IMMORTALITY: Hitchcock/Truffaut and He Never Died


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Warning: SPOILERS

hitch 1One of the great Woody Allen’s more well-known quotes is his musings on the end of life. He said: “I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work; I want to achieve immortality through not dying”.

Recently, two films have played in which the central characters achieved immortality in one of those ways.

The documentary Hitchcock/Truffaut is based upon a series of interviews that the great New Wave French filmmaker, Francois Truffaut, had with one of his most important influences, the more polished Hollywood filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock.

It was an attempt in a way to save the master of suspense. Up until then, though considered one of the most reliable and successful filmmakers of histime, Hitchcock still really wasn’t taken as seriously as he is now for the simple reason in that he made “thrillers”, a genre that was not considered something that filmmakers who took the art form seriously entered into (back in 1940, Gary Cooper turned down the lead in Foreign Correspondent, a role that went to Joel McCrea, because he felt that this genre of film was unimportant and beneath him—a decision he said later was his greatest mistake). Continue reading

PASSING THE LIGHTSABER: Star Wars: The Force Awakens


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Warning: SPOILERS

 

 

sw 3The new Star Wars film (Star Wars: the Force Awakens to be exact) has a simple theme: the only thing that can stop a bad guy with the force is a good guy with the force.

All in all, I would have to say that this new entry in the franchise is both better than the original Star Wars and not as good as the original Star Wars.

It’s better acted than what is now known as A New Hope; the dialog is a bit more pithy and witty; the characters are somewhat less one-dimensional; and the special effects less cheesy.

But there’s one thing the original space opera had that the new one doesn’t, can’t and will never have. Continue reading

My recommendations for film watching this week in L.A. 12/25-1/1/15


First, a word from our sponsors: I am now offering a new service: so much emphasis has been given lately to the importance of the opening of your screenplay, I now offer coverage for the first twenty pages at the cost of $20.00.  For those who don’t want to have full coverage on their screenplay at this time, but want to know how well their script is working with the opening pages, this is perfect for you.  I’ll help you not lose the reader on page one. 

 

Ever wonder what a reader for a contest or agency thinks when he reads your screenplay? Check out my e-book published on Amazon: Rantings and Ravings of a Screenplay Reader, including my series of essays, What I Learned Reading for Contests This Year. Only $2.99. http://ow.ly/xN31r,

 

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My recommendations for movie watching this week in L.A. 12/25-1/1/15

djangoON NETFLIX: Now that The Hateful Eight has opened, for those of you who missed Django Unchained, perhaps it’s time to play catch up. Written and directed by Quentin Tarantino (natch), it’s the story of a slave turned bounty hunter (Jamie Foxx) with the help of Oscar winning Christoph Waltz. Also along for the ride is Leonard DiCaprio, Samuel L. Jackson (who else), Bruce Dern, Walton Goggins and James Remar (to name just a few). A bit overlong (it has a false ending), but still a fun watch.

red beardON HULU: Akira Kurosawa’s 1965 film Red Beard (his last in black and white) is basically the same story as Dr. Kildare and many other movies about doctors, but with so much more depth and vibrancy that it’s ridiculous to compare the two. It’s also Toshiro Mifune’s last film with the great director (personal and artistic reasons caused the split). With some incredible acting by the supporting characters, perhaps some of the best in a Kurosawa film.

revenantFIRST RUN and OPENING: The Revenant, The Hateful Eight, Joy, Concussion, Son of Saul, Star Wars: the Force Awakens Continue reading

A BIT SHORT: The Big Short and The Hateful Eight


First, a word from our sponsors: I am now offering a new service: so much emphasis has been given lately to the importance of the opening of your screenplay, I now offer coverage for the first twenty pages at the cost of $20.00.  For those who don’t want to have full coverage on their screenplay at this time, but want to know how well their script is working with the opening pages, this is perfect for you.  I’ll help you not lose the reader on page one. 

 

Ever wonder what a reader for a contest or agency thinks when he reads your screenplay? Check out my new e-book published on Amazon: Rantings and Ravings of a Screenplay Reader, including my series of essays, What I Learned Reading for Contests This Year, and my film reviews of 2013. Only $2.99. http://ow.ly/xN31r

 

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Warning: SPOILERS

big short 1The Big Short, like Spotlight, is the one of those movies ripped from the headlines—of years and years ago; but this time the subject is not pedophile priests, but the downfall of the American economy. Written by Charles Randolph and the director Adam McKay, from a book by Michael Lewis, it’s also a very satisfying bit of agitprop theater with Brechtian distancing devices thrown in for good major.

It basically tells the story of four different groups of people who all realized, more or less at the same time, and years ahead of schedule, that the housing mortgage bubble was going to burst in 2007 and destroy the world’s economy.

This leads to the movie’s major irony: the people who figured this out then proceed to invest heavily against the U.S. economy, making tons of money when their Cassandra like prediction of doom came true.

So basically, we in the audience, along with the characters in the movie, find ourselves and themselves actually hoping that the U.S. financial system tanks like the Titanic. Continue reading

My recommendations for film watching this week in L.A. 12/18-25/15


First, a word from our sponsors: I am now offering a new service: so much emphasis has been given lately to the importance of the opening of your screenplay, I now offer coverage for the first twenty pages at the cost of $20.00.  For those who don’t want to have full coverage on their screenplay at this time, but want to know how well their script is working with the opening pages, this is perfect for you.  I’ll help you not lose the reader on page one. 

 

Ever wonder what a reader for a contest or agency thinks when he reads your screenplay? Check out my e-book published on Amazon: Rantings and Ravings of a Screenplay Reader, including my series of essays, What I Learned Reading for Contests This Year. Only $2.99. http://ow.ly/xN31r,

 

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My recommendations for movie watching this week in L.A. 12/18-25/15

tangerine oneON NETFLIX: Tangerine, written by Chris Bergoch and the director Sean Baker, is a marvelous independent film about a transgendered woman and working girl who spends her Christmas Even hunting down her pimp when she finds out he cheated on her while she was in prison. Funny, moving and marvelous acted, this is one of the best films of 2015. Kitana Kiki Rodriguez and Mya Taylor are wonderful as the two best friends at the center of the story.

cadillac

ON HULU: Underappreciated at the time of its release, Cadillac Man is one of Robin Williams’ best performances. In this manic comedy written by Ken Friedman and directed by Roger Donaldson, Williams is a used car salesman whose boss has put an impossible quota on those who work for him. But interrupting the day is a relative early Tim Robbins who crashes the sale and holds everyone at gunpoint because his girlfriend is sleeping with someone at the lot. Hysterical.

saul twoFIRST RUN and OPENING: Son of Saul, Star Wars: the Force Awakens, He Never Died, Dreams Rewired, (T)ERROR, The Big Short, Ingrid Bergman in Her Own Words, Chi-Raq, Theeb, Youth, Creed, Brooklyn, Carol Continue reading

MIXED DOUBLES: Legend and Night Owls


First, a word from our sponsors: I am now offering a new service: so much emphasis has been given lately to the importance of the opening of your screenplay, I now offer coverage for the first twenty pages at the cost of $20.00.  For those who don’t want to have full coverage on their screenplay at this time, but want to know how well their script is working with the opening pages, this is perfect for you.  I’ll help you not lose the reader on page one. 

 

Ever wonder what a reader for a contest or agency thinks when he reads your screenplay? Check out my new e-book published on Amazon: Rantings and Ravings of a Screenplay Reader, including my series of essays, What I Learned Reading for Contests This Year, and my film reviews of 2013. Only $2.99. http://ow.ly/xN31r

 

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Warning: SPOILERS

nightowls 1Night Owls, the new self- contained, nearly two person drama written by Seth Goldsmith and the director Charles Hood, takes place in a single location: an upper middle class home.

Poor schlep Kevin gets lucky one night and is picked up at a party by Madeline, a sexy young thing. He takes her to what he thinks is her home and they make the beasts with two backs.

Afterward Kevin wakes up alone in bed. As he gets ready to leave, he discovers that he’s in his boss’s house and that Madeline is his boss’s mistress. Even worse, Madeline has tried to kill herself by taking a bottle of pills (don’t you just hate when that happens), so Kevin has to call a co-worker who then calls a doctor (well, a podiatrist, but the principle is the same).

After helping Madeline regain consciousness, the doctor tells Kevin he has to keep her awake for the rest of the night or she might die. So the two spend one of those evenings together where souls are bared, life lessons are learned and characters arc. Continue reading

IDENTITY CRISES: The Danish Girl and Creed


First, a word from our sponsors: I am now offering a new service: so much emphasis has been given lately to the importance of the opening of your screenplay, I now offer coverage for the first twenty pages at the cost of $20.00.  For those who don’t want to have full coverage on their screenplay at this time, but want to know how well their script is working with the opening pages, this is perfect for you.  I’ll help you not lose the reader on page one. 

 

Ever wonder what a reader for a contest or agency thinks when he reads your screenplay? Check out my new e-book published on Amazon: Rantings and Ravings of a Screenplay Reader, including my series of essays, What I Learned Reading for Contests This Year, and my film reviews of 2013. Only $2.99. http://ow.ly/xN31r

 

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Warning: SPOILERS

 

danish 1The Danish Girl, a movie about the first recorded sex change operation, is a drama made with such good taste, Merchant/Ivory would probably have been proud to claim it as one of their own.

Now why anyone would make a movie about the first recorded sex change operation in such good taste that Merchant/Ivory would have been proud to claim it as one of their own, is certainly beyond me.

Actually, why anyone would make a movie about anything with such good taste that Merchant/Ivory would have been proud to claim it as one of their own, is even more also certainly beyond me.

That is, except for Todd Haynes, who is possibly the only filmmaker who can take good taste and raise it up to art.

But here we have screenwriter Lucinda Coxon (from a novel by David Ebershoff) and director Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech, Les Miserables) who don’t do much that is particularly exciting with the subject matter except to make sure it’s dressed up as beautifully as a picture by John Singer Sargent, with gorgeous costumes, marvelous sets and beautiful cinematography. Continue reading

GROWING UP IS HARD TO DO: Theeb, The Peanuts Movie and The Night Before


First, a word from our sponsors: I am now offering a new service: so much emphasis has been given lately to the importance of the opening of your screenplay, I now offer coverage for the first twenty pages at the cost of $20.00.  For those who don’t want to have full coverage on their screenplay at this time, but want to know how well their script is working with the opening pages, this is perfect for you.  I’ll help you not lose the reader on page one. 

 

Ever wonder what a reader for a contest or agency thinks when he reads your screenplay? Check out my new e-book published on Amazon: Rantings and Ravings of a Screenplay Reader, including my series of essays, What I Learned Reading for Contests This Year, and my film reviews of 2013. Only $2.99. http://ow.ly/xN31r

 

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Warning: SPOILERS

theebTheeb is Jordan’s entry in the Foreign Language Film category at this year’s Academy Awards.

I think that it was stated best by one movie critic I heard on NPR: If you only see one Jordanian film this year, this is definitely the one to see.

Theeb is a first rate coming of age story. It’s what one might term a big little film. The plot in many ways is simple, but the background at times, the vast deserts, the wide vistas, the looming mountains, the huge backdrop of nothingness seen against an endless sky, gives it the feeling of a Lawrence of Arabia, Jr. (and parts of that movie were filmed on location there). Continue reading

My recommendations for film watching this week in L.A. 12/11-12/18/15


First, a word from our sponsors: I am now offering a new service: so much emphasis has been given lately to the importance of the opening of your screenplay, I now offer coverage for the first twenty pages at the cost of $20.00.  For those who don’t want to have full coverage on their screenplay at this time, but want to know how well their script is working with the opening pages, this is perfect for you.  I’ll help you not lose the reader on page one. 

 

Ever wonder what a reader for a contest or agency thinks when he reads your screenplay? Check out my e-book published on Amazon: Rantings and Ravings of a Screenplay Reader, including my series of essays, What I Learned Reading for Contests This Year. Only $2.99. http://ow.ly/xN31r,

 

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My recommendations for movie watching this week in L.A. 12/11-18/15

beasts ON NETFLIX: Written and directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga (based on a novel by Uzodinma Iweala), Beasts of No Nation is not an easy movie to always sit through. The plot revolves around Agu, a pre-teen who, during a civil war, is abducted by some guerillas and forced/manipulated into becoming a warrior for their side. The ending is possibly a bit too hopeful for the subject matter; it’s unclear that the story has really earned it. But it’s a very well done, well written and powerful story about the situation in some unstable countries in Africa.

blind chance_kieslowski (31)ON HULU: Blind Chance is one of writer/ director Krzysztof Kieslowski’s finest films, as well as one of his most influential. A young man drops out of medical school and runs to catch a train. His story is played out three ways: if he makes the train; if he doesn’t make the train with no repercussions; if he doesn’t make the train and gets in trouble with the authorities. A haunting, beautiful film with one of the most shocking endings in film.

bit shortFIRST RUN and OPENING: The Big Short, Bleeding Heart, Boy and the World, Christmas Again, In Jackson Heights, Ingrid Bergman in Her Own Words, Chi-Raq, Janis: Little Girl Blues, Theeb, Hitchcock/Truffaut, Youth, Creed, Brooklyn, Carol Continue reading

PERIOD PIECE: 1950’s America, Brooklyn and Trumbo


First, a word from our sponsors: I am now offering a new service: so much emphasis has been given lately to the importance of the opening of your screenplay, I now offer coverage for the first twenty pages at the cost of $20.00.  For those who don’t want to have full coverage on their screenplay at this time, but want to know how well their script is working with the opening pages, this is perfect for you.  I’ll help you not lose the reader on page one. 

 

Ever wonder what a reader for a contest or agency thinks when he reads your screenplay? Check out my new e-book published on Amazon: Rantings and Ravings of a Screenplay Reader, including my series of essays, What I Learned Reading for Contests This Year, and my film reviews of 2013. Only $2.99. http://ow.ly/xN31r

 

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Warning: SPOILERS

brooklyn 2I’m not sure what it is about America in the 1950’s, but it has become very popular as of late in film. Three movies this year that took place during the Eisenhower era have captured the fervent imagination of the audience: Carol (which I’ve already reviewed), and now Brooklyn and Trumbo.

Hm. It seems that that time period also has a penchant for titles with only two syllables as well.

The reason for this mini-Renaissance may all be due to the success of TV’s Madmen, which dramatized America’s transition from the 1950’s to the 1960’s.

Or maybe instead, “transition” is more the key word here. The 1950’s is one of the great transitional periods in our nation’s history, slowly trying to grow away from the conservation way of life of the Depression and World War II, struggling to break free so it can surge into the Summer of Love.

And it all happened under a Republican president no less. Continue reading