Posts Tagged: directing

Steven Soderbergh on why he really quit movies

The prolific, brainy director has been profiled and interviewed in countless magazines. He’s a good subject, but the quality, usually due to the publication and questions asked, has run all over the place. That’s why I was a bit surprised that Esquire, of all magazines, had a knockout of a a Soderbergh interview. Smart, profane and frank. One example:

Esquire: After you won an Academy Award for Traffic, did you wrestle to keep your ego in check?

Soderbergh: No… What’s hilarious about it, ironically, and nobody will ever believe this… I was in the middle of shooting Ocean’s Eleven, which for me, as a director, was much harder. I just had to laugh. Best door prize ever. But I was literally set up to work the next morning. Sunday night was the Oscars. I flew to Vegas that night and I’m on set first thing Monday morning confronting a scene that I couldn’t figure out how to shoot. At the end of the day, the quote I use is “In the land of ideas, you are always renting.” The landlord can always go “Bye!” If you’re not humbled by that then you’re an idiot and you will fail. You will fail. The process of discovery or coming up with an idea is so resistant to formula.

The making of ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’

The sound and picture quality isn’t pretty, but it’s wonderful seeing Spielberg and a much younger Harrison Ford make history. It’s an hour filled with interviews and behind the scenes footage. Speilberg’s direction bits to the actors is especially interesting (via Jason Kottke.)

Edgar Wright explores the art of close-ups

David Chen, the host of the Slashfilmcast, has been venturing lately into video essays, especially for year end recaps from the best in film. They’ve been fairly well done, but this compilation of director Edgar Wright’s (Shawn of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) closeup work is standout. Pay attention to the discussion between Chen and Wright as the shots play out; I learned a lot.

Martin Scorsese interviews Wong Kar-wai on oscar shortlisted ‘The Grandmaster’

The actual content isn’t super in depth, but there’s no way I could pass up sharing a twenty minute interview and discussion between two of arguably the most talented directors today. It’s always interesting to hear Kar-wai talk about his near obsessive, rigorous shooting schedule and his long working relationship with Tony Leung.

The Coen canon

The Coen brothers are, in my opinion, the most consistently strong directing force in cinema today. There are misfires like The Ladykillers and (arguably) Intolerable Cruelty, but the rest of their output ranges from very good to great. It’s especially incredible when you consider their range, from surreal farces to noir thrillers and westerns.

That genre hopping is exactly why Nelson Caravajal’s latest Press Play essay on the brothers’ output is so interesting; anyone who’s seen their works is probably familiar with many of the scenes, but the way Caravajal edits them together, you can see thematic links among the material.

Questions of morality

I watched The Wolf of Wall Street on Christmas last week and while the movie is far from perfect, I liked it a lot. But I’m troubled by the viewpoint promoted on Twitter and in blog posts on how the movie “glorifies” the endless parties of drugs, booze and sex. Yes, director Martin Scorsese spends very little time on the negative impacts of main character Jordan Belfort’s actions, and some are cheering his behavior. But while the movie was entertaining, I was still repulsed by Belfort and everything he stood for. The late great Roger Ebert put it best in this essay from back in 1992:

The most fundamental mistake you can make with any piece of fiction is to confuse the content with the subject. The content is what is in a movie. The subject is what the movie is about. Word counters like Medved are as offended by a Martin Scorsese picture as by a brainless violent action picture, because they see the same elements in both. But the brainless picture is simply a form of exhibitionism, in which the director is showing you disgusting things on the screen. And the Scorsese picture might be an attempt to deal seriously with guilt and sin, with evil and the possibility of redemption. If you cannot tell one from the other, then you owe it to yourself to learn; life is short, and no fun if you spend it disowning your own intelligence.

Terminal man: De Palma’s “Carlito’s Way”

Niles Schwartz, writing for L’etoile:

Carlito’s Way is a beautiful after-hours ride to nowhere, a late night discotheque frenzy of manic physicality blasting off and crumpling down with the same bullet, where the dancers are passionately moving as if to a final destination of perfection, but are escorted out, dozing, on last call…Now, Carlito’s Way stands as one of his [Pacino’s] last headlining triumphs, his subsequent noteworthy work having shared before-the-title acknowledgement: Robert De Niro (Heat), Johnny Depp (Donnie Brasco), and Russell Crowe (The Insider).

It’s still an amazing film, something I want to potentially revisit during the holiday break. Available on digital rental and Netflix via DVD.

The unloved, part 1: Alien 3

I can’t say Scout Tafoya’s video essay defending Alien 3 won me over on that film based on memory; I found the tone and screenplay way too dark and nihilistic. But given what director David Fincher has done since, from Fight Club to The Social Network, makes me really want to rewatch this soon. It’s been over a decade since my last viewing.

Ridley Scott’s trojan horse career

Scott Fennessey and Chris Ryan, writing for Grantland:

As a fine-arts student who got his start in the vulgar world of commercial directing and slick TV shows, he has always subverted expectations…Looking for the quintessential interstellar extraterrestrial adventure? Instead, take the most grotesque body-horror movie ever made. Scott’s movies are delivery systems for ideas, but they’re also Trojan horses — hulking, beautiful objects, meant to distract audiences while those ideas creep in, one soldier at a time, to take over your mind. It’s been an effective, unlikely strategy for the British-born filmmaker.

Keynote: Chungking Express

Director Wong Kar-Wai shot Chungking Express in an unusually brief (by Wong standards) two month period while taking a production break from another film. The Dissolve‘s Keith Phipps writes about the movie’s history, plot, cinematography and more:

Though necessitated by circumstance, shooting faster and looser seems to have opened Wong up to new ideas. Yet, just as in the world of the film, there’s order within the chaos. Though made in an urgent heat, it’s a deeply considered, beautifully constructed film that captures the feel of a particular place at a particular time—and of characters of a particular age, specifically the age when it first becomes apparent that time only runs one way, even if the world seems to be eternally repeating itself.