The Disaster Artist (2017)

Director/Actor: James Franco By Roderick Heath When I wrote about Tommy Wiseau’s The Room (2003) in 2011, I finished up my commentary with a flourish of mock-epic prose: The Room finishes, and yet its all-pervading awfulness remained with me. Everything seemed to grow darker, tainted by its touch. The likes of Michelangelo and Leo Tolstoy …

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Neruda / Jackie (2016)

Director: Pablo Larraín By Roderick Heath The biopic has become the most reliably rancid of contemporary prestige film genres. It’s supposed to be a mode for exploring vital cultural and historical touchstones in stirring, dramatic, thought-provoking fashion, and nothing should be as rich and strange as the life of a great man or woman explored …

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Mr. Turner (2014)

Director/Screenwriter: Mike Leigh By Roderick Heath Joseph Mallord William Turner’s place in the heart of his native folk has only become more secure as time has advanced. He’s seen as triumphantly, transcendentally English as Walt Whitman was American or Goethe was German and is more popular than either. His painting “The Fighting Temeraire” was recently …

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Lincoln (2012)

Director: Steven Spielberg By Roderick Heath Lincoln’s opening shots depict warfare: writhing bodies in primordial mud, flesh punctured by bayonets, and mouths yawing in screams of pain and murderous passion. White Confederate soldiers and black Union soldiers are engaged in war as primal and terrifying as anything out of Homer, evoking not merely the awesome …

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Hell to Eternity (1960)

Director: Phil Karlson By Roderick Heath Phil Karlson is one of those indispensable figures for the enterprising movie fan in search of lost heroes: a jobbing studio hand with a chequered career whose touch, nonetheless, betrays for the attentive a wealth of individuality manifest in scattered gems. Karlson started off with C-grade screen filler in …

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A Dangerous Method (2011)

Director: David Cronenberg By Roderick Heath I tend to blow hot and cold on David Cronenberg’s oeuvre, filled as it is with works such as Videodrome (1982), Naked Lunch (1991), and A History of Violence (2004) that strike me more as catalogues of interesting moments and ideas rather than completely coherent films. But it’s impossible …

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Ivan the Terrible, Part I (1944) / Ivan the Terrible, Part II (1958)

Ivan Groznyy ; Ivan Groznyy: Skaz vtoroy Directors: Sergei Eisenstein, M. Filimonova By Roderick Heath The creation myth for Sergei Eisenstein’s final work is as vast in scale and resonance as any epic movie. Like most other Soviet filmmakers, Eisenstein was forced to flee east during the German invasion and near-capture of Moscow during World …

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