Thursday, May 29, 2014

In Character: Aaron Eckhart

To watch Aaron Eckhart is to watch charm. The man is a beacon of American charisma. But what makes him such a great actor is that he knows when to play into his charm and when to use it as a mask. His best work is a refreshing mix of natural magnetism and lethal back stabber. And no matter what facet of his persona he’s tapping into, I’m always compelled to follow him. Reel ‘em in and cut ‘em down, that’s the Aaron Eckhart way.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Red Lights (2004)

The opening moments of Cédric Kahn’s marvelous Red Lights so perfectly capture the plight of man. We watch a man wait for his wife who, as always, is notoriously late. A man who, upon meeting with his wife, is informed that before they leave for their scheduled trip, she must go home and shower. A man who, once on the road, is nagged incessantly about how fast to drive, which lane to be in, which route to take. These are marginal plights, sure, but they’re also spot-on. That tension and frustration that slowly builds from man waiting on (and being nagged by) woman, while silly, is something Red Lights initially executes with amusing precision.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Top 10 Rodrigo Prieto Films

Cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto is a master of many things. Most noticeably, he’s a master of the raw. His unflinching, grainy compositions are so perfect at capturing the grittiness of the world. He’s also a master of color. Whether it’s dark blues or crisp reds, overexposed hot light or desaturated landscapes, the man knows exact which color scheme best suits a scene. And lastly, Rodrigo Prieto is a grand master of the final shot. As you’ll see in a few of the frames below, Prieto knows how to close a film with startling simplicity. Many of these shots don’t seem that effective, until you realize they haven’t escaped your mind for days. That, my friends, is the mark of a master.

Friday, May 23, 2014

In Character: Catherine O’Hara

Is there a veteran actress who does improvisation better than Catherine O’Hara? She’s been in the film game for more than 30 years, consistently causing us to gasp for breath due to her bouts of maniacal comedy and rapid timing. There’s never a false step in her wit – never a beat missed nor a word dropped. The roles below showcase O’Hara’s full range of comedic skills, from her more honed in performances in zany films, to her outrageous work in reserved films. I grew up admiring O’Hara’s charm, and I love the fact that it doesn’t appear to be going anywhere anytime soon.

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Thursday, May 22, 2014

Favorite Movie Titles Blogathon

Brittani from Rambling Film has cooked up her first blogathon, in which she’s asked fellow bloggers to list their favorite movie title of each letter of the alphabet. I had a blast putting this post together because, per Brittani’s instructions, you don’t have to necessarily like the movie, you just have to appreciate the title. Hope you enjoy my picks, and do head over to Brittani’s site to see a collection of all the entries!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

A Visual Tribute to Cinematographer Gordon Willis

Gordon Willis shot it like it is. We hear this term a lot: he tells it like it is, usually applied to people who speak their minds and have the audacity and impressive vernacular to back it up. But Willis didn’t need to talk. Instead, he shot. As one of film’s greatest cinematographers, Willis bucked convention with each passing frame, consistently changing the game.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

I’m On My Way: What M83 Means to Me

We got there early. Too early. The anticipation was frustrating. Julie had the idea of standing in the lobby before the movie started, in case he showed up early. We walked into the theater, gave our tickets to the door and posted up in the large hallway. I looked to my right and there he was, my artistic hero, standing in the middle of a lobby, eating popcorn, laughing with his friends.

A few weeks earlier, I heard that M83 frontman, Anthony Gonzalez, was going to be at the premiere of his brother’s first feature film, You and the Night, at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica. The film was open to the public, and Anthony and his brother, Yann, would be doing a Q&A following the screening. I’ve seen M83 live several times, but to have an opportunity to hear Anthony discuss his music in person was something I’d always dreamed. Anthony scored You and the Night, the soundtrack of which was released months ago. I’ve listened to it daily, usually when I’m writing. The words flow as “Un nouveau soleil” crescendos, a smile forms as “Nous” takes off.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Palo Alto

A funny thing happened during my screening of Palo Alto. As I watched the film with many other adult attendees, our screening was occasionally interrupted by inappropriate laughter from a handful of young women watching the movie with us. These four women (a term I’m using loosely, as they appeared to be not a day over 16) laughed during a few of Palo Alto’s most intense moments. Moments of proclaimed love, lost desire, and carnal frustration. It seemed so odd to me that the people who were closest in age to the characters in the film found the desperate acts by those characters to be funny. Palo Alto doesn’t make light of these events, so why did these young women perceive it that why? And then it hit me: If I saw this movie when I was their age, I might be laughing too.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Top 10 Uses of Split-Screen

The concept of split-screen is simple, but no less dangerous. Typically, a line cuts through the middle of the screen to convey simultaneous action. But like all gimmicky narrative devices, split-screen is frequently abused and over stylized. At its most lazy, the technique is used as a fallback for sports or music montages. At its most effective, filmmakers implore the device to tell various stories at the same time, create tension from multiple points of view, show the effect the past has on the present, and so on. Perhaps what’s most interesting about the split-screen technique is that it forces the viewer to become the editor. We choose which story we watch, and for how long. That level of interactivity can be dangerous (by taking the viewer out of the film), but, as the examples below prove, it can also be thrilling.

Monday, May 12, 2014

In Character: Jeremy Davies

Mystery is an odd thing. You can’t ask for it, nor can you will it. It can’t be an act, it simply has to be. Joaquin Phoenix is, perhaps, the current leader of self-imposed oddity, taking over for the King of All Strange Kings, Christopher Walken. Casey Affleck is in there, as is Tilda Swinton. And lest we forget the Crispin Glover and Tim Curry’s of the world. I could go on, but you get the point. And when having a conversation about odd yet talented performers, Jeremy Davies deserves to be listed chief among them. The man moves to his own beat, rarely delivering a role that isn’t directly spawned from his own unique sensibilities. There’s no phoning it in for Jeremy Davies, the man goes all in, using his peculiarity to reel us, before flooring us with his quiet power.

Neighbors

There are certain things you can expect from a movie like Neighbors. A movie helmed by the director of Forgetting Sarah Marshall, co-written by the producer of The 40-Year-Old Virgin, produced by the creator of This Is the End, and starring the face of the contemporary Brat Pack stoner comedy genre. These things include: excessive drug use, obscure-to-painfully-lame pop culture references, gratuitous-ish female nudity, gratuitous-ish male nudity, dick jokes, fart jokes, gay jokes, black jokes, and riffs that often run too long. To complain about the usage of such things in a film of this kind is fruitless. Expect them to be there, because they will be.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Blue Ruin

Blue Ruin is the type of film we don’t see anymore. It’s an American-made, American-set revenge thriller in which the cause for revenge is opaque, and the thrills are earned with patience. It’s a film that makes room for time. It rests, it observes. It studies a single subject, but always through an objective lens. It moves swiftly, capitalizing on every one of its 90 minutes by feeding us just the right amount of information. It’s a film that says as much through dialogue as it does through imagery. Focused, visceral, persistent. Genuinely, the only negative thing about Blue Ruin is that it acts as a stark reminder of the absence of more films of its kind.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Top 10 Actresses Never Nominated for an Oscar

Yesterday, when I posted my list of the top 10 actors who have never been nominated for an Oscar, many people shared in my amazement at the Academy’s neglect. But honestly, I think today’s list is even more shocking. There are so many cinematic legends on here, and I can’t believe none of them have been nominated. Hope you enjoy my picks, and do please feel free to share yours as well.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Top 10 Actors Never Nominated for an Oscar

Every year, we marvel at the performers who have been nominated for Oscars. We rave about the ones we love, jeer at the names we don’t think deserve it, and, most notably, cry afoul at who is missing. Below are a handful of actors who, despite having illustrious film careers, have never garnered a competitive acting Oscar nomination. Today, we look at the men, tomorrow, the ladies. And believe me, I know there are plenty performers who didn’t make the cut here (sorry, Jim), so do pleasure share your favorites.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Top 10 Criterion Films

My good friend John, from the insanely inventive site, the droid you’re looking for, has been running a great Criterion Collection-inspired series for the past week. The concept: list your Top 10 Criterion films and explain why they’re your favorite. The concept, while simple by design, was easily one of the most challenging lists I’ve ever created. I had I blast thinking this one up, so I hope you’ll jump over to John’s site and take a look at my picks!



Thursday, May 1, 2014

In Character: Bob Hoskins

When Bob Hoskins retired from acting two years ago after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, the world lost a damn fine actor. When news broke that he passed away yesterday morning from pneumonia, we lost a damn fine man. Hoskins was a steady bruiser, often playing characters of thick head and heavy fist. But there was far more to him than just physical threat. Occasionally, in films like Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Hoskins deceived us by capitalizing on his tough guy persona, only to pleasantly evolve into a character of true sympathy.

According to CNN, Hoskins appeared in at least one film or television production from his first film, in 1972, to the year of his retirement. That’s astonishing. And while I certainly haven’t seen them all, below are a handful of my favorite Hoskins performances. As always, please feel free to share your favorite Hoskins roles as well. If anything, I’m hoping we can discover some of Hoskins’ work together.