Thursday, February 27, 2014

Oscar Reviews: Best Documentary Feature

Singers and painters, journalists and activists, killers and the killed – this year’s five nominees for Best Documentary Feature are all bold explorations into some of the darkest aspects of human nature. And while the harsh life truths the subjects of these films face vary in terms of emotional weight, each film depicts said hardships in a wondrously compelling way. 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Top 10 Best Foreign Film Oscar Winners

Two days ago, as I watched the final frames of The Broken Circle Breakdown, an Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Language Film this year, I became transfixed by what I was watching. The final shot of that film contains so much power – it literally made me rethink everything else in the film, and left me in a state of stunned amazement. And that’s something all of the Oscar-winning films below share with The Broken Circle Breakdown – that notion of utter transcendence. I hope you enjoy my picks, and do feel free to share yours as well!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Top 10 Best Documentary Oscar Winners

This year’s Oscar nominees for Best Documentary are a fine crop of films boasting themes as varied as political activism, criminal dread, and struggling artistry, all with equal weight. Below are a handful of Oscar-winning docs that have yet to leave my mind, and, like whatever film wins this year, will surely be remembered for years to come.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Top 10 Best Song Oscar Winners

The Oscars haven’t even taken place yet, but they’ll already be remembered for the rescinding of Best Original Song nominee “Alone Yet Not Alone.” Late last month, the Academy revoked the sole nomination garnered by the Christian film of the same name. The reason? The Academy said nominee Bruce Broughton had used his influence as a former Academy governor and committee member to influence voters to nominate his song. So while this year’s Best Original Song category has already gathered its fair share of infamy, I thought it be fun to look back at my favorite tracks that actually did win the Best Song Oscar. Hope you enjoy giving my picks a spin, and do feel free to share yours as well!

Motifs in Cinema 2013: Loneliness and Isolation

A friend recently asked me why death was such a prevalent theme in my own filmmaking. After attempting to form an articulate way to respond, I finally told him that death doesn’t interest me at all. What interests me is how people deal with the loss of someone they love. That notion of ceaseless loneliness and dark isolation, that’s what I love to explore.

So when Andrew Kendall of Encore’s World of Film asked me if I’d like to be part of his annual Motifs in Cinema blogathon, I was eager to expand on why I think 2013 was a great year for loneliness in cinema.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Watch: the 48 Hour Film Festival Short I Worked On

Two weeks ago, I met up with Micah, the co-lead of my new film, Wait, at a bar in North Hollywood. A few drinks into our conversation, he asked me if I would help edit the 48 Hour Film Festival short he was about to make with his friends. I said I was game, and a few minutes later (around 8 p.m. on Friday Feb. 7), Micah and three of his friends attended the opening ceremony of a 48 Hour Film Festival, where several teams of eager filmmakers were given the rules.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Top 5 Matthew McConaughey Performances (before 2011)

If anyone was to compile of list of Matthew McConaughey’s finest performances, I’m safe in assuming that the majority of the films on that list would have been released after 2011. In 2009, McConaughey decided to take two years off to transform his career, ultimately coming back to the scene with a vengeance. Today, he’s an Oscar front-runner for Best Actor and the most intriguing character on television (via HBO’s True Detective), just to name two feats of many.

So, far a bit of a change, I thought it’d be interesting to list my favorite McConaughey performances prior to his self-imposed career resurgence. Be sure to share yours as well!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

In Character: Walton Goggins

I love noticing an actor early on, and tracking the steady rise of their career. So describes my fascination with Walton Goggins, who first caught my eye as a racist cop on The Shield, and has steadily developed an excellent career ever since. Following his star making turn on The Shield, it would’ve been easy for Goggins to be typecast as a bigoted country bumpkin, but thankfully, he’s managed to create unique, new characters, while cleverly never turning his back on the persona that made him famous. No matter the role, there’s a fierce honesty that Goggins brings to his characters that I find immensely appealing.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Top 10 Most Necessary Sex Scenes

Sex scenes aren’t my thing. To generalize why: in dramas, thrillers and action films, sex is treated as nothing more than a bridge between two scenes. The scenes are often uninteresting in their coyness, or laughable in their intended salaciousness. And, most importantly, sex in these kinds of films tends to say nothing about the characters involved, and rarely has anything whatsoever to do with the film’s overall plot. In romance films (particularly romantic comedies), sex between people for the first time often implies that those two people are now in love, which is rarely the case outside of PG-13 romcom fantasyland.

Basically, I think sex in film is lazy storytelling. When a sex scene begins during a film, I’m almost always wondering when we’re actually going to get back to the story. However, as always, there are exceptions to my school of thought, like the 10 scenes I have listed below. These sex scenes are essential to their respective films – they actually say something about their characters, and prove to be a necessary element to the overall film.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

the Directors: Barry Levinson

You don’t hear Barry Levinson’s name thrown around that much anymore. I equate his talent to that of a superb character actor: we all recognize Levinson’s films, but few actually know that one man connects them all. This is a shame, as Levinson is responsible for some of the most iconic films of the past 30 years. Perhaps best known as one of Baltimore’s proudest sons, Levinson has dedicated much of his career to setting compelling stories in and around Baltimore’s complicated city limits.

But make no mistake, Levinson has proved he can step outside of Baltimore and still manage to tell a captivating story. While you’ll likely recognize a number of the films below, but it’s equally important to remember the man who’s been responsible for them all.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Top 10 Reasons to Watch Dinner for Five

In the early 2000s, writer/director/actor created a television show in which he and four celebrities would talk movie shop over dinner. Dinner for Five, while so amazingly simple in concept, quickly developed a loyal following of fans eager to listen to celebs talk about their experiences with the film business.

During the show’s run from 2001-2005, I caught a few episodes here and there on IFC, but it wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I actually remembered it existed. A good friend reminded me of Dinner for Five, and after a quick Google search, I discovered that some kind soul had uploaded the entire series on YouTube. I spent the past two weeks watching the whole show, and here are 10 things that I enjoyed most about it.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

In Character: Luis Guzmán

I don’t care what you’re name is or what you look like, if you’re a go-to actor for Brian De Palma, Paul Thomas Anderson and Steven Soderbergh, then you’re a powerhouse performer in my book. There isn’t a single fan of contemporary cinema that isn’t familiar with the skills of Luis Guzmán, including those three monumental filmmakers. Uniquely funny, suspiciously intimidating, and, well, to put it simply, one of the finest, most recognizable character actors we’ve ever had.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Top 10 Films Nominated for Razzies

Every year, while Hollywood insiders scramble to secure Oscar wins for their respective films, a small group of people elect to “pay tribute” to the worst movies of the year. The Golden Raspberry Awards began nearly 35 years ago as a means of restoring balance. And while I agree with most of their contemporary nominations (including many from this year) they have been known to get it wrong in the past. Below are 10 films that I absolutely adore, despite being nominated for Razzies. 

Monday, February 3, 2014

Philip Seymour Hoffman: A Legend Lost

I’ve indulged in an intensely passionate, consistently combative love affair with film since as long as I can remember. Film has taught me and hurt me. It’s built me up and beat me down. It’s acted as a blanket of comfort and a remembrance of regret. Actors are facilitators of my relationship with the film medium. They inspire us through their work. They make us laugh, they make us cry, they make us believe. But they also let us down. When one of our favorite actors delivers a bad performance, we take it personally. They can do better and What were they thinking are thrown around carelessly. And that is precisely why the recent passing of Philip Seymour Hoffman stings as bad as it does.