This Week’s Movie: CABARET

Maybe you don’t know what exactly is the deal with Liza Minnelli. I know that when I was a kid, and Minnelli was just a heavily-made-up face caught in some unflattering moment on the front page of a supermarket tabloid, I didn’t know who she was and I didn’t want to. But if you want to know, if you’re curious how this woman became a superstar, there’s a movie that will tell you: Bob Fosse’s 1972 musical Cabaret.

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This Week’s Movie: HARD EIGHT

The title of Paul Thomas Anderson’s Hard Eight refers to the casino game of craps. One of the most lucrative bets in the game is to use the two dice to throw “eight the hard way”, a pair of fours. If you roll eight any other way – five and three, six and two – you lose. Of course it’s very difficult to roll a pair of fours on demand, so if all you play is the hard eight, you’ll go broke in short order, chasing the tiny chance of a huge victory. Hard Eight is about four characters chasing the same awful odds.

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This Week’s Movie: IT’S ALL GONE PETE TONG

Give the 2004 Canadian[1] indie It’s All Gone, Pete Tong credit for ambition, if nothing else. This is a film which aims to be a Spinal Tap for electronic music, to carry an anti-drug message as graphic as anything in Requiem for a Dream, and to tell an overcoming-the-odds story as heartwarming as Rudy. Problem is, those are three wildly disparate films I just named, and combinig them all into one picture makes for a decidedly strange experience.

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This Week’s Movie: HOCUS POCUS

There were extensive technical problems at the start of this week’s showing of Hocus Pocus; perhaps they put me in a bad mood. Alternatively, I may have been annoyed by Halloween, a holiday which I have never been too excited about. Whatever the reason, the simple truth is that I was immune to this movie’s charms. It made me laugh a few times, but most of those laughs were unintentional, and when this movie tried to get a sincere response from me I found myself face-palming instead.

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This Week’s Movie: VERTIGO

In 2012, Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo took the top spot in the poll by the British magazine Sight & Sound to determine the greatest film of all time. Previously, Citizen Kane had occupied the top spot in five consecutive polls, which becomes impressive once you realize that the poll happens once every ten years. Vertigo is the sort of film that can occupy that top spot, a beautiful-looking, expertly executed work that aims to examine far greater things than just who done it.

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This Week’s Movie: GRAVE OF THE FIREFLIES

Even if you haven’t seen Grave of the Fireflies, if you follow cinema closely then you’ve probably heard of it. Isao Takahata’s 1988 animated feature has a notorious reputation as the saddest film ever made, a tear-jerker of unthinkable power. Sure enough, there was some sniffling heard in the room during the film’s climax. But not every eye in the house was wet, because it does not always seem that Takahata intends his movie to be a barrel of sorrow. Sometimes it’s more like a vehicle for the delivery of anger.

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This Week’s Movie: THE STING

The best movies of the 1960s and 1970s are so good that it’s easy to forget that they were corporate product as much as today’s blockbusters are. The Sting got made in 1973 because Robert Redford and Paul Newman were both attached, and their last collaboration was the monster hit Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. The Sting even has the same director as Butch and Sundance, George Roy Hill.[1] However, the movie comes from the pre-blockbuster era, when movies were intended to be cash cows by way of being great art. The Sting became one of the top 20 highest grossing films of all time[2] simply because it is easily one of the top 20 most fun films of all time.

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