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Entries in Directors (207)

Wednesday
Jul202016

Garry Marshall (1934-2016)

One of Hollywood's key figures passed away yesterday at the age of 81. His work in the past five years has consisted of a string of critically lambasted all star romcoms (Valentines Day, New Year's Eve, Mothers Day) and the day before he died one of the many actor he made famous (Scott Baio of Happy Days Joanie Loves Chachi fame) embarrassed himself on national television at the RNC. To put it bluntly, the last few years have not been kind but this is not the legacy that the beloved Garry Marshall deserves. We need to look a little further back. While he was never exactly a critic's darling - let's not rewrite history -- his work often resonated wildly with the public on screens both small and large. And that, my friends, is no small thing with or without a shelf of showbiz trophies.

He was a mammoth figure in comedy television, first, coming up as a writer on seminal shows like The Dick Van Dyke Show and famous properties like The Lucy Show. After developing The Odd Couple for television (1970-1975) he created three true pop culture behemoths in Happy Days (1974-1984), Laverne & Shirley (1976-1983) and Mork & Mindy (1978-1982), the latter introducing the public to Robin Williams with whom they fell madly in love.

In the movies, and this is also no small thing, he was irreplaceable when it came to the careers of mainstream superstar actresses in both the 1980s and 1990s. He directed one of Goldie Hawn's most enduring hits (Overboard), one of Bette Midler's melodramatic bests (Beaches) and he was instrumental in the superstar blossoming of both Julia Roberts (Pretty Woman, Runaway Bride) and Anne Hathaway (The Princess Diaries). He also guided Michelle Pfeiffer through one of her most controversial roles  (Frankie & Johnny) but even though everyone argued miscasting she made fine work of it. He even tried to help Lindsay Lohan along (Georgia Rule) but it's hardly his fault that that didn't take. He was not without his missteps of course (Raising Helen, The Other Sister, Exit to Eden) but who isn't? 

My personal favorite Garry Marshall movie, BEACHES (1988)Laverne & Shirley starring his sister Penny (who also became a director)

Do you have a favorite film or television show from his resume? There are a lot of choices as his work was so deeply embedded in our pop culture for decades on end. 

Friday
Jul152016

Yes No Maybe So: "Loving"

As far as first looks go, the La La Land trailer might have sucked all the air out of the room this week, but we also got a trailer for another Oscar hopeful: Cannes entry Loving. It left Cannes empty handed for prizes, but there was pletny of praise for the film and buzz for leading lady Ruth Negga. You can bank we'll be talking about this one before it finally arrives stateside in November all the way to the big show.

While that transfixing glimpse at Land was more a feast for the eyes and ears, the Loving trailer goes right for the heart. I know I'm higher on Jeff Nichols than most of Team Experience, so I can admit that I'm a little biased on the film already, even if I agree that his other film this year Midnight Special was his weakest. After flirting with fable and genre in his past three films, how will a more straight forward narrative work for the auteur this time?

Does the trailer make us any more or less excited? Let's break it down after the jump...

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Jul072016

Steven Soderbergh's Comeback

Steven Soderbergh is retired no more. The director, who had previously announced Side Effects (2013) as his last feature film, is making two movies in the next year or so. It was just announced that he will be directing a feature film about The Panama Papers, the leaked documents which revealed how many of the super-rich employ legal, but dodgy accounting systems to avoid taxation. Even some luminaries in the film world (Emma Watson, Pedro Almodovar and the estate of Stanley Kubrick) were named in that scandal. The film will be based on Secrecy World, a to-be-published book by the Pulitzer prize-winning reporter Jake Bernstein. The adaptation will be written by frequent Soderbergh collaborator Scott Z Burns (Contagion, Side Effects, The Informant!).

Sounds like another Contagion, no? Taking a global incident and examining it from different points of view. Before that he will make Ocean’s Fourteen -- well not exactly, but Logan Lucky is a crime thriller with an all star cast set in one location. Sound familiar? This time there’s no Clooney or Pitt but we will get Channing Tatum, Daniel Craig, Adam Driver, Katherine Heigl, Hilary Swank, Riley Keough, Seth MacFarlane and Katherine Waterston and the NASCAR race in North Carolina as the heist location.

Soderbergh never really retired of course. He became prolific on TV, directing The Knick and gifting us with Behind the Candelabra. He recently produced The Girlfriend Experience which raised Riley Keough’s profile so it fits that she’ll be part of his new movie. And let's not forget that he was the cinematographer on Magic Mike XXL. But with these two projects announced he’s now a full time feature films director again. Are you excited for his return?

Wednesday
Jul062016

Interview: That Neon-Loving Demon, Nicolas Winding Refn

Nicolas Winding Refn. Photographed by Tom Hoops for Lab MagazineNicolas Winding Refn, the Danish auteur whose made a career of candy colored violent films after grimier movies at home, is both exactly what you'd expect and unexpected. The expected: he's a little bit eccentric pacing the room rather than sitting, a little intimidating, and a little impish -- it's difficult to know if he truly means what he says in some instances, or if he has just mastered the art of provocation. The unexpected: he's relatively friendly, surprisingly generous about his collaborators despite the auteur's ego, very tall, thin and surprisingly attractive, something you wouldn't necessarily think since he's so often been photographed with inhuman gods like Ryan Gosling who make everyone but other movie stars look crumpled and basic.

As we talk we find mutual ground in Christina Hendricks adoration ("the perfect woman," he says) but elsewhere it's like he's speaking a foreign language and I don't mean Danish. His films, though quite serious on the surface, betray a dark sense of humor, and yet it still surprises me to hear him drop "I think it would be fun to make a spy movie" as we're saying our goodbyes. Why is this surprising? I couldn't quite tell you but such is the fascination of meeting this singular director, whatever you make of his increasingly divisive movies.

Our interview follows....

NATHANIEL: Let's talk about your opening scene. It's such a bold tableau. Did you ever worry you were coming on too strong. Like 'how will I top that first image?'

NICOLAS WINDING REFN: I'm setting the stage knowing that, if you look through the film, you'll see the same dynamic in all the other scenes of death and beauty.

NATHANIEL: So you're laying the theme.

NWR: I'm laying the theme right on. Most films -- storytelling in mass media -- start slowly, introducing. Eventually it gets to some kind of dramatic point in the first act. That means the second act is how do we solve it and the third act is resolution. But i don't necessarily believe that's the right order...

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Jul062016

Michael Cimino & the Best Director Oscar Since

Eric here with thinking about the past 40 years of Oscars Best Director category.

This past Saturday, director Michael Cimino passed away at age 77.  Cimino won the Best Director Oscar for 1978’s The Deer Hunter, beating Woody Allen (Interiors), Hal Ashby (Coming Home), Warren Beatty and Buck Henry (Heaven Can Wait), and Alan Parker (Midnight Express).  While those five actual films are of varying quality, the names behind them are all heavyweights and it was formidable company.

The Deer Hunter was a divisive film upon its release and remains so today (praised for its leisurely-paced first half and its capture of inexpressive male friendship; criticized for the Russian Roulette melodrama and its depiction of the Vietnamese). With The Deer Hunter, Cimino aimed to make something epic and classically Greek in its storytelling, and watching the film you can actually feel his young talent. Cimino next famously (infamously?) went on to direct 1980’s Heaven’s Gate, a film of disastrous proportions that has been covered ad nauseum as one of cinema’s biggest catastrophes.  He directed four more films after that, none to any significant acclaim, the last one released 20 years ago.   

It’s interesting to look over the list of the men (and one woman) who have won the Best Director Oscar since Cimino in 1978 to see where their careers have gone...

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Jun282016

Best Shot: Alfred Hitchcock's To Catch a Thief (1955) 

To Catch a Thief (1955) is minor Hitchcock. Let's get that out of the way. But even minor works by an indisputed master can look awfully major when you stack them next to regular ol' films which is why we keep hitting Hitchcock in this series. There's a clickbait article going around (no I'm not linking) that argues that The Shallows (Blake Lively vs shark) is a better film than The Birds (Tippi Hedren vs, well, birds). Which is crazy talk but film twitter always always takes the bait.

True story: the last two films I screened were The Shallows (2016) and To Catch a Thief (1953) and I would have never thought to pair them until this silly shark vs birds kerfuffle which erupted immediately after I had just seen both of the movies. Truth bomb: The Shallows is a really good "B" movie (I don't mean grade, but yes: B) but it's awfully slight. It's just girl, shark, a few good scares, smart direction, and not much meat to chew on beyond "wow, that was kinda good." To Catch a Thief is a pretty good "A" movie (I don't mean grade) and it's somewhat slight. But here's the thing. People aren't going to be talking about The Shallows in 2070. Please note: People are still talking about Hitchcock's entire oeuvre a half-century plus later.

Even in a trifle like To Catch a Thief, which is maybe too long considering it's shy on plot and stakes, is a joy to watch for a number of reasons, the first of which is its surprisingly robust sense of humor. [More...]

Click to read more ...

Friday
Jun102016

Posterized: Duncan Jones

Duncan Jones has had a tumultuous few years so we wanted to honor him with a quick Posterized today. In January the 45 year old filmmaker lost his father David Bowie (he's the superstar's only son). His first child is due this month. His other new baby, the long-gestating video game big screen adaptation Warcraft is getting savaged by the critics.

And yet...

It wasn't so long ago that he was getting 'Hot New Director' drooling from the media, starting off strong with the sci-fi drama Moon. His second film Source Code wasn't as ecstatically received but performed decently. Three films isn't much to go on so we shall maintain high hopes. Do you think he will rally with a fourth film and make good on that initial promise? His next sci-fi film -- he's not straying from his preferred genre -- is called Mute, and stars Alexander Skarsgård as a silent bartender and Paul Rudd as some kind of mysterious doctor.  We don't generally think of Paul Rudd as mysterious but we're willing to give it a shot. (There's some internet speculation that Sam Rockwell will reprise his Moon character -- which would be very intriguing given the ending of Moon -- since Jones has indicated that Mute takes place in the same universe.)

How many of his films have you seen?
And if you've seen the first two, are you planning to hit Warcraft despite the reviews?