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  • Peter Bogdanovich
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    Casablanca

    There is no more enduring cosmic lucky accident in picture history than the 1943 Warner Bros. classic World War II romantic foreign adventure, Casablanca (available on DVD). “Most of the good things in pictures,” John Ford said, “happened by accident.” When he told me this, rather offhandedly, he was in his seventies and had directed nearly 140 films while I had directed one, and was more than a little surprised by his comment. Ford was Orson Welles’ favorite American director and when I repeated the old man’s remark to Welles, his eyes brightened as he confirmed the statement with an inspired, “Yes!” He paused and then added, excitedly, “You could almost say a director is a man who presides over accidents!” Now, after doing a score of other films, I’ve found that these are two key words-of-wisdom and have amazingly complex layers of meaning, the more pictures you make. Ford, who was always terse in his remarks, even elaborated once: “Sometimes you have good luck on pictures; most of the time you have bad luck.” And luck, ultimately for the Greeks, came from the Fates who, as we know, are either with us or they’re not. When you are making a movie, you feel part of a larger, unstoppable adventure, over which you only have so much control, and the rest is, as Jeff Bridges succinctly puts it: “The hand you get dealt.”

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  • Peter Bogdanovich
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    Stage Door

    Which picture did Katharine Hepburn, Ginger Rogers, Lucille Ball, Eve Arden and Ann Miller all appear in together? It was the funny and touching 1937 adaptation of Edna Ferber’s and George S. Kaufman’s Broadway success about a bunch of struggling actresses in a New York women’s boarding club, STAGE DOOR (available on DVD). Directed with a discreet and delicate touch by Gregory LaCava (whose Carole Lombard-William Powell classic, My Man Godfrey, had come out the previous year), this comedy-drama--remember those?--has boundless energy and charm, thanks mainly to his sure hand and the superb ensemble performances he inspires from a once-in-a-lifetime cast. Critics of the period praised the script by veterans Morrie Ryskind and Anthony Veiller as being an improvement on the original play, and although time has somewhat dated a couple of plot points, the overall work still has affecting contemporary relevance and resonance in its look both at women and their place in show business. Seen today, it isn’t surprising the film received four major Oscar nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actress for lovely Andrea Leeds, who carries the picture’s most dramatic aspects.

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  • Peter Bogdanovich
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    Pickup On South Street

    Sam Fuller directed, wrote and produced his pictures in headlines. There was always a kind of tabloid journalistic stylization to his work, mixed with the boldness of a scandal sheet’s lead story, the succinctness of boiling it all down to as few striking words as possible. Fuller became a moviemaker with rich first-hand experiences of life as a copy boy from age 12 for the old New York Journal, by age 17 a crime reporter for the San Diego Sun, and as a soldier in World War II, fighting with the First Infantry Division—“The Big Red One”—throughout North Africa and Europe, awarded the Bronze Star, the Silver Star, and a Purple Heart. By the time Fuller made his first film--with a typical Fuller title: I Shot Jesse James (1949)--he had seen enough true horrors, tragedy, and human comedy to make even the worst picture-crises pale by comparison, and the most outrageous picture-plots seem tame.

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  • Peter Bogdanovich
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    History Is Made at Night

    One of my favorite movie titles is also, as Andrew Sarris has said, probably the most romantic title in pictures, and names a film directed by an Italian-American from Salt Lake City who is responsible for several of the most intensely affecting love stories ever made: Frank Borzage’s 1937 European triangle tale, HISTORY IS MADE AT NIGHT (available on DVD"> Starring France’s biggest American screen star, Charles Boyer, and Frank Capra’s “favorite actress,” Jean Arthur, the story is set in Paris and on a doomed ocean liner—-inspired by the Titanic calamity. (Surely someone involved with Jim Cameron’s Titanic saw this, because there are certain sub-plot similarities.)

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  • Matt Dentler's Blog
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    Five New Albums Worth Your Dime

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  • The Lost Boys
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    Toronto Film Festival Award Predictions

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  • THE BACK ROW MANIFESTO by Tom Hall
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    Toronto 2010 | BROOKLYN TORNADO!

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    More: Personal
  • Thompson on Hollywood
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    TIFF Buy: Oscilloscope Acquires Meek's Cutoff

    Oscilloscope, the same distrib that opened Kelly Reichardt's 2008 film, Wendy and Lucy, starring Michelle Williams, will also handle the North American release of her most recent Venice/Toronto entry, the western Meek's Cutoff, starring Williams, Will Patton, Bruce Greenwood, Paul Dano and Zoe Kazan.

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  • Thompson on Hollywood
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    TIFF Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer Review, and Alex Gibney Talks

    Alex Gibney's hugely entertaining Eliot Spitzer doc, Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Elliot Spitzer, is a leading contender for this year's doc Oscar. The movie is full of surprises. In my flip cam interview with Gibney (below) he explains how the story he tells turned out far different from what he thought it would be, and why Wall Street Masters of the Universe were so eager to go on camera to chortle over Spitzer's dramatic comedown: "They wanted to stamp on Spitzer's grave," Gibney admits. 'It's not stretching the truth to say they hated this man."

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  • Thompson on Hollywood
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    Garner/Renner Get Addicted, Boardwalk Empire's Williams, Jacki Weaver, The Fighter Trailer

    - Jennifer Garner will play the trophy wife addicted to prescription drugs and Jeremy Renner will play the lifeless pharmacist catering to (and falling for) the woman and the addiction via their disastrous extra-marital affair in Better Living Through Chemistry. (This seems to be a trend: another upcoming title is Love and Other Drugs.) THR is calling it a dramatic thriller, not a romantic comedy. Garner was at her post-Alias best in 2007's action/drama The Kingdom. This picture seems the most promising of her handful of projects in development (mostly comedies). And Renner's role sounds like a treat for The Town star to crack and crumble with. Writers Geoff Moore and David Posamentier will make their directorial debuts with this project.

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