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Today in Movie History: December 14

It was a good day for epics, starting with Edward Zwick’s classic Civil War tale Glory, which (among other things) gave Denzel Washington his first Oscar. You like your epics big, loud and featuring Charlton Heston? December 14 also saw the release of Anthony Mann’s minor classic El Cid back in 1961. 1984 saw three notable science fiction movies released today… well okay, …

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Movies for the Resistance: John Carpenter’s The Thing

(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 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 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 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: July 10

The key to dystopian science fiction is to make their bleak future plausible, which is why stories like 1984 resonate even after the precise future date they utilize has come and gone. John Carpenter pulled off a similar trick with Escape from New York, turning Manhattan Island into a walled maximum security prison controlled by a future police state. When Air Force …

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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: February 3

The later career of John Carpenter was marked by a gradual fall from the form that made him a legend in genre filmmaking. He put that fall on hold for one glorious moment when his last truly great movie — In The Mouth of Madness — opened today in 1995. Sam Neill plays a cynical private investigator hired to find a missing horror …

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Movies for the Resistance: Escape from New York

(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 …

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Today in Movie History: December 9

We mentioned Ang Lee yesterday, which marked the release of one of the best films he ever made. Today has another one: Brokeback Mountain, a watershed in the presentation of gays onscreen, but more impressively a flawless adaptation of an 11-page short story that might not be filmable in the hands of anyone else. Lee makes a habit out of walking on water …