I don’t talk about animated films a lot on this blog, mostly because as I’ve gotten older, I’ve found it more difficult to connect with them emotionally. But there certainly was a time when I adored and lived by cartoons. Here are the 10 animated films I cherished most as a child. Hope you enjoy my picks, and be sure to share yours as well!
Sunday, December 29, 2013
Call me cynical, but I honestly didn’t know if Martin Scorsese had another film in him as compulsively addicting as The Departed. The Wolf of Wall Street proved me wrong, but really, I can watch The Departed anytime, anywhere. It simply never gets old. During a recent viewing, I thought it’d be fun to track a few things I love about the film that don’t get mentioned much. Enjoy!
Friday, December 27, 2013
Leonardo DiCaprio had that hard thing to do. You know, that thing where you’re the most famous young actor in the world, but want to be taken seriously. That thing where just one wrong role could ruin your career. Thankfully, DiCaprio has consistently made excellent character choices, bringing to life one fearless and commanding man after another. While he’s currently killing it in The Wolf of Wall Street, I thought it’d be fun to look back at some of the best work he’s done yet.
Monday, December 23, 2013
A few days ago, someone asked me to describe The Wolf of Wall Street, Martin Scorsese’s new epic about a real man who got filthy rich by screwing people out of money. I was speechless. I stammered, I stuttered – I simply couldn’t describe the film. And then it clicked. “Remember the drug binge at the end of Goodfellas? ‘Jump Into the Fire,’ the coke, the chopper, the coke, the accident, the coke?”
“There are scenes like that in The Wolf of Wall Street?” my friend asked.
“No, the entire film is like that. It never stops. Even when it settles down, it still zooms.”
Saturday, December 21, 2013
Hours before the worst of Hurricane Katrina wrecks havoc on Louisiana, Nolan Hayes (Paul Walker) and his very pregnant wife barge into a New Orleans emergency room. Their baby girl is born successfully, but will need to rest in an incubator for the next two days until she can breathe on her own. Due to complications during the delivery, Nolan’s wife did not survive. Devastated in his grief, Nolan now has to raise a child that he, admittedly, has no idea how to raise.
The storm hits. Hard. The power goes out and the hospital is evacuated. In order for Nolan to keep his daughter alive, he has to furiously crank a generator every three minutes. Three minutes of life at time, all while battling human and natural disasters, and his own increasing exhaustion.
Thursday, December 19, 2013
Yesterday, my blogging buddy Alex Thomas posted a great list on his site, Time for a Film. His list of The 5 Best “Rotten” Films of 2013 brought attention to films from 2013 that have received a “rotten” score on the film review aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes. I loved Alex’s list for a few reasons, mostly because at a time of year when people are posting lists of the Worst Films of the Year, Alex approached it from a different angle. He highlighted seemingly “rotten” films that he genuinely liked. I respect that. And upon doing a little research, I realized I’ve also enjoyed quite a few “rotten” films this year. Hope you dig my picks, and be sure to tell me which “rotten” films you’ve liked in 2013!
You can’t not love John C. McGinley. As one of the most consistently hilarious characters actors in the business, there is no role that McGinley can’t bring to life with his unique humor. But McGinley’s craft certainly extends beyond chuckles. There’s a particular depth that McGinley frequently brings to his characters that I find captivating. Occasionally, you don’t know whether to laugh at the guy, or feel sorry for him. I’ll never tire of exploring the many facets of McGinley’s work.
Wednesday, December 18, 2013
The world is always a little different when viewed through the lens of Spike Jonze. He’s taken us inside the mind of John Malkovich, made orchids poetic and terrifying, and caused wild things to come vividly alive. His latest film, the enchanting, revelatory and all around perfect, Her, may contain his most profound vision yet. It’s a film set in the future, but the unique way it handles loss and love proves timeless. The film is all consuming, and once we’re engulfed, Her never teases to remove us from its gentle grip.
Tuesday, December 17, 2013
I’m not a sports guy. Never have been. As a spectator, I’ve always felt my time was better spent watching films than sports. Despite this (or rather, because of it) I do love a good sports documentary, and ESPN’s 30 for 30 series has certainly made some excellent ones. I’ve managed to watch every released 30 for 30, and here are my 10 favorite. Please note that this list includes films distributed under the ESPN Films Presents banner as well. Also, with the exception of Survive and Advance, every film listed here is currently available on Netflix Instant.
Monday, December 16, 2013
There’s a moment midway through the new Coen brothers film, Inside Llewyn Davis, when the title character comes to a literal crossroads. I won’t say where Llewyn Davis has the opportunity to go, but whether he veers his car slightly right, or continues straight ahead, his life will be forever altered. It’s a choice. A moral dilemma. Go this way and explore something new. Go that way and remain stuck.
And that’s exactly where Llewyn Davis is when we first meet him: stuck. As a superbly talented but financially struggling folk musician in ‘60s era Greenwhich Village, we learn that Llewyn’s worst enemy is himself. After years of never quite making ends meet, let alone reaching stardom, Llewyn (Oscar Isaac) has grown bitter and cold toward the world. He slums around the Village, taking gigs where he can, eating scraps out of friends’ fridges, and crashing on the couches of people who still tolerate him. Llewyn is the kind of self-entitled artist who is aware of his talent, and furious that the world hasn’t caught up yet.
Sunday, December 15, 2013
I really like this year’s Golden Globe nominations. For the first time in a long time, I feel that the quality of films in the Drama categories rival those in the Musical or Comedy categories. But when I gave the nominations a closer look, I was stunned to find Julie Delpy’s fiery and fearless performance in Before Midnight as one in contention for Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy. In my opinion, Before Midnight was in no way a comedy (and obviously not a musical) so as I was wrapping my head around Delpy’s nomination, I tried to remember other films wrongly placed in the Golden Globes’ Musical of Comedy categories. Here’s what I came up with.
Saturday, December 14, 2013
Everyone in David O. Russell’s cinematic reimaging of the FBI ABSCAM scandal are trying to make good on a hustle. They dress up, they speak with fake accents, they play their parts, all for the endowment of a few dollars. That’s American Hustle. A film about how a dedicated con man and his talented mistress wound up working for an overzealous FBI agent, risking their lives in the process.
Friday, December 13, 2013
I’ll see anything Neal McDonough is in. A prime time soap opera, a cookie-cutter action flick – doesn’t matter. If his name is on the call, I’m there. He has such a quietly commanding presence, I find it impossible not to seek him out.
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
An odd feeling comes over me when I see the World Trade Center towers appear in a contemporary film. It’s anxiousness that is (hopefully) replaced with welcomed nostalgia. The 10 films below are the finest examples I’ve found of such remembrance. This list did not consider documentary footage of the attacks or any film released prior to 9/11. All new films, all graced by a tasteful hand.
Monday, December 9, 2013
Last Saturday, I was lucky enough to attend a screening of the new film, Out of the Furnace, which was followed by a Q&A with co-star Casey Affleck and the film’s writer/director Scott Cooper. With The Hollywood Reporter’s extremely competent Scott Feinberg moderating, the discussion ranged from the power of performance, to the bafflement of personal attacks in reviews, to what it means to hear “Thank You” from a fan.
Sunday, December 8, 2013
Towns like Braddock, Pennsylvania exist all over America. The small, dirty towns that flourish or falter based on the strength of the local mill that employs most of the town’s citizens. Braddock, as portrayed in the new domestic thriller, Out of the Furnace, is the kind of town people don’t escape from. You’re born with a broken heart and develop into a shattered dream. All you can do is try to survive contently.
Saturday, December 7, 2013
Samuel L. Jackson is huge. An actor with one of the highest total box office grosses ever, with numerous credits spread out over film, television, stage. He’s Samuel L. Jackson, the intimidator, the screamer, the enforcer. He’s such an iconic persona, that we often forget that the man really, truly, can act. Here are my favorite examples of Jackson’s talent, of which there are certainly more than five. So do feel free to list your favorites after you check out mine!
Thursday, December 5, 2013
Bruce Dern is as grand and flawless as character actors get. According to IMDb, the man has 144 film and television credits to his name, and in tracing through them, it’s clear there isn’t a weak effort in sight. Whether he pops up briefly for one scene in a film, or steals an entire television show with his recurring character, or fills nearly every frame of a contemporary black and white Oscar contender, when Dern is on, he’s on like the best of them.
Sunday, December 1, 2013
My previous reviews of Paul Walker’s movies share a repetitive sentiment: the majority of his films “simply aren’t for me.” Why then was I struck with a curious sense of loss when the news of Walker’s death broke late yesterday? I suppose that’s one of the complex questions surrounding the public’s fascination with pop culture: why do we feel sad when celebrities die?
Thursday, November 28, 2013
A movie like Spike Lee’s Oldboy is destined to accrue a healthy amount of haters long before the film is released. Lee’s Oldboy is a remake of Park Chan-wook’s legendary Korean film of the same name, and in the decade since its release, Chan-wook’s film has developed cult classic-like status. The film has a loyal fan base who made it clear from the announcement of Lee’s remake that they simply were not interested.
And I get it. I fully understand the uproar over Lee’s film. Chan-wook’s Oldboy is a marvelous mystery thriller that needn’t be tampered with. But first off, it’s important to explain how Lee wants his film to be perceived. He’s stated many times (including when I heard him speak in person last February) that Oldboy was not a remake of Chan-wook’s film, but rather a reinterpretation of Garon Tsuchiya and Nobuaki Minegishi’s source material, the Japanese manga, “Old Boy.” Interesting then, that in the opening credits for Lee’s film, we’re presented with a title card reading: “Based on the Korean film Oldboy.”
Tuesday, November 26, 2013
Sunday, November 24, 2013
This isn’t going to be a pleasant story. At least not the majority of it. It isn’t going inspire young filmmakers to get out there and create. This story isn’t going to encourage or motivate. This story will convey that other side of independent filmmaking. That side in which Murphy’s Law takes hold and doesn’t dare let go. It’s the kind of story that mars almost every film production, and I intend to present it in all its ugly glory. Bear with me through the pain, and I hope you’ll understand why I shared this story with you. But before the heartbreak, a brief tale of beauty.
Monday, November 18, 2013
As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a filmmaker. I’ve simply never envisioned anything else for myself. At the end of July, I moved from Virginia to Los Angeles to fulfill my dream. The final push in me moving here was the drive of a few film producers who saw my last short film, Earrings, and expressed interest in working with me. When I spoke to these producers for the first time in early 2013, I told them about this script I had just written. This raw and unconventional examination of love, and the things it motivates us to do. I sent them the script, and they quickly agreed to help me finance it. My girlfriend and I got in the car, headed west, and in five short days, announced ourselves as citizens of the City of Angels.
Saturday, November 16, 2013
With Alexander Payne’s patient and oddly mystical new film, Nebraska, out this weekend, I thought it’d be fun to list my favorite contemporary films that were released entirely in black and white. Much of Nebraska’s minimalist charm is that it was captured through cinematographer Phedon Papamichael’s stark lens. Here are a handful of other films that took risks by telling their tales in sharp monochrome.
Wednesday, November 13, 2013
Denis O’Hare is that specific type of one scene wonder. He routinely appears in a film for a handful of scenes (or just one) and completely steals the show. Whether he’s screaming at George Clooney or berating Angelina Jolie, O’Hare has proven he can stand with cinema’s most recognizable faces, dishing it out like the best of them. On stage and television, O’Hare has been given longer opportunities to flex his raw talent. But really, the length of his roles matter little. Because when this guy is on, he’s on full tilt, no looking back.
Tuesday, November 12, 2013
Sunday, November 10, 2013
(Note: many of these scenes were not embeddable via YouTube. I’ve linked to them where I could.)
Friday, November 8, 2013
Boogie Nights is one of the fastest movies ever made. The breakneck pace of its story, as scripted by Paul Thomas Anderson, is more than enough to motivate such movement. But its propelled significantly by Robert Elswit’s gorgeous, free-roaming cinematography, a soundtrack of many of the era’s most bitchin’ tunes, and, of course, confident acting from an ensemble who went all in for their specific roles.
In short, the film just moves, ya dig? It’s as if Anderson attempted to cut a film with the same unrestrained, rapid sentiment of many of his cocaine-empowered characters. So, at two hours and 35 minutes long, Boogie Nights makes for one hell of a trip.
Wednesday, November 6, 2013
Sunday, November 3, 2013
When Paul Greengrass’ Captain Phillips was released last month, it was quickly accompanied with allegations that much of the film was made up. A handful of the men from Phillips’ own crew claimed that Greengrass’ film glamorized the real Captain Richard Phillips. In real life, the crewmen say, Phillips “wasn’t the big leader,” and was “real arrogant,” bordering on dangerous. Soon after these allegations were reported in major media outlets, film enthusiasts began penning essays asking readers the very question I’m asking in the headline of this post.
Thursday, October 31, 2013
Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Tuesday, October 29, 2013
Part of what makes Steve McQueen’s new film, 12 Years a Slave, so great is its eclectic cast. Throughout the film, familiar faces pop in and out of scenes for brief periods of time, proving that it isn’t the amount of screentime that matters to an actor, but rather, what they do with the time they’re given. From superstars to virtual unknowns, here’s a breakdown of the talented people who help make 12 Years a Slave one of the very best films of the year.
Monday, October 28, 2013
Sunday, October 27, 2013
But there’s more.
In fact, when you measure Scott’s entire career, you see that he’s dedicated his craft to tell all kinds of stories. Big and small, war-torn and love-ravaged. There’s simply no topic Ridley Scott is shy of tackling. Over the years, Scott’s dedication for reinvention has made way for a number of substandard films. When making such large genre leaps from picture to picture, missteps are bound to occur. But thankfully, Scott will always be remembered for his achievements. Those genre-bending masterpieces that continue to change the game.
Thursday, October 24, 2013
This isn’t the first scene of 12 Years a Slave, but it’s the one where I knew for certain that I was in the midst of a masterful film. The scene occurs shortly into the picture, moments after freed and famed musician Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is kidnapped and sold into slavery. During his hellacious boat journey to the south, Solomon angrily describes his confusion while Hans Zimmer’s thundering music underscores the horror, and Joe Walker’s repetitive editing make it clear that there is no escape.
Tuesday, October 22, 2013
That’s the notion beautifully realized in J.C. Chandor’s harrowing tale All Is Lost. The film stars Robert Redford, and only Robert Redford. We never learn a thing about him as a man, including his name. We have no idea why he is 1,700 nautical miles away from shore, on a sailboat, alone. We haven’t a clue of his marital status, number of children, or professional occupation. All we know is that he is a man lost, fighting to survive.
Monday, October 21, 2013
Friday, October 18, 2013
Is David Fincher’s Se7en the most disturbing, yet endlessly rewatchable film ever made? That was my main thought while watching the film recently. Here are a handful of other things that popped into my mind – moments rarely discussed that help make Se7en one of cinema’s most effective thrillers.
Wednesday, October 16, 2013
Shows currently on the air were not considered here. Why? True Blood, that’s why. If I made this list soon after True Blood finished its third season, it would be near the top. But as it stands now, True Blood wouldn’t crack the Top 30. A show isn’t over ‘til it’s over.
Tuesday, October 15, 2013
Saturday, October 12, 2013
So far, 2013 has fared pleasantly in the middle. Moments from Short Term 12 and Upstream Color caused me to get a little emotional, while Fruitvale Station and Captain Phillips had me bawling. Below are 10 films that get tears out of me everytime I watch them. For a nice change of pace, I’ve split the tears into two categories: films that make me cry because of their sadness, and others because of the happiness they evoke.
Please be forewarned that this post contains many spoilers. I hope you enjoy the list, and please do feel free to share the films that get you watery eyed.
Thursday, October 10, 2013
Wednesday, October 9, 2013
Tuesday, October 8, 2013
There’s a fine class of actors that Spike Lee keeps in his pocket. People he can rely on to deliver, no matter the size of the part. Likewise the Coen brothers, who write with a specific actor in mind, all but knowing that they will accept the part because it’s a… Coen brothers movie. But few people have the rare distinction of being in the pocket of both the Coens and Spike Lee. That’s the effect of a John Turturro performance. Whether he’s the wiseass or the moron, the crook or the cop, the ill fated or the hero, you know that when John Turturro appears in the role call, you’re in for something worthy and oddly enjoyable.
Sunday, October 6, 2013
The beauty of Cuarón’s films is that although they vary drastically in subject matter, there’s no denying that an Alfonso Cuarón film is indeed just that. Much of this is thanks to Cuarón’s longtime friend and collaborator, cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, who has shot all but one of Cuarón’s films. Their work together, matched with Cuarón’s audacious storytelling, have made for some of the finest films of recent years.
Friday, October 4, 2013
Thursday, October 3, 2013
The very extended opening shot of the film sets up the entire story. High in the limitless depths of space, astronaut Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) is on a space walk mission to fix a portion of a shuttle. Stone’s commander, Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) is right there with her, cracking jokes about days past. Soon into their mission, satellite debris destroys their ship and kills the rest of the crew, leaving Stone (who is on her first ever space mission) and Kowalski (who is on his last), to fight for themselves.
Wednesday, October 2, 2013
Leave it to Steven Soderbergh to describe the abilities of a great actress so succinctly and accurately. Catherine Keener is the queen of portraying neurotic confidence. Her characters rarely have it all together, yet they put up this great façade of false assurance. But there’s more. In fact, Keener has proved to be just as effective in gentler roles, standing in the background, lending a kind word when necessary. Forceful or quiet, manipulative or kind, Kenner can simply play it all.