The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert F

Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford

The idea of robbing banks and trains should conjure up images of brazen cowboys and the spaghetti western music of Ennio Morricone, but instead, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford depicts a stark world left in the wake of these famed outlaws, full of melancholy and restlessness. Jesse James has a very distinctive look and feel thanks to the cinematography, the acting from the film’s two leads and the costumes — all of which give Jesse James an almost mournful tone. There’s one other element that solidifies that dirge-evoking spirit. The film may have come out six years ago, but with a revival screening poised to take place this weekend, it felt time to revisit Nick Cave and Warren Ellis‘ score, a work which embraces the mystery and magic that is the story of Jesse James as it is told through the unreliable perspective of its narrator Bob Ford (Casey Affleck).

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Jesse James

It’s strange to think that we’re in need of a revival (and a “revival” in the truest sense of the word) of a film that’s not even a decade old and that features star turns from big names like Brad Pitt, Casey Affleck, and Sam Rockwell, but such is the case when it comes to Andrew Dominik’s The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. The critically beloved (it has a strong 76% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, though we think that should still be a fair bit higher) box office flop (it pulled in less than $4m at the worldwide box office in a very small release, a real mess considering its reported budget of $30m) is currently set for a two-night revival at New York City’s own Museum of the Moving Image, and that’s just the beginning. The best part of getting Dominik’s modern masterwork back on the big screen is that it comes care of an admiring fanbase. The new revival, amusingly titled “No Eulogies,” is hitting the big screen thanks to cinephile and big time Jesse James fan Jamieson McGonigle, whose admiration of the film extends so far that he recently told the New York Times that he thinks “It’s the best film that’s come out since 2000.” McGonigle originally conceived of the revival as something of a bachelor party, as he already has his own print of the film to screen and considered his plan on marrying next year at the museum a good […]

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Andrew Dominik

Killing Them Softly is both a surprising and unexpected return for director Andrew Dominik, whose name has been missing from the big screen for five long years. What’s most surprising about the film is that it’s not much more commercial than his previous film, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, a movie which didn’t nearly get its due back in 2007. His latest film is, however, unsurprising in terms of theme: the power of the dollar. After Jesse James didn’t light the world on fire financially, Dominik found it difficult to get other projects off the ground, so money must have been on his mind. And, according to Dominik, it was, and that’s a part of how we got his new political crime picture, Killing Them Softly. Here is what writer and director Andrew Dominik had to say about the film’s slightly cartoonish approach, why the crime genre is so appealing, and the trials and tribulations caused by Jesse James:

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Andrew Dominik is not a prolific director. After bursting onto the scene in 2000 with the violent biographical tale Chopper he waited seven years before releasing the critically acclaimed The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford with Brad Pitt. The film was universally praised by critics, but theater-goers have notoriously short attention spans meaning most of them moved on to something else before they even finished reading the title. (The ‘something else’ in this case was a one-two punch of Resident Evil: Extinction and Good Luck Chuck, so shame on you America.) Five years later and Dominik is finally returning to the screen, and he’s bringing Pitt along with him. Killing Them Softly is a blackly humorous crime thriller about a pair of low-rent amateurs who rob the wrong poker game. Pitt plays a mob man brought in to find and handle the pair, and the film follows his efforts arrange for their demise while interacting with the local criminal element. The film is an adaptation of George V Higgins’ 1974 novel Cogan’s Trade, and while it updates the story to the modern day it keeps the Boston setting that has served the genre so well over the years. Pitt’s joined by Richard Jenkins, James Gandolfini, Ray Liotta, Sam Shepard, Ben Mendelsohn and Scoot McNairy. Our own Simon Gallagher was a big fan when he saw it at Cannes, and now the rest of us can get a taste as well with the debut of the highly […]

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Brad Pitt in Killing Them Softly

Andrew Dominik always had an ominous mountain to climb with his next feature, having polarized opinion with The Assassination Of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford, that most tonal and visually textured of revisionist Westerns, but with Killing Them Softly he has certainly at least avoided the black hole that tends to suck young talents perilously down into obscurity. He might not, however, have scored a huge commercial hit. Taking a leaf out of Jesse James‘s book, Killing Them Softly is effectively a post-gangster film, deconstructing the genre and smashing it against the oh-so-contemporary wall built by recessions and austerity measures. The label might still seem to read “gangster,” with the presence of wise guys and henchmen presiding over their own lawless patches of the murky underbelly of normal society, but gone is the aspirational elements of Goodfellas and Casino in favor of a tight-belted, thoroughly modern revision of the gangster ideal. For all intents and purposes, this is the cut-price Cosa Nostra.

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Culture Warrior

A genre nearly as old as filmmaking itself, the western thrived throughout the years of the studio system but has zigzagged across rough terrain for the past forty or so years. For the last fifteen-ish years, the struggling, commercially unfriendly genre was either manifested in a neoclassical nostalgic form limited in potential mass appeal (Appaloosa, Open Range) or in reimagined approaches that ran the gamut between contrived pap and inspired deconstructions (anything from Wild Wild West to The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford). But last December, True Grit – a bona fide western remake that relied on the opportunities available in the genre’s conventions rather than bells, whistles, or ironic tongues in their respective cheeks – became a smash hit. Did this film reinvigorate a genre that was on life support, as the supposed revitalization of the musical is thought to have done a decade ago, or are westerns surviving by moving along a different route altogether? Three westerns released so far this year – Gore Verbinski’s Rango, Kelly Reichardt’s Meek’s Cutoff, and, as of this weekend, Jon Favreau’s Cowboys & Aliens – suggest mixed directions for the dusty ol’ genre.

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Culture Warrior

It’s become common wisdom to say that the best remakes are those made of non-canonical, non-classic films; that is, it’s typically better to give a second go to a film that – while possibly venerated, is hardly deemed a work of perfection that can’t be improved upon – than to redo a classic. Such a rule isn’t set in stone, of course, but it can be argued through example via some of the most celebrated of remakes (like The Thing or, in a more modest and more recent example of improvement-on-imperfection, The Crazies), and are often a result of a genuine inspiration from the source material rather than a simple means of capitalizing from its name. With the Coen brothers’ quite popular and much celebrated remake of True Grit, however, the distinction of what kind of a remake it is isn’t exactly so clear, as what kind of movie the original is proves to be something of an enigma in of itself.

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There’s been talk for quite sometime now of Andrew Dominik’s planned “warts and all” Marilyn Monroe pic starring Naomi Watts titled, Blonde. The film initially had a January start date, but now that seems unlikely. In a recent piece in The New York Times it was revealed that Casey Affleck may be re-teaming with Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford director, and now according to Affleck, it’s true. While out promoting I’m Still Here, Affleck revealed in an interview with The Kevin and Josh Movie Show on 106.7 HD2 (CBS RADIO – Washington D.C.) that he’s about to reunite with Dominik on a novel adaption, which he says starts in January. But how will this affect Blonde?

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cultwarrior_decadeinreview

This week’s Culture Warrior gives an exhaustive review of the decade that you won’t find anywhere else on the Interwebs.

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dvd-elizabeth.jpg

Our resident couch potato Kevin Carr runs down his 5 DVD picks of the week.

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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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