Film

HBO’s Pamela Smart Doc ‘Captivated’ Explores the Insidiousness of the Observer Effect

On May 1, 1990, Pamela Smart came home to her New Hampshire condominium and found her husband Greggory dead, the victim of what seemed, at first, a robbery gone awry. The crime turned out to be much more salacious: Smart, a media coordinator for the local school district, had allegedly seduced a 15-year-old boy and convinced him and three friends to bump off her husband. Maybe you saw the story when it was turned into a TV movie, with Helen Hunt as Smart and Chad Allen as her young lover; more likely, you saw Gus Van Sant’s fictionalized take To Die For, from Joyce Maynard’s novel, with Nicole Kidman and Joaquin Phoenix. Or maybe you remember the media frenzy surrounding Smart’s trial, which was the first such proceeding ever televised in its entirety. That trial — and the many prisms through which it was viewed, at the time and subsequently — is the subject of Captivated: The Trials of Pamela Smart, a gripping new documentary premiering tonight on HBO. … Read More

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How ‘sex, lies, and videotape’ Changed Indie Filmmaking Forever

It began with three brief items in his notebooks. “A film about deception and lost earrings,” went one. “Everybody has a past,” went another. And finally, “Friend on the couch. Affair with the wife.” The filmmaker jotted down those three ideas in 1986; three years later, the movie those three ideas spawned became the sensation of the nascent Sundance Film Festival, the winner of the Palme d’Or at Cannes, and an international box office smash. The young writer/director was Steven Soderbergh, the film was sex, lies, and videotape, and its release 25 years ago was, author Peter Biskind would later write, “the big bang of the modern indie film movement.” … Read More

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Robert De Niro Behind the Scenes of His Greatest Movies

Whether you enjoy his late-life output or not is irrelevant. Robert De Niro is one of cinema’s most celebrated actors, having made his mark in over 100 movies that defined a powerful decade of filmmaking. He’s worked with some of the finest directors, Martin Scorsese being his most famous collaborator, and his reputation as a fearsome street-tough type is often imitated and rarely topped. In honor of De Niro’s birthday — and inspired by the publication of Robert De Niro: Anatomy of an Actor and the recent Martin Scorsese exhibit on the Museum of Cinema website — we’re looking at behind-the-scenes photos from De Niro’s greatest films. The images offer a look at the star’s methodology, intensity, and relationships with the astounding talent he surrounded himself with. … Read More

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‘Frank’ Is the Absurdist Comedy the Absurd Music Industry Deserves

There’s a point towards the end of Frank where Jon, the fame-chasing albeit talentless bandmate of the excellent new film’s titular character, asks Frank’s parents, “What happened to him? Something must have happened to him to make him like that.” What he’s referring to is the thing that everyone who knows anything about this movie knows: Frank, played by Michael Fassbender, wears a creepy (and sometimes creepily emotive) paper maché head at all times. Even in the shower, which we see in one of the film’s most absurd flashes. Frank’s father replies, “Nothing happened to him. He’s got a mental illness.” … Read More

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The 45 Greatest Concert Movies of All Time

Forty-five years ago today, the Woodstock Music & Art Fair got underway at Yasgur’s Farm in upstate New York, kicking off a weekend of music and memories for 400,000 attendees and four-and-a-half decades of wistful Boomer nostalgia. (More on that next week.) It also resulted in 1970’s Woodstock, one of the most influential and perhaps the greatest of all concert movies — so in honor of the festival’s 45th anniversary, we rounded up the 45 best examples of the… Read More

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For the Weird Kid Who Has Everything: A Nicolas Cage Activity Book

Your film editor has a baby girl who is about to turn one, and my wife and I are looking ahead at the kinds of coloring books and activity literature that we’d like to start putting in front of her. There’s some good stuff out there, but I can’t help noticing that they’re all suspiciously short of one important element: actor Nicolas Cage. Lucky for me, newbie UK press Haunt Me has stepped in to fill that void with Snake Eyes: A Nicolas Cage Activity Book, featuring paper dolls, mazes, searches, and more, all inspired by the slightly unhinged thesp. They’ve been kind enough to share a few pages with us; for more info (and to order a copy of your own), head over to their Tumblr. … Read More

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Journalist and Screenwriter Jon Ronson on Writing ‘Frank,’ Twitter Shame, and His Real-Life Past With Outsider Art

Handsome Michael Fassbender wears a giant paper maché head with a face on it for the duration of the fantastic new movie Frank. That’s the weird selling point for a movie that’s ostensibly about a guy wearing a paper maché head, but it turns out that there’s a lot more bubbling under the surface of Frank. It’s a film about the human urge for creativity and transcendence in the face of mental illness and, well, on the other hand, naive youthfulness through the adventures of the world’s greatest outsider art band. And the best part is that Frank, the character in the movie, is not just a creation straight from the head of co-screenwriters Jon Ronson and Peter Straughan — although you could imagine that was the case, especially if you’re familiar with Ronson’s endlessly curious, wide-ranging journalism for The Guardian, GQ, and This American Life, among others. … Read More

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Watch Trailer for ‘Wetlands,’ the Movie That’ll Make Your Skin Crawl and Heart Swell

You know how sometimes you’re shaving your butthole and you, like, cut part of it off? This universally familiar phenomenon… Read More

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