The Great Dictator

United Artists

“For some, theaters were a place to shelter from the troubles of the world, but they were also where most Americans were confronted by vivid images of the troubles themselves, brought home in footage that was more immediate and overwhelming than newspapers or radio broadcasts could ever be.” The above quote, excerpted from Mark Harris’ “Five Came Back: A Story of Hollywood and the Second World War,” is made in specific reference to theatrical newsreels in 1940, which exposed Americans to stark images of WWII while the Hollywood features that they introduced were prevented from acknowledging the war in such a direct fashion. The gap that this pre-intervention limbo period produced between fiction and non-fiction speaks to a greater paradox that has overtly and covertly determined the American experience of commercial moviegoing: the fact that, as I argued two years ago, Hollywood regularly “eschews reality just as it borrows from it.” As far as we know, never before has a foreign power infiltrated a movie studio and directly threatened the prospective audiences of one of its properties. The specific situation around the current debacle that is The Interview is largely unprecedented. But Sony’s reaction is not, for it has deep roots in Hollywood’s treatment of relevant political topics. The Interview’s abandoned release simply brings to light what has been intrinsic to Hollywood’s self-governance: censorship as a defining practice, justified by the possibility of threat.


Hot Shots Deux Saddam Hussein

This Thursday, The Interview, starring Seth Rogen and James Franco as a couple of guys assigned with assassinating North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, was supposed to open in theaters nationwide. But as you’ve surely heard, Sony canceled the release last week when a 9/11-like attack was threatened against the movie’s premiere and any other cinemas that played it, and that led most major US theater chains to drop the comedy. Whether you think this was a case of better safe than sorry or a studio cowardly negotiating with and bowing to terrorists, it does set a horrible precedent that may be detrimental to the future of provocative art and entertainment. It’s not the first movie for which a company gave in to pressures from protests, though, yet it’s also comparable to some big movies that spawned similar controversy without winding up censored. I invite you to check out one of the following titles, representing both circumstances, to fill that void where you would have watched The Interview this week. These are movies where sitting heads of state are targeted and/or killed, movies that were offensive enough to a people to be met with threats or actual violence, including death to the filmmakers, and movies that distributors washed their hands of because of such dangerous objection. Maybe The Interview will be put out one day (Sony is now claiming it hopes to), and maybe it won’t (I hope it is, because I didn’t get the chance to see it before it was canceled). The longer the delay or the more […]



Sometimes it’s not enough to simply present your movie without remark, so over the years filmmakers and censors have devised various ways to make sure we know exactly what we are seeing before, or sometimes after we see it. Other times they get bored and, like anyone bored at work, decide to have a little fun with the process.



Being funny is never easy, especially when you’re being funny about unfunny things. As far as dark humor goes, death is actually a rather simple topic to cover. However once you start getting into the meaning of death, or mass genocide, or the afterlife, that’s when things start getting a little tricky. Sometimes you have to stop worrying about offending the people who won’t get it and start worrying about entertaining the people who will. So here are some movies that, no matter what your feelings on them are, managed to successfully make a mockery out of something quite serious.



You heard me – I’m dumping practically everything I can think of at you, and no doubt I’ll still miss a few. In fact, there’s one I am intentionally leaving out just so I can watch the angry comments and laugh like a Disney villain. Honestly, though – after having my memory jarred by all the comments on my first installment of 14 of the Most Impressive Monologues in Movie History, I couldn’t not make another one of these. So here are, once more, some movie monologues out there that really stick out from the rest.


2011 Best Criterion

This was a hell of a year in The Criterion Collection. Between films about phantom carriages, angry jurors, beasts and beauties, stranded astronauts, international revolutionaries, and great dictators, Adam Charles and Landon Palmer found their wallets empty and their cinephilic obsessions sated. Here are their eleven favorite releases and upgrades of the year…



Merry Christmas movie/TV/goat-cheese lovers! As part of our week-long gift guide extravaganza thingamajig we’ve put together a list of Blu-rays, DVD and a few other ideas for you to use when shopping for others or for putting on your own Christmas list. Or both. Some of the films below are from years past, but they all hit Blu-ray and/or DVD this year so they totally count for this gift guide. Click on the links to be magically transported to Amazon, AmazonUK and other places where lovely things can be found.


The Kids in the Hall Complete Series Megaset

Two “big” movies are hitting DVD today, but I’m not recommending either for a RENT or BUY. Why? Because I’ve only seen one of them, and it’s pretty terrible. Luckily there are some smaller films worth checking out this week as well as a few re-issues and television shows that may be worth your time. One of the lower profile titles (that just missed being my Pick Of the Week) is a somewhat original little horror film called Forget Me Not. The premise is generic at first, but it makes up for it with a fresh take and some fairly creepy visuals. Horror fans should give it a chance. As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it. The Kids In the Hall: The Complete Series Comedy is the most subjective genre, so I won’t claim The Kids In the Hall is for everyone, but folks who enjoy solidly creative sketch comedy should definitely take a look at an episode or two. And for those of us who already love the show, A&E Entertainment has released this complete series megaset of all five seasons plus their recent IFC miniseries, Death Comes To Town. The “kids” are five Canadian guys unafraid to dress up as women on a regular basis, and while as with any sketch show the series is hit and miss, the bits garner laughs more often than not. Each season comes in its own snapcase with an insert listing each and every […]



Looks like we’ve got another week of This Week in Blu-ray being right on time. After a few bumpy weeks, we’re back on scheduled and its right on time, as we’ve got a lot of great titles to talk about this week. We visit with Charlie Chaplin and one of his finest efforts, we take a walk through the blood-soaked battlefields of the American Civil War, we get closer to two American film icons and when we’re done with America, we follow a South African Kevin Bacon to Thailand to save some drugged-up hookers. Also making an appearance: Natalie Portman, Charlie Sheen, Gnomeo, Juliet and some alien kids with super-powers that will bore you, then excite you. It’s all part of this week’s fully loaded Blu-ray selection. The Great Dictator I spent a greater deal of my childhood than I’d like to admit thinking that Charlie Chaplin simply couldn’t talk. I was good at math, but I was a dumb little kid. Luckily he could talk and he did so in one of his most controversial, subversive and hilarious films. There are some wonderful, classic Chaplin moments of physical comedy and some silly, ambitious moments of what we now consider traditional comedic elements. Some call The Great Dictator his masterpiece, his send-up of the his generation’s most reviled figure. Having been given the Criterion treatment, it is all that and more. Not to hyperbolize, but this is the Charlie Chaplin Criterion you’ve been waiting for. The black and white presentation […]



There will inevitably be a movie about the mission to kill Osama bin Laden – this much is certain. Recent news has established that Kathryn Bigelow might be the first to try to put into play one of several projects related to last week’s assassination amongst several that are being shopped around. The reasoning is clear, as the material lends itself inherently to cinematic expression. The mission itself, in short, feels like a movie. Whether or not this movie (or movies) will have anything to say beyond what we already know and think and feel is unknown and, in Cole Abaius’s terms, it will be difficult for such projects to escape an inherent potential to come across as a shameless “cash-in.” My personal prediction is that the first movie that arises from bin Laden’s death will, at best, be an exciting procedural that visualizes an incident we are currently so invested in and preoccupied with. But I doubt that anything released so soon will remotely approach a full understanding of bin Laden’s death as catharsis for American citizens, as a harbinger for change in the West’s relationship to the Middle East and the Muslim world, as a precedent for the possible fall of al Qaeda, etc. In short, we won’t be able to express cinematically (or in any other medium, for that matter) what the death of bin Laden means until the benefits of time and hindsight actually provide that meaning. This is why I think any movies about Osama […]



Chances are that you stumbled upon this list while googling “Amber Heard Clothed.” It’s okay. We get mistaken for The Huffington Post all the time. Our feelings aren’t hurt at all. Cases of mistaken identity are not a daily occurrence (unless wrong numbers count) for everyone. They’re something we shouldn’t be able to relate to in any way, something relegated to the world of secret agents and people with houses on top of Mount Rushmore. Yet, for some reason, they work incredibly well as a plot device – most likely because they represent one of our greatest fears. Being mistaken for someone else robs us of our own identity, places our sanity into question, and can lead to physical danger if the person we’re being mistaken for is in trouble. Movies that use them well ask a question of how quickly your life can change because of someone else and how far reality can be turned on its head. In celebration of reality being called into question, we present the list of The 10 Most Confusing Cases of Mistaken Identity.


In honor of the DVD release of Charlie Wilson’s War today and the upcoming elections this year, we would like to offer up our list of 5 key characteristics that all politicians (and German dictators) seem to have in common.

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published: 01.30.2015
published: 01.30.2015
published: 01.29.2015
published: 01.28.2015

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