Sunday, December 28, 2014

2015 Blind Spot Series

I never knew this series even existed until a month ago. I noticed people pick twelve and do one a month. While that is all cool and dandy, I wanted to go further. So I decided  to pick twenty films that were considered classics and are widely praised in film circles among critics and bloggers as well as filmmakers. 

Also, I want to give a spotlight to exploitation, horror, action, just all around fun genre pictures. So expect a feature on that for next year.

** Indicates the 12 of the 20 I decided I am writing about for sure. While the ones not indicated with the stars are ones I will either pair up with them or write about separately.

Sunrise (1928, F.W. Murnau)**
A silent film classic that is considered to be one of the greats.

Trouble In Paradise (1932, Ernt Lubitsch)
Screwball comedy from Lubitsch. I cannot wait to watch this.

You Can't Take It With You (1938, Frank Capra)
Capra + Stewart. Really enjoyed the other two films they have collaborated on. I need to see more Capra in general.

The Lady Eve (1941, Preston Sturges)**
Continuing my exploration through the work of Preston Sturges. I hope to check out Unfaithfully Yours, Miracle At Morgans Creek and The Palm Beach Story.

Mildred Pierce (1945, Michael Curtiz)
"Hey man, what's that other good film Curtiz did besides Casablanca?" Film noir containing one of Joan Crawford's most talked about performances.

Pickup On South Street (1953, Samuel Fuller)**
Samuel Fuller is slowly and surely becoming one of my favorite directors. His take on film noir should be interesting.

Ugetsu (1953, Kenji Mizoguchi)**
Kurosawa. Ozu. Mizoguchi. Seven Samurai. Tokyo Story. Ugetsu. Required cinema.

Throne of Blood (1957, Akira Kurosawa)
Kurosawa adapts Shakespeare.

Judgment At Nuremberg (1961, Spencer Tracy)
The late 50's and early 60's were the peak of the courtroom drama. 12 Angry Men, Witness to the Prosecution, Anatomy of A Murder, Inherit the Wind, Judgment At Nuremberg, and To Kill A Mockingbird. Of those, bother Stanley Kramer films Inherit the Wind and Judgment At Nuremberg Nuremberg have eluded me. I hope to watch Inherit the Wind soon as well.

Harakiri (1962, Masaki Kobayashi)**
I have yet to see a bad review of this samurai classic.

The Leopard (1963, Luchino Visconti)**
The Italian version. What detracted me from it was that it looked like a dream film for a cinephile with a stick up his ass. What attracted me towards it was seeing it be praised by the likes of Tarantino on the documentary Z Channel and Scorsese calling it one of the greatest films of all time. Ultimately making me tell myself: maybe I was wrong.

A Man Escaped (1966, Robert Bresson)
A toss up between this one and Pickpocket for my first Bresson film.

Playtime (1967, Jacques Tati)**
Still have much to look forward to in my Tati box set.

The Conformist (1970, Bernardo Bertolucci)**
One of my favorite films, The Godfather, was greatly influenced by this one. After Coppola saw this, he would go so far as to hire Vitorrio Storaro to shoot Apocalypse Now. This one's near the top of my must watch list.

Don't Look Now (1973, Nicolas Roeg)**
Been on my watchlist for years now. Thanks to Criterion, I can finally check it off.

Killer of Sheep (1979, Charles Burnett)**
Shot on a budget of $10,000, the film examines the black Los Angeles ghetto through the eyes of a slaughterhouse worker.

Broadway Danny Rose (1984, Woody Allen)
Gordon Willis + Woody Allen.

Malcolm X (1992, Spike Lee)**
I know. I'm ashamed too.

The Best of Youth (2003, )**
A six hour Italian epic worthy of devoting a day or two to.

Other classics I plan on watching

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Hungry. Reluctant.

Favorite Ensembles

Inherent Vice is upon us. Well, it's upon New York City and Los Angeles anyway.  PT has an extraordinary ability to cast his films. Upon first hearing about the actors that were cast in his latest film, it was no different. So to ring in the occasion, I thought I'd highlight some of my favorite casts in film.

Ensemble films, when done right, are able to contain one memorable performance after the other. It's the chemistry of the cast, how well they work together in a scene and their ability to make the viewer not just cling for screen time of their favorite actor when they appear.


Jeremy Blackman, Tom Cruise, Melinda Dillon, Philip Baker Hall, Philip Seymour Hoffman, William H. Macy, Alfred Molina, Julianne Moore, John C. Reilly, Jason Robards, Melora Walters

One of my all time favorite films also has one of my favorite casts. Just from watching the 'making of', That Moment, you can tell everyone that is there wants to be there. They are there for Paul.

Mark Wahlberg, Julianne Moore, Burt Reynolds, Don Cheadle, John C. Reilly, William H. Macy, Heather Graham, Nicole Parker, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Thomas Jane, Philip Baker Hall, Robert Ridgeley, Melora Walters, Ricky Jay

Most films can hope to have one memorable character. This film's entire cast of characters is memorable.

Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan, Diane Keaton, John Cazale, Talia Shire, Richard S. Castellano, Robert Duvall, Sterling Hayden, Richard Conte, Abe Vigoda, John Marley

A film cast to perfection. I can't think of anyone else playing these characters. They own their roles with tremendous humanity and depth and deliver some of the most iconic lines in cinema history.


A film that redefined the rules of cinema and a milestone of 70's storytelling. When Kurt Vonnegut saw it he called it "A spiritual inventory of America. Splendidly frank and honest." So on point and every bit as relevant today as it was in '75.

Andie McDowall, Bruce Davison, Julianne Moore, Matthew Modine, Anne Archer, Fred Ward, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Chris Penn, Lili Taylor, Robert Downey, Jr., Madeline Stowe, Tim Robbins, Lily Tomlin, Tom Waits, Frances McDormand, Peter Gallagher, Annie Ross, Lori Singer, Jack Lemmon, Lyle Lovett, Buck Henry, Huey Lewis

The cast of Short Cuts is a wonder to behold. How do you get so many A listers in the same room? Robert Altman. That's how.

The stories of Raymond Carver are woven together by Altman. An all around great cast, the standouts are Julianne Moore and Jack Lemmon. The former turning in one of her best early roles and the latter giving a heartbreaking monologue to Bruce Davison.

Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, Alec Baldwin, Ed Harris, Jack Lemmon, Alan Arkin, Kevin Spacey, Jonathan Pryce

Originally a play taken on by several actors in the theater and from film, the cast the made these roles their own are present in this movie. Not a single bad performance.

John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Uma Thurman, Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Amanda Plummer, Maria de Medeiros, Ving Rhames, Eric Stoltz, Rosanna Arquette, Christopher Walken, Bruce Willis, Peter Greene

Upon hearing the cast for The Hateful Eight, my jaw hit the floor. A dream cast. The ensemble that was able to completely lose themselves in each character, for my money, was Pulp Fiction. From Vincent and Jules right down to Zed.

Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo, Robert Downey Jr., Anthony Edwards, Brian Cox, Elias Koteas, Chloe Sevigny, John Carroll Lynch, Philip Baker Hall, John Getz, Candy Clark, Dermot Mulroney, Clea Duvall

Want to make a two and a half hour movie fly by? Pack it to the gills with some of the best character actors working in film today. Add in one of the best and most understated performances of the decade in Mark Ruffalo. Show that Gyllenhaal is not just a pretty face. Have John Carroll Lynch stare into the camera and deliver the line "I am not the Zodiac" with utter eeriness. Then put Fincher at the helm of it all.

Tom Hanks, Matt Damon, Tom Sizemore, Edward Burns, Barry Pepper, Adam Goldberg, Jeremy Davies, Vin Diesel, Giovanni Ribisi, Ted Danson, Paul Giamatti, Dennis Farina

The journey to the bridge uncovers a number of well known actors. Farina, Danson, Giamatti. All give solid cameos. Though it's the scenes with the infantry unit where this cast knocks it out of the park. Case in point: the scene when they are listening to Edith Piaf.

Sam Shepard, Scott Glenn, Ed Harris, Dennis Quaid, Fred Ward, Barbara Hershey, Kim Stanley, Veronica Cartwright, Pamela Reed, Scott Paulin, Lance Henriksen, Jeff Goldblum, Harry Shearer

A 3 hour film that defies categorization. Thanks in part to the perfect balance between comedy and drama in the performances. It's an experimental epic that we really wouldn't see the likes of until Interstellar.

Martin Balsam, John Fiedler, Lee J. Cobb, E.G. Marshal, Jack Klugman, Edward Binns, Jack Warden, Henry Fonda, Joseph Sweeney, Ed Begley, George Voskovec, Robert Webber

When you're stuck in a room for almost the entirety of a film, one of your primary objectives is to make the material engaging enough to make the audience want to spend 6 more hours in that same room. Lumet accomplishes this. Having just as crucial a role in the accomplishment of this is the cast. All twelve jurors are able to inhabit a genre that can be laden with stark simplicity and elevate it to one of rigorous complexity.

Johnny Depp, Gary Farmer, Crispin Glover, Lance Henriksen, Michael Wincott, John Hurt, Robert Mitchum, Iggy Pop, Gabriel Byrne, Jared Harris

Quirky. Bizarre. Legendary. Just some of the words to describe the actors in this cast. Who knew that a cast including Robert Mitchum, Iggy Pop, Crispin Glover and Johnny Depp could work so well together.

Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart, Michael Caine, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, Eric Roberts, William Fichtner

Rises had Cotilliard. Hathaway and Hardy. Actors I enjoy more than Ledger, Gyllenhaal and Eckhart. But there is a certain magic that this ensemble captures. They were able to clearly and concisely inhabit the residents of Gotham. Let's not forget the awesome small roles given to Fichtner and Roberts.

Al Pacino, Robert DeNiro, Val Kilmer, Jon Voight, Tom Sizemore, Diane Venora, Amy Brenneman, Ashley Judd, Mykelti Williamson, Wes Studi, Ted Levine, Dennis Haysbert, William Fichtner, Danny Trejo, Natalie Portman, Tom Noonan

It's almost surreal to see a cast list this good. Where even small parts are played by the likes of Tom Noonan. Everyone wanted to be a part of the movie that brought cinema heavyweights DeNiro and Pacino together. More than that though, it was a chance to work with a director at the peak of his game.

Michael Douglas, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Don Cheadle, Benicio Del Toro, Dennis Quaid, Luis Guzman, Amy Irving, Erika Christensen, Benjamin Bratt, Miguel Ferrer, Albert Finney, Clifton Collins Jr., Viola Davis

Soderbergh, the man behind the Ocean's trilogy, and Debra Zane, the casting director who would work on several of his films after this, teamed up to find a stellar cast for this picture. The film calls for multiple narratives, so it is broken down into sections and expertly woven together by Stephen Mirrione and given a color coded filter scheme courtesy of Mr. Peter Andrews himself. Everyone in the cast is at the top of their game. And yes, that social worker is Viola Davis.

Sigourney Weaver, Michael Beihn, Carrie Henn, Paul Reiser, Lance Henriksen, Bill Paxton, Jeanette Goldstein, William Hope, Mark Rolston

"Hey Vasquez, you ever been mistaken for a man?"
"No. Have you?"

Until I saw Aliens, I never really felt like I was along for the ride with a rag tag group of marines. The endlessly quotable dialogue, the pulse pounding action, and of course the Xenomorphs. Many of these actors seem to have been relegated to genre pictures afterwards. With Paxton, Goldstein & Henriksen appearing in Near Dark a year later. All roads lead back to this film. Aliens is a film that has endless replay value for me.

Gene Hackman, Anjelica Huston, Ben Stiller, Gwyneth Paltrow, Luke Wilson, Owen Wilson, Bill Murray, Danny Glover, Seymour Cassel

Wes Anderson is a director many actors in Hollywood would love to work with. So when the casting call for films like Life Aquatic and Grand Budapest Hotel are taken, you can bet that you will have an eclectic cast lined up. Out of all his films though, the one where every actor seems to click is Tenenbaums. When you are given the level of detail Anderson devotes to each character in the film, all you need is the right role for all the pegs to fall into the round holes. Thankfully, every actor here was able to fit.

Stephen Baldwin, Gabriel Byrne, Benicio Del Toro, Kevin Pollak, Kevin Spacey, Chazz Palminteri, Pete Postelthwaite, Suzy Amis, Giancarlo Esposito

Pretty good lineup. Let's see how well these guys work together.

Five variations on "Hand me the keys you fucking cocksucker" later

Yeah these guys are pretty badass.


Brad Pitt, Christoph Waltz, Michael Fassbender, Eli Roth, Diane Kruger, Daniel Bruhl, Til Schweiger, Melanie Laurent, August Diehl, Denis Menochet

Robert Redford, Dan Aykroyd, Ben Kingsley, Mary McDonnell, River Phoenix, Sidney Poitier, David Strathairn, Stephen Tobolowsky

Steve McQueen, James Garner, Richard Attenborough, James Donald, Charles Bronson, Donald Pleasance, James Coburn, David McCallum, Gordon Jackson

Tom Berenger, Glenn Close, Jeff Goldblum, William Hurt, Kevin Kline, Mary Kay Place, Meg Tilly, JoBeth Williams

Albert Finney, Lauren Bacall, Ingrid Bergman, Sean Connery, Jacqueline Bisset, Martin Balsam, John Gielgud, Anthony Perkins, Vanessa Redgrave, Richard Widmark, Michael York