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VIDEO ESSAY: MAGIC AND LIGHT: THE FILMS OF STEVEN SPIELBERG - Chapter 6: Indiana Jones and the Story of Life

What does it mean to be a father? What does it mean to come of age without a father? These questions have been at the center of many Steven Spielberg films. Both light entertainments and dark historical dramas have considered them. The director’s evolving views on fathers and fatherhood are on surprisingly vivid display in the Indiana Jones series, which were produced by his longtime friend and Star Wars mogul George Lucas. Taken as a whole, the films feel like markers in Spielberg’s maturation.
  • By Aaron Aradillas & Matt Zoller Seitz
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  • December 30, 2011 10:37 PM
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  • 1 Comment

SIMON SAYS: As another year passes, Chris Gorak's RIGHT AT YOUR DOOR reminds us where we have been

Writer/director Chris Gorak's "The Darkest Hour" hit theaters on Christmas Day; to give you an idea of why you should be excited, here's an appreciation of Gorak's topical 2006 chiller, "Right at Your Door." “They don’t really know anything,” Rory Cochrane murmurs wonderingly at one point early on in Right at Your Door, writer/director Chris Gorak’s nightmarish horror parable about the "War on Terror" as it's imagined at home. That line of dialogue guilelessly gets to the heart of Gorak’s drama, which features the best and not-so-best aspects of George Romero’s trenchantly moralistic horror movies.
  • By Simon Abrams
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  • December 30, 2011 8:51 AM
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  • 3 Comments

GREY MATTERS: HOMELAND and the art of playing crazy

As a certified crazy person, I’m here to tell you that either vampires burn in daylight or they don’t. I’ll accept no wiggle room on this. Anything less and you’ll quickly lose my suspension of disbelief. To get what I’m babbling about, this way, please. I’m talking about "Homeland," which is, by the way, about almost nothing but crazy people. "Homeland," in case you’ve been busy catching up on something more realistic – I suggest Syfy’s zero-dollar wonder, Alphas – is about Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes), a C.I.A. operations officer haunted by the notion that she failed to do something that may have stopped 9/11 from happening. She was also compromised in an Iraq operation because of an American soldier who’d turned against his country.
  • By Ian Grey
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  • December 28, 2011 4:17 AM
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  • 6 Comments

TRAILER: Terrence Malick's TREE OF LULZ (Hey, it could have happened. . .)

Annals of film history are filled with masterpieces that never were. Cineastes spend many a sleepless night thinking of Stanley Kubrick’s unproduced epic on Napoleon’s life. Film historians still search every nook and cranny to possibly locate Orson Welles’ first cut of The Magnificent Ambersons. Then there is the original script for John Huston’s Freud: The Secret passion that a little known philosopher by the name of Jean-Paul Sartre wrote; and Aldous Huxley’s Alice and the Mysterious Mr. Carroll, which was an amalgam of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Through the Looking Glass, and the biography of Lewis Carroll, of which Walt Disney said: “[The script] was so literary I could understand only every third word.” There are many, many more, and probably none of these intriguing projects will ever get to see the light of day. But don’t despair, gentle reader. As a late Christmas present, PressPlay is proud to offer you a glimpse of another masterpiece that could have been. Drown your cinephile sorrows in this.
  • By Kevin B. Lee & Ali Arikan
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  • December 28, 2011 3:27 AM
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  • 0 Comments

VIDEO ESSAY: MAGIC AND LIGHT: THE FILMS OF STEVEN SPIELBERG, Chapter 5: Father Figures

Steven Spielberg is the product of The Greatest Generation -- a Baby Boomer raised on idealized images of the nuclear family, progress, and American might. He is also a child of divorce -- a dreamer from a broken home. Spielberg’s attempt to reconcile these two biographical facts—the mythic ideal of the family, and the reality of its dismantling—has been at the heart of many of his films. Spielberg’s movies often focus on a real or makeshift family unit, banding together to fight an outside force that threatens to tear it apart. At the head of this makeshift family, there is often a father figure imparting wisdom to his charges, or being forced to confront his shortcomings as a protector. Often both.
  • By Steven Santos, Aaron Aradillas & Matt Zoller Seitz
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  • December 23, 2011 6:49 AM
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  • 3 Comments

PETER TONGUETTE: EVERYONE SAYS I LOVE YOU is a stealthy Christmas classic

By the time I saw Woody Allen’s Christmas movie Everyone Says I Love You, Christmas was over, and so was New Year’s Eve. It wasn’t until some dreary day in the middle of something like February that the film reached us, weeks after the tree had been taken out to the curb and the confetti swept away. That day, Christmas seemed very far away. It wasn’t just that the season had passed. It was where I was calling from, as Raymond Carver might put it, that was the problem. Everyone Says I Love You was a musical comedy set in Manhattan, Venice, and Paris, and it was the last city that served as the backdrop for the film’s richly evoked Christmas scenes. Well, I had never been to any of those cities, and it was hard not to feel out of the loop when gawking at them from Slidell, Louisiana, the city north of New Orleans where for all intents and purposes I grew up.
  • By Peter Tonguette
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  • December 22, 2011 1:12 PM
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  • 0 Comments

VIDEO ESSAY: MAGIC AND LIGHT: THE FILMS OF STEVEN SPIELBERG, Chapter 4: Evil and Authority

The antagonist, in Steven Spielberg’s films, has many faces. It can be government scientists involved in seemingly shady plots. It can be unstoppable behemoths such as the shark in Jaws or the tanker truck in Duel. Warped ideologies, as in Schindler’s List. Or the tangled and self-defeating allure of vengeance, as in Munich. What’s essential is that none of these could truly be considered “evil” in the classical -- or theological -- mould. You can’t blame the T-Rex for being a T-Rex in Jurassic Park. You can’t blame a Martian for being a Martian in War of the Worlds. They are what they are. And even in the most menacing moments, even the most outwardly inhuman antagonists display qualities that could even be described as, well, almost human.
  • By Matt Zoller Seitz, Ali Arikan & Kevin B. Lee
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  • December 21, 2011 3:18 PM
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  • 2 Comments

PETER TONGUETTE: Director Steven Spielberg and editor Michael Kahn: a life long partnership

I was the sort of kid who paid attention to movie credits, even if I didn’t comprehend them, so from an early age I was familiar with the name of Michael Kahn. There it was, appearing again and again at the start of some of my favorite movies as a child: Close "Encounters of the Third Kind," "Raiders of the Lost Ark"," Empire of the Sun." It was always preceded by words like “Film Editor” or “Edited By.”
  • By Peter Tonguette
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  • December 20, 2011 9:29 AM
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  • 0 Comments

VIDEO ESSAY: MAGIC AND LIGHT: THE FILMS OF STEVEN SPIELBERG - Chapter 3: Communication

Steven Spielberg's movies are often described as hopeful, optimistic, sweet -- or, pejoratively, as sentimental, naive, and "feel-good." In some sense, all those adjectives are right. Many of his movies are transcendently cheerful. Even the bleakest offer a shred of hope for humanity, or else lament when it falls short of its potential. And all share an underlying belief: that misunderstandings could be fixed, problems solved, and disasters averted if we could all just learn to get along. And before we can get along, we must communicate. Close Encounters of the Third Kind is the first major Spielberg film to put this theme in the foreground. But nearly all his movies touch on it: 1941 and the Indiana Jones films treat it lightheartedly, Close Encounters, E.T. and The Terminal with poignant warmth. In many of the historical dramas, we see both successful and failed attempts at communication depicted in an array of moods and modes. Ironic, hopeful, despairing -- even coolly journalistic.
  • By Matt Zoller Seitz
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  • December 19, 2011 2:01 PM
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  • 6 Comments

GREY MATTERS: Martin Scorsese's interesting year

Aside from being a lousy whitewash out to prove God-knows-what, Martin Scorsese’s George Harrison: Living in the Material World doesn’t even live up to some simple realities, things like the fact that when you’re Martin Scorsese, you most certainly do have a huge responsibility when taking on such an undertaking. Nobody will ever again have your resources, access or your name, and the sobriety of purpose and sheer cred that goes with it. And now, to super-complicate matters really interestingly, we have Hugo, easily one of Scorsese’s top five films, a masterpiece, coming mere months on the heels of the Harrison debacle. The two films, in eternal orbit and connected by “George” as a name and notion – of the guitar player and his revolution in sound, and of the disgraced special effects trailblazer, Georges Méliès, who, in our world, delighted a small, asthmatic Italian-American boy in Little Italy almost 60 years ago with his lowest-fi wonders.
  • By Ian Grey
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  • December 19, 2011 1:33 PM
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  • 2 Comments

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