Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Knight of Cups

“You think when you reach a certain age, things will start making sense. Then you find out you’re just as lost as you were before.”
That was the key. That was the passage that unlocked Knight of Cups for me. We hear the words midway through Terrence Malick’s latest visual poem, by the actor Brian Dennehy, who occasionally appears in Knight of Cups as Christian Bale’s father. This being a Malick film, Dennehy gently eases the words out in a melancholic voiceover. Malick’s voiceovers are obscure, lyrical passages. They blend together, subtly evoking emotion. It could be easy to miss the Dennehy passage quoted above, but when I heard it, Knight of Cups suddenly made sense. Everything clicked. I understood the world. I understood the tone, the feeling. I understood the plight of the main character, Rick (Bale). I understood what Malick was trying to say, even if my interpretation wasn’t what Malick was exactly trying to say.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Hunger: A Shot-for-Shot Breakdown

The amount of editing cuts in a film depends entirely on the way the filmmaker chooses to tell the story. Though it’s hard to calculate the average amount of cuts for all films, most modern action films typically contain upwards of 3,000 cuts – the idea is that by cutting so often, especially in an intense action sequence, viewers will feel the intended frantic energy of the scene. Other genres, like melodramatic foreign films, typically contain less than 500 cuts. Perhaps here, the intention is to hold shots longer as a way of maintaining tension.

The first time I saw Steve McQueen’s first feature, Hunger, I was immediately taken with how the film only cut when it was absolutely necessary. So I thought it’d be fun to break Hunger down and examine every shot/editing cut in the film. Admittedly, this was a risky idea. I’ve never done anything like this before – would my comments grow horribly redundant? Would I literally have something to say about every shot? Ultimately, I found that the only time I was being redundant was when I described a series of shots that lasted for less than a second, so I decided to occasionally leave descriptions for those shots blank.

The result is an immersive exercise for those interested in cinematography, editing, and, of course, Hunger itself. I hope you like what I discovered within the carefully constructed world of Hunger.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Music Video: Fossils

Since moving to LA, there has been a direct correlation to how much I post on this blog. I’m typically so busy with filmmaking stuff, that I don’t have time to post regularly on here. And while I do miss being more engaged with the film blogging community, it’s been damn fulfilling to chase after my dreams.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Top 10 Bad Scenes in Great Movies

Last week, I published my list of the best great scenes in bad movies. Following the rules of reciprocity, here’s my list of the best bad scenes in great movies. Some things listed here are entire acts of films, others are poorly placed lines of dialogue, or cheap sound design. The point is, every scene here took me out of the great movies they are featured in. Please be warned that minor spoilers lurk within. Feel free to share some notable bad scenes from great films as well!

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Top 10 Great Scenes in Bad Movies

Truly great scenes in otherwise bad movies are difficult to find. Much harder than the inverse (a list of which I’ll be posting shortly). If a movie is bad, it’s typically just bad. But below, I’ve come up with a few examples of when bad films showed great promise, if ever so fleetingly. Please note that I’m not using this list to focus solely on performances (i.e., great performances in bad movies), but rather entire sequences. Remember to share your favorite scenes from bad movies as well!

Friday, February 19, 2016

In Character: John Goodman

Since I began my In Character series nearly five years ago, readers have consistently requested that I cover John Goodman. And for good reason. After all, John Goodman is THE character actor’s character actor, and he’s good in anything, no matter the quality of the overall project. But he’s a tough actor to summarize. His body of work is massive (144 current film and television credits), and his range is impeccable. So over the years, I’ve been stuck: do I list my favorite Goodman performances, or do I present a more balanced portrait of his full capabilities as an actor (i.e. a villain, a good guy, a goof, a “straight” man, etc.)? Ultimately, I just said screw it and went with the former. So, below is not an all-inclusive look at Goodman’s career, but rather the roles I remain most fond of. Do feel free to share yours as well!

Friday, February 5, 2016

Top 10 Edward Lachman Films

Famed cinematographer Edward Lachman has been injecting films with his audacious color palettes for decades. He’s one of the most skilled DPs of capturing mood through color. His use of color, along with his penchant for classical compositions, makes his films a marvel to behold. Lachman recently garnered his second Oscar nomination for his breathtaking work on Carol. Here’s a look back at a DP whose work I never tire of looking at.

Friday, January 22, 2016

In Character: 2016 Oscar Nominees Edition

For the third year in a row, I’m taking a brief look at the careers of every actor nominated for an Oscar this year. Below I pick my favorite roles for each nominee, and highlight the one that I consider the actors’ best. Do feel free to share your favorite performances by this year’s nominees as well!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Top 10 “Rotten” Films of 2015

As is my tradition (albeit one started by Alex from Time for a Film), here is my list of my favorite films from 2015 that Rotten Tomatoes deemed “rotten.” Do feel free to share your favorite “rotten” films as well!

Friday, January 15, 2016

Top 20 Female Performances of 2015

I’m happy to say that this list contains 20 performances, which is five more than my list of my favorite male performances from 2015. The reason is simple: I saw a lot more great roles by women than I did by men, of which I have no complaints. So instead of limiting this list to 15, I thought I’d open it up and let a few more in. Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Top 15 Male Performances of 2015

Here is a selection of the best male performances I saw in 2015. There were, of course, many more to choose from, so do feel free to list your favorites as well!

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Top 10 Films of 2015

For the past several weeks, I’ve silently observed heated debates about the past year in cinema. Those who attest that 2015 was an uncommonly poor year for film are typically countered with You didn’t see enough movies and/or You didn’t see the right movies. Fair points, but sadly, I saw damn near all of the movies many others loved in 2015, and very few of them fully worked for me. Sure, I liked aspects of some of the most popular films appearing on Year End lists, but by and large, 2015 was the year of the Just Okay movie. I enjoyed my time with these films, but I found them to be just okay, and doubt I’ll have the desire to revisit them.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Top 38 Things I Love About Django Unchained (that no one talks about)

For the past several weeks, I’ve made my way through every film Quentin Tarantino has written and directed, highlighting my favorite aspects of each film in the process. In the days leading up to QT’s next film, The Hateful Eight, we land on the 2012 Oscar-winning western, Django Unchained. I hope you dig the post (my other Tarantino posts can be found in the list at the bottom of this page), and feel free to share your thoughts as well!

Friday, December 11, 2015

Top 55 Things I Love About Inglourious Basterds (that no one talks about)

Inglourious Basterds marks Quentin Tarantino’s evolution into what he refers to as lyrical filmmaking. In QT’s words, Basterds, Django Unchained and The Hateful Eight, make a trilogy of long, poetic, lyrical films. (He’s also said that, having completed the trilogy, he’s interested in getting back to more visceral filmmaking, like Kill Bill. Which good, potentially, mean the possibility of Kill Bill: Vol. 3. But since we’re talking about Basterds, I consider it one of QT’s most mature films, ranked right next to Jackie Brown in that regard. It’s classical and reserved, until, of course, it’s not. Enjoy!

Friday, December 4, 2015

Top 36 Things I Love About Death Proof (that no one talks about)

Many dug it and many loathed it; such is the lasting fate of Quentin Tarantino’s most experimental film, Death Proof. The film, packaged with Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror, was a double-feature throwback to the exploitation films both filmmakers were raised on. Seeing both films (under the sole title, Grindhouse), in the theater remains one of the most memorable movie-going experiences I’ve ever had. That was just it, Grindhouse was an experience. And sure, while Death Proof may not carry as much weight as Tarantino’s other films, I still love it all the same.