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MCN Columnists
Mike Wilmington

Wilmington By Mike WilmingtonWilmington@moviecitynews.com

Wilmington on Movies: The Raven

But wait a minute. This isn’t the kind of horror that puts money in your pockets. A loser roaming the streets and expiring in a hospital? Not in our bottom-line, money-obsessed, failure-hating age. Let’s imagine something more horrible — and certainly more modern, more suitable to contemporary tastes.

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Wilmington on Movies: Headhunters

Slick and fast and gorgeously shot—if sometimes almost criminally over-the-top.

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Wilmington on DVDs. Godzilla

I’ve never visited Japan, and probably I never will. But if I get there, I know I’ll dream of seeing several things, all of which, to me, signify “Japanese cinema“ and “Japan.” A furious Kurosawa swordfight caught by three cameras. Two Ozu characters sitting on tatami mats, musing on the sadness of life. A geisha or wife suffering while Mizoguchi’s camera tracks slowly and beautifully around her. Something tragic or transgressive caught lucidly by Ichikawa or Imamura. And, rising up from the ocean, while the sun sets, Honda’s Godzilla (excuse me, Gojira), staring toward Tokyo and licking his chops.

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Wilmington on DVDs. The Innkeepers

Ti West’s movie is loaded with seedy atmosphere and cracked wacko personality, and I much preferred it to the over-expensive blood-drenched massacres they usually give us. Paxton’s Claire and Healy’s Luke are engagingly scarable protagonists. The cellar is a doozy.

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Wilmington on Movies: Darling Companion

The movie has its flaws — that outlandishly implausible ending chiefly among them — but compared to most of the un-naturalistic, unfunny, unserious, totally phony and sometimes obnoxiously ageist and condescendingly smart-ass gloppy stuff that often passes for American movie comedy-drama these days (and that sometimes gets a pass from the same people who pile on movies like “Darling Companion”), it’s a movie that deserves some encouragement.

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Wilmington on DVDs. A Streetcar Named Desire

The young Adonis-like Brando was the actor whom critics and Britons believed would be the American stage and screen’s great Hamlet. (But he never even tried.) He was the player for whom Tennessee Williams wrote play after play year after year. (But Brando turned them all down, except for the Sidney Lumet movie of “Orpheus Descending,” retitled “The Fugitive Kind)”.

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Wilmington on DVDs. Shame

I can’t recall a single smile crossing Brandon’s mouth, or a single joke passing his lips (if there were, they were lonely), or much tenderness at all, during the course of the movie.

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Wilmington on DVDs. Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

This is the best action movie out this year not just because it has the best action, but because the characters are interesting too.

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Wilmington on DVDs. Casablanca

You think Michael Curtiz is a hack? It‘s only because he made so many movies. But his list of hundreds includes two or three dozen genuine classics. And the other several hundred aren’t bad either. In fact, director-movie-lover Rainer Werner Fassbinder ranked Curtiz at the top of his list, next to Luchino Visconti and Douglas Sirk.

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Wilmington on DVDs. Chinatown.

It‘s a picture that seems close to perfect of its kind and one of the ‘70s films I love best. Gorgeous and terrifying and sometimes funny as hell, Chinatown tells a romantic/tragic/murder mystery tale of official crimes and personal corruption raging around the real-life L. A. Water scandal, with private sin and public swindles steadily stripped bare by J. J. Gittes (one of Jack Nicholson‘s signature roles), a cynical, natty, smart-ass Hammetesque shamus, with a nose for corruption and a hot-trigger temper

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Wilmington on DVDs. The Iron Lady

Meryl Streep, the American movie star who plays/ impersonates/ inhabits/ incarnates Thatcher in “The Iron Lady,” is not only one of the greatest movie actresses of the 20th and 21st centuries, an artist of confounding competence, flawless mimicry and consistent brilliance, but a smart student of life and humanity who who can vanish into her parts totally. And here, she’s giving what is certainly one of her most impressive performances.

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Wilmington on Movies: American Reunion

Just the reintroduction of Jim‘s pop and The Stiffmeister alone is enough to raise a litle indecent notalgia in this movie. Or bonhomie, maybe. Not enough to make it a good movie, but at least enough to avoid it being an irredeemably bad one.

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Wilmington on DVDs. A Trip to the Moon; Melies, First Wizard of Cinema (1896-1913)

Méliès’ great little show was first released in the black-and-white prints most of us know, but also in an original hand-tinted color version that was missing for nearly a century. But that second version, discovered in a Spanish film library in 1995, has now been definitively restored in colors as radiant and luscious as ice cream melting in a silver tureen.

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Wilmington on DVDs. We Bought a Zoo, No Man of Her Own

If only “We Bought a Zoo” could do for zoos what “Sideways” did for wine, we’d all be in clover and up to our knees in humane enclosures. Although I’m a big fan of zoos myself (especially San Diego’s and the giraffe and bear enclosures at the Lincoln Park Zoo) and though this is a likable movie, full of likable people, and likable animals and though star Matt Damon is a very paragon of likeability, the movie just vanishes out of your mind (or mine at least) after you leave.

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Wilmington on DVDs. Pick of the Week: New. War Horse.

The script of “War Horse,” a heart-crusher, is rife with coincidence, pulsing with melodrama. Violence and tragedy are often close to overwhelming it. But it’s also a good story, an often gripping one.

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Quote Unquotesee all »

“The core fear is what can happen to you, personally. Your body. That’s what horror films deal with, precisely. We are a very thin skin wrapped around a pumping heart and guts. At any given moment it can come down to that, be it diseases, or somebody’s assault, or war, or a car wreck. You could be reduced to the simple laws of physics and your body’s vulnerability. The edged weapon is the penultimate weapon to disclose that reality to you.”
~ Wes Craven, 1996, promoting Scream

MAMET
Well, that, to me, is always the trick of dramaturgy; theoretically, perfectly, what one wants to do is put the protagonist and the audience in exactly the same position. The main question in drama, the way I was taught, is always what does the protagonist want. That’s what drama is. It comes down to that. It’s not about theme, it’s not about ideas, it’s not about setting, but what the protagonist wants. What gives rise to the drama, what is the precipitating event, and how, at the end of the play, do we see that event culminated? Do we see the protagonist’s wishes fulfilled or absolutely frustrated? That’s the structure of drama. You break it down into three acts.

INTERVIEWER
Does this explain why your plays have so little exposition?

MAMET
Yes. People only speak to get something. If I say, Let me tell you a few things about myself, already your defenses go up; you go, Look, I wonder what he wants from me, because no one ever speaks except to obtain an objective. That’s the only reason anyone ever opens their mouth, onstage or offstage. They may use a language that seems revealing, but if so, it’s just coincidence, because what they’re trying to do is accomplish an objective… The question is where does the dramatist have to lead you? Answer: the place where he or she thinks the audience needs to be led. But what does the character think? Does the character need to convey that information? If the answer is no, then you’d better cut it out, because you aren’t putting the audience in the same position with the protagonist. You’re saying, in effect, Let’s stop the play. That’s what the narration is doing—stopping the play… It’s action, as Aristotle said. That’s all that it is—exactly what the person does. It’s not what they “think,” because we don’t know what they think. It’s not what they say. It’s what they do, what they’re physically trying to accomplish on the stage. Which is exactly the same way we understand a person’s character in life—not by what they say, but by what they do. Say someone came up to you and said, I’m glad to be your neighbor because I’m a very honest man. That’s my character. I’m honest, I like to do things, I’m forthright, I like to be clear about everything, I like to be concise. Well, you really don’t know anything about that guy’s character. Or the person is onstage, and the playwright has him or her make those same claims in several subtle or not-so-subtle ways, the audience will say, Oh yes, I understand their character now; now I understand that they are a character. But in fact you don’t understand anything. You just understand that they’re jabbering to try to convince you of something.
~ David Mamet

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