In honor of the release of The Master later this month, The Spin is turning its wheels towards Paul Thomas Anderson – writer/director extraordinaire – a true auteur. The great chronicler of Southern California, cancers both physical and metaphorical, dysfunctional makeshift families, deranged father-figures, damaged sons, melancholy and death is arguably the most ambitious American filmmaker working today. But he has only achieved that status through evolution…through finding his voice. Here we will revisit his three most signature works: Boogie Nights, Magnolia and There Will Be Blood and track the course of his discovery.
“This is the film I want them to remember me by.”– Jack Horner, Boogie Nights
On its surface, Boogie Nights – the grand piece of nostalgia celebrating a pre-AIDS, pre-video porntopia – would appear as a lark – a jokey, ballsy, “Look, Ma, I’m a Hipster Director!” type feature designed to showcase a young man’s skill behind the camera and his cocky nerve to tell a scandalous tale. When you look deeper, the film is anything but that.
Stephen Dorff and Elle Fanning share some nice moments in Sofia Coppola's SOMEWHERE.
Somewhere out there a great film awaits Sofia Coppola. In some parallel universe she’s directing a masterpiece. But not here. Not yet.
Somewhere is a film that just is what it is…which is a film about nothing. Even in interviews, the oft-maligned auteur admits in no uncertain terms that the film is really about nothing. It’s just about the mood…the moment. And like all of Sofia Coppola’s films, it grows on you as it languidly progresses. You get used to the cadence and the ennui, the repetitive imagery, the sometimes uncomfortably sustained shots (oh, imagine what she could do with neo-noir or psychological horror) that ultimately signify the vapid nature of isolating stardom and luxury. And when the bored movie star (Stephen Dorff, scruffy but agreeable) is temporarily interrupted from his nothingness by his bright and mostly cheery young daughter (Elle Fanning), you get a muted fuzzy feeling, melancholy somewhat, and little bits of humor, embarrassment and do-nothingness fun contribute to a glazed, dreamy atmosphere where you like what you see, you get the feeling, and the mood is alright, baby. But there’s nothing there.
Which brings me to this…which I touched on in some recent exchanges at Jason Marshall’s excellent Movies over Matter blog and have decided to elaborate on here:
Sofia! Stop writing your own scripts! I know, in the brutal irony of the biz, you won an Oscar for your writing…but you are a natural-born director. With your screenplays you are stuck going around in circles just like your main character’s Ferrari in the opening shot of your new film. In the end, he’s driving in a straight line seemingly getting as far away from Hollywood as he can. I hope that is symbolic of you doing the same thing. Continue reading →
Twelve years after Following, Christopher Nolan invites us to dream along with him through Inception. And while it’s operating on different levels than the Lang and Kubrick pieces, it shares in Hitchcock’s sense of dark fun and could easily be considered Nolan’s most ambitious and devilishly clever piece of work to date. He’s an auteur with a full blessing from the studio and his audience, and the project he devised in this rarefied air is awe-inspiring. Though there are some minor flaws, if you can’t find a way to overlook them and latch onto something meaningful in at least one layer of the dreams on display, then you have no business sitting in a darkened theater watching movies.
Christopher Nolan’s decked-out and high-concept new film brings new meaning to the idea of stealing ideas. In his futuristic universe, technology has developed where you can enter the mind of another through dream invasions and steal their ideas. It’s espionage…it’s dangerous…but what’s even more intriguing is the idea of diving deep into dreams within dreams and implanting an idea that can then spread like a virus and alter the shape of one’s universe. Whoever implanted this idea into Nolan’s mind, we thank you.
"Um, excuse me, but there's this Canadian out there who wants us to star in his film."
Here’s the plotline for Atom Egoyan’s latest flick straight from the IMDB:
“A doctor hires an escort to seduce her husband, whom she suspects of cheating, though unforeseen events put the family in danger.”
Yup, that’s about all you need to know going into this thing. The doctor is played by Julianne Moore (stunning), the husband is Liam Neeson (lifeless), and the escort is Amanda Seyfried (all googly-eyed and flippantly seductive). If you’re a fan of Egoyan, you know he’s going to direct this thing to the nines, dress it up in beautiful cinematography and camera angles (Toronto and Julianne Moore never looked better…and let’s not even go there with Amanda Seyfried) and not even care that he didn’t have anything to do with the screenplay (by Erin Cressida Wilson, remaking the French film Nathalie). The film somehow manages to be both totally French (in plot) and totally Canadian (in setting, all cold and modern, eh), a nifty little trick that only Egoyan could pull off. The whole thing is pretty preposterous, but you can’t help but be entertained, and it’s far more engaging than the last time Egoyan was hired to do an artsy piece of trash, Where the Truth Lies. Continue reading →