cinema | WAMC


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.

Rob Edelman: Chappaquiddick

Apr 2, 2018

These days, the Kennedy clan is much in the media. Most recently, CNN broadcast AMERICAN DYNASTIES: THE KENNEDYS, which includes “rare family moments from the White House.” However, when have John, Robert, and Jacqueline Kennedy not been the subjects of endless films and TV programs? And now, a new biopic, appropriately titled CHAPPAQUIDDICK, puts forth a certain point of view about Edward Kennedy, the youngest Kennedy brother.

Rob Edelman: One Past President

Mar 26, 2018

How many times have we heard our president, Donald Trump, label himself the all-time best-ever American political leader? In his view, the lone exception just may be Abraham Lincoln. But then again, maybe not. Well, now is as good a time as any to revisit American history and familiarize ourselves with the lives and times of other American presidents. Their histories have unfolded in plenty of documentaries; one, for example, is titled THE INDOMITABLE TEDDY ROOSEVELT. Its producer and director is Harrison Engle; it dates from 1983; its narrator is George C. Scott; and Flicker Alley recently released it to home entertainment.

Rob Edelman: Beauty... And Dogs

Mar 19, 2018

Whenever I see a newly-released film or whenever I view one that is decades-old, I ask myself and my students: What is this film telling us about the time in which it was made and the culture that produced it? For example, when I teach a course on the history of the American crime film, I ask: What do films like LITTLE CAESAR, THE PUBLIC ENEMY, or I AM A FUGITIVE FROM A CHAIN GANG tell us about the America of the early 1930’s? What does a film like WALL STREET, which is as much a crime film as a cops-and-robbers thriller, tell us about corporate America in the 1980’s? When I teach a course titled New American Cinema, my question is: What do films like FIVE EASY PIECES, THE GRADUATE, TAXI DRIVER, SHAFT, EASY RIDER, and KRAMER VS. KRAMER, among many others, tell us about the changes that then were rapidly occurring in the United States beginning in the late-1960’s? What do these films have to say about the Vietnam War, the civil rights movement, women’s rights, the sexual revolution, and the general feeling of alienation among the young? 

Audrey Kupferberg: Outstanding Film Performances Of 2017

Mar 16, 2018

Frances McDormand is astounding audiences as the rage-filled, maniacal mother of a young rape and murder victim in THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI, and Gary Oldman is thrilling viewers of DARKEST HOUR with his multi-dimensional portrayal of Winston Churchill.  They are rightful winners of this year’s Oscars for actors in leading roles.

Rob Edelman: War...

Mar 12, 2018

JOURNEY’S END, a new and just-released British film, is a property with a storied history. This tale of survival among a cluster of British soldiers in the trenches of World War I originated as a play. Its author is R.C. Sherriff, and it premiered on the London stage at the tail-end of 1928. One of its stars, by the way, was a 21-year-old actor by the name of Laurence Olivier, and it ran on the West End for two years. The success of JOURNEY’S END resulted in stage productions mounted across the globe. Its first screen version, a U.S.-UK co-production, dates from 1930. It is the first feature directed by James Whale, who momentarily guided Boris Karloff to horror film immortality in FRANKENSTEIN. Intriguingly, a German remake of JOURNEY’S END came out a year later. This of course was pre-Adolph Hitler. Plus, it has been revived on-stage across the decades. I saw it a number of years ago in a West End production.

Rob Edelman: Appreciating What You Have

Mar 5, 2018

In recent years, so many American films have centered on characters who for a range of reasons are dissatisfied with their lives. They question the world around them. They view themselves as losers, as failures and, at their core, they also are self-involved.

Rob Edelman: The Best Of The Best

Feb 26, 2018

Five excellent and provocative films have earned nominations for Best Documentary Feature Academy Awards. One of them is FACES PLACES. Its co-director is Agnes Varda and it just may win, if only to honor this legendary eighty-something filmmaker. However, one in particular stands out. It is ABACUS: SMALL ENOUGH TO JAIL. I cited it in a review this past spring when it opened theatrically and it is well-worth re-focusing on, given its quality and its content.

Rob Edelman: Black Panther

Feb 19, 2018

Upon initially hearing that a new film titled BLACK PANTHER soon would be coming to a theater near you, my gut response was: “Oh no, I really hope this film will not be a rehash of the highly controversial Black Panther Party of the late-1960’s and ‘70’s. Who would be cast as Huey Newton? Who would play Bobby Seale? How would they be presented?”

Audrey Kupferberg: Overlooked And Forgotten Films Of 2017

Feb 16, 2018

With all the Oscar buzz this month, one might think that fewer than twenty feature films were made during 2017. THREE BILLBOARDS, THE SHAPE OF WATER, THE PHANTOM THREAD, LADY BIRD, GET OUT, DARKEST HOUR…

Rob Edelman: Not “Fake News”

Feb 12, 2018

Two current, high-profile films tell fact-based stories that are set in decades past, but each offers sobering truths about our present-day culture. Both feature characters who are well-known, who are name brands. Some are good guys: individuals who are honorable and responsible, and are deserving of our utmost admiration. Others, meanwhile, are out-and-out villains: individuals who are deeply, sadly flawed. They are self-absorbed. They are greedy. They are, at their core, not to be envied. In this regard, both films reflect on some real-world truths.

Rob Edelman: Less-Than-Perfect Parenting

Feb 5, 2018

Here are some thoughts on a couple of current, high-profile movies, both of which feature connections between mothers or fathers and their offspring.

Rob Edelman: Yesterday And Today

Jan 29, 2018

Several weeks ago, on a dark rainy morning, I watched a pair of vintage Hollywood films on Turner Classic Movies. The first was titled TOGETHER AGAIN, and it dates from 1944. TOGETHER AGAIN is a romance about a small-town Vermont mayor who is, horror of horrors, a woman. She is played by Irene Dunne, and I have to wonder: How many of you remember Irene Dunne? Anyway, in no way would this character ever enter politics on her own. It so happens that she is the widow of the now-former mayor, and she inherited the position upon his demise. But of course, now that she is no longer married, her one goal in life should be to find a new man quick, and remarry. And once she crosses paths with charming Charles Boyer, you know that, by the finale, she will relinquish her position all in the name of love, marriage, and a woman’s predetermined lot in life. 

Rob Edelman: The “Other” Donald

Jan 22, 2018

One way in which to market a new film featuring an older star is to hype that star’s presence and performance. This is especially helpful if that star has never earned a competitive Academy Award, or even an Academy Award nomination. So the message here is: Let’s honor this actor. Let’s go see this actor in this film, and then shower this actor with career-defining kudos.