Taylor and Leacock R.I.P., Plus Schnabel's Latest

Hard to imagine a film article that would mention both Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Leacock, but they are currently sharing obituary pages all over the world (if there is any justice). Taylor is truly the last of the great movie stars of the studio period. (Except for maybe Mickey Rooney and Kirk Douglas, who else is left?) Never a great actress, although she is a luminous presence in Jane Eyre, Father of the Bride and Father's Little Dividend, she was a good person who did enormous charity work in support of people with AIDS, among others, and for that alone she deserves to thought of kindly.

Leacock, as my friend and fellow Ira-voter Howard Karren rightly observed, is important more as part of the first wave of American cinema-verite filmmakers than for his own films alone. But his work with D.A. Pennebaker and on his own is memorable and significant. At the very least, he deserves a Good Conduct Medal with oak leaf cluster for his arm wrestling with Jean-Luc Godard on the Stones movie (choose your title to fit you side in the battle).

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Julian Schnabel has yet to really impress me as a filmmaker. I find his work visually disorganized, if well-intentioned. His latest film, Miral, is guaranteed to raise hackles in certain part of the Jewish community here and in Israel, where it is set. My review can be found here.

And the 40th edition of New Directors/New Films opened at the Museum of Modern Art this evening. I'll have my assessment of the few films I managed to see in the next day or two.

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Finally, as some of you may know it's almost Ira time. The New York Independent Film Critics Circle -- the most rumpy (and rumply) of rump groups, is meeting Saturday night in an undisclosed location far away from the prying eyes of Al-Qaeda, the Taliban and the Better Business Bureau. I'll report the results as soon as I sober up-- excuse me, wake up on Sunday.
For those of you who can't get enough of such matters (and who can't!?) I urge you to check the joint blog of Alex Lewin and Aaron Rich, the next generation of Ira voters (or should we call them Iras 2.0; the Reboot?).

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