The House


Return of the Secaucus 7

[Editor's Note: Take Two is an occasional series about remakes, reboots, relaunches, ripoffs, and do-overs in every cinematic genre.]

John Sayles's Return of the Secaucus 7 may not have invented American independent film as we know it (many of its supposed innovations had been previously seen in films by John Cassevetes, Eagle Pennell, and Charles Burnett), but it certainly gave shape, for better and for worse, to a subgenre that's proven particularly lucrative ever since. Talky, character-driven, emotionally cathartic rather than firmly plotted, Return of the Secaucus 7's descendants seem to trickle out by the dozen from Sundance and the major studios' art divisions every year. We tend to think of these movies, where groups of comfortable/quirky white people just sit around talking, as cookie-cutter "indie" fare nowadays, but in 1983, that exact scenario was written and filmed by no less than the writer of The Empire Strikes Back, with help from a half-dozen major movie stars, and grossed many millions of dollars on top of multiplatinum soundtrack sales.

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TAGS: adam lefevre, glenn close, jeff goldblum, john sayles, kevin kline, lawrence kasdan, return of the secaucus 7, take two, the big chill, tom berenge, william hurt


Coming Up in this Column: The Other Guys, Edge of Darkness, Great Day in the Morning, The waning of the summer 2010 television season, but first…

Fan Mail: David Ehrenstein came up with some nice additional details about Henri-Georges Clouzot and L'Enfer. You can always rely on David for that sort of thing.

The Other Guys (2010. Written by Adam McKay & Chris Henchy. 107 minutes)

The Other Guys

I am not a Will Ferrell fan: Not of his Saturday Night Live work, nor of his films. But then I have never been a fan of the man-child performers. I always thought Harry Langdon was creepy. Jerry Lewis seemed mostly silly. I want to slap Adam Sandler and Rob Schneider upside the head and tell them to grow up. I did not go out for a walk while Grown Ups was playing earlier this year, just in case it rained and I had to take refuge in a theater where it was on.

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TAGS: burn notice, covert affairs, edge of darkness, great day in the morning, hot in cleveland, rizzoli and isles, robert rossen, the other guys, understanding screenwriting, white collar


Satoshi KonI've read numerous obituaries and tributes to director Satoshi Kon, who lost his battle with pancreatic cancer on August 24th, which begin along the lines of "the anime community has lost of one its greatest directors." Of course it has, I wouldn't dream of disputing that. But to restrict Kon's legacy exclusively to the anime community deprives him of the credit his phenomenal body of work deserves. His pictures were of such a quality—renowned for their byzantine plot structures and complete disregard for the boundaries of what we perceive as reality and fantasy—that they could never be pigeonholed as strictly anime. From Millennium Actress to Paprika, the works of Satoshi Kon were never anything short of challenging yet ceaselessly rewarding viewing, blessed with a rich complexity that completely overturned the "Japanese cartoons" stereotype.

After scoring a cult hit with his directorial debut, the dark thriller Perfect Blue, the world at large began taking notice of Kon's outrageous talent upon the release of Millennium Actress (2001). A touching romance and a Lynchian love-letter to the history of cinema rolled into one, it earned Kon scores of awards and was showered with critical acclaim despite its modest box office performance outside of Japan. The film's heroine—a wistful actress named Chiyoko, who recounts her life story to a team of reporters—sashays through fantasy and reality, through past and present in search of an artist whom she had spectacularly fallen for. It's a journey littered with flashbacks that merge her own memories with scenes from the films she starred in, a device which Kon uses with great style and poise: even when events are at their most disordered, Millennium Actress is compelling and engaging.

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TAGS: christopher nolan, inception, millennium actress, paprika, perfect blue, r.i.p., satoshi kon, the dream machine


[Author's Note: Looking for more of AMC's Emmy and Golden Globe®-winning original drama Mad Men? The wait is over! Each week, The House Next Door is your home for exclusive "previews" of upcoming Mad Men episodes, from Season 4 and beyond!]

The Suitcase

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TAGS: don draper, jon hamm, lucky strike, mad men spoilers


Bay of Angels

My first viewing of Bay of Angels was some years ago. I remembered it as a sweeping romance between two beautiful faces, forgetting entirely that a great deal of the romance occurs not between a man and a woman, but between a woman and a roulette wheel. In Bay of Angels, Jacques Demy pares down the multitude of intertwining love stories found in Lola, relating the points of a love triangle.

Jean (Claude Mann), a young bank clerk, catches the gambling bug from a coworker. He decides to take his vacation in the South of France where he runs into and falls in love with Jacqueline (Jeanne Moreau), a woman who would in all likelihood use her own child as collateral if it meant having another go at the roulette table.

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TAGS: bay of angels, claude mann, jacques demy, jeanne moreau


If God Is Willing and da Creek Don't Rise

Whew. When I started doing this Movie a Day thing, one of my sisters said it was like I'd given myself my ideal job, only without pay. She's right, but doing anything every day for 100 days can to be a grind sometimes, even if it's something you love. I'll tell you more about that in a minute, but first for that 100th movie.

If God Is Willing and da Creek Don't Rise, a two-part documentary that premiered yesterday and the day before on HBO, is Spike Lee's follow-up to When the Levees Broke, his excellent two-part documentary on the causes and effects of Hurricane Katrina. In If God is Willing, he goes back to New Orleans—with side trips to Houston and Mississippi—to see how the people who fled or got trapped by the flood are doing four or five years later. Spike and crew initially had a pretty upbeat movie in the can, capped off by joyful footage of the city's miraculous Super Bowl win this year. Then the BP well started gushing crude and they went back to shoot more, revamping the movie to create a jeremiad about corporate and governmental greed and duplicity crossed with a tribute to the resilience and smarts of the people of New Orleans.

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TAGS: a movie a day, hbo, if god is willing and da creek don’t rise, spike lee, when the levees broke


The Chrysanthemum and the Sword

I recently went car shopping with my brother-in-law. He's beginning his second year at college away from home, and his dad felt it would be best if he had a reliable car. He was given a budget and a few specifications, but, above all else, one golden rule: buy Japanese. It was a commandment given and accepted so reflexively that I doubt it was based on anything specific, rather than the general assumption much of America has come to live by, that Japan makes the best cars.

If the first half of the twentieth century was largely defined by war and the rise of the automobile, the great irony of the second half is that Germany and Japan would return to the world stage, only now selling cars. At a time when these cars are the default choice for many American families, it's strange to think about the transitional period depicted in this week's Mad Men episode, "The Chrysanthemum and the Sword" (written by Erin Levy, and directed by Lesli Linka Glatter), during which Americans were still growing accustomed to purchasing Japanese products.

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TAGS: christina hendricks, elisabeth moss, erin levy, january jones, jared harris, john slattery, jon hamm, kiernan shipka, lesli linka glatter, mad men, recap, robert morse, the chrysanthemum and the sword, vincent kartheiser


I'd like to direct House readers to the new website Last Address, an offshoot of the short film of the same name (embedded above) by my good friend Ira Sachs. The short is comprised of images of the last residences of New York artists who died of AIDS. The website, designed by Joshua Sanchez, offers further information (biographies, interviews, performance videos, audio recordings, essays, etc.) on those included in the film.

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TAGS: ira sachs, joshua sanchez, last address


Diego Sulic's previous video essay on gaming/cinema can be found here.

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TAGS: video essay


Nanny McPhee Returns

There's still time before school starts to get the kids to Nanny McPhee Returns and Hubble 3D, two good movies in theaters at the moment (though Hubble is in limited release). Here's my TimeOFF review.

Elise Nakhnikian has been writing about movies since the best way to learn about them was through alternative weeklies. She is currently the movie reviewer for TimeOFF. She also has her own blog, Girls Can Play, and a Twitter account.

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TAGS: a movie a day, hubble 3d, nanny mcphee returns, timeoff







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