Strange by even film noir standards, Otto Preminger’s 1944 Laura, which is showing in a new 35mm print at Film Forum, starts out with a voiceover narration delivered from beyond the grave by hornet queen Waldo Lydecker (Clifton Webb):) “I will never forget the weekend Laura died.” Read more… Read more – ‘Looking Back on Laura’.
The past 12 months brought a number of powerful, introspective, big-theme cine-statements, many of them by old masters (see below). Some pondered history—as well as its end. A few upended the old-fashioned movie-house paradigm. In recognition of the medium’s ongoing mutation, my annual list is bookended by two such extra-theatrical projections. Read more… Read more – ‘The Year in Film: J. Hoberman’s Personal Best’.
“A fool sees not the same tree that a wise man sees,” per William Blake. Ain’t that the truth! Although listed by barely half of the 95 participating voters, Terrence Malick’s polarizing Tree of Life sits comfortably atop the 2011 Voice Film Critics’ Poll. Part Brakhage, part Tarkovsky, part Captain Billy’s Whiz Bang, Malick’s cosmic […] Read more – ‘The Year in Film: Handicapping the Poll’.
Described as a “psychotic prom-queen bitch,” the anti-heroine of Young Adult is a prize part that affords Charlize Theron one of the season’s prize performances—although, to judge from the voting at the New York Film Critics Circle conclave last week, few of my colleagues seem to agree. Read more… Read more – ‘Former Prom Queen Tries to Go Home Again in Young Adult’.
John le Carré’s Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, the 1974 spy novel generally regarded as the writer’s finest, is predicated on a pair of enigmatic personalities: the colorless bureaucratic master-spook George Smiley and the double agent the Soviets have planted near the top of British intelligence whom Smiley must unmask. Although not without violence, the novel […] Read more – ‘Back to the Cold War with Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy’.
The big news to emerge from yesterday’s New York Film Critics Circle voting–held early this year to scoop the other year end awards–is, of course, the second coming of homeboy Harvey Weinstein. Not only was The Artist voted best picture and its director Michel Hazanavicius anointed Best Director but NYFCC perennial Meryl Streep, who stars […] Read more – ‘Harvey Weinstein is Back — NY Film Critics’.
Steve McQueen‘s first two films both star Michael Fassbender, feature virtually interchangeable titles, and are nearly as grueling to watch as they must have been to make. But where Shame might be almost as excruciating as 2008’s Hunger, it’s a lot less exalted. In Hunger, Fassbender’s imprisoned Irish revolutionary Bobby Sands starved himself to death; […] Read more – ‘Extreme Sex Addiction in Shame; Extreme Everything in Possession’.
As life-or-death dramedy, The Descendants poses several important questions: Why has it taken Alexander Payne seven years to follow up on his critically beloved, box-office boffo, merlot-squelching Sideways? And what has blunted this gifted writer-director’s edge? Payne topped his debut feature, the provocatively obnoxious abortion comedy Citizen Ruth (1996), with Election (1999), an even sharper […] Read more – ‘Fantasy Island: Alexander Payne’s Feel-Good Hawaiian Excursion, The Descendants’.
For those combatant nations able to produce movies, World War II inspired all manner of morale-boosting epics. The Nazis conjured up the period extravaganza Kolberg; Japan released The War at Sea From Hawaii to Malaya. Hollywood uncorked Since You Went Away and, on behalf of our Soviet allies, Song of Russia. The Russians themselves had […] Read more – ‘Satirizing War in Technicolor: The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp’.
A man of many worlds, Robert Gardner is a descendent of Boston aristocrat Isabella Stewart Gardner (as in the Museum), the founder (and funder) of Harvard’s Film Study Center, and mainly the globetrotting ethno-aesthete of American cinema—a filmmaker whose documentaries have been hailed by the avant-garde’s godfather Stan Brakhage and anthropology’s grand dame Margaret Meade. […] Read more – ‘Robert Gardner’s Visions’.
A resounding “yes” to the question trembling on every lip: There is life after Hereafter! Clint Eastwood goes deep into Oliver Stone territory and emerges victorious with J. Edgar. Although hardly flawless, Eastwood’s biopic is his richest, most ambitious movie since the Letters From Iwo Jima–Flags of Our Fathers duo, if not Unforgiven. Read more Read more – ‘Great Man Theories: Clint Eastwood on J. Edgar’.
The first thing you see in Lars von Trier’s Melancholia is a tight close-up of Kirsten Dunst’s face. Behind her, slow as molasses, birds are dropping from the sky. Brueghel’s The Flight of Icarus turns leisurely to ash; a passage from Tristan und Isolde swells on the soundtrack as lightning bolts flash from Dunst’s fingertips. […] Read more – ‘Not With a Whimper But a Bang: The End Times of Melancholia’.
One great thing about Paris: New prints of old movies from the ’70s, ’60s, and even the ’50s get extended runs in large theaters, apropos of nothing. A nice thing about New York: It sometimes happens here, too, as with this week’s revivals of François Truffaut’s 1968 The Bride Wore Black and Paul Newman’s 1971 […] Read more – ‘Deserved Second Act for Paul Newman’s Sometimes a Great Notion’.
However commonplace today, gallery video or film installations were once seen as blatantly vanguard—evidence of art’s forward march beyond the portable, static object. A bit of this history is excavated at the Whitney with the belated local premiere of painter Roy Lichtenstein’s sole excursion into motion pictures, the 1969 installation Three Landscapes. Read more Read more – ‘Pop Art Movement: On Roy Lichtenstein’s Three Landscapes’.
As taut and economical as its title is unwieldy, Sean Durkin’s Martha Marcy May Marlene—a first feature that won the Best Director award last January at Sundance—is a deft, old-school psychological thriller (or perhaps horror film) that relies mainly on the power of suggestion and memories of hippie cult crazies… Read more Read more – ‘The Perils of Communal Living in Martha Marcy May Marlene’.
Digital might be the future of the motion-picture medium, but for film preservation, it’s a mixed blessing. Archivists polled in a recent Cineaste make it clear that digital technology is part of the solution—and part of the problem. Read more… Read more – ‘To Save and Project Fest: Long Live Cinema!’.
May 11 The Quest to Avoid Lady Ga-Ga Begins May 13 Good Movies Where Are You? May 16 The Tree of Life May 17 Cannes Has Issues May 18 Melancholia. Wow. May 19 Lars von Trier Kicked Out May 20 We the Jury May 23 The Winners May 25 Cannes Outdoes Itself Read more – ‘Cannes 2011’.