Still not yet 40 years old, The Fury, is already Brian De Palma’s eleventh (11th) film- fourth (4th) in the archives. John Williams (year after Star Wars, and the same year as Superman) does the music. The Fury is also notable as being the debut film for a young Daryl Hannah. De Palma’s camera is active of course- early on during the Israel sequence De Palma pushes the camera on a pendulum back and forth. De Palma does this a half dozen times throughout the film for some lovely stylistic/formal consistency. However, when and where to deploy this stylistic
Midnight Express is easily one of the great prison break films. Surely, The Shawshank Redemption, A Man Escaped and The Great Escape are there on the short list as well in this nice little subgenre. There is even a mention that “This is not Stalag 17” in the text during Midnight Express. Alan Parker is at the helm- and the ambitions are grand. The writing is big (this is the screenplay that put young Oliver Stone on the map), the score is big (Giorgio Moroder’s synthesizer score is his breakthrough as well- and he and Stone would be part
best film: Inception from Christopher Nolan There are many ways to attempt to tackle Christopher Nolan’s Inception. It is one of the boldest films of the 21st century. Nolan pushes the conceptual and visual boundaries—he disorients, then reracks and compiles often through his greatest weapon: parallel editing. Hans Zimmer’s hammering score helps open the film—throwing down the gauntlet early (along with the breathtaking visuals of Saito’s (Ken Watanabe) place) for this elaborate work of cinema. Zimmer will mirror Nolan’s intricate narrative by marrying this score to Edith Piaf ‘s “Non, Je ne regrette rien” – pure genius https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YB-wuKo9rW0 . Inception is undoubtedly auteur cinema.
Wild Indian is the debut film from writer/director Lyle Mitchell Corbine Jr. The film follows two men- Makwa and Teddo- both as children and as adults (Michael Greyeyes plays the older version of Makwa and Chaske Spencer is in the role Teddo). Wild Indian is a depressing film- there is a savage event that takes place when they are young that changes the trajectories of the lives of Makwa and Teddo. Corbine Jr. seems to be making quite a statement about the world (or the United States) in which it is Makwa who ends up successful (a sort of
Hsiao-Hsien Hou’s Flowers of Shanghai is an adaptation of an 1892 novel. It is set in the “pleasure quarters in Shanghai”-a brothel- and the girls have names like “Crimson”, “Jasmin”, “Jade”, “Emerald” and “Pearl” The film consists of 38 long takes with no closeups or cuts within a scene (with one exception). HHH’s camera hovers, it observes- and the period production design and décor are simply sublime. There are emerald lanterns, elegant costumes and an ever-present haze of opium smoke. Aside from just the long take, HHH’s primary tool is the camera pan- and this is a purposeful pan
Family Plot is the last film from Alfred Hitchcock who died in 1980. This is Hitchcock’s 53rd film. The crew surrounding Hitchcock on his last effort is top notch. Ernest Lehman wrote the screenplay (and it, and the way it plays with narrative form, is unquestionably a strength of the film). Lehman was a multiple nominee who also wrote North by Northwest and Sweet Smell of Success (certainly two of the stronger screenplays of the 1950s). Family Plot also catches John Williams in the year between Jaws (1975) and Star Wars (1977). Since Torn Curtain in 1966, Hitchcock had
Ingmar Bergman was not yet thirty (30) years old still when he made his third film, and first archiveable film: A Ship to India. With so many of the great masters from Ford to Ozu to Bergman- their start was rather inauspicious. They almost get to be an apprentice on the job as they hone their art. Even A Ship to India, which is far better than his debut Crisis, gets off to a slower start with miniatures Bergman users for the ships. They are horrendous—they are bad by 1917 standards. Quickly after the opening though, there is a
Lin-Manuel Miranda is already long since a household name to those not living under a rock somewhere since 2015’s “Hamilton”- but this is actually his first effort as a film director. tick, tick … BOOM! stars Andrew Garfield as Jonathan Larson and it is based on a true story. The film recounts sections of Larson’s life as he struggled to make it on Broadway. Larson’s life was tragically cut short just prior to the premier of his musical “Rent” in 1996. Garfield dedicated a year of his life to hone his singing skills and it pays off here. He
This is only Charles Burnett’s third feature. His debut was 1978’s Killer of Sheep. Though it starts out grounded in realism (certainly Killer of Sheep is an important film in the independent and realism movements), Burnett’s To Sleep with Anger (also written by Burnett)’s premise is a descendant of Jean Renoir’s Boudu Saved from Drowning (1932) with Danny Glover as the Michel Simon character. “He is a master of wearing out his welcome” is from the text. Glover’s Harry disrupts Gideon and Suzie- a normal complete with their Cain and Abel (one good, one bad) sons. Harry is superstitious,
For at least one moment in time in 2013 it felt like David O. Russell was taking over- and with American Hustle, he outduels Scorsese. American Hustle feels like the best kind of improvisation- not the kind where a film feels like it could really use a good writer- but a film where spontaneity translates to energy. Russell should be given credit for creating this atmosphere where his actors all feel like they are throwing 100 miles per hour (exhibit A. is Jennifer Lawrence is doing a music video with cleaning supplies to “Live and Let Die” halfway through
best film: The White Ribbon from Michael Haneke The White Ribbon is a magnum opus from Haneke and easily his most visually spectacular film On top of the picturesque beauty, The White Ribbon is formally accomplished (Haneke is one of the great formal masters) as well, and that is what he is most well known for. Ernst Jacobi does the voice over of the school teacher as an older man in flashbacks and whenever he speaks, Haneke uses these gorgeous landscapes shots in jaw-dropping monochrome voice-over narration accompanies the incredible landscapes– Haneke’s trademark formal prowess No musical score- like all of
Jane Campion’s return to the archives (twelve years since 2009’s Bright Star) centers on two brothers (Phil and George Burbank played by Benedict Cumberbatch and Jesse Plemons) and a mother and son (Kirsten Dunst as Rose Gordon and Kodi Smit-McPhee as Peter Gordon). The fifth and sixth characters in the film are the breathtaking vistas of New Zealand (as a stand in for early twentieth century Montana) and Jonny Greenwood’s grand score (what a year for Greenwood with Spencer arriving just a few weeks earlier). The two brothers are two sides of a coin. Cumberbatch’s Phil is absolutely barbarous.