cinema

Rob Edelman: America’s “Enemies”

Aug 14, 2017

These days, it appears that Russia seemingly has become America’s best buddy. Upon meeting publicly with Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump shook his hand and declared: “It’s an honor to be with you.”

Rob Edelman: Get Out...And Stay Out

Jul 24, 2017

Back in 1967-- that would be a half-century ago-- a mainstream Hollywood film came to movie houses. That film was GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER, and its stars are Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn, and Sidney Poitier. GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER dealt with a subject that was highly controversial five decades ago. In fact, in some states, it would have been illegal. That subject is intermarriage, and GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER is the story of a black man and white woman who have just met, and have fallen in love and wish to marry. The film charts the responses to this news by both sets of parents, and GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER ends on a hopeful note. At the finale, the characters sit down, relax, and share conversation and a meal-- and the point is that individuals from different races can be friends. They can spend time together and, perhaps, they even might fall in love.

Audrey Kupferberg: The Beguiled

Jul 21, 2017

Ever wish that you could remake one of those offensive anti-women macho dramas of the early screen career of Clint Eastwood?  Instead of yelling down the sexist male aggression in scene after scene, you could start from zero, rewrite the screenplay, and present the story from a more gender-balanced or even from a female point of view. PLAY MISTY FOR ME is a classic example -- and so is THE BEGUILED.

Rob Edelman: Big Screen Boxing Biopics

Jul 10, 2017

Recently, a spate of biopics about boxers have punched their way onto movie screens. Two were released last year. In BLEED FOR THIS, Miles Teller proves he is a multifaceted actor, playing Vinny Pazienza, an obsessive, loudmouthed pugilist who sustains a broken neck in a car accident but still eventually continues his career in the ring. HANDS OF STONE features Edgar Ramirez, another fine actor who is not as well-known among the masses as he deserves. Here, Ramirez plays cocky, hotheaded Roberto Duran, with Robert De Niro cast as his coach and mentor, Ray Arcel. De Niro, of course, starred as Jake LaMotta in RAGING BULL once upon a time. Deservedly, RAGING BULL remains atop many critics’ lists as the top film of the 1980s.

Rob Edelman: Way Before Ellen

Jul 3, 2017

If you are of a certain age, you might remember THE MANY LOVES OF DOBIE GILLIS, the popular hit TV sitcom of the very late 1950s and early 1960s. But Dobie Gillis, the title character played by Dwayne Hickman, and his pal Maynard G. Krebs, the beatnik caricature immortalized by Bob Denver, were not the show’s lone memorable characters. Surely, one of them was Zelda Gilroy, the pony-tailed, comically obsessive high schooler who was forever in love with the otherwise disinterested Dobie, who was completely fixated on beautiful blonde Thalia Meninger, played by Tuesday Weld.   

Audrey Kupferberg: Early Women Directors

Jun 29, 2017

A few weeks ago, headlines for the opening of WONDER WOMAN read: Patty Jenkins is the first woman to direct a superhero film with a female protagonist. WONDER WOMAN is the first female-directed live-action film to have a $100 million+ budget. WONDER WOMAN opened at $103 million box office, which is the highest US opening for a female director.

“New American Cinema” is a fitting title for one of my favorite film courses, one which I have long-taught. Its content is described in its course description, which begins: “During the late 1960s and early 1970s, great social changes were occurring in the United States. These changes were sparked by the emerging youth culture, the progression of the Civil Rights Movement, opposition to the war in Vietnam, and the advent of the modern-era feminist movement. This course will explore the manner in which these changes impacted on the American cinema.” 

Audrey Kupferberg: Zaza

Jun 16, 2017

Looking over the current crop of films available in theaters or on home screens, it is worth noting that a number of screen veterans are back in the spotlight, adding a strong late act to their respective careers.   Richard Gere is receiving very positive reviews as the complex and quirky title character in NORMAN.  Shirley MacLaine has scored points in WILD OATS and THE LAST WORD. Susan Sarandon,  Jessica Lange, and Christopher Plummer are among the veteran actors who also continue to have active careers. 

Rob Edelman: Hitchcock On A Lifeboat

Jun 12, 2017

For years, I’ve been keeping up with the newest films for reasons that are as much work-related as for the thrill of discovery. However, if I choose a film to see and savor just for pleasure, my choice likely would be one that is older than I am. Often, it will be much older... and this brings me to Alfred Hitchcock.

These days, the majority of theatrical films that come out of Hollywood are fashioned for children, teens, or twenty and perhaps thirty-somethings. The reason for this is obvious. They are the core consumers who abandon their TV sets and computers and willingly pay to watch a new movie at the local mall. But how do film producers lure the older viewer, the aging Baby Boomer, to the movie theater? Should this segment of the population simply be ignored? Will it be assumed that they are content merely to couch-potato it at home, gaze at the endless drug ads that overpopulate their TV screens, and spend all their savings on the latest medical miracles? Or are filmmakers willing to produce product that just may be of special interest to older viewers?

Rob Edelman: The Misuse Of Power

May 29, 2017

ABACUS: SMALL ENOUGH TO JAIL is yet one more telling documentary that reflects on the misuse of power in contemporary America, and who specifically gets singled out for the alleged misuse of power. It has just been released theatrically, and it is well-worth seeing and contemplating.

Rob Edelman: Lost Cities On Screen

May 22, 2017

In recent years, so many filmmakers establish themselves by writing and directing eye-opening independently-funded films that are issue-oriented, or that feature challenging characters and top-notch storytelling. Inevitably, some-- but not all-- graduate to big-budget Hollywood product that are loaded with special effects. Why does this happen? Is it because these filmmakers are film artists who yearn to expand their creativity? Or is it all about money? These days, the high-profile special effects-laden films that sacrifice storytelling and character development are the ones that usually lasso in more viewers and bigger bucks during their theatrical play. A film in which storytelling is king, no matter how well-reviewed that film is, will at best draw in a fraction of viewers.

HOME FIRES is an ITV series about British villagers who fight World War II in Cheshire—with an emphasis on the woman’s role in fighting war on the home front.  Season two recently completed airing on American PBS stations.  The episodes of seasons one and two reportedly drew good ratings here and abroad.  And why not?  The scripts favor strong characters—particularly strong female characters—and there is plenty of action and emotional turmoil which escalates from episode to episode. 

Rob Edelman: Five Came Back

May 15, 2017

Once upon a time-- 1939, to be exact-- FIVE CAME BACK was the title of a now-long-forgotten melodrama about a bunch of plane crash survivors who are stranded in a jungle. One of its cast members was a very pre-I LOVE LUCY Lucille Ball.

Rob Edelman: The Penguin Counters

May 8, 2017

So far in 2017, the vast majority of new films I’ve seen have been disappointing and instantly forgettable, if not downright awful. I’ll skip citing the truly dreadful titles. However, even those that have some value are deeply flawed.

Audrey Kupferberg: World War I On Film

Apr 25, 2017

It has been exactly 100 years since the United States entered World War I.  To commemorate the event, PBS recently debuted THE GREAT WAR, a 6-hour documentary as part of its ongoing American Experience series.  It was called The Great War back then, because nobody had the farsightedness to predict that there would be a Second World War.  In addition to this nonfiction interpretation of the war, two feature films offering very different accounts of the Great War have been made available.

Rob Edelman: Hail YouTube

Apr 17, 2017

The recent passing of Mary Tyler Moore led me to watch-- and savor-- episodes on YouTube of THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW, her classic early-1960s TV sitcom. At this time, Mary Tyler Moore was one of the most beloved and respected women in America. She exuded a “Camelot”-style class and, in this regard, was second only in popularity to Jacqueline Kennedy.

Rob Edelman: Special Effects, 1930s-Style

Apr 10, 2017

These days, so many movies rely on special effects to draw in and dazzle audiences. But onscreen effects are not late-20th or early-21st-century phenomena. For indeed, they have evolved across the decades. You can go back to the 1930s, for example, and marvel at the effects employed in such classic films as SAN FRANCISCO, THE GOOD EARTH, and the original KING KONG. Respectively, they feature eye-opening images of Clark Gable and Jeanette MacDonald surviving the 1906 San Francisco earthquake; Paul Muni, Louise Rainer, and a locust plague in China; and, most famously, the title ape toying with Fay Wray while cavorting atop the Empire State Building.

Rob Edelman: The Brand New Testament

Apr 3, 2017

I see countless films at festivals and press screenings and during their theatrical runs. But I do not see every film. So when I discover and am enamored of a title that I somehow had missed, it is an extra-special treat. One such film is THE BRAND NEW TESTAMENT, directed by Belgian filmmaker Jaco Van Dormael, which has just been released to home entertainment.

Rob Edelman: Stephen K. Bannon, Filmmaker

Mar 27, 2017

To many, Steve Bannon, who appears to be President Donald Trump’s confidante and right-hand-man, is a mystery man. Now sure, he has been endlessly cited in the media but, still, the question of the moment remains: Who exactly is Steve Bannon?

Audrey Kupferberg: London Road And Happy Street

Mar 17, 2017

The film version of the hit British stage musical London Road, written by Alecky Blythe, recently was made available to home markets.  Both the play and its screen version are performed in an unusual and rather surprising form of musical entertainment called verbatim theatre.  This approach to musical theater, and as it extends to film musicals, presents interpretations of true events in a documentary style.  The lyrics are constructed from words spoken by the real-life participants.  The music reflects the inflections of the voices which originally spoke the words.   Most likely, viewers will not go to sleep humming the tunes of LONDON ROAD.

Rob Edelman: Biography And Truth

Mar 13, 2017

This past year, as in just about every recent year, a spate of films have been released which purport to chart the lives of real people. A list of biopics from 2016 only begins with FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS and JACKIE, HACKSAW RIDGE and HANDS OF STONE and HIDDEN FIGURES, LOVING and LION, SOUTHSIDE WITH YOU and SULLY and SNOWDEN, DENIAL and GENIUS, RULES DON’T APPLY and THE BIRTH OF A NATION and so many others. Plus, the new year has started off with THE FOUNDER.

Rob Edelman: Tom Hanks, 2016

Mar 6, 2017

Among actors who are decades past their twentysomething years, Tom Hanks remains a popular and even iconic movie star. Last year, Hanks toplined three mainstream films, each directed by a name filmmaker. None were outstanding. None were Academy Award-worthy. Two were at best nicely done and one was hugely disappointing but, taken together, all three offer thoughtful reflections of our world and our culture in 2016 and the new year.

Rob Edelman: Robert De Niro, Comedian

Feb 27, 2017

I was initially intrigued by the idea of seeing and hopefully enjoying THE COMEDIAN, the latest Robert De Niro film, in which he plays an aging, foul-mouthed insult comic. Other bonuses surely would be its attractive supporting cast, from Danny De Vito to Cloris Leachman, Charles Grodin to Edie Falco to Patti LuPone. Not to mention Harvey Keitel, who appeared with De Niro an eternity ago in MEAN STREETS and TAXI DRIVER. And then there are the famous faces and names-- the most prominent is Billy Crystal-- who show up as themselves.

Rob Edelman: Oscars and Journalists

Feb 20, 2017

Momentarily, the latest Academy Award ceremony will be at center stage. Combine this with a new U.S. president who has declared war on the media, and it is well-worth recalling that the Best Picture Oscar winner from just a year ago celebrates the importance of journalism in a free society. That film is SPOTLIGHT, and it is the fact-based tale of reporters who doggedly knock on doors and ask questions, all in a search for truth. The bottom line in SPOTLIGHT is that, if not for the tenaciousness of the Boston Globe journalists presented in the film, would we ever have known about the long, distressing history of a massive scandal involving the sexual abuse of children and its cover-up within the local Catholic Archdiocese?

Audrey Kupferberg: Hidden Figures And 20th Century Women

Feb 17, 2017

In so many ways, we look at feature films as means of expressing our aspirations.  We want films to mirror the best in us.   People of various philosophies differ in which character traits they want defined in films.  As a woman with a feminist philosophy, I relish films that depict independent-thinking women who strive to lead full and meaningful lives.  

Rob Edelman: Withdrawn

Feb 13, 2017

Purely by chance, the first 2017 film I happened to view in the new year just may be a portrait of our world in 2017. And it is not a pretty picture. The film is titled WITHDRAWN. It is a low-budget independent production from Canada, and it was screened at the Slamdance Film Festival.

Rob Edelman: Speed Sisters

Feb 6, 2017

SPEED SISTERS, an eye-opening documentary that has just been released theatrically here in the U.S., opens with a familiar sight... if you are a racing fan. Drivers rev their engines, just before maneuvering their vehicles onto a racetrack. But there is something different here, something unusual and, to my mind, something extra-special. The drivers all are female, and they are Palestinian.

Several points can be gleaned from the recent deaths, one day apart, of the legendary Debbie Reynolds and her daughter, the equally celebrated Carrie Fisher. First, we may adore our celebrities. We may envy their wealth and fame and wish we could be as universally beloved as they are. But still, they are human beings with human needs and feelings-- and anyone who has ever lost a child will be able to comprehend the sheer horror that Debbie Reynolds must have felt upon learning that her daughter has passed. So all the money, all the fame, all the awards and honors and Red Carpet appearances will not separate you from the everyday ravages of life. 

Rob Edelman: Scorsese’s Silence

Jan 23, 2017

Other than documentaries and other odds and ends, Martin Scorsese’s films may be divided into two distinct categories. First, there are the big, flashy, splashy titles, from MEAN STREETS and TAXI DRIVER in the 1970s to THE WOLF OF WALL STREET four years ago. Then there are the quieter, more introspective films, including KUNDUN and THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST, which examine various aspects of religion. And you can add to the second list SILENCE, Scorsese’s latest. The words that come to mind to describe SILENCE are: intense; serious; and sobering.

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