Why Do Cinematographers Make Such Lousy Directors?

Wally Pfister has been in it for a minute. He started out in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, first as a camera operator and then cinematographer for straight-to-VHS erotic thrillers and horror films with titles like Animal Instincts II, Secret Games 3, and Amityville: A New Generation. But in 2000, he hooked up with director Christopher Nolan for Momento, and he’s shot every Nolan film since (along with Moneyball, The Italian Job, and a few others). Now he moves into the director’s chair, orchestrating a high-caliber cast in the big-budget sci-fi thriller Transcendence (out today). But even if you view it without this thumbnail bio in the back of your head, you might guess the pedigree, because it’s a terrible movie that looks amazing. … Read More

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‘Community’ Season 5 Finale Recap: “Basic Sandwich”

“You moved dirt around Greendale’s grave!” roars school board villain Carl (“That’s right, we’ve got names!”) at the conclusion of Community’s fifth season finale, “Basic Sandwich.” “Your school is still bankrupt! It is still unmarketable! And it is still on the permanent chopping block of anyone who has any say in its future!” You don’t often hear schools called “unmarketable,” nor that they’re on the “chopping block,” but those are terms thrown around in the world of television—and thus they were appropriate to end an episode where the most meta show on television continued to out-meta itself. Frankly, I haven’t heard a television show comment more explicitly on its own shaky future than the second season (and, unfortunately, series) finale of Sports Night, which included the line, “Anybody who can’t make money off Sports Night should get out of the money-making business.” … Read More

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13 Great New-to-Netflix Movies to Stream This Holiday Weekend

Well, friends, spring is in the air (occasional lingering thundersnow aside), and Easter weekend is upon us, which could mean several things for you: participation in some sort of egg hunt, consumption of massive quantities of chocolate and sugar, a biannual visit to some sort of house of worship. Or it might just mean hanging out on the couch/in bed all weekend like it’s any other weekend. Your Flavorwire can’t help much with the first batch of items, but if you’re vegging out this holiday weekend, we’ve got a handful of noteworthy titles that have arrived (either for the first time, or for a return stint) over the past couple of weeks over at Netflix. Click through, fill your queue, and clear a day or two. … Read More

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‘Captain America’ Star Anthony Mackie Is Right: Kids Deserve More Diverse Superhero Movies

Anthony Mackie is one of those underrated and substantially gifted actors who livens up just about any movie he shows up in, and his unique fusion of genuine warmth and unflappable cool is particularly welcome in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. But his most important contribution to the comic-book movie universe may well have occurred off-screen, at a recent promotional roundtable, when he said this about playing a black superhero: “When I first got this role I just cried like a baby because I was like, ‘Wow, next Halloween, I’m gonna open the door and there’s gonna be a little kid dressed as the Falcon.’ That’s the thing that always gets me. I feel like everybody deserves that. I feel like there should be a Latino superhero. Scarlett does great representation for all the other girls, but there should be a Wonder Woman movie. I don’t care if they make 20 bucks, if there’s a movie you’re gonna lose money on, make it Wonder Woman. You know what I mean, ’cause little girls deserve that.” Or, to put a more cynical spin on his comment: why are all the comic book superhero movies about white guys? … Read More

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25 Incredibly Tough Movies for Extreme Viewers

We’ve been talking a lot about Lars von Trier lately, prompted by the release of Nymphomaniac, and now Criterion Collection has given us one more reason to think about his work: their new special edition of his 1996 masterpiece Breaking the Waves. It’s a key entry in the von Trier filmography, its themes echoing throughout Nymphomaniac and Melancholia, but it takes something big like the Criterion release to warrant a revisit; Breaking the Waves is both a masterful movie and one that’s incredibly difficult to subject yourself to. We’ve looked previously at great books and important albums that are just plain hard to take; here’s a few movies that warrant the same kind of… Read More

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Was ‘Say Anything…’ the End of a Teen-Movie Era?

If you ask them, people will tell you with great confidence that there’s no way Lloyd Dobler and Diane Court actually make it after the credits roll in Say Anything… Their certainty is understandable — after all, they’ve had 25 years (the anniversary is today) to think about it. Even Diane herself seems uncertain, in that last scene; she asks Lloyd, “Nobody really thinks it will work, do they?” Lloyd confirms the fact, but then quickly adds, “You just described every great success story.” The question of their longevity usually boils down to a few basic ideas about compatibility — after all, she’s a genius and he’s (in her words) “basic,” a fast-talking, goofy Army brat who has hung his career prospects on the hybrid sport of kickboxing. “What’re you gonna talk about?” her father asks. “What do you have in common?” He asks these questions to break them up, unaware that his own dishonesty will not only bring them back together, but ensure that they do, in fact, last. … Read More

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Don’t Write Off Nicolas Cage Just Yet — He’s Great in David Gordon Green’s ‘Joe’

There’s a new Nicolas Cage movie in theaters and on demand this week, and here’s what’s surprising: it is absolutely worth seeing. It’s called Joe, and it’s exactly the kind of modest, elegiac, naturalistic independent film that big-name actors tend to turn to when they’ve wandered too far off the reservation, which Cage has certainly done. In fact, in the nearly 20 years since he won his Oscar for Leaving Las Vegas, he’s gone from a marvel to a punch line, fronting laughable vehicles, turning in alternately sleepy and twitchy performances in which he all but waves his paycheck at the camera and cackles. But what’s always been frustrating about Cage is the sense that he was so deliberately slumming it, and that there was still a great actor clawing around in there. … Read More

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‘Community’ Season 5 Episode 12 Review: “Basic Story”

It’s not often that you get to see a major network television show arguing with itself. But that’s one of the surprises, and pleasures, of “Basic Story,” the first installment in Community’s two-part fifth season finale, which spends much of its first half suspiciously tiptoeing around the idea that, for once, Greendale Community College is free of chaos, its staff and students utterly content. “Usually a lot more than this happens in 30 minutes,” notes Abed, at the end of a half-hour of study group playing-on-their-phones time, and that denomination of time isn’t accidental. For a show that spends plenty of time playing in the meta sandbox, this week’s episode represents a continuation (after last week’s “G.I. Jeff”) of the idea of pushing beyond inside jokes and self-awareness, and genuinely exploring (and exploding) the very nature of fiction. … Read More

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Stereotyping You By Your Favorite Jim Jarmusch Movie

Only Lovers Left Alive, the ultra-cool vampire hangout flick from indie legend Jim Jarmusch, is out tomorrow in limited release, marking an even dozen feature films from the creatively coiffed auteur. It’s a fascinating filmography, encompassing multiple genres (from comedy to Western to action movie to horror) without fully turning over to any of them; all of his movies are, above all else, Jim Jarmusch Movies, which has sort of become a genre of its own. Yet the film that you pick as your favorite says a lot about you as a person — and thus we give the Jarmusch filmography our signature “stereotyping you by” treatment. … Read More

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‘Mad Men’ Multiplex: Which 1969 Movies Will Turn Up This Season?

From the third-season cola campaign aping Bye Bye Birdie to last year’s multiple screenings of Planet of the Apes, Mad Men has always dipped generously into the pool of period cinema to help set its scene, while simultaneously drawing inspiration from films of the era (The Apartment, BUtterfield 8, Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter, and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying — starring Bert Cooper himself, Robert Morse — leap to mind). We’ve taken some guesses at the books this season’s 1969 timeframe might introduce; here are a few of the most popular movies of that year, and how they might work their way into Don Draper’s world. … Read More

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