Emotional Illiteracy: Stephen Daldry’s The Reader

Director Stephen Daldry (The Hours, Billy Elliot) and screenwriter David Hare’s adaptation of Bernhard Schlink’s novel (produced by the late Anthony Minghella and Sydney Pollack) studies evolving notions of German postwar guilt and culpability. Unfolding across three distinct time periods (1958, 1966, and 1995), The Reader hinges on a significant reveal in its middle that […]

On the Run from Johnny Law in Wes Anderson’s Bottle Rocket

Wes Anderson and co-writer Owen Wilson’s feature debut is based on their 1992 short film of the same name. Like Kevin Smith’s Clerks and Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs, Bottle Rocket is Anderson’s ur text. His signature style is already fully present: meticulously constructed of primary colors, written in torrents of words, and shot perpendicularly against […]

There’s a Corruption in the Force in Gavin O’Connor’s Pride and Glory

Pride and Glory was one of the last New Line Cinema productions made while still a semi-autonomous company, before being eviscerated by parent company Warner Bros. in 2008. For the morbidly curious, Vanity Fair recently related the sad tale in its latest Hollywood issue. Disclaimer: I worked for New Line Cinema through its end times, […]

Brad Pitt Lives Life in Reverse in David Fincher’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

This blogger is slowly cooling on former favorite David Fincher. His underrated first feature Alien3 is highly compromised, but easily the next most thematically interesting entry in the Alien franchise (after, of course, Ridley Scott’s rich original). Se7en is one of the most gut-wrenchingly disturbing movies ever made, notable for having virtually no violence appear […]

Jeff Bridges battles the elements in Ridley Scott’s White Squall

By 1996, Ridley Scott had worked in almost every typical feature film genre: most notably historical drama (The Duellists, 1492), science fiction (Alien, Blade Runner), and police thrillers (Someone to Watch Over Me, Black Rain). But White Squall straddles several genres, sometimes all at once: coming-of-age melodrama, adventure, courtroom drama, and disaster on the high […]

Material Witness: Ridley Scott’s Someone to Watch Over Me

Ridley Scott’s Someone to Watch Over Me (1987) is more of a drama than a police thriller, refreshingly focused on its characters over suspense and action alone. Mike Keegan (Tom Berenger) is a salt-of-the-earth Queens detective assigned to protect material witness Claire (Mimi Rogers) from assassination. Keegan is a modest family man, recently promoted to […]

All life’s a play in Charlie Kaufman’s Synecdoche, New York

Whether it actually is or not, Synecdoche, New York has the feel of a very, very personal work of art. I know next to nothing about writer/director Charlie Kaufman’s personal life, and don’t even necessarily feel like I do now. Then again, few people do know Kaufman, as he has famously managed to sidestep much […]

John Sturges honors Kurosawa honoring Ford in The Magnificent Seven

John Sturges’ The Magnificent Seven is Hollywood’s answer to Akira Kurosawa’s hugely popular Seven Samurai. It suffers in comparison, especially if, like this blogger, one watches them in succession. The remake is quaint, chaste, and dated in ways the fairly frank original isn’t. To put it another way, Seven Samurai is a period piece of […]

Wong Kar-wai’s American road movie My Blueberry Nights

Nobody films beautiful women, or should I say, nobody films women beautifully, like Wong Kar-wai. In Blueberry Nights, he has no less than four famous female faces to worship with his camera: Norah Jones – Perhaps not the most natural of actors, but her speaking voice is as emotionally expressive as it is in her […]

Get busy living or get busy dying: Frank Darabont’s The Shawshank Redemption

It’s hard to believe now, but The Shawshank Redemption was a relative flop at the box office, and overlooked in all seven of its Academy Award nominations (losing the 1994 Best Picture to Forrest Gump). But true to its own themes, it found redemption late in life, on television and home video. It regularly tops […]

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