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Guardians of the Galaxy

In many respects, “Guardians,” directed and co-written by indie wit James Gunn, and starring buffed-up former schlub Chris Pratt and Really Big Sci-Fi Blockbuster vet…

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War Story

Director Mark Jackson’s drama is a chilly study in grief starring Catherine Keener as a war-zone photographer shattered by her experiences in Libya.

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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.

A little black dress makes the world go round

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With the passing of Andy Williams, I keep imagining his golden tenor singing Henry Mancini's "Moon River." The song talks about crossing life in style. "Breakfast at Tiffany's" is all about fashionable cafe society and love; in an adult fairy tale, you can have both even if you are two drifters.

The director Gregory Nava once commented, "Whenever any question of style or taste in dress comes up, I simply ask myself, 'What would Fred Astaire have done?'" Audrey Hepburn is Astaire's female equivalent: sophistication mixed with fizzy fun.

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Shall we gather at the river?

The first time I saw him, he was striding toward me out of the burning Georgia sun, as helicopters landed behind him. His face was tanned a deep brown. He was wearing a combat helmet, an ammo belt, carrying a rifle, had a canteen on his hip, stood six feet four inches. He stuck out his hand and said, "John Wayne." That was not necessary.

Wayne died on June 11, 1979. Stomach cancer. "The Big C," he called it. He had lived for quite a while on one lung, and then the Big C came back. He was near death and he knew it when he walked out on stage at the 1979 Academy Awards to present Best Picture to "The Deer Hunter," a film he wouldn't have made. He looked frail, but he planted himself there and sounded like John Wayne.

John Wayne. When I was a kid, we said it as one word: Johnwayne. Like Marilynmonroe. His name was shorthand for heroism. All of his movies could have been titled "Walking Tall." Yet he wasn't a cruel and violent action hero. He was almost always a man doing his duty. Sometimes he was other than that, and he could be gentle, as in "The Quiet Man," or vulnerable, as in "The Shootist," or lonely and obsessed, as in "The Searchers," or tender with a baby, as in "3 Godfathers."

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The Magnificent Ambersons: What's Past is Prologue

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I've always felt Orson Welles' second feature, the memory-movie masterpiece "The Magnificent Ambersons," got a bad rap because: 1) it isn't "Citizen Kane"; and 2) it isn't the perfect creation Welles intended it to be because, as we all know, RKO re-cut and re-shot parts of it, including the last two scenes (which are so not Welles they don't really affect you much; they're like background noise that wakes you out of a deep sleep). Well, OK, "Ambersons" isn't "Kane" -- it's not as much fun as "Kane" (few movies are), but it's every bit as accomplished and it goes deeper into its characters and its evocation of the past. And, yes, I'd give my (fill in portion of anatomy here) to see the lost footage restored (although you can read the cutting continuity of the unfinished 132-minute version Welles left behind when he went to Brazil in March, 1942, and see stills of the missing scenes -- so you can imagine the finished movie, even if you can't actually see it).

All of this is to say that AltScreen has published a long piece I just wrote about this, one of my favorite movies. It begins with a more-or-less shot-by-shot analysis of the nine-minute prologue, and how it sets up everything else in the movie. You can read it here: "The Magnificent Ambersons: The Past is Prologue." The film has only recently been made available on Region 1 DVD (and even then as an Amazon-only bonus with the new Blu-ray of "Kane," though it shows up on TCM occasionally). A few excerpts, to give you a taste:

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Shall we gather at the river?

The first time I saw him, he was striding toward me out of the burning Georgia sun, as helicopters landed behind him. His face was tanned a deep brown. He was wearing a combat helmet, an ammo belt, carrying a rifle, had a canteen on his hip, stood six feet four inches. He stuck out his hand and said, "John Wayne." That was not necessary.

John Wayne died 30 years ago on June 11. Stomach cancer. "The Big C," he called it. He had lived for quite a while on one lung, and then the Big C came back. He was near death and he knew it when he walked out on stage at the 1979 Academy Awards to present Best Picture to "The Deer Hunter," a film he wouldn't have made. He looked frail, but he planted himself there and sounded like John Wayne.

John Wayne. When I was a kid, we said it as one word: Johnwayne. Like Marilynmonroe. His name was shorthand for heroism. All of his movies could have been titled "Walking Tall." Yet he wasn't a cruel and violent action hero. He was almost always a man doing his duty. Sometimes he was other than that, and he could be gentle, as in "The Quiet Man," or vulnerable, as in "The Shootist," or lonely and obsessed, as in "The Searchers," or tender with a baby, as in "3 Godfathers."

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Stars under the stars, for free

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Great movies under the stars for free. The lineup has been released for this summer's 10th annual Chicago Outdoor Film Festival, presented by the Mayor's Office of Special Events and programmed by the Chicago Film Office. In honor of two recently passed movie giants, Paul Newman in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" and director Sydney Pollack's "Tootsie" are included. And a John Ford classic will screen in honor of the Abraham Lincoln centenary.

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Spielberg & Cruise & the movies

After seeing Steven Spielberg's "Minority Report," my mind was churning with amazement and curiosity. Talking to Spielberg and his star, Tom Cruise, I found myself not an interviewer but simply a moviegoer, talking the way you do when you walk out of a movie that blindsides you with its brilliance.

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Movie Answer Man (07/30/2000)

Q. Homage alert! Did you notice the striking similarities between Amy Heckerling's "Loser" and Billy Wilder's "The Apartment"? The skeletal plots are identical: Nerdy guy has a crush on a woman who likes him but who, in turn, has a crush on an authority figure who's taking advantage of her. Beyond that, there are several scenes in "Loser" that echo Wilder's film: (1) In "The Apartment," Shirley MacLaine stands up Jack Lemmon at a performance of "The Music Man." In "Loser," Jason Biggs is stood up at a concert. (2) In "The Apartment," a good doctor pumps Shirley MacLaine's stomach and gives a warning to Lemmon, who pretends to be her boyfriend. In "Loser," a good doctor pumps Mena Suvari's stomach and gives a warning to Biggs who pretends to be Suvari's boyfriend. (3) In "The Apartment," Lemmon's unsavory superiors party at his place and he has to clean up afterwards. In "Loser," Bigg's unsavory roommates party at his place and he has to clean up afterwards. (4) In "The Apartment," MacLaine stays at Lemmon's place to recuperate and he offers to cook for her. In "Loser," Suvari stays at Biggs' place and he offers to cook for her. (5) At the end of "The Apartment," Fred MacMurry complains to MacLaine how Lemmon "threw that big, fat promotion in my face." At the end of "Loser," Greg Kinnear complains how Biggs' threw a big A grade back in his face. (6) Both films end with the heroine finally wising up and rushing back to the hero's apartment/animal hospital quarters for a happy ending. Are you as shocked/impressed as I am? (Joe Baltake, film critic, Sacramento Bee)

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AFI list is full of talent but empty of meaning

As part of its ongoing national effort to lead the nation to discover and rediscover the classics, the American Film Institute (AFI) today announced the 50 greatest American screen legends - the top 25 women and top 25 men naming Katharine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart the number one legends among the women and men.

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Kim Novak looks back at 'Vertigo'

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Kim Novak returned Wednesday to her hometown of Chicago to preside over a screening of the film many people believe is the best that either she or Alfred Hitchcock ever made. A restored version of "Vertigo" (1958) was shown in a rare 70 mm print at the Chicago Film Festival, and afterward Novak came onstage for a question-and-answer session that spanned her career.

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Kim Novak on Hitchcock, Hollywood

Kim Novak returned Wednesday to her hometown of Chicago to preside over a screening of the film many people believe is the best that either she or Alfred Hitchcock ever made. A restored version of "Vertigo" (1958) was shown in a rare 70 mm print at the Chicago Film Festival, and afterward Novak came onstage for a question-and-answer session that spanned her career.

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Elegant Role Model Could Not Be Typecast

She was, a critic once wrote, the last of the silent stars - because her eyes almost made it unnecessary for her to speak. She was a movie superstar for 20 years, but more than that, she was a role model: Teenage girls cut their hair like Audrey Hepburn's, and how many young women watched "Breakfast at Tiffany's" and decided that it would be wonderful to live in New York City?

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William Holden at supersonic speed

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After the film festival thing, William Holden said, “I flew back to the States on the Concorde. There was this guy sitting next to me who pulled out a pocket calculator, and so I asked him to figure out something for me. If I'd covered 16,486 miles in 73 hours, I said, how many miles an hour was my body averaging?”

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Sam Peckinpah: "Dying is not fun and games."

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FREEPORT, Grand Bahama Island -- Sam Peckinpah's "The Wild Bunch," which is possibly the most violent film ever made, stirred up a bitter controversy here. Film critics splint into many camps at an extraordinary press conference, and even co-stars William Holden and Ernest Borgnine seemed slightly squeamish about the movie. But just about everyone agreed that "The Wild Bunch" will be this summer's top box-office draw, for better or worse.

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