The Oscar nominations are out, and in spite of the fact that Hallelujah, Nope, RRR and Decision to Leave, Dolly De Leon, Viola Davis, Paul Dano, and Danielle Deadwyler were inexplicably excluded, at least Brian Tyree Henry and Judd Hirsch were honored. Anyway, it’s time for our Umpteenth Annual Laemmle Oscar Contest! If you, dear moviegoer, can accurately predict how the members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences will vote in all 23 categories, (or close to it), you will win movie passes good at all Laemmle venues! The 95th Academy Awards take place on Sunday, March 12 and we’ll announce the winners soon afterwards. Good luck!
And the Top Ten Customer-Chosen films of 2022, in order from 1 to 10, are [drum roll]:
- Everything Everywhere All at Once
- The Banshees of Inisherin
- The Fabelmans
- Top Gun: Maverick
- Triangle of Sadness
- Decision to Leave
It’s a terrific list, arguably better than the one AMPAS announced this week, which excluded RRR, Nope, Aftersun and Decision to Leave. Films 2-4 and 9, hyperlinked for your convenience, are still in theaters!
Keep those Top Ten contest entries coming. You have until this Sunday, January 22 to give it some thought and enter here. So far, unsurprisingly, it looks like many Laemmle moviegoers are kvelling about Everything Everywhere All at Once, Top Gun: Maverick, and RRR. We’ll have final results next week. You can read Greg Laemmle’s list and leading American film critics’ lists if you need inspiration. Personally, my favorite is Jordan Peele’s spectacular Nope. No doubt my reaction was influenced by the fact that I saw it in a packed, sold-out theater on opening night, because movies are better in theaters!
Never has The Conformist been more timely. The new restoration of Bernardo Bertolucci’s 1970 masterpiece about a repressed Italian who becomes a fascist hitman is inspiring a lot of thoughtful journalism. “It’s not the ideology that attracts people to fascism,” writes Eric Alterman in the American Prospect. “It’s the permission it offers to ordinary people to behave like thugs.” In his recent New York Magazine/Vulture review, headlined “It’s Time to See The Conformist Again,” critic Bilge Ebiri describes the film as “one of the most visually ravishing pictures of all time.” Ebiri’s piece is well worth excerpting at some length:
“All great films, at some point, ask the question: Who am I? The greatest films go beyond asking this on a narrative level; through their very form, they embody the question of identity. And what makes Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Conformist (1970) the very greatest of movies isn’t just its staggering, legendary beauty, but its maze-like journey into its protagonist’s — and, by extension, its creator’s — mind.
“The Conformist has just been rereleased in a lovely new 4K restoration, which is certainly cause for celebration given that it’s one of the most visually ravishing pictures of all time. (It’s currently playing New York’s Film Forum, and will soon travel around the country.) There’s no real debate over Bertolucci’s achievement; this is one of those canonical titles whose place in history is a given at this point. You can see its influence in The Godfather series, in Taxi Driver, in movies as varied as Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters, Dick Tracy, Call Me by Your Name, and Clueless — and yet, it remains as startling and revolutionary as it was upon original release, in part because few filmmakers nowadays are willing to embrace the sensuous and the monstrous at the same time. You never quite know what you’re supposed to feel at any given moment of The Conformist, because it asks you to feel everything.”
Some praise from past years:
“Bertolucci’s boldest and most expressive film.” – Calum Marsh, Village Voice
“One of the greatest-looking movies ever made.” – Ben Sachs, Chicago Reader
“Bernardo Bertolucci is a master of turning harsh realities into free-flowing dreams and fantasies of sex and power into bracing, often uncomfortable moments of truth…The Conformist is perhaps his richest and most beautiful work.” – Max O’Connell, IndieWire
A statement from Jafar Panahi, unjustly imprisoned since July 2022 by the fascist theocrats in Tehran:
“We are filmmakers. We are part of Iranian independent cinema. For us, to live is to create. We create works that are not commissioned. Therefore, those in power see us as criminals. Independent cinema reflects its own times. It draws inspiration from society. And cannot be indifferent to it.
“The history of Iranian cinema witnesses the constant and active presence of independent directors who have struggled to push back censorship and to ensure the survival of this art. While on this path, some were banned from making films, others were forced into exile or reduced to isolation. And yet, the hope of creating again is a reason for existence. No matter where, when, or under what circumstances, an independent filmmaker is either creating or thinking about creation. We are filmmakers, independent ones.”
Some of the copious praise for No Bears, the film he finished just before being arrested:
“If watching a Jafar Panahi film is something of a political act, then it is also a soul-nourishing one.” ~ Barry Hertz, Globe and Mail
Have you caught up on the 2022 movies you wanted to see? Regardless, it’s time to submit your Top Ten lists. Tell us which films you liked best here and you’ll be entered into a raffle for free Laemmle gift cards! If you need inspiration, here’s Greg Laemmle on the state of arthouse moviegoing and his favorite features of the last year, with some thoughts about each:
“At some level, the best that can be said is that at least we were open for all twelve months of the year. And after 2020 and 2021, that was a positive. But given that the year both started and ended with Omicron surges, the movie exhibition sector is still not in a post-Covid environment.
We all like a good Top Ten list. They’re fun to make, entertaining to read, and amusing to argue over. In 2003 I included Love, Actually on my Top Ten list and an erudite film critic friend practically did a spit take he was so shocked I would put such an admittedly middlebrow entertainment among my other choices, which were more esoteric and in line with his tastes. But, hey! Enjoy the art you enjoy and don’t be ashamed of it.
This is a roundabout way of saying we’ll be collecting your Top Ten lists the first week of 2023. We’ll include the entry form in that week’s newsletter and, assuming he catches up on the buzzy films he hasn’t seen yet, Greg Laemmle’s Top Ten list. By submitting your list you’ll be entered into a raffle for free Laemmle gift cards!
For inspiration, here are some Top Ten lists the nation’s leading film critics have submitted and — good news! — many of the titles — No Bears, One Fine Morning, EO, and Return to Seoul — are either now playing or coming soon so you can see them as they were meant to be seen, theatrically. They are hyperlinked below.
- The Fabelmans
- The Batman
- Holy Spider
- Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance with Somebody
- Turn Every Page: The Adventures of Robert Caro and Robert Gottlieb
- 13: The Musical
- Saint Omer
- Good Luck to You, Leo Grande
- The Batman
- After Yang
- The Whale
- You Won’t Be Alone
Laemmle Theatres and the Anniversary Classics Series invite you to ring out the old and ring in the New Year with a 60th anniversary screening of the very first James Bond movie, Dr. No. The film opened in London in October 1962 and launched the most successful franchise in motion picture history, still going strong today. After its successful British run, it opened in the U.S. in the spring of 1963, allowing American audiences to enjoy one of the most memorable introductory lines in movie history: “Bond. James Bond.”
This adaptation of one of the spy novels penned by former British intelligence officer Ian Fleming was by no means a guaranteed hit. The star of the film, Sean Connery, was a relative newcomer, and the supporting cast members were not that well known either. Producers Harry Saltzman and Albert “Cubby” Broccoli purchased the rights to Fleming’s novels and hired director Terence Young (who went on to direct two more Bond pictures, From Russia with Love and Thunderball). Richard Maibaum, Johanna Harwood, and Berkely Mather wrote the screenplay.
The plot centers on an archvillain based in Jamaica who is plotting to disrupt a rocket launch at Cape Canaveral in Florida. Bond, however, is on the case, determined to foil the sinister plot. He is aided by the first of the “Bond girls,” Ursula Andress as Honey Ryder, who makes a memorable entrance emerging from the sea in a yellow bikini with a large knife on her belt. The dastardly Dr. No is played by distinguished character actor Joseph Wiseman, who had made an impression in such films as Detective Story and Viva Zapata! as well as in many acclaimed plays in the New York theater. The supporting cast includes Bernard Lee as M and Lois Maxwell as Miss Moneypenny, both of whom returned in many of the subsequent Bond pictures.
Behind the camera, Maurice Binder’s main titles and Monty Norman’s musical theme also became fixtures in the Bond series. Editor Peter Hunt also continued to work on the franchise, eventually graduating to the director’s chair with On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Oscar-winning production designer Ken Adam went on to design Goldfinger, You Only Live Twice, Diamonds are Forever, The Spy Who Loved Me (for which he earned an Oscar nomination), and Moonraker. One of the wittiest touches that Adam included in Dr. No was his recreation of Goya’s famous painting of the Duke of Wellington, hanging on the wall of Dr. No’s lair. The painting had been stolen from the National Gallery in London the previous year and had not yet been recovered, so Adam’s decision to implicate Dr. No as the art thief was a sly inside joke.
The distributors had some concerns about whether the film would pass the censorship office. The opening sequence in Jamaica, set to a calypso rendition of “Three Blind Mice,” was unusually violent for a film made in 1962, and the sexual innuendoes were also bold for the era. Indeed the Vatican condemned the movie as immoral. But it received a seal of approval from the MPAA in the United States. It may have helped that President John Kennedy was a fan of the Fleming novels and even requested a private screening of Dr. No at the White House.
Critical response was generally favorable. Variety praised “an entertaining piece of tongue-in-cheek hokum.” Dilys Powell of the London Sunday Times wrote, “The first of the James Bond films…has the air of knowing exactly what it is up to, and that has not been common in British thrillers since the day when Hitchcock took himself off to America.” More recently, Kim Newman of Empire magazine declared, “With a debut like this, it’s no wonder that it spawned one of the biggest franchises ever.”
Join us to relive the birth of a legend. Before the screening, take part in a Bond trivia contest with some choice prizes! And a word of caution: Beware the deadly tarantula!