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3715 reviews in total 
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September (1987)
Woody Allen's Greatest Financial Failure, 21 November 2014

At a summer house in Vermont, neighbor Howard (Denholm Elliott) falls in love with Lane (Mia Farrow), who is in a relationship with Peter (Sam Waterston), who is falling for Stephanie (Dianne Wiest), who is married with children.

This film was Woody Allen's biggest financial failure, bringing in less than $500,000. It is also often compared with his earlier film, "Interiors". These two things, while seemingly unrelated, are probably very closely related.

As the plot above suggests, this is material just ready for a good comedy featuring a love triangle (or whatever shape this is). Instead, Allen made it completely serious and rather depressing, and it makes even his intellectual references (e.g. Kurasawa) fall rather flat, because these are not characters we are ready to open our hearts to.

RKO 281 (1999) (TV)
A Fascinating, Fictional Look At Orson Welles, 21 November 2014

Orson Welles (Liev Schreiber) produces his greatest film, "Citizen Kane" (1941), despite the opposition of the film's de facto subject, William Randolph Hearst (James Cromwell).

This HBO film has great casting, to say the least. Sure, Schreiber may not necessarily look like Orson Welles, but he does the voice pretty well, and is a great actor. James Cromwell never disappoints, and then you have a wonderful ensemble, as well (not least of which is John Malkovich).

Of the parts showing the filming of "Citizen Kane", the scene of tearing out the floor is best. This event (even if it did not happen as portrayed) is what made this film iconic for many, and really made Gregg Toland a god among cameramen. Having Toland appear here was a wise decision.

What is somewhat confuses is the film's portrayal of racism and antisemitism. Not that these were not bigoted times, but what was the overall point? How did it relate to Welles? This is unclear.

The Real Kane, 21 November 2014

Documentary about the battle between Orson Welles and William Randolph Hearst over Welles' "Citizen Kane" (1941). Features interviews with Welles' and Hearst's co-workers also as a relatively complete bio of Hearst.

This documentary covers two things. One is the creation of "Citizen Kane" and the troubles that Orson Welles went through to get people to see it. This is covered fairly well, and for a fictional version of the story people can watch "RKO 281" which is based on this documentary.

The other part is just as interesting, and maybe even more so: the biography of William Randolph Heart. While a towering figure in his day and at the time "Citizen Kane" came out, he has left the public consciousness. Do half of the people in America even know who he is? Probably not. And yet he had a profound effect on journalism and culture. He should be celebrated.

Once Thought To Be The Greatest, 21 November 2014

Following the death of a publishing tycoon (Orson Welles), news reporters scramble to discover the meaning of his final utterance.

What stands out about this film is the cinematography, not just the concept of "deep focus" (which puts so much in a single frame, such as young Charles out the window) but also the use of the lowered floor to make people larger than life. For students of film, this is one they must see early in order to fully grasp the importance of the camera.

What is also interesting about this film is its rising and then falling star over the years. Disappointing on its first release, booed at the Oscars, and silenced out of existence... it later rose to be considered by many as the greatest film in cinema history. Now, since the 1990s, it seems to be slipping again. Not that IMDb is an authority, but it has fallen from the site's top spot to much lower. How far will it fall?

One of the Greats of the 1990s, 21 November 2014

Mathilda Lando (Natalie Portman), a 12-year-old girl, who is reluctantly taken in by Léon Montana (Jean Reno), a professional assassin, after her family is murdered. Léon and Mathilda form an unusual relationship, as she becomes his protégée and learns the assassin's trade.

This is what you get if you take "Lolita" (sort of) and put it in the middle of a world with mobsters and hit men. And then casting for perfect actors? Priceless. Luc Besson probably had no idea that Portman would go on to be the international sensation she has become.

Of course, we also have a solid performance from the always-impeccable Gary Oldman. Very few actors are working on his level. Maybe Daniel Day-Lewis, possibly Christian Bale. But Gary Oldman can be anyone and delivers 100% every time.

Roger Ebert gave the film only two-and-a-half stars out of four, writing, "Always at the back of my mind was the troubled thought that there was something wrong about placing a 12-year-old character in the middle of this action... In what is essentially an exercise—a slick urban thriller—it seems to exploit the youth of the girl without really dealing with it." Not to disregard his concern, but time seems to be against Ebert here. The film has steadily gone up in praise over the years, possibly due to Portman's rising star.

The Wall, 20 November 2014

In 1984 East Berlin, an agent of the secret police (Ulrich Mühe), conducting surveillance on a writer (Sebastian Koch) and his lover (Martina Gedeck), finds himself becoming increasingly absorbed by their lives.

Apparently, this was one of the first post-Berlin Wall films to be a drama rather than a comedy (such as Wolfgang Becker's "Good Bye, Lenin!"). Certainly the best, if not the first. Today it is somewhat hard to imagine that not long ago Germany was split, with two sides spying on each other, when they were really one people under two governments.

Roger Ebert gave the film four stars, describing it as "a powerful but quiet film, constructed of hidden thoughts and secret desires." Very esoteric, Roger. There is certainly much more going on than is openly expressed in the film.

One of Hollywood's Greatest Creators, 20 November 2014

Orson Welles' archives of unfinished/never released movies and the last years of his life from the perspective of Oja Kodar (life and artistic partner Of Orson Welles in his last years).

What is Orson Welles? Is he a visionary, an artist, and a constant creator? Yes. This is a man who was only 26 when "Citizen Kane" was made, and continued to make brilliant work for decades. Perhaps some day we will see more of it (rumors abound that "lost films" will turn up).

Why does this film have Muppets? Because it should. And why is the narration in German? This is a bit of a shortcoming. Because so much of it is in English, having the voiceovers in German does not seem to make a lot of sense. At the very least, it could have multiple sound options. (Subtitles are preferable to dubbing, but this would not even be dubbing because the narrator is never on screen.)

What Does It Mean To Be Art?, 20 November 2014

Elmyr de Hory (born Hoffmann Elemér Albert), is such an intriguing figure. One can focus on his alleged crimes, selling forgeries for far too much, and possibly even getting his fakes into art collections and museums throughout the world. Or, there is another way to look at him.

Early in this film, he says something to the effect of: "Picasso would sell this for $15,000 to $20,000; I would sell it for less." Whether intentional or not, this raises a good question: why does art have value? If one person can make a painting identical to the original, why is the original worth so much when they exhibit the same image, the same style? This film features an interview with Clifford Irving, who is a bit of a legend. That the two swindlers became friends is so appropriate. A documentary most likely exists on Irving, as well, and these two back to back could make a great double feature.

And, of course, we are left to wonder how many of his claims are fake themselves? Perhaps the sales he claimed to make never truly happened...

F for Fake (1973)
Orson Welles Tackles Frauds and Fakes, 20 November 2014

A documentary about fraud and fakery, which focuses on Elmyr de Hory's recounting of his career as a professional art forger.

Clifford Irving is something of a legend, and definitely belongs in this film for his work as author of a fraudulent Howard Hughes authorized biography. This film purports that Irving and deHory both worked their schemes from the same tiny island, and yet were in no way connected.

Sadly, De Hory would commit suicide a few years after the release of Welles' film, on hearing that Spain had agreed to turn him over to the French authorities.

"F for Fake" faced widespread popular rejection. Critical reaction ranged from praise to confusion and hostility, with many finding the work to be self-indulgent and/or incoherent. "F for Fake" has grown somewhat in stature over the years as cinephiles revere almost anything the notorious filmmaker made.

The question remains: how much of this film itself is true or just one big hoax?

One of the Great Disney Films of the Early 1990s, 20 November 2014

Tricked into thinking that he caused the death of his own father (James Earl Jones), a young lion cub (Jonathan Taylor Thomas) flees and abandons his destiny as the future king.

Disney's strongest period in recent history was the late 1980s and early 1990s. They consistently released hits: "Little Mermaid", "Aladdin", "Beauty and the Beast". The princesses from these films have taken their place alongside the classics (Snow White and Cinderella). Until "Frozen" twenty years later, this success would not be repeated.

"The Lion King" came at the end of this cycle, and did not feature a princess (at least not in human form). But it is still a great tale of loss, redemption, triumph. Many would place it among the top three Disney cartoons ever made.

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