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By Michael Sragow | michael.sragow@baltsun.com and Sun Movie Critic | February 5, 2010
Gary Cooper created his most classically chivalrous comic character as Longfellow Deeds, the big-hearted small-town hero who inherits a fortune and tries to use it for the greater good in Frank Capra's "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town" (1936). Capra made Cooper's Mr. Deeds and his pals in Mandrake Falls, N.H., honest and reticent to a fault, and eccentric in endearing ways, to contrast starkly with the fast-talking city slickers who discredit the hero and swindle him. But there's genuine romantic magic, as well as savvy satire, in Deeds' attachment to Babe Bennett ( Jean Arthur)
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ENTERTAINMENT
By Michael Sragow, The Baltimore Sun | June 23, 2011
If you missed Ramona Diaz's "The Learning" and Richard Chisolm's "Cafeteria Man" at the Maryland Film Festival, seize the chance to see them at the AFI Silverdocs festival. If you've seen them already, take my word for it: They're even better the second time around. "The Learning" is like no other teaching film — it sensitizes you in fresh and unexpected ways to the transactions between instructors and students. Director Ramona Diaz follows four Filipino teachers, recruited by the Baltimore public school system, through their first year teaching Mobtown pupils to their first days back home.
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ENTERTAINMENT
December 2, 2010
Victor Fleming would top everyone's list of all-time greats if historians rated moviemakers for the star power they ignited instead of directorial mystique. Don't get me wrong: I think Fleming should score high in every way, mystique included. The longer I worked on my biography, "Victor Fleming: An American Movie Master," the more convinced I became of Fleming's unique gift for visual storytelling. But even if you don't see how the same robust talent powered accomplishments as different as "The Wizard of Oz" and "Gone With the Wind," you should be able to gauge the impact Fleming had on Hollywood by the performers he brought to peak stardom.
ENTERTAINMENT
By Michael Sragow, The Baltimore Sun | January 14, 2011
The AFI Silver celebrates Martin Luther King Jr. Day each year with free screenings of "King: A Filmed Record … Montgomery to Memphis. " It's never been more pertinent. This year, at this moment, it provides a tonic for the soul. The movie delivers nuance and power simultaneously. Its central message is shaming, inspiring and stunning, all at once. When the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. urges his supporters to fight "physical force" with "soul force," his eloquence and tempered zeal can still bring you to your feet.
ENTERTAINMENT
By Michael Sragow, The Baltimore Sun | July 1, 2010
This July 4th weekend the AFI Silver theater in Silver Spring hosts the brilliantly restored editions of "The Godfather" and "The Godfather Part II." In this dual masterpiece, director Francis Ford Coppola turns patriotic cliches on their head. But these movies are an apt cause for celebration on Independence Day. They epitomize American artists' freedom and vitality. The first speech we hear is an aggrieved Italian-American father, saying, "I believe in America. America has made my fortune."
ENTERTAINMENT
By Michael Sragow | michael.sragow@baltsun.com | November 27, 2009
When Billy Wilder's comedies clicked, whole groups of stars could settle into unexpectedly risible constellations - as they did in his most purely entertaining movie, the gangbusters Roaring Twenties farce, "Some Like It Hot." Wilder had worked with Monroe before 1959, but in "Some Like It Hot," he took her dizzy-blonde persona and ran with it. When Monroe's Sugar Kane, a ukulele-strumming singer in an all-girl band, isn't cooing or tippling, she's falling for male tenor-sax players. The way Wilder and his co-writer, I.A.L.
FEATURES
By Michael Sragow and Michael Sragow,SUN MOVIE CRITIC | May 20, 2005
AFI Silver's "Sam Peckinpah Showcase" presents Junior Bonner -- the director's least-seen, most-underappreciated great movie -- tomorrow at 1 p.m. and Monday at 6:30 p.m. It came out in 1972, as part of a small wave of rodeo movies, but it's more like one of Tennessee Williams' poetic dramas than it is like Cliff Robertson's J.W. Coop (1972). Ace Bonner (Robert Preston), a wandering ex-champ, now wants to raise sheep in Australia. His son Junior (Steve McQueen), a rodeo man himself, won't go with him; he says he has to "go down my own road."
ENTERTAINMENT
By Michael Sragow, The Baltimore Sun | November 4, 2010
If you love hearing Martin Scorsese talk movies, don't miss "Cameraman: The Life and Work of Jack Cardiff. " Craig McCall's tip-top documentary centers on the cinematographer who turned Technicolor into an incomparably vivid and fluid palette with movies like "Pandora and the Flying Dutchman" and "The Barefoot Contessa. " (It plays at the AFI Silver at 2:45 p.m. Saturday and 8 p.m. Monday.) No one is more passionate than Scorsese at paying tribute to fellow artists like Cardiff and his most influential collaborators, the writing-directing-producing team of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger (aka "the Archers")
ENTERTAINMENT
By Michael Sragow, The Baltimore Sun | October 28, 2010
Forget the reigning image of Count Dracula as upscale lounge lizard. Cast off the dominant picture of homegrown vampires as sex-crazed or love-struck, mixed-up kids. F.W. Murnau's "Nosferatu" (1922) uses a fanged, hypnotic demon to throw a spell that follows you home from the theater and stays with you for days — and nights — on end. It's the evil-fairy godfather of all great horror movies. Seeing it on the AFI Silver's big screen at 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Friday, with a live score by D.C.'s Silent Orchestra, is an experience that connoisseurs of the creepy should not pass up. They will savor every Transylvanian minute — and every minute set in the fictional town of Wisbourg, Germany, too. (If you can't make it, Kino has released the film in a splendid two-disc DVD edition.)
ENTERTAINMENT
By Michael Sragow, The Baltimore Sun | January 14, 2011
The AFI Silver celebrates Martin Luther King Jr. Day each year with free screenings of "King: A Filmed Record … Montgomery to Memphis. " It's never been more pertinent. This year, at this moment, it provides a tonic for the soul. The movie delivers nuance and power simultaneously. Its central message is shaming, inspiring and stunning, all at once. When the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. urges his supporters to fight "physical force" with "soul force," his eloquence and tempered zeal can still bring you to your feet.
ENTERTAINMENT
December 2, 2010
Victor Fleming would top everyone's list of all-time greats if historians rated moviemakers for the star power they ignited instead of directorial mystique. Don't get me wrong: I think Fleming should score high in every way, mystique included. The longer I worked on my biography, "Victor Fleming: An American Movie Master," the more convinced I became of Fleming's unique gift for visual storytelling. But even if you don't see how the same robust talent powered accomplishments as different as "The Wizard of Oz" and "Gone With the Wind," you should be able to gauge the impact Fleming had on Hollywood by the performers he brought to peak stardom.
ENTERTAINMENT
By Michael Sragow, The Baltimore Sun | November 4, 2010
If you love hearing Martin Scorsese talk movies, don't miss "Cameraman: The Life and Work of Jack Cardiff. " Craig McCall's tip-top documentary centers on the cinematographer who turned Technicolor into an incomparably vivid and fluid palette with movies like "Pandora and the Flying Dutchman" and "The Barefoot Contessa. " (It plays at the AFI Silver at 2:45 p.m. Saturday and 8 p.m. Monday.) No one is more passionate than Scorsese at paying tribute to fellow artists like Cardiff and his most influential collaborators, the writing-directing-producing team of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger (aka "the Archers")
ENTERTAINMENT
By Michael Sragow, The Baltimore Sun | October 28, 2010
Forget the reigning image of Count Dracula as upscale lounge lizard. Cast off the dominant picture of homegrown vampires as sex-crazed or love-struck, mixed-up kids. F.W. Murnau's "Nosferatu" (1922) uses a fanged, hypnotic demon to throw a spell that follows you home from the theater and stays with you for days — and nights — on end. It's the evil-fairy godfather of all great horror movies. Seeing it on the AFI Silver's big screen at 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Friday, with a live score by D.C.'s Silent Orchestra, is an experience that connoisseurs of the creepy should not pass up. They will savor every Transylvanian minute — and every minute set in the fictional town of Wisbourg, Germany, too. (If you can't make it, Kino has released the film in a splendid two-disc DVD edition.)
ENTERTAINMENT
By Michael Sragow, The Baltimore Sun | September 16, 2010
Robert Altman barged into the nation's consciousness during the Vietnam War era with the anti-war comedy "M*A*S*H" (1970), guiding a huge ensemble — with fresh stars like Donald Sutherland and Elliott Gould — through freewheeling improvisations. The movie was set during the Korean War, but '70s audiences knew it was commenting on the bloody chaos of Vietnam. Seen today, in a new 35mm print at the AFI Silver Theatre, it remains uproarious and profound about the way human beings develop a tough humor and forge unexpected bonds to stay sane amid the human wreckage of combat.
ENTERTAINMENT
By Michael Sragow, The Baltimore Sun | August 5, 2010
If the directors get their hands on some magic editing scissors, Keith Chester's "The Skeptics: In A World of Their Own" and Jeff Krulik's "Heavy Metal Picnic," new movies about mid-'80s Maryland rock, will some day be a tight, hard-driving double-bill. Right now they're a couple of indelible curiosities playing Friday at different places: "Heavy Metal Picnic" at 9:30 p.m. at the AFI Silver and "The Skeptics: In a World of Their Own" at 7 p.m. at Creative Alliance 's Patterson Theater.
ENTERTAINMENT
By Michael Sragow, The Baltimore Sun | July 1, 2010
This July 4th weekend the AFI Silver theater in Silver Spring hosts the brilliantly restored editions of "The Godfather" and "The Godfather Part II." In this dual masterpiece, director Francis Ford Coppola turns patriotic cliches on their head. But these movies are an apt cause for celebration on Independence Day. They epitomize American artists' freedom and vitality. The first speech we hear is an aggrieved Italian-American father, saying, "I believe in America. America has made my fortune."
ENTERTAINMENT
By Michael Sragow, The Baltimore Sun | May 20, 2010
It's fitting that Michael Caine is opening at the Charles in "Harry Brown" today, just when the AFI-Silver in Silver Spring is launching a mammoth retrospective for this astonishingly gifted and versatile actor. Caine has gone from his signature role as a Cockney womanizer in "Alfie" (an opening-day attraction at the AFI series) to playing Alfred the Butler for the screen's reigning vigilante, the Dark Knight. In "Harry Brown," he could be called a Cockney vigilante. But that label would be reductive because Caine is extraordinary at infusing this character with everything he's learned about life and death and art. He turns a graphic urban-terror film into the story of a man who refuses (in the poet Dylan Thomas' words)
ENTERTAINMENT
By Michael Sragow, The Baltimore Sun | May 20, 2010
It's fitting that Michael Caine is opening at the Charles in "Harry Brown" today, just when the AFI-Silver in Silver Spring is launching a mammoth retrospective for this astonishingly gifted and versatile actor. Caine has gone from his signature role as a Cockney womanizer in "Alfie" (an opening-day attraction at the AFI series) to playing Alfred the Butler for the screen's reigning vigilante, the Dark Knight. In "Harry Brown," he could be called a Cockney vigilante. But that label would be reductive because Caine is extraordinary at infusing this character with everything he's learned about life and death and art. He turns a graphic urban-terror film into the story of a man who refuses (in the poet Dylan Thomas' words)
ENTERTAINMENT
By Michael Sragow, The Baltimore Sun | May 14, 2010
Peckinpah at Pratt Sam Peckinpah topped all the great "personal" directors of the 1960s and 1970s. In a Peckinpah classic like "Ride the High Country" (1962), he finds a way to tell a story that lays his own soul across the screen. This movie celebrates a hero of self-control: ex-lawman Steve Judd ( Joel McCrea), who's trying to regain his professional pride after years of work in pickup jobs like bartender or bouncer. Peckinpah energizes each frame with a sense of what self-control has cost the man in love, friendship and glory.
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