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FAREWELL TO JERRY LEWIS

I’ll never forget the first time I set eyes on Jerry Lewis. I was six years old and my parents took me to see The Delicate Delinquent. It was his first solo movie without Dean Martin, but I didn’t know that then. All I knew is that the film opened with a tense buildup to a gang rumble in an alleyway—only to be interrupted by Jerry stumbling through a doorway and noisily knocking over a bunch of garbage cans. That quintessential Jerry gag won me over on the spot and I became a fan. What made me laugh so hard? I may not have understood, but Jerry did.  “I was nine all of my life,” he has said, explaining his screen persona. “Nine is innocent. Nine has…

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TINTED TALKIES

I recently wrote about the DVD release of William S. Hart’s Western Wagon Tracks from Olive Films with artistic title cards and authentic tints, taken from an original 35mm print at the Library of Congress. (to read the article, click HERE). I’ve always associated the process of tinting and toning with silents, but until I read the following article—originally published by the Chicago Film Society in 2013, in conjunction with a screening of One Hour With You—I never realized how much use of color was made in the talkie era. This has come to the fore just recently because of UCLA Film and Television Archive’s restoration of The Vampire Bat, which includes a newly-discovered hand-colored sequence. It wasn’t even mentioned in reviews of the picture when it opened in 1933! (The restored version is now available on DVD and Blu-ray…

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THE GLASS CASTLE: A BEST-SELLER COMES UP SHORT

The Glass Castle is a deeply-felt adaptation of journalist Jeannette Walls’s best-selling memoir about growing up with impoverished and irresponsible parents. The story is told piecemeal and in retrospect, with Brie Larson as the adult Jeannette, who has made a success of herself and turned her back on her mother and father. The challenge she faces is coming to terms with the fact that for all their quirks, and even cruelty, they always loved her. An emotional high-wire act like that is tough for any movie to take on, and the results are less than perfect. Larson does a fine job playing the sleek, uptight New York magazine columnist who’s about to marry a finance manager (Max Greenfield ). But with relatively little screen time, she is outshone…

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FROM ALBERT BROOKS TO BETTY GRABLE: A SURVEY OF DVDs AND BLU-RAYS

I am back on an exercise bike every morning, which gives me an opportunity to catch up with DVDs and Blu-rays. Obviously, I’m not going to screen Lawrence of Arabia this way, so I choose my discs carefully: in some cases I revisit movies I haven’t seen in years, or check out bonus features on new releases. One thing is clear; if I enjoy what I’m watching I don’t think so much about the drudgery of exercising. I devoured every moment of the extra material on Criterion’s new release of Lost in America (1985): Bob Weide’s relaxed, informative conversation with filmmaker and star Albert Brooks, plus interviews with costar Julie Hagerty, Brooks’s longtime manager Herb Nanas, and admirer and Broadcast News director James L. Brooks. I’ve been an Albert Brooks fanatic for…

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WIND RIVER: A WINTRY FILM WORTHY OF SUMMER VIEWING

Having scripted Sicario and Hell and High Water, Taylor Sheridan has taken on directorial duties as well with his new film Wind River and scored a solid hit. Jeremy Renner plays a man who works for the government fish and game department on an Indian reservation in Wyoming. He’s an expert marksman, but more important, he understands the territory he patrols and the people who live there, because he is one of them. Into this wintry and insular community comes an FBI agent (Elizabeth Olsen) who is tasked with investigating the rape and murder of a teenage girl who was left for dead in the snow. She is a fish out of water and must lean on Renner to help her make headway in talking to the locals and gathering…

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‘DETROIT’ OFFERS HINDSIGHT BUT LITTLE INSIGHT

No one can sustain a gut-wrenching sequence quite like director Kathryn Bigelow, who brought us The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty. The central set piece of Detroit is a long, excruciating exercise in mental and physical abuse by police officers who have isolated a handful of “suspects” during a night of riotous turmoil in 1967—exactly fifty years ago. We’ve already seen one of the officers (Will Poulter) being reprimanded by his superior for this kind of racist—and illegal—conduct, but that doesn’t deter him from pursuing his self-justified brand of justice. Yet when it’s all over, I can’t tell you what I’ve gained from the experience. It isn’t a shock to learn that there were abusive cops in Detroit fifty years ago or that their behavior is all too reminiscent…

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REMEMBERING JUNE FORAY

Little did I dream, when I began watching Rocky and his Friends and The Bullwinkle Show, that the day would dawn when I could call June Foray—the voice of Rocket J.Squirrel and Natasha Fatale—a friend. She was indomitable and seemingly indestructible, working into her 90s and winning an Emmy award in the midst of her 9th decade. Accepting the reality of her death, at age 99, will take some time. I first met her at the Zagreb Animation Festival halfway around the world in 1974. When my wife and I moved to Los Angeles we saw her more often; she even attended our daughter Jessie’s Bat Mitzvah. June loved what she did and loved to work, even if she didn’t always get credit. She dubbed …

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‘DUNKIRK’ MISSES THE BIG PICTURE

Dunkirk may be the most understated World War Two movie ever made. That doesn’t mean it’s anemic in depicting the horror of combat; quite the contrary. But in his effort to avoid the clichés and rah-rah patriotism of war movies past, writer-director Christopher Nolan has swung his pendulum to the other extreme. Dunkirk is based on one of the most remarkable episodes of the 20th century, when thousands of soldiers were evacuated from the French coastline by a flotilla of small sailing vessels. Nolan has chosen to tell this saga through a series of parallel incidents, focusing on individuals and downplaying the Big Picture. What’s missing, for me, is that macro-view of this extraordinary event. I didn’t expect a conventional history lesson from Nolan, but…

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NITRATE CAN’T WAIT: IS HOPALONG CASSIDY DISINTEGRATING?

[My longtime friend Dick Bann, with whom I wrote a book on Our Gang years ago, had no training as a film archivist, but spent a number of years working with the late David Shepard at Blackhawk Films and then supervised the restoration of the Hal Roach film library in Los Angeles—for which he deserves our everlasting thanks. He has also been involved in the William Boyd estate and its Hopalong Cassidy holdings for many years, which prompted this recent missive. I thank Dick for giving me permission to reprint it here.]   By Richard W. Bann   In a prolonged absence from home, I was happily occupied back East, ensconced within film vaults at a remote ranch built in 1783, way back when the…

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FILM FESTIVAL DIARY: KARLOVY VARY

It’s been a while since I attended a major film festival outside the U.S., and I didn’t know what to expect at the 52nd Karlovy Vary International Film Festival in the Czech Republic. This venerable and prestigious event is a vast movie sampler, with films from around the globe and a natural emphasis on Czech and Eastern European countries. Yet on opening night the honorees were all American—Casey Affleck, Uma Thurman, and composer James Newton Howard—and the kickoff film was The Big Sick, introduced on video by its star and co-writer Kumail Nanjiani. No power on earth can rival the allure of a Hollywood movie star; that was reaffirmed at the end of the festival when Jeremy Renner came to town to introduce Wind River,…

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