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Stories by Scott Marks

Quezon’s Game: A Filipino Schindler’s List?

For a month, the link languished in my mailbox — I put off playing Quezon’s Game until the latest possible moment. Frankly, the thought of a Filipino Schindler’s List held about as much interest as ...

January 23, 2020
Dolittle: Robert Downey, Jr. goes down

It is with deep and abiding regret that we report the passing of Robert Downey, Jr. — one of the last of his generation of trailblazers — over to the dark side. Admittedly, the transition ...

January 16, 2020
The best and worst films of 2019

Of the nearly 250 films I viewed in 2019, here are the front-runners and slopsuckers. For more on this year in film, visit the Big Screen. Favorites: 10.) Last Letter A romantic drama void of ...

January 9, 2020
Family movies with ghosts of cartoons past

This week’s goal was to find three films to unite families around the set that didn’t contain any references to Christmas. The first two came easy. For some crazy reason, I had it in my ...

January 3, 2020
The reign of Dag Hammarskjöld

Where were you when you first learned of the death of Dag Hammarskjöld? For some, it will be wherever they’re reading this review. But at the time, his mere existence was viewed by some as ...

January 2, 2020
New Year’s Eve from Las Vegas to New York’s Fillmore East

Las Vegas and a mock Fillmore East play home to this pair of New Year’s Eve-themed comedies. Ocean’s 11 (1960) Frank Sinatra and a group of Korean war buddies regroup to knock over the five ...

December 27, 2019
Uncut Gems: Adam Sandler plays a bad man with a plan

Who says television isn’t educational? Ever hear of African Jews? Diamond man (14 carat, not baseball) Howard Ratner (Adam Sandler) hadn’t, not until the night a documentary introduced him to a tribe of landlocked nomads ...

December 26, 2019
Richard Jewell: American hero

Were cash and prizes all that motivated Clint Eastwood, he’d have had himself de-aged, made another Dirty Harry sequel for Netflix, and been done with it. But there’ll be none of that small screen hoo-hah ...

December 19, 2019
63 Up: Grow old along with me

The late ’50s-early ‘60s proved to be a wellspring of worldwide experimentation in documentary realism. Banking on unscripted reactions to outrageous situations as his key to success, American television personality Allen Funt tucked his Candid ...

December 12, 2019
A drunken bacchanal from Vincente Minnelli, Stanley Donen, and Rock Hudson

Once upon a time, movie alcoholics had a name, and that name was “funny drunks.” This week’s politically incorrect offerings put a spigot on two booze-enhanced works of art before uncorking one mean drunk of ...

December 6, 2019
The Wolf Hour: Prisoner of the past

A shade of wet newsprint grey smudges the facade of the still-standing South Bronx apartment. From the opposite side of the street, the only visible sign of life in the tenement is a faint glow ...

December 5, 2019
The Irishman: Small-screen Scorsese

We begin by giving thanks to the local publicist who was swell enough to arrange a press preview of The Irishman in an auditorium to my liking. (Reading Cinemas Grossmont #5.) That said, it angers ...

November 28, 2019
Bad taste with the PCA, NC-17, and John Travolta in drag

This week we offer up an uncut aggregation of bicycle thieves, censors’ needs, and cleaner Waters. — Scott Marks The Bicycle Thieves (1948) It was the first film to openly challenge the almighty Production Code ...

November 22, 2019
Honey Boy: Shia LaBeouf’s daddy issues

January 1, 2019. The following Nostradamic text, signed “Anonymous,” arrives at the stroke of midnight: “The year will end with Shia LaBeouf’s self-penned biopic cracking your top ten.” Did I miss an announcement piece in ...

November 21, 2019
Playing With Fire: Andy Fickman is an unhaugty auteur

Has it really been six Christmases since Andy Fickman and Walden Media gifted audiences with the historically and hysterically misguided family frolic Parental Guidance? Last weekend, Fickman and Walden rattled the cage and East County ...

November 14, 2019
What Will Become of Us: Frank Lowy in three equal parts

The last thing a movie critic needs after a hard day at the multiplex is more visual distraction. Despite having that chunk of logic firmly planted in my brain, I still proceeded to heed a ...

November 7, 2019
Nazi monster Halloween

Nazi monsters for Halloween. Black Book (2006) Whenever a Twitter poll asks people to name their favorite horror movie, I generally list Leni Riefenstahl’s Hitler-commissioned documentary Triumph of the Will. Forget about latex boogeymen, costumed ...

October 31, 2019
Dolemite is My Name: the film of Eddie Murphy’s career

The business card placed in my hand by a former student read: “Redeemable for one free blowjob.” He had my attention. “I found it inside the sleeve,” he explained as he handed the Rudy Ray ...

October 24, 2019
Roger Corman at the Dollar Tree

This week’s trio of discs came to me from various sources, reliable or otherwise. — Scott Marks The Black String (2019) Sensing a local angle, PR rep Justin Cook saw to it that a copy ...

October 17, 2019
Woman’s Liberation Cinema: from Kate Millett to Jane Fonda

Take a break from the E! True Hollywood Story mode of storytelling that’s currently passing for documentary filmmaking with these three gritty women’s documentaries. Three Lives (1971) A novelty at its time of release: this ...

October 4, 2019
Renée Zellweger’s Judy Garland sings a sad song

Pick a celebrity biopic. Any celebrity biopic. Beyond the Sea? Okay. With the lighting just so — and the camera at a safe distance from its subject — a person could swear that it was ...

September 26, 2019
JLo and Marc Anthony: box office gold?

Three films and no common thread; it’s that kind of week How the West Was Won (1962) When I was six, the owner of mom’s beauty parlor rigged a raffle and my family “won” tickets ...

September 20, 2019
Fagara: Sisters doing it for themselves

Occupational Hazard #29, aka The Installment Plan: when a critic oversteps a self-imposed two-film-a-day limit, conks out halfway through a picture, and finishes watching it the next morning. The rating for Heiward Mak’s Fagara was ...

September 12, 2019
Blake Edwards’ most personal, and impersonal, works

Two from Blake Edwards and a different shade of Pink Panther. Darling Lili (1970) One of director Blake Edwards’ most polished and personal works, Darling Lili was a musical released at a time when both ...

September 6, 2019
Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles: Keeping it surreal in the land without bread

Luis Buñuel’s third film, Las Hurdes (Land Without Bread), was the director’s only documentary. For his first feature, visual effects designer Salvador Simó’s Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles puts into cartoon motion an ...

August 29, 2019
Dazzling stereoscopic table-top animation from Max and Dave Fleischer

Welcome to the transmogrifying squash-and-stretch universe of studio animators Max and Dave Fleischer. Much of the humor flies in the face of political correctness, it’s my honor to announce. For links to the shorts, visit ...

August 23, 2019
Benjamín Naishtat’s Rojo: More dead hippies

The opening shot is a film’s calling card, an image of introduction. The best of them shape, inform, and herald the tone for what lies ahead. So instead of wasting an audience’s time with an ...

August 22, 2019
Shelley Winters holds her breath

Who said you can’t keep a good gal down? Not Shelley Winters. As sure as bummer follows Winters, we dug up a trio of watery grave ballets: two worth owning, one worth stoning. A Place ...

August 9, 2019
The Reports on Sarah and Saleem: an unfamiliar lover

“There are millions of Jewish guys you could have chosen,” barista Ronit (Rebecca Esmeralda Telhami) admonishes her Israeli employer Sarah (Sivan Kerchner), “Are you that desperate? With an Arab?” Sarah’s difficulty in answering the question ...

August 8, 2019
Larry Cohen horror trio

What’s the best thing about Midsommar? It allows me to introduce to you a trio of similarly-themed (and infinitely superior) nightmarish epics directed by a true Master of Horror, Larry Cohen. It’s Alive (1974) The ...

July 26, 2019
Forky: a life on film

He may be this year's emerging superstar, but Forky arrived on the scene long before Toyota began cranking out hybrids. Half-fork, half-spoon, and all-heart, his is a presence so large, they might just as well ...

July 26, 2019
Leonard Cohen’s “So Long Marianne” muse

There’s no mention of Robert Altman’s breathtakingly grimy McCabe and Mrs. Miller in Nick Broomfield’s (Lily Tomlin, Heidi Fleiss: Hollywood Madam, Whitney: Can I Be Me) latest celebrity biodoc, Marianne and Leonard: Words of Love. ...

July 25, 2019
Free and legal movies and shows on Tubi TV

What streaming service offers thousands of free and legal movies and television shows? Here to entice are a trio of offerings currently available on Tubi TV. You Bet Your Life (1950) It was the quip ...

July 19, 2019
The antidote to Crawl: gator flicks with Ed Norton, Burt Reynolds, and Playmate Claudia Jennings

A trio of crocodilian companions to help celebrate the opening of (or act as an antidote to) Crawl. Alligator (1980) Screenwriter John Sayles and director Lewis Teague drew from what they learned while working together ...

July 12, 2019
The gargoyle doth text

Oura Culpa! Mr. Lickona took a vacation and this reporter missed the screening of the much-anticipated Midsommar. Once I ran to advance screenings; now I run from them. Why? Because I would much rather try ...

July 4, 2019
American movies and the 4th of July

The old man was never one for fireworks. It had something to do with his surviving the Invasion of Normandy. Friends and relatives would take me to see displays of fire-flowers (as my maternal grandpa ...

July 3, 2019
Three comedies with Sidney Poitier and Bill Cosby

From director and star Sidney Poitier comes an unlikely trilogy of comedies. Uptown Saturday Night (1974) An inexplicably tender, untroubled exchange between Steve (Sidney Poitier) and his wife Sarah (Rosalind Cash) prefaces a raucous boy’s ...

June 27, 2019
The Raft: Director Marcus Lindeen’s drifting documentary

Mexican anthropologist Santiago Genovés found the inspiration behind his notorious “Peace Project” the day his flight home from a conference on the history of violent behavior was interrupted by a hijacking. Art imitates life, and ...

June 20, 2019
Authors J.T. Leroy, Truman Capote, The Dying Gaul, and their muses

Authors and their muses are the subjects of this week’s binge-watch. J.T. Leroy (2018) Jeremiah “Terminator” LeRoy was a manufactured commodity, the wispy offspring of a prostitute mother that writer Laura Albert (Laura Dern) bamboozled ...

June 14, 2019
American Woman: Life, not Lifetime

When the Lord said, “Judge not, that ye be not judged,” He wasn’t referring to American Woman’s Deb Callahan (Sienna Miller). Deb can’t remove the butt from between her lips long enough to cuddle with ...

June 13, 2019
Telly Savalas trio of terror

Who scares you, baby? Give a lick about this Telly Savalas trio of terror. Lisa and the Devil (1973) Giallo: a splashy ‘70s subgenre of Italian horror with soft, overlit nightscapes filmed in garish Eastman ...

May 31, 2019
Isaac Cherem’s Leona: Circumscribed hearts

The three o’clock bell sounded the close of business day for most grade-schoolers. Not Scooter. While others were off in a field hitting balls with sticks or in the alley playing pinners, from ages nine ...

May 23, 2019
Swiss Model Airplane Glue will never replace Famo Hair Remover

A cinematic counterpart to word association, this trio of films came to mind spontaneously and without reflection while watching The Garden Store trilogy. Cookoo Cavaliers (1940) Hey, Jan Hřebejk — steal from the Stooges and ...

May 17, 2019
Ed Zwick’s Trial by Fire: Burning bathos

Several anti-death penalty features were fated to follow in the wake of Dead Man Standing (most notably The Green Mile), but in most instances, stories of wrongfully-accused lifers punching the clock on death row are ...

May 16, 2019
South Bay physical media pull with Kurt Russell, Scorsese’s Rolling Stones, and a Sergio Leone Spaghetti Western

Things your ever-diligent physical media hound sleuthed out while making the rounds of the South Bay region. Dark Blue (2002) We Lend More Inc. had a copy with my name on it. In the days ...

May 3, 2019
Taylor Schilling’s dark Juggalo portrayal in Laura Steinel’s freaky Family

What’s more shocking than a senior level VP at a New Jersey hedge fund finding herself smack dab in the middle of a weeklong celebration of the distinctively raunchy hip hop duo Insane Clown Posse? ...

April 25, 2019
The Mae West test

According to Mae West, she was the first liberated woman. “No guy was going to get the best of me,” she purred. “That’s what I wrote all my scripts about.” And what other actress can ...

April 18, 2019
Best of Enemies: Taraji P. Henson opposite Sam Rockwell, but not the best pairing

A female, powerfully outspoken African-American civil rights activist convinced the winner of the 1971 Ku Klux Klan award for Exalted Cyclops of the Year (aka the Oscars of hate) to vote in favor of desegregation. ...

April 11, 2019
X-rated documentaries from Russ Meyer, Allen Funt, and a mocumentary from Jeanne and Alan Abel

A trio of X-rated documentaries that definitely qualify as your grandparent’s kind of porn. You’re going to have to work to find copies, but they’re worth it. Mondo Topless (1966) “Situated on precipitous peaks above ...

April 4, 2019
Ash is Purest White: Zhangke Jia has a blast rattling genre conventions

Bin (Fan Liao) cradled Qiao’s (Tao Zhao) left palm in his, certain it was the same hand she used to squeeze off the shot that saved his life. Some romantic is he. The poor dumb ...

March 28, 2019

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