Author: Whit Denton

Top 3 Willem Dafoe Performances on the Actor’s 60th Birthday

There are few actors as misunderstood as Willem Dafoe. To the casual observer, it may seem that the man has built a career around playing villains and slimy characters of the utmost despicability, playing the Green Goblin in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man, and a crime boss in Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac. His downright sinister looking visage has lead to him being typecast for the duration of the most accessible portions of his career, though that that hasn’t stopped him from playing the leading man at times. To merely write him off as a mere character actor, however, would be unhelpful in coming to...

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Results

Overview: Two personal trainers and an eccentric millionaire (aren’t they all that way) get caught in a love triangle. Magnolia Pictures; 2015; Rated R; 105 minutes. You Can Help Me: Fitness, first and foremost, is about taking control of one’s life. To seize back what one once had, or gain what one never did. When people join a gym, they want to overcome the garbage, trim the fat, get past the negativity from their past, and become more comfortable with themselves. People join gyms after breakups, when they lose their jobs, and when they are in places of despair,...

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PTA: Life & Liberty, Porn & Milkshakes

California seems to be both the birthplace and the final resting place of the American Dream. It is the metaphorical end of the earth, where all cross country road trips come to a halting close. It is a contradictory oasis of both natural beauty and physical artifice; a symbol of unlimited opportunity, and a destination set upon by dreamers and naïve kids, but also by those schemers and con men whose covert manipulation of the former appears seemingly endless in scope and respective ambition. Yet, once one reaches this beacon of idealism, where can one go? The sun and palms...

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Nashville Turns 40: Love and Music in the Face of Uncertainty

Nashville is an exuberant time capsule, a head-first dive into the wonderful, albeit murky, waters of the Nashville, Tennessee music industry. On its own it works as a quintessential Robert Altman film. Like many of the films he would follow it with (Short Cuts being probably the next best example of his style), Nashville is a sprawling ensemble piece, dipping in and out of the lives of several different people. A brilliant display of the voyeurism Altman truly popularized. One that has come to influence film immensely, most notably with Paul Thomas Anderson in Magnolia and Boogie Nights. The camera,...

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Is It Still Good?: Dirty Harry

Clint Eastwood turns 85 this month. In recent years he’s become an increasingly odd character. With his talking to chairs, questionable directorial choices, and general “grumpy old man” demeanor, it’s easy to forget that Eastwood used to be a universal symbol of masculinity and general badassery. There was a time when his squinty-eyed stubbornness was seen as a trait of his stoic heroism, and less of his confusion brought on by his failing memory in old age. Taking a look back at Don Siegel’s 1971 cop thriller, Dirty Harry, it’s easy to see why Eastwood was once such a notable icon of manliness. From the first opening shots of Dirty Harry, filmed in Panavision, it is made explicitly clear that the film is a product of its time. The score of the film, the look of it, and even the camera movements, somehow, scream of the early 1970s. The film looks so dated at parts that the whole thing begins to come across as if it is a low-budget exploitation flick. Even the basic themes put forth in Dirty Harry are birthed out of the times. The film came along at the tail end of the freewheeling 1960s and at the very beginning of a much more rigid and much more paranoid 1970s. America was still covered in the blood of Vietnam. Kent State was behind us and Watergate...

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Cinema Saints: John Turturro

John Turturro lives within the margins. Normally, that might not be considered a complimentary thing to say of an actor. Yet, in Turturro’s case, I feel there is no better way to describe him. The first role Turturro ever had was “Man at Table” in Martin Scorsese’s great 1980 film, Raging Bull. He started small, an extra, and from there he only began to slowly fill up the margins of cinema history. There are stars like, say, Tom Cruise or Daniel Day-Lewis who are born leading men, and aside from a few notable exceptions (Tropic Thunder for Cruise), stay...

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Criterion Discovery: Paths of Glory

Background Paths of Glory (Spine #538) is a 1957 American humanist anti-war film directed by Stanley Kubrick. It was initially released by Criterion in October of 2010. Paths of Glory is one of three Kubrick films currently in the collection, the other two being The Killing (Spine #575) and Spartacus (Spine #105.) Story Colonel Dax (Kirk Douglas) goes up against the top officials in the French army when his own soldiers are charged with cowardice, a crime punishable by death, when they fail to complete an impossible mission in World War I. What follows is a harrowing and darkly beautiful...

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The Ten Best Directorial Debuts in Film History

The spark before the fire, the first ink blot on a fresh sheet of paper, a flower bud before it blooms. The directorial debut of a young filmmaker is something that can be beautiful and an impetus for a career of success and notoriety. Or, it can break the fresh-faced director. Take them out of the game before they’ve even had a chance to play a full inning. Looking at the humble beginnings of certain directors can be a fun way to see how they have evolved (or devolved, in some cases). Some, like Stanley Kubrick, for example, had...

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Netflix Hidden Gem #40: It’s Such A Beautiful Day

It’s Such a Beautiful Day Director:  Don Hertzfeldt Genre:  Animated Cinemad Presents I imagine the most universal feeling is the fear of death. Or at the very least, the uneasiness that accompanies the uncertainty of what waits us all after death. It is the most human of all emotions. The great novelist Don DeLillo, a constant philosopher of death, once said, “We have these deep, terrible lingering fears about ourselves and the people we love. Yet we walk around, talk to people, eat and drink. We manage to function. The feelings are deep and real. Shouldn’t they paralyze us?” Another great...

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The Last Hour in the Sun

Overview: Emile, a qualified pilot and aviation fanatic, looks for work as a pilot while trudging through a life of economic troubles and regret. Productiehuis Bananaz; Not Rated; 2014; 22 Minutes. “Unfinished Business”: When avid birdwatchers engage in their hobby, they must imagine themselves in the position of the bird, flying high above the confines of mundanity that surround them. Ever since Emile Jansen was a child, he has watched planes fly above the green of the Netherlands with a sense of awe and wonder equaled by nothing else. His dreams have always lain in the clouds. Unfortunately, the dreams...

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Action Movies & The Oscar: A Complicated Tale

Last week, Vin Diesel predicted that the newest installment in the Fast & Furious franchise, Furious 7, will win Best Picture at the Oscars (Variety). This prediction drew something of a collective chuckle from movie fans around the world, given the Academy’s seeming apathy toward genre films. So, that got me thinking about the relationship between The Oscars and action films. What makes a movie “Oscar-worthy?” Is it the directing? Surely that can’t be, for there are several films that get Best Picture nominations despite getting zero in the directing department. The same goes for writing, acting, and pretty...

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The Many Inspirations of Quentin Tarantino

Imagine a boy, paunchy and wired with the infectious excitement of youth, poring over a newspaper. On the newspaper are times for the local cinema. Everything from Hollywood melodrama to foreign art films are plastered across the paper. The boy glares intently, squinting to seek out the best viewing option. This is not the last movie the boy will watch, nor is it the first. For he will grow up to be the world’s most famous movie geek, Quentin Tarantino. The films he seeks out now will have a profound impact on him as an adult moviemaker, seeping their...

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Run All Night

Overview: After killing his boss’s son, an old hood (Liam Neeson) must try and keep his own son alive during one hellish night in New York City. 2015, Warner Bros Pictures, rated R, 114 minutes. Violent Lives Begat Violent Deaths: While Run All Night was marketed as another shoot-em-up actioner from Neeson & Company, it’s much less interested in the glorification of violence so typical in action flicks like Taken, than it is the debilitating effects of violence on not only the victims but the perpetrators. Neeson’s character, Jimmy Conlon, is not the usual superhuman invincible star we’re used...

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Accidental Love

Overview: A woman (Jessica Biel) gets shot in the head with a nail gun, causing her to act erratically. Her lack of health care results in a trip to Washington to campaign for free medical care for others with injuries similar to hers. On the way she falls in love with a congressman (Jake Gyllenhaal). 2015, Millennium Entertainment, PG-13, 100 minutes. Troubled: The most intriguing part of Accidental Love isn’t the actual film at all, but its production. David O. Russell notoriously quit the film before shooting its final scenes and the whole thing was re-edited without Russell’s involvement....

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The Five Best Performances of Vince Vaughn, an American Legend

Throughout film history. many screen performers have brought wonder and awe to moviegoers everywhere. Vince Vaughn is one of these actors. A thespian of Shakespearean might who, in a career spanning almost twenty five years, has managed to give a few of the most memorable and inspired performances we’ve seen since the likes of Brando and golden age De Niro. Vaughn is a subtle and understated star who for far too long has toiled under the shadows of less talented names like Wilson and Stiller.  Vaughn is a national treasure. I am certain his name will only grow in...

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