On November 9, 1984, Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street opened in American theaters and changed the movie industry forever. Serving as a bridge between the primal ferocity of Craven’s earlier work (Last House on the Left, The Hills Have Eyes) and the visually expressive professionalism of his later films (The Serpent and the Rainbow, The People Under the Stairs, Red Eye), Elm Street also introduced one of the most iconic horror movie villains of all time and put New Line Cinema on the map. A make-or-break production for New Line and its founder, Bob Shaye, A Nightmare on Elm Street established a new franchise for the company and enabled an expansion that would lead to decades of important… Read more
Recently announced as a European Capital of Culture for 2016, the picturesque western Polish city of Wroclaw (actually pronounced Vrotz-wav, thus rendering the title pun sadly unworkable) welcomed an extremely distinguished guest for its fifth annual American Film Festival: none other than flying POTUS Barack Obama. Well, it seemed so for a moment, but appearances can be deceptive. A closer look revealed the man to be Louis Ortiz, top Barack-alike and star of Ryan Murdock’s enjoyable Bronx Obama, which screened as part of the festival’s documentary slate. The personable Ortiz’s social ubiquity made for a pleasingly incongruous addition to a festival which, to many, might sound precisely that. “Why is there an American Film Festival in Poland?” I was asked… Read more
John Wick‘s primary premise is lots of well-crafted action delivered by veteran stuntpeople-turned-directors finally given free rein to make sure their work is optimally served. Co-directors David Leith and Chad Stahelski deliver on this front: it doesn’t take much time before retired hitman Wick (Keanu Reeves) is sufficiently angered to leave his New Jersey pad, head into NYC (more inferred than seen) and unleash mayhem in a hotel, club and church. No one is going to confuse 50-year-old Keanu Reeves for prime Jet Li, but he’s more than credible in walking through each point of contact and delivering body blows. The camera and editing maintain spatial coherence at all time, with no juddery shaky-cam to obscure motion. My praise stops… Read more
“The term ‘deranged sociopath’ gets thrown around a lot by the media these days,” Arsenio Hall said in 1989 when introducing Jason Voorhees on his show, “but it really applies to my next guest.” This was the year of Friday the 13th Part 8: Jason Takes Manhattan, and a peak-of-his-popularity Jason came out to a nice round of applause. Then he sat down and sat behind his expressionless mask barely moving while Arsenio fired off a barrage of questions to the silent hulk. “I see all your movies man, and you know what I’ve noticed?” No response. “You’re angry.” It’s good TV for lighter Halloween fare.
“How do you show character choice,” wonders Tony Zhou in this abridged version of his popular “Every Frame a Painting” essay series. Void of melodramatic “there’s no turning back” declarations, Zhou points towards Snowpiercer as a film that is constantly conveying its protagonists’ decision making process through right and left camera looks. Just as effective, if not a touch more subtle than its vocalized counterpart. Be forewarned: massive spoilers ahead.
Here’s a clip from A.J. Edwards’ feature debut, The Better Angels, which opens November 7th. Edwards has been part of the Terrence Malick team since 2005, when he was an editorial intern on The New World and camera operator for the making of, and critics haven’t been slow to pick up on his mentor’s voice inflecting his feature debut. The Better Angels focuses on Abraham Lincoln’s childhood years, and in this clip you can see Malick’s influence in about five seconds: the Steadicam camera tracks relentlessly through the forest as young Abe arrives at his new log cabin home in the woods. (No voiceover though.)
The nice thing about Gregg Araki’s movies is that he genuinely believes that teen horniness is not a crime: not for him Larry Clark’s pseudo-alarmed prurience or a Lifetime movie’s worth of dire consequences trailing teen sexuality. White Bird in a Blizzard‘s narrator/not-quite-heroine Kat Connors (Shaleine Woodley) is in the midst of an inexplicably celibate stretch in a hormonally-drenched first sexual relationship with neighbor Phil (Shiloh Fernandez) when her mother Eve (Eva Green) mysteriously disappears. Kat’s sexuality contributes neither to unearned guilt or poor decisions, and her relationship with the older investigating detective Scieziesciez (Thomas Jane) is never a source of trouble; the coming-of-age and mystery plotlines coexist, seemingly without many reverberations between the two until the very end. Bluntly… Read more
“Lenses are extremely delicate and have to be handled carefully, just like they are alive,” a Fuji factory worker says in this video from the company that will walk you through the entire process of making XF series lenses. All the steps are briefly touched upon, from mold pressing to coating, lens barrel processing, surface finishing, assembling, measuring, engraving, and finally packaging and shipping. Process and gear junkies, this one’s for you.
“Stop motion interpolation!” is the call on a Change.org petition urging TV manufacturers to disable the default “smooth motion” setting on new televisions. As the petition explains, “Motion Interpolation was an effect that was created to reduce motion blur on HDTVs but a very unfortunate… Read more
I am at Mystic Journey Bookstore in Venice during my very first trip to Los Angeles, feeling appropriately like a Lost Angel. My close friend Marjon has fled New York, not for beachy weekends but for a career opportunity. With our trendy Intelligentsia coffees in… Read more
Nominees were announced this morning for the 24th Annual Gotham Independent Film Awards by IFP, with Richard Linklater’s Boyhood receiving the most nominations, including Best Picture. Birdman received two awards, including Best Director (for Alejandro G. Iñárritu) and Best Actor (Michael Keaton). The Best Picture… Read more
Gone Girl marks d.p. Jeff Cronenweth’s fourth feature film collaboration with David Fincher, a stretch that began with Fight Club in 1999 and has continued through The Social Network and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. (He also worked 2nd and 3rd unit on Se7en… Read more