Woody Allen – Radio Days (1987)

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Woody Allen’s gentle and nostalgic tribute to the glory days of radio and coming-of-age during World War II plays like Fellini’s Amarcord filtered through Neil Simon. The nominal star is Seth Green as Joe, a teenage Jewish boy, growing up with a house full of relatives in Brooklyn. Allen cuts between Joe’s working class Brooklyn neighborhood and the glittery and glamorous world of radio in Manhattan. Joe’s favorite radio hero is The Masked Avenger, and he dreams of getting The Masked Avenger Secret Decoder Ring. Using all the money they have collected for Israel, Joe and his friends buy the ring, much to the shock of his mother (Julie Kavner) and the local rabbi. His father (Michael Tucker), a business failure embarrassed to be seen driving a taxi, is an ineffective and distant man. His uncle Abe (Josh Mostel) is obsessed with eating. His Aunt Bea (Dianne Wiest) is obsessed with getting married. All together, these relatives make up a rather chaotic life in Brooklyn for Joe. Interspersed with these family relations are vignettes of radio lore –from the cigarette girl (Mia Farrow) who wants to strike it big in radio, to the “Name That Tune” jackpot telephone call answered by a burglar, who guesses the right answer and wins the victimized homeowners a cornucopia of valuable prizes.
Paul Brenner @ allmovie.com Continue reading

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Woody Allen – Shadows and Fog (1991)

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Quote:
In a murky, seriously deranged cityscape only a studio art department could create, a giant bald strangler (Michael Kirby) is going around killing people with piano wire. The authorities are powerless (though he stomps about freely, occasionally declaiming speeches), so vigilante posses start roving the streets. For some reason, they dragoon a noisy nebbish named Kleinman (Allen) to assist them. So Kleinman goes into the fog, kvetching, and meets Irmy (Mia Farrow), a circus sword swallower (no double-entendres, please) whose clown of a husband (John Malkovich) is two-timing her with the strongman’s wife (Madonna). Add an “et cetera” here, because the big, mostly wasted cast also includes Kenneth Mars as the strongman, Donald Pleasence as a philosophical coroner, John Cusack as a student who mistakes Irmy for a prostitute, and Kathy Bates, Jodie Foster, and Lily Tomlin as the real prostitutes in whose company she happens to be at the time. None of this adds up, and the whole thing moves and feels less like a film than one of Allen’s oddball New Yorker sketches. Still, as the fever dream of an art-house addict, it has its moments. Continue reading

Tinto Brass – Fermo posta Tinto Brass AKA P.O. Box Tinto Brass (1995)

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This film is a series of letters, photos and video cassettes which women often send in to certain newspapers. By visualizing their story-telling (the name given by the psychologists to their fantasies) the film portrays the confessions, the secret longings, the adventures, recollections, dreams, desires and fantasies of these women. It is an open secret that most women dream of forbidden affairs, secret lovers and hasty encounters but when it comes down to it they lack the courage to pursue their dreams. Continue reading

Nami Iguchi – Inuneko AKA Dogs & Cats AKA The Cat Leaves Home (2004)

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Quote:
This is the first feature by Iguchi Nami, who more recently made the film Don’t Laugh at My Romance. Inuneko is also known as The Cat Leaves Home and as (more literally) Dogs & Cats or even Dog/Cat. The title refers to the personalities of the two heroines–one sly and flirtatious, the other stubborn and introverted.

Iguchi actually shot this as a 8mm feature (in 2001 I believe) before “remaking” it in 35mm. The 8mm feature is also on DVD but I don’t have it; I’d love to see it, provided subtitles are available.

This 35mm version is the one that played commercially in Japan and made it to festivals worldwide. As far as I know, it wasn’t released commercially outside of Japan, which is a shame as this is one of the most charming recent Japanese films i know. It’s shot in the long-take style preferred by many Asian independent filmmakers, but in a mode closer to, say, the deadpan comedy of Jarmusch than to the muted intensity of Kore-eda. I suppose, in the Japanese cinema, it’s closest in tone to Yamashita Nobuhiro’s Linda Linda Linda. Continue reading

John Ford – The Sun Shines Bright (1953)

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Plot:

John Ford’s remake of his 1934 Will Rogers vehicle, Judge Priest, combines three Irvin S. Cobb stories about the kindly Kentucky magistrate William Priest (Charles Winninger).

Set in 1905 Kentucky, it focuses on the judge’s battle for reelection against Yankee prosecutor Horace K. Maydew (Milburn Stone). Despite the judge’s popularity, it’s possible that his generosity and sense of justice may cost him the election. First he tries to persuade the eminent General Fairfield (James Kirkwood) to admit that he’s kin to Lucy Lee (Arleen Whelan), whose questionable background makes her a subject for ridicule. Next he faces down an angry lynch mob accusing a black man of a heinous crime – the frustrated vigilantes, dispersed by the gun-wielding judge, vow vengeance at the polls. Continue reading

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