Thursday, October 30, 2014

Nightcrawler

If things ended differently for Travis Bickle and his unrequited love, Betsy, their son would’ve turned out like Lou Bloom. Lou would’ve grown up knowing that in life, no one gives you anything. If you want something, you have to work for it. If you work hard enough, and still nothing happens, then you take what is rightfully yours.

That’s the Lou Bloom we meet in Dan Gilroy’s devilishly entertaining new film, Nightcrawler. Lou, as inhabited by a ferocious and fearless Jake Gyllenhaal, is a smart, wildly articulate, slender beast of a man who spends his nights roaming the bloodstained streets of Los Angeles. After failing to find purpose (which we assume is something he’s failed to find for a long time), Lou discovers a freelance profession of filming crime scenes and selling the footage to the highest network bidder. Nightcrawlers, as these people are known, cruise L.A. all night, stalking police scanners in hopes of being the first one on the scene with cameras rolling.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The 10 Best Superhero Movies of All Time Relay

I’ll admit, I was a little nervous when Sati of cinematic corner, passed the Best Superhero Movies of All Time relay on to me. The relay, created by Bubbawheat of Flights, Tights & Movie Nights, is a really fun concept, but one I wasn’t sure I’d be able to do justice. In general, superhero movies aren’t really my thing. But participating in this relay has been an interesting experience, because what I’ve been reminded of is that very good films exist in every genre of film. Before we get into which films I cut and added, let’s go through Bubbawheat’s rules for the relay:

Child’s Play Franchise Breakdown

The Child’s Play franchise kind of fascinates me. Personally, as a kid of the late ‘80s–early ‘90s, the first three films were staples of my childhood. I also think it’s very unique (and kind of great) for a horror franchise to run for 26 years without including a remake, prequel or reboot. But most of all, rarely has the overall tone of a horror franchise varied so drastically. The Child’s Play films have gone from dead serious to moderately humorous, silly to absurd, parody to dead serious (again). And look, by no means am I saying that these films are good, I’m just saying that, more often than not, I tend to have fun with them.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Top 15 Underpraised Long Takes

Search for the best long takes in cinema, and you’ll find the usual suspects. The Copacabana shot in Goodfellas; the opening shots of Boogie Nights, Touch of Evil, and Gravity; action scenes in The Protector, Hard Boiled and Oldboy; the car shootout in Children of Men; the TV station shot in Magnolia; the conversation in Hunger; the jog in Shame; the conclusion of The Passenger; the raid in True Detective. You’ll read about the extended use of long takes in movies like Rope, Timecode, Irreversible, Russian Ark, and, soon enough, Birdman. And the thing is, while all of those shots deserve to be hailed as some of the best long takes ever captured, the internet is oversaturated with praise for them. I’ve written about many of those shots on this blog before, so in an effort to branch out, here’s a list of excellent and vastly underpraised long takes in film.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

In Character: Michael Keaton

If I was compelled to make a list of my favorite actors of all time, Michael Keaton would rank high among them. There’s something about him – an everyman quality, a subtle intensity, a pitch black sense of humor – that I’ve always loved. He’s had roles in all types of films, from the classic to the dreadful, and no matter the material, he consistently delivers notable performances. As he currently rides high from his towering work in Birdman, I thought it be fun to take a look back at the best roles of one of our finest actors.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

In the 15 years Alejandro González Iñárritu has been making films, I’ve learned that there is a direct correlation between Iñárritu’s work and my cognitive gratification. The masochist in me is enamored with the emotional brutality of Iñárritu’s films, and the filmmaker in me is continually inspired by his audacious methods of storytelling.

I was in high school when I saw Iñárritu’s first feature, Amores Perros. I started the film late one night, and when it ended in the early hours of a new day, I was unable to form a coherent thought. I was so moved by its power, so troubled by its intensity. A few years later, I walked out of a screening of 21 Grams in a haze, my mind stuck in the emotional hell that film created. From the moment Babel finished, the film became, and remained, one of my top films of the decade. My experience with Iñárritu’s Biutiful was different. Biutiful wasn’t as raw and alive as Iñárritu’s other work. But it grew on me. And with time, I came to love it.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Him/Her

The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby is about perspective. Perspective of the relationship that Connor (James McAvoy) has with his wife, Eleanor (Jessica Chastain). And perspective of the relationship that Eleanor has with her husband, Connor. If those perspectives sound like they belong in the same movie, writer/director Ned Benson has made it very clear that distinction between the two is key.

Ten years ago, Benson wrote a script called The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, which was about a crumbling marriage as seen through the eyes of the husband. He gave the script to a young actress named Jessica Chastain, who liked it, but thought the wife role was underwritten. A few years later, Benson gave her another script of the same story, only now the marriage was viewed from the wife’s perspective. Benson said he planned to shoot both scripts simultaneously, and release them as two separate feature films. Such is the genesis of The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Him and its counterpart, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Her. Two films, two perspectives, one vision.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Top 20 Fourth Wall Breaks

Breaking the fourth wall: when a character becomes aware of their fictional nature. That’s the definition given on Urban Dictionary, and despite the source, it is an entirely accurate one. Usually fourth wall breaks are executed with the character looking directly into the camera and talking to the audience. Sometimes, they’re far more subtle.

However, a character looking into the camera because the lens is doubling as a mirror or another character is not a fourth wall break. Tyler Durden looking into the camera as he tells a police commissioner, “Do not fuck with us,” is not a fourth wall break, because Tyler isn’t looking at us, he’s looking at the police commissioner. The Narrator telling us about Tyler’s job as a projectionist is a fourth wall break because The Narrator is talking to us.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

In Character: Frank Langella

When Frank Langella is on screen, you pay attention. His presence demands it. With his towering frame, steely gaze and impeccable bravado, he’s the kind of actor who is impossible not to notice. But the thing I love most about him is that, despite his imposing figure, he often prefers to inhabit his characters in a more nuanced and restrained manner. Watching Frank Langella break bad is plenty of fun, don’t get me wrong. But watching Frank Langella threaten to break bad is infinitely more appealing.


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Gone Girl

The girl is missing. So discovers Nick Dunne on the afternoon of July 5, when he walks inside his suburban, Midwestern home and notices that his wife, Amy, is nowhere to be found. A living room table rests flipped and smashed, but no other sign of struggle is apparent. The police arrive as quickly as they’re called. They notice things. A little blood splattered on the kitchen cabinet. An iron that’s still somewhat hot. Nick’s mostly blasé attitude. And so begins the search for Amy Dunne. Amy Dunne, a kind and confident American sweetheart from a well-to-do New York family who met Nick at a party all those years ago. An intense relationship was formed, one based on intellectual stimulation, passionate sex, and ease of wealth.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Top 34 Things I Love About The Game (that no one talks about)

“[My wife] was extremely vociferous, for instance, when she said, ‘Don’t make The Game.’ And in hindsight, my wife was right. We didn’t figure out the third act, and it was my fault, because I thought if you could just keep your foot on the throttle it would be liberating and funny. I know what I like, and one thing I definitely like is not knowing where a movie is going.” – David Fincher, Playboy (Oct. 2014)
What we have here is a very rare instance of me disagreeing with a great director who is bashing their own work. I love The Game, and I love how its intricate puzzle begins to come together in the third act. I’m very surprised Fincher has such big problems with it, but so it goes. In honor of the release of Fincher’s latest film, Gone Girl (which is fantastic, but more on that in a future post), I thought it’d be fun to dive back to one of his more overlooked movies. A film that, apparently, isn’t as liked by its maker as I once hoped. (Please note that this post contains major spoilers.)

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Top 10 Unsung Performances in David Fincher Films

David Fincher knows how to direct actors. More specifically, he knows how to give a character actor a great, meaty role. Unfortunately, many such performances are often out shadowed by the actors who headline Fincher’s films. Despite this, each of the roles below deserve specific praise. And although I’ve already highlighted many of these performances in my In Character column, this work merits continued discussion.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

My Favorite Scene: The Social Network

Every scene of David Fincher’s The Social Network is memorable for its own specific reasons. The Larry Summers sequence, for example, contains what I consider to be the best four consecutive minutes of writing that Aaron Sorkin has ever done. It also features Armie Hammer’s best acting in the film, and a delicious cameo from veteran hardass Douglas Urbanski. I’ve commonly regarded that scene as my favorite in the film, but after watching the entire movie last night, I realized that while that sequence contains great writing and strong acting, the Facemash scene is pure fucking cinema at its finest.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Top 10 Dinner Party (Gone Wrong) Films

There’s something so amusing about watching a handful of friends (or complete strangers) sit down and have a seemingly pleasant meal crumble before their eyes. I don’t know what it is about that situation that I enjoy so much, but below are my favorite film dinner parties gone wrong. I’ve taken liberties with some inclusions here; most occur over the course of an evening, some are spread out for a weekend. Few are about the food, many are about awkward social conventions.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Night Moves

Do me a favor and think about a recent time you got together with a friend to hang out. Maybe you went to happy hour, maybe you had dinner; you’re meeting up with someone you likely meet up with often. You shoot the shit, tell jokes, share laughs. Now, think about what you really said to this person while you were with them. You’ve known them for a while, so there was probably no reason to, for example, keep repeating their name back to them. Or recall stories you’ve already told too many times. You don’t need to do these things, because there’s a shorthand to your interactions. An ease that makes hanging out with them enjoyable. If a camera were present to film your time together, what was captured may not make a lot of sense to people who don’t know you. We wouldn’t have any context to help us better understand the familiarity you and your friend have.