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21 Grams (2003)
How much does life weigh?
Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu
Drama
Crime
Thriller

Paul Rivers, an ailing mathematician lovelessly married to an English émigré; Christina Peck, an upper-middle-class suburban housewife and mother of two girls; and Jack Jordan, a born-again ex-con, are brought together by a terrible accident that changes their lives.

Every Hair on your Head One of the key things a storyteller needs to decide is the tense of the story. Is it something that happened in the past, is happening now or will/could happen? Each of these bestows riches on a film and we have...


Published May 13, 2022
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Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972)
A breathtaking journey into the heart of darkness.
Director: Werner Herzog
Adventure
History
Action

A few decades after the destruction of the Inca Empire, a Spanish expedition led by the infamous Aguirre leaves the mountains of Peru and goes down the Amazon River in search of the lost city of El Dorado. When great difficulties arise, Aguirre’s men start to wonder whether their quest will lead them to prosperity or certain death.

The Women This is an amazing experience, becoming more so the further we get from it. When I see “Apocalypse Now, or even “Mosquito Coast” I see this. In fact whenever I see both an actor and a director/writer risking all in a coordinated way, I...


Published May 13, 2022
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Japanese Summer: Double Suicide (1967)
Director: Nagisa Ōshima
Crime
Drama

A sex-obsessed young woman, a suicidal young man she meets on the street, a gun-crazy wannabe gangster—these are just three of the irrational, oddball anarchists trapped in an underground hideaway in Oshima’s devilish, absurdist portrait of what he deemed the “death drive” in Japanese youth culture.

Solid Shadows with Death Wishes I know a few of this man’s films. They are among the richest experiences I know, but I was surprised at how deeply this one worked on me. The surprise comes in part from knowing how specific his target audience was. I...


Published May 13, 2022
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The Phantom Empire (1935)
A Nation 20,000 Feet Underground
Director: B. Reeves Eason, Otto Brower
Action
Music
Science Fiction
Western

When the ancient continent of Mu sank beneath the ocean, some of its inhabitant survived in caverns beneath the sea. Cowboy singer Gene Autry stumbles upon the civilization, now buried beneath his own Radio Ranch. The Muranians have developed technology and weaponry such as television and ray guns. Their rich supply of radium draws unscrupulous speculators from the surface. The peaceful civilization of the Muranians is corrupted by the greed from above, and it becomes Autry's task to prevent all-out war, ideally without disrupting his regular radio show.

Subterranean Drugs I'm involved in a study of ‘folding’ in film; folding is a matter of overlain or referenced narratives. Sometimes the folding is something only of interest to highbrow specialists, but usually it is a matter of fun. Some folding is a matter of introducing bizarre...


Published May 13, 2022
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Frankenstein (1910)
Director: J. Searle Dawley
Horror
Science Fiction
Fantasy

Frankenstein, a young medical student, trying to create the perfect human being, instead creates a misshapen monster. Made ill by what he has done, Frankenstein is comforted by his fiancée; but on his wedding night he is visited by the monster.

The Witch’s Looking-glass I’m putting this on my list of films you must see. It is short and at first glance completely uninteresting. But look again. Here’s what happens: Young Frankenstein goes to college where he discovers the secret of life. Interesting that the filmmakers would think...


Published May 13, 2022
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Jack and the Beanstalk (1902)
Director: Edwin S. Porter, George S. Fleming
Adventure
Family
Fantasy

Porter's sequential continuity editing links several shots to form a narrative of the famous fairy tale story of Jack and his magic beanstalk. Borrowing on cinematographic methods reminiscent of 'Georges Melies' , Porter uses animation, double exposure, and trick photography to illustrate the fairy's apparitions, Jack's dream, and the fast growing beanstalk.

The Movie Within I’m writing a book about “folding” in film, a situation in its simplest form is seen as a movie within a movie. This is the earliest example I know. The movie itself is about 12 minutes long. There are no dialog cards because presumably...


Published May 13, 2022
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