actors, directors, Film Spotlight, Lucky 13 Film Club, movies

L13FC: Best at directing and Acting

Welcome back to Cindy’s Lucky 13 Film Club. For new followers, this is about sharing your thoughts in a positive way with one another on the 13th of the month. Over the years, I’ve had co-hosts and that makes the day even better. If you are interested in co-hosting a topic about the film industry, email me at cbruchman@yahoo.com, and let’s come up with something.

Sir Richard Attenborough has been on my radar lately. He was born in 1928 and passed in 2014. He shared his long life with wife Sheila Sim. He served for five years in WW2 and was an accomplished actor and director winning many top awards for both. He was a verified presence on the movie screen for more than sixty years.

If you need a reminder of his best acting roles, read Neil Mitchell’s article about “Dickie” FOUND HERE.

 What I enjoy best about his acting are his flawed characters. He is the stereotype of the composed, polite Englishman. Yet, his characters have serious foibles. That’s a seductive contrast. Whatever the role, he elevates the film by his presence. I also respect him for wanting to make important movies. He used his star power to bring awareness of the plight of the unfortunate even if it meant satirizing his native country.

What is his best acting role? What is his best directing job? How would you rank him with other actors/directors? That is, who has had equal success as a director and actor?

actors, Are You Not Entertained?, directors, Film Spotlight, Lucky 13 Film Club, movies

L13FC: Regionalism in Coen Brothers Movies

Welcome back to another rendition of the Lucky 13 Film Club featuring the Coen Brothers. Your friendly opinion is welcome here–don’t be shy–let’s talk to one another. I pulled from Wikipedia their eighteen films and each has a link that provides a synopsis in case you need a refresher.

After thirty years of filmmaking, we all have a favorite Coen film. When I was younger, my eyes and ears appreciated their strange storylines, quirky supporting characters, and their dark humor. As I aged, my interest in their work varied upon the project. Sometimes I felt their balance was off, that is, the story was too ludicrous for me to back emotionally–but always, throughout the decades, an element in the whole, a nugget in the creek, makes watching the film worth it. A performance. A character. A scene. A song. An idea that harkens back to the Greeks, and I like that about them; there is an endearing, universal quality about their stories. As screenwriters, they are the gods taking mythical pokes at the foolishness of man. They employ dramatic irony and we laugh. Well, I do.

I like Mojo.com. Have fifteen minutes? Watch this to help you remember the laughs and the technique of the Coen Brothers.

When I think of the Coen Brothers, here’s what comes to mind: 

  1. They remind me of Mark Twain. Folk tales–their films express America by the region including the vernacular and its superstitions and beliefs.
  2. They appreciate the genre of film noir. Miller’s Crossing is one of my favorites. Gabriel Bryne locks it for me.
  3. They love Hollywood and hate it, too.
  4. The songs and scores are a key part of the tale. Kudos to Carter Burwell.
  5. The themes are universal: heroism, friendship, greed, loss, betrayal, strange love, sacrifice
  6. The setting plays a huge role in their films. The violence of nature infiltrates and determines the violence in man.
  7. Romanticism. Naturalism. Modernism. Post-Modernism. It’s all there in the visual form. Like watching instead of reading the assigned anthology of the second half of a U.S. Lit course. While I still prefer to read the anthology, I enjoy seeing the stories on the screen.

Which region do they personify best? Also, what performance or character resonates? Which repeat actor starring in a Coen film grate on your nerves? For me, that’d be Frances McDormand. I like Jeff Bridges and Steve Buscemi. 

actors, directors, Film Spotlight, Lucky 13 Film Club, movies

L13FC: Sam Mendes films

Welcome back to the Lucky 13 Film Club. It’s my lucky day! Not only is it my birthday, but I also get to talk to you all day long. It’s the perfect present. Let’s talk about the director Sam Mendes. If you have seen 1917, then you know what a visceral, gripping movie it is. For conversation starters, I claim that 1917 is in the top 5 all-time best war films ever made. Better than Saving Private Ryan. Much better than Dunkirk. Even better than Platoon (a personal favorite for decades). What made it so good? The orchestration of the cameras headed by cinematographer Roger Deakins surpasses the norm. I appreciate Sam Mendes for taking risks and making an interesting film to watch. What do the critics say? Do you dislike the illusion of continuity with long shots edited carefully to look like a continuous take? Remember Hitchcock did that trick with Rope (1948) and recently, Alejandro G. Inarritu’s Birdman (2014).

Here are a baker’s dozen reasons I loved 1917:  1. Let’s walk beside the soldiers as a ghost and feel what it was like to be in WW1. 2. The subtle, intense performance by George MacKay (Defiance). 3. The cameos of fine actors taking a backseat. 4. Mendes’s beautiful shot compositions. Even in the horror, the burning city, the dogfight, the eerie spotlight shining on the charred silhouette below is beautiful. Notice I keep repeating the word beautiful. It’s not easy making the horrors of war visually stunning. 5. It was based on stories by the grandfather of Sam Mendes. Bravo! 6. It’s historically accurate including the layers of trenches and German bunkers who had much better-living conditions like bunk beds. 7. The ending is perfect. 8. Proof that simple stories are the best. Two friends are tasked with crossing No-Man’s-Land to report to a general to call off an attack in the morning. From point A to point B, can you survive? While other war movies feel like a video game, I didn’t feel that here. 8. There were no schmaltzy, cheesy lines or the usual hero tricks. Actors Dean Charles-Chapman and George Mackay were everyday men who were scared but pushed on. They were completely convincing. 9. CGI was not a distraction but used to sew the film together, to enhance it, but not reign supreme.10. Bravo for only saying two f*cks  in the whole movie. War is profane enough. 11. It was a film about the human experience; therefore, multiple generations could experience a war that never should be forgotten. 12. 5,200 feet of trench making. The details, the timing, and 4-months of rehearsals. The cameras move 365 degrees. Cinematographer Roger Deakins is brilliant. 13. Sam Mendes made a film that will be hard to improve upon for a long time. It’s a game-changer.

If you haven’t seen 1917 yet and don’t like spoilers, don’t watch this video. However, if you like what goes on behind the camera, how they filmed 1917, I’ve included how they made the movie. Spoilers ahead.

Okay, obviously I’m enthusiastic about 1917. It’s certainly not the only fine film by Sam Mendes. Let’s discuss your other favorites. Which ones did you like? Why? From the posters below, my favorite is Road to Perdition.