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Today in Movie History: October 30

We’re pounding down the home stretch to Halloween, but the big opener today isn’t a horror movie. It’s The Lion in Winter, Anthony Harvey’s adaptation of the James Goldman play about Henry II’s (Peter O’Toole) vacillating choice for an heir. Katherine Hepburn won the third of her four Oscars as his scheming queen, and the sight of the two of them …

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Today in Movie History: October 27

Amid the late kerfuffle over Darren Aronofsky’s mother!, we are reminded that deeply disturbing movies are kind of his thing. Case in point: Requiem for a Dream, arguably his greatest film that nevertheless turns multiple viewings into an exercise in sadism. Aronofsky set out to create the final cinematic word on drug addiction. The results are so agonizing to watch that even hard-core …

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Today in Movie History: October 26

Mighty oaks often grow from little acorns, and when the slick little sci-fi thriller The Terminator opened one quiet October Friday, no one thought much of it. Its director had helmed only one project before — the less-than-immortal Piranha 2: the Spawning — and the star was that jumped-up Austrian from Conan the Barbarian who looked like his 15 minutes was just about up. The …

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Today in Movie History: October 25

Horror films come and horror films go, but there’s only one Halloween: a quickie exploitation grinder that became a masterpiece in the hands of the legendary John Carpenter. It relies on pure technique, as a trio of babysitters are slowly stalked by a masked killer, and though credited with the rise of the slasher genre in the 1980s, none of its followers ever …

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Movies for the Resistance: Little Shop of Horrors

(Welcome to Movies for the Resistance, a weekly column intended to showcase films with particular pertinence for 2017. One of the fundamental purposes of art in general, and movies in particular, is to serve as a spiritual armory: bringing hope, timely lessons and shared experiences when times are dark. They can move us to positive political action, lend insight to the inexplicable, …

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Today in Movie History: October 24

The 1960s saw a slow revision of the western as a genre, as the likes of Sergio Leone took it in a different, darker direction and even stalwarts like John Ford found undercurrents more in keeping with the time than their previous work. That came to a head with Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid a breezy, almost comedic romp marked by …

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Today in Movie History: October 23

We’re normally inclined to start with horror movies this time of year and we have a couple of tasty grindhouse numbers to close things out. But neither of them hold the enduring power of Dumbo, one of Walt Disney’s most beloved creations. Along with Snow White, it was the only one of Disney’s early features to turn a profit, and while …

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Today in Movie History: October 20

It’s a comparatively quiet day, marked by an all-time personal favorite. Christopher Nolan made his mark on cinema early, and every new film of his — even those that don’t reach their potential — merits notice. His greatest may still be The Prestige: the tale of two 19th century magicians (Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman) whose bitter rivalry drives them both to madness …

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Today in Movie History: October 19

In light of the political shitstorm currently eating our country alive, the soothing balm of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington can do a lot of good for your blood pressure. Jimmy Stewart is pitch-perfect as a naïve young man appointed to a U.S. Senate seat, who does pitched battle against the systematic corruption trying to mold him to its whim. Of course, …

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Today in Movie History: October 18

Musicals don’t come any better than West Side Story, a brilliant re-imagining of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet that freed the genre from the opulent event pictures that had dominated it in the 1950s. Robert Wise kept a steady hand on the tiller during a deeply troubled production — co-director Jerome Robbins suffered a breakdown midway through, though his stunning choreography remains …