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OSCARS 2012: PRESS PLAY contributors argue for their favorites

After last week’s announcement of this year’s Oscar nominees, a handful of Press Play contributors gathered together via email to discuss the highs and lows in some of the major award categories. Below are some of the highlights of the conversation, and as always, we encourage you to keep the discussion going.
  • By Press Play Staff
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  • February 1, 2012 7:27 AM
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  • 21 Comments

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

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

AARON ARADILLAS: JAWS: the film and the director that changed everything

It is often said that Steven Spielberg’s Jaws, his excitingly directed adaptation of Peter Benchley’s disposable beach read about a summer community being terrorized by a great white shark, ushered in what we now know as the modern blockbuster. It, along with George Lucas’ Star Wars, brought about what we now accept as the Summer Movie Season. Up until Jaws, studios had considered the summer a vast wasteland where they could offload their grade-z programmers. Just like the town of Amity in the film (really Martha’s Vineyard), where a successful summer tourist season could carry the town through the rest of the year, Hollywood studios would forever rely on summer blockbusters to carry them throughout the rest of the year. This is all true, but Jaws is something else. Look closely and you’ll see it is actually the last old-fashioned adventure, a kind of farewell to a rickety yet sturdy style of Hollywood film-making – and values.
  • By Aaron Aradillas
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  • December 15, 2011 5:36 PM
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  • 0 Comments

CHAPTER ART: MAGIC AND LIGHT: THE FILMS OF STEVEN SPIELBERG debuted Dec. 15

It's almost here! Press Play's first video essay series in direct partnership with IndieWire: "Magic and Light: The Films of Steven Spielberg." On Dec. 15, 2011 on this blog, this series will examine facets of Spielberg's movie career, including his stylistic evolution as a director, his depiction of violence, his interest in communication and language, his portrayal of authority and evil, and the importance of father figures -- both present and absent -- throughout his work.
  • By Press Play Staff
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  • December 14, 2011 5:24 PM
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  • 0 Comments

AARON ARADILLAS: Taking Aim: the meaning of Oliver Stone's JFK 20 years on

Released in 1991, JFK is the first official film of the ‘90s. Director Oliver Stone, a dramatist first and foremost, uses the defining moment of the second half of the 20th century – the assassination of President John F. Kennedy – to try to figure out what exactly went so wrong in the wake of America’s triumphant prosperity following World War II. Stone sees the Kennedy assassination as the moment when his generation – the Baby Boomers, the generation to reap the rewards of the Greatest Generation – splintered into those who would forever be suspicious of authority and those who figuratively went to sleep to the constantly changing world around them.
  • By Aaron Aradillas
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  • December 14, 2011 2:07 PM
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  • 2 Comments

Press Play video series MAGIC AND LIGHT: THE FILMS OF STEVEN SPIELBERG to debut Dec. 15, 2011

Press Play is proud to announce our first video essay series in direct partnership with IndieWire: "Magic and Light: The Films of Steven Spielberg." Set to premiere Dec. 15, 2011 on this blog, this series will examine facets of Spielberg's movie career, including his stylistic evolution as a director, his depiction of violence, his interest in communication and language, his portrayal of authority and evil, and the importance of father figures -- both present and absent -- through
  • By Press Play Staff
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  • December 7, 2011 12:34 PM
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  • 6 Comments

Martin Scorsese's Cape Fear at 20

Martin Scorsese’s Cape Fear is first and foremost a work-for-hire directing job; this doesn’t make it a lesser film, simply a movie he didn’t attach himself to from the beginning. Released 20 years ago this month, Cape Fear was the bookend to that other thriller released earlier in the year, Jonathan Demme’s The Silence of the Lambs. Yes, 1991 saw America’s top two filmmakers try their hands at psychological thrillers – adult horror stories, really – and the results were movies that wiped away the last remaining residue of ‘80s exploitation – mechanized shocks designed to elicit robotic responses. With Lambs, Demme, who had up to that point made a name for himself as the most humane of American directors, used his training from working for Roger Corman to execute an unrelenting serial-killer thriller. What made the movie special was Demme’s refusal to sacrifice humanity for easy scares. He turned the platonic doctor-patient relationship between Dr. Hannibal Lecter and F.B.I. trainee Clarice Starling into one of movie history’s unlikeliest love stories. Even when dealing with monsters like Hannibal the Cannibal or Buffalo Bill, Demme was incapable of seeing then as just monsters. He had to locate their humanity. With Cape Fear, Scorsese left behind his comfort zone of big-city streets to tell an intimate story of a seemingly normal family imploding. His ongoing exploration of sin and guilt – whether it is ever too late for a man who has done wrong to be saved – courses through every frame of Cape Fear. Both films were big hits, but while Lambs became a zeitgeist movie complete with a character cementing a permanent place in our collective imagination, Cape Fear might be, in hindsight, the more disturbing of the two.
  • By Aaron Aradillas
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  • November 22, 2011 10:19 AM
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  • 2 Comments

24: Kiefer Sutherland's ticking clock classic turns 10

EDITOR'S NOTE: Kiefer Sutherland's ticking clock classic debuted 10 years ago this week. To mark this milestone, Press Play is re-publishing the video essay series "5 on 24" which was created by Matt Zoller Seitz and Aaron Aradillas for the Museum of Moving Image in 2010. According to their introduction, "5 on 24" examines various aspects of the show, including its real-time structure, its depiction of torture, and the psychology of its hero, counterterrorist agent Jack Bauer. The show tapped into the ticking-clock on-the-go mentality of post-millennial society. And its machine-gun pacing, real time structure, and long-form plotting took aesthetic risks that no other action show had dared.
  • By Matt Zoller Seitz & Aaron Aradillas
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  • November 11, 2011 3:21 PM
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  • 0 Comments

VIDEO ESSAY: ON THE GO, PART 1: BULLITT, THE FRENCH CONNECTION AND THE SEVEN-UPS

The subtitle of Aaron Aradillas and Richard Seitz's series "On the Go" says it all: "The Golden Age of the Car Chase, 1968-1985." Films that played in American theaters and on TV during those years were likely to contain at least one car chase. Some pictures from this period were built around a series of car chases. A few were essentially feature-length chases in which most of the action and dialogue took place while the characters were zipping down city streets or interstate highways.
  • By Aaron Aradillas and Richard Seitz
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  • October 19, 2011 1:45 AM
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  • 4 Comments

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