Released just in time to (no doubt coincidently) synch with WikiLeaks' recent publication of the U.S. Military's Afghanistan war logs, the DVD released of co-directors Judith Ehrlich and Rick Goldsmith’s Oscar-nominated documentary looks at the events that compelled Daniel Ellsberg, a former Marine and defense department staffer, to leak the Pentagon Papers to The New York Times in an effort to stop what he deemed an unjust Vietnam War. Grade: A-
In a quiet borough of Lower Merion, Penn., sits the greatest collection of Post-Impressionist and early Modern art that people have never heard of. Don Argot’s passionate documentary examination of the art collection's outright theft by Philadelphia power mongers could help change that level of ignorance, but not in time to prevent it's seizure by the Philadelphia Museum of Art — scheduled for 2012.
Visual Acoustics, a documentary beautifully and artfully made by Eric Bricker, shows the delighted, sweet way that architectural photographer Julius Shulman welcomed that fame in his last years, and even shows him working, with an assistant, on a few final valedictory projects.
When it was released in 1977, the documentary Word Is Out: Stories of Some of Our Lives was touted as one of the first films about gay life made by gay filmmakers. This wasn’t entirely true, of course. Jean Genet, Kenneth Anger, Andy Warhol, Rosa von Praunheim, Curt McDowell and many others had been dealing with such subjects for decades.
Set in a small, pre-World War I German-Protestant village, the narrative is conveyed via the voice over of a now-aged former village schoolteacher who admits that the "strange events" about to unfurl might not reveal "the truth in every detail" but that they "may cast a new light on some of the goings-on in this country."
George A. Romero is cinema's point man when it comes to zombie horror, and rightfully so. His groundbreaker, 'Night of the Living Dead' (1968), and its sequels set the rules and regulations for the subgenre: The dead have come back to life, they move slowly and they want to eat you. However, another director must be credited for some of contemporary zombiedom's successes, too: Lucio Fulci.
War films detailing the loneliness, camaraderie, fears and moral questionings experienced by those in battle and on the home front are nothing new. French filmmaker Serge Bozon's 'La France' is no exception in that regard, though a series of jaw-dropping surprises transform the film into a wartime chronicle unlike any ever filmed.
If you rank the greatest, most historic moments in series television, near the top would have to be an early 1968 episode of The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour in which Pete Seeger sang his classic “Waist Deep in the Big Muddy,” a pointed, caustic attack on the disastrous Vietnam War and the “big fool” of a U.S. President (Lyndon Johnson) who pushed it. (Yes, it’s more important than Lost’s last episode.)
The Baader Meinhof Complex, a 2009 Best Foreign Language Film Oscar nominee, continues this introspection, charting the rise and fall of the Baader-Meinhof Group, the inner circle of the hard-left terrorist organization The Red Army Faction, which besieged Germany and much of Europe from the late 1960s through the late ’70s.
I’ve been complaining for years about Nicolas Cage’s slide from subversive, unpredictable actor (see Valley Girl or Vampire’s Kiss, among other ’80s gems) to the checkcashing Hollywood joke he appears to be today. An entire generation of moviegoers has essentially come of age thinking of Cage as the guy in big-budget mediocrities like The Rock and National Treasure movies.
Because of the gentle family sitcoms of the period like Leave It to Beaver most of us think of the 1950s as a golden era for life in middle-class America. But the movies had a different view (as did literature), one suggesting that underneath the pleasantness not everything was perfect.
Penelope Spheeris knows youth culture. From her notorious Punk and Metal docs to big studio successes like Wayne’s World, she has made a mark as a filmmaker with an eye for the looks, tastes and attitudes of America’s young.
A scruffy, harelipped guy runs a lit candle across his naked body. The flame makes him wince in pain and whisper laughter. The laughs continue as he begins to masturbate furiously, eventually ejaculating a stream of fire high into the air. This shock opens Hungarian director György Pálfi’s Taxidermia, and it sets the tone perfectly.
More than 30 years ago, Werner Fassbinder protégé Ulli Lommel set up camp in New York and became ensconced in the city’s burgeoning Punk movement. The experience inspired him to make a movie about the disaffected youth who were sneering at the music industry’s status quo at top volume with only the barest concern for structure, melody and convention.
Tim Burton’s latest has catapulted Lewis Carroll’s most famous creation back into the cultural limelight. Capitalizing on this, Infinity Entertainment Group has released a bare-bones single-disc assemblage of related shorts and features that span the history of cinema — some adhering closer to Carroll’s vision than others. Though raggedy, the collection contains a few gems.