Far from the Madding Crowd
Whether his film is lush or rolling in the muck, it always has a tactile quality that makes it accessible, which is also true of…
* 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.
A report from the Athena Film Festival 2015.
Jennifer Kent directs the year's scariest movie; Best TV Shows of 2014; Lawsuit against NYFA; Why movies can't stop explaining themselves; Anna Kendrick on her new musicals.
An appreciation of Nastassja Kinski, on the occasion of a tribute to her at the Film Society at Lincoln Center from November 27-December 3, 2014.
The joy of "Orange is the New Black" comes in how it unfolds, the ways the writers and performers constantly defy expectations.
A study on when a joke is too soon; Jim Rebhorn writes his own obituary; Disney makes an acquisition; Sudden death in The Good Wife; An Iranian cinema podcast begins.
Writer Brian Tallerico responds to our Movie Love Questionnaire.
Critics Christy Lemire, Sheila O'Malley and Susan Wloszczyna talk about 1980s cult film "Ms. 45" on the occasion of a re-release.
Writer Peter Sobczynski responds to our Movie Love Questionnaire.
Extraterrestrial life may really exist; House Republicans slash billions in food stamps; "Invisible Man" banned in North Carolina; an object of Internet ridicule speaks; Hollywood luminaries who got their start with Roger Corman.
Ryan Amon talks about the YouTube video that led to his first feature film score, in this week's "Elysium," directed by Neill Blomkamp ("District 9") and starring Matt Damon and Jodie Foster.
Marie writes: I've been watching a lot of old movies lately, dissatisfied in general with the poverty of imagination currently on display at local cinemas. As anyone can blow something up with CGI - it takes no skill whatsoever and imo, is the default mode of every hack working in Hollywood these days. Whereas making a funny political satire in the United States about a Russian submarine running aground on a sandbank near a small island town off the coast of New England in 1966 during the height of the Cold War - and having local townsfolk help them escape in the end via a convoy of small boats, thereby protecting them from US Navy planes until they're safely out to sea? Now that's creative and in a wonderfully subversive way....
Marie writes: Widely regarded as THE quintessential Art House movie, "Last Year at Marienbad" has long since perplexed those who've seen it; resulting in countless Criterion-esque essays speculating as to its meaning whilst knowledge of the film itself, often a measure of one's rank and standing amongst coffee house cinephiles. But the universe has since moved on from artsy farsty French New Wave. It now prefers something braver, bolder, more daring...
Marie writes: Now this is something you don't see every day. Behold The Paragliding Circus! Acrobatic paragliding pilot Gill Schneider teamed up with his father’s circus class (he operates a school that trains circus performers) to mix and combine circus arts with paragliding - including taking a trapezist (Roxane Giliand) up for ride and without a net. Best original film in the 2012 Icare Cup. Video by Director/Filmmaker Shams Prod. To see more, visit Shams Prod.
Marie writes: It's a long story and it starts with a now famous video of a meteor exploding over Chelyabinsk, Russia. Followed by alien conspiracies fueled by the internet and which led me to investigate further. Where did it come from? Does anyone know..? Yes! According to The NewScientist, the rock came from the Apollo family of near-Earth asteroids, which follow an elongated orbit that occasionally crosses Earth's path.That in turn led me to yet another site and where I learned a team of scientists had discovered two moons around Pluto, and asked the public to vote on potential names. They also accepted write-in votes as long as they were taken from Greek and Roman mythology and related to Hades and the underworld - keeping to the theme used to name Pluto's three other moons. And how I eventually learned "Vulcan" has won Pluto's moon-naming poll! and thanks to actor William Shatner who suggested it. Behold Vulcan: a little dot inside a green circle and formally known as P5.
Near the end of her remarkable Golden Globes speech, a monologue overflowing with teasing language and sly pop-culture references, actor-director Jodie Foster mentioned a dog whistle. Although she sometimes seemed to be speaking extemporaneously, while also incorporating pre-crafted phrases designed to say exactly what she intended to say (and, equally important, what she had no intention of saying), I thought the message, addressed primarily to those who have pressured her to publicly acknowledge her lesbianism for so many years, was clear and unambiguous -- except for the parts she deliberately wanted to leave ambiguous. And it's pretty much the same message she's been repeating since she was in college:
I value my privacy. Everything about being a performer makes it difficult to protect and maintain that privacy. I've been pressured to talk about my private life as a woman, formerly in a same-sex relationship with Cydney Bernard, who is raising two sons. And this is as much of a public "coming out" statement as you're going to get from me.
Marie writes: And so it begins! A new year and another season of Film Festivals and Award shows. The Golden Globes have come and gone and in advance of quirky SXSW, there's Robert Redford's Sundance 2013...
"Maverick" starts with the protagonist in the middle of nowhere. He helplessly sits on a horse; his neck is at the end of a noose tied to a tree branch. The men who put him in this vulnerable situation surround him. They drop a bag containing a snake and ride away. If the horse bolts, Bret Maverick dies. It is one of the most attention-grabbing opening scenes in film.
I've never held a handgun in my life. I did some rifle target shooting with the ROTC in college. That's it with me and firearms. Does this make me less of an American? I think handguns are dangerous, and the more people who walk around carrying them the more dangerous they are. I also don't understand why civilians need to possess AR-15 assault rifles, such as the one used by James Holmes in Colorado. They fire 10 shots at a time, and are intended for combat use. In civilian hands, they are by definition weapons of slaughter. Do you need one in your home?
Marie writes: I can't prove it but I'm convinced they're related.
The Academy Award winners for the past thirty years have followed consistent molds, primarily in the categories of Best Actress, Best Actor, and Best Picture. It is a very simple set of templates that I will explain with excessive evidence. This is not to say that the Academy Awards are a conspiracy run by some secret society, although that idea would be quite fun. Rather, at the very least, there is a subtext to American culture that plays out in the ideas and ideals in American cinema, and it plays out consistently. At the very least, I'm illustrating some unwritten ideals in American culture. Whether or not they are healthy or corrupt, they are there in us. So, "Best Picture" is not a great movie; rather, it is a great movie that fulfills the mold.
I watched Robert Zemeckis's "Contact" again a couple of weeks ago, so I could add it to the Great Movies Collection. In 1997 I had some questions, but this time it was even more clear that the movie ends in enigma and paradox. Like many movies, that has little bearing on its effect.
Questions introduced from near the beginning seem to find answers at the end, and most viewers are satisfied--even exhilarated. For me, too, there was uplift. No matter that the scientific establishment scoffs; Dr. Ellie Arroway (Jodie Foster) knows what she saw, and we saw the same things.
A few weeks ago on Facebook -- that sly keeper of family secrets, whose memory seems to have increased incrementally with its new Timeline mumbo-jumbo -- an actor of some repute posted a list of the best Twitter accounts of 2011, as compiled by a wholly forgettable outlet. He had been placed relatively highly, and someone commented that it was a very subjective list. Apart from the fact that taking issue with "a list of the best Twitter accounts of 2011, lol" is by definition absurd, the statement presented a logical fallacy (I am fully aware of the irony of regarding a throwaway Facebook comment in such depth). All lists are subjective: that's why they're lists. Nonetheless, this fairly simple fact gets lost in the year-end frenzy as interested parties start calling for the list-maker's head, like angry villagers wielding pitchforks, if and when their favoured books, albums, films, etc fail to place on a given critic's compilation of the year's best.
[This was originally published at MSN Movies in 2006, but MSN has taken down their archives.]
"You don't make up for your sins in church. You do it in the streets. You do it at home. The rest is bullshit, and you know it." -- Charlie (voiceover by Martin Scorsese) in "Mean Streets" (1973)
If I do bad things, am I a bad person? Can I be a good person despite the bad things I've done? Can I compensate for the sins I commit in one part of my life by doing good works in another? Is forgiveness possible? Is redemption achievable? Or does it even matter if there's not really anyone, or anything, watching over us and keeping track?
Those are some of the Catholic concerns that have preoccupied filmmaker Martin Scorsese throughout his career. His latest film [circa 2006], "The Departed," is based on "Infernal Affairs," a 2002 Hong Kong thriller directed by Andrew Lau and Alan Mak, about two moles: an undercover cop who has infiltrated a criminal gang, and a crook who is embedded in the police department. So, who's the good guy and who's the bad guy? Frank Costello, the gangster kingpin played by Jack Nicholson, says: "Cops or criminals: When you're facing a loaded gun, what's the difference?" And what about when you're pointing one? In the cosmic sense, we're all facing that loaded gun, and brandishing one, every day. And the difference -- if there is any -- is what Scorsese makes his movies about.
Watching certain Scorsese pictures today ("Mean Streets," "Taxi Driver," "Raging Bull," "The Last Temptation of Christ," "GoodFellas," "Casino" and others), you can appreciate the ways they both reflect and question the prevailing moral climate in early 21st-century America. It's a topsy-turvy universe in which the President of the United States himself insists that judgments about "goodness" and "badness" are not to be based upon actions, but are simply pre-existing existential conditions. Good or bad, right or wrong -- it just depends on which side you're on.
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.
Marie writes: the following moment of happiness is brought to you by the glorious Tilda Swinton, who recently sent the Grand Poobah a photo of herself taken on her farm in Scotland, holding a batch of English Springer puppies!