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

2008

best film: The Dark Knight from Christopher Nolan The film begins with a trademark Nolan gorgeous establishing shot of the city terrorism post-9/11 element in the Joker character and film- the hostage videos and cell phone surveillance and certainly a blurry line of good and evil two wonderful 360 degree shots- unlike De Palma though, Nolan chooses to do one revelation and pause at a choice time Absolutely has a gripping narrative and performances led by Heath Ledger Leger’s walk is studied, as are his facial tics There are multiple jaw-dropping sequences and set pieces. The tunnel chase scene

20082021-12-29T22:17:22+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

Obsession – 1976 De Palma

Most directors probably owe some debt of gratitude to Alfred Hitchcock. The lineage goes at least to Truffaut and the French New Wave and they influenced most of what would follow after them. But there was no Hitchcock devotee as steadfast as Brian De Palma- and there was no De Palma film as indebted to Hitchcock as Obsession. Obsession has a crew to die for. It was written by Paul Schrader (coming out the same year as Taxi Driver) scored by Bernard Herrmann (ditto- scored Taxi Driver in 1976 and composed Vertigo and Psycho amongst others of course) and

Obsession – 1976 De Palma2021-12-25T16:09:19+00:00

Juno – 2007 Jason Reitman

Juno is sweet bliss indie cinema gold from the pen of Diablo Cody (Oscar winner in 2007 for Best Original Screenplay). It helped announce not only the talents of the young Cody (her first screenplay- and she was not yet 30 in 2007) but also the star Elliot Page (then Ellen Page) and Jason Reitman behind the camera. It wears its indie badge proudly with the quirky details (drinking Sunny D in the opening, Tic-tac’s) folk music and hand drawn opening title sequence. Juno chronicles four seasons (these feel rooted in Wes Anderson’s Rushmore) in the life

Juno – 2007 Jason Reitman2021-12-24T13:30:51+00:00
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