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Tuesday, Mar 13, 2012
In celebration of the sword, here are our picks for the 10 greatest examples of onscreen blade work ever.

All right, all right. We get it. Swashbuckler is no longer the nomenclature for a certain kind of swordsman (it’s pre-pirate legacy). Thanks to a surreal fascination with all things Jolly Roger, the word has become the almost exclusive claim of the seafaring rogue. Of course, throughout history, there have been many famous names that have taken up the cutlass for the cause. Heck, until gunpowder became the explosive du jour, a finely honed piece of metal was the answer and cause of all of life’s problems. So it goes without saying that, when you mention something cinematic in connection with this category, fans will immediately flock to the Bluebeards while avoiding…well, practically everything else.


For us, however, the category remains wide open - with one caveat. Because it is so much a part of their heritage, the basis for as many of their myths and histories as anything else, we will keep the Asian approach to this topic under wraps for the time being. There are just so many amazing examples of Chinese/Japanese swordplay that to pick only a few would force us to single out several sensational examples. We’ve also tried to narrow down the choices to those best representative of the various subgenres and archetypes. For example - just this past year, a new 3D update on the classic Three Musketeers (now available on Blu-ray and DVD from Summit) arrived in theaters. Featuring Milla Jovovich and helmed by her husband Paul W. S. Anderson (Event Horizon), it may not be the best translation of the famed book, but its action sequences are indeed sensational - by 2011 standards.


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Thursday, Mar 8, 2012
With his passing this past week, veteran songsmith Robert Sherman enters those most hallowed of music halls -- the myth. The Sherman Brothers crafted some of the most memorable music in the history of the Disney studio.

With his passing this past week, veteran songsmith Robert Sherman enters those most hallowed of music halls—the myth. Even beyond his personal life—he was with the platoon of American troops that liberated the German concentration camp Dachau during World War II—and his many achievements and accolades, he will always been known by the sound he left behind, the lingering melodies and razor sharp lyrics that would keep generations humming and singing along. After a challenge from their Tin Pan Alley icon father Al, Robert and his brother Richard became a duo, delivering an early hit for Disney’s reigning sweater girl, Annette Funicello. Their 1958 collaboration, “Tall Paul,” got the attention of Walt, and he soon hired the duo as resident House of Mouse composers.


And thus the legacy was born. Over the next few years, the Shermans would craft some of the most memorable music in the history of the studio. They also ventured beyond the celluloid, coming up with material for Disney’s theme parks (“In the Tiki, Tiki, Tiki, Tiki, Tiki Room,” “Making Memories”) as well as the TV and theatre. When the venerable cartoonist died in 1966, the Brothers took their talents freelance, coming back from time to time to work on projects they deemed worthy. Nominated nine times for the Academy Award, he would pick up two for the family favorite Mary Poppins. In his later years, Robert would oversee the conversion of his work to the stage. In the final few years, and in failing health, he spent most of his time living in London and painting, a lifelong passion.


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Tuesday, Mar 6, 2012
As much as people want to categorize him, Martin Scorsese has never let himself be boxed in.

As much as people want to categorize him, Martin Scorsese has never let himself be boxed in. More so than almost any of the other members of the “movie brat” generation who reshaped Hollywood in the 1970s (Spielberg, Lucas, Coppola, De Palma), he established a style and a favored subject matter within in a few years and then spent much of the rest of his career kicking those preconceptions to pieces. For every Goodfellas there’s a New York, New York, for every Casino, there’s a Kundun. Although the curious but nevertheless inflexible rules of public memory ensure that he will be remembered forever as a chronicler of gangsters, Scorsese has spent the past three-odd decades proving that he’s not a filmmaker who likes to be told what he can’t or shouldn’t do. Music videos, kids’ films, documentaries, religious dramas, historical epics – there’s hardly a genre that he hasn’t dipped into and that hasn’t been enriched by his attention.


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Thursday, Mar 1, 2012
The looking-backwards 2012 winners were sometimes less the problem than those that were nominated to begin with.

Although just about everything has changed about the film business in the past couple of decades – the rise of CGI and 3D technology, the precipitous decline in the influence of marquee stars, the curious appeal of Adam Sandler – the Academy Awards continue to grind on as though nothing has changed. Every year there are the same stories written about how this year’s Oscars will either skew younger so that they can appeal to a less geriatric sensibility or how the ceremonies are going to recall the industry’s glory days of yore.


This year managed to be neither: a safe host thrown in at the (somewhat) last minute and a welcome shrugging-off of many of the trips down nostalgia lane that have cluttered up so many of these things. Certainly, there was bloviation laid on thick and pompous – Morgan Freeman’s sonorous introduction referencing “this magnificent event” didn’t bode well – but at least the ceremonies didn’t bother (except for the odd iPad reference) trying to be relevant as a piece of television. Which it never has been. The curious part is really that so many of us watch the thing.


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Tuesday, Feb 28, 2012
Oscar always gets it 'wrong.' Here are 10 Best Picture reasons (out of many) why.

So…the Academy got it ‘wrong’ again. Big deal. Ever since the movie industry closed ranks and decided to reward itself on the “greatest” achievements among their fellow filmmakers, there’s been the same old debate: How could Cary Grant never win an Oscar? How could Katherine Hepburn win so many? Why was Hitchcock snubbed? Why did it take (insert years or decades here) for (insert name and or title here)  to finally get recognized? Nowhere is the argument more heated, however, than in the backwards glancing give and take of Best Picture. As a proposed representation of what the artform does right every year, there are many who believe that the members of the AMPAS consistently get this highest honor wrong. In fact, if one looks over the 80 plus winners of the coveted prize (and their competition at the time), one can discover at least 30 instances when the wrong film (arguably) triumphed.


So in order to correct this cruel mistake, we’ve gone back through the list of Best Picture winners and come up with the 10 Films that should have won the Academy’s highest accolade. Now, we have dispensed with some most glaring and obvious omissions (Raging Bull over Ordinary People, Pulp Fiction and a certain Mr. Gump, Goodfellas vs. Dancing with Wolves) while keeping a few which are so flagrant in their wrongheadedness that they require another mention. Also, we aren’t going to jump beyond the actual nominated entries for any given year. Sure, we leap at any chance to mention our undying devotion to 2001: A Space Odyssey or Miller’s Crossing, but since the members of the voting cabal choose not to every recognize them with a nomination, we will do the same (sadly).


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