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Stories by Scott Marks

The Wedding Guest: Michael Winterbottom’s suspense-packed film noir

Spoiler alert: crime does pay.

Standing on tiptoes, the devil on my shoulder took to jabbing a pitchfork in my ear. “Wanna have a little fun?” he chortled. “Try selling your readers — both of them — on The Wedding ...

Tod Browning’s rehearsal for Freaks, music mockumentary geeks, and the Chipmunks’ squeaks

Chaney has both arms amputated in the name of love. Alas, the joke’s on him.

This week, we’ve got something old, something new, and something that squeaks in the dark. The Unknown (1927) A crook on the lam (Lon Chaney) finds refuge as a circus novelty act, binding his limbs ...

Oscar grouching

Imitation is the sincerest form of failure

It was Hollywood’s biggest night, and the wonky pan-and-zoom-in on the Dolby Theatre that opened the show looked like something out of a network cop drama from the ‘70s. Inside, the joint was rocking out ...

San Diego Reader 2019 Arts issue

Dance, classical music, galleries, street art, movies, theater

Birds sing, elephants dance, and monkeys paint, but only humans turn those activities into art. And only humans evince a bottomless hunger for it: hence the endless parade of pictures on Instagram, stories on Netflix, ...

Border and torture from a Lucky Charms Cheesecake and two John Alton noirs

As tasty as a gulp of watered-down wheat paste

While on the lookout for three films that dealt with the importance of borders (or lack thereof), I was sidetracked by other forms of torture. Dodge City (1939) The indolent Mookie tossed a trash can ...

Casting: Fassbinder, flipped

A stinging moment of comeuppance

When festival coordinator Tobias Queck lamented the high cost of renting an auditorium for the German Currents Film Festival, I suggested that he look into the more reasonably priced venue. What was once a yearly ...

Jazz on film: bops, blues, and Bernstein

All jazzed up

This week’s three-course buffet comes with a cartoon, a short, and a feature guaranteed to get the viewer all jazzed up. — Scott Marks Three Little Bops (1957) Composer and trumpeter Shorty Rogers provides the ...

Jackie Chan meets the Criterion criteria

When was the last time you saw a shanty town destroyed in the name of an avalanche gag?

Thanksgiving comes early this week at the Ken when a pair of Jackie Chan kung-fu cop comedies hold what appear to be their San Diego premiers. There are no signs of either film being reviewed ...

Critic crowns The Kid Who Would Be King

Youth must be served

Tired of all the political spiel teeming from the TV? Not thrilled at the prospect of squandering your entertainment dollars on more of the same at the local multiplex? My first two releases logged for ...

Playing catch-up

Three new releases that didn't make deadline

This week, I’m playing catch-up with a string of recent and new releases that didn’t make deadline. — Scott Marks The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018) It’s any portmanteau in a storm when Joel and ...

Frons list

Top ten movies of 2018, plus, this year's Big Screen Big List

A few months back, I put out feelers to all of the major theatre chains in San Diego, hoping that one of them would have the good taste (and decency) to book the long-awaited last ...

Dysfunction on display: political and personal

Unreviewed...until now

This week’s selections share two commonalities: all were lounging on my hard drive and none were ever reviewed in these pages. Offside (2006) After the establishment of the Islamic Republic in Iran, women were not ...

Stay-at-home remedies

The spoonful of sugar needed to sweep away the stagnation

For those too cheap to buy a ticket, but eager to learn about an umbrella-powered nanny, radioactive spider bites, and how to make money by illegally transporting drugs across state lines, we offer these three ...

Get behind The Mule

Clint Eastwood: making movies great again

Forty-seven years in the director’s chair with almost forty films to show for it, and thank God that Clint Eastwood’s not done yet. Some pictures aren’t as good as others, to be sure, but there’s ...

My first Woody

A trio of early, funny Woody Allen movies

Celebrate Woody Allen’s 83rd birthday with a trio of early, funny movies What’s Up, Tiger Lily? (1966) My first Woody. At fourteen, a sickbed viewing induced enough laughter to swat the flu bug right out ...

Arrivederci, Roma

Shouldn’t cinematography and direction go hand in hand?

A bucketful of soap suds splashes across a row of tiles, transforming a square of garage floor into a mirror awash with the reflection of an airplane hovering in the sky above. The long take ...

Green Book: Share more, wag less

A feel-good charmer poised to rake in greenbacks and Oscar gold

Directed by one half of the Farrelly Brothers, Green Book isn’t content to simply smell like a Driving Miss Daisy. Yes, it’s a feel-good charmer poised to rake in greenbacks and Oscar gold. No, that ...

Pop song flick picks

Non-musicals all based on popular songs

This week’s @Home picks are a trio of non-musicals all based on popular songs. Alice’s Restaurant (1969) Arlo Guthrie’s ​17-plus-minute folk protest canticle is brought to the screen with sweet-sounding resonance by Arthur Penn (Bonnie ...

Last Letter: Iwai delivers

A romantic drama void of romance

Lovers of unrequited love, rejoice. There is enough handwritten romantic communication exchanged in Shunji Iwai’s deceptively uncomplicated romance Last Letter to fill a small post office branch. And no junk mail! Given that he has ...

Asian Film Festival opens this weekend

Three to see

At age 19, the Asian Film Festival shows no sign of slowing down. If anything, this could be the strongest lineup artistic director Brian Hu has assembled in many a year. What follows are a ...

The other side of Peter Bogdanovich

"I would like to see the complete Magnificent Ambersons."

Here's more of my talk with Peter Bogdanovich. From Buster Keaton the subject shifts to what chance, if any, we have of ever seeing Jerry Lewis' notorious concentration camp clown picture, his thoughts on The ...

Uncaged

There’s not another actor at work who could pull off this type of blood-spattered chicanery

We celebrate the blu-ray release of Mandy and look back on a pair of game-changing middle-period Nicolas Cage pictures guaranteed to give your eyeballs a workout. Mandy (2018) Lumberjack boy (Cage) meets artistically-inclined girl (Andrea ...

Bogdanovich boosts Buster

“I decided to show the work for which he was being celebrated. Always leave them laughing!”

Is it me, or has Landmark’s Ken Cinema become San Diego’s big screen answer to the A&E Biography channel? Truth be told, my adulation over Pick of the Litter was guided more by a love ...

Oktoberfilmfest

Honestly, a television screen is not the ideal portal of introduction for this film

Streaming service Kanopy has teamed with the Goethe Institute to sponsor 48 films for the Wunderbar: A Celebration of German Films project. Visit kanopy.com/goethe throughout the month of October to watch any of the films ...

Beautiful Boy: Oh, boy

Who is this movie’s target audience?

Daddy Dave (Steve Carell) spends the first quarter of the picture scratching his head while even accidental moviegoers — those who stumble across Beautiful Boy as a fluke, without the benefit of having seen the ...

The shteegan on Fred Saxon

The ringer was still in movie theatre mode when I awoke last Friday to find four messages. To paraphrase comedian Richard Lewis, that many calls so early in the day means one thing: death in ...

A Star is Born, again, for the fifth time

The origins of Lady Gaga's remake

For her big screen debut, au courant warbler/performance artist Lady Gaga offers up a fifth remake of A Star is Born. Here’s a chance to literally see where she’s coming from, give or take a ...

A sampling of the masterful Alfred Hitchcock Presents

Breakdown, Lamb to the Slaughter and Bang! You’re Dead!

A sampling of the masterful Alfred Hitchcock Presents

Glad we had Gilda

“She would walk into the room and all the energy would go to her”

Glad we had Gilda

Gun girl Garner

There must not have been enough zeros on the alimony check

Gun girl Garner

Otto Preminger’s oeuvre!

Three of the director's choice films

Otto Preminger’s oeuvre

Dirty sex, clean windshields

Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood

As one of the witnesses in Warren Beatty’s Reds, Henry Miller recalled, “There was just as much f*ing going on then as now, only now it has a more perverted quality.” Apparently Mr. Miller had ...

No jokes, folks

Ever imagine what a film would look like if just about everyone involved in the production was buzzing on cocaine and quaaludes?

No jokes, folks. All three of these titles are available to rent on Amazon. The Terror of Tiny Town (1938) I’m betting that most viewers won’t be able to venture past more than a reel ...

Puzzle: Bored game enthusiasts

Why burn daylight snapping together a jigsaw puzzle when it’s easier (and more enlightening) to buy a ticket and watch two characters assemble one? The only missing piece to this otherwise easily fathomable romantic Puzzle ...

Boyz in the hoods

Screenwriter Kevin Willmott talks BlacKkKlansman

So impressed was Spike Lee by Kevin Willmott’s debut feature, C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America that as soon as he saw the picture's Sundance premiere, he offered to act as the film’s presenter. Spike ...

Drool over the stylish excess

More than 79 minutes of “successful and progressive prostitution.”

A western, a wabbit, and Marwene Dietwich come under the knife. ­ The Devil is a Woman (1935) A polarizing item among critics and bluenoses, if not a general public that stayed home in droves ...

Midaq Alley: a big-screen telenovela

For those keeping score at home, Midaq Alley has taken home more awards than any other movie in the history of Mexican cinema. This bustlingly profane Spanish-language adaptation of Egyptian Nobel prize-winner Naguib Mahfuz’s 1947 ...

The Bleak of Araby

Don’t you hate it when, while rifling through a desk drawer in search of a book of matches or piece of scratch paper, a character accidentally happens upon the one indisputable clue needed to solve ...

Laugh-out-loud satires

The biggest, baddest, blackest mother of ‘em all

Sorry to bother you, but this week’s digital downloads (all available through Amazon) comprise a trio of superior, laugh-out-loud satires. C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America (2004) C.S.A. explores what might have happened had the ...

Meet Eighth Grade's star pupils this Saturday

Elsie Fisher and Emily Robinson in town for Q&As

As if an opportunity to relive the last hellish week of grade school weren't enough, the two star students of Eighth Grade will be in town this weekend to celebrate the film's opening. If your ...

Comic book artists in cinema

A frothy 60s sex satire

The annual celebration of everything that’s wrong with contemporary cinema is upon us. Here are three satires about comic book artists to act as antidote, all available on Amazon Prime. Artists and Models (1955) Was ...

Swedish fish and the Oregon Trail

Normally, the lead photo art corresponds with the lead review, but protocol be damned when you hook a whopper like this: a candid shot of Ingmar Bergman posing with Spielberg’s toy shark, Bruce. To commemorate ...

The Digital Gym, five years in

Quick: what was the first film to put the Media Arts Center’s Digital Gym on the map? Having to answer that question produced the first of two blushes from the organization’s founding father and guiding ...

A pair of masterful mutts

The pup’s POV is about as Hitchcockian as it gets

A pair of masterful mutts followed by a spot of roadkill. Pard and Bohunk are both available on Amazon. Stream them tonight. Benji fell out of copyright. Consult YouTube. High Sierra (1941) Legend had it ...

A return to hard R-rated blaxploitation?

SuperFly surpasses the original

Trailers for BlacKkKlansman, White Boy Rick, and The Equalizer opened the first day/first show screening of Director X’s SuperFly reboot. If a return to hard R-rated blaxploitation is what’s needed to karate-kick comic book excessivity ...

Love in the time of big hair and neon

Three teen romances from the 1980s

Let’s return to a time when girl-power had more to do with romance than showing a male superhero that she can be his equal. Follow links to rent online. Valley Girl (1983) A savage on ...

Beastly Boys

American Animals serves up four wannabe crooks who watch too many movies

The sounds of birds chirping and crickets grinding knee bones underscores the brief procession of film financiers and production company logos that precede American Animals. Then a quote from Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of ...

Johnny Rocks

Three instructional sessions from the school of hard Knoxville

This week’s column celebrates the opening of Action Point (and my interview with Johnny Knoxville) with a trio of non-Jackass related titles. All three available for rent on Amazon. The Ringer (2005) After Jackass: The ...

Johnny Knoxville, helicopter parent

"When they say something naughty, I’m laughing harder than anyone. But when it comes to their safety, I get really squirrely."

When a newscaster comes on the radio to report on a robbery foiled by an officer on duty, my mind instantly leaps to an image of a cop standing in a pile of doody. Needless ...

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