Wednesday, September 14, 2011


Every so often, I post a list of great films that go unrecognized with casual movie fans. Some are current, some are older, some are domestic, some are foreign, but they're all brilliant movies you should check out if you have a chance.

If a film has a * symbol next to it, that means that the selected choice is an exceptional stand out.

Lifeboat (Alfred Hitchcock, 1944)
Little Fugitive (Ray Ashley, Morris Engel, & Ruth Orkin, 1953)
Shadows (John Cassavetes, 1959)
An Occurence at Owl Creek Bridge (Robert Enrico, 1962) *
Viy (Georgi Kropachyov & Konstantin Yershov, 1967)
The Devils (Ken Russell, 1971) *
Blue Collar (Paul Schrader, 1978)
Das Boot (Wolfgang Petersen, 1981)
Streets of Fire (Walter Hill, 1984)
Return to Oz (Walter Murch, 1985)
The Woman in Black (Herbert Wise, 1989)
Begotten (E. Elias Merhige, 1990)
Quick Change (Howard Franklin, & Bill Murray, 1990)
Proof (Jocelyn Moorhouse, 1991)
Howards End (James Ivory, 1992)
The Age of Innocence (Martin Scorsese, 1993)
The Brothers McMullen (Edward Burns, 1995)
Multi-Facial (Vin Diesel, 1995)
Heavy (James Mangold, 1995)
See the Sea (François Ozon, 1997)
Cube (Vincenzo Natali, 1997)
Bella Mafia (David Greene, 1997)
Flowergirl (Cate Shortland, 1999)
Boiler Room (Ben Younger, 2000)
The Piano Teacher (Michael Haneke, 2001)
Wonderland (James Cox, 2003)
Lymelife (Derick Martini, 2008)
Tyrranosaur (Paddy Considine, 2011)
Bellflower (Evan Glodell, 2011)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


The Killing, USA, 1956
Dir: Stanley Kubrick
Cast: Sterling Hayden, Marie Windsor, Elisha Cook

The Killing
is a 1956 heist film written and directed by a 28-year old Stanley Kubrick. It was his first studio-funded picture and landed him acclaim from critics and peers all around. It signaled the beginning of a Hollywood career that lasted until his death in 1999.

In 1955, Kubrick was still a young filmmaker from the Bronx, and just completed a mini-featured called Killer’s Kiss. He sold it to United Artists for $75,000 and a promise that his next project would be backed by the studio. Around this time, Kubrick befriended a budding producer named James Harris. The two teamed up and decided on adapting Lionel White’s crime novel Clean Break as their first collaboration together.

Kubrick’s background was in photography, and his keen sense of visuals helped sell Killer’s Kiss. What he lacked though, was a mastery of dialogue and language. Kubrick and Harris then hired notable crime novelist Jim Thompson to help with the screenplay. Kubrick used his deep knowledge of TV character actors to compile an impressive cast that included Sterling Hayden, who later played Jack D. Ripper in Dr. Strangelove, Timothy Carey who starred in Kubrick’s next masterpiece, Paths of Glory a year later, and Joe Turkel who later played the part of the butler in The Shining almost 25 years later. Also notable among the cast is Marie Windsor, who played a devious and heartless femme fatale.

The Killing was completed and released in 1956, although it received very little campaign management from United Artists and the film ended up a flop at the box office. Kubrick, however, landed much praise from critics including Time Magazine and the trio of Harris, Kubrick, and Thompson landed an opportunity to make Paths of Glory, a powerful and visceral World War I drama starring Kirk Douglas, who was impressed with The Killing and wanted to work with the creative team behind it.

Fifty-five years later, the film’s influence and attraction is still heavy in weight. In 2011, The Criterion Collection honored The Killing with a special edition release with interviews featuring Harris, as well as a TV special with Sterling Hayden from 1984, just before his death.

The Killing tells the story of Johnny Clay, a recently released con artist who orchestrates a racetrack robbery with several employees of the track.

Modeled after Akira Kurosawa’s classic film Rashomon, the story unfolds in a unique and stylized non-linear fashion, essentially telling the same story several different times from several different perspectives. This approach would later influence many films including Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs and Steven Soderbergh’s Ocean’s Eleven.

Kubrick eventually became a force in the movie industry, scoring 13 Oscar Nominations for films such as 2001: A Space Odyssey, Barry Lyndon and Full Metal Jacket. When considering his legacy, few tend to think of his early work like Killer’s Kiss, shot entirely on location in New York City, and The Killing, one of the last, great true film noirs. Only 84 minutes in length, the film is deliberately fast-paced and consistently suspenseful until its ironic, bittersweet conclusion.

The Killing
remains one of the best noir films of the 1950s. Full of surprises and great characters, it’s a highly inspired and brilliant piece of filmmaking.

Sunday, September 4, 2011


Who Was Raúl Juliá?

He was an actor, born in Puerto Rico in 1940. He stood out in his classroom and began theater in his teens. In 1971 he landed a role in the cult film The Panic in Needle Park, Al Pacino’s first starring role. He worked with Meryl Streep on Broadway in the 70s, and starred in the 1985 milestone independent film Kiss of the Spider Woman, which won co-star William Hurt an Academy Award for Best Actor. In 1994, he landed the antagonist role in the big screen adaptation of the popular Street Fighter video game series. He never saw the release of the movie after experiencing a stroke in the fall of 1994, just before the expected release date.

Today fans know him as many things. His most popular film role was that of the patriarch of the Addams Family in the successful Addams Family films, released in 1991 and 1993. As Gomez Addams, Julia headlined the beloved franchise, and no doubt would have spearheaded a continuation of the series had he not passed away so suddenly a year after the release of The Addams Family Values, number two film in the franchise.

Seventeen years after his death, admirers of Julia’s still reminisce about his wonderful theater days in the 60s and 70s. Others remember his bold and poignant performances in several films now regarded as classics of their time.

Born to a wealthy Puerto Rican family, Julia moved to America in 1964. By the late-60s, he was appearing on Broadway and during the 70s he was one of the biggest stars on stage, with Tony nods for his performances in Two Gentlemen of Verona (1972), Where's Charley? (1975), Threepenny Opera (1976) as well as Nine (1982), which was eventually turned into a feature film in 2009 starring Daniel Day-Lewis in the role Julia performed on stage.

Raul Julia always had a knack for playing strong, determined, and complex characters both on stage and on the silver screen. He was a pioneer for Hispanic actors, and became one of the most beloved screen stars in Hollywood. Julia spent his career performing along with some of the greatest actors of his generation, including Robert Redford, Meryl Streep, Harrison Ford, and Al Pacino. He also worked with the top filmmakers of the 70s and 80s like Francis Ford Coppola, Clint Eastwood, John Frankenheimer, Alan J. Pakula, Sydney Pollack, Paul Mazursky, and Robert Towne.

Although never making it into the mainstream realm of stardom, he sustained a busy screen career; he appeared in nine films released between 1988 and 1990. His decision to take a role in Street Fighter was an attempt to connect with a younger audience. However, during filming, he suffered a stroke and passed away in October of 1994, at the peak of his career. In an ironic twist, Julia won a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a TV Miniseries, posthumously, for The Burning Season. His funeral was held in his birthplace of Puerto Rico, which was attended by thousands. He was 54 years old and left behind an unfinished legacy of work, still admired to this day.