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Today in Movie History: May 22

The summer season traditionally kicked off on Memorial Day weekend, with the pre-planned 600-lb. gorilla du jour grabbing the pole position every year. Unfortunately, that meant a lot of high-end sequels of dubious quality landing in late May: notable more  for failing to meet expectations than advancing whatever the franchise in question was. Yet all of them remain interesting… as cinematic …

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Movies for the Resistance: Star Wars Double Feature

(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 …

Taxi Driver

Today in Movie History: February 8

Petrified Forest (1936) A big day for movies starts with the one of the most problematic. D.W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation opened today in 1915, marking a seismic advance in motion pictures as a technical art form while simultaneously pushing a narrative so grotesque it causes one to despair for humanity. Film students are obligated to watch it. Once. …

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Today in Movie History: December 8

We’re going to start with Ang Lee, the only non-white to win more than one Best Director Oscar and whose vision continues to expand with every film he makes. Among his very best is Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, a love letter to the wuxia films of his youth that manages to elevate the genre to masterpiece status. A sumptuous adventure, a tragic …

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Today in Movie History: August 11

It’s kind of amazing watching A Hard Day’s Night with the benefit of hindsight. It was originally intended to catch a rapidly fleeting pop culture phenomenon: raking in a few bucks on the backs of those four lads from Liverpool before the bubble burst and they vanished into obscurity. It was the From Justin to Kelly of its time: a …

Clear-and-Present-Danger-Henry-Czerny

Today in Movie History: August 3

Tom Clancy’s ubiquitous hero Jack Ryan has been played by four different actors and counting, but I think most would agree that Harrison Ford’s turn remains the most compelling. (The Angry Finger is tough to counter.) After taking over the reins with Patriot Games, he scored a second winner with Clear and Present Danger, a story about the failure of the drug …

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Today in Movie History: July 13

We’re giving the top spot today to The Dead Pool, the fifth and presumably the last of the Dirty Harry franchise. It actually ranks as one of the better ones, with a surprising sense of humor to go along with Clint Eastwood’s thundering political context. But that’s not why it tops the list. It tops the list because it contains one of …

Leiadeathstar

Today in Movie History: May 25

Once upon a time, 20th Century Fox had what they thought was a stinker of a science-fiction film on their hands.  They opened it in a tiny handful of theaters today in 1977, in hopes that it would vanish without causing too much embarassment. The movie was called Star Wars, and I’m pretty sure you can guess what happened next. The game-changing nature of George …

Last Crusade

Today in Movie History: May 24

It’s blockbuster season, so I’ll start with the biggest. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade — widely regarded as the best of the series after the original — benefited from the genius pairing of Harrison Ford’s redoubtable archaeologist with Sean Connery as his fussy, disapproving father. It opened today in 1989. Slightly further down the sequel list, we find Back to …