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Monday, Jul 14, 2014
As with much art, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes signposts situations we'd otherwise ignore or try to avoid, provides insights, and provokes questions. This film, like all great art, is alive, vital, and transcendent.

We live in troubling times. All around us our examples of our inability to adapt while using technology and its tainted perks as a means of further escape. We claim victories over social ills (racism, economic inequality) where no triumphs truly exist and celebrate those who ride such unrealities all the way to a position of power. In these dark and disturbing days, a film like Dawn of the Planet of the Apes speaks louder than any pundit’s proclamations. As with much art, it reflects the era in which it was made. As with all art, it signposts situations we’d otherwise ignore or try to avoid, provides insights, and provokes questions. This film, like all great art, is alive, vital, and transcendent.


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Monday, Jul 14, 2014
Despite the film’s hipster soundtrack and depiction of twenty-something malaise, it ultimately embraces the human spirit and all of the sentimentality that goes with it.

The year was 2004. I was a freshman in high school, and I was on the cusp of discovering my passion for cinema. I ditched class on a Tuesday and snuck into the local theater to see Zach Braff’s Garden State with a friend, not knowing that this would change my life and convert me to the church of cinephilia.


For those who haven’t seen the film, it’s about Andrew Largeman (Braff), an emotionally detached 26 year old who returns to his hometown of New Jersey for his mother’s funeral after living in Los Angeles for ten years. Andrew intends to visit for a few a days, and in the process reconnects with old friends, struggles to resolve issues with his distant father (Ian Holm), and forms a romantic relationship with Sam (Portman), a local young woman with problems of her own.


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Friday, Jul 11, 2014
When coming of age movies are measured years from now, Boyhood will be the benchmark for artistic achievement and cinematic scope.

Our lives are made up of individual moments, parsed out over individual minutes over individual seconds which, in the end, always seem too short and sadly succinct. There’s no great story arc, just lots of little ones, each playing out among the various personality pros and cons we develop and scatter like so many dandelion seeds into the wind.


By the time we are old enough to realize it, we only remember the epics, the instances where things changed radically for better and worse. Births, deaths, degrees, achievements, jobs, kids, diseases, divorces—these are the buzzwords we use as we spin our time into something more meaningful. In the end, though, those individual moments fade, failing to resonate as powerfully as a performance or a passing, a problem or an epiphany.


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Thursday, Jul 10, 2014
Ruthless reveals a message about capitalism that, if ubiquitous, rings true.

Ruthless is an Eagle-Lion production that must be the most lavish project ever directed by Edgar Ulmer, who spent most of his career working with budgets that seemed barely to include the camera. Thematically, it’s his Citizen Kane or Magnificent Amberson, here seen in a fine print showing off sinuous and ceiling-heavy photography from Bert Glennon and lavish design from Frank Sylos. Unlike the aforementioned films, Ruthless is not great; however, it’s hard to take one’s eyes off of.


Tagged as: edgar ulmer, ruthless
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Wednesday, Jul 9, 2014
Andre De Toth's noir-ish western, Ramrod, is notable for its examination of doubles; almost every character has someone else who matches their identity.

Andre De Toth’s Ramrod is a classic film licensed by Olive Films from Paramount, although this indie production was distributed by United Artists and this print for some reason opens with the MGM lion. What matters is that it’s here now, in a print a bit dusty but easily watchable. It stars De Toth’s then-wife Veronica Lake, reunited with the same Joel McCrea who supposedly never wanted to work with her again after Sullivan’s Travels.


From the beginning, it quietly shows off nice lengthy shots (from cinematographer Russell Harlan) that glide sideways for complexly staged actions, usually left to right. This gives an aesthetic unity to a first reel whose script is a confusing snarl of relations and implications based on a story by Luke Short. It’s a complicated, seething, noir-ish western in which everyone deceives everyone else about something or other, and indeed deception is sometimes necessary for survival. Shot in Utah, the story takes place in a part of the country where everybody lives in picturesque canyons that dwarf them; at the risk of making too much of it, the climax finds McCrea’s hero “reborn” from a womblike cave.


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