Body Double – 1984 De Palma

Brian De Palma taps into both Rear Window and Vertigo for his 1984 film Body Double Body Double is one De Palma wrote as well as directed- unlike Scarface, Carrie, The Untouchables. Like Blow Out, it opens on the making a movie- a B-movie- a horror movie. Jake (Craig Wasson) is playing a vampire and his claustrophobia (akin to Vertigo) acts up. Jake struggles to find work, needs a place to stay, and ends up getting a temporary job/home housesitting at the “Chemosphere”- a crazy modern spaceship-looking house off Mulholland built by John Lautner in 1960. Like Rear Window,

Body Double – 1984 De Palma2021-09-20T16:29:24+00:00

Arlington Road – 1999 Pellington

Arlington Road is an impressive little terrorism thriller featuring Jeff Bridges (one year off Big Lebowski) pitted against an eerie Tim Robbins. Mark Pellington is the director. Pellington is best known for music videos by Springsteen, Jon Bon Jovi and others. Pellington opens the film with great energy. Before the opening credits, Bridges (playing Michael Faraday) discovers the son of Robbins’ character (Oliver Lang) in the middle of the street in immense pain from a fireworks accident. Pellington uses a washed-out dissolve heavy soft focus for this sequence (above). The Faradays and Langs are neighbors. The sons and fathers

Arlington Road – 1999 Pellington2021-10-19T12:57:06+00:00

Blow Out – 1981 De Palma

Can you imagine how this must have sounded in 1980? Brian De Palma is remaking/updating Antonioni’s Blow-Up? but calling it “Blow Out” about a tire blow out- hahaha. Blow Out may not only be worthy to Antonioni’s film- but surpass it. And it is by all accounts the De Palma film where just about everything work out swimmingly—technical prowess, a riveting story-- sonic boom-level cinematic virtuoso flourishes aplenty. The film opens with a point of view Steadicam tracking shot (run by Garret Brown- the Steadicam inventor who worked on Bound for Glory, Rocky, Marathon Man and… yes.. The Shining).

Blow Out – 1981 De Palma2021-10-17T15:00:41+00:00

Blood on the Moon – 1948 Wise

It is not the first (probably musicals), second (science fiction), third (noir) or even fourth (war films) genre most often associated with Robert Wise- but Blood on the Moon is a rock solid western. It kind of makes you wish he had done more (as far as I can tell- it is his only one). He made it at RKO in 1948. It stars Robert Mitchum (his first western in the archives), Robert Preston (a stout figure, charismatic- and good enough an actor to go toe to toe with Mitchum) and a nice supporting role for the always reliable

Blood on the Moon – 1948 Wise2021-10-16T14:49:55+00:00

Election – 1999 Payne

Citizen Ruth (1996) is a solid debut- but Election marks the announcement of a promising talent in American cinema in Alexander Payne. Like Citizen Ruth, About Schmidt, Nebraska and Downsizing- it is set in Payne’s native Nebraska. The high school genre and teen film was still fertile ground in 1999 (Reese Witherspoon is in a few of these herself including the wickedly fun Cruel Intentions from the same year) but Election is a teen film going for more. The casting of ex-teen film god Matthew Broderick (Ferris Bueller himself from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off- 1986) feels like an acknowledgement

Election – 1999 Payne2021-11-19T11:55:03+00:00

Born to Kill – 1947 Wise

After editing Citizen Kane in 1941 this was already Robert Wise’s sixth film as director (or co-director) and the genre master had already worked in horror and a courtroom crime drama—so it was time to add noir to the resume with Born to Kill- and this is a memorable one. This is an RKO film with some opening sequences shot (mostly establishing shots) in Reno. This is a great early turn for Lawrence Tierney. Tierney (best known probably as Joe Cabot in Reservoir Dogs) plays Sam—a man with an uncontrollable rage stemming from jealousy that turns him into a

Born to Kill – 1947 Wise2021-09-15T14:04:22+00:00

The Devil All the Time – 2020 Campos

The Devil All the Time is a three decade generation spanning story of evil from Antonio Campos and Donald Ray Pollack (his novel, and he provides the omniscient narration). It is an ensemble film set on the border of Ohio and West Virginia (though shot in Alabama) following chance meetings and one family (the main family is played by Bill Skarsgård (father), Haley Bennett (mother) and Tom Holland (son)- Holland plays the adult version of the son in the 1960s) at its center. Holland probably gets the most screen time, but he is not introduced at all until the

The Devil All the Time – 2020 Campos2021-10-13T13:07:50+00:00

The Card Counter – 2021 Schrader

The Paul Schrader renaissance (or should I say “resurrection”) is real. With 2017’s First Reformed and now 2021’s The Card Counter, Schrader is riding a career peak in his 70s. Oscar Isaac plays William Tell. Isaac is magnificent in The Card Counter and after this, when you take into account Ethan Hawke’s achievement in First Reformed, I would have to imagine actors are lining up to play the protagonist in Schrader’s next work---whatever that may be. Isaac is in nearly every scene and never makes a false move. He is exacting--intense. The diner scene with Tye Sheridan’s Cirk where

The Card Counter – 2021 Schrader2021-10-12T13:23:25+00:00

2046 – 2004 Kar-Wai Wong

Four years after In the Mood for Love, WKW’s follow-up is the third and (so far) final film in the unofficial Love trilogy (Days of Being Wild from 1990 being the first) featuring Tony Leung as Chow Mo-Wan and Maggie Cheung (here only as a cutaway memory really) as Su Li-zhen. 2046 falls into the category of a masterpiece that has the burden of following one of the great films of all-time. This is WKW’s Magnificent Ambersons or his The Master- an utterly remarkable film- as long as someone was not coming in expecting Citizen Kane, There Will Be

2046 – 2004 Kar-Wai Wong2021-09-13T20:03:40+00:00

1998

best film:  The Thin Red Line from Terrence Malick The Thin Red Line fulfilled the promise of a twenty year wait since Terrence Malick’s previous feature, also a masterpiece (and the best film of its year), Days of Heaven. Thin Red Line does not have the visceral war experience punch in the face that Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan does  (Spielberg’s film was released earlier in the year) so I think it took a while for Malick’s poetic tone poem, Christ allegory, and sheer photographical brilliance to resonate fully with many cinema lovers. The sprawling ensemble, endless voiceover narrators (I

19982021-10-15T18:54:20+00:00

As Tears Go By – 1988 Kar-Wai Wong

WKW’s triad Mean Streets update marks his promising debut (32 years old) . The opening frame is neon light on the left of the screen-- bouncing off a wall of televisions showing a blue sky on the right. Andy Lau plays Wah- the Charlie/Harvey Keitel character. Quickly WKW shows Wah sleeping all day and waking up at night. He is nocturnal- as it should be in the world of WKW. Picking Scorsese as the template for your debut seems like a good idea all around. The title of the film is from a song by The Rolling Stones (which

As Tears Go By – 1988 Kar-Wai Wong2021-10-09T12:40:08+00:00

El Dorado – 1966 Hawks

It is impossible to mention El Dorado without mentioning Hawks’ Rio Bravo (1959). Hawks and John Wayne are back—as is Leigh Brackett with the screenplay. The story has some changes: there are rival families, one needing help from the law (Robert Mitchem in a variation of the Dean Martin role from Rio Bravo is the sheriff). The young James Caan plays Mississippi (the Ricky Nelson character- named Colorado) but instead of being quick on the draw with a gun, he is quick on the draw with a knife. Arthur Hunnicut is Bull- the Walter Brennan role- and John Wayne

El Dorado – 1966 Hawks2021-11-26T17:01:21+00:00
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