cinema

Rob Edelman: Snowden

Sep 19, 2016

There are two approaches to viewing SNOWDEN, the latest Oliver Stone film, which has just opened theatrically. One is to comment on the film’s artistry and cinematic aesthetic, and compare it to its creator’s previous work. The other is to reflect on what Stone is telling us about Edward Snowden, the controversial National Security Agency contractor who became a fugitive upon revealing America’s illegal surveillance of its citizens. And also, what is this film telling us about our world in 2016: our values, our feelings about privacy, and the manner in which a government can control the flow of information to its citizens?

Audrey Kupferberg: Florence Foster Jenkins

Sep 16, 2016

Have you seen the advertising stills and posters for FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS, the late summer release from director Stephen Frears?   In just about every image, the three major characters smile in a carefree, bubbly fashion as though they just tasted the most delicious champagne.   There are Florence herself played by Meryl Streep, her husband St. Clair Bayfield played by Hugh Grant, and highly talented Simon Helberg from THE BIG BANG THEORY appearing as her piano accompanist. 

Rob Edelman: “Politically Correct” History

Sep 12, 2016

In countless films that are produced in the present but whose stories are reflections of the past, “politically correct” depictions have increasingly been the norm. And so a film set during World War II will feature black GIs fighting side-by-side with whites, even though the American military at the time was segregated. For that matter, a scenario set at any time in history just may feature an integrated cast, characters from a range of races, and relationships between these characters-- even though such intermingling does not represent the facts of history.

Rob Edelman: Woody Through The Years

Sep 5, 2016

CAFÉ SOCIETY is the kind of film that I might see, and moderately enjoy, and quickly forget. But this is not the case. The reason is that it is written and directed by Woody Allen. And Woody Allen’s films, whether they are classics or embarrassments or anything in between, always stick in my gut. 

Rob Edelman: Kirk Douglas

Aug 22, 2016

During my just-concluded trip to London, I was not surprised to find that Kirk Douglas was the cover-boy on the BFI Southbank’s September/October film screening program. He certainly deserves to be feted, and not just because he will be celebrating his 100th birthday on December 9. For Kirk Douglas is one of his generation’s premier movie stars.

Audrey Kupferberg: A Couple Of Down And Outs

Aug 19, 2016

In an age when we have come to believe that any film can be seen leisurely at home if you sit on your sofa long enough, it is particularly exciting to enjoy a cinematheque screening of a film that is not available to the home market in any format, one that has not been shown on home or theater screens for close to 100 years.

Rob Edelman: Westerns New And Old

Aug 15, 2016

Given its title and storyline, LES COWBOYS-- a new film that has been released theatrically here in the U.S.-- has to be categorized as a Western. This is so even though LES COWBOYS was made in France, is set in non-American locales, and unfolds not in the 19th century American West but in more contemporary times.

In THE THIN BLUE LINE, a landmark documentary from 1988, filmmaker Errol Morris conclusively proves that a man named Randall Adams was wrongly convicted of murder and dispatched to prison. Adams is victimized by a corrupt justice system in Dallas County, Texas, and, as a direct result of Morris’s investigative skills, he wins his freedom. Such is the power of filmmaking at its very best.

When one thinks of Humphrey Bogart, one thinks of "The Maltese Falcon", "The African Queen", "The Treasure of The Sierra Madre", and, of course, "Casablanca". However, one worthy film starring Bogie has finally become available on home entertainment. It is titled "Deadline - U.S.A" , it dates from 1952 and, while admittedly not of the caliber of a "The Maltese Falcon" or "Casablanca", it is a fine film that for one reason or another is too little-known.

Rob Edelman: Todd Solondz, Wiener-Dog, And More

Jul 18, 2016

Upon first hearing the title WIENER-DOG, written and directed by Todd Solondz, one of the most idiosyncratic and fiercely independent American filmmakers of the past two decades, I was immediately reminded of WELCOME TO THE DOLLHOUSE, his breakthrough feature, which dates from 1995. WELCOME TO THE DOLLHOUSE remains a brilliant film, not just one of the best of its year but a top film of its decade.

Audrey Kupferberg: Pioneers Of African-American Cinema

Jul 15, 2016

The 1920s through the 1940s are the Golden Age of Cinema.  It was a time of tremendous growth in the film industry, when billions of investment dollars were poured into the purchase of Hollywood real estate, and the studio system perfected the production of sophisticated motion pictures. 

Rob Edelman: Fastball

Jul 11, 2016

One does not have to be a sports fan, or a baseball fan-atic, to thoroughly enjoy FASTBALL, a documentary which has just been released to home entertainment. FASTBALL offers up a knowing portrait of baseball in the 21st century. Now sure, a major part of that portrait is the importance of a pitcher challenging a batter by throwing a baseball 100-plus miles per hour. But on a broader scale, FASTBALL offers an overview of how the world is constantly, endlessly changing, on so many levels. Plus, that change should not be judged, particularly by those who have been around for decades and who fondly recall what the world was like in the so-called “good old days.”  

Rob Edelman: Two Views Of New York

Jul 4, 2016

New York City is a city of vast extremes. On the one hand, you have celebrities. You have glitter. You have Big Money and Manhattan Towers. You have the power and influence that emanates from Wall Street and Madison Avenue.

Rob Edelman: Germans...And Jews...And Brigitte Helm

Jun 27, 2016

Given the reality of the Holocaust-- and this truth is forcefully examined in SON OF SAUL, the 2015 Best Foreign Film Academy Award winner-- one might wonder why there presently is a rapidly-growing Jewish population in Berlin. Granted, over seven decades have passed since the end of World War II but, still, by settling in Berlin, are Jews somehow ignoring that country’s less than stellar history?

Rob Edelman: Finding Controversy

Jun 20, 2016

FINDING DORY, the latest Disney-Pixar animated feature to come to movie theaters, has been causing quite a bit of pre-release controversy. In the film’s trailer, there is an ever-so-brief shot of a little girl, a baby carriage, and two women who apparently are her lesbian parents.

Audrey Kupferberg: Love And Friendship

Jun 17, 2016

Whit Stillman has made a jewel of a film called LOVE AND FRIENDSHIP.  Stillman, who was raised in Cornwall-on-Hudson, NY, doesn’t have a very prolific career as a film writer/director, but his films, which include METROPOLITAN, THE LAST DAYS OF DISCO, and DAMSELS IN DISTRESS, are artful and clearly are his unique conceptions.  

Rob Edelman: Donald Trump, Screen Personality

Jun 13, 2016

As we all know, Ronald Reagan was a movie actor before he became the California governor and the United States president. Donald Trump, the billionaire businessman-turned Republican Party presidential contender, has never been toplined onscreen but, for decades, he’s been a celebrity, a recognizable face and name. And so for decades, he’s been directly referenced in film and TV scripts. He’s made cameo appearances onscreen. Plus, even one rather infamous screen villain is based on The Donald.

Rob Edelman: Film Noir Restorations

Jun 6, 2016

These days, it seems, everybody is fascinated by film noir. Of all the  “older” film genres or sub-genres, plenty of my students are most-intrigued by film noir. And not all film noirs are like DOUBLE INDEMNITY, THE KILLERS, or OUT OF THE PAST. Not all are bona-fide classics.

Rob Edelman: Two New Documentaries

May 30, 2016

Documentaries can be powerful visual records. For after all, they are reflections of real life. You can watch a fiction film and always tell yourself “Oh, it’s only a movie” when a character is shown to suffer. If there is graphic violence, you know that at one point during the filming the director yelled “Cut” and all the actors and extras stood up, wiped away the fake blood, and went off into the night. But you do not have this option while watching a documentary.

As we finally are able to see the end of the road for the current presidential primaries—and as we look ahead to the upcoming presidential election campaign, it is an appropriate time to look back at the ways in which previous presidential campaigns have been executed, and recorded through the types of media then available throughout modern American history.  

Rob Edelman: Presidents And Movies, Part 2

May 16, 2016

Across the decades, a number of biopics about U.S. presidents have come out of Hollywood. And if fictional senators, mayors, or aldermen have understandably been depicted as liars and cheaters, most American presidents have been portrayed as American heroes. Such is the case with fictional chief executives and, as for the films spotlighting real presidents, most also have stressed the positive.

Rob Edelman: Presidents And Movies, Part 1

May 9, 2016

Crooked senators, lying governors, and sleazy political kingpins may be found in endless Hollywood films produced across the decades. One could spend hours citing examples-- and one need not wonder why celluloid politicians have long been collectively depicted as crooks and liars.  

The heyday of the silent cinema ended almost nine decades ago. But the very best silent films still are visual feasts. They are pleasures to discover and pleasures to enjoy-- and I am not just referring to the classic comedies of the legendary Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and Harold Lloyd. Films like F.W. Murnau’s SUNRISE, NOSFERATU, and THE LAST LAUGH; King Vidor’s THE CROWD; Fritz Lang’s METROPOLIS; E.A. Dupont’s VARIETE; and so many others have long been personal favorites.

Rob Edelman: Sally And Jake

Apr 25, 2016

Two new films are worth a look not because they are particularly good films. Each one is seriously flawed. But they are worth seeing because of the presences and performances of their stars.

This month, Turner Classic Movies is paying tribute to the 20th Century’s “royal family of Broadway,” the Barrymores.  Lionel, Ethel, and John Barrymore, that is, three siblings whose artful work brightened the stage and screen throughout the first half of the century. 

Rob Edelman: Good And (Mostly) Bad Movies

Apr 18, 2016

Every year, it seems, practically all the films that earn theatrical releases between the first day of January and the dog days of August are throwaways at best. At their worst, they are mindless alleged entertainments that are the equivalent of assembly line products that have been spat out of a computer.

Rob Edelman: Balls, Bats, And Popular Culture

Apr 11, 2016

Last month, as the 2016 baseball preseason was kicking off, I attended the 23rd annual NINE Spring Training Conference in Phoenix. Those who ran the event did a first-rate job; the presentations were generally illuminating; plus, I got to (finally) meet and get to know so many interesting people as well as see three ballgames in three days in three different ball yards! You can’t beat that!

Rob Edelman: Non-Nominees

Apr 4, 2016

The 2015 Academy Awards were doled out over a month ago. Each year, in the days leading up to the Oscar-cast, a popular topic over water coolers is: Who missed out on a nomination? Who’s gonna win? And even, among the fashionistas: What will so-and-so be wearing while strolling along the Red Carpet?

Rob Edelman: Animals And Humans

Mar 28, 2016

Cinematically-speaking, horses generally are portrayed as being in the service of humankind and controlled by humans, who believe they are superior simply because horses are merely animals. In sagas of the Old West, for example, horses are little more than modes of transportation. Or in films from NATIONAL VELVET to SEABISCUIT, they are speedsters who zip along racetracks at record paces and win fame for their owners, trainers, or riders.

Rob Edelman: Terrorism

Mar 7, 2016

In LONDON HAS FALLEN, a high-tech action thriller which has just been released theatrically, the leaders of the Western nations come to the title city to attend the funeral of the British Prime Minister. What follows is a scenario involving a deadly plan to assassinate them all, despite the tight security protecting them. Cinematically-speaking, there is nothing fresh and new about this doomsday scenario. Indeed, LONDON HAS FALLEN is a sequel to 2013’s OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN. Both feature the same action hero, played by Gerard Butler. In the original, the North Koreans hatch a plot to take over the White House and kidnap the U.S. President.

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