Category: The Greats

The Blair Witch Project Is So Perfect, It Can Only Happen Once

Originally published on September 12, 2016. They say that part of the problem with addiction to the harder, more dangerous drugs is that no high feels better than the first one. The Blair Witch Project got me. I have told the story a million times, the way one does with first loves. I watched it on opening night in a small town in my home state of West Virginia, thirty minutes from my house in the woods. Where I lived, there was no internet access (there wouldn’t be for a little while). My family had only had cable just...

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I’m Your Number One Fan: Misery and Perfecting Time, Tone, and Tension

Overview: When a car accident leaves famous author Paul Sheldon for dead in the middle of a blizzard, his life is saved by his number one fan, Annie Wilkes. As Paul recovers, he realizes that he isn’t just Annie’s patient. He’s her prisoner, and she’s got strong opinions about the next stage of his career. Columbia Pictures; 1990; Rated R; 107 minutes. Cold Comfort Rob Reiner’s adaptation of Stephen King’s 1987 novel manages what very few adaptations of the master of horror’s works manage to do. While things that go bump in the night often take precedence when we...

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“This is the Zodiac Speaking”: Fincher’s Film Ten Years On

Originally published on March 2, 2017. The story of what came to be known as the Zodiac murders began on December 20, 1968, though no one knew at the time how significant that particular shooting was to become. There’s no agreed upon date when the murders ended because the Zodiac—a moniker the killer gave himself—has never been identified. His shadow stretches until it just reaches into 1970, though attacks beyond 1969 have never been substantiated. For a period of just a bit more than a year, the Bay Area was paralyzed by the randomness and viciousness of these crimes....

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Hitchcock Flashback: Vertigo

Originally published on August 13, 2015. Overview:  A former detective struggling with vertigo and acrophobia  is hired to shadow the wife of an acquaintance. Paramount Pictures/Universal; 1958; Rated PG; 129 Minutes. A Balanced Perspective:  Every ten years, British Film Institute’s Sight & Sound magazine polls hundreds of critics to rank the Greatest Films of All Time. In 2012, Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo earned the top honor, dethroning Citizen Kane from the spot for the first time in fifty years.  The response from the film community was mixed, a predictable reaction given that that Vertigo was a film that was released...

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Hitchcock Flashback: Rear Window

Originally published August 13, 2014. Overview:  A wheelchair bound photographer recovering from a leg injury observes some suspicious behavior while watching his neighbors to pass the time.  1954; Paramount Pictures and Universal Pictures; rated PG; 112 minutes. Peeping Toms:  The plot of Rear Window revolves heavily around the art of observing others, which is a past time that goes hand in hand with human nature and our innate fascination with comparing ourselves to those around us.  The subject of curiosity bordering on voyeurism is one that is just as much if not more relevant in today’s society as it was when...

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Wayne’s World 25th Anniversary: It Doesn’t Suck. In Fact, It’s Great.

You can quote the hell out of Wayne’s World. The movie is a catchphrase factory. In its every scene, the script co-authored by the movie’s star Mike Myers, who made his big screen debut in the now-iconic comedy, presents at least one famous snippet of dialogue. Wayne’s World introduced or popularized quite the collection of quotes within the pop culture lexicon—some that are still in currency (“We’re not worthy!” and “That’s what she said…”), others that have lost their value (“Ass sphincter says what?” and “Ex-squeeze me? Baking powder?”), and still others that feel as if maybe they missed ...

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Network 40 Years Later: We’re Still Mad as Hell

Network is among the greatest works of contemporary satire in the past forty years. Its pointed skewering of the multimedia marketplace has only become more accurate with each passing year. In the fictional basic cable network Union Broadcasting System, Oscar winning screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky remarkably predicted the formation and susequent rise of such twenty-four hour news behemoths as MSNBC and Fox News. On both sides of the political divide, Howard Beale (Peter Finch) and his populist rants against the unknowable terror of the universe, as refracted and distorted by network programming executives, has found its outlet in real life...

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Midnight Special Finishes The Great 21st Century Film Trilogy

Overview: A father and his son, a child with mysterious abilities, are pursued by federal agencies and a desperate religious group. Warner Bros. Pictures; 2016; Rated PG-13; 111 minutes. Violent Information: Each of the three Jeff Nichols films starring Michael Shannon in the lead role, including Shotgun Stories, Take Shelter, and now Midnight Special, jumps into a first scene cold-opening that sees a father presented with the possibility of losing his child. And each storyline then pursues the father’s coming to terms with the threat, in all cases an idea too large for one person to understand but one that the...

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The Witch is Sublime Horror

Overview: A Puritan family, banished from their community, relocates to the edge of the woods where satanic forces undermine their unity and faith. A24; 2015; Rated R; 93 minutes. Seduction of the Innocent: From the moment the film’s title, stylized as The VVitch, appears on screen, there is something decidedly off about what we’re witnessing. It’s not simply the persistent sense of dread set by Jarin Blaschke’s gloomy cinematography, or Mark Korven’s score of violently clashing strings punctuating large gaps of silence, which create reason for pause. These elements enhance but do not overtake or distract from our central...

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Carol Is A Landmark In Queer Cinema

Overview: In 1950s New York, a young woman confused about her future falls for an older woman, and the two begin a relationship. The Weinstein Company/StudioCanal; 2015; Rated R; 118 minutes. Tragic Flaws: Movies about queer relationships, or even just queer characters, don’t traditionally have happy endings. Even today’s supposedly more progressive cinema indulges in this disappointing trope. Films like The Imitation Game and Dallas Buyers Club seem content to merely trade on the tragedy of these characters, treating them with condescending levels of dignity and grace, but never as human beings. Even legitimately great films like Brokeback Mountain...

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Reservoir Dogs is Quentin Tarantino’s Personal Best

Overview: Seven color-coded, armed criminals come to grips with a heist gone wrong and attempt to discern and discover the traitor in their midst. Miramax Films; 1992; Rated R; 99 minutes. The Pen is Sharper Than the Sword: In a film that is full to the brim with remarkably well-written and superbly performed narrative set pieces, the scene that opens writer-director-actor Quentin Tarantino’s theatrical debut is among the very best of any to be produced over the course of his entire career. In a diner, over a conversation on the sexual promiscuity of the popular recording artist known only...

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Rocky and the Communal Triumph of Losing

Overview: Inconsequential club fighter Rocky Balboa is given a once in a lifetime shot to take on Apollo Creed for the world heavyweight championship. United Artists; 1976; Rated PG; 119 Minutes. The Italian Stallion (Shamrock Meats, Inc.): As contemporary purveyors of film quality, it’s so easy to take Sylvester Stallone for granted, to mistake the masculine bravado he’s exhibited in action role after action role as some kind of substitute for talent. His physique, speech patterns, and quality of star power have become so often parodied over the years, making him another seemingly expendable advertisement for an age of...

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The Incredibles is Still Incredible

Overview: A family of superheroes is forced into hiding but may not be able to stay hidden for very much longer. Buena Vista Pictures; 2004; Rated PG; 115 minutes. Impeccable Fan Appraisal: At Audiences Everywhere, we have a system by which we decide if a movie is a Great or not. A writer pitches an idea and every other writer votes upon it, yes or no. Get enough yes votes and away you go. Get too many No votes, and no dice. When The Incredibles was pitched as one of The Greats, it received zero no votes, which is generally in keeping with...

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