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The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers

Reviewer: Erin Donovan
Rating (out of 5): ****

A fascinating theme emerges early on in Judith Ehrlich and Rick Goldsmith's Oscar-nominated documentary The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers: that the same circular thinking and one-upsmanship games inevitably will overtake hyper-insulated circles once their belief system come under fire. Whether they be grassroots activist groups, major media companies, the Department of Defense or the White House -- the wheels come off with striking similarity and lead to some fantastic collapses.

Continue Reading The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers

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Review: By Brakhage: An Anthology, Volume Two

Reviewer: Jonathan Poritsky
Rating (out of 5):
*****

"What's the experiment?" is a simple question I find myself asking constantly when watching experimental cinema. The term "experimental" has as of late become tainted, misused, even destroyed. Most festivals around the world now feature a section for experimental films, usually shorts, but their definition is cloudy at best, and when it comes down to it, they are generally populated with films that simply won't fit anywhere else. Which is why we have a responsibility to constantly, vigorously demand an answer to the simple question: "What's the experiment?" With the films of Stan Brakhage, you never have to ask, but that doesn't mean the answer is any clearer.

After a modicum of success with the comprehensive, albeit disjointed, two disc set of Brakhage's works in 2003, Criterion is back with a second helping of the avant-garde pioneer's films with By Brakhage: An Anthology, Volume 2. The set is not only a brilliantly curated look at the career of a prolific filmmaker, but it is also a major milestone for the Criterion Collection itself. It is almost inherent in the nature of experimental cinema that it not be released on home video. More often than not, the experiment is finite, contained within a movie house or screening room, a public space or gallery. That is why Criterion's first crack at this, By Brakhage Vol. 1, felt more jarring, more a random assortment of his films, where the new set is carefully prepared, divided into 90 minute sessions. The coherency was probably aided by the team behind this set, which includes Brakhage's wife, Marilyn, as well as film historian Fred Camper.

Continue Reading Review: By Brakhage: An Anthology, Volume Two

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Return to Oz: A History of Australian Cinema I (1896-1968)

[Roderick Heath's expansive survey of the history of Australian cinema begins in that country's own silent era, and works forward into the 1960s. Parts II and III will bring us into the modern era.  Some of the silent films mentioned here are actually available to watch online; links provided.  So come meet the unsung heroes and pioneers of one of the world's most prolific and important film industries. Enjoy. - ed.] Diggers

By Roderick Heath

Part One: 1896-1968

1. Pioneer Spirit

Filmmaking technology first came to Australia in the hands of Maurice Sestier, one of the Lumiere Brothers' [Wikipedia] many globetrotting cameramen, who arrived in Sydney in 1896, not a month after the first exhibition of films by Carl Hertz in Melbourne. Sestier shot several short travelogues of such edifying spectacles as Sydney Harbor and the crowds filing onto ferries and trams, and opened the Salon Lumiere on Pitt Street specifically to screen them, making him both Australia's first filmmaker and professional exhibitor. Sestier's film was too slow to capture the racing horses at the Melbourne Cup later in the year, so he settled for shooting the crowds instead. Sestier decided there was no future for cinema in Australia and auctioned off his camera two years after arriving, leaving for France with all his films. Nonetheless his work had made an impact, inspiring a small number of followers who made documentary shorts and news reels which proceeded to tantalize crowds.

Of course, random shots of commuters and bushland were never going to fascinate paying patrons for very long. The idea of creating a fiction feature film may have been in many minds, but the man regarded as the first to accomplish it was an unlikely figure: Major Joseph Perry of the Salvation Army's Magic Lantern and Photographic Department. Perry, an Englishman residing in Melbourne, had shot a few short documentaries, and his first stab at a new kind of cinema was part of an early multimedia experience, with portions of his film shown in alternation with slides, sermons, and hymn singing, as part of a religious lecture. This movie, entitled Soldiers of the Cross, was essentially a series of illustrative sequences portraying the grisly fates of early Christian martyrs.

Continue Reading Return to Oz: A History of Australian Cinema I (1896-1968)

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Away We Go Contest

awaywego_poster.jpgThe Office's John Krasinski and Saturday Night Live's Maya Rudolph star as Burt and Verona in the funny and heartfelt Away We Go, directed by Sam Mendes (American Beauty) and written by Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida. It opens in theaters June 5th (limited).

And away we go, GreenCine and Focus Features are teaming up for a new contest where you can win a bagful of Away We Go goodies. Five (5) Winners will receive the official movie soundtrack, plus an Away We Go T-shirt and postcard!

Click below for details on how you can enter and win!

Continue Reading Away We Go Contest

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DVD Spotlight: 12/2.

DVDs, 12/2.

White Dog

"In its blunt, bludgeoning way, White Dog ranks among the toughest and most probing examinations of racism in American cinema," writes Dennis Lim in the Los Angeles Times . "[Sam] Fuller's brute-force direction gives this outrageous allegory the hyperbolic treatment it demands." More from Erin Donovan at the Guru and notes on it from Craig Phillips.

"The late Marguerite Duras's novels, with their accretion of visual detail and incantatory dialogue, lent themselves to movies, but Duras disliked others' adaptations of her work and began, in the 1960s, to direct," writes Richard Brody in the New Yorker. "Her fourth film, Nathalie Granger (in a two-disk set from Blaq Out / Facets), from 1972, is a vehicle for a pair of international divas, Jeanne Moreau and Lucia Bosé, albeit an unusually low-key one; the setting is a cluttered old house near Paris, which was Duras's own."

Continue Reading DVD Spotlight: 12/2.

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GreenCine Launches New Look for Central!

GreenCine has upgraded the look, feel and interface of its content side, GC Central, and invites you to come by to take a look. We think the new design, which uses Drupal v.6, will make it easier to find articles, point you to more DVDs on the site, interact with the community, and in general have more fun poking around. And we'll be tweaking and updating its features as go along, too. So... come on inside!

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DVD Spotlight: Week of 6/24.

Solo Sunny "Konrad Wolf's Solo Sunny was widely regarded at the time of its 1980 release as perhaps the best film to come out of the unhappy nation then known as East Germany, and with the passing of time the 'perhaps' might safely be removed," writes Dave Kehr in the New York Times. "On its surface the film is a Socialist reinterpretation of the highly romanticized youth films that flooded America in the early 70s - its heroine, Sunny (Renate Krössner), is a wide-eyed waif from the industrial provinces who dreams of becoming a pop star in the big city. But it is at heart a devastating study in social determinism, in direct line with the realist Kammerspiele films of the late Weimar period."

"The rediscovery of Classe Tous Risques is, in a way, doubly special, as it leads us to reexamine the work of someone who is not an acknowledged master," writes Andrew Chan at the House Next Door. "[Claude] Sautet's career is notable for its lack of ostentation.... What anchored his films was not the nouvelle vague's cinephilia or ideology, but rather the ordinary human concerns he found at the center of big genre constructions like the criminal underworld or the comic ménage a trois. For him, even the fantasies of genre were subject to the cruel disappointments of real life." (See Walt Opie's review on Guru, too.)

Continue Reading DVD Spotlight: Week of 6/24.

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DVD Spotlight: 6/18.

(Cross-posted from GreenCine Daily.)

Carmen Miranda"Did Carmen Miranda invent performance art?" asks Dave Kehrin the New York Times. "From Cindy Sherman to Madonna, artists across the cultural spectrum have continued to build on her flamboyantly absurd representations of the feminine, now anthologized in a new box set from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.... No less than Jerry Lewis did a decade later, she brought an unpredictable anarchy to the staid business of studio filmmaking."

"Let's consider Danny Boyle's Sunshine as both a characteristically exaggerated response to environmental crisis and an extended visual pun on the term 'Enlightenment.'" And traxus4420 is off and running at culturemonkey.

Continue Reading DVD Spotlight: 6/18.

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DVD Spotlight: Week of 5/13.

(As first seen on GreenCine Daily.)

The Big Trail "Had it been even marginally successful, Raoul Walsh's 1930 epic western, The Big Trail might have changed the course of film history." Dave Kehr explains in the New York Times. Fascinating stuff. Also: reviews of two films by Mitchell Leisen, "[t]he very model of the crack studio director": "the 1937 Easy Living, with Jean Arthur and Ray Milland in a romantic comedy written by Preston Sturges, and the 1939 Midnight, a Parisian farce with Claudette Colbert, Don Ameche and John Barrymore, from a screenplay by Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett."

"Like Luis Buñ, and in particular, like Buñ's main heir, Manoel de Oliveira, Resnais's career trajectory seems to have been to quickly abandon evocations of a subjective consciousness in favor of a blatantly theatrical, questionably objective style that dryly notes the precise behavior of delusional people acting only on the logic of their own emotions, which isn't very logical at all," writes David Pratt-Robson in the Auteurs's Notebook, reviewing Mé. "But only for Resnais has the move been frequently disastrous, with his hypocrites way too systematically hypocritical, and with his occasional attempts to sympathize with these idiots via cute camera tricks and sound effects coming off as feeble nods to avant-garde roots by a man who is himself mired in outdated Vaudeville gimmickry."

Continue Reading DVD Spotlight: Week of 5/13.

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Best (and Worst) Movie Moms

By Erin DonovanHunter/Incredibles

Erin Donovan helps us prepare for this year's Mother's Day with a guide to all the multifaceted kinds of moms depictedon film, grouped for your pleasure by most common archetypes. (Our moms would be proud for being so organized.) And of course, as this is an overview, surely (or Shirley), you will want to suggest a few more of your own in the comments. From Dedicated Mom to Psycho Mom, Martyr Mom to Mourning Mom, movie moms everywhere are given their proper respect.

Continue Reading Best (and Worst) Movie Moms

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