My 10 Favorite Films of 2014

February 20, 2015 Leave a comment

My goal is to always get a top ten list done by Oscar time. With the Academy’s big day right around the corner, I’m keeping this short and to the point. I wasn’t blown away by 2014’s film offerings. Sorry. I seem to be in the minority, but there were a lot of disappointments, a lot of films I just liked and only a few that I really loved. My list last year took a good long while to curate. This one… not so much.

But all that mediocrity doesn’t take anything away from these movies! They stand up on their own as impressive works, and not just because they look good in comparison to Boyhood, the most staggeringly overrated hunk of garbage I’ve seen in a long, long time. As Delroy Lindo once said in Get Shorty, “I’ve seen better film on teeth.”

Now’s not the time to dwell on nostalgic horseshit, however. We’ll

leave that to Richard Linklater. No, now is the time for my ten favorite films of 2014. I won’t go deep into descriptions since all of these movies have been out a good long while, but I’ll do my best to sell them in a couple of lines for those Read more…


In Memory of Mike Nichols (1931-2014)

November 20, 2014 Leave a comment

Mike Nichols became one of my favorite filmmakers right around the time I started college. I’d always loved several of his movies before then — The BirdcageRegarding Henry and Wolf were childhood favorites of mine — but Nichols’ work really took on new meaning for me later on. The impetus was — brace for a cliche — The Graduate. I’d hate myself for writing it if it wasn’t so goddamn true.

It doesn’t get much more trite than a college freshman relating to The Graduate, but that’s the story. I’d actually seen the movie several years earlier, easily pre-high school, so it’s not like I wasn’t familiar with it or its cultural impact. My first round with The Graduate all those years back just wasn’t anything special. I liked it. I found it funny and I thought Anne Bancroft’s performance was amazing, but that’s about where it stopped. My re-watch, however, was a different story. I watched as a young (but not THAT young) Dustin Hoffman as Ben Braddock moved his way uncomfortably through a party at his parents’ house, fielding empty questions about his future from people who don’t particularly care. They all think they have answers for the young man, of course (“plastics” is obviously the most memorable and hilarious). I think that Read more…

In Memory of Gordon Willis (1931-2014)

Well, this is sad news. With film stock itself knocking on death’s door, a true master of the art of cinematography has now died. Gordon Willis was 82.

I can’t say anything about his astounding career that hasn’t already been said. I’m just a melancholy fan, even though he hadn’t worked on a film in 17 years. When he was working, it was almost always with directors of the highest caliber. Great directors know how to pick the best cinematographers, which is why Willis’ name is attached to so many classics. Francis Ford Coppola and Woody Allen, men whose movies helped define 1970s film, looked to Read more…

My Thoughts on ‘Nymphomaniac: Vol. I’

March 13, 2014 1 comment

I’ve never met Lars von Trier. There are many obvious reasons for that, but I’m not sure I’d even take the opportunity if it came up. I don’t think I’m going out on a limb by saying that his public persona is that of an insufferable prick. Maybe it’s calculated, maybe it’s not – reports of his bouts with depression do help explain some of his bizarre behavior. And that darkness certainly explains his films. Anyone who saw Dogville knows it wasn’t made by a director with a sunny disposition.

His latest, Nymphomaniac: Vol. I, is every bit as twisted and depraved as anything he’s ever made (Vol. II releases in April, so I may be speaking too soon). But after he felt the wrath of the press and public a few years back due to some bizarre comments at a press conference, he no longer comes across as an angry, misanthropic

Image via

Looking for strangers on a train… (Image via

auteur. Amazingly, with this most recent film, he seems to be having a lot of fun. And I had a lot of fun watching it… but it still hurts, so don’t say I didn’t warn you.

If there were movie rental stores left, the title would certainly make most any passerby take notice and pick up the box (remember those days? Barely). Much like von Trier’s 2009 masterpiece, Antichrist, the title is a bit mysterious, salacious and probably offensive to some. That being said, anyone who has seen a von Trier film before knows that the provocative title is only a tiny hint at the insanity/violence/sex to come.

Read more…

My 10 Favorite Films of 2013

February 24, 2014 3 comments
image via

12 Years a Slave image via

Well, my goal to create a list of my favorite films of 2013 BEFORE the Oscar telecast on March 5th has finally been met. Many are touting ’13 as one of the more memorable years for film in recent memory, and I’d have to agree. As soon as the fall/winter awards season arrived, it seemed as if one interesting film after another was out every weekend. That’s the way it should be — it’s not called “awards season” for nothing — but 2013 was extra impressive.

Auteurs really made their mark. Directors like Scorsese, Allen, Jonze, Greengrass and Payne showed off why they’re so highly regarded as artists. It was a great year of some career-best performances from people like Cate Blanchett, Hugh Jackman, Matthew McConaughey and Michael Read more…

My Thoughts on ‘The Canyons’

August 5, 2013 4 comments

Seemingly against all odds, The Canyons has arrived. I’ve been morbidly anticipating the film for quite a while now, so I sat down and ordered the movie through IFC on demand. This instant gratification method of watching films fits with the theme of the movie and it’s exactly what attracted veteran filmmaker Paul Schrader to the project. While promoting The Canyons, he’s talked extensively about the wonder of VOD and the death of big budget studio films. Even Spielberg and Lucas have chimed in as of late about the bloated tent-pole flicks and their imminent demise. I believe that’s what’s referred to as irony…

Anyway, Schrader has never really made “studio” pictures, though he has made bona fide classics, and writer Bret Easton Ellis doesn’t exactly practice in mainstream fare. To quote him via his Twitter feed, “Coldness. Amorality. Deadness. Vicious and Unsympathetic Characters. Read more…

My 10 Favorite Screenplays from the WGA’s List of the 101 Greatest

February 27, 2013 2 comments

Lists may be arbitrary, but they’re also a lot of fun. They’re also quite difficult to form for anyone who has a real passion (e.g. movies) and the listing process turns into an arduous affair consisting of many drafts.

For the past eight years, the Writer’s Guild of America has been collecting top 10 lists from its members in order to compile the 101 Greatest Screenplays. It’s one of the more enjoyable lists I’ve read because my favorite films are typically ones which I think are expertly written, which is why I’m generally bored by comic book films and anything that Michael Bay puts out with Shia LaWhateverHisNameIs. A well written film should not only be great to watch but great to just listen to as well. For instance, I’d love listening to Manhattan on my iPod, but Independence Day would be insufferable on my car stereo while driving cross country.

Many of the screenplays on the WGA’s list are utterly brilliant and I don’t take issue Read more…