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Visual Acoustics (2008)
The modernism of Julius Shulman.
Director: Eric Bricker
Documentary

Visual Acoustics celebrates the life and career of Julius Shulman, the world's greatest architectural photographer, whose images brought modern architecture to the American mainstream. Shulman, who passed away this year, captured the work of nearly every modern and progressive architect since the 1930s including Frank Lloyd Wright, Richard Neutra, John Lautner and Frank Gehry. His images epitomized the singular beauty of Southern California's modernist movement and brought its iconic structures to the attention of the general public. This unique film is both a testament to the evolution of modern architecture and a joyful portrait of the magnetic, whip-smart gentleman who chronicled it with his unforgettable images.

Speaking Space Here’s more about the challenge of architecture and cinema. It is not trivial, the problem of what spaces mean in films? What narrative role does it play? What vocabulary is relevant? This film is rather mundane in most ways. It is a biography of a...


Published December 26, 2022
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The A-Team (2010)
There Is No Plan B
Director: Joe Carnahan
Thriller
Action
Adventure
Comedy
Crime

A group of Iraq War veterans goes on the run from U.S. military forces while they try to clear their names after being framed for a crime they didn't commit. Along the way, Col. Hannibal Smith, Capt. H.M. ‘Howling Mad’ Murdock , Sgt. Bosco ‘B.A.’ Baracus, and Lt. Templeton ‘Faceman’ Peck help out various people they encounter.

Architectural Plans I’m not going to denigrate what are usually called mindless summer movies, because I think there is something important here. Sure, the usual fears apply. Most people take the characters and world dynamics seriously. Yes, I know, but they would be doing that anyway. And...


Published December 26, 2022
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A Walk on the Moon (1999)
It was the summer of Woodstock... when she became the woman she always wanted to be.
Director: Tony Goldwyn
Drama
Romance

The world of a young housewife is turned upside down when she has an affair with a free-spirited blouse salesman.

Nixon Wins This is a huge failure as a movie, but an interesting one in a way. At least for someone my age who lived through the period appropriated here. Here’s the basic challenge in showing a love story: how do you cinematically show the pulls on...


Published December 25, 2022
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A Very Long Engagement (2004)
Never let go.
Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Drama
Romance
War

Young Frenchwoman Mathilde searches for the truth about her missing fiancé, lost during World War I, and learns many unexpected things along the way. The love of her life is gone. But she refuses to believe he's gone forever — and she needs to know for sure.

Gluttony One of the hardest things in the world is to stop when you know you should, but the attraction, the romance of your obsession pulls you deeper and deeper into the thing. It happens with big things like love and little things like this film. It...


Published December 25, 2022
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A Separate Peace (2004)
Director: Peter Yates
Drama
TV Movie

Four friends with one dark secret they could never outrun.

Parallel Branches Some books seem natural for high school study. They need to be simple to read, but contain enough ambiguity and analogy to show students that real literature is more than a plot. If the book is set in high school, so much the better....


Published December 25, 2022
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A Scanner Darkly (2006)
Everything is not going to be OK.
Director: Richard Linklater
Animation
Science Fiction
Thriller

An undercover cop in a not-too-distant future becomes involved with a dangerous new drug and begins to lose his own identity as a result.

Hazed and Dumfused “Waking Life” was simply dumb, a collection of clever ideas or various forms ill handled. Though it was adventurous in a couple ways, it lacked the edge it could have had. So instead of changing the lives of a few people, it entertainingly...


Published December 25, 2022
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Poirot: Murder on the Orient Express (2010)

Loco Motives Lawrence Olivier was an actor who delivered rewards, but acting is not storytelling and sometimes the opposite is the case. He made a well regarded Hamlet and approached it as expected; he inhabited the character and let that being drive what was presented. If...


Published December 25, 2022
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Reasonable Doubt (2014)
Proof is the Burden
Director: Peter Howitt
Crime
Thriller

When up-and-coming District Attorney Mitch Brockden commits a fatal hit-and-run, he feels compelled to throw the case against the accused criminal who was found with the body and blamed for the crime. Following the trial, Mitch's worst fears come true when he realizes that he acquitted a guilty man, and he soon finds himself on the hunt for the killer before more victims pile up.

Fixing, after the Fact Here is a project for film students: take this film, a loser, and make a great movie from it. I think I would add new footage about the hidden story here (the hooker), present the thing nonlinearly, shift the narrator and the...


Published December 24, 2022
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A Real Young Girl (1976)
A surreal voyage into adolescent sexuality.
Director: Catherine Breillat
Drama

Bored and restless, Alice spends much of her time lusting after Jim, a local sawmill worker. When not lusting after him, Alice fills the hours with such pursuits as writing her name on a mirror with vaginal secretions and wandering the fields with her underwear around her ankles. And, in true teenaged tradition, she spends a lot of time writing in her diary.

Another Alice Although blunt and clumsy, this film transports one — especially a male — to a place never visited. That's in part because of the unflinching honesty of the narrative stance; never wavering from the girl’s perspective. It it were more familiar territory, like Jane...


Published December 24, 2022
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Poirot: The Adventure of the Clapham Cook (1989)

Fully Realized Over the years, I have written one tirade after another about Clive Exton, the adapter of Christie for many of these Poirot mysteries. He just doesn’t get the form, what makes the form of the detective story so captivating. What he does is substitute...


Published December 24, 2022
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