rob edelman

Rob Edelman: Godard Mon Amour

May 21, 2018

Alfred Hitchcock never copped a Best Director Academy Award in-competition. Neither did Stanley Kubrick. Nor Howard Hawks, Orson Welles, Robert Altman-- not to mention Fellini, Bergman, Kurosawa. But Michel Hazanavicius did win as Best Director. This was in 2011, for THE ARTIST. His latest film, which has just opened theatrically here in the U.S., offers a point-of-view about another legendary filmmaker who never won an in-competition Oscar. That would be Jean-Luc Godard.

Rob Edelman: Gloria Swanson

May 14, 2018

Those who know their film history and relish Hollywood classics surely will savor Billy Wilder’s SUNSET BLVD. It dates from 1950, and it stars Gloria Swanson as a faded silent screen legend. Well, Swanson herself was a silent star of the first magnitude. In her heyday, her looks and screen presence combined to win her enduring fame. SUNSET BLVD. was made just two decades after the silent film era faded into history. At a time in which others of her age either were retired or accepting bit parts-- I could spend hours offering examples-- Swanson triumphed in SUNSET BLVD. as Norma Desmond, celebrated ex-silent cinema legend.  

Rob Edelman: Hedy

May 7, 2018

Who are celebrities? What is fame? Who are the individuals that exists beneath all the glitz and glamour? When one thinks of silver screen beauties of an earlier age, the names that spring to mind are Rita Hayworth, Ava Gardner, Jean Harlow, Marilyn Monroe... And certainly, without hesitation, you can add Hedy Lamarr. Back in the 1930’s and ‘40’s, she was one of the most recognizable Hollywood stars.

Rob Edelman: Actors On The Rise

Apr 30, 2018

Happily, not all new films are throwaways: movies that are mindless, that exist only as popcorn escapism and are forgotten before the closing credits have faded from the screen, and that feature throwaway performances. On one level, of course, not all popcorn movies are wastes of time. For after all, nothing really beats escaping from one’s problems and losing oneself in a comedy, drama or adventure, just so long as it is genuinely diverting.

Rob Edelman: Choose Alan Rudolph

Apr 23, 2018

Alan Rudolph was, is, and always will be a fiercely independent filmmaker. His best works are inventive and audacious, and they are linked by a consistency of vision. But Alan Rudolph never did become a household name. For indeed, he occasionally has been confused with his mentor. That would be Robert Altman. You would think so, if you are a New York Times crossword puzzle aficionado. On one occasion, one clue was a film title: “Altman’s ‘Welcome--.” The answer was-- “to L.A.”-- even though this particular film really was directed by Alan Rudolph.

Rob Edelman: Gloria...

Apr 16, 2018

Is the name Gloria Grahame a recognizable name? Well, back in the late 1940’s and through the 1950’s, Gloria Grahame was a major Hollywood personality. She had starring and supporting roles in films directed by Fritz Lang, Frank Capra, Vincente Minnelli, Edward Dmytryk, Cecil B. DeMille... She had a small but notable role in Capra’s IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE, playing a small-town floozy who flirts with Jimmy Stewart. Lee Marvin memorably doused her with scalding hot coffee in Lang’s THE BIG HEAT, and she co-starred opposite Bogie-— who of course is Humphrey Bogart-- in IN A LONELY PLACE, an all-time-classic film noir. But Grahame was not just a dramatic actress. She played Ado Annie in the screen version of OKLAHOMA!, the legendary stage musical. She even earned a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award in THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL, appearing opposite Kirk Douglas, Lana Turner, Dick Powell, and other A-list performers.

Rob Edelman: Barrymore And TOPAZE

Apr 9, 2018

If I wanted to watch a film just for its entertainment value, chances are I would choose one that predates me. And my selection would not always be an acknowledged classic. It may be flawed, but it will feature enough onscreen to keep it attention-grabbing. One such film is TOPAZE, which dates from 1933. Kino Lorber recently released it to home entertainment.

Rob Edelman: Chappaquiddick

Apr 2, 2018

These days, the Kennedy clan is much in the media. Most recently, CNN broadcast AMERICAN DYNASTIES: THE KENNEDYS, which includes “rare family moments from the White House.” However, when have John, Robert, and Jacqueline Kennedy not been the subjects of endless films and TV programs? And now, a new biopic, appropriately titled CHAPPAQUIDDICK, puts forth a certain point of view about Edward Kennedy, the youngest Kennedy brother.

Rob Edelman: One Past President

Mar 26, 2018

How many times have we heard our president, Donald Trump, label himself the all-time best-ever American political leader? In his view, the lone exception just may be Abraham Lincoln. But then again, maybe not. Well, now is as good a time as any to revisit American history and familiarize ourselves with the lives and times of other American presidents. Their histories have unfolded in plenty of documentaries; one, for example, is titled THE INDOMITABLE TEDDY ROOSEVELT. Its producer and director is Harrison Engle; it dates from 1983; its narrator is George C. Scott; and Flicker Alley recently released it to home entertainment.

Rob Edelman: Beauty... And Dogs

Mar 19, 2018

Whenever I see a newly-released film or whenever I view one that is decades-old, I ask myself and my students: What is this film telling us about the time in which it was made and the culture that produced it? For example, when I teach a course on the history of the American crime film, I ask: What do films like LITTLE CAESAR, THE PUBLIC ENEMY, or I AM A FUGITIVE FROM A CHAIN GANG tell us about the America of the early 1930’s? What does a film like WALL STREET, which is as much a crime film as a cops-and-robbers thriller, tell us about corporate America in the 1980’s? When I teach a course titled New American Cinema, my question is: What do films like FIVE EASY PIECES, THE GRADUATE, TAXI DRIVER, SHAFT, EASY RIDER, and KRAMER VS. KRAMER, among many others, tell us about the changes that then were rapidly occurring in the United States beginning in the late-1960’s? What do these films have to say about the Vietnam War, the civil rights movement, women’s rights, the sexual revolution, and the general feeling of alienation among the young? 

Rob Edelman: War...

Mar 12, 2018

JOURNEY’S END, a new and just-released British film, is a property with a storied history. This tale of survival among a cluster of British soldiers in the trenches of World War I originated as a play. Its author is R.C. Sherriff, and it premiered on the London stage at the tail-end of 1928. One of its stars, by the way, was a 21-year-old actor by the name of Laurence Olivier, and it ran on the West End for two years. The success of JOURNEY’S END resulted in stage productions mounted across the globe. Its first screen version, a U.S.-UK co-production, dates from 1930. It is the first feature directed by James Whale, who momentarily guided Boris Karloff to horror film immortality in FRANKENSTEIN. Intriguingly, a German remake of JOURNEY’S END came out a year later. This of course was pre-Adolph Hitler. Plus, it has been revived on-stage across the decades. I saw it a number of years ago in a West End production.

Rob Edelman: Appreciating What You Have

Mar 5, 2018

In recent years, so many American films have centered on characters who for a range of reasons are dissatisfied with their lives. They question the world around them. They view themselves as losers, as failures and, at their core, they also are self-involved.

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The 90th Academy Awards ceremony is scheduled for March 4. Here to discuss 2017's top movies and film performances are WAMC's commentators Rob Edelman and Audrey Kupferberg. WAMC's Ray Graf hosts.

Rob Edelman: The Best Of The Best

Feb 26, 2018

Five excellent and provocative films have earned nominations for Best Documentary Feature Academy Awards. One of them is FACES PLACES. Its co-director is Agnes Varda and it just may win, if only to honor this legendary eighty-something filmmaker. However, one in particular stands out. It is ABACUS: SMALL ENOUGH TO JAIL. I cited it in a review this past spring when it opened theatrically and it is well-worth re-focusing on, given its quality and its content.

Rob Edelman: Black Panther

Feb 19, 2018

Upon initially hearing that a new film titled BLACK PANTHER soon would be coming to a theater near you, my gut response was: “Oh no, I really hope this film will not be a rehash of the highly controversial Black Panther Party of the late-1960’s and ‘70’s. Who would be cast as Huey Newton? Who would play Bobby Seale? How would they be presented?”

Rob Edelman: Not “Fake News”

Feb 12, 2018

Two current, high-profile films tell fact-based stories that are set in decades past, but each offers sobering truths about our present-day culture. Both feature characters who are well-known, who are name brands. Some are good guys: individuals who are honorable and responsible, and are deserving of our utmost admiration. Others, meanwhile, are out-and-out villains: individuals who are deeply, sadly flawed. They are self-absorbed. They are greedy. They are, at their core, not to be envied. In this regard, both films reflect on some real-world truths.

Rob Edelman: Less-Than-Perfect Parenting

Feb 5, 2018

Here are some thoughts on a couple of current, high-profile movies, both of which feature connections between mothers or fathers and their offspring.

Rob Edelman: Yesterday And Today

Jan 29, 2018

Several weeks ago, on a dark rainy morning, I watched a pair of vintage Hollywood films on Turner Classic Movies. The first was titled TOGETHER AGAIN, and it dates from 1944. TOGETHER AGAIN is a romance about a small-town Vermont mayor who is, horror of horrors, a woman. She is played by Irene Dunne, and I have to wonder: How many of you remember Irene Dunne? Anyway, in no way would this character ever enter politics on her own. It so happens that she is the widow of the now-former mayor, and she inherited the position upon his demise. But of course, now that she is no longer married, her one goal in life should be to find a new man quick, and remarry. And once she crosses paths with charming Charles Boyer, you know that, by the finale, she will relinquish her position all in the name of love, marriage, and a woman’s predetermined lot in life. 

Rob Edelman: The “Other” Donald

Jan 22, 2018

One way in which to market a new film featuring an older star is to hype that star’s presence and performance. This is especially helpful if that star has never earned a competitive Academy Award, or even an Academy Award nomination. So the message here is: Let’s honor this actor. Let’s go see this actor in this film, and then shower this actor with career-defining kudos.

Rob Edelman: Middle-Eastern Cinema

Jan 15, 2018

Films that come out of the Middle East do not just center on Arab-Israeli relations and conflicts or the hows and whys of individuals who become terrorists. They tell a range of stories and deal with a range of issues. Plus, they are made by filmmakers who are transcending borders and earning some well-deserved international acclaim.

Rob Edelman: Godard

Jan 8, 2018

Hard to believe that Jean-Luc Godard, one of the pillars of the French New Wave, soon will be approaching his ninetieth birthday. Godard has been a respected, controversial player on the international film scene since those who now qualify as senior citizens still were in grade school. In recent years-- no, actually, in recent decades-- Godard’s films have been free-form collages: exploration of ideas that challenge the nature of traditional cinematic narrative. Whether you take to his work or not, Godard remains an inspired creator who still has much to say about art, society, and human relations.

Rob Edelman: Three Performances

Jan 1, 2018

Denzel Washington is one of the contemporary cinema’s great actors. Yet not all the films in which he appears are great films. One example is ROMAN J. ISRAEL, ESQ., which recently arrived in movie theaters. Washington plays the title character, a lawyer who is a product of the political activism of the 1970’s. He now is well into middle age, and has devoted his career to shunning the big bucks while embracing his activism. But 2017 is on so many levels a lifetime away from 1977 and, on so many levels, Roman J. Israel, Esq.’s dedication is not at all appreciated by those in his midst.

Rob Edelman: Dunkirk Redux

Dec 25, 2017

Not every very best 2017 film is an instant Academy Award contender that debuted at the September film festivals. One is the deservedly heralded DUNKIRK, which premiered theatrically in July and has just arrived on home entertainment. Given its overall quality, it was not surprising that, even though it had already played theatrically, DUNKIRK was screened at the Toronto International Film Festival as an extra-special event. This screening was held to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of IMAX, with Christopher Nolan, its director-writer-co-producer, in attendance and in a post-screening conversation.

Rob Edelman: Best “Pre-Fall” Films

Dec 18, 2017

For a year that began with endless new film releases that were outright clunkers, quite a few first-rate titles did end up arriving in movie houses prior to the fall movie season and the countless Academy Award contenders that debut annually at the Toronto, Venice, and Telluride film festivals. Indeed, the worthy 2017 films may be divided into two categories: those that came out before early September; and those that came out since early September.

Rob Edelman: Happy End

Dec 11, 2017

HAPPY END, Michael Haneke’s latest work, which is just coming to theaters, is a film about ideas. It is a portrait of life in our contemporary culture, one that is awash in high-tech gadgetry. In this regard, HAPPY END deals with issues that are close to the heart of its writer-director, who is in his mid-seventies. In other words, Michael Haneke has been around long enough to have very strong opinions, very distinct and well-formed world views. 

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.

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. 

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