Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Curse of the Twin Movie

The twin movie was a curse that dominated the ‘90s. It happened before and has certainly happened since, but during that decade, when one studio announced an idea for a film that sounded commercially viable, it was common for a rival studio to scramble to create something similar. Other times, similarly themed flicks were released a year or so apart by pure coincidence. Either way, one of the films usually got screwed over in the process.

In terms of declaring “winners,” my decision was based on culture significance and profitably. No matter if these films are good or not (many aren’t), they were discussed plenty when they were released, and the release of one typically meant critical and/or commercial harm to the other. It’s not about which film is better. It’s about which film did better.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

In Character: Regina King

Regina King has been stealing scenes since her film debut in Boyz n the Hood. Her energy, wit, and unwillingness to be outshadowed by her male co-stars has long-since made her an actor who demands (and keeps) your attention. I’ve been a fan of her work from the beginning, and am thrilled that she’s currently finding so much success on TV. Here are a handful of roles I’ve enjoyed her most in.

Friday, December 2, 2016

the Directors: Warren Beatty

What’s so interesting about Warren Beatty’s career is that his films act as generational entry points. Dick Tracy was my first exposure to Warren Beatty. In the film, he’s tough and sarcastic, a brooding presence, with a smile. I loved it. My dad, a longtime Beatty fan, grew up with Bonnie and Clyde, and later, Heaven Can Wait. His appreciation became my appreciation. Most everyone discovers Beatty at a different time, and because his work is so eclectic, there is never a shortage of discussion concerning his work.

Beatty’s career is a celebrated and complex one, so I’m doing something different in this Directors post. Beatty has directed five feature films, but he’s been responsible for the creation of many more. As a producer, Beatty was able to throw his clout around and help make some of the finest American films of all time. He starred in most of the films he produced, and co-wrote a few as well. He was responsible for securing the directors and casts of those projects, and earned final cut on many of them. In short, because Beatty’s influence on the film’s he produced is paramount, I’ve listed them here as well.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Nocturnal Animals

Unrequited love can be the worst thing to happen to someone. People lose themselves when they lose someone. They form unhealthy patterns, sabotage relationships, isolate themselves. It hurts so much to lose someone because we put so much of ourselves into the people we love. That’s the jump, that’s the trust. And when it’s gone, that part of us is lost as well.

But good can come from pain. Some of the best art ever created was the byproduct of fractured love. Pain can also bring perspective. It can make you appreciate what you have, when you have it. This is what Tom Ford’s new film, Nocturnal Animals, is about. It’s about seeking redemption for your pain in a healthy and constructive way, while also violently explaining what that pain did to you.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Arrival

Arrival is the film we need right now. It’s a movie about love. It’s a movie about life. It’s a movie about understanding each other; helping and guiding. Arrival is a film that dares you to appreciate what you have, even if you know you won’t have it forever.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Top 10 Looks of Parental Pride

I was recently having a conversation with someone about movies that make us cry. I mentioned my never-fail cry films (which I’ve written about here), but as we kept talking, we started wondering what exactly in movies makes us cry. I realized something that routinely makes me emotional is a parent looking at their child with the utmost sense of pride. And although I’ve written about some of these moments before, I thought it’d be an inspiring post all the same. Please advise that spoilers of the listed films lurk within.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Top 61 Things I Love About L.A. Confidential (that no one talks about)

Curtis Hanson made good movies before L.A. Confidential. The Hand That Rocks the Cradle and The River Wild are both effective, creepy thrillers, but his career took right the hell off when L.A. Confidential was released. The movie was, and will forever remain, one of the finest pulp L.A. throwbacks on film. It’s bursting with style and energy; a modern masterpiece, certainly. With the untimely passing of Hanson last month, I thought it’d be appropriate to explore the best film of his career. (As a reminder: I discuss the entire movie in these posts. The whole film will be spoiled, so please don’t read if you haven’t seen the film yet!)

Friday, October 7, 2016

American Honey

Andrea Arnold’s films are unique and bold, singularly realized. Heavy on story, emotion, and feeling; void of plot and convention. Her latest, the captivating epic, American Honey, dutifully follows suit with Arnold’s style. And thank God. There’s no one currently making movies the way Andrea Arnold makes them. Every time she releases a film, she subsequently breathes life into the medium. Hyperbolic praise, perhaps, but truth be told, certainly.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

In Character: Hank Azaria

One of the things I love most about Hank Azaria is his unpredictably. You never know what he’s going to do. If he’s playing an out-and-out comedic character, Azaria’s dramatic skills may sneak in a heartfelt moment. If you’re watching a more serious Azaria performance, there’s a good chance his comic timing will show itself. 

A maestro impressionist and voice artist, Azaria has proven his chops in so many different fields. He’s as fun to watch (and listen to) today as he was 25 years ago. Actually, given his recently Emmy win for guest starring on Ray Donovan, I think it’s fair to say that Azaria is only getting better. 

Friday, September 9, 2016

In Character: Liev Schreiber

I’m on a serious Liev Schreiber kick right now. Could be because his excellent Showtime drama, Ray Donovan, is nearing the end of its great fourth season. Could be because Schreiber is garnering excellent reviews out of the Venice Film Festival for his portrayal of famed boxer Chuck Wepner (i.e. the guy who inspired Stallone to write Rocky) in The Bleeder. Or it could simply be because Schreiber is one of my favorite contemporary actors. I’ve been a fan of Schreiber’s since he began popping up in indie films in the mid-‘90s. Since then, no matter if he’s in comedies or dramas, big films or small, I always make it a point to seek out his work.

Monday, September 5, 2016

In Character: Ed Harris

Ed Harris is one of those rare actors who can make most any film worth it. With his explosive intensity and furious emotion, Harris has long since proved himself as one of film’s finest character actors. There are many amazing performances to choose from when highlighting Harris, best work; below are simply my favorites.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Top 10 Films of 2016 (so far)

We’re a few weeks past the halfway mark of 2016, and before summer winds down and Oscar season heats up, I thought it’d be fun to list the best flicks I’ve seen so far in this year. As always, release dates are based on American theatrical releases.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Top 66 I Love About The Insider (that no one talks about)

Michael Mann’s The Insider is a smart, adult, corporate thriller that I gain more from every time I watch it. I remember seeing it in the theater at age 14, sitting next to my old man as he whispered to me what was happening, the fancy language of the film consistently going over my head. I’ve always loved The Insider, but lately, I’ve become obsessed with its cinematography, immaculate writing of such dry material, and the details packed in it. Perhaps more than any of Mann’s films, The Insider best encapsulates his insistence on not treating the audience like idiots. You really have to pay attention to this film to fully grasp everything that’s going on.

I typically cover already-popular films in this “No One Talks About” series, but my sincere hope is that this post motivates some to check out this somewhat forgotten masterpiece. Enjoy!

Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Neon Demon

I see far fewer new movies in the theater than I used to. Career focus, readjusted life priorities – but mostly, I can call the shots of damn near every new movie I see. And as I get older, that notion alone makes buying a movie ticket less alluring. I know people take comfort in the boy getting the girl, the superheroes winning the day, the social justice warriors implanting their message, but for $18 a ticket, it’s simply not for me anymore. And yeah okay, nothing new – the movie freak bitching about the current piss poor state of film. But here’s my point: though I do feel the general quality of most movies is digressing, good films are made every year, and The Neon Demon is chief among them this year.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

My Favorite Scene: Ali

Michael Mann’s recreation of The Rumble in the Jungle is my favorite boxing scene in all of film. Mann’s insistence on mimicry is a big reason why, as much of the fight in Ali is executed exactly how the bout happened in real life. But moreover, it’s the emotion of Mann’s scene that sticks with me. Throughout the fight, we’re privy to Muhammad Ali’s inner monologue, a monologue the fighter never shared in real life. Ali famously kept his strategy for battling George Foreman a secret. Many suspect this was because he didn’t know how to beat Foreman; he would have to face Foreman first to determine a resolute tactic.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

In Character: Mark Ruffalo

No matter what role Mark Ruffalo is playing, he embodies his characters so specifically, that he immediately convinces us that they’re are real. What a joy it has been to watch Ruffalo’s career morph from obscure independent wasteland to wildly revered character actor. One of the things I respect most about Ruffalo is that he has the capacity to be one of the biggest actors in the world. He’s continually offered major roles in massive movies, but instead of solely taking those, he chooses his roles based on the strength and complexity of the character. Six such characters are listed below.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Top 66 Things I Love About The Exorcist (that no one talks about)

There’s never a bad time to watch William Friedkn’s The Exorcist. It’s as scary, smart, and engaging as it has ever been. The film is 43 years old and is in no danger of becoming any less timeless. The music, the acting, William Peter Blatty’s script, the cinematography, the make-up – it’s classic cinema personified. Here’s a look at a handful of things I love about the film (the director’s cut, to be clear) that are rarely discussed.

Wednesday, April 27, 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.