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Orson Welles: Happy First Century

Posted on May 8, 2015 at 3:14 pm

Happy 100th birthday to the writer/director/star of one of the greatest films of all time, Citizen Kane. Everyone should see that movie, and then everyone should see it again, listening to Roger Ebert’s shot-by-shot commentary, a master illuminating a master and together both of them illuminating the best and worst of the human spirit.

Turner Classic Movies has a great tribute to Mr. Welles every Friday this month, with some of this best and least known films, hosted by one of my favorite critics, David Edelstein.

Don’t miss:

Touch of Evil

The Third Man

The Lady From Shanghai

Jane Eyre

The Magnificent Ambersons

And don’t forget: “The Stranger,” “The VIPs,” “Chimes at Midnight,” “F for Fake,” and pretty much everything else Welles ever worked on.

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Actors Classic Directors Film History For Your Netflix Queue Writers

Two Film Noir Classics Now Free Streaming

Posted on January 31, 2014 at 11:59 am

“Film Noir” (“black films”) usually refers to the stylized dark crime films of the 1940’s, usually made by German directors who came to the United States to escape the Nazis.  Their cynicism, sense of dread and loss, and themes of betrayal, obsession, and sin gave their stories of crime and mystery an archetypal feeling.  Two of the best can now be seen for free.

A neglected gem from Orson Welles, “The Stranger” is the story of an investigator (Edward G. Robinson) who is tracking down a Nazi war criminal (Welles), now living a quiet life as a professor and married to a woman (Loretta Young) who knows nothing of his past.  The climax in a church belfry tower is brilliantly staged.

Edward G. Robinson also appears in the less characteristic role of a mild-mannered professor who gets caught up in a web of deception and betrayal in “The Woman in the Window.”  The ending is a disappointment, but the direction by Fritz Lang is a masterpiece of noir mood.

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Classic Drama Mystery Thriller

Citizen Kane

Posted on September 25, 2011 at 7:51 pm

A+
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating: NR
Profanity: None
Alcohol/ Drugs: Drinking, smoking, sometimes to excess
Violence/ Scariness: Tense confrontations, sad death
Diversity Issues: Character makes an anti-Semitic remark
Date Released to Theaters: 1941
Date Released to DVD: September 26, 2011
Amazon.com ASIN: B0050G3NWG

“Citizen Kane” has topped more “all-time best” lists than any other movie and this 70th Anniversary Ultimate Collector’s Edition is a treat for passionate fans and those who still have the thrill of seeing it for the first time ahead of them.

Orson Welles was only 26 but already an accomplished writer/director with a distinguished body of work on stage and radio.  He and writer Herman J. Mankiewicz wrote the script, inspired by the life of publishing titan William Randolph Hearst.  Welles directed and starred in the title role of a wealthy young man who turns from idealistic newspaper owner to political candidate to bitter recluse.  It is worthy of every accolade it has received and more.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zyv19bg0scg

This magnificent film influenced and inspired everything that came after.  And the sumptuous extras that come with this anniversary edition are treasures, especially the scene-by-scene commentary by Roger Ebert, almost as entertaining and illuminating as the film itself, with insights and details of technology and artistic innovation that are mind-boggling.  There’s a separate commentary by director/historian Peter Bogdanovich and interviews with editor Robert Wise (who later became a director) and co-star Ruth Warrick (who played Kane’s first wife and later went on to star in “All My Children”).

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Classic Drama DVD/Blu-Ray Pick of the Week For Your Netflix Queue Inspired by a true story Movie Mom’s Top Picks for Families

Cradle Will Rock

Posted on December 13, 2002 at 5:16 am

How do you stay true to ideals when there is pressure to compromise in order to make a living? How can you sell without selling out? These questions are provocatively posed in “mostly true” intersecting stories surrounding a pro-union play funded — and then closed — by the U.S. government.

Today’s teens live in a world in which politicians squabble about whether an “elephant dung Madonna” should be hung in a government-funded museum exhibit and rap stars famous for being outrageous and outspoken issue bowdlerized versions of their recordings in order to meet the requirements of chain stores. Older teens, who try to grapple with the problem of holding onto integrity in a complicated world, will appreciate the way those issues are raised in this movie, thoughtfully constructed by writer/director Tim Robbins to show characters with a range of dilemmas and priorities.

We see artists who want to make political statements, artists who want to make money, and artists who are thrilled by art for its beauty. The director — 22-year-old Orson Welles, just before going to Hollywood to make “Citizen Kane” — simply says that his goal is ‘to all the right people.”

We see a young businessman (Nelson Rockefeller) who wants to use his fortune for art – as long as its message is one that does not make him too uncomfortable. An older businessman wants to use his fortune to buy Old Masters — and to buy the support of politicians, so he can make more money.

Teens should notice the irony and symbolism, like the rich people dressing as Marie Antoinette’s court for a costume party and the opening newsreel showing art being censored in Nazi Germany. Why does the movie show Welles objecting to a union-required break during rehearsal? Why does the ventriloquist leave his dummy on the stage? Why is the main character of the play a prostitute? Why does Diego Rivera refuse to paint the design he agreed to?

Be sure to ask teens what they think about the movie’s final image, an attempt to tie the story directly to the present day. See if they think that the movie has any heroes, and if so, how they can tell.

Parents should know that the movie has strong language, nudity, including an artist’s nude models, and sexual references, including references to homosexuality.

FAMILY PROJECT: Welles went on to annoy one of the most powerful men in the country, William Randolph Hearst, with his next project, “Citizen Kane,” number one on the American Film Institute’s list of the 100 greatest movies. Teens might want to read more about Nelson Rockefeller and check out Digeo Rivera’s surviving murals at http://www.diegorivera.com. For more on the Federal theater project, read Hallie Flanagan: A Life in the American Theatre, by Joanne Bentley or Flanagan’s own book, Arena: The Story of the Federal Theatre.

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