The Graduate

Who

The phrase “actor’s director” is thrown around a great deal, but there have been very few directors who knew how to work with actors quite like Mike Nichols. A former student of Lee Strasburg and a fervent believer in the revelatory power of improvisation, Nichols has directed some of the most notable performances in modern cinema. His debut alone was evidence of his gift. For his first film, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, the theater performer and director took on the mammoth task of adapting one of the most raw and acerbic plays of the 1960s to a film starring the most powerful couple in Hollywood, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. It’s now remembered as the best role of Taylor’s career. His second film, The Graduate, showed an equal but opposite talent: his ability to get performances out of unknown actors that match their particular strengths. That film launched and defined Dustin Hoffman’s career. Since then, every Nichols film – from Carnal Knowledge to What Planet Are You From? – carried the promise that its cast would be used to the best of their talents. So here’s a bit of free film school (for fans and filmmakers alike) from the only filmmaker we would trust to turn Jack Nicholson into a werewolf.

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Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate

The true first rule of Fight Club is that you have to start a piece about Fight Club by referencing the “first rule of Fight Club” line. After 15 years, it’s more of an impulse than a cliche, like in the way that boys have an impulse for violence that’s not a stereotype. Anyway, it’s time yet again to talk about Fight Club because one and a half decades gone by calls for another anniversary celebration of David Fincher‘s modern classic. And just as I like to do with all modern classics, I’m commemorating this occasion by recommending relevant older classics (and some not-so-classics) that preceded it. Fight Club is another movie from the 1990s that has been highly influential on what has come after and was highly influenced by what had come before. Unlike Pulp Fiction and others, though, Fincher’s movie doesn’t wear its allusions so obviously. There are some direct references (Valley of the Dolls for one), but most of those are to titles that aren’t significant in terms of the ingredients that make up the big picture. This week’s recommendations aren’t all known inspirations for either Chuck Palahniuk‘s novel or Jim Uhls‘s script or Fincher’s direction. A few are, while others are just important movies with similar plots or themes, and as usual there are another few involving members of the cast in earlier roles. After you honor the anniversary by watching Fight Club for the thousandth time this week, follow it with any of the following dozen titles you haven’t already […]

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Brie Larson in Short Term 12

Another month, another batch of recommendations for everyone out there who’s currently adrift in the sea that is the Netflix Watch Instantly menu without a good flick to float on. Click on the films’ titles in order to be taken to their Netflix page and to add them to your queue. Or—sorry—to your “My List.” Pick of the Month:  Short Term 12 (2013) Critics have been talking about Short Term 12 pretty incessantly ever since it started making the festival rounds last year. To the point where some of you who read about movies a lot may be getting sick of hearing about it. There’s a reason why the film keeps getting brought up, though, and that’s because it’s really that good. It’s also the kind of micro-budget movie that absolutely depends on word of mouth in order to get seen. This is the sort of small release that couldn’t even afford to launch an Oscar campaign that would have brought it to the attention of Academy voters, so it wasn’t able to earn buzz through the winning of little golden men, which it arguably deserved a handful of.  The movie, which is from a relatively new filmmaker named Destin Cretton, is set in the world of a residential treatment facility for troubled youth, which means that it’s full of characters whose lives can be mined for quite a bit of drama—and mine them Cretton does. This is one of the rare films that manages to dig way deep into themes […]

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Aural Fixation - Large

We may stand in line to get our hands on the latest technology and watch as record stores close their doors as more and more music fans turn to iTunes and digital downloads instead of physical CDs, but there is still something about vinyl records that keep people coming back for more. While digital files are crisp and polished, it is almost impossible for a studio to duplicate the richness that comes from vinyl – plus those little imperfections and pops that come from listening to a record can sometimes be the best part. Even though CDs may seem like they are becoming a way of the past, there is a new trend coming forward and one that seems to be popping up more and more with soundtrack releases – the option to get these compilations on vintage vinyl. While he is known for creating electric scores for films such as Traffic and Contagion, Cliff Martinez’s work is also layered making it a prime choice to take a spin on the ol’ record player. This year Martinez’s work got the vinyl treatment twice with Milan Records releasing his dark and seductive score for Arbitrage and Mondo releasing his iconic score for Drive as a double vinyl album and enlisting artist Tyler Stout to create the album cover and package design. While the large cover that house these records allow artists more room for creative expressive and memorable images, it is the records themselves that give these scores added depth, providing […]

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This post is probably not what you think. There are no LOLCats, no Rage Comic stick men bellowing about the superiority of The Dark Knight and Inception. It’s not really a love letter to modernity. But it’s also not Sight & Sound‘s decennial Top Ten List. That prestigious publication has done great work since even before polling critics in 1952 to name the best movies of all time. They’ve recreated the experiment every ten years since (with filmmakers included in 1992), and their 2012 list is due out soon. However, there is certainly overlap. The FSR poll includes only 37 critics (and 4 filmmakers), but we’re young and have moxy, and none of us were even asked by Sight & Sound for our considerable opinion. That’s what’s fascinating here. The films nominated by those invited by S&S have the air of critical and social importance to them. They are, almost all, serious works done by serious filmmakers attempting to make serious statements. This list, by contrast, is the temperature of the online movie community in regards to what movies are the “greatest.” The results might be what you expect. But probably not.

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Culture Warrior

As much as I admire the incomparable films made during the era, New Hollywood (the term referring to innovative, risk-taking films made funded by studios from the mid-60s to the mid-70s) is a title that I find a bit problematic. The words “New Hollywood” better characterize the era that came after what the moniker traditionally refers to. Think about it: if “Old” or “Classical” Hollywood refers to the time period that stretches roughly from 1930 to 1960 when the studios as an industry maintained such an organized and regimented domination over and erasure of any other potential conception over what a film playing in any normal movie theater could be, then if we refer to the time period from roughly 1977 to now “New Hollywood,” the term then appropriately signifies a new manifestation of the old: regimentation, predictability, and limitation of expression. Where Old Hollywood studios would produce dozens of films of the same genre, New Hollywood (as I’m appropriating the term) could acutely describe the studios’ comparably stratified output of sequels, remakes, etc. What we traditionally understand to be New Hollywood was not so much its own monolithic era in Hollywood’s legacy, but a brief, strange, and wonderful lapse between two modes of Hollywood filmmaking that have dominated the industry’s history.

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Hello, darkness, my old friend. Times can be difficult when you’re in love with a girl but having sex with her mother. Dustin Hoffman makes the hard times look easy, though. Little needs to be said by way of praise for this classic, but in a way, it’s been reduced to its iconic leg-filled image of Hoffman’s character Ben’s face staring dumbfounded and its most memorable line. Oddly enough, the leg from the famous poster isn’t star Anne Bancroft‘s. It’s not Mrs. Robinson. It’s television star Linda Gray (who would actually play Mrs. Robinson later on in the stage production in London.

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Every week, Landon Palmer and Cole Abaius log on to their favorite chat client of 1996 as BlurryProjector and TheGeneralRulz in order to discuss some topical topic of interest. This week, they ponder the wildly wide-spread Mark Harris article, “The Day the Movies Died,” alongside the new infographic proving movies have gotten worse. We really need a scapegoat, huh? Is marketing really to blame? Are movies really getting worse? If so, how do we, the fans, fix them?

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For 36 days straight, we’ll be exploring the famous 36 Dramatic Situations by examining a film that exemplifies each one. From family killing family to prisoners in need of asylum, we brush off the 19th century list in order to remember that it’s still incredibly relevant today. Whether you’re seeking a degree in Literature, love movies, or just love seeing things explode, our feature should have something for everyone. If it doesn’t, please don’t make us stare longingly at Maggie Cheung without being able to do something about it. Part 28 of the 36-part series takes a look at “Adultery” with Wong Kar-Wai’s In the Mood for Love.

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Culture Warrior

Synesthesia (syn-es-the-sia, Brit. syn-aes-the-sia): “The production of a sense impression relating to one sense or part of the body by stimulation of another sense or part of the body.” Synesthesia is a neurological disorder in which the experience of one sense motivates an involuntary association with another sense. Those who experience synesthesia, known as synesthetes, are able to either perceive letters or numbers as inherently colored, hear movement, or – in probably the best-known cases of the disorder – see music in the form of colors and/or associative shapes. Now, cognitive sciences seem, on the surface, to have little to do with the study of cinema, but the topic of synesthesia can be particularly helpful in understanding the way in which we interpret the interaction of the two senses most available in watching movies: the aural and the visual.

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published: 12.23.2014
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published: 12.22.2014
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published: 12.19.2014
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