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  • October 21, 2012

    Best Movies by Farr: Kramer vs. Kramer

    by John Farr

    John Farr discusses the movie that won Dustin Hoffman his first Oscar, directed by Robert Benton.


    Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)

    What It’s About:On the brink of a big promotion, caffeinated, pre-occupied ad-man Ted Kramer (Dustin Hoffman) gets the wind knocked out of him when wife Joanna (Meryl Streep) abruptly announces she’s leaving him and their young son, Billy (Justin Henry). Facing the sudden need to balance career demands with caring for a young son he barely knows, Ted makes the hard choices necessary to be there for Billy. But when Joanna returns unexpectedly, a nasty custody battle ensues. Under these circumstances, can anybody win in the end?

    Why I Love It:
    In 1979, Hoffman hit a career high point, and Streep solidified her own stardom, with director Benton’s near-flawless marital drama, depicting the dissolution of a marriage with unerring sensitivity. Touching performances from all three leads help bring an insightful script to heart-wrenching life. At Oscar time, “Kramer” won Best Picture, Benton took the honors for both direction and screenplay, Hoffman nabbed Best Actor, and Meryl scored her second consecutive nod, this time taking home the statuette for Supporting Actress.

  • October 14, 2012

    Best Movies by Farr: Seven Days in May

    by John Farr

    John Farr discusses the powerful political thriller starring Burt Lancaster, directed by John Frankenheimer.


    Seven Days in May (1964)

    What It’s About:Outraged that US President Jordan Lyman (Fredric March) has signed a nuclear disarmament treaty with the Soviets, Gen. James M. Scott (Burt Lancaster) plots a coup d’etat with other Joint Chiefs of Staff. Lyman is alerted to the conspiracy by Scott’s aide, Col. “Jiggs” Casey (Kirk Douglas), and races against the clock to neutralize the general’s traitorous plan.

    Why I Love It:
    Two years after “The Manchurian Candidate,” director Frankenheimer scored again with this gripping political thriller. Beyond serving as a showcase for two frequently paired stars – Lancaster as a power-mad general, Douglas as the principled whistle-blower, the movie works because in the context of the paranoic Cold War era, the premise feels all-too-plausible. Stark black-and-white photography and brisk pacing only add to the film’s breathless tension. Screenplay by Rod Serling, based on Fletcher Knebel’s book.

  • October 12, 2012

    Best Movies by Farr: Red River

    by John Farr

    John Farr discusses first of five Howard Hawks/John Wayne features.


    Red River (1948)

    Bitter, unyielding cattle breeder Tom Dunson (John Wayne) has been forced to take his large herd through treacherous territory to save his business. His adopted son Matthew (Montgomery Clift, in his film debut)-orphaned years ago in an Indian massacre-joins him, but when the two cross swords over Dunson’s obsessiveness, the older man loses his powerful temper and expels his ward, vowing to kill him if and when he next sees him.

    Why I Love It:
    Director Howard Hawks gave western icon John Wayne another indelible, ruggedly stubborn character to play in his masterful “Red River,” a high point of their many collaborations. Populated by colorful supporting characters, including the salty Walter Brennan as camp cook Groot Nadine, “River” combines psychological drama, action, and suspense in a stirring, expansive western landscape. The final settling of scores between Wayne and Clift is unforgettable.

  • October 5, 2012

    Best Movies by Farr: The Letter

    by John Farr

    John Farr discusses one of Bette Davis’ classic films, directed by William Wyler.


    The Letter (1940)

    When Leslie Crosbie (Bette Davis), mistress of a rubber plantation in Malaysia, shoots and kills a male friend who pops in and makes advances, trusting husband Robert (Herbert Marshall) wants to protect his shaken bride as best he can. But close friend and lawyer Howard Joyce (James Stephenson) is suspicious of Leslie’s story, owing to the existence of an incriminating letter in the possession of the victim’s Eurasian widow (Gale Sondergaard).

    Why I Love It:
    Adapted from a story by W. Somerset Maugham, “The Letter” is a taut, riveting suspense picture. After the huge success of 1938’s “Jezebel,” director Wyler was asked to helm another Davis picture- and again he hit pay dirt, crafting a dark, sultry atmosphere that complements all the scandalous intrigue. Davis is tops as the lady we love to hate, and Sondergaard’s wordless turn as the wronged woman nearly steals the show. (Trivia note: Wyler, Davis, and Marshall would all reunite the following year for “The Little Foxes”).

  • September 26, 2012

    New York Film Festival’s 50th Anniversary, the Director’s Last Hurrah

    by Perry Santanachote for NYC-ARTS

    The 2012 New York Film Festival begins Friday, Sept. 28 and marks the 50th anniversary of this influential film series produced by the Film Society of Lincoln Center. It’s also the last lineup Program Director Richard Peña will shape. The life-long movie buff has headed the festival’s selection committee for the past 25 years, watching it grow, evolve and adapt to the digital age. He’ll continue teaching Film Studies at Columbia University and host Reel13 on THIRTEEN, but his next summer will most likely be spent in Brazil instead of the Upper West Side. Here he talks with NYC-ARTS about what’s in store for the big 5-0, how the American audience has changed, and how this shift in movie culture creates the biggest challenge films have ever faced.

    Continue reading at MetroFocus.

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