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.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

SAG and Golden Globe Nominations

The 2015 Oscar race kicked into full swing over the past two days, with the respective releases of the Screen Actors Guild and Golden Globe award nominations. By and large, the noms are what I expected, but there were thankfully a few surprises thrown in for good measure. Here are my thoughts on both sets of nominations, be sure to share your feelings as well!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Top 10 Conrad L. Hall Films

Conrad L. Hall was beyond simple classification. He’d shoot with piercing light in one film, then natural light the next. His films could have an ice cold palette (the way A Civil Action does), or be bathed in a warm glow (like The Day of the Locust). Hall was nominated 10 times for an Academy Award, winning three for his unparalleled work. He’s also one of those rare artists who delivered some of his finest efforts at the very end of his career. Here’s a look at the work of one of film’s finest cinematographers.

Friday, December 5, 2014

In Character: Tom Sizemore

Tom Sizemore owned the ‘90s with his penchant for playing menacing tough guys. Much of the fun of his work is that you can never tell how far his characters are going to go. Whether he’s a cop or criminal, soldier or bank robber, there’s a persistent danger to his work that is immensely appealing. By this point, Sizemore may be equally well known for his troubles with substance abuse. For a while there, it looked like his demons were going to get the better of him. Thankfully, he’s still going, and while his work now may not be as strong as it was then, there is never a bad time to go back and revisit his best roles. 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Foxcatcher

There’s a scene in Bennett Miller’s new film, Foxcatcher, that I can’t figure out. It’s an early scene, one of the first in the film, and it has dominated my mind since I saw the film some days ago. At the start of Foxcatcher, we’re introduced to a large, solemn man who we come to learn is Olympic wrestler Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum). Mark doesn’t say a lot, but in these introductory scenes, there’s really no need to. He eats ramen noodles in his dingy apartment, struggles through a speech to elementary school kids, then goes to work out at the gym. And here’s the scene I want to talk about. Mark arrives at the gym and as he makes his way through the locker room, many of the other wrestlers look at Mark disapprovingly. Miller doesn’t linger on the shot, but it’s clear that when Mark enters the room, a shift in tone occurs.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Imitation Game

Morten Tyldum’s The Imitation Game is yet another dull tortured genius biopic in a very long line of dull tortured genius biopics. Before I get into my analysis of these types of films, I want to be clear about something from the onset. The Imitation Game is not an inherently bad film. In telling the story of how famed mathematician Alan Turing cracked the Nazi’s unbreakable Enigma code, thereby helping the Allies win World War II, Tyldum has made a perfectly average film. Tyldum, writer Graham Moore, and star Benedict Cumberbatch, spend 114 minutes capturing the full and tortured life of Turing, resulting in a safe movie that will surely tap directly into the hearts of many Oscar voters.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

the Directors: Mike Nichols

Mike Nichols was beyond spectacle. Beyond visual effects and Hollywood glitz, beyond cheap laughs and marketability. First and foremost, Mike Nichols’ films were about story. Strength of material. The power of the word. Many of his films were based on other works – best-selling books, Pulitzer-prize winning plays, notable foreign films. Mike Nichols was a guy who believed in the written word, and finding the best possible actor to say those words. All of his best films are dominated by long scenes of people sitting around and talking. Arguing about love, life, sex, death. Infidelity was a major theme throughout his work, as was self-importance (or a lack thereof). He was one of the finest filmmakers of his era, and although his recent passing was met with shock and sadness, his best work will remain forever iconic.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Top 10 Films Shot by Their Directors

There’s something I inherently respect about a director who elects to shoot their own films. While some might argue that it’s too much work for a director to also act as a cinematographer, I appreciate that it literally gets the filmmaker closer to the performers. Though, admittedly, while the concept of directors as DPs doesn’t always work out well, below are a handful of examples of filmmakers proving their proficiency of manning the camera.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

In Character: Juliette Lewis

Few people kill it as quickly and consistently as Juliette Lewis did in the ‘90s. After being nominated for an Oscar for one of her first major roles, Lewis went on to own the ‘90s with a diverse selection of characters – from innocent school girls to white trash lovers, abused homicidal maniacs to heroic vampire killers. Although we haven’t seen as much of Lewis in recent years, I’m always pleased when she pops up in a film and steals a few scenes (such as in last year’s August: Osage County). Here’s a look back at one of the most fearless actresses of the past few decades.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Whiplash

“There are no two words in the English language more harmful than Good Job.”
These are words of discouragement from Terence Fletcher – renowned conductor, accomplished musician, teacher from Hell. By the time Fletcher (J.K. Simmons) utters this phrase in the thrilling new film, Whiplash, we have a full understanding of who he is: a maniacal tyrant who pushes his students at the Juilliard-like Shaffer Conservatory to the brink of emotional collapse. The harder, longer and louder he berates his pupils, the easier it will be to weed them out. If they manage to survive his cruel tutelage, then Fletcher knows he will have crafted a truly great musician.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Force Majeure

The new Swedish film, Force Majeure, concerns itself with a fascinating concept known as fight or flight. That is to say, how do people respond to catastrophe? A question we love to debate over, but one that we never really know the answer to until we’re thrown into such a situation. We’re all guilty of sitting in the comfort of our air conditioned homes and yelling at the television when we see movie characters respond to situations in a way we don’t approve of. We call Corporal Upham a coward as he lets Private Mellish be stabbed to death in Saving Private Ryan, we argue that we could’ve formulated a better plan while the passengers of United 93 storm the cockpit. And on and on. We think we know, but do we really, truly know how we’d react when faced with certain death?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

In Character: Kevin Dunn

Kevin Dunn is one of the most prominent Oh yeah that guy actors currently in the game. For the past few years, Dunn has done very well for himself on various HBO shows, putting in great work on some of the network’s most accomplished programs. But truth is, this guy has been stealing scenes from the best of them for nearly 30 years. Here’s a glimpse into the career of one of our best, most prolific working character actors.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Interstellar

Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar opens in an undisclosed place at an undisclosed time in the future. And though the setting is opaque, the film makes it immediately clear that life on Earth is running out. Cities are unseen, populations are low, the military is nonexistent – all that remains is the need for steady farming, and the will to combat the dust that blankets every feasible area. The dust is so thick on Earth that a thin layer of it can be seen on most every surface. On the kitchen table, in the principal’s office, in the car, on the pillows – it’s everywhere. And by now, it’s killed every crop except corn, which we soon learn is too in short supply. Corn is how we’re introduced to Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), a farmer and single father of two who gave up his career as an engineer, to literally help cultivate the Earth.