cinema

Rob Edelman: Downsizing

Dec 4, 2017

A new Alexander Payne film is, for me, always something to anticipate. These days, few filmmakers combine artistry and concepts in ways that are special. Alexander Payne is one of them, and his latest work is titled DOWNSIZING. It momentarily will arrive in theaters and, despite its few faults, it is well-worth seeing and pondering.

Rob Edelman: The Shape Of Brilliance

Nov 27, 2017

I’ve said it before, and I will shout it from the top row in the largest movie house. THE SHAPE OF WATER, which momentarily will be coming to theaters, is not just one of the very best films of the year. It is one of the very best films of any year. There is so much to say about this extraordinary film. On one level, it is a fairy tale, set in Baltimore in 1962. Its central character is Eliza, a solitary young woman who is mute, and who is superbly played by Sally Hawkins. Eliza toils as a cleaning woman in a mysterious, high-security scientific laboratory where strange, indescribable events are occurring.

Rob Edelman: Politics And Presidents

Nov 20, 2017

Two current films deal with various aspects of politics American-style way back in the 1960‘s and ‘70s. Both center on the highest levels of the federal government. Both have their flaws, and some of them are quite deep, but they are well-worth mentioning, given their subject-matter.

Audrey Kupferberg: Films That Play With Time

Nov 17, 2017


For centuries poets and philosophers have warned about the cruelty of time.  We may not consider the influence of time on our lives very often, but once in a while a movie can remind us of the sheer power that time wields over our lives.  Two films bring this concept to mind, one from 1948 and the other from this year.  They are PORTRAIT OF JENNIE, a classic love story from producer David O. Selznick and director William Dieterle, based on a book by Robert Nathan— and MARJORIE PRIME, a recent release written and directed by Michael Almereyda from the play by Jordan Harrison.

Rob Edelman: Women And Men...

Nov 13, 2017

These days, cinematically-speaking, there is much emphasis on the unfair exploitation and much-overdue liberation of women. Quite a few such films were screened at the Toronto International Film Festival. Some were set in centuries past. MARY SHELLEY, for example, emphasizes the title character’s resolve to latch onto her individuality in a male-dominated society. Some were set in more recent times. BATTLE OF THE SEXES centers on the 1970s tennis match between Billie Jean King and super-chauvinistic Bobby Riggs. 

Rob Edelman: Greta Grows Up

Nov 6, 2017

Back in 2012, in a piece on Greta Gerwig, I observed that she was all over movie screens. She recently had appeared in Whit Stillman’s DAMSELS IN DISTRESS and Woody Allen’s TO ROME WITH LOVE, and what was so engaging about her was her naturalistic screen presence. She was appealingly at ease onscreen. Once the cameras rolled, it did not seem as if she was acting. She was just, well, becoming her characters. Most often, they were young women who were approaching or who had approached adulthood and, in a film titled FRANCES HA, which also dates from 2012, her character was, indeed, quintessential Greta Gerwig. Here, she co-scripted with the director, Noah Baumbach, and she played a twentysomething who was flitting through life, attempting to figure out her relationships and where she fits in. Ultimately, she was trying to learn how to be a grown-up. 

Rob Edelman: History Comes Alive

Oct 30, 2017

Documentaries come in a range of forms and shapes, and serve a host of purposes. Some of the more absorbing and overlooked highlight images that are nothing more than records of certain aspects of history. Two representative examples may be seen and appreciated on DVD. The first involves arctic exploration, and its title tells all. It is: VISITING WITH THE ESKIMOS OF THE FAR NORTH: SIX HISTORIC FILMS OF GREENLAND BY DONALD B. MACMILLAN, and it was produced by The Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum, located at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine.

Rob Edelman: Clooney In Suburbia

Oct 23, 2017

SUBURBICON, directed and co-scripted by George Clooney, actually is two films in one. It is a portrait of a post-World War II suburban America that is superficially ideal. Quite literally, it presents itself as heaven on earth. Its ever-smiling citizens are savoring a post-war and post-Depression prosperity. But of course they are Caucasian, and heaven forbid if an African-American family dares to intrude on their space simply by moving into their community.

Audrey Kupferberg: Dawson City - Frozen Time

Oct 20, 2017

Up until now, filmmaker Bill Morrison has been known for his art film DECASIA, which imdb.com rightly describes as “a meditation on the human quest to transcend physicality, constructed from decaying archival footage and set to an original symphonic score.”

Rob Edelman: Taviani’s Rainbow

Oct 16, 2017

Remember the Taviani brothers? More to the point: Whatever happened to the Taviani brothers? In recent years, what have Paolo and Vittorio Taviani been up to?

Rob Edelman: Ugly American

Oct 9, 2017

If you are an American-- or, if you are a certain type of American-- you may think that you are king of the world. You can show up in a part of the world whose citizens are struggling, are suffering, and present yourself as honest and well-intentioned, and win over these “foreigners” by making hollow promises.

Rob Edelman: Guillermo Del Toro Is A Mensch

Oct 2, 2017

Guillermo del Toro’s THE SHAPE OF WATER is not just one of the top films of 2017. It is one of the very best films of the second decade of the new century. And given the Mexican-born filmmaker’s fascination with creating on-screen fantasy, its scenario is not at all surprising. These days, a plethora of films examine romantic relationships between individuals of different backgrounds or races. However, THE SHAPE OF WATER, which is set in 1962, centers on the evolving romance between two characters who are, well, unique in their way and far-better seen than described. 

Audrey Kupferberg: Menashe

Sep 29, 2017

The film MENASHE, which is playing in theaters now, is a most unusual movie.  It’s unusual because its actors primarily speak Yiddish.  There are English subtitles, of course.  It’s unusual because it gives viewers an intimate look inside an ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn—the sort of Hasidic community whose members seldom or never go to the movies.  It’s unusual because it’s a significant feature film that boasts first-time film actors and a director, Joshua Z. Weinstein, who never before helmed a feature film project.

Audrey Kupferberg: The Lost World

Sep 22, 2017

THE LOST WORLD.  It’s a Hollywood silent movie that first startled audiences in 1925 and has since proven to be a cult favorite for those who savor fantasy and science fiction genres.  In THE LOST WORLD, pterodactylus fly, and brontosaurus and stegosaurus roam.  The story, which stems from a novel by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, was written in 1912.  It is evidence that Conan Doyle’s appeal was not limited to Sherlock Holmes.  This story features two of Conan Doyle’s lesser-known but repeated characters, hot-tempered explorer Professor George Edward Challenger and his friend, adventurer and big-game hunter Sir John Roxton. 

Rob Edelman: Dupont’s Variete

Sep 18, 2017

Once upon a time, I was delighted to discover and savor a number of German silent films that date from the 1920s-- or, before the coming to power of Adolph Hitler. One of my favorites was VARIETE, released in 1925 and directed by E.A. Dupont. Across the years, all the other titles, from Fritz Lang’s METROPOLIS to F.W. Murnau’s THE LAST LAUGH to Josef von Sternberg’s THE BLUE ANGEL, have been screened in a range of venues. But one was conspicuously missing, and that was VARIETE. Happily, however, Kino Classics recently released VARIETE to home entertainment in a beautifully restored print that was culled from several international sources, and it truly is a pleasure to re-see and rediscover.

In September and October, New York’s Film Forum will be screening three silent features, all of which highlight the legendary Louise Brooks. Two titles-- PANDORA’S BOX and DIARY OF A LOST GIRL, both shot in Germany by G.W. Pabst-- are classics that have long-been seen and cherished. But the third feature also is well-worth discovering. It is an American film, directed by William A. Wellman and released in 1928. Its title is BEGGARS OF LIFE, and it joins such late-silent-era American classics as THE CROWD and SUNRISE as genuine works of cinematic art. If trekking into Manhattan to take in one of the BEGGARS OF LIFE screenings is impractical, Kino Lorber has just released the film to home entertainment.

Audrey Kupferberg: Alone In Berlin And The Exception

Sep 7, 2017

If the topic of a film is unpleasant but presented in an exaggerated or outlandish manner, audiences flock to see the movie.  In superhero blockbusters, characters borne in comics fight to the death to save whole populations from misery and the world from mass destruction.  Audiences can’t get enough of this type of entertainment, and profits of hundreds of millions of dollars result.  

Rob Edelman: Women Filmmakers

Sep 4, 2017

A number of years ago, I was delighted to come upon a giant poster for AMELIA, which then was a just-released celluloid biography of Amelia Earhart, the legendary American aviator whose mysterious disappearance while flying over the Pacific Ocean in 1937 recently was back in the news. I have long been fascinated by the life of Amelia Earhart. However, after noticing that the film was directed by a woman-- Mira Nair-- I got to thinking about the choices made by women filmmakers. And I still do, to this day.

Rob Edelman: Journalism 101

Aug 21, 2017

Recently, a pair of comments made by Paul LePage, the governor of Maine, was much-quoted in the media. They spotlighted his disdain for journalism and journalists. LePage’s opening salvo was: “I just love to sit in my office and make up ways so they’ll write these stupid stories because they are just so stupid...” In a follow-up comment, LePage noted: “The sooner the print press goes away, the better society will be.”

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.

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