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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.

  • September 9, 2012

    Best Movies by Farr: In A Lonely Place

    by John Farr

    John Farr discusses one of Humphrey Bogart’s great movies, directed by Nicholas Ray.


    In A Lonely Place (1950)

    What It’s About:
    Volatile screenwriter Dixon Steele (Humphrey Bogart) finds himself in hot water, needing to clear himself of a murder rap. Fortunately his new sexy neighbor Laurel Gray (Gloria Grahame) is on-hand to supply Dixon with an alibi. Then, as she gets to know him more intimately, Laurel begins to second-guess her own memory. Has she helped a murderer go free?

    Why I Love It:
    Nicholas Ray’s first-rate noir entry defines everything a whodunit should be. Bogie seems tailor-made for the role of the tortured, enigmatic writer, while Grahame lends a sultry, heavy-lidded allure to the character of Laurel. (Trivia note: Grahame was actually married to the director at the time, but they split soon after.) Probing, literate and atmospheric, this is one “Place” very much worth visiting.

  • September 9, 2012

    DC Shorts Film Festival

    This week’s contenders are all official selections of the DC Shorts Film Festival, the largest shorts film festival on the East coast. Now in their 9th year, the festival is presenting 140 films to thousands of festival attendees. The festival runs from September 6-16th. For more information on the festival and screenplay competition, please go to dcshorts.com.

  • September 6, 2012

    Best Movies by Farr: Tin Men

    by John Farr

    John Farr discusses Barry Levinson’s second homage to his hometown of Baltimore.


    Tin Men (1987)

    What It’s About:
    Bill “B.B.” Babowsky (Richard Dreyfuss) and Ernest Tilley (Danny DeVito) both sell aluminum siding in 1963 Baltimore, but that’s where the similarities end. B.B is smooth, neat, and a consummate salesman, while Ernest is rougher around the edges and in a slump. When these two meet via a fender-bender, a long-running feud begins, changing both men’s lives and reverberating through the local siding industry.

    Why I Love It:
    Levinson’s second homage to his hometown of Baltimore (after the superb “Diner”) is a vivid, side-splitting movie with terrific star turns and ensemble playing. Both Dreyfuss and DeVito go to town as stylistic opposites and natural adversaries, with John Mahoney, Seymour Cassel, and Bruno Kirby (among others) lending priceless support as fellow tin men on both sides of the conflict. Only Barbara Hershey feels miscast as Ernest’s fed-up spouse, but fine actress that she is, she makes the best of it. A winning comedy with plenty of soul and heart, “Tin Men” is pure gold.

  • September 4, 2012

    Best Movies by Farr: The Set-Up

    by John Farr

    John Farr discusses one of the great American boxing films, directed by Robert Wise.


    The Set-Up (1949)

    What It’s About:
    Despite the pleas of lovely wife Julie (Totter), washed-up heavyweight Bill “Stoker” Johnson (Ryan) steps into the ring one more time, feeling “in his bones” that tonight he’ll emerge the winner. But unbeknownst to him, slimeball manager Tiny (George Tobias) has arranged with crooked crime boss Little Boy (Alan Baxter) for Stoker to take a dive in the third-something the hyped-up boxer doesn’t learn until the match is well under way.

    Why I Love It:
    Robert Wise’s taut, bruising drama tackles the merciless world of boxing with heavy cynicism but great empathy for the men whose bodies are nothing more than bettors’ chips. Ryan, a real-life college boxing champion, is exceptional playing the 35-year-old fighter-an “old man in this business,” as his wife reminds him-determined to whip a mobster’s punk. And Baxter, whose pinched smirk conveys a world of menace, couldn’t be more sinister, especially in the crushing finale. Wise intercuts the bloody, heart-catching real-time bout (a major influence on “Raging Bull”) with unflattering shots of the audience-a woman screaming for blood, an obese fellow stuffing his mouth-satirically expressing his own fury without a single word of dialogue.

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