WWI

Criterion Files

First is a precarious position to be in, for in retrospect you stand in for the entire legacy (or, at least, for inaugurating the legacy) of the thing itself. It’s tough being the first, and can be burdensome. And of the first ten movies that were admitted into the Criterion Collection, there are some confounding choices. The Lady Vanishes (Spine #3), for instance, is a great film, but hardly amongst Hitchcock’s best (or even his best British work). It’s an…interesting choice for the first Hitchcock film in the DVD collection that would come to define 21st century cinephilia. But then again, way back in 1998, whose to say that the Criterion Collection had any idea the reputation it would cultivate? Criterion’s choices for its first two releases, however, are pitch-perfect. Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, the film that defined his legacy and had a greater influence on world cinema than even his Rashomon, sits prominently at Spine #2. And Jean Renoir’s anti-war, prewar masterpiece, Grand Illusion, sits deservedly in Criterion’s #1 spot, with the weight of important classic and contemporary cinema resting comfortably on its shoulders. Grand Illusion may admittedly not have the empirical evidence of definitive influence of Seven Samurai (in other words, it has yet to be remade into a Western). But that is perhaps to its benefit. While Kurosawa made tens of samurai films, Renoir never made another movie quite like Grand Illusion, and the film still occupies a singular place in the history of war cinema – […]

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This new era of re-releases has definitely got its perks. Whether it’s seeing a modern classic like Jurassic Park return home to theaters or a movie from out of the mist of the past, it’s the kind of cash-grab that should be celebrated. What other time in your life would you be able to see the 1927 silent flick about pilots in WWI bravely battling (and kissing each other) as it was meant to be seen? Cinemark Theaters will play Wings – the first Best Picture Oscar winner – in select theaters on Wednesdays May 2nd and 16th. Those participating theaters can be found on the Cinemark website. The print has been completely restored. What’s crazy is that they’re showing in their Extreme Digital auditoriums, which means they much have restored the hell out of it.

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Any high school student who has ever slogged through Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front has probably hungered for a shiny new film adaptation of the war novel to supplement their dedicated consumption of SparkNotes or CliffsNotes or whatever it is the young people use these days. And now they’re getting one! From the director of Pay It Forward! Mimi Leder (who has, to be fair, also helmed Deep Impact, The Peacemaker, and a mess of gritty TV) will direct a new adaptation of Remarque’s classic novel about the horrors of World War I. Leder will be working from a script by Ian Stokell and Lesley Paterson. The pair’s first feature, The Negotiation, still appears to be in production for a release sometime this year. Remarque, a veteran of WWI himself, shaped his novel around the fictional story of German soldier Paul Bäumer. The novel charts Paul from bright-eyed schoolboy to hardened solider, changes that come thanks to the hell of war, which Remarque depicts unflinchingly. It’s bloody and dirty and sad and traumatizing. In short, it’s a big bummer.

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With the entire original run of The Twilight Zone available to watch instantly, we’re partnering with Twitch Film to cover all 156 episodes. Are you brave enough to watch them all with us? The Twilight Zone (Episode #18): “The Last Flight” (airdate 2/5/60) The Plot: A cowardly WWI pilot lands at the right base but at the wrong time – 42 years after he takes off. The Goods: This episode is a true joy to watch because it’s a sci-fi mystery nested in other mysteries that need to be solved. Lt. William Decker (Kenneth Haigh) brings his Nieuport biplane and British stiff upper lip onto a French base that he believes is controlled by, you know, the French. When he lands, he finds it run by the United States, who wasn’t expecting his presence. Of course, Major General Harper (Alexander Scourby) takes him into custody for questioning.

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We’re spending all week celebrating war movies. Today, we look at an early work from a master film maker, one of Stanley Kubrick’s lesser known films that shows World War I from view from the trenches as well as the courtroom.

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The simple answer is ‘yes.’ The complex answer is also ‘yes.’

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