Tuesday, December 30, 2014

American Sniper

Chris Kyle was a highly decorated Navy SEAL who, during his four tours in Iraq, reportedly became the most lethal sniper in U.S. history. That’s the kind of meaty material I would expect to produce a blazing action war film. Something generic, packed with eye rolling bravado, ceaseless explosions, gruesome violence. Chris might be played by a former pro wrestler, he’d show little emotion, boast about his kills, crack unfunny one-liners. Instead, director Clint Eastwood has created a film of emotional depth and impressive restraint. A film as concerned with in-county battle as the horrors those battles leave behind. American Sniper is one of the finest films made yet about the War in Iraq. It’s a film that, perhaps for personal reasons, I assume I’ll like more than most. Which is fine. By this point, I’ve learned that the films I connect with emotionally aren’t always movies that the masses are drawn to.

Monday, December 29, 2014

WAIT: Why I Included the Sex Scene

Filmmaking is all about challenges. When I set out on a new project, I’m always thinking of ways to test myself. And I’m not talking about the common challenges that plague most every shoot (money, schedules), or the technical challenges that can enhance the material (long tracking shots, fancy lighting). Moreover, I’m talking about challenges with the material. For example, early in the process of writing and developing my first feature film, Wait, sex was something I couldn’t get out of my mind.

Monday, December 22, 2014

In Character: the Cast of The Homesman

Tommy Lee Jones’ The Homesman is a fantastic film that feels sadly destined to disappear. Despite being in competition for the Cannes Films Festival’s coveted Palme d’Or last May, The Homesman suffered a piss-poor theatrical distribution, and will likely soon fade out of theaters, thereby slipping past audiences. 

The film is a revisionist western about a lonely and depressed woman named Mary Bee Cuddy (Hilary Swank) who volunteers to transport three insane women from their homes in Nebraska to a mental health care facility in Iowa. There are potential risks on this journey. Bad weather, vengeful Native Americans, rapists, thieves – you name it. Shortly into the film, Mary Bee saves the life of George Briggs (Jones), who in return, agrees to help Mary Bee make the trip.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Top 43 Things I Love About Punch-Drunk Love (that no one talks about)

In the middle of making four modern masterworks – beginning with the brazenly entertaining Boogie Nights and Magnolia, followed by the meditative and emotionally brutal There Will Be Blood and The Master – Paul Thomas Anderson created a weird little film called Punch-Drunk Love. The movie doesn’t get enough credit for being so wildly unlike any other film Anderson has made. It’s short, fast and loose; a film I never tire of. With Anderson’s whacky Inherent Vice current making the rounds in theaters, let’s take a look back at the pulp fiction unconventionality of Punch-Drunk Love.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Inherent Vice

Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice is one of the most unapologetically bizarre studio films I’ve ever seen. Make no mistake, this film, which is currently being distributed by Warner Bros., is batshit bonkers. The story is consistently nonsensical, the characters often get so caught up with what they’re saying, they end up mumbling sentences just ‘cause, subplots are introduced and developed, before vanishing without warning, and on and on. Inherent Vice maintains this behavior throughout its two and a half hour running time. It’s a maddeningly complex film that cares to explain nothing. Which is precisely why it might be brilliant.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Top 10 Unsung Performances in Paul Thomas Anderson Films

As I sit moments away from seeing Paul Thomas Anderson’s new film, Inherent Vice in 70mm, I thought it’d be fun to take a look back at some of the unsung performances from his pervious films. There are many, many other performances that could be listed here, so do feel free to share your favorites as well.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

SAG and Golden Globe Nominations

The 2015 Oscar race kicked into full swing over the past two days, with the respective releases of the Screen Actors Guild and Golden Globe award nominations. By and large, the noms are what I expected, but there were thankfully a few surprises thrown in for good measure. Here are my thoughts on both sets of nominations, be sure to share your feelings as well!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Top 10 Conrad L. Hall Films

Conrad L. Hall was beyond simple classification. He’d shoot with piercing light in one film, then natural light the next. His films could have an ice cold palette (the way A Civil Action does), or be bathed in a warm glow (like The Day of the Locust). Hall was nominated 10 times for an Academy Award, winning three for his unparalleled work. He’s also one of those rare artists who delivered some of his finest efforts at the very end of his career. Here’s a look at the work of one of film’s finest cinematographers.

Friday, December 5, 2014

In Character: Tom Sizemore

Tom Sizemore owned the ‘90s with his penchant for playing menacing tough guys. Much of the fun of his work is that you can never tell how far his characters are going to go. Whether he’s a cop or criminal, soldier or bank robber, there’s a persistent danger to his work that is immensely appealing. By this point, Sizemore may be equally well known for his troubles with substance abuse. For a while there, it looked like his demons were going to get the better of him. Thankfully, he’s still going, and while his work now may not be as strong as it was then, there is never a bad time to go back and revisit his best roles. 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014


There’s a scene in Bennett Miller’s new film, Foxcatcher, that I can’t figure out. It’s an early scene, one of the first in the film, and it has dominated my mind since I saw the film some days ago. At the start of Foxcatcher, we’re introduced to a large, solemn man who we come to learn is Olympic wrestler Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum). Mark doesn’t say a lot, but in these introductory scenes, there’s really no need to. He eats ramen noodles in his dingy apartment, struggles through a speech to elementary school kids, then goes to work out at the gym. And here’s the scene I want to talk about. Mark arrives at the gym and as he makes his way through the locker room, many of the other wrestlers look at Mark disapprovingly. Miller doesn’t linger on the shot, but it’s clear that when Mark enters the room, a shift in tone occurs.