The Machinist (2004) Brad Anderson

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The Machinist (2004)
Directed by Brad Anderson
Produced by Carlos Fernández
Written by Scott Kosar
Cinematography by Xavi Giménez
Music by Roque Baños
DVD – interlibrary loan (1:42)

The Machinist disturbs us from the very first frame and never lets up until the final credits roll, yet when you think about it, we’re really not off the hook even then. Much of what disturbs us is watching an emaciated Christian Bale, who lost 62 pounds for the role of Trevor Reznik, a machinist with a prolonged case of insomnia. The disturbing sight of Bale is a strong foundation for more things that will disturb us in the film, grounding the audience in elements that have one foot in horror and the other in noir. Part of what makes The Machinist so powerful is in how it maintains that balance.

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Blind Spot Series 2017: Peeping Tom (1960)

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Peeping Tom (1960)
Produced and directed by Michael Powell
Written by Leo Marks
Cinematography by Otto Heller
Edited by Noreen Ackland
Music by Brian Easdale
Studio Canal Vintage Classics/Optimum Home Entertainment 50th Anniversary Blu-ray (1:41)

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(For more on the Blind Spot Series, please visit The Matinee.)

For many years, perhaps even as a child, I had heard of Peeping Tom discussed in hushed whispers among a handful of adults, although I’m not sure if any of them had actually seen the film, certainly not in central Mississippi where I grew up. It was never a film I had rigorously sought out, but the title (apart from the cultural phrase itself) drifted through the air from time to time, landing on my adolescent ears. Otherwise I knew little about the film, who starred in it, when it was released, and especially (to my disappointment) at what level of salaciousness it operated.

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That’s Entertainment! (1974) Jack Haley, Jr.

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That’s Entertainment! (1974)
Written, produced and directed by Jack Haley, Jr.
Cinematography by Russell Metty
Warner Blu-ray (2:14)

For many years, I have hated musicals. My friends and co-workers have known this for years and were understandably shocked and confused when I chose Singin’ in the Rain for inclusion in our library’s Great Movies series last year. I also tell them that the main reason I hate musicals is that I played trumpet in far too many little theater pit orchestras (both out of obligation and necessity) when I was younger. The long hours of never-ending rehearsals can really wear you down, especially when you’re in your early to mid-20s and have the energy to do something besides waiting for one of the actors to find the right key or listen to the director arguing with the conductor over whether or not a certain verse can be cut from a song.

But that’s beginning to change. I still do not enjoy professional-level Broadway musicals performed onstage, but I’m discovering that movie musicals contain a sort of magic you just can’t find anywhere else. That’s why That’s Entertainment! (and no doubt its sequels) should be shown to people like me who think they hate musicals.

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The Swimmer (1968) Frank Perry

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The Swimmer (1968)
Directed by Frank Perry, Sydney Pollack (uncredited)
Produced by Roger Lewis, Frank Perry
Cinematography by David L. Quaid
Edited by Sidney Katz, Carl Lerner, Pat Somerset
Music by Marvin Hamlisch
Written by Eleanor Perry, based on a short story by John Cheever
Grindhouse Releasing Blu-ray (1:35)

The Swimmer is in many ways a product of the 60s, yet with the exception of a few techniques (and a few swimsuits) that link it to its era, the film transcends its time, making it as relevant in 2017 as it was nearly 50 years ago. (Speaking of 50, let’s just get this out of the way right now. Burt Lancaster was 53 when the film was made. Remember that when you see him diving into swimming pools wearing swimming trunks and moving around like he’s in his 30s. He looks amazing.)

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Monkey Business (1931) Norman Z. McLeod

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Monkey Business (1931) Norman Z. McLeod
Universal – The Marx Brothers Silver Screen Collection Blu-ray (1:19)

Monkey Business is the third Marx Brothers film, but the first to be shot from an original screenplay. (The first two, The Cocoanuts (1929) and Animal Crackers (1930), were by and large adaptations of their Broadway shows.) Is it a better film than Animal Crackers? Is it their best film before Duck Soup (1933)?

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