Category Archives: Articles

Super 8 and the way we remember

Titles have always interested me. Some are succinct and convey the basic idea of the film immediately (Se7en, Another Earth), while others manage to almost lazily describe some basic plot device or aspect of the film (Horrible Bosses, Larry Crowne). The truly astounding titles are few and far between (Adaptation., There Will Be Blood), and their power only comes from being coupled with a suitably brilliant film. But the titles I like most of all, the ones that crop up all the time, are the microcosmic ones. They aren’t particularly witty, but they do involve a deft sleight of hand, as if the goal is to make you believe you already know what the title means. Inglorious Basterds, Rebel Without a Cause, and many other classics fit into this mold, but so does the recent summer blockbuster Super 8. Earlier this year, we reviewed Super 8, finding it to be one of the very best movies to come out this summer. It is certainly that, in spite of the criticisms it has garnered for its fantastical second half. But what’s also interesting is how its title connects to our memories and the process of making them.

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The End of an Era: Deathly Hallows Pt 2 sets new bar for fantasy

This weekend marks the last hurrah for the Harry Potter film franchise. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (book) was released in 1997, Pottermania fully hit the U.S. in 2000 with the release of Goblet of Fire,* the film franchise began in 2001, and the final book was released almost exactly four years ago.  Suffice it to say – we have spent a long time inhabiting the wizarding world of J.K. Rowling in one form or another.  Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. 2 has sold an unholy number of tickets for the midnight premiere, with regular reports of sold out screenings a week in advance.  Deathly Hallows Pt. 2 will surely go out with a bang financially.  What’s so surprising is how it positions itself as one of the best fantasy films ever made – better even than any of the Lord of the Rings films. Continue reading

Tetro and Youth Without Youth – Twin masterpieces from a once great director

I love Apocalypse Now. It is one of my very favorite films ever made. I love all three entries in the Godfather Trilogy, although I naturally prefer the first two to the third. I think The Conversation is a master class in post-Hitchcock tension, only rivalled by Brian DePalma’s output in the early 80’s. And yet somehow, every time someone mentions Francis Ford Coppola, director of all four, as one of the greatest directors ever to make a film, I have a small spasm, just this side of a gag reflex. Coppola made four of the greatest films ever, yes, but his work since then has largely left me cold, or worse, provoked loathing. That is, until his most recent films, following a break beginning in 1997, when after he finished The Rainmaker Coppola decided to focus on his family, and perhaps also his wine. In 2007 he returned to the big screen with a self-financed Youth Without Youth and then again in 2009 with Tetro. Both are stunning achievements and place him back amongst the cream of this generation, a place he hasn’t been in over 25 years. Continue reading

Five DVD labels who consistently push good films

When you walk into a videostore or check up on your Netflix queue, it’s generally a crapshoot finding new movies you haven’t heard much about. Here at The Filmsmith, we’ve made a habit of letting you in on some of the underground releases every week, movies you might not have heard of otherwise. But we typically can only get to one a week, and there are dozens of others making their way to home video, some for the first time. Here’s a list of a few DVD companies who have consistently put out good films – to such a degree that if you see something released by them, you can bet it’s probably top notch stuff. Continue reading

Videogames: Fun, but no story.

When Halo:Reach was a released back in September  2010 it made almost 200 million dollars in a day.  Over an extended weekend (Wednesday-Sunday), the biggest blockbuster can only muster $125 million.  These figures, combined with growing attempts by the video game industry to become more accessible to the general public (Wii, Xbox 360’s Kinect), make it a medium on the rise.  The only problem is we have yet to see a truly great story told by this technology. Continue reading

The Burden of Dreams: Five Films that Barely (If Ever) Got Made

Several weeks ago, Flicker Alley released a documentary called Henri Georges Clouzot’s Inferno, which chronicled the attempt to make the titular film by the titular director. Clouzot was famous for his thrillers in the 50’s (Le Corbeau, The Wages of Fear, Les Diaboliques), and with his newest venture attempted to make his masterpiece. Unfortunately, until now, what he was working on never saw the light of day, because Clouzot suffered from an unlimited budget, a strict deadline, an insurmountable vision, and in the end, the loss of his lead actor and a heart attack. But Clouzot is not alone; rather, he is surrounded by cinematic greats when it comes to lost, or nearly lost, projects that almost killed them.  Hee are several of his companions in the desolate locale of brilliant failure. Continue reading

Mercy for Monsters: Humanizing child killers and Nazis in M and Inglourious Basterds

Next to Metropolis, Fritz Lang’s M is one of his most famous films. The film’s narrative (police and criminals alike searching for a child killer), the noir lighting, its breakthroughs in sound (introduced a mere four years prior), and Peter Lorre’s infamous monologue all cement M as a classic, even nearly a century after its release.  Meanwhile, Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds is unjustly infamous for its manipulation of history. What I find most fascinating about the two films is how they treat their respective monsters (child killers and Nazis) and how their stories reflect attitudes toward societal ills.

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“Rome” Album Pays Tribute to Italian Film Scores

In the humble opinion of this reviewer, the greatest film composer of all time is Ennio Morricone. Famous for his genre -defining scores for Sergio Leone (The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, and Once Upon a Time in the West), he has also created the profoundly beautiful scores for The Mission and Days of Heaven. He has collaborated with Samuel Fuller in White Dog and Brian de Palma in The Untouchables. His music is unforgettable and ubiquitous, and now Danger Mouse, one of the great musical voices of this generation is going to pay him tribute with his new album Rome. Continue reading

“The Steel Helmet” delivers punches on race and American identity

Samuel Fuller is a forgotten auteur. He seldom makes an appearance on lists of the great American directors, yet he inspired countless careers (Martin Scorsese and Jean-Luc Godard, for starters) and made some of the grittiest, most profound films in American history. Like Walt Whitman before and Robert Altman after, Fuller sought to define a uniquely American form of expression. Film noir had a French name and German origins, Hitchcock and Chaplin came from Britain, Welles was cast out of Hollywood, and Fuller picked up the pieces to try and decipher the countless fragments of the American psyche. This led him to a central preoccupation throughout his career: the paradoxical presence of racism and freedom in the national identity of America. The Steel Helmet, his film set and shot during the Korean War, tries to resolve the problems of having an integrated army in a racist world. Continue reading

“No Time for Sentiment” in Night of the Living Dead

In Tom Ford’s 2009 film A Single Man, protagonist George Falconer is briefly accosted by a colleague who insists that he prepare for imminent nuclear attack. They live in the mid-1960’s and the threat of mutually assured destruction hangs over them constantly. So much so that this colleague has constructed a bunker as Nemo constructed the Nautilus–piecewise, so that none of the contractors would know all of its specifics. His paranoid attempt to win George over includes the line, “There will be no time for sentiment when the Russians fire a missile at us.” George responds, “If it’s going to be a world with no time for sentiment, Grant, it’s not a world that I want to live in.” It is a world with no time for sentiment that George A. Romero is discussing in his landmark horror film Night of the Living Dead. Continue reading