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‘ALL ABOUT EVE,’ ‘PETER PAN’ AND MORE ON DVD AND BLU-RAY

While the giants of the media world slug it out on streaming platforms, smaller concerns (and one division of a communications titan) are still releasing vintage films on DVD and Blu-ray. What’s more, the bonus content they provide can’t be found online. That’s why I’m not giving up my discs anytime soon. They help me to discover “new” gems and deepen my appreciation of familiar classics all the time.     Flicker Alley is a specialty outfit that does admirable work. Its latest release is Trapped (1949), a good, solid film noir B picture directed by Richard Fleischer, starring Lloyd Bridges, Barbara Payton and John Hoyt. Up to now the only way one could watch it was in substandard public-domain copies. Now the Film Noir Foundation has overseen a restoration…

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OSCAR CASTS A WIDE NET

Let others bemoan who’s missing from this year’s roster of Academy Award nominees. I prefer to focus on the positive: Greta Gerwig’s beautiful rendering of Little Women earned six major nominations including Best Picture, even though the director’s branch didn’t vote for her. (The screenwriters did.) And South Korea’s Parasite made Oscar history by earning six nominations including Best Picture—a first—as well as Best Screenplay and Best Director. And although I didn’t care for it, Joker goes in the record books with eleven nods for what is officially (if not tonally) a comic book movie. The Academy, with its membership significantly expanded by 2,000 new recruits from the international film community—including more women than ever before—can no longer be accused of being a Hollywood monolith. That doesn’t guarantee a sea change…

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A NIGHT TO REMEMBER WITH SCORSESE AND DE NIRO

People often ask me if I ever get nervous or starstruck. The answer is “not often” but I was almost overcome with excitement last weekend in anticipation of interviewing Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro onstage at Hollywood’s Egyptian Theatre. I’d talked to both men before, but not in such a high-profile setting, and not together. The occasion was an American Cinematheque event that screened nine movies they’ve made with each other, including an encore showing of their latest, The Irishman, which had its L.A. debut some weeks ago at the Egyptian before finding a permanent home on Netflix. I wasn’t nervous about Scorsese; he loves to talk. It’s not De Niro’s favorite thing to do, however, especially in front of a television camera or an audience.…

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FROM FRED AND GINGER TO ‘LA LA LAND’: A GREAT NEW BOOK

THE MOVIE MUSICAL!  By Jeanine Basinger (Knopf) I promised myself a gift for the holidays: time enough to read Jeanine Basinger’s 634-page book about movie musicals. I’m so glad I made good on that promise. What a wonderful addition to my library, and what fun it was to devour. Jeanine Basinger is a brilliant woman who is articulate but refreshingly plain-spoken. She really knows her subject, as is evident from the films she mentions—not just classics but bread-and-butter films from the studio era like Shine On, Harvest Moon, which she cites as an antidote to more pretentious modern-day musicals like Moulin Rouge and Everyone Says I Love You.     This is not a dry history lesson but an interpretive survey of the musical film from its infancy to…

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UNCUT GEMS: CONTROLLED CHAOS

Everything you may have heard or read about Uncut Gems is true: it’s tough to watch, especially at the start. In-your-face filmmakers Josh and Benny Safdie throw a lot at us in the opening sequence, which establishes the tone of their movie and the frenzied life of its protagonist, a high-stakes jewelry store owner (Adam Sandler) who works in the diamond district of Manhattan. Anyone who’s ever spent a little time there will recognize the cacophony of life on West 47th Street, both inside the showrooms and on the sidewalk. This is amplified by Daniel Lopatin’s score, which is loud and every bit as off-putting as Sandler’s character—at first. It’s Sandler’s inherent likability that helps make Uncut Gems palatable. His character is insufferable but somehow fascinating, a compulsive gambler and…

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MY TOP FILMS OF THE YEAR

People love lists because they stimulate discussion and debate. I don’t enjoy compiling them because they are so arbitrary, but who am I do sit out this year-end ritual? I can’t call this a “top ten” because I couldn’t winnow my choices down from thirteen. They are in no particular order except for Parasite, which remains my favorite this year. As for documentaries, there are many I admired this year—One Child Nation, American Factory, Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool, Where’s My Roy Cohn?, Mike Wallace is Here, to name just a few—but the one that lingers in my mind more than any other is The Biggest Little Farm. It’s a must-see. You can read my full reviews by clicking on the film titles below.  …

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1917: A WARTIME EXPERIENCE LIKE NO OTHER

1917 wastes no time establishing its premise and introducing us to its leading characters, two young British soldiers (newcomers George Mackay and Dean-Charles Chapman) who are handed a perilous assignment: deliver an urgent message that will stop thousands of troops from walking into an enemy trap. Without further ado we take off with them and never leave their side for the next two hours. Many films claim to be immersive but this one genuinely is. The camera makes us a participant in the action and only occasionally gives us a chance to catch our breath. There is no way to anticipate the horrors our heroes will witness or the trials they will endure. Just when they’ve cleared one hurdle another one emerges: mud, a mountain of…

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