Rob Edelman: Terrorism And Gender

Mar 16, 2015

Terrorist characters who are villains in Hollywood thrillers usually are clichés: broadly drawn, broadly played bad guys who hijack airplanes, threaten to blow up buildings or sports arenas, and are thwarted just in the nick of time by Sylvester Stallone or Bruce Willis. Terrorists rarely are the primary on-screen characters, and they rarely are women. In fact, there seemed to be a bit of disbelief on the part of certain media types who were reporting on the young woman who alleged was connected to the recent terrorist acts in Paris.

Rob Edelman: Fearmakers

Mar 9, 2015

For years, sci-fi films and horror films and any kind of film that entertains by playing into viewers’ worst fears have relied not on coherent plot lines or relatable characters but on jarring, disturbing visuals and gory violence that is endless--- and mindless. This, unfortunately, is an old, tired story and, as long as these films bring in big bucks at the box office, the motion picture studios will keep churning them out.

Back in 2009, I offered some commentary on what then was a new and highly regarded film about the war in Iraq and the American GIs who were fighting and dying there. That film was THE HURT LOCKER. At the time, I observed that THE HURT LOCKER and other Iraq war films, which then included IN THE VALLEY OF ELAH, STOP/LOSS, THE LUCKY ONES, LIONS FOR LAMBS, and REDACTED, were not surefire box office hits. The reason was that THE HURT LOCKER and its fellow films were exploring uncomfortable themes. They were dealing with disturbing, real-life issues-- and moviegoers generally will want to avoid films that deal with real-life issues. They yearn to escape into fantasy worlds. And so they did not flock to see THE HURT LOCKER, even though it earned nine Academy Award nominations and six wins, including Best Picture and Best Director. Indeed, according to Box Office Mojo, the total lifetime domestic gross for THE HURT LOCKER was a little over $17-million. 

Rob Edelman: Fifty Shades of Nothing

Feb 23, 2015

THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL came to movie theaters just about a year ago. Unlike most films that are released early in any given year, it managed to nab oodles of Academy Award nominations. Well, here is a prediction that is as certain as tomorrow’s sunrise: When it comes to Oscar nominations, or any kind of nominations other than for Razzie Awards, FIFTY SHADES OF GREY, the much-hyped so-called erotic drama, will not be THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL of 2015.

Rob Edelman: Oscar Trivia

Feb 16, 2015

One of the pleasures of working as an editor on the Leonard Maltin Movie Guide is researching the early credits of actors who during the previous year had emerged as bona-fide stars or recognizable supporting players. And it is equally enjoyable to do the same with established actors who presently are in the spotlight as Academy Award nominees.

Rob Edelman: J.K. Simmons

Feb 9, 2015

Several weeks ago, by chance, I was re-seeing CELEBRITY, the Woody Allen film that dates from 1998. CELEBRITY features a high-profile cast, including Kenneth Branagh (who does a spot-on imitation of Woody Allen playing a Woody Allen character) along with Charlize Theron, Judy Davis, Winona Ryder, Melanie Griffith, Joe Mantegna, Bebe Neuwirth, and a very young Leonardo DiCaprio. Plus, a host of pre-celebrity actors appear in small roles. This list begins with Jeffrey Wright, Debra Messing, Tony Sirico, Sam Rockwell, and Allison Janney.

Rob Edelman: Bad Publicity Versus No Publicity

Jan 26, 2015

UNBROKEN, a high-profile biopic directed by Angelina Jolie which came to movie theaters at the tail end of last year, is the saga of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic runner who became a B-52 bombardier during World War II. After his plane crash-landed in the Pacific and he survived for 47 days in a raft, Zamperini, who is played by Jack O’Connell-- one of the emerging film stars of 2014-- spent more than two years in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp, where he was mercilessly tortured.

Rob Edelman: Selma, Alabama

Jan 19, 2015

SELMA, directed by Ava DuVernay, is a powerful new film which chronicles one of the key civil rights-related events of the mid-1960s: the Martin Luther King-led voting rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. Make no mistake: SELMA is no by-the-numbers biopic. It tells its story with a freshness and immediacy that is, well, astounding. Plus, the onscreen Dr. King is no mere figurehead. The iconic civil rights leader, as superbly played by David Oyelowo, is deeply human-- and Oyelowo’s three-dimensional portrayal is essential to making SELMA a stellar cinematic experience.

Audrey Kupferberg: A Coffee In Berlin

Jan 16, 2015

Every once in a while, a film comes along that dares to withhold facts, to keep its intentions as a guessing game, even as the final credits are being displayed.  Such a film is Jan Ole Gerster’s award-winning German feature A COFFEE IN BERLIN, also known as OH BOY!  Since this is Gerster’s first feature film, it is no wonder that it has taken some bit of time for it to catch on in the United States.  With an original German theatrical release in late 2012, A COFFEE IN BERLIN didn’t arrive in U.S. cinemas until June 2014. At its widest release here, it only played in twelve theaters and brought in only $150,000.  Even in Europe, the film played mainly at festivals, where it has won a good number of prestige awards, and theatrically it only grossed $2,600,000.

Rob Edelman: Oldies But Goodies

Jan 12, 2015

One of the pleasures of DVDs, Blu-rays, and other sources for home entertainment is the opportunity to discover older films that, not too long ago, only would be screened at museums or in specialized movie houses. This was never more apparent when, a few years ago, I was screening DVDs of a number of 1930s features directed by the Japanese master Yasujiro Ozu for inclusion in the Leonard Maltin Classic Guide. While doing so, it hit me: Once upon a time, in order to see these films, I would have had to travel into New York City-- if they were being shown, for example, at the Museum of Modern Art. Or perhaps they might be found in a small theater in Paris’s Left Bank. Plus, I would have had to adjust my schedule to the dates and times in which the individual films were screening. Happily, this is no more-- and I've recently been discovering some excellent (but little-known) French films that are well-worth seeing and enjoying.