Farrelly and Farrelly, Kazan, Levy, Stoller, Wain

The Three Stooges (Bobby Farrelly and Peter Farrelly, 2012). Strangely, this attempt to update the Three Stooges for a modern audience is the most disciplined Farrelly brothers film in years. That doesn’t mean it’s good per se, but the screenplay does have a tightness and care that’s been largely missing from the siblings’ work for at least ten years or so. There’s some genuinely inspired staging to the hyper-violent comic set pieces featuring the trio of orphaned doofuses clumsily beating the hell out of each other which carries over the broader narrative. Not much of it is especially funny or … Continue reading Farrelly and Farrelly, Kazan, Levy, Stoller, Wain

Allen, Cuaron, Jarmusch, Kazan, Kaufman

Stranger Than Paradise (Jim Jarmusch, 1984). A New Yorker’s Hungarian cousin comes to visit, staying with him for an extended period, despite his initial protests. He grows to like her, eventually recruiting his buddy to join him in paying her a visit when she later moves to Cleveland. That trip evolves and the three of them wind up traveling to Florida together. And that’s about it. Jarmusch’s signature aesthetic was forged here as he often seems to be trying to see how little action he can put into any given sequence. Sometimes that can be wearying, but here it works … Continue reading Allen, Cuaron, Jarmusch, Kazan, Kaufman

Howard and Williams, Kazan, Mamet, Penn, Weber

The Missouri Breaks (Arthur Penn, 1976). The film has Marlon Brando at the very beginning of his anything goes, deliberate insanity phase, and Jack Nicholson still wrapped in the energy of his wild genius phase (this film arrived in theaters almost exactly six months after One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and just a couple months after he won his first Oscar). It’s a revisionist western, a style and genre that Arthur Penn had done quite well with a few years earlier. All this makes it equal parts surprising and sad to report that the resulting film is drab. The … Continue reading Howard and Williams, Kazan, Mamet, Penn, Weber

Pivotal Film Selling Out Your Monkey

Taxi to the Dark Side (Alex Gibney, 2007). This Oscar winner for Best Documentary Feature catalogs and condemns the harsh treatment of prisoners in the Bush administration’s zealous “war on terror.” Gibney lays out the evidence of vicious abuse and clear-cut torture perpetrated by the American military at prisons in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Just as importantly–arguably even more importantly–he examines the ways in which the highest leaders created, encourages and perpetuated the environment for these horrendous practices and then casually, heartlessly blamed the enlisted men when the worst of it came to light. Like Charles Ferguson’s No … Continue reading Pivotal Film Selling Out Your Monkey

Outside it’s a bright night, there’s an opera at Lincoln Center, movie stars arrive by limousine

Blow Out (Brian De Palma, 1981). De Palma is a fascinating figure to me. He emerged with the film school generation of the seventies, standing shoulder to shoulder with the likes of Scorsese, Coppola and Spielberg, indeed earning the most rapturous reviews bestowed upon any of them by the grand doyenne film critic of the era. To this day, there are a fleet of people who will proudly stand up and talk about every scrap of his output as if it were the needs to be studied with the unwavering attention usually reserved for the peak offerings of Welles or … Continue reading Outside it’s a bright night, there’s an opera at Lincoln Center, movie stars arrive by limousine