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Archive for the ‘Movie Reviews’ 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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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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“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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