rob edelman

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.

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: Jerry Lewis

Aug 28, 2017

Upon the death of the legendary Jerry Lewis, much was made of his comic genius, his career with Dean Martin, his Labor Day muscular dystrophy telethons, and his signature onscreen appearances in THE GEISHA BOY, THE BELLBOY, THE ERRAND BOY and, in particular, THE NUTTY PROFESSOR. Yet there are other aspects of the life and career of Jerry Lewis that should not be overlooked. As with many comedians and comic actors, he was more than capable of offering powerful and unusual dramatic performances. One example is his on-target presence in a television reworking of THE JAZZ SINGER, which once upon a time was a landmark motion picture.

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: Garfield’s Breaking Point

Aug 7, 2017

The career of one of the great, unsung Hollywood actors is being spotlighted this month with the DVD and Blu-Ray Criterion Collection release of one of his lesser-known, underrated films. The actor is John Garfield and the film, which dates from 1950, is THE BREAKING POINT.

These days, “immigrant” and “immigration” have become dirty words among certain segments of the American populace. If your surname is what some Americans judge to be a “funny” name, or an “UnAmerican” name, well, the person with the surname is not to be trusted. 

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.

Rob Edelman: An Inconvenient Truth, Part 2

Jul 17, 2017

It is at once unsurprising and refreshing that, just as President Trump trumpeted his decision to pull the United States out of the Paris climate agreement, announcement came of the upcoming release of a sequel to what arguably is the most celebrated and influential climate change documentary. That film is AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH, and it was released in 2006.

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.   

“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.” 

Rob Edelman: Tom Cruise, Mummified

Jun 19, 2017

Once upon a time, Tom Cruise was a mega-movie star. His hit films, including RISKY BUSINESS, TOP GUN, and JERRY MAGUIRE, were high-powered, popular entertainments, and he demonstrated his depth as an actor by embracing roles in serious films, important films. These include THE COLOR OF MONEY, opposite Paul Newman; RAIN MAN, with Dustin Hoffman; EYES WIDE SHUT, the final directorial credit in the estimable career of Stanley Kubrick; and Oliver Stone’s BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY. 

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.

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.

Rob Edelman: Gifted Children

May 1, 2017

In GIFTED, a new feature that has just been released to theaters, a six-year-old girl whose mother has committed suicide becomes immersed in a custody battle between her uncle, who has been raising her, and her grandmother. The fact that she is a math wizard, a child prodigy, is irrelevant. She still is a kid, and her feelings, fears, and needs are fleshed out onscreen.

Rob Edelman: 2017, Going In Style, Old And New

Apr 24, 2017

Back in 1979-- that’s almost four decades ago, for those who are counting-- the original GOING IN STYLE was released. The stars are three then, and still, legendary actors. George Burns, Lee Strasberg, and Art Carney play elderly working class retirees who, as much to break the dreary routine of their lives, decide to pull off a bank heist. This GOING IN STYLE is not just a zany tale of novice if elderly Clyde Barrows, or even a message film about how the aged are shunted aside by society once they no longer are workers or consumers. It also reflects on the reality that, even if one might come into a million dollars-- today, that figure would be more like 10 or 20 million dollars-- one will be unable to buy a cure for old age.

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?

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?

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