Out of the Furnace
"Out of the Furnace," about two suffering brothers (Christian Bale and Casey Affleck) in Pennsylvania steel country. hits some of the same notes as "The…
* This filmography is not intended to be a comprehensive list of this artist’s work. Instead it reflects the films this person has been involved with that have been reviewed on this site.
Writer Susan Wloszczyna responds to our Movie Love Questionnaire.
At Disney's D23 Expo, Jani Monji caught up with upcoming animation projects.
A list of the movies that mogul Harvey Weinstein has brutally edited, over their directors' objections; interview with Syd Mead, who helped design "Alien," "Blade Runner," "TRON" and other classic SF films;
August, 2012, marks the 20th anniversary of the debut of "The Larry Sanders Show," episodes of which are available on Netflix Instant, Amazon Instant, iTunes, and DVD. This is the third and final part of Edward Copeland's extensive tribute to the show, including interviews with many of those involved in creating one of the best-loved comedies in television history. Part 1 (Ten Best Episodes) is here and Part 2 (The show behind the show) is here.
A related article about Bob Odenkirk and his characters, Stevie Grant and Saul Goodman (on "Breaking Bad"), is here.
by Edward Copeland
"It was an amazing experience," said Jeffrey Tambor. "I come from the theater and it was very, very much approached like theater. It was rehearsed and Garry took a long, long time in casting and putting that particular unit together." In a phone interview, Tambor talked about how Garry Shandling and his behind-the-scenes team selected the performers to play the characters, regulars and guest stars, on "The Larry Sanders Show" when it debuted 20 years ago. Shandling chose well throughout the series' run and -- from the veteran to the novice, the theater-trained acting teacher and character actor to the comedy troupe star in his most subtle role -- they all tend to feel the way Tambor does: "It changed my career. It changed my life."
August, 2012, marks the 20th anniversary of the debut of "The Larry Sanders Show," episodes of which are available on Netflix Instant, Amazon Instant, iTunes, and DVD. This is Part 2 of Edward Copeland's extensive tribute to the show, including interviews with many of those involved in creating one of the best-loved comedies in television history. Part 1 (Ten Best Episodes) is here.
"Unethical? Jesus, Larry. Don't start pulling at that thread; our whole world will unravel." -- Artie (Rip Torn)
by Edward Copeland
Unravel those threads did -- and often -- in the world of fictional late night talk show host Larry Sanders. On "The Larry Sanders Show," the brilliant and groundbreaking HBO comedy that paid attention to the men and women behind the curtain of Sanders' fictional show, the ethics of showbiz were hilariously skewered.
The Driver is the best at what he does. "You put this kid behind the wheel, there's nothing he can't do." He doesn't rely on luck and spontaneous driving; he knows what he's doing. He studies his environment, analyzes human behavior and acts accordingly.
As he drives you can tell that every move was planned ahead of time, every turn calculated with absolute precision. His plan is unpredictable; that's why watching it unfold in real time is so damn electrifying. He comes out of nowhere surprising his foes and disappears in plain sight just as easily. The driver is always in total control of the situation.
All this is projected in one of the most intense opening scenes in recent memory. The driver is a stuntman who moonlights as a getaway driver. "Drive" begins at night minutes before a getaway. Most chase scenes lack this kind of intensity, for the driver doesn't rely on sheer speed to grab our attention.
Of course, no one is really robbed of an Academy Award nomination. It's a gift; not a right. The balloting procedure is conducted honestly and reflects a collective opinion, which was demonstrated this year when the Academy voters had the curiosity to seek out Demian Bichir for best actor for his deeply convincing performance as a Mexican gardener in Los Angeles in "A Better Life." He wasn't on my mental list of possible candidates, but when I heard the name, I thought, "Of course! Good thinking!"
Two movies about the love of movies lead the field in the 2012 Academy award derby. Both look back at formative years for the art form. Martin Scorsese's "Hugo," about a young boy who makes a friend of the inventor of the cinema, led the field with 11 nominations. And Michel Hazanavicius' "The Artist," set when Hollywood was making the transition from silent pictures to the talkies, placed second with ten.
Hollywood nostalgia may be warmly embraced Tuesday morning when the 2012 Academy awards nominations are announced. Films involving the invention of the cinema, the transition from Silent to Talkies and the legend of Marilyn Monroe are among those certain to be nominated.
After years of speculation and delays, "The Tree of Life," Terrence Malick's long-awaited film that took viewers from the beginning of time to 1950s Texas, proved to be worth the wait, according to the Chicago Film Critics Association. The CFCA gave "Tree of Life" four awards including Best Picture, Director, Supporting Actress for newcomer Jessica Chastain and Cinematography for Emmanuel Lubezki.
Making lists is not my favorite occupation. They inevitably inspire only reader complaints. Not once have I ever heard from a reader that my list was just fine, and they liked it. Yet an annual Best Ten list is apparently a statutory obligation for movie critics.
My best guess is that between six and ten of these movies won't be familiar. Those are the most useful titles for you, instead of an ordering of movies you already know all about.
One recent year I committed the outrage of listing 20 movies in alphabetical order. What an uproar! Here are my top 20 films, in order of approximate preference.
When I saw, and immediately wrote about, Nicolas Winding Refn's "Drive," I knew almost nothing about it except the title and that Ryan Gosling was in it. I remembered that it had received acclaim at Cannes back in May (I did not recall that Refn had won the best director prize) and, as it turns out, I hadn't seen any of Refn's previous films -- although "Bronson" and "Valhalla Rising" had been recommended to me by friends. Since then, I've been reading up on "Drive" and have discovered so many fascinating little tidbits (many of which confirm my first impressions) that I decided to put together this little primer.
I recommend that you refrain from reading this until you've seen the movie, though.
Cited influences include: Grimm's Fairy Tales, John Hughes ("Sixteen Candles," "Pretty in Pink"), Sergio Leone, Alejandro Jodorowsky...
On the title font:
Refn: Me and Mat Newman, who edits all my movies, we stole that in the editing table from "Risky Business."
-- from an interview with Scott Tobias at The A.V. Club
I was going to say, up front, that I had some mixed feelings about Nicolas Winding Refn's "Drive," but I'm not sure that "feelings" is the appropriate word. This 1980s pastiche (isn't that the "Risky Business" typeface lit up in neon pink?) is emotionally and narratively stripped down to resemble the sleek, polished surfaces of... well, muscle cars, but also movies by the likes of Walter Hill ("The Driver"), Michael Mann ("Thief"), William Friedkin ("To Live and Die in L.A."), Paul Schrader ("American Gigolo") and others. It even sports an aggressively ersatz-Tangerine Dream synth score of the kind so popular in the early 1980s, though this one also features some Euro-vocals with unfortunate English day-glo-highlighter lyrics ("a real human being and a real hero..."). Emotion, character, story -- they're not so much what "Drive" is interested in. The movie makes fetishistic use of signifiers for those things, but its most tangible concerns have (paradoxically?) to do with dreamy abstractions of color and shape and movement.
I like the red a lot. Not just the blood (which is the heart of the film, and I'll get to that in a minute), but there's so much blue (teal?) and orange and pink that when the red starts gushing in, it pumps some real excitement into what has, by that point, settled into a fairly static picture. (In some respects, I think "Drive" perversely hints at an art-house action movie -- and an erotic movie -- it never quite delivers, after a pretty [and] terrific archetypal getaway chase at the beginning, in which the Driver shows off his skills at using Los Angeles infrastructure to play hide-and-seek with cop cars and helicopters. Thank goodness, though, that it never turns into the racetrack movie it briefly threatens to become.)
So, the red: It excites the eyeballs (and signals imminent danger) in the red-and-white checkered windows at Nino's Pizza. But as I recall, it really gets going at Denny's. The nameless Driver (Ryan Gosling), a movie stuntman who also works as a mechanic and moonlights as a getaway car wheelman-for-hire, sits down with his generic romantic-interest neighbor Irene (Carey Mulligan), who wears a red uniform vest as a Denny's waitress, in a booth with red light fixtures above it and a BIG plastic bottle of ketchup on the table. I don't remember what the conversation is about -- it doesn't matter, but it's probably something about her husband Standard (Oscar Isaac), who's just got out of jail and owes money to some brutal sleazebags who are threatening to physically harm him and Irene and their son Benicio (Kaden Leos), to whom Driver has also taken a shine. What I remember is the red. The film becomes pregnant with red.
I understand. That is to say, I understand Netflix's reasons for raising prices and offering DVD-only and streaming-only plans (they were losing money, they want to push customers to streaming which has lower delivery costs, etc.) and I understand the anger long-time subscribers feel at suddenly being faced with an up-to-60-percent price-hike (see Edward Copeland's "Dear Netflix: Drop Dead.") What concerns me most is that the Netflix Instant service still isn't up to snuff.
I'm not talking about the technology; the quality of the streaming has greatly improved (I watch via TiVo over my home Wi-Fi network on a 55-inch HD screen) and, technology being technology, will undoubtedly get better. I'm not even talking about the spotty selection, which I trust will also improve greatly as media conglomerates catch up with reality and figure out that this is a lucrative opportunity. The more serious problem is that too many of the movies themselves (even the good ones) are being made available in lousy prints: not just shabby public-domain versions (the equivalent of the old 16 mm local TV station prints that used to circulate through low-end nontheatrical distributors), but films shown in the wrong aspect ratio (beware of anything with the Starz logo on it) or even obsolete pan-and-scan (shame on you, Warner Bros.). What good is streaming delivery if you have to watch a digital mastering job that looks like it was done in 1986? I thought these battles were fought (and won) long ago, in the VHS and early DVD era. Surely the dominance of 16:9 HDTVs has accustomed mainstream movie and television watchers to the previously foreign concept of widescreen and "letterboxing." (Now some people actually distort their TV picture on purpose -- grotesquely stretching 4:3 images just so they'll fill up the whole screen horizontally. Oy!)
A recent anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) movie like "Let Me In" shown in "full screen" (16:9)? Not acceptable. Albert Brooks' "Lost in America" (1.85:1) in 4:3? Outrage! (Actually, that particular movie doesn't look so bad, but why crop it? The Amazon $2.99 Instant Video 48-hour rental is in the right ratio.) And the mangled movies aren't even labeled, the way they would be if they were hacked up for television or DVD: "This film has been modified from its original version: it has been formatted to fit your screen." (Although, that too is bull: Parts of the picture have been cut off so that the smaller image gives the illusion of looking bigger. Properly presented letterboxed or windowboxed movies "fit your screen" just fine.)
The 64th Festival de Cannes is winding down, and the signs are everywhere. The hand-laundry of festival-goers hangs from the shutters of the windows opposite my hotel (somebody is running out of clean clothes). The streets seem emptier in the early morning, and the area around the press mailboxes in the Palais is starting to have a vacant feeling.
Just five minutes before Sean Penn's scheduled arrival at the press conference to discuss Paolo Sorrentino's competition film "This Must Be the Place," the room still had dozens of empty seats. The number of photographers gathered expectantly in front of Penn's place at the table onstage was only a meager 23, unlike the mob for Brad Pitt just a few days earlier. It only meant that many journalists have already gone home or were playing hooky today.
Accompanied by the director and producers of "This Must Be the Place," and Irish actress Eve Hewson, Penn strolled in looking pleased with himself. He's deeply tanned and nonchalantly chewing gum, his hands stuffed in the front pockets of his jeans. He credits director Sorrentino with "a magic hand" in shaping his performance as an eccentric American rock star living in retirement in Ireland. About the film, Sorrentino said, "The idea of the story came from a Nazi criminal. I wanted to write a story about a 50-year-old rock star who remains a child, and have these two confront each other.
I will not give away any jokes here (though too many reviews will), just one small concept: In "Tropic Thunder," Ben Stiller plays a not-very-talented actor who has made a widely loathed movie called "Simple Jack" (explicitly a parody of Sean Penn's "I Am Sam") that flopped ignominiously, failing to earn him the Oscar nomination he so desperately, transparently (and cynically) expected. Both Penn and "I Am Sam" are mentioned by name -- as are the Oscar-winning performances by Dustin Hoffman in "Rain Man" and Tom Hanks in "Forrest Gump." They should have thrown in Robin Williams in "Patch Adams." (Look for the glimpse of Penn and some other well-known actors in award-seeking stunt-roles near the end.)
From start to finish, the target of the satire here is Hollywood. As Roger Ebert describes it: "The movie is a send-up of Hollywood, actors, acting, agents, directors, writers, rappers, trailers and egos..." There's even a funny moment with a key grip that's even funnier if you know what a key grip is.
And yet, according to an article in Monday's New York Times: "A coalition of disabilities groups is expected as early as Monday to call for a national boycott of the film 'Tropic Thunder' because of what the groups consider the movie's open ridicule of the intellectually disabled."
This has got to be a joke.
FFFgoer Andra Takacs files her account of the 2006 Floating Film Festival:
PARK CITY, Utah -- Mugging by postcard is the white-collar crime of choice at the Sundance Film Festival. Filmmakers fly to Utah with suitcases filled with postcards advertising their films, which they hand out to anybody who looks vaguely promising. I have 19 in my pocket right now.
PARK CITY, Utah -- Sundance has become the nation's most important film festival through an unbeatable combination: inconvenient location, lousy weather, overcrowded screening facilities, municipal hostility, and a 10-day lineup of films that in some cases will never be heard of again.
Q. There are two movies this month about conspiracies in the White House. One is Clint Eastwood's "Absolute Power." The other one is "Shadow Conspiracy," starring Charlie Sheen. I noticed an add for "Shadow Conspiracy" that read: "Life. Liberty. And the Pursuit of Absolute Power." Do you think this was a coincidence, or an attempt by the Sheen movie to rip off the title and beat Eastwood to the finish line? (Casey Anderson, Schaumberg, IL)
TORONTO, Canada--Like scouts at a pre-season game, the North American movie industry is gathered here in Toronto, eyeing the developing autumn movie season. The Toronto Film Festival, now in its 21st year, is the major launching pad for many of the films that will be honored, applauded and damned during Oscar Season, which started, in case you missed it, on Labor Day.
LOS ANGELES This is a very small anecdote, but maybe it will lead somewhere. I went to interview Albert Brooks out at his office at Warner Bros. We were going to talk about "Defending Your Life," his new comedy about a man who discovers the afterlife is a place named Judgment City, and you go on trial there. We had a good talk.
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