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Thursday, Mar 12, 2015
The archetype of the spaghetti western finds its truest expression in this essential film from Sergio Leone.

If Sergio Leone’s first installment in the “Dollar Trilogy”, A Fistful of Dollars (1964), defined the future of the spaghetti western genre, his second installment, For a Few Dollars More (1965), guaranteed the genre’s future. It not only competed the vision that the first film started, but it also surpassed it at the box-office. In fact, out of all his masterpieces, For a Few Dollars More is Leone’s highest grossing film in the Italian market. Plus, in spite of its mediocre reviews from the confused American critics, it took in $5 million on its initial US release, a large sum for an international flick at the time.


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Wednesday, Mar 11, 2015
Though he never received the appreciation of his peers, documentarian Albert Maysles' mark on the genre remains indelible, and important. Here are 10 reasons why.

He never won an Oscar. His only nomination came in 1974, for one of several films focusing on a notorious conceptual artist and his sometimes baffling works. Yet with his passing at age 88 last week, Albert Maysles leaves behind a legacy worthy of the artform’s founding. Embracing the French concept of cinéma vérité, the late great documentary director and his equally gifted brother developed their “direct cinema” technique, playing fly-on-the-wall as personalities and events played out before them.


There was no agenda, no voice-over narration to provide a specific point of view. The Maysles let their subjects speak for themselves, and in doing so they uncovered information a formal interview would never provide.


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Tuesday, Mar 10, 2015
by Steve Leftridge and Steve Pick
Love is stronger than life. It reaches beyond the dark shadow of death. Otto Preminger's 1944 noir classic tests how far love goes, and Double Take breaks it down.

Because Laura rose from the dead and defied McPherson’s orders by speaking again to Carpenter, he labels her as a typical femme fatale: “Dames are always pulling a switch on you”.


Steve Pick: Here we turn our attention to the 1944 film entitled Laura, clearly named long before anybody ever thought about how difficult it might be to perform a Google search on something with such common nomenclature. This Otto Preminger joint was noir before there was noir, with all the shadows, camera angles, tough-talking semi-disinterested detectives, sex, and complicated crimes that would make the post-war movies so much fun to watch. But unlike the later films, Laura takes place entirely in a world of well-to-do society people, where money is never a problem. Despite the title character’s job in advertising, she lives in an apartment that requires inherited money to pay for the exquisite furnishings. She has a maid, who almost steals the show in her big set-piece of inquisition, despite being surrounded by some big time scene-stealers.


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Monday, Mar 9, 2015
With a shrinking viewership and even smaller relevance to the annual awards season shuffle, how will the Oscars save itself?

We’re two weeks past the 2015 Oscars and already most movie lovers have forgotten who won Best Picture (it was Birdman, by the way), who got robbed (it was a tie between Michael Keaton and non-nominee The LEGO Movie) and perhaps, even the name of the host (it was Neil Patrick Harris, FYI). Now, as the festival circuit starts introducing new titles into the pre-pre-pre Awards Season lookout for 2016, it’s time to reflect on a sad, singular fact: the Academy Awards is on life support and, if something doesn’t change soon, it may become nothing more than a novelty in the near future.


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Wednesday, Mar 4, 2015
As the silent era was ending, Hollywood turned out slick, predictable, pleasingly made entertainments punched out of perfect formulas. Two examples, The Cossacks and Why Be Good?, are newly available from Warner Archive.

The Cossacks is allegedly based on Leo Tolstoy’s novel, but Frances Marion’s adaptation is pure Hollywood. The Cossacks are described as “simple as children”, a society where the men go off to fight Turks and come home to carouse while women work the fields. The chief, called the Ataman (Ernest Torrence), is ashamed to have a “woman man” for a son. Lukashka (John Gilbert) lounges at home with his shirt open, helps his mother lift heavy burdens, and doesn’t bother going to war. It’s just a phase. When his manhood is humiliated sufficiently by the whole village, he proves himself in the latest skirmish by killing ten Turks and discovering blood isn’t so bad.


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