Written by William C. Benker The survival of the auteur in today’s synthetic assembly line…
By William Benker
Lady From Shanghai – 1947 – dir. Orson Welles
Orson Welles’ Lady From Shanghai bridges the cinematic landscape from drama to adventure and mystery. Led by its director (and protagonist) himself, alongside heroine Rosalie Bannister (Rita Hayworth), each character reveals layer after layer of insecurities, deception and greed throughout the story. However, the fascination lies within the depth that Welles is able to explore. Both tough guy and damsel reveal their true colors gradually, methodically, touching upon the most intimate conundrums of life, reflecting a harrowing character piece that shows the demons within oneself. The magic lies in Welles’ delivery, exposing the depths and revealing their own façade to be but a mere image they have create to shelter their true selves.
By Peg Aloi
Julie & Julia – 2009 – dir. Nora Ephron
Julie & Julia, the popular and well-loved film about a young New Yorker’s attempt to cook her way through Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking in one year, would be far less entrancing if writer-director Nora Ephron had not decided to include a witty and rollicking chronicle of Child’s adventures in Paris and her slow journey towards becoming one of the world’s most recognizable chefs.
The Masque of the Red Death – 1964 – dir. Roger Corman
Before he was crowned the all-time campy Master of horror schlock, the incomparable Vincent Price had already carved out for himself a distinguished career in Hollywood that would have been the envy of any actor of his time. Such film classics as Laura, The House of the Seven Gables, The Keys of the Kingdom, The Ten Commandments, Leave Her to Heaven and many more were graced with his formidable skill and presence.
Director Roger Corman, christened “the King of the Bs” due to the slew of low-budget, some might even say ‘corny’ movies he cranked out beginning in the 1950s, mans The Masque of the Red Death with as sure a hand as he brought to all his projects, creating springboards for such stellar artists-to-be as Jack Nicholson, James Cameron, Jonathan Demme, Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorcese, and turning out what has become a body of films many of which are today considered true masterpieces of the genre.
By Peggy Nelson
Moon – 2009 – dir. Duncan Jones
In Moon (dir. Duncan Jones, 2009), Sam Rockwell plays the scruffy hipster-next-door on the moon, who turns out to be both more and less than what he seems. With impressive set design, constructed with tiny models instead of CGI, Moon inhabits not the 1960s techno-future of visible progress, but the 1970s paranoid present of hidden ulterior motives. In a way, Moon recalls not so much the actual space race, but the aftermath of plastic modules on the kitchen table, with an excess of glue and tiny pieces that don’t seem to fit anymore.
Star Trek – 2009 – dir. JJ Abrams
Before I went to see J. J. Abrams’ version of the classic franchise, I was treated to dark whispers and quiet warnings such as, “If you’re a big-time Trekkie, you’re not going to like it.”
Being a moderate-time Trekkie, as opposed to a big-time one, I hotly anticipated the release through two years of promotional posters, mysterious trailers, and vague, origin-story allusions. I have to confess that along with Pixar’s Up, Star Trek is likely one of the best movies of the year. It’s not just a good sci-fi movie. It’s a good movie.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon – 2000 – dir. Ang Lee
“When in comes to the affairs of the heart, even the greatest warriors can be consummate idiots.”
Ang Lee’s homage to Du Lu Wang’s kung-fu novel, “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”, I must confess, did not make an instant impression upon me the first time that I saw it. The film soars with Lee’s breathtaking direction and cinematography by Academy award-winner Peter Pau, but I found the story meandering and simple.
Of course, I missed the point, discovered only after a re-watch. The story is indeed simple. It is the characters who are complex. This is an ironic movie about opposites: finding through loss. Gaining through sacrifice. Joy through despair. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is a simple story about masculinity, femininity, and life.
By Christine and Robert Bamberger
The Thin Man – 1934 – dir. W.S. Van Dyke
Most people get a terrific kick out of the interplay between William Powell and Myrna Loy in the Thin Man movies, especially in the original, made just before the Production Code in Hollywood went into full force. But the film’s convoluted plot and numerous characters make it necessary to keep notes just to follow along. In getting a handle on the many personalities in the movie, it becomes increasingly apparent that this large cast of characters, spread all over the periphery of the plot, is not peripheral at all. Indeed, this bunch serves to draw our attention even more to Nick and Nora Charles.
Footsteps in the Dark – 1941 – dir Lloyd Bacon
A smart, breezy romp cut from the same cloth as The Thin Man series, Footsteps in the Dark marked a change in the actor Errol Flynn’s career. Until this movie was made, the very popular matinee idol was known primarily for his rousing, period piece swashbucklers and he jumped at the opportunity to trade in his Robin Hood tights and swords for a chance to prove himself as a deft comedian. He more than succeeds.