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  • 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.

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  • 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”).

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  • 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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  • September 23, 2012

    Best Movies by Farr: Henry V

    by John Farr

    John Farr discusses the exceptional adaptation of Shakespeare’s finest historical play, starring and directed by Kenneth Branagh.


    Henry V (1989)

    What It’s About:
    When a flap-up with King Charles of France (Paul Scofield) escalates into full-blown war, England’s hotheaded soldier-king Henry V (Kenneth Branagh) assembles an army to invade the Gallic homeland. Drastically outnumbered, Henry rallies courage and leads his men to victory at the Battle of Agincourt, all the while wooing France’s comely Princess Catherine (Emma Thompson).

    Why I Love It:
    With this exceptional adaptation of Shakespeare’s finest historical play, English upstart Kenneth Branagh proved himself worthy of the heights set by Sir Laurence Olivier, whose own 1944 production still shines. Branagh updated the look and feel of the Bard’s drama for modern film-going audiences, making Prince Hal a ferocious, charismatic hero of the battlefield and giving his mud- and blood-soaked war scenes a visceral punch. Plus, how can you argue with a cast that includes luminaries like Dench, Holm, Jacobi, and a who’s who of British theater?

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  • September 16, 2012

    Best Movies by Farr: A Raisin in the Sun

    by John Farr

    John Farr discusses one of Sidney Poitier’s magnificent films, directed by Daniel Petrie.


    A Raisin in the Sun (1961)

    What It’s About:
    Walter Lee Younger (Sidney Poitier) is a proud but frustrated young man counting on his recently widowed mother, Lena (Claudia McNeil), to let him invest her $10,000 life-insurance check in a business which could lift him and his family out of their dead-end existence. Despite her son’s entreaties, Lena plans to buy a home and leave Chicago’s South Side for good, stoking Walter’s anguish and resentment.

    Why I Love It:
    Based on Lorraine Hansberry’s play, Daniel Petrie’s magnificent “A Raisin In The Sun” provides an ideal star vehicle for young Poitier’s explosive talent. The actor projects barely suppressed rage as he pleads with Claudia McNeil’s resolute matriarch, who wants to use her money to buy a new home. Poitier’s raw desperation is palpable as his one chance to better himself slips away. See this for Poitier’s intense performance, and McNeil’s equally powerful turn as his mother. Ruby Dee also scores as Ruth, Walter’s long-suffering wife.

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