24 Frames

Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Critics Choice

'Fiddler on The Roof' singalong: Kenneth Turan's film pick

December 22, 2011 |  8:30 am

Fiddler on the Roof Christmas Eve singalong
Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost nipping at your nose (sort of), it's got to be time once again for the "Fiddler on the Roof" singalong dreamed up by the Laemmle theatrical chain.

Starting at 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 24 at the Music Hall in Beverly Hills, the Norman Jewison-directed adaptation of the Broadway musical will unspool for your vocal pleasure. Based on the classic Tevye stores of Sholem Aleichem, the Jerry Bock-Sheldon Harnick musical was Broadway's longest-running tuner for nearly 10 years.

The film version, with Isaac Stern's violin on the soundtrack, won Oscars for Oswald Morris' cinematography and John Williams' score. Sing along with the irrepressible Topol and the irreplaceable Molly Picon with lyric sheets provided by the theater. Tell the truth, doesn't "If I Were I Rich Man" feel more appropriate every year?

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— Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times film critic

Photo: From left, Leonard Frey, Topol and Rosalind Harris in "Fiddler on the Roof." Credit: Times file photo


'Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,' 'Tintin': Kenneth Turan's DVD picks

December 21, 2011 |  2:00 pm

If you've already enjoyed the new versions of "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" and "Tintin," or even if you're just considering your options, newly released DVDs make it possible to look at how these properties have been handled in the past.

 "Tinker Tailor" was made into a nearly six-hour British miniseries back in 1979, and Sir Alec Guinness' work as spymaster George Smiley is considered one of the great performances of his career.

"Tintin's" past is more humble, if no less enjoyable: it was a French Canadian animated television series that lasted from 1991 to 1993. The first 13 episodes are available, and even feature the same story, "The Secret of the Unicorn," that inspired the new film.

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-- Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times film critic


Year in Review: Kenneth Turan's best film picks of 2011

December 16, 2011 |  2:51 pm

The Clock
The best film of 2011 was technically not a film at all. It never played in a commercial theater and likely never will. But those fortunate enough to have seen “The Clock” during its all-too-brief run at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art know how remarkable an event it was.

A collage of clips created as an art installation by Christian Marclay from literally thousands of films, foreign and domestic, silent and sound, with some TV shows thrown into the mix, “The Clock” is structured minute by minute around a 24-hour time cycle. This may sound like a trivialization of the cinematic experience, but the reality is intoxicating. If only LACMA could be persuaded to show it more often.

The rest of my 10-best list, expanded whenever necessary, contains more conventional films, but they are no less exceptional for that. In alphabetical order they are:

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Year in Review: Betsy Sharkey's best film picks of 2011

December 16, 2011 |  2:30 pm

The Descendants
This year, I found myself drawn to certain themes as well as specific films, what follows are my favorites on both fronts.

1. “The Descendants” and other family matters: Exquisite examinations of family pain topped my list this year starting with George Clooney exceptional at being ordinary in “The Descendants.” Other standouts were a surprising Iranian divorce saga “A Separation,” Tilda Swinton’s excruciating tribulations in “We Need to Talk About Kevin,” the clashing Shakespearean politics of family and country in Ralph Fiennes’ “Coriolanus” and finally a boy’s father lost and found in “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close.”

2. “City of Life and Death” in black-and-white: Filmmakers proved that black-and-white can be artistically powerful and emotionally unforgettable with Chuan Lu’s heartbreaking Nanjing massacre in “City of Life and Death,” with a nod to Michel Hazanavicius’ buoyant ode to the end of the silent era in “The Artist.”

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'Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy': Betsy Sharkey's film pick

December 14, 2011 |  4:30 pm

GetprevSometimes there is a wonderful madness in the method, and so it is with the superb thrill of "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy," starring Gary Oldman.

Adapted from the dense counter-intelligence maze created by novelist John le Carre, the film begins with the discovery that there is a mole inside the British central intelligence agency, but unearthing him will come virtually devoid of the usual pyrotechnics. Instead, suspense builds like a low-grade fever just waiting to spike and do you in.

To solve a double-agent mystery, sometimes it helps to be on the outside, though Oldman’s top spy George Smiley isn’t really given a choice, unceremoniously ousted as he is in a mini-coup that also took out agency director Control, a terrific John Hurt.

Even better, director Tomas Alfredson understands the power of understatement for his lead actor. The quiet voice, a sideways glance, a raised brow: With those as his weapons of choice, Oldman creates a slow squeeze that proves deliciously deadly.

 

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-– Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times film critic

Photo caption: Gary Oldman as agent George Smiley in the spy thriller "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy." Credit: Jack English

 


'Hugo,' 'The Artist' top nominees for Critics Choice Awards

December 13, 2011 |  3:00 am

The Artist

Martin Scorsese's lavish 3-D family film "Hugo" and the black-and-white ode to silent cinema "The Artist" topped the list of nominees for the 17th Critics Choice Awards, earning 11 nominations each from the Broadcast Film Critics Assn., the organization announced Tuesday. Both films were nominated for the best picture prize, along with "The Descendants," "Drive," "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close," "The Help," "Midnight in Paris," "Moneyball," "The Tree of Life" and "War Horse."

Scorsese and "The Artist's" Michel Hazanavicius also will face off in the directors' race, where they will be competing against Stephen Daldry for his Sept.11-themed literary adaptation “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,” Alexander Payne for the George Clooney-led family drama “The Descendants,” Nicolas Winding Refn for the modern noir thriller “Drive” and Steven Spielberg for his World War I-era film “War Horse.”

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'Rififi,' 'Topkapi': Kenneth Turan's film picks of the week

December 8, 2011 |  7:00 am

Topkapi
Forced to work in Europe because of the Hollywood blacklist, director Jules Dassin made excellent use of his opportunities, making among other films a pair of heist movies that just about redefined the genre.

Dassin's 1955 "Rififi" is one of the great crime thrillers, the benchmark against which all succeeding heist films have been measured. No musty museum piece but a driving, compelling work, redolent of the air of human frailty and fatalistic doom, this French item was called "the best film noir I have ever seen" by then-critic Francois Truffaut.

Made nearly a decade later, Dassin's "Topkapi" moves the scene from Paris to Istanbul and follows ace thief Melina Mercouri (Dassin's wife) as she and her team attempt to lift valuable emeralds from the Topkapi museum.

Nifty stuff all around, and viewable at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 14 at the American Cinematheque's Egyptian Theater, 6712 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood.

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-- Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times film critic

Photo: "Topkapi." Credit: LACMA


Harry Potter complete 8-film collection: Kenneth Turan's DVD pick

December 7, 2011 |  5:39 pm

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
The Harry Potter films are surely a one-of-a-kind series: Eight films made over more than a decade, with the trio of young actors -- Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint -- aging just as the characters in the story do.

Now that the series is over, Warner Bros. has put out this complete DVD collection. No extras are provided on these discs, but just having all the films in a single boxed set allows viewers the luxury of comparing and contrasting the work of the four directors who toiled on the series, as well as the pleasure of seeing the cream of Britain's acting community making appearances.

We'll not see the like of this for some time to come.

 

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More from film critic Kenneth Turan on 24 Frames

--Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times film critic

Photo: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint in "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows -- Part 1." Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures


'Margin Call': Betsy Sharkey's film pick of the week

December 1, 2011 | 11:56 am

If you haven't yet, please make time to see “Margin Call,” before it slips out of theaters.

This terrific cerebral thriller, anchored by tightly wound performances from Kevin Spacey, Paul Bettany, Stanley Tucci, Penn Badgley and an exceptional Zachary Quinto, takes you inside the boardrooms and the backrooms of Wall Street in the first days of the financial meltdown that shaped our present woes.

That may sound like stuffy, depressing stuff -- and I'll grant you the depressing part. But it’s the human dynamics and moral dilemmas of suddenly discovering that you’re on a rapidly sinking ship that makes for such gripping drama. In writer-director J.C. Chandor's impressive feature debut, he takes us into the heart of darkness and exposes the darkest of hearts.

That “Margin Call” is able to humanize anyone involved in one of the most devastating cases of asset covering this country has seen is a measure of his considerable artistry. You won’t forgive them, but you will understand them -– at least marginally better.

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'Los Angeles Plays Itself': Kenneth Turan's film pick of the week

November 23, 2011 |  8:30 am

Los-Angeles-Plays-Itself
Because it's one of the hardest films to see and has yet to appear on DVD, it's good that the American Cinematheque seems to be making “Los Angeles Plays Itself” a holiday perennial.

One of the best films ever made about Los Angeles, Thom Andersen’s exceptional documentary, a 2-hour, 49-minute essay/meditation and labor of love on how this city has been depicted on the screen, can't be seen too often.

Smart, insightful, unapologetically idiosyncratic and bristling with provocative ideas, “Los Angeles” serves up segments from more than 200 films, from 1913’s “A Muddy Romance” to 1974's  “Chinatown” and beyond.

Appealingly discursive and filled with intriguing detours, the film finally agrees with the narrator in Jacques Demy’s “Model Shop,” who says, “It’s a fabulous city. To think some people claim it’s an ugly city when it’s really pure poetry, it just kills me.”

“Los Angeles Plays Itself” screens Friday at 7:30 p.m. (with director Andersen appearing) at the American Cinematheque’s Egyptian Theatre, 6712 Hollywood Blvd., in Hollywood.

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Terry Gilliam screens 'Brazil': Kenneth Turan's film pick

Alfred Hitchcock and 'The Killing': Kenneth Turan's DVD picks

'Between Two Worlds': Kenneth Turan's film pick

--Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times film critic

Photo: A scene from Thom Andersen's "Los Angeles Plays Itself." Credit: American Cinematheque.


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