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  • REVERSEBLOG: the reverse shot blog
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    Simply the Worst: The Coen Brothers' "The Ladykillers"

    Irony, as we all learned from Reality Bites, is when “the actual meaning is the complete opposite from the literal meaning.” But what if the actual meaning isn’t so actual? What if instead it is frustratingly oblique, and not easily interpreted or understood? How, then, do we gauge the category, qua...

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    Simply the Worst: John Hughes's "Curly Sue"

    On August 6, 2009, the day it was announced that John Hughes had passed away, a tribute to the director appeared in a blog post written by Alison Byrne Fields. For two years in the mid-eighties, Fields had kept up a pen-pal relationship with Hughes after writing him a letter that was, as she explained, less fan mail than an outpouring of teenage angst. The story of their correspondence seems befitting of a Hughes plot: a fifteen-year-old griping about being misunderstood by her English teacher, the established Hollywood hit-maker insisting in response, “I listen. Not to Hollywood. I listen to you. I make these movies for you. Really. No lie. ...

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    Simply the Worst: Wes Anderson's "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou"

    In the beginning, there was consensus. Or close to it anyway. Wes Anderson introduced himself to the world with 1996’s Bottle Rocket, which critics hailed as a promising debut—praise that would be ratified by no less than Martin Scorsese, who put the film on his best-of-the-nineties list. The follow...

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    Simply the Worst: Jane Campion's "In the Cut"

    After establishing herself internationally with 1989’s Sweetie and then breaking out big in America with The Piano in 1993, New Zealander Jane Campion directed a string of arrestingly conceived if ill-received projects, including an adaptation of Henry James’s Portrait of a Lady and the Kate Winslet–starring whatsit Holy Smoke. But neither of these was as seemingly reviled as In the Cut, an impression supported, however unscientifically, by its critical and audience ratings on Rotten Tomatoes of 33% and 36%, respectively. When I saw the film upon its release, I fell in line with the consensus, yet also found the movie entrancing and affecting...

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    Simply the Worst: Michael Mann's "The Keep"

    Perhaps it was just a bad dream. Perhaps writer-director Michael Mann didn’t really veer from his crime-film comfort zone after 1981’s terrific Thief (an entrancing amalgam of seventies grit and eighties gloss), only to end up in supernatural phantasmagoriaville with 1983’s much-maligned period horror film The Keep. Perhaps it would have been preferable (especially for that part of us that futilely demands life and its associated arts to move in easily classifiable straight lines) to jump directly to 1986’s Manhunter, the first cinematic swipe at Thomas Harris’s Hannibal Lecter mythos—a luridly antiseptic bit of genius that Chicago Reader rev...

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    Simply the Worst: Vincente Minnelli''s "The Sandpiper"

    Yes, that's Charles Bronson carving a nude driftwood Elizabeth Taylor.

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    Simply the Worst: Edward D. Wood Jr.''s "Glen or Glenda?"

    Recognizing that the main purpose of this symposium is to identify and dissect “bad” films from “good” filmmakers, and not being clinically insane, I am not about to claim that Edward D. Wood Jr. was anyone’s definition of a good filmmaker, nor indeed that he was even a competent one. What I am prepared to argue, however, is that for a legitimate cinephile, intent on exploring the boundaries of cinema’s appeal, the matter of Wood’s technical competence is not structurally relevant to an appreciation of his work. His 1953 film Glen or Glenda? (a.k.a. I Led 2 Lives; a.k.a. I Changed My Sex; a.k.a. Male or Female?) stands apart for being Wood’s ...

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    Reverse Shot 30: Simply the Worst

    Introducing Reverse Shot 30: Simply the Worst.

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    Simply the Worst: Otto Preminger's "Skidoo"

    The best thing that can be said of Skidoo is that it deserves its cult status. Among Preminger’s worst-received films, it’s in a class of its own. Forever Amber may be ugly, but it’s still romantic; Hurry Sundown offers comic relief in the performance of the Muppet-faced Madeline Sherwood; and Rosebud is impossible to concentrate on, but harmless, consisting mostly of people getting in and out of vans. Skidoo is a point in Preminger’s career his partisans would rather not think about (nobody can blame New York’s Film Forum for omitting it from its sprawling retrospective in 2008), but the inconvenient truth is that Skidoo is at least as “Prem...

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    Simply the Worst: Ingmar Bergman's "The Touch"

    In November 1971, Ingmar Bergman married his fifth—and final—wife, Ingrid Karlebo, to whom he would stay married until her death in 1995. Released only a few months earlier, The Touch, with its themes of infidelity and stifling bourgeois domesticity, seems a strange way to mark the occasion, but the...

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