Show Biz Kids


Tribeca Festival


Brats (2024)

Andrew McCarthy was a likable young actor in his 20s and now makes a likable documentarian in his 60s, digging back into his own past life. "Brats" follows Mr. McCarthy on a road trip visiting some of the other former members of the group of 1980s actors loosely – or lazily – grouped together by the media under the label of "the Brat Pack," although the looseness and laziness of the term are two of the things that prove to rankle interviewer and interviewees alike. Having already written an autobiography under the title "Brat: An '80s Story" in 2021, Mr. McCarthy has gone from the singular to the plural, reconnecting with actors and crew he has not seen for decades, to test whether they are still unnerved by the memory of the B-word as much as he is.

Continue reading "Show Biz Kids" »

Art Attacks

Leo Matiz/Sundance Institute

Frida (2024)

Carla Gutiérrez's documentary about Frida Kahlo wants to focus on the artist as a person and a woman, rather than get dragged into the higher showbiz orbit of the cultural presence, Madonna-influencer and biopic subject also called Frida Kahlo, famous enough that her unibrow is enough to spark recognition. The result could be termed back-to-basics. In the absence of any third-party commentary, "Frida" uses Kahlo's own letters and diaries, alongside other contemporary texts written by lovers and friends, all read in voiceover by actors. Meanwhile the screen shows still photos, clippings and newsreel footage, plus views of Kahlo paintings. The film, premiering at Sundance on its way to audiences via Amazon, is after authenticity, fact rather than legend, although Ms. Gutiérrez is an editor by trade and knows that assembling a montage is as much of an active manipulation as a dramatized narrative can be.

Continue reading "Art Attacks" »

A Bitter Pill

Nan Goldin

All the Beauty and the Bloodshed (2022)

There has rarely been a more effective demonstration of how the personal can be political. Nan Goldin should be mentioned in the same breath as Sylvia Plath as artists who changed the world through their overwhelmingly emotional, deeply personal art. Ms. Plath was a poet, whose work was seen through the gendered lens of “confessional” and whose suicide has unfortunately permanently overshadowed her incredible talents as a writer. Happily Ms. Goldin is still alive, despite a life equally full of pain. She is most famous for “The Ballad of Sexual Dependency,” a photographic slide show set to music which debuted in 1986, depicting herself and her friends going out or staying in, having sex, taking drugs, being ill in hospital or other similarly private and intimate activities. (The best version is in the permanent collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, while a more British-themed version is in the permanent collection of the Tate in London.) It runs on a continuous loop and can be an overwhelming experience due to the rawness of emotion from the combination of sound and images that somehow floods the viewing room. Like a great movie, come to think.

Continue reading " A Bitter Pill" »

The Da Vinci Code

Adam Jandrup/Sony Pictures Classics

The Lost Leonardo (2021)

The documentary “The Lost Leonardo” tracks a Salvator Mundi painting billed as “After Leonardo” by a New Orleans auction house and bought in 2005 for a song ($10,000, so relatively speaking). The purchasers were a group of art dealers that included Alexander Parish, a professional “sleeper hunter” in the business of finding works of art that are more valuable than auctioneers perceive, and Robert Simon. In 2017, Christie’s auctioned the painting, now dubbed “the male Mona Lisa,” for a record $450.3 million.

Continue reading "The Da Vinci Code" »

Troubles Every Day

Sarah Manvel/Critic's Notebook

An outsider to the Irish film industry would be surprised at the depth and breadth of work available at the 26th Galway Film Fleadh. Held over five days and six nights every July in the largest city on Ireland’s west coast, the Fleadh (pronounced “flah,” Irish Gaelic for festival) brings together new and old talent in one place to act as a doorway to the global scene. Since its winning short automatically becomes eligible for Oscar consideration, the festival is able to punch considerably above its apparent weight.

Continue reading "Troubles Every Day" »

Good Old-Fashioned Happy and Joy

Courtesy photo

John Kricfalusi has staked out some idiosyncratic ground in his three decades as a working animator; and it doesn't take long to recognize his work when you see it. “The Ren & Stimpy Show” caused visible distress to Nickelodeon in the 1990s, and lingers in the memory of anyone who caught its U.K. airings on BBC Two. Before then, Mr. Kricfalusi had already worked uncomfortably for Filmation and Hanna-Barbera, and found a much more agreeable niche alongside legendary animator Ralph Bakshi. More recently, the man usually known just as John K. has directed music videos, animated the opening couch gag for an episode of “The Simpsons,” and continued to get into occasional trouble with broadcasters.

Mr. Kricfalusi came to the Encounters International Film Festival in Bristol to talk about some of his favorite animated films. We took the opportunity to ask him about the joys of old animation, why the Internet is frustratingly slow and his very dim view of motion-capture.

Continue reading "Good Old-Fashioned Happy and Joy" »

Around the World in Motion Capture

DW Studios

Steven Spielberg is back! After the disappointing “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” (which, while containing fragments of Spielbergian magic, often felt flat and labored), “The Adventures of Tintin” sees the master director back on form. Mr. Spielberg’s new collaboration with fellow fantasy filmmaker Peter Jackson is more fruitful than the last one with his old friend George Lucas. Mr. Spielberg seemed to have participated in “Crystal Skull” out of sense of (understandable) loyalty to his old filmmaking friend, with the director appearing to go through the through the motions rather than being inspired to create a new Indy movie for the 21st century. The motion-capture in this new film seems to have liberated Mr. Spielberg though, freeing him up to try new things while recapturing his old magic.

Continue reading "Around the World in Motion Capture" »

Boys and Their Toys

Weta Digital/Paramount Pictures

Watching “The Adventures of Tintin” reminds you that modern entertainment is increasingly driven by each move forward in technology. Images of Steven Spielberg directing scenes from his latest all-action adventure with what appears to be an oversize PlayStation controller only go to emphasize the point.

The shark may have almost driven him mad, but Mr. Spielberg’s career is littered with each leap forward in cinematic wizardry. Not to accuse such a visionary of standing on the shoulders of giants, but where would “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” be without the work of John Dykstra on “Star Wars” and “Battlestar Galactica”? Where would “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” have been without animatronics? What would “Jurassic Park” have looked like without the generational leaps in C.G.I.? And “Tintin” — well, if that doesn't owe a massive debt of thanks to Robert Zemeckis and James Cameron, then I don't know what does.

Continue reading "Boys and Their Toys" »

From Chelsea With Love

Jack English/Studiocanal

Borrowing a page from Darren Aronofsky's book, Tomas Alfredson takes steps to ensure that the new version of "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" swims with visible grain. It's a fine piece of calculated shorthand and works wonders for the ambiance. Every time Gary Oldman as George Smiley speaks from the shadows, the audience peers at him through a fog of silver halide chemistry. When Sir Alec Guinness walked this way, he also frowned through the grain but had a cast-iron excuse: It was 1979, and film grain came naturally.

Continue reading "From Chelsea With Love" »

'Metropolis,' Lost and Found

Kino International

One of the primary functions of the British Film Institute is the preservation of the BFI National Archive, the world's largest collection of film and television. Acting upon this remit, the BFI recently identified a body of work from one of Britain's most respected directors, Alfred Hitchcock, which is in desperate need of restoration and preservation. Rescue the Hitchcock 9 is designed to raise funding to support the preservation of Hitchcock's surviving silent films, including his debut feature "The Pleasure Garden" (1925), "The Manxman" (1929) and "Blackmail" (1929), a landmark feature that ran as a silent film but also as one of Europe's first talkies. In the digital age, film has a medium that can guarantee the survival of such cinematic gems for all time, and as such the importance of such preservation projects cannot be understated. The success of such initiatives, while a boon for the film industry, will inevitably put paid to the romance of rediscovering lost films, such as the remarkable story of the recent discovery of a definitive copy of Fritz Lang's dystopian classic "Metropolis" in the archives of the Museo del Cine in Buenos Aires in 2008.

Continue reading "'Metropolis,' Lost and Found" »

© 2008-2024 Critic's Notebook and its respective authors. All rights reserved.
Privacy Policy | Terms of Use | Subscribe to Critic's Notebook | Follow Us on X
Contact Us | Write for Us | Reprints and Permissions | Powered by TypePad