Tuesday, April 29, 2014

the Directors: Tim Burton

To this day, it’s damn difficult to compare Tim Burton’s films to any other films but his own. Burton is rare in that way; he’s created such a unique body of work, all rooted in his macabre sensibilities. At their best, Burton’s films are genre defining explorations into the odd. They brilliantly capture the isolation of man through a juxtaposition of American Goth and suburban boredom. At their worst, they are dull, self-reflective exercises that carry little weight.

Burton has had it rough in the 21st century, delivering an occasional minor hit, accompanied by many misses. This year, he returns to isolated drama with Big Eyes, a biopic about Margaret Keane starring Amy Adams. While I eagerly await that film, I thought I’d take a look back through Burton’s career. Here’s what worked and what didn’t, all within the confines of Burton’s distinctively obscure area of the sandbox.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Top 37 Things I Love About As Good as It Gets (that no one talks about)

James L. Brooks’ As Good as it Gets is one of my go-to films. I can go to it anytime, for any reason. If I’m down, it brings me up. If I’m up, it makes me feel even better. I watch it at least once a year, marveling at its perfect acting, tight script, and fluid narrative. It’s just a damn entertaining film; certainly one of the best romantic comedies ever made. Here are only a few reasons why.

Poetry in the Movies Blogathon: The Basketball Diaries

April is National Poetry Month, and while I’ve procrastinated commemorating it until the very end, Wendell at Dell on Movies has been celebrating poetry all month via his Poetry in the Movies Blogathon. Throughout April, Wendell asked fellow bloggers to “post a review of a movie that either has a poet as a major character, is inspired by/based on a poem, or uses poetry as an important part of the film.”

Below is my contribution, which highlights the raw teenage angst film, The Basketball Diaries. I hope you enjoy my thoughts on the film, and the flawless lead performance that anchors it. Props to Wendell for cooking up such a cool idea!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Top 15 Director/Actor Collaborations

There’s a reassurance that instinctually accompanies a fruitful director/actor collaboration. As soon as we hear that one of our favorite directors is once again teaming up with one of our favorite actors, an immediate excitement takes hold. Even if we don’t end up liking their most recent effort, we take solace in the fact that they’ve delivered before, and will surely deliver again.

This is a good time to reiterate the purpose of lists on this site. Every single list on post here is simply my opinion. I would never insist that, for example, the 15 collaborations listed below are the 15 best director/actor collaborations of all time. These are simply my favorite director/actor collaborations. Which, of course, I hope you enjoy. And as there are many others to choose from, please feel free to share your favorite pairs as well!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

In Character: Bill Murray

Since the inception of my In Character series two and a half years ago, the one actor who has dominated my readers’ requests for coverage is the incomparable Bill Murray. Choosing Murray’s finest performances is certainly no easy task, but listed below are characters that define one of the most uniquely gifted performers who has ever lived. Thanks to everyone for your encouragement for this post, and I really hope you enjoy my picks. As always, be sure to share your favorite Murray performances as well.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Cheap Thrills

How far are you willing to go to make a buck? That’s the area explored in the new pitch black comedy, Cheap Thrills. Initially, the film is a send-up of truth or dare; except truth is absent, and if the dare is completed, the participant is paid in full. But as Cheap Thrills evolves, it becomes an unexpected morality tale of the societal demands of class structure. It’s about fun and games being just that, until money decides it’s not.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Top 10 Movies Directed by Cinematographers

The road of cinematographers becoming film directors is a bumpy one. For every director of photography (DP) who directs a great film, there are three who deliver subpar films and instinctually revert back to cinematography. In the wake of Oscar-winning DP, Wally Pfister, releasing his first directed film, Transcendence, I thought it’d be fun to list a few of the DPs who’ve successfully crossed over to the director’s chair.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Breathe In

Breathe In begins with an absolutely perfect display of intelligent filmmaking. Drake Doremus, who co-wrote and directed the film, knows that if you’re fortunate enough to cast Guy Pearce in your movie, the only thing you really need to do is put the camera close-up on his face. Pearce will do the rest. The actor is a master of emotional control, and in these opening scenes, we watch as Pearce’s character, Keith Reynolds, suffers through taking an annual family photo with his wife, Megan (Amy Ryan) and his daughter, Lauren (Mackenzie Davis). It’s all in his eyes, which display a man of broken dreams and shattered spirit. Keith Reynolds is a man who gave up on himself, and Breathe In is an exploration into the dangers of taking your life back.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Under the Skin

Darkness. Through the darkness, births light. Small at first, barely there. A white circle the size of a needle tip, slowly growing. Sound creeps in. A mesh of incomprehensible auditory measures layered with incoherent words. The light grows. The sound clears. Without warning, the screen is filled with white. A giant eyeball appears. It’s a perfect eye, void of redness. The sound even louder, the words slightly clearer.

It is born. And so it begins.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Top 10 Dual Roles

When executed properly, few things are more exciting than a cinematic dual role. Watching an actor expertly play two (or, in the case of a few performances below, several) characters never fails to amuse. The dual role concept is routinely impressive from a technical standpoint, while often boasting the finest aspects of a great performer. I hope you enjoy my picks, and do feel free to share yours as well!

Listen: the Nymphomaniac Matineecast

Last week, amidst a massive Los Angeles blackout, I was fortunate enough to participate in Ryan McNeil’s exceptional weekly podcast, the Matineecast. The subject of our conversation was Lars von Trier’s latest film, Nymphomaniac. Ryan and I discussed both volumes of the film in-depth, so for those who haven’t seen von Trier’s latest trip into psychological hell, be cautious for spoilers.

Friday, April 11, 2014

In Character: Gary Cole

What’s so interesting about Gary Cole is that he can play it all, without changing his appearance. Save a few minor costume alterations (suspenders, after all, really do go a long way), the man almost always looks the same, yet his characters are wildly diverse. From the shady FBI agent to the low level Chicago thug, from a guy to one of comedy’s most entitled douchebags, there is no end to the satisfaction I get from Cole’s work.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The 10 Most Iconic Movie Characters (Relay)

Nostra over at My Filmviews has cooked up another great blogathon relay, this time asking fellow bloggers to weigh in on the 10 most iconic film characters of all time. Sati from Cinematic Corner was kind enough to pass the baton to me, but before we get to my pick, here are Nostra’s terms of the relay:

Monday, April 7, 2014

Dom Hemingway

Dom Hemingway wants you to know that his cock is exquisite. He’s staring at the camera, naked, arms raised in a Christ-like pose, telling us. Telling us how big and epic and otherworldly it is. His adjectives know no bounds, his metaphors no peaks. Then he’s finished. A prison bitch gets up off his knees, receives a swift apology from Dom (because, no warning), and from there, Dom Hemingway is off and running.

Nymphomaniac: Vol. II

Nymphomaniac: Vol. II is a descent into hell. Where Vol. I was a (mostly) safe and playful story of a young girl exploring her sexual impulses, Vol. II is a brutal, unflinching depiction of addiction consuming a lifelong addict. There are no montages of joyous sexual discovery, no “chocolate sweeties” to be won for marathon banging; instead, there is a brightly lit torture dungeon of pain, and wet towels used as tools of agonizing restoration. Vol. II is an exercise in chaos – as in, chaos reigns, and Lars von Trier couldn’t be happier.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Mistaken for Strangers

Rock documentaries live or die by one fateful question: Do you like the band featured in the film? If no, why watch? You’re going to hear music you don’t like, watch interviews with musicians you don’t appreciate, and likely get no enjoyment out of the film. If the answer is yes, then your ticket is already purchased. That’s the challenge of the rock doc: to bridge the gap between the fans and the seemingly indifferent.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

In Character: Garret Dillahunt

I’ve been a fan of Garret Dillahunt’s work since his scene stealing days on HBO’s Deadwood. But it wasn’t until I heard to him on Kevin Pollak’s Chat Show (an excellent weekly podcast that film fans should regularly listen to) that I began to truly respect him. Hearing Dillahunt tell his career story with the timid sensibilities of a kind farm boy, made for one of the Chat Show’s finest episodes yet. If you have some time, I highly recommend giving the episode a listen (or watch, here). Until then, I hope you enjoy my insight into the wonderful career of this most talented character actor. 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Top­ 10 Movie Clichés (that I’ve never experienced in real life)

Today seems like an appropriate day to post videos of movie characters doing the same exact thing over and over and over. Clichés are funny that way – they’re almost always nonsense, but they keep appearing in movies anyway. Below are a handful of popular, realistic clichés that I’ve never actually experienced in real life. This is not to say that no one has experienced them, but, sadly, not me. Enjoy!