On February 24, 2014, Hollywood lost one of its greatest modern comedic minds. Quiet, modest, but always hilarious, Harold Ramis was a triple threat: an accomplished actor, writer, and director. Always multifarious, Ramis balanced his abilities both in front of and behind the camera with a demeanor that made it all seem effortless. From his early work as the head writer and actor on the cult series SCTV to his collaboration with Robert De Niro and Billy Crystal in the sardonic late ’90s hit Analyze This, Ramis contributed to some of the most beloved comedies of the last forty years… [read more]

Shirley Temple began her acting career at the tender age of three with a number of one-reel films for the short-lived Educational Pictures Company. After signing with Fox in 1934, Temple quickly attained international stardom with a succession of hits including Bright Eyes, featuring “On the Good Ship Lollipop”—a musical number whose sheet music alone sold half a million copies. By this point, a Shirley Temple craze was in full swing; she was easily the most recognizable child actor in the nation, and was incredibly prolific, starring in more than twenty films over the span of five… [read more]

One of America’s preeminent independent documentary filmmakers, Les Blank (1935–2013) was a stalwart of do-it-yourself cinema. With his trusty 16mm camera by his side, he took pride in photographing some of life’s finer moments: Cajun cooking, jazz, the blues, handmade tea, and poetry. Blank’s style, characterized by brilliant handheld camerawork and a loving eye for his material, can be best described as a form of handicraft. Incredibly modest, Blank traveled to screenings with a well-worn suitcase, setting up an impromptu merchandise table with DVDs, buttons, and t-shirts, exuding a down-to-earth approach to the “business” side of filmmaking… [read more]

Few sibling filmmaking teams have been as influential as Joel and Ethan Coen. The two began making Super 8 films as kids in Minnesota and haven’t let up since. They released their debut feature Blood Simple in 1984 with backing from several private investors. Following a successful run on the festival circuit, Blood Simple cemented the Coens as promising talent capable of injecting genre cinema with art house sensibilities.

Their penchant for stylized, oddball humor led to Raising Arizona, a madcap cult hit that ranks among the finest independent comedies of the ’80s…. [read more]

From cinema’s infancy, audiences have been fascinated by the seamier side of human nature. Beginning in 1912 with D.W. Griffith’s The Musketeers of Pig Alley—widely considered to be the first film to deal with gangster themes—the gangster genre has endured through today. While some genre cycles fall in and out of favor, gangsters continue to be a source of fascination, likely due in part to the fact that their lifestyle is unfamiliar to most people. Extortion, violence, embezzlement, gambling, and drinking are but some of the errant behavior exhibited by these tragic heroes, whose rise and fall always makes for compelling entertainment… [read more]

Cher, Barbra Streisand, David Bowie—who could have imagined that these musicians would carve out equally successful careers as actors?
Transcending the novelty and elevating themselves beyond mere cameos, the singers-cum-actors in this series undoubtedly hold their own, resulting in roles that complement their “day jobs,” rather than exploit them. One of the first crooners to moonlight on the silver screen, Bing Crosby established a stellar career in both arenas, starring in films that seemed to fit his style perfectly. This dynamic is central to this series, as the musicians in question are not simply playing themselves, but crafting hybrid roles that effectively balance their talents… [read more]

No other city in North America boasts such a rich tradition of motion picture imaging. Tracing back to George Eastman, Rochester has a storied past of innovators, artists, and entrepreneurs working to support the art and science of film. Mining the vast collections of the Moving Image Department’s vaults, we have curated a series that attempts to shed light on some of Rochester’s greatest cinematic achievements. We begin the series with a long-overdue look at the work of James Sibley Watson, a pioneer in x-ray imaging and a devoted amateur filmmaker. Alongside his filmmaking partner Melville Webber, Watson produced some of the earliest works of the American avant-garde… [read more]

In the late 60s and early 1970s, the world of comedy changed drastically thanks to the entry of the Baby Boom generation into the field. Spurred on by the groundbreaking comedy of Lenny Bruce, Jonathan Winters, and Nichols & May – among many others – comedians, filmmakers, and satirists took aim at a broader range of targets, turned shock value into a fine art, and transformed personal and social tragedies into humor.

On Wednesdays throughout March and April, we’ll take a look at this comic revolution through a series of performance films, underground movies, and cult favorites, beginning with Lenny Bruce in ‘Lenny Bruce’, an amazing historical document of the beat comic who became… [read more]

Spring is often considered a season of invigoration—the sun begins shining again, the snow melts, the days get longer, and flowers bloom. And although Spring Break is supposed to promote rest, relaxation, and revitalization, we thought we’d be contrarian and look at films that explore the opposite: paranoia, depression, and anxiety. We kick things off with George Cukor’s unnerving Gaslight, in which Ingrid Bergman is driven to the brink of insanity following the murder of her beloved aunt. Next is Arachnophobia, a popular comedy-chiller that will make even the most hardened viewers writhe in their seats…. [read more]