West Side Story – 1961 Robbins, Wise

West Side Story is simply one of the great musicals in cinema history. The film has roots in the successful 1950s theater production—which it is an update on Shakespeare- putting Romeo and Juliet on the west side of New York City in contemporary (late 1950s) setting. The story is rather simple- there are two rival gangs: The Jets and The Sharks. Tony (Richard Beymer) is a Jet (sort of) and Maria (Natalie Wood) is the sister of the leader of the Sharks. They fall in love. West Side Story features the boom of Leonard Bernstein’s score and the poetics

West Side Story – 1961 Robbins, Wise2021-12-31T13:58:11+00:00

Waxworks – 1924 Leni, Birinsky

Waxworks may not deserve a seat directly alongside Fritz Lang’s Destiny (1921), but it stands as another shining example of Germany’s rich period of cinematic expressionism during the 1920s. Waxworks also features Emil Jannings (as Harun al Raschid) in his prime at the age of forty (40)- this is the same year as The Last Laugh. Like Destiny- it is an epic story told in three parts (clearly influenced by D.W. Griffith’s Intolerance). In Waxworks, a writer (William Dieterle- years before his solid work as a director) is hired by a museum and the writer puts himself and a

Waxworks – 1924 Leni, Birinsky2021-12-26T14:19:22+00:00

2008

best film: The Dark Knight from Christopher Nolan The film begins with a trademark Nolan gorgeous establishing shot of the city terrorism post-9/11 element in the Joker character and film- the hostage videos and cell phone surveillance and certainly a blurry line of good and evil two wonderful 360 degree shots- unlike De Palma though, Nolan chooses to do one revelation and pause at a choice time Absolutely has a gripping narrative and performances led by Heath Ledger Leger’s walk is studied, as are his facial tics There are multiple jaw-dropping sequences and set pieces. The tunnel chase scene

20082021-12-29T22:17:22+00:00

News of the World – 2020 Greengrass

Director Paul Greengrass and actor Tom Hanks collaborate again for News of the World after 2013’s Captain Phillips. News of the World is set in North Texas in 1870. This is the same era as The Searchers- just a few years after the Civil War. And like The Searchers, this story involves a young girl who was raised by Native Americans (the Kiowa here). Greengrass and director of photography Dariusz Wolski (Dark City, Prometheus) give News of the World a marvelous natural lighting glow from the period particular lanterns. Altman’s McCabe & Mrs. Miller feels like a predecessor. The

News of the World – 2020 Greengrass2021-12-28T13:54:47+00:00

Talk to Her – 2002 Almodóvar

From the pulled back curtain reveal of the title credits, to the film’s fitting conclusion, Talk to Her is a standout effort- even when considering the rich oeuvre of Pedro Almodovar. The unveiled curtains reveal two strangers sitting next to each other in a theater watching opera. This Strangers on a Train (Almodóvar is a Hitchcock acolyte after all) setup includes Marco (Dario Grandinetti) and Benigno (Javier Camara). Talk to Her opens in a theater and ends in a theater This is Almodóvar’s fourteenth (14th) film. This is his single greatest stretch of work- spanning from All

Talk to Her – 2002 Almodóvar2021-12-24T13:26:50+00:00

A Dangerous Method – 2011 Cronenberg

A Dangerous Method shows off David Cronenberg’s genre range--sharply pivoting from the Russian mob crime film Eastern Promises and diving instead into early 20th century Vienna and the world of Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud (played superbly by Michael Fassbender and Viggo Mortensen respectively). This marks the third pairing of auteur and actor with Cronenberg and Viggo. Again, it is as if Viggo took at that goodwill and clout he earned from the financial (and surely artistic) success of The Lord of the Rings and decided to put it to good use working with one of the greatest directors

A Dangerous Method – 2011 Cronenberg2021-12-26T13:10:20+00:00

Obsession – 1976 De Palma

Most directors probably owe some debt of gratitude to Alfred Hitchcock. The lineage goes at least to Truffaut and the French New Wave and they influenced most of what would follow after them. But there was no Hitchcock devotee as steadfast as Brian De Palma- and there was no De Palma film as indebted to Hitchcock as Obsession. Obsession has a crew to die for. It was written by Paul Schrader (coming out the same year as Taxi Driver) scored by Bernard Herrmann (ditto- scored Taxi Driver in 1976 and composed Vertigo and Psycho amongst others of course) and

Obsession – 1976 De Palma2021-12-25T16:09:19+00:00

Juno – 2007 Jason Reitman

Juno is sweet bliss indie cinema gold from the pen of Diablo Cody (Oscar winner in 2007 for Best Original Screenplay). It helped announce not only the talents of the young Cody (her first screenplay- and she was not yet 30 in 2007) but also the star Elliot Page (then Ellen Page) and Jason Reitman behind the camera. It wears its indie badge proudly with the quirky details (drinking Sunny D in the opening, Tic-tac’s) folk music and hand drawn opening title sequence. Juno chronicles four seasons (these feel rooted in Wes Anderson’s Rushmore) in the life

Juno – 2007 Jason Reitman2021-12-24T13:30:51+00:00

Torn Curtain – 1966 Hitchcock

Although Torn Curtain is a step or two (at least) off the master’s best work (without doubt it does not touch Marnie- his previous effort)- it still far exceeds the vast majority of efforts from 1966 or any other year. Torn Curtain makes Hitchcock’s fiftieth (50th) film. Hitchcock is shooting largely in Denmark (as a stand in for Berlin). Bernard Herrmann wrote the original score but when Universal wanted something more upbeat, he and Hitchcock got into a fight and Herrmann left the project. John Addison replaced Herrmann and the drop off is tangible. This is Hitchcock in the

Torn Curtain – 1966 Hitchcock2021-12-23T13:47:05+00:00

The Bonfire of the Vanities – 1990 De Palma

Brian De Palma’s film is adapted from the much ballyhooed novel by Tom Wolfe (taking that marvelous name from Wolfe’s book of course). It tracks the contrasting trajectories of Wall Street moneyman Sherman McCoy (Tom Hanks) and newspaper writer Peter Fallow (Bruce Willis). The film is famous (or infamous) for being remembered as one of the great turkeys of all-time—but well that may be true with the box office (or even some of the expectations when you combine the talent in the cast with the greatness of the Wolfe novel)- it is surely a work of cinema worthy of

The Bonfire of the Vanities – 1990 De Palma2021-12-22T18:09:13+00:00

Celebrity – 1998 Allen

Woody Allen returns to Fellini and returns to black and white photography with 1998’s Celebrity. Instead of 8 ½ (Stardust Memories) or Amarcord (Radio Days) this is Woody’s La Dolce Vita. Much is made of Woody’s love for Ingmar Bergman (Celebrity was shot by Sven Nykvist- one of their three feature collaborations) and rightly so- but there is as much Fellini in Woody’s work as there is the great Swedish master. The cast assembled is incredible- the lead is Kenneth Branagh. Branagh plays Lee Simon- a Woody surrogate and it is a fine job by Branagh. Simon is going

Celebrity – 1998 Allen2021-12-21T13:53:37+00:00

All About My Mother – 1999 Almodovar

All About My Mother is Pedro Almodóvar’s thirteenth (13th) film and certainly one of his best to this point in his career- the creative juices are undoubtedly still flowing. The title and large chunks of the narrative are from 1950’s All About Eve. At the 8-minute mark, Manuela (Cecilia Roth) is in red standing in front of a poster mural draped in red with the face of Huma Rojo (Marisa Paredes). This is a magnificent frame- if a little reminiscent of Kieslowski’s shot of Irene Jacob in Three Colours: Red (1994). If this is All About Eve-

All About My Mother – 1999 Almodovar2021-12-18T22:25:21+00:00
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