yet in person he was so lively and likable. It was said that the only way to really get him to open up was to spend hours drinking with him."

Was he an alcoholic?

"In the last 10 or 15 years of his life, he drank a lot. It wasn't easy, going from the No. 1 box office star in the world to No. 2, No. 6, and then dropping off the list altogether. The irony is that he just started to hit his stride as an actor in the 1960s, when handsome leading men like himself were on the way out. He looked at the new stars like Dustin Hoffman and called them the "Little Uglies." He hated them because they didn't have perfect faces. Rock Hudson never took a bad picture."

"His career was absolutely of first importance for him. He placed it ahead of everything. When he read the script and saw the kiss, he agonized over it, but finally he decided to go ahead. I say in the book that he gargled with every known mouthwash. Actually, if you look at the kiss, he didn't open his lips and it was sort of a chaste peck on the cheek."

But even at that point in his illness, he was still taking his career that seriously?

"He had so much denial. After he was no longer a top box office star, he never developed other avenues -- like producing, developing his own projects, things like that. He wanted to act right up until his dying breath. He appeared on those "Dynasty" episodes where he looked so thin and gaunt, and he would look at them, and say he looked like he did in his younger days. When he went to do that TV program ("Doris Day's Best Friends") with Doris Day, his life was literally hanging by a thread. He hadn't had real nourishment in two months. She was so bouncy and full of pep, so vivacious, and there was Rock, the same age, and he was in such obvious pain you could hear the bones creak. And yet they still had their old chemistry, and it was really moving, the way he touched her cheek and snuggled with her."

So many people seemed to know Rock Hudson was gay, and yet it was a secret. How about his mother? Did she know?

Davidson grinned. "There's a great story about that. His mother was a devoted bridge player. One day down in Newport Beach, she was playing bridge, and one of her partners had something on her mind, and finally blurted out, 'I heard that Rock was gay!" His mother answered, "I know. And the hardest thing is, I can't remember his boyfriends' names. Three no trump.' "

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On actors who are too gay to be in the Musicals

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Some people are proposing a boycott of Newsweek because of a silly article that criticizes gay actors -- specifically on TV's "Glee" and in the Broadway revival of the Bacharach-David Musical "Promises, Promises" -- for acting too gay in straight roles. This strikes me as fundamentally hilarious for several reasons, the most obvious of which are:

1) I didn't know anyone needed additional incentive to not read Newsweek, since circulation figures indicate that lots and lots of people have been not reading it without making any concerted effort not to do so.

2) "Glee" and "Promises, Promises" are both Musicals, for god's sake. Where would the Musical be without the participation of gay actors? The movie version of "Paint Your Wagon" -- that's where. You Musical fans want to spend the rest of your lives watching and listening to Clint Eastwood singing "I Talk to the Trees"? Then go ahead and complain that gay performers are too gay to star in Musicals.

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Bump and Grindhouse

View image Angie polishes Ponce's pole in "Pretty Maids All in a Row."

View image "Revenge" is a dish best served hot!

Dennis Cozzalio at Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule reports on Quentin Tarantino's Grindhouse 2007 Festival at my former neighborhood rep house, the New Beverly Cinema (right by El Coyote!) in Los Angeles. Dennis includes an ebullient assessment of "Revenge of the Cheerleaders" (1976), a giddy teen sexploitation movie I have been very fond of since I showed in my college student film series. Writes Dennis: There is no curriculum at the "morally compromised" Aloha High School, only figures of authority to disregard or blatantly undermine— these cheerleaders and the rest of the Aloha student body make Riff Randall and her crowd look like straight-A honor society members. The girls and boys only want to have fun, which translates into a heady brew of screwing, playing basketball, cheering, robbing students at a thug-happy rival high school of their drugs (during class!) and riding around in a cherry red 1955 Buick convertible with the top down, and their tops off, of course. (The nudity is democratic too—there’s more than a flash of full frontal male twiggery on view here, including Hasselhoff, though his Boner status, based on this evidence, is overinflated.)

It’s been a long time since I’ve encountered such a relentlessly likable feel-good-at-all-costs vibe in any movie, let alone one as low-rent as this one. Tarantino said in a recent interview, referring to discovering treasures in the world of exploitation movies, that not only do you have to drink a lot of milk to get to the cream, with exploitation fare you have to drink a lot of curdled milk to get to the milk. And that’s what "Revenge of the Cheerleaders" felt like to me Sunday night—the reward for having slogged through a lot of similar comedies that had the sex and nudity but none of the zip and tang and spirit this one has in buckets. And there's so much more. Dennis also writes about Angie Dickinson and Rock Hudson in "Pretty Maids All in a Row," and other grist for the grindhouse...

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Awake in the Dark: Best of Ebert

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"Awake in the Dark: The Best of Roger Ebert," just published by the University of Chicago Press, achieves a first. Though the Sun-Times film critic remains the dean of American cineastes, his essential writings have never been collected in a single volume until now. "Awake in the Dark" surveys his 40-year catalog, including reviews, essays and interviews. The following is an excerpt from the book's introduction, and for the next five weeks we'll publish excerpts here from the collection's highlights in each decade, from the '60s to the '00s.

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Darkness for 'Donnie Darko' director?

Buffy Barko. Sarah Michelle Gellar in Richard Kelly's "Southland Tales."

When "Donnie Darko" sank without a trace after its theatrical release in October, 2001, writer-director Richard Kelly feared his (potential) career had gone down with it. Then, the movie became a cult phenomenon on DVD and Kelly, like his alliterative hero, was given a second chance.

The signs since then have not been enouraging: a screenplay for Tony Scott's "Domino," a film that graced many of last year's Ten Worst lists; and (far more disturbing) a "director's cut" of "Donnie Darko" that indicated Kelly didn't know what he'd done right the first time. All the best qualities of the film -- its teasing ambiguity, its creepy playfulness -- were nearly crushed in an attempt to laboriusly spell out an elaborate science-fiction/time travel mythology. What was once a tantalizing undercurrent was thus made literal and dull. More "explanation" of geeky but arbitrary "rules" simply reduced the movie's sense of possibility and imagination... and made it a lot less fun. If the "DD" director's cut had been the original version of the movie, it would never have piqued enough curiosity to have developed much of a cult following.

Now, the reviews from Cannes of Kelly's long-awaited and highly anticipated sophomore feature, "Southland Tales," suggest Kelly hasn't learned anything from his "Donnie Darko" director's cut experience. Most of them are devastating -- by which I mean they're at least as bad as the ones for "The Da Vinci Code," and worse than the ones for "X-Men: The Last Stand."

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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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Interview with Tom Wilhite

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"Tron," the $19 million computer thriller from Walt Disney Productions, opened on July 9 around the country, and that was the day most of the nation's movie critics published their reviews. But the critics were beaten to the punch by an earlier reviewer, whose verdict on the movie appeared in July 8 editions, on financial pages. Ever since, the folks at Disney have been pounding their collective heads against the wall because of that advance review.

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Woody Allen goes 'Bananas'

When the word came through from New York that Woody Allen wanted the Chicago movie critics to see his new movie separately, I figured good old zany Woody Allen was up to his old stuff again. See, the studios have this superstition that critics won't know a comedy is funny unless they see it in a room with at least 500 other people, all laughing their heads off. So they may preview a drama in their screening rooms, but for a comedy you've gotta have a sneak preview in a big theater.

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Interview with Jim Brown

This guy Jim Brown is on the level. For a couple of years there have been stories about Brown doing this and Brown doing that, Brown breaking up places like Bogart used to do, Brown allegedly heaving girls off the balcony, and eventually you get the notion he's trouble.

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Two or three things we know about Jean-Luc Godard

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For many American moviegoers, Jean-Luc Godard's “Breathless” (1960) was an introduction to the new style of French filmmaking. Everything about the movie seemed filled with life, invented on the spot. Godard scribbled the script on the backs of envelopes every morning before shooting. For his hero he chose an unknown, Jean-Paul Belmondo, who was not handsome like Rock Hudson but ugly like Humphrey Bogart. Aware of the inevitable comparisons, Belmondo parodied Bogart in a memorable scene which put him in the tradition of the master.

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