Discovering good movies, one bad movie at a time

Miller’s Crossing may or may not be the Coen brother’s “best” movie. I think that argument exists to be made, but it’s hard to get all the way through it with Barton Fink and Fargo over there in the corner, flexing their muscles. It is, though, almost certainly their most complicated and dense movie, both […]

You know Tay Garnett? You probably haven’t heard of Tay Garnett. The fact of the matter is, Tay Garnett really isn’t a terribly important film director, though there are those among us who perk up at checking out what promises to be yet another ’30s or ’40s programmer, and unexpectedly find his name attached. I […]

The word “gimmick” almost always comes with a certain sneering tone of superiority attached: the suggestion is inherent that a thing was less gimmicky, it would be improved as a result. This is not a hard-and-true relationship. There is, for example, the career of director & producer William Castle, whose film career could not be […]

Even among those who love it, there’s no real consensus as to why the 1999 horror film Ravenous is great. Because it is a punchy black comedy? Because it is an intelligent attack on social constructs of bravery and masculinity? Because it’s a satire of American expansion in the West? Because it’s one of the […]

Alfred Hitchcock is probably the closest thing to a consensus pick for the greatest film director of all time, between critics, historians, general audience, and hardcore film buffs, but even he was a mortal, and could not do every thing he applied himself to. Notably, and predictably for a man promoted as “the Master of […]

Of the 16 films made between 1949 and 1981 that featured visual effects by the great artist Ray Harryhausen, you could mount a serious argument that not one of them is very good. I would not personally agree with you (at a stone-cold minimum, Mighty Joe Young and The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms are both […]

Every week this summer, we’ll be taking an historical tour of the Hollywood blockbuster by examining an older film that is in some way a spiritual precursor to one of the weekend’s wide releases. This week: Iron Man 3 is all sorts of things to all sorts of people, but one of the things I […]

If I were to say to you, a propos of nothing, “the most trenchant satire of American bloodlust and broken-down media culture of the 1970s was produced by Roger Corman,” would you believe me? Don’t bother answering, because I refuse to believe anybody would; I’m the biggest Corman fan I know personally, and I was […]

It’s not exactly the case that Empire of the Sun is Steven Spielberg’s most “divisive” movie, in any useful sense of that word (that’s almost certainly A.I. Artificial Intelligence). It’s something a little bit weirder than that: a movie that nobody really pointedly dislikes, unless they’re already suspicious of the director’s tendency towards sentimental manipulation, […]

It is right, and a good and joyful thing, that producer Dino De Laurentiis and director Roger Vadim should have collaborated on a film. Their careers were too complementary for there to have been any possibility of them both bopping around Europe at the same time without colliding. Indeed, the fact that 1968’s Barbarella was […]

We’re not so far past Valentine’s Day that I can’t share with you what I think to be one of the great, specifically American love stories ever put to film, a sex-soaked film noir from either 1949 or 1950, depending on your source. Customarily known nowadays as Gun Crazy, it went through most of its […]

It doesn’t speak well of this series that I took off two months after only two entries, but going forward, there shouldn’t be any gaps for a while. Please enjoy my continued soul-bearing. Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House, a 1948 vehicle for Cary Grant and Myrna Loy, enjoys a prominence in the private mythology […]