Jones, Kubrick, LeRoy, Park, Tourneur

Gold Diggers of 1933 (Mervyn LeRoy, 1933). This big musical from the tail end of the Pre-Code Hollywood era is fascinating for its many contradictions, beginning with the framing of Great Depression challenges with a notably defeatist cheer. The production numbers are the handiwork of Busby Berkeley (the songs are by Harry Warren and Al Dubin) and they show off his skill at mesmerizing vastness. “We’re in the Money” is probably the most famous, but others are more interesting, especially the lengthy “Pettin’ the Park,” which includes a strikingly sexy moment involving a bevy of beauties changing behind a sheer … Continue reading Jones, Kubrick, LeRoy, Park, Tourneur

Top Fifty Films of the 60s — Number One

#1 — Dr Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (Stanley Kubrick, 1964) It may be that true cinematic genius stems less from an ability to fulfill a particular vision to the letter and more from a knack for pulling together all the unwieldy challenges that beset any production into a coherent, satisfying finished product. When pieces threaten to go flinging off the rig while it’s moving at top speed is when a director’s talent is truly tested. Compromises can always be transformed into advantages, but it takes someone with the intellect, patience, creativity and … Continue reading Top Fifty Films of the 60s — Number One

Spectrum Check

I had a lot of stuff go up at Spectrum Culture this week, so let’s just tick them off: –It’s fairly rare that I write for the book section, but it occurred to me late last fall that I just might be able to get myself a review copy of the massive, intimidating and universally adored new outing from Chris Ware, Building Stories. Evidently, I made my request right before our editor-in-chief, inspiring at least a bit of envy. That’s the proper reaction on his part, by the way. This thing is spectacular. In my many reviews for Spectrum, this … Continue reading Spectrum Check

Top Fifty Films of the 70s — Number Four

#4 — A Clockwork Orange (Stanley Kubrick, 1971) Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange is widely considered a classic. I can’t think of another film in the same exalted status that is as brilliantly, exuberantly, comically savage. In adapted Anthony Burgess’s 1962 novella of the same name, Kubrick tore free the ferocious id of humanity and laid it bare, ultimately questioning whether the true problem was the roiling internal rage and impulsive hedonism of people or the cloying attempts of society to contain those instincts. Untamed passion may lead to random acts of violence and terror against innocent people, but isn’t … Continue reading Top Fifty Films of the 70s — Number Four

Kubrick, Kurosawa, Robbins and Wise, Rydell, Wilder

Harry and Walter Go to New York (Mark Rydell, 1976). A colleague of mine at Spectrum Culture wrote about this nostalgic caper comedy a while back, calling it “a delightful farce of a film.” Not really, but it’s surely an oddball relic of the era when nineteen-seventies adventurism gave way to self-defeating excess. Clearly inspired by (and given its greenlight due to) the smashing success of George Roy Hill’s The Sting a few years earlier, the film casts Elliott Gould and James Caan as a pair of hackneyed vaudevillians in the late nineteenth century who get caught up in a … Continue reading Kubrick, Kurosawa, Robbins and Wise, Rydell, Wilder