FILM An entirely fake controversy brewed at the Sundance Film Festival three years ago in anticipation of the "Dakota Fanning rape movie," otherwise known as Hounddog. Fanning was then a cloyingly cute, frequently tearful actor known for family-friendly films ergo, her appearance as a victim of child abuse in a 1950s rural drama got fanned by hysterical pundits and popular media into terrible child actor abuse. Before anyone actually saw the film, of course.
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CINE DE CULTO It's impossible to undersell the extent to which everyone was space travel crazy from the 1950s through the early '70s. Even nations not actively involved in the Cold War race for space "supremacy" shared the giddy thrill as U.S.S.R., then U.S. efforts successfully launched projectiles toward the cosmos. Those technological leaps and Cold War-fueled fears that the bomb could end life as we know it turned science fiction from an infrequent cinematic genre into a popular, prolific one.Read more »
INTERNATIONAL CINEMA It wouldn't be a Cannes Film Festival without scandals onscreen and off. The recent 63rd edition found international media struggling to come up with some Jean-Luc Godard's no-show, the generally feh quality of competition films. Pretty weak. Little incited righteous outrage over artistic license as before: think of prior provocations by Gaspar Noé, Carlos Reygadas, and Vincent Gallo.
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FILM The unusually high proportion of non-native San Franciscans not only underlines our living in a "destination" city, but also suggests that many of us were eager to leave something behind. Certainly it's no accident The Full Picture's fraternal protagonists both chose to live here. Yes, it's a lovely place. It also happens to be 3,000 insulating miles from where they were raised, and where the dragon still dwells.Read more »
It’s hard to guess what fictive icons of popular culture will endure and which will evaporate from the collective memory. In the 1940s, probably few would have imagined kiddie heroes Batman or Superman retaining marquee value into the next century. Bigger bets would no doubt have been placed on the Shadow, the Saint, and the Whistler, long-running radio men of mystery with uncanny (but not exactly supernatural, or super-heroic) abilities to witness the moral misdeeds of mortal men, not to mention their inevitable comeuppance.
In fact, the S-men usually doled out that payback themselves. Even more evanescent than his compatriots, the Whistler was less hands-on, more a Greek chorus sardonically telling the tale of each episode’s protagonists, gloating over the impending arrival of their just desserts. He was never a participant -- was even a He, or an otherworldly It? He was, simply, a gimmicked-up omniscient narrator, the storyteller’s own voice turned into a character slash-framing device.
As a result the Whistler probably didn’t seem natural movie material -- what can you do with a character that isn’t seen and doesn’t interact with others? Yet the 13-year series’ popularity was such that Columbia Pictures took the plunge anyway. The result was eight films made between 1944 and 1948, six showing during the two weeks of “I Still Wake Up Dreaming!,” Elliot Lavine’s latest noir revival extravaganza at the Roxie -- in restored 35mm prints struck for the occasion, yet. (The Whistlers will also play Berkeley’s Pacific Film Archive May 29-June 5.)
NEW-OLD MOVIE The Cold War heated up a public appetite for spy adventures well before James Bond became a pop phenomenon. In fact, Ian Fleming hadn't yet created 007 in 1949, when Jean Bruce commenced writing novels about Hubert Bonisseur de La Bath, a.k.a. Agent OSS 117 — eventually more than 90 of them. When Bruce died (crashing his Jaguar — what a man!) in 1963, just as the screen Bond was taking off, his widow wrote another 143. Then her children wrote two dozen more, as recently as 1992.Read more »