Jose here. Are you all getting excited about the True Blood season finale? This season got off to a very slow start but episode after episode it escalated towards the campy, outrageousness we have come to know and love in Alan Ball's show. After seeming like it would deal more with vampire politics and religious fanatics (something that became eerily prescient of what was to come in American politics) the show didn't forget to throw in a couple of truly batshit crazy elements (an ifrit! Salome! Bloody Lilith!) fortunately during the past couple of episodes all the insane peripherical stories have been solved and we come down once again to Sookie being the only one who can fix everyone. To prepare for tonight's episode, let's take a look at some of the best moments of this past season.
[Editor's note: Please welcome our special guest star writer/director Leslye Headland, exclusive from her press tour for Bachelorette! -Nathaniel]
I've been in Los Angeles the past few days for press and the premiere of my film, Bachelorette. However, I have to say the highlight of this week is a guest spot on The Film Experience. I used to be an assistant and every day I would read this blog. And every day it would make me feel like life was worth living and that film was the primary reason to keep going. So thank you to Nathaniel for asking me to contribute but ultimately thank you for running this site and bringing joy to little cinephiles everywhere.
In the comments, someone asked if the three leading actresses in my film Bachelorette (Kirsten Dunst, Lizzy Caplan, and Isla Fisher) were my first choice for those roles.
I don't write with specific actors in mind. I also LOATHE auditions. Whether it be for a play or a film, a lead role or a small one-line character. I just don't like them. When I work with my theater company in Los Angeles, I usually just meet with someone whose work I love, who I think might work in the role, then we have dinner or coffee and discuss the character and the script. Then I usually go back and tailor the roles for their specific strengths and incorporate any changes that came out of our discussions.
I cast the film the same way. All three of them contacted me either because they saw the play or because they'd read the script. We talked. We fell in love. We moved forward. All three of those girls are actresses I admire. Women I've watched from afar (as a rabid fan) over the last ten years. So yes. They were my first and only choices because I was lucky enough to get in a room with them and talk them into doing it.
All three of them contacted me either because they saw the play or because they'd read the script. We talked. We fell in love. We moved forward.
I can't imagine a more perfect trio. They are not only hard workers and hysterically funny but they are also, in my humble opinion, three of the most brilliant (and occasionally grossly underrated) actresses of our generation. I am eternally grateful to have met and worked with them.
Matt here! The genius of Arrested Development is dependent on itself. Many viewers have commented on how the show becomes more and more impressive as it progresses – they’re right. Like many of the great television shows of the last decade (Mad Men and Breaking Bad, to name only two), Arrested Development uses memory to invoke thematic/narrative cohesion. Blue handprints on the wall aren’t funny by themselves. But through slow-cooked patience, little notes on the refridgerator and blue handprints on the wall become radically inventive comic nuggets. Instead of using self-reference to prove its own intelligence, the show twists audience awareness into a series of increasingly complex gags. I’m willing to submit that it’s the best example of 21st Century television comedy along with Louie.
Arrested Development uses the intelligence and memory of its audience as an advantage. Aside from the prescient political commentary, the show builds jokes through both intra- and intertextuality. But they’re not just jokes. They point towards the show’s favorite theme – incest. The Bluth family’s constant swapping of precious bodily fluids is emphasized by the jokes that tend to procreate with themselves. MORE
Matt here. Earlier, I wrote about Gregg Toland as Teresa Wright’s accomplice in manufacturing the luminance of William Wyler’s 1946 film, Best Years of Our Lives. If anyone is unfamiliar with Toland’s name, you’ve certainly seen his work. He’s the cinematographer responsible for Citizen Kane, The Best Years of Our Lives, Wuthering Heights, and The Grapes of Wrath. He could be considered as much of an auteur as many of the great directors, leaving a fairly recognizable stamp on anything bearing his name. Orson Welles cemented his legacy when he decided to share his title card with Toland at the end of Kane.
Anyway, Toland came to mind earlier and it made me think about how, among his innumerable virtues, his most important skill was his ability to adapt. It’s fascinating to see how his trademarks (deep focus, risky lighting, etc.) shifted to suit whatever director he worked with.
Deep focus existed before Toland, but he taught the world to see it as an extension of the cinematic language. As the best filmmakers do, he used the camera to define the emotional implications of the script. In Citizen Kane, Toland’s methods suggested the deep tragedy of the film and helped the audience to understand Charles Foster Kane merely by looking at him. You could probably watch Kane on mute and still comprehend the characterization.
At his best, Toland told the story with his camera. Deep focus is used to isolate characters in Kane – detailing their proportion to the world around them. Characters occupy different parts of the screen depending their emotional status. But in Best Years of Our Lives, deep focus is used to bring characters together.
By the time The Best Years of Our Lives rolled around, Toland was secure in his technique. His impeccable style and clarity adjusted to combine brilliantly with William Wyler's organizational fixation. When Al returns home and so timidly walks into his own home (after ringing the doorbell, no less), he embraces his wife about 20 feet away from the camera, down a long hallway. They are nicely in focus and so are their children, standing 5 feet away.
By comparing Toland's use of deep focus in Best Years of Our Lives with something like Kane, we begin to notice how his gift wasn't only in choosing lenses – it was in his wisdom of when and how to use them. With Wyler, Toland used the device to synchronize with his organizational instinct and his obsession with neatness. Welles, on the other hand, encouraged deep focus to occupy a component of Kane's megalomania, to follow him down the barrel of the gun. Same method. Two wildly different results.
Hey everybody! It’s Matt.
Five years have passed since we last heard from Paul Thomas Anderson, but he returns on September 14th with The Master, a movie that has been the object of considerable anticipation related to a few surprise screenings and its subject matter. Anderson’s phalanx of adoring fans has already started to speculate on The Master’s Oscar potential. While it is meaningless to start daydreaming about Anderson’s acceptance speech before we've seen the movie, there are several reasons to get excited about The Master.
Above all, it is crucial to recognize that Anderson has managed to improve with every project. He has progressed from the boisterous creative ecstasy of Boogie Nights, Hard Eight, and Magnolia to the tight formal elegance of Punch-Drunk Love and There Will Be Blood. There Will Be Blood, one of the many great films released in 2007, is especially notable for its visual and thematic maturity. Anderson used a careful system of symmetries and visual rhymes to hold together the sprawling, epic subject.
In this video essay, I demonstrate how Paul Thomas Anderson communicates his ideas. The video is graciously hosted by IndieWire’s Press Play. Be sure to head over and check out a brief introduction. Special thanks to Matt Zoller Seitz, someone I really look up to, for his assistance.