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100 Best of the 21st Century?

"Carol >>>>>>>>>> most of these movies" - Clarence

"The more I see these snooty lists, the more I get turned off of by film critics. What about Lord of the Rings, The Hours, The Devil Wears Prada..." -Jono

"Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind - The movie you're hoping to see every time you go in the cinema" - Jeremy

 

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Wednesday
Aug242016

Judy by the Numbers: "Take My Hand, Paree"

This week's number is hands down the weirdest entry in Judy's filmography. It doesn't fit neatly into Judy's biography or star image; it really appears to be one of those things that happened because the timing was right. In 1962, Warner Bros released a UPA animated feature called Gay Purr-ee. It's a movie about Parisian cats that feels like An American in Paris meets The Aristocats as played by the Looney Tunes. In a bit of early celebrity stunt casting UPA cast two big voices for its dimunitive feline leads: Judy Garland and Robert Goulet. 

The Movie: Gay Purr-ee (WB, 1962)
The Songwriters: Harold Arlen (music) & E.Y. Yarburg (lyrics)
The Cast: Judy Garland, Robert Goulet, Red Buttons, Hermione Gingold, Paul Frees, Mel Blanc, directed by Abe Levitow.

The Story: Gay Purr-ee really needs to be seen to be believed. Done in the limited-animation style of UPA, the movie sets jittering characters against beautifully drawn backgrounds. As the casting of Mel Blanc may have tipped some readers off, the movie was actually produced and co-written by famous Looney Tunes director Chuck Jones. (Jones was fired from Warner Bros after making this film as he had violated his contract with them.) However, though the movie is occasionally stunning, it lacks the focused insanity of Jones's animated shorts.

Judy is credited with having brought her "Over the Rainbow" songwriters onto the film. Despite this, neither the film nor the soundtrack did well. When the film fizzled, Judy continued her successful touring schedule. However, another new opportunity was about to present itself to her.

Tuesday
Aug232016

Hit Me With Your Best Shot: "The Get Down"

We cannot catch a break here at TFE Headquarters this week (honesty this summer. Uff) so this one will be brief. If you haven't yet seen Baz Luhrmann's latest, the first half of a first season of a show about the birth of hiphop called "The Get Down" have at it. Due to time constraints we've only watched the first episode but it delivered on the Baz-ness that we have so desperately missed.

Here's my choice for best shot with commentary after the jump...

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Aug232016

1984: Paris, Texas

As part of our celebration of the year of the month, 1984, Lynn Lee revisits the winner of that year's Palme d'Or, Wim Wenders' Paris Texas.

While it may not quite have the status of an iconic movie, there’s much about Paris, Texas that feels iconic.  A hybrid of those two most iconically American genres, the Western and the road trip—directed, natch, by a German and starring two European actresses—it bears the distinctive features of both.  The long stretches of silence, only occasionally broken by snatches of spare Sam Shepard-scripted dialogue or, as often as not, monologue.  Ry Cooder’s haunting slide-guitar score, which seems to meld with the harsh, lonely, yet strangely sublime landscapes of Texas deserts, highways, and roadside motels.  The lighting, especially at dusk.  The weathered countenance of Harry Dean Stanton—how does it manage to be at once so stoic and so expressive?—and the exquisitely sculpted planes of Nastassja Kinski’s face, as they quiver and dissolve in the movie’s most emotionally wrenching scene. 

That last aspect is at once the film’s ace and its Achilles heel.  By the latter I don’t mean Kinski’s acting (I think she’s fantastic, shaky Texan accent aside) or the writing of that particular scene.  Rather, I mean the conception of her character, Jane, and Jane’s relationship to Stanton’s wanderer Travis, which culminates in that scene.  

If the first two thirds of Paris, Texas are about Travis’ reconnecting with his brother and young son as he slowly comes back to life, the last third is dominated by his efforts to find Jane...

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Aug232016

Doc Corner: Reality Bites in 'Kate Plays Christine'

Glenn here. Each Tuesday bringing you reviews of documentaries from theatres, festivals and on demand.

There is so much to unpack within Robert Greene’s Kate Plays Christine, not least of which is whether the film ought to be considered a documentary in the first place. Greene pushes the concept of documentary as a malleable construct that audiences should question the authenticity of much further than his previous 'non-fiction' work, Actress. This time by altogether abandoning reality, he calls into question everything we see in a documentary. By making the audience ask what is and is not real in Kate Plays Christine, Greene is essentially making us question what is real in any documentary and consider the motivations and mechanics behind them.

Audiences have no doubt asked these questions before in famously are-they-or-aren’t-they works of documentary like Catfish, Exit Through the Gift Shop, and even this year’s Tickled

But those films, traditional narratives regardless of their factuality, are nothing on Kate Plays Christine. An altogether hypnotic film in which actress Kate Lyn Sheil sets about studying the life of Christine Chubbuck for a strange, absurdly amateur feature film about the seemingly forgotten Floridian newscaster who shot herself live on air in 1974 seemingly in an act of desperation and contempt for how far television news had succumbed to the mantra of “if it bleeds it leads”...

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Tuesday
Aug232016

Best of the 21st Century?

by Nathaniel R

Mulholland Drive voted the best film of the 21st century (thus far)Though we may collectively scratch our head at the need to do 21st century best of lists so often and at odd intervals. After 16 years? Ermm, okay? Lists usually get people talking. The BBC polled 177 critics (of which I was, alas, not one) and the results were both enjoyable and annoying, as with all lists.

Some notes:

• I won't see Toni Erdmann for another few weeks so I can't speak to its quality but it's odd to see it on a "best of the century list" when the film has only opened in one country (France) outside of its home countries (Germany/Austria). It starts opening in other countries next month and also hits the Toronto Film Festival. So that seems...early

 • Did Christopher Nolan really need 3 pictures in the top 100? I maintain that Inception does not hold up and is relentlessly and numbingly expository for anything beyond a single viewing and it's even kind of annoying during that first plunge. Cinema about dreams should be mysterious...

Click to read more ...

Monday
Aug222016

Swing, Tarzan, Swing! Ch.7: Oscar Loves "Greystoke"

During this summer of the Tarzan reboot we've revisited past films in the long history of Tarzan on film. Four more episodes to go!

Impossible as it may be to move Tarzan away from his ultra-specific origins as a colonial era fantasy, filmmakers have tried over and over again to do exactly that. As we've seen in past installments of our "Swing, Tarzan, Swing!" series, he keeps changing with the times despite his historical baggage. We've seen starkly different depictions of his relationship to Jane from equal partners to Head of the Household suburban conformity. The Lord of the Apes even tried to get bachelor hip with the 1960s at the beginning of the James Bond frenzy. Nearly every Tarzan on television has attempted to place him closer to the actual timeline in which it aired. The new Legend of Tarzan (reviewed) works hard to downplay the racism in the myth, but it's never going completely away given that the story is, at heart, about a white man who becomes king of the jungle and often the savior of Africans in his ongoing adventures.

Tarzan works best when he's allowed to stay in the era to which he belongs. So it was a stroke of inspiration for director Hugh Hudson (fresh off a Best Picture win with Chariots of Fire) to give him the historical epic treatment in Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes (1984) even though the Ape Man doesn't belong to world history any more than, say, Batman, Superman and Spider-Man who were all also tragically orphaned (it's a superhero thing, okay?). 

The marketing was so committed to this "serious" prestige historical treatment that the poster even has a four paragraph synopsis closer to a novel than a movie tagline...

Click to read more ...

Monday
Aug222016

Ang Lee's 'Billy Lynn' to Launch at NYFF

By Chris Feil

Though New York Film Festival has already announced its splashiest titles for opening (Ava DuVernay's documentary The 13th), centerpiece (Mike Mills's 20th Century Women), and closing (James Gray's The Lost City of Z) galas, they still have another big world premiere up their sleeves. The fest has announced they will also host the first premiere of Ang Lee's high-tech satire Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk.

NYFF was a successful launching pad to Lee's Life of Pi a few years back, so the hope for repeated success is evident. Curiously, the film is premiering outside of the fest's three big slots but this could be a last minute addition. The initial whispers were that the film wouldn't be ready to play the festivals at all thanks to the post-production constraints of Lee's 120-frames-per-second lensing.

The premiere will also be the launching pad for the high frame rate speed, which is even faster than Peter Jackson's attempts with The Hobbit that went over quite poorly with the public. Lee's concept here is to use the medium to heighten the harsh realities of war and contrast that against life back home. This more emotional approach to technical innovation has us hoping that Lee gives us more Pi than Hulk, and the trailer sets the stage for potential weepy, hyper-real highs.

We'll find out if the risk pays off better than it did for Jackson at NYFF's world premiere on October 14 and when the film opens on November 11 - but how many theatres will be able to even show the film in Lee's intended format?