Author: Manish Mathur

May 9, 2016 / / Main Slate

The last frame in the last Alfred Hitchcock film involves Barbara Harris winking to the camera. It’s as perfect a last shot a director could ask for, especially one like Hitchcock. The erstwhile Master of Suspense made a career out of delicious irony, nods to the audience, and playing with expectations. His whole career is like a dry British joke; even his most serious films include some kind of off-kilter humor. FAMILY PLOT is a weird movie; it’s the classic “Anastasia” fairy tale turned on its head. It has certain Hitchcock elements, including a morbid sense of humor and meticulously crafted sequences.

March 10, 2016 / / Main Slate

Edward G. Robinson is one of my favorite actors, especially in the film noir genre. He starred in many classic thrillers, including SCARLET STREET, THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW, LITTLE CAESAR, DOUBLE INDEMNITY, and KEY LARGO. He was such a refined actor, bringing gravitas and history to his characters. His face is so expressive. With just a look, he can convey subtle emotions. Robinson had a strong line delivery, serving his words with poison or pitifulness. The actor made his name as a gangster in LITTLE CAESAR, and that archetype stayed with him. However, his range of characters is wide and appreciable.

February 17, 2016 / / Main Slate

Back in spring of 2012, the fuss for Steven Soderbergh’s MAGIC MIKE was accumulating. The trailers were met with an enthusiastic response from straight women and gay men. The film was marketed as a “girls night out” sex comedy, with lots of hunky male stars taking their clothes off. Of course, the film had some backlash—mostly from straight guys complaining about “male objectification” and how the movie looked stupid. Coming from an auteur like Soderbergh, known for TRAFFIC, SEX, LIES & VIDEOTAPE, and OCEAN’S ELEVEN, the film had a weird target audience. Half the audience wanted to see the abs and the dance moves; the other half wanted some Soderbergh goodness. To be fair, there is probably a decent sized overlap between the two halves.

November 25, 2015 / / Main Slate

The premise of STRANGERS ON A TRAIN plays into director Alfred Hitchcock’s love for the perfect murder. DIAL M FOR MURDER, REAR WINDOW, ROPE, and VERTIGO each explore murderers who meticulously plot a murder so they do not get caught. These are elaborate, contrived plans that rely on accuracy, predictable behavior and a dash of right place, right time.

October 14, 2015 / / Main Slate

When MAD MAX: FURY ROAD premiered this past May, the critical response was overwhelmingly positive. The film, directed by George Miller, was much better than a reboot of a decades-old franchise had any right to be. It featured a strong feminist backbone to go with the mind-blowing action choreography and breakneck pace. FURY ROAD was declared an action masterpiece, distinguishing itself from other blockbusters where female characters were props or damsels.

October 6, 2015 / / Main Slate

Although I consider Alfred Hitchcock my favorite director, I must confess that I’m not too familiar with his British-era films aside from THE 39 STEPS, THE LADY VANISHES and THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH. As for SABOTAGE, I had seen a rough DVD copy about five years ago, sitting in my college library. My memory of the film is spotty so seeing it now felt like the first time.

July 31, 2015 / / Main Slate

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Ernst Lubitsch is the master of elegance. His direction is so seamless, his characters so witty and his plots so finely tuned. Under the veneer of sophisticated glamor, Lubitsch was able to smuggle in risqué, progressive characters under the nose of the formidable Hays Production Code. TROUBLE IN PARADISE, NINOTCHKA, TO BE OR NOT TO BE, DESIGN FOR LIVING and THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER (among others) feel so modern and not just because they feature some clever sex comedy. His comedies are precise, sharply written and cast to perfection. THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER is probably the most accessible and enduring, because its story is one that transcends generations.

June 15, 2015 / / Main Slate

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Like most cinephiles, I went through a major Ingmar Bergman phase. I devoured a chunk of his films from the classic (THROUGH A GLASS DARKLY) to the obscure (THE PASSION OF ANNA). Four films of his, however, will always hold a special place in my heart: SMILES OF A SUMMER NIGHT, THE VIRGIN SPRING, WILD STRAWBERRIES and THE SEVENTH SEAL. Admittedly, those are probably Bergman’s most famous films. These four films, a sex comedy, a rape/revenge thriller, a redemption drama and an allegorical seriocomedy, provide a quick glimpse of Bergman the filmmaker and Bergman the person.

May 18, 2015 / / Main Slate

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Catherine Deneuve is an icon. She’s an icon to cinephiles, to fashionistas, and to lesbians. Her (continuing) career first began in the 1950s starting with small roles. Noted director Jacques Demy saw her in THE LADIES’ MAN and then cast her in THE UMBRELLAS OF CHERBOURG. The 1964 musical shot her to fame: a star, as they say, was born. Deneuve did some other films, notably THE WORLD’S MOST BEAUTIFUL SWINDLERS (an anthology film in which her segment was directed by Claude Chabrol), until 1965, when Roman Polanski cast Deneuve in REPULSION. Polanski had had great success with his debut film KNIFE IN THE WATER but still had to find funding for his script (co-written by Gerard Brach). He finally scored a deal with Compton Pictures, a studio infamous for its soft-core pornography.

January 14, 2015 / / Main Slate

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“When I look around, you know what I see? Losers. I mean, like, folks who have lost stuff. And we have, man, we have, all of us. Homes and our families. Normal lives. And you think life takes more than it gives. But not today. Today it’s giving us something. It is giving us a chance.” –Peter Quill

From its first trailer, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY promised to be a Marvel Cinematic Universe film unlike any of the nine other films in the franchise. And it delivers. With only threadbare ties to the MCU as a whole, the film works as a standalone piece and keeps a zany, goofy tone throughout. Sure, each MCU movie has its share of one-liners and sight gags but GATG is the first full out comedy.