Friday, January 31, 2014

Top 44 Things I Love About Magnolia (that no one talks about)

There is so much to love about Paul Thomas Anderson’s modern Los Angeles epic, Magnolia. Below are merely a handful of them. And so it goes and so it goes and the book says, “We may be through with the past, but the past ain’t through with us.”

Thursday, January 30, 2014

In Character: Rosemarie DeWitt

Whatever Rosemarie DeWitt does, she does so with the utmost command. When she plays a clueless, unenthusiastic sister on cable television, she plays it with remorseless vigor. A slighted wife or a conniving bisexual vegan – played with equal parts restraint and resolve. I find DeWitt’s acting choices to be continually fascinating, and her craft to be consistently perfect. DeWitt stole my heart six years ago as a title character attempting to get through her wedding weekend. In the time since, I’ve viewed everything she’s done before and after, all to immensely satisfying results. 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

David Fincher: Master of Making the Mundane Cool

While watching Zodiac last week, I found myself utterly dumbfounded by a brief aerial shot of a moving taxicab. If you’ve seen it, you won’t forget it. The camera glides perfectly from above, as if it’s an extension of the cab itself. When the cab switches lanes, the camera gracefully changes lanes with it. When the cab makes a right turn, the camera pivots so exactly, that the effect is somehow mesmerizing.

So I wondered: How the hell can a director make the movement of a taxicab so visually stimulating? And then it hit me: the reason that shot is so incredible is because David Fincher is the master of making mundane things look cool. He gives purpose to the bland. Originality to the common. The more I thought about this notion, the more examples I was able to come up with. So below are a handful of shots and scenes that most any other director wouldn’t think twice about. But because of his passion for detail, Fincher was able to give theses seemingly throwaway moments true purpose.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

In Character: John Carroll Lynch

One of the things I respect so much about John Carroll Lynch is that he doesn’t rely on his physique to deliver a memorable performance. And what an imposing physique it is: big, brooding, the shell of a man’s man. But for the roles I’ve highlighted in this post, rarely does Lynch use his intimidating stature as a major character point.

Some actors are chameleons, changing their appearance with every passing role, physically separating their real self from their characters. Others appear the same in each role, relying more on internal changes to create a unique character. John Carroll Lynch is the latter, a man we all recognize but whose characters are never the same. From everyman to loving husband to psychopathic killer, most all of Lynch’s characters look the part. What makes them fun is examining what’s inside.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Interview: Andrew Sensenig, “The Sampler” from Upstream Color

Last May, as I stumbled out of my first screening of Upstream Color, stuck in a creatively drunken state of fascination and confusion, I immediately began singing its praise. I wrote a glowing review of the film, and used Twitter to voice my opinion of the film’s importance. One of the film’s co-stars, Andrew Sensenig, who plays a mysterious and mostly silent pig farmer known as The Sampler, found my Tweets and publicly thanked me for promoting the film. Months later, Andrew and I have developed a great rapport over email, and when I pitched him the idea of doing an interview for this site, he eagerly accepted.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Seduced and Abandoned

James Toback’s latest documentary, Seduced and Abandoned, was the most terrifying film released last year. But the film isn’t traditional terror. No one is killed or tortured. There is no blood to be seen, nor screams to be heard. Instead, Seduced and Abandoned documents the hell and whoring that every filmmaker has to go through to get a film made. Doesn’t matter if your name is Scorsese or Coppola, Chastain or Gosling – there’s a certain level of creative prostitution all artists must commit in order to shoot a picture.

Friday, January 17, 2014

WAIT: Filming, Part 2

“Why do you do it? Why do you make movies?”

That’s a question one of the lead actors from my new film, Wait, asked me on our final day of shooting. I’m a fast thinking, loose speaking guy, but his question had me at a loss. But it seems the perfect jumping off point for this post – a look back at the past two months, and all the pleasures and troubles they produced.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

In Character: Oscar Nominees Edition

For a nice change of pace to my weekly In Character column, I thought it’d be fun to look at the careers of this year’s Oscar nominees, so here are my thoughts on the career-best performances given by all the acting nominees. Enjoy!

2014 Oscar Nominations Breakdown

Here are my brief thoughts on today’s Oscar nominations: what I expected, what I’m surprised to see, and what I’m bummed was left out. All in all, there is a fine crop of films and performances here. I’m satisfied overall, but do make sure to tell me how you feel about them!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

the Directors: Brian De Palma

Perhaps it was Roger Ebert, with some help from Howard Hawks, who so perfectly described Brian De Palma’s career. In Ebert’s review of De Palma’s Mission to Mars, Ebert quoted Hawks’ definition of a good movie. “Three great scenes. No bad scenes,” Hawks famously said. “Mission to Mars,” Ebert added, “only gets the first part right.”

Now, don’t get me wrong, Brian De Palma is an auteur in the truest sense. The impact he’s had on American cinema will certainly outlive us all. He’s one of my favorite filmmakers, but rarely does he make a universally great film. Nearly all of his films contain immaculate set pieces (i.e., Hawks’ three great scenes), but few sustain their hype throughout.

So, to put it clearly, almost all of De Palma’s films are on for part of their duration. And when Brian De Palma is on, we all reap the benefits.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Top 10 Movies That Take Place in Real Time

There’s something so thrilling about watching a story unfold in real time. If done right, filmmakers can use time not as a source of manipulation, but as a vehicle for organic suspense. Many of the films below are tense sensations, others chose a more conversational approach to their story, but all of them unfolded in real time to great effect.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

In Character: Chris Cooper

I suppose I never fully realized how sensitive Chris Cooper is. He has that tough exterior. That baritone southern voice, that slow walk, that blue collar intimidation. But after choosing his best roles, I discovered that much of Cooper’s finest work has been captured through men of great sensitivity. They may not be the most upfront with their compassion, but they long to be understood. He’s a paradox, really. One that I’m continually captivated by.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Top 15 “Background” Performances of 2013

I love actors. All actors. Even the ones who only appear on screen for a matter of seconds. With this list, I use the term background loosely as I hope to draw attention to some very impactful supporting roles that captured my eye last year. Here are a handful of actors from 2013 who stepped out of the background and asserted themselves as scene stealing players.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Top 15 Male Performances of 2013

Many of my favorite male performances of 2013 were of men standing toe to toe with desperation. With a conflict so large (or mysterious, or dangerous), they had to sink to their lowest point before clawing their way out. Whether the men found resolve or perished in self-loathing, all of these performances were thrilling to watch unfold. I hope you enjoy my picks, and as always, feel free to share some of your own.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Top 15 Female Performances of 2013

If there was a common theme among my favorite female performances of the year, it was women who so perfectly hid their character’s intentions from the audience. There were so many half-truths, lies and innuendos surrounding women of cinema in 2013, in addition to the heartfelt and the heartbroken ladies that graced the screen as well. I hope you enjoy my picks, do feel free to share some of your favorites.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Top 10 Films of 2013

A year of isolation. Of triumph and false guilt. Of doomed love and tortured spirits. From big movies with personal themes, to small moves with grand aspirations. From micro budget masterworks of mystery, to big budget condemnations of excess. There was a lot to love at the movies in 2013, but these are the films that stayed with me most.