Film at Lincoln Center magazine to go on hiatus

 

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Film at Lincoln Center’s Rendez-Vous with French Cinema and Mapping Bacurau events have been cut short, and its New Directors/New Films series with the Museum of Modern Art was postponed; the center’s annual Chaplin Awards Gala fundraiser has also been postponed until this fall. (Image Courtesy: Variety).

 

On Friday, Film at Lincoln Center executive director Lesli Klainberg released a memo announcing the organization would be furloughing or laying off half of its fifty-person full-time staff and all of its part-time employees, according to Variety. While continuing to provide health insurance for the furloughed full-timers, the company (which has published Film Comment since 1962) will release the May/June issue of the cinema and arts magazine digitally, after which time it will be placed on an indefinite hiatus. As per recommendations from the Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control, the center already suspended its theater operations March 12.

Amazon Prime review: Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Godfather” (1972)

Following the success of his Pulp Fiction (1994), Miramax wrote Quentin Tarantino a blank check.

Using that carte blanche, he shot Kill Bill: Volume 1 (2003) and Kill Bill: Volume 2 (2004), which this critic would argue are his masterpiece, even though Pulp Fiction is the more successful movie.

Paramount did the same for Francis Ford Coppola after The Godfather (1972), and that artistic freedom, so fleeting in show business, gave us The Conversation (1974), the most significant sound picture since Alan Crosland’s The Jazz Singer (1927).

And, as with Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill, The Conversation is the auteur’s masterwork, even though The Godfather is the more influential.

If you don’t know what to watch next, The Godfather is available on Amazon Prime. The crime film was nominated for eleven Academy Awards, winning three, including Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay.

The filmmaker himself cowrote the script with Mario Puzo, who originally penned the 1969 novel of the same name upon which the movie is based.

Set in 1945 New York, Don Vito Corleone (Best Actor Marlon Brando), head of a crime family, is gunned down in the street when he refuses to invest in as well as provide political protection for drug lord Virgin “The Turk” Sollozzo (Al Lettieri).

His firstborn boy, Sonny (James Caan), takes over the family business, while middle son Fredo (John Cazale) seeks shelter from Moe Greene (Alex Rocco) in Las Vegas and youngest son Michael (Al Pacino) flees to Sicily as a gang war erupts between the Five Families.

With Vito’s daughter, Connie (Talia Shire), married off to the abusive Carlo Rizzi (Gianni Russo), the Corleone power vacuum faces further destabilization.

The Godfather is popularly regarded as one of the greatest releases ever made. While its importance is indisputable, the same cannot be said about its merits.

As a three-hour intergenerational, international period piece masquerading as a pulpy gangster drama, it is mainstream claptrap for a wide audience.

Nino Rota’s romantic score, though a classic, is out of place in what ought to be a gritty crime saga, and this tonal inconsistency is what kneecaps the text’s greatness.

It belongs in the same class as Victor Fleming’s Gone with the Wind (1939) or David Lean’s Doctor Zhivago (1965), not when it should be the next William A. Wellman’s The Public Enemy (1931). It’s unethical because it quite literally romanticizes the Mafia for young men.

Pretensions aside, The Godfather redeems itself through Brando. His performance in Elia Kazan’s A Streetcar Named Desire (1950) is a masterclass in method acting, and he is iconic as the eponymous Godfather.

It’s not only his dialogue but also his delivery, that makes Vito Corleone such a moment of a character.

And Puzo and Coppola’s screenplay is peppered throughout with quotable lines. They do weave a mythological tapestry rich enough to inspire two epic-length sequels, and it could have been as genius as The Conversation if not for the commercialization of its style.

Make no mistake, The Godfather is a studio production, which is why Coppola didn’t win Best Director; as it stands, anybody else could have made it just as well, if not better.

But the film is a mile marker for Italian American representation.

It’s not altogether positive representation, but it’s a cast of Italian American actors (well… except for Caan) playing Italian American characters under an Italian American director according to a script written by two Italian Americans, and it was a cultural phenomenon.

One of the reasons The Godfather Part II (1974) surpasses its predecessor is because it unpacks the oppression Italian Americans face, as well as the extenuating circumstances that backed a slim minority of them into a corner where there was no way out but organized crime.

Without The Godfather, we wouldn’t have Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas (1990), HBO’s The Sopranos (1999-2007), or, for that matter, The Conversation, and, for that, it is a worthwhile piece of cinematic history, warts and all.

A mailed-in directorial style is better than an unwatchable one, and an ambitious title is always welcome in an industry that favors the safe over the gutsy.

Frustratingly, however, The Godfather is a groundbreaking work that plays it safe (unlike Goodfellas), but, then again, maybe it had to, to break new ground.

Michael Biehn cast in the second season of Disney+’s “The Mandalorian” (2019-)

 

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Filming for the second season of Disney+’s The Mandalorian (2019-) has recently wrapped production. (Image Courtesy: /Film).

 

Michael Biehn has been cast in the second season of Disney+’s The Mandalorian (2019-) as a bounty hunter from the titular Din Djarin’s (Pedro Pascal) past, according to /Film. A James Camron alumnus, Biehn has starred in The Terminator (1984), Aliens (1986), as well as The Abyss (1989), in addition to action movie classics such as George P. Cosmatos’s Tombstone (1993). Giancarlo Esposito is expected to reprise his role, Rosario Dawson will play fan-favorite Ahsoka Tano, and Bill Burr, Carl Weathers, and Gina Carano are all set to return; Baby Yoda (officially called “The Child”) is back also.

Garry Marshall’s “Pretty Woman” (1990) turns thirty

The Guardian critic Scott Tobias writes that Garry Marshall’s Pretty Woman (1990) may have been released in the 1990s, but it is very 1980s with its “greed is good,” Reaganomics materialism, as well as its ultraconservative sexual politics. After all, it is about a Hollywood Boulevard prostitute named Vivian Ward (Julia Roberts) – who is new to streetwalking, does no drugs, and doesn’t have a pimp – snagging a wealthy out-of-towner named Edward Lewis (Richard Gere), who innocently meets her asking for directions. According to Tobias, Roberts’s star-making turn, which made her America’s sweetheart overnight, elevates the film beyond its shortcomings.

Hulu review: Terence Young’s “Dr. No” (1962)

The mid-twentieth century posed an identity crisis for all of the West, but for the United Kingdom most of all. With the breakup of the British Empire following World War II and the expansion of the Soviet Union in the East, European colonialism was under attack.

It was to be expected for the white male wish-fulfillment that is James Bond to infiltrate English cinema for the next sixty years, which is why 007’s first outing is as dated as curdled milk.

If you don’t know what to watch next, Terence Young’s Dr. No (1962) is available to stream on Hulu. The spy film is an adaptation of the 1958 novel of the same name by Ian Fleming.

Since its release, it is estimated that a quarter of the world’s population has seen at least one of the twenty-four subsequent Bond pictures produced by Eon.

In Jamaica, MI6 Station Chief John Strangways (Timothy Moxon, voiced by Robert Rietty) is assassinated alongside his secretary, Mary Trueblood (Dolores Keator), by “the Three Blind Mice” (uncredited), who steal documents related to “Crab Key” and “Doctor No.”

The Head of the British Secret Service, M (Bernard Lee), dispatches Agent James Bond (Sir Sean Connery) to look into Strangways’s cooperation with the American CIA on a case of disrupted rocket launches in Cape Canaveral via radio jamming.

Bond’s investigation crosses paths with the treacherous Miss Taro (Zena Marshall) and the beautiful Honey Ryder (Ursula Andress, speaking voice by Nikki van der Zyl and singing voice by Diana Coupland) before leading him to the lair of Doctor No (Joseph Wiseman).

The movie is iconic for what would go on to become James Bond’s most recognizable tropes (Monty Norman’s “James Bond Theme,” Maurice Binder’s gun-barrel title sequence, Connery’s line, “Bond, James Bond,” the “Bond girls,” the campy villain, et cetera).

Without it, we wouldn’t have Martin Campbell’s Casino Royale (2006) or Sam Mendes’s Skyfall (2012). But even those superior entries are still answering for the sociopolitical sins of their father.

Intersectionally, Dr. No is as insensitive with its representation as to the most toxically masculine, white supremacist Bond flick you can think of.

Marshall and Wiseman are both white actors playing Asian characters: Miss Taro fulfills the “dragon lady” stereotype of the duplicitous Asian woman seducing the white hero with her exoticism; and Doctor No, the evil Chinese genius plotting to take over the world.

The very setting of the film is symptomatic of the English filmmaker’s juxtaposition of the “civilized” British protagonist against the “barbaric” Third World.

Edward Said’s theories on orientalism state that Western thought can be traced back to René Descartes’s philosophication, “I think, therefore, I am.”

This state of “being” versus “nonbeing” can exist only in a universe of opposites, and, in such a universe, post-Descartes white culture was bound to see anything different from itself as the opposite, as the “unculture” to its “culture,” as an evil to be vanquished.

Bond’s travels to settings like Kingston mimic this invader’s narrative.

And the very casting of Connery itself turned out to be a poor choice for the film’s politics. He said during a Barbara Walters interview he condones violence against women.

As if Bond’s womanizing ways weren’t problematic enough.

And what makes it problematic is what feeds more into the white British male’s power fantasy. Bond always “gets the girl” at the end, objectifying his romantic leads into spoils of war.

The sexualization of “foreign” women is the apparatus through which white Europeans have committed their genocide-by-rape.

But, with Phoebe Waller-Bridge co-scripting Cary Joji Fukunaga’s No Time to Die (2020) and with men and women of color in talks to replace Daniel Craig (who, in and of himself, is redemption for Connery’s Bond), 007 is on its way out from under the shadow of Dr. No.

But, because it’s the one that started it all, Bond will forever have to answer for it. As a (critical) fan of the character, this reviewer doesn’t even enjoy it for what it is – it is offensive, tired, and, worst of all, boring.

In Florida, film industry is doing well

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First created under then-Governor Jeb Bush, the FFEAC is made up of former legislators, business executives, entertainment industry veterans, and community leaders volunteering to advise the Department of Public Opportunity on how to best develop, market, promote, and provide services to Florida’s entertainment industry. (Image Courtesy: Florida Politics).

House Bill 7039, as well as Senate Bill 1636, went before the Florida Legislature at this year’s Legislative Session, threatening to repeal the Florida Film and Entertainment Advisory Council, according to Florida Politics. Even though the Legislature declined to approve a new film production program for 2020, the film industry successfully spoke out against HB 7039 with an amendment to the bill sparing the FFEAC which now awaits Governor Ron DeSantis’s signature. Floridians in the trade earn an average of eighty-two thousand dollars per year, which is two-thirds greater than the state average for all jobs, not to mention the businesses and tourism supported by film and television productions, raking in tax revenues for the government.

Website lists ten greatest thrillers of all time

 

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The arbitrariness of truth and the infinity of human cruelty are key themes throughout thrillers, and shadows, dreams, crime, paranoia, conspiracy, and suspicion are key motifs. (Image Courtesy: The Manual).

 

The “thriller” is difficult to differentiate from the film noir, horror, action, or suspense, according to The Manual. In an effort to define the parameters of the genre, writer Eric Shorey listed some of the best movies considered to be thrillers. The website’s ten best thrillers are: Jonathan Demme’s The Silence of the Lambs (1991); Paul Verhoeven’s Basic Instinct (1992); Christopher Nolan’s Memento (2000); Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite (2019); David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive (2001); Park Chan-wook’s Lady Vengeance (2005); Rob Reiner’s Misery (1990); Nicholas Winding Refn’s Drive (2011); Sir Alfred Hitchcock’s Spellbound (1945); as well as Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut (1999).