Fred Kaplan

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Fred Kaplan  |  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).
Fred Kaplan  |  Mar 04, 2015  |  1 comments
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A charmer of a film, deeper, even grittier than its Capra-corn romantic populism might suggest, It Happened One Night swept the 1934 Oscars—winning Best Picture, Actor, Actress, Screenplay, and Director—and if it hadn’t edged out The Thin Man in doing so, I’d say, Bravo, well deserved. The story is a classic class-crossing fable: A spoiled rich girl runs away from her father to join the king she wants to marry; a hardscrabble newspaperman finds her, blackmails her into letting him come along to write a story; they take to the road, by bus, foot, thumb, and jalopy, squabbling, scolding, and, of course, falling in love with each other.
Fred Kaplan  |  May 05, 2017  |  0 comments
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Jerry Maguire is the middle work in writer-director Cameron Crowe’s trio of deeply pleasurable movies, flanked by Say Anything and Almost Famous (after which…what happened, man?), and it holds up very well. Tom Cruise plays the title character, a callow sports agent, incapable of alone time or failure, who suffers a brief bout of conscience, bats out a moral manifesto, and loses his job, along with all but one of his clients, as a result. As Crowe explains on the commentary track, it was co-producer James Brooks who came up with the idea of starting the movie where most rom-coms end (selfish go-getter has his wee-hours epiphany), then following our anti-hero’s glide to the bottom before carving a new path of success that enshrines intimacy and commitment as well as ambition. It sounds corny, but Crowe and his ensemble cast (at the time all unknowns, except Cruise) pull it off.
Fred Kaplan  |  Jan 15, 2015  |  0 comments
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La Dolce Vita was Federico Fellini’s breakout hit: a critical and commercial sensation, even in America, where foreign films till then were strictly art house fare. It’s the winding tale of a litterateur-turned-gossip columnist wandering the streets, bars, and parties of newly decadent modern Rome, seeking love, meaning, and value but finally realizing their futility and wallowing in the miasma. The film coined archetypes of the era: a character named Paparazzo, a tabloid photographer who chases after sensational shots, spawned the word paparazzi; another, Steiner, a refined man of culture who commits a gruesome crime, became the prototype of the modern ineffectual intellectual.
Fred Kaplan  |  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.
Fred Kaplan  |  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.
Fred Kaplan  |  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).
Fred Kaplan  |  May 19, 2017  |  1 comments
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McCabe & Mrs. Miller, Robert Altman’s best film by far, has often been called an “anti-Western,” but that’s a bit off. The plot is pure Western: A stranger comes to a frontier town, builds it up; bad guys come to kill him and take it away; he tracks them down on the street and kills them first; and oh, yes, there’s a whore with a heart of gold. The difference here is that the plot is infused with circa-1900 realism: The stranger’s a bit of a dunce; the town is a muddy mess; the bad guys are corporate poachers; our man kills them by shooting them in the back, and afterward he dies in the snow from gunshot wounds while the townsfolk put out a fire in an unused church; and, oh, the whore is also a shrewd merchant with an opium habit.
Fred Kaplan  |  Apr 01, 2016  |  0 comments
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Mulholland Drive is a wild and woolly movie, rife with swooning mysteries, esoteric clues, red herrings, black swans, and, even if the whole mélange remains a puzzle to you, it tosses up some of the most haunting and sensual images and sounds ever to come out of Hollywood. It begins with heavy breathing and soft focus on a red sheet, your first signal that what you’re about to see is someone’s dream, though how much, and at what point things flit back and forth from nightmare to reality (or, simply, to random jetsam from writer-director David Lynch’s own weird dreams and fantasies) is up for grabs.
Fred Kaplan  |  Jun 11, 2013  |  0 comments
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Interactivity
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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