Thursday, July 31, 2014

Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired & Odd Man Out

People have a right to their own opinions about what happened, but they don’t have a right to their own facts.”
This is something Roman Polanski’s lawyer, Douglas Dalton, says early in the documentary Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired. It’s a perfectly stated quote about how people tend to forget that opinions and facts are indeed separate things. The fact is, only two people really know what happened on the afternoon of March 11, 1977 in Jack Nicholson’s Beverly Hills home. It was in that home, on that day, that famed director Roman Polanski was photographing 13-year-old Samantha Geimer for French Vogue magazine (Nicholson was out of town). From there, a shared fact ceases to exist. Polanski says the two eventually drank champagne, took a Quaalude and had consensual sex. But, according to Geimer, the drugs and sex were both forced on her.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

the Directors: Roman Polanski

A Roman Polanski Film is A Roman Polanski Film. There’s simply no other way to describe his trademark tone, foreboding subtext, subtle humor and well-balanced atmosphere. Polanski has been prolific throughout his career, delivering everything from classics that will be forever studied and revered, to surefire misses that went away as quickly as they appeared. For all his hits (and, what the hell, his misses too), I’ve always hailed Polanski as one of my favorite filmmakers. I had a great time making my way through his filmography, and I hope you enjoy my thoughts on his entire body of feature film work.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

In Character: Michael Parks

Michael Parks has a distinct quality about him. A unique magnetism that makes me smile whenever he appears on screen. A serious and prolific player since the early ‘60s, Parks appeared in dozens of TV shows and films before earning a career resurgence at the hands of Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino. Since then, he’s adopted a sort of hard ass, tough guy persona and made it his own. The Michael Parks Persona, if you will. And whether he sticks to his familiar on-screen identity, or abandons it completely, there is no end to the joy I get from watching him work.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

I Origins

The Brit Marling School of Cinema is something every young filmmaker should take note of. A few years ago, Marling drove cross-country with her friends, Mike Cahill and Zal Batmanglij. Their destination, Los Angeles. Their dream, to make films. In 2011, after severing time amidst the Hollywood struggle, the trio premiered two separate movies at the Sundance Film Festival. Both films, Cahill’s Another Earth and Batmanglij’s Sound of My Voice, were small-scale, high-concept sci-fi tales that were financed independently and featured Marling in lead roles (she also co-wrote each film). Within a year, Batmanglij was developing his next film with Ridley Scott (which turned into The East), while Marling was stealing scenes from Richard Gere in Arbitrage (and, later, from Robert Redford in The Company You Keep).

Monday, July 21, 2014

Six Degrees of Separation Blogathon

Nostra, the uncontested master of blogathons, has created another great one, this time tasking bloggers with connecting film artists in six steps or less. The rules, in Nostra’s words: You will get two names of either actors/actresses/directors or movies and what you will have to do is make a link between them in a maximum of six steps.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Top 10 Shortest Long Movies

There’s something to say for a movie that takes up a lot of time without feeling like it takes up a lot of time. I love seeing a long movie and, upon reaching its conclusion, being amazed by how much time actually elapsed. Such is the case for the films below, a handful of my favorite movies that breeze by despite their length. Please note: my rule of thumb for “long” was any film over 160 minutes.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

In Character: R. Lee Ermey

There’s an interesting balance that comes with being a typecast actor. At your best, you land a lot of gigs, but with that means you’re likely playing the same character over and over. Most of us are aware of the types of characters R. Lee Ermey plays, but because he’s so good at embracing his worth as an actor, he consistently makes each new role his own. No matter who Ermey is playing, he always makes them interesting. And really, what more can you ask for?

Tuesday, July 15, 2014


All of Richard Linklater’s best films are defined by time. Slacker is essentially one continuous moment over the course of a few hours, Dazed and Confused takes place on the last day of school/first night of summer, Before Sunrise is a 24 hour romance, Tape and Before Sunset occur in real time, Before Midnight is an afternoon and evening of love and heartbreak, and so on. Noting this, Linklater’s new film, Boyhood, is his greatest exercise in time yet. It’s also the most impressive film he’s made, in a career that has spawned several of them. Boyhood is a film that stands to define us. Define who we are now, and who we were then. It’s a living, breathing time capsule that astounds for every one of its many frames.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Top 52 Things I Love About No Country for Old Men (that no one talks about)

The Coen brothers’ No Country for Old Men is one of the best, most intelligent, most compelling films of recent memory. Here are a handful of things I love about the film that rarely get discussed. Please be warned: spoilers lurk within. Can’t stop what’s comin’.

Friday, July 11, 2014

In Character: Chazz Palminteri

Chazz Palminteri is one of the most entertaining badasses of modern cinema. He’s made a career out of playing hardened wiseguys and shifty cops. Heightened by his thick Bronx accent and natural Italian swagger, rarely does an actor make the art of breaking bad look so good. I’ve seen most everything he’s done, and I cannot recall a cheap or phoned-in performance. Man is the real deal, and I can never get enough.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014


The year is 2031 and the world is cold. Ice cold. Deadly cold. Seventeen years earlier – which is to say, now – measures were taken to correct global warming. The experiment was a disaster, freezing Earth completely and killing everyone and everything in the process. The few who lived are those aboard the Snowpiercer, a massive train that takes exactly one year to circle the globe. As the film begins, we become aware of the class system on the Snowpiercer. Those in the front of the train lavish in excess, while those in the back rot. They sleep on top of each other, covered in their own filth, eating “protein blocks” of shit. Many of them are scarred and missing limbs, for reasons I won’t disclose. All of them are ready for change.

Monday, July 7, 2014

A Brief and Incomplete Guide to Korean New Wave Cinema

I’m a great admirer of the modern cinema spawned from South Korea. I love its beauty, candor, and unflinching approach to violence. But here’s the thing, although many Korean New Wave films contain gruesome physical and/or sexual acts, there is a compelling morality to them that cannot be ignored. Revenge is a common theme in films of this kind, and when executed properly, the best Korean revenge thrillers force us to ask what we would do if put in a similar situation. How far is too far? And, having gone too far, how do we come back?

Other Korean New Wave films ask us to simply observe. Observe the splendor, the horrific pain, the ultimate dread. Most of the films below are ones I find utterly fascinating, yet few of them make for easy viewing. And do please take the title of this post literally. Many people are far more knowledgeable on Korean New Wave Cinema than I, but as Bong Joon-ho’s Snowpiercer currently thrills audiences, I thought it’d be fun to share my favorite films of this most unique cinematic movement.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Across the Universe Podcast: Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown

Last weekend, I was thrilled to join The Chicks with Accents (that’s Nikhat from Being Norma Jean; Mette from Lime Reviews and Strawberry Confessions; and Sofia from Film Flare) for an episode of their excellent Across the Universe Podcast.

The Chicks generously let me choose the topic of conversation, and I quickly settled on discussing our favorite films in which women more or less lose their minds. As I say on the podcast, I promise I’m not a masochistic son of a bitch who likes watching women suffer. I simply appreciate the command of a great actress who can play a complex character so well.

Relay: The Ten Biggest Stars of Classical Hollywood

John from Hitchcock’s World is at it again. Slowly asserting himself as a king of blog relays, John’s latest race asks bloggers to rank the 10 biggest stars of classical Hollywood. The rule: the star must have been prominent in large Hollywood productions from 1930-1960. The format: kick a star out, put another one in. Andrew from A Fistful of Films was kind enough to hand things over to me, so here goes.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

In Character: Olivia Thirlby

Olivia Thirlby is one of the best, most natural actresses of her generation. Since landing the role of a lifetime as a mortified, doomed passenger in United 93, Thirlby has become an indie darling, appearing in a number of smaller, memorable films. There are a few trademark qualities to an Olivia Thirlby performance that make her work so captivating, namely her innocence and unique, effortless charm. She’s the kind of actress who can make a decent film better, and a good film great. She’s the highlight of nearly everything she’s in, and I can’t wait to see how her career develops from here.