Would that it were so Simple – Hail Caesar! (2016)

This time around, the brothers are the Boy Scouts who prank by soaping the windows of an institution and then set fire to a bag of dog poop at the front gate. They appear to be on a lark, having some harmless fun, until a stomping-out of the flames reveals the contents of the bag.

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Loopiness Unleashed – Burn After Reading (2008)

The Coen’s may have produced more highly praised films in their brilliant run, but none have the breezy celebration of pure idiocy as this comedic confection that allows top drawer performers to explore their inner fools.

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Cate Blanchett – Ten from a “10”

Every generation has one, maybe two, if they’re lucky. So solid are their statures that when they are tagged with just a first or last name, a stream of images and sound bites cascades in one’s memory. Streep, Redgrave, Signoret, Christie, Hepburn, Garbo and Bergman. Add to that, Blanchett.

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Genre Blast: Family Matters & the Ties that Bind

If society can be considered the organism, the family is the structural adhesive that holds the cells of that organism together. As every organism is bombarded daily by threats and external pressures, the family is where these challenges are met and dealt with; problems are examined and the family unit adapts, and the organism evolves. Things can get dicey, however, when the adjustment that works for the family does not exactly jive with society’s expectations, and this makes for inimitable drama onscreen.

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The Original MegaStar – Rudolph Valentino

The son of a widowed mother who did poorly in school but was blessed with good looks leaves Italy at the age of 18 in search of a better life – and ended up creating the blueprint for the “rags-to-riches” legend of which Hollywood is so fond. Rodolfo Alfonso Raffaello Pierre Filibert Guglielmi di Valentina […]

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Last Tango in Paris and the Context of Memory

What started with I am Curious Yellow in the late 60s begat 1971’s challenging jamborees such as A Clockwork Orange, WR: Mysteries of the Organism, Ken Russell’s The Devils. 70s auteurs pushed the envelope without remorse – or fear. To experience Last Tango in Paris in the same context in which it first appeared is simply impossible now, but we were ready back then.

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Charlie Chaplin Birthday Salute: Still Relevant After All These Years

More often than not, art can reach that part of the human psyche impervious to hard news or political posturing. We salute the “little tramp” for his prescience and determination, and post this as an amusingly serious reminder that the world has not evolved all that much in the past 78 years.

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A Birthday Toast to Emma Thompson

It’s one thing to have “actor, author, screenwriter, and activist” on one’s resume; its quite another to continue to realize them as competently as Emma Thompson. Well, perhaps “competently” is a bit of an understatement.

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The Insider – Blowin’ Smoke at Big Tobacco

Millions more people have died of ailments caused by cigarette smoke than by all terrorist attacks in every country since time began, so when Michael Mann opens his film about tobacco industry whistleblower Jeffery Wigand (Russell Crowe) with CBS producer Lowell Bergman (Al Pacino) preparing a 60 Minutes interview with Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah, cleric and cheerleader for suicide bombers, Mann had me at “hello.”

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Julie Taymor’s TITUS: Guess Who’s Going to be Dinner

The bard was not only brilliant at loftier themes like self-awareness, politics and the contemplation of the many forms of love, he could also mash-up horror, sex, violence, torture and cannibalism with the best of them – then and now. And he does it all in iambic pentameter, the playwrights’ equivalent to Ginger Rogers doing everything her partner does, only backwards and in heels.

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Boy in the Dark: A Conversation with Filmmaker Jason Ragosta

Jason Ragosta not only knows what he wants to do in the future, he’s become proficient in pulling it off at every level. Filmotomy will stalk his career with big expectations – watch Boy in the Dark here and see if you don’t agree. The Vimeo password for the short is: Diana

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So Netflix Cannes-n’t Dance? – Some Thoughts

Distributors may have a stranglehold on some festivals, but art is like water – it finds the path of least resistance and eventually makes its way through, under and around the barriers to reach the thirsty. If filmmakers can reach audiences without bowing to the pressure of having to be “the best” or winning an award, so much the better.

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The Last Temptation of Christ: Marty Tests the Faithful

As Jesus hangs from the cross in agony, fulfilling his duty, a child appears to temporarily remove his spirit and guide him through “what could be”, should he decide to forsake his destiny. What he presents to Jesus is a logical and simple argument, a promise of a normal, long-lived life filled with love, children and, most appealing, normalcy. It’s a fantastic, life-affirming sequence and, unfortunately, one that drove the Christian purists absolutely nuts.

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Masterpiece Memo: Raging Bull

When the opening credits begin in Raging Bull and we see a distant, hooded figure in the smoke-filled ring in warm-up sparring mode – presented in cosmic slow motion and set to the celestial “Intermezzo” from Cavalleria rusticana and the pop of flashbulbs – we sense that we are entering untrod territory.

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Lina Wertmüller & Her Frames of Rebellion

Lina Wertmüller will open your mind, make you laugh, wince, and, at some point, probably piss you off. She was a force in 20th Century filmmaking, and the likes of Jane Campion, Sophia Coppola, Kathryn Bigelow and Greta Gerwig owe her a huge abbracciare for the path she carved through the male-dominated jungle of film directing.

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Boogie Nights – Paul Thomas Anderson Flames-Out the 70s

All eyes – and hearts – were on James Cameron’s insipid boat ‘n berg epic, but twenty years later, there is little doubt which of the two films advanced the legacy of American filmmaking. Paul Thomas Anderson has a vision and I doubt he cares what we might think of it…and thank goodness for us all.

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Oscar Rant – Building a Better Mousetrap

Oscar is a snapshot in time, a prom queen, the MVP of a game. It’s borderline idol worship by those in pursuit of “winning”, a validation that our tastes are in sync for some, a betting competition for many, and a glammed-up sideshow of camp for the rest of us.

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Steve’s 2017 Top Ten…for now, anyway

I’m not a fan of “top tens” because they are living, breathing, ever-changing organisms, but I’ll play along and share a current snapshot of my own personal favorites from 2017.

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WHY SO SERIOUS? – Heath Ledger, Chris Nolan, & the Villain of the Century

Heath Ledger is the only Nolan lead actor to reap critical acclaim and top it all off with an Oscar – posthumously. No glad-handing parties, talk show campaigning, no bullshit falderal that puffs from these proceedings like a bad case of gas. It was his performance, pure and simple, that overcame, for one brief moment, AMPAS’ distaste for both the genre and actors his age.

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