Google+ Cinema Viewfinder: January 2011

Monday, January 31, 2011

RIP John Barry

by Tony Dayoub

British John Barry was a distinctive Oscar-winning composer who contributed greatly to the style of the contemporary spy film with his themes for the Bond series. He brought a lush romanticism at odds with the violence depicted onscreen which helped shape 007, the secret agent which men everywhere wished they could be. But this aural opulence also benefited action/adventure movies, historical epics, and of course romantic melodramas like the first film whose theme I highlight below, Somewhere in Time (1980).

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Happy Birthday, Cinema Viewfinder, Courtesy of Rubén Blades and the Fania All Stars

by Tony Dayoub

As Mark Twain said, "The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated." In fact, my disappearance can be explained by my laptop's badly timed decision to implode last week. So as I try to piece together my mini-database, the blogs I follow, my all-important bookmarks and the like, allow me to take a moment to tout the 3rd anniversary of this blog.

I'd also like to acknowledge the momentous events in Egypt and the Middle East, an area where a significant amount of my readers live. Stay safe, and know that the whole world watches you.

I plan on updating the site with a new review soon. Until then.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

And Two Weeks in Another Town begat...

by Tony Dayoub

Just finished watching Warner Archive's remastered edition of Vincente Minelli's Two Weeks in Another Town (1962), a fine film based on a bestseller by Irwin Shaw. The melodrama is frank in its look behind the scenes of a troubled Hollywood production being shot in Rome. Kirk Douglas plays washed up actor Jack Andrus, lured out of an extended "drying out," at what used to be called a sanitarium, by director Maurice Kruger (Edward G. Robinson), who himself has seen better days. Kruger is shooting a film at Cinecittà starring young Davie Drew (George Hamilton), a volatile actor not unlike Andrus during his tumultuous youth. One thing leads to another, and Andrus must take over for an ailing Kruger, manage his mercurial star, and contend with a manipulative ex-lover (Cyd Charrise), all while gripping tenuously to his eroding sanity. The passion of Minelli's drama, its abrupt tonal shifts from comedy to drama, from romance to disillusionment, and its deep cynicism, all reflected in the director's knack for expressionistic use of color, stands in stark contrast to Sofia Coppola's recent Somewhere (2010).

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Best of 2010: The Best DVDs of 2010

by Tony Dayoub

Like the song says, “Everything old is new again.” 2010 saw the studios doubling down on Blu-ray as the economy began to improve. With that decision, DVD collectors were faced with deciding whether films they already owned were worth the upgrade when released on Blu-ray. In many cases, a good DVD of a relatively recent movie will approximate the same quality as the newer discs because of a Blu-ray player’s “upconvert” feature. It’s often in the classic film arena, or what are referred to as catalog releases, where one sees the biggest difference. That is why many home theater aficionados gravitate to these discs.

It is also why the majority of the films on my list are pre-1980 and on Blu-ray (those on Blu-ray are available on DVD as well).* Watching these on Blu-ray can often be revelatory, as I’ll point out in individual entries. But don’t worry. I also highlight a few new films from the last year. Also, all of the entries are readily available in the US. In some rare cases where films are only available on DVD, I will point that out as well.

*One disclaimer: There are a multitude of DVDs and Blu-rays released every year, making it incredibly difficult to catch up with them all. This list simply reflects the best of what I caught this year (with obvious personal prejudices skewing the list even further). So if you disagree, or feel something was unjustly left out, feel free to send in some suggestions. I might want to check them out.


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Blu-ray Review: Robinson Crusoe on Mars (1964)

by Tony Dayoub

Criterion reissued Robinson Crusoe on Mars on Blu-ray last week, and it is the first time I see this, I can now say regrettably, ignored classic science fiction film. Many, both fans and non-fans of sci-fi alike, will point to its title as one reason they've chosen to overlook it. It is definitely one reason I kept delaying my own viewing, watching it now only because I was curious as to why Criterion offered this entry in their collection. I'm sad now that I ever waited this long.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Best of 2010: The 10 Best Films of the Year

by Tony Dayoub

Last night's electrifying fuck-it-all performance by Ricky Gervais as host of the Golden Globes has prompted me to start closing the door on the cinema of 2010. This past year, I was fortunate enough to see most movies relatively early (still yet to see: Blue Valentine, Enter the Void, Four Lions, The Illusionist, Mother, A Prophet, Restrepo, Sweetgrass, Tiny Furniture). Last week, online mag Wide Screen published my top 23 films of the year; an odd number, yes, but this was a good year for movies. I encourage readers to check the article out, where my fellow writers (including editor Glenn Kenny, The New York Press' Simon Abrams, MTV's Kurt Loder, Self-Styled Siren Farran Smith Nehme, The Village Voice's Vadim Rizov, and feature writer Karl Rozemeyer) and I discuss the recurring myth that the past year was a bad one for cinema (as well as peer into what 2011 looks like from here).

After the jump, you'll find a preview of my list highlighting the top 10 entries. When possible, I link to my past reviews of each film. More thoughts on each movie can be found in the newest issue of Wide Screen.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

RIP Susannah York

by Tony Dayoub

"I hated that appellation, ['film star,'] I was an actor. I did not want to have an image, be seen as the blue-eyed, golden-haired ingénue. Being a 'star' seemed to lock you into an image and I was always frightened of that because I knew I would disappoint people. I knew I wouldn't be like that and I didn't want them to get the wrong end of the stick so early on."

Recommended Films - Freud, Tom Jones, A Man for All Seasons, They Shoot Horses, Don't They?, Images, Superman: The Movie, Superman II (theatrical cut)

Thursday, January 6, 2011

American Movie(s)

by Tony Dayoub

Criterion's latest box (available on Blu-ray and DVD), America Lost and Found: The BBS Story, is a wonderfully curated set that rewards both those unfamiliar with Seventies-era American cinema and those well versed in its behind-the-scenes accounts of the near incestuous repertory company which was at its vanguard. BBS Productions was led by producer Bert Schneider, director Bob Rafelson, and former booking agent/manager Steve Blauner. As the studio system quickly faded away, and America's youth counterculture began to take hold, the independent BBS had virtual free rein from their partners at Columbia Pictures to produce films that often captured the malaise of the period, opening the door for mainstream cinema to incorporate an unprecedented realism. This freedom was earned chiefly by BBS's success with some unlikely films like the existential biker film, Easy Rider, or the elegiac The Last Picture Show.