Psychology Of Film Episode 2~Paramedic Fever Dreams: Martin Scorsese’s Bringing Out The Dead

Recently myself and a good friend of mine, Mo Barrett, have begun to craft special ‘interactive’ video summaries of some of our favourite darker, more challenging films. This installmeant sees us look at Martin Scorsese’s Bringing Out The Dead, a terrific. Option picture which we both have a mutual love for. Please click the link below and enjoy!

Bringing Out The Dead
Created By Mo Barrett and Nate Hill, with thanks to the support of Frank Mengarelli and Nick Clement of Podcasting Them Softly.

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TODD HAYNES’ FAR FROM HEAVEN – A MINI REVIEW BY NICK CLEMENT

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An aesthetic and thematic masterpiece for director Todd Haynes, who brilliantly recalls the work of Douglas Sirk with this passionate, exquisitely mounted melodrama. Sterling performances from Dennis Quaid, Julianne Moore, and Dennis Haysbert, with sharp supporting turns from Patricia Clarkson and Viola Davis and James Rebhorn. Ed Lachman’s primary-color-rich cinematography frequently pops the eye, from the bravura opening crane shot, all the way through to the studied camera placement and deliberate pacing, this is an extraordinary evocation of a lost genre, while simultaneously operating as a stirring piece of emotional storytelling. Features a gorgeous and soul-stirring score by Elmer Bernstein. I can’t wait to see the upcoming film Carol, which seems to be some sort of companion piece to Far From Heaven.

CHRISTOPHER NOLAN’S THE DARK KNIGHT – A REVIEW BY NICK CLEMENT

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At this point, there isn’t much left to be said about The Dark Knight. The film grossed almost a billion dollars worldwide and its critical acclaim vaulted its director, Christopher Nolan, into the upper stratosphere of big-budget filmmakers. It’s a masterwork of comic book moviemaking, talking iconic imagery and filtering them through the prism of a Michael Mann crime epic, and featuring a tour de force performance by Heath Ledger as the most sinful of all superhero antagonists, The Joker. While I will always prefer the epic nature of The Dark Knight Rises (flaws and all, it’s my favorite in the Nolan series), there’s something so lean and tough-guy-poetic about The Dark Knight; it really does feel like Heat featuring men in masks. Picking up right where he left off after his excellent franchise re-boot Batman Begins, Nolan essentially made his first effort look like a student film by comparison, and that’s not to knock Begins, because it’s a wonderful piece of entertainment, a movie that reimagined Batman for a modern, more visceral style of storytelling within this particular genre. And what’s particularly awesome, and where the film is better than The Dark Knight Rises, is that The Dark Knight is both epic and intimate; this is a massive crime saga, taking cues from the aforementioned Heat and Brian De Palma’s The Untouchables, but never forgetting to stay true to the intense character dynamics that have made this universe of costumed freaks so especially memorable. By placing Batman and all of his cronies and adversaries in a real world setting, no matter how stylized his Gotham City is, Nolan was able to fashion a trilogy of films that felt all the more tangible and immediate, something that not one, single Marvel effort has ever done, with the possible exception of Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

Batman, again played with gritty determination by Christian Bale, who brought stoic seriousness to his dual performance as Bruce Wayne/Batman, is caught between his own sense of vigilante justice, crossed with deeper psychological issues. In The Dark Knight, the Nolans and David S. Goyer, stacked the deck with his arch nemesis, the Joker, played with such menacing glee by Ledger that you have to just assume that the preparation and performance might have affected his psyche; his posthumous Oscar trophy was indeed fully warranted, and not some nonsense done for sentimentality or good-faced-publicity as some dunderheads have suggested in the past. The plot is multi-layered, convoluted yet not impenetrable, and steeped in crime movie mythology that speaks both to classic film noir and the graphic novel roots that Nolan favored. The Joker is out to bring down Batman, while also trying to put a stranglehold on Gotham’s City’s overall criminal element. From the steely, Mann-esque precision of the film’s opening bank robbery sequence; you get the sense that Ledger’s Joker isn’t a playful clown, but rather, a certifiable psychopath. The way he licks his scarred lips and the way his sinister cackle fills a room with eerie rage are just two of the ways that Ledger left an indelible mark on this classic comic book icon; I wonder if any other actor will be up to the challenge in future installments. Harvey Dent, an excellent Aaron Eckhart, is trying to clean the streets up from city hall, and Jim Gordon, played with low-key integrity by Gary Oldman, is working his way up the police chain of command. Various gangsters figure into the plot and there is a morally complex chain of events that figures into the film’s gripping climax. But the real show is the duel between Batman and the Joker, and it’s here, with two of the comic-world’s most beloved characters, that The Dark Knight really excels.

Nolan, reteaming with his phenomenal cinematographer Wally Pfister, bathed the film in shadows and blacks; this is a dark movie, both in theme and in appearance, but in the end, serving a stylistic and narrative purpose. The tragic nature of Harvey Dent is highlighted in a powerful character arc that exposes the many faces (literal and metaphorical) to the character; Eckhart’s performance was one of his absolute best. And then there’s the film’s major action scene, occurring at the half-way mark, which is a towering triumph of choreography, seamless CGI integration, and old-fashioned movie magic. By the end of this haunting and beautifully crafted piece of explosive entertainment, the viewer can’t help but breathe a sigh of relief. The Dark Knight was one of the first superhero films to never feel like a traditional superhero film, and the topical, real-world grounding that Nolan infused into his trilogy has been felt on other, future projects from a variety of other filmmakers. And yet, at the end of 2008, the old farts in the Academy felt like dissing one of the most successful films of all time, which was truly a shame, because the film stands as a genre centerpiece, and a reminder that art within this particular canvass is still attainable even when toys and lunchboxes are being considered; rarely does big-budget, summertime filmmaking become this successful at fusing all of the creative elements together.

MICHAEL BAY’S PAIN & GAIN – A REVIEW BY NICK CLEMENT

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What if a “real movie” looked like a Michael Bay movie? Pain and Gain is that project. This is Bay’s best work as a storyteller and filmmaker. In fact, it’s his only “film,” as he’s made a career out of making “movies.” And that’s fine. Sometimes, we need silly fun to clean the palette or to just admire in the way of aesthetic beauty, and in terms of Bay’s visual abilities, it’s inarguable that he’s a master of composition, camera, color, texture, atmosphere, and pyrotechnics. He’s at the top of the class when it comes to “blowing shit up and making it look fabulous in anamorphic 2.35:1 widescreen,” as The Rock, Bad Boys, and most especially, Bad Boys II, are genre touchstones, and I’ll always go to bat for The Island and the first Transformers. But make no mistake – Bay’s special brand of visual insanity is absolutely head-spinning when it wants to be, as almost always, he’s capable of astonishing visual sights. His use of saturated primary colors, all vibrant and slick yet still with some grit packed in there (hello, Tony Scott…), has influenced commercial filmmaking over the last 20 years. I’ve had a long, off-and-on obsession with this man’s robust filmmaking technique, as I think there’s a level of cinematic dynamism that is impossible to ignore.

But, with his long-time passion project Pain & Gain, Bay proved that he actually DOES have the ability to tell a multi-tiered story, complete with flawed and unlikable characters with smart pacing and witty dialogue. I also loved the upending of the idea of the classic Bay Hero, which is one of the most unique aspects of this fresh little black-comedy crime caper. The script was credited to Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (Captain America: The First Avenger, Captain America: The Winter Soldier), and it’s clear from the start that this won’t be another easy-to-digest popcorn movie or a $250 million toy commercial posing as a summer blockbuster. All three lead performances (an unnervingly stone-faced Mark Wahlberg, an extra-agitated and creeped-out The Rock, and Anthony Mackie providing some great moments of dim-witted comedic levity) are fantastically gross, while the movie revels in nastiness and a foul, wrongly-idealized version of the American dream. Tony Shaloub is viciously nasty, Ed Harris dominated the final act with a gruff performance of coiled masculinity, and there’s a great cameo from Michael Rispoli, who I always love seeing on screen. This was the movie that Bay forced Paramount to make in between Transformers entries, and it’s the movie he had been keeping in his back pocket for years and years. And it’s not hard to see why; the project is based on a true story, the Florida locale plays to Bay’s sexy visual strengths, and the characters leap of the screen. Whether or not you like them at all is your business. The script isn’t afraid to get down and dirty, as it‘s very clear that Bay felt energized about the notion of making an honest-to-goodness story without having long-lead conversations about marketing tie ins and lunch boxes.

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PTS Presents Cinematographer’s Corner with KEN KELSCH Vol. 1

KELSCH POWERCAST

kelsch ferraraPodcasting Them Softly is honored to add Ken Kelsch, as the latest cinematographer to our series, Cinematographer’s Corner. Ken’s work helped shape my love for film with his frequent partnership with one of my absolute favorite filmmakers, Abel Ferrara. They have worked together on twelve films, starting with their first feature THE DRILLER KILLER, BAD LIEUTENANT, DANGEROUS GAME, THE ADDICTION, THE FUNERAL (which he was nominated for best cinematographer at the Independent Spirit Awards), Abel Ferrara’s segment in SUBWAY STORIES, THE BLACKOUT, R-XMAS, THE NEW ROSE HOTEL, CHELSEA ON THE ROCKS, 4:44 LAST DAY OF EARTH, and finally one of the very best films from last year, WELCOME TO NEW YORK. Ken has also collaborated with Stanley Tucci’s directorial efforts, THE BIG NIGHT and THE IMPOSTORS. Ken has shot the first two seasons of the television show, MEDIUM and friend of Podcasting Them Softly’s latest feature film, Eric Red’s 100 FEET.

ROGER SPOTTISWOODE’S THE PURSUIT OF D.B. COOPER — A REVIEW BY NICK CLEMENT

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Being a product of the 1980’s, there are more than a few under the radar gems that always made me smile (for one reason or another) or that kept me entertained. Based on the novel Free Fall by J.D. Reed, The Pursuit of D.B. Cooper was one of those titles that I found myself watching on cable (or was it HBO?) repeatedly, never truly understanding it, but enjoying it nonetheless. It’s always been on the back on my mind to revisit, so I sought it out, and low and behold, it’s nearly impossible to find. So I recently purchased a Hungarian Region B DVD for the film (no American disc release has ever occurred, to my knowledge), and despite the fact that the movie was lensed 1.85:1 and then presented in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio (thus losing visual information), I had to check it out again. The disc transfer looks to have been processed in bowls of urine, which is a shame, because the image looked overly yellow in numerous spots and the cinematography, in general, is consistently eye-catching. As for the movie, it’s exactly as I remembered it being – a raucous, wild, totally crazy little action adventure that took a real man and real situation and turned the entire thing into the equivalent of story you’d tell at a campfire, or an urban legend that takes on a mind of its own.

Released in 1981, the film centers on wild-man aircraft hijacker D. B. Cooper (Treat Williams in a unique role), who made off with $200,000 in 1971 after leaping from the back of a plane over the Pacific Northwest. The script imagines what it would have been like for Cooper to hide out and attempt to evade capture by law enforcement. Jeffrey Alan Fiskin’s incident packed screenplay fictionalized most of what happened during Cooper’s escape, but that doesn’t prevent this offbeat item from being undervalued if a tad obscure; Fiskin’s other scripting credits include Cutter’s Way and Tony Scott’s pulpy thriller Revenge. John Frankenheimer was the film’s original director, and would later denounce the entire production. He was replaced by TV journeyman Buzz Kulik just before shooting began. Then, after the movie was well into production, Kulik was fired, and replaced by final collaborator Roger Spottiswoode, who would be the only director to receive an onscreen credit. The film has an interesting, sort of ramshackle visual aesthetic, heightened by a jaunty, honky-tonk-ish score by James Horner. A sort of lark that would never get made today, the performances by Robert Duvall (as an insurance investigator) and Williams anchor the film with a level of class and conviction, Kathryn Harrold was a total knock-out, and while the overall lightheartedness of the entire endeavor is apparent from frame one, the various action scenes are briskly shot, cut, and executed, especially the opening sequence complete with a real sky-dive done before the era of CGI laziness kicked in.

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