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Joshua Jay
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Hello all,

Just a quick note to let you know that I've posted an article on magic in the movies (and TV) on my blog. Check out http://www.joshuajay.com to see it. I thought the following would be appropriate here as everything is available, I assume, on DVD.

I know many of you will sympathize with this, but I get asked about particular movies that involve magicians all the time, and I've spent a considerable amount of time thinking about why so many of them are so bad. "What did you think of the Prestige?" "Is that how Houdini really died, like in the movie?"

In this article, I try and outline what magic has worked (or not worked) on the silver screen, and hopefully suggest a few titles you haven't seen before.

And, I thought it might lead to some interesting discussions on movies I didn't choose to explore in the article. One person already posted a response on my site about a film I'm dying to get ahold of...the Great Kadinsky.

To that end, I just got a chance to see an old episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents...it's called the Sorcerer's Apprentice and it was pitch-perfect: grim, unpredictable, and a lot of fun. It features Sadini the magician!

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the article on my site, http://www.joshuajay.com.

Josh
Tom Cutts
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Best all time has to be Terror Train. Smile
acesover
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A very interesting movie entitled "Magic" starring Anthony Hopkins and Ann Margret is not necessrily about Magic per say, but about a ventrouliquist (spelling). It starts off slow but gets very intense after about 20 minutes. Black and White.

If you find it rent it or buy it. It is worth watching.
If I were to agree with you. Then we would both be wrong. As of Apr 5, 2015 10:26 pm I have 880 posts. Used to have over 1,000
paisa23
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There was a Friday the 13th episode on Chiller that had a magician with the power to stay young as long as he sacrifised his volunteer. Pretty freaky.
daver
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On that note, how about the small screen, Josh? I've got the DVD set of "The Magician" with Bill Bixby, which had Mark Wilson as the advisor.

IMHO, cheesy plots (after all, this was the "Mannix" era of TV) but the magic was pretty well done. After all, Mark pioneered magic on TV and was the expert on what could work with the cameras....

Dave
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What's the difference between a magician and a deck of cards? A deck of cards has FOUR suits...
Cameron Francis
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Woah! "Illusionist" over "The Prestige"???

While the The Illisionist was entertaining, it was completely predictable. "The Prestige" for me was absolutely captivating. A dark, extremely well acted fairy tale. Who cares if The Prestige isn't a real term? And of course everything is life or death in the film, it's a melodrama. Although, I do have to say, when you read about how fiercely competitive stage magicians were at the turn of the century, it doesn't seem that too far off the mark.

Perhaps this isn't the way we want magician's portrayed in all films but I'll take the craftsmanship, wit and entertainment value in the Prestige over almost any other film about magic any day of the week.

Also, I have to say this, I like the fact that most magic in films is achieved through special effects. Why? Simply because if you present tricks as they are actually performed, people can dissect them too easily during repeated viewings.
Review King
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ZORRRO, 1942, Tyrone Power. He does the salt vanish in the hanky illusion.
"Of all words of tongue and pen,
the saddest are, "It might have been"

..........John Greenleaf Whittier
TAJ
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King of Masks. A movie about the art of mask quick changing. Sort of magic related.

Robert Haas
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burst
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Cameron,

I completely agree with you on The Prestige. It's a fictional story, I don't know why the terms have to be correct. While I knew what was coming at the end, it kept me wondering much longer than The Illusionist did. Like you, considering the time frame, the competitive nature of the two seemed completely plausible. I'm sure that's one of the reason they had that Chinese magician in there. The Illusionist isn't near as good with repeated viewings either. At least to me. I couldn't sit through it a second time (except for when it turns darker -I think those scenes are worth watching many times), while I've seen the Prestige three times now.

While both movies had excellent acting, there are few actors that are as good as Cristian Bale. Edward Norton is good, but except for a role here and there, he essentially always plays the same character. Don't get me wrong, he's great at it, but it's still the same. Cristian Bale, however, seems to be able to play just about any part. I really feel he's one of the best actors out there. I've never seen him even dip down to doing a passable job. It's always perfect, even in American Psycho where 99% of actors would overact the part.

And since we're bringing up movies that aren't actually magic related but still have a feel for magic, what about The Elephant Man, or any movie that David Lynch has done? There are many films with Anthony Hopkins that are worth mentioning. Then there is just about every Fellini film. Hayao Miyazaki's work is definitely magical. For that matter, anything by Studio Ghibli. There's also Pan's Labyrinth, The Twilight Zone (even the recent episodes), The Outer Limits, just about everything related to Stephen King (good or bad), anything written by Charlie Kaufman. . . man, I should just stop myself here. I could go on for a long, long time.

/paul.f
Cameron Francis
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Joshua does bring up a very interesting point in his blog, though. He talks about how there hasn't been a film which intimately examines a magician's life and work. This is an interesting problem because how do you make a film about a magician's life and work... without exposing secrets? In films about actors, musicians, painters, dancers, you see them working on their craft and solving artistic problems. How do you do that with a magician?

I think this is why the tricks that magician's usually perform in films are either ridiculously simple or absolutely impossible to do in real life. Because we don't want our secrets exposed to lay people. And most filmmakers who make movies about magicians actually do like magic and don't want to expose anything important.

Movies about con men, such as the fantastic House of Games, are much easier to justify because exposing methods of con men is considered an ethically good thing.

It's definitely a conundrum. But one worthy of exploration.
daver
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I have very mixed feelings about "The Prestige" and "The Illusionist" - it really depends on your reason for watching the movies in the first place.

1) I love Christian Bale, and I would have LOVED to see him in Illusionist. Norton was very good, really good, I think, but Bale IMHO is a much better actor, and I think would have had much better chemistry with Jessica Biel (I'm sure HE would think so too ;-)

2) You can't easily compare the two. The Prestige was a movie about magicians and about magic. The Illusionist was a love story set with magic and a magician adding extra oomph to what would have been just another chick flick.

That said, I think The Prestige" showed an ugly side of magicians. Ones who would stoop low to crawl on top, and in a way I don't think portrays reality, or magicians in a good light. We're a community, as is evidenced here. Sure, we compete for gigs, $, ownership or credit for invention, but I just feel that The Prestige showed the ugliness that is not the norm.

The Illusionist I think was artistically much better. I think the period feel was better done, lighting, scenery, etc.. It was a story about people, what could be real people (in the past of course), and was an emotional story. Even as a magician I felt no connection with the main characters in The Prestige, but felt a lot for Eisenheim and the girl. It exposed without really exposing. It just had a feeling about it that took you on a ride. I felt The Prestige lacked any emotion other than jealousy and anger. Bale was underutilized not because of him or even the director, but because of the script. Adding David Bowie was just goofiness IMHO. What did he do last; play the judge in the walk-off in Zoolander? And he plays Nicolai Tesla? There was just too much crud to wade through in The Prestige to make you feel immersed in the story, but the Illusionist, (especially for a magician - that beginning with the old man showing the kid the trick and vanishing and making Eisenheim want to perform miracles? Isn't that how (other than the vanishing, of course ;-) most of us started?) immersed you from the beginning with that kid and the vanishing old guy.

Anyway, my $0.02....

Dave
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What's the difference between a magician and a deck of cards? A deck of cards has FOUR suits...
in flames
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My all time favorite Columbo episode since I was a kid was Now You See Him (1976). Jack Cassidy as "The Great Santini". Mark Wilson was the advisor on this show as well. I could watch this over and over.

Here's some interesting info taken from the following site.
http://www.columbo-site.freeuk.com/goofs.htm

Now You See Him: When we see the outside of the magic club where Santini is working, the sign says it is "The Cabaret of Magic" -- which is also the name mentioned by the emcee introducing Santini.

But if you look closely at the letter written to the Department of Immigration by club owner Jesse Jerome (Nehemiah Persoff), Jesse refers to his club as "The Magic Circle Club".

Incidentally, the club is somewhat based upon "The Magic Castle," the legendary Los Angeles magic club co-managed by illusionist Mark Wilson, who served as technical advisor for this episode.

See Magic Info http://magic.annex.com/tour.htm
Payne
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"America's Foremost Satirical Magician" -- Jeff McBride.
Cameron Francis
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The Prestige didn't show an ugly side of magicians, it showed an ugly side of two people who happened to be magicians.

I think you can compare the two films in terms of how successful each one was at doing what it wanted to do.
The Illusionist ultimately falls flat because the audience is waaaay ahead of the filmmakers for the last half of the movie. It gets a bit dull even if it is very well acted.

The Prestige set out to be a battle of the wits between two (three) very bad men. And it works very well on that level. I had fun with it. It's actually quite a wry, witty movie, allbeit a cold one. I mean, the top hats. Come on, that was genius. Taking a stereo typical symbol of magic and having it be the thing which informs us of the real magic was inspired.

And what's wrong with David Bowie as Telsa? He was good. I didn't find anything distracting about his performance.

Then again, I like dark films. I loved Nolan's style so maybe I'm biased.
Review King
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Quote:
On 2007-12-17 14:53, in flames wrote:
My all time favorite Columbo episode since I was a kid was Now You See Him (1976). Jack Cassidy as "The Great Santini". Mark Wilson was the advisor on this show as well. I could watch this over and over.

Here's some interesting info taken from the following site.
http://www.columbo-site.freeuk.com/goofs.htm

Now You See Him: When we see the outside of the magic club where Santini is working, the sign says it is "The Cabaret of Magic" -- which is also the name mentioned by the emcee introducing Santini.

But if you look closely at the letter written to the Department of Immigration by club owner Jesse Jerome (Nehemiah Persoff), Jesse refers to his club as "The Magic Circle Club".

Incidentally, the club is somewhat based upon "The Magic Castle," the legendary Los Angeles magic club co-managed by illusionist Mark Wilson, who served as technical advisor for this episode.

See Magic Info http://magic.annex.com/tour.htm


That was a fantastic episode and the Magic performed was excellent.
"Of all words of tongue and pen,
the saddest are, "It might have been"

..........John Greenleaf Whittier
burst
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I found David Bowie to be good. The only other thing I've seen him in was Basquiat, where he played Andy Warhol, and he was excellent in that. Oh, and he was in the Labyrinth. I don't have much to say about that though.

Top hats were of the period. I really don't think they were used for any reason other to keep the film authentic.

/paul.f
MitchMagic
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40 Year Old Virgin... Steve Carrell does a monster coin production!

Mitchell
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psychicturtle
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Has no one besides myself seen 'Mystique'? It's a rather dodgy 'adult'(porno) movie that has some magic in it. I laughed myself stupid when the guy produced a string of silks from...well, you can guess. Or maybe you can't. But it was Hilarious.

It is real, I am not making this up.
mvmagic
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The Prestige really is an excellent film. I just got it as a blu-ray release and with a 46 inch Full HD TV its a whole new experience... I really have to agree with burst's analysis of Edward Norton-no matter which film he is in, he always plays the same character (and he always has a very depressed feel to him) whereas Christian Bale is just brilliant. Just watch him in Empire of the Sun-he is 14 in it and that's an Oscar-worthy performance! As for David Bowie, too bad he doesn't act more-he's good.

I was supposed to talk about the Columbo episode but it was allready mentioned Smile However that is one the greatest episodes of one of the greatest TV shows!
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