TCM Classic Film Festival 2016: Part Two, by David Bax

1 May

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The TCM Classic Film Festival has more to offer than just movies. There are other special events, presentations and more, like today’s poolside wine tasting at the Roosevelt Hotel. I was watching movies while that happened but I did make it to another event in the Roosevelt. To be specific, I attended a presentation of sorts in the Blossom Room, the locale that hosted the very first Academy awards. It was called “My First Time in Hollywood,” hosted by author Cari Beauchamp and based on her book by the same name. Beauchamp started with a bit of Hollywood history; that of the town-cum-neighborhood, not of the industry. Then she brought up a succession of notable individuals to read passages from autobiographies of early Hollywood (the industry this time). Harold Lloyd’s own granddaughter read about his early days of sneaking onto the Universal lot for extra work. Friend of this site Laraine Newman read of Anita Loos’ drugstore conversation with D.W. Griffith. From Nancy Olson, it was Colleen Moore’s tale of being hired six hours after arriving in town from Illinois. Bruce Goldstein read Ben Hecht’s NSFW letters to his wife about the writing of Scarface. And David Ladd recounted Robert Parrish’s boyhood encounter with Charles Chaplin. Recurring descriptions of how ramshackle early studio lots were and repeated references to Griffith as some sort of mythical figure left a true, first-person impression of what this town was really like a century ago. Seated in a room that is part of that history, just a few blocks from where these stories took place, is a one of a kind experience that can only be found at this festival.

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TCM Classic Film Festival 2016: Part One, by David Bax

30 Apr

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I stumbled out of the gate here at my first time covering the TCM Classic Film Festival, now in its seventh year. Poor timing and planning on my part led to my being unable to see any movies on opening night. My fortunes soon changed, though, as I kicked off the second evening with what may be the single greatest moviegoing experience of my life. More on that later, though. First, I just want to remark on what an impressive and heartwarming event this festival is. One might assume that a festival devoted exclusively to older films, many of them largely unheard of and some of them not even American, would have trouble making its mark in a city with a reputation for superficiality and flavors of the month. The fact that those are unfair and untrue representations of Los Angeles is best left for another day but the truth is that the area around Hollywood Blvd. and Highland Ave. is perhaps the most garish and commercial in the city. To see it taken over by this massively successful project, complete with a legion of hardcore movie geeks and posters everywhere of classic movies, frankly gives me hope for humanity.

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Keanu: Cat Power, by Rudie Obias

29 Apr

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Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key are the masterminds behind the sketch comedy show Key & Peele on Comedy Central. While the show was edgy with its political statements and views on pop culture, there was an underlying tone behind each sketch: it was always funny! With the pair’s new film Keanu, Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key take their brand of comedy to the big screen with a dash of action and social commentary that might not work from scene-to-scene, but is always funny in a big way.

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Mother’s Day: A Hallmark of Half-Assedness, by David Bax

28 Apr

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For a lot of people, Mother’s Day is a perfunctory sort of holiday, where the main concern is checking the gift/brunch/phone-call duties off the list for another year. Garry Marshall seems to have felt the same way about his new movie, Mother’s Day, an aggressively pleasant distraction more preoccupied with hitting its low stakes, rom-com melodrama marks than it is with examining what it might mean to be or have a mother.

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Viva: Same Old Song, by David Bax

28 Apr

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With its respectable look at quotidian life in Havana and its sober, handheld aesthetic, Paddy Breathnach’s Viva is a handsome and heartfelt effort. Nevertheless, after competently establishing its setting and characters, it balks at doing anything particularly interesting with them, fizzling out instead into conventional melodramatic bromides.

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Home Video Hovel: White of the Eye, by David Bax

27 Apr

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It would be easy to dismiss White of the Eye (out now on Blu-ray), with its synth-heavy score and bright color palette, as some cheesy relic of the 1980s. But don’t be fooled. The film is from director Donald Cammell, who brought us 1970’s Performance and, perhaps more applicable here, 1977’s “Julie Christie vs. an evil, artificially intelligent house” thriller Demon Seed. This isn’t some dated piece of schlock. This is art horror.

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The Kids Stay in the Picture: E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, by Aaron Pinkston

27 Apr

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Though comedian W.C. Fields famously said “Never work with animals or children,” the cinema is full of wonderful stories told through the eyes of the young. Films with child protagonists span every genre, generation, and film movement. “The Kids Stay in the Picture” surveys this interesting subgenre, following the School of the Art Institute and Gene Siskel Film Center film series “The Child in Cinema.” The series will cover the many historical and social contexts around why films centered on children are so integral to the landscape of world cinema.

One of the most important mainstream Hollywood filmmakers since the refocus towards directors as the artistic leaders of film production in the 1970s, Steven Spielberg has built his legacy on films with child protagonists. Aside from his most family friendly fare (E.T. certainly included there), films like Jaws, Empire of the Sun, Jurassic Park, A.I. Artificial Intelligence, and War of the Worlds have serious themes and genre elements while featuring and sometimes centering on child characters. A deeper dive into his work as a producer of Poltergeist, The Goonies, Back to the Future, the Transformers series, True Grit, and Real Steel further showcases his interest in the stories of kids and teens. Considering all of these films, Spielberg has become synonymous with themes of suburban families, unconventional parent-child relationships, and larger-than-life adventure. His 1982 film E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial is one of his most beloved and sentimental. The story of an awkward, lonely child and his relationship with an alien left behind on earth is a perfect encapsulation of Spielberg’s narrative style and themes.

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High-Rise: Brutalism, by David Bax

27 Apr

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Harsh, unforgiving, unmalleable, misanthropic. These words do a pretty good job summing up the demeanor and philosophy offered by Ben Wheatley’s High-Rise, based on J.G. Ballard’s 1975 novel. They could also be used to describe the architecture and aesthetic of the titular structure where most of the story takes place, as well as the fascistic control Wheatley yields over the tone and presentation of the film itself. High-Rise is such a textbook example of formalism that it ought to be taught in film schools. That doesn’t always make it a pleasure to watch but Wheatley’s vision is executed with such astounding thoroughness, the result is undoubtedly an impressive one.

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Criterion Prediction #32: Oasis, by Alexander Miller

27 Apr

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Title: Oasis

Year: 2003

Director: Lee Chang-dong

Cast: Sol Kyung-gu, Moon So-ri, Ahn Nae-sang, Ryoo Seung-wan, Kwi Jung-Chu

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New to Home Video 4/26/16

26 Apr

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Review