Wednesday, June 27, 2012

In Character: John C. Reilly

John C. Reilly, the pathetic slob. John C. Reilly, the dramatic, restrained thespian. No matter how you spin it, there’s no forgetting an essential John C. Reilly performance. The man can be balls-out hilarious, subtly amusing, or go-for-broke melodramatic.

Paul Thomas Anderson has called him the funniest man alive, while other auteurs have capitalized on his sense of control.  An actor's ability to shift from comedy to drama from role to role (or within a single performance) is an art that is growing increasingly more difficult. But looking back, it’s a skill that Reilly has never not had. Here are a few cases in point.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

My Favorite Scene: 8 Mile

I have trouble with movies that spend their duration promoting and discussing the event that the film will culminate with. It’s one of the main reasons I’m often bored with the majority of sports films: you know it’s all leading up to the Big Game, so where is the conflict?

I mention this because throughout Curtis Hanson’s 8 Mile, every character involved makes it very clear that B-Rabbit (Eminem) will eventually attempt to reclaim his street cred in a popular weekly rap battle. Sure, Rabbit fights and pleads against this, but we as an audience know it’s going to happen. The risk in knowing this is that once the film inevitably reaches the battle, should we still give a shit? Well, in the case of 8 Mile’s final scene, the answer is a big, ecstatic Hell Yes.

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Newsroom

I don’t review television shows on this blog, mostly because I really don’t watch (much) TV. I have a few stock shows that I’m dedicated to, but all of them air on HBO. So because I don’t watch TV, I don’t think it’s necessarily fair for me to review specific shows. There is very little context I can offer. The only show I’ve reviewed on this blog is Girls, because at the time, it needed as many advocates as it could get. And it’s for the same reason that I feel compelled to share my thoughts on the pilot episode of Aaron Sorkin’s could-be-brilliant The Newsroom.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Cutting Edge: The Magic of Movie Editing

Wendy Apple’s The Cutting Edge is one of the finest documentaries I’ve ever seen about a specific process of filmmaking. For film students, Apple’s film is required, for cinephiles, it’s necessary.

The film details several things, most notably how the film editor is one of the most important, yet most ignored roles within the filmmaking process. The movie implores dozens of interviews from people you’ve heard of, and twice as many from people you haven’t. Those men (and women) are the masters. The anonymous, patient, exacting movie crafters. They sit alone (or with the director by their side) and mold a movie into what it can be, and what it does become. “Great editing skill,” Sean Penn says early on, “Will protect a director from suicide.”

Truer words have never been spoken.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Earrings: Editing Part 2

It’s right there. Tonight, I will go into my editing room (which is what I converted my bedroom into two months ago) and lock myself in until Earrings is finished. Well, not finished finished, but rough cut finished. The sequence of scenes will be done from start to finish, all’s that will remain is leveling the audio and color correcting the look. (Notice how I said “all’s” like audio mastering and color correction are no big deal. Ha.)

It’s funny, last night I went out to dinner with a good friend, and in the middle of our meal, he paused, looked at me and said, “Shit man, can you believe you’re almost done?” To which I replied with a heavy sigh and a wide smile. No, I told him, I cannot believe that in a little over a month, I’ll get to share this passion project of mine with people who seem genuinely interested in seeing it.

About that.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

In Character: Bruce Greenwood

Bruce Greenwood is one of the kings of internal damnation. His best characters deal with (and exercise) their emotions with few words, stares and an intimidating presence. Don’t get me wrong, Greenwood can scream and shout with the best of them, but I’m always drawn to his ability to reel us in by doing very little (which, in terms of acting, means doing quite a lot).

I’ve been a fan of Greenwood’s since I saw him purposefully botch his own murder in Double Jeopardy. He’s a selfless actor who will do most anything (including making himself unidentifiable) to propel the character.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Something from Nothing: The Art of Rap

Rapper turned actor turned apparent documentary filmmaker, Ice-T, makes it very clear from the beginning of his first film, Something from Nothing: The Art of Rap, that he wants to focus on the music. He doesn’t care about the money, the girls, the swagger – he wants his film to focus on the passion. 

To do this, he implores dozens of interviews from who he calls “The Masters,” the men (and a few women) who started a movement and helped changed music. Ice-T travels from South Bronx to Harlem to Detroit to Los Angeles, asking the originators of rap a handful of provocative questions. “If rap is a landscape painting, what was your stroke on it?” is a typical question he asks the likes of Treach Criss, Doug E. Fresh, KRS-One, Dr. Dre, Eminem and many more. Their answers are varied, well articulated and, to me, fascinating.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Most Badass Movie Scenes of All Time

Something I am often taken by in regards to film is the notion of being badass. It’s an art, really. Cinematically, badassness can present itself in a number of ways. There’s the thrilling action scene, the intense monologue, the subtle Fuck You – whatever the case may be, I love watching badass things unfold on screen.

Now, this list was cooked up in a fit of inspiration based on something I posted on Facebook earlier today. After much deliberation, my friends there proposed that I draft a list of my favorite badass scenes, which I’ve gone ahead and done. Kind of.

In all honestly, the list here is endless, these are just the 10 that came to my mind right away. This is the type of list that, as soon as I publish this post, I will think of 10 more (possibly better) inclusions, which is where you all come in. If there’s ever a time I implored interactivity on this blog, it is now. Tell me your favorite, most badass movie scenes. There are no rules, no restrictions. Have a ball with it. Let the badass become you.

Monday, June 18, 2012

My Favorite Scene: Hustle & Flow

Craig Brewer’s Hustle & Flow doesn’t get enough credit. It’s perfect in its depiction of a gritty, sweaty, realistic urban rap game. But perhaps its finest achievement is captivating viewers who couldn’t care less about the world it portrays. Basically, in no way do you have to enjoy rap music in order to appreciate this film, or its best, most thrilling sequence.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Road to Nowhere

There's a scene late in Road to Nowhere in which an actress asks her director (who she is also sleeping with) how many movies he's seen. He pauses and then replies, "You shouldn't really ever ask a filmmaker that. We don't ever really want to admit how much time we spend obsessing over other people's dreams."

Now, let's dissect that line on a few different levels. First, it is fucking perfect. It's as precise and accurate a line of dialogue concerning our finest artistic medium as I've ever heard. When the character said it in the movie, I literally sat upright, in awe of its succinct brilliance. On another level, the line perfectly describes the movie it is contained in, which, as a whole, I certainly will not be able to do.

Friday, June 15, 2012

101 Film Facts About Me

I’ve seen these 100 Films Facts About Me posts circling the web for the past few weeks, so I decided to jump on and tell everyone a few things about myself. I wrote the first 101 things that came to mind, and reading back over them, I guess I was in a pretty nostalgic mood. But if this helps give any insight as to why movies are such an integral part of my life, then I’ve done what I set out to do.

This list was a blast to write-up, and I hope you enjoy reading it. If you haven’t drafted one of these lists, then you should definitely consider it.  I, for one, love knowing why people love movies.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

In Character: Cliff Curtis

Pop quiz, hot shots: without looking it up, can you tell me where Cliff Curtis is from? I’ve always had a suspicion, but hell, based on his many excellent film performances, he appears to have lineage in a number of different cultures.

He’s played a freedom fighting Arab, a gang leading Latino, a drug dealing Columbian, a bitter southern American, a stoned-out New Yorker – you name it, all with equal conviction. It should also be noted that Curtis has made a name for himself in independent and blockbusters alike. Point in fact: he’s the sole reason I’ve seen (and enjoyed) a number of big budget movies that I normally wouldn’t have paid the time of day. He always manages to reel you in and captivate, even if you don’t know what his real voice sounds like.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Intouchables

The Intouchables is a new, pretty decent, pretty ordinary film that has already made a killing in its native France before The Weinstein Company picked it up for domestic release. The film tells the apparent true story of an insanely wealthy quadriplegic and his unlikely friendship with a caretaker from the wrong side of the tracks.

Monday, June 11, 2012


Most of the conversation surrounding Prometheus, Ridley Scott’s best film since Matchstick Men, or Black Hawk Down, or hell, Thelma & Louise, is how closely it is rooted in Scott’s own Alien. Is it a prequel, a spin-off, its own movie entirety? Conversations like this are, to me, not only boring, but completely counterproductive to what’s at hand, which in this case is a very fine, very badass, very intelligent science fiction film. I’m only making mention of the would-be Alien tie-in so that we can be done with it. Moving on.

Friday, June 8, 2012

My Favorite Scene: Raging Bull

The most important line in Raging Bull occurs roughly 11 minutes into the film, and is spoken by a character who is never seen. Moments after Jake La Motta beats the living hell out of his first on screen opponent by hitting him with a couple dozen consecutive left hooks, we cut to Jake getting ready to eat a meal prepared by his wife.

The wife over cooks his steak, Jake flips out, and a screaming match ensues. Now pay attention. Once the argument is over and Jake’s wife has locked herself in the bedroom, Jake’s neighbor begins yelling from the street (or maybe another apartment) telling Jake to keep it down. They bicker back and forth and then the neighbor says it. He calls Jake an animal.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Best Boxing Scenes from Boxing Movies

With the exception of film, there is little that I love more than the art of boxing. I’m not a sports guy (at all), but when it comes to the sweet science of boxing, I am in complete awe. It’s a sport I’ve witnessed, practiced and cherished with equal levels of fascination. There’s something about the calculation that goes into the whole thing that I find unique and interesting.

There is, however, a catch to being such a fan of the sport: I am virtually unable to enjoy any boxing film that gets the boxing scenes wrong. One of the best, most recent examples of this is David O. Russell’s The Fighter. Good movie, horribly inauthentic boxing scenes. Micky Ward was such a unique, driven fighter, and the film portraying him in no way capitalized on that.

Oh well. Just keep in mind that for the purposes of this post, I am only focusing on the boxing. Here are the ones that got it right, pound for pound.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Ten Best Directors of All Time Relay Race

For the past few months, fellow film bloggers may have been lucky enough to take part in two interactive and challenging relay blog posts, both created by the ever-excellent Nostra from My Filmviews. First up was the Ten Best Actors of All Time Relay Race. The ladies came next, and earlier today, Nostra began a relay race in which we are to rank to the 10 finest auteurs.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Piranha 3DD

Movies like Piranha 3DD are a perfect reminder as to why I love movies. The old maxim states that we’re only fully able to appreciate sunny days because of the rainy ones. It’s the whole joy wouldn’t feel so good if it wasn’t for pain argument. Well, that’s exactly what Piranha 3DD is: pain. It’s a disastrous, God-awful abomination of a film that in no way deserves to be classified as anything other than that. In fact, calling it a “film” is to degrade any other form of art that is fit to be classified as such. Piranha 3DD isn’t a film, it’s 83 minutes of walking, talking, cold, dark, runny baby shit. But it also makes me appreciate virtually every other film I’ve ever seen. So, you know… thanks?

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Moonrise Kingdom

In Moonrise Kingdom, a young, precocious, humorously idealistic boy, escapes from his Scout camp in order to run away with a young, precocious, humorously idealistic girl. The time is 1965, the land is a small New England island, the tone is suitably Wes Anderson. From opening frame to final shutter, Moonrise Kingdom is laced with the best that Anderson has to offer. Snappy dialogue, naïve romance, warm hues, and a colorful cast of characters all help make the film a mostly enjoyable addition to the mostly perfect resume of Wes Anderson.


Friday, June 1, 2012

the Directors: Wes Anderson

When you start listing the most influential and assertive of contemporary directors, Wes Anderson has got to be close to the top. After he made his first feature at the age of 27, many said he was going to be the next Scorsese, which, in a way, is exactly what he’s become.

No, Anderson hasn’t become famous for depicting street-level mobsters or shooting iconic scenes of horrific violence, but he has proclaimed himself as one of the most branded filmmakers currently working in film. At the risk of being presumptions, I think most any person with a basic interest in film can recognize a Wes Anderson movie within 30 seconds of watching it. The sepia-infused tones, the normal-to-slow motion shots, the witty, upper-class dialogue, the antique set props – it’s all part of the formula.

Many people say that you either love or hate Wes Anderson. I’m not sure I agree with that, I can’t say all of his films justify that level of polarization (some do, though). But love him or hate him or like him, it’s impossible to deny his influence.