Boogie Nights

Putney Swope Boardroom

If there’s one movie I’d like to see referenced on Mad Men before it’s all over and done with, it’s Putney Swope. The cult classic, about an advertising agency run by an increasingly militant black man, opened in New York City on this day in 1969. That puts its initial release as just before the events of the most recent episode of AMC’s TV drama (the last before the season 7 hiatus), aired back in May. But the movie continued its remarkable success through the fall, giving Don Draper plenty of time to go see it. If he can take a few months to catch up with I Am Curious (Yellow), and if both the show and the character are hip enough to that art film’s existence, they’d have to be to Robert Downey Sr.‘s record-breaking hit, especially when it’s a satire of his very industry. Whether or not he’d recognize any similarity between his own work and what’s depicted on screen is another story. Putney Swope follows its title character (played by Arnold Johnson yet featuring dubbed vocals by Downey) as he goes from being an ad agency’s token black executive, specifically its music director, to head of the company, through a board vote gone wrong. He renames the place Truth and Soul, Inc., fires most of the old white guys who just put him in charge and ceases business with all clients who produce war toys, alcohol and cigarettes (Draper would be proud). He forms a new team that is all black save […]

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Capote

There’s a unique double-take aspect to Philip Seymour Hoffman‘s magnetism that defined many of the diverse roles he inhabited. Hoffman was a chameleon, able to lend even the smallest part a distinct impression that he knew the character’s entire history. But Hoffman’s chameleonic skills were internal, not external; he “looked” relatively the same across much of his work. More specifically, Hoffman looked like a man we could pass by on a crowded city street without ever noticing, and that’s partly why his roles could take us by surprise. As Hoffman carefully unfolded his characters, we began to realize he was rarely as “normal” as first impressions made it seem; his characters were often weighed down by some burdensome personal history, a phantom force that they continue to reckon with daily. Hoffman’s charisma was subtle and patient, captivating an audience that eventually began to associate him with the best of late ‘90s and early 21st century American movies. Hoffman, in effect, became a signature of quality, a sign that legitimated a project as thoughtful, worthwhile filmmaking. By the time he won the award for Best Actor for 2005’s Capote, it was for fans of P.T. Anderson and Todd Solondz a belated recognition of a committed and unorthodox talent; for the rest of Hollywood and those who had not yet fallen under his spell, this was an introduction an unlikely leading man.

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trading places curtis new year

There are so many movies with New Year’s Eve scenes that we might be able to make a list of 2,013 of them. Especially if we separate each scene from movies completely set on the night, such as New Year’s Eve, 200 Cigarettes and the Assault on Precinct 13 remake. But we’re going to keep it simple and exclude 2000 of those to share only 13 favorite moments of movie characters ringing in the new year. None of them are from those three aforementioned films, by the way. And since we’ve obviously left a bunch of scenes out, at some point before you go out to party or get situated on your couch ready to watch the ball drop, do tell us which New Year’s Eve scenes you love. Oh, and merry new year!

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Culture Warrior

In 2002, a shift occurred in the structure and thematic concerns that inform the style, characters, and narratives of Paul Thomas Anderson’s films. Anderson’s fourth film, Punch-Drunk Love, clocking in at only ninety-four minutes (exactly half the length of his previous Magnolia) seemed a necessary exercise in modesty for the ambitious auteur, a means of proving himself capable of telling a story that focuses on the lives of less than a half dozen characters in a running time that is far from daunting. This film seemed, at the time, to be a momentary departure. Certainly Anderson, after working Adam Sandler toward what will certainly remain the greatest performance of his career, would return to constructing complex labyrinths depicting the intertwining lives of many memorable characters. After all, Punch-Drunk Love only featured two members of Anderson’s signature ensemble (Philip Seymour Hoffman and Luis Guzman). But as There Will Be Blood indicated, Anderson intended no such return to Altmanesque mosaics, opting instead to dive even further into the impenetrable psychologies of enigmatic leading men, an interest that has almost inevitably led Anderson’s trajectory to The Master.

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The Best Short Films

Why Watch? As you can tell by our spotlight on his filmmaking tips, we’re a bit PTA-obsessed this week (which makes sense considering the presence of The Master in theaters). Philip Seymour Hoffman can talk us into just about anything. Regardless of those embarrassing pictures Hoffman took of us, it’s fantastic and fascinating that we live in a time where we can get a first-hand look at the beginning of a filmmaker like Paul Thomas Anderson. This is the first time “A Paul Anderson Film” ever appeared, and it’s what eventually led to Boogie Nights (followed by a huge amount of acclaim). From humble beginnings…comes…The Dirk Diggler Story. What will it cost you? Only 30 minutes. Skip work. Watch more short films.

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All right, all you great big, bright, shining stars out there. It’s time to hear what Paul Thomas Anderson has to say. With recent movies like There Will Be Blood and his latest, The Master, the director is smack in the middle of a stretch in his career in which he’s defining a new genre called Discomfort. Boogie Nights looks downright cheerful by comparison, so it’s nice to go back and listen to the writer/director discuss his great, early achievement. And here we have it, all 37 things we learned listening to PT Anderson talk about Boogie Nights. You got the touch…!

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Like the dinosaur blood found inside ancient, tree sap-encased mosquitoes, short films can often be cultivated and grown into something bigger and more rewarding: a feature film (sorry if you were hoping for a T-Rex). Thanks to the wonders of the Internet, there are more and more quality short films popping up everyday (and we’ve been trying our darndest to pay them their due around here), many of them hoping to hit it big and make a name for the filmmakers. It’s not an impossible dream — in fact, while you have heard of most of these writers and directors, they weren’t all that famous back when they made their shorts. Here are twelve films that started small before hitting the cineplexes:

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Criterion Files

When I write this column, I typically don’t get the opportunity to write about movies from my teen years. I, like many, came into a cinephilic love for art and foreign cinema during college, and in that process grew to appreciate The Criterion Collection. Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused (1993), however, is a movie that’s followed me through various changes in my life for (I’m just now realizing as I write this) about half of my time thus far spent on Earth.

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bluray-header

Strap in, friends, as we’ve got another turbulent (and potentially expensive) week of selections in This Week in Blu-ray.

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published: 12.19.2014
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published: 12.18.2014
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published: 12.17.2014
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