Norman Mailer

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Ragtime Review

The late 1970s and early 1980s were heavy times for cinema. This was the era of the majestic miniseries: Roots, Rich Man Poor Man, The Thorn Birds, Shogun. Why, if your film couldn't stretch over at least four hours, it probably wasn't worth telling.

The miniseries mentality reached into the theatrical world as well. And so Milos Forman ended up with Ragtime, a sprawling book about American life in the early 1900s, filled with stories of racism, sudden upward mobility, abandonment, psychosis, and of course that good old ragtime music. The result is a film that sprawls well over two hours yet can't ever decide where the best story lies. Is it a tale of a murderous husband who avenges the harsh treatment of his former-chorus girl wife? The story of an abandoned black baby who winds up in the arms of a wealthy white family? No, Ragtime eventually focuses on a black piano player (Howard E. Rollins Jr.) who rises through the ranks of the ragtime scene, only to find bitter racism and resentment waiting for him on the other side. He ultimately winds up holed up in a library with one of the characters from another story in the film. Some of this is based on real events, most is not.

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Keep the River On Your Right Review

When I told people the full title of the film I was going to see, Keep the River On Your Right: A Modern Cannibal Tale, they laughed in my face. Nevertheless, a weekday showing of this film, presented by the San Francisco International Film Festival, was sold out and the screening ended with a standing ovation.

The title of this documentary, unquestionably, calls for sensation, for the film is based on its main character's singular cannibalistic experience. But the reality is a bit more down-to-earth, as the filmmakers -- brother and sister David and Laurie Gwen Shapiro -- depict a man and the way he found his place in life within a context of much more complex and sensitive issues.

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Town Bloody Hall Review

This isn't a horror film, as the title Town Bloody Hall (now reissued theatrically) might suggest. But you'll be kept on your mental toes while watching a man renowned for possible sexism be thrown into a discussion on feminism. It's a crowded room too, and anything can happen.

On April 30, 1971, a group of panelists came together for a discussion on the feminist movement, largely in response to an essay published by Norman Mailer entitled "The Prisoner of Sex." Mailer was at center stage, flanked by the following: Jaqueline Ceballos (the president of the National Organization for Women), author Germaine Greer (The Female Eunuch), Jill Johnston (a writer from the Village Voice ), and critic Diana Trilling.

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Inside Deep Throat Review

There are relatively few moments in American history that you could correctly refer to as a turning point for the culture, but one of them was almost definitely the moment in 1972 when the Manhattan elite flocked in droves to see the hardcore porn film Deep Throat at a seedy Times Square theater. Cultural upheaval on the scale caused by this eruption of pornography into the mainstream is of course catnip for documentarians and Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato. Their Inside Deep Throat has good fun with its subject, even if it ultimately raises more questions than it answers.

The object at the center of the controversy that would rage through the '70s and into the '80s was a porno shot on the cheap in Florida for less than $25,000. It starred a 19-year-old Linda Lovelace, an actress of sorts who had a talent for fellatio which impressed the filmmakers to no end, and Harry Reems, who was originally just the production assistant, but filled in when the male star turned out not to be up to the challenge. An almost unbelievably silly piece of work (even its director, the affable Gerard Damiano, later admits it wasn't a very good film), Deep Throat achieved notoriety both for the famous act by Lovelace (included uncut in the documentary, the sole reason for its NC-17 rating) and for the fact that it was the rare porno at the time which didn't pretend to be showing sex for "educational" purposes but as an end in and of itself.

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Master Spy: The Robert Hanssen Story Review

Meet Robert Hanssen, a walking contradiction.

He's deeply religious (Catholic, four kids) but trades nudie pics of his wife with his friend.

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Norman Mailer

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