Thursday, July 23, 2015


I felt like an asshole watching Amy. The new documentary about doomed singer Amy Winehouse left me feeling disheartened, and sad, and cold. “It left me feeling cold.” That’s a line I see a lot in film criticism today. People often say it as if it’s a bad thing – “It left me feeling cold.” The problem with that line is that further explanation is rarely granted by the people who use it. After all, what’s wrong with feeling cold? Many of my favorite films leave me feeling cold. There’s nothing inherently “warm” to gain from Cries and Whispers. Or Shame. Or Deliverance. A documentary about someone as troubled as Amy Winehouse is not going to leave you feeling warm and fuzzy. Cold is to be expected here. But my time with Amy goes beyond cold. Watching the film, I felt like a participant in Winehouse’s death. I felt like I was watching someone die in slow motion, and that I was helping it happen.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

In Character: Rebecca Pidgeon

David Mamet’s films are a drug. I watch one and the synapses in my brain start firing, demanding only one thing: more, more, more. Genuinely, I can’t remember ever watching just one Mamet film and letting that be that. I watch one, and a week later, I’ve rewatched them all.

Upon binging Mamet’s films for the past week, I took particular notice of one of Mamet’s staple actors, the great Rebecca Pidgeon. Pidgeon and Mamet have been married since 1991 and their fruitful collaboration has produced some truly excellent work. So, for the first time in In Character (125 posts and counting!), every role I’ll be discussing was directed and/or created by the same filmmaker, which is really a testament to the work Pidgeon and Mamet have made together.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

the Directors: Kathryn Bigelow

Roger Ebert said it best, Kathryn Bigelow is a master of stories about men and women who choose to be in physical danger. Choose is the operative word. The characters in Bigelow’s films always seek out trouble. Sometimes it’s their job to do so; cops, soldiers and secret agents are paid to place themselves in dangerous situations. Other times, Bigelow’s characters start trouble just for the hell of it. The through line of these characters is that they all become obsessed with danger. The thrill of the chase, the determination of discovery.

Of course, Kathryn Bigelow is the only female who has won a Best Director Oscar, but that’s not what makes her work so iconic. In her three decades plus career, she’s made films in all different genres. Her movies are all different, but, in some ways, all the same. That’s what makes a great director, a great director.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Top 39 Things I Love About Magic Mike (that no one talks about)

So the thing is, I love Steven Soderbergh’s Magic Mike. The movie is a lot smarter than it has ever been given credit for, and in the wake of the release of its worthy follow-up, Magic Mike XXL (my review here), I thought it be fun to take a look back at the wildly misunderstood source film. For the most part, I’m going to focus on the technical aspects of the film – cinematography, editing, sound design – which are sadly rarely discussed.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Magic Mike XXL

The original Magic Mike was a phenomenon. Made independently with $7 million dollars of director Steven Soderbergh and star Channing Tatum’s money, the film grossed more than $160 million worldwide, but not without angering a great many people. From the beginning, Magic Mike was pitched as an all-male romp, based on Tatum’s experience as a teenage stripper in Florida. The film was marketed ingeniously, relying on the abs and asses of guys with names like Tatum, McConaughey, Pettyfer, and Bomer. The marketing objective was simple: get women in the seats opening weekend. And it worked, like wildfire. Theaters sold out, millions were made, and many were pissed.