There Will Be Blood

Wow. I can honestly say I’ve never seen anything like it. Sure, there are echoes of Griffith, Welles, Wyler, Huston, Kubrick, Malick, and Coppola but There Will Be Blood is its own beast—a remarkably assured, unpretentious, muscular work of American filmmaking (I’ll compare it right now to Citizen Kane, The Godfather, Part II and Raging Bull). Anderson tells an epic narrative of power and providence, fathers and sons, religion and commerce, sin and hypocrisy; and he is assisted by a towering, career-defining performance from Daniel Day Lewis. Lewis is rail-thin, his shoulders hunched forward, his body askew and slightly out of balance; nevertheless, his Daniel Plainview is a determined, singularly-obsessed yet tortured maverick of a character, and Lewis fills the screen with a searing, charismatic, misanthropic intensity. He is equally matched by Paul Dano who mesmerizes as the evangelical preacher who won’t back down as well as this preturnaturally astute child actor, Dillon Freasier, who plays Plainview’s son H.W. Jonny Greenwood’s score punctuates Robert Elswit’s hardscrabbled images with scraping discordant notes. I can’t think of a thing I would want changed and can’t wait to see it again. Run, don’t walk.

the center of the world (molly parker)

i met luminous canadian actress molly parker, who plays a main character in deadwood and may be known to some of you through that show, in marion bridge, an equally luminous, if painful, 2003 canadian drama of family, abuse, and endurance. since i found molly parker stunning — she is, yes, beautiful, but she’s also an actress who can convey a whole depth of feelings with just the way she looks — i went looking for other films of hers and saw last night wayne wang’s 2001 leaving-las-vegas-remake(of sorts) the center of the world, based on a story by wang, miranda july, paul auster, and siri hustvedt. Continue reading the center of the world (molly parker)

A Woman Under the Influence (1974) / Cassavetes / Peter Falk

We talked a while back about the remarkable movie Keane, and a couple questions were brought up concerning depictions of mental illness on film that don’t collapse into the redemption-by-love / Sally-Field-TV-movie stereotypes.

We had just finished watching Return of the Secaucus 7 and were talking about filmmakers who self-financed their work through acting and writing for other people’s movies. So we decided to watch a few Cassavetes films.

This is a tough one to start with. Continue reading A Woman Under the Influence (1974) / Cassavetes / Peter Falk

sherrybaby/maggie gyllenhaal

since people on this blog are clearly bored, here’s a crackling recommendation. in sherrybaby, which is hereby joining my best-of-2006 list with full grades, sherry is an ex-con just out of jail and on her way to the halfway home that is to be her domicile. in the halfway home, she immediately does two things, in the following order: 1) she calls her child, to whom she’s not talked for three years (the child is about four), and 2) she fucks the director. this is pretty much what she does for the rest of the film, too: she attempts to establish a connection with her child, and she has lots of sex. sex seems to be the only way sherry knows of connecting with people and, for a change, these connections are not the abusive, exploitative, violent type films about dysfunctional women tend to portray. the men sherry beds may not all be rescuers, but they are all right. director laurie collyer is hell-bent on not giving us targets for easy judgment. even when sherry gives a matter-of-fact, bored blow-job to an employment counselor who’s understandably reluctant to put her to work in a kindergarten, you don’t hate the guy. he’s got a lousy job, and it’s not like he asked. Continue reading sherrybaby/maggie gyllenhaal

Crispin Glover’s What Is It?

Crispin Glover has been working on What Is It? for close to ten years now. I’ve been reading about it, and waiting to see it for as long as that. He finally brought the film (literally; he travels with it and attends every screening) to Los Angeles for three showings, which I eagerly attended.

I enjoyed some of it, and I admired more of it, but unfortunately, I really can’t say it was worth the wait. If for no other reason, it has kept Glover so busy that he has only appeared in a handful of movies in the past ten years. When he does show up, he’s not always in quality fare. For example, the remake of Willard might have been good, and Gloverhimself really is quite good in it, but it’s never more than a B-Movie. He has been one of my favorite performers since I can remember, and I’d love to see him get roles in smart, interesting oddball films, like River’s Edge and Reuben & Ed. Instead, his trip in getting What Is It? made has been epic on many levels: It started as a short film, he worked hard to get funding to make it into a feature film, he lost all faith in what he calls the “corporate methods of film-making and distribution,” and financed it himself. He did this mostly with money from appearing in Charlie’s Angels, while most of the film sat in a vault in NY and promises in post-production made to him were broken one after the other. He ended up editing it mostly himself, with help from volunteers, and for the past year he’s travelled from city to city showing it, finally ending up back home in LA last week Continue reading Crispin Glover’s What Is It?

Chris Eigeman: Metropolitan (1990) and Kicking and Screaming (1995)

I’m annoyed with myself for being unable to write up a short appreciation of Chris Eigeman here; particularly in the context of these two films. I’ve meant to do it for a while; thankfully I don’t write for a living. These two films have recently come out in Criterion editions, and both were quite excellent debut features by directors who had little idea how to make movies going into these. Though Criterion has been releasing some newer American films, I think it’s worth noting that they didn’t do a batch of Stillman or Baumbach; just these two films close together, which have in common only the presence of Chris Eigeman.

I can also say that both of these movies would be – well, not terrible – but not nearly as good without Eigeman, who raises the bar on both. (Kicking and Screaming at least benefits from a decent Eric Stoltz part, but it turns out it was written for him just as filming began, and it seems a little tacked on.)

So, I’m just throwing this out there hoping that Reynolds or someone else will pick up the ball and write somthing interesting about him and the movies he’s been in. Continue reading Chris Eigeman: Metropolitan (1990) and Kicking and Screaming (1995)

frisoli, er, ribisi

the 2003 i love your work is nothing special. it is apparently this guy’s adam goldberg’s life work — he wrote it, directed it, produced it, edited it, wrote the score for it, he did everything but star in it. evidently adam had something to get off his chest, a certain, bleak, obsessive view of hollywood and celebrity. i seem to have noticed before that it is not rare for first-time directors to do films about hollywood. is it true? in any case, you have a sense with this guy that he’s working out some personal issues about hollywood. the film is original and watchable enough: it’s edited well, the colors are very good, the real and unreal sequence blend nicely. yet it took us three days to watch it. make of it what you will.

i didn’t want to talk much about the film, as about giovanni ribisi, who i find a sweetly charismatic actor. he’s really good in this. he plays a celebrity who goes nuts — literally. he can’t take it any more. surprisingly, there’s few to no drugs in this movie, so ribisi has to do all the going-nuts work inside. it has to seep out of his eyes and his gestures and the way he cocks his head. i think he’s very effective. his face is incredibly mobile and he can go from scary-looking to childish and sweet very convincingly. i never noticed him much, not even when he starred in the mediocre heaven, but here he comes into his own and shines.

of gay actors, indian actors, and pride and prejudice

this is my first post, and i’m sure i’m already going all wrong about it. but since arnab forced me to use the password “italysucks” for my first login, i’m trying to mess up his site as much as i can.

i have nothing to say on gay actors, but i thought i’d bring the debate that’s being conducted under michael’s post on steven spielberg to a location where people can find it (why do i know that suddenly no one will have absolutely anything more to say on the subject?).

i would like, though, to say something more on the topic of identity specific actors. the first thing i want to say is screw current theories of performance. the second thing i want to say is that, as reynolds says, it matters very little whether actors can represent characters whose identity is racially/ethnically different from their own (i’m intentionally leaving out class and sexuality — and gender doesn’t seem to be a problem nowadays!), when foreign actors and actors of color have a hard time getting jobs in high-paying hollywood. Continue reading of gay actors, indian actors, and pride and prejudice

character actors

hijacking the brief nicky katt sidebar in the “layer cake” discussion and opening it up to other people we don’t see very often or in very large roles but would like to see more of.

(katt, by the way, is very good in “boiler room” and in a brief appearance in “school of rock”. he’s one of those people who disappears into his characters and i’m often surprised to see his name in the credits.)

i would add mark rufalo to the list but he’s in a lot lately. he was also wasted in “collateral”. how do you lot feel about giovanni ribisi? he was also excellent in “boiler room”–then again whoever directed that film also drew solid performances out of ben affleck and vin diesel. ribisi was also good in “the gift” which features a shockingly good performance by keanu reeves (who i don’t wish to see very much more of). has he been in anything which doesn’t feature crap actors acting unfeasibly well?

cate blanchett–is there anyone better?

among major’ish stars, that is? i was reminded by her amazing double act in coffee and cigarettes of just how good an actress she is. only naomi watts comes close i think. laura linney is also very good but not exactly a star. kidman can turn it on when she wants to but she also does things like cold mountain. whatever happened to judy davis, by the way?

for those who haven’t seen it, i would highly recommend blanchett in the gift, which also features great performances from giovanni ribisi and yes, keanu reeves.