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Maryam Review


Good
Suburban prejudice surrounding real life circumstance is the basis of this fairly impressive debut by writer/director Ramin Serry. While it may play like an after-school special you might have seen during the 1980s on PBS, the emotional struggles portrayed remain digestible, and often thought-provoking.

Maryam (aka Mary, Mariam Parris) is a bright, high-schooler, living in an Iranian household that's substantial enough monetarily (her father, played by Shaun Toub, is a doctor) that her mother (Shohreh Aghdashloo) doesn't have to work. She goes to school, finally gets to drive the family car, and participates in activities such as the school news club. The flipside of this charmed life is that she is the first generation to grow up in America, and her family still abides by some traditional Iranian rules. She isn't allowed out at night, and her father refuses her phone calls after dark as well, especially from boys.

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The Miracle Worker (1962) Review


Excellent
You'd have to be a hard-assed bastard indeed not to be touched in some way by The Miracle Worker, the film version of Helen Keller's story -- the blind, deaf, and mute girl we all tragically made jokes about when we were kids. Anne Bancroft plays Helen's patient teacher Annie, who uses the virtues of tough love to teach the stubborn and spoiled Helen (Patty Duke) to understand sign language. Notable not just for its earnestness and two outstanding performances (both won Oscars) -- it's also got one of the longest catfights in cinema history.

Gone With The Wind Review


Essential
One of the classic films that defined American cinema, Gone With the Wind is a rare example of a collaboration involving hundreds of talents and egos that turned out great. Dozens of uncredited screenwriters (including F. Scott Fitzgerald, briefly) and hundreds of actors were marshaled by David O. Selznick for this effort. The resulting four-hour epic is, inflation-adjusted, still the highest-grossing movie of all time -- and it deserves to be. For millions of people, Gone With the Wind has helped to define the myth and reality of America's most tragic (and much-misunderstood) period of history, the Civil War and Reconstruction.

Margaret Mitchell's bestselling novel was the most successful period romance novel of all time, a combination of historical detail and soap that drew from family recollections of the war and its aftermath. The novel's popularity allowed the filmmakers to be confident of success, but still, Selznick spent more time and money, and took more risks, than could have been expected. The requisite attention was paid to costumes and sets, of course. More important, the film's visual effects -- especially the burning of Atlanta and the smoking ruins of the Georgia plantations after Sherman's pillage -- are the most effective and memorable that had been attempted at that time.

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Papillon Review


Very Good
There's a lot to like about Papillon. Compared to the witless blockbusters of today, with their explosions and CGI trickery, Papillon is the type of outsized escapist adventure tale that Hollywood once had down pat. It's well acted, gorgeously shot, and generally exciting -- all of which makes its mediocrity an even greater disappointment.

The trouble lies in its placement in the evolution of the Hollywood action film. Papillon is a transitional species. At the same time it soars on old-fashioned virtue, it also suffers from modern vice. Its 150-minute running time, false endings, and mind-numbing repetitions make it an early predecessor of the indulgent blockbuster of today.

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