Capote

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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Idiots and Angels

While blockbusters battle it out on the big screen, some of the best of what to watch is at home, streaming directly to your TV. In the past couple of weeks, Netflix has added a plethora of stellar titles to its instant library including a rock n’ roll redemption documentary, a dark and hilarious animated feature and an overlooked Friedkin title.

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Culture Warrior

Editor’s Note: With Landon Palmer busy (read: probably writing a thesis on Sexual Deviancy in John Wayne Films in the Greater Context of Post-WWII America As Seen Through the Work of Southern Filmmakers), the excellent, insightful Adam Charles has stepped in to write this week’s entry. Enjoy. Few things have been as equally discussed and deliberated over the past few weeks than that of who Lionsgate was going to choose to take the reigns from Gary Ross to direct the second installment in The Hunger Games franchise. The first film had one of the biggest opening weekends in history (and it didn’t even require 3D price-hikes to get there), earned a positive majority from critics, and has a dedicated fanbase that defies demographic lines of fandom; and they’re chomping at the bit to see the next adaptation in the series, Catching Fire, as quickly as possible. Neither Lucas, Spielberg, or even Peter Jackson’s franchises could replicate just how much of the domestic populous is waiting for the next picture.

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It’s been six long years since director Bennett Miller‘s Capote, and he’s finally returned with a very commercial, very accessible, and very good film, Moneyball. On the surface, the awards contender looks like a simple star vehicle for Brad Pitt. On a deeper level, it’s a film about ambition, being an outsider, and striving for greatness. Clearly, that fits nicely into Miller’s wheelhouse. Although this is only the filmmaker’s third film, the themes that spark Miller’s interest are apparent. Despite Moneyball being a commercial juggernaut and his 2005 critical hit being a breakout indie, they couldn’t be more thematically similar; both films are about men searching for career success, but finding something unexpected at the end. Speaking with Miller, you get a perfect sense of why the director is drawn to these ambitious figures. Here’s what the Moneyball director had to say about ambition, the adaptation challenges of his character drama, and taking advantage of the medium he works in:

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Culture Warrior

The cinematic doppelganger effect seems to happen on a cyclical basis. Every few years, a pair of movies are released whose concepts, narratives, or central conceits are so similar that it’s impossible to envision how both came out of such a complex and expensive system with even the fairest amount of awareness of the other. Deep Impact and Armageddon. Antz and A Bug’s Life. Capote and Infamous. Paul Blart: Mall Cop and Observe and Report. And now two R-rated studio-released romantic comedies about fuck buddies played by young, attractive superstars have graced the silver screen within only a few short months of each other. We typically experience doppelganger cinema with high-concept material, not genre fare. To see two back-to-back movies released about the secret life of anthropomorphic talking insects, a hyperbole-sized rock jettisoning towards Earth’s inevitable destruction, a Truman Capote biopic, or a movie about a mall cop seem rare or deliberately exceptional enough as a single concept to make the existence of two subsequent iterations rather extraordinary. Much has been made of the notion that Friends with Benefits is a doppelganger of No Strings Attached (the former has in more than one case been called the better version of the latter), but when talking about the romantic comedy genre – a category so well-tread and (sometimes for better, sometimes not) reliably formulaic that each film is arguably indebted to numerous predecessors – can we really say these films are doppelgangers in the same vein as the high-concept examples, or […]

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I typically save the boiling points for Robert Fure, aiming instead to frame my column as an observation of media rather than a critique, analyzing trends and their meaning in the context of film and television as an intersecting object of commerce and art. But there is something that has been getting under my skin in some films released in the past several months, and it’s the way that Hollywood deals with the subject infidelity.

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culturewarrior-amelia

The successful biopic is something that takes a truly masterful hand to accomplish, but not many movies do it well. This week’s Culture Warrior asks why.

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published: 12.18.2014
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published: 12.17.2014
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published: 12.15.2014
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published: 12.12.2014
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