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Entries in 10|25|50|75|100 (178)


The Furniture: That Hamilton Woman's High Ceilings

It's another episode of "The Furniture," Daniel Walber's new series

75 years ago, the United Kingdom was standing nearly alone against the growing might of Nazi Germany. It remained unclear whether the United States would enter the war. And so, from within Hollywood, Alexander Korda set out to help sway American public opinion toward the Union Jack.

That Hamilton Woman was released on April 30th, 1941. Its propagandistic portrayal of Lord Horatio Nelson and his victory over Napoleon’s navy nearly got Korda into very real legal trouble as a foreign agent. His appearance before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee was scheduled for December 12th, but the attack on Pearl Harbor saved the director’s skin. Three quarters of a century later, its reputation rests not on its patriotism, but on its lush melodrama. It continues to enchant as a ravishing portrait of adulterous romance, art imitating the lives of stars Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh. He’s Nelson, she the titular Emma, Lady Hamilton who stole his heart and paid the price. [More...]

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United 93, ten years on

David here, looking back at one of 2006's most contentious films ten years down the line.

I don't imagine many of us have watched United 93 more than a couple of times in the ten years since it debuted. Five years on from 9/11, it felt painfully raw and keenly sensitive, its depiction of the tragic events rendered with a wrenching immediacy borrowed from the handheld footage that had dominated the news coverage of events. It was, gruesomely, a cultural moment that instituted the world of smartphones and social media, news bursting from unpredictable sources, the traditional media outlets left as responsive collators of private material. United 93 showed us the reality of events with such intimacy that cinema's own mannered approaches towards realism rapidly became outmoded.

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Happy Birthday, Robin Wright

Tim here. Robin Wright turns 50 today, and it's my good fortune to wish her a very happy birthday on behalf of the Film Experience. She's entering the decade of her life that generally finds actresses facing the worst odds they ever get from the powers that be in Hollywood (there's that infamous stat that only two women have ever won a Best Actress Oscar in their 50s), but for my tastes, she's never been more interesting than in the past few years.

Indeed, it's been only in this decade that Wright has gotten some of her best-ever movie roles, on top a key performance in the Netflix hit House of Cards, and really gotten to show off as an actress. Some of her best film work, sadly, has been in underperforming movies that most people have never seen or heard of; what better excuse than a birthday to go out and track one of these down?

In 2010, Wright appeared as the title character in The Conspirator, director Robert Redford's story of an idealistic young lawyer defending Mary Surratt, whose boarding house sheltered John Wilkes Booth and company as they devised their plot to assassinate Abraham Lincoln. It's hard to go to bad for the movie as a whole, which wants very badly to be a history lesson rather than a piece of cinematic entertainment. Certainly, Redford's very prim and precise direction of James D. Solomon's research paper-feeling screenplay turn this into a social studies diorama rather than a living, breathing character drama.


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Best Shot Peck Centennial: Roman Holiday & To Kill a Mockingbird

Gregory Peck was an instant sensation at the cinema. He was nominated for Best Actor in his very first year of the movies for The Keys of the Kingdom (1944) and the hits just kept on coming: The Yearling (1946), Gentleman's Agreement (1947), Twelve O'Clock High (1949). The Academy became less interested in nominating him after that the 1940s but for his Oscar winning and most iconic role (To Kill a Mockingbird) but audiences never stopped loving him. He had key hit films for over 30 years in his big screen career.

Though he was a very politically active liberal he was never interested in running for office himself but he  proved to be an influential politician within the industry itself as a key AMPAS president. 

For this week's Hit Me With Your Best Shot, in honor of Peck's Centennial, we gave participants the choice between what are arguably his two greatest films, Roman Holiday (1953) or To Kill a Mockingbird (1962).

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Doc Corner: A Conversation with Gregory Peck on His 100th Birthday

Glenn here. Each Tuesday we bring you reviews and features on documentaries from theatres, festivals, and on demand. This week we’re looking at a documentary about Gregory Peck for what would have been his centennial birthday.

“It takes ten pictures to make a star”, says the subject of A Conversation with Gregory Peck quoting Carole Lombard. It’s a statement worth reiterating today for any number of reasons, not least of all because there are few actors these days who epitomise the word ‘star’ better than Peck. It happens several times throughout this 1999 documentary where people refer to the Oscar-winning actor as a shining example of humanity and a beacon for what people ought to strive for. He was, and still is, a star.

This career overview and remembrance by Barbara Kopple offers Peck the same sort of dignity and respect that the director has afforded all of her subjects throughout her career including striking coal miners, meatpackers, and the Dixie Chicks. Much like Becoming Mike Nichols, which we looked at last week, A Conversation with Gregory Peck centers around a collection of talks the actor gave to audiences across America in Boston, Buffalo, Virginia and more. Peck would sit on stage and offer stories and anecdotes while dutifully answering audience questions and requests for autographs (he’s even more of a consummate professional to do entire Q&As without a moderator – those are tough). They act as a comforting storytelling device, the grandfather in the armchair telling stories of how he met his second wife, a journalist, after she ditched an interview with Albert Schweitzer to meet him for lunch in Paris, how he gave up thoughts of a career as a priest, and how the climactic gag of Roman Holiday’s mouth of truth scene was improvised.

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Looking Back, With Anger: Inside Man (2006)

Eric Blume here to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Spike Lee's Inside Man, which remains his biggest box office hit. 

When this tightly-plotted bank heist movie was released a decade ago, it promised a heavenly trio of huge stars:  Denzel Washington, two time Oscar winner; Clive Owen, fresh off his first nomination for Closer; and Jodie Foster, coming off two solo box office successes (Panic Room and Flightplan).  A decade later, only Washington (the least interesting actor of that trio) still works with annual frequency in major pictures.  He lends effortless dynamism and charisma in his usual everyman role. Unfortunately its been lazy sailing for him ever since with one major exception (Flight).

Watching Inside Man again, it’s the loss of both Owen and Foster as regular cinema fixtures that burns, which is ironic since the film demands little from them. [More...]

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The Lady Eve's slippery 75 years

David here. There are many things about The Lady Eve we could discuss to celebrate its 75th anniversary today - it is, after all, one of Hollywood’s most perfect films - but there’s one particular delight that we’re treated to right off the bat.

Warner Bros. employed Leon Schlesinger’s animation studio - the masterminds behind the Looney Tunes cartoon - to craft the genius opening credits sequence starring the cheeriest snake you’ll ever meet. Even in these halcyon days where the credits came at the film’s beginning, the brevity of them meant you rarely got much beyond an ornate border. Here, though, the snake winding his way across the screen is practically a fully rounded character in himself - just witness his pure joy as he shakes his maraca, and his venomous indignity as he’s conked on the head.

With this minute and a half of introductory magic, The Lady Eve starts playing with its themes of duplicity before Eve or her Adam have even appeared. And it plasters the grin on your face that is sure to remain there for the whole running time. You’ll be positively the same dame!

The Lady Eve Opening Credits by pezhammer