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Archive for the ‘Cinema’ Category

Eric Rohmer, the French critic and filmmaker who was one of the founding figures of the internationally influential movement that became known as the French New Wave, and the director of more than 50 films for theaters and television, including the Oscar-nominated ‘My Night at Maud’s‘ (1969), died on Monday. He was 89. . . .

“Aesthetically, Mr. Rohmer was perhaps the most conservative member of the group of aggressive young critics who purveyed their writings for publications like Arts and Les Cahiers du Cinéma into careers as filmmakers beginning in the late 1950s. A former novelist and teacher of French and German literature, Mr. Rohmer emphasized the spoken and written word in his films at a time when tastes — thanks in no small part to his own pioneering writing on Alfred Hitchcock and Howard Hawks — had begun to shift from literary adaptations to genre films grounded in strong visual styles.

“His most famous film in America remains ‘My Night at Maud’s,’ a 1969 black-and-white feature set in the grim industrial city of Clermont-Ferrand. It tells the story of a shy, young engineer . . . who passes a snow-bound evening in the home of an attractive, free-thinking divorcée.” (more @ NY Times)

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Food, Inc“MOVIES about food used to make you want to eat. . . .

“But that was then, before Wal-Mart started selling organic food and Michelle Obama planted a vegetable garden on the White House lawn. Before E. coli was a constant in the food supply, before politicians tried to tax soda and before anyone gave much thought to the living conditions of chickens.

“Into this world comes Food, Inc.,’ a documentary on the state of the nation’s food system that opens in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco on Friday. . . .

“‘Food, Inc.’ begins with images of a bright, bulging American supermarket, and then moves to the jammed chicken houses, grim meat-cutting rooms and chemical-laced cornfields where much of the American diet comes from. Along the way Mr. Kenner attempts to expose the hidden costs of a system in which fast-food hamburgers cost $1 and soda is cheaper than milk.” (more @ NY Times)

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“In “Defiance,” a clunky but well-meaning action film set during World War II and starring Daniel Craig, the Bielski brothers save hundreds of fellow Polish Jews by battling Nazis in the Belarussian forest. Directed by Edward Zwick and based on a true story, the movie, released around New Year’s, tried among other things to counter Hollywood’s usual tales of Jewish helplessness during the Shoah.

“Whether it did, or instead implied that Jews who didn’t fight bore a measure of responsibility for their own fate, became a matter of some passing debate in America.

“But the film provoked a different sort of fuss shortly before it arrived here some weeks later. Movie critics in Poland wondered whether Hollywood would ever get around to showing Polish partisans as heroes, as opposed to anti-Semites. . . .

“As Europe diversifies, nearly every nation and culture on the continent seems to battle for victimhood status. Poles have especially good reason to see themselves as long oppressed, having been fought over and occupied for much of the last century by vicious regimes. Shifting political power struggles during and after the war, among other complications of Polish Jewish history, led some Polish Jews at certain points to side with Soviets against Nazis and Polish partisans. The whole moral morass, essential to Polish identity, tends to be lost on outsiders, many of whom unthinkingly regard the country, throughout most of the last century at least, as just a Jewish killing field.” (more @ NY Times)

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schindlerpapers“A list of Jews saved from the Nazi death camps during World War II by the German industrialist Oskar Schindler has been found in research notes at an Australian library and will go on public display on Tuesday.

“The list of 801 Jewish men was found among six boxes of papers that belonged to the Australian author Thomas Keneally who wrote the book ‘Schindler’s Ark’ that was the basis for the Oscar-winning film ‘Schindler’s List‘ by Stephen Spielberg. The 13-page, yellowing, document was found tucked between research notes and German newspaper cuttings by a researcher at the New South Wales Library in Sydney sifting through the boxes of manuscripts acquired by the library in 1996.” (more @ Reuters)

RelatedSchindler’s List found in Sydney

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hemingwayhopkinsAnthony Hopkins will play Ernest Hemingway in an indie titled Hemingway & Fuentes, to be produced and directed by Andy Garcia. . . .

“Garcia, who also co-wrote the script with Hemingway’s niece, author Hilary Hemingway, will costar in the film as well, playing the real life fishing-boat captain Gregorio Fuentes, who befriended Papa Hemingway in the last decade of the alpha-male writer’s life. Fuentes was said to be the model for one of Hemingway’s most enduring literary creations: the grizzled fisherman Santiago in The Old Man and the Sea, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1952.” (more @ Entertainment Weekly; via Books, Inq.)

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wizardofozWas Dorothy in Frank Baum’s 1900 children’s novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz a Populist “Everyman” who — with William Jennings Bryan (Lion), a farmer (Scarecrow) and an industrial worker (Tin Woodman) — went off to see the Wizard (President) to voice support for the use of silver as currency? Or, more critically, as economists today “fear an onset of deflation, and economic certainties melt away like a drenched wicked witch,” are there lessons to be learned from Oz?

“In 1964, high school teacher Henry Littlefield wrote an article outlining the notion of an underlying allegory in Frank Baum’s book. He said it offered a ‘gentle and friendly’ critique of Populist thinking, and the story could be used to illuminate the late 19th Century to students. . . .

“[Littlefield] believed the characters could represent the personalities and themes of the late 1800s, with Dorothy embodying the everyman American spirit.

“US political historian Quentin Taylor, who supports this interpretation, says: ‘There are too many instances of parallels with the political events of the time.’ . . .

“But not everyone believes The Wonderful Wizard of Oz includes any hidden meanings.

“‘Nobody ever suggested it until 1964,’ says Bradley Hansen, who is a professor of economics at the University of Mary Washington. ‘There’s no solid evidence that Baum had written it as a monetary allegory,’ he adds.”

As for the value of Baum’s book to present-day economists, Taylor agrees that despite the references to late 19th-century economic issues, “little can be learnt from Baum about the modern economic crisis.” (more @ BBC News)

RelatedSarah Palin As Dorothy? We’re Not In Kansas …

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bozo“Alan W. Livingston, an entertainment executive who had significant roles in bringing Bozo, the Beatles and ‘Bonanza‘ to American audiences, died Friday at home in Beverly Hills. He was 91. . . .

“In 1963, Mr. Livingston was president of Capitol Records, which had declined three different times to release singles by a British band, then little known in the United States, called the Beatles. After another Capitol executive turned down a fourth opportunity, this one to release the song ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand,’ a telephone call placed to Mr. Livingston probably changed rock ‘n roll history. . . .

“Capitol released the single and the next year brought the Beatles to the United States, unleashing the tsunami of adoration that came to be known as Beatlemania.” (more @ NY Times)

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citylightsFrom The Nation archives, reviews of a dozen vintage films reflecting “the hardships and aspirations of Americans in the first Great Depression”:

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05foote-480Horton Foote, who chronicled a wistful American odyssey through the 20th century in plays and films mostly set in a small town in Texas and who left a literary legacy as one of the country’s foremost storytellers, died on Wednesday in Hartford. He was 92 and lived in Pacific Palisades, Calif., and Wharton, Tex.

“Mr. Foote died after a brief illness, his daughter Hallie Foote said. He had recently been living in Hartford while adapting his nine-play “Orphans’ Home Cycle” into a three-part production that will be staged next fall at the Hartford Stage Company and the Signature Theater in New York. In a body of work for which he won the Pulitzer Prize and two Academy Awards, Mr. Foote was known as a writer’s writer, an author who never abandoned his vision even when Broadway and Hollywood temporarily turned their backs on him.

“In screenplays for movies like “Tender Mercies,” “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “The Trip to Bountiful,” and in plays like “The Young Man From Atlanta” and “The Carpetbagger’s Children,” Mr. Foote depicted the way ordinary people shoulder the ordinary burdens of life, finding drama in the resilience by which they carry on in the face of change, economic hardship, disappointment, loss and death.” (more @ NY Times)

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dark-knightOn the eve of the Academy Awards announcements, the National Review has released its list of the “25 best conservative movies of the last 25 years.” The list, chosen from nominees submitted by National Review readers, includes, among others, The Lives of Others, The IncrediblesJuno, Forrest Gump, Ghostbusters, The Dark Knight and Gran Torino, films conservatives enjoy because “they are great movies that offer compelling messages about freedom, families, patriotism, traditions, and more.”

w-movie(via National Review Online)

[As for the rest of us, there’s always W.]

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dvd“Because of widely available broadband access and a new wave of streaming sites, it has become surprisingly easy to watch pirated video online — a troubling development for entertainment executives and copyright lawyers.”

(via NY Times)

[Earlier this week, for the first time, I watched a pirated movie, a DVD copy of a current-run Academy Award-nominated film apparently reproduced from an advance review video (during an early scene, for a few seconds, a message appeared on the bottom of the screen warning against reproduction or distribution of the video). I must admit to having had some misgivings about watching the DVD, yet what I mostly thought about was how commonplace it is to find for sale legally in bookstores, uncorrected proofs or review copies of new books sold to the stores by editors and reviewers, often in advance of the books’ release. Review copies of new books, not intended for resale, are so ubiquitous in New York City that it has become hard for me to justify paying full price for new titles.]

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oscar-statue

“Is it the seamlessly blended amber and caramel colors, the slowly gliding camera work? Or is it the sentiments that fall like flakes of wet snow into the dialogue? Many elements join to make the beautifully crafted “Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” with a running time of two hours and forty-seven minutes, the best picture in years for a postprandial rest (popcorn division). As you may have noticed, 2008 was not a great year for movies. There was nothing comparable to the hair-raising “There Will Be Blood,” or the ravishing “Diving Bell and the Butterfly,” or the sinister “No Country for Old Men,” from 2007. Even so, a nod for best picture could have gone to more deserving movies, such as Jonathan Demme’s “Rachel Getting Married,” which settles down into a revelatory examination of a family’s anguish and joy; or “Happy-Go-Lucky,” Mike Leigh’s startling look at the power and the limits of goodness; or even the animated masterpiece “WALL-E,” with its vision of the end of industrial civilization and its ironic salvation in an anodyne space station decorated in cruise-liner moderne. The total of thirteen nominations for “Benjamin Button” has to be some sort of scandal. “Citizen Kane” received nine nominations, “The Godfather: Part II” eleven, and this movie, so smooth and mellow that it seems to have been dipped in bourbon aging since the Civil War, is nowhere close to those two. In fact, of the five nominees for best picture—“Milk,” “Frost/Nixon,” “The Reader,” “Slumdog Millionaire,” and “Benjamin Button”—only “Milk,” a bio-pic with a thrilling sense of history and lots of jokes and sex, has the aesthetic life and human vitality that warrant its nomination.” (via The New Yorker)

[I have never considered David Denby, the longtime movie critic for “The New Yorker” magazine, a curmudgeon, yet my response to his complaints about this year’s Oscar nominees for “Best Picture” is a keen, albeit spiteful, desire to see them all before the winner is announced. Pass the popcorn.]

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