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Can you make non-porn movies about sex?

Adventurous filmmakers keep trying to incorporate graphic sex in serious movies, but only a few of them have figured out a way to do it without the results looking like porn. John Cameron Mitchell’s “Shortbus” and Marco Bellochio’s “Devil in the Flesh” work because the directors made their actors so comfortable that the sex scenes […] [Read More]

‘Devil’s Double’: the gilded prison of Uday’s stand-in

A mix of docudrama and high voltage action flick, “The Devil’s Double” received a quick and very limited theatrical distribution in 2011, due to mixed reviews, an absence of stars and, perhaps, the lurid subject matter. The movie tells the story of Latif Yahia who bore a striking resemblance to Saddam Hussein’s demented playboy son, […] [Read More]

Don’t stop forgetting about tomorrow — ‘Maxed Out’

It took me a long time to get to James D. Scurlock’s 2007 documentary, “Maxed Out,” but the film about credit card debt — and societal debt as well — seems up to the minute as our country appears unable to finance its most basic programs. The documentary is as horrifying as the 2010 Oscar […] [Read More]

‘Olive Kitteridge’: why women are abandoning movies

In all of the discussion of the under-representation of women in the recent Academy Award nominations, a lot of movie pundits overlooked the fact that some of the smartest women filmmakers and performers have been going where the real action is — network television, cable and the various streaming services. What are the chances that […] [Read More]

‘The Audience’: another royal portrait by Helen Mirren

When it was announced that Helen Mirren would be returning to the role that won her an Oscar — Queen Elizabeth II — in a stage play called “The Audience” it sounded like a risky venture. What more could Mirren do with the part of a woman famous for her absence of public emotion? And […] [Read More]

‘Shepard & Dark’: having a celebrity for a friend

Treva Wurmfeld’s 2013 documentary “Shepard & Dark” (Music Box Films) is about what appears to be the winding down of the 50 year friendship between writer and actor Sam Shepard and Johnny Dark. The film starts with an imbalance between the two subjects. We all know the presence of Shepard in films going back to […] [Read More]

‘Bad Jews’: grandpa dies, family implodes

Like an intricate puzzle, a family can fall apart after you remove one piece. Perhaps the saddest coming-of-age moment occurs at a funeral when you realize that things will never be the same after the death of the beloved relative who cared enough to keep your extended family together. The human linchpin can be the […] [Read More]

‘Mirage’: Peter Stone 9 years before ‘Pelham 123′

Peter Stone was a rare writer who was as successful on Broadway as he was in Hollywood. In 1969, Stone was involved with one of the biggest sleeper hits in the history of Broadway — “1776” — and show folk gave most of the credit for the musical’s success to the book writer who turned […] [Read More]

‘Joel Delaney’: 1970s NYC in all its gritty glory

Shirley MacLaine has always made fun of the B-level British producer Lew Grade, who convinced the actress to do a disastrous, short-lived TV series in the late 1960s (“there’s high grade and Lew Grade,” she wrote in one of her memoirs). But, thanks to her TV deal with Grade, MacLaine was able to get a […] [Read More]

‘The First Deadly Sin’: Frank Sinatra’s swan song

Although he would live another 18 years, Frank Sinatra stopped acting in movies after “The First Deadly Sin” opened to mixed reviews and indifferent business in 1980. Sinatra was a huge film attraction in his prime, but always put music first, and he became somewhat notorious for losing interest in many of his movies before […] [Read More]