4 items from 2017
World War II taught the world to be distrustful of propaganda, as the public came to realize just how effectively cinema could be used to spread anti-Semitism and a lock-step, sieg-heil conformity to demagogues. And yet, among the many insights of Mark Harris’ richly researched book “Five Came Back” — which fleshed out an oft-overlooked chapter of Hollywood history while shading a far more over-scrutinized one in the vast military history canon — was director William Wyler’s view that “all film is propaganda.” Like a loaded weapon, the power and world-changing potential of a camera is all in who’s holding it, and where that person chooses to point it.
Now, Harris’ terrific book has inspired a glossy, if somewhat snooze-inducing Netflix miniseries, “Five Came Back,” directed by Laurent Bouzereau. Simultaneously released in New York and Los Angeles theaters for an Oscar-qualifying run (offering fodder for those awards prognosticators looking for »
- Peter Debruge
"The Furniture" is our weekly series on Production Design. Here's Daniel Walber...
The United States may have entered World War II late, but American studios didn’t wait nearly as long to start making propaganda. Hollywood produced a number of pro-Allied films before the American entry into the war, from A Yankee in the Raf to the comparatively subtle Sergeant York. Though this ruffled some feathers in Washington, the debate became moot in December of 1941.
Captains of the Clouds falls right on the cusp, shot before Pearl Harbor but released in February of 1942. The film, directed by Michael Curtiz, was intended to drum up support for the Canadian war effort. The first major Hollywood production to be shot north of the border, it’s a technicolor extravaganza starring James Cagney and the Royal Canadian Air Force.
It also received two Oscar nominations. Sol Polito was recognized in the Best Cinematography »
- Daniel Walber
Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD
2016 / Color / 2:35 widescreen / 139 min. / Street Date February 21, 2017 / 39.99
Cinematography – Simon Duggan
Film Editor – John Gilbert
Original Music – Rupert Gregson-Williams
Directed by – Mel Gibson
Combat movies fascinate this reviewer — if you look at the Savant review index you’ll see that I review practically every war picture of note that I can get my hands on. But brace yourself — I become huffy when I see themes of patriotism and faith used to deliver dicey messages.
Mel Gibson’s big, slick WW2 combat film Hacksaw Ridge tells the truly inspiring story of combat medic Desmond Doss, the first conscientious objector to receive the Medal of Honor and the only one to »
- Glenn Erickson
Directors influence each other with their work. Sometimes that influence is overt — “La La Land” clearly evokes “Singin’ in the Rain” and “Umbrellas of Cherbourg” — but other times it is more unexpected, hinging on storytelling choices or structure.
Variety asked this year’s directing nominees to help us trace the DNA of their movies, and all were happy to oblige.
In Villeneuve’s alien-invasion tale, humans eventually discover that the aliens “want to help you help us.”
“2001: A Space Odyssey” 1968: “Definitely ‘2001’,” Villeneuve says, of Stanley Kubrick’s sci-fi classic in which Earthlings, searching for signs of intelligent life, are nearly outwitted by artificial intelligence.
“The Day the Earth Stood Still” 1951: Aliens caution »
- Marshall Fine
4 items from 2017
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