Robert Hunt | St. Louis Public Radio

Robert Hunt

Robert Hunt

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: November 18, 2008 - The Shady Oak theater has bowed to the wrecking ball. While some may see this as a time for goodbyes, I suspect that those who actually patronized the theater paid their last respects long ago.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: November 12, 2008 - Documentary filmmaker Greg Kohs first saw the Milwaukee-based act "Lightning & Thunder" performing at a biker convention he was filming for Harley-Davidson, and though they never made it onscreen in that project, he was sufficiently impressed to choose them for his next subject. And who wouldn't be? Mark Sardina ("Lightning") and his wife Claire ("Thunder" - and yes, they really do call themselves by those names even at home) were long-time sensations on the state-fair-and-convention circuit.

Wikipedia

As the summer movie season began, the first thing one might have detected was a sense of irrelevancy. That there would be a phalanx of sequels, comic book heroes and retreads of well-known pop-culture material. What was less evident at first was a sense that many of this year's offerings were not just familiar but ... unnecessary.

The death of Claude Chabrol this weekend provides further proof that the masters of the Nouvelle Vague, celebrating its 50th anniversary this year (depending on how you determine its origin), are all in their sunset years even as their films, new and old, continue to shine.

James Cameron's To-Do List

____ 1. December 2009. Release "Avatar" in theaters. Make quadrozillion dollars.

(Note: Whine loudly when Tim Burton's "Alice in Wonderland" pushes it off screens three months later.Those are my theaters, Tim!)

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Dec. 30, 2008 - The Library of Congress has announced the most recent additions to the National Film Registry ; and, as usual, there are plenty of well-deserved selections, although it's disconcerting to see that nearly half of the films on the list are younger than I am:

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: November 21, 2008 - I just resisted suggesting that “Visual Acoustics: The Modernism of Julius Shulman” is “recommended for anyone who’s interested in architecture or modernism” because it is commendable for so much more of us than the modernist fans.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: November 20, 2008 - When you read about the stories that "A Powerful Noises" focuses on, you might wonder why you'd like to go. 

As the movie's website says, "Hanh is an HIV-positive widow in Vietnam. Nada, a survivor of the Bosnian war. And Jacqueline works the slums of Bamako, Mali" as a community organizer.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: November 20, 2008 - In 1992, when filmmaker Steven Soderbergh and producers Ron Yerxa and Albert Berger collaborated on a film of A.E. Hotchner's "King of the Hill ," an autobiographical account of growing up during the Depression, they brought their cameras to the city streets where Hotchner had actually spent his childhood, right here in St. Louis. Much had changed in five decades, but enough of the past remained to add an authenticity for Soderbergh and company (with a cast that included Spalding Gray, Karen Allen and Elizabeth McGovern).

SLIFF: 'Special'

Nov 17, 2008

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: November 17, 2008 - "Special" is something of a one-joke movie, but it's a pretty good - and ultimately touching - one. The hero, Les Franken (Michael Rapaport) is living a simple but dull life reading comic books and working in traffic-meter violations when he signs on to test a new anti-depressant product called "Special." Unfortunately, there are side effects.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: November 15, 2008 - Coming-of-age films are a staple of film festivals, so much so that it becomes difficult to say anything new about them. But while childhood experiences are universal, they're also - like Tolstoy's unhappy families - unique, which is why filmmakers keep returning to them.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: November 15, 2008 - "Kassim the Dream" is an documentary film that works on two levels, first as an intimate look inside the private life of an athlete at the peak of his abilities, and second, as a harrowing examination of a serious human rights crisis. One aspect is uplifting, the other devastating; By the end of this exceptional film, the two threads have been sewn together into a single powerful story.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: November 14, 2008 - Just because you're still trying to figure out how to catch every film at the festival this weekend (Let's see, if I can just teleport from Plaza Frontenac to the Tivoli in time for "Mishima" and then go back in time to catch "Song Sung Blue"...) doesn't mean that there isn't any other film news to think about. For instance...

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: November 12, 2008 - There are two frequent presumptions about "Dear Zachary" that need to be addressed - or dismissed - before any discussion can begin. The first is that reviews need to be labeled "Spoiler Alert," that irritating online tradition based on the notion that films - or narratives of any kind - can be reduced to a handful of plot twists and surprise endings. Have we reached the stage where even works of nonfiction are subject to this juvenile one-upmanship?

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: November 11, 2008 - The start of the St. Louis International Film Festival is just a couple of days away, and we'll be using this space to try to preview as many of the 2,340 films (just an estimate) as humanly possible. But there's no way to cover everything, no way to even guess which of the 3,680 films will be an unheralded masterpiece. So take a few chances, go out on a limb. That's what film festivals are for.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: October 17, 2008 - With all of the arguments and hand-wringing taking place these days over the status of film criticism, surely one way to raise the level of discussion would be to abolish the increasingly silly compilation of lists for everything from the Top 10 underrated Bill Murray performances  to the Best Nicole Kidman Sex Scenes .

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: September 21, 2008 - Remember back in the early '80s when MTV emerged and the entertainment industry was convincing itself that the promotional films record companies had been producing for years had suddenly become part of a major aesthetic breakthrough, and that "Billie Jean" and "Hungry Like the Wolf" were the future of cinema as we know it?

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: September 15, 2008 - There are artists whose works are hung in galleries or shown on screens or preserved in books, and there are artists who ignore the rules and find material in everything from the interior decoration of their apartments to the organization of trash piled on the street. There are "outsider" artists, and there are artists so esoteric that they never even make it outdoors. Three recent DVD releases show four major artists working underground, out of bounds or within worlds solely of their own making.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: August 19, 2008 - We tend to believe, in this day of Netflix and video on demand, that we have access to just about every movie ever made, but the truth is that hundreds, maybe thousands, of films simply fall through the cracks of the video world, too obscure or unpopular or simply unknown to risk a DVD release.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: August 15, 2008 - If there's a common theme to some of this summer's movies - other than comic books and half-remembered TV programs - it may be that a sense of exhaustion with the trappings of big-budget and CGI-enhanced action-adventure films has begun to creep in. Just as the success of "E.T." and the "Star Wars" films led to more playful special-effects extravaganzas in "Gremlins" and "Ghostbusters" 25 years ago, many of this summer's films seem to be saying, "We already know how to blow things up or send an 18-wheeler careening upside-down across a freeway. Now what?"

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: August 12, 2008 - "Get Smart" was a witty but minor TV comedy series created by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry at a time (1965) when television and movie screens were overrun with secret agents and their preposterous gadgets. The humor was broad and, like most TV comedies of its time, concentrated more on the recurring foibles of the main characters - agent Maxwell Smart (Don Adams), his patient supervisor the Chief (Edward Platt) and his female counterpart Agent 99 (Barbara Feldon) - than on the complexities of plot. Agent 86 never saw a case that couldn't be solved in less than 30 minutes.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: August 11, 2008 - Maybe the calendar says that there are five weeks or so before the end of summer, but anyone whose life is affected in any way by the school year knows that summer is almost over, autumnal equinox  or no autumnal equinox.

And how will we look back on the movies of the summer of '08, the hits, the misses, the embarrassments? 

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: August 8, 2008 - “American Teen,” which opened in St. Louis Friday, is a movie about a handful of teenagers in their senior year of high school in Warsaw, Ind. The school, the town, the students are all “real,” i.e., not fictional creations, so I guess that makes the film a documentary. But the film is so eager to please, so determined to present a particular image of how teenagers behave, that it ultimately seems contrived, calculated and more than a little phony. How real is that?

The Lens: Factory girl

Jun 10, 2008

Woody, take two

Jun 2, 2008

An earlier entry on Woody Allen was left incomplete, not from any attempt to create suspense but solely due to the limitations of my cut-and-paste editing technique, which sometimes proves to be biased toward the first task.

So to finish my point ...

Sydney Pollack, director, producer and surprisingly effective character actor, was one of a handful of filmmakers who emerged in the early days of television drama and graduated to a successful career in feature films, establishing himself in the late '60s and '70s as the director-of-choice for some of the most prominent movie stars of the New Hollywood.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Don't blame me, I voted for Sen. Palantine: We already knew he was influenced by "Star Wars" and "Rambo." Now, as reported on The Screengrab, a Columbia University economist writing in the Financial Times has constructed a Rube Goldberg-like string of events in which Ronald Reagan's economic policies of the 1980s were made possible by ... Travis Bickle. Coming soon: How Leslie Nielsen and Lloyd Bridges helped Reagan handle the flight controllers' strike.

Hard Questions

May 18, 2008

More on the state of film criticism from the always-insightful Filmbrain.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: When it was announced about a year ago that Scarlett Johansson was recording an album of Tom Waits songs, many commentators feigned a kind of exasperated surprise, as if the idea of an actress (or actor) taking a chance on a musical project was unknown. It’s not.

The Lens: Good Wood

May 14, 2008

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: An odd coupling from a late-’60s Allen TV special:

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