Archive for the ‘Film Lists’ Category

In the Can: Quality Prison Films from the Past 60 Years

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

There have been a host of films made about the incarcerated. They range from films about newcomers; escapees; gangs; death row legal fights; and cruel wardens, and take place in a variety of facilities, including military and juvenile lock-ups and mental institutions. The following list focuses specifically on narrative films shot over the past sixty years that take place completely (or at least, mostly) inside the walls of a prison housing criminally charged inmates.

R (2011) Tobias Lindholm’s compelling film about a young man, Rune (Pilou Asbaek), and his entry into a hardcore Danish prison.

A Prophet (2009) Jacques Audiard’s riveting look at race, power, and violence stars Tahir Rahim as Malik, a young Arab prisoner trying to negotiate institution politics dominated by Corsican gangster Cesar (Niels Arestrup).

Hunger (2008) Steve McQueen’s rendering of Irish hunger striker Bobby Sands (Michael Fassbender) is beautifully shot and manages to be simultaneously impressionistic and realistic.

Bronson (2009) Nicholas Winding Refn’s film owes a tip of the cap to another on this list, Andrew Dominik’s Chopper. Refn’s highly stylized story features a tour de force performance by Tom Hardy as “Charlie Bronson” Peterson, an infamous British criminal whose prison sentence kept growing with a series of violent actions while inside.

Animal Factory (2000) Written by real life ex-con Eddie Bunker and directed by Steve Buscemi, Animal Factory explores the odd relationship between first-timer Ron Decker (Edward Furlong) and hardened con Earl Copen (Willem Dafoe).

Chopper (2000) Andrew Dominik directs this brutally violent and stylish portrait of Mark Brandon “Chopper” Read, one of Australia’s most notorious bad guys. A raconteur and author of a set of memoirs, Read died this past year of cancer, admitting to four murders shortly before his passing.

Dead Man Walking (1995) Though inspired by actual killers (Robert Lee Willie & Elmo Patrick Sonnier), Tim Robbins directs this fictionalized story of Lousiana death row inmate Matthew Poncelet (Sean Penn) and his spiritual advisor (and anti-death penalty activist), the real life Sister Helen Prejean (Susan Sarandon), who wrote the book that served as the films’ source material.

The Shawshank Redemption (1994) Frank Darabont’s well-known and much loved classic based on the work of Steven King.

In the Name of the Father (1993) The torturous and tragically true story of a group of Irish citizens wrongly accused of an act of terrorism by a corrupt British government. Starring Daniel Day Lewis and Emma Thompson.

American Me (1992) Edward James Olmos’ film is based on real life events surrounding the establishment of one of California’s most powerful prison gang, The Mexican Mafia/La Eme.

Bad Boys (1983) A personal war erupts in a Chicago area juvenile facility between street enemies Mick O’Brien (Sean Penn) and Paco Moreno (Esai Morales).

Escape from Alcatraz (1979) Based on real life events, Don Siegel’s escape thriller stars Clint Eastwood as inmate Frank Morris.

A Sense of Freedom (1979) From the auto-biography of Scottish criminal Jimmy Boyle, John Mackenzie’s low budget bio-pic recounts the violent history of one of Scotland’s most notorious criminals.

Scum (1979) Alan Clarke’s seminal British drama starring a young Ray Winstone.

Midnight Express (1978) Directed by Alan Parker, Oliver Stone wrote the script based on the true story of Billy Hayes, handed a long drug sentence in a nightmarish Turkish prison.

The Longest Yard (1974) The comedic story of ex-NFL player Paul Crewe (Burt Reynolds), and his part in a big football game against the guards.

Papillion (1973) Steve McQueen is Henri ‘Papillon’ Charriere, imprisoned in French Guyana with Dustin Hoffman’s Louis Dega.

Cool Hand Luke (1967) Stuart Rosenberg’s classic stars Paul Newman as the titular iconic anti-hero Lucas Jackson.

Birdman of Alcatraz (1962) John Frankenheimer’s film starred Burt Lancaster as the real life Robert Stroud.

Le Trou (1960) Jacques Becker’s rigorously detailed tale of an escape from a French prison.

A Man Escaped (1956) A classic minimalistic, neo-realistic French drama from the great Robert Bresson.

Memorable Performances from Actors Under 12

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

Quvenzhene Wallis has gotten a lot of recent acclaim over her role in Beasts of the Southern Wild, a film that was shot when she was 6 years old. There are those who believe really young children do not have the capacity to give an actual performance because they cannot intellectualize the process and are therefore simply behaving in the way that a trained seal might. Then again, what is acting if not behaving? Children possess innocence, and have marvelous imaginations, and acting requires both an ability to pretend, and a certain degree of openness. Though the stereotype exists of child actors giving robotic, coached performances lacking nuance and depth of emotion, there are plenty of young actors who have created memorable characters. While a number of iconic child roles were actually acted by teenagers playing younger, there are still many notable child performances achieved by actors who were under the age of twelve. Here are some of them.

Victoire Thivisol - age 4 - Ponette (1996)

Pierce Gagnon - Age 5 - Looper (2012)

Quvenzhane Wallis - Age 6 - Beasts of the Southern Wild (2011)

Hee-yeon Kim - Age 6 - Treeless Mountain (2008)

Dakota Fanning - Age 6 - I Am Sam (2001)

Melonn Levanna - Age 6 - Tomboy (2011)

Margaret O’Brien - Age 6 - Jane Eyre (1944)

Aida Mohammadkhani - Age 7 - The White Balloon (1995)

Ana Torrent - Age 7 - Spirit of the Beehive (1973)

Justin Henry - Age 7 - Kramer Vs. Kramer (1979)

Subir Banjelee - Age 8 - Pather Panchali (1955)

Ricky Schroder - Age 8 - The Champ (1979)

Tatum O’Neal - Age 9 - Paper Moon (1973)

Freddie Highmore - Age 9 - Finding Neverland (2004)

Mary Badham - Age 9 - To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)

Quinn Cummings - Age 9 - The Goodbye Girl (1977)

Vinicius de Oliviara - Age 10 - Central Station (1998)

Ana Torrent - Age 10 - Cria Cuervos (1976)

Ana Paquin - Age 10 - The Piano (1993)

Zoe Heran - Age 10 - Tomboy (2011)

Ivana Bacquero - Age 11 - Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)

Haley Joel Osment - Age 11 - The Sixth Sense (1999)

Elle Fanning - Age 11 - Somewhere (2010)

You Can’t Go Home Again (or Can You?)

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013

There have been a plethora of recent films about adult characters living in/returning to/visiting their childhood homes/hometowns. These stories often involve characters experiencing mental health issues, substance abuse, sputtering careers (often artistic), and recently ended long term relationships. They return to their roots, licking their wounds, searching for affirmation and security. As they confront their own arrested development and unactualized would-be adulthoods, they are forced to deal with the issues involved in the primary relationships that have haunted them and led them to whatever crossroads they’ve come upon. Their attempts to define themselves and become one with the world often provide a simultaneously verdant source of amusement and wide open emotional playing field for their re-invention, catharsis, and growth.

Hello I Must Be Going (2012) Depressed and newly divorced 35 year old Amy (Melanie Lynksey) moves back to her CT home to live with her parents.

Silver Linings Playbook (2012) David O’Russell works from a novel by Matthew Quick on a story about Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper), who moves to his Philadelphia childhood home after a release from a mental institution.

Dark Horse (2011) Todd Solondz’ dark look at Abe (Jordan Gelber), an overweight 35 year old working in the family business and living under the roof of parents played by Christopher Walken and Mia Farrow.

Young Adult (2011) The pair from Juno (Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody) re-team for this story about Mavis Gary (Charlize Theron), a shallow, self-inolved Minneapolis ghostwriter returning to her suburban Minnesota hometown with a master plan.

Jeff Who Lives at Home (2011) A Duplass Brothers film about a Jeff (Jason Segal), a thirty year old man living in his mom’s (Susan Sarandon) basement. Jeff winds up confronting his own destiny while attempting to help his brother (Ed Helms) figure out what’s going on with his troubled marriage.

Big Fan (2009) Robert Siegel’s film stars Patton Oswalt as Paul Aufiero, a 35 year old security guard living with his mother, whose life revolves around his passionate devotion to The New York Giants.

The Vicious Kind (2009) Lee Toland Kreiger’s story about college student Peter (Alex Frost), who comes home with girlfriend Emma (Brittany Snow) for Thanksgiving. Both find themselves having to contend with Peter’s angry older brother Caleb (Adma Scott).

Step Brothers (2008) An absurd, over-the-top comedy about two men in their forties played by Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly, who wind up living under the same roof when their parents (Richard Jenkins and Mary Steenburgen) marry.

Elizabethtown (2005) Cameron Crowe’s story about despondent shoe designer Drew (Orlando Bloom), who, while en route to his hometown for his father’s funeral, meets flight attendant Claire (Kirsten Dunst).

Lonesome Jim (2005) Working from a James Strouse script, Steve Buscemi directs this story about depressed 27 year old would-be writer Jim (Casey Affleck), who moves from New York City back to his parent’s (Mary Kay Place; Seymour Cassel) Indiana home and meets single Mom Anika (Liv Tyler).

Garden State (2004) Zach Braff wrote, directed, and starred in this story about a twenty six year old depressed LA actor/waiter Andrew Largeman, who comes back to his childhood home in New Jersey after a decade away to attend his Mom’s funeral and meets Sam (Natalie Portman), an epileptic pathological liar.

Winter Passing (2005) Directed by playwright Adam Rapp, a film about a depressed actress Reese Holden’s (Zooey Deschanel) return to the Michigan home occupied by her eccentric writer/professor father (Ed Harris) and his two new friends/caretakers Corbit (Will Ferrell) and Shelly (Amelia Warner).

Grosse Point Blank (1997) Hitman Martin Blank (John Cusack) goes back to his suburban Michigan home for his ten year high school reunion and encounters ex Debi (Minnie Driver), the one that got away.

Beautiful Girls (1996) Ted Demme works from a script by Scott Rosenberg about a New York City pianist Willie Conway (Timothy Hutton), who returns to his upper state NY town for a tenth year high school reunion.

The Pallbearer (1996) Tom Thompson (David Schwimmer), a 25 year old living in his Mom’s (Carol Kane) house, is asked by a despondent woman (Barbara Hershey) to be a pallbearer at her son’s funeral - a person Tom cannot even remember. While attending, Tom begins a pursuit of his long time crush Julie (Gwyneth Paltrow).

Billy Madison (1995) Tamra Davis’ juvenile comedy about a grown man (Adam Sandler) living in his father’s mansion who is forced to attend school all over again to prove himself worthy.

Throw Momma From the Train (1987) Divorced writer/writing instructor Larry (Billy Crystal) has an ex wife who stole a manuscript he wrote and got rich from the publishing and sales proceeds. Student writer Owen (director Danny Devito) lives with his obnoxious mother (Anne Ramsey). The two enter into a pact to clear up their individual problems by killing the other’s relation.

Moonstruck (1987) Norman Jewison’s film about a thirty eight year old widow Loretta (Cher) living with her parents Cosmo and Rose (Vincent Gardenia and Olympia Dukakis), who falls for her boyfriend Johnny’s (Danny Aiello) younger brother Ronny (Nicolas Cage).

The Graduate (1967) Mike Nichols directed a script (co-written by Buck Henry) based on the novel by Charles Webb about recently graduated track star Ben Braddock (Dustin Hoffman), who lives with his parents in their suburban California home. Sleeping in his childhood bedroom, Ben feels suffocated by indecision about what to do with his life as he enters into a relationship with his parent’s friend Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft), before meeting daughter Elaine (Katherine Ross).

Upcoming Narrative Films of Interest for 2013 & Beyond

Saturday, January 5th, 2013

The following includes films headed to theaters (or some form of release) in 2013 and beyond. Some are already shot and have appeared or are appearing at film festivals, but have not been released yet; and/or they have had commercial releases already in other countries; some are currently shooting; others, are only in the advanced pre-production stage, but most at least have confirmed casts and scheduled shoot dates. Among the eighty films on the list, there are several films from the previously non-prolific Terrence Malick; long awaited films from a couple of  Asian directors, Wong Kar-wai; Hsiao-hsien Hou; a third Sunset film from Richard Linklater; two from British neo-realist master Ken Loach; and few from younger ones like Lenny Abrahmson (with two films listed) and Ramin Bahrani, who are both venturing into slightly new territory; films from a slew of bin-english language directors like Abbas Kiarostami; Carlos Reygadas; Cristu Mungui; and Olivier Assayas; films from iconoclastic American auteurs like The Coens; Sophia Coppola; Wes Anderson; and Noah Baumbach; some from British filmmakers like Michael Winterbottom (who also has two film listed); Steve McQueen; and Danny Boyle; films from two Canadian directors, Atom Egoyan and David Cronenberg; sci-fi offerings from Alfonso Cuaron; Shane Carruth; Terry Gilliam; Joon ho-Bong; David Michod; and Neil Bloomkamp; and films from directors used to working with micro budgets like Andrew Bujalski; Amy Seimetz; Joe Swanberg; and Lynn Shelton.

Ain’t Them Bodies Saints (USA) Directed by David Lowery  Starring Casey Affleck; Ben Foster; and Rooney Mara

From director David Lowery comes this 70s era Texas set crime film starring Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara as a Bonnie and Clyde-like duo, and Ben Foster as the lawman who comes between them

The Angel’s Share (UK) Directed by Ken Loach   Starring Paul Brannigan; John Henshaw; and William Ruane

Director Ken Loach again collaborates with screenwriter Paul Laverty in this Glasgow set story about a young man’s attempt to better his life for the sake of his new child.

The Assassin (TAIW) Directed by Hsiao-hsien Hou  Starring Qiu Shu Zhen and Tony Leung

The long awaited martial arts epic from Taiwenese director Hsiao-hsien Hou about an 8th century girl (Qiu Shu), who is kidnapped as child, and trained as an assassin, but as an adult uses her fighting skills for revenge.

At Any Price (USA) Directed by Ramin Bahrani   Starring Dennis Quaid; Zac Effron; Kim Dickens; and Heather Graham

This 2012 festival favorite is directed by the talented Rahmin Bahrini (Man Push Cart; Chop Shop), who takes a step up in budget, and works with well known actors for the first time, in this story of the troubled relationship between a father (Dennis Quaid) and son (Zac Effron) living in an Iowa farming community

August: Osage County (USA) Directed by John Wells  Starring Meryl Streep; Julia Roberts; Ewan McGregor; Chris Cooper; and Benedict Cumberbatch

Based on the play by Tracy Letts and directed by television producer John Wells (ER), the film is set in Oklahoma and involves the story of the dysfunctional Weston family. Shooting wrapped in November of 2012.

Before Midnight (USA)  Directed by Richard Linklater  Starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy

The third installment of the collaboration between actors Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy and director Richard Linklater brings characters Jesse and Celine together again in Greece. The film was shot during the summer of 2012.

The Bling Ring (USA)  Directed by Sophia Coppola   Starring Emma Watson; Leslie Mann; and Gavin Rossdale

A story inspired by a real life group of young people who targeted the homes of Hollywood’s young, rich, and famous in a string of burglaries

Beyond the Hills (ROM) Directed by Cristian Mungiu   Starring Osmina Stratan and Cristina Flutur

Romanian director Cristian Mungiu (4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days) turns his focus toward a pair of female friends/lovers separated by distance and the confines of religion

Breathe In (USA) Directed by Drake Doremus  Starring Felicity Jones; Guy Pearce; Amy Ryan; and Kyle McLachlan

Director Doremus follows Like Crazy (2011) with another one starring Felicity Jones. The plot involves a foreign exchange student (Jones) who alters the dynamic of the host family she comes to stay with.

Calvary (UK) Directed by John Michael Michael McDonagh  Starring Brendan Gleason and Kelly Reilly

John Michael McDonagh’s follow-up to his 2011 film The Guard sees him re-teaming with actor Brendan Gleason, who plays an Irish country priest facing dark, powerful forces

Closed Circuit (UK) Directed by John Crowley  Starring Eric Bana; Rebecca Hall; Jim Broadbent; Ann Marie Hall; Julia Stiles; and Ciaran Hinds

A thriller about an exes (Eric Bana; Rebecca Hall) who are placed on the same defense team in a terrorism trial.

Computer Chess (USA) Directed by Andrew Bujalski  Starring Wiley Wiggins

This existential comedy about the guys who taught computers to play chess from director Andrew Bujalski (Funny Ha Ha; Beeswax) is appearing at his year’s Sundance film festival.

The Congress (USA) Directed by Ari Folman Starring Robin Wright; Paul Giamatti; and Kodi Smit-McPhee

A mix of animation and live action from the Israeli director of Waltz with Bashir.

The Counselor (USA) Directed by Ridley Scott  Starring Brad Pitt; Michael Fassbender; Cameron Diaz; Penelope Cruz; and Javier Bardem

Shot in the summer of 2012, The Counselor is from a spec screenplay by Cormac McCarthy. Directed by Ridley Scott, the film centers on a lawyer (Michael Fassbender) who gets involved in drug trafficking.

The Devil’s Knot (CA) Directed by Atom Egoyan  Starring Reese Witherspoon and Colin Firth

From the great Canadien director Atom Egoyan, a narrative version of the West Memphis Three story made famous by the three Paradise Lost documentaries by Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky

Don Jon’s Addiction (USA) directed by Joseph Gordon Leavitt  Written by Joseph Gordon Leavitt  Starring Joseph Gordon Leavitt; Scarlett Johansson; Julianne Moore; Brie Larson; Tony Danza

The directorial debut from actor Joseph Gordon Leavitt is a story about a porn addicted New Jersey Lothario, starring JGL; Scarlett Johansson; and Julianne Moore. It debuts this month at Sundance.

The Double (UK)  Directed by Richard Ayoade   Starring Jessie Eisenberg; Mia Wasilowska; and Noah Taylor

British director Richard Ayoade follows his critically acclaimed Submarine with a film about a man (Jesse Eisenberg) and his doppelganger

Drinking Buddies (USA) Directed by Joe Swanberg   Starring Olivia Wilde; Anna Kendrick; Jake Johnson; and Ron Livingston

Prolific low budget director Joe Swanberg ups the ante by working with well-known actors, a larger crew, and a bigger budget, but the film was reportedly totally improvised. Will be interesting to see the results.

Ella Walks the Beach (USA)  Directed by David Robert Mitchell  Starring Haley Bennett

From the director of the underrated Myth of the American Sleepover (2010), a story about a girl who (as the title says) spends a day and night walking the beach and interacting with the people she meets along the way.

Elysium (AUSTR) Directed by Neil Bloomkamp  Starring Matt Damon; Jody Foster; and Sharlto Copley

Neil Bloomkamp’s follow-up to District 9 (2009) is another sci-fi entry; this time starring Matt Damon.

Everyday (UK) Directed by Michael Winterbottom  Starring Shirley Henderson and John Simm

Getting festival play in 2012, Everyday is a simple story about the wife (Shirley Henderson) and family of a man (John Simm) serving a long prison sentence.

Filth (UK) Directed by John S. Baird  Starring James McAvoy; Jamie Bell; Jim Broadbent; Imogene Poots; Shirley Henderson; Eddie Marsdan; and Joanne Froggett

Based on the Irvine Welsh novel of the same name, Filth is directed by Scotsman Jon S. Baird. The story revolves around a corrupt and depraved police officer (James McAvoy).

Foxcatcher (USA) Directed by Bennett Miller  Starring Channing Tatum; Mark Ruffalo; and Sienna Miller

Based on the true story of John du Pont (Steve Carrell), a paranoid schizophrenic and heir to the du Pont family fortune, who killed Olympic wrestler David Schulz (Channing Tatum).

Foxfire (FR) Directed by Laurent Cantet   Starring Katie Coseni; Raven Adamson; Madeline Bisson; and Claire Mazerolle

Based on the the 1993 novel by Joyce Carol Oates, Foxfire is the story of a gang of young teenage female rebels in the 1950s. This is director Laurent Cantet’s (Class; Human Resources) second foray into English language filmmaking. Another film was made from the book in 1996 starring Angelina Jolie.

Francés Ha (USA) Directed by Noah Baumbach  Starring Greta Gerwig and Mickey Summer

Following their collaboration on Greenberg (2010), Greta Gerwig re-teams with Noah Baumbach to co-write in star in the director’s latest, which was shot in black & white. Gerwig plays the titular Frances, a professional dancer working as an understudy, who finds her life slowly unraveling.

Frank (UK) Directed by Lenny Abrahmson  Starring Michael Fassbender; Domnhall Gleeson; and Maggie Gyllenhall

Neo-realist Irish director Abrahmson changes gears in this existential comedy about the music business, fame, creative impulses, and disappointment. Begins filming next week in new Mexico and Ireland

The Grand Budapest Hotel (USA) Directed by Wes Anderson  Starring Ralph Fiennes; Edward Norton; Jude Law; Bill Murray; Saoirse Ronan; Tilda Swinton; Owen Wilson; Adrien Brody; Harvey Keitel; F. Murray Abraham; Jason Schwartzman; Willem Dafoe; Mathieu Amalric; and Jeff Goldblum

Anderson’s film is scheduled to begin shooting this month. It boasts a ridiculously deep cast of Anderson regulars and newcomers to his rotating troupe.

The Grandmasters (CHIN) Directed by Wong Kar-wai   Starring Tony Leung and Ziyi Zhang

The much anticipated martial arts epic about Ip Man, the expert who trained Bruce Lee, comes from one the finest visual directors the word, Wong Kar-wai.

Gravity (USA/UK) Directed by Alfonso Cuaron  Starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney

An 80 million dollar sci-fi film about astronauts who get stuck floating in space in an attempt to return to earth from Mexican director Alfronso Cuaron (Children of Men; Y tu Mama Tambien).

Her (USA) Directed by Spike Jonze   Starring Amy Adams; Olivia Wilde; Rooney Mara; Joaquin Phoenix; and Samantha Morton

A Spike Jonze film about a man (Joaquin Phoneix) who falls in love with the voice of a computer operating system.

The Hunt (DAN) Directed by Thomas Vinterberg   Starring Mads Mikkelsen; Thomas Bo Larsen; and Tobias Lindholm

The latest from Danish director Thomas Vinterberg features Madds Mikkelsen as a divorced teacher who is beginning to put his life back together when he is accused of pedaphelia. The film appeared at Cannes in 2012 and was released in The Netherlands and The U.K.

The Iceman (USA) Directed by Ariel Vromen  Starring Michael Shannon; Chris Evans; James Franco; Winona Ryder; Ray Liotta; and Stephen Dorff

Playing in film festivals in 2012, the story of famed mob contract killer Richard Kuklisnki is from Israeli born director Ariel Vroman.

Inside Llewyn Davis (USA) Directed by Joel Coen; Ethan Coen  Starring Carey Mulligan; Garret Headland; Justin Timberlake; John Goodman; and F Murray Abraham

The latest from the Coens involves a 60s era New York folk singer.

Knight of Cups (USA) Directed by Terrence Malick  Starring Christian Bale; Natalie Portman; Cate Blanchett; Freida Pinto; and Holly Hunter

Malick’s film about the L.A. movie business will follow the release of his To The Wonder.

Labor Day (USA) Directed by Jason Reitman   Starring Kate Winslet; Josh Brolin; Toby Maguire; and James Van Der Beek

A single mom (Kate Winslet) and her child pick-up a stranger who turns out to be a convicted murderer on the run from authorities.

Like Someone in Love (FR/JAP) Directed by Abbas Kiarostami  Starring Rin Takashani; Ryo Kase; and Tadashi Okuno

The story of a relationship between a young woman and an old man in Tokyo sees Kiarostami again shooting outside of the confines of his native country.

The Look of Love (UK) Directed by Michael Winterbottom  Starring Steve Coogan; Anna Friel; and Imogene Poots

Winterbottom again teams with Steve Coogan in this portrait of Paul Raymond, a pornographer and strip club owner who amassed a fortune in London real estate.

Lore (GE/AUSTRAL/UK) Directed by Cate Shortland  Starring Saski Rosendahl

Set in post WWII Germany, Australian director Cate Shortland’s (Somersault) long awaited second feature is a film about a family of children making their way to their grandmother’s house.

Lovelace (USA) Directed by Rob Epstein  Starring Amanda Seyfried; Peter Sarsgaard; Juno Temple; Sharon Stone; James ranco; Chloe Sevigny; and Bobby Cannavale

This biopic about porn star Linda Lovelace (Amanda Seyfried) from documentary director Rob Epstein boasts a talented cast.

Maps to the Stars (CA) Directed by David Cronenberg   Starring Viggo Mortensen; Rachel Weisz; and Robert Pattinson

Director David Cronenberg rejoins previous recent collaborators Viggo Mortensen (Eastern Promises) and Robert Pattinson (Cosmopolis), who team with Rachel Weisz, in this story about contemporary Hollywood.

Mobius (FR) Directed by Eric Rochant  Starring Jean Dujardin; Cecile De France; Tim Roth; Emily Dequenne; and John Lynch

A French thriller set in the world of international finance.

Mood Indigo (FR) Directed by Michel Gondry  Starring Audrey Tatou and Romain Duris

The enigmatic Michel Gondry is back with a French language film about a woman suffering from a strange illness. Stars two of France’s best: Audrey Tatou and Romain Duris

The Monuments Men (USA) Directed by George Clooney  Starring Matt Damon; Cate Blanchett; Daniel Craig; Bill Murray; John Goodman; and Jean Dujardin

George Clooney’s much anticipated WWII period film about a group of art experts handpicked by the government to collect artwork stolen by the Nazis

A Most Wanted Man (USA/UK) Directed by Anton Corbijn  Starring Phillip Seymour Hoffman; Rachel McAdams; Willem Dafoe; and Robin Wright

An international thriller that follows director Anton Corbijn’s underrated 2010 film The American.

Mud (USA) Directed by Jeff Nichols  Starring Matthew McConaughy; Sarah Paulson; and Reese Witherspoon

Jeff Nichols’ (Take Shelter) film about a fugitive (Matthew McConaughy), who bonds with two teenage boys, played at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival.

Nebraska (USA) Directed by Alexander Payne  Starring Bob Odenkirk; Stacey Keach; and Bruce Dern

A black & white film from director Alexander Payne about a road trip undertaken by a father (Bruce Dern) and son (Will Forte).

Lowlife/Nightingale (USA) Directed by James Gray  Starring Joaquin Phoenix; Marion Cotillard; and Jeremy Renner

A tragic period piece from James Gray about an immigrant’s (Marion Cotillard) arrival to New York City, and the dark world of burlesque, prostitution, vaudeville, and magic she is drawn into. Also stars the director’s frequent collaborator Joaquin Phoenix.

Night Moves (USA) Directed by Kelly Reichardt  Starring Dakota Fanning; Jesse Eisenberg; and Peter Skarsgaard

Kelly Reichardt’s film about a group of eco-terrorists who plan to blow up a dam.

Nymphomaniac (DAN/GE/FR/BELG) Directed by Lars von Trier  Starring Stellan Skarsgard; Charlotte Gainsborough; Shia Labeouf; Connie Nielsen; Jamie Bell; Willem Dafoe; Christian Slater; and Uma Thurman

Director von Trier once again partners with Charlotte Gainsborough and Willem Dafoe from Melancholia in a film about a female sex addict that also stars Shia Labeouf.

Oldboy (USA) Directed by Spike Lee  Starring Elizabeth Olsen; Josh Brolin; and Samuel L. Jackson

Spike Lee’s re-make of Chan-Wook Park’s 2003 cult classic.

Only God Forgives (FR/DAN) Directed by Nicholas Winding Refn  Starring Ryan Gosling and Kristen Scott Thomas

Director Refn and Gosling re-team after 2011’s hit Drive exposed Refn to American audiences. The talented Kristen Scott Thomas co-stars in this Thailand based crime thriller.

Pieta (KOR) Directed by Kim Ki-duk   Starring Lee Jung-jin and Jo Min-su

Kim Ki duk’s film about a loan shark who gets a visit from a woman claiming to be his long lost mother. Won the Golden Lion at The Venice Film Festival in 2012.

Place Beyond the Pines (USA) Directed by Derek Cianfrance  Starring Ryan Gosling; Eva Mendes; Bradley Cooper; and Rose Byrne

Director Cianfrance, who waited 12 years to make his previous film, Blue Valentine, again partners with Ryan Gosling in this story about a motorcycle stunt rider trying to connect with his ex-girlfriend (Eva Mendes) and son.

Out of the Furnace (USA) Directed by Scott Cooper   Starring Christian Bale; Zoe Saldana; Woody Harrelson; Willem Dafoe; and Casey Affleck

Crazy Heart director Scott Cooper’s second film is about a Pennsylvania based ex-con (Christian Bale) searching for his brother’s (Casey Affleck) killers.

Post Tenebras Lux (MEX/FR/NETH/GE) Directed by Carlos Reygadas  Starring Adolfo Jimenez Castro; Nathalia Acevedo; and Willebaldo Torres

Mexican director Reygadas’ tale about a family’s move to rural surroundings.

Prince Avalanche (USA) Directed by David Gordon Green  Starring Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch

Set in 1988, David Gordon Green’s film centers on two highway workers who spend a summer in a remote area away from their lives back home.

Reality (IT) Directed by Matteo Garrone  Starring Claudia Gerini; Aniello Arena; and Loredena Simioli

Italian Matteo Garrone (Gomorrah) changes gears with a story about a fisherman who becomes obsessed with the Italian version of the Big-Brother reality show and begins living his life as if he was on television. Won the Grand Prix at Cannes.

Route Irish (UK/FR/IT/BELG/SP) Directed by Ken Loach  Starring Mark Womack; John Bishop; Stephen Lord; and Geoff Bell

Another pairing of director Ken Loach and screenwriter Paul Laverty tells the story of a private security contractor (Mark Womack) working in Iraq tries who tries to find out the true cause of his friend’s (John Bishop) death. The film was released in 2011 in the UK.

The Rover (AUSTRAL/USA) Director David Michod  Starring Guy Pearce and Robert Pattinson

Director David Michod follows his first feature Animal Kingdom (2010) with this futuristic film set in the Australian outback.

Runner Runner (USA) Directed by Brad Furman Starring Ben Affleck; Gemma Atherton; Justin Timberlake; and Anthony Mackie

A thriller from Brad Furman (The Lincoln Lawyer) about a businessman (Ben Affleck) and his protege (Justin Timberlake), who feud over their offshore gambling operation.

Serena (USA/CZECH) Directed by Susanne Bier  Starring Jennifer Lawrence; Bradley Cooper; Toby Jones; and Rhys Ifans

Danish director Susanne Bier (In a Better World; Brothers; Things we Lost in the Fire) makes another English language film. Serena features a pair seen together in David O’Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook, Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper, playing fiancees in depression era North Carolina.

Side Effects (USA) Directed by Steven Soderbergh  Starring Channing Tatum; Rooney Mara; Jude Law; Catherine Zeta Jones; and Vinissa Shaw

This will possibly be the last theatrically released film from Steven Soderbergh for awhile as he has talked about taking a self-imposed sabbatical or quitting film-making altogether. This psychological thriller involves a woman (Rooney Mara) with an abused past who, while on anti-depressants, gets involved in a murder.

Simon Killer (USA) Directed by Antonio Campos  Starring Bradi Corbet and Mati Diop

Directed Antonio Campos’ (Afterschool) film about a college student who gets involved with a Paris prostitute (Mati Diop).

Snowpiercer (KOR/USA/FR) Directed by Joon-ho Bong  Starring Chris Evans; Jamie Bell; John Hurt; Alison Pill; Tilda Swinton; Ed Harris; Octavia Spencer; and Ewen Bremmer

This sci-fi entry is Korean director Joon-ho Bong’s first English language film. Taking place in 2031, the passengers on a train are the last survivors on earth.

Something in the Air/Apres Mai (FR) Directed by Olivier Assayas  Starring Clement Metayer; Hugo Conzaelmann; Lola Creton; and Felix Armand

Set in late 60’s/early 70’s Paris, Olivier Assayas’ film is about a group of young students who become swept up in the political activism happening during this charged period.

Spring Breakers (USA) Directed by Harmony Korine   Starring James Franco; Selena Gomez; and Vanessa Hudgens

Spring break hijinks ensure when four college age girls (Vanessa Hudgens; Ashley Benson; Selena Gomez; Rachel Korine) rob a fast food restaurant to fund their Florida trip, and then get involved with a rapper (James Franco) who pushes them into even darker territory. The film played at The Venice Film Festival in 2012.

The Spectacular Now (USA) Directed by James Ponsoldt   Starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead; Shailene Woodley; Brie Larson; Jennifer Jason Leigh; Kyle Chandler; and Miles Teller

The story of a carefree high school student (Miles Teller), who gets involved in a relationship that turns much more serious than he expected.

Stoker (USA) Directed by Chan-wook Park  Starring Mia Wasilowska; Nicole Kidman; Matthew Goode; and Dermot Mulroney

Based on a script by actor Wentworth Miller, Korean director Chan-wook Park (Oldboy; Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance; Lady Vengeance) makes his foray into English language film with this story about a mother (Nicole Kidman) and daughter (Mia Wasilowska) who lose their husband/father (Dermot Mulroney) and his brother (Matthew Goode) who comes to stay with them.

The Sun Don’t Shine (USA) Directed by Amy Seimetz  Starring Kate Lyn Sheil and Kentucker Audley

Actor Amy Seimetz directs this micro-budgeted neo-noirish road movie about a couple traveling across Florida. Played at SXSW in 2012.

To the Wonder (USA) Directed by Terrence Malick  Starring Ben Affleck; Rachel McAdams; Javier Bardem; and Olga Kurylenko

Terrence Malick’s film about a man (Ben Affleck) who returns to Oklahoma by way of Paris with a new wife and her daughter, but contemplates becoming involved with a local girl (Rachel McAdams). Reportedly shot without lights or a script, the film has been called, among other things, atmospheric, poetic, artistic, and expirimental. Actors Amanda Peet; Barry Pepper; Rachel Weisz; Jessica Chastain; and Michael Sheen were removed from the final cut. Played in festivals in 2012.

Touchy Feely (USA) Directed by Lynn Shelton  Starring Rosemarie DeWitt; Ellen Page; and Allison Janney

Lynn Shelton’s follow-up to Your Sister’s Sister is about a massage therapist (Rosemarie DeWitt) stricken with an aversion to touch.

Trance (UK) Directed by Danny Boyle  Starring James McAvoy; Rosario Dawson; and Vincent Cassel

Danny Boyle’s Trance is a re-make of a 2001 British TV drama about an art heist. The creator of the show, Joe Ahearne, co-wrote the script.

Twelve Years a Slave (USA) Director Steve McQueen  Starring Michael Fassbender; Brad Pitt; Benedict Cumbebatch; Paul Giamatti; Chiwetel Ejiofor; Alfre Woodard; Michael Kenneth Williams; Paul Dano; and Quvezhane’ Wallis

Director Steve McQueen (Hunger) co-write the script with John Ridley. The story involves a man in the 1800s who is captured in New York and sold into slavery in the south.

Two Mothers (USA)  Directed by Anne Fontaine  Starring Naomi Watts and Robin Wright

French director Anne Fontaine (Coco Before Chanel) works from a script adapted from a Doring Lessing novel about two childhood friends who, as grown women, fall for one another’s son.

Untitled Nicole Holefcener Project (USA) Directed by Nicole Holofcener  Starring Catherine Keener; Julia Louis-Dreyfuss; Toni Collette; and James Gandolfini

Nicole Holofcener’s latest re-unites her with frequent collaborator Catherine Keener in this story about a woman (Julia Louis Dreyfuss) who gets involved with her new friend’s (Catherine Kenner) ex (James Gandolfini).

Untitled David O’Russell/Abscam Project (USA) Directed by David O’Russell  Starring Christian Bale; Jeremy Renner; Amy Adams; and Bradley Cooper

David O’Russell’s film about the Abscam scandal in the 1970s.

Upstream Color (USA) Directed by Shane Caruth  Starring Amy Seimetz

Shane Caruth’s long awaited follow-up to 2004’s Primer is a science fiction thriller that will premiere this month at Sundance.

Very Good Girls (USA) Directed by Naomi Foner  Starring Dakota Fanning; Elizabeth Olsen; Demi Moore; Peter Skarsgaard; Ellen Barkin; Richard Deyfuss; Kiernan Shipka

Two New York City girls (Dakota Fanning; Elizabeth Olsen) endeavor to lose their virginity during the summer after high school, but wind up falling for the same boy.

What Richard Did (UK) Directed by Lenny Abrahmson  Starring Jack Reynor; and Roisin Murphy

Irish director Abrahmson’s story comes from a book of fiction (that was based on a true, highly publicized case) about a young man (Jack Reynor), from a well-to-do background, who is involved in a murder.

The Way, Way Back (USA) Directed by Nat Faxon; Jim Rash  Starring Steve Carrell; AnnaSophia Robb; Liam James; Sam Rockwell; Amanda Peet; Allison Janney; Toni Collette; Maya Rudolph

The writing team behind The Descendants, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, share writing and directing duties for this story about a teenager (Liam James) who spends the summer working at a water park.

The Young and Prodigous Spivet/L’extravagant Voyage du Jeune et Prodigieux Spivet (FR/CA) Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet   Starring Helena Bonham Carter and Judy Davis

Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s first English language film is a 3D fable about a 12 year old prodigy in Montana who sets out on his own to visit The Smithsonian.

The Zero Theorem (UK/ROM) Directed by Terry Gilliam Starring Matt Damon; Christoph Waltz; Tilda Swinton; and David Thewliss

There’s no telling what can happen when Terry Gilliam takes the helm. This science fiction offering is the story of reclusive, computer hacking genius (Christoph Waltz) trying to work out a formula for the meaning of life.  Will it be disaster or achieve greatness? The mystery is part of the fun.

Docs About Restaurant/Hospitality Industry Owners & Chefs

Monday, December 3rd, 2012

With the United States becoming increasingly aware of its culinary identity and home to some of the most respected restaurants in the world, there has been a proliferation of food/restaurant reality television on US television. These shows include The Restaurant; Hell’s Kitchen; Gordon Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares; Restaurant Stakeout; Good EatsMystery Diner; Bar RescueAround the World in 80 Plates; Diners, Drive-Ins, & Dives; Jamie Oliver’s Food RevolutionCup Cake Wars; Masterchef; Anthony’s Bourdain’s No Reservations and The Layover; Bizarre Foods; No Kitchen Required; Man vs. Food; Ace of Cakes; Top Chef and its many incarnations; Restaurant Impossible; The Great Food Truck Race; and Iron Chef among others. Perhaps then it’s no surprise that in recent years there have been a number of solid documentaries focusing on restaurants; culinary and hospitality employees, owners, and chefs. 2012 has seen a couple of editions, including The Restaurateur ; the German film Three Stars; and the French Entre Les Bras (Step Up to the Plate).

The following list includes some of the better documentaries covering similar subject matter over the past eight years.

Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2011) Directed by David Gelb

Meditative look at 85 year old master Japanese sushi chef Jiro Ono, his restaurant Sukiyabashi Jiro, and his two sushi chef sons Takashi and Yoshikazu.

A Matter of Taste (2011) Directed by Sally Rowe.

Profile on British native NYC chef Paul Leibrandt that follows him as a young man cooking in several restaurants for other owners, and then ten years later as he attempts to open his own place, Corton, in partnership with Drew Nieporent (Nobu; Tribeca Grille).

El Bulli: Cooking in Progress (2011) Directed by Gereon Wetzel

Intimate profile of chef/owner Ferran Adria and the intensely painstaking process he and his colleagues go through designing the gastro-molecular delights served in Spain’s El Bulli, considered one of the finest restaurants in the world.

King of Pastry (2009) Directed by Chris Hedegus; D.A. Pennebaker

Contestants prepare for years before participating in the Meilleurs Ouvriers de France in Lyon, the world’s premiere pastry competition.

Pressure Cooker (2008) Directed by Mark Becker

Inspiring Philadelphia culinary arts teacher Wilma Stephenson works tirelessly to shape groups of underprivileged urban minority students to propel them toward college cooking scholarships.

The Biggest Chinese Restaurant in the World (2007) Directed by Wei Jun Chen

The inner-workings of the five thousand seat West Lake Restaurant in Changsa China and it’s irrepressible owner Mrs. Qin Linzi.

La Cirque: A table in Heaven (2007) Directed by Andrew Rossi

Story about owner Sirio Maccioni and his sons re-opening of New York institution, Le Cerque.

Toots (2006) Directed by Kristi Jacobson

Restaurateur Toots Shor is profiled by his grandaughter.

I Like Killing Flies (2004) Matt Mahurin

The focus is on eccentric, irascible chef/owner Kenny Shopsin and his family-run, elcectic diner style restaurant during their final year at the original location, as well as the move to a larger space nearby.

Eat this New York (2004)  Directed by Kate Novack; Andrew Rossi

Story about two friends who want to open a restaurant in NYC with limited funds.

Harris Savides R.I.P.

Thursday, October 25th, 2012

On October 9th, cinematographer Harris “Harry” Savides passed away from brain cancer at age 55. A Bronx native of Greek ancestry who grew up in a blue collar family, Mr. Savides graduated from the NY School for the Visual Arts. He began his professional career in Europe as a fashion photographer. Later, in the U.S., he became a DP on music videos and commercials.

After winning a number of awards for shooting a host of iconic videos with directors like Mark Romanek; Bruce Weber; and Michael Gondry for artists like REM; Michael Jackson; The Rolling Stones; Madonna; Chris Isaak; Nine Inch Nails; and Fiona Apple, he shot his first feature for director Phil Joanou (Heaven’s Prisoners).

He went on to participate in a host of successful collaborations with prominent feature directors, most notably Sofia Coppola (The Bling Ring; Somewhere); Noah Baumbach (Margot at the Wedding; Greenberg); Gus Van Sant (Last Days; Gerry; Milk; Restless; Finding Forrester); and David Fincher (The Game; Zodiac). He also worked with Ridley Scott (American Gangster); Woody Allen (Whatever Works); James Gray (The Yards); and, again, Bruce Weber (Chop Suey), and shot sponsored shorts for Martin Scorcese and War Kong Wai.

Savides moved from more stylized work in films like The Game and The Yards to an evolving mode that employed lots of handheld camera and natural light.This style was best represented through the films of Van Sant; Baumbach; and Coppola. One can only imagine the wonderful future projects he would have been involved in with these directors, and others. His innovative work was of the highest order, and he should be remembered as one of the best to work in the medium.

Here are eleven of the great Harry Savides’ most notable films.

1. Somewhere (2010) Sofia Coppola’s gorgeous meditation on Hollywood celebrity ennui.

2. Greenberg (2010) Noah Baumbach’s darkly comedic look at a neurotic middle-aged man (played by Ben Stiller) attempting to enter the world of adulthood.

3. Milk (2008) Gus Van Sant’s compelling biopic of gay rights advocate Harvey Milk, starring Sean Penn; Josh Brolin; and James Franco.

4. American Gangster (2007) Ridley Scott’s take on African American Harlem gangster Frank Lucas, starring Denzel Washington.

5. Margot at the Wedding (2007) Baumbach’s largely misunderstood story of the relationship between a troubled woman and her family, starring Nicole Kidman as the titular Margot.

6. Zodiac (2007) David Fincher’s exploration into murder in the 1970s.

7. Last Days (2005) Van Sant’s minimalistic, atmospheric view on the days leading up to Kurt Cobain’s death.

8. Elephant (2003) Van Sant’s visually stunning depiction of a high school massacre.

9. Gerry (2002) Van Sant’s largely silent, meandering bit of existentialism was marked by a plethora of arresting wide shots of desert environs.

10. The Yards (1999) James Gray’s gritty story about the relationship between two young NYC friends, starring Joaquin Phoenix; Mark Wahlberg; and Charlize Theron.

11. The Game (1997) Fincher’s intricate commentary on the machinations of the wealthy, starring Michael Douglas and Sean Penn.

Best Shows on Television (2012)

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012

With network television now largely consisting of reality shows, CSI-like dramas, and dull sitcoms pretending that the form hasn’t evolved, cable programming has, for some time now, dominated the landscape in terms of quality. Though shows like The Good Wife on CBS; Modern Family on ABC; and Parenthood and Parks and Recreation on NBC have earned their stripes, pay channels HBO and Showtime, and basic channels like FX and AMC are consistently producing the best shows on television. They have the freedom to use whatever language they choose and depict sexuality in a more true to life way. They are not as ratings driven and often allow new shows several seasons to blossom if they deem them worthy. There are plenty of shows doing good things that did not make this list, including HBO’s Veep; The Newsroom; and Curb Your Enthusiasm; AMC’s Walking Dead; FX’s It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and Justified; Channel 4’sTop Boy; BBC’s Whitechapel and Sherlock; and TBS’s Southland, but here are eleven of the best TV has to offer.

Downton Abbey (PBS) The brilliant British series currently in its third season in the U.K. (it plays in January in the U.S.) has a wonderful ensemble cast and compelling storylines. From creator Julian Fellowes, this rich, sumptuous drama has brought high-brow to the masses.

Mad Men (AMC) Season 5 kept us riveted. Creator Matthew Wiener has said that this meticulously designed show will go for two more seasons. Simply one of the best in the history of the medium.

Breaking Bad (AMC)  Having hit the break between the first part of the fifth and final season, it is obvious creator Vince Gilligan, et al, haven’t missed a beat. Watching Walter White (Bryan Cranston) go from meek, mild chemistry teacher to devious, murderous drug baron has been a wild ride. Already off to a rollicking start, it promises a scintillating conclusion.

Game of Thrones (HBO) A deeply plotted, sprawling fantasy epic chock full of characters and its own interwoven lore. So good that even non fantasists can love it. Huge cast of talented actors, great locations.

Boardwalk Empire (HBO) The show took a tremendous chance killing off it’s second lead character, but now into season three it seems as if the gamble has paid off.

Nurse Jackie (SHO) Keeps on chugging. Boasts one of the finest actors on television in Edie Falco as the titular nurse who plays on ongoing game with her own morality.

Homeland (SHO) A compelling political terrorism thriller starring Claire Danes, Mandy Patinkin, and Damien Lewis. Strong season one, though with season two underway one wonders if it will be able to maintain the momentum. A slew of major Emmy awards can’t hurt the cause.

Louie (FX) In season three, the innovative Louie CK has already taken an unusual chance by inexplicably casting an African American woman (Susan Kelechi Watson) to play his ex-wife (though both children already in the show appear to be fully caucasian). He also casts an actor (Edward Gelbinovich) who looks like teenager (he’s actually 21) as his agent; David Lynch as a bizarre (what else) talk show host; and the show itself has shifted toward a slightly more surrealistic realm. A great example of a piece dominated by a singular voice that cares more about quality than pleasing a wide audience. Shockingly human.

Girls (HBO) Funny and quirky, from the voice of the talented Lena Dunham (Tiny Furniture) and backed by mega producer Judd Apatow. Like most television of lasting value, this one felt different and new from the first episode.

Dexter (SHO) Heading into season eight, the show has lagged in places, and has even become repetitive, but it’s still one of the better shows on the tube.

Boss (STARZ) In the midst of season two, this relative newcomer continues to show great promise. Perhaps still a little early to tell where it all will lead, but Kelsey Grammar is as good as he has ever been as Chicago mayor Tom Kane. Great support from the likes of Kathleen Robertson, Connie Nielsen, Troy Garrity, and Martin Donovan.

Twelve Talented Female Directors Under Fifty

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011

Alice Guy Blatche may have made the first narrative film in 1896, but for many years there was a dearth of female directors around the world. Though historically Hollywood was exclusively a male bastion when it came to directing, there were a few exceptions - Ida Lupino (The Bigamist; The Hitch-Hiker) and Dorothy Azner (Dance Girl Dance) to name a few. The controversial Leni Riefenstahl was making films in Germany in the 1930s; Maya Deren and Shirley Clarke made experimental films in the nineteen forties, fifties, and sixties; Agnes Varda made Cleo From 5 to 7 and others in the sixties, and Chantel Akerman, Margarethe von Trotta, Diane Kurys, Joan Micklin Silver, Barbara Kopple, Lina Wertmuller, Penelope Spheeris, and others, did the same in the seventies, but the landscape did not really begin to change for women until the 1980s.

Since that time a host of other women have created a wide range of independent and studio films around the world. Names like Lizzie Borden, Julie Dash, Allison Anders, Jane Campion, Gillian Armstrong, Danielle Thompson, Sally Potter, Catherine Bigelow, Leni Riefenstahl, Joan Micklin Silver, Antonia Bird, Agnieszka Holland, Patty Jenkins, Tamara Jenkins, Isabel Coixet, Lone Scherfig, Patricia Rozema, Andrea Arnold, Mira Nair, Catherine Breillat, Susanne Bier, Nicole Holofcener, Claire Denis, and Marleen Gorris have, in their own way, contributed to cinema, making seminal films, winning awards, their efforts, talent, and skill continuing to pave the way for their fellow female directors who followed.

The world of cinema is filled with fresh female voices from a host of countries. The following list represents twelve of the top female directors under the age of fifty years old. Among them are some of the finest directors working today.

1. Sarah Polley (age 32) Candien who began acting at age six and directed her first stunning feature, Away from Her (2007) at age twenty seven, Polley is coming out with her second feature, Take This Waltz, this year.

2.Anna Bolden (age 35) Part of the writing/directing/producing duo (with Ryan Fleck) behind the films Half Nelson (2006); Sugar (2009); and It’s Kind of a Funny Story (2010).

3.  Miranda July (age 37) July’s follow up to her debut feature Me You and Everyone You know (2005) is The Future, currently playing in theaters.

4. Sophia Coppola (age 40) After a less than stellar acting career that included a famously panned performance in her father’s Godfather III, Coppola directed her first feature The Virgin Suicides (1999) at age 28, and won critical acclaim with Lost in Translation (2003). Her other films include Marie Antoinette (2006) and Somewhere (2010).

5. Lynne Ramsey (age 42) Scottish native behind Ratcatcher (1999); Morvern Callar (2002) and her latest, We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011).

6. Cate Shortland (age 43) This Australian native has only made one feature, the critically acclaimed Somersault (2004) - the film that helped launch, or at least propel the careers of Abby Cornish and Sam Worthington. Since that time Shortland directed the TV Movie The Silence (2006), and is currently in post-production on Lore, a period piece set in Germany.

7. Lucretia Martel (age 45) Highly acclaimed Argentinian director responsible for The Headless Woman (2008); Holy Girl (2004); and The Swamp (2001).

8. Kelly Reichardt (age 46) Oregon native Reichardt has made two films with actress Michelle Williams, Meek’s Cutoff (2010) and Wendy and Lucy (2008). Her debut feature was titled Old Joy (2006).

9. Lisa Chodolenko (age 47) Openly gay director, who had a big bit in American theaters with last years The Kids Are All Right. Her work includes Laurel Canyon (2002); and High Art (1998).

10.Agnes Jaoui (age 47) Known mainly as an actor, Jaooui has made Parlez-moi de la pluie (2008); Look at Me (2004) The Taste of Others (2000)

11. Rebecca Miller (age 49) Daughter of famed playwrite Arthur, the former actor Miller’s output includes The Private Lives of Pippa Lee (2009); The Ballad of Jack and Rose (2005); Personal Velocity (2002); and Angela (1995);

12. Tamara Jenkins (age 49) After her debut The Slums of Beverly Hills (1998), it took Jenkins nine years to make a second film. The result was 2007s The Savages, which starred Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Laura Linney.

Ten (and ten more) Television Shows Worth Watching

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011

Any list - particularly one involving television with its massive viewership and serial nature, is open to debate. For every group of Mad Men devotees there are no doubt an equally massive number of passionate fans of Family Guy, NCIS, The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, or True Blood. This is, therefore, a subjective list of the best in narrative (as in it doesn’t include reality or talk programming of any kind) television currently on the air.

1. Mad Men (AMC)

Four seasons in, the best thing on TV. Already but a few pegs below The Wire and The Sopranos, and on par with Deadwood, as one of the best shows of the past decade.

2. Dexter (SHO)

Going into season six, Dexter may well have slipped some, but remains intriguing due to its signature color drenched cinematography and a gripping lead performance from Michael C. Hall, elements that help make this serial killer/police show one of the best on the air.

3. Curb Your Enthusiasm (HBO)

Misanthropic Larry David brings his innovative black comedy back for an eighth season (Seinfeld only ran for nine) and it shows no signs of slowing down.

4. Boardwalk Empire (HBO)

Great start to a sweeping series that hints at the possibilities of becoming an all time great. One hopes only that, ala Deadwood, budget considerations don’t force a premature end.

5. Breaking Bad (AMC)

Bryan Cranston heads a solid cast as Walter White, the ex-science teacher turned cancer survivor/big time meth dealer/manufacturer. Three seasons in, the show continues to prove itself to be a singular series without legitimate comparison.

6. Men of a Certain Age (TBS)

Ray Romano’s first series following Raymond is an insightful, tonally complex look at middle aged men and their problems. Smart, understated, and well acted.

7. Friday Night Lights (NBC via DIR TV)

Yes, it’s nearly over, but Friday is technically still alive. It will be missed.

8. Nurse Jackie (SHO)

The brilliant Edie Falco heads a marvelous cast of a show that revels in the minutiae of one morally compromised woman.

9. Weeds (SHO)

Last season (six) was not a high point in the shows history as, with the advent of the Mexican criminal plot, it began to devolve into the absurd. While the jury is still out after a few mediocre first few episodes of season seven, Weeds has been a long time quality mainstay.

10. Louie (FX)

Like Seinfeld with less set dressing than season one and way, way, way more depression. From the brilliant comedic mind of Louie C.K., something of an anti-show. It’s at times, shockingly honest, in a really refreshing (though sobering) way. Like Men of a Certain Age minus any of the good times and/or friendly banter or comeraderie, or Curb except meaner and a lot lonelier and more misanthropic.

Ten More Good Ones (in no particular order)

Episodes (SHO) Matt Leblanc (that’s right, Joey) stars as a version of himself. Surprisingly good first season.

Californication (SHO) While it dropped off some during a wildly uneven fourth season, threatening to become a kind of parody of itself, the show survives thanks to consistently profane and clever writing; David Duchovony’s mostly likable miscreant writer Hank Moody; a quality supporting cast (Evan Handler; Natascha McElhone; Pamela Adlon); fun guest stars, and a high insider Hollywood quotient.

The Office (NBC) It has become de rigueur to bash this show in recent seasons, but it’s still one of the best things on TV. Will be interesting to see where the show goes following the Michael Scott departure.

The Sarah Silverman Show (COM CENTR) Absurd, but consistently funny stuff from the twisted mind of one of the best comics out there.

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (FOX) Perhaps television’s most irreverent half hour keeps chugging along as it heads into it’s seventh season.

Modern Family (ABC) Disappointing fall-off after a stellar season one. This year might be make it or break it.

Parenthood (ABC) Though there are times when one wishes this family drama would take more chances, it is network television and this is about as good as it gets right now in terms of narrative drama heading into next season.

Life and Times of Tim (HBO) Critically (and critically) neglected animated series.

How To Make it in America (HBO) Another one the critics seem to have missed. An energetic show about two NYC hustlers trying to earn a buck.

The Ricky Gervais Show (HBO) Arose out of the podcast run by Gervais and his British Office partner Stephen Merchant, revolving around their animated discussions with idiot (savant?) Karl Pilkington.

Goodbye John Hughes

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009

On August 6th, 2009 Producer/Writer/Director John Hughes died of a heart attack. Born in 1950 in Lansing, Michigan, Hughes is best known for a series of high school comedies he did in the 80s, launching the careers of some of the members of The Brat Pack. Among the actors who appeared frequently in his films were Molly Ringwald; John Candy; and Anthony Michael Hall.

Hughes’ family moved to the greater Chicago area when he was thirteen, and he attended Glenbrook High School in Northbrook, Illinois. Many of his films were set in the Chicago area - more specifically, the fictional Sherman Illinois, stand-in for Northbrook.

Hughes only directed eight films (Sixteen Candles (1984); The Breakfast Club (1985); Weird Science (1985); Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986); Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (1987); She’s Having a Baby (1988); Uncle Buck (1989); and Curly Sue (1991), although he was a prolific writer and producer, doing much of his less critically successful work after 1992 under the alias Edmond Dante. Some of the films Hughes wrote and produced, but did not direct include Mr. Mom; National Lampoon’s Vacation films; Pretty in Pink; Some Kind of Wonderful; The Great Outdoors; and The Home Alone movies.

During his most successful period (1983-1989), Hughes was directly responsible for no less than 13 films, among them some of the most notable comedies of the decade. He excelled at stories about families, focusing in particular on the experience of suburban young people.

The following lists consists of some of Hughes’s most successful films, all made between 1983 and 1989.

Mr. Mom(1983) Directed by Stan Dragoti  Written by John Hughes  Starring Michael Keaton; Terri Garr. After becoming unemployed, Jack (Keaton) is forced to take on the household chores after wife Caroline (Garr) returns to work.

Vacation(1983) Directed by Harold Ramis  Written by John Hughes  Starring Chevy Chase; Beverly De’Angelo; Anthony Michael Hall. The Griswald’s go on a cross country drive to visit Wallyworld.

Sixteen Candles(1984) Directed by John Hughes  Written by John Hughes  Starring Molly Ringwald; Anthony Michael Hall; Michael Schoeffling. Teenager Samantha (Ringwald) feels neglected by her family, and pines for the class hunk, Jake Ryan (Schoeffling), while trying to avoid the advances of The Geek (Hall).

Breakfast Club(1985) Directed by John Hughes  Written by John Hughes  Starring Molly Ringwald; Anthony Michael Hall; Emilio Estevez; Judd Nelson; Ally Sheedy. A disparate group of high school students spend a Saturday in detention.

Pretty in Pink(1986) Directed by Howard Deutch  Written by John Hughes  Starring Molly Ringwald; Jon Cryer; Andrew McCarthy; James Spader; Harry Dean Stanton. Poor girl Andie (Ringwald) wants to go to prom with the boy of her dreams - the rich, popular Blaine (McCarthy), while remaining oblivious to the devotion of her loyal friend Duckie (Cryer)

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986) Directed by John Hughes  Written by John Hughes  Starring Matthew Broderick; Alan Ruck; Mia Sara. Ferris (Broderick), a high school senior, blows off school in order to spend the day in downtown Chicago with friend Cameron (Ruck) and girlfriend Sloane (Sara)

Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987) Directed by John Hughes  Written by John Hughes  Starring John Candy; Steve Martin. Neal Page (Martin) encounters a series of mishaps, and is forced to turn to traveling salesman Del Griffith (Candy) to help him get home by any means possible.

Some Kind of Wonderful(1987) Directed by Howard Deutch  Written by John Hughes  Starring Eric Stoltz; Lea Thompson; Mary Stuart Masterson. Keith (Stoltz) lusts after Amanda Jones (Thompson), oblivious to the feelings of tomboy friend Watts (Masterson).

The Great Outdoors (1988) Directed by Howard Deutch  Written by John Hughes  Starring John Candy; Dan Akroyd; Annette Benning. Chet Ripley (Candy) takes his family on what’s intended to be a relaxing vacation, but their good times are affected by the presence of Roman (Akroyd) and Kate (Bening) and their kids.

Uncle Buck(1989) Directed by John Hughes  Written by John Hughes  Starring John Candy; MaCauley Culkin; Gaby Hoffman. Ill-equipped bachelor uncle Buck Russell is forced to care for his nieces and nephews.