This book may seem tangential on a site devoted to film, but music is one of my passions, and Artie Shaw was part of a show-business era that fascinates me; he remains one of my all-time favorite musicians. A brilliant clarinetist, he became a major star of the big band era with a string of hit records, including “Stardust,” “Begin the Beguine,” and “Frenesi.” If you insist on a Hollywood connection, he cut a wide swath through movieland and was married to four beautiful actresses: Lana Turner, Ava Gardner, Doris Dowling, and Evelyn Keyes. (Connoisseurs of female pulchritude will want to note that he thought Betty Grable had
I’d like to extoll the virtues of a great comedy, but this isn’t it. A word of explanation: I come to Dinner for Schmucks at a disadvantage, because I love the French film on which it’s based, The Dinner Game (1998). I’ve also heard its creator, the brilliant writer-director Francis Veber, describe his filmmaking philosophy, and criticize Hollywood colleagues for always wanting to expand and complicate his material. (The Birdcage is the best translation ever made of a Veber property, but I still prefer his original, La Cage aux Folles.)
In spite of this, I honestly tried to approach Dinner for Schmucks with an open mind. I like the casting of Paul Rudd and especially Steve Carell, who—
Get Low is one of the treats of the summer movie season, a modest film that offers ample rewards, not the least being the opportunity to watch wonderful actors at work. The setting is Tennessee during the Great Depression. Robert Duvall is well cast as a man who’s lived as a hermit for the past forty years. One day he turns up in town and asks the local preacher to hold his funeral—while he’s still alive. Over the course of the film we learn what has brought him to this moment, and what drove him away from his friends and neighbors so many years ago.
In less expert hands, this part could have become a caricature. Instead, Duvall actually—
If you have any fondness for life’s oddballs, I think you’ll share my affection for the latest film from the writing/directing team of Robert Pulcini and Shari Springer Berman, who brought us American Splendor. The Extra Man, based on a novel by Jonathan Ames, focuses on two men who exist out of their time: Henry Harrison, a pompous, world-class eccentric who gets by as an escort, or “extra man,” for aging Manhattan society women, and Louis Ives, an unworldly academic with a propensity for cross-dressing.
Harrison is vividly brought to life by Kevin Kline, who seems to revel in his character’s peculiarities. He’s proudly, gloriously strange, a creature of his own invention. This is one of the best parts Kline has ever had, a golden opportunity for him to draw on his gift for—
To celebrate the 15th year of the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, its directors decided to extend the event by an extra day, kicking off Thursday night and screening all day Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The results were exhausting but exhilarating. As in years past, near-capacity crowds turned out at every show, with several shows, like the newly-restored Metropolis, turning customers away.
There are other vintage film festivals around the country but none is as elaborate, ambitious, or masterfully mounted as this one, a genuine cultural event in San Francisco. It has a perfect home in The Castro, a glorious 1927 movie palace, and its programmers and board of directors create a first-class experience. There are signings with authors of film-related books between showings, along with the sale of books and DVDs, and informative slide shows that set the stage for each screening. What’s more, the audience is treated to the widest possible variety of live music. This year, Dennis James kicked off the proceedings by accompanying John Ford’s The Iron Horse (1924) on the Castro’s Mighty Wurlitzer organ, the three-man Alloy Orchestra played for—
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