REVIEW: Moonrise [1948]

Anyone can make a mistake. Danny Hawkins (Dane Clark) kills a man. This is indisputable. Was it self-defense? Maybe. While his victim (Lloyd Bridges‘ Jerry Sykes) picked up the rock that would be his own demise first, it’s Danny who restarts what was a fair fight after already being soundly defeated. So while Jerry raised the stakes, Danny clearly instigated the need for escalation. Where things get even grayer, however, is the fact that Jerry has been picking on Danny for years—leading chants around the schoolyard about how the new…

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REVIEW: La battaglia di Algeri [The Battle of Algiers] [1966]

You never know. It’s almost impossible to receive an objective depiction of war considering how easy it is to skew art towards propaganda through the dissemination of a political agenda. And it’s only been getting harder as new technology keeps costs down when making movies that serve one side of things no matter the veracity of claims held within. A film like Gillo Pontecorvo‘s La battaglia di Algeri [The Battle of Algiers] therefore stands as a vision of what once was with a documentary-like vérité style refusing to pull punches…

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REVIEW: The Virgin Suicides [2000]

“Obviously, Doctor, you’ve never been a 13-year-old girl” With all the accolades bestowed upon writer/director Sofia Coppola these past two decades, only an idiot would question her worth by saying she’s little more than her Hollywood royalty name. Those who said it back in 1999 as her debut feature The Virgin Suicides made the festival rounds were idiots too. If you’ve ever seen this film you should know the sum of its parts goes well beyond pedigree or accessibility. Whether her name allowed her the ability to collect the wonderful…

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REVIEW: Irma Vep [1996]

“Have you sex with girls?” If you’re going to poke fun at the film industry, you might as well go for broke. Take Olivier Assayas‘ Irma Vep for example. Hot off the success of his acclaimed Cold Water, he was recruited for a project about foreigners in Paris with Claire Denis and Atom Egoyan. When this attempt at recreating Louis Feuillade‘s silent Les vampires fell through, Assayas decided to continue with that thematic idea while also adding some “meta” behind the scenes chaos that could (and probably did) occur. With…

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REVIEW: The Killing [1956]

“Just a bad joke without a punch line” After test screenings left audiences confused and frustrated, writer/director Stanley Kubrick and producing partner James B. Harris decided to return to the edit bay and turn The Killing‘s overlapping, repetitious structure into a more linear A-to-B narrative. You can’t blame the former for wanting to do everything possible to make the film a hit since it was his first project with a real budget positioning his career forward (he’d disavowed Fear and Desire as amateurish and sophomore effort Killer’s Kiss proved almost…

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REVIEW: L’eau froide [Cold Water] [1994]

“Extravagant maneuvers” Originally envisioned as a 52-minute chapter of a television anthology series with strict thematic and contextual rules, Olivier Assayas‘ L’eau froide [Cold Water] eventually found itself as the much sought-after 90-minute Cannes debut that cemented the auteur’s style, acclaim, and promise without ever reaching American shores due to lapsed music rights. He would revisit the characters almost twenty years later with Something in the Air‘s more overtly political depiction of his semi-autobiographical youth mired in the turmoil of May ’68, but his earlier work still lingered as a…

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REVIEW: La Ciénaga [2001]

“Get me some ice” The debut feature from Argentinian writer/director Lucrecia Martel is entitled La Ciénaga or The Swamp in English. That’s a name no American circa 2018 can read without conjuring allusions to the Donald Trump campaign motto “Drain the Swamp”. And it’s not a superficial thought either once you start to meet the characters she puts onscreen. We’re talking a not-SO-well-to-do middle class family dripping with a classist sense of entitlement and a racist superiority complex. The adults bask in the sun of the Salta summer, stumbling around…

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REVIEW: Sweet Smell of Success [1957]

“No. You’re dead, son. Get yourself buried.” The hook is simple: Steve Dallas (Martin Milner) and Susan Hunsecker (Susan Harrison) are in love, but big brother J.J. (Burt Lancaster) doesn’t approve. He hasn’t supported her with penthouses and fur coats to watch a young guitarist whisk her away, but he can’t be caught stopping them with his formidable clout to make and break people on a whim as New York’s premier lifestyle columnist either. Putting his name on the boy’s metaphorical death certificate would risk losing Susan further than it…

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REVIEW: La passion de Jeanne d’Arc [The Passion of Joan of Arc] [1928]

“His ways are not our ways” The history of Carl Theodor Dreyer‘s masterwork La passion de Jeanne d’Arc [The Passion of Joan of Arc] is almost too perfectly attuned to the subject matter itself. Here was a renowned director hired to craft a movie about France’s most famous Catholic despite being neither French nor Catholic. Dreyer became a sort of pariah, helpless as the Archbishop of Paris and government officials demanded edits out of his control. His original cut then burned in a studio fire before a second created with…

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REVIEW: In a Lonely Place [1950]

“There’s no sacrifice too great for a chance at immortality” Just because you might be innocent of one crime doesn’t mean you’re a saint who’d never commit another. We’ve seen this type of complex premise as recently as “The Night of”, a miniseries about racial prejudice and police neglect wherein the accused (and audience) is unaware of whether he committed murder. And as facts of the evening in question are put into context, details also surface about the defendant to color him in a different light than initially assumed. Our…

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REVIEW: Videodrome [1983]

“Better on TV than on the streets” To watch David Cronenberg‘s Videodrome today is to acknowledge his clairvoyance as far as technology’s capacity to control via (mis)information. He filmed this body horror classic about subliminal messaging in mass consumption in 1983: years before the political firestorm in 1992 revolving around ubiquitous violence in videogames via Mortal Kombat, the 2007-08 television writers strike that spawned the proliferation of reality TV, the 24-hour news cycle that transformed real-life tragedies into entertainment, and social media placing false content at our fingertips with an…

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