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Monday, March 14 2011

‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ at 34: Still Thrilling After All These Years

What makes Close Encounters of the Third Kind stand out to this day is that it isn’t the usual UFO tale of “us vs them”, like Spielberg’s later remake of War of the Worlds; rather, it's very much a story about Earthlings.


Monday, February 28 2011

‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ as Motion Comic: Paper Doll or New Art Form?

Will motion comics become the digital equivalent of the film strip? Merely an interesting artifact of a particular period of media production? Or are they the crude beginnings of a new art form?


Monday, February 21 2011

What ‘La Femme Nikita’ Has to Say about Egypt and Former President Hosni Mubarek

La Femme Nikita's miserable and corrupted world of moral dead zones and US-sanctioned torture forces its hero to make a real-world choice between pragmatic collusion or principled, perhaps doomed, resistance.


Sunday, February 13 2011

Punk Rock? It’s a Black, Jewish, Southern Thang

Punk is no vacuum, no airtight, sealed white music form. It's a repository of culture -- magnetized, manifold, and chock-full of merit – that was, and is, impacted by Jewish, black, and Southern experiences.


Thursday, February 10 2011

‘America Lost and Found: The BBS Story’: A Cinematic Open Road

America Lost and Found: The BBS Story leaves no doubt that BBS Productions was one of the most important players in a cinematic revolution. These seven films make a case for keeping the canvas wide and the road open.


Wednesday, February 9 2011

King Henry of Hollywood

Henry King's name isn't mentioned when critics start bringing up John Ford or Howard Hawks, and yet even his forgotten and little-seen works hold up better than many of his contemporaries.


Sunday, January 23 2011

A is for Axe: The Filmic Butchering of ‘The Scarlet Letter’

As is often the case with classics, what could have been a brilliantly updated film adaptation of The Scarlet Letter was consumed by the Hollywood machine that instead spits out a shallow and action-packed romp with a glossed-over ending.


Monday, January 17 2011

Jack Bauer, The Last of the Secret Agents, Finally Escapes… Or Does He?

The following takes place between 2:00 am and 3:00 am, seven months after the failed peace treaty sponsored by the US, the Islamic Republic of Kamistan, and Russia. Critiques occur in real time.


Wednesday, January 12 2011

Charlie Chaplin, Tramping Step by Step

The tremendously popular Charlie Chaplin movies were played until they fell apart and flaked off the nitrate, and time's warping and woofing did the rest.


Friday, December 10 2010

Sex & Death & Rock ‘n’ Roll or, The Kids Weren’t Alright

Three turn-of-the-'70s movies, freshly available through Warner Archives, give us distorted reflections of a moment when peace, love and the "youth movement" became linked with murder in the popular imagination.


Sunday, December 5 2010

I Am Become Undead: ‘Cronos’ by Guillermo del Toro

Guillermo del Toro evokes a sense of literary and filmic magic surrealism, one of the core traits of Latin American creative DNA, popularized by writers such Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who probe the painful politics that often prevail in the Latin world.


Sunday, November 14 2010

Tearjerkers, Weepies, Three-hanky Pictures, Sudsers & Other Such ‘Balloon Juice’

Men's movies show us a fantasy of the man we'd like to be (Tarzan or James Bond or Sam Spade), while women's movies are transmogrified dreams of women's real lives.


Tuesday, November 9 2010

Paul Robeson: A Resonant Voice That Will Never Be Fully Silenced

Modern day 'political' celebrities can't hold a candle to Paul Robeson, who always flaunted his politics even when it was perhaps most dangerous to do so.


‘Knucklehead’: The Tenacious Appeal of Pro Wrestling

It occurred to me that Clint Eastwood used to make these kinds of movies – often with an orangutan – back when he made good movies.


Wednesday, October 27 2010

‘Poltergeist’: Home Sweet Hell

James Kahn’s version of Poltergeist is a rare example of a book written after a movie is released, which results in a riveting read.


Friday, October 22 2010

Prime-Time Nuclear Destruction: ‘Medic’, ‘A Flash of Darkness’

When it comes to prime-time half-hour visions of nuclear destruction, there's none better than Medic episode, 'A Flash of Darkness' from Valentine's Day 1955, a surprisingly bleak eruption of nuclear despair.


Tuesday, October 19 2010

Fantômas: The Case of the Dastardly Scalawag

King of the underworld! Master of disguise! Collector of exclamation points! From books to films, Fantomas was the giddy James Bond phenom of its day.


Thursday, October 7 2010

‘A Cambodian Odyssey’: Haing Ngor Was Among the Most Consequential Actors of His Time

It isn't often that a brutal personal account of mass murder, slavery, torture and the obliteration of a sovereign nation causes a reader to meditate on the art of acting, but then, Haing Ngor's was no ordinary life.


Wednesday, October 6 2010

‘The Grapes of Wrath’: The Specter of Tom Joad Emerges From America’s Dark Past, Once Again

With the current economic climate -- increasing rates of foreclosure, evictions, unemployment, poverty and misery -- this classic story dangerously impinges upon the present to reveal the specter of Tom Joad emerging from the darkness, once again.


Tuesday, October 5 2010

Hollywood’s Silent Sister Act: A Tearjerking Tragedienne, a Sparkling Comedienne

Mary Pickford was the biggest female star at the beginning of the '20s and Greta Garbo was the biggest at the finish, but in between there were none bigger than Norma and Constance Talmadge.


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