High Museum of Art: Films

In Honor of Snow and Ice by Linda Dubler

As we collectively emerge from the recent  deep freeze, let’s not lose those afghans, Snuggies and warm couch companions just yet. Here are a handful of snow films as chilly as any Hitchcock blonde.

McCabe and Mrs. Miller.

Robert Altman’s revisionist western is notable for all sorts of reasons, from its Leonard Cohen score to its brilliant pairing of Julie Christie as a savvy, opium-smoking madame and Warren Beatty as her smitten business partner, a gambler and a romantic fool.  The film ends in an extraordinary gun battle during a blinding snowstorm, a masterpiece of choreography and cinematography.

Nanook of the North

Enormously popular when it was first released in 1922, Robert Flaherty’s landmark documentary about an Inuit hunter and his family has been restored and released with a new score by Criterion. The film, which was financed by a French fur company and shot near Hudson Bay,  isn’t a pure work by any means–(Nanook’s wives and children were played by people who weren’t his wives and kids; a scene in which Nanook fights to land a harpooned seal was completely staged)–but as Ephraim Katz observed in The Film Encyclopedia, “What made Nanook so remarkable was not its validity as an anthropological study of an exotic ethnic group but its success in capturing the essence of primitive man’s struggle for survival against the hostile forces of nature.”

Noi the Albino

If you felt stir-crazy after being cooped up for a day or two in Atlanta, (where a recent glimpse outside revealed greenery frosted with snow) try trading places with Noi, a poster boy for teenage alienation hailing from the bleak, colorless end of nowhere otherwise known as  Iceland. This very deadpan comedy about a Nordic rebel  is for those who prefer absurdist situations to jokes, and who like their humor espresso dark.

Dr. Zhivago

Who knows how many animals sacrificed their skins so that women around the world could wear fur hats like Lara’s in Dr. Zhivago? Or how many human nerves were frayed by the tinkling of music boxes playing her theme? Dr. Zhivago was roundly booed by critics upon its release in 1965, but the public ate it up.

When it was  restored and revived for its 30th anniversary, Roger Ebert declared that it was “an example of superb old-style craftsmanship at the service of a soppy romantic vision, and although its portentous historical drama evaporates once you return to the fresh air, watching it can be seductive. ” Ebert observed that “the story, especially as it has been simplified by [director David] Lean and his screenwriter, Robert Bolt, seems political in the same sense Gone With the Wind is political, as spectacle and backdrop, without ideology.”

And like Gone With the Wind, it’s the epic sweep, and all that snow, that impresses. Lean built an ice palace out of wax, and resorted to simulating snow with marble dust and plastic during filming in Spain at the height of the summer.

Still yearning for a polar blast? Consider Fargo, March of the Penguins, Encounters at the End of the World, or the Turkish film Climates. And here’s a great YouTube video:

Have any favorite snowy movies? Post them in the comments!

Linda Dubler

Five Questions for Matthew Bernstein by Linda Dubler
Matthew Bernstein

Matthew Bernstein

Matthew Bernstein is professor, chair and director of the Graduate Film Studies Program at Emory University. For twelve years he has introduced and led discussions as host of the  Cinema Club, which now meets at the Midtown Art Cinema on Sunday mornings. He is active in the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival and is the author of  Screening a Lynching: The Leo Frank Case on Film and Television (2009) and Walter Wanger, Hollywood Independent (2000) among many works. He recently answered five questions for us.

Linda Dubler: Is there a movie that changed your life?

Matthew Bernstein: Too many to count.   But Jean Renoir’s The Rules of the Game really made me realize how amazingly complex and profound movies could be.  My first movie date with my wife, shortly after we met, was Last Tango in Paris.

Jean Renoir's The Rules of the Game

Linda: What’s the first film you remember seeing?

Matthew: The Ipress File.  I was scared to death by the torture scenes with Michael Caine at the end.

Linda: Who’s the most underrated director of the past decade?

Matthew:  Hmmmm.  Todd Fields.  Todd Haynes?  Susanne Bier?

Linda: Would you share with us  your favorite reviewers/critics/blogs/movie resources?

Matthew: A.O. Scott, Manola Darhgis, David Denby, Kenneth Turan, Eleanor Ringel.

Linda: Five movies that Films at the High audience members should see this year?

Matthew: District 9 (if they can stand it); Up; Lemon Tree; Food, Inc.; The Wave; Everlasting Moments.

Food Glorious Food by Linda Dubler
September 8, 2009, 11:51 am
Filed under: General, Top Picks | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

“Everything you see I owe to spaghetti.”  Sophia Loren

Sophia Loren

Sophia Loren

With Julie and Julia launching three books  to the best seller list and a trio of  Atlanta chefs still in the game on Bravo’s Top Chef,  I’ve been thinking about  food in the movies. There’s a familiar handful of titles that pop up whenever anyone puts together a list on this theme — Babette’s Feast, Eat Drink Man Woman, Tampopo, Mostly Martha, Big Night, and now Ratatouille. To that, add Stephen Chow’s hilarious The God of Cookery, in which he plays a jaded, arrogant chef who has lost his mojo and has to rediscover it ; his triumph involves creating a meatball that squirts.

Then there are the documentaries that make eating a worrisome venture, including Super Size Me and Food, Inc. If actual foodstuffs seem too  scary to contemplate, consider Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe, a documentary by Les Blank that’s been added as a bonus to Blank’s estimable Burden Of Dreams. It features Herzog, the German filmmaker, fulfilling the  promise  he made to then aspiring filmmaker Errol Morris, that he would literally eat his shoe if Morris ever completed his first project, Gates of Heaven. Shot at the Gates premiere, it shows the ever passionate Werner H. chewing away on  a boot  seasoned with duck fat, garlic, tomatoes and herbs, boileded into  submission, and washed down with  a bottle of Heinenken.  Or revisit Chaplin’s Goldrush for the famous boot-eating scene, (the boot was made of licorice)  which required 3 days and 63 takes to suit the master; supposedly Chaplin was rushed to the hospital in insulin shock following this ordeal.  Here’s that same movie’s bread ballet:

Alfred Hitchcock was notoriously phobic of eggs, declaring “Blood is jolly, red. But egg yolk is yellow, revolting.” One of the most disturbing food images I can think of  is from Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps.  It’s a simple black and white shot of a piece of fish sitting on a lonely plate in the protagonist’s refrigerator — but there’s something about the near empty ice-box and the pale fillet sitting on the white plate that is unappetizing in the extreme.

Here’s a cooking demo that my Asian food enthusiast son showed me. I think that Julia would approve.

What’s whetted your appetite or put you off your feed? Write us and share your thoughts.

Anti-Action movies by Linda Dubler

Anti-Action Movies: Not exactly Zen,  but definitely not G.I. Joe

School has already started in Atlanta, where we’re slogging through another endless August.  But Labor Day, marking the unofficial end of summer, is in sight (though  it’ll be hot here until Halloween). In the spirit of celebrating the close of Action Movie season, (no more robots going mano-a-mano; no more things blowing up real good, at least for a while)  Eleanor Ringel Cater and I have been thinking about some sublime Anti-Action Movies — films that rely upon mood, conversation, acute observation and emotional complexity rather than sound and fury.

We’ve spared you the avant-garde’s really anti-action movies like Warhol’s Sleep and Michael Snow’s Wavelength. What follows is guaranteed to keep you awake and get you in shape for the “serious”  Oscar-contender fare coming soon to a theatre near you.

What are your favorite Labor Day weekend movies? Action? or Anti-action?

Linda’s Ten Anti-Action Movies to Watch

Nobody Knows

You know that unsettling  feeling when things are just  too quiet? That’s the mood left by this delicate Japanese film about children who are forced to fend for themselves after their flighty mother takes a hike.  And it’s based on a true story.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

“Life affirming” can be such an icky term. But drop the treacley associations and it gets at the radiant sensuality  of this film about a man whose body has failed him, but whose mind is still very much alive. Painter turned filmmaker Julian Schnabel directed.

To Be and To Have

One of my all-time favorite documentaries, To Be and To Have unfolds in a one-room school in rural France, where a middle-aged teacher in his last year on the job attends to students ranging from pre-schoolers to thirteen-year-olds.  It’s exquisitely observed, tender, and funny. The rather obscure English title refers to the essential verbs, to be (etre) and to have (avoir) whose conjugations are key to learning the French language.

Bombon The Dog

Bombon The Dog

Bombon The Dog (aka El  Perro)

A gentle Argentine comedy about an out-of-work mechanic (played by the guy who used to park the director’s car) who receives a large, pedigreed dog as thanks for helping a stranded motorist. Bombon, the handsome canine, is prime material for the show ring, and soon Coco, the film’s middle-aged hero, is making the scene with his new best friend.

The Door in the Floor

A great film that fell into the void, this bleakly funny marital drama,  based on a vignette from a John Irving novel, features fabulous performances by Jeff Bridges as a philandering writer of children’s books and Kim Bassinger as  his  smart, ripely beautiful, and grieving wife. A coming of age story is incidental to the complex emotional tenor of the movie.

Also, Laila’s Birthday (DVD release in December), Baran, Encounters at the End of the World, 28 Up and Diabolique.

Eleanor’s Ten Anti-Action Movies to Watch

Remains of the Day

The Remains of the Day

My Dinner with Andre

Writer-actor Wallace Shawn plays practical Mole to stage director Andre Gregory’s visionary Toad in this exquisite comedy of table manners that’s actually nothing more than a two-hour dinner chat about the Meaning of Life and other pertinent matters.

Raise the Red Lantern

Celebrated filmmaker Zhang Yimou’s ravishingly gorgeous study of gender politics in ’20s China. Manipulation, sexuality and power plays are the weapons of choice.

The Remains of the Day

Set mostly in the 1930s, this is a heartbreakingly deft and impeccably acted study of the road not taken–or rather, the life not lived. Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson are the very models of tortured restraint as servants in one of the statelier mansions of England.

Babette’s Feast

Babettes Feast

Babette's Feast

A delectable celebration of the transforming power of art, rendered in mouth-wateringly gastronomic terms. A French woman finds refuge in Denmark after fleeing the 1871 upheavals in Paris and, as a thank you to her dour Danish rescuers, fixes a banquet worthy of the gods.

Plus, Marty (I don’t know, Marty.Whadda’ you wanna do tonight?), Away From Her, The Diary of Anne Frank, The Savages, Notorious and just about anything by Eric Rohmer.

Share your picks and send us your comments.

Ten Things about Pather Panchali by Linda Dubler
Satyajit Ray

Satyajit Ray

1.  From 1943 until 1956, when he became a full time filmmaker after the success of Pather Panchali, Ray worked for a British-owned advertising agency, beginning as a “junior visualizer,” and ending as the north Calcutta office’s art director.

2.  Ray met Jean Renoir when the French director was in Calcutta searching for locations and actors for his film The River. As Andrew Robinson recounts in his biography, Satyajit Ray, The Inner Eye, “Satyajit recognized in Renoir a real film artist — the first he had come to know — and drew strength for his own work from the knowledge that such a person existed. Forty years later, while receiving the Legion of Honor from the President of France in Calcutta, Ray told him that he had alaways considered Renoir to be his ‘principal mentor’.”

3.  In 1950, during a stay in London, Ray saw more than 100 movies, and was shaken to the core by De Sica’s Bicycle Thieves. In a 1982 lecture he said, “I came out of the theatre my mind firmly made up. I would become a filmmaker. . . I would make my film exactly as De Sica had made his: working with non-professional actors, using modest recourses, and shooting on actual locations.”

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Eleanor Ringel-Cater on John Hughes by Linda Dubler
August 10, 2009, 10:18 am
Filed under: General, Guest Blogger, Top Picks | Tags: , , ,

The sudden loss of John Hughes—he was 59, for God’s sake, and he had a HEART ATTACK!!! while walking around New York City— somehow doesn’t make sense.

Budd Schulberg, who died a day earlier, was in his 90s and died of natural causes. But Hughes, he was like a kid.

John Hughes

John Hughes

Okay, like a kid the way all Baby Boomers want to see themselves as still like kids (especially over this Woodstock Anniversary Weekend). But one of the most interesting things about Hughes’ career was, aside from some movies with John Candy and Steve Martin (Planes, Trains and Automobiles) and Chevy Chase’s Vacation pictures, Hughes wrote about kids. Teens mostly, who were all about 15-18 years younger than him

He was, in a sense, the best big brother the Gen-Xers ever had. He got it. And he got it through their often hyperventilating filter, not his or that of his peers. He chronicled the troubles and triumphs of middle-class suburbia with an expert psychological acuity. And he knew when to be funny and when to take stuff (Senior Prom, say) seriously.

And he wasn’t afraid to think like a girl. In this post-American Pie era, it’s amazing to think back and realize he created as many memorable females as males. Molly Ringwald, the teen queen of  Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink and The Breakfast Club comes immediately to mind. So does Ally Sheedy, another detention-hall detainee in The Breakfast Club. And the touching tom-boy Mary Stuart Masterson in Some Kind of Wonderful, as well Lea Thompson, who played a Dream Girl with a heart and a personality in the same film (compare her to the title character in the recent  I Love You Beth Cooper and you may feel nauseated).

Molly Ringwald and John Cryer in Pretty in Pink

Molly Ringwald and John Cryer in Pretty in Pink

He didn’t do badly by the guys, either. Matthew Broderick in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off remains an icon of teen anarchy for the ages.  Emilio Estevez showed us jocks could be good guys too, in The Breakfast Club. Jon Cryer did the same for geeks in Pretty in Pink.

The end of the ‘80s was pretty much the end of Hughes and I’m not sure why. The last movie he wrote and directed was the infinitely deplorable Curly Sue (to this day, “She’s Adorable!” remains a code word with certain friends). He continued to write, but, aside from the first Home Alone, which probably owes its reputation to Macaulay Culkin’s Edvard Munch scream more than anything else, he seemed to have dropped into 4th gear. He wrote more Home Alone movies. And the Beethoven series, under the pseudonym Edmond Dantes, which he borrowed from The Count of Monte Cristo. And live-action adaptations of Disney animated features that should’ve been left alone.

I don’t even want to talk about She’s Having a Baby or Baby’s Day Out.

My favorite things in John Hughes movies:

Matthew Broderick’s party in the street in Ferris Bueller.

The friendship between the uncool Mary Stuart Masterson and the very cool Eric Stoltz in Some Kind of Wonderful.

Some Kind of Wonderful

Some Kind of Wonderful

The scenes between Molly Ringwald and her struggling, probably alcoholic and unemployed dad, Harry Dean Stanton, in Pretty in Pink.

John Candy and Steve Martin, just trying to get home for Thanksgiving in Planes, Trains and Automobiles.

And my absolute favorite, from The Breakfast Club: Ally Sheedy, head down and hunched over in the back of detention hell, draws a house and then, to add snow, shakes the dandruff out of her hair onto the paper.

John Hughes understood.

-Eleanor Ringel-Cater

Eleanor Ringel-Cater is an award-winning journalist who previously was the lead film critic for the Atlanta Journal Constitution.  She currently reviews for The Daily Report and comments on films on WMLB AM 1690. She is a member of the National Society of Film Critics and FIPRESCI. She will be a regular contributor to the High’s film blog.

Remembering John Hughes by Linda Dubler

The Breakfast Club

The Breakfast Club

I am a child of the 1950s, so by the time I was reviewing films in the 1980s, I was too old for John Hughes’s tales of high-school humiliation, stronger-than-SuperGlue friendships, and first kisses to serve as my generational touchstones. But for millions of Gen Yers, the bright, funny, and appropriately tormented kids who populated his films were irreplaceable alter-egos, and were as much a fabric of their youth as mom’s cooking or Saturday morning cartoons. With the director’s untimely death on my mind, I invite readers to join High Museum of Art staff members in sharing their memories of John Hughes’s films.

Linda Dubler

Recent stories

A poignant personal remembrance.
From piece the New York Times Art Beat.
An appreciation from Paste Magazine.

Staff Memories

I was really little when Pretty in Pink came out, but it pretty much defined my childhood.  Andie & Iona’s  style & attitude taught me how to be comfortable “being myself,” and Duckie’s performance of “Try a Little Tenderness” was a classic that I still mimic when I listen to Otis Redding in the car!
-Mandy Barber, Assistant Manager of Individual Support


Ferris Bueller’s Day Off has got to be every kid’s fantasy. Take off for the day. No responsibilities. Cool car. Fancy restaurants. Art museum (shameless plug). Actually, now that I’m no longer a student, I can see it as every adult’s fantasy, too…
– Jennifer Maley, Wine Auction Assistant Manager


John Hughes makes movies that stick in your memory. The words and pictures stick to a safe place in your mind, held captive there until a real life situation needs a good one-liner or some nugget of wisdom: “That’s why they call them crushes. If they were easy, they’d call them something else.”

Even though the movies took place in that distant Shermer, Illinois, the family units, friend groups, conversations and consequences were both painfully and joyfully familiar to each viewer. Every teenager wants to wallow in her feelings, convinced that no one can understand what she’s going through. Through the truth of humor, John Hughes made millions of teenagers  realize that someone did understand, that it happened all the time, and that one day things would get better. Somehow, those movies had the power that our parents, teachers and friends lacked. It’s really all we wanted to know.
– Emily Beard, Web Content Coordinator


I both lived and suffered a vicarious day off through Ferris at 14. I mean who would want to go to school when dreams of driving around downtown Chicago in a Ferrari GT and having a parade and fun and food and not have to worry about anything were almost never within reach?
– Tannasha Lindsay, Visitor Services, On-Site Supervisor


Was it seeing Jake Ryan kiss Samantha Walsh that perpetuated my excitement to turn sixteen?  Perhaps it was when I spoke up in my 9th grade class and was sent to detention that made me secretly feel rebellious?  Maybe it was the time I ditched class and went to Six Flags instead that made me an accomplished senior.  No, I actually think it was the day I realized that being a nerd was cool, being a tomboy could still get me a date, and wearing pink didn’t make me any less of a tomboy.

To hope my life has somehow mimicked the pop culture carousel that is John Hughes is to declare to the world that I have grown up, gone through, and now gratefully made it though my teen years.

He was the master of creating adolescent images in film that stay with you long after your first kiss, your first car, and your first slow dance.  As my 10-year high school reunion approaches this October, I tip my hat to John  Hughes, the father figure of making it more than okay to grow up.  And to laugh.
– Julie Marateck, Speakers Bureau Coordinator