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Beauty and the Beast

A sturdy and frequently dazzling version that should leave audiences swooning with delight.

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The Age of Shadows

At 140 minutes, Kim sometimes loses the rhythm of his spy thriller, but he's such a confident filmmaker—and his leading man such a magnetic presence—that…

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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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The top ten films of 1922

This is too neat not to share wit.you

First, the respected team of David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson of Madison, Wis., weary of best ten lists, decided to issue something different: The Top Ten of 1922.

Now, the famous critic and video essayist Kevin B. Lee of Chicago has awarded the Oscars for 1922, based on their "nominees."

Now, Kevin Lee has posted this priceless video featuring the ten films, on Fandor.com.

And online at Fandor, if you follow this link, you will find links to five of the nominees, in full length. Fandor offers a free trial. I think of it as a Netflix for those whose quests for films range more widely than most.

Kevin's video:

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My video tours of London, Cambridge and York

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I was so surprised to find this on You Tube. I hosted several segments of the "Focus on Britain" series in the 1980s. It was produced by the British Tourist Authority. I haven't seen this in more than 25 years.

...and then, a month later, this turned up! I'd never seen it. I take the reader on the route traced by my book The Perfect London Walk. With an introduction by Sir MIchael Caine, no less. When a reader found his and told me about it, it had less than 100 hits, perhaps because the title didn't tempt Google.

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Fresh cinematic air at 7,000 ft.

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Today at Sundance I wandered aimlessly around a supermarket picking up different cheeses and putting them back down. I can never decide on a brie.

Cheese-less I journeyed to a bustling main street (a very steep hill) where altitude-acclimated rich ladies breezed by me in furry hats and sunglasses. They were having a good time.

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A portside gallery of thwarted Destiny

"Port of Shadows" begins a revival run at the Music Box on 1/25, and is in the Criterion Collection.

Noir revolves on a shorthand of recognition; a cruel fact expertly utilized by Marcel Carné, when he cast two of the most identifiable of French film stars in his 1938 classic, "Port of Shadows" (Le Quai des Brumes). A pressing fog floods Le Havre in the director's pre-WWII drama, but even in the thickest mists, Jean Gabin and Michel Simon, then catapulted to fame recently in "Pépé le Moko" and "Boudu Saved from Drowning" could never find secrecy from their characters' shame-ridden pasts.

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Slippery Slopes in Park City

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At night, the ski slopes of Park City, Utah, are lit so beautifully they look like screens awaiting a projection from the sky. A moviegoer attending Sundance Film Festival couldn't wish for a better backdrop for a long trek home after the final movie of the day is over. Even if the film happened to be lousy, those huge mid-air patches of white seem to hint that the good stuff is yet to come.

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Rise of the Planet of the Apes

After watching Tim Burton's remake of "Planet of the Apes" (2001), I concluded there was no need for another "Ape" movie to ever be made. Thirty-three years of progress in makeup technology didn't help the latter version become any better than the one that inspired it. That's why, hearing there would be a "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" a decade later, I had no expectations and feared the worst, but the results were pleasantly surprising. We often associate the word "remake" with a lack of creativity so when an exception turns out, it's important to look back and try to understand the reasons behind this.

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Insanity Set to Pop Culture Deconstruction

* "Detention" is available on Blu-ray and Amazon Instant, and "Girl Walk//All Day" is available for free on Vimeo.

In its drift from one receptive viewer to the next, a cinematic motif or choice soundtrack selection bristles at the prospect of first exposure. Luis Bacalov's titular, Elvis-aping ballad for "Django Unchained" washed recently for the first time over many filmgoers' ears, and thus became their primary recollection. The same can and should not be said, however, about the western's mid-climax "duet" from 2Pac and James Brown later on, which aimed for adrenaline but landed on awkward bafflement instead. Call that disappointing instance decoupage or mash-up, but a post-modern cut-and-paste can also work wonders under the right framework: Two remarkable films from 2012 - Joseph Kahn's madcap teen genre "Detention" and Jacob Krupnick's feature-length music video "Girl Walk//All Day" - operate on the opposite assumption; that their usage of pop culture sources finds audiences second-hand, and in doing so ensure their unique re-appropriation attains an euphoric fusion overall.

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Peering into the Darkness of the Labyrinth

The star of Kathryn Bigelow's "Zero Dark Thirty" (2012) is Kathryn Bigelow. This film is intensely suspenseful, even though we already know the narrative and its ending, or perhaps because we already know. Its drama is all the more compelling because, when listing out all the plot points, this is actually a very straightforward, almost dull story about a chase that, when it completed, was mostly irrelevant. Even the raid on Usama bin Laden's compound was more of a careful trek through a labyrinth than a shootout. Moreover, we know what happens; we are now watching how.

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