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  • March 30, 2011

    Best Movies by Farr: Leaner David Lean

    by John Farr

    David Lean is known for his sprawling epics, like this week’s Reel 13 classic Doctor Zhivago, but here John Farr recommends a few of his earlier, tighter works.


    Brief Encounter (1945)

    WHAT IT’S ABOUT:

    Based on a play by Noel Coward, this is the simple, wrenching tale of two people married, but not (maddeningly) to each other, who meet by chance in a train station and embark on a short, intense romance. We can tell Dr. Alec Harvey (Trevor Howard) is an honorable sort, and Laura Jesson seems settled and content in her married life, so their sudden, very powerful feelings for each other throw them both for a considerable loop. How they navigate these tumultuous emotions and regain their equilibrium forms the heart of the story.

    WHY I LOVE IT:

    This subtle, heartfelt British gem will still drench most anyone’s Kleenex nearly seven decades after its release. Performances by Howard and Johnson are impeccable; she was rightly Oscar-nominated for her restrained, all too believable performance as a loyal wife bewildered by emotions she thought long dead. Direction and script, both of which received Oscar nods as well, are suitably understated, and the use of Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto throughout the film further heightens the sentiment. Even with the British reserve much in evidence, the overall effect is intensely moving. Don’t miss this one.


    Great Expectations (1946)

    WHAT IT’S ABOUT:

    In British director Lean’s superb rendering of the Dickens classic, we follow the changing fortunes of Pip, an orphan who reaches young manhood (as John Mills), only to discover he has an anonymous benefactor intent on making him a real gentleman. With his new friend Herbert Pocket (Guinness), Pip sets out to make his mark in bustling, 19th-century London. But just who is Pip’s mysterious sponsor?

    WHY I LOVE IT:

    Perhaps the finest Dickens adaptation ever, this rich, fascinating film about chance encounters and changing fortunes begins with a nerve-rattling sequence in a graveyard that’s one of the finest moments in British film. Both Mills and Guinness are a trifle old for their roles, but their virtuosity fully compensates. Guinness, in his first significant screen appearance, is particularly striking as pocket, giving us a tantalizing taste of things to come. A bona-fide classic.


    Visit Best Movies by Farr for more great DVD recommendations.

  • March 24, 2011

    The 3rd Annual City University Film Festival (CUFF)

    This week Reel 13 celebrates the 3rd Annual City University Film Festival (CUFF).  All three of our short film contenders are official CUFF selections.  Be sure to watch each of the films before voting for your favorite.  Voting continues through Wednesday, March 30th at 5pm.

    The winner will be broadcast on Saturday, April 2nd along with our Classic and Indie features, “Doctor Zhivago” and “Bomber.”  Be sure to visit the Festival’s website for more information on all CUFF’s 2011 programs!

  • February 2, 2011

    Best Movies by Farr: Stellar Peter Sellers

    by John Farr

    Peter Sellers was one of the 20th Century’s most gifted comedic actors. This week, he appears in the Reel 13 Classic, The Pink Panther. John Farr’s got three other stellar Sellers pictures you should check out for the first time or watch again.


    Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)

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    Click to purchase

    WHAT IT’S ABOUT:

    In this satirical doomsday thriller, a U.S. bomber piloted by Major Kong (Slim Pickens) receives a signal to release its nuclear payload on Russia. When the unfortunate Captain Mandrake (Peter Sellers) seeks out Gen. Jack D. Ripper (Sterling Hayden) to learn why he ordered the drop, and why he’s placed his Air Force base on lockdown, it’s quickly evident the general has lost his marbles. Meanwhile, President Muffley (Sellers again) meets with senior advisers, including a hawkish general (Scott) and the oddly sinister nuclear scientist Dr. Strangelove (Sellers), to review their limited options to save the planet.

    WHY I LOVE IT:

    The most inspired piece of Cold War satire ever and one of the screen’s supreme black comedies, Kubrick’s 1964 “Strangelove” confronted jittery audiences in the aftermath of the Cuban Missile Crisis, and not long after the advent of the H bomb. With Kubrick’s twisted genius as director and screenwriter in full bloom, and peerless performances by Peter Sellers (in three roles), Scott, and the unhinged Hayden, the film is unbearably funny and extremely disturbing all at once. The blackest of pitch black comedies, this “Dr.” really hasn’t aged one bit.


    The Party (1968)

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    Click to purchase

    WHAT IT’S ABOUT:

    A fat-cat Hollywood producer decides to throw a splashy dinner party (“Anyone who’s anyone will be there!”), and as bad luck would have it, Indian-born actor Hrundi Bakshi (Peter Sellers) mistakenly makes it onto the guest list. Though Bakshi knows few of his fellow guests, they will certainly get to know him before the night is over.

    WHY I LOVE IT:

    Sellers inhabits another accident-prone character in his continuing partnership with Blake Edwards. Bakshi is a gentle person, but his innocent curiosity about his surroundings (or is it bewilderment?) manages to wreak havoc most everywhere he goes. Though detractors claim the comic momentum flags by picture’s end, Sellers’s brilliant characterization and some sublime set-pieces make this worthy viewing. In particular, the dinner sequence is one of the funniest sequences on film. French actress Claudine Longet is adorable as the party’s prettiest guest, who befriends Bakshi. A sixties bash!


    Being There (1979)

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    Click to purchase

    WHAT IT’S ABOUT:

    Sellers’s second-to-last film proved to himself and the world that when called upon, he could be a superb serious actor. Ingenious tale written by Jerzy Kozinski tells of Chance, a child-like gardener in Washington, D.C., whose only education has come through television. Through a twist of fate, after his old employer dies, Chance (re-dubbed Chauncey Gardner) ends up in the home of powerful wheeler-dealer Benjamin Rand (Melvyn Douglas) and his lonely younger wife Eve (Shirley MacLaine). Rand sees the stuff of genius in Chauncey’s simple pronouncements, and soon the humble gardener has the ear of some even more powerful people.

    WHY I LOVE IT:

    Top “70’s director Hal Ashby’s adaptation of Jerzy Kozinski’s original black comedy is a triumph, due to Sellers’s bravura lead performance and terrific turns from supporting players Douglas (who netted an Oscar), MacLaine, and the gravelly Jack Warden as the President. Smart, funny and thought-provoking, the film’s enduring poignancy comes from the fact that Sellers had only one year to live when he made the film. If you love Peter Sellers, you’ll love “Being There”.


    Visit Best Movies by Farr for more great DVD recommendations.

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