Paul Mazursky

Robin Williams in Moscow on the Hudson

If you’re looking for some good movies to watch this three-day holiday weekend, I’d like to suggest a double shot of Paul Mazursky, the under-appreciated filmmaker who died Monday. A whole marathon of his work is in order, really, especially if you’ve never seen Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice or Harry and Tonto or Next Stop, Greenwich Village (come at least for Bill Murray’s first film appearance and a great early Christopher Walken) or An Unmarried Woman (a terrific feminist classic) or the crazy Alex in Wonderland (come at least for the Fellini scene). But two of my favorites are his big releases in the mid-80s, Moscow on the Hudson and Down and Out in Beverly Hills, and I think they make a perfect double feature for Independence Day. First up is Moscow on the Hudson, which in early 1984 led the wave of comedies involving immigration and migration to New York City (see Crocodile Dundee, Coming to America, Splash, Muppets Take Manhattan, Jason Takes Manhattan, Short Circuit 2, Brother From Another Planet). Despite starring Robin Williams and being a fish out of water story, this isn’t quite a laugh out loud sorta movie. Mazursky takes the idea of defecting from the Soviet Union rather seriously, for a story that celebrates the American Dream less fantastically than most Hollywood features. We start out in Russia and see it as a relatively miserable place to live, yet it’s not depicted as a total nightmare. Nor is the United States presented as an absolute utopia. […]

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Moscow on the Hudson

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Fear and Desire Movie

Stanley Kubrick was a notorious perfectionist. And perfectionists, unfortunately, are rarely prolific. Kubrick’s career as a director spanned nearly fifty years, but in that span of time the auteur only helmed thirteen feature films. For a long time, only twelve of those films have been commercially available, but now that Kino Classics has released on DVD and Blu-ray the Library of Congress restoration of Kubrick’s debut feature, Fear and Desire (1953), movie fans can finally become Kubrick completists with a stunning transfer of a rarely-seen film to round out a great director’s accomplished career.

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Culture Warrior

The cinematic doppelganger effect seems to happen on a cyclical basis. Every few years, a pair of movies are released whose concepts, narratives, or central conceits are so similar that it’s impossible to envision how both came out of such a complex and expensive system with even the fairest amount of awareness of the other. Deep Impact and Armageddon. Antz and A Bug’s Life. Capote and Infamous. Paul Blart: Mall Cop and Observe and Report. And now two R-rated studio-released romantic comedies about fuck buddies played by young, attractive superstars have graced the silver screen within only a few short months of each other. We typically experience doppelganger cinema with high-concept material, not genre fare. To see two back-to-back movies released about the secret life of anthropomorphic talking insects, a hyperbole-sized rock jettisoning towards Earth’s inevitable destruction, a Truman Capote biopic, or a movie about a mall cop seem rare or deliberately exceptional enough as a single concept to make the existence of two subsequent iterations rather extraordinary. Much has been made of the notion that Friends with Benefits is a doppelganger of No Strings Attached (the former has in more than one case been called the better version of the latter), but when talking about the romantic comedy genre – a category so well-tread and (sometimes for better, sometimes not) reliably formulaic that each film is arguably indebted to numerous predecessors – can we really say these films are doppelgangers in the same vein as the high-concept examples, or […]

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