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Audrey Kupferberg: One Hundred Years Ago At The Movies

Oct 9, 2020
Audrey Kupferberg
WAMC

In thinking about the Spanish Flu pandemic that lasted approximately from the spring of 1918 to the summer of 1919, a crisis that appears to have begun in Kansas, not Spain, I am interested to read of its effect on the movie industry.  Richard Brody wrote a piece on this subject for the March 17 issue of the New Yorker magazine.

Audrey Kupferberg: The Trip to Greece And Happyish

Sep 25, 2020

The career of Oscar-nominated and BAFTA-winning actor/producer/writer Steve Coogan hit one of several high points a couple years ago with his interpretation of Stan Laurel, the great silent film comic, in his final years. Stan & Ollie is one of the few of Coogan’s most memorable projects on which he seemingly did not have creative control.  Among Coogan’s outstanding works—where he clearly had control as actor/producer/writer-- is Philomena from 2013, a drama about an elderly woman, played by Judi Dench, who seeks knowledge of the child she once bore and who was taken away while she was being held in a nightmarish convent. 

Audrey Kupferberg: The City Without Jews

Sep 15, 2020

The City Without Jews, an Austrian silent feature film from 1924, has been rediscovered and restored.  It is available for home viewing with a musical score on Blu-ray and DVD through Flicker Alley.  The title is a shocker, especially coming several years before Hitler’s rise to power and well more than a decade before the Holocaust.  But anti-Semitism didn’t originate with the Nazis; it’s ages old.  In this story, the Jewish population is expelled from a fictional version of Vienna.  The head councilor is warned ahead of time, “Abandon your project!  Inhumanity doesn’t make for good politics.”  Now, to my mind, that is a warning that has never grown stale.

Audrey Kupferberg: Guest Of Honour

Sep 10, 2020

Atom Egoyan is a popular and prolific Canadian filmmaker.  He has been a favorite with audiences at the Toronto Film Festival for more than twenty years.  He had a critical and box-office success as far back as 1994 with a thriller about strip clubs called Exotica.  His top-rated film is 1997’s The Sweet Hereafter about a bus crash in a small town. Yet browsing through his filmography on the Internet Movie Database, I note that a good number of his films received mixed reviews and rather low audience ratings.

Audrey Kupferberg: The Mountain

Sep 3, 2020

Arthouse films are a different breed from most mainstream films.  They often stress style and and creativity over straightforward story-telling.  Since arthouse films are independent productions, the filmmaker usually has the final word about every detail of the movie.  There are no studio staff and moguls to dictate changes to affect marketing.

Audrey Kupferberg: "Honeyland" And "Woman At War"

Aug 25, 2020

Just when you think that documentary films have tackled every possible storyline, one pops up to bring new light to a subject and geographic site yet relatively unexplored.  Such is the case with the highly-praised, feature-length documentary called Honeyland, a film of such quality that it is to-date the only movie to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature and Best International Feature Film. Many thanks to my friend, Everett Aison, artist and filmmaker, for pointing me towards this title, which is available for home viewing. 

Audrey Kupferberg: Hope Gap

Jul 23, 2020

In George Stevens’ poignant film, I Remember Mama, the Norwegian-American mother brings her daughter’s writings to a successful author for review.  She trades her most precious Norwegian recipes for that service.  In the end, the author advises her to tell her daughter to write about what she knows.  Tried and true advice, indeed.  And such is the case with the recently released feature Hope Gap, written and directed by William Nicholson. 

Audrey Kupferberg: Portrait Of A Lady On Fire

Jul 21, 2020

The French film Portrait of a Lady on Fire, ercently released for home viewing, has been nominated for a long list of international film awards and has won a healthy number of them.  With this project, French writer/director Celine Sciamma has intended to depict a story about falling in love and showing the span of a deeply-felt but pretty much unrealizable passion.

Audrey Kupferberg: Killing Eve

Jul 8, 2020

Now that the third season of the award-winning BBC One television series Killing Eve has finished airing, I am wondering if season three was warranted?  In order to give proper consideration to this point at issue, it was necessary to revisit the 16 episodes making up seasons one and two and then consider the content of the most recent season.  To summarize the plot of Killing Eve in a sentence, when a trained assassin is hunted by an unconventional and inexperienced intelligence officer, the two women click.

Two feature films, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood and Emma., have some real entertainment value but suffer from a number of shortcomings.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has announced that it is expanding its efforts to bring more diversity into its membership an its annual Oscar awards.  For much of the past hundred years, the American film industry establishment hasn’t been particularly welcoming to people of color.  Now that there are many actors, directors, writers and technicians of various races making quality films, it will be interesting to see the results of the improvements the Academy is touting.

Audrey Kupferberg: Frankie

May 27, 2020

FRANKIE is a feature released theatrically a few months ago about a film star who is dying of cancer.  It recently was made available to the home viewing market.  I asked myself, who would think to see a film about a dying person during a pandemic?  My answer was simple.  Many people would, because this movie stars the Oscar-nominated, BAFTA-winning French star Isabelle Huppert who played the lead in Michael Haneke’s THE PIANO TEACHER twenty years ago and in Paul Verhoeven’s suspense film ELLE in 2016.  Furthermore, the producers of ELLE brought us FRANKIE.

Audrey Kupferberg: Becoming

May 22, 2020

Higher Ground Productions, Barack and Michelle Obama’s media production company for distribution through Netflix, has released a new documentary about the 44th First Lady.  It is called Becoming, the same title as her best-selling biographical and philosophical memoir. 

Audrey Kupferberg: Inspector Morse

May 15, 2020

I believe that most of us have hit a point in our stay-at-home lifestyles where a key element of our existence is comfort. That might mean adding more pillows to the sofa, eating mac-and-cheese more often than usual, or watching the movies and TV shows that we love the most.  These may be programs or films that go back to our happy youth or the first years of our marriage.  They may be entertainments that we almost know by heart. 

Audrey Kupferberg: Blinded By The Light

May 13, 2020

With so many folks staying at home these days, families are planning weekly movie nights.  They are searching for films that appeal to all ages and spark lively conversation after viewing.  One such film is Blinded by the Light, a 2019 release, the story of a teen-aged Pakistani-British teenager in 1987 who becomes obsessed with the works of Bruce Springsteen.

Audrey Kupferberg: The Golem And The Great Leap

Apr 29, 2020

Kino Classics has released two films from the golden age of German cinema – films from the Weimar Republic, a particularly rich period for the arts that lasted from the end of World War I until the rise of Hitler.

Audrey Kupferberg: Bong Joon Ho Films

Apr 24, 2020

Fifty-year-old South Korean filmmaker Bong Joon Ho has made award-winning, box office hits for close to two decades.  Yet he had not gleaned the attention of mainstream American audiences until the 2019 feature, Parasite, which he directed and co-wrote.  Parasite won four major Academy Awards, including Best Picture.  It has made approximately $270 million, as of mid-March, and it currently is being adapted as an HBO series.

Audrey Kupferberg: Self Made/Madam C.J. Walker

Mar 27, 2020

Netflix recently debuted a new limited series called Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker.  Directed by Kasi Lemmons and DeMane Davis, and executive-produced by LeBron James, the four-part series is a tribute to the first female millionaire entrepreneur in the United States.  Madam C.J. Walker was an African-American woman born just two years after the end of slavery into a family of slaves-turned-sharecroppers.  She manufactured and sold hair restorers and beauty products made specifically for women of color.

Audrey Kupferberg: Wild Nights With Emily

Mar 19, 2020

Wild Nights with Emily sounds like a film about a rebellious teen who spends her nights at raves and overnight orgies.  It is not.  Wild Nights with Emily, which was released on DVD and other home-viewing formats this month, is an unusual independent feature film about Emily Dickinson, whom we grew up knowing as a prim recluse, a spinster-poet who didn’t socialize or have a very real passionate love in her lifetime, a woman who wrote of death and immortality.  It certainly is true that she was a homebody. She hid many of her works even from her family, and only a small portion of her 1800 poems were published during her lifetime.

Audrey Kupferberg: Broken Barriers

Feb 27, 2020

Fiddler on the Roof is one of the most beloved stage and screen musicals of the last fifty-plus years.  You will recall, it’s a touching story of a poor dairyman, Tevye, and his wife and daughters, as they struggle to eke out a living in the Ukrainian village of Anatevka. Fiddler is based on the Tevye the Dairyman stories by the most famous of all Yiddish-language writers, Sholem Aleichem.  A portion of the stories involvies Chava, the daughter who is a reader and potentially an intellectual.  In the written story, Chava runs off to marry a handsome educated man who worships the writings of Maxim Gorky and longs to share his love and his knowledge with Chava.  But this man was born into the rites of his Church -- a non-Jew, so the issue of inter-marriage is the theme of the Chava story. 

Audrey Kupferberg: Pain And Glory/Meeting Gorbachev

Feb 20, 2020

Today in art house cinemas, professional film programmers link together films that complement one another –a kindred theme, a particular star or director.  However, home streaming habits often involve off-the-cuff double bills – based on whims, whimsy, or whatever titles most recently were released by Hulu, Amazon Prime, or Netflix.

Audrey Kupferberg: The Two Popes

Feb 4, 2020

I saw a trailer for The Two Popes a couple weeks ago but couldn’t figure out the storyline.  Then, with the recent announcement that this Netflix film has garnered three Oscar nominations, I decided to pay closer attention.  After all, with Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce in the starring roles, and Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles, whose work includes The Constant Gardener and City of God, at the helm, The Two Popes has prestige credits.  Add to those names, that of writer Anthony McCarten, who penned Bohemian Rhapsody and Darkest Hour, and suddenly The Two Popes landed in my must-see column.

Audrey Kupferberg: Glorifying The American Girl

Jan 14, 2020

Kino Classics recently released Florenz Ziegfeld’s Glorifying the American Girl, a primitive 1929 sound film – a musical starring Mary Eaton and Rochester NY native Dan Healey, and featuring popular 1920s stage talents Eddie Cantor, Helen Morgan, and Rudy Vallee.

One of the most powerful films of the year is Marriage Story, a feature film written and directed by Noah Baumbach, which can be streamed on Netflix or seen in theaters.  The plot follows the dissolution of a marriage between an intellectual stage director and his actress wife.  The versatile Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson star. 

Audrey Kupferberg: Where's My Roy Cohn

Dec 10, 2019

Currently playing theatrically is a documentary feature called Where’s My Roy Cohn?.  As most of us will recall, the film title is a quote from Donald Trump, as published in the NY Times in early 2018.  While this documentary doesn’t dwell on the relationship between Trump and his lawyer/fixer Cohn, it is quite content to take advantage of the commercial value of that particular quote as its title.  It calls out to all liberals, saying – without actually really saying – “if you dislike Trump, you will love this movie.”

Audrey Kupferberg: Fiddler - A Miracle Of Miracles

Oct 8, 2019

Fiddler on the Roof is so much more than a Broadway musical about a bunch of put-upon Jews struggling to keep their traditions intact, more than a shtetl view of Jews living their lives in 1905 in the rural Russian village of Anatevka.  It has come to be a pop culture phenomenon.  The musical ran on Broadway for more than 3,000 performances from 1964 onward, and it has been performed in many parts of the world frequently over the past fifty-five years.  Right now, Fiddler is being performed hither and yon by professional theater troupes and middle school drama clubs.  Recently, a new Yiddish-language version began running on Broadway.

Audrey Kupferberg: L’Argent And Fragment Of An Empire

Sep 24, 2019

Two films from the late 1920s, the end of the silent era – which is considered by many to be the height of silent filmmaking -- have been restored and now are available for home viewing through streaming, DVD, and Blu-ray.  The finest of silent films constitute a poetry branch of motion pictures.  The artfulness of these films takes its audience beyond storytelling.  By the mid-late 1920s, moving camerawork – the unchained cameras – provided thrilling moments of drama, confusion, automotive and technological activity, modernity, and even inner workings of mental and emotional processes. Editing is fast-moving and clever.

Audrey Kupferberg: American Factory

Sep 19, 2019

A well-made documentary is never hard to find, because there are fair-minded filmmakers out there who can sniff out a good story and tell it in an intelligent manner.  Sometimes, a documentary is really outstanding.  That is the case with American Factory, the new project by veteran documentary filmmakers Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar.

Audrey Kupferberg: Alice Guy-Blache

Aug 21, 2019

Pioneer filmmaker Alice Guy-Blache is celebrated in a new feature-length documentary by Pamela B. Green.  The film is called BE NATURAL: THE UNTOLD STORY OF ALICE GUY-BLACHE.  Anyone with an interest in early film history or the study of gender inequality in the modern age of the 19th and early 20th centuries will want to see this documentary, which has been released for home viewing by Kino Lorber.

Audrey Kupferberg: Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood

Aug 15, 2019

Quentin Tarantino revolutionized popular culture in the 1990s with his ultra-violent, ultra-talented films RESERVOIR DOGS and PULP FICTION.  Dormitory rooms across the nation were decorated with Tarantino film posters.  Every fan knew certain dialogues by heart. 

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