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The Beatles (#110 of 14)

Yoko Ono’s Fly, Approximately Infinite Universe, and Feeling the Space, Reissued and Reevaluated

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Yoko Ono’s Fly, Approximately Infinite Universe, and Feeling the Space, Reissued and Reevaluated
Yoko Ono’s Fly, Approximately Infinite Universe, and Feeling the Space, Reissued and Reevaluated

It wasn’t long ago when the notion of Yoko Ono’s discography getting the deluxe reissue treatment would have sounded like a pipe dream—or a pipe nightmare, depending on one’s perspective. But recent years have been kind to the controversial artist, whose importance to contemporary conceptual art, feminism, and even popular music has finally outpaced her reputation as the Woman Who Broke Up the Beatles. Earlier this month, Secretly Canadian Records released their second wave of Ono reissues on CD, vinyl, and digital: Fly (1971), Approximately Infinite Universe (1973), and Feeling the Space (1973). All three are among Ono’s finest and most accessible albums, and they’re also among the first in rock history to so explicitly foreground feminist principles.

Sinful Cinema Disorderlies

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Sinful Cinema: Disorderlies
Sinful Cinema: Disorderlies

You gotta love Ralph Bellamy. In addition to having a reputation as an all-around nice guy and consummate professional, he ended his career on an odd, fascinating note. First, he was the guy who never got the girl in the 1930s. Then, in 1958, he became the quintessential interpreter of FDR on stage and screen. Finally, he ended up one of the few studio-system, Hollywood character actors a teenage Black kid in the ’hood could immediately identify. He showed up in a memorable role as one of the Duke brothers in Trading Places, a role he reprised in Coming to America, and between those two films he appeared in Michael Schultz’s live-action cartoon, Disorderlies. It’s here that Bellamy not only bronzed his ghetto pass but proved that he’s game for working with just about anybody. Disorderlies has both a novelty rap act AND Luke (Anthony Geary) from General Hospital. How can a connoisseur of trash not love this man?

New York Film Festival 2012: Amour and Not Fade Away

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New York Film Festival 2012: <em>Amour</em> and <em>Not Fade Away</em>
New York Film Festival 2012: <em>Amour</em> and <em>Not Fade Away</em>

The key scene in Amour comes during the film’s second hour, in a scene in which Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) tries to desperately to shield his concerned daughter, Eva (Isabelle Huppert), from seeing her mother (Emmanuelle Riva) in her dying state. In response to her increasingly frenzied demand that she see her, Georges says, “None of all that deserves to be shown.” He eventually relents and apologizes for the concealment, but in that one line of dialogue, one can grasp the unmistakable touch of the film’s director, Michael Haneke: Georges may be afraid to confront the horrors of his wife’s slow death, but Haneke will surely force all of us in the audience to confront it, in all its agonizing ugliness.

If you’re looking for empathetic humanism in the contemplation of aging and dying, á la Leo McCarey’s Make Way for Tomorrow or Yasujirô Ozu’s Tokyo Story, you won’t find it in Haneke’s carefully composed frames, ruthlessly prolonged takes, and generally detached stance. Amour plays like a dissection more than anything else, and however one reacts to it depends almost entirely on the emotional resources the individual viewer brings to it. Haneke, as usual, isn’t interested in holding your hand in that way.

Summer of ‘87: Harry and the Hendersons: Messin’ With Sasquatch

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Summer of ‘87: <em>Harry and the Hendersons</em>: Messin’ With Sasquatch
Summer of ‘87: <em>Harry and the Hendersons</em>: Messin’ With Sasquatch

Odie Henderson: Summertime, and the gimmickry’s easy. Who better to discuss the 1987 summer hit, Harry and the Hendersons than two of the eponymous creatures themselves? Our surname’s versatility is evident simply by looking at Eric and me, though you’ll have a hard time figuring out which of us is more Scottish. We Hendersons are a crafty lot, inventive, ingenious and destined for stardom. For a time, fame seemed imminent: Immortalized by the Beatles on the Sgt. Pepper album, we were poised to take over the showbiz world. And then…nothing! Not one mention in popular culture for decades. Our show with Sgt. Pepper’s Mr. Kite must have really sucked.

Exactly 20 years and four days after our last big shout-out, Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment rebooted our fair surname. Suddenly, it was hip to be a Henderson, even if you were being represented by a rather loony right-wing family led by John Lithgow. Harry and the Hendersons opened June 5th, 1987, and the questions didn’t stop for years. Did I have any Harrys in my family? How did it feel to be the subject of a Spielberg movie? And most importantly, when did I meet Bigfoot? This is a question worth exploring.

15 Famous Movie Blackbirds

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15 Famous Movie Blackbirds
15 Famous Movie Blackbirds

In what’s unfortunately one of the lesser films about a literary great, John Cusack wields a quill and a gun as The Raven’s Edgar Allen Poe, a legend who would’ve skewered this thriller in one of his sharp-tongued newsprint critiques. What’s perhaps best about the movie is the eerie mood that’s established, a mood symbolized by the titular winged creature. Blackbirds have been harbingers of doom in many a dark tale, and otherwise added spooky style to countless filmic palettes. Even in lighter fare, they point to something sinister, be it imminent attack, loneliness, or even racism.

A Lover’s Discourse: Terence Davies’s Films

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A Lover’s Discourse: Terence Davies’s Films
A Lover’s Discourse: Terence Davies’s Films

In a dark room, two women regard each other, the older one cloaked in shadow, the younger one better lit but turned away. The older is caring for her sick husband, wrapped up in bed sheets, while the younger thinks of killing herself due to the pangs of lost, despised love. “Sometimes it’s tough to judge when you’re caught between the devil and the deep blue sea,” she says, a little bent over, to which her staunch, stiff counterpart snaps back: “A lot of rubbish is talked about love. You know what real love is? It’s wiping someone’s ass, or changing the sheets when they’ve wet themselves, and letting ’em keep their dignity so you can both go on. Suicide? No one’s worth it.”

The moment comes late in Terence Davies’s new film, The Deep Blue Sea, which opens theatrically tomorrow, and a sneak preview of which began the BAMcinématek’s retrospective of the British director’s nine-film career (next week, Film Forum will screen a new 35mm print of 1992’s gently gliding The Long Day Closes). This Deep Blue Sea scene, coming late into the story of a London woman struggling to move on post-WWII and post-love, in some ways sets the tone for all of Davies’s work.

New York Film Festival 2011: George Harrison: Living in the Material World

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New York Film Festival 2011: <em>George Harrison: Living in the Material World</em>
New York Film Festival 2011: <em>George Harrison: Living in the Material World</em>

George Harrison’s search for spiritual fulfillment might not have been so fervent had it not been for the otherworldly success of the Beatles. The band’s status gave him every possible luxury while he was barely out of his teens, and as a so-called “man of extremes,” he quickly sought the other end of the spectrum, wondering if spirituality and God (however you choose to define that word) might fulfill him where money and fame couldn’t. Convinced by sitarist Ravi Shankar that music could intensify his spiritual practice, which included heavy doses of meditation and Indian philosophy, Harrison began to merge his pursuits until, in many ways, his career and his spiritual journey became one. At least that’s how George Harrison: Living in the Material World presents it, detailing Harrison’s musical and spiritual paths in parallel over the running time of two feature-length parts. Director Martin Scorsese and editor David Tedeschi combine footage, photographs, postcards, and letters with Harrison’s largely remixed catalogue in a surprisingly pleasant stop-and-go fashion to convey how the musical and the immaterial can inform one another.

Happy Birthday Sonic the Hedgehog

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Happy Birthday Sonic the Hedgehog
Happy Birthday Sonic the Hedgehog

Though Sonic the Hedgehog celebrated his 20th birthday yesterday, the spiky-haired Sega mascot’s appeal has always come down to his enduring teenage spirit: He tears through every environment (be it side-scrolling 2D levels or his very iffy forays into 3D games) at a breakneck pace, he aloofly throws innumerable hand gestures at the player to put the accent on each victory, and he’ll start impatiently tapping his feet and checking his nonexistent watch if you ignore him for longer than five seconds. Sonic had always served as the edgy antithesis to a certain squeaky-clean Italian plumber, the unruffled cool to offset the loveable buffoon, the Rolling Stones to Nintendo’s genial and affable Beatles. And while bridges have since been built between the two, a collaborative effort between Sonic and Mario would have been unthinkable at the peak of the early-’90s console wars. To declare your childhood allegiance to Sonic over Mario spoke volumes, and hinted that your next 10 years might be spent listening to Beck and watching Tarantino films.