REVIEW: Ana Lily Amirpour’s “A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night.”

December 4, 2014  |  2014, Bold Cinema  |  No Comments

A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night PosterAna Lily Amirpour. Remember the name. Whenever “vampire” and “western” cross the same path in a single thought, the name will roll off the tongue that much easier. In the same year that has seen vampires elevated back to the realm of super cool by the venerable Jim Jarmusch in “Only Lovers Left Alive,” comes this quietly unassuming Iranian film, using its shoestring budget to dangle so much craftsmanship and panache it renders Jarmusch’s expertly plotless tale into a delicious digestif. Amirpour’s is the full course meal; love, longing, the female gaze, a wondrous soundtrack that keeps on giving, and the kind of black and white photography you want to take a bite of. Herzogian dabs of Lynch and Jarmusch can’t coverup the display of one woman’s singular, soaring, talents behind the camera. Standing alongside ‘Lovers’ and Tomas Alfredson‘s “Let The Right One In” (2008), “A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night” helps the adult crowd forget everything they ever wished they never knew about “Twilight” and “True Blood.”

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Philosophical Visuals: 12 Shots That Describe Terrence Malick’s Cinema.

November 30, 2014  |  2014, Directors, Feature  |  No Comments

Thin Red Line

Terrence Malick is America’s greatest philosophical director. After the tumultuous beginning of “Badlands,” in 1973, when he drove half the film crew mad with his insistence on capturing moments according to the external elements, he made the even more laboriously-produced “Days of Heaven” 5 years later. Then he disappeared, moving to Paris and falling in love (large chunks of his life in this period remain private and undocumented). He reemerged in 1998 with “The Thin Red Line,” a WWII film boasting a gigantic all-star cast.

Terrence Malick

“The Thin Red Line” added to his notorious reputation of being difficult to work with due to his in-the-moment decision making. Nevertheless, the film was a critical and financial success, nabbing some Oscar nominations on the way. In 2005,”The New World” was the new Terrence Malick film, and a drastic shift towards the more abstract was felt. Not as well received, the film started to gain in stature only years later. Then, in 2011, Malick’s “The Tree of Life” took a leap forward in the director’s evolutionary cycle, towards the more personal, spiritual, and cinematic. It won the Palme D’Or, founds its way close to Sight & Sound‘s 2012 Greatest Films Poll, and angered many.

It took only a year for a new Malick film to hit festivals. “To The Wonder” encroached even further into realms of a transcendental nature. Nary a narrative or apparent character development to be seen, “To The Wonder” made many turn away from Malick, while those true to the man’s philosophical visual style held on, defended, and praised.

Today is Terrence Malick’s 71st birthday. As he is one of my personal favorites, and in my opinion, the most important American filmmaker working today, I’ve decided to honor his birthday by selecting a few of my favorite images from his 6 finished feature length films, and associate them with a quote from some of Malick’s known points of reference. These include philosophers Martin Heidegger, Søren Kierkegaard, and Ludwig Wittgenstein (whom he studied before turning to journalism and film, Heidegger especially), Stanley Cavell (renowned film theorist, and Malick’s old professor) and the Book of Job (quoted in the beginning of “Tree of Life,” and surely a text Malick has studied as a devout Episcopalian Christian).

Click on. I hope you enjoy.

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TRAILERS: Some movie about a force or whatever waking up, or something? STAR WARS EPISODE VII: THE FORCE AWAKENS.

November 28, 2014  |  2014, Trailers  |  No Comments

Star-Wars-The-Force-Awake-010Today was a day marked on many a Cheetos-stained calendar. J.J. Abrams‘ “Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens” teaser trailer hit the internet, and had everyone talking. Even people who aren’t diehard ‘Star Wars’ fans were swept up in the whirlwind. That’s me.

So I’m officially jumping on the biggest bandwagon and posting the trailer here. Because turning a blind eye to this just seems silly. It’s the biggest thing on any grapevine.

Here’s what I thought,

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Listen To This: 15 Fantastic 21st Century Scores From Composers Not Called Hans Zimmer.

November 25, 2014  |  2014, Feature  |  1 Comment

hans zimmer composingHans Zimmer‘s latest handiwork, the score for Christopher Nolan‘s “Interstellar,” was released last Tuesday. It is, in every crevice of the word’s definition, spectacular. And that’s based on a released soundtrack that doesn’t include the film’s most mind-squishing musical moment: the “Docking” song (also known as “The One That MELTED YOUR FACE”). But not to worry; there’s an Intergallactic Illuminated Starship Asteroid Einstein edition (or something) on the way. It will be available sometime in the near future and promises to have 35 minutes of never-before heard music from the film. As if we needed further proof that Hans Zimmer has, yet again, eviscerated his composer colleagues. Another year, another ownage.

Interstellar OST

Yes, Mr. Zimmer and his golden baton have been dominating the film score scene in the 21st century. Just, think about it. “Gladiator,” “Black Hawk Down,” “The Last Samurai,” “Sherlock Holmes,” “The Dark Knight Trilogy,” “Inception,” “Man of Steel,” “12 Years A Slave,” “Kung-Fu Panda 2,” and now, “Interstellar.” Many would agree that Zimmer is the Beethoven of film scores, and it is highly likely that many of his colleagues, when they hear his stuff, react in a very Jerry Seinfeld-y way, as they clench their teeth, curl their hands into a fist, and utter “Zimmer!” under their breaths. But, what of those colleagues? We’ve had 15 years in the century so far, and there have been plenty of fantastic scores, many of which people forget to consider thanks to Zimmer’s monopolization. Scores, which, at times, surpass even their respective films, but always, evoke a sense of passage leading back to the imagery and mood of its film. Like any brilliant score should do, they support and propel their own films towards deeper understanding and fuller feeling.

So, I’m taking a stand and giving a shout out to 15 fantastic 21st century film scores from composers not called Hans Zimmer. It’s in descending order, from least to most likely at beating “Interstellar” in an epic battle of the orchestral bands.

Hear we go,

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R.I.P. Mike Nichols (1931 - 2014)

R.I.P. Mike Nichols (1931 – 2014)

November 21, 2014  |  2014, In Memoriam  |  No Comments

Mike Nichols has lived a long life. He directed 18 feature films, one TV Movie (“Wit“), and one TV mini-series (HBO’s “Angels in America“). He won a Grammy in 1961 for Best Comedy Performance alongside his first major collaborator Elaine May (Nichols didn’t start out directing movies, he started out in radio and theatre). Then a slew of Tony Awards for his directing efforts on the stage (an incredible nine in total). In 1967 he won the Best Directing Oscar for his most cherished and influential masterpiece, “The Graduate.” And, finally, in the 2000s, he won four Emmy’s for his television work in “Wit” and “Angels in America.” This makes Mike Nichols an EGOT winner, one of the exclusive few who won all four Grand Slams of Show Business. To say that he was a remarkable talent is, clearly, a severe understatement.Young Mike Nichols

In a year that rocked the film world with the sudden, untimely, deaths of Philip Seymour Hoffman and Robin Williams (both men who, coincidentally, worked with and loved Mike Nichols), perhaps we can take solace in the fact that Mike Nichols’ lived a naturally long, successful, life. He was loved by those he worked with, and respected by everyone. He’s made some suspiciously awful movies in his later career (“Wolf,” “What Planet Are You From?) and some that didn’t get the love they deserved (“Primary Colors,”Working Girl“) but none of that can take away from the fact that he was a formidable force behind the camera.

For me, his three major films will always be “The Graduate,” “Carnal Knowledge,” and “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” Had he only directed those three, I’d still call him one of the best actor’s directors of the 20th century. He had an uncanny, almost supernatural, way with his performers, and analyzing the direction, blocking, and editing in his work will reveal a keen sense of how to build intimacy, anxiety, and domestic tension. He was an immense talent and, from everything I’ve read about him, one of the most genuine, selfless, people who worked in Hollywood.

May he rest in peace.

Here are some of my favourite Mike Nichols moments (notice the direction), and some links to a few other editorial pieces about the man.

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Seriously Funny: 10 Best Serious Roles From Comic Actors (And 10 Best Comedic Roles From Serious Actors)

November 17, 2014  |  2014, Feature  |  3 Comments

Seriously Funny Feature

You’re going to be hearing a lot about Steve Carell in the upcoming months. The comic actor has never been as serious as he is Bennet Miller‘s “Foxcatcher,” and ever since its premiere at Cannes, “Oscar” has been on the tip of a whole lot of tongues. You can read my unkind review of the film over at Way Too Indie, where I call it “barely compelling.” OK, so I admit that other opinions (Jessica’s review for The Playlist, and Ananda’s more recent review for WTI, among them) has me eager to watch the film again and see what nuance and subtleties I’ve missed. But, one thing no one can miss from the first time around is the dark place Carell went to in order to portray the slimy John Du Pont.

He’s not the first one, of course. The Playlist’s recent massive feature on 20 comic actors and their best dramatic roles will tell you as much. I’ve decided to play ball, as well. Comic actors going dark can turn up surprisingly effective results, but so too, can serious actors who go comedic. Rather than just talk about one transition, Steve Carell’s turn in “Foxcatcher” has inspired me to think and talk about both. Since there are loads of actors who play both sides of the coin, let’s get some ground rules straight. A “comic actor” is anyone, male or female, who started out or got their big break in comedy (whether on film or TV). By the same token, a “serious actor” is anyone, male or female, who started out or got their big break in a dramatic role and were later tapped for their comic potential. Right, then.

Here are my choices for Best 10 from both camps, and hopefully I’ll have some you haven’t seen or read about already (as I’m sure there are loads I haven’t seen, and will therefore not feature on my list, which you’re encouraged to mention in the comments).

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REVIEW: Christopher Nolan’s “Interstellar” Is Profound In Its Simplicity, And The Year’s Greatest Blockbuster.

November 11, 2014  |  2014, Blockbuster, Reviews  |  No Comments

Interstellar MainFrom all the marvelling one does as a direct side effect of watching Christopher Nolan‘s profound new film “Interstellar,” one wondrous, adrift thought leads to the core essence behind today’s blockbuster. There is no strict science, no didactic derivation that leads to a three-lettered equation, to what sustains this essence; we let our own individual feelings, experiences, and memories construct the foundation, and once the final arrangement ticks all of our subjective boxes, we judge all blockbusters upon this conception. In this way, no matter what the story is or where in time and space it’s located, directors like Michael BayZack SnyderJoss Whedon etc. etc., are all competing for the biggest patch of sand within boundaries of the same sandbox. They are perpetually compared to one another, and are too similar in too many ways, whereas in the alternate dimension of art house it’s much tougher to draw straight lines. I’m not sure the same Nolan who burst onto the scene with 2000’s “Memento” would think he’d be compared to the Bay’s and Snyder’s of the film world 14 years later, but after he signed on the dotted lines for the Batman trilogy, his must’ve known his career would took a sharp turn. With films like “The Dark Knight,” “Inception,” and now “Interstellar,” Christopher Nolan has not only conquered the sandbox with the tallest castles, he’s expanding the boundaries in profound ways.

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Before “Interstellar:” The 12 Most Thought-Provoking Sci-Fi Films of the 21st Century.

November 7, 2014  |  2014, Blockbuster, Feature  |  11 Comments

 

Interstellar SmallerUnless you live on another planet and haven’t caught up with news from Earth, you’ve heard about Christopher Nolan‘s “Interstellar.” Mainstream Hollywood has been Nolan’s oyster ever since his “Dark Knight Trilogy” (and more specifically, “The Dark Knight“) had audiences and critics alike frothing at the mouths, and now that his Gotham nights are behind him, every single person interested in movies has been anticipating his next post-Batman film. “Interstellar” has been compared to Stanley Kubrick‘s “2001: A Space Odyssey” before it was even seen by anyone outside Nolan’s inner circle (partly due to Nolan’s own talk on the campaign trail), so the dial on the expectation-meter has been bending for a while. And now, ladies and gentlemen, the meter has cracked.

After some celebrities bragged about how orgasmically mind-blowing “Interstellar” is before even press screenings were held, the epic Sci-Fi adventure hit limited theatres and IMAX multiplexes last Friday, and continues to expand ever further around the globe today. The verdict, thus far? Mixed, disappointing, underrated; it depends who you ask and who you read. I hope to see it this weekend and weigh in, but until then, I got this idea. Nolan is known to inject a healthy dose of intelligence into his blockbusters, and if a true-to-form sci-fi film should do anything right it’s probe the viewers’ mind and spin our cerebral wheels into thoughtful contemplation about Earth, the universe, the future, the beyond…

To celebrate one of 21st century’s most popular directors, and a genre that loves to bend the mind while looking pretty, here are the 12 most thought-provoking, intellectually stimulating, non-comic book, sci-fi films of the 21st century, in chronological order.

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TIFF55: The 10 Movies You Should See, If You Are In Thessaloniki.

November 4, 2014  |  2014, Bold Cinema, Festivals  |  No Comments

Thessaloniki Film Festival

The 55th edition of the Thessaloniki International Film Festival is currently underway, kicking off last Friday and continuing to run until next Sunday, November 9th. While most journalists and members of press are going through major hangover from all the spring, summer and early fall festivals, thousands of people (especially those living in the beautiful, historically rich, Greek port-city itself) haven’t perhaps had the chance to see some of this year’s festival darlings. In an effort to narrow the choices down for those looking for a bit of a guideline, I’ve listed out 10 films still playing at the fest that you’d do well to catch.

Read on for my recommendation list, which is in descending order starting with three films I haven’t personally seen; I’ve heard wonderfully positive things from various colleagues about two of them, and my gut tells me the third one has all the makings of essential viewing. The remaining seven descend towards the final two, which you should only miss if your life (or a family member’s life) depends on you not seeing it. On we go.

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Halloween Special: The 20 Most Disturbing Feature Horror Film Debuts Ever Directed.

October 31, 2014  |  2014, Directors, Feature  |  No Comments

The Wicker Man

Fans of horror and fans of film alike have lots to celebrate today. First of all, it’s Halloween! Friday night Halloweens don’t come very often, and they provide an even bigger impetus for party people to dress-up as their favorite heroes (if you still think this holiday is about trick-or-treating, you’re either way too young to be reading this, or a parent who has systematically grown to despise Halloween). But there’s a second, more relevant-for-the-purposes-of-this-piece, reason to celebrate October 31st, 2014. It’s the official release of Dan Gilroy‘s fantastic feature debut “Nightcrawler.”

I had the delicious pleasure of savoring this bad boy up at TIFF earlier in the fall, and reviewed it for Way Too Indie. 2014 is turning into quite a massive year, but without a pinch of hesitation, I can tell you right now, right here, “Nightcrawler” is ending up in my top ten somewhere, and could quite possibly be my favorite American film depending on how taken I end up with P.T. Anderson‘s pot-smoking-boiler “Inherent Vice.” “Nightcrawler” is so goddamn good on so many levels, the most impressive thing – even moreso than Jake Gyllenhaal‘s career-crowning performance – is that it’s a feature debut.

Nightcrawler

So, simple math leads us here. When a feature debut manages to disturb, horrify, and fill you with genuine fright, it’s all the more memorable and compelling. “Nightcrawler” may not be a horror film, but it shines a flashlight down a dark tunnel to expose an ugly side of humanity that can be just as chilling as any demon. To celebrate an astounding feature debut released on Halloween, I’ve compiled 20 of the most disturbing horror debuts ever directed in the history of all cinema everywhere. It wasn’t easy. Some carve at the core of conventional horror paradigms, others dig around the fringes, but none of these films fail to leave you unhinged, unnerved, and slightly petrified.

Make sure you see “Nightcrawler” in theaters, and read on for a brief rundown of the 20 most horrifying horror feature debuts ever directed, in alphabetical order.

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