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Jules And Jim (#110 of 3)

Oscar 2014 Winner Predictions Foreign Language

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Oscar 2014 Winner Predictions: Foreign Language
Oscar 2014 Winner Predictions: Foreign Language

There’s a great line in Jules and Jim about fictions that “revel in vice to preach virtue.” It’s a mantra that practically explains why Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street enters this year’s Oscar race with five nominations, why another Italian, Federico Fellini, won the most awards in this category’s history, and why a third, Paolo Sorrentino, will win his first trophy here for The Great Beauty. As for a possible spoiler, don’t look to The Missing Picture (too form-pushing), Omar (too pro-Palestinian), or even The Hunt, whose Lifetime-grade simplicity becomes increasingly transparent with each new letter the members of Woody Allen and Mia Farrow’s tribes send to The New York Times, but to The Broken Circle Breakdown, a clumsily constructed musical weepie that suggests Inside Llewyn Davis as directed by Susanne Bier. Made in homage to the myth-making works of Fellini, namely La Dolce Vita, The Great Beauty’s study of a social class’s dissolution is so esoteric by comparison that it’s tempting to question its frontrunner status. But in reveling in the crumbling glitz of its Roman locales with the same ravenousness that Jordan Belfort shows for coke, fame, and snatch, it’s easy to imagine many of Hollywood’s reigning elite confusing it as a rise-and-fall chronicle of their own lives.

15 Famous Movie Love Triangles

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15 Famous Movie Love Triangles
15 Famous Movie Love Triangles

Hitting theaters today is McG’s This Means War, a frothy comedy that pits Chris Pine against Tom Hardy in the fight for Reese Witherspoon’s smiley affections (best of luck there, Chris). From Arthurian legend to Bridget Jones’s Diary, stories of smitten trios have flooded the popular landscape, each threesome casting its sinful shadow on boring old monogamy. For this list of 15 standouts, the door was open to hallucinations, inanimate objects, and even different species—which is not to say Ménage à Twilight was ever in the running.

All Is Loss Brian DePalma’s The Black Dahlia

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All Is Loss: Brian DePalma’s The Black Dahlia
All Is Loss: Brian DePalma’s The Black Dahlia

“Do you think you’re capable of playing sadness?” an unseen director asks a wannabe actress and future murder victim, in screen test footage that recurs throughout Brian DePalma’s The Black Dahlia.

“Sure,” she replies, her voice steady but her mind elsewhere. “I can do that.”

And so can De Palma, who provides the voice of that soft-spoken yet menacing director. One of the filmmaker’s most ambitious and formally complex films, The Black Dahlia is, above all else, a tragedy—and not just for the abovementioned Hollywood actress, Elizabeth Short (Mia Kirshner), whose unsolved 1947 murder-mutilation in served as the basis for countless movies and books, including DePalma’s source material, James Ellroy’s 1987 novel. (Be warned: this review is all spoilers.) Ellroy’s book wove a fictional mystery around Short’s murder. Both a pastiche and a critique, it used Raymond Chandler-styled purple prose knowingly and ironically, cluing the reader to see through Chandler’s smoky machismo and understand that the same male swagger that’s sanctified via the hardboiled fiction hero exists in the real world, where it enables sexism, racism, xenophobia and the subjugation of the poor by the rich.

Screenwriter Josh Friedman’s adaptation frames the story within a heavily narrated extended flashback by ex-boxer turned L.A. police detective Bucky Bleichert (Josh Hartnett), who tries to solve Short’s seemingly random killing with help from his partner, Lee Blanchard (Aaron Eckhart), and drifts ever closer to two women, kinky socialite Madeleine Linscott (Hilary Swank) and Lee’s blond goddess girlfriend, Kay Lake (Scarlett Johansson). At first the film plays like Chinatown-style modern noir, in which the investigation of a singular horror reveals corruption within families, institutions and communities. But The Black Dahlia soon reveals itself as something more: the story of a young man discovering his moral code, then realizing how useless it is in the face of society-wide indifference, greed and cruelty.