Fred Kaplan

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Fred Kaplan  |  Sep 18, 2014  |  0 comments
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I saw A Hard Day’s Night in a theater in 1964, when it first came out and I was 10 years old. I saw it three times, and it was pure joy. I felt the same sensation watching this fantastic Blu-ray transfer. Was it at least in part nostalgia? Probably, though it’s worth noting that the movie—which came out in August, six months after The Beatles’ appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show—is what won over our parents to the Fab Four: so smart, witty, and talented after all (traits that we kids had long appreciated). And my own kids, born two decades later, love the movie and the group too.
Fred Kaplan  |  Jan 22, 2016  |  0 comments
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A Room with a View is one of the most romantic films of all time—a funny, leisurely, unabashed, but also ironic celebration of “beauty, joy, love,” (as its youthful hero shouts from a flimsy treetop in the Italian countryside). Based on E.M. Forster’s novel, it remains the most successful film by Merchant Ivory, the enterprise consisting of producer Ismail Merchant, director James Ivory, and screenwriter Ruth Prawler Jhabvala. I’d found (and still find) many of their other movies dull, so what jelled with this one? The infectiously gorgeous setting—Florence, its surroundings, and the estates of southeastern England—must have played some role. The actors are as fine an ensemble as any assembled (besides the three listed below, Denholm Elliott, Daniel Day-Lewis, Judi Dench, Simon Callow, Rupert Graves).
Fred Kaplan  |  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.)
Fred Kaplan  |  Feb 05, 2014  |  0 comments
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Before Midnight is the unplanned Part 3 of what may turn out to be a lifetime series—one episode every nine years, so far—following the romance of Jesse and Céline. Before Sunrise (1995) had them, at 23, meeting on a train in Europe, getting off together in Vienna, walking and talking all day and night, and making love at dawn. Before Sunset (2004) found Jesse, author of a best-selling novel about that brief affair, running into Céline at a reading in Paris, resuming their walking and talking through the winding streets, and ending in her apartment on an ambiguous note: Will he catch his plane back to Chicago, returning to his wife and child, or stay with Céline, for whom he’s been pining all these years?
Fred Kaplan  |  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.)
Fred Kaplan  |  May 14, 2015  |  0 comments
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Don’t Look Now is a weirdly captivating creep-show of a movie: dark, vaguely Gothic, crudely energetic, occasionally ridiculous—in short, it resembles a lot of other films directed by Nicolas Roeg in the ’70s (Performance, Walkabout, The Man Who Fell to Earth, Bad Timing). This one’s about an artistic couple, living (inexplicably) in a huge house on a huge estate, whose daughter drowns in a nearby pond; the couple takes solace in Venice, where he has a job restoring an old church; she meets two old sisters, one of whom—the blind one—sees the spirit of the daughter, and many other hobgoblins, too; meanwhile, it turns out that the husband has a bit of a sixth sense as well; trouble, chaos, and the cruel hand of fate ensue.
Fred Kaplan  |  Oct 14, 2016  |  2 comments
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Dr. Strangelove is one of the great American films: not just a savage anti-war satire but a jeremiad against the mechanization (and resulting dehumanization) that spawned the nuclear-war machine and might turn a burst of insanity into the death of all life on the planet. (The film’s subtitle: “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.”) It was an amazingly daring movie for its time: early 1964, the peak of Cold War tensions, barely a year after the Cuban Missile Crisis, on the eve of escalation in Vietnam—and here’s Stanley Kubrick, joined by Terry Southern, author of Candy, The Magic Christian, and other naughty novels, portraying the top brass as mentally off, our political leaders as feckless, and the holy of military holies, the nuclear deterrent, as a Doomsday Machine. And it’s funny as hell!
Fred Kaplan  |  Jul 16, 2015  |  2 comments
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Are you curious? Really? OK then. Yes, Fifty Shades of Grey is a lousy movie, every bit the stinker that you probably expect: dull dialogue, vapid characters, no chemistry either from or between the actors. Here’s what you really want to know: Is the movie hot? Is it at least a little bit funny? And (since you are reading Sound & Vision) how does the Blu-ray Disc look and sound? Here’s the skinny, in that order. The actors who play Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele (the most improbably famous S&M couple on the planet) are very attractive; Dakota Johnson, as Ana, is hot; but their sex is pretty tame soft porn, even by Cinemax standards. (Showtime’s Masters of Sex is way sexier.)
Fred Kaplan  |  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.
Fred Kaplan  |  May 26, 2017  |  0 comments
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This is the funniest classic film that doesn’t star the Marx Brothers and one of the best—certainly the most frantic—newspaper movies (outgunned only by the very different All the President’s Men). It also marks the peak in director Howard Hawks’ fling with super-fast pace and overlapping dialogue, which he’d pioneered over the previous two years, with Bringing Up Baby and Only Angels Have Wings, and which influenced many future directors, notably Robert Altman.

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