Category: Retrospectives

Apes Together Strong: Revisiting the Original Planet of the Apes Franchise

A man and woman, clad in the clothing of primitive humans, make their way across a beach on horseback. He smiles at her and she smiles back. They ride on. Eventually they come to stop and the man, Taylor, gets off the horse and stares agape at something we cannot yet see. The camera pulls back and we see the half-buried ruins of the Statue of Liberty. The man sinks to his knees. “Oh my God. I’m back. I’m home. All the time, it was…We finally really did it. You maniacs! You blew it up! Ah, damn you! God...

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The Secret of NIMH: Still The Dark Antidote In Children’s Films

The Secret of NIMH really is something completely different. This was true even more so when it was released 35 years ago. Its creator, Don Bluth, got his start working for Disney, the only game in town when it came to large-scale animation projects. After working on numerous features, including Robin Hood, The Rescuers, and supervising animation on Pete’s Dragon, Bluth struggled in the oppressive big studio environment. After mounting frustration due to Disney moving away from classic style animation, he left with a small number of other animators to create his own animation studio, Don Bluth Productions. The...

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A Look Back at Don Siegel’s The Beguiled

Overview: After a girls’ seminary school in rural Mississippi, allegiances are tested and a seemingly idyllic community devolves into jealousy and violence. Universal Pictures; 1971; 105 minutes. Take a lesson by me: Miss Martha Farnsworth Seminary for Young Ladies exists as a microcosm of the rural Mississippi society in which they live with one major difference: there are no men. The eponymous Martha Farnsworth (Geraldine Page) is strict and harsh with the children, patronizing with the teacher Edwina (Elizabeth Hartman), and Hallie (Mae Mercer) their slave, lives as a second-class citizen on the grounds. Despite some petty arguments, those at...

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Minority Report 15 Years Later

Dystopian. Orwellian. After 15 years, Minority Report is still a both beautiful and gritty depiction of our future. Alternating between technological eye candy and the crumbling realism of urbanization, the film has a remarkable authenticity—a kind of futuristic setting that is still just familiar enough to remain plausible. Director Steven Spielberg’s vision of 2054 was surprisingly optimistic, given the warning at the heart of the story. Like many dystopias, the film weighs the costs of a safe, orderly society against the price of the freedoms it inhibits. At its center remains the complex, theoretical question of whether we are...

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A Look Back at Funeral Parade of Roses

Toshio Matsumoto’s Funeral Parade of Roses (1969) is one of those rare Japanese films which, while heavily borrowing from the aesthetics and genre iconography of other countries and cultures, is distinctly, unmistakably singular in vision, execution, and impact. Trying to winnow it down into any kind of movement isn’t just inappropriate, it’s outright reductive. Yes, the film feels heavily inspired by the American queer and underground cinema scenes à la Andy Warhol, Kenneth Anger, and Jonas Mekas, the latter of which is directly quoted by one of its characters. Many of its formal techniques seem pilfered from the creative...

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Predator – Vietnam in a Haunted House

Predator was the first horror movie I ever watched. At the time, I was eight or nine, I didn’t know it was a horror movie and I don’t think my parents knew either. As far as we were concerned, if Arnie made it, then it was an action movie. It was only when I re-watched Predator recently that I saw that even though the movie is billed as a sci-fi/action movie, it’s actually a slasher flick. The greatest sci-fi horror movies are the first two Alien movies. Alien is the quintessential haunted house movie while Aliens used the xenomorphs...

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Figuring Out What to Do With Women 30 Years After The Witches of Eastwick

“Do you think God knew what He was doing when He created woman?….Or do you think it was just another one of His minor mistakes like tidal waves, earthquakes, floods! You think women are like that?” Thus roars Daryl Van Horne (Jack Nicholson) in the center of a scandalized church audience, in his wind blown pink overcoat, covered in dirt and feathers, vomiting cherry stones between punctuated lines of a raging monologue, begging us to consider: just what are we to do about women? Witches of Eastwick (1987) remains (maybe disconcertingly) relevant after 30 years, unapologetic for its own...

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The Mummy (1932) Still Looms Over the Landscape of Monster Movies

The Mummy has always been there. Like the best monsters, this creature is omnipresent and unsettling. This is how I felt when finally sitting down to watch the original 1932 version of this Universal creature. The Mummy, along with other seminal creatures, like Dracula and Frankenstein, is something you know even before you have seen it. Whether it was from Saturday Morning Cartoons like Scooby-Doo or dime store Halloween costumes, the Mummy is an absolute fixture. My own personal introduction, strangely, was in a comedy I watched with my father, Abbott & Costello Meet The Mummy. Of course, there...

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20 Years Ago, Con Air Showed Us God Does Exist (And He Might Be Nic Cage)

Have you ever been looking out of the window in the backseat of a parked car, or maybe from the center or rear of a passenger bus, and, upon noticing an adjacent vehicle shifting from your view, felt a panicked certainty that it was your vehicle that was drifting into motion? It’s more than just an optical illusion. It’s a kind of chronostasis, in which your mind’s perception of events stumbles over the actuality of the events. In truth, in this situation, it is more likely that a vehicle next to you was moving. Or perhaps two or more...

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“They gotta tell you somethin’: Patty Jenkins and the Politics of Monster

It’s a typical modest Hollywood success story. A young, female writer/director gets her first crack at a feature—a character-driven true story about an ill-fated love affair between two women, undone by one’s inability to heal the septic damage of her past and the destructive lengths she goes to incise it from her body and spirit. The film does well. Really well. For whatever reason, maybe this director sticks to TV for a few years (slumming I’d argue, she’s got chops destined for greatness, if chops were a quantifiable thing). Fourteen years pass before she lands her next feature—one of the...

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Sister Act and the Roles We Play 25 Years Later

There are two movies from my childhood that I’ll never get sick of. The kind I sit down and watch when I catch them on TV, simply joyful movies that made me laugh and comforted me through bouts of the flu. They were released within a year of each other (1992 and 1993) and both of them feature characters whose survival or happiness depend on convincingly becoming different people. The first of these is Mrs. Doubtfire, and the second, 25 years old today and so worthy of celebration, is Sister Act. The early ‘90s comedy warmed many hearths with...

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“I’ll See You Again In 25 Years”: Marathoning ‘Twin Peaks’

At 10:30 AM on 26th March, I entered Duke of York’s Picturehouse, Britain’s oldest cinema in continuous use. At 19:30 PM on 27th March, I left.  I’d just spent 33 hours drinking coffee, eating doughnuts, and watching Twin Peaks. I wouldn’t commit myself to a marathon screening of any other show – in fact, up until this point the longest I’d spent in the cinema was to see Nymphomaniac parts 1 & 2 back-to-back. But Twin Peaks is different. While it may have stiff competition for favourite TV show, I feel confident in saying it has been the most electrifying and influential...

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‘Wild at Heart’ is an Adolescent’s Dream and Nightmare

There is a language in dreams and a set of rules. That is why, when we’re dreaming, everything, every weird little thing, seems perfectly normal until we wake up. No other director speaks that language or knows those rules better than David Lynch,  whose career has been built on being able to take dreams and nightmares and translate them perfectly to film. Wild at Heart, his Palme d’Or-winning 1990 film, is very much a dreamer’s movie. It is the story of two young lovers, Sailor and Lula, who run away from her family to travel across America doing nothing but dancing,...

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Whatever You Desire: L.A. Confidential’s 20 Year Anniversary

L.A. Confidential is a movie, probably under-viewed by more modern audiences, which will never age. It simply masters the art of the period picture. Even after many rewatches, there are few, if any, moments that feel either too dated or too modern. This is rarer than it sounds. Yes, it is aided by the fact that it is set during a time that few of its viewers were alive to see. But it would be simple to list many period films that do not manage to avoid these pitfalls. Is it the script, the performances, the impeccable direction from...

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The Inimitable Singin’ in the Rain: 65 Years Later

Nine years ago, I was in my last semester of college and had just started dating the guy who would eventually become my husband. We were at that stage in our relationship where any moment not spent together was a moment wasted, and so we often attended each other’s large lecture classes in order to hold hands under the desk and write notes to each other in the margins of our notebooks. And learn, too, of course. He sat with me in my Greek and Roman Mythology fluff course, and I sat with him in his film class. And...

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