In 1992, a film titled MR. BASEBALL came to movie houses. Tom Selleck starred as Jack Elliot, an aging New York Yankee first-sacker who just four years earlier was the World Series Most Valuable Player. But the previous season, Elliot hit a paltry .235. His superiors are displeased with his penchant for boozing, sleeping around, and giving unsuspecting rookies hotfoots. He may be contrasted to a newcomer, a hot prospect who is described by management as “the real thing.” It’s spring training, this young player is burning up the grapefruit league and he is fated to replace Elliot as the Yankees’ new first baseman. So Elliot’s contract is sold “not to Canada, not to Cleveland” but to the Chunichi Dragons, a Japanese baseball team.
During the early years of the last century, a number of itinerant film companies traversed the United States and produced movies set in small and not-so-small towns. Their casts were comprised of local, non-professional actors and, while featuring nominal plotlines, they primarily existed as travelogues of a sort in that they served to promote the town's amenities.
One of the most compelling and poignant new films to go into release this summer is a documentary: LIFE ITSELF, in which Steve James (of HOOP DREAMS fame) offers a warm tribute to one of the all-time-great film critics. That would be Roger Ebert.
As filmmakers go, Fritz Lang and William Castle are as dissimilar as Billy Wilder and Edward Wood. Lang, who directed various classic silent films in Germany before escaping the Nazis and coming to Hollywood, is a certified auteur, while Castle is best known for producing and promoting gimmicky low-budget scare films mostly during the 1960s. But the two are linked in DARK CRIMES: FILM NOIR THRILLERS, VOLUME TWO, a DVD compilation released by Turner Classic Movies.
Coming-of-age films have long been a moviemaking staple. Stories featuring young people who are attempting to define themselves, to relate to their elders while figuring their place in the world, certainly are appealing both dramatically and as subjects that will attract the audience demographic that the movie industry so desperately covets.
One new film that I have been long-anticipating is GET ON UP, a biopic which chronicles the life and times of James Brown, one of the seminal figures on the American musical scene during the infancy of rock, roll, and soul.
The number of children who for one reason or another go missing not just in the United States but across the globe is staggering, maddening, and heartbreaking. The saga of one such occurrence is told in SIDDHARTH, a heartfelt, quietly shattering new film.
I recently attended the Festival Cinema Invisible, now in its third year, which features an array of new Iranian films, all of varying length. What struck me was the generally high quality of many-- but not all-- of the films, not to mention the universality of their subjects.