Rob Edelman: Michael And Donald

Oct 1, 2018

The latest feature from documentarian-satirist Michael Moore is just arriving in movie theaters. It is titled FAHRENHEIT 11/9. Even though it touches on a range of contemporary issues, from gun violence in America to the poisoning of water in Flint, Michigan, which is Moore’s hometown, it primarily-- and unsurprisingly-- works as a condemnation of Donald Trump. Simply put, in FAHRENHEIT 11/9, Moore likens our president to Adolph Hitler. He links Trump’s rise to political power to that of Hitler in Germany in the 1930’s. The film’s title is directly connected to November 9, 2016: the date in which it was officially announced that Trump bested Hillary Clinton in the most recent presidential election. It was assumed that Hillary would win, hands down. But the moral of that story is: Never assume!   

Rob Edelman: Trivializing Tragedy?

Sep 24, 2018

Near summer’s end, the ads for one particular film were invading TV stations. That film is OPERATION FINALE, set in the very early 1960’s: a fact-based thriller that centers on the effort to capture Adolph Eichmann, the infamous Nazi criminal, who had escaped to Argentina. Eichmann was responsible for the extermination of millions of Jews and, for sure, OPERATION FINALE is a sobering subject. It does acknowledge that anti-Semitism still was thriving in all its ugliness a decade-and-a-half after the end of World War II. But primarily, OPERATION FINALE is a by-the-numbers thriller. It stars a couple of name actors: Oscar Isaac, as an Israeli agent, and Ben Kingsley, as Eichmann. Back in 1982, Kingsley earned an Academy Award playing the title role in GANDHI, which proves that talented actors can wrap themselves around any real-life role.

Audrey Kupferberg: The Bookshop

Sep 20, 2018

THE BOOKSHOP is a new film that tells the story of Florence Green, a young widow living in an East Anglian village in 1959.   It is based on a novel from the 1970s by award-winning British author Penelope Fitzgerald, and adapted for the screen, as well as directed, by Spanish filmmaker Isabel Coixet.

Rob Edelman: The New Season

Sep 17, 2018

The summer is over. September is here. And with each fall comes the arrival of high-profile, name-brand Academy Award contenders which first will play at film festivals. Such is the case each year at Toronto, Venice, and Telluride.

Rob Edelman: Catchers, Spies, And Moe Berg

Sep 10, 2018

This year, six legends were inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. None was Moe Berg. For the record, they were Chipper Jones, Vladimir Guerrero, Jack Morris, Alan Trammell, Jim Thome, and Trevor Hoffman. However, during Induction Weekend, I could not help but think of Moe Berg. One reason was that the Hall continuously-- and justifiably, I might add-- celebrates the military careers and wartime service of its members, from Grover Alexander to Ted Williams. But to my knowledge, none of the new inductees-- or for that matter any baseball Hall of Famer-- accomplished what Berg did once upon a time. It was a remarkable achievement; it has nothing to do with singles, doubles, and triples; and his story is told in a new screen biography, titled THE CATCHER WAS A SPY, with Paul Rudd starring as Moe Berg.

Rob Edelman: U.S. Outside The U.S.

Sep 3, 2018

Here in the U.S., a host of films take on a host of viewpoints regarding the state of the American union in 2018. And over the summer, while traveling abroad-- in England, but it easily could be anywhere outside the U.S.-- I could not stop asking myself a series of questions. They only begin with: How are non-Americans viewing America? Even more specifically: How is the U.S. being presented in the arts? Are there any points-of-view here? This was answered in two very different but equally disturbing new works. One is a film. The other is a stage play.

Rob Edelman: Remakes And Reworkings

Aug 27, 2018

What is the connection between older film titles that are as diverse as DEATH WISH, SHE’S GOTTA HAVE IT, and GET SHORTY, FAHRENHEIT 451, PAPILLON, and SUPERFLY? Well, all are present-day remakes or reworkings and all have been redone either as feature films, made-for-TV movies, TV series, or whatever. Some even are about as high-profile as one can imagine. The third remake of A STAR IS BORN momentarily will open the Venice Film Festival, prior to an October theatrical release. Two name personalities topline the latest STAR IS BORN. They are Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga. The original stars were A-listers of their time. These versions date from 1937, 1954, and 1976, and they feature Fredric March, James Mason, and Kris Kristofferson, Janet Gaynor, Judy Garland, and Barbra Streisand.

Audrey Kupferberg: TULLY and I FEEL PRETTY

Aug 21, 2018

Looking through lists of mainstream films from the past year or so, there are examples of gutsy women, such as WONDER WOMAN and THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI.  Then there is a film such as LADY BIRD, Greta Gerwig’s triumphant debut as a writer/director, which shows women at their most vulnerable.  I think LADY BIRD has had a positive influence on popular American filmmaking. That’s because a few recent films that focus on women’s difficulties are not dealing with stale melodramatic plots such as battles with fatal diseases or painful romantic break-ups that cause depression; instead, they are dealing with the personality quirks that the pressures of our society may cause and the psychological damage that can result from even the so-called ordinary or conventional events in women’s lives. 

Audrey Kupferberg: Blackkklansman

Aug 16, 2018

Spike Lee has a new film that is making plenty of waves.  It has a one-word title:  BLACKKKLANSMAN, cleverly spelled with three “K”s.  The film deals with a theme that is eating up the air waves these days – racial hatred. 

Rob Edelman: Travolta/Gotti

Aug 13, 2018

The year only may be more than half-over, but I already can submit my vote for the worst film of 2018. That would be GOTTI, a biopic about the infamous mobster John Gotti, with John Travolta in the title role. Now Travolta is a charismatic actor and the film’s dismal failure is not his fault, but GOTTI is poorly written and cliché-ridden. It is an abysmal film, and it is yet one more example of Travolta’s long-standing inability to consistently choose first-class film roles.

Rob Edelman: History And The Holocaust, Part 2

Aug 6, 2018

Across the years, I have seen countless films-- documentaries, fictional stories, and everything in between-- that center on the Holocaust. One of the most powerful is NIGHT AND FOG, a 30-minute-long documentary made by Alain Resnais, which dates from the mid-1950’s. I screen NIGHT AND FOG in one of my UAlbany classes, and the responses are collectively jaw-dropping. NIGHT AND FOG has in recent years been joined by SON OF SAUL, the well-deserved Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award-winner in 2015. I've said this before, and I'll say it again: This mesmerizing film is not just the best of its year; I would say that it is the best of any year. 

Audrey Kupferberg: Ethel & Ernest

Jul 24, 2018

ETHEL & ERNEST is an adult-oriented animated feature by renowned illustrator, author, and graphic artist Raymond Briggs.  Based on Briggs’ award-winning graphic novel of 1999, ETHEL & ERNEST tells the story of Briggs’ parents from the time they began dating in 1928 until their deaths in 1971.

Audrey Kupferberg: A Very English Scandal

Jul 20, 2018

Approximately fifty years ago, the Sexual Offences Bill 1967 decriminalized homosexuality between men over the age of 21 in private in England and Wales.  Just a couple weeks ago, Rob and I joined in the annual London Pride Festival as the streets of central London filled with mainly young people wearing rainbow colors on t-shirts and decorative face make-up.

Rob Edelman: The Good And Not So Good

Jul 16, 2018

For as long as there have been films, there have been films about young people and their dreams and desires. Will they realize their career goals? Will they fall in love? Will that love last beyond a brief moment in time? Take for example THE INCREDIBLE JESSICA JAMES, an independent American feature that was the closing night presentation at last year’s Sundance Film Festival. Jessica James, energetically played by Jessica Williams, is a twentysomething who resides in Brooklyn’s Bushwick neighborhood. Jessica has had romance, and now there is a new guy in her life. One of the issues here is that, in an instant, she may think that she is in love but, in the next, she and her beau just may act like strangers.

Rob Edelman: Happy Endings?

Jul 2, 2018

Sometimes, movies are serious, sobering sit-throughs that deal with serious, sobering issues. And sometimes, such movies get beyond these issues and feature solutions to these issues and upbeat, happy-ever-after endings. Their message is that, if you hang in there and focus on life’s positives, all will be well. The closing credits can roll, and you can leave the theater with a wide smile etched across your face. But how does this particular film relate to real life? Can all problems be solved in the real world? If you look hard enough, will you be able to transcend the pettiness that surrounds you? Can life’s everyday cruelties always be overcome by seeking out and embracing everyday kindness? These questions are dealt with in a range of films, produced across the decades.

Rob Edelman: This (Indeed) Is Cinerama

Jun 25, 2018

In recent years, Flicker Alley has been releasing to home entertainment some visually stunning films, most of which are well-over a half-century old. These titles were filmed in a three-panel widescreen process known as Cinerama. Back in the 1950’s, movie attendance was in sharp decline because of the advent and popularity of television, and so Cinerama as well as other widescreen processes were employed to lure audiences away from their TV sets and back into movie theaters.

Audrey Kupferberg: Hefty Roles For Mature Women!

Jun 22, 2018

Women and their societal problems are getting lots of attention these days.  One aspect of women growing older in the United States is the invisibility factor.  In general, when a young woman walks into a store, the clerks see her as a consumer and pay attention.  When an older woman walks into the store, she is ignored.  In so many venues, she is invisible.

Rob Edelman: Inspirational Documentaries

Jun 18, 2018

So many documentaries explore serious subjects. These docs are downbeat if not downright depressing and, given their subjects, they very well should be. But other documentaries focus on individuals whose life stories are inspirational. They are role models, genuine heroes and heroines, individuals who deserve endless praise. Three current documentaries chart the lives of three unique individuals. They are Fred Rogers, Pope Francis, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and their titles are respectively WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR?, POPE FRANCIS: A MAN OF HIS WORD, and RBG. Each is well-worth seeing. Each refreshingly offers an enlightening, full-bodied portrait of its subject, and how each came to be much more than a famous name. And the bottom line is: You do not have to be Catholic, or a youngster, or a woman, to savor POPE FRANCIS..., WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR?, and RBG.

Rob Edelman: Ivana Trump’s Movie

Jun 11, 2018

Literally thousands of older films waste away in the dustbins of history. They barely were noticed when they were new and, for good reason, they have not improved with age. But for reasons that are obvious, one such film is worth citing. It dates from 1996, and its complete title is IVANA TRUMP’S FOR LOVE ALONE. Here is her brief biography, courtesy of the Internet Movie Database: “Ivana Trump was born on February 20, 1949 in Gottwaldov, Czechoslovakia as Ivana Marie Zelnícková. She is an actress, known for THE FIRST WIVES CLUB (released in 1996), IVANA YOUNG MAN (from 2006), and PAN TAU (from 1970). She was previously married to Rossano Rubicondi, Riccardo Mazzucchelli, Donald Trump, and Alfred Winklmayr.” Curiously, IVANA TRUMP’S FOR LOVE ALONE is not cited on this IMDB list, even though she makes a cameo appearance playing a character named “Ivana.” But the bottom line here is: How much does any of this really matter?

Rob Edelman: Oldies And Goodies

May 28, 2018

RAY MEETS HELEN, which has just opened theatrically, is the first feature directed and written by Alan Rudolph in a decade-and-a-half. Its scenario, and its mood, are in line with Rudolph’s best earlier films. For instance, in some of its sharpest moments, RAY MEETS HELEN features secondary characters who pop into the story, speak clever and ironic lines, and then disappear. But at its core are its title characters. Ray and Helen are solitary lost souls who are floating through their lives and dealing with their issues. They meet, and at the center of the story is their evolving relationship. Is there an attraction here? Will it be mutual? Will it somehow last, or is it simply too late for any sort of meaningful connection? 

Rob Edelman: Godard Mon Amour

May 21, 2018

Alfred Hitchcock never copped a Best Director Academy Award in-competition. Neither did Stanley Kubrick. Nor Howard Hawks, Orson Welles, Robert Altman-- not to mention Fellini, Bergman, Kurosawa. But Michel Hazanavicius did win as Best Director. This was in 2011, for THE ARTIST. His latest film, which has just opened theatrically here in the U.S., offers a point-of-view about another legendary filmmaker who never won an in-competition Oscar. That would be Jean-Luc Godard.

Audrey Kupferberg: Finding Your Feet

May 18, 2018

If I want to partake of unending violence, deception, and general mean-spiritedness, I’ll watch cable news. When I want to enjoy a good old-fashioned story about life – its trials, its happiness, and the love and friendship that make it worthwhile -- then I watch a feel-good movie. 

Rob Edelman: Gloria Swanson

May 14, 2018

Those who know their film history and relish Hollywood classics surely will savor Billy Wilder’s SUNSET BLVD. It dates from 1950, and it stars Gloria Swanson as a faded silent screen legend. Well, Swanson herself was a silent star of the first magnitude. In her heyday, her looks and screen presence combined to win her enduring fame. SUNSET BLVD. was made just two decades after the silent film era faded into history. At a time in which others of her age either were retired or accepting bit parts-- I could spend hours offering examples-- Swanson triumphed in SUNSET BLVD. as Norma Desmond, celebrated ex-silent cinema legend.  

Rob Edelman: Hedy

May 7, 2018

Who are celebrities? What is fame? Who are the individuals that exists beneath all the glitz and glamour? When one thinks of silver screen beauties of an earlier age, the names that spring to mind are Rita Hayworth, Ava Gardner, Jean Harlow, Marilyn Monroe... And certainly, without hesitation, you can add Hedy Lamarr. Back in the 1930’s and ‘40’s, she was one of the most recognizable Hollywood stars.

Rob Edelman: Actors On The Rise

Apr 30, 2018

Happily, not all new films are throwaways: movies that are mindless, that exist only as popcorn escapism and are forgotten before the closing credits have faded from the screen, and that feature throwaway performances. On one level, of course, not all popcorn movies are wastes of time. For after all, nothing really beats escaping from one’s problems and losing oneself in a comedy, drama or adventure, just so long as it is genuinely diverting.

Rob Edelman: Choose Alan Rudolph

Apr 23, 2018

Alan Rudolph was, is, and always will be a fiercely independent filmmaker. His best works are inventive and audacious, and they are linked by a consistency of vision. But Alan Rudolph never did become a household name. For indeed, he occasionally has been confused with his mentor. That would be Robert Altman. You would think so, if you are a New York Times crossword puzzle aficionado. On one occasion, one clue was a film title: “Altman’s ‘Welcome--.” The answer was-- “to L.A.”-- even though this particular film really was directed by Alan Rudolph.

How many times have you heard a friend or relative say, “I don’t want to see that old movie.  It’s in black-and-white.”  So many associate classic films with black-and-white that they disregard all those that actually were released in color.  Two extraordinary examples of early color films recently have been made available on DVD and Blu-ray.

Rob Edelman: Gloria...

Apr 16, 2018

Is the name Gloria Grahame a recognizable name? Well, back in the late 1940’s and through the 1950’s, Gloria Grahame was a major Hollywood personality. She had starring and supporting roles in films directed by Fritz Lang, Frank Capra, Vincente Minnelli, Edward Dmytryk, Cecil B. DeMille... She had a small but notable role in Capra’s IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE, playing a small-town floozy who flirts with Jimmy Stewart. Lee Marvin memorably doused her with scalding hot coffee in Lang’s THE BIG HEAT, and she co-starred opposite Bogie-— who of course is Humphrey Bogart-- in IN A LONELY PLACE, an all-time-classic film noir. But Grahame was not just a dramatic actress. She played Ado Annie in the screen version of OKLAHOMA!, the legendary stage musical. She even earned a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award in THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL, appearing opposite Kirk Douglas, Lana Turner, Dick Powell, and other A-list performers.

Audrey Kupferberg: NANA, A Holocaust Remembrance Documentary

Apr 11, 2018

NANA is a feature-length documentary about Polish-Jewish Holocaust survivor Maryla Michalowski-Dyamant. Dyamant, a promising young opera singer, was twenty years old when the Nazis invaded her town of Bedzin, Poland in 1939, the start of World War II. Soon after that, she began her nightmarish sojourn of imprisonment in a ghetto and hellish incarceration for years in the death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau, and also Ravensbruck and Malchow.

Rob Edelman: Barrymore And TOPAZE

Apr 9, 2018

If I wanted to watch a film just for its entertainment value, chances are I would choose one that predates me. And my selection would not always be an acknowledged classic. It may be flawed, but it will feature enough onscreen to keep it attention-grabbing. One such film is TOPAZE, which dates from 1933. Kino Lorber recently released it to home entertainment.