Let Them All Talk – 2020 Soderbergh

Soderbergh’s 17th archiveable film at the time I’m writing this- that’s incredible. And he took several years off with his brief hiatus/retirement/sabbatical. He seems destined to hit 25+ archiveable films which is extremely rare in the more modern era. Of course, Scorsese and Woody (both with debuts in the 1960’s) hit that (or rather Scorsese will with his next one) but Soderbergh is from the Gen X class of auteurs- his debut was in 1989. On top of the prolific output- Soderbergh serves as also his own editor and cinematographer (under aliases) here for Let Them All Talk as

Let Them All Talk – 2020 Soderbergh2021-06-30T15:44:22+00:00

The Party – 1968 Edwards

Blake Edwards and Peter Sellers were two enormously capable comedic minds. They came together often in the 1960s (this is the third and final archiveable film between the duo)- but this is the only time they collaborated outside of the wildly successful (and hilarious) Pink Panther films. Sellers here plays Hrundi V. Bakshi- an Indian man.  Certainly, this would not happen in casting today, but it was not outside of the norm in the 1960s and Sellers often played characters from different races and nationalities (in Strangelove he plays an American and a German). In The Pink Panther and

The Party – 1968 Edwards2021-06-29T22:22:28+00:00

Cinderella – 1950 Geronimi, Jackson, Luske

Disney’s take on the folk story (finally published in the 17th century but around long before) could easily slide into the late 1930s and early 1940s artistically fertile animation period—it is that well done. The film starts with the opening of the book (certainly common in the era) and the still drawing (stunning) establishing shots and landscapes. It is an enchanting and leisurely 74-minutes. There’s 10-15 minutes on the literal cat and mouse game, nearly that with the melodic morning routine. It is a simple, universal story (easily handed down orally from generation to generation) of goodness overcoming evil.

Cinderella – 1950 Geronimi, Jackson, Luske2021-06-29T20:48:11+00:00

Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith – 2005 Lucas

Technically, it is the first George Lucas directed film to land in the archives since the 1977 original Star Wars It is markedly better than the previous prequels- Phantom Menace in 1999 and Clones in 2002. It is darker, comparisons to Empire are right in terms of the foreboding doom and bleaker tone. The “best since Empire” stuff may be correct as well—but that is no great compliment necessarily either. Lucas still makes the mistake of investing so much time and energy in plot and CGI- two things that do not usually translate to great cinema. This is not

Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith – 2005 Lucas2021-06-28T21:28:46+00:00

Return of the Jedi – 1983 Marquand

Compared to the original and The Empire Strikes Back, the finale the original trilogy comes crashing down to earth with a thud. There’s a pandering from Lucas that doesn’t need to be here and that’s frustrating. Whether it is the Ewoks (warm and literally fuzzy), the silliness of some of the dancing scenes at Jabba’s club, the film just does not strike the same balance of narrative and mood as its predecessors. However, I agree wholeheartedly with Ebert here- “At the end of it all, after the three movies, we've taken an epic fantasy journey. Lucas has in common

Return of the Jedi – 1983 Marquand2021-06-27T13:08:12+00:00

The Empire Strikes Back – 1980 Kershner

It is a myth that George Lucas can’t direct—or that he stepped aside for Empire so the more polished (talented/ or whatever adjective.) Irvin Kershner could do a better job at the helm. There’s nothing in Kershner’s filmography, before or after Empire, to suggest he had as much talented in his entire body as Lucas had in a single appendage. This isn’t a war on authorship or the auteur theory- I just see this as Lucas doing most of this from another title- producer in this case- maybe the David O. Selznick example/comparison works- but I think Lucas may

The Empire Strikes Back – 1980 Kershner2021-06-26T13:33:11+00:00

Star Wars – 1977 Lucas

George Lucas’ exhilarating Star Wars opens in medias res with the instantly memorable Darth Vader chasing around Princess Leia after the famous scrolling yellow prologue. Like The Hidden Fortress from Kurosawa, Lucas centers much of the narrative deliberately (especially in the beginning) on two non-heroes if you will- in this case, two droids. Lucas borrows from many inspirations (including the Saturday morning serials, the burned-out massacre of Uncle Owen and Aunt Peru from John Ford’s The Searchers), but make no mistake, with The Hidden Fortress and the unmissable wipe edits (which I adore the use of here)—the main source

Star Wars – 1977 Lucas2021-06-25T13:53:40+00:00

Experiment in Terror – 1962 Edwards

Blake Edwards had a big 1962. He was coming off 1961’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s and delivered both this, Experiment in Terror, and Days of Wine and Roses in 1962. Both of his 1962 efforts were captured in black and white photography, and both starred Lee Remick. There is an interesting reading of Experiment of Terror as purely an influence on David Lynch. Lynch fans and scholars should see it. I have not seen it listed as one of Lynch’s favorite films, but the clear influences are aplenty. The film is set in Twin Peaks (though clearly this is San

Experiment in Terror – 1962 Edwards2021-06-24T13:21:19+00:00

Escape from Pretoria – 2020 Annan

Escape from Pretoria is a film that eluded many in 2020 and should be sought out by cinema enthusiasts. Francis Annan has created a very solid entry in the annals of the prison break subgenre.  Daniel Radcliffe leads the way for the cast—but really it is here because of the strong use of the split diopter and full frame compositions. It opens with documentary footage and Radcliffe’s voice-over. Most of the negative reviews point out the semi-successful attempt to make this a realism The Battle of Algiers-like political argument of a movie—and that’s fair—but if you take that out

Escape from Pretoria – 2020 Annan2021-06-10T20:26:25+00:00

A Simple Plan – 1998 Raimi

If you get the feeling that A Simple Plan could’ve been directed by the Coen brothers, you aren’t far off. This marvelous film is connected to Fargo and the Coen brothers in general. The moral thriller is made by the Coen’s long-time friends and occasional collaborator Sam Raimi. Joel worked as an editor on The Evil Dead (1981), Raimi co-wrote The Hudsucker Proxy (1994). I think Danny Elfman (here) emulates Carter Burwell’s 1996 Fargo score. The Coens’ apparently gave Sam advice on shooting in the snow and even the title has a shared connection with the brothers' 1984 debut

A Simple Plan – 1998 Raimi2021-06-23T13:05:33+00:00

The Father – 2020 Zeller

The Father is the debut film for Florian Zeller, Parisian director and playwright (this is based on his own play). He wrote the film with Anthony Hopkins in mind. Hopkins plays a character named Anthony- and when his character gives his birthdate- it is Hopkins’ own. Hopkins won the best actor Academy Award here at age 83 making him the oldest actor to ever win. He also won in 1991 for The Silence of the Lambs. It is an acting showcase for Hopkins—it is more than that, but it IS that. He gets a “you’re abandoning me” powerful monologue

The Father – 2020 Zeller2021-06-10T20:19:45+00:00

The Long Gray Line – 1955 Ford

The Long Gray Line is pleasant but mostly routine, minor, John Ford. It is actually the first full film he made just before The Searchers in 1956 (the weird designation here is because he was famously fired off of Mister Roberts (also 1955) after punching star Henry Fonda). Technicolor, a breezy 138 minutes Ford’s romanticism of the military (he was a Navy man himself) and Irish immigrants shines through. So, this is perfect material for him. West Point location shooting, singing, plenty of extras here help give the film scope. The story the life of Martin 'Marty' Maher played

The Long Gray Line – 1955 Ford2021-06-22T15:51:43+00:00
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