Flashdance (1983)

For too many years, the cliche has been that movies no longer have plots. I think what that really means is that in the past four decades, movies have become more focused on visuals, special effects, and music than dialog and pure narrative. The results are loud pictures full of fast cuts and set pieces […]

Leave Her to Heaven (1945)

From its first shot, Leave Her to Heaven proves that film noir need not be in black and white or in an urban setting to be a great example of the genre. Director John Stahl uses lurid technicolor in the New Mexico and Maine wilderness to provide an atmosphere that is as effectively unsettling as […]

Tokyo Story (1953) and Brief Encounter (1945)

I sometimes like to pair or group movies, though not usually two of my favorites. Typically, I like to link films that superficially have little in common, but are tied together by something important, like a theme or something as small as a prop. However, Tokyo Story (1953) and Brief Encounter(1945) definitely belong together. They […]

Holiday Movies

It’s the season for parties, decorations, fireside relaxation, and holiday movies. Many holiday movies. Too many holiday movies. Old holiday movies. New holiday movies. Some classics and some dreck. I’ll focus on the classics–at least, the better. We’ve all seen It’s A Wonderful Life (1945). If you haven’t, you must. It’s not just a Christmas […]

Blue Velvet (1986)

Blue Velvet (1986) was audacious, exciting, and original when it premiered more than 20 years ago. In retrospect, however, director David Lynch’s work doesn’t seem as groundbreaking as it once appeared.  I first saw the movie the night it opened in Washington, D.C. Based on media buzz and the interest of friends, I was so […]

Bigger Than Life (1956)

Bigger Than Life is a terrific combination of three film types that flourished in the repressed cinema of the 1950s: the thriller, the suburban melodrama, and the “message movie.” However, a description of its fairly simple premise—James Mason is a teacher addicted to cortisone used to treat a chronic illness—makes it sound less than compelling. […]