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Today in Movie History: November 2

Oscar bait tends to do a lot of hand-wringing about social causes, but in the case of Roland Joffe’s The Killing Fields, it’s more than just the musings of limousine liberals. It depicts the fall of Cambodia to the Khmer Rouge and the horror show that followed, bringing the human cost of nationwide slaughter into sharp relief through the intimate relationships …

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Today in Movie History: November 1

Paul Newman is cool. Really, really cool. How cool? Cool enough to have a movie with the word “cool” in the title… a movie that’s been the go-to choice for anyone looking for movies with “cool” in the title for almost 50 years. The film was Cool Hand Luke, of course, and Newman’s portrayal of a workhouse inmate determined to stick …

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Today in Movie History: October 31

For obvious reasons, few films of note have actually opened on Halloween. Competition from trick-or-treaters, parties and similar celebrations means that theaters are usually empty, with the occasional exception of some quickie horror movie hoping to cash in on the zeitgeist. The two exceptions both fall into the realm of the very, very weird. The first, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, united …

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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 29

Few films are as original, audacious or flat-out odd as Being John Malkovich Spike Jonez’s surreal exploration of celebrity, narcissism and how to literally get into someone’s head. Age has mellowed people’s responses to it — it might not quite be the instant classic we all thought it was — but it’s a singular vision and for heady discussions after …

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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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Today in Movie History: October 24

The original version of The Manchurian Candidate set the standards for eerily plausible Cold War paranoia, involving brainwashed U.S. soldiers unwittingly doing the bidding of their communist masters in the heat of a presidential campaign. It was pulled from release following the assassination of JFK, and it’s not hard to see why: its power is absolutely terrifying. It opened today in …

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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 22

It’s hard to overestimate the impact a movie like Boys Don’t Cry can have over time: not only for giving voice to a vital social movement, but for putting a very human face on it. Hilary Swank vanquished a very crowded field to win the Best Actress Oscar, and the film itself spoke to the harsh realities facing the LGBT community in …