Fred Kaplan

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Fred Kaplan Posted: Nov 08, 2013 0 comments
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White Heat is one of the greatest gangster movies ever made. It’s a true film noir, a Freudian character study, and a pioneering police procedural, with slick suspense, a dry wit, and a deep-cutting (but not bloody) cruelty that’s still jarring today. The script is by Ivan Goff and Ben Roberts, who later wrote a few seasons of the Charlie’s Angels TV show, which at its best pulled off a warmed-over, softly satirical simulacrum of those traits.
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Jul 26, 2013 0 comments
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To my mind, Lincoln was the best film of 2012. In any case, it’s a rare thing: an old-fashioned biopic, a 19th century costume drama, a “talky” set piece about a debate in Congress—and yet it’s riveting, stirring, transporting. This is a film about the struggle over the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery; but it’s also about the nature of hard-boiled politics, the tension between compromise and principle, and the meaning of leadership—and, somehow, it doesn’t come off as preachy (except, a bit, at the very beginning and ending, though what comes in between almost earns it the right of a little sentimentality).
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Jun 24, 2013 0 comments
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Hannah and Her Sisters is Woody Allen’s most novelistic film: a tale of crisscrossing plotlines, strewn by multiple narrators, each a fully drawn character locked in or out of love with one of the others, and seeking answers to human needs and darker mysteries. It’s also Allen’s most redemptive film. In the end, the strands are resolved, the needs met, the mysteries not solved but set aside for the sake of enjoying life’s pleasures. In this sense, it’s reminiscent of Fanny and Alexander, the similarly titled (and also atypically euphoric) film made four years earlier by Allen’s morose hero Ingmar Bergman. Both films begin and end with lavish holiday dinners, and both chart voyages of infidelity, doubt, and despair, before settling into a celebration of the good life: family, friends, and haute elegance.
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Jun 19, 2013 0 comments
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The Kid With a Bike is a heartbreaking, gripping, ultimately unsettling, but very satisfying film—an odd jumble of adjectives, I know, but the Dardenne brothers of Belgium routinely provoke these dissonances in the works they jointly write and direct. Their earlier films (The Child, The Son, La Promesse, among others) are notoriously hard to warm to: The characters are obstinate, the pace slides and rambles. The Kid With a Bike, which won the Grand Prix at Cannes, is sunnier, more kinetic, but it, too, disrupts assumptions, snaps you in unexpected directions: just like life.
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Jun 11, 2013 0 comments
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All of you know the taxicab scene from On the Waterfront in which Marlon Brando tells Rod Steiger, “I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am. Let’s face it.” But I’d bet not many have recently seen the whole movie—and never have you seen it looking as breathtaking as it does on this Blu-ray Disc, a wondrous collaboration between Sony’s 4K digital-restoration lab and the Criterion Collection’s special-features team.
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Apr 26, 2013 3 comments
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Lawrence of Arabia may be the last extravagant blockbuster that was also a great film. It’s nearly four hours long, much of it consisting of men galloping on camels through the desert, shot on location with a cast of hundreds, no sex, almost no women—yet this is riveting, heart-pounding stuff, and witty, to boot. It’s based on the true story of T.E. Lawrence, the romantic British officer who led a gaggle of bedouin armies against Turkish strongholds in World War I, helped bring down the Ottoman Empire, came to believe his own myths and see himself as a demigod—and thus became a delusional monster. The film has the feel of a grand epic and an intimate psychodrama. It’s an adventure, a clash of cultures, and a tragedy.
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Mar 26, 2013 0 comments
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Wong Kar-wai, the greatest living Hong Kong filmmaker, is a weaver of smoldering dreams, and In the Mood for Love is his masterpiece. He may be the most intense practitioner of pure cinema. Very little happens in this film, but his brash colors (like something out of a Matisse painting), arch compositions (long shots at slightly off angles, slow tracking shots signifying the passage of time and the ache of waiting), and use of music (a languorous, longing string motif) sow a hypnotic tension and a charged passion (though its beautiful lead actors, Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung, barely touch each other and show not a smidgen of bare skin).
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Feb 19, 2013 1 comments
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Chico & Rita is a wonderful movie, a valentine—poignant, sweet, but never sentimental—to Cuban jazz, bebop, and the street scenes of 1940s and ’50s Havana and New York. It’s a sophisticated animation, drawn in an evocative sketch-edged style similar to that of Waltz With Bashir. (It’s based on a graphic novel, a few pages of which are reproduced in the Blu-ray box’s booklet.)
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Jan 23, 2013 0 comments
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Jean Renoir’s La Grande Illusion remains, 75 years on, one of the greatest films ever made. To some, it may seem a bit clichéd, but that’s only because so many movies since have cribbed from its plot lines. It takes place in German POW camps during the First World War and was shot on what many recognized at the time as the eve of a Second World War. One of the things it’s about is the world that vanished, for better and for worse, in the two decades between the two wars. There has been much debate over just which “great illusion” Renoir was referring to in his title. Some have assumed it’s war. But this is not a simple anti-war movie; at the end, our French heroes, who have escaped from the camp, can’t wait to get home so they can reenlist in the fighting.
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Aug 14, 2012 0 comments
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There are few more enduring classics of American theater than Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire, an over-the-top, sweaty steam bath of a play that straddles Greek tragedy and Gothic camp yet still commands attention, even astonishes, 65 years after its creation. The show ran on Broadway for two years; the film adaptation was shot two years after that; both were directed by Elia Kazan and starred Marlon Brando. This was only Brando’s second film. He was 27 years old. And despite all the subsequent parodies of his sultry pout and his mumblecore rage (“Stella! Stel-l-l-laaa!”), he was a blazing-hot actor. It’s a natural heat that he radiates, and he modulates it seamlessly, from simmer to boil and all shades in between. Brando’s amazing to watch: The acting is all there on the surface, yet he’s so immersed in his character, it seems completely uncontrived. You see the moves and attitude that countless actors later copied, but none of them ever matched this. (That said, his performance in Kazan’s On the Waterfront three years later was even better, subtler.)

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