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Archive for December 27th, 2016

hudsucker-4830

by J.D. Lafrance

It had to happen. After an impressive run of critically acclaimed independent films, culminating with Barton Fink (1991), which won the top three awards at the Cannes Film Festival, the Coen brothers – Joel and Ethan – made their first Hollywood studio film, The Hudsucker Proxy (1994), with none other than uber producer Joel Silver. Most film critics were unimpressed with the final result and if hitching their wagon to Silver was the Coens’ attempt at appealing to a broader audience that too failed as the film flopped at the box office. What the hell happened? It certainly wasn’t from a lack of trying as The Hudsucker Proxy starred a trifecta of stellar acting talent with Tim Robbins, Paul Newman and Jennifer Jason Leigh. Hell, the Coens even enlisted their long-time friend and fellow filmmaker Sam Raimi to co-write the screenplay.

As if eerily foreshadowing the film’s fate, the opening voiceover narration observes the protagonist’s destiny: “How’d he get so high and why’s he feeling so low?” I’ve always felt that The Hudsucker Proxy is the Coen brothers’ most (unfairly) maligned film, which is a shame because it has a lot going for it, including witty dialogue, incredibly detailed production design, some jaw-dropping set pieces, and their usual rogue’s gallery of doofuses, blowhards and snappy wiseasses. This film should be seen as the Coens’ affectionate homage to the classic screwball comedies of the 1930s and 1940s.
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mighty-e-1

by Sam Juliano

Might-E is a story about an introverted Indian-American girl since birth who needs no more than some symbolic prodding to break through her shell and develop some much needed social skills.  The author, Jordan J. Scavone equates those with dynamic personalities to superheros like the Man of Steel, who can “leap buildings in a single bound,” are “faster than trains” and possess the strength to lift an elephant over their heads.  The book’s illustrator Caitlyn Knepka showcases three adolescents who possess these skills, with each boasting one of these propensities.  As a young girl who wasn’t even able to negotiate someone looking at her without bursting into tears, Emma dreamed of herself as a cape wearing superhero, the very antithesis of what she was, an easily frightened toddler reduced to sucking on a pacifier in a toy room.  Emma’s father gave much studied thought at finding a solution to this lamentable impasse, finally exclaiming Eureka! to a sudden jolt of imagination he referred to as “brilliant.”   The time to launch the new strategy was set at Emma’s fourth-birthday, when she is given a blue box with a  purple ribbon as a present.  She is a bit suspicious at first, but soon enough unwraps the paper and box to find a purple mask and pink garment that when worn will enable her to transform into “the mightiest superhero the world has ever seen!”  The illustration where she first dons the elastic mask and the one when she is sen confidently in full garb in a double page spread projected in streamer laden celebratory mode represents Knepka’s finest work in the book.  Emma, arms to hips, cape extended exudes a defining air of confidence. (more…)

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