Steve Soderbergh has been one of my favorite directors, or maybe it is because I have a soft corner for visual stylists. Soderbergh’s movies have always been visually brilliant, be it the outer space shots in Solaris, or the muted lighting in Out of Sight or the epic scale of a Che. The long range tracking shots, the close ups, the light and shade effects makes his movies a great watch. And he has been one director who has explored all kinds of genres from heist( Out of Sight, Oceans series) to sci fi( Solaris) to biopic dramas( Che, Kafka) to corporate dramas( The Informant). And of course not to forget the fact that his Sex, Lies and Videotape in 1989, was one of the early movies that started the 90′s Indie movement.
So in tribute to the director, we would be hosting a Soderbergh blogathon from January 14,2014 to February 1,2014. And yes we are seeking your active contributions on :
- Movies directed by Steven Soderbergh as well as those produced by him like Syriana.
- His collaboration with actors like George Clooney, Matt Damon.
- Focus on some of his more experimental movies like Schizopolis, Gray’s Anatomy.
- His directorial style, and the subjects, themes in his movies.
The above is not an exhaustive list, but anything on Soderbergh, would be welcome. You can share a post that you have written earlier, but giving a link to the blogathon or post it directly. And feel free to mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This site has successfully hosted blogathons earlier on Ridley Scott, Michael Mann, Tony Scott, Howard Hawks, Sydney Pollack, Roman Polanski and Oliver Stone. So hoping to see an equally good response on the Sydney Pollack Blogathon too.
You can promote the blogathon using one of the clippings below, at your movie blog, and of course sharing it with other like minded movie lovers.
Ed Copeland contribution to the Blogathon, is on one of Stone’s more controversial movies, Natural Born Killers. Originally scripted by Tarantino, it was changed drastically by Stone and fellow writers David Veloz and Richard Rutowski. Copeland shows his issue here with the high praise bestowed on Natural Born Killers, saying that it was simply a patch work of earlier movies, and as subtle as an 8.0 earthquake. In his own words
Stone also experiments more with film styles, alternating as he did in JFK between color, black and white, 16 millimeter, Super 8, video and even adds animation akin to graphic novels. Unlike JFK, these switches serve no purpose other than to distract the audience. He also trots out other weird devices such as treating scenes with Mallory’s monster of a father (Rodney Dangerfield) as if they exist in a TV sitcom, complete with laugh track and bleeped profanity — except for some reason some cuss words get bleeped and others don’t. Of course, he can’t resist tossing in some mystical Native Americans, just for good measure. It’s hard to fault the performers (except for Tommy Lee Jones’ inexplicable decision to play a prison warden as if he’s imitating Reginald Van Gleason) since saving this mess would have been impossible for the greatest of actors, but at least Downey’s wry performance injects some much-needed levity into this often tedious film. Downey appears to be the only actor aware that he’s — in theory — signed on to the satire Stone believes he’s making, but it’s never a good idea to place a satire in the hands of someone without a sense of humor.
Apologies to all for the break in the blogathon, had some issues at hand to resolve. Once again we re start this with another post by Ed Copeland on Stone’s take on 9/11 World Trade Center. Stone’s movie looks at 9/11 from a perspective of the fire fighters who were the true heroes of that event. And as many put it, a movie that is the least Stone like. In Ed’s own words.
“I finally caught up with Oliver Stone’s World Trade Center and, as indicated by many reviews, it certainly qualifies as the least Oliver Stone-like film Stone has made (though Oliver can’t resist tossing in a couple of ghostly images of Jesus in a light but hey, at least it wasn’t a mystical Indian). World Trade Center does end up being Stone’s best work in quite some time.Like most Stone movies, it contains fat that could be lost easily and in the battle of 9/11 movies, I still prefer United 93, even though Stone’s film contains good performances. Cage gives his best straight performance in ages. Yes, I loved him in Adaptation, but I can’t remember the last time he played a dramatic role in a movie that wasn’t a time-waster.”
The assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, has been one of the most discussed topics in American history, and also I guess, has spawned the maximum number of conspiracy theories. In a country where people still believe that the earth is flat and the moon landing was a hoax, JFK’s assassination, naturally has had it’s own conspiracy theories, with culprits ranging from Edgar Hoover to the KGB to Kruschev to CIA to the Mafia. Considering that controversy has often been Oliver Stone’s middle name, it was bound to be combustible, when he took on the task of making a movie about JFK, through the testimony of New Orleans district attorney Jim Garrison. And true to form, JFK has ended up being a vastly polarizing movie, with strident critics dubbing it as “Dances With Facts”, a snide take off on Costner’s Oscar winning Western. Edward Copeland in an excellent piece on JFK , examines how Stone’s movie, while good in many parts, suffers from poor writing at many places, as also Costner’s not too great performance. In his own words.
Growing up though with the history of the Kennedy and Martin Luther King assassinations ingrained in our brains shortened our attention span of shock when John Lennon, Reagan and Pope John Paul II encountered bullets in a period of just a few months. The explosion of the space shuttle Challenger seemed to affect us for only an hour or two instead of the lifelong effect JFK’s assassination had on an earlier generation. Personally, I don’t know if I buy the revamped Garrison theory that Stone offers. I don’t see how anyone can believe Oswald acted alone or all the shots came from behind — watching the Zapruder film enlarged on the big screen makes the “back and to the left” motion of Kennedy’s head unmistakable. However, Stone can’t quite pull off the idea that the reason Kennedy was killed was so the Vietnam War could happen.
Letícia Magalhães is a Brazilian writer born in 1993, with a big love for the past. When she is not watching classic films, she writes about culture in general, reads and learns other languages. She writes primarily in her blog in her blog Critica Retro, about films from the past, and was invited to write in four other websites. Has self-published two books and tries hard to become an accomplished writer. As part of the Blogathon, she explores Stone’s 1986 political thriller Salvador. Leticia who herself is from Latin America, examines the way Stone depicts the typical American attitudes to the region, through the eyes of the journalist Richard Boyle( James Woods) and his friend DJ( James Belushi), as they are caught up in the civil war in El Salvador. In her own words
Besides showing the U.S. presence, the film also analyzes the impact of the war for the characters. There is a pertinent reflection on how both sides are wrong to use extreme violence, showing that we should not feel sorry when barbarism has no side. Sometimes the film takes on shades of documentary, especially at the end when adopts a narrative similar to productions about real people. Indeed, the experiences of journalist Rick Boyle served as inspiration for the film, and he was responsible for the script. However, did not get along with James Woods, who plays him in the movie.
From an early age, Edward Copeland became obsessed with movies, good television, books and theater. On the side, he nursed an addiction to news and information as well that led him into journalism where he toiled for 17 years until health problems forced him to give up the daily grind of work. In addition to writing for Press Play, he ran the blog Edward Copeland on Film (later renamed Edward Copeland’s Tangents and currently in hibernation) and has written for The Demanders on rogerebert.com, at Slant Magazine’s The House Next Door, Movies Without Pity, Awards Daily as well as the political commentary site The Reaction. Here the opening piece of the blogathon is on Stone’s biopic about Jim Morrison, in The Doors. Copeland, critiques, Stone’s take on The Doors, calling it a neither here nor there movie. In his own words
Stone, usually reliably opinionated, seems to lack a point of view here. He’s neither defending Morrison nor chastising him. More importantly, the film lacks what much of Stone’s work lacks — structure. When you go back and look at much of his body of work, Platoon, Wall Street and Born on the Fourth of July all fail to hold up on subsequent viewings, usually because of a lack of structure. Talk Radio remains the Stone film that holds up best because of its built-in structure of the radio broadcast. In The Doors, except for occasional reminders of the year, structure does not exist, just a drifting, mind-altering montage of events leading up to the inevitable discovery of Morrison in the bathtub. The most glaring example comes in a scene with Meg Ryan as Pamela, Morrison’s “ornament.” Jim finds Pam shooting heroin with another man and. in a rage, frightens her into a closet where he locks her in before setting the door ablaze. That’s it. We hear no more about it. Twenty minutes later, Pam shows up at a recording studio. In the film’s context, it’s unclear that it’s even the same time period as when he lit the fire and nothing explains her escape.
So finally, the Roman Polanski blogathon ends. And I had the privilege of posting some great pieces by Jean, Jack Deth, Michael. And it always has been a pleasure working with these people.
So here are the pieces published as part of the Polanski blogathon.
- The Pianist by yours truly.
- A Pure Formality by Murtuza Ali and Bitter Moon by Jack Deth.
- The Ghost Writer by Niles Schwartz and Rosemary’s Baby by Michael Alatorre – Both of them outstanding.
- Two fabulous posts by Jean Melkovsky on The Tenant and Repulsion.
- And a brilliant post again by Jean Melkovsky on one of Polanski’s more underrated movies Cul-De-Sac.
Thank you one and all for your great contributions. I must say all the posts were of extremely high quality and standard, and it was a pleasure to be associated with such wonderful people like you always.
I think experience will teach you a combination of liberalism and conservatism. We have to be progressive and at the same time we have to retain values. We have to hold onto the past as we explore the future.
Oliver Stone, a man whom you either love or hate, but you just cannot ignore.You could argue about his politics, his tendency to narrate stories through his own political prism or come out with his own version of history. But there is no denying that he has been one of the best movie makers ever in recent times. Not many American directors have covered Vietnam the way he did -Platoon, Born on the 4th of July, Heaven and Earth, and one of the best movies on Latin America in Salvador. A director who covered 3 American Presidents( JFK, Nixon, W) and the greed of Wall Street. In a way Stone’s movies cover contemporary America, in all ways be it in his dark, thrillers like Natural Born Killers or U-Turn or the more sordid side of American football in Any Given Sunday.
After covering successful blogathons on Ridley Scott, Tony Scott, Howard Hawks,Michael Mann and Sydney Pollack, we now announce the OLIVER STONE BLOGATHON, starting from September 15( his birthday) and ending on October 6. And yes you can take part in this blogathon,by contributing posts,articles, interviews,anything related to Oliver Stone. And please do promote this at your movie blog, using one of the banners given below.
In line with Jean Melkovsky’s earlier pieces on Repulsion and The Tenant, the blogathon today shares another great post on Polanski’s dark pyschological thriller, Cul De Sac., one of his more underrated movies IMO. Yes, while discussing Polanski’s ouevre, Pianist, Chinatown, Rosemary’s Baby would be the obvious choices, and deeper down Bitter Moon, Frantic, Oliver Twist and Repulsion. But Cul De Sac is not a movie that most would come up. This to me is an underrated gem, even better than some of his more highly rated flicks. Tightly constructed, brilliantly written, and some solid performances by the cast make this a superb thriller, that needs to be watched. You can feel the sense of despair, doom among the characters, as they literally hurtle into a blind alley. In Jean’s own words.
Aesthetically, I would define Cul-de-Sac as pure delight. I know there’s no such genre, but whatever else critics have been trying to label it just doesn’t stick. Rarely have I experienced such absolute rapture over the study of the darkest recesses of human soul, global pessimism, a story of humiliation, victimization, misanthropy, misogyny, neurosis, and death.
Among Polanski’s filmography, his more noted one is the “Apartment Trilogy”, of pyschological, horror, thrillers set against an apartment backdrop. We already had Mike Alatorre exploring Rosemary’s Baby, in a previous blog post. And here we have a twin contribution from Jean Melkovsy, who has dedicated an entire blog to Polanski, covering his movies and his biography.
Repulsion has been one of Polanski’s most European style movies, ever since he switched over to English cinema. A taut, disturbing psychological thriller, about a lonely, repressed girl, it remains one of the finest in that genre. Here Jean explains why he feels Repulsion disturbs and scares the audience even without any gory scenes as such. And also explains Polanski’s love for closed spaces. In his own words.
When Polanski was asked why he loved filming inside closed-up spaces, he said he wanted the viewers to feel the fourth wall right behind their backs. Fuck, yeah. The horror lurks in the trivial objects, just like insanity lurks within sanity. Carole slides into madness one step at a time, and the every-day objects become more and more menacing. It’s like the slippage described in Black House (King and Straub): everything still there, but not quite. The first part of the movie is all about this precarious ambiguity: there’s nothing wrong in not stepping on the cracks, in shunning a man on the street who makes passes at you, in not wanting to touch food that doesn’t look especially delicious, in forgetting a date, in expressing disgust at someone else’s toothbrush or anxiety over someone making loud love right behind the wall. Every little step, however, is a step in the right (=wrong) direction.
The Tenant which makes up the last part of Polanski’s Apartment Trilogy, of how an individual has it tough in a world ruled by communes. In this review Jean, looks at the plight of the titular tenant, and relates it to individuals facing harassment from organized groups be it the Nazis, the Soviets in Eastern Europe, or conservative Christian groups in the US. In Jean’s own words
That’s the most important message of The Tenant –the world doesn’t look like that because the tenant is paranoid, no, the man is driven crazy because the world is like that, even if it might look different than it does to other people as the tenant descends down the steps of his insanity. Sanity or insanity of the viewer only changes the appearance, not the substance. They could drive him insane, so they did it. And he lets them, that’s the thing, his last Gauloises-versus-Marlboro rebellion but a token gesture of a despaired man trying to keep the pathetic scraps of his dignity. He lets them, because they have the right to subject him to anything they like, and there will never be the “right” way to behave. Only escape is [sometimes] possible, but the tenant is far too fascinated with his own victimhood to undertake any decisive steps (except a brief visit to Stella, only to learn that things are the same everywhere), much like his female counterpart in Repulsion was much too fascinated with what the fabric of existence was doing to her.