Author Adam Kuntavanish

Cinema transcends boundaries of time and space and thought and emotion; at its best it communicates the experience of being truly alive. I've been transfixed by the material ghosts of the movies since an early age, and I can't seem to shake them. Since reading and writing and talking about films are the next best things to watching them, criticism became a natural fit. Whether new or old, foreign or domestic, mainstream or cult, all movies are grist for my mill. Be forewarned, I'm an inveterate list-maker, so look out for rankings, topics, and opinions of all kinds. The AFI's got nothing on me.

Top Ten metropolis2

The grandmama of all robots, “Maria” (also known as the “Maschinenmensch”) is the mechanical double of sweet-hearted Maria of the future city of Metropolis, a society of exploited underclass factory workers. Her message of peace between the head (society rulers and planners) and the hands (the workers) being the heart is exploited and reversed by the disenchanted inventor Rotwang (Rudolf Klein-Rogge), who sends the false “Maria” to wreak havoc with sex and anarchy. Her unforgettable erotic dancing sends men into frenzy, and even in silent form, her physical incitements to rebel are powerful and overwhelming. Fritz Lang’s and Thea von Harbou’s sci-fi epic presents us with the dangers of demagoguery and exploitation of the working class, yet those masses aren’t left off the hook; among the most haunting images of the entire film is that of “Maria” tied and burned at the stake, “her” true mechanical form showing itself momentarily before being engulfed by the riotous horde’s flames.

Reviews George-Harrison-Living-in-the-Material-World

I can’t claim to be an impartial reviewer when it comes to the work of George Harrison. He’s first among equals as my personal favorite of the Fab Four. His tasteful mix of rockabilly, pop, and country inspired me to take up the guitar as a hobby. A framed photo from the Beatles’ early Hamburg days adorns my bedroom wall; in it, a merely teenage George, his face confidently at the microphone, stands up front while John and Paul flank him in the background, out of focus and literally overshadowed in whatever dimly lit venue they found themselves in. That seems to me a perfect image when discussing Martin Scorsese’s sprawling, defiantly hagiographic new two-part HBO portrait, Living in the Material World.

Top Ten 9134

Animation ain’t just for kids anymore. Although most people probably first come to love animated films at an early age via Disney or Pixar or Hayao Miyazaki, there has been an historical shift, started predominantly in the East, towards creating and taking animation seriously as the vehicle for adult themes and sensibilities. Since animation is a medium, not a genre, its scope and depth are as unlimited as those of its live-action counterparts in the realm of cinema. Whether designed for younger or older consumption, this week’s Top Ten Tuesdays explores the ten best feature-length animated films.

Top Ten the-night-of-the-hunter-original

The richly symbolic southern gothic storybook world of Charles Laughton’s sole directorial feature, The Night of the Hunter, has a perfectly demonic boogeyman in the self-styled Reverend Harry Powell. His disturbing mix of outward charm and religious piety blinds the adults around him to the greed and almost animalistic rage roiling beneath the surface, sensible only to the innocent, namely the two children of Powell’s former cellmate who know the hiding place of some stolen loot. Powell’s performance of the eternal struggle of love against hate, enacted with those words tattooed on each hand’s knuckles, captures the starkly black-and-white (but by no means simplistic) morality of the film. Mitchum, whose hard, handsome visage graced many a film noir, is a canny casting choice; his initial charisma and physical impressiveness, recognizable to any audience, sours under duress into rumpled, comical rage. He would later ably portray another psychotic crook, Max Cady, in the original Cape Fear (1962).

Top Ten 0.20.40_ff_r1

The archetypal noir title. In arguably his most complex role, Humphrey Bogart, star of so many vintage noirs, is a washed-up Hollywood screenwriter suspected of murdering a hat-check girl he went home with one night; Gloria Grahame, herself a frequent femme fatale, is his emotionally wounded neighbor who falls in love with the moody, contradictory protagonist. An LA noir in the same year as Sunset Boulevard, In a Lonely Place portrays Bogart’s moral ambiguity and thoroughly unsentimental outlook on life, exposing the near nihilistic underbelly of the Hollywood cultural dream factory.

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