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VERTIGOED: A Press Play mash-up contest

Press Play's first video mash-up contest, with a prize and everything.
  • By Press Play Staff
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  • January 18, 2012 8:02 AM
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  • 21 Comments

VIDEO ESSAY: DEEP FOCUS: SUPERMAN RETURNS, Angel of America

Bryan Singer's "Superman Returns" is no masterpiece. The movie's first act is hobbled by weird misjudgments (including a criminally underused Eva Marie Saint as Ma Kent), and it's so choppy that it seems to have been edited with a meat axe. Kevin Spacey's snidely campy performance as Lex Luthor unbalances the film's otherwise sincere tone. It's also so dependent upon our knowing what happened in 1978's "Superman: The Movie" and its follow-up, "Superman II," that at times it feels like a long-delayed sequel in which the principal cast has been replaced.
  • By Matt Zoller Seitz & Ken Cancelosi
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  • January 9, 2012 4:20 PM
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  • 68 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

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 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

MAGIC AND LIGHT: THE FILMS OF STEVEN SPIELBERG: Chapter 1: Introduction

Steven Spielberg is one of the most popular storytellers of all time. Based solely on box-office receipts, that’s an inarguable fact. It's been true since 1975, when the box office take of his breakthrough Jaws redefined the the word "blockbuster." Look at the top grossing movies of all time, and you'll see that a startling number were produced or directed by Spielberg. And yet this almost forty-year streak hasn't been enough to insulate him against charges that he's a frivolous director – or that, at the very least, his success is an example of style, or more accurately technique, over substance. That he does not persuade or even seduce viewers, but that he overwhelms them. With sound. With light. With music. And special effects.
  • By Matt Zoller Seitz, Ali Arikan & Serena Bramble.
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  • December 15, 2011 9:34 AM
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  • 18 Comments

VIDEO ESSAY: Moment of wonder: THE SPIELBERG FACE

If there is one recurring image that defines the cinema of Steven Spielberg, it is The Spielberg Face. Eyes open, staring in wordless wonder in a moment where time stands still. But above all, a child-like surrender in the act of watching, both theirs and ours. It’s as if their total submission to what they are seeing mirrors our own. The face tells us that a monumental event is happening; in doing so, it also tells us how we should feel. If Spielberg deserves to be called a master of audience manipulation, then this is his signature stroke. You can’t think of the most iconic moments in Spielberg’s cinema without The Spielberg Face.
  • By Kevin B. Lee
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  • December 13, 2011 8:25 PM
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  • 1 Comment

VIDEO ESSAY: CHAOS CINEMA, PART 3; Matthias Stork addresses his critics

Editor’s Note: Press Play is proud to debut part three in Matthias Stork’s Chaos Cinema, the latest installment in an ongoing consideration of a phenomenon that Stork defined in two video essays that ran on this site in August, 2011. His first two chapters touched off a firestorm of debate that’s still going on. Just last weekend, New York Times contributor Alex Pappadeas cited the piece in a year-end “Riffs” column. Citing bizarre images in "the trailer for 2016, a possibly nonexistent sci-fi movie from Ghana," Pappadeas argued that the major problem with the style is that it does not go far enough. "The standard knock on Chaos Cinema filmmakers is that they’re constructing narratives entirely from rupture and collision," he writes. "But if movies are going to go there, they should really go there. Let’s stop asking directors who clearly have no affinity for story or character to pretend otherwise. Instead, let’s let the alien kick the baby, and see how far the baby will fly." That’s what Stork is doing here by addressing his critics directly using the form that has served him well in the past, the video essay. The full text of the piece’s narration is printed below. For context, we’ve also reproduced Parts 1 and 2 of Chaos Cinema as well. The comments section is open. You may fire when ready.
  • By Matthias Stork
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  • December 9, 2011 6:12 PM
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  • 22 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

VIDEO ESSAY: Never Before, Never Again: Henson and Oz; A Muppet conversation

EDITOR'S NOTE: To mark the opening of Jim Henson's Fantastic in July 2011, Matt Zoller Seitz and Ken Cancelosi created Never Before, Never Again: Henson and Oz, a video essay which describes the nature of that long and fruitful collaboration between Jim Henson and Frank Oz. Press Play is re-posting that essay in light of the release of Jason Segel's new directorial effort, The Muppets. Given the length of their 27-year collaboration and their creative influence on the culture, it makes the argument that they should be considered a comedy team on the level of Abbott and Costello and Laurel and Hardy. In addition, we are publishing a discussion between the essay's creators. They discuss the curious fate of the Muppets since Jim Henson's untimely death and the challenges director Jason Segel faces in resurrecting them.
  • By Matt Zoller Seitz and Ken Cancelosi
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  • November 22, 2011 5:43 PM
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  • 1 Comment

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