El Cid

Ostensibly, El Cid is the cinematic tale of the legendary 11th-century warrior who repelled the Moorish invasion of Spain. Viewed in its glorious, first ever DVD presentation, this 1961 epic now seems mostly to be about how to capture mountain vistas, open plains, sprawling armies, and, not incidentally, Sophia Loren?s eyes, in widescreen Super Technirama and glorious color. If the clotted plot, and the customary stiffness of Charlton Heston?s performance, has tarnished this onetime box-office smash, the current format gives us a chance to admire the craftsmanship of a dedicated Hollywood professional, director Anthony Mann, as he indulges his keen eye for visual splendor. The pleasure Mann obviously derived from collaborating with a major cinematographer (Robert Krasker, the man who lensed The Third Man), a gifted production, set, and costume designer (Veniero Colasanti), and, above all, a producer with open pockets (Samuel Bronston), is palpable. Mann?s work in the film noir (Raw Deal) and western (The Man from Laramie) genres may have been where his true genius lay, but the historical epic offered him the chance to paint on a broad canvas, capturing sweeping landscapes, manipulating hundreds of extras, and investing every scene, be it on a Spanish plateau or a lavish interior set, with emotionally expressive color. In the light of today?s political upheavals, El Cid --which promotes social unity as a way to ward off Islamic invasion -- can be read as a strangely prescient work. But why dig that deep when you can devote attention to how gorgeous both Spain and Loren look. -

April 17: "In less than three years, both GM and Chrysler would be bankrupt, and a resurgent Ford would wow Wall Street..."

Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch is the winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. James Parker calls this Dickensian coming-of-age novel "an enveloping…

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Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Poems That Make Grown Men Cry

And women too.  Luminaries from Colin Firth to Nick Cave and Jonathan Franzen chose the poems that bring them to tears, and the result is a stunning collection of poignant verse from writers like Auden, Whitman, Bishop, Larkin, Neruda and many others.  Warning: choking-up hazard.

The King of Pain

Trapped beneath his entertainment system, reality TV mastermind Rick Salter reflects on his life and tries to piece together the events of the previous evening. Seth Kaufman’s romp is an outrageous meditation on pain and entertainment in a deranged world in which the two are often interchangeable.

The Good Inn

Frank Black, frontman for the Pixies, has written a transgressive historical fiction with shades of Thomas Pynchon (focused as it is on the history of explosives and cinematic pornography), all set in a hallucinatory Edwardian Europe.