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Thumbnails 6/4/15


"Forum: 'White Men Can't Jump'": A great conversation between The Dissolve writers Tim Grierson and Noel Murray about Ron Shelton's 1992 cult classic.

“Shelton gives a taste of Venice Beach via brief, impressionistic flashes of its artists, eccentrics, and street performers, set to a soft a cappella soul song (much gentler than the the uptempo funk that’s going to dominate the soundtrack, and quieter than the movie’s overall tone). Then he introduces Woody Harrelson’s Billy Hoyle, an athlete with a superiority complex. After Billy lies down on the asphalt—directly under a hoop, looking up at the blue skies and basketball gods—Shelton cuts abruptly to the action and patter of a game in progress, focusing primarily on Wesley Snipes’ Sidney Deane, a preening stud with slick moves and a keen shooting eye. And when I say ‘action and patter,’ I mean the latter more than the former. In ‘White Men Can’t Jump,’ basketball is largely a game of words, pausing regularly for insults, curtain calls, arguments over fouls, negotiations over the actual score, and even brief flashes of ‘So how have things been going with you?’ conversation.Just when it looks like Billy’s been forgotten, the camera catches him sitting on a bench, watching the game, about to be called in to replace one of Sidney’s opponents. Billy’s ‘who, me?’/‘aw shucks’ routine quickly gets under Sidney’s skin—especially when the white boy starts beating him—until he drops the act and shows that he’s a hustler who can match Sidney shot for shot and diss for diss. There’s not a lot of throat-clearing in the early going of ‘White Men Can’t Jump.’ Shelton knows what the strength of this movie’s going to be—basketball and banter—so he jumps right into it, establishing the milieu and the characters on the fly.”


"America's original fake-news outrage: How Orson Welles' 'War of the Worlds' made parents lose their minds": An entertaining investigation from Salon's A. Brad Schwartz.

“‘Children insist on listening to that variety of shock and are being developed into a race of morons and jitter bugs,’ wrote one Missourian to the FCC. Others suggested that the government should use this controversy to make radio safe for young ears. A woman from Washington state described ‘War of the Worlds’ as too ‘harrowing. And that is the word that describes many, many such broadcasts (beginning with ‘Orphan Annie,’)—harrowing,’ she wrote. ‘Anything to keep suspense alive and at topmost pitch, and little or nothing to make one happy, and this writer is no Pollyanna either.’ Despite the broadcast’s scary subject matter, more letters refer to crime shows like ‘Gang Busters’ than horror series like ‘Lights Out.’ ‘We wonder why this world is becoming corrupt,’ wrote one Vermonter to the FCC. ‘There is no question in my mind! Some of the programs our children listen to are making criminals of the present generation.’”


"Cheer Up Charlize: Eight Essential Roles": At Indie Outlook, I explore the extraordinary transformations of Charlize Theron, most recently featured as Imperator Furiosa in "Mad Max: Fury Road."

“With the extreme haircut of Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley circa ‘Alien 3,’ the name of a Harry Potter incantation (Wingardium Leviosa, anyone?) and driving skills wild enough to leave the entire cast of ‘Furious 7’ and both Blues Brothers in the Namibia dust, Theron owns the screen in George Miller’s breathtaking reboot of his action-packed franchise. Her performance would’ve been equally effective in the silent era, since the bulk of her character is conveyed through wordless expressions. She’s like Maria Falconetti in ‘Passion of Joan of Arc,’ albeit with a thirst for vengeance. In some ways, her crusade to triumph over oppression and sex slavery is the same one embarked upon by Aileen and Josey. She utters two words at the peak of the film’s climax that have an impact tantamount to Ripley’s infamous, oft-imitated exclamation, ‘Get away from her you B—CH!’ in ‘Aliens,’ and elicited rousing applause at the public screening I attended. Even though the titular character is Max, this is Furiosa’s show through and through, thanks to Theron’s electrifying tour de force, as physically audacious as it is emotionally resonant. Tackling this role in a project of such mind-boggling difficulty might seem like a risk, but as one can clearly see, Theron flourishes when taking the road less traveled. Even a Fury Road.”


"'Undisputed' (2002)": At his terrific blog, Movie Marathoning, Steve Sandberg makes the case for why he believes Walter Hill's film is a masterpiece.

“This is regarded as an action film, but it's one that takes a lot of time and care to develop its characters, never fully sympathizing with either but making sure to fully understand both of them. The instinctive need to brutally establish dominance that forms the basis of Hutchen and Iceman's rivalry is mirrored in each man's crime. Though he repeatedly and aggressively pleads innocence, Iceman's words, attitudes, and actions make it seem likely that he is guilty of rape. He boastfully asks if he looks like a man who needs to force himself onto women, but most anyone can tell him rape is usually more about power than sexual pleasure. Hutchen, a calmer and quieter man but one whose comparative guilt is left entirely unambiguous, murdered his wife's lover, which also seems to be an act of forcefully proving his dominance over another. Both men live their lives finding success and power with violence, something that leads to arrogance, entitlement, and even more violence when things don't go the way they want them to.”


"The Real Truth About Disney's 'Recycled Animation'": An updated report from Jim MacQuarrie at Geek Dad.

“My friend Scott Shaw (co-creator of ‘Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew’ and multi-Emmy-winning Director of ‘The Muppet Babies,’ among many other credits) shared this post and asked Gary Trousdale, Co-Director of ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ if he would comment on the re-use of the dance from ‘Sleeping Beauty.’ Trousdale replied, ‘The scene from ‘Beauty and the Beast’ that we re-used was done for time, but not money. (well…time IS money, but that’s another story). We were just days from our final deadline to deliver, and we had an entire dance sequence (the last scene of the movie, not the ballroom) to do. Everyone was booked and busy, and we knew damn well that Woolie had established this precedent, so we took the ‘Sleeping Beauty’ dance, re-sized and re-positioned it, and gave the note ‘Note to Clean-up: clean up Aurora as Belle, clean up Prince Charming as Beast.’ (No, we did NOT name the beast in human form ‘Prince Adam.’ We were moving so fast by then, it occurred to us at the finish line that we had never given him a name, so Belle didn’t call him by name. It was a direct-to video-production that named him.)’”

Image of the Day

Oliver Gettell of the L.A. Times finds out "which disaster films survive scrutiny," from "San Andreas" to "Armageddon" and "Deep Impact."

Video of the Day

Steven Spielberg's 1975 classic "Jaws," the first true summer movie, will be screened in theaters for its 40th anniversary this month. Here's a look back at Siskel & Ebert's review.

Matt Fagerholm

Matt Fagerholm is the former Literary Editor at and is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association. 

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