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Friday, Nov 21, 2014
He was more than just a filmmaker. With his passing at age 83, Mike Nichols leaves behind a legacy filled with awards and attitudes which influenced every medium he was involved in.

Mike Nichols won nine Tony Awards, four Emmys, a Grammy and an Oscar, making him one of the few artists in any medium that can claim such honors. Not bad for a Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany who thought of becoming a doctor but, instead, dropped out of the University of Chicago to try the theater. It was there where he met partner Elaine May, and the two would soon become the toast of contemporary (‘50s) pop culture.


He was accepted into the Actor’s Studio and studied under the great Lee Strasberg before joining the Windy City’s Compass Players in 1955. Along with May, Shelley Berman, Del Close, and Nancy Ponder, they were the predecessors for the noted Second City improv troupe. In 1960, Arthur Penn directed the Broadway smash An Evening with Mike Nichols and Elaine May, and soon both were huge household names.


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Wednesday, Nov 19, 2014
We wrap up our cinematic overview of former flops that became movie masterworks with a tantalizing Top 10 including three efforts now considered the greatest of all time.

When last we left off with “Films That Went From Bombs to Beloved: 20 - 11”, we were talking about bombs. Motion picture bombs. No, not those big (or small) budgeted behemoths that stumble into the Cineplex, announce their mediocrity, and then wander out with little to show for it except an IMDb listing and a lot of negative social media screeds. In this case, we aren’t concentrating on films that flopped because of their lack of creativity or invention.


No, with this overview, we are concentrating on films that failed in spite of their final evaluations. Put another way, we are going back over the history of cinema and staring in wide-eyed disbelief at some of the titles that, today, we adore, but years ago were marginalized and miscalculated. Yes, a few of them made money (if you consider a million or so over budget a “gold mine”), but for the most part, they strutted and fretted their hour upon the big screen stage, only to really gain respect and recognition much later on.


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Tuesday, Nov 11, 2014
Not every cinematic bomb remains forgettable. Sometimes, a failure is just a gemstone in disguise that will only reveal itself well past the release date.

Movies usually bomb because they are bad. Uber bad. Can’t be redeemed by acting, directing, or scripting terrible. In those cases, the write-off is obvious. As the medium moves on, the truly awful fall by the wayside, brought up only when discussions of the worst of the worst are warranted.


Sometimes, however, a film failure isn’t. Instead, it’s a victim of circumstances; the culture of the moment, the counterintuitive perspective of the final product, the star/director choices. And then there are those cases where a movie is literally ahead of its time, unable to be enjoyed in its own temporal moment but, once removed, is revitalized and reevaluated. Some may argue that this is a current phenomenon, home video and the internet allowing for such reassessment. In reality, as long as there have been film critics, there has been such scholarship.


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Tuesday, Nov 4, 2014
There are only 364 days left until next Halloween, so get prepared to face the real horrors of the world with these ten titles.

It’s officially over. We’re done for another year. No more witches and warlocks, no more ghosts and goblins, o more zombies, werewolves, vampires, axe murders, hockey masked psychos, chainsaw wielding cannibals,  and other pop culture novelties. (Which reminds me that there’ll be no Frozen costumes—thank goodness.) Yes, another 31 October has come and gone, and with it, the desire for fright fans to indulge in all things menacing and macabre. For most, it’s a one shot deal, a night out in costume, a chance to have a few relatively safe scares and, maybe, to pull a few pranks.


For others, it’s a lifestyle, a 354-day-a-year struggle that only the last day in the tenth month can cure. All over social media and the blogsphere, those taken with terror post their Best and Worst Of lists. But once the bats have returned to the belfry, what then? How can someone celebrate the season of scares without having to go back to the Voorhees and the Myers, the Romeros and the Carpenters?


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Tuesday, Oct 28, 2014
James Wan and Leigh Whannell didn't start off the Saw series with a focus on the gory "games", but these 10 examples of Jigsaw's various traps explain the franchise's enduring fear factors.

It didn’t start out as torture porn. In fact, the first Saw film only contains a single sequence that could conceivably be labeled as such. But with its success came a slew of sequels, each one focusing on the splatterific ways the main villain—a dying man named Jigsaw—would pick off his preselected victims. Thus the new horror subgenre, and in part, the last legacy of James Wan and Leigh Whannell’s celebrated Sundance hit, Saw.


Coming out of nowhere to take the fright film society by storm, the efforts of these two talented Australians (with further developmental help from Parts Two through Four guide Darren Lynn Bouseman) became the benchmark for fear over the last 10 years. Dozens of movies, made in conjunction with the real gorno purveyor - Eli Roth’s Hostel -took inspiration from this taut, post-modern thriller and, soon, the masked slasher made way for a clever criminal, his (or her) disembodied voice, and a series of cruel, brutal games.


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