The Wiz

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“I think we have to get beyond the idea that we have to categorize people,” Roger Ebert once said. It is an idea that is no more felt than in the realm of cinema and celebrity, where our compulsion to categorize merges with the worst of typecasting and image-making. The minute a person excels at something they are defined by it, so much so that any and all departures become shocking diversions rather than relatable human actions. It doesn’t make sense to be shocked (we all have diverse interests that don’t fit into one neat mold), but we are, time and time again. Generally, it defines our actors as talents are typecast into one very specific sort of role that either makes us forget all that came before (like Christopher Walken being a trained song and dance man before a creepy villain), or keeps them narrowly cast until someone dares to showcase their other talents (like the countless comedians who shock people when they offer stellar dramatic work). It also happens with directors. If they dare to slip into a certain visual style or approach, we expect every film to follow suit. It can be downright shocking if they diverge from their norm, no matter how many times it happens, and no matter how many times we acknowledge how much Hollywood requires someone to manufacture an image rather than just be themselves. We forget the fact that image is what gets money, and sometimes style is the only thing that gets […]



This week’s list of movies to watch is not inspired by a single new release, because there isn’t anything big enough out this weekend to warrant such a focus. Instead, I’ve got a year-end feature for you inspired by the entirety of 2013 in film. I can’t sum up every title released this year with only ten recommendations, but the movies I’ve selected are, I believe, the best representatives of the more notable titles and trends seen in the past dozen months. Most of the selections are familiar. Chances are you’ve seen more than a few. But obviously this edition has to involve more popular fare because they have to be influential movies to have informed so much of this year’s crop, even if unintentionally. Just take it as a call to watch them again, along with whatever you haven’t seen before, as a special sort of year in review of the most important movies of 2013 released before 2013.


The Wiz World Trade Center

35 years ago this week, two very different movies had their theatrical premieres. One is Halloween, a movie you all know and love and which surprisingly has very few clips available to view online. The other is The Wiz, a movie you may have never seen, heard is terrible and which fortunately has a number of scenes uploaded in order that I might illustrate and defend its worth. I might be the only one who likes The Wiz more than Halloween and very likely the only one who finds one particular scene in the all-black version of The Wizard of Oz scarier than anything in John Carpenter’s slasher classic. But I can’t be the only person with an appreciation for The Wiz. One thing about the movie that’s rarely celebrated is the fact it’s directed by Sidney Lumet. NYC’s Film Forum didn’t even include the musical in its otherwise exhaustive retrospective of his work a few years back. It is weird a white filmmaker was at the helm for this, though his relevance as a very New York-centric director makes some sense (who else should have done it? Scorsese? Woody Allen? Hmm, maybe Gordon Parks?). The Wiz is indeed a New York movie, featuring the most fantastical representations of the city’s landmarks since the 1933 King Kong. That’s a big part of why I love it so much. Join me below as I highlight some of the best of these location-transforming scenes.


When Zoolander came out on September 28, 2001, the production had digitally removed The World Trade Center’s Twin Towers from the New York City skyline in an effort to avoid displaying a devastating image in the middle of a comedy about the world of fashion. If they’d have left it in, it wouldn’t have been the first time the buildings had been featured on film or television. Since they didn’t, it marks the first time the buildings were ever erased. With the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on 9/11 coming this Sunday, it’s impossible not to be consumed a bit by the gravity of an action that killed so many and lowered a different world view onto all of us. Landon and I talked on Reject Radio regarding the effect that the day had on movies and movie-watchers, but that mostly dealt with the last decade – the world that came after that morning. As a counterpart, here’s a simply-edited montage of the past. Dan Meth has built a view to the movies where the Twin Towers either stood proudly in the background, made prominent appearances in the front of the action, or acted as the set. It’s stirring in its matter-of-factness, and it’s more than a little moving, but it’s ultimately a celebration of a symbol that no longer (physically) exists. Check it out for yourself:


Sidney Lumet was a master moviemaker in every sense of the word. Take a look at your all-time top ten, and he’s mostly likely got at least one spot on it. Serpico, Network (my personal #2), Dog Day Afternoon, Long Day’s Journey Into Night and a list that continues (and logic-defyingly includes The Wiz) until the paper runs out. Maybe you’d like to experience more movies by the man, or maybe you’d like to introduce yourself to him after his unfortunate passing. Maybe your goal is to post up on the couch and watch Lumet movies all day. Well, you can, and we’ll be right there with you. Here are just 7 of his movies that you can watch immediately through Netflix.


This Week in Blu-ray

As we gather for our first post-Black Friday, post-Cyber Monday, post-Turkducken day edition of This Week in Blu-ray, it isn’t very hard to see that most studios decided to take a bye week. Universal saw fit to release two Ben Stiller comedies, and not very well. Disney is bringing Nicolas Cage and Jay Baruchel to the party, as willy wizards surrounded by some of the more interesting effects work we’ve seen all year. They also took time to bring a truly beautiful animated musical (or two) to Blu-ray for the first time. Also, Rob Hunter stops by to recommend a movie with “kill” in the title, which is never a bad thing. All things considered, it may not be the most robust week of Blu-ray releases, but there are certainly some interesting twists and turns.

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published: 12.18.2014
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