PTS Presents EDITOR’S SUITE with CRAIG McKAY

McKAY POWERCAST

Craig McKay (IMDb)Podcasting Them Softly is proud to present the first installment of EDITOR’S SUITE, with two-time Oscar nominee Craig McKay (THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, REDS). Over the last 30 years, Craig has put his distinct editorial stamp on the feature film landscape, with credits that include SOMETHING WILD, MAD DOG AND GLORY, SIN NOMBRE, AIN’T THEM BODIES SAINTS, PHILADELPHIA, THE CONSPIRATOR, COP LAND, and many, many more. Having worked with some of cinema’s best director’s, he’s created a powerful body of work that time and time again has represented the very best that editing has to offer, and it was an absolute honor to get a chance to speak with him about his tremendous career. We hope you enjoy this informative and passionate discussion!

Advertisements

OLIVER STONE’S ALEXANDER — A REVIEW BY NICK CLEMENT

1

Bursting with over-sized ambition, ferocious amounts of energy, and fever-pitch emotion that’s never afraid to go over the top, Oliver Stone’s gargantuan period epic Alexander is one of the best modern evocations of ancient history that’s ever been crafted, and easily the most underrated film of Stone’s legendary career. I’ll never understand the unnecessary hate that was piled upon this remarkable achievement upon first release; I think it’s because Stone dared to challenge familiar genre ingredients that people were hesitant to the film’s many strengths, from the non-linear narrative to the positively overwhelming battle sequences that put every other depiction of cinematic “Sword and Sandal” combat to shame. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that the “war-elephant” fight in the jungle, to say nothing of the massive Battle of Gaugamela set-piece, is the single greatest battle scene of its type ever captured on film – relentless, beyond bloody, and truly terrifying — it’s positively hellish to observe, with Stone totally flipping out, even going so far as to show what would happen if an elephant stepped on your face. Rodrigo Prieto’s muscular, hugely expansive, and utterly breathtaking widescreen cinematography is always a sensuous treat, the fired-up screenplay is filled with boisterous speechifying and juicy political intrigue, the immense and soaring musical score by Vangelis reaches for the stars, and the performances range from small to large from a ridiculously stacked cast.

Colin Farrell gave it everything and more and left nothing to spare in a performance that clearly grabbed him from the inside; just look at his eyes in some of the scenes in this film and tell me he’s not insanely aligned with his character. And then you have Angelina Jolie at the absolute pinnacle of her silver-screen hotness – a true serpent/vixen of a role for the ultimate cinematic cobra. Jared Leto, Christopher Plummer, Rosario Dawson, Anthony Hopkins, Val Kilmer and a plethora of “faces” all robustly spiced up the ensemble, while the extravagant and eye-filling production design by Jan Roelfs contributed to the verisimilitude of the entire film. Yes, it’s campy in spots, but likely intentionally so, as the various subtexts and themes are explored in an upfront fashion. But for the most part, this is a deadly serious tapestry of people, places, events, and moments, all patched together in that fabulously unhinged Stone fashion, where the storytelling and filmmaking demonstrates a live-wire spark. The dense script was highly interested in the various characters and their unique motivations, and there’s a sense of gusto to just about every facet of this film that never ceases to impress. This is bravura filmmaking, made by a master director who clearly possessed a true passion for the material, which makes the entire production feel all the more compelling. I saw this film twice theatrically, I own every permutation of the picture that’s been released on DVD/Blu-ray thus far, and I feel that Stone’s recent and most definitive cut is the absolute best that’s been offered. This is a project that Stone seemingly cannot let go of, a film that has driven one of our most challenging and distinctive filmmakers potentially insane.

2

10TH ANNIVERSAY REVIEW OF TONY SCOTT’S MASTERPIECE DOMINO — BY NICK CLEMENT

1

Without question or hesitation, I can firmly state that Domino is my absolute favorite Tony Scott film, the one I keep coming back to the most, and at 10 years old, I feel it’s time that this insanely undervalued pièce de résistance from one of our ultimate modern auteurs got the critical attention and audience credit that it truly deserved. Ahead of its time yet also fabulously au courant when the film was unleashed upon cinemas in 2005, Domino is a smashing entertainment, the perfect synthesis of Scott’s gritty yet slick, highly aggressive style that he developed in the 80’s and 90’s with The Hunger, Top Gun, Days of Thunder, Beverly Hills Cop 2, Revenge, The Last Boy Scout, True Romance, Crimson Tide, and The Fan, which then led to a decidedly expressionistic (and at times impressionistic) aesthetic in the mid to late 2000’s, with such works as Man on Fire, Beat the Devil, Agent Orange, Déjà Vu, The Taking of Pelham 123, and his final film, the hard-charging and incredibly entertaining Unstoppable, pushing his trademark visual flourishes to the absolute extreme. Sandwiched in between were his two “silver-blue sheen” political thrillers Enemy of the State and Spy Game, with the former sort of predicting our post 9/11 world climate, and the latter commenting on it in real-time. But for me, Domino is the *Toniest* Tony Scott film that the iconic filmmaker ever crafted.

2

Easily one of the most misunderstood, sadly maligned films of the last decade, Domino is due to gain a much-deserved cult following. It bombed at the box office, and with the exception of a few sharp critics (Ebert, Dargis, Strauss), people really attacked Scott over this distinctly personal and hyperactive piece of purposefully heightened cinema. And make no mistake, like an effort by Picasso, Domino is a work of collage-inspired art, maybe the first piece of true cubist-cinema ever crafted, leading a super-charged group with the likes of Running Scared by Wayne Kramer, Joe Carnahan’s Smokin’ Aces and Stretch, Michael Davis’ Shoot ‘em Up, and Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim vs.The World, all of which feel spiritually and stylistically connected to Scott’s over the top yet highly artistic sensibilities. Simply put, Domino is one of the most visually elaborate and sophisticated movies ever created, and all of these efforts feel birthed from the seismic contribution that Oliver Stone’s breakneck masterwork Natural Born Killers brought to the forefront in 1994, with its unrelenting sense of visual dynamism, outlandish humor, graphic violence, experimental tone and structure, and an emphasis on constant forward momentum. It’s also more important to note that Scott went on record as saying that Domino was his most favorite film that he ever directed; at the end of the day, he got the movie made the way he wanted to make it, and that says a lot in our current bean-counting movie climate.

3

I know that this is Scott’s most divisive, most critically savaged film. Many people hate it. Some people, like me, consider it to be the apex of Scott’s razzle-dazzle career as a storyteller and stylist, with a wild cast of characters (Keira Knightley, Mickey Rourke, Edgar Ramirez, Mo’Nique, Christopher Walken, Dabney Coleman, Delroy Lindo and many others) who all throw themselves into the filmmaking process with gusto and unending enthusiasm for the lurid material. The film is a slightly insane, pseudo-biopic of infamous bounty hunter Domino Harvey (the fantastic Knightley) that exists primarily as a showcase for Scott’s obsession with style and form and, as per usual, a heartfelt narrative. What makes Domino work as a whole is that the story is as unhinged as the style, always complimenting each other, always doing this crazy cinematic dance. Also, many people forget that much of the film takes place through a cloud of mescaline, and most of the third act incorporates a hallucinogenic-trip aspect to the proceedings. And then there’s Domino herself – a wild, rebellious British model turned bounty hunter who wanted only to march to the beat of her own drum. The real Domino Harvey did in fact lead a crazy life, but it probably wasn’t as over the top as Richard Kelly’s crisscrossing and zigzagging script, which was based on a story co-created by The Last Seduction scribe Steve Barancik. The filmmakers make it clear upfront that they’ve taken liberties with the facts – there’s even a graphic that reads: “Based on a true story…sort of.” What I love most about Domino is how frenetic and in your face the filmmaking is, and how incredibly intricate the plotting becomes by the finale. Scott’s hyperventilating and exhilarating style would mean diddly-squat if it wasn’t in service to an exciting plot with characters you like and stakes that are high. Knightley shredded her good-girl image with her balls-out performance as the titular heroine; from the lap-dance scene to breaking Brian Austin Green’s nose to busting out the double machine guns during the finale, she grabbed the role and ran with it. Mickey Rourke’s recent career resurgence really began here, with a gruff and stern performance as Domino’s boss. And Edgar Ramirez, who would later blaze up the screen in the epic five hour terrorist biopic Carlos, busted out in a big way as Domino’s volatile partner, Choco, and the love story that develops between them is as soft and tender as the rest of the film is jagged and primal.

5

Many complained that Scott’s directorial tricks and kinetic editing patterns were a major problem in Domino. To those individuals I say: Go home and watch Driving Miss Daisy. First off, lest anyone forget, the film is framed through the P.O.V. of a main character who is tripping on mind-altering substances – that should be the first sign to the viewer that the film is going to be a bit off-kilter. Kelly’s labyrinthine yet still coherent screenplay is a marvel of ingenuity, character construction, and dense plotting with a couple of his customary satiric zingers thrown in for good measure. Daniel Mindel’s super-saturated, kaleidoscopic cinematography bleeds with intense color as the images jump off the screen, assaulting and overwhelming the viewer’s senses – it’s a hot-blooded cinegasm of technique, designed to get you off. Repeatedly. And when you take into consideration that Kelly’s off-the-wall but still rooted in reality screenplay frequently shoots off in various directions at any given point, always carrying the potential to spin wildly out of control, you have to applaud the zeal of all the people behind this crazy undertaking. Strip away all the pyrotechnics and the nonlinear structure and you’re left with a rather simple story of love, deceit, revenge, and emotional and physical catharsis. And let me tell you – if you don’t find it cinematically satisfying when Keira Knightley and Mickey Rourke and Edgar Ramirez are speeding down that elevator shaft in the Stratosphere hotel while the penthouse level is exploding from an I.E.D., well, I’m not sure what to tell you!

4

There are just so many glorious sights that this movie has to offer: The epic opening credit sequence which needs to be played at full volume blast, Christopher Walken stealing scenes as a lunatic reality TV producer with a serious “font issue,” Ian Ziering and Brian Austin Green destroying their 90210 celebrity personas in hilarious cameos, Tom Waits as a tripped-out roamer of the desert with some poetic and interesting notions regarding fate, Knightley giving a bra and panty lap dance to a gang member in order to get her crew out of trouble – this movie never stops chugging and churning, throwing stuff at the audience, egging them on for a visceral response. The Jerry Springer interlude with the unveiling of the “mixed-race flow chart” is still a pisser for the ages, and overall, the bizarre nature of the narrative can never really be pinned down, which is a huge part of the fun factor. This was Tony Scot unleashed, the moment where you felt Scott put ALL OF HIMSELF into making a movie. It’s that rare, expensive, personal project that only gets funded by private investors who then let the filmmaker do whatever it is that they want. Domino is Tony Scott’s undying love letter to cinema as a whole and stands as his immortal masterpiece. As Manohla Dargis of the New York Times said in her glowing review of the film: “It’s all the Tony Scott you could want in a Tony Scott movie.” Damn straight.

DAVID JACOBSON’S DOWN IN THE VALLEY — A REVIEW BY NICK CLEMENT

1

I’ve been curiously drawn to the 2005 film Down in the Valley throughout the last 10 years, if for no other reason than I can’t seem to find too many movies quite like it. Starring a mysterious and characteristically magnetic Edward Norton as a modern day cowboy who “drifts” into town (the oh-so-cinematic San Fernando Valley) and changes the lives of the people he comes into contact with, it’s a strange film, dreamily stylish (Enrique Chediak is the cinematographer), and peppered with colorful and juicy supporting performances from an excellent Evan Rachel Wood, the always terrific David Morse, a sensitive Rory Culkin, and the legendary Bruce Dern. After making its debut in the Un Certain Regard section at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival, the film was released to mostly muted critical response and close to zero box office during a brief limited theatrical run; it’s still not available on Blu-ray with only a DVD and possible streaming options available. Writer/director David Jacobson hasn’t worked much since this film came and went, which seems to be a shame, because the film is an interesting if not entirely successful mood piece that’s heavily interested in character and skewing the expected conventions of the classic “Western” melodrama. Because the film is set in the present day, and it revolves around a delusional lead character (trying not to give too much away, here…), Jacobson is free to upend our common expectations, going in directions you won’t likely see coming, unafraid to present flawed main characters who you may empathize with if not sympathize with. Morse is really outstanding as Wood’s easily angered father who resents the heartfelt if not potentially dangerous Norton trying to make eyes with his sexually blossoming young daughter, with Jacobsen tipping his hat in all manner of auteur-lead directions, evoking Terrence Malick’s Badlands, the works of John Ford, and the occasional surreality of David Lynch or someone along those lines. This is a quirky, cool, and defiantly original piece of work that’s worth tracking down.

2

MICHAEL WINTERBOTTOM’S THE CLAIM — A REVIEW BY NICK CLEMENT

1

I’m a huge admirer of the filmmaker Michael Winterbottom, and his wildly underrated effort from 2000, The Claim, is a hugely impressive piece of work that’s begging for reconsideration and an upgrade to the Blu-ray format Alwin Kuchler’s muscular and expansive 2.35:1 widescreen cinematography painted a forbidding canvass of mountain life circa 1867, with the intelligent and morally ambiguous screenplay by Frank Cottrell Boyce (loosely based on the novel The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy) borrowing shades from Altman’s masterpiece McCabe and Mrs. Miller. Michael Nyman’s score is blustery when called for, and subtle most everywhere else, contributing greatly to the epic sweep of Kuchler’s full-bodied images. Winterbottom has always struck me as the British version of Steven Soderbergh, a restless talent interested in exploring every possible genre, refusing to be pigeonholed, always bursting with vitality and style and smarts. Peter Mullan is, as usual, fantastic as the strong willed ruler of Kingdom Come, the Northern California town that was crafted entirely for the film, only to be totally destroyed during the fiery final sequences (I’m spoiling nothing as this much his hinted at in the trailer). Sarah Polley, Wes Bentley, Milla Jovovich, and Nastassja Kinski are all excellent as the other main characters, all of whom cross paths with Mullan and get in the way of his perceived sense of happiness. This is narrative that hinges on jealousy, deceit, loyalty, love, business, and the ever burning quest that some people have to own and control all that they come into contact with. There are shades of Serena (an overall disappointment but not without its technical merits) and There Will Be Blood (one of the great films of the century) and other recent American period pictures detailing the harsh living conditions and the discovery of valuable resources (The Claim centers its dramatic action over the great California Gold Rush). The film was shot on location in Alberta, Canada, and it truly looks it – The Claim feels cold, remote, challenging, and daunting. This is an obscenely undervalued piece of cinema that seems to have snuck by way too many people. I can remember seeing it in a mostly empty theater in Los Angeles and thinking to myself that I was secretly being treated to one of the best films of that particular year.

2

PTS PRESENTS: CINEMATOGRAPHER’S CORNER with BOBBY BUKOWSKI

Bukowski POWECAST

TOOM_still2-750x500Podcasting Them Softly is honored to present a discussion with cinematographer Bobby Bukowski.  Bobby‘s most recent films, the groundbreaking Oren Moverman drama TIME OUT OF MIND and 99 HOMES, which is the latest from acclaimed indie filmmaker Ramin Bahrani, are in theaters nationwide right now. and we urge everyone to check them both out, as they’re two of the best films of the year. Some of his other excellent credits include THE MESSENGER and RAMPART, two more collaborations with Oren Moverman, INFINITELY POLAR BEAR with Mark Ruffalo, the mob-hitman thriller THE ICEMAN, Jon Stewart’s political drama ROSEWATER, and one of our favorites, ARLINGTON ROAD, which was of course directed by friend of Podcasting Them Softly’s Mark Pellington. Bobby‘s work is always extremely stylish and is always in perfect tandem with the narrative material no matter the genre, and it’s clear he’s crafted a strong relationship with Moverman, as the three films they’ve done together are some of the best of their respective years. We hope you enjoy our chat with Bobby!

RAMIN BAHRANI’S 99 HOMES — A REVIEW BY NICK CLEMENT

2

Ramin Bahrani has made five feature films thus far in his fascinating career, and all of them have been some of the best films of their respective years, with the trio of Man Push Cart, Chop Shop, and Goodbye Solo forming some sort of personal trifecta of small, less-is-more-inspired filmmaking, almost the American answer to the Dardenne brothers. His latest, the viciously angry social drama 99 Homes hits some of the same keys of maximized melodrama that his previous film did, the underrated At Any Price with Dennis Quaid and Zac Efron, while telling a topical, important, and thoroughly engrossing story that will likely be too intense and too real for some viewers. Concentrating on the financial and housing collapse of 2008 and centering the action in Orlando, arguably the epicenter of the sub-prime mortgage disaster zone, Bahrani and co-writer Amir Naderi have fashioned a compelling and provocative narrative that finds a struggling young man named Dennis Nash (an impassioned and excellent Andrew Garfield) learning just how far he’s willing to go to put food on the table for his son and mother, let alone a home over the heads. Michael Shannon is the real estate shark named Rick who has figured out how to take advantage of an already corrupt system, exploiting the failures and misery of others for his own financial gain; he sits at the same table as Gordon Gekko and Blake from Glengarry Glen Ross. The image of Shannon incessantly ripping his E-cigarette is one of the more searing visuals I’ve seen in any movie this year, and the effectively restless and propulsive music was scored by Antony Partos and Matteo Zingales, giving the film a level of anxiety that Bahrani ratchets up through his controlled and vigorous direction. Tackling topical themes and plotlines in works of Hollywood-based fiction can sometimes be a tricky proposition, but here, Bahrani and his skilled team knew precisely how to calibrate all of the elements.

The film kicks into high gear after Nash, his son, and his mother (the reliably fantastic Laura Dern) are evicted from their life-long home by Rick and two police offers, in an emotionally harrowing scene which is repeated throughout the story to underscore just how many people were affected by the greed and duplicity of financial managers, bankers, the federal government, and themselves. The superb cinematographer Bobby Bukowski can lay claim to having shot two of the most socially relevant and topical films of the year, with groundbreaking work done on Oren Moverman’s homeless drama Time Out of Mind, and incredibly intense lensing on 99 Homes. The film pulses with an immediacy, heightened by Bukowski’s smart widescreen framing, with the hazy Orlando sunlight offering the false promise of a happy day. The opening steadicam shot is nothing short of bravura, introducing the audience to the reprehensible but magnetic character of Rick, with Shannon shredding the screen with predator-like energy and endless answers to the various situations he’s found himself in. And while Garfield is undoubtedly convincing as a man pushed to his moral and ethical limits, all throughout, we’re constantly reminded that this is the Michael Shannon show, with this tremendous actor delivering an utterly ferocious performance that feels all too possible and realistic – you know there are plenty of people out there just like Rick, ready to swoop in and grab any and all of the pieces that they can line their pockets with; the agitated screenplay constantly stings and reminds us of how vulnerable many of us truly are at any given moment in life. This is the REAL horror movie for the month of October, and one of the best strengths of the film is its ending, which feels logical, understandable, and rational, as it takes into account everything that has come before it, with the final, mildly ambiguous beats suggesting nothing simple or happy for anyone. 99 Homes is tough but vital cinematic medicine that goes down smooth while leaving an appropriately bitter aftertaste. It’s one of the best films of the year.

3

Advertisements

We like to podcast them softly, from a distance.

Advertisements