Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Top 20 Films that Lost Sundance

A lot of films are premiering at Sundance this week, but only a handful of them will walk away with awards (and even few with major awards). But if Sundance has proven one thing to be true over the years, it’s that getting into the festival is in fact the award itself. Below are my favorite films that premiered at Sundance, but lost major in-competition awards. 

Note: I only considered films that screened in-competition for Dramatic and Documentary Grand Jury Prizes at Sundance. Films that premiered at Sundance, but already had theatrical distribution in place (like, say, American Psycho) were not considered. Similarly, films that screened in World Competition categories were also not considered.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Top 10 Films that Won Sundance

The 2015 Sundance Film Festival kicked off yesterday, and what better way to remember the famed fest than by highlighting some of the finest films to ever premiere there? Below are my picks for the best films that have won Sundance. For the purposes of this post, I only considered films that were awarded the Dramatic or Documentary Grand Jury Prizes.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

WAIT: the Thrill of the Festival Circuit

Self-promotion is not my thing. I’ve spent my life learning about film and filmmaking, acquiring skills and honing them in. I didn’t go to film school and I didn’t grow up knowing anyone with a leg up in the “biz.” So when teaching myself how to make a movie became the most realistic option, that’s what I set out to do.

And I love being a student of film. It’s a craft that so few people perfect, because there’s always more to learn. I can talk about this learning process all day, but the one thing I don’t love about filmmaking is talking about myself.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

In Character: 2015 Oscar Nominees Edition

With this morning’s release of the Oscar nominations, I thought it’d be fun to dive into the careers of every acting nominee. Below is an expansion of my usual In Character column, highlighting the best roles of the 20 actors vying for film’s top prize.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Top 10 “Rotten” Films of 2014

Last year, Alex Thomas of Time for a Film had the great idea of highlighting his favorite films of the year that were deemed “rotten” by Rotten Tomatoes. I loved the idea and borrowed it for my own list. Keeping in that tradition, here are 10 “rotten” films from 2014 that I quite enjoyed. Be sure to share your favorite “rotten” films as well.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Top 10 “Background” Performances of 2014

Whether you’re an A-list movie star who occupies every frame of a film, or a relative unknown who only appears for one scene – solid acting is solid acting. Below are my favorite background roles from 2014, a handful of performances that, while all great, didn’t get nearly the attention they deserved.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Top 15 Male Performances of 2014

Here are my favorite male performances from 2014. There were many to choose from, so do feel free to share yours as well.

Oh and due to some confusion on my Top Female Performances of 2014 post, I only include films that were distributed in America in 2014. If a film premiered at a festival in 2013, but wasn’t released in the U.S. until 2014, it counts. Inversely, if a film premiered at a festival in 2014, but is being distributed in 2015, it does not count.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Top 15 Female Performances of 2014

This was such a strong year for women in cinema. In general, my movie tastes frequently identify with darker material. Films that explore pain and emotional turmoil. Many of the performances below were delivered in such films. Other roles listed here were about discovery and manipulation, anger and comfort. I hope you enjoy my picks, and as always, do feel free to share your favorites as well.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Top 15 Films of 2014

I set no rules for myself when drafting my list of the best films of the year. Only to stay true to the movies that I loved. With that in mind, it’s always fun when the movies on this annual list are so wildly different from one another. A lot of great films were released in 2014, and these were my 15 favorite. Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

American Sniper

Chris Kyle was a highly decorated Navy SEAL who, during his four tours in Iraq, reportedly became the most lethal sniper in U.S. history. That’s the kind of meaty material I would expect to produce a blazing action war film. Something generic, packed with eye rolling bravado, ceaseless explosions, gruesome violence. Chris might be played by a former pro wrestler, he’d show little emotion, boast about his kills, crack unfunny one-liners. Instead, director Clint Eastwood has created a film of emotional depth and impressive restraint. A film as concerned with in-county battle as the horrors those battles leave behind. American Sniper is one of the finest films made yet about the War in Iraq. It’s a film that, perhaps for personal reasons, I assume I’ll like more than most. Which is fine. By this point, I’ve learned that the films I connect with emotionally aren’t always movies that the masses are drawn to.

Monday, December 29, 2014

WAIT: Why I Included the Sex Scene

Filmmaking is all about challenges. When I set out on a new project, I’m always thinking of ways to test myself. And I’m not talking about the common challenges that plague most every shoot (money, schedules), or the technical challenges that can enhance the material (long tracking shots, fancy lighting). Moreover, I’m talking about challenges with the material. For example, early in the process of writing and developing my first feature film, Wait, sex was something I couldn’t get out of my mind.

Monday, December 22, 2014

In Character: the Cast of The Homesman

Tommy Lee Jones’ The Homesman is a fantastic film that feels sadly destined to disappear. Despite being in competition for the Cannes Films Festival’s coveted Palme d’Or last May, The Homesman suffered a piss-poor theatrical distribution, and will likely soon fade out of theaters, thereby slipping past audiences. 

The film is a revisionist western about a lonely and depressed woman named Mary Bee Cuddy (Hilary Swank) who volunteers to transport three insane women from their homes in Nebraska to a mental health care facility in Iowa. There are potential risks on this journey. Bad weather, vengeful Native Americans, rapists, thieves – you name it. Shortly into the film, Mary Bee saves the life of George Briggs (Jones), who in return, agrees to help Mary Bee make the trip.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Top 43 Things I Love About Punch-Drunk Love (that no one talks about)

In the middle of making four modern masterworks – beginning with the brazenly entertaining Boogie Nights and Magnolia, followed by the meditative and emotionally brutal There Will Be Blood and The Master – Paul Thomas Anderson created a weird little film called Punch-Drunk Love. The movie doesn’t get enough credit for being so wildly unlike any other film Anderson has made. It’s short, fast and loose; a film I never tire of. With Anderson’s whacky Inherent Vice current making the rounds in theaters, let’s take a look back at the pulp fiction unconventionality of Punch-Drunk Love.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Inherent Vice

Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice is one of the most unapologetically bizarre studio films I’ve ever seen. Make no mistake, this film, which is currently being distributed by Warner Bros., is batshit bonkers. The story is consistently nonsensical, the characters often get so caught up with what they’re saying, they end up mumbling sentences just ‘cause, subplots are introduced and developed, before vanishing without warning, and on and on. Inherent Vice maintains this behavior throughout its two and a half hour running time. It’s a maddeningly complex film that cares to explain nothing. Which is precisely why it might be brilliant.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Top 10 Unsung Performances in Paul Thomas Anderson Films

As I sit moments away from seeing Paul Thomas Anderson’s new film, Inherent Vice in 70mm, I thought it’d be fun to take a look back at some of the unsung performances from his pervious films. There are many, many other performances that could be listed here, so do feel free to share your favorites as well.