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Daily Briefing. Dave Kehr on Laurel and Hardy

Also: David Thomson on Steve McQueen and Carolyn Kellogg on politics in Hollywood.

Even if you can't afford the back issues Film Comment's offering, the shop's a great browse.

The new issue of (in German) features dossiers on Chantal Akerman, films from Iran and Austria and the state of cinephilia. And you can bet I'm going to go ahead and mention that I've been interviewed for the issue as well.

This evening in San Francisco: "Essential SF is an ongoing compendium of the Bay Area film community's most vital figures and institutions. Veteran visionaries Allie Light, Irving Saraf, Joshua Grannell, Susan Gerhard, Karen Larsen, Canyon Cinema, Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman and others will be feted at this short ceremony." Read profiles of all the honorees here.

DVD. The "superbly assembled" Laurel and Hardy: The Essential Collection boasts over 32 hours of material on ten discs, including "several foreign-language versions of the shorts, which were made in the days before dubbing was perfected and feature Stan and Ollie speaking phonetic Spanish and French," notes Dave Kehr in the New York Times. "The alternate versions often include different gags and interpolated variety numbers to bring them up to feature length for foreign release…. Most important, these are new transfers, scanned from restored copies of the original release versions — no small thing for these films, which were so often sliced, diced, rescored and retitled over the years, as they were reissued by various companies for various markets. If anything, these were movies that were loved too much, copied so frequently that the original negatives for many of the early shorts were worn out and either lost or junked. It's a pleasure to see them with the original opening titles restored, the images unscratched and unspeckled, and the soundtracks cleaned up to the point where the delightful original scores by Leroy Shield and Marvin Hatley can be appreciated in all their chipper elegance."

Books. David Thomson in the New Republic on Marc Eliot's Steve McQueen: A Biography: "[J]ust as McQueen refused any trace of intellectualism (or searching analysis) in his own life, so he resists anything like a good book…. To read a full life of the man is a strain on interest, but two minutes of Bullitt and you recall his coiled, lethal impact."

And Carolyn Kellogg in the Los Angeles Times on Steven J Ross's Hollywood Left and Right: How Movie Stars Shaped American Politics: "If there is a theme, it is that activist leftists in Hollywood have often leveraged their professional positions to create artworks that support their ideology: Belafonte, Fonda and Beatty all became producers as well as stars. Often this worked to their financial benefit, but not always. Those on the right — [George] Murphy, Reagan, Heston and Arnold Schwarzenegger — tended to use the lessons they'd learned from appearing on screen and having a public Hollywood life to build a second act in politics. These conclusions, however, are left to be drawn by the reader. Ross is excellent at providing details, but he never quite figures out what they mean; he never draws back to provide the big picture."

Speaking of the LAT, its "Holiday Movie Sneaks" package is up.

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