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Wednesday, Oct 1, 2014
This anthology of Italian films explores the taboos of love: prostitution, suicide, and girl-watching.

The Italian anthology Love in the City was conceived by Cesare Zavattini as a “journal” to investigate taboo aspects of its title: prostitution, suicide, marriage agencies, poor single mothers, and girl-watching that amounts to harassment. As a neo-realist, Zavattini preferred the idea of non-actors playing themselves in more or less documentary enactments of their lives, and the resulting film exists in a nether region between reality and fiction. Although the film wasn’t successful enough to warrant further installments, it’s an intriguing capsule that demonstrates the styles and interests of its young directors.


For example, Michelangelo Antonioni’s segment is so Antonioni, it slaps you upside the head. He interviews people who attempted suicide, gathering them in an artificial manner against a white backdrop and sometimes playing “themselves” in various environments. On display is Antonioni’s visual instinct for staging people, primarily women, against arid and decaying urban settings in a manner where one reinforces the other. The people seem expressions of and products of their landscape, while the landscape projects their alienation writ large.


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Tuesday, Sep 30, 2014
With his latest film arriving October 3rd, it's time to put David Fincher and his efforts alongside the other cinematic greats to see where he stacks up, aesthetically speaking.

He was born in Denver, Colorado. Inspired by Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), he started making 8mm movies. He worked for George Lucas’ Industrial Light and Magic, serving time on such celebrated movies as Return of the Jedi (1983) and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984), before moving to Propaganda Films to make commercials and music videos.


During his stint as an MTV favorite, he collaborated with Rick Springfield, the Motels, Loverboy, Sting, Paula Abdul, Madonna, Aerosmith, Nine Inch Nails, and the Rolling Stones. He won two Grammys in the process, becoming a noted name in the fledgling artform. When Hollywood came calling, it was with the third installment of an incredibly successful sci-fi horror series. When David Fincher was done with it, the Alien property would never be the same.


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Tuesday, Sep 30, 2014
The movie's real point is its message about strong women, which makes it a surprisingly undated bit of relaxation that stresses female points of view.

Although the plot includes a bank robbery and brief appearances by Apache Indians and Billly the Kid, Strange Lady in Town is a largely unsensational, untraditional, anecdotal, friendly, visually pleasing, and socially progressive western rooted in the time and place of 1880 Santa Fe, New Mexico. The film opens with a horse-drawn wagon popping a wheel in the wide-open space of the Cinemascope screen while Frankie Laine croons the title tune. A black-clad woman with a parasol traipses over to some cowpokes for help and introduces herself, to their surprise, as a lady doctor from Boston. She makes herself at home and charms them immediately, as she will swoop in by personality and expertise to charm most of the citizens of her new home.


The “strange lady” is Dr. Julia Winslow Garth (Greer Garson, all class and English accent and orange hair, and reportedly beset with appendicitis during filming). Those charmed include the Catholic monk next door (Walter Hampden) who runs a hospital for the Mexicans and Indians, and a striking tomboy-ish cowgirl called Spurs (Lois Smith), who’s in love with Julia’s brother David, a charming Cavalry soldier who’s nothing but trouble. He’s played by Cameron Mitchell, who, in typical Hollywood casting, is convincing as all of that except Garson’s brother.


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Monday, Sep 29, 2014
These two box sets offer up key historical examples of the pratfall as high art.

From flickering decay to digital restoration, two monumental Blu-ray sets offer more than historical interest to fans of comedy history, especially those with the wit to recognize that the pratfall is a high art.

The Mack Sennett Collection: Volume One contains 50 comedies ranging from 1909, when Sennett began as a writer and actor for D.W. Griffith, through the famous W.C. Fields shorts The Dentist and The Fatal Glass of Beer, the titles most likely to be familiar to slapstick fans. Digitally restored from the best sources available, some prints still look jumpy and faded (sometimes with footage still missing), but the quality improves as steadily as the technical sophistication.


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Friday, Sep 26, 2014
Ben Kingsley's dreadful Archibald Snatcher is Chitty Chitty Bang Bang's Child Catcher merged with a John Tenniel fever dream.

The Boxtrolls, very loosely based on the book Here Be Monsters! by Alan Snow, is a movie made for an entirely different era and a wholly singular demo. It’s not a film created for today’s catered to and coddled kids. No, parents will be dealing with freaked out frightmares, thanks to this productions highly unusual character design.


The trolls themselves are unattractive little blobs with limited personality and a tendency to shriek at everything that happens. When they talk, their dialogue is virtually indiscernible and they tend to be unappealing in much of what they do.


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