Category Archives: Film

IRENE CARA OBITUARY ·

(Adam Sweeting’s article appeared in the Guardian, 11/27;  Photo: Irene Cara as Coco Hernandez in Fame, 1980, directed by Alan Parker. She also sang the title song, which topped the British singles chart. Photograph: MGM/Allstar.)

American actor and singer best known for her role in the film Fame and co-writing the 1983 hit Flashdance … What a Feeling

Although her catalogue of recordings was not large, there were two songs that guaranteed Irene Cara a permanent place in the pop music hall of fame. In 1980 Cara, who has died unexpectedly aged 63, announced herself by topping the British singles chart with Fame, which also went to No 4 in the US.

It was the title song of Alan Parker’s eponymous film, documenting the struggles of students at New York’s High School of Performing Arts. Cara’s character, Coco Hernandez, was originally a dancer, but

The song’s pumping, anthemic tune and ecstatic lyric made it the perfect embodiment of every wannabe star’s ambitions – “I’m gonna live forever, I’m gonna learn how to fly … I’m gonna make it to heaven, Light up the sky like a flame.” Its aspirational influence reached down the years through a string of talent shows such as American Idol, Britain’s Got Talent and The X Factor. Cara also became an inspiration for other Latin artists. The actor John Leguizamo tweeted: “She made me believe that if you were Latin you could make it! She fuelled my community.”

Both Fame and another single from the film soundtrack, Out Here on My Own (a Top 20 US hit), were nominated for Oscars, and since both were sung by Cara she achieved the rare feat of singing more than one song at an Academy Awards ceremony. Fame took the best original song statuette on the night. But her best was yet to come. Oscar night, 1984, found Cara back in the spotlight, basking in the glow of her huge success with Flashdance … What a Feeling.

It was the title song from Adrian Lyne’s film Flashdance, and it occupied the No 1 slot on Billboard’s Hot 100 for six weeks while topping numerous other charts around the world. This time Cara was one of the songwriters, along with Giorgio Moroder and Keith Forsey, and shared in the triumph when it won the Oscar for best original song.

It also picked up a Golden Globe and two Grammys. The film was the story of an ambitious dancer trying to win a place at an elite dance conservatory, and Cara wanted the lyric to show how the character is “in control of her body when she dances and how she can be in control of her life”. She added: “I did sense that I had something special with this song.”

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OPEN THREAD (EQUAL PAY FOR COSTUME DESIGNERS) ·

(Vanessa Friedman’s article appeared in The New York Times, 3/25; via Pam Green; Photo: Emma Stone in “Cruella.” The costume designer for the film was Jenny Beavan, who is nominated for an Oscar this year for her work.Laurie Sparham/Disney, via Associated Press.)

. . . there’s another Oscar-related clothes issue currently getting Hollywood all worked up: the fight for equal pay being waged by the members of the Costume Designers Guild.
(Bear with me: This newsletter is going to be a bit longer than usual, but it’s important.)

 

I mean, just think of the fashion trends started by streaming TV shows and movies over the last few years. Think of this year’s nominees for Best Costume Design, like “Cruella,” “Dune” and “West Side Story.”
Then, think of how important clothes are, not only to character (the ruby slippers! Superman’s cape! the “Flashdance” sweatshirt!), but also to the financial health of a film (merch).

 

And then consider that costume designers, who are 83 percent female, are paid 30 percent less than production designers (their organizational-chart peers), who are 80 percent male, according to research from the U.S.C. Annenberg Inclusion Initiative and the Annenberg Foundation.
Also consider that because costume designers are paid a flat weekly fee rather than by the hour, despite routinely working 80- to 100-hour weeks, and because pensions and health and welfare benefits are tied to an hourly wage, they “often make less than the wardrobe supervisors we hire, who are paid an hourly wage,” according to Arianne Phillips, a member of the guild’s pay equity committee. “We can’t afford to retire.”

 

Also, they no longer own the rights to their own designs, the way costume designers like Edith Head once did, so they don’t make any money from film extensions like Halloween costumes or limited-edition collaborations like Halston x Netflix.
No wonder they have finally decided to do something about it.

 

“It’s a direct result of the age of awareness in our industry tied to #TimesUp and the drive for inclusivity,” Ms. Phillips said. “And also watching Megan Rapinoe and the women’s soccer team and their fight for equal pay. We just want to even the playing field for the next generation coming after us. We believe this is an archaic system based on the presumption that costumes are women’s work and thus somehow less valuable.”
Well, you know, set construction = manly. Clothes = frivolous.

 

The guild members are hoping that when it comes time for their next negotiation sessions with the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees union and producers, they will reach an agreement to set their base pay on par with that of production designers.
Ahead of that, the guild, which has 1,200 members, has embarked on an awareness campaign, starting with actors and directors, who apparently were as surprised as you may be (as I was) about the devaluing of the costume designer. Now 100 of said boldface names, including Elle Fanning, Michael Douglas, Olivia Wilde and Barry Jenkins, are part of a social media campaign called #nakedwithoutus. It’s worth a listen.

 

Meantime, I wanted to thank all of you for the responses to my “What to do with old ties?” missive. Your photos and inventiveness were inspiring, though what struck me most was the deep emotional connections and memories we attach to garments. Those ties contained multitudes, and history, and I loved hearing what they meant to you.
Finally, for some non-Oscar-related reading, meet Campbell Addy, a young photographer changing the definition of beauty; catch up on the last shows, including Ralph Lauren and Willy Chavarria; and consider the symbolism of Volodymyr Zelensky’s olive green tee.

‘DOGS OF EUROPE’ REVIEW – ART AND ACTIVISM COMBINE IN BREATHTAKING SPECTACLE ·

(Arifa Akbar’s article appeared in the guardian, 3/13; Photo: A necessary affront … Aliaksei Naranovich and Raman Shytsko in Dogs of Europe. Photograph: Linda Nylind/the Guardian.)

Barbican, London
Fairytale imagery is mixed with absurdist humour in this prescient political thriller in which Russia has become a dictatorial superstate

Given the political history of the Belarus Free Theatre and its overt references to the war in Ukraine in this production, Dogs of Europe cannot be seen as theatre alone. It is art, activism and theatrical disruption, at once.

Having been performed clandestinely in garages and warehouses in Minsk, it feels released on this large-scale stage. Like a genie escaping from a bottle, there is a magnificent eruption of sound and spectacle. Big, haunting, discordant songs and music by Mark and Marichka Marczyk of Balaklava Blues expand to fill the auditorium. Maria Sazonova’s choreography is arresting in its acrobatic drama, with movements like orchestrated military exercises or assaults, and containing a fierce, fulminating physicality. A back screen for projections (with video design by Richard Williamson) begins as a roving camera from a computer game, which gives the show an unstable, lurching quality and seems designed to discombobulate its audience.

Every member of the ensemble has spent time in jail and their orchestrated movements play out street protests, battles, rape and murder. Inert bodies are dragged off stage, time and again. Deliberately cartoonish violence shows characters shot at point-blank range and bouncing back up.

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‘CABARET’ AT 50: BOB FOSSE’S SHOW-STOPPING MUSICAL REMAINS A DARK MARVEL   ·

(Scott Tobias’s article appeared in the Guardian, 2/14/2022; Photo: Michael York and Liza Minnelli in Cabaret: seductive, witty, delightful – and utterly bone-chilling. Photograph: ABC/Allied Artists/Allstar.)

 Liza Minnelli gives a towering performance in a loose adaptation of the stage musical that broaches tough subject matter with deft ease

Cabaret opens with a Nazi getting kicked out of the Kit Kat Klub, a Berlin nightspot catering to the prurient whims of a well-heeled audience in 1931. It ends with the entire club populated by Nazis, as if it were under occupation. In between, the show goes on with minor changes to accommodate a different clientele, and the country, too, slips inexorably into darkness, engulfing characters who are powerless to stop it, even if they’re inclined to do so. It is an utterly bone-chilling movie musical, yet seductive, witty and delightful – an unbearable lightness of being.

The contradictory tensions of Cabaret are managed with such deftness by director Bob Fosse that it remains, 50 years later, a rare film that feels like only one person could have pulled it off. How people continue to live their lives in the face of encroaching authoritarianism and violence is an endlessly renewable and relevant subject for movies, but Fosse choreographs the foreground and background of historic change with as much care as he brings to the song-and-dance at the Kit Kat Klub. “Leave your troubles outside,” beckons Joel Grey’s Master of Ceremonies to the audience in the opening number. Easier said than done.

Cherry-picking from multiple sources – chiefly Kander and Ebb’s 1966 Broadway musical and the semi-autobiographical novel on which it was based, Christopher Isherwood’s The Berlin Stories – Fosse heightens the contrast between the libertine spirit of his main characters and the nationalist, antisemitic fervor that was sweeping through Germany at the time. In an all-time great performance, Liza Minnelli is both winning ingenue and devastating tragedienne as Sally Bowles, an American performer at the Kit Kat Klub. Fosse cleverly introduces Minnelli as a background dancer first, suggesting her willingness to conform, to literally fall in line with the crowd.

But of course she doesn’t conform or shrink in the spotlight. She’s Liza Minnelli. Sally chooses to live her life moment to moment, with a spontaneous pleasure-seeking instinct that allows her to keep the blinders on. When Sally is off the stage, Minnelli’s performance recalls the vintage work of a young Shirley MacLaine, the star of Fosse’s debut feature, Sweet Charity. Jokes are made constantly about the number of men who have passed through Sally’s bedroom, but she has a bubbly naivety that suggests a born-yesterday innocence. She simply isn’t going to turn her thoughts toward the politics of the country that’s hosting her. Her world is the Kit Kat Klub, a disheveled room at a boarding house and wherever the latest party takes her.

Splitting the difference between Isherwood’s gay surrogate and the heterosexual in the Broadway musical, Michael York plays Brian, a bisexual British academic who moves into the room across the hall from Sally, where he intends to teach English for money while working on his doctorate. He doesn’t have a minute to settle in before Sally ropes him into a “prairie oyster” hangover concoction (an egg with Worcestershire sauce) and works quickly and effectively to make him the closest friend she has in town. His sexuality is an obstacle that she’s able to clear – unlike his last three girlfriends – but when the two meet Max (Helmut Griem), a rich baron who likes to play the field, it leads to a bizarre love triangle that complicates their relationship.

Inspired by the silent movie star Louise Brooks – both in her sharply cut bangs and her air of mystery – Minnelli commands the screen at all times, but shows tremendous versatility in a range of situations: as the featured performer of Mein Herr; as a Golden Age romcom flibbertigibbet; as a sexual adventurer; and, finally, as a woman who has developed the kind of hangover that can’t be washed away by a prairie oyster. Grey is similarly inspired as the Master of Ceremonies, acting as a kind of bellwether for the changes happening in the country, which has the effect of turning him from silly to sinister as the Kit Kat Klub starts serving a new audience. York can only seem temperamentally stodgy by comparison, but his performance accommodates Minnelli’s while giving the film a crucial moral footing in reality.

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PETER BOGDANOVICH, NEW HOLLYWOOD AUTEUR OF ‘PAPER MOON,’ ‘LAST PICTURE SHOW,’ DEAD AT 82 ·

(Jon Blistein’s article appeared in Rolling Stone, 1/6;  Photo: American director and screenwriter Peter Bogdanovich, UK, 20th February 1973. He directed the film ‘Paper Moon’ that year. Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images.)

The celebrated filmmaker broke-out with his 1968 thriller Targets and also scored a box office smash with the 1972 screwball classic, What’s Up, Doc?

Peter Bogdanovich, the celebrated, Oscar-nominated filmmaker behind classics like The Last Picture Show and Paper Moon, as well as a frequent actor, died Thursday, according to The Hollywood Reporter. He was 82.

Bogdanovich’s daughter, Antonia Bogdanovich, confirmed his death, saying the director died of natural causes. 

Bogdanovich actually began his career as a film critic and reporter before meeting the producer Roger Corman, who’d been so impressed with some of his work that he enlisted him to help out on some of his films. Despite this ostensibly unconventional path into the film industry, success came quickly for Bogdanovich: He earned praise for his first film, the 1968 thriller Targets, and his follow-up, 1971’s The Last Picture Show, earned eight Oscar nominations (including Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay) and arguably remains his signature film.

The filmmaker’s stellar opening run continued the next year with What’s Up, Doc?, a wildly succesful screwball romcom starring Barbra Streisand — in a character so molded after Bugs Bunny she’s eating a carrot in her first scene — and Ryan O’Neal. O’Neal starred Bogdanovich’s next film as well, the Depression-era dramedy, Paper Moon, in which he and his real-life daughter, Tatum O’Neall, played a father-daughter grifting duo (Tatum O’Neal famously won an Oscar for her performance at the age of 10).

But the rest of Bogdanovich’s career would be tumultuous, marred by major flops, financial troubles and personal tragedy. In 1980, Dorothy Stratten — an actress and Playboy Playmate Bogdanovich had begun an affair with while directing her in the romcom They All Laughed — was murdered by her husband, Paul Snider, who then killed himself. While Bogdanovich managed to self-release They All Laughed in 1981, it performed poorly. Three years later, he published the book,The Killing of the Unicorn: Dorothy Stratten 1960-1980, which was deeply critical of Playboy and Hugh Hefner, and effectively blamed both for Stratten’s death.

“I destroyed him,” Bogdanovich said of Hefner in a 2019 Vulture interview. “I destroyed the whole Playboy myth — which, by the way, was a myth. The so-called sexual revolution of the late ’50s and ’60s was just another way of making it easier for guys to get laid. They weren’t feminists. It was just another way of getting laid faster.”

Bogdanovich was born in Kingston, New York in 1939 and fell in love with movie at an early age. As a teenager, he studied acting, but eventually decided he’d rather direct. His earliest work was in the theater, but Bogdanovich’s maintained his love of movies in the reviews and features he wrote for Esquire in the late Fifties and early Sixties. After moving to Hollywood and meeting Corman, the producer tapped him to help on the 1966 Peter Fonda biker movie, The Wild Angels; Bogdanovich rewrote the script and directed the end of the movie, which became one of Corman’s biggest box office hits at the time. 

Targets — which was inspired by the Charles Whitman’s 1966 mass shooting at the University of Texas in August 1966 — followed in 1968 (that same year Bogdanovich directed another movie, Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women, under the pseudonym Derek Thomas). With the film’s success and Corman’s backing, Bogdanovich could have easily made a career in such genre flicks, but as he explained to The Dissolve in 2013: “As it turned out, I never made another film like it, really. I thought I would make a series of films like it, because it did well enough that I thought it would be the sort of film I would make. But then I read Larry McMurtry’s novel The Last Picture Show, and I fell in love with the idea of making that as a film, mainly because I didn’t know how to do it. I’m always challenged when I don’t know how to do something. I figure, ‘There must be a way.’ And Last Picture Show made my career.”

While the early Seventies were arguably Bogdanovich’s heyday, his fortunes changed halfway through the decade with a string of duds like Daisy MillerAt Long Last Love and Nickelodeon. After a few years away, he returned with the 1979 crime comedy Saint Jack, which earned high praise, but failed to perform at the box office. Around the same time, Bogdanovich’s long relationship with Cybill Shepherd — which began when he directed her in The Last Picture Show — ended too, and Stratten’s tragic death followed shortly after. 

After publishing The Killing of the Unicorn, Bogdanovich returned to filmmaking with the 1985 Cher-starring drama, Mask. In 1990, he released a Last Picture Show sequel, Texasville, though the film wasn’t nearly as succesful as the first. Following 1993’s The Thing Called Love, Bogdanovich took another long break from filmmaking before returning in 2001 with The Cat’s Meow; the last scripted feature he directed was 2014’s She’s Funny That Way. After making a documentary about the director John Ford early in his career, Bogdanovich returned to the form later in life, directing the 2007 Tom Petty doc Runnin’ Down a Dream, and a 2018 film about Buster Keaton, The Great Buster: A Celebration.

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FRITZ LANG (BBC RADIO, IN OUR TIME) ·

Listen

Released On: 30 Dec 2021

Available for over a year

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the Austrian-born film director Fritz Lang (1890-1976), who was one of the most celebrated film-makers of the 20th century. He worked first in Weimar Germany, creating a range of films including the startling and subversive Mabuse the Gambler and the iconic but ruinously expensive Metropolis before arguably his masterpiece, M, with both the police and the underworld hunting for a child killer in Berlin, his first film with sound. The rise of the Nazis prompted Lang’s move to Hollywood where he developed some of his Weimar themes in memorable and disturbing films such as Fury and The Big Heat.

With Stella Bruzzi Professor of Film and Dean of Arts and Humanities at University College London

Joe McElhaney Professor of Film Studies at Hunter College, City University of New York

And Iris Luppa Senior Lecturer in Film Studies in the Division of Film and Media at London South Bank University Producer: Simon Tillotson 

 

‘THE TRAGEDY OF MACBETH’ FROM JOEL COEN ·

(Odie Henderson’s article appeared on Roger Ebert.com 12/23; via Pam Green; photo: Roger Ebert.com)

My high school senior year English teacher, Mr. Kilinski would be proud that I remembered every single stanza and line from Macbeth he made his students memorize. As Denzel WashingtonFrances McDormand, and others worked through the Bard’s words as adapted by director Joel Coen, I felt myself lip-syncing under my mask. I covered the greatest hits, and lines I didn’t even realize I knew. Keep in mind that I learned these words 35 years ago, yet they were as fresh in my mind as if I’d committed them to memory that morning. The Scottish Play holds a special place in my heart, because it forced me to do a complete 180 on William Shakespeare. After my freshman year run-in with Romeo and Juliet and my sophomore year’s Julius Caesar, I was through with this dude and his fancy writing about topics that put my adolescent self to sleep.

Macbeth made me reconsider. Back then, I couldn’t put my finger on why it spoke to me so powerfully that it made me want to read more Shakespeare. But, as an adult, I understood. This play is like a film noir and I was a budding noirista as a teen. “The Tragedy of Macbeth” visually leans into my noirish interpretation. It’s shot in silvery, at times gothic black and white by Bruno Delbonnel, has a moody score by the great Carter Burwell, and takes place on incredible (and obviously fake) sets designed by Stefan Dechant. It also has more fog than San Francisco, the setting for so many great noirs. This makes sense, as Coen and his brother Ethan visited neo-noir’s genre neighborhood more traditionally in their 2001 film, “The Man Who Wasn’t There.” One might consider their debut, “Blood Simple” a neo-noir as well.

Like those films, this one also features McDormand as a shady lady, namely Lady Macbeth. She’s married to Washington’s Macbeth, the Thane of Glamis. As the casting indicates, this couple is older than the one the Bard envisioned, which changes one’s perception of their motivations. Youthful ambition has given way to something else; perhaps the couple is way too conscious of all those yesterdays that “lighted fools/The way to dusty death.” At the Q&A after the free IMAX screening of this film, McDormand mentioned that she wanted to portray the Macbeths as a couple who chose not to have children early on, and were fine with the choice. This detail makes the murder of Macduff’s (Corey Hawkins) son all the more heartless and brutal, an act Coen treats with restraint but does not shy away from depicting.

Since The Scottish Play was first performed 415 years ago, all spoiler warnings have expired. Besides, you should know the plot already. Banquo (Bertie Carvel) and the Thane of Glamis meet three witches (all played by theater vet Kathryn Hunter) on his way back from battle. They prophesize that Macbeth will eventually be King of Scotland. But first, he’ll become the Thane of Cawdor. When that part of the prediction becomes true, Macbeth thinks these medieval Miss Cleos might be onto something. Though he believes chance will crown him without his stir, Lady Macbeth goads him to intervene. As is typical of Shakespeare’s tragedies, the stage will be littered with dead bodies by the final curtain, each of whom will have screamed out “I am slain!” or “I am dead!” before expiring. Coen leaves that feature out of the movie, as you can see quite graphically how dead the bodies get on the screen.

King Duncan’s murder is especially rough. Washington and Brendan Gleeson play it as a macabre dance, framed so tightly that we feel the intimacy of how close one must be to stab another. It’s almost sexual. Both actors give off a regal air in their other scenes, though Washington’s is buoyed by that patented Den-ZELLL swagger. He even does the Denzel vocal tic, that “huh” he’s famous for, in some of his speeches, making me giddy enough to jump out of my skin with joy. Gleeson brings the Old Vic to his brief performance; every line and every moment feels like he’s communing with the ghosts of the famous actors who graced that hallowed London stage.

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LINA WERTMÜLLER: A THRILLING LIVE-WIRE WHO DISPLAYED A COLOSSAL BLACK-COMIC DARING   ·

(Peter Bradshaw’s article appeared in the Guardian, 12/9; Photo: Mordant and subversive … Lina Wertmüller. Photograph: Camilla Morandi/AGF/REX/Shutterstock.)

Lina Wertmüller dies aged 93

The director was a film-maker with mordant and subversive things to say about the postwar Italian soul, particularly in Seven Beauties

I last saw Lina Wertmüller on the stage of the Buñuel auditorium at the Cannes film festival in 2019, surrounded by cheering fans: a tiny, fiercely alert and beaming figure in her early 90s. She was there because Pasqualino Settebellezze, or Seven Beauties (1975), her strange, serio-comic masterpiece was being shown; this famously made her the first woman to be nominated for an Academy Award as best director.

Seven Beauties is an absurdist anti-war satire, starring her favourite leading man Giancarlo Giannini – a roguishly handsome but unsettling presence who was to her movies, perhaps, what Marcello Mastroianni was to Federico Fellini, and Wertmüller started out as assistant to Fellini. Fellini was her mentor and friend, and she, in turn, was his lifelong passionate admirer as a creative life force – and yet it was arguably Wertmüller who had more mordant and subversive things to say about the postwar Italian soul.

Seven Beauties, for which she wrote the original screenplay, is something to be compared to Günter Grass’s The Tin Drum. Giannini plays Pasqualino Frafuso, a fool – though not an innocent or a holy one – who is to reveal himself as an egotist, a coward and even a rapist as he careens across the strife-torn landscape of the second world war, motivated by a pompous macho concern for protecting the supposed honour of his seven sisters, who are far from bellezze in any sense. Pasqualino gets sent to an insane asylum for killing the pimp with whom one sister has taken up (and dismembering the body and despatching the portions all over Italy in suitcases) but is finally released to serve in the army – in which capacity he is sent to a Nazi concentration camp where he grotesquely attempts to seduce the female commandant and is made to undergo horrifying ordeals which resemble a bad-taste horror panto version of Sophie’s Choice. When he finally returns home to Naples, he naturally finds that all seven of his sisters and his mother have succumbed to exactly that dishonour which horrified him in the first place.

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‘WEST SIDE STORY’ FIRST REACTIONS: ‘TOP-TIER SPIELBERG,’ RACHEL ZEGLER’S STAR SHINES BRIGHT ·

(Ryan Lattanzio’s and Chris Lindahl’s article appeareded on IndieWire, 11/29; via Drudge Report; photo 20th Century Studios.)

Steven Spielberg’s musical has finally screened, and ecstatic first reactions are pouring in: “Everyone is at the top of their game.”

Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of the beloved musical “West Side Story” finally began to screen for awards voters over the weekend ahead of its Christmas Day release. First reactions are pouring out as the film’s official premiere at the El Capitan Theatre in Los Angeles gets underway. Early reactions are offering praise for Spielberg’s direction and high marks for Rachel Zegler as Maria in her film debut.

The musical premiered mere days after the death of Stephen Sondheim (who wrote the lyrics for the original production, with a book by Arthur Laurents and score by Leonard Bernstein) at the age of 91. Highest praise for the new film version came from the composer himself, who back in September dropped by “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” to talk about the most recent stage production of “Company” and, of course, Spielberg’s movie.

“It’s really terrific,” Sondheim said of the film. “Everybody go. You’ll really have a good time. And for those of you who know the show, there’s going to be some real surprises.”

Sondheim said that’s because of Pulitzer Prize-winner Tony Kushner, who has received two screenplay Oscar nominations for adapting the Spielberg films “Munich” and “Lincoln.”

Sondheim said Kushner “has done some really imaginative and surprising things with the way the songs are used in the story, and the whole thing has real sparkle to it and real energy, and it feels fresh. It’s really first-grade, and movie musicals are hard to do and this one, Spielberg and Kushner really, really nailed it.”

In addition to Zegler, this new version stars Ansel Elgort as Tony, Ariana DeBose as Anita, and David Alvarez as Bernardo. Rita Moreno, Best Supporting Actess Oscar winner for the original Best Picture-winning film, also makes a cameo appearance as Valentina.

WEST SIDE STORY is *phenomenal.* Steven Spielberg has been talking about making a musical for almost his entire career, and this was worth the wait. This is top-tier Spielberg.

— Chris Evangelista (@cevangelista413) November 30, 2021

Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story 2.0 is an ecstatic act of ancestor-worship: a vividly dreamed, cunningly modified, visually staggering revival, passionately conservative but brilliant. No-one but Spielberg could have brought it off – review later

— Peter Bradshaw (@PeterBradshaw1) November 30, 2021

WEST SIDE STORY: If it’s not quite essential, it’s still tremendously entertaining. Vivid, beautiful work from our greatest living American moviemaker. Invigorating choice to have subtitle-less Spanish comprise ~40% of dialogue. David Alvarez is the breakout, but everyone’s aces.

— Barry Hertz (@HertzBarry) November 30, 2021

Embargo lifted: I saw West Side Story tonight and I’m happy to report that musical theater will show up at the Oscars for impeccable visuals, Ariana DeBose is A DAMN STAR and it’s only the beginning for Rachel Zegler. I love this for us.

— Ayanna P. (@AyannaPrescod) November 30, 2021

More on WEST SIDE STORY on the whole in a bit, but first … HOLY MOLY, Mike Faist as Riff. One of those performances that grabs you by the collar, stops your pulse, and demands attention. That exceedingly rare pleasure of feeling like a star is forming before your eyes. A thrill. pic.twitter.com/mWfzaRGaIT

— Marshall Shaffer (@media_marshall) November 30, 2021

Hot damn. So, yes, as it turns out, Steven Spielberg knows how to make a WEST SIDE STORY movie

— Mike Ryan (@mikeryan) November 30, 2021

WEST SIDE STORY thoughts:

Steven Spielberg directs the hell out of a mediocre script. What an eye-roll inducing story.

Anything related to The Jets is insufferable, hell most of The Sharks are as well. The ladies do the heavy-lifting. This is Zegler, DeBose, and Moreno’s movie

— EJ Moreno (@EJKhryst) November 30, 2021

Spielberg’s West Side Story does understand that the best thing that can happen on film is a bunch of people strutting toward the camera singing in harmony

— Jackson McHenry (@McHenryJD) November 30, 2021

WEST SIDE STORY has rocked my world.

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‘PEOPLE WHO KNEW HIM … DIDN’T REALLY KNOW HIM’: WHO WAS THE REAL CHARLIE CHAPLIN? ·

(Charles Bramesco’s article appeared in the Guardian, 11/18; via Pam Green; Photo:  Charlie Chaplin was ‘chameleonic in the way he reflected back to people what they wanted’. Photograph: Footage File, LLC/Courtesy of Showtime.)

In a definitive new documentary, a deeper look at the much-loved movie star provides more insight into ‘one of the greatest rags-to-riches stories ever told’

When a normal person ascends to the firmament of fame, their sense of identity is split in two. The self-perception they’ve developed over their life up to that point – the “true” self, allowed to emerge in intimate moments – must contend with an outward-facing image over which they can exert unsettlingly minimal control. The more canny-minded celebrities seize the reins of their own PR by cultivating a persona they can get out in front of, caricaturing themselves before someone else gets the chance.

Charlie Chaplin, perhaps the first A-lister to contend with this existential quandary of exposure, went one step further by inventing a character he could plaster over himself. The Real Charlie Chaplin, a new documentary in cinemas this week, posits his Little Tramp alter ego as a shield and veil. If audiences were looking at the bowler hat, toothbrush moustache, and rubbery cane, they’d never see the man wearing them.

“I remember, even as a child, having an image of Charlie Chaplin in my head,” co-director James Spinney tells the Guardian. “Like most people, the costume was known to me. We saw these films with lots of preconceptions; he’s emblematic of an early, cartoonish style of cinema comedy, slapstick, films played at the wrong speed. As an adult revisiting these, I was struck by how modern they felt, how subversive, how there’s no sense of the antiquated whatsoever. Everyone has an idea about Charlie Chaplin. But people who knew him best felt that he was hard to create a connection with, that they didn’t really know him, that he was always performing.”

The top-to-bottom bio-doc examines Chaplin as a once-in-a-generation funnyman, while recognizing that as only one of the many roles he played in his eventful life: the Dickensian child laborer, the innovative vaudevillian, the big-hearted humanist, the vindictive lover, the Tinseltown captain of industry, the witch-hunted commie, the reclusive Swiss expat. In what Spinney describes as “one of the greatest rags-to-riches stories ever told”, the only connecting thread through the many ups and downs is the tension between Chaplin’s private and public lives. He prized his hordes of fans and loathed interviews, subsisting on the admiration while contending with the anxiety of being known and yet not-known.

For Spinney and co-director Peter Middleton, the prospect of gaining fresh insight into the aspects of himself Chaplin took pains to conceal was too intriguing to pass up. “One thing we knew very early on was that there was no single, solid, stable version of Charlie Chaplin,” Spinney says. “We’re not trying to link them all up, because there are too many of them, and they don’t always add up. He was chameleonic in the way he reflected back to people what they wanted.”

Their producer, Ben Limberg, had negotiated with Chaplin’s estate and the British Film Institute for a master list of materials they’d be permitted to access, the most obscure of which caught the directors’ eyes. In particular, they fixated on an “enigmatic” tape containing raw audio from a three-day profile sit-down for Life Magazine, conducted by Richard Meryman in 1966 at Chaplin’s twilight-years home on Lake Geneva. “We realized that we’d arrived at an opportune moment in history, where an archival source such as that can be restored,” Middleton says. “We started breaking that down and though it feels like there are 700 books written about Chaplin, we thought that could be our way in to something new.”

Secured after one full year of negotiations, the soundbites provide a condensed memoir with a candid running commentary as Chaplin recalled his early days of tribulation and hardship. His parents’ severe debts resulted in him being sent to Lambeth Workhouse at the tender age of seven, a plight he escaped through his natural inclination for the stage. From dance troupes and small plays to a breakout gig under vaudeville mainstay Fred Karno, an undeniable showmanship carried him out of abject poverty and across the Atlantic for a shot in the nascent movie business. It was there that he debuted the Little Tramp, whose penniless misfortunes mirrored his own background at the Central London District school for paupers.

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