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Entries in Directors (139)

Thursday
May302013

The Decline and Fall of M. Night Shyamalan

Hi, Tim here. This weekend sees the release of After Earth, the latest of 2013’s surprisingly well-stocked slate of post-apocalyptic sci-fi thrillers, starring Will and Jaden Smith. These are all things that are proudly trumpeted by the ad campaign. What is conspicuously not trumpeted, proudly or otherwise, is the identity of the film’s director M. Night Shyamalan, who for the first time since his gigantic 1999 breakthrough The Sixth Sense is not mentioned by name in the ad campaign for his latest feature.

This is, undoubtedly, because Shyamalan been steadily pissing away audience goodwill almost since the moment he started earning it, with each new film he’s made being widely regarded as worse than the one preceding it (a steady downward trend on Metacritic, down with just a single blip up on Rotten Tomatoes). With After Earth appearing to flatten or slightly reverse this trend, it’s as good a time as any to explore the exact shape of Shyamalan’s fall in such a relatively short time, trying to figure out exactly how the man anointed as “The Next Spielberg” at a tender age ended up becoming one of modern cinephilia’s greatest punchlines.

THE SIXTH SENSE (1999): Wunderkind

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Thursday
May092013

Hit Me With Your Best Shot: "Summertime"

For this week's episode of Best Shot, the collective series in which bloggers are invited to choose their favorite image from a pre-selected movie, we went to Italy for David Lean's Summertime (1955) starring Katharine Hepburn. The film won both of them Oscar nominations, for Direction and Acting respectively, and since I'd never seen it it fills in two Oscar gaps in my 1950s cinema.

It's a relatively modest picture all told, concerned not with big sweeping travelogue beauty (though the travelogue beauty is accounted for) but with an internal flowering. Spinster Katharine Hepburn goes to Italy, goes a little wild (well, wild for an American spinster from Akron Ohio), and then -- spoiler alert -- leaves Italy again. It's all very E.M. Forster really! (See A Room With a View and Where Angels Fear to Tread).

She was coming to Europe to find something. It was way back in the back of her mind was something she was looking for, a wonderful mystical magical miracle. I guess to find what she'd been missing all her life."

My runner up shot comes early in the picture and I include it because I love the way it dialogues with my favorite image at the movie's end. Jane Hudson has just arrived at her summer home, and she has a conversation with her landlady about a girl she met on the way to Italy. She describes in detail the reasons the girl is travelling abroad. Jane is too guileless to be talking about herself in the third person but she is, in essence, talking about herself, whether or not she knows it. She's also prophesying her own journey including an amusing a "let loose a bit" comment that Katharine waves off with prudish modesty.

I find the light in this sequence quite astute. The women are not in silhouette exactly -- the scene is about Jane, after all, rather than Italy -- but Italy is bright and beckoning anyway. She's not really looking at Italy... not yet at least... wrapped up as she is in connecting with other people (she hopes to make friends) and her own internal possibilities. 

I often find Hepburn a little too fussy as an actress -- particularly in her later work -- but I think she's marvelous in key scenes here really capturing Jane's internal battle between her desire to connect and her own internal nature. Even in the scenes which are very much about her attraction to Renalto (Rosanno Brazzi) she's often just looking off into space and, one assumes, her own thoughts. Jane's just not very good at connecting for as much as she'd like to. She has too many fussy walls up.

I think that's why I found the final scene so moving, despite not particularly caring for the movie. My choice for best shot comes with the film's ending. Jane has opted to leave Italy and Romantic Love behind. She likens it to leaving a party before she's worn out her welcome. It's common sense really given the circumstances of the affair but you hurt for her for giving up the thing she's always wanted and you have to wonder if it isn't partially fear and retreat to a safer lonelier home. Whether or not Jane will be more open to love after the movie is up for debate. Yet in that sudden alarming lurch outward to wave goodbye one last time to Renato (but really, to Italy and Love) I think Hepburn's gestural performance provides a marvelous clue. If returning to Ohio is, in fact, a comfort zone retreat why does her body move with such spirited abandon? 

Next Week
We're staying in Italy for The Talented Mr Ripley (1999). You know you want to sound off on that one. So join us, will ya?

14 More People Summering in Italy with Hepburn
Amiresque is overwhelmed by architecture
Encore's World on the quintessential 'spinster' performance from Hepburn 
Antagony & Ecstasy wants to talk about Aspect Ratios... and perceptions of "low points"
The Film's The Thing a Cinderella of a certain age 
Cinema Enthusiast goes to a real ball with gardenias
We Recycle Movies on David Lean's undeniable obsession with trains 
Pussy Goes Grrr this is how you stage a breakup 
Cinesnatch really goes all out with shot commentary, contrasts and travelogue beauty 
Film Actually has coffee -- or doesn't rather -- with Hepburn 
She Blogged By Night picks the first shot I think we've ever seen in this series devoted to an extra. It's beautiful! 
Los Mejores Planos gives out gold, silver and bronze medals for his favorite shots 
Cal Roth sees Jane's secret sensuality
Dancin' Dan on the scene that makes the movie 
My New Plaid Pants memories of Italy come flooding back 

Saturday
May042013

New Oscar Predix! (And What Of Consecutive Nomination Heat?)

As I was constructing the new Best Picture charts -- yes, they're finally up. Have a looksie -- it occurred to me that I was foolishly betting against a lot of regular Oscar players. Why couldn't I find room for, say, George Clooney (Monuments Men), Joel Coen & Ethan Coen (Inside Llewyn Davis), and Martin Scorsese (Wolf of Wall Street), for example? The answer came in three parts.

Silver Linings Playbook + The Fighter ÷ 1970s = American Hustle

 

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Apr162013

Links: Moore Film History of the Damned, Bro

T Magazine on Julianne Moore as an "informer" of human nature
Elusive Lucidity "film history, bro"
Press Play a conversation about morality and religion in the filmography of the Coen Bros 
My New Plaid Pants I've been curious about this Kiss of the Damned movie -- I used to try to see every vampire flick (the only kind of horror you could always find me at) but then there were too many of them and the fascination wore off -- but Jason reviews it for us. 
My New Plaid Pants somehow I almost missed that JA wrote up his whole fascinating ballot on our...
"Best New Directors of the 21st Century"... in case you missed that whole talking point

Gothamist Stars. They're just like us. Julia Stiles rides the subway, too.
Observations on Film Art David Bordwell on Ebertfest regular C.O. "Doc" Erickson, eyewitness to classic film history with notes on Alfred Hitchcock, The Misfits and more...

Back to that T Magazine Juli profile again for a hot minute. a hot red minute.

Photograph by Inez and Vinoodh.

On a scale of 1-∞ how much do you love her? Whatever your answer is it's one degree less than my love at least! I claimed her in 1995 after [safe]! (Also she has the world's best publicist maybe, right? Even when her movies are On Demand - The English Teacher - she commands attention in the media)

Saturday
Apr132013

Posterized: Terrence Malick

Until only very recently Terrence Malick, born in the North but raised in the Southwest, was something like a ghost of the cinema. Gone but not forgotten but still not numbered amongst the living. Or he was, at the least, something like an Auteurist Brigadoon, emerging from the ether once every hundred years before vanishing again. But ever since The Tree of Life (2011) he's been working non-stop. I've no idea what changed for the man but the cinematic landscape is all the better for it. Or at least the prettier for it. The man does consecrate the natural world with his camera. 

To date Malick has made six features. How many have you seen? 

Badlands (1973) | Days of Heaven (1978) | The Thin Red Line (1998)

The New World (2005) | The Tree of Life (2011) | To The Wonder (2013)

His filmmography may jump to nine in no time. He has three movies that are supposedly done filming: Voyage of Time with narration by Brad Pitt & Emma Thompson;  Knight of Cups with Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett and Natalie Portman; and something still Untitled that used to be known as Lawless with those same three actors and more. I sometimes suspect that the latter two are the same movie and the shroud of secrecy that covers the Malick Mystique has only confused and multipied it in the minds of movie websites everywhere.  

Anyway, back to the now. Will you see To the Wonder despite the uncharacteristically negative reviews? And are those reviews worrisome since he's working at such an uncharacteristic Woody/Clint clip these days?

Tuesday
Apr092013

Reader Spotlight: Douglas Reese

Douglas gets into the Spring Breakers spiritReader Spotlights continue as we get to know The Film Experience community. This time we're talking to filmmaker Douglas Reese. 

Hi Douglas! We started talking because of Spring Breakers for which you wrote a really impassioned review. What other movies do you think are misunderstood or underappreciated? 

DOUGLAS: I find myself defending panned movies all the time. Even when I actively dislike a movie, I can't bring myself to not at least value one aspect of it - whether it be technical or on the level of camp. The horror genre is largely looked down upon unless a respected auteur is behind the movie or if it's more connected with drama. I can't for the life of me see how the ambitiousness of Rob Zombie's films goes unnoticed. His stuff just has a strong sense of style and ownership. His Halloween II film may be one of the trippiest slasher flicks ever made. I also like HellBent because of its engaging wit and then there's I Know Who Killed Me which is, like, the best Dario Argento movie that guy didn't direct. I feel Freddy Got Fingered is misunderstood - it's got a very sick sense-of-humor, but I find myself laughing and feeling disgusted with every comedic setpiece in it. It's just so bizarre and there's never been anything like it before. Southland Tales is a movie I also feel should be focused on a bit more. Even if the movie is a bloated, messy, weird piece of work - I can't think of a more biting satire of American tropes since Showgirls up until Spring Breakers came along. Also, speaking of foursome female leads with one of them being Vanessa Hudgens, Sucker Punch was wildly inventive so I'm naturally perplexed by the strong hate it gets. It's not often a Hollywood-funded blockbuster can also be consider arthouse.

Why do you read TFE?

The Film Experience was always easily one of my favorite Oscar sites (along with the now deseased StinkyLulu) not only because of my strong love for Nicole Kidman but, you were never afraid to admit that there are good camp films out there to enjoy. I always appreciate those who don't feel like the most technically impressive films are necessarily the greatest ever made. And I also enjoy how connected you have always been with your readers.

Thanks and yesssss Nicole Kidman. 
No other actress, for me, defines the physical beauty that the camera can contain within a frame and still invoke work that is as stylistically different and well-rounded as hers. My absolute favorite.


Anyone else?
Behind her it's easily Shelley Duvall and her quirky, highly original work in the films of Robert Altman throughout the 70s and her undervalued brilliance that was Wendy Torrence in 
The Shining. Behind them I'd go with Anna Karina - who, without a doubt, brought a sincerity to her character work in Godard's films; even when he obviously intended to just create his typical ciphers. 

What's your first movie memory?

I recall quite vividly watching Disney's Pinnocchio in my diapers early in the morning at my grandma's farmhouse and finding it amusing and frightening. I'm grateful that movie still stands up for me today, because even now it's a totally wonderful experience to endure. Other than that, can I have another rewatch of Hocus Pocus, please? I don't think I've seen that enough.

You make films but your IMDb page is all mixed up with someone else's. What are we going to do about that?

Douglas filming Douglas

I'm not sure why my stuff is on IMDb in the first place. Almost everything on there is experimental no-budget work I've done since 2008. I think they may have assumed I was this Douglas Reese guy who was on "The Dating Game" in the 1980s and just added my work to his credit. Over on MUBI, I offered them to add my work to their catalog and they happily did - and thus born quite a lot of positive (and negative) feedback for some of my stuff, so maybe I really should get the IMDb fiasco fixed? I just don't like to think of myself as a total professional filmmaker, because that's not why I make my films in the first place. My filmmaking aesthetic would definitely be that I'm not really wanting to make technically polished work, but films that capture how I'm feeling about certain things; social or personal. My film Cleaners, for example, was me wanting to capture a kind of American lifestyle currently going on that most people don't want to realize, so it was more social - but something like my movie Snake is otherwise interested in capturing this feeling of dread and depression that I was going through at that time in my life. I just love, more or less than anything, the concept of human suffering and want to showcase how incredible misery can be.

Cheers! Thanks for chatting Douglas.

Previous Spotlights

Tuesday
Mar192013

Curio: David Collier's Squiggles

Alexa here. David Collier is a Canadian artist who makes, amongst other things, interesting portraits in ink and watercolor. His lines and squiggles form fractured likenesses of the famous that are pretty fascinating. Most look to be single line drawings, or close to single line drawings, a technique that works well for all those expressive lines and crevices.  Check out his website for drawings of everyone from Dylan to Dostoevsky. 

 

Al Pacino

You can buy prints and mugs at his etsy shop. Here are some of the actors and directors he's captured. Meryl, Hitchcock, Woody and more after the jump...

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