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Spotlight on 2014 National Film Registry

The Big Lebowski interview with Joel and Ethan Coen, Jeff Bridges, and Julianne Moore

From their home base of New York City, the Coen brothers try to explain how Raymond Chandler and bowling came together in The Big Lebowski, their follow-up to Fargo (1996), the out-of-left-field hit that brought them an Academy Award for best original screenplay. While Joel, 43, is listed as the director, and Ethan, 40, as the producer, the Coen brothers actively work together on every aspect of their films, from writing to shooting to editing (using the pseudonym Roderick Jaynes). In keeping with their collaborative working process, they also meet interviewers together, alternating answers and sometimes expanding on what the other has said. MORE

The Big Lebowski review

Underlying the seven films made by Joel and Ethan Coen is a paradox: while showing a world ruled by chaos, their filmmaking style epitomizes methodical control. This embracing of opposites extends to the themes of their films and goes a long way towards explaining their off-kilter sensibility. In the Coens’ world, essentially different perspectives – egghead wit and lowbrow belly laughs, paralyzing angst and straightforward candor – can not only co-exist, but somehow make perfect sense together. The Big Lebowski is no exception. MORE

Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport review

Although this documentary is about the mass rescue of children (the Kindertransport brought 10,000 Jewish children from Nazi Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia to Great Britain in 1938-9), Into the Arms of Strangers offers no easy happily-ever-afters. History, so often seen in black and white, is full of stories like this one, full of immeasurable gradations of grey. With the Kindertransport, the strength and resolve of individuals temporarily won out over the cowardice and brutality of governments, good intentions were married to the will to survive, and children lived to become adults. But writer and director Mark Jonathan Harris doesn’t settle for a facile inspirational model. MORE

 Saving Private Ryan review

The opening half hour of the latest “important” film from director Steven Spielberg (an Amistad as opposed to a Lost World) perfectly sums up the powerful brutality and cheap sentimentality that make up, in equal parts, Saving Private Ryan. After solemn credits, driven by mournful, subdued military-style horns, Spielberg shows a translucent American flag, waving in slow motion. He then cuts to an old man, walking through the peaceful, tree-lined streets of Normandy on his way to a World War II memorial. His family walks ten paces behind him, their expressions worshipful yet concerned. The man is in tears, nearly convulsing with emotion as other people walk obliviously by him. After showing his terrified eyes, Spielberg brings the audience straight into the gut-wrenching scene of soldiers packed into Higgins boats and then storming Omaha Beach on D-Day. MORE