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 Gemini, Cinephile, Actressexual. Also loves cats. All material herein is written and copyrighted by him, unless otherwise noted. twitter | facebook | pinterest | tumblr | instagram | letterboxd | deviantart 


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"Ghost" and Other Blockbuster Best Pics

Today is the 25th anniversary of Ghost (1990), that wildly successful supernatural-comedy-romance-adventure-whatsit from 1990 which briefly iconized Demi Moore's single teardrop face, revived the popularity of a 1955 song hit, made pottery-wheel lovemaking into a meme (before memes were called that) proved that Patrick Swayze was more than just Dirty Dancing, made the world hate the grandson of legendary movie mogul Samuel Goldwyn, and won Whoopi Goldberg her Oscar, the first acting win for an African American woman since Hattie McDaniel in 1939 (it's since become far more common... at least in Supporting Actress).

Ghost is among the most atypical Best Picture nominees of all time, and one that would never have been nominated without its phenomenal grosses. It ended 1990 as the top global grosser with over half a billion in the bank, though Home AlonePretty Woman and Best Picture winner Dances With Wolves were not far behind). 

So here's a quick Oscar talking point about the last, oh, 40 years of Oscar history. Which of these Best Picture nominees, arguably none of which would have been nominated without their blockbuster phenom cred given their genres and non-prestige foundations, is your favorite?

Star Wars (1977)
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Fatal Attraction (1987)
The Fugitive (1993)
The Sixth Sense (1999)
District 9 (2009)
The Blind Side (2009)

How do you think Ghost (1990) stacks up to that list? None of them actually won Hollywood's top prize in their year. 


Ingrid Bergman is Coming. Ingrid Bergman is Coming.

Next month is the centennial of one of the greatest film stars of all time, Ingrid Bergman. 

To do the icon justice, we know we'll have to plan ahead and cover multiple films. Obviously we'll hit Hitchcock's Notorious (my personal favorite) and a few of her Oscar roles. But which lesser-discussed films should we cover? You may choose three. If you feel really strongly plead your case in the comments!

Which Ingrid Bergman films would you most like to read about (select 3)
Intermezzo (1939) with Leslie Howard
Adam Had Four Sons (1941) with Susan Hayward
Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde (1941) with Spencer Tracy
For Whom the Bell Tolls (1943) with Gary Cooper
Spellbound (1945) with Gregory Peck
Arch of Triumph (1948) with Charles Boyer
Under Capricorn (1949) with Joseph Cotten
Stromboli (1950) via Roberto Rossellini
Journey to Italy (1954) via Roberto Rossellini
Indiscreet (1958) with Cary Grant
The Inn of the Sixth Happiness (1958) in China
The Yellow Rolls Royce (1964) all star anthology
Cactus Flower (1969) with Walter Matthau
Poll Maker


Happy 75th, Abbas!

Amir here, to wish the happiest of birthdays to one of the masters. For all the success of Iranian cinema throughout the 90s and the emergence of several filmmakers who were lauded at international film festivals, the country's cinema had become, for better and for worse, synonymous with one man's name: Abbas Kiarostami. This has somewhat changed in recent years, with Kiarostami taking increasingly longer periods between projects and Jafar Panahi (This is Not a Film, Closed Curtain) and Asghar Farhadi (A Separation, About Elly) receiving so much attention, but ask any cinephile who their favourite Iranian director is and chances are you're going to get the same response you did twenty years ago.


Kiarostami turns 75 today, and to celebrate his birthday, we're going to suggest five films from his vast filmography that aren't widely seen. If you're unfamiliar with his work, any of these is a great place is to start. For the purposes of this list, I have excluded his three milestone: Close-up (ranked among one of the 50 greatest films of all time in the latest Sight & Sound poll and recently name-checked right here as one of Cara Seymour's all time favorite movies), Taste of Cherry (the 1996 Palme d'or winner at Cannes) and Certified Copy starring Juliette Binoche which was his first fiction film outside of Iran, and the film that reignited critical and mainstream interest in his career.

The Experience/A Suit for the Wedding/The Traveller
Several of Kiarostami’s films, long or short, are available on youtube and other streaming sites. Unfortunately, the above three films aren’t among them. Still, this combination here is as good a way as any to spend 50 pounds. All three films deal with the troubles of children who are thrown into the adult world much sooner than they should be. Playful, compassionate and endlessly re-watchable, these films share little in the way of style or approach, but are indispensable both as social studies on children and markers of Kiarostami’s evolution as a director. (Available: Amazon)

The Report
Scenes from a (shattering) marriage, Iranian-style. The Report is a formal and thematic anomaly in Kiarostami's oeuvre — at least until the arrival of Certified Copy — but it’s nevertheless one of his richest works. This morally challenging, multi-faceted portrait of the break-up of a family doubles as a microcosm of a society on the brink of crumbling unto itself right before the revolution. The Oscar-nominated Shohreh Aghdashloo delivers a heart-breaking turn in one of her earliest films here. (Available: Certified Copy’s Criterion Collection)

Kiarostami (wearing shades) and Shohreh Aghdashloo (centre) on the set of The Report

Although Homework isn’t among my personal favourite Kiarostami films, it’s a crushing experience and an essential viewing. Almost entirely made up of interviews with young children about their school work routine, Homework exposes the limitations of the Iranian school system of the time, the violent social consequences of illiteracy and the disturbing effects of bullying. Only a filmmaker of Kiarostami's magnitude can lend such imposing power to a static shot interview with a kid. (Available: Youtube)

Where’s the Friend’s Home?
Inspired by and reflective of the elegance and deceptive simplicity of modernist Persian poetry, this film became Kiarostami’s ticket to international fame. The story couldn’t possibly get any simpler: a young boy discovers a classmate’s notebook in his bag and walks over to the neighboring village in order to find his house and give him the notebook. Soulful and deeply rooted in the fabric of rural culture in the north of Iran, in Kiarostami’s hands, this minimalist film is elevated to a near spiritual experience. (Available: Youtube, DVD, DVD)

Through the Olive Trees
The third instalment in Koker Trilogy, this is the director’s best film and remains criminally under-seen. Kiarostami creates a delicate and intimate story by, ironically, highlighting the deceit and artificiality inherent in fiction filmmaking. Through the Olive Trees, Iran's Oscar submission in 1994, tells two parallel stories — the film within the film, and the making of the film within the film — that accentuate the boundaries between form and content, and simultaneously assert their cinematic inseparability. This is a film in which we see the same take as it is being filmed and refilmed several times, and are nevertheless moved to tears when the effort is finally over; it's as if Kiarostami is taking perverse pleasure in tugging at our heartstrings while continuously reminding us that his film is a synthetic construct. This masterwork is a testament to the sheer emotional force of cinema and to the director's keen eye for finding magic in small, innocuous moments of human interactions. (Available: Dailymotion Part 1, Part 2)


Happy 10th Anniversary, Mr & Mrs Smith

Mr. & Mrs. Smith celebrates its tenth year anniversary today so in lieu of diamonds (which we hear is what's customary on this occasion), here's Manuel offering up some choice words about the lovely couple -- who knew they'd make it this long!? Or that it would take them another 10 years to co-star again (By the Sea, opening this November)

I remember it vividly. Some friends and I caught a weekend screening of Mr. & Mrs. Smith, the film that had brought two of Hollywood’s biggest stars together (yes, cinematically, but also, as it turned out, romantically). The gossip mags had gone insane but we were obviously more excited about the film itself which we’d heard was slick and enjoyable. This was peak charming Brad (Snatch, The Mexican, Ocean’s franchise) before we’d lose him to more highbrow fare that only sporadically allows him to slap on a smirk and a winking look. It was also a transitional moment for Jolie coming as it did after a string of artistic and commercial flops (Life of Something Like it, Sky Captain, Alexander) and reinvigorated her career as an action star beyond Lara Croft. In a way, it was lightning in a bottle...

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Happy 75th Waterloo Bridge

Today is the 75th anniversary of Vivien Leigh's favorite from her own filmography Waterloo Bridge (1940). You shoud definitely see it if you only know Scarlett & Blanche



Best Shot Special: The Orson Welles Centennial !

HMWYBS: Mid Season Finale 

Orson Welles  burst on to the cinematic scene in 1941 with Citizen Kane, which has led numerous film polls across the decades as the 'Best Film Ever Made'. (Kane's nearest rivals for the title in frequent pollings here and there seem to be Vertigo and The Godfather) It famously lost all but one of its Oscar nominations (Orson Welles and Herman J. Mankiewicz his co-writer took the Original Screenplay prize, Welles' only competitive Oscar) but genius is rarely fully appreciated in its time. Incredibly, the writer/director/actor was only 26 at the time but he was no one hit wonder adding several more classics to his filmography before his death at 70 years of age in 1985. For today's Hit Me With Your Best Shot episode, our midseason finale (the series returns on June 3rd), I asked participants to choose between Citizen Kane (1941), The Magnificent Ambersons (1942, my personal favorite of his), and The Lady From Shanghai (1948) depending on what they felt like watching.

Gawk at beautiful screengrabs from those movies from 10 Best Shot participants. Click on any of them to be taken to the corresponding article singing that shot's praises...

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