L’Avventura

Singin in the Rain

What’s the best movie ever made? Would the person sitting next to you agree? Does the title really matter, or is the search a happy distraction meant to let the cream of the crop rise to the top? What happens when you watch a bunch of that cream? And why has “cream” become a metaphor for quality? The Sight & Sound Top 50 is a great place to start with all of those questions. For almost two years, Landon Palmer and Scott Beggs have been watching the best movies of all time and discussing them with the aim of discovering and re-discovering important cinematic experiences. Now that their quest is over, here are their thoughts and conclusions on what it’s like to see that many treasured movies, followed with links to all 50 conversations for your perusal. Take a deep breath, grab a bowl of cream and dive in.

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lavventura

Looking for any excuse, Landon Palmer and Scott Beggs are using the 2012 Sight & Sound poll results as a reason to take different angles on the best movies of all time. Every week, they’ll discuss another entry in the list, dissecting old favorites from odd angles, discovering movies they haven’t seen before and asking you to join in on the conversation. Of course it helps if you’ve seen the movie because there will be plenty of spoilers. This week, they try to understand Michelangelo Antonioni‘s L’Avventura in terms of the Hitchcockian legacy that even Alfred Hitchcock himself was defying by 1960. In the #21 (tied) movie on the list, a group of sophisticate hedonists set sail, but one of them doesn’t come back. Cutting through the passion and hunt for meaning, a lady vanishes, and the world moves on. But why is it one of the best movies ever?

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Culture Warrior

Ambiguity is no stranger to the arthouse film. Over fifty years after a group of daytrippers never found their lost shipmate in Antonioni’s L’Avventura, the ambiguous ending still retains the power to frustrate, confuse, anger, and challenge viewers. Continued controversies over ambiguity in narrative films point to Hollywood’s enduring dominance over the notion that films must be coherent and contain closure. However, the convention of closure can be a maddening limitation for filmmakers who intend to ask questions with no easy answers, or pose problems with no clear solutions (assuming that such answers or solutions exist in the first place). But ambiguity can take on a variety of forms, and with different degrees of effectiveness. Sometimes a film’s ambiguous hole can be more fulfilling and thought-provoking than any convention of linear causality in its place, but at other points ambiguity can become a handicap, or a gap that simply feels like a gap. Here are a few films from the past year that engage in several modes of intended ambiguity.

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Culture Warrior

Yesterday the Twittersphere (a place where topics are only discussed in rational proportions) was abuzz with the news that Terrence Malick’s long-awaited magnum opus Tree of Life was booed at its Cannes premiere. While the reaction to Malick’s latest will no doubt continue to be at least as divisive and polarized as his previous work has been, for many Malick fans the news of the boos only perpetuated more interest in the film, and for many Malick non-fans the boos signaled an affirmation of what they’ve long-seen as lacking in his work. (Just to clarify, there was also reported applause, counter-applause, and counter-booing at the screening.) Booing at Cannes has a long history, and can even be considered a tradition. It seems that every year some title is booed, and such a event often only creates more buzz around the film. There’s no formula for what happens to a booed film at Cannes: sometimes history proves that the booed film was ahead of its time, sometimes booing either precedes negative critical reactions that follow or reflect the film’s divisiveness during its commercial release. Booed films often win awards. If there is one aspect connecting almost all booed films at Cannes, it’s that the films are challenging. I mean challenging as a descriptor that gives no indication of quality (much like I consider the term “slow”), but films that receive boos at the festival challenge their audiences or the parameters of the medium in one way or another, for better or […]

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Criterion Files

Let’s just get this out of the way first. I think Red Desert (1964) is Michelangelo Antonioni’s very best film. Better than L’Avventura, better than The Passenger, and better than Blow-Up (though I’ve never been a huge fan of the latter). In some ways it’s one of Antonioni’s oddest films, and in others it flirts with inaccessibility, but not only is the film beautiful, it’s poignant and explores a fascinating array of themes. It’s heavy, it’s a breakthrough, and it’s profound.

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Uncover the Truth in L

A missing woman, a dark mystery that broods and builds into a tempestuous relationship, a painstaking process of turning the big screen into a canvas.

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