Thursday, September 30, 2010

RIP Tony Curtis

I can only hope that the passing of a genuine star will halt the distressing series of deaths this week. That stardom, and all the notoriety that entailed, tended to eclipse the career, but if we lop off the peripheral final decades (save for scene-stealing parts in 1976's The Last Tycoon, besting an array of old and new Hollywood talent, and Nicolas Roeg's Insignificance in 1985) we find a strong and varied core of work: comedies (Some Like It Hot), hard-hitting dramas (The Defiant Ones, his Oscar nominee), fun popcorn pictures (The Vikings, which my movie group adored when I showed it a few years back), epics (Spartacus), true crime films (The Boston Strangler)...and those are just one of each. A word, too, for his standout performance in the Ira Hayes biopic The Outsider (1960). And no one forgets the relentless Sidney Falco, in Sweet Smell of Success. "Match me, Sidney" his best Curtis was matchless.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

RIP Arthur Penn

Penn directed four of my favorite films: The Miracle Worker (1962), adapting his Tony-winning direction of the play so sensitively it may be the best stage-to-screen translation ever, the groundbreaking Bonnie and Clyde (1967), the great American story of Little Big Man (1970), and a touchstone film of its decade, Night Moves (1975). Two others, The Chase (1966) and Alice's Restaurant (1969), are as compelling as they are confounding. Cases have been made for other films I find far more problematic, like Mickey One (1965) and The Missouri Breaks (1976). He should have received an honorary Oscar. Oh, and I laughed all the way through the Broadway show Fortune's Fool (2002), an unlikely adaptation of Turgenev adaptation, with its crackerjack, Tony- and Drama Desk-winning performances by Alan Bates and Frank Langella. A keen loss for stage, screen, and television.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Home Movie Day

Show 'em if you got 'em; all we had growing up were some "Polarvision" things that never worked. Flip Video, though, is great and an absolute must for parents.


Light Industry
177 Livingston Street, Brooklyn

Saturday, October 16
1pm - 7pm

A celebration of amateur filmmaking held annually at venues worldwide, Home
Movie Day is an opportunity for individuals and families to dig out their
home movies and share them with an audience. It's also a chance to have your
prints and tapes inspected by archivists and learn about their long-term
care and preservation. Stop by for half an hour or hang out the whole day!

Bring these formats and we'll do the rest:
FILM: 8mm, Super 8mm, and 16mm
VIDEO: Hi-8mm and VHS

"There's no such thing as a bad home movie. These mini-underground opuses
are revealing, scary, joyous, always flawed, filled with accidental art and
shout out from attics and closets all over the world to be seen again. Home
Movie Day is an orgy of self-discovery, a chance for family memories to
suddenly become show business. If you've got one, whip it out and show it
now." - John Waters

Presented by:
Center for Home Movies, Light Industry, and the NYU Libraries Preservation

More information:

Popdose: Liza from A to Z

So the editor said that Liza Minnelli has a new CD out, and maybe it would be fun to take a look back at her film/TV career. And so it is written. And it was fun. Cabaret (pictured): Damn good movie, damn great performance. Rent-A-Cop? Not so much.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Bill Plympton writes...

"In just ten short days my new animated feature film Idiots and Angels opens for its U.S. premiere at the famous IFC Film Center on October 6, 2010.

Since it's a small budget film, financed out of my pocket, I need a big crowd at the cinema on 6th ave and 3rd st... I need a mob! I need a riot! I need a circus! I need a big brass band! I need chaos as everyone tries to see my new animated feature.

But don't just go see it because I put my heart and soul into it, or because its  up against Hollywood big budget animated feature, or because you want to support indie films, or even because I'll end up in debtors prison if it flops. NO! Go to see it because it is the most amazing, twisted film on the New York screens to date! That is reason enough to go see Idiots and Angels.

I see you there and we'll hang out after the film for pizza and beer."

RIP Gloria Stuart

I saluted her 100th birthday on July 4. The inevitable followup posting has come quicker than I would have liked, but the star of The Old Dark House and The Invisible Man in the 30s and Titanic in 1997 lived what was by all accounts (including her own 1999 memoir) a full and contented life, and I salute her once more on her passing. Fun fact: She was so spry at age 86 it took an hour-and-a-half per day to transform her into her 101-year-old Titanic self (pictured).

Friday, September 24, 2010

Popdose: On Disney fantasies

Return to ancient lands via the old school Black Cauldron and the newfangled Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, with an abbed-up Jake Gyllenhaal.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Popdose: Never Let Me Go and Catfish

Tiptoeing around the plot twists of two new movies; circling The Square on DVD; and appraising the poster art of Drew Struzan in a new book. Never Let Me Go is pictured.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

"Can Celluloid Break Bricks?"


September 24, 7:00 pm
Unnameable Books
600 Vanderbilt Ave., Brooklyn
(Q/B to 7th ave., or 2/3 to Grand Army Plaza)

This is the second installment in a series of book parties, book parties which celebrate books that are not new, but still deserve to celebrated: books about film, together with screenings of related movies, thoughtful discussion and cheap wine.

On Friday evening the 24th, at 7pm, we present Film and the Anarchist Imagination by Cineaste editor Richard Porton (Verso Books, 1999), and The Angry Brigade by Gordon Carr (dvd, 1973, 60min).

Film and the Anarchist Imagination explores anarchism’s portrayal in film over the past 100 years, and the anarchist ideas and tendencies that have made their way into every genre and size of production. Alongside film history, Porton introduces the anarchist traditions and movements that provided a backdrop for radical and reactionary cinemas.

This event serves as a live, updated edition of the book. The author will discuss with us the films and videos that didn’t make their way into the first edition, and the changes in radical filmmaking and anarchist thinking and action since the book’s release. We’ll also tackle why a real new edition of the book is perhaps unlikely to materialize, in the current market world of left-wing publishing.

Following the discussion will be a screening of The Angry Brigade, a documentary about “Britain’s first urban military group.” This film is not mentioned in the book (so we’re inserting it tonight, in pictures), but we will discuss the film, and the issues it brings up, with Porton after the screening.

A free zine with a collection of relevant writings will be available to all attendees.

Join us for cinema, books, wine, critique, theory and rambling, outdoors while we still can, in Unnameable Books’ backyard, in the heart of Prospect Heights, Brooklyn.

Contact Rachael Rakes: 646-226-1754 or

Sunday, September 12, 2010

RIP Kevin McCarthy

One of those days, sadly...the actor would have had a perfectly respectable career, including an Oscar nomination (for the 1951 film of Death of a Salesman; he appeared onstage in its original London production), Broadway credits from the 30s to the 80s, lots of TV, and movies that included The Misfits, The Best Man, and A Big Hand for the Little Lady. But starring in Don Siegel's 1956 classic Invasion of the Body Snatchers gave him iconic status--he's ideally cast as a workaday exemplar of the human race--and filmmakers who grew up on it gave him a continual lease on creative life, notably Joe Dante, who featured him in Piranha, The Howling, Twilight Zone: The Movie, where he was funny and disturbing in equal measure, and Innerspace, among others. (He was also in the 1978 Body Snatchers remake, and his presence in the two since might have helped.) McCarthy, who died at age 96, worked right up until the end.

RIP Claude Chabrol

Marketed as "the French Hitchcock," his films must have disappointed anyone looking for action, thrills, setpieces. But the best were supremely intelligent, a mixture of classical elegance and surprising bluntness, dead-centered on the hypocrises of the bourgeois. My film group watched Le Boucher (1969) in 2006, and were held by it (so was Hitchcock, who wished he had made it, but perhaps not in the same way). I've written about Chabrol before; adhering to a Woody Allen-like film-a-year schedule for decades, often working with family members, he always gave you something to write about, unlike his contemporaries in the French New Wave, as they branched into non-commercial filmmaking or fell away.

But for all I've seen I don't feel I've seen enough, and I can't quite come to grips with it. You can do a "Chabrol/Isabelle Huppert" retrospective, which is a fantastic idea, spotlighting his excellent collaborations with the actress...but you can also do a double feature of his two late 80s duds with the unlikely Andrew McCarthy, not that anyone would show up to see how Chabrol and the international market never quite came to terms. Better too much than too little, however, and there is a place in my dark heart for La Ceremonie, Violette, This Man Must Die, Les Biches, and The Cousins. A final film, and his first with Gerard Depardieu, Bellamy, awaits.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Popdose: Bummer summer ends

As The American, George Clooney ends a bomb-filled season with a bang. With appearances by Salt, Scott Pilgrim, Mesrine and, on DVD, The Girl by the Lake.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Popdose: Corman and Gamera

"Roger Corman's Cult Classics," including Death Race 2000 and Galaxy of Terror, are roaring and rampaging on DVD and Blu-ray. Watch out for Gamera: The Giant Monster, too.