11 items from 2015
Touch of Venice: Messina’s Understated, Observational Debut
There’s much to admire in actor Chris Messina’s assured, astutely observed directorial debut, Alex of Venice. Namely its central performance from Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who carries this understated character study that rather uneventfully charts a workaholic woman’s mildly difficult navigation through the denial that her marriage is over. As written by its trio of writers (with Jessica Goldberg joined by first time screenwriters Katie Nehara and Justin Shilton), its dramatic possibilities are severely downplayed, instead attempting to reflect meaning off intertextual echoes borrowed from Chekov’s The Cherry Orchard (the play being staged within the film).
An attorney for an eco-advocacy group, Alex (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is left reeling when her high school sweetheart husband George (Messina) abruptly announces he’s unhappy with their marriage. A taken-for-granted stay-at-home dad, who cares for both their young son and Alex’s »
- Nicholas Bell
Most cineastes associate Orson Welles with landmark motion pictures like “The Magnificent Ambersons,” “Touch of Evil,” and the granddaddy of them all, “Citizen Kane.” But his 1974 oddity, “F for Fake” — a nifty riff on the notion of deceit and what exactly “artistic license” really means, and also the last picture he would ever direct — is worth seeking out for those who wish to dig into the more obscure corners of the legendary filmmaker’s body of work. A loosely structured, free-form narrative hoax, one that Roger Ebert famously called “fun and engaging [but] minor,” “F for Fake” cannot attest to the almost-unanimous acclaim of Welles’ earlier pictures, but, oddly enough, it plays well today. The film has a prankish, fearless spirit that is as ahead of its time, in its own way, as the films of Jean-Luc Godard (an amusing comparison, if for no other reason than Welles had some not-very-nice »
- Nicholas Laskin
Film noir cognoscente Eddie Muller defines noir as "the flip-side of the all-American success story." On his website he has posted the list 25 Noir Films That Will Stand the Test of Time, a drool-worthy selection of classics that also happen to be some of our own favorites. Thus, in spirit, we present our picks below, including such Muller faves as "In a Lonely Place," "Double Indemnity," "Sweet Smell of Success," "Touch of Evil" and "Detour." For those lovers of more contemporary noir, here are our 15 favorite neo-noirs. From Jacques Tourneur to Humphrey Bogart, What to See at La's Noir City Festival Anne Thompson's Top 5: 1. "Touch of Evil" (1958): Orson Welles' bravura noir starts out strong with a delirious sustained single shot, as newlyweds Mr. and Mrs. Vargas (Charlton Heston and Janet Leigh) stroll across the Mexican border to the sound of Henry Mancini and a ticking bomb, which explodes after. »
Written and directed by Orson Welles
The Lady from Shanghai (1947) didn’t come easily for Orson Welles. No film ever really did after his breakthrough, the great Citizen Kane (1941), the movie that put him on the map and in the crosshairs of the Hollywood establishment. They wanted little to do with this iconoclastic hotshot from New York, and for the rest of his days, Welles struggled to achieve an autonomous artistic vision. That so many astonishing films came out of this struggle, like The Lady from Shanghai, surely says something about his cinematic gift, an inherent talent that could not be restrained or denied.
It took considerable wheeling and dealing for Welles to convince Harry Cohn to back the film. Welles had three features on his directorial résumé, and though Citizen Kane and The Magnificent Ambersons (1942) were not financially successful, his third film, The Stranger (1946), was. »
- Jeremy Carr
“Border Town Noir”
Most film noir pictures take place in urban centers—New York City, Los Angeles—where the big city is as much a character as the unhappy humans in these often bleak and brutal, sometimes brilliant, Hollywood crime films that spanned the early forties to the late fifties. Film noir peaked in the latter half of the forties, with an abundance of the classic titles released between 1946-1948.
One of the more unique things about Ride the Pink Horse is that the urban setting is gone. Instead, the action is set in a border town in New Mexico, where there is indeed danger, to be sure, but there’s also a little less pessimism among the inhabitants—unlike in the urban noirs in which everyone’s a cynic. Interestingly, one might say that the “border town noir” could be a sub-set of the broader category, »
- firstname.lastname@example.org (Cinema Retro)
The Miami International Film Festival (March 6-15) launches this weekend in balmy Florida with a full-bodied slate of international cinema. With its special focus on Ibero-American and Cuban films, the 32nd edition presents many North American premieres alongside hot circuit titles from Sundance, Cannes and beyond. From Sundance, acclaimed docs "Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck," Brett Morgan's portrait of the haunted Nirvana frontman, and "Best of Enemies," Robert Gordon and Morgan Neville's account of the televised sparring wars between William F. Buckley and Gore Vidal, touch down in Miami. Read More: Toronto Critics Go Crazy for Christian Petzold's "Phoenix" Cinephiles should know that the Miami Beach Cinematheque has partnered with the festival to present an Orson Welles retrospective featuring "Citizen Kane," "The Stranger," "The Lady From Shanghai," "Touch of Evil" and "Othello." Read More: Venice »
- Ryan Lattanzio
Taking place at the Curzon Bloomsbury, which reopens on 27th March 2015, the Auteur Film Festival is set to be a week-long celebration of cinema’s greatest directors; and today the full-line-up for the festival has been announced. Tickets for the festival go on sale later today: http://www.curzoncinemas.com/auteurfilmfestival. Intros to the films will be announced in the next few weeks via http://twitter.com/CurzonBbury
A director is considered an Auteur when his or her individual style and complete control over all elements of production give a film a recognisable, personal and unique stamp.
Through its history, the Bloomsbury cinema has been associated with director of singular vision, so it is fitting to reopen the doors with a festival dedicated to their work. The Auteur Film Festival is presented to acknowledge the diversity in world cinema, to celebrate the resurrection of a cultural institution, and reignite debate »
- Phil Wheat
Stumbling across that list of best-edited films yesterday had me assuming that there might be other nuggets like that out there, and sure enough, there is American Cinematographer's poll of the American Society of Cinematographers membership for the best-shot films ever, which I do recall hearing about at the time. But they did things a little differently. Basically, in 1998, cinematographers were asked for their top picks in two eras: films from 1894-1949 (or the dawn of cinema through the classic era), and then 1950-1997, for a top 50 in each case. Then they followed up 10 years later with another poll focused on the films between 1998 and 2008. Unlike the editors' list, though, ties run absolutely rampant here and allow for way more than 50 films in each era to be cited. I'd love to see what these lists would look like combined, however. I imagine "Citizen Kane," which was on top of the 1894-1949 list, »
- Kristopher Tapley
Now this is a list that could result in a lot of fascinating dissection and thanks to HitFix it comes to our attention almost three years after it was originally released back in 2012, celebrating the Motion Picture Editors Guild's 75th anniversary. Over at HitFix, Kris Tapley asks, "Is this news to anyone elsec" Um, yes, I find it immensely interesting and a perfect starting point for anyone looking to further explore the art of film editing. In an accompanying article we get the particulars concerning what films were eligible and how films were to be considered: In our Jan-feb 12 issue, we asked Guild members to vote on what they consider to be the Best Edited Films of all time. Any feature-length film from any country in the world was eligible. And by "Best Edited," we explained, we didn't just mean picture; sound, music and mixing were to be considered as well. »
- Brad Brevet
A random bit of researching on a Tuesday night led me to something I didn't know existed: The Motion Picture Editors Guild's list of the 75 best-edited films of all time. It was a feature in part celebrating the Guild's 75th anniversary in 2012. Is this news to anyone else? I confess to having missed it entirely. Naturally, I had to dig in. What was immediately striking to me about the list — which was decided upon by the Guild membership and, per instruction, was considered in terms of picture and sound editorial as opposed to just the former — was the most popular decade ranking. Naturally, the 1970s led with 17 mentions, but right on its heels was the 1990s. I wouldn't have expected that but I happen to agree with the assessment. Thelma Schoonmaker's work on "Raging Bull" came out on top, an objectively difficult choice to dispute, really. It was so transformative, »
- Kristopher Tapley
Director Barry Levinson offers his thoughts on what’s behind the growing outcry for more diversity in Hollywood films.
Are we a racist country? Yes. But we are getting better. For certain. And while that battle for absolute equality is being played out, an odd controversy about the racial injustice in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences has emerged. The Oscar nominations of 2015 are being questioned as racially prejudicial. There are those who say a black woman, who directed “Selma,” was overlooked because of racial bias, and the actor who played Martin Luther King Jr. was also overlooked because he was black. The film was nominated by the Academy, but these individuals were not. I would tend to agree with these accusations if I thought the Academy had a great record of selecting the best nominees each year, but they don’t. It is impossible to pass through a single awards season without hearing, »
- Barry Levinson
11 items from 2015
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