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The Last Picture Show: Harold Ramis’ Year One, by Craig Schroeder

22 Nov

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The Last Picture Show is a recurring Battleship Pretension column that reviews and examines the last films of a given director, actor, cinematographer, etc. as a means of exploring their filmography as a whole.

When I began writing this column a few months ago, I was operating under an unspoken axiom that the films covered would complement the person’s overall legacy (granted, the second installment of this column was Wes Craven’s Scream 4, by no means a seminal masterpiece, but a film that certainly reaffirms Wes Craven’s earlier success). But in hindsight, that’s far too obtuse, giving the notion that a filmmaker is only as good as his or her most recent offering. For the sake of this column, I think it’s imperative to discuss how a cinematic legacy is affected (or not) by an outright awful adieu. Enter 2009’sYear One, an incoherent mess brimming with half-baked bits that are as distasteful as they are lame. It is also the final directorial effort of the late Harold Ramis.

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The Last Picture Show: Sidney Lumet’s Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, by Craig Schroeder

8 Jul

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The Last Picture Show is a recurring Battleship Pretension column that reviews and examines the last films of a given director, actor, cinematographer, etc. as a means of exploring their filmography as a whole.

 When Sidney Lumet died in 2011 he had averaged nearly a film a year in the time between his first (1957’s 12 Angry Men) and last feature. In one of cinema’s more prolific careers (illustrious enough to warrant this column limit itself to his more seminal works rather than attempt to examine every nuance in his filmography), Lumet’s final film, Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, is an inconspicuous thriller that snuck its way into theaters on the same weekend as high-profile Oscar lures Juno and Atonement (which combined for an insane—and fairly depressing—eleven nominations). And in a year that produced more prestige cinema than any year in my lifetime (sorry 1999 and a sizable portion of Battleship Pretension readers), Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead doesn’t seem to hold its own in conversations about the best films of that year. But Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead is a slick, smart, gutting thriller; and more over it’s a summation of Lumet’s career long exploration of masculinity, morality and how the two frequently come into direct conflict.

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The Last Picture Show: Wes Craven’s Scream 4, by Craig Schroeder

24 May

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The Last Picture Show is a recurring Battleship Pretension column that reviews and examines the last films of a given director, actor, cinematographer, etc. as a means of exploring their filmography as a whole.

Wes Craven’s career is a strange odyssey: With his first few films, including The Last House on the Left and The Hills Have Eyes, Craven established himself as a preeminent leader in a new fraternity of horror directors. His early films were ruthless, sadistic and outright ugly. As a teenager discovering horror films, I loved both; as an adult I find them difficult to revisit. Though films like The Last House on the Left are canon to horror hounds, it’s when Craven began turning the camera on the genre itself that he cemented his status as an auteur. With 1984’s A Nightmare on Elm Street, Craven began to conduct meta experiments with the trappings of the genre, playing with the sexual politics of horror films and creating a horror icon that exists only to the teenagers who believe in horror icons. When Craven returned to Elm Street in 1994 with New Nightmare, he dismantled the genre so as to examine its machinations. It wasn’t until 1996’s Scream that Craven finally realized his masterpiece of genre dissection, reassembling horror films into the manner he saw fit.

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The Last Picture Show: Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut, by Craig Schroeder

25 Apr

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The Last Picture Show is a recurring Battleship Pretension column that reviews and examines the last films of a given director, actor, cinematographer, etc. as a means of exploring their filmography as a whole.

When Stanley Kubrick died in March of 1999, there would be little doubt as to his legacy as a fastidious cinematic intellect, a director whose oeuvre could and will inspire, teach and influence directors for the remainder of the medium’s existence. Completed mere days before his death, Eyes Wide Shut would be Kubrick’s swan song, a controversial film that is the assured culmination of a career that redefined filmmaking time and time again.

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