To Sleep with Anger – 1990 Burnett

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,

To Sleep with Anger – 1990 Burnett2022-01-08T13:05:14+00:00

American Hustle – 2013 O. Russell

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

American Hustle – 2013 O. Russell2022-01-07T23:29:06+00:00

The Power of the Dog – 2021 Campion

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.

The Power of the Dog – 2021 Campion2022-01-05T12:43:24+00:00

Passing – 2021 Hall

Passing marks the directorial debut for Rebecca Hall. Hall is a proven actor (Vicky Christina Barcelona, The Prestige, The Town) as well as apparently being a talented director. The story centers on two women: Irene (Tessa Thompson) and Clare (Ruth Negga) who grew up together. Clare has been passing (pretending to be white) and is married to a white racist John (Alexander Skarsgård). Clare comes back into the life of Irene (married to Andre Holland’s Brian). a tighter 1.37 : 1 aspect ratio – shot in black and white. The film features fabulous period costume work (especially beautiful hats-

Passing – 2021 Hall2022-01-04T15:39:56+00:00

Audrey Rose – 1977 Wise

Audrey Rose is an offbeat horror drama- it cares about character more than cheap thrills. It stars Marsha Mason (top billing) as Janice Templeton, John Beck as her husband Bill, and Susan Swift as the young Ivy Templeton. Anthony Hopkins (more than a decade before becoming a full-blown star with The Silence of The Lambs) plays Elliott Hoover. There is an automobile accident that takes place in 1965 where Hoover’s daughter horrifically dies. The bulk of the story takes place in 1976 where Hopkins’ Hoover sort of stalks The Templeton family (and young Ivy in particular). With the possessed

Audrey Rose – 1977 Wise2022-01-03T13:36:03+00:00

Casualties of War – 1989 De Palma

Casualties of War is a horrific true story- horrific even for a war film It is shot in Thailand as a stand in for Vietnam Michael J. Fox plays Eriksson (and does admirable work) and for just about the entire running time of the film he is pitted up against Sean Penn’s Meserve. Don Harvey plays Meserve’s prime stooge Clark. John C. Reilly (in his first of many archiveable films) plays Hatcher. Reilly must have been buddies with Penn because most of Reilly’s early roles (We’re No Angels, State of Grace) star Penn. Early in the film there is

Casualties of War – 1989 De Palma2022-01-02T14:09:29+00:00

Goodbye South, Goodbye – 1996 Hsiao-Hsien Hou

Hsiao-Hsien Hou’s patient, lyrical realism is in full effect in Goodbye South, Goodbye- the story of a couple of small time criminals in Taipei. There are two shots before the titles- one of a man talking on his cell phone on a train, and another of the train tracks. HHH’s tool bag includes the use of a very long average shot length. Goodbye South, Goodbye just observes- hanging out in medium or medium-long shot with Flatty and Pretzel. They gamble, they complains about the staleness of mainland tea. HHH’s camera pans and hovers—he never dramatizes, moralizes or judges. In

Goodbye South, Goodbye – 1996 Hsiao-Hsien Hou2022-01-01T13:27:34+00:00

West Side Story – 1961 Robbins, Wise

West Side Story is simply one of the great musicals in cinema history. The film has roots in the successful 1950s theater production—which it is an update on Shakespeare- putting Romeo and Juliet on the west side of New York City in contemporary (late 1950s) setting. The story is rather simple- there are two rival gangs: The Jets and The Sharks. Tony (Richard Beymer) is a Jet (sort of) and Maria (Natalie Wood) is the sister of the leader of the Sharks. They fall in love. West Side Story features the boom of Leonard Bernstein’s score and the poetics

West Side Story – 1961 Robbins, Wise2021-12-31T13:58:11+00:00

Waxworks – 1924 Leni, Birinsky

Waxworks may not deserve a seat directly alongside Fritz Lang’s Destiny (1921), but it stands as another shining example of Germany’s rich period of cinematic expressionism during the 1920s. Waxworks also features Emil Jannings (as Harun al Raschid) in his prime at the age of forty (40)- this is the same year as The Last Laugh. Like Destiny- it is an epic story told in three parts (clearly influenced by D.W. Griffith’s Intolerance). In Waxworks, a writer (William Dieterle- years before his solid work as a director) is hired by a museum and the writer puts himself and a

Waxworks – 1924 Leni, Birinsky2021-12-26T14:19:22+00:00

News of the World – 2020 Greengrass

Director Paul Greengrass and actor Tom Hanks collaborate again for News of the World after 2013’s Captain Phillips. News of the World is set in North Texas in 1870. This is the same era as The Searchers- just a few years after the Civil War. And like The Searchers, this story involves a young girl who was raised by Native Americans (the Kiowa here). Greengrass and director of photography Dariusz Wolski (Dark City, Prometheus) give News of the World a marvelous natural lighting glow from the period particular lanterns. Altman’s McCabe & Mrs. Miller feels like a predecessor. The

News of the World – 2020 Greengrass2021-12-28T13:54:47+00:00

Talk to Her – 2002 Almodóvar

From the pulled back curtain reveal of the title credits, to the film’s fitting conclusion, Talk to Her is a standout effort- even when considering the rich oeuvre of Pedro Almodovar. The unveiled curtains reveal two strangers sitting next to each other in a theater watching opera. This Strangers on a Train (Almodóvar is a Hitchcock acolyte after all) setup includes Marco (Dario Grandinetti) and Benigno (Javier Camara). Talk to Her opens in a theater and ends in a theater This is Almodóvar’s fourteenth (14th) film. This is his single greatest stretch of work- spanning from All

Talk to Her – 2002 Almodóvar2021-12-24T13:26:50+00:00

A Dangerous Method – 2011 Cronenberg

A Dangerous Method shows off David Cronenberg’s genre range--sharply pivoting from the Russian mob crime film Eastern Promises and diving instead into early 20th century Vienna and the world of Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud (played superbly by Michael Fassbender and Viggo Mortensen respectively). This marks the third pairing of auteur and actor with Cronenberg and Viggo. Again, it is as if Viggo took at that goodwill and clout he earned from the financial (and surely artistic) success of The Lord of the Rings and decided to put it to good use working with one of the greatest directors

A Dangerous Method – 2011 Cronenberg2021-12-26T13:10:20+00:00
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