Category Archives: Off the Beaten Path

“Scarecrow” (’73) at Film Forum, May 17-23

Gene Hackman and Al Pacino in "Scarecrow."

Gene Hackman and Al Pacino in “Scarecrow.”

“Scarecrow,” the 1973 road movie directed by Jerry Schatzberg, will be having a run at Film Forum from May 17 – 23.  The film stars Al Pacino (fresh off “The Godfather”) and Gene Hackman, both in their primes.

“Scarecrow” will be shown in a clean, beautiful, anamorphic (really wide screen) print which, for me, was a revelation.  I first saw “Scarecrow” many years ago when I taped it off of channel 5 at 2:00 am using the EP (lowest picture quality, but more time on a VHS tape) setting on my VCR.   The film’s original wide screen dimensions were blown up to fill the space of square shaped TVs.  In other words I was losing 50% of the picture.  Now that home video users are used to the concept of letterboxing this problem has become less and less frequent. Commercial breaks were thrown in for good measure but, despite all of this, I liked the film.  Now, seeing “Scarecrow” in its correct, widescreen aspect ratio, I can properly appreciate Schatzberg’s use of long takes as the characters amble about aimlessly toward objectives that they are probably not going to achieve, dwarfed by the wide open spaces through which they travel. Read the rest of this entry

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Like Crazy

Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones in "Like Crazy"

I will cut to the chase.  The problem with indie film du jour “Like Crazy” is the miscasting of its male lead, Anton Yelchin.  Do not get me wrong:  I am not saying that Yelchin is a bad actor; he is just not right for the romantic lead in this particular story.  Yelchin plays opposite Felicity Jones, who plays Anna.  Anna is a college student from England, living in Los Angeles.  One day Anna puts a note on the car of Jacob (Yelchin’s character), a teaching assistant in a class that she is taking.  The relationship progresses from there. Read the rest of this entry

Martha Marcy May Marlene

Elizabeth Olsen and Sarah Paulson in "Martha Marcy May Marlene."

The new movie “Martha Marcy May Marlene” desperately wants “indie street cred.”  Everything, from its nearly impossible to remember title, to its rural settings and interminable long takes, makes the film play like a spoof of an independent film.  If only it was.

“M4” has been released under the “Sundance” imprimatur, giving the impression that this is a quality work from the Sundance Film Festival.  “M4,” in fact, won the Best Director award at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival (and was also an Official Selection for the Cannes Film Festival 2011).  As readers of my column know, I frequently champion the causes of small films, be they narratives or documentaries.  So, it really annoys me, and is contrary to my efforts, that Sundance has chosen to single out, and put its stamp on, such an unexceptional movie. Read the rest of this entry

“Iron Crows” and “Gainsbourg” at Film Forum

Ship breakers in Bangladesh in "Iron Crows" at Film Forum

Film Forum continues to demonstrate the diversity of its movie programming with two new films that could not be more different from each other: “Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life,” opening on August 31, and “Iron Crows,” which opened on August 24.  While I liked “Iron Crows,” in part for the directness of its story telling, I found the narrative of “Gainsbourg” to be convoluted.  Read the rest of this entry

“Planet of the Apes” at Film Forum, in New York, July 8 – 14

Charlton Heston (left) and Maurice Evans hash out their ideological differences in "Planet of the Apes," at Film Forum (NY), July 8-14.

The best big studio release of the summer, believe it or not, is from 1968.   “Planet of the Apes” will be at Film Forum (NY), in a new 35mm print, from July 8 – 14.  It is a movie for all ages that can be enjoyed on many levels.

I first saw “Planet of the Apes” during its initial run, already a movie fan at age six.  The original, and three of its four sequels, truly captured my imagination.  (“Battle for the Planet of the Apes,” the final “Apes” movie, is the, how shall I put it, “The Godfather: Part III” of the series).   Read the rest of this entry

The Man Who Fell to Earth

David Bowie in "The Man Who Fell to Earth," at Film Forum for two weeks, starting June 24

Director Nicolas Roeg’s film, “The Man Who Fell to Earth” (1976), starring rock star David Bowie, will mark its 35th anniversary with a two week run at Film Forum, beginning June 24.  Film Forum will present a new 35mm print of the complete uncut director’s version.  The movie was cut by 20 minutes for its initial American release.  Read the rest of this entry

Takashi Miike Series at Film Society of Lincoln Center

A scene from "13 Assassins," the new film from director Takashi Miike.

From March 17 – 20 The Film Society of Lincoln Center will present a film series entitled “Shinjuku Outlaw: 13 from Takashi Miike.”  The Japanese director, Miike, first gained the attention of American audiences in 2001 with his films “Audition” and “Ichi the Killer,” trumpeting the arrival of “Asian Extreme” sex and violence crammed titles.  Be warned, this series is not for everyone. Read the rest of this entry

Delta

A winner of the 2008 Cannes FIPRESCI prize, “Delta” is quiet film that sneaks up on you.   “Delta” was directed by Kornel Mundruczo considered to be one of the top directors working in contemporary world cinema.  The dialogue is in Hungarian with English subtitles.   Read the rest of this entry

White on Rice

"White on Rice" opens in New York at Big Cinemas Manhattan on March 12.

Now that Oscar season is over and I no longer have to be bombarded by articles and speculations about which film and actors (a select group nominated by the “powers that be”) will be voted “the best” it was nice to see a film like “White on Rice.”  “White on Rice” is a low budget, off the wall, irreverent comedy about a Japanese American family living in American suburbia. Read the rest of this entry

The Private Lives of Pippa Lee

Although you can see the ending from at least a mile away, Rebecca Miller’s “The Private Lives of Pippa Lee” proves to be an insightful, detailed, nuanced study of a woman affected by her past.  Miller wrote the screenplay, adapted from her own novel, and also directed the film.  As if this is not enough, Miller earns extra credit for actually coaxing a decent performance out of wooden actor Keanu Reeves. Read the rest of this entry