Chinatown

Roman Polanski in Two Men and a Wardrobe

This is another edition of Short Starts, where we present a weekly short film(s) from the start of a filmmaker or actor’s career. Today marks both the U.S. theatrical release of Venus and Fur and the 40th anniversary of the U.S. theatrical release of Chinatown. So, let’s just consider it Roman Polanski day. In honor of the occasion, we should just skip his latest (see our review for why) and hold off on watching his 1974 classic for the billionth time. How many of you have seen his early short films? They’re available in proper form on Criterion’s two-disc DVD set for Polanski’s first feature, Knife in the Water, and they can also be found on YouTube. For the latter, there are no English subtitles, but that only matters for one or two that have very minimal dialogue. For the most part, they’re all really “silent” films. Nine shorts are credited to the actor-turned-director through the start of his academic and professional career in the late 1950s and early 1960s. One of these, however, is Rower (aka Bicycle), which was a 1955 student work that went unfinished thanks to an error by the lab. That leaves eight survivors. From 1957 there’s Murder, which is a nice short scene of a man being murdered but there’s no story there, Let’s Break the Ball (aka Break Up the Dance), an exceptional work of editing that’s even more stunning when you learn that it’s partly documentary in that it was shot during an […]

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Brie Larson in Short Term 12

Another month, another batch of recommendations for everyone out there who’s currently adrift in the sea that is the Netflix Watch Instantly menu without a good flick to float on. Click on the films’ titles in order to be taken to their Netflix page and to add them to your queue. Or—sorry—to your “My List.” Pick of the Month:  Short Term 12 (2013) Critics have been talking about Short Term 12 pretty incessantly ever since it started making the festival rounds last year. To the point where some of you who read about movies a lot may be getting sick of hearing about it. There’s a reason why the film keeps getting brought up, though, and that’s because it’s really that good. It’s also the kind of micro-budget movie that absolutely depends on word of mouth in order to get seen. This is the sort of small release that couldn’t even afford to launch an Oscar campaign that would have brought it to the attention of Academy voters, so it wasn’t able to earn buzz through the winning of little golden men, which it arguably deserved a handful of.  The movie, which is from a relatively new filmmaker named Destin Cretton, is set in the world of a residential treatment facility for troubled youth, which means that it’s full of characters whose lives can be mined for quite a bit of drama—and mine them Cretton does. This is one of the rare films that manages to dig way deep into themes […]

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ForgetIt

There were so many great crime movies that came out of the ’70s that it would be something of an endeavor to compile a list of the best. But chances are, if you had a bunch of people get together and do just that, Chinatown would be near the top of most of them. This modern take on classic noir is beloved to the point where it’s the sort of thing that gets studied in film classes, and it’s not hard to see why. It’s got iconic moments, a legendarily despicable villain in land developer Noah Cross (John Huston), Jack Nicholson giving a solid leading performance that isn’t as showy and distracting as his later stuff and it’s put together by the trained eye of a master director. But it also has a number of readily apparent flaws that make it questionable as to whether or not it should stand shoulder to shoulder with the greatest movies in cinema history, as many people claim that it does. Another great crime film from the same era is The Long Goodbye, a sort of subversion of the noir genre that embraces its tropes but updates its setting to the laid back, alternative medicine-embracing culture of early ’70s Los Angeles. Unlike Chinatown, this isn’t the sort of film that has grown in popularity over the years. It has its fans, and it might show up on some of those “Best of the ’70s” lists if the people you’re surveying are big into the […]

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Jake Gittes in Chinatown

Films noir, crime novels and detective stories all have a long history of unlikable characters that we cheer for. Bad guys doing good work. Flawed heroes who always know the right line to say and the right time to offer a lady a light. Agatha Christie this isn’t, and this week we’re getting our hands dirty by talking with Killing Them Softly director Andrew Dominik about violence and “Seduction of the Innocent” author Max Allan Collins about the history of the genre. He’ll offer the best films noir for new fans to start with, and then Geoff and I will discuss how to write unlikable characters with Chinatown in our sites. For more from us on a daily basis, follow the show (@brokenprojector), Geoff (@drgmlatulippe) and Scott (@scottmbeggs) on the Twitter. And, as always, we welcome your feedback. Download Episode #11 Directly Or subscribe Through iTunes

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Han Solo

What is Casting Couch? It’s a casting news column that’s been talking way more about a movie based on a racing video game than it imagined it would be. Read on for more information. It’s bound to get pretty annoying following every rumor that pops up about the new Star Wars movie between now and 2015. But, let’s face it, when comments start getting thrown around about Harrison Ford playing Han Solo again, even vague rumors start to get pretty interesting. So, when Inside Movies announced that they have sources claiming that Ford has reversed his famously grumpy position on Star Wars being lame, and that he, Mark Hamill, and Carrie Fisher are now all “upbeat” about more movies getting made, geeks everywhere instantly started salivating like Pavlov’s dogs. Let’s try to not let this Star Wars thing get out of hand—but Harrison Ford might play Han Solo again, y’all!

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Nothing more satisfying than a good solid confession, unless of course it’s your own confession – then it kind of sucks. What’s great about films is that there’s never a boring confession; no one ever spends 120 minutes of movie watching to learn that the hero was the one who accidently dented his neighbor’s car. So – here are some confessions in films that, because of the performance or the situation, stood out amongst the rest. Oh also, by definition alone the following is practically all spoilers – so heads up.

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Editor’s Note: Max Allan Collins has written over 50 novels and 17 movie tie-in books. He’s also the author of the Road to Perdition graphic novel, off which the film was based. With his new Mickey Spillane collaboration “Lady, Go Die” in great bookstores everywhere, we thought it would be fun to ask him for his ten best films noir. In true noir fashion, we bit off more than we could handle… We have to begin with a definition of noir, which is tricky, because nobody agrees on one. The historical roots are in French film criticism, borrowing the term noir (black) from the black-covered paperbacks in publisher Gallimard’s Serie Noire, which in 1945 began reprinting American crime writers such as Dashiell Hammett, James M. Cain, Raymond Chandler, Chester Himes, Horace McCoy, Jim Thompson, Mickey Spillane, W.R. Burnett and many others. The films the term was first applied to were low-budget American crime thrillers made during the war and not seen in France till after it. The expressionistic lighting techniques of those films had as much to do with hiding low production values as setting mood. In publishing circles, the term has come to replace “hardboiled” because it sounds hipper and not old-fashioned. I tend to look at dark themes and expressionistic cinematography when I’m making such lists, which usually means black-and-white only; but three color films are represented below, all beyond the unofficial cut-off of the first noir cycle (Kiss Me Deadly, 1955). Mystery genre expert Otto Penzler has […]

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Robert Towne won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, but what most don’t realize is that the original script for Chinatown was over 300 pages long. That would have made quite the shooting schedule. Roman Polanski‘s enduring noir classic is headed to Blu-ray soon which means seeing J.J. Gittes getting his nose cut in high definition. Plus, we’re giving a copy away, and the one we have has Robert Towne’s signature on it (thanks to the intrepid team at Dolby Labs who secured it legally). If you’re into that sort of thing. So how do you get your hands on it? Glad I made it seem like you asked.

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This Week in Blu-ray

Left, right, left we march out of March and into April with another sizzling edition of This Week in Blu-ray. Alright, so that’s not exactly true. Despite finding a number of titles to recommend in this week’s release offering, it’s not exactly a week that’s going to blow your socks off. Which begs the question: why wear socks in the first place if you’re constantly reading Film School Rejects? You know that eventually they’re just going to be blown off anyway. But not today, as you’re about to see. We take a stroll into the world of buying a zoo with Cameron Crowe, we get lost in a great release of Chinatown and we ride the War Horse to yawn-inducing victory. Come along and enjoy the ride. We Bought a Zoo There was a primo opportunity for me to make a ‘We Must Buy This Blu-ray’ joke here, but sadly I’m just not that kind of guy. Our own Jack Giroux love love loved this movie when he reviewed it in December, and it certainly does have its charms. Matt Damon plays a single dad who decides to buy a broken down zoo and nurse it back to health, finding love for family time and Scarlett Johansson along the way. It’s Cameron Crowe, so there’s undeniable sweetness. The one thing the Blu-ray has going in its favor is plenty of special features. From 37 minutes of deleted/extended scenes to a 7 min. gag reel to a 76 minute extensive, well-produced documentary style behind the […]

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Bond 50

What is Movie News After Dark? It’s a nightly movie news column that, tonight, is focused on a cornacopia of new Blu-ray release information. From James Bond to Jake Gittes, it’s going to be a beautiful year of high definition goodness. There is also non-Blu-ray news, for those who like variety. We begin tonight with a look at the box for Bond 50, the upcoming release of the Golden Anniversary Blu-ray edition of all 22 James Bond films on Blu-ray for the first time as one complete offering. MGM and Fox laid out plans at CES today, which included making it available for pre-order right now. Put simply, it’s beautiful. They even delivered a trailer, which I’ve included after the jump.

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Culture Warrior

A genre nearly as old as filmmaking itself, the western thrived throughout the years of the studio system but has zigzagged across rough terrain for the past forty or so years. For the last fifteen-ish years, the struggling, commercially unfriendly genre was either manifested in a neoclassical nostalgic form limited in potential mass appeal (Appaloosa, Open Range) or in reimagined approaches that ran the gamut between contrived pap and inspired deconstructions (anything from Wild Wild West to The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford). But last December, True Grit – a bona fide western remake that relied on the opportunities available in the genre’s conventions rather than bells, whistles, or ironic tongues in their respective cheeks – became a smash hit. Did this film reinvigorate a genre that was on life support, as the supposed revitalization of the musical is thought to have done a decade ago, or are westerns surviving by moving along a different route altogether? Three westerns released so far this year – Gore Verbinski’s Rango, Kelly Reichardt’s Meek’s Cutoff, and, as of this weekend, Jon Favreau’s Cowboys & Aliens – suggest mixed directions for the dusty ol’ genre.

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Criterion Files

Just as film noir isn’t one single definable thing, noir itself contains many offshoots and categories. And every Noirvember, it’s important to not only examine good ol’ film noir, but its corresponding variants as well. One aspect of noir that complicates its designation as a genre or a style is the persistence of neo-noir, a cinematic form that arose in direct reaction to noir. In the US, canonical neo-noirs include films like Roman Polanski’s Chinatown or Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye. These were films made by filmmakers who knew cinema’s history, who have seen and studied noir’s origins and staples. These were filmmakers who worshiped film history and used classic cinema as a prototype for their own creation, embedding references to the old while departing from it in creating the new.

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SebastianGutierrez

We wanted to get inside the mind of director Sebastian Gutierrez by finding out his Top 5 films, and he somehow managed do so while naming over a dozen other films. From Bunuel to Gilliam, find out who inspires one of the weirder writer/directors out there.

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published: 11.26.2014
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published: 11.26.2014
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published: 11.21.2014
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published: 11.21.2014
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