Canon Fodder
On Denaturing Racial Elements in Two ‘50s-era Films

Two fascinating bits of Americana, Black Gold and Face of Fire, are defined by racial themes, yet tackle the subject quite differently.

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Calling Mr. Aldrich: The ‘50s-era Fisticuffs of ‘World for Ransom’ and ‘Ten Seconds to Hell’

Robert Aldrich favors the classical presentation of angry cynical characters given to violence and grotesquery, which means he's often "tasteless" and discomfitting.

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Farther Than You Think: Mapping the Noir Terrain

Rope of Sand, Dark City, and Union Station each extend the shadowy reach of film noir.

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Ambiguously Yours: The Late Works of the Late Otto Preminger

Hurry Sundown, Skidoo, and Such Good Friends welcome you to a world of crowded frames and uncertain tones.

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‘The Jimmy Stewart Show’ Emerges from TV’s Never-Never Land

This is a traditional family sitcom, which means it's not funny.

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The Adventures of Two Boys and an Elephant

At its best, Maya serves as a window into an era of kids' adventure series with unusually authentic production values and undercurrents of thoughtful attention to cultural differences.

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Cut! Shoot! The Directorial Styles of Blake Edwards and Richard Lester

The Party, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and Juggernaut give us good clean fun about slavery and brothels.

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Films for Fans of Visionary Directors

In film, "visionary" has become a marketing adjective, like "iconic". Here, on the matter of visionary directors, we separate the claret from the beaujolais, if you will.

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From Love to Decline: Giving Evelyn Waugh a Sixties Spin

The Loved One gives viewers that "sick kick", and Decline and Fall of a Bird Watcher perfectly captures Waugh's tone of cruel, facetious, and lunatic whimsies.

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Watching ‘Search’ Is Like Carrying the Internet Around in Your Head

When you pay for Probe's services, you're not only getting the agent of the week but also a passel of experts with their tiny cameras, microphones, and zirconium-shelled "audio implants".

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60 Nights at the Movies: The Sequel

The success of Canon Fodder's "50 Nights at the Movies -- at Home!" Requires a bigger and better sequel. Or at least, a longer one. Might want to make some popcorn before sitting down for this one.

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Around the World in 40 Books: From the Dog’s POV to the Novel-as-Peyote

My ramblings about reading are so valued that I'm now a big star in Tanzania. On my recent whirlwind tour I was mobbed at the airport and carried about on people's shoulders.

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‘Til Your Eyes Bleed & Your Ears Explode: 61 Books You Really Should Read & Have Read To You

More books you'll love than you can swing a cat while shaking a stick at.

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50 Nights at the Movies—at Home!

Who needs Netflix and its fees? Make a list of movies and take it to the nearest public library.

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How Do Film Adaptations of Books, Such As ‘The Great Gatsby’, Affect an Author’s Literary Status?

Many people assert axiomatically that "the book is always better", while others have suggested that bad books make good movies and good books make bad movies. But do films adapted from books, good or bad, give books a longer shelf-life?

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Do Women Have Sex? ‘The Chapman Report’

Everyone knows it's impossible for any woman to enjoy guilt-free sex with jazz musicians and delivery boys.

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More Murders Are Committed for Love Than for Hate: ‘Hawkins’

Both Billy Jim Hawkins and Perry Mason are defense lawyers, but the resemblance ends there.

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If He Had a Hammer: Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer

TV's Mike Hammer could never be as violent and cynical as in the books; it wouldn't be allowed by censors.

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A Light-Hearted Romp through John Hustonian Darkness

John Huston understands the crushing success of failure. In the rarely seen films Sinful Davey and Fat City, he observes the self-destructive behaviors and interactions of stunned and blasted losers as closely as Jane Austen would.

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Ruining Their Reputations: Pre-Code Movies Have a Naughty Reputation That’s Not Always Deserved

Not every pre-Code film is a Scarface or Baby Face; some are only mediocre faces.

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Prime Time Larceny: It Takes a Thief

Al Mundy (Robert Wagner) enjoys a reputation as a world-class thief, a glamorous burglar, a pickpocket's pickpocket. Too bad he landed in prison.

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Showing My References: On Reading Too Much About TV & Watching Too Much TV

I still yearn for a hefty volume of pages to take down from the shelf, to leaf through at my leisure or to zero in on that relevant fact.

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Clear! Old-School Medical Drama, Stat!

A once-popular medical drama reveals how much has changed in America's health care industry -- and its television medical dramas -- and how much remains the same.

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The Guys Who Bond in the Sky: ‘Toward the Unknown’

All this aircraft is blatantly fetishized, with Bond at one point giving his plane an impulsive and passionate smack of the lips.

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Share the Stage, ‘Glee’—TV Feels a Song Coming On

The history of TV musicals is richer -- and stranger -- than you think. At least three sitcoms were singing long before Glee came along: That's Life, The Monkees and The Partridge Family. Before them, well, if I could sing it to you...

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‘Cinema’—That’s Italian for Cinema

New DVD provider RaroVideo USA is coming out of the gate with two lavish Criterion-worthy releases: The Clowns and the Fernando Di Leo Crime Collection. One is nominally "arty" and the other "lowdown", but the lines deserve to be blurred.

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9 Feb 2011 // 10:00 PM

King Henry of Hollywood

Henry King's name isn't mentioned when critics start bringing up John Ford or Howard Hawks, and yet even his forgotten and little-seen works hold up better than many of his contemporaries.

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Charlie Chaplin, Tramping Step by Step

The tremendously popular Charlie Chaplin movies were played until they fell apart and flaked off the nitrate, and time's warping and woofing did the rest.

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Sex & Death & Rock ‘n’ Roll or, The Kids Weren’t Alright

Three turn-of-the-'70s movies, freshly available through Warner Archives, give us distorted reflections of a moment when peace, love and the "youth movement" became linked with murder in the popular imagination.

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Tearjerkers, Weepies, Three-hanky Pictures, Sudsers & Other Such ‘Balloon Juice’

Men's movies show us a fantasy of the man we'd like to be (Tarzan or James Bond or Sam Spade), while women's movies are transmogrified dreams of women's real lives.

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Fantômas: The Case of the Dastardly Scalawag

King of the underworld! Master of disguise! Collector of exclamation points! From books to films, Fantomas was the giddy James Bond phenom of its day.

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Hollywood’s Silent Sister Act: A Tearjerking Tragedienne, a Sparkling Comedienne

Mary Pickford was the biggest female star at the beginning of the '20s and Greta Garbo was the biggest at the finish, but in between there were none bigger than Norma and Constance Talmadge.

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You’ll Never Get Rich—Bwa! Ha! Ha!: Sgt. Bilko: The Phil Silvers Show

Is there always something subversive about comedy? Only when it's funny.

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‘The Mothers-In-Law’: Just for Good Measure, We’ll Give Everyone the Intelligence of a Radish

The '60s were the most surreal decade on TV, and this show has scenes as bizarre as any sitcom, even without castaways or martians or robots or talking animals or reincarnated automobiles.

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The Archaeology of Comedy: Ancient Funnybones Found Intact

More valuable fossils have been unearthed from the strata of film history thanks to these Kino and Flicker Alley DVDs: a bunch of lost Keatons and one lost Roxie.

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Peyton Place: When Discretion Was Partly a Genteel Quality, Partly a Requirement of the Censor

A world where nothing is right or reassuring, and little will ever be resolved happily, not in 30-minutes or 30 years – TV as depression, an endless picturesque grind. Rather like life.

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The Goldbergs: The Most Jewish Show on Television

This show is an example of "melting pot" art from the tail end of the Ellis Island era in popular culture, when the wide variety of accents heard in city streets was reflected on the vaudeville stage, on radio, in comics, and wherever pop culture served the mythology of the mainstream.

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Reality with a Pinch of Salto

Salto, a masterpiece of Polish cinema, seems to contain much of Poland's tradition in distilled form, as well as being a perfectly Konwickian construction.

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19 Jan 2010 // 9:59 PM

Silent Revelations

Kino and Flicker Alley are the labels duking it out for silent supremacy, and the spectator is the winner.

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Looking Back at the Avant Garde

These two new DVDs help us take a look back at forward thinkers, and although no one will like all these films equally, the whole is an experience not only edifying but, at its most radical, even pleasurable.

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Buster Keaton: The Sound of His Obsession

Bill Frisell's ambient, fuzzy, meandering guitar doodles sound like they're trying to approximate the sad stillness blowing through the corridors of Keaton's mind.

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You are Living in the Golden Years of Cinema

Excellent movies are so thick on the ground that we're tripping on them – but never have so many delivered so much to such an ungrateful lot.

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‘The City’: The Most Seen Documentary

Steiner and Van Dyke have an eye for beauty even in misery, and their compositions make this part of the movie a pleasure to visit, even if we wouldn't want to live there.

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21 Jan 2009 // 9:00 PM

Ken Russell at the BBC

Everything here is in achingly beautiful and sharply restored black and white, everything is intelligent and witty, everything is deeply felt -- everything is Russell.

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Nary a Word: ‘The Last Laugh’ and ‘The General’

The sound era added nothing thematically or tonally that wasn't already perfected in silent films.

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7 Oct 2008 // 11:00 PM

DIY: Takahiko Iimura

Takahiko Iimura read about the American underground film movement and began making experimental works based only on what he'd read. Soon he was a leading experimental filmmaker.

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17 Jul 2008 // 11:00 PM

American Film Theatre

In what might be called the curse of Chekhov, the common setting is a living room, the common characters a family, and the common dynamic a stew of bitter backbiting and recrimination that ultimately gives the lie to Tolstoy, because here each unhappy family seems perfectly alike.

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//Mixed media
//Blogs

Joyful 2015 NYC Pride March in Photos

// Notes from the Road

"Two days after the historic 5-4 Supreme Court, New York City's Pride March, like others around the country, felt celebratory and joyful.

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