Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Top 10 NC-17 Rated Films

In America, the NC-17 film rating carries a lot of baggage. Because of the nature of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) – in all its absurd censorship – if a film is rated NC-17, it is more or less dead theatrically. The marketing for an NC-17 rated film is restricted both in print and digital form. Major movie theater chains (like Regal and AMC) won’t screen NC-17 films, many national stores (like Target and Wal-Mart) won’t sell them… so basically, you have a shot at seeing them in an independent art house theater, or searching for them on DVD.

But this list isn’t a bash against the MPAA, rather, a call out of some truly great films that fought to see the light of day. Despite the limitations set against them, these risqué flicks managed to push through.

Head over to Movie Mezzanine to view the full list

Monday, April 29, 2013

Pain & Gain

Michael Bay’s latest and purposefully modest film, Pain & Gain is full of everything you can expect from a Michael Bay production. It’s laughably stylized with numbing post-production work, a moronic screenplay, phoned-in acting and an inexplicably laborious running time. I watched all 130 minutes of this tired romp, most of which was spent staring at the screen under an intense spell of boredom and indifference.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Top 22 Things I Love About Goodfellas (that no one else talks about)

As far as my personal tastes go, Goodfellas has a rewatchability factor that is met only by Pulp Fiction. I can watch the film anytime, anywhere, for any amount of time. During my most recent viewing, I noticed a few things I love, but that no one else seems to ever discuss. Hope you enjoy my insights, and be sure to tell me your favorite overlooked moments from the film.

Friday, April 26, 2013

My Top 10 Film Scores of All Time

There are so many different ways to play a great film score. Maybe they seamlessly blend with the material, and you aren’t even aware of their presence. Maybe their thunderous resonance grabs you right away and never let’s go. Maybe they chill, maybe they encourage – whatever the case, few things are better than a fitting piece of original movie score.

I have tens of thousands of songs on my iTunes playlist, 65 percent of which are film scores. Most of the scores below cracked my top 10 because I can write to them so fluidly. I write to music, and I never write to songs containing actual lyrics. I write a lot, so, as a byproduct, I listened to a shitload of movie scores. Some picks are based on writability, others on nostalgia – all, however, are rated chiefly by inspiration.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

In Character: Ray Liotta

Cops and robbers, psychos and intimidators – such is the world of Ray Liotta’s film persona. The man plays mad better than most, and he has a damn fun time doing it. I make it a point in every In Character piece to let my choices for the actor’s six best roles represent the scope of their craft. I look for strong and nasty, kind and caring, fire and ice. And, upon picking my favorite Liotta roles, it’s obvious that he is at his best when he’s angry. The guy can play sympathetic, no doubt, but there’s nothing more convincing (and appropriately terrifying) than watching Liotta flex the lethality he possesses.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013


About one hour into the new science fiction film, Oblivion, a scene takes place that represents much of what I hate about Hollywood blockbusters. To be clear up front: this isn’t a fault of the film itself, but rather the system dictating it.

Oblivion opens with an extended bit of narration by Tom Cruise’s character, Jack. Jack explains how Earth’s moon was destroyed several years ago. How nature took over and destroyed much of the planet before aliens invaded. There was a war. We won, but Earth remains a barren wasteland. Everyone has been shipped to live on one of Saturn’s moons, while giant machines absorb the remainder of Earth’s water. Jack’s job is to protect the drones that protect the water suction apparatuses from the aliens trying to destroy them.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Top 10 Worst Movie Dads

Fathers are supposed to care, provide, love, and so on. Not these fellas. Instead, these cinematic patriarchs drink, kill, molest – you name it, all to unnerving degrees. Like a train-wreck, you can’t help but watch in fascination and horror. And this is a difficult list to justify without dishing spoilers. So, if you haven’t seen some of the films below, just trust that these despicable fathers occupy the screen in depraved ways.

Head to Movie Mezzanine to view the full list 

Monday, April 22, 2013

Top 10 Supporting Performances by A-List Stars

We’ve all heard stories of actors unwilling to play a character because they felt the role was too small. Most recently, Will Smith was rather outspoken about why he turned down the title role of Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained. “Django wasn’t the lead, so it was like, I need to be the lead. The other character was the lead!” Smith told Entertainment Weekly. Now, maybe it’s just me (me as in a guy who has never been offered any film role of any kind ever), but I say who gives a shit?

If there’s one thing I truly believe about acting, it’s that the size of the role has nothing to do with that quality of performance. Here are 10 great examples of really famous people taking a step back from the spotlight, but still managing to kill it in a supporting performance.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

101 Cinematic Reasons Why I Love the ‘40s

1. “Rosebud…”
2. “Even as fog continues to lie in the valleys, so does ancient sin cling to the low places, the depressions in the world consciousness.”
3. “Everybody seems to be staring in one direction. People seem to be frightened, even terrified. Some flabbergasted. Can it be true? It must be true. No doubt. The man with the little mustache, Adolf Hitler.”
4. This body of work:


Primer is a perfect example of how the making of a film can influence my perception of what the film itself really is. And I struggle with this notion. It’s an argument of Respect vs. Skill. As in, if I respect the hell out of how a movie was made, should my affection for the film itself be more substantial? On one end, I think a film is a film, and should be judged as such. No outside influences (including the impressive struggles it took to get a film made) should alter how I feel about what is on the screen. But, other times, I find the backstory simply too remarkable to ignore.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Room 237

The very premise of the new documentary, Room 237, represents everything I personally find wrong with film criticism. And I want to get something very clear from the go here: my distaste for this film (and it is a very strong distaste) is a perfect reflection of how I personally choose to view movies. As a great admirer of film (and art in general) I have never achieved satisfaction in breaking art down. Asking, “But what does it all mean?” or pontificating about the purpose of this shot or that specific word of dialogue. Now, this is not to say that I don’t believe artists often live in allegory. I can dig metaphors, parallels, parables and so on, but trying to find the “hidden” meaning of art has never appealed to me.

Inversely, I know plenty of people who value art for the sole purpose of breaking it down. For inspecting and theorizing and asking, asserting, and asking again. They’re not “wrong,” and neither am I. There are simply two ways to go about it.

Friday, April 19, 2013

In Character: William Hurt

A funny thing happens as some actors get older. As their career progresses, they quietly transform from one of the most respected, accomplished leading men, to a steadfast character actor who occasionally pops up in obscure little roles. That’s been the case for William Hurt, one of the finest American actors who have ever graced the screen. He hit it big in his early 30s, crushed lead roles, won an Oscar, then, for whatever reason, faded out.

Don’t get me wrong, when Hurt hits (both then and now) he hits. When his spontaneous anger, unique humor and reserved sensitivity are all on point, it’s impossible to not take notice.

My Top 10 Screenplays of All Time

Few things fascinate and inspire me more than the written word, specifically as they relate to film. Whether it’s the seamless structure of scenarios, or that one perfect line that cuts right to the heart of things – I’m utterly engrossed with every aspect of a screenplay. Some of my choices below are known primary for their dialogue, others for the way in which they evolve their stories. All have planted themselves in my mind and never dared to go away. They’ve encouraged, amused, and captivated me many times over. And I realized something funny while drafting this post: sometimes writing about words is the hardest kind of writing; for someone has already said it better themselves.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

the Directors: Terrence Malick

The notion of the auteur theory exists for filmmakers like Terrence Malick. You don’t even have to watch a Malick movie to know you’re watching a Malick movie. Choose most any still shot from his six feature films, and you’ll immediately recognize who crafted it. Hear a clip from one of his films – the obscure classical movement, the delicate sound of nature in work, the gentle narration – and you’ll be aware of its creator.

In short, Terrence Malick’s uniquely unparalleled vision, mixed with his J.D. Salinger-like reclusiveness, makes him one of the most enigmatic artists currently flexing his craft. And, best to get this out of the way now, I dig the man’s vision. I enjoy his shifting narratives, his puzzling structures, his ceaseless narration, his visual poetry. When I recently reviewed Malick’s latest film, To the Wonder, I noted that his films have a way of making us uncomfortable. They abandon the three act structure we’re all used to, and adopt an idea all their own. I respect that. I’m inspired by that. Which is about all I can think to ask from a filmmaker.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

And So it Begins Gets Hacked

I have no idea how this happened, but in the past day, at least 57 posts have been inexplicably deleted from this blog. Most of the articles were from the past two months, some throughout the past year. Either way, this is a huge, disheartening blow that has me crushed.

I don’t run this site for a profit. I write about movies because I love doing it. I take this blog seriously and I put a lot of time into it. I don’t know if this hacking was random, calculated, or a complete screw up on Google’s part. (Interesting, though, that WordPress appears to be suffering a universal breach at this very moment.)

(Also interesting that most of my deleted posts were ones I linked to Letterboxd yesterday, all of which I’ve since removed from that site. But perhaps I’m reaching…)

There are workarounds. For one: password = changed. Blogger saves every image you upload via Picasa, whether or not that image is currently been displayed on your blog. So that’s hopeful. I have word documents for some of the posts, but not many. But all of your comments (every one of which I truly cherish), the flow of the blog (which I actively try to maintain), and much more – all gone. So, basically, a tough day.

When it sunk in that a lot of my shit was gone, I was tempted to take a break from blogging for a while. Fuck that. Instead, this is a heads up that I’m going to be resposting some recent articles over the next week or so. If you want to recomment, it would mean the world to me. If not, I completely understand. Either way, thanks to everyone who lent a kind word on Twitter earlier today, it meant a lot. Just a hell of a thing, you know?

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

To the Wonder

“He doesn’t give us things on purpose. I kind of know what’s happening, but I’m not sure. I was doing something not knowing exactly where it leads, and maybe that’s good, because in life, we don’t know where we’re going.”

That’s about as fine an encapsulation of Terrence Malick’s new moving poem of a film, To the Wonder, as we’re likely to get. The quote was said by the film’s star, Olga Kurylenko, and, to me, brings the entirety of the film together.

When you enter the dark, fluid, seemingly illogical world of Terrence Malick, you enter into a vision unknown. A story untold. A fragmented daydream of despair. Malick makes films his own unique way, demanding that the viewer participate as opposed to simply watch.

Top 10 Al Pacino Rants

No one rants like Al Pacino. And the topic matters little. Ranging from potential prison sentences, a female’s derriere, the absence of God, the losing of a real estate contract – there’s no subject that doesn’t get get Pacino’s blood pumping. Some of the picks below are genuinely terrifying rants executed to perfectly by a master thespians. Others are (or border on) being parodies of themselves. Some are subtle, others are full tilt. Know what they all have in common? Pure Pacino badassery.

Head over to Movie Mezzanine to view the list

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Place Beyond the Pines

The Place Beyond the Pines is a film about life and death. About love and repulsion. Fathers and sons. Regret and acceptance. It’s a film of wide scope that purposefully keeps its story grounded in intimacy. It’s a film rooted in precision and void of artifice. And it’s a film that, because of all this, is damn hard to talk about.

The Place Beyond the Pines is defined by three very specific acts, which introduce characters, bring about a conflict, and resolve that conflict fittingly. Essentially, the movie plays like three 45-minute short films. Yes, characters overlap and everything is connected, but there’s a universal, seamless evolution for every character involved, which makes discussing the arc of the film as a whole very difficult. This is a damn fine film that does not deserve to have its revelations, complications, and exhilarations ruined in print. Such a thing would be criminal.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Top 10 Non-Animated, G-Rated Films

In America, non-animated, G-rated movies are a rare thing. And while the rating is generally home for playing-it-safe animated features, occasionally, a memorable live action flick makes it through. And part of the fun in researching this list was discovering how many filmmakers so well known for their R-rated pleasantries have indeed ventured into the world of family friendly films. I hope you dig the picks, and do feel free to share some of your favorites!

Head to Movie Mezzanine to view the full list

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Anthology Breakdown: Nine Lives

The concept of criminally under seen Nine Lives is a gimmicky one, but executed to understated perfection. The film is comprised of nine brief segments, each staring a woman suffering through an emotional, physical, and/or philosophical crisis. Each episode lasts for roughly 12 minutes and takes place in one single shot. The vignettes were all captured in just one day of shooting (with one preceding full day of rehearsal). No special effects, no digital trickery, just solid acting and great storytelling.

Nine Lives was written and directed by Rodrigo García, who crafted other anthology films like Things You Can Tell Just by Looking at Her, Ten Tiny Love Stories, and the segmented, masterful HBO show, In Treatment. Nine Lives is the finest film he’s made yet, and there are plenty more reasons than nine as to why.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

In Character: Jason Isaacs

I honestly didn’t realize this until drafting this post, but what makes Jason Isaacs so impactful is his ability to make seemingly throwaway roles so memorable. The evil war villain, the perfect best friend, the stern military commander, the disgruntled husband, the inner city psycho – familiar roles, all played to excellence through distinctiveness. Isaacs has an uncanny ability to make even the most regular of characters unforgettable.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Top 15 Movies that Demand Repeat Viewings

Most great movies get better with subsequent viewings. But why? Is it because of their raw, unique narration? The advancement of their humor? Or even the slightly diluted shock of their violence? For whatever reason(s), the films below are the 15 I think most demand a second viewing. And a third. And a fourth. And on and on.

Head over to Movie Mezzanine to view the full list

Friday, April 5, 2013

Top 10 Movie Pet Peeves

We all have them: distractions that completely take us out of a film. Those clichéd tendencies that cause our eyes to roll, our attitudes to shift, our breath to exhale forcefully. We all have movie pet peeves that annoy us to no end, no matter how common they may be.

But look, I’m not trying to be a hater here. Seriously. To watch a movie (any movie) is to suspend disbelief. Even documentaries (as “real” as some of them claim to be) manipulate truth through editing, narration, and so on. I don’t expect any move to be a perfect representation of real life, I’m just calmly point out a few flick gimmicks that irritate me.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

In Character: Nick Nolte

One of America’s greatest living actors is a man of impeccable range, whose eccentric life struggles are, at times, as memorable as the roles he takes. Nick Nolte was a Midwestern good old boy who played football, modeled for magazines, became a movie star, became a playboy, became a thespian and ultimately became, well, whatever the hell he is today. Despite his shenanigans off screen (or because of them, as one role below will prove), Nolte has long since established himself as a volcanic powerhouse.

Perhaps best known for the trademark rage most of his characters are equipped with, Nolte is expert at making himself an immediate force to be reckoned with. Dude plays mad men. Often. But that’s all just surface. While most of the characters below are angry men, all of them are capable of vulnerability and restraint. Behind Nolte’s impressive, hulking frame, there rests a gentle beast begging to be understood.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

My Favorite Scene: American History X

American History X has always been about more than the grand surface themes it depicts. While this isn’t to say the film gets the themes of gang warfare, racism, Nazism, and prison survival wrong, the film, to me, is chiefly about boys seeking approval from their fathers.

It’s about family legacy, and how, when mixed with assumption, honor and approval, proves to be toxic. Derek Vinyard (Edward Norton) wants nothing more than to please his dad (who, in flashbacks, is revealed to be a pleasant family man, dedicated firefighter, and ardent racist). When his dad dies, Derek honors his memory by heightening his father’s rhetoric, because, in Derek’s eyes, that may have been what daddy secretly wanted. When Derek is sent to prison, his younger brother, Danny (Edward Furlong) attempts to continue the family legacy for Derek (who is a father figure to Danny in many ways). It’s a vicious cycle of young, underdeveloped, angry men attempting to be what they assume others want them to be.