Tag Archives: Darren Aronofsky

Darren Aronofsky’s Noah

Darren Aronofsky’s Noah is an odd one, a film that I enjoyed for the fact that it somewhat cuts ties to the biblical tale it bases itself on and does it’s own thing. The style and tone are so out of place and out of time that one could almost imagine this being set sometime far, far in the future instead of the distant past. Aronofsky introduced a very earthy, tactile and nature based aesthetic with his film The Fountain (which is my favourite film ever made), and he explores it further here, with time-lapse photography of plants growing, barren landscapes that suggest either a very young planet earth or a very old one and simple, elemental costumes that could be of both ancient ilk or post apocalyptic fashion. The story is quite literally as old as time, and given new life by a fantastic cast of actors starting with Russell Crowe as Noah, a man jaded by humanity and conflicted by forces beyond his own understanding. Jennifer Connelly, Douglas Booth, Logan Lerman and others play his family, one of whom knocks up Emma Watson, causing quite the controversy when the almighty creator commands Noah to build that ark before the monsoons come. Anthony Hopkins is the prophet Methuselah, and Ray Winstone’s Tubal Cain a rough hewn archetype of all of our worst qualities as a race. Coolest of all might are Frank Langhella, Mark Margolis, Frank Oz and Nick Nolte as some ancient looking stone golems who are actually angels sent down by the creator to shepherd humans when needed. It’s funny because Nolte is so grizzled and rugged in his old age these days he probably could have just played the role in person instead of voiceover, but as it stands the special effects used to bring them to life are spectacular, a standard that holds throughout the film from landscapes, props, wildlife and general visual mood. Now, I can never get behind Christian films or take them seriously, so it’s a good thing that Aronofsky remains at arm’s length from the religious stuff and takes a more mythological approach to the story in the sense that this could be happening in any world or universe, and isn’t tied down to one theology. Not a perfect film, but the arresting visuals, fantastic cast and overarching message of love and reverence for life in all forms make it something special.

-Nate Hill

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“God wants you on the floor.” : Remembering Hoosiers with Angelo Pizzo by Kent Hill

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It’s hard not to be romantic about the sports film. From classics like The Natural and Bull Durham to more modern efforts like The Blind Side and Moneyball. They range across all genres and all sports. Football (Rudy, Any Given Sunday), Golf (Tin Cup, The Legend of Bagger Vance), of course, Baseball (Field of Dreams, For Love of the Game) and in the case of Hoosiers, Basketball (Blue Chips, He Got Game). But Hoosiers, and I happen to share this sentiment, is one of the finer examples of the sports genre and is, for my money, the best basketball film ever made.

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Now, I use the term sports film very loosely. Yes all of the aforementioned contain the listed sports as part of their narratives. But, the games are not really what lies at the heart of these tales. The true centerpiece are themes like redemption, romance, the search for self, the search for acceptance – all these things within the characters either as player, coach, fan etc.

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So why do I think Hoosiers is the best example of this genre? Well, it’s simple. Hoosiers has all of these working within it. Comedy, romance, drama, redemption, the search for self, the search for acceptance. Okay, so it doesn’t have a crazed Bobby De Niro terrorizing any of the players to feed his grossly misguided obsession and distorted view of the world – but that doesn’t mean that it lacks thrilling, intense and impactful moments that keep you watching and ultimately cheering for the underdog, the little team that could. One could argue that this is a key ingredient in these kinds of films. A down-on-his-luck former golf pro, a disgruntled former player trying to manage a failing team, a boxer with all the odds stacked against him or a basketball team from a town in the middle on nowhere that couldn’t possibly take on the big schools and win.

Then there are the characters – all looking for second chances. Hackman’s coach, Hopper’s alcoholic father, Hershey’s teacher. They all have something to prove, something to gain from the victories the home team are accumulating. And, they are all masterful turns by each of the three principals. Indeed from all concerned with the production. None more so than that of first-time screenwriter and my guest Angelo Pizzo.

The man who was headed for a career in politics eventually ended up going to film school. After graduating, and spending sometime working in the arena of television, Angelo felt the need, at last, to make a film about a subject he was passionate about – basketball. And, being unable to find writer for the project . . . well . . . he decided to have a crack at it himself.

This wonderful film, under marvelous direction, David Anspaugh, from a great script with a stellar cast and punctuated by a phenomenal Jerry Goldsmith score is a small miracle that has, not unlike the team portrayed in its story, taken on the giants and carved out its place in cinema history.

If you haven’t seen Hoosiers, I urge you to do so. Don’t get caught watchin’ the paint dry…

Conceptually Speaking: An Interview with Sylvain Despretz by Kent Hill

 

Sylvain Despretz really is the personification of honnête homme. And he has been a man of the world since an early age. Travel was a part of his life; the other constant being his love of the cinema.

He is an artist of great style and skill and after his schooling he worked as an art director for a top Madison Avenue agency then moved on to illustrating Graphic Novels in California under the mentoring of the internationally famed artist Moebius. From there he would set out upon what would become and astonishing career as a story board artist and conceptual designer.

 

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His work you’ll have seen, gracing the screen in a myriad of films in a variety of genres. Movies like Gladiator, Alien Resurrection, Panic Room, The Fountain, (Tim Burton’s) Planet of the Apes and The Fifth Element. These including work on Don’t tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead and the coming Luc Besson sci-fi extravaganza: Valerian. He has worked with  and on films directed by the true masters of the screen including Ridley Scott, Stanley Kubrick, David Fincher and Jean-Pierre Jeunet.

But, as you will hear, Sylvain has become disenchanted by the current repetitive nature of Hollywood’s cookie-cutter output. He is now driven by the notion that the only way to usher in change, is to be part of a creative revolution that places an emphasis on original voices instead of corporate responsibility.

 

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To this end he is now embarking on a journey that will see him stepping away from the drawing board and moving behind the camera; bringing his own visions to life using that mysterious blending of industrial light and storytelling magic.

He is a learned Hollywood veteran who has seen the Dream Factory from the inside, and his stories and wealth of knowledge and experience was and is fascinating to experience.

The designer behind the scenes and the future man in the director’s chair, proud am I ladies and gentlemen to present this interview with the one and only, Sylvain Despretz.

VISIT SYLVAIN’S OFFICIAL SITE:

http://www.metaprogram.net/

Top Five Hugh Jackman Performances

With LOGAN being a gigantic hit at the box office, after seventeen years and seven turns as the Wolverine, Hugh Jackman is done with his most seminal character.  I imagine we’ll see him again, at some point down the road, but time will tell.  Jackman is so much more than the rough and tough Canadian mutant, he’s a wonderfully rounded actor that can mix brute blood lust with musical performances and soul bearing dramatic performances.  While Jackman is just hitting the sweet spot of his career, I wanted to take a look back at his finest performances.

 

THE FOUNTAIN 2006 Dir. Darron Aronofsky

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This is a film that has accrued such a following over its lackluster release, that one day, this will be looked at as not only one of Aronofsky’s finest films but also one of Jackman’s best performances.  Here, he plays the same soul over a course of three different centuries.  It’s apparent he’s a different man with each new becoming, yet he still is able to remain the same person.  It’s an incredibly heartfelt and touching performance in a film that needs more acclaim.

LES MISERABLES 2012 Dir. Tom Hooper

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Hugh Jackman has gone through a bounty of physical transformations playing Wolverine on screen, but nothing like his turn as Jean Valjean in LES MISERABLES.  Here, he embodies a fugitive, for decades, on the brink of the French Revolution – well, I’m pretty sure everyone knows the story.  But here, Jackman is able to pivot back to an area of performing that he loves: musicals.  While the contemporary Hollywood musical comes back in fads, I think this film stands out due in part to the actors are all singing live while being filmed.  This not only enhances their performances but makes them feel honest and organic, particularly Jackman.

LOGAN 2016 Dir. James Mangold

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This is it (maybe).  Jackman in his last turn as Wolverine.  He brings his all to this film, not once coasting in a character he’s played seven times in seventeen years.  Here, Logan is broken, surrendered, and wanting his life to finally be over.  Bravo to Jackman for going all out for this role.  He didn’t have to, and it is incredibly admirable of him to treat this character with such fondness and respect.  While the overwhelming echo chamber of hype is loud, I imagine this is the film that everyone is going to remember Jackman for.

THE PRESTIGE 2006 Dir. Christopher Nolan

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Jackman has an incredible knack for taking all of his affability and rolling into ambiguous characters that are cast in the greyscale of morality.  Here, Jackman’s obsession takes him down a rabbit hole of darkness where he ends up doing things so unforgivable, there is not really much of a shot at redemption, but I suppose that’s the point of this dark and twisted tale of magicians bent on obsession.

PRISONERS 2013 Dir. Denis Villeneuve

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In the role of a grieving father, blinded by revenge and rage, Jackman plays his most complex character.  The brilliance of the film, but in particular, the development of Jackman’s character, is that we’re given clues to who this man in before the events of the film unravels at a rather rapid pace.  While some of the clues are aesthetic choices or shot composition, a majority of them are cued in by subtle actions Jackman takes.  While his character becomes more and more vested in revenge and violence, the path to atonement becomes more and more opaque, and Jackman eventually gets the ambiguous end that he deserves.  Or does he?