Category Archives: Film

Prior art

Oh, dear: Samuel G. Bailey is suing Paramount Pictures and other entities, claiming that a screenplay of his was plagiarized in the making of the 2006 film Dreamgirls, as Melissa Castro reports. The story doesn’t indicate whether Tom Eyen is also named in the suit.

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Who killed Sean Regan?

A host of others, smiling killers and gruesome butlers, stalk through the dark,rainy landscape of the film like wraiths. The Big Sleep [1946] is something other than a detective story, with the drive toward rationality that designation is supposed to represent. It is a carnival of criminality, its underworld supernumeraries crowing the film not so much as picturesque character bits, but as tiny, finely-drawn portrayals of deceit and self-interest in a tapestry of meanness.

—Kevin Hagopian, Film Noir Reader 4, p. 42
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Cultural touchstones I have never seen

And probably never will:

  • E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
  • Forrest Gump (1994)
  • Alien (1979)
  • Titanic (1997)
  • When Harry Met Sally… (1989)
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The reality train has left the station

Via Ira and Leta, possibly the strangest Barbie collectible to be offered: Barbie as Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren) attacked by crows in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds.

Dressed in a re-creation of the stylish green skirt-suit worn by the film’s ill-fated heroine in an iconic scene… Barbie® Doll celebrates the 45th anniversary of the acclaimed film. From the doll’s classic ensemble to the perfectly painted expression to the accompanying black birds, every aspect captures the film’s infamous appeal…. Doll cannot stand alone as shown. For the adult collector.

Although it must also be admitted that the two different Hello Kitty Barbies on offer come close, if only for their universe-mixing Spock-meets-Skywalker jumbledness.

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First past the post

So the reblogging game is to name your favorite films by these indie auteurs of the 30 years or so: the Coen Brothers, Wes Anderson, Hal Ashby, Kevin Smith, and Quentin Tarantino. kottke.org adds Stanley Kubrick, P.T. Anderson, and Errol Morris to the list. All well and good, but a few of of these guys worked only one seam, and if this is to be a revealing personality test we need some directors with a wider range of material. Offhand, I can think of Woody Allen, Robert Altman, and Steven Soderbergh. So here’s my list:

  • Coens: Blood Simple
  • W. Anderson: Bottle Rocket
  • Ashby: none (Harold and Maude is for adolescents)
  • Smith: Dogma edges out Clerks
  • Tarantino: Reservoir Dogs, also by a slight margin
  • Kubrick: 2001: A Space Odyssey
  • P.T. Anderson: Magnolia
  • Morris: Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control
  • Allen: Hannah and Her Sisters
  • Altman: Nashville
  • Soderbergh: sex, lies, and videotape
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Freebies

Something for those of us with too much time on our hands: Gleeful Gecko points out that IMDB has quietly made available a modest list of feature-length movies for free viewing in a lo-fi window. The offerings are all over the map—everything from The Toxic Avenger to Lost in Translation.

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Jackie O

Via Bookslut: a Chris Ware animation of a story from This American Life. How cool is that?!

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Two tickets at will call for Pinth-Garnell, Leonard

Via 11D: Joe Queenan parses awful, or why The Hottie and the Nottie is not in the same class of wretched as Heaven’s Gate.

…that is the reason I became a critic in the first place; criticism seemed to be a way to channel my unwholesome fascination with train wrecks and fires into a socially acceptable framework. The truth is, every time I go to the pictures, I get goose bumps all over, anticipating that this, after all these years, could be the worst movie ever made.

Sadly, it never is.

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Another friend gone

This always happens when I check back with a morning news source later in the day: bad news. Sommer Mathis of DCist links to a column by Hank Stuever about the closing of the last of D.C.’s crackerbox art movie houses, the AMC Dupont Circle 5. The Dupont 5 never had the scope of the Biograph or the two-story interlock of the lovable Key, but attending a movie there always brought with it the challenge of getting there early enough to secure the one seat in each auditorium with decent sightlines. Apparently the cinemas’ closing has been quietly scheduled for some time. The doors close forever this weekend.

The Dupont 5 was a few dozen extremely familiar steps away from the south escalators of the Dupont Circle Metro station, between a Cosi and a Ben & Jerry’s, and not far from Olsson’s Books & Records. Here you had a perfect world of second and third dates. You could always see someone standing in front of the Dupont 5, wondering if his or her date was going to show up. (This was before everyone owned a cellphone.) A few hearts were broken in front of the Dupont 5.

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Hollywood calling

From the very start of his career, [Michael] Haneke’s films have been calculated to shatter the viewer’s complacency to a degree rarely seen since the early work of Mike Leigh or perhaps since the politicized days of the French New Wave.

John Wray profiles the Austrian director, who made The Piano Teacher and Caché. He is remaking his Funny Games in English with Tim Roth and Naomi Watts.

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Movie picks

Edward Copeland has released his collaborative 100-best list of foreign films. I’ve no real quibbles with anything in the top 25, but I find the high ranking of Wings of Desire at #41 inexplicable. This movie is perhaps the art-house version of The Princess Bride or The Gods Must Be Crazy in its overratedness.

I agree with many of Copeland’s committee that the Kieslowski Three Colors trilogy should be considered as one movie, not three: the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Here’s an edited version of the note that I sent Copeland, with my picks:

I think that I have seen about 40% of the films on the list, albeit some of them not since college. Many of them are perfectly good, but I’m not sure that I would give them a 1-25 ranking. So here are my top 12…, including a few write-ins:

#1 M, Fritz Lang [#3 on the Copeland list]
#2 The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, Demy [#65]
#3 Three Colors: Red, Kieslowski [#39]
#4 Three Colors: Blue, Kieslowski [#62]
#5 Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, Almodovar — write-in
#6 Ran, Kurosawa [#16]
#7 Repulsion, Roman Polanski — write-in
#8 The Conformist, Bertolucci [#18]
#9 Three Colors: White, Kieslowski [did not make the Copeland cut]
#10 The Vanishing, Sluizer [did not make the Copeland cut]
#11 Open Hearts, Susanne Bier — write-in
#12 Fantastic Planet, Rene Laloux — write-in

Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring, Ki-duk Kim, should also be on the list, but I don’t think it meets your release-year criterion.

The voting has served as a prod to get Das Boot and Jules and Jim onto my Netflix queue.

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Il miglior fabbro

Having recently chided a local reviewer, I think it’s appropriate to give some props to another local critic who does a damn fine job: Bob Mondello, who reviews for NPR’s All Things Considered and the Washington City Paper. Consider his recent write-up of two shows that I also viewed, 33 Variations and The Unmentionables.

Compared to my sketches, Mondello sees in sharper, more vivid colors; he chooses his words more precisely (prig, amanuensis, decency) without losing a conversational tone. Writing for both radio and print, he knows how to put a button on the end of a piece. He is one of the writers that I have to avoid reading before I see a show in hopes that I will appreciate a work and express myself without undue influence.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt that he and I agree on the merits of a lot of shows—these two, for instance. Granted, he has his formulas, but he makes them work (“Original? Well, not entirely.”) for him. His compact yet avuncular style works just as well on the air as on the page.

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Not even trying

It’s a little of a dog-bites-man story, but the kerfluffle over the bad D.C. geography in the new Invasion of the Body Snatchers remake is entertaining in a wince-inducing way. Just one among the apparently many gaffes, spotted by Reliable Source:

To get from Georgetown to Cleveland Park, [Nicole Kidman as Carol Bennell] drives through a tunnel. Seems like the long route. Oh, it’s also rush hour and there’s no traffic. In our dreams.

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Looking backward

Via Arts & Letters Daily: Richard Schickel gives a new reading of the American film noir cycle:

film noir… was directing our attention backward, not forward. After the war, we were not so much disillusioned by our prospects as giddily illusioned by them, and the message of film noir was curiously at odds with the national mood.

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Sweet

Terrence Rafferty previews Film Forum’s N.Y.C. Noir series, which kicks off with Alexander Mackendrick’s Sweet Smell of Success:

…the way [J.J.] Hunsecker drags the movie’s protagonist, an overeager press agent named Sidney Falco…, down into the ethical sewer with him is as brutal as what Richard Widmark does to the old lady in Henry Hathaway’s Kiss of Death (1947)….

It’s the nakedness of the newspaperman’s exercise of power, and the inability of the other, less monomaniacal characters to fight it, that make the picture unmistakably noir, even without gunplay. A sense of powerlessness — often disguised by tough-guy bravado — is a common trait in the heroes and heroines of film noir, and this is a feeling that New Yorkers know a thing or two about. We know too that the threat of physical violence is far from the only means the masters of our fates employ when they want us to know there’s no way out. In this dirty town, where people come to Make It, our desire to succeed and our terror of failure are usually all the ammunition the powerful require to keep us right where they want us.

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