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Archive for the ‘J.D.’s film reviews’ Category

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By J.D. Lafrance

Martin Scorsese’s truly great films have all had a personal touch to them. One only has to look at films like Mean Streets (1973), Taxi Driver (1976) and Raging Bull (1980) to see a real vitality and energy to the action on-screen. It is these early films that convey a real sense of someone intensely in love with film — which may be due in part to the fact that Scorsese and his cast and crew were just starting out. Mean Streets, in particular, is a visceral, intimate experience that is just potent today as it was when it first came out.

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Sidney Lumet’s Q & A

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By J.D. Lafrance

Among the many genres prolific filmmaker Sidney Lumet has dabbled in, the one in which he excels and demonstrates the most affinity for is the crime thriller. In particular, he is fascinated with police corruption and how the law and order system works (or, in some cases, doesn’t work) in New York City. In the 1970s, he told the story of an undercover cop who deals with corruption among his fellow officers with Serpico (1973). In the 1980s, he depicted the plight of a police detective that informs on his cohorts after being busted himself in the magnum opus Prince of the City (1981). In the 1990s, Lumet tackled police corruption yet again but this time via the angle of racism with Q & A (1990). Based on the novel of the same name by New York judge Edwin Torres, Lumet’s adaptation received mixed reviews from critics and was largely ignored by audiences of the day. It has become something of a forgotten, underappreciated film in Lumet’s filmography and one that deserves to be rediscovered.
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By J.D. Lafrance

After the breakout success of Run Lola Run (1998) established his international reputation, Tom Tykwer reteamed with his leading lady Franka Potente for a follow-up film entitled, The Princess and the Warrior (2000). He wisely opted not to repeat the frenetic pacing of the thrill-a-minute Lola, instead slowing things down with Princess, which depicts an unconventional romance between two very different people. He tells a touching, sometimes tragic tale that not only demonstrated his versatility as a filmmaker but also that of his cinematic muse Potente who plays a very different character from the one she portrayed in Lola. While Princess wasn’t as big a hit as Lola it was a much richer experience emotionally as we watch two people try to connect with each other amidst the chaos of the world around them.
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By J.D. Lafrance

In the early 1980s it must’ve seemed like a crazy idea to mix several contemporary actors with clips from classic films into something resembling a coherent story. Even now it seems like a pretty wild idea and one with few antecedents (Kung Pow! Enter the Fist is the only one that comes immediately to mind). But director Carl Reiner and comedian Steve Martin had the chutzpah to give it a try with Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid (1982), a comedy that simultaneously pays tribute to and affectionately parodies film noirs from the 1940s and 1950s. Only a few years earlier, Reiner and Martin hit comedic pay dirt with The Jerk (1979) and so anticipation was high for this new collaboration. The result was a rare cinematic experiment that was viewed by some as lazy filmmaking and a clever homage by others.
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By J.D. Lafrance

“Do you think I’m going to see him standing in the street and say, ‘there he is.’ That’s Houdini you’re thinking about. Toothy Fairy’s going to go on until we get smart or get lucky. He won’t stop…He’s got a genuine taste for it.” — Will Graham

Before Jonathan Demme’s Academy Award winning The Silence of the Lambs (1992) graced the screen with Anthony Hopkins in all of his visceral glory, Michael Mann’s little remembered (and seen) thriller, Manhunter (1986) presented a very different kind of Hannibal Lector. While Demme’s film opted for over-the-top performances and needlessly gory scenes of violence, Mann’s film took a subtler, creepier approach to its material. Manhunter is less interested in depicting the actual killings (the main attraction of this genre when it became popular) than in the cerebral and actual legwork required to enter the killer’s frame of mind and track him down.
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By J.D. Lafrance

Sam Peckinpah spent his career fighting against the Hollywood studio system to make his own distinctive brand of films. Out of all the ones he made only on Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974) was he given final cut privileges. The film is the epitome of a grungy nihilism that was in vogue with many American filmmakers during the 1970s with Peckinpah leading the charge in 1969 with the explosive deconstruction of the western that was The Wild Bunch. Coupled with his love affair with the country of Mexico, the veteran director created a deeply personal film that alienated critics and mainstream audiences alike back in the day, but has gone on to become one of his most highly regarded films.
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Quiz Show

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By J.D. Lafrance

In a 1985 interview Robert Redford said of his film Downhill Racer (1969): “It represented what was happening in this country—the slow realization that you’ve been given a false legacy growing up as a kid. Namely, it wasn’t whether you won or lost but how you played the game. But that just wasn’t true. It was whether you won. People don’t remember who finished second. And you could get away with anything so long as you were winning.” As a profile on the man in Film Comment observed, Redford has been fascinated with “the American obsession with winning and capitalism’s inevitable exploitation of the winner.” This time, working behind the camera as director, he examined these ideas with Quiz Show (1994), an engrossing look at the television quiz show scandals of the 1950s.
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