Tuesday, June 30, 2015

In Character: Ann Dowd

Ann Dowd is having a moment. In the past two years alone she’s been featured in critically revered indies as well as some of the most popular shows on television. But diving into her filmography, it’s clear that Dowd has been killing it for quite some time (yeah, that’s her as Ton Hanks’ supportive sis in Philadelphia), she only just broke through recently. Here I take a look back at her career, from humble and humorous beginnings, to current career-best work.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

My Favorite Scene: Begin Again

Warning: Critical plot details are revealed in this post.

My first experience with Begin Again was under some of the worst viewing circumstances possible. It was on my birthday last year. I was flying back to L.A. after 30 consecutive hours of delayed planes, mile-long lines for flight exchanges, layovers that never ended, and airport workers “trying their best.” I was tired and pissed off and figured that Begin Again looked as good a film as any to help pass the time. I thought the film would be easy, silly, dumb – not worth the $15 to catch it theaters, but fine for free on a plane.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Top 10 Directors Who Edit Their Own Films

Editing is where the magic happens. It’s where you shape, explore, experiment – it’s literally where you find and make your film. But it’s also a damn tedious process. Because there are so many choices in editing, filmmakers often hire professional editors to help them craft their films. On rare occasions, directors will assume sole responsibility as the chief editor, thereby fully seeing their film to the bitter end. Below are 10 directors who took on the laborious task of editing their own films themselves. Ranking them seemed fruitless, so they’re presented here alphabetically.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Top 10 Vilmos Zsigmond Films

Vilmos Zsigmond has been one of film’s most influential cinematographers for decades. In more than 60 years as a working director of photography, he’s amassed 100 credits and been a go-to cinematographer for Brian De Palma, Robert Altman, Steven Spielberg, Michael Cimino and many more. By pure coincidence, I wrote the majority of this post yesterday, which was Zsigmond’s 85th birthday. Here’s wishing him well by exploring some of his best work.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

In Character: Benicio Del Toro

One of my favorite things about writing these In Character posts is that I occasionally discover a new reason why I love an actor I already admired. I’ve loved Benicio Del Toro’s work since he strutted away from the police in his opening scene in The Usual Suspects, but in writing this post, I realized what I like most about him are his silences. While widely regarded for the inspired voices he often gives his characters, Del Toro’s real skill is his stare. Here’s an actor I’ve always appreciated, but like even more now, just from stacking all of his best work together.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Top 10 Entourage Cameos

I know the popular thing to do right now is shit all over the new Entourage movie, but I was always a fan of the original HBO show. Excessive, juvenile, silly – it was consistently all of those things, but I enjoyed much of the bubblegum L.A. fantasy it maintained. One thing the show was always rich with was celebrity cameos, and in the wake of the film sequel, here are my favorite celeb cameos featured in the show’s eight-season run. (Note: I only included cameos in which the celebrity played themselves.)

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Music Video: Mint Green

Sometimes it feels like a song finds you. Like it was made specifically for you and it reached out when you needed it most. Hearing Andrew Shapiro’s “Mint Green” for the first time was one such rare and beautiful occasion. I came across the track by chance on Pandora and immediately stopped what I was doing and devoted my full attention to it. I was so touched by the song’s collection of layered pianos, delivering notes of love and hope and melancholy. When the track finished, I sat inspired and deeply moved.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

the Directors: Alfred Hitchcock

This is the one. The post I’ve been leading to. When I started my “the Directors” column in 2009, I knew that covering the great Alfred Hitchcock was a necessity, no matter how long it took. I’ve been chipping away at Hitch’s filmography for a good long while, and below is what I (finally) have to report. I do hope you enjoy my thoughts on every film by the Master of Suspense, and feel free to share your favorite Hitch films as well!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Every Secret Thing

The girl is missing. Three-year-old Brittney Little was last seen in a furniture store as her young mother, Maveen (Sarah Sokolovic), and Maveen’s boyfriend (Common), playfully argued about which type of couch to buy. Two detectives are called to investigate, and they soon begin to unravel a complex plot that could help explain Brittney’s disappearance.

But that’s not where Every Secret Thing begins.

LAMBcast Discussion: Spring Breakers

Last week, I was invited to participate in a podcast discussion about Harmony Korine’s masterful film, Spring Breakers. The Vern, Jay CluittJD Duran, Nikhat Zahra and I spent 90 minutes talking about all aspects of the film – from the neon cinematography to the hyper editing, dangerous perceptions to surprising (but very welcome) feminism. It’s always a pleasure to be a part of the LAMBcast, especially when I’m such a huge admirer of the film in discussion. Click here to give the podcast a listen!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Top 46 Things I Love about Spring Breakers (that no one talks about)

A few months ago, I called Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers one of my favorite films released so far this decade. It’s a neon-infused mind fuck freak show that I can’t get enough of. I was recently invited to participate in a LAMBcast discussion of the film (which will be posted on or around this Friday), and in preparation for that podcast, I decided to rewatch the movie. But this time, I paid close attention to the things I love most about Spring Breakers that are rarely discussed. Here’s what I found. 

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

In Character: Vincent D’Onofrio

Vincent D’Onofrio is a character actor’s character actor. Frequently altering his voice, appearance and general mannerisms from role to role, D’Onofrio has been one of acting’s best chameleons for decades. Make-up can help with physical change, sure. As can elaborate costumes. But when they’re at their best, D’Onofrio’s transformations cut to the bone. He’s a notoriously dedicated Method actor who never shies from going all in. I hope you enjoy this trip into D’Onofrio’s dark world.

Friday, May 1, 2015

the Directors: Noah Baumbach

Noah Baumbach’s films are about people of a certain age, and how they respond to the time they’ve had, and the time they have left. These ages vary – from the confused collection of college grads in Kicking and Screaming, to the fortysomethings with twentysomething hearts in While We’re Young. Isolation is another theme of his work; how one deals with the confusion of the hyper world around them. 

In discussing Baumbach’s career, I’m going to be talking a lot about time. The time expressed in the films themselves, but also how time in real life has allowed me to appreciate his work more. Rarely have I had a reversal on so many films by the same director. Proof that, as we get older, sometimes films really do get better.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

In Character: Dennis Hopper

Dennis Hopper’s film and television career spanned nearly six decades, in which he delivered more than 200 roles. From loyal sons to crazed photojournalists, easy riders to drunk fathers – there was never a role too dark, or an area of the psyche left unexplored. A pioneering Method actor who trained under Lee Strasberg, Hopper was known for fully immersing himself into his work, which often caused problems, but consistently generated amazing performances. There were many roles to choose from for this post, but I do hope you enjoy my picks. As always, feel free to share your favorite Hopper roles as well.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Top 97 Things I Love About The Thin Red Line (that no one talks about) Part 2

A few days ago, I highlighted several things I love about Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line that I feel are rarely (if ever) discussed. Here’s the second part of the post, which will, to be clear, spoil all major plot points of the movie. So please see the movie first before reading this post. This is too good a film to have ruined in print. 

Catch up by checking out Part 1 of this post here.