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Marilyn Monroe (#110 of 17)

Review: Lana Del Rey’s Short Film, Tropico

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Review: Lana Del Rey’s Short Film, Tropico
Review: Lana Del Rey’s Short Film, Tropico

From Bowie to Madonna to Gaga, pop music has always been as much a visual medium as an aural one. To wit, the successful launch of Lizzy Grant’s Lana Del Rey persona can be attributed not just to her songs, but to the DIY music videos that accompanied them. As the singer graduated to the majors, so too did the scope and budgets of her videos, culminating in a “mini-movie” for “Ride,” the first single from last year’s Paradise. And in a perhaps inevitable move in light of her fascination with movies and, specifically, short film (she recently donated to the Kickstarter for a new short film project starring Daniel Johnston), Del Rey has re-teamed with “Ride” director Anthony Mandler, who also helmed her cinematic “National Anthem” clip, for a short film titled Tropico.

Video Review: Lady Gaga, “Applause”

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Video Review: Lady Gaga, “Applause”
Video Review: Lady Gaga, “Applause”

It’s been a big month for the Gagasphere. Following a months-long, self-imposed Twitter exile, Lady Gaga bared all in a video for Serbian performance artist Marina Abramović; she issued a “pop music emergency” after a hacker allegedly leaked her new song, “Applause,” a week early; she implored viewers not to buy the single in a bizarre attempt at reverse psychology in a promo by Haus of Gaga; she dropped a lyric video, the latest marketing trend to bide the time between a song’s premiere and its official music video’s debut, featuring stars of RuPaul’s Drag Race; and, finally, unveiled said music video on jumbo screens in Times Square this morning.

Understanding Screenwriting #108: Side Effects, Like Someone in Love, Point Blank, Downton Abbey, Parade’s End, & Smash

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Understanding Screenwriting #108: <em>Side Effects</em>, <em>Like Someone in Love</em>, <em>Point Blank</em>, <em>Downton Abbey</em>, <em>Parade’s End</em>, & <em>Smash</em>
Understanding Screenwriting #108: <em>Side Effects</em>, <em>Like Someone in Love</em>, <em>Point Blank</em>, <em>Downton Abbey</em>, <em>Parade’s End</em>, & <em>Smash</em>

Coming Up In This Column: Side Effects, Like Someone in Love, Point Blank, Downton Abbey, Parade’s End, Smash, but first…

Fan mail: David Ehrenstein, reacting to my comments on Cat Ballou, thought that all the things I liked about the writing and acting came together “thanks to efforts of that controversial new-fangled invention known as the Director.” I didn’t get around to mentioning the director, Elliot Silverstein, because this is one of those films, like M*A*S*H (1970), Chariots of Fire (1981), and Thelma & Louise (1991), that succeeds in spite of its director rather than because of him. Silverstein is very sloppy about where he puts the camera and the acting is all over the place. This was his only truly successful film, and he soon went back to television, where he started.

Side Effects (2013. Written by Scott Z. Burns. 106 minutes.)

Better than Hitchcock. Both Alfred Hitchcock and producer David O. Selznick were interested in psychiatry. In the mid-’40s, Hitchcock persuaded Selznick to buy a novel that was, according to Hitchcock’s biographer, Donald Spoto, “a bizarre tale of witchcraft, satanic cults, psychopathology, murder, and mistaken identities.” (The background material here is from Spoto’s The Dark Side of Genius: The Life of Alfred Hitchcock.) Hitchcock presented some ideas on how a movie could be made out of the material to Ben Hecht, who wrote the screenplay for Spellbound (1945). Hecht’s version deals with an amnesiac who replaces a man scheduled to become the head of a mental hospital. The amnesiac is accused of murder and with a helpful female psychiatrist works out his problems. Since she’s played in the film by Ingrid Bergman, he falls in love with her as well. The film was a commercial success, but it’s rather clunky, like many ’40s films about psychiatry. And like many Hitchcock films, it’s less about character than about giving the director a chance to show off. As befits Selznick, the film is a slick production with stars (Gregory Peck as the amnesiac) in a romantic mode.

15 Famous Dance Numbers

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15 Famous Dance Numbers
15 Famous Dance Numbers

This weekend, the Step Up franchise returns with Step Up Revolution, an installment that takes the action to Miami, but likely can’t trump the heat of its irresistible predecessor, Step Up 3D. Still, its release presents the perfect opportunity to glance back at famous movie dance numbers, whose smooth moves paved the way for the flash-mob spectacle the new film boasts. Before there was Channing Tatum (and his lineage of avatar successors), there were Gene Kelly, Ann Miller, Moira Shearer, and, yes, Sarah Jessica Parker. Before you get a load of the latest hotties and hardbodies to stomp the yard, check out the 15 films we’ve shortlisted for their unforgettable steps.

Oscar Prospects: My Week with Marilyn

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Oscar Prospects: My Week with Marilyn
Oscar Prospects: My Week with Marilyn

My Week with Marilyn doesn’t begin well. In what looks like a Rob Marshall outtake, Michelle Williams awkwardly ambles across a stage singing a cruise-ship rendition of “Heat Wave,” her Jessica Rabbit evening gown reflecting the tacky pink and orange lights. Williams appears reluctant, maybe a little scared, and certainly not at home when leaning against a pianist and doing jazz hands on her breasts. She’s soon swept up and cradled by two strapping men, blowing a kiss to the camera before the scene cuts to the title, an inelegant bit of text barely befitting WE tv. The intro is an accurate preface of what’s to follow, from the palpable apprehension to the Monroe falseness to the near-complete small-screen vibe, the latter an egregious indication of director Simon Curtis’s television origins. Perhaps it was somewhat inevitable for a film about Marilyn Monroe to recall the biopics and true Hollywood stories we’ve all seen in the comfort of our own homes, but Curtis’s redundant, derivative fluff piece, adapted by fellow TV vet Adrian Hodges from Prince and the Showgirl PA Colin Clark’s diaries, has such meager artistic ambitions that the tales we caught at home prove superior simply for coming first. You’ve seen My Week with Marilyn countless times, most likely with better editing and more tonal consistency. For all its buoyancy, this movie is naggingly small-time, and talk of it being Best Picture material is flat-out insane.