Sunday, December 30, 2018

Top 61 Things I Love About Die Hard (that no one talks about)

Every holiday season is a good reminder that it’s time to rewatch Die Hard. Not that we need a specific reason watch this film, as it remains one of the finest action films ever made. But here, I take a look at some aspects of the film that aren’t talked about a lot, including revelatory camera movement, audacious editing, violence depicted accurately, the joy in action, and why backdrops beat CG every time. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Top 15 Pure Cinema Moments That Make Me Cry

“Pure cinema” can be defined any number of ways. Lately, it seems to be an alternative meaning for avant-garde cinema, but for me, a pure cinema moment is when a movie utilizes varies aspects of production (direction, cinematography, performance, music, editing) and marries them together flawlessly. Such moments can make us sit up right. They can give us chills, and they can, in the most special of instances, cause us to cry. 

Below are 15 such moments for me. This is far from an all-encompassing list; these were simply 15 pure cinema moments that I felt like sharing. Please do feel free to share your favorite pure cinema moments as well!

Wednesday, November 28, 2018


I was admittedly curious to witness Steve McQueen’s approach to Widows. For my money, Steve McQueen is one of the finest filmmakers we have. He’s responsible for two movie masterpieces (Hunger and Shame), and the finest cinematic narrative document about American slavery (12 Years a Slave). Why then, I carefully wondered, would he embark on such a conventional genre like the heist thriller?

Upon seeing Widows, which is based on a British television series from the ‘80s, the answer was obvious: In order to avoid the conventions of the heist film, McQueen abandons them and creates his own unique narrative.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Reviews: 2018 Netflix Films

Netflix is determined to change the way we watch movies. According to Forbes, Netflix spent $13 billion on original content in 2018. And while most of that is for a seemingly endless string of new TV shows, Netflix seems poised to finally throw their weight toward major movies.

On the eve of Netflix dropping potential heavy-hitters like The Other Side of the Wind (which was released a few days), Outlaw King, Bird Box, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, and Roma, I thought it’d be fun to take a look at some recent notable releases.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

First Man

When I look back at the times in my life that represent moments of proud achievement, those moments were almost always followed by a curious sense of melancholy. This used to bother me a great deal. Why do I feel sad after I’ve worked so hard to accomplish this goal? What’s missing? I’ve since learned that this is quite common. After achieving something you’ve worked so hard for, it’s not unusual to be left with a feeling of longing. What the hell do I do now? Where do I go from here? What now?

That feel of achievement-based melancholy is represented so well in Damien Chazelle’s new, appropriately thrilling and patient film, First Man.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Top 10 Sean Bobbitt Films

It’s getting harder for me to contain my excitement for the release of Steve McQueen’s Widows next month. With only a few weeks to go, I thought it’d be fun to dive into the work of McQueen’s longtime cinematographer, Sean Bobbitt. And while Bobbitt is perhaps best knows for lensing McQueen’s four feature films, his work elsewhere certainly should not be overlooked.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Assassination Nation

There is a camera shot in Assassination Nation that cannot be ignored. It’s a shot so well executed that it instinctually caused me to sit back in my chair in awe, before leaning forward to get as close to the movie theater screen as possible, in an attempt understand how in the hell the shot was being pulled off. The shot more or less kicks off the final act of the film, an act of pure, violent madness; of destruction and holy fuck chaos.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

In Character: Jeff Goldblum

Jeff Goldblum has a persona all his own. The man is a singular talent, to be confused with no one. But beyond his endlessly amusing and eccentric personality, he’s a true actor who can play any type of role. There are so many classic Golblum performances to choose from, below is a collection of only a few.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

An Exhaustive and Unofficial Guide to Film Commentaries

As a lifelong lover of movies, and a filmmaker for more than 10 years, I can honestly tell you that I have learned more about film and filmmaking from DVD and Blu-Ray commentaries than I have from any other single source.

I’ve listened to thousands of commentaries, and there is almost always something to gleam from them. If you love a movie, a commentary can make you appreciate the film even more. Or, perhaps more significantly, a great commentary can give a fresh perspective to a movie you were otherwise lukewarm about.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Top 82 Things I Love about 25th Hour (that no one talks about)

Spike Lee’s 25th hour is one of the best, most important films made so far this century. It’s a movie I’ve talked about a lot on this blog, but this post a comprehensive dive into the things I love most about the movie. As Lee’s BlackKklansman currently makes waves in theaters, here’s a look into one of Spike Lee’s masterpieces.

Friday, August 3, 2018

In Character: Christopher Meloni

Christopher Meloni is one of my favorite working actors. He has a magnetism that is so apparent in all of his work. Whether he's being absurd or psychotic, he can draw you in with equal weight. Here’s a look at Meloni’s best work, which often, remarkably, varies wildly in tone from role to role.

Monday, July 16, 2018

the Directors: Paul Schrader

Paul Schrader has made everything from brash pieces of exploitation to sensitive masterworks. At first glance, it’s easy to write Schrader off as an agent of provocative cinema. His films live in the underworld of depravity, and he explores them well. But upon full exploration of his work, it became clear to me that Paul Schrader has taken a risk with nearly every film he’s made. Whether those risks were violent or tender, Schrader has always challenged himself, and his audience. Say what you will about Paul Schrader’s body of work, but the man challenges himself in ways few modern filmmakers do.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Armageddon: Criterion Commentary Breakdown

Believe it or not, Michael Bay’s Armageddon came out 20 years ago today. And to mark this milestone, I thought it’d be fun to dive into the film’s hilarious Criterion Collection commentary track.

Armageddon is not the type of film typically chosen to receive the Criterion treatment, which makes this commentary that much more fun. Commentaries are usually recorded with every participant in the same room, so that they can all riff off the movie together. But this track combines the opinions of Michael Bay, Jerry Bruckheimer, Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck, who all recorded their tracks separately.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Top 15 Spiritual Sequels

Everyone seems to have a different method of defining what a spiritual sequel is, but to me, a spiritual sequel is a film that somehow clearly lives in the shadow of a movie that came before. Maybe they share a director or members of the cast, maybe the plots are similar or characters are the same. Sometimes, a spiritual sequel is simply getting two stars back together and hoping to repeat the lightning in a bottle effect of the first film. Much like conventional sequels, the spiritual sequel is rarely superior to its predecessor, but this list accounts for some damn worthy follow-ups.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

In Character: Julianne Moore

Julianne Moore is one of the finest actors working today. Which made writing this post so difficult. Truly, as I made my way back through Moore’s work – from her early character roles to her recent star performances – I was reminded that this woman is damn near perfect in everything. Here are my picks of her best performances, but there are many to choose from, so do feel free to share yours!

Monday, May 28, 2018

Top 140 Things I Love About Taxi Driver (that no one talks about)

As far as my film tastes are concerned, Taxi Driver is the one. The boss of it all. The best of the best. I saw Martin Scorsese’s urban masterpiece for the first time when I was 10 years old. A few years later, I began hailing it as my favorite film of all time, which is still the case to this day. I love everything about this movie, and, as a result, have a lot to say about it. Taxi Driver has been viewed, studied and discussed for decades, so the “no one talks about” aspect of this post may not be entirely true. But, alas, here’s my deep dive into the conflicted, frenzied, tortured mind of Travis Bickle.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

In Character: Keith David

Keith Davis is expert at sticking out amongst an ensemble. Many of the actor’s film and television roles (he has an astounding 287 credits on IMDb) include standout work he’s delivered in a large ensemble cast. In fact, four of those performances are listed below, as well as a few genuine supporting turns. The point is, no matter the size of the role, you always remember Keith David.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

the Directors: John Carpenter

I’ve been afraid to cover John Carpenter in this column. Years ago, as I made my way through Carpenter’s films, I realized I did not like many of the John Carpenter movies people seem to adore. But a few years passed and a change occurred. I was discussing Carpenter’s work with my best friend (himself a huge Carpenter admirer), and he explained that Carpenter, like many directors, has different facets to his career, and if you acknowledge each aspect, you can appreciate his films.

Basically, there is serious, masterful John Carpenter; B-movie John Carpenter; and phoned-in John Carpenter. In the past, I’ve had trouble with the B-movie John Carpenter. I thought many of his intentional B-movies took themselves too seriously, and that blinded my appreciation for them. And while I certainly don’t love every John Carpenter film, I have turned a corner, and I’m eager to share my thoughts on his work.

Monday, April 16, 2018

You Were Never Really Here

In my experience, when you go through something horrific, it stays with you in flashes. We all carry trauma differently, of course, but horror has always followed me around in glimpses.

Most movies and television shows do not depict trauma this way. In mainstream fiction, trauma stays with you for every second of every day. You can’t eat. You can’t sleep. You can’t work. There is no room for life, no room for adjustment. In my reality, after some time has passed on pain, the effects of it sneak up on you when you least expect it. It’s a song playing in a grocery store, a person with a similar face, a stranger with a familiar smell. You experience these random things, and a flash of grief consumes you. But it does subside, if ever so slightly. You breathe, you calm down. And then you do the dishes, you go back to work; you adjust, you live.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Breaking Down Steven Soderbergh’s Three-Shot Rule

I began my review for Steven Soderbergh’s latest film, the genre thriller, Unsane, by describing the three-shot rule Soderbergh holds himself (and all filmmakers) accountable for. “After the first three shots, I know whether this person knows what they’re doing or they don’t,” Soderbergh has explained. That’s an interesting idea. In a film’s three opening shots, can the filmmaker use composition, blocking, music, font and other elements to establish the story we’re about to see? That’s what I want to find out in this post.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018


What’s in a shot? More specifically, what’s in the three opening shots of a film? Steven Soderbergh holds all filmmakers (himself especially) accountable for the first three shots they decide to open their movie with. Soderbergh calls it the three-shot rule. “After the first three shots, I know whether this person knows what they’re doing or they don’t,” Soderbergh told Film Comment last year. Soderbergh isn’t solely referencing shot composition. He’s talking about how the lighting, framing, placement, movement, and blocking of a film’s opening shots service the story we’re about to see. Or, if they service the story at all. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Happy End

Happy End is as sparse, cold, and detached as anything Michale Haneke has made. If you’re familiar with the Austrian director’s body of work, you know that means Happy End is one hell of an emotionally detached movie. If you haven’t seen any of Haneke’s films, then I honestly cannot think of a single good reason for you to begin by watching Happy End.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Top 108 Things I Love About Casino (that no one talks about)

I love everything about Martin Scorsese’s crime saga, Casino. So much, in fact, that this is the longest “No One Talks About” post I’ve done yet. And that’s for a few reasons: one, the movie is nearly 3 hours long, two, I really do love everything about it, and finally, I don’t think people talk about Casino enough. Casino is one of the most compulsively rewatchable films I’ve ever seen, because it’s one of the fastest paced long movies ever released. This film, in all its profane, violent, gaudy sensibilities, has me. Here are several reasons why. (Please note that I give away every major plot detail about Casino in this post.)

Friday, March 9, 2018

In Character: Marisa Tomei

What a long, great, twisty career Marisa Tomei has had. She started in the sitcom world, took a while to find her footing in film, won an Oscar, hit the indie film scene, refound her footing, got nominated for more Oscars, and has now transitioned to wonderful character roles in which she steals scenes from some of best people in the business. I’ve always been a great admirer of her work; no matter what she’s in or when she’s in it, I’m there.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Who Will Win the Oscar for Best Cinematography?

This article ran as part of this year’s LAMB Devours the Oscars series.

In a rare change of pace for Oscar discussion, a technical award is one of the most talked about races this year. When the Oscar nominations were announced last month, people were ecstatic when cinematographer Rachel Morrison became the first woman ever nominated for Best Cinematography. Morrison has some very strong competition, as nearly every nominee has an honest chance of winning. Let’s dive into each nominee by discussing their chances this year, their past work, and how Oscar politics could play a part in who wins.

Friday, February 16, 2018

In Character: John Malkovich

John Malkovich is a name so synonymous with strange, or disturbed, or grotesque characters, that simply evoking the actor’s name is enough to help people understand what kind of performance you’re about to watch. John Malkovich. It’s a name that speaks for itself. An actor whose skills, and inadvertent amusement, are impossible to ignore.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Breaking Down Cinematographer Roger Deakins’ 14 Oscar Nominations

Roger Deakins is one of the finest cinematographers to ever work in film. He’s a master of isolating blues, unyielding yellows, dangerous silhouettes, and deep shadows. He also has an incredible knack for capturing sunrises and sunsets, consistently proving that in order to be a great director of photography, you have to bend with the elements.

For the purposes of this post, I’m highlighting a painful reality about Deakins’ career: the man has been nominated for 14 Oscars, and never won. Now, of course, I’d love to tell you how absurd it is that Roger Deakins doesn’t have an Academy Award. But in analyzing all of his nominations, it became clear that, despite how great a Roger Deakins film looks (and they all look great), he shoots movies in insanely competitive years.

This year, Deakins is nominated for shooting Blade Runner 2049, and, like every other year he’s been nominated, he has a damn good shot at winning. One can only hope. Because if there’s a year he deserves it, it is truly this one.

Monday, January 29, 2018

In Character: 2017 Oscar Nominees

Following the announcement of the Oscar nominations last week, I offer my thoughts on my favorite work each nominee has delivered. Be sure to share your favorite roles from all the nominees as well!

Monday, January 22, 2018

Top 20 Female Performances of 2017

As I said in my list of my favorite male performances of the year, I saw more great performances in 2017 than I did great movies. That is especially true of female performances, which is why I’ve cheated a little here, as a way of including more than 20. Enjoy!

Friday, January 19, 2018

Top 20 Male Performances of 2017

I saw more great performances in 2017 than I did great movies, so I’ve decided to bulk up this annual list to include (at least) 20 stellar male performances of the year. My favorite female performances of the year will be listed Monday. Enjoy!

Monday, January 15, 2018

Top 10 Films of 2017

This was a strange year for me. I found myself not fully appreciating a lot of films most people loved in 2017, while loving a handful of movies few people talked about. Ultimately, originality won out for me. And the most truly original films I saw in 2017 were challenging works that demanded my attention, and never left my mind. Some even begged me to brave them again with another viewing. If I could handle it.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Top 5 “Rotten” Movies of 2017

I usually conclude my yearly wrap-up posts with a list of my favorite films that received a “rotten” score from Rotten Tomatoes, but I’m forced to do things differently this year. I’m a few days away from seeing my final films of 2017, so my Top 10 Films of 2017 list is forthcoming.

Now, unlike most years, where I list my 10 favorite “rotten” films of the year, I’m only listing five this year. I saw the same amount of good, bad and ugly movies in 2017 as I did for any other year, so either the movies are getting better, or critics are getting softer. Hmm. (Note: I’m using the Rotten Tomatoes scores each film had on December 31, 2017.)