Tag: Magnolia

The Ten: Best Actresses of All Time

I’m the fifth person to take up this task. I’m batting post-clean up. I’m the Center on this basketball team. I’m Billy Preston. Here are my progenitors:

I suppose I should tell you what the heck I’m talking about. This is a running list of sorts. A relay race with each blogger removing one actress from a list of the ten best of all time and adding in their own selection. So far Jessica has removed Marilyn Monroe and added Liv Ullmann, Martin Teller has removed Natalie Portman and added Barbara Stanwyck, and Bondo has removed Tilda Swinton and added Emma Thompson. So now I will present the list as I received it and then tell you who I’ll bump and add. Bondo predicted I’ll add a Frank Borzage girl. WILL HE BE RIGHT!?!?! Probably, yes.

The List

Cate Blanchett

Julie Delpy

Katharine Hepburn

Frances McDormand

Julianne Moore

Barbara Stanwyck

Meryl Streep

Emma Thompson

Liv Ullmann

Kate Winslet

Removal

To whom should I bid farewell? I’ve never seen a movie starring Liv Ullmann (I know, I’ll get to Scenes from a Marriage and Persona and all of them at some point), but I can’t kick her out from ignorance. That wouldn’t be fair, I don’t think. So, the others. I’d count Blanchett and Streep and Hepburn among my personal favorites, so they’re safe. Winslet’s performance on Extras (eerily foreshadowing her Oscar win for The Reader) is genius. Emma Thompson has the same last name as me. Stanwyck is in The Lady Eve which is amazing. Julianne Moore is in my current Best Movie Of All Time, Magnolia, and is phenomenal in it. Frances McDormand gives one of the best performances of all time in Fargo, I can’t kick her off knowing that. This leaves us one Julie Delpy. I’ve seen two of her films, but probably not the ones that “count” for things like this. If you’re expecting any of the Three Colors trilogy or Before Sunrise or Before Sunset you will be sadly disappointed. No, I’ve only seen The Three Musketeers and An American Werewolf in Paris. Of those two, I only remember her in the latter. She’s very good, but not good enough to remain on this list. I’m sure I’ll regret this decision once I catch up with those five films, but I’m fine with the decision at the moment. Now, the fun part!

Addition

I could pick a Borzage woman here. There are two supremely awesome actresses that worked with him several times: Janet Gaynor and Margaret Sullavan. Each would rank up with Blanchett and Streep and Hepburn. They’re very capable doing whatever he asks of them. There is, however a problem. Between the two of them I’ve only seen one movie not directed by Borzage. That movie, Ernst Lubitsch’s The Shop Around the Corner starring Margaret Sullavan, is also fantastic, but I feel I should know more of the actress I pick for such a coveted spot. So I reflected back on who was on the list so far. Is there somebody that matches up to the likes of Streep (I don’t foresee her getting the boot any time soon)? And then I remembered my favorite Streep film and one of my favorite films of all time in terms of acting and emotion. That film is Doubt, and there’s one scene in that film that gets to me every time I even think of it because of how powerful it is. The scene is the conversation between Streep’s nun character and the mother of the child who was possibly abused, played by Viola Davis. This scene is about eight minutes long and it is just awesome. Davis is fearless, leaving nothing behind and letting it all hang out there. It’s vulnerable, it’s intense, it’s enough to get her on this list. But she doesn’t stop there! The Help is a movie that got more flack than it deserved and Davis gives a great performance in it, ending up on my year end best list. And she’s given some good supporting performances, too, in films like State of Play and Solaris and Antwone Fisher. She’s good, really good, and I’m fully confident in her spot on this list.

 

Up next is Steve Kimes at Just Another Movie Blog. Good luck! Be our James Harden!

“Some thought required” or, The difference between a trailer and a movie

 

Advertising is legalized lying – H. G. Wells

The trailer for the film adaptation of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close came out earlier this week. The book on which the film is based is one of my favorite books of all time, and the prospect of translating the book to film is an interesting one. The book can be melodramatic and quirky, two words that strike fear into the hearts of many “serious” moviegoers. The people that know a lot about movies and have strong opinions on how they should and should not work. The people that write and read film blogs. The people that turn their nose up at the Oscars and watch them seemingly only to criticize how misguided they are. These people watched the trailer and instantly decided that the film was made to win Oscars and can therefore not be any good. But that’s probably the dumbest thing you can do when it comes to art.

The A.V. Club’s little write-up on the trailer hits all of the critical points here. The director has been nominated for Oscars before, the screenwriter has won an Oscar, and both of the big name stars have won an Oscar. And then they outline the plot in it’s most basic terms, son loses father, finds key, looks for lock. They mention how the WWII subplot seemingly exists to hit that Oscar demographic, building on the 9/11 plotline. And yes, all of these things have won Oscars in some way before, except for 9/11 which only has United 93’s two nominations to it’s pedigree, though we’ll have to excuse that for the relatively short distance between the event and today. If you want to call the film out for having people write and direct and star in it I guess I can’t stop you.

But none of this addresses the actual trailer. And here’s the thing, the trailer isn’t great. It, like the A.V. Club article, only hits the big notes and throws some quirk in there for good measure. It shows none of the WWII plot. It doesn’t show the bulk of the film other than in some quick montage in the middle. It’s really all setup. What it does show is a lot of Tom Hanks, who plays the father that dies on 9/11. A good bit of Hank’s performance is likely captured in this trailer. There’s only a scene or two that isn’t captured here in some way. The trailer plays him up, though, because he’s a big star. And that’s ok, because the one thing we must remember as intelligent filmgoers is that trailers exist to sell the film to the widest group possible. They’re usually not created by the filmmakers and they often use scenes that don’t even end up in the final film. Trailers are not movies, they’re advertisement. They distort the real product into a quick, easily digestible chunk that rarely delves into anything beyond a broad theme or story outline. There are exceptions, of course, Magnolia’s trailer, below, was cut by Paul Thomas Anderson, who also filmed shots specifically for the trailer. But the majority of movie trailers are handled by outside companies that get footage and assemble it into the most basic commercial they can.

When I was a kid I watched a lot of TV, cartoons and the like. All of the commercials were for toys, and most of those commercials came with disclaimers that said, “Real cooking time 10-12 minutes” or, “Some assembly required.” I think movie trailers should take a clue from these toy commercials and start running a little text at the bottom, warning the people watching that these 2 minutes are not necessarily indicative of the full 2 hour experience. And then they can have that guy come on at the end and say things like “Some thought required” to warn us that movies aren’t and shouldn’t be so quickly analyzed and dismissed. Trailers don’t have a great record of accuracy, and you’d think that us “serious” movie people would remember that, but we don’t. Every year there are trailers that don’t make their movies look any good and every year there are some movies with horrible trailers that end up being really great. We should remember that only the movie is the movie, and everything else is meaningless

Top 100 Films: The _1’s

Here we are. The end of the list. Tomorrow I will be posting the entire list in order for your personal files along with some fun statistics. But today check out the final entry in the list proper. Horror, action, western, comedy, drama, canonical, crazy. This list has it all. More than any other segment I think this group is categorized by the ambition of the films. Each is going for something more than your typical movie, and they all get there.

Before you see the rest of the list, please consider subscribing to my blog. There’s a button on the side under “Subscribe here!” and you’ll be updated as soon as I post something new. I’ve changed the feed link, too, so if you’re already subscribed you should make sure you have the up-to-date feed.

91. Scream (1996)

Directed by Wes Craven. Starring Neve Campbell and Courtney Cox

Now Sid, don’t you blame the movies. Movies don’t create psychos. Movies make psychos more creative!

The slasher movie about slasher movies has a billion layers going on. The amazing thing is that they all work. It’s a great slasher, a great meta-movie, and a great meta-slasher-movie. The script by Kevin Williamson is the real star of this movie, with great laughs and screams all over the place.

81. Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010)

Directed by Banksy. Starring Banksy and Thierry Guetta

I think the joke is on… I don’t know who the joke’s on – really. I don’t even know if there is a joke.

This maybe-documentary is not clear about its verisimilitude. What is clear is that it’s a fun movie to watch. Whether Thierry is a real guy or a Bansky creation almost doesn’t matter, because he’s such a compelling weirdo that you can’t look away. As a movie about art it can be a tiny bit preachy, but that’s subverted by the silliness that’s going on throughout.

71. The Proposition (2005)

Directed by John Hillcoat. Starring Ray Winstone and Guy Pearce

I was, in days gone by, a believer. But alas, I came to this beleaguered land, and the God in me just… evaporated. Let us change our toast, sir. To the God who has forgotten us.

Unlike the previous two films, The Proposition is a deadly serious film. One of those new westerns that shows just how horrible the west, or in this case, Australia, would be to live in. Written and scored by Nick Cave, it’s bleak and unpleasant, but masterfully so. And, as you can see by the screenshot, it is a beautiful film to look at.

61. Synecdoche, New York (2008)

Directed by Charlie Kaufman. Starring Philip Seymour Hoffman and Samantha Morton

I will be dying and so will you, and so will everyone here. That’s what I want to explore. We’re all hurtling towards death, yet here we are for the moment, alive. Each of us knowing we’re going to die, each of us secretly believing we won’t.

Some say that Kaufman’s first directorial project suffers from a lack of focus. There’s nobody to tell him no, and the film spirals out of control as it gets bigger and bigger. I don’t disagree. I think that’s what makes it such a great movie. Synecdoche, New York is a messterpiece of the highest order.

51. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

Directed by Stanley Kubrick. Starring Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood

I am putting myself to the fullest possible use, which is all I think that any conscious entity can ever hope to do.

I did not like this movie when I first watched it. It was too slow and the ending made no sense. When I got a Blu-ray player it was one of the first movies I got for it because I heard that it really benefits from being presented in the best possible format. And while I haven’t seen it projected yet, the Blu-ray really made me appreciate everything that was going on. It deserves a place in the canon of sci-fi movies and movies in general.

41. Chinatown (1974)

Directed by Roman Polanski. Starring Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway

But, Mrs. Mulwray, I goddamn near lost my nose. And I like it. I like breathing through it. And I still think you’re hiding something.

Polanski is the king of paranoia. Nicholson is always a step behind everybody else and we as an audience feel the same growing paranoia that he does as he tries to uncover the truth. The stakes get bigger and bigger and we get more and more uncomfortable. It’s great.

31. Princess Mononoke (1997)

Directed by Hayao Miyazaki. Starring Yôji Matsuda and Yuriko Ishida

Look, everyone! This is what hatred looks like! This is what it does when it catches hold of you! It’s eating me alive, and very soon now it will kill me! Fear and anger only make it grow faster!

Based on Japanese folklore and the idea of industrialization and the way it destroys nature, Princess Mononoke is a profound and beautiful film. There’s a lot of melodrama but everything feels earned and true.

21. The Lady Eve (1941)

Directed by Preston Sturges. Starring Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda

You see Hopsi, you don’t know very much about girls. The best ones aren’t as good as you think they are and the bad ones aren’t as bad. Not nearly as bad.

Henry Fonda plays against type here as a hapless snake scientist who falls for a con-woman on a boat back to America. He never has the upper hand in the first half of the movie. The second half turns the tables a bit, and it works most because of the acting because the script asks a lot of the audience. Also, it is hilarious.

11. City of God (2002)

Directed by Fernando Meirelles and Kátia Lund. Starring Alexandre Rodrigues and Matheus Nachtergaele

A kid? I smoke, I snort. I’ve killed and robbed. I’m a man.

City of God is a movie about how much it sucks to grow up in the slums of Rio de Janeiro. It’s a gangster movie of sorts, but the exotic locale and the juxtaposition of people just trying to survive against the people wringing all the power they can out of a crappy situation is an interesting enough dynamic for me to overlook my problems with the genre. It also helps that it is kinetically shot and the main character is a photographer. Hey, I’m easy.

1. Magnolia (1999)

Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. Starring Tom Cruise and Julianne Moore

I’ll tell you everything, and you tell me everything, and maybe we can get through all the piss and shit and lies that kill other people.

While the overwhelming feeling that one associates with Magnolia is probably sadness, I think the ending does a lot to prove that there is room for happiness in a world that is mostly screwed up. Anderson handles ensembles with grace and care, giving each person their due attention. Check this out for more on Magnolia.

The rest of the list:

The _0’s section

The _9’s section

The _8’s section

The _7’s section

The _6’s section

The _5’s section

The _4’s section

The _3’s section

The _2’s section

The _1’s section

30 Day Film Challenge: Day 20 – Your Favorite Romantic Film

Day 20 – Your Favorite Romantic Film

Here’s a nice romance for you and your loved one to watch on a Friday night. Or not. It basically amounts to an Adam Sandler movie if his childish characters lived in the real world instead of his normal, highly stylized habitat. That’s not to say the movie isn’t stylish, of course. This is a PTA film (yes, the third on this list) and his eye for cinematic flair is not lost on this smaller film. Along with Jon Brion’s nearly overbearing score, every frame is composed to make you feel along with Sandler. He does his long takes again (this time we see Sandler talking on a phone-sex line for several uninterrupted minutes) and his camera is never quite settled. But this is a romance! Emily Watson plays the girl that gives Sandler a reason to live when all else seems to have failed him. “I have a love in my life,” he says to his nemesis (played expertly by Phillip Seymour Hoffman in that slimy way he does), “it makes me strong than anything you can imagine.” Here’s a movie where going to Hawaii in pursuit of a girl works out. How is that not romantic?
Notes:

  • This is basically a four person movie. Joining Sandler, Watson, and Hoffman is PTA favorite Louis Guzmán. This guy is always a bunch of fun. He brings the lightness that is sometimes lacking in the rest of the characters.
  • This film is proof that Sandler can really act. PTA likes doing that with his actors (Tom Cruise in Magnolia, Mark Whalberg in Boogie Nights).
  • Trailer! 

30 Day Film Challenge: Day 17 – Your Favorite Drama Film

Day 17 – Your Favorite Drama Film

This movie often filp flops with There Will Be Blood as my favorite movie of all time. Where TWBB is a focused study of a man grabbing at whatever he can to get rich, Magnolia pulls back and looks at a dozen or so LA denizens and how their lives weave in and out of each other’s. It’s not the first movie to do such a thing and it owes a lot of debt to Robert Altman’s Short Cuts in both its form and function. But there’s a kind of craziness that underlies everything. This being PTA’s third film he is mostly allowed to go all out on the filmmaking front. There’s a couple of multi-minute-long shots, the characters take a break in the middle of the film to have a cosmic sing-along, and then there’s the ending. It’s a pretty audacious piece of work but what makes it my favorite drama film is the characters. Like I said earlier there are about a dozen characters and all of the directorial trickery works to make you care about each and every one of them. From Tom Cruise’s woman-hating public speaker to John C. Reilly’s well meaning police officer to Melora Walters’ junkie caught between love and addiction, each of the characters has a full life which we glimpse for only a day. It is one of the best combinations of script, direction, and acting I have ever seen and it never fails to get my tear ducts working. Sometimes it’s Cruise’s confession at his dying father’s bedside or the heartbreaking date between Reilly and Walters that ends with this line, “Now that I’ve met you, would you object to never seeing me again?” or the final, redemptive scene of the film; they knit together to create a dazzling and desperately human work of art.
Notes:

  • I have, for some reason, only seen this film twice. I feel like I should go out and buy it right now. I’ve talked myself into it.
  • As hard as it was for me to not turn this into a Borzage-fest, it will be just as hard to keep all of PTA’s films off the list. There may or may not be another one coming up soon.
  • There were roughly a billion other films I could have chosen for this spot including films like The Assassination of  Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and most of Borzage’s movies and The Searchers and How Green Was My Valley and so on and so forth.
  • LOOK AT THE AWESOME!