ABLE EDWARDS (2004)

Posted in THE LUNCH MOVIE CHRONICLES: The original e-mail announcements that were sent through our office the evening before we rolled a Lunch Movie on February 28th, 2011 by Jim Delaney


From Monday, March 3, 2008

Produced by Steven Soderbergh, written, directed & edited by Graham Robertson, starring Scott Kelly Galbreath, Keri Bruno and Steve Beaumont Jones.

Prologue: Abel Edwards was an early 20th century entertainment entrepreneur who built a career, and later an empire, on a cartoon character named Perry Panda. When Edwards died in 1960, the Board of The Edwards Corporation froze his body. In the distant future, The Edwards Corporation uses thawed DNA to create a clone of Abel Edwards in the hopes of re-sparking the glory of their past. The Board didn’t count on the cloned Edwards wanting to live a life of his own.

Shot on MiniDV in 15 days with a budget of $30,000, Soderbergh & Co’s ABLE EDWARDS beat the $40M-budgeted SKY CAPTAIN & THE WORLD OF TOMORROW by 6 months to be the first shot-on-green-screen feature. ABLE EDWARDS premiered at SXSW before playing mostly in other film festivals. It caught festival goers’ attention not only for the imaginative riff on the truth and legend of Walt Disney, but for the black-n-white CITIZEN KANE-style look and story structure it applied to building it’s own legend.

It’ll finish Wednesday.
Love, Jim

AFTER THOUGHT from 2.28.11
I first saw this film at American Cinematheque’s Egyptian Theater on Hollywood Blvd. A Q-n-A session followed featuring Graham Robertson and some of the cast. One fact emerging from that session that impresses me to this day came from a question regarding the sets and production design. Many of the elaborate backgrounds were simply photographs from architecture and design books. These images were blurred or otherwise distorted to reduce their recognizability and hence their potential copyright infringement. It is hard not to think of the possibilities for every cityscape or elseworld image from a comic book that I tried to trace or redraw as a kid. I envied these folks that they were able to build this massive world for less than the price of a single set from your average blockbuster.

ABLE EDWARDS is not a perfect film, but it’s a strong example of the core mission of The Lunch Movie. We didn’t meet in the conference room to turn off our minds and be told what makes A Great Film. If that was our goal, we could have watched Turner Classic Movies every day, and I could save money on DVDs. We met to watch good movies, and to discuss (or occasionally argue) for the rest of the working day, parsing the great moments from the weaker ones. Movies like this help us define what we expect and demand from a movie experience, what we are willing to forgive and why we might cut a movie some slack, and how deeply we are capable of looking for both. My intrepid friend Jessica, one of my aforementioned precious few pals always up to the challenge of looking deeper, was the only friend who made it all the way through both days. It takes a true film nerd devotee to dig movies like ABLE EDWARDS (or PRIMER or MOON), but there are unique rewards for making the effort.

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How To Use TRIVIA To Handicap Your OSCAR BETS: 2011 Edition REDUX, with Answers to Last Week’s 25 Trivia Questions…

Posted in JIMMY ON MOVIES: Thoughts on Films, The Folks Who Make Them, & Those Who Love Them on February 27th, 2011 by Jim Delaney


The 2011 Oscars are hours away from beginning. TV networks have already begun coverage of hundreds of fans, starring from bleachers behind metal fences, at an empty red carpet. One week ago I placed my bets, made my personal picks, and issued a trivia challenge. Below are the answers to the 25 trivia questions.

1. Which 3 films have won Best Picture, Director, Actress, Actor & Screenplay?
“It Happened One Night” (1934); “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest” (1975) “The Silence Of The Lambs” (1991)

2. What is the only G-rated film to win Best Picture?
“Oliver!” (1968)

3. What is the only X-rated film to win Best Picture?
“Midnight Cowboy” (1969)

4. What is the only remake of an earlier film to win Best Picture?
“The Departed” (2006), a remake of the Hong Kong film “Infernal Affairs” (2002)

5. Who was the first woman nominated for Best Director?
Lina Wertmuller, “Seven Beauties” (1975)

6. Who was the first African American nominee for Best Director.
John Singleton, “Boyz N The Hood” (1991)

7. Who was the first woman writer to win a Best Screenplay Oscar.
Frances Marion, “The Big House” (1930)

8. Who has received the most nominations for screenwriting?
Woody Allen, 14.

9. Who is the most frequent presenter of the award for Best Picture?
Jack Nicholson, 7 times.

10. Who gave the longest acceptance speech?
Greer Garson, Best Actress “Miss Miniver” (1942) — some say 5 minutes 30 seconds, others say 7minutes.

11. When was the longest Oscar telecast?
2002 — 4hrs23mins

12. Who is the only Oscar winner whose parents are also Oscar winners?
Liza Minnelli, Best Actress “Cabaret” (1972); daughter of Judy Garland, Juvenile Award (1940) & Vincent Minnelli, Best Director “Gigi” (1958)

13. What was the first film to have two nominees for Best Actress?
“All About Eve” (1950), Bette Davis and Anne Baxter. Both lost to Judy Holliday in “Born Yesterday.”

14. Who has won the most awards for Best Actress?
Katherine Hepburn, 4: “Morning Glory” (1933); “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?” (1967); “The Lion in Winter” (1968); “On Golden Pond” (1981)

15. Which man had the most nominations for Best Actor but never won?
Peter O’Toole, 8. He was given an honorary award in 2003.

16. Which was the shortest performance ever to win an Oscar for acting?
Beatrice Straight, Best Supporting Actress for 5 minutes in “Network” (1976)

17. Who is the only living actor to have starred in 3 nominees for Best Picture in the same year?
John C. Reilly in “Chicago,” “The Hours,” and “Gangs of New York” (2002)

18. Which Best Picture nominee won the most awards while failing to win Best Picture?
“Cabaret” (1972) won 8 out of 10.

19. Which were two most heavily nominated films to walk away empty-handed?
“The Turning Point” (1977); “The Color Purple” (1985). Both 11 nominations, 0 wins.

20. Which foreign film has received the most nominations?
“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” (2000) 10 nominations, 4 wins.

21. In which year were there no American-born nominees for Best Director?
1987: Bernardo Bertolucci (Italy) – * the winner; Lasse Hallstrom (Sweden); Norman Jewison (Canada); Adrian Lyne (UK); John Boorman (UK)

22. Between 1958 and 1968 there were 5 musical Best Picture winners; how many musicals have won Best Picture since then?
1 – “Chicago” (2002)

23. How many westerns have won Best Picture?
3 – “Cimarron” (1931), “Dances With Wolves” (1990), and “Unforgiven” (1992)

24. Which film won the first award for Best Make-up?
Rick Baker, “An American Werewolf in London” (1981)

25. Who sent their Oscar back to be “re-dipped” when it rusted?
Jack Lemmon, Best Supporting Actor, “Mister Roberts” (1955)

If you want to read more fun trivia, check out the American Movie Classics site. What follows is my earlier post from February 20, 2011…

One week from tonight, the 83rd Academy Awards will be handed out at the Kodak Theater. I have not made any bets on this year’s ceremony. That does not prevent me from guessing how the Academy will vote. I blew several years of office pools and other challenges by betting on what I wanted to win rather than focusing on the industry’s own reasons for voting. Not that removing my personal preference is a sure bet either. I lost a wager with my buddy Shelby over Heath Ledger’s posthumous award; Shelby knew voters would lament the loss of such a promising actor while I bet on the Academy’s tendency to disregard genre films in any above-the-line category. As a nerd, I’m glad I lost that bet, but I still owe Shelby a 6-pack of beer.

Academy voters often, but not always, vote for the best film or performance or job well done. Sometimes they reward really good work by a nominee who’s previous excellent work went unrecognized. Think of Paul Newman winning Best Actor as Fast Eddie Felson in THE COLOR OF MONEY, after losing six nominations for iconic roles, including his previous performance as Fast Eddie in THE HUSTLER. Sometimes a win can take the form of an apology, if not flat-out sucking up, to an unexpected success. When James Cameron ran into production delays in Mexico, Daily Variety ran a front page column for weeks wherein everyone from studio execs to children waiting for their school bus went on-record predicting disaster for TITANIC. Of course they all wanted to be in the Cameron business a month after the film opened. Bearing such phenomena in mind, the real trick to betting on the Oscars is handicapping the reasons an Academy member would have to vote for or against a nominee. It helps to get your personal wish list out of the way first.

CATEGORY – – WHO I’D BET ON – – WHO I’D VOTE FOR
Best Picture — The King’s Speech — True Grit
Director – – David Fincher – – Joel & Ethan Coen
Actress — Natalie Portman — Jennifer Lawrence
Actor – – Colin Firth – – Colin Firth
Supporting Actress — Hailee Steinfeld — Hailee Steinfeld
Supporting Actor – – Geoffrey Rush – – Christian Bale
Documentary Feature — Inside Job — Marwencol (not nominated)
Animated Feature – – Toy Story 3 – – The Illusionist
Foreign Feature — Biutiful — Soul Kitchen (not nominated)
Adapted Screenplay – – The Social Network – – Winter’s Bone
Original Screenplay — The King’s Speech — Inception

If forced to pick from the nominees, I would vote for INSIDE JOB for Best Documentary and BIUTIFUL for Best Foreign Language Film. Other nominations that I am disappointed not to see include Best Actor for Luis Tosar in CELL 211, Editing for BLUE VALENTINE, and Adapted Screenplay and Cinematography for THE GHOST WRITER.


It helps me to examine the history of the awards when choosing my Oscar picks. It is fun to know who won and when, but it is often fascinating to learn who lost, and to consider why the Academy voted the way they did. Here are a few trivia questions, some just for fun, others to lend an eye toward the past. You have one week to debate with your friends or Google by yourself; I will post the answers on February 27, a few hours before the Oscar telecast begins on ABC.

1. Which 3 films have won Best Picture, Director, Actress, Actor & Screenplay?

2. What is the only G-rated film to win Best Picture?

3. What is the only X-rated film to win Best Picture?

4. What is the only remake of an earlier film to win Best Picture?

5. Who was the first woman nominated for Best Director?

6. Who was the first African American nominee for Best Director?

7. Who was the first woman writer to win a Best Screenplay Oscar?

8. Who has received the most nominations for screenwriting?

9. Who is the most frequent presenter of the award for Best Picture?

10. Who gave the longest acceptance speech?

11. When was the longest Oscar telecast?

12. Who is the only Oscar winner whose parents are also Oscar winners?

13. What was the first film to have two nominees for Best Actress?

14. Who has won the most awards for Best Actress?

15. Which man had the most nominations for Best Actor but never won?

16. Who gave the shortest performance ever to win an Oscar for acting?

17. Who is the only living actor to have starred in 3 nominees for Best Picture in the same year?

18. Which Best Picture nominee won the most awards while failing to win Best Picture?

19. Which two films tie the record for most heavily nominated film to walk away empty-handed?

20. Which foreign film has received the most nominations?

21. In which year were there no American-born nominees for Best Director?

22. Between 1958 and 1968 there were 5 musical Best Picture winners; how many musicals have won Best Picture since then?

23. How many westerns have won Best Picture?

24. Which film won the first award for Best Make-up?

25. Who sent their Oscar back to be “re-dipped” when it rusted?

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How To Use TRIVIA To Handicap Your OSCAR BETS: 2011 Edition

Posted in JIMMY ON MOVIES: Thoughts on Films, The Folks Who Make Them, & Those Who Love Them on February 20th, 2011 by Jim Delaney

One week from tonight, the 83rd Academy Awards will be handed out at the Kodak Theater. I have not made any bets on this year’s ceremony. That does not prevent me from guessing how the Academy will vote. I blew several years of office pools and other challenges by betting on what I wanted to win rather than focusing on the industry’s own reasons for voting. Not that removing my personal preference is a sure bet either. I lost a wager with my buddy Shelby over Heath Ledger’s posthumous award; Shelby knew voters would lament the loss of such a promising actor while I bet on the Academy’s tendency to disregard genre films in any above-the-line category. As a nerd, I’m glad I lost that bet, but I still owe Shelby a 6-pack of beer.

Academy voters often, but not always, vote for the best film or performance or job well done. Sometimes they reward really good work by a nominee who’s previous excellent work went unrecognized. Think of Paul Newman winning Best Actor as Fast Eddie Felson in THE COLOR OF MONEY, after losing six nominations for iconic roles, including his previous performance as Fast Eddie in THE HUSTLER. Sometimes a win can take the form of an apology, if not flat-out sucking up, to an unexpected success. When James Cameron ran into production delays in Mexico, Daily Variety ran a front page column for weeks wherein everyone from studio execs to children waiting for their school bus went on-record predicting disaster for TITANIC. Of course they all wanted to be in the Cameron business a month after the film opened. Bearing such phenomena in mind, the real trick to betting on the Oscars is handicapping the reasons an Academy member would have to vote for or against a nominee. It helps to get your personal wish list out of the way first.

CATEGORY – – WHO I’D BET ON – – WHO I’D VOTE FOR
Best Picture — The King’s Speech — True Grit
Director – – David Fincher – – Joel & Ethan Coen
Actress — Natalie Portman — Jennifer Lawrence
Actor – – Colin Firth – – Colin Firth
Supporting Actress — Hailee Steinfeld — Hailee Steinfeld
Supporting Actor – – Geoffrey Rush – – Christian Bale
Documentary Feature — Inside Job — Marwencol (not nominated)
Animated Feature – – Toy Story 3 – – The Illusionist
Foreign Feature — Biutiful — Soul Kitchen (not nominated)
Adapted Screenplay – – The Social Network – – Winter’s Bone
Original Screenplay — The King’s Speech — Inception

If forced to pick from the nominees, I would vote for INSIDE JOB for Best Documentary and BIUTIFUL for Best Foreign Language Film. Other nominations that I am disappointed not to see include Best Actor for Luis Tosar in CELL 211, Editing for BLUE VALENTINE, and Adapted Screenplay and Cinematography for THE GHOST WRITER.


It helps me to examine the history of the awards when choosing my Oscar picks. It is fun to know who won and when, but it is often fascinating to learn who lost, and to consider why the Academy voted the way they did. Here are a few trivia questions, some just for fun, others to lend an eye toward the past. You have one week to debate with your friends or Google by yourself; I will post the answers on February 27, a few hours before the Oscar telecast begins on ABC.

1. Which 3 films have won Best Picture, Director, Actress, Actor & Screenplay?

2. What is the only G-rated film to win Best Picture?

3. What is the only X-rated film to win Best Picture?

4. What is the only remake of an earlier film to win Best Picture?

5. Who was the first woman nominated for Best Director?

6. Who was the first African American nominee for Best Director?

7. Who was the first woman writer to win a Best Screenplay Oscar?

8. Who has received the most nominations for screenwriting?

9. Who is the most frequent presenter of the award for Best Picture?

10. Who gave the longest acceptance speech?

11. When was the longest Oscar telecast?

12. Who is the only Oscar winner whose parents are also Oscar winners?

13. What was the first film to have two nominees for Best Actress?

14. Who has won the most awards for Best Actress?

15. Which man had the most nominations for Best Actor but never won?

16. Who gave the shortest performance ever to win an Oscar for acting?

17. Who is the only living actor to have starred in 3 nominees for Best Picture in the same year?

18. Which Best Picture nominee won the most awards while failing to win Best Picture?

19. Which two films tie the record for most heavily nominated film to walk away empty-handed?

20. Which foreign film has received the most nominations?

21. In which year were there no American-born nominees for Best Director?

22. Between 1958 and 1968 there were 5 musical Best Picture winners; how many musicals have won Best Picture since then?

23. How many westerns have won Best Picture?

24. Which film won the first award for Best Make-up?

25. Who sent their Oscar back to be “re-dipped” when it rusted?

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The Perfect Moment: CASABLANCA at The Brattle Theater

Posted in MOVIES TO REMEMBER: The ol' favorites that The Lunch Movie kids might have watched had the tradition continued..., PALACES, ONE AND ALL: A Valentine to screens in small towns, big cities and odd corners of the country where I have received salvation at 24 frames per second. on February 14th, 2011 by Jim Delaney

CASABLANCA (1942) Directed by Michael Curtiz, written by Julius J. & Philip G. Epstein and Howard Koch, starring my personal favorite ensemble cast ever, anywhere, of all time, bar none.

My New England hero Spalding Gray spent his monologue SWIMMING TO CAMBODIA searching the world for “a perfect moment” of peace and happiness and insight. Long before I was aware of Spalding’s quest, CASABLANCA had been one of my favorite films. Not a perfect moment, or even a perfect movie (if there is such a thing?) but something that made me very happy. My earliest visits to The Brattle Theater in Cambridge, MA were a similar source of happiness. Back in those days the ceiling would sometimes leak during rain, and in winter it was almost as cold inside as outside, but they showed double features of classic movies almost every night. I don’t recall what film first brought me to The Brattle, but I’m sure that from pretty early on, I figured it would be a damn cool place to see CASABLANCA. I had no idea, in what was early in my relationship to both the film and the theater, that a confluence of the two predated my affection for either.

My awareness of CASABLANCA predates my awareness of The Brattle by about ten years. While my Mom was the warden of my bedtime when I was younger, my Dad became the governor, granting me a stay if I watched old movies with him. I learned my first hints of a World War 2 political structure more complex than Us versus Them from watching CASABLANCA past midnight on a school night. My junior high history class covered the Nazi occupation of France, reminding me of Rick Blaine’s question to Capt. Renault, “Louie, are you pro-Vichy or free French?” Renault dodges the question initially, but answers it later with a water bottle and a garbage can; the characters of CASABLANCA personalized for me many of the dates and map positions that most of my classmates memorized only briefly in case they were on the test.

I moved to the Boston area in the summer of 1988. My first friend at Emerson College, my encouraging teacher Al Girelli, hipped me to The Brattle Theater during summer Freshman Composition 1 class. Later in that school year, I made my fated attempt at a perfect moment with CASABLANCA at The Brattle, a moment that almost did not happen. I lived with my family outside of Boston in Acton, driving each day to Alewife Station, and riding the Red Line to class. A blizzard was expected the night of the show prompting my folks to ask me to weigh driving conditions versus staying out to see a movie I’d already seen. Walking from my last class to the Charles St. train station, large wet snowflakes fell, turning to slush when they hit the street. I got to the platform in Charles St. and could barely see Cambridge across the bridge through the falling snow. Damn, I really wanted to see CASABLANCA on a movie screen for my first time! An announcement came over the P.A. system: “This next train is an express to Harvard Square.” That’s where fate kicked in. That was the Boston MBTA telling me “Go ahead kid, go to the movies, this snow will pass.” So I went. And it was beautiful; I had real butter on my popcorn, an audience who appreciated the movie as much as I did, and a seat in the front row of the stage-left balcony where I still prefer to sit today.

There are elements that you miss on a 27″ TV that become more apparent on a theater screen. We have a good idea of when the movie takes place from Rick drunkenly asking Sam “If it’s December 1941 in Casablanca, what time is it in New York?” What I had never seen until The Brattle show was an insert in the scene that introduces Rick. We see him signing a casino check. A close-up of the check reveals a detail, lost on TV, that the movie begins on December 2, 1941. The entire story takes place over three days; knowing that those three days conclude within moments of the U.S. officially entering World War 2 adds an extra resonance to Rick’s transformation from bitterness to nobility. When the show was over, the snow had turned to rain and the streets were wet but clear, and I got home more safely than I probably would have if I’d driven earlier. Hell, for all I know, The Brattle saved me from being in one of the car accidents I passed on Route 2 that night!

The Brattle doesn’t show quite as many double features now that they are a non-profit as they did 20 years ago, but if at all possible, these days they show an even more diverse schedule of classic and recent and foreign and independent films. Happily, they uphold a longstanding tradition of showing CASABLANCA, which began mere months after Humphrey Bogart died. The initial response from The Brattle’s neighbors in Harvard University could be described as little more than pleasant. Before too long though, legends of Harvard students rising to sing La Marseillaise with Paul Henreid cemented The Brattle’s relationship with CASABLANCA, and helped secure the film a position of honor on the schedules of revival houses across the country. Today, Wikipedia tells us that CASABLANCA’s “lasting impact” traces first and foremost to The Brattle. So strong is their bond that a restaurant called Casablanca, complete with wall murals inspired by the film, draws a good crowd directly beneath the theater.

I have since taken nearly every opportunity to see CASABLANCA in a movie theater. For the 50th Anniversary of its release in 1992, The Brattle showed it for an entire week, unusual for repertory cinemas where a standard run is one or two days. I saw it four times that week, once each with Ed and Maria, and twice on my own. While I lived in Los Angeles I saw it a handful of times in The New Beverly Cinema and American Cinematheque‘s Aero and Egyptian Theaters. Though I was very happy to see one of my favorite movies in these great theaters there is a chemistry between The Brattle and CASABLANCA that I have yet to see duplicated anywhere else. From L.A. I once plotted to extend a return visit to Maria’s family back east by another day because The Brattle was showing CASABLANCA on the night we planned to leave. That plan failed, so I did the next best thing: I ran it for the first of many times in the agency conference room where we used to screen The Lunch Movie.

I moved back to the Boston area shortly before the August 2009 show featured in the poster above. As if CASABLANCA at The Brattle wasn’t enough of a treat, the theater had begun serving wine and beer! They even used an image from the La Belle Aurore flashback in the slide promos between shows to alert the audience to the presence of adult beverages. Drinking in this film is something I have spent considerably too much time pondering; Rick and his cohort Signor Ferrari are never far from a bourbon bottle, but it is Victor Laszlo’s drink choices that I’ve become fixated upon. A Czechoslovakian fighting Nazi expansion across Europe, Laszlo orders two Cointreaus, a champagne cocktail and two cognacs at different points in the movie. I love the defiance of a man fighting to reclaim France from the Nazis specifically choosing drinks made within the Nazi occupied regions of France. Maybe that was not intentional, and I doubt it was, but it’s one of the innumerable facets that make this story sparkle like no other.

This weekend I saw CASABLANCA in what has become another Brattle tradition: the Valentine’s Day show. Novelist and Boston University professor Leslie Epstein, the son and nephew of the film’s Oscar winning writers Julius & Philip Epstein, spoke before the show. Mr. Epstein joked about his father and uncle’s writing process as starting to work at 1p.m. each day until stopping to play tennis around 3. He explained the hiring of third writer Howard Koch as being necessitated by The Epstein Boys’ period helping Frank Capra and the War Department prepare their WHY WE FIGHT series of films. He also addressed the rumor that CASABLANCA began filming without a firm ending. He told a story of his father and uncle driving east on Sunset Blvd, when at a red light at Doheny Blvd, the line “Round up the usual suspects” struck them both. As they continued east, by the time they’d reached Fairfax Ave, they had planned the entire ending. He even brought the Oscar with him that his father and uncle won, which you may be able to see in his left hand in this photo.

Perhaps this most recent viewing illustrates why seeing CASABLANCA at The Brattle is my perfect moment. It is comfortably familiar but never the same experience twice. If I’m not noticing a detail that I was unable to see on television, or spotting a character nuance that speaks to my life as much as the film itself, then I’m learning how the convergence of this film in this theater came to be. These two are so permanently linked that they become something I can carry with me, reflect upon, and return to like a hometown. I know very well the stretch of Sunset that Leslie Epstein spoke of; I’ve even seen period photos of what it would have looked like during his father and uncle’s epiphany. The next time I drive those two miles, regardless of what else is happening that day, I will have a flash of this perfect moment that never fails to transform and delight and intrigue me.

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MANHATTAN (1979)

Posted in THE LUNCH MOVIE CHRONICLES: The original e-mail announcements that were sent through our office the evening before we rolled a Lunch Movie on February 11th, 2011 by Jim Delaney


From Wednesday, March 5, 2008.

Written & Directed by Woody Allen, starring Diane Keaton, Mariel Hemingway, Meryl Streep, Michael Murphy and Woody Allen.

You’d need a scorecard to keep track of who loves who and who left whom in MANHATTAN. It opens with Isaac (Woody) a 42-year-old TV writer having an affair with 17-year-old Tracy (Hemingway) to get back at his ex-wife Jill (Streep) who left him for a woman. From there the characters’ relationships spiral in every direction possible.

Following this romantic and comic chaos is only half the fun. The other half is experiencing New York in the 70’s via the sound-n-vision landscape of George Gershwin songs married to glowing black-n-white photography by Woody’s frequent collaborator Gordon Willis. Woody was listening to a Gershwin album when he was struck by the idea to shoot a Valentine to his home: “It’s really the rhythm of the city. It’s not peaceful or easy, and because of it you feel more alive. Of all the cities I’ve been to, I like New York the best.”

It’ll finish Friday.
Love, Jim

AFTER THOUGHT from 2.11.11
I searched a bit for colorful trivia that might stimulate an afterthought. Did you know MANHATTAN was Woody’s first film shot in widescreen, the first VHS ever released in the letterbox format, and the first film that television broadcasters were contractually required to show in letterbox (with gray bars before black became standard)? Me neither. While that is interesting to know, and curious to know that Woody was very unsatisfied with this film when it was completed, it is infinitely more fun to soak up every glorious image and balance it with the self deprecating wit of Woody’s writing.

A new viewer can tell from the first three minutes if they are going to love MANHATTAN. This is a film for those who enjoy the strategy behind a verbal sparring as much as a hand to hand fight. We hear Woody’s professional writer Isaac Davis attempt to properly express his love for New York City, writing, revising and rewriting as he speaks. That two-steps-up-one-step-back communication continues to hobble Isaac and every other character. They are capable of being poignant and hilarious when examining other emotional or mental states but all are challenged with understanding love. Isaac is the most hindered of these characters, but Woody enables to film to show us what Isaac cannot tell us, using the city’s architecture and the N.Y. Philharmonic’s Gershwin score to express something intangible. In a resonant finale merging lost Isaac with hopeful Woody, the audience is invited to find our own intangibles, to lift and save us from the often meaningless noise of living.

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