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Wednesday, May 28 2014

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.


Friday, March 21 2014

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".


Tuesday, February 18 2014

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.


Wednesday, November 27 2013

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.


Friday, October 4 2013

‘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.


Tuesday, August 13 2013

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.


Sunday, May 12 2013

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?


Monday, April 15 2013

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.


Monday, January 14 2013

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.


Wednesday, November 28 2012

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.


Thursday, September 6 2012

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.


Sunday, July 1 2012

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.


Wednesday, February 1 2012

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.


Monday, December 5 2011

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.


Thursday, October 13 2011

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.


Wednesday, August 3 2011

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.


Wednesday, May 25 2011

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...


Monday, April 4 2011

‘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.


Wednesday, February 9 2011

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.


Wednesday, January 12 2011

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.


Friday, December 10 2010

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.


Sunday, November 14 2010

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.


Tuesday, October 19 2010

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.


Tuesday, October 5 2010

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.


Wednesday, September 15 2010

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.


Monday, August 30 2010

‘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.


Thursday, July 22 2010

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.


Thursday, June 24 2010

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.


Tuesday, April 27 2010

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.


Thursday, March 4 2010

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.


Tuesday, January 19 2010

Silent Revelations

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


Tuesday, December 1 2009

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.


Wednesday, September 2 2009

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.


Thursday, July 23 2009

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.


Thursday, March 5 2009

‘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.


Wednesday, January 21 2009

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.


Wednesday, December 3 2008

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.


Tuesday, October 7 2008

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.


Thursday, July 17 2008

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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