“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.

Mark Schenker returns with 10th “How to Read a Film” series Sun., Oct. 3, at 2 PM

Best Video Film & Cultural Center is pleased to bring back Mark Schenker for the tenth installment of his popular “How to Read a Film” series, starting on Sun., Oct. 3, at 2 PM. Admission to each lecture is $7.

In previous installments of “How to Read A Film,” Schenker has zeroed in on a specific director’s oeuvre or focused on four films in a particular genre, like film noir. For this series, he will “focus more broadly on genre, and how a consideration of three great genres of American film can yield a greater understanding of one of Quentin Tarantino’s masterpieces, “Inglourious Basterds,” which audaciously combines aspects of screwball comedy, film noir, and western.”

This will be an indoors event with the following covid protocols in place:

• 30 attendees max
• proof of vaccination required
• masks required (they can be lowered to take drinks or eat popcorn but should be raised back up when done)

The schedule for the series:

Sun., Oct. 3, 2 PM: “Bringing Up Baby” (1938, screwball comedy, dir. by Howard Hawks)

Sun., Oct. 10, 2 PM: “Criss Cross” (1949, film noir, dir. by Robert Siodmak)

Sun., Oct. 24, 2 PM: “The Searchers” (1956, western, dir. by John Ford)

Sun., Oct. 31, 2 PM: “Inglourious Basterds” (2009, dir. by Quentin Tarantino)

Of “Bringing Up Baby,” the inaugural film in this series, Brian Tallerico wrote at RogerEbert.com:

Movies don’t get much more delightful and joyous than “Bringing Up Baby,” a film that honestly shaped my youth. Raised on classic musicals, my mother also loved classic comedies, and comedies don’t get more classic than this 1938 screwball masterpiece from Howard Hawks. Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant star in a film that was reportedly so much fun to make that the production had to regularly stop for laugh breaks.

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! 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.

New releases 9/4/18

Top Hits
Hereditary (horror, Toni Collette, Rotten Tomatoes: 89. Metacritic: 87. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “At one point in ‘Hereditary,’ Ari Aster’s highly effective new horror movie, a character screams ‘Get out!’ It’s not yet clear what she means — or who, exactly, she’s addressing — but the line is both a pretty good jolt and a clever meta-joke. Invoking the title of the movie that set a new standard for commercial success, cultural prestige and societal relevance in an often-underestimated genre may be a way of acknowledging the raised expectations of the audience. What ‘Hereditary’ shares with ‘Get Out’ — apart from a house full of white people behaving strangely — is an ambitious energy, a sense that the creaky old machinery of horror can be adapted to new and exciting uses.” Read more…)

Adrift (adventure, Shailene Woodley. Rotten Tomatoes: 72. Metacritic: 56. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “The most recent English-language films from the Icelandic action auteur Baltasar Kormakur — ‘Everest’ from 2015 and the new ‘Adrift’ — would make an apt, if grueling, double feature, a surf-and-turf of real-life survivalism. Deep-frozen Jake Gyllenhaal followed by Shailene Woodley on the half-shell, floating across the South Pacific in a dismasted schooner with Sam Claflin languishing in the stern.” Read more…)

American Animals (true crime/heist, Evan Peters. Rotten Tomatoes: 86. Metacritic: 66. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “In December 2004, in the midst of final exams, four young men robbed the rare-book room at the library of Transylvania University in Lexington, Ky. A Vanity Fair article a few years later described the heist as one part “’Ocean’s 11,’ one part ‘Harold & Kumar,’ which might raise your hopes for ‘American Animals,’ a new movie that reconstructs the crime. But the film, written and directed by Bart Layton, can’t quite decide what it wants to be: a slick, speedy caper; a goofball comedy; or a commentary on the state of the American soul. It’s none of those — a tame and toothless creature that is neither fish nor fowl.” Read more…)

Dark River (drama/mystery, Ruth Wilson. Rotten Tomatoes: 79. Metacritic: 69. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “The Yorkshire depicted in Clio Barnard’s third feature, ‘Dark River,”’has much in common with that of Francis Lee’s recent triumph, ‘God’s Own Country’: a place of hard labor and lowering skies, of bleating sheep and repressed sexuality. Yet even in the swelling canon of British rural miserabilism, this unrelentingly intense psychodrama burrows beneath the skin.” Read more…)

Beast (crime/drama, Jessie Buckley. Rotten Tomatoes: 95. Metacritic: 74. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “‘Moll’s a wild one,’ someone remarks early in ‘Beast,’ Michael Pearce’s thrilling, unsettling debut feature. With her electric twist of Titian curls and dark, secretive gaze, Moll [a riveting Jessie Buckley] has the look of a volcano that’s primed to erupt. Stirring murder mystery, love story and psychodrama into a mesmerizing slurry, Mr. Pearce turns his native island of Jersey into a sunlit trap where Moll chafes against her domineering mother [an icy Geraldine James] and conservative community.” Read more…)

Ideal Home (comedy, Steve Coogan. Rotten Tomatoes: 66. Metacritic: 62. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Teo Bugbee’s Times review: “The director of ‘Ideal Home,’ Andrew Fleming, based the movie on his own experience as the second parent to his partner’s child, and the movie thrives by depicting the idiosyncratic textures of gay relationships. ‘Ideal Home’ is genuinely funny, and the poignant and pithy script is aided by the chemistry between its stars, who are equally adept with comedic punch lines as they are with dramatic gut punches. Refreshingly, the film’s tone seems pitched more to gay audiences than straight ones.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray

New Foreign DVDs
Western (Germany, thriller, Meinhard Neumann. Rotten Tomatoes: 72. Metacritic: 56. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “The title of Valeska Grisebach’s beautifully complicated, rigorously straightforward third feature, ‘Western,’ has at least two meanings. The German workers who come to a remote rural valley in Bulgaria to build a hydroelectric plant are emissaries of the West, bringing the ambiguous benefits of capitalist development to a former Eastern Bloc nation. It’s not the first time Germans have been here, as several people point out, even if the crew hardly resembles an occupying army. But they do call to mind the cavalrymen in a movie like ‘Fort Apache’: interlopers in someone else’s territory, surrounded by a local population that is wary of their presence and sometimes hostile to it.” Read more…)

The Desert Bride (Argentina, romance, Paulina Garcia. Rotten Tomatoes: 86. Metacritic: 68. From Ben Kenigsberg’s New York Times review: “‘The Desert Bride,’ an Argentine-Chilean feature from the directors Cecilia Atán and Valeria Pivato, tells a slight story so gingerly that the film almost seems to recede into the horizon as you watch it. A road movie of sorts, it steers clear of melodrama or sentimentality, but it also never risks hitting anything. To be fair, such restraint may be intended as a reflection of the protagonist, Teresa [the Chilean actress Paulina García, who earned raves a few years ago for the film ‘Gloria’], who has spent more than half her life working unassumingly as a maid in Buenos Aires.” Read more…)

Godard Mon Amour (France, drama/romance, Louis Garrel. Rotten Tomatoes: 54. Metacritic: 55. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “‘Godard Mon Amour,’ the latest offering from the pasticheur Michel Hazanavicius [‘The Artist,’ ‘OSS: 117’], chronicles an eventful year or so in the life of the cineaste Jean-Luc Godard. The period covered by the film includes the 37-year-old Godard’s marriage to the 19-year-old actress Anne Wiazemsky [on whose memoir it’s based] and the uprising of French students and workers in May 1968, a revolt that, among other things, shut down that year’s Cannes Film Festival. On being informed of the existence of Mr. Hazanavicius’s project, Mr. Godard — who is now 87 and whose latest film, ‘Le Livre d’Image,’ will be in Cannes next month — is reported to have called it a ‘stupid, stupid idea.’ Au contraire! [All due respect.] It’s a brilliant idea. It just happens to be a terrible movie.” Read more…)

The Great Silence (Italy, 1968, spaghetti western, Klaus Kinski. Rotten Tomatoes: 100. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review on the occasion of the film’s first U.S. release in 2018: “I’m not generally one for nostalgia, but I do regret the loss of a certain kind of craziness that used to flourish in movies — the kind that is on rich and ripe display in ‘The Great Silence,’ a 1968 Italian western by Sergio Corbucci that is only now receiving a proper theatrical release in this country. There is something about the film’s brazen mixing of incompatible elements that defies categorization, imitation or even sober critical assessment. It’s anarchic and rigorous, sophisticated and goofy, heartfelt and cynical. The score, by Ennio Morricone, is as mellow as wine. The action is raw, nasty and blood-soaked. The story is preposterous, the politics sincere.” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
Kismet (1944, adventure/fantasy, Ronald Colman. Rotten Tomatoes: 57%. from P.P.K.’s 1944 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “‘Kismet,’ the venerable stage-piece with which the late Otis Skinner rode to his greatest fame, came to life again yesterday at the Astor in the M-G-M Technicolor production with Ronald Colman in the starring role aided by Marlene Dietrich, James Craig, Edward Arnold, Joy Ann Page and others.Under the newest cinematic treatment the addition of color and modern dimensional effects have heightened the conscious attempt at fantasy.” Read more…)

The Girl From Jones Beach (1949, romance, Ronald Reagan. From Bosley Crowther’s 1949 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “In re the question of feminine adornment, which happens to be the one pursued with single-minded attention in the Warners’ ‘The Girl from Jones Beach,’ it must be said that Virginia Mayo upholds the case for the form-fit bathing suit. And it must be further remarked that the Warners have tried their best not to jeopardize her case by obscuring her brilliant presentation with a bulky or brain-taxing brief.Many thanks to the Warners for not putting too much in the way of Miss Mayo’s able demonstration of the use of the bathing suit. And thanks to them also for enrolling Ronald Reagan to play the part of the gentleman upon whom Miss Mayo makes the biggest impression in this new comedy at the Strand.For Mr. Reagan is a fellow who has a cheerful way of looking at dames, especially at one who is as cheering as Miss Mayo proves herself to be.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (bio, popular culture, television history, Fred Rogers aka Mister Rogers. Rotten Tomatoes: 99. Metacritic: 85. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “By sheer coincidence — unless it is, somehow, a sign of the times — the two best American movies in theaters right now both happen to be about Protestant ministers grappling with their vocations in a fallen and frightening world. One of these men of the cloth is a fictional character, Ernst Toller, the anguished pastor [played by Ethan Hawke] who ministers to a dwindling flock in Paul Schrader’s ‘First Reformed.’ The other is a real person: Fred Rogers, a graduate of the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary whose millions of congregants assembled in front of their parents’ television sets from the late 1960s until the early years of this century, absorbing his benign and friendly secular wisdom.” Read more…)