Friday, September 19, 2014

In Character: Kevin Bacon

Kevin Bacon gets a lot of crap. There’s the game and the blasé attitude and the rock band and the mediocre films. But beyond all that, I’ve always thought that Kevin Bacon was genuinely one hell of an actor. His range is never given enough credit, which is why, in highlighting my favorite Bacon roles, I’ve chosen performances that explore the many facets of his talent. From funny to sad, smartass to asshole, martyr to monster. Here, for my money, is Kevin Bacon at his best.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

the Directors: Andrea Arnold

There is no contemporary filmmaker currently making better, more important films about women than Andrea Arnold. As far as my tastes go, Arnold’s films are simply unmatched. Her frank and necessary use of sexuality, her understanding of the lower class, her unyielding respect for women – all reasons why Arnold is one of cinema’s most unique voices.

Beyond the stories she chooses to tell, it’s the way Arnold chooses to tell them that is worth praising. Arnold’s last two feature films, Fish Tank and Wuthering Heights, were shot in the 4x3 (or 1.33:1) Academy ratio, which means that the films are essentially projected as a square, as opposed to a widescreen rectangle that we’re used to. This is a very deliberate and very bold way to display a modern film, especially if you’re not using it as a gimmick, as Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel did. According to Arnold, the 4x3 ratio gives the film a specific type of intimacy that widescreen lacks.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Interview: Indie Writer/Producer Lukas Kendall

Last March, I went to one of my favorite independent theaters in Los Angeles, the Laemmle in North Hollywood, and did what I love doing: saw a micro-budget film that I literally knew nothing about. Lucky Bastard had an amusing title, a salacious poster, and, most importantly for my tastes, an intriguing NC-17 rating. Very few NC-17 are released in any given year, so when one hits theaters, I often take notice.

Lucky Bastard is a found footage film about a fan who is invited to have sex with his favorite porn star on camera. But shortly after the fan arrives on set, it becomes very clear very quickly that this whole setup is a bad idea. I found the film to be an unnerving and brazen experiment of a tired idea. The bulk of Lucky Bastard takes place in a house that is used for actual porn shoots. The set is rigged with dozens of cameras, leaving every area of the house documented. Much of the footage in Lucky Bastard comes from these stationary cameras, thereby giving the tired found footage motif a nice, organic twist. I dug the film when I saw it, but it wasn’t until last week that I became engrossed by the process in which Lucky Bastard was made and released.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Top 10 Peter Andrews Films

When Steven Soderbergh was doing post-production on Traffic, he wanted the first title of the end credits to read “Directed and Photographed by Steven Soderbergh.” But the Writer’s Guild wouldn’t allow it, saying that, contractually, a writing credit has to come second, following director. So Soderbergh said screw it, and decided to credit his work as cinematographer under the pseudonym Peter Andrews (his father’s first and middle names), which is what he’s continued to do on all his films and TV shows since.

No cinematographer inspires my own filmmaking more than Steven Soderbergh. I have difficulty explaining it, but the simple way Soderbergh pans to reveal an office sign, or colors physical settings differently, or shoots upside down (because why not?), or… well, I could go on and on. When I watch Soderbergh’s films, I refuel my creative drive. The impact his work has had on me is unspeakable.

Monday, September 8, 2014

In Character: Stephen Tobolowsky

One of the things I love most about character actors is that the great ones really can play anything. Stephen Tobolowsky is a perfect example. Looking through the roles I’ve highlighted below, there isn’t a common thread among them. We have psychopathic murders, goofballs, straight-laced business exe­­cs, zany film producers, and so on. The man has 232 IMDb credits, most of which defy the notion of typecasting. Very few of his best roles are alike, but damn near all of them are enjoyable. Stephen Tobolowsky is one of the best, most recognizable character actors currently in film. Below are just six of many reasons why.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Coherence

One of the easiest ways to make a movie for cheap is to set it in one interior location. But one of the hardest things about creating a cheap movie is to make it for cheap, but not cheap looking. The new micro budget headtrip, Coherence, accomplishes both feats. The entire film is set in (and directly around) one home, and takes place over one particularly troubling evening. Rather than let its minimalist setting work against it, Coherence embraces its own physical claustrophobia. It traps you in its unsettling atmosphere and dares you to pick it apart.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Top 10 Making-Of Documentaries

Making-Of documentaries can be compelling for a number of reasons. They can reconfirm your love for a movie you’ve always enjoyed, or act as a cautionary tale for what not to do while working on a movie. Whether they’re shorts included on the main film’s DVD, or standalone features, a great Making-Of documentary will teach you about film and filmmaking. Below are my favorites, but considering there are thousands to choose from, do feel free to list your favorites as well.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

the Directors: Francis Ford Coppola

Few filmmakers have endured a career arc as varied as Francis Ford Coppola’s. He started small, making flicks for Roger Corman with next to no money. His transition into the ‘70s was a legendary one, releasing four consecutive masterpieces and helping establish the ‘70s as the best decade of American film. From there, he churned out a handful of smaller films – some obscure, others noteworthy, none truly great – before retiring for 10 years all together. He’s returned with a trio of independent films that, while puzzling in their own unique ways, fully embrace what modern technology can bring to film.

Coppola’s career evolution is a fascinating one. Since becoming a legend, he’s actively fought to make the films he wants to make, the way he wants to make them. I don’t always like the results, but I respect the hell out of his methods.


Thursday, August 28, 2014

In Character: Illeana Douglas

You don’t forget Illeana Douglas once you’ve seen her. With that distinct face and playfully nasal voice, Douglas has a natural eccentricity that makes her continuously fun to watch. But Douglas is capable of far more than simply playing the comic relief. Born into cinematic royalty (her grandfather was two-time Oscar winner Melvyn Douglas), Illeana Douglas has long since proved that her talent extends far beyond Hollywood nepotism. She’s a performer all her own, one that I always enjoy watching.


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Calvary

I’m fascinated by moral dilemmas, particularly with watching a compelling one play out on film. But it’s a tricky game. Push too hard, and you’re preaching – you’re the do-gooder, the Message Movie, the cinematic sermon. Avoid risk, and you’re portraying a dilemma audiences have likely seen many times before. John Michael McDonagh’s Calvary finds a perfect balance. Its core dilemma is a new and interesting conundrum, one that viewers are likely to mull over for days. This is a film that puts all the questions in the open, but doesn’t begin to suggest what the proper answers are.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Filmwhys Podcast: Dead Poets Society and Darkman

A few weeks ago, Nathan (perhaps better known as Bubbawheat from Flights, Tights & Movie Nights) asked me to partake in his inventive Filmwhys podcast. As the guest, I was permitted to choose two films to discuss: a classic Nathan hasn’t seen, and a superhero movie I’ve missed. At the time, I was on a Polanski kick, and instinctually chose Chinatown as our classic, followed by Sam Raimi’s Darkman as our superhero flick. A few days later, Robin Williams passed, and I asked Nathan if we could swap Chinatown for Dead Poets Society, which Nathan graciously agreed to do.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Top 10 Hitchcockian Films

When a movie is hailed as Hitchcockian, it should be taken as a badge of honor. Such a label means the film deserves to live in the shadow of Hitchcock’s revelatory tone and atmosphere. Below are my favorite Alfred Hitchcock films that Alfred Hitchcock never actually made. They’re ranked in terms of their “Hitchcockianness,” and they are just a few of many films to choose from. If I’ve omitted a Hitchcockian film you love, do feel free to share it.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

In Character: Roy Scheider

Plenty legendary names dominate the conversation regarding ‘70s American cinema. And as far as I’m concerned, a name that should be continually thrown into that conversation is Roy Scheider. Scheider will forever be best known as the dutiful police chief in Jaws, but his impressive filmography (in the ‘70s and later), is stacked with iconic performances. With his ceaseless smoking, slender frame and piercing gaze, Scheider had an old school disposition that made him endlessly compelling. To put it another way: Scheider was featured in 14 films in the 1970s, and nearly half of them are listed below. That there is one hell of a run.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Coldwater

How do you raise a child who is behaving badly? A teenage boy who is violent at home and rebellious in the streets? Hundreds of films have been dedicated to answering this question. Some movie parents enforce strict rules to set their kid straight. Others mask their fear by giving in, being cool, letting shit slide. Many attempt to introduce a positive new variable, such as a competitive sport or a noble trade.

The parents represented in the fantastic and chilling new indie film, Coldwater, are different. Having suffered their son’s misdeeds, they call a private organization and arrange for their son to be sent to a juvenile camp called Coldwater. “Sent” isn’t exactly the proper word, as we see early in the film, a young man named Brad (newcomer P.J. Boudousqué) is abducted from his home, thrown into the back of a large van, and taken to the isolated Coldwater compound. Once there, Brad and a handful of other inmates (that’s the proper word, believe me) are introduced to Frank Reichert (James C. Burns), a retired Marine Corps Colonel who oversees the grounds.

Monday, August 18, 2014

No Cameras Allowed

In 2010, a USC film student named James Marcus Haney snuck into the Coachella music festival in southeast California. While there, Marcus became hooked on the intoxicating frenzy of the moment. He documented his experience with the many cameras around his neck, and knew he had to relive the experience again as soon as possible. In the months following his Coachella break-in, Marcus successfully snuck into Bonnaroo (in Tennessee), Ultra (in Miami), Glastonbury (in England), Coachella (again), and more, documenting his exploits the entire time. No Cameras Allowed is the fun and frantic feature length documentary of his adventures.