The American Obsession with Happy Endings

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By Bridget Foster Reed

On November 14, 1941, an enemy German torpedo destroyed the Royal Navy aircraft carrier, HMS Ark Royal (91). In America, British director and producer Alfred Hitchcock, and the British-starring cast of Cary Grant, Joan Fontaine, Nigel Bruce, Cedric Hardwicke and Dame May Whitty attended the premiere of their film SUSPICION. For a film filled to the brim with all things British (cast, director, producer, author, setting) those involved would prefer to present a triumphant Britain in the midst of World War II. American audiences, eleven days before Thanksgiving, were not skipping to the cinema with their families to see something saddening. Continue reading

Ball of Fire

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By Eric Shoag

Film is a visual medium, but if there was anyone who could make an audience feel the scales tip more toward the written word, it is writer/director Billy Wilder. And of all the amazing motion pictures Wilder created or contributed to in his career from the 1930s to the 1980s, there is perhaps no greater example of his linguistic brilliance than the delirious screwball comedy BALL OF FIRE (1941), a supreme example of the pre-war Hollywood studio system firing on all cylinders and a fabulously satisfying entertainment in which much of the humor is based on the different ways a single language can be used by different people to the point of hindering, rather than facilitating, communication. Continue reading

Persona

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By Selin Sevinç

One of the most academically and critically acclaimed films of all times, PERSONA is a precious jewel in the history of world cinema. Its creator Ingmar Bergman had relentlessly stretched the boundaries of what we call cinema today throughout his career, but never before (or since) as significantly as he did with PERSONA. Many brilliant critics and academics have analyzed the bottomless depths of PERSONA. Here, I will concentrate on a few points that personally resonate with me every time I watch it. Continue reading

Drop Dead Fred

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By Deirdre Crimmins

I choose to believe in Drop Dead Fred.

Fred (Rik Mayall) is the central imaginary friend in 1991’s universally panned DROP DEAD FRED. The production quality is lackluster, the score hokey, the negative characters are caricatures, the premise odd, and I can only imagine that this adult film about imaginary friends was a nightmare to market, so much of the criticism is warranted. However, I can’t help but adore Fred and the adventures he gets into. Continue reading

Night on Earth

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By Chelsea Spear

Could any filmmaker be more associated with the New York punk scene than Jim Jarmusch? At the turn of the 1980s, he seemed ubiquitous on the Lower East Side—playing keyboards with the Del-Byzanteens; making the scene at Danceteria and the Mudd Club with fellow travelers like Basquiat and Keith Haring; and directing a pair of indelible features, PERMANENT VACATION and STRANGER THAN PARADISE. Jarmusch’s early work shares with its musical peers an off-kilter sense of timelessness and an honest depiction of New York City as a seedy enclave. You have to squint at the details that mark these films as contemporary with the early ‘80s, but the characters’ ennui and melancholy, their lived-in apartments and beat-up cars, and the apocalyptic milieu that enveloped them made these films seem as eternally stylish as your favorite Blondie deep cut. Continue reading

Citizen Kane

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By Jessie McAskill

The first time I watched CITIZEN KANE I was motivated purely by a sense of obligation. After years of hearing references to “Rosebud” and seeing the film top almost every list of the best movies ever made, I took the dive and watched the story of Charles Foster Kane for the first of many times. The layers of complexity that make the film so enduring for film lovers are the same qualities that make it intimidating to write and talk about. It’s difficult to extract the heart of CITIZEN KANE from its legacy, compounded by equal parts brilliance and decades of praise. In this way, I’m tasked with a mission similar to Jerry Thompson’s, the reporter who guides us through Kane’s life story, to add a new perspective to a subject that has been, “as loved and hated and as talked about as any man in our time.” Continue reading

Seconds

Seconds (1966) Directed by John Frankenheimer Shown: Rock Hudson

By Justin Laliberty

John Frankenheimer’s genre bending, visually daunting 1966 film SECONDS defies both trends of the decade from which it came, as well as those that would follow. On its surface, it is genre cinema concerned with themes prevalent in most of Frankenheimer’s work up to and after its release: paranoia and isolation. But once into the nitty gritty of the tale it chooses to tell, it becomes about one thing: eternal youth. Continue reading

Silence of the Lambs

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By Deirdre Crimmins

There is no denying that THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS is a cinematic triumph. It is still the only horror film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture and it continues to terrify. Though it balances psychological horror with body horror against the backdrop of a police procedural, there is something extra- something sinister—which makes the film stand out. For me, it is the unsettling intimacy of the film’s two monsters and their victims. Continue reading

Daisies

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By Eric Shoag

Vera Chytilová’s incredible burst of cinematic rebellion, DAISIES (1966), deserves far more attention. As shocking and subversive as any film ever made, it arose from the creative and cultural explosion known as the Czech New Wave (Nova Vina) movement, a reaction to the oppressive Communist regime then in place. The movement flourished for a few short years before the Soviet invasion of 1968 brought new and devastating meaning to the word “oppressive.” Tied to this historical moment, linked after the fact to some nebulous concept of “feminism,” soaring gloriously above even the most freewheeling fantasies of French New Wave pathfinders Francois Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard, DAISIES can also be seen as a decadent doppelganger to that other groundbreaking work of 1960s female-centric cinema, Ingmar Bergman’s PERSONA (also 1966), but more accurately, it is kin to Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dali’s monumental short surrealist shocker, UN CHIEN ANDALOU (1928), thwarting expectations at every turn and standing triumphantly as a one-of-a-kind work of art. Continue reading

Tokyo Drifter: Subversion from the Inside Out

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By Rob Larsen

“We have to change the negative things into positive. In today’s Japanese film industry, we always say we don’t have enough budget, that people don’t go to see the films. But we can think of it in a positive way, meaning that if audiences don’t go to the cinema we can make any movie we want. After all, no matter what kind of movie you make it’s never a hit, so we can make a really bold, daring movie. There are many talented actors and crew, but many Japanese movies aren’t interesting. Many films are made with the image of what a Japanese film should be like. Some films venture outside those expectations a little bit, but I feel we should break them.”

The above quote is from Takashi Miike. I know it because writer Warren Ellis shared it a few years back. I love it. Ellis used it in reference to Jack Kirby’s comic adaptation of 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY for Marvel Comics. It was an apt reference there and I think it works for plenty of other creators who have transcended their circumstances to create work above and beyond what’s expected of them, their place in the pop culture hierarchy or their genre. Continue reading