“The Macomber Affair” (1947) and the woes of Post-Code Hollywood

When I read Ernest Hemingway's 1936 short story "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber," sent to me via email by my friend three or so years ago, I was absolutely appalled. Which I assume was Hemingway's desired emotional response even back in those heedless un-P.C. 1930s. It's crass and misogynistic, first inviting readers to …

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Masks, Melanoma, Mutilation: The Haunting Films of James Fotopoulos

by Sam Weisberg Growths. Contusions. Gaping head wounds. Pus. Mannequins with limbs missing. Neutral masks. Decaying masks (sometimes sketched in computer ink over the frame, sometimes sculpted in clay, sometimes worn by actors). Kangaroo masks. Gorilla masks. Drawings of centaurs, gargoyles, medieval torture chambers. Nipples. Conch shells that look like nipples. A man penetrating an …

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“A Snake Pit Gig”: The Making (and Undoing) of Abel Ferrara’s “Cat Chaser”

by Sam Weisberg A retired—but still heavily armed—right-wing Dominican general who used to strip his victims and torture them with golf clubs, now living high on the hog in Miami. A one-time foot soldier in the 1965 Dominican Civil War, now fronting a run-down Miami hotel. His search for the female Dominican sniper who saved …

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“Grand Street” (2014): Dreamily Melancholy New York City Romance Vastly Deserves NYC Premiere

Amory (Tom Byam Shaw) is a failing screenwriter who rarely forgets the faces of his detractors--especially if the face in question is that of the strikingly beautiful, strikingly aloof Camilla (Charlotte Riley), a film exec. A year after she rejects his deeply personal script ("Just because it happened to you doesn't make it interesting," she …

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“The Game” Re-emerges 25 Years Later…in Panama

I had never heard of "The Game," a political drama made by two of Spike Lee's former business partners/friends, until I stumbled upon the negative review by the notoriously dry New York Times critic Vincent Canby, from April 1990. That month, the film, which wrapped in 1987, hit New York City's Criterion Center theater, having …

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“The Invisible Kid” (1988) and the Limits of “Dumb Fun”

Willfully dumb entertainment is the hardest thing to critique. It's almost as hard to critique, say, a well-done movie about a very serious or jarring historical event, but such movies are, at the very least, trying to move or compel audiences, and if they leave one cold, they have more or less failed. Movies that …

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Random Rarities Screened in New York City (Fall 2013-Present), Part 1

I've never understood people that think the world begins and ends in New York City, or revolves around it. Ironically, though, I am not sure I'll ever leave--not without a great amount of pain and fear, anyway. I've grown up here and lived here for most of my life (except for stretches of childhood and …

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The Little Movie That Couldn’t: An Oral History of Elliott Gould’s Never-Completed “A Glimpse of Tiger”

There are few in-depth Elliott Gould profiles that don't mention "A Glimpse of Tiger," the abandoned 1971 Warner Bros. dark comedy that Gould was slated to co-produce and star in. Fresh from the harrowing but ego-boosting tutelage of Ingmar Bergman, who'd selected Gould as his first American actor to star in his 1970 melodrama "The …

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Stupid: “Reckless” (1984)

 There's laconic, and then there's just stupid. There's posturing, and then there's just stupid. There's petulant, and then there's just stupid. There's fun stupid, campy stupid, what-the-hell-were-they-thinking stupid, offensive stupid, disgusting stupid. I've seen plenty of entertaining movies that can be described these ways, but never, until I saw James Foley's "Reckless," one that so relentlessly brought the …

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“Gleaming the Cube” (1989)

The late-80s Christian Slater vehicle "Gleaming the Cube" must have arisen out of the most breathless Hollywood pitch meeting in history. A California skateboarding punk teen (Slater) whose parents just don't understand him avenges his adopted Vietnamese brother's murder by some Vietnamese toughs that work for a shady arms dealer who's posing as a legit …

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