“De Palma”: A master class from one of cinema’s most controversial directors

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“DePalma” has its Madison premiere at 7 p.m. Friday at the UW-Cinematheque, 4070 Vilas Hall, 821 University Ave. R, 1:50, three and a half stars out of four. FREE!

The Village Voice once ran dueling columns by its film critics, Andrew Sarris and J. Hoberman, on Brian DePalma. One was headlined “Derivative” and the other “Dazzling.”

Such has been the competing views of DePalma. Like his spiritual mentor Alfred Hitchcock, he’s been a deeply polarizing figure in American cinema who only now, late in life, may be finally getting his due. During his heyday, many critics couldn’t look past the blood or the naked women or the bloody naked women in “Dressed to Kill” or “Carrie” or “Body Double.”

But he had his champions, most notably Pauline Kael of The New Yorker, and has come to be renowned as one of the masters of cinematic storytelling. Even if those stories got a little overheated. The fine new documentary “De Palma,” by fellow filmmakers Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow, features just one interview, with De Palma himself, talking about every single film he ever made. No other interviewee is necessary.

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Hot dog! The UW Cinematheque fall 2016 season premieres this week

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We may not be ready to let go of summer just yet, but the release of the UW Cinematheque fall 2016 schedule makes digging that sweater vest out of the closet a little easier.

The free on-campus film series, which has spread from its home base at 4070 Vilas Hall to include the Marquee Theatre at Union South and the Chazen Museum of Art, features indie movie premieres, restored classics, documentaries and cult films. It’s safe to say that none of these films would play in Madison on a big screen if it wasn’t for the programmers at the Cinematheque. And it’s all free.

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Nine reasons to get excited about the UW-Cinematheque Fall 2015 calendar

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I don’t know how it got to be mid-August already, but the long lines of college students at the Hilldale Target confirm it; fall is just around the corner.

By all means, savor those last humid drops of summer while you can. But don’t get too bummed out about autumn. First of all, you look great in that sweater from last year! And, secondly, it means a lot more good movies coming to Madison thanks to the just-announced UW-Cinematheque Fall 2015 calendar. Add in Spotlight Cinema at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, the programming at Union South’s Marquee Theatre, the Tales from Planet Earth Film Festival, the return of the Screening Room Calendar at Sundance Cinemas and all the Oscar contenders coming to theaters, and the fall harvest should be a bountiful one.

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“Life of Riley”: Alain Resnais says goodbye in his own strange way

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“Life of Riley” has its Madison premiere at the UW-Cinematheque, 4070 Vilas Hall on Friday, Dec. 5 at 7 p.m. FREE! Not rated, 1:48, two stars out of four.

French director Alain Resnais had a career spanning 50 years (in “Whiplash,” one of the old black-and-white movies that Miles Teller and Paul Reiser watch is one of his). But rather than feel the accumulated weight of his years and his reputation, Resnais’ later films seemed to get weirder, lighter, more playful.

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“Stray Dog”: Teaching a troubled old dog some new tricks

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“Stray Dog” screens on Sunday at 7 p.m. at 4070 Vilas Hall, 821 University Ave. as part of the UW-Cinematheque series. Director Debra Granik and subject Ronnie “Stray Dog” Hall will both be in attendance to talk about the film. FREE!

I would not mess with Ronnie “Stray Dog” Hall. The Vietnam veteran and Missouri biker is a fearsome-looking man, the sort who looks like he’s led a hard life, but can make yours a lot harder. No wonder director Debra Granik asked him to appear in her movie “Winter’s Bone” as a terrifying backwoods drug dealer. (My interview with Granik is here.) In one deleted scene on the DVD, you can watch Hall absolutely let loose on John Hawkes with an improvised rant that includes the threat “I’ll nail your dick to the wall.” It clearly comes from someplace real.

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Nine reasons to get out of bed for the fall UW-Cinematheque schedule

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Movie-wise, we’re languishing in the doldrums right now between the summer blockbuster season and the fall awards season, which is why the hottest movies at the multiplex right now seem to be old movies like “Ghostbusters” and “Forrest Gump.”

But one of the many virtues of living in a college town is that the on-campus series are firing up right now. While the Union South Marquee has second-run showings are more mainstream fare, it’s the UW-Cinematheque that really has movie lovers ready for fall. The series, which screens films for free Thursdays through Sundays at its home base at Vilas Hall as well as at the Marquee and Chazen Museum of Art, has a terrific lineup of Madison premieres, classic series featuring great directors and actors, series built around genre (horror) and theme (World War I), and other movies that are just plain fun to see on the big screen.

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The five movies you have to see in Madison: Aug. 1-6, 2014

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1. “Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!” (7 p.m. Friday, Union South Marquee) – The UW-Cinematheque summer season is a great way to keep abreast of classic cinema, and that’s certainly true of this screening of Russ Meyer’s 1965 camp classic about three supervixens taking revenge on the leering men around them. Hey, audience? My eyes are up here.

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