“How to Read A Film: The American Western” concludes with Clint Eastwood’s 1992 “Unforgiven” Sun., May 15

Best Video Film & Cultural Center concludes Mark Schenker’s 11th installment of his “How to Read a Film” series, focusing again this season on a genre rather than a director. Having presented two series on film noir and another on screwball comedy, he turns now to another distinctively American film category: the western. He will consider four great movies ranging from the 1930’s through the 1950’s—a great decade for the genre both in the theater and on TV—to the 1990’s.

The concluding film in the four-film series is “Unforgiven” (1992), directed by Clint Eastwood. Admission is $7 and the event starts at 2 PM, May 15. The preceding films were “Stagecoach” (1939), “The Gunfighter” (1950), and “The Naked Spur” (1953).

The series engaged with four major filmmakers and an array of actors celebrated for their work in and beyond the western genre: John Wayne, Gregory Peck, and James Stewart; Claire Trevor and Robert Ryan; Clint Eastwood and Gene Hackman—along with Morgan Freeman, Janet Leigh, Ralph Meeker, and the great character actor Millard Mitchell*—twice!

Upon its 1992 release, “Unforgiven” was a New York Times Critic’s Pick. Vincent Canby wrote:

As written by David Webb Peoples and directed by Mr. Eastwood, “Unforgiven” is a most entertaining western that pays homage to the great tradition of movie westerns while surreptitiously expressing a certain amount of skepticism. Mr. Eastwood has learned a lot from his mentors, including the great Don Siegel (“Two Mules for Sister Sara’ and “The Beguiled,” among others), a director with no patience for sentimentality.

Mark Schenker’s lectures are accompanied by screenings of the films to illustrate the points he is making—it’s like a live commentary track! (He strongly recommends viewing the movie before attending a “How to Read a Film” event.) His previous lectures on the films of Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick, and Billy Wilder (among others) and the historical context in which the TV series “Downton Abbey” took place were erudite and entertaining.

Support for this series has been provided to Best Video Film & Cultural Center from CT Humanities (CTH), with funding provided by the Connecticut State Department of Economic and Community Development/Connecticut Office of the Arts (COA) from the Connecticut State Legislature.

Clint Eastwood’s “Gran Torino” screens Mon., Mar. 9, at 7 PM as part of “Found Horizons” film series

gran_torino_xlg_WebThe latest film series in collaboration with Temple Beth Sholom continues Monday, Mar. 2, at 7 PM with a screening of the 2008 movie “Gran Torino,” directed by and starring Clint Eastwood. “Found Horizons: Changes and Choices in Mid-Life” features powerful films in which the protagonists face stark mid-life choices. As has been our practice, each screening begins with a short, context-setting introduction and is followed by an optional discussion.

Each screening begins at 7 PM. The cost for each movie is $5 and reservations are encouraged. The series is co-sponsored by Temple Beth Sholom Adult Education.

In “Gran Torino”—multiple award winning film and old school parable—Clint Eastwood (who also directed the film) plays a disgruntled Korean veteran living alone in a Vietnamese neighborhood, determined to fight his own demons and prejudices with grit and resolve. DIRTY HARRY grows up.


Monday, Mar. 9: “Gran Torino” (2008)

In this multiple award winning film and old school parable, Clint Eastwood (who also directed the film) plays a disgruntled Korean veteran living alone in a Vietnamese neighborhood, determined to fight his own demons and prejudices with grit and resolve. DIRTY HARRY grows up.

Monday, Mar. 16: “Now, Voyager” (1942)

Can a Boston spinster without self-esteem and completely dominated by her wealthy mother blossom under therapy and find impossible romance? One of the most romantic movies – and perhaps most affecting Bette Davis film – ever made.

Monday, Mar. 23: “Up in the Air” (2009)

In this very contemporary film starring George Clooney and Vera Farmiga, Clooney enjoys a lucrative virtual life flying around the country firing people on behalf of their corporations, until he finds this perfect life threatened by a new hire and a frequent-traveler woman of his dreams.

Monday, Mar. 30: “A Late Quartet” (2012)

“A Late Quartet” one of Best Video owner Hank Paper’s favorite films of the last couple of years. Featuring rapturous music and bravura acting (including Philip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener, and Christopher Walken in a completely involving “straight” role), this dramatic film portrays a classical string quartet, approaching its 25th anniversary recital, that suddenly finds itself struggling to stay together in the face of long suppressed emotions, competing egos and uncontrollable lust. It’s what movies are all about!

Hank’s Recommendations 12/25/12

hank_paperTROUBLE WITH THE CURVE — Yes, it’s latter day formulaic Clint (codger fighting old age with witty, biting epithets) in a formulaic story (reuniting with alienated daughter on a last talent scouting trip to prove himself). But it’s also a film with many pleasantries: good script and direction (nothing crusty about Clint here), and good acting with real chemistry between Clint and Amy Adams. Plus, you learn a little you probably didn’t know about baseball. This is a romance about baseball, with a pitch that’s opposite the one thrown by MONEYBALL.  It’s about trusting your instincts and experience rather than the stats; about keeping your on the ball instead of on the computer in order to succeed at the game. Here the humanistic element is all over the field. Yes, Moneyball is a better movie but no more satisfying than Trouble With the Curve. Yes, the latter is a conventional feel-good movie. But in the right hands, it’s just what the doctor ordered, just the medicine your mood requires. Sometimes you just don’t want any trouble with the curve.