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  • Safety Last!

    Safety Last!

    ★★★★½

    All the great silent comics confronted the problem of how to survive the modern world. Chaplin met modernity with consternation, while Keaton attempted, with measured success, to master it, but only Harold Lloyd greeted it on equal terms. Where both Chaplin and Keaton lived in the world as poignant anachronisms, Lloyd chose to be of his world and time, and for his troubles he always came out as a winner, the most perfect avatar of the American century the silent…

  • Badlands

    Badlands

    ★★★★★

    [Originally appeared, in slightly altered form, at cinespect.com.]

    Before Terrence Malick became Terrence Malick, he was mostly just an oddball screenwriter (of Pocket Money with Paul Newman & Lee Marvin, and Deadhead Miles with Alan Arkin) with a sardonic sense of humor and a talent for evoking local color and the eccentric details of American life lived on the margins. And of course he was also the director of Badlands (1973), probably the best and strangest of the vast wave of…

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  • Mr. Roosevelt

    Mr. Roosevelt

    I have now seen enough movies about struggling comics to come to the informed conclusion that struggling stand-up comics are the least interesting yet most insufferable human beings on the planet. And this has the dramatic tension of a CBS series season finale and the visual elegance of a wedding video.

  • Woody Woodpecker

    Woody Woodpecker

    Universal Studios does the bare minimum to assert its intellectual property rights. Desecrates The Trashmen's holy "Surfin' Bird" in the process.

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  • Double Indemnity

    Double Indemnity

    ★★★★★

    All you need to make a movie is a girl, a gun, and a life insurance policy.

  • In the Mood for Love

    In the Mood for Love

    ★★★★★

    A movie about memory, and about clothes and food and cigarettes and Nat King Cole records, all of which play their part in a story not only of lost love, but of an ancient empire in which love collapsed in on itself in a quiet apocalypse. In his attention to minutiae, Wong realizes the aesthetic ambitions of the 1920s film theorist and filmmaker Jean Epstein, the prophet of photogénie, the fetishistic obsession with photographic detail and arrested gesture. In its…