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The Playlist

The Alternate 2011: Who Nearly Directed Or Starred In The Most Notable Movies Of The Year?

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • December 12, 2011 2:05 PM
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  • 12 Comments
2011 hasn't been too shabby for the movies. But even in a year such as this, there's that niggling feeling of what could have been. With the process of picking a director and casting a film seemingly more public than ever, thanks to rumors leaking and trades running short-list stories, it's possible to imagine any number of alternate outcomes for many of the biggest, and best, films of the year.

The Essentials: The 5 Best Gary Oldman Performances

  • By The Playlist Staff
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  • December 8, 2011 1:02 PM
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  • 21 Comments
It's been a frequently repeated fact this year, but in case you didn't know, Gary Oldman has never been nominated for an Oscar. But in a way, why should he have been? The Academy Awards specialize, for the most part, in celebrating showy, look-at-me performances, impersonations of real people, or tear-jerking portrayals of crippling disease or disability. And Oldman has never been one of those actors. Oh, sure, he's capable of playing big and attention-grabbing -- "Bram Stoker's Dracula," say, or one of his villainous turns in the 1990s -- but even in the least of those films, he's always totally disappeared into the character with no sign of the man behind the curtain, no visible effort in the acting to be applauded. 

The Essentials: The 5 Best Tilda Swinton Performances

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • December 7, 2011 12:59 PM
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  • 4 Comments
Tilda Swinton is a pretty unconventional kind of movie star. The daughter of a Scottish Major-General, and one-time classmate of Princess Diana, she got her start in acting in experimental theater and the Royal Shakespeare Company, before going on to become a muse of British iconoclast Derek Jarman. Over time, she's featured in performance art (including sleeping in a glass box in the Serpentine Gallery in London for a week), worked with fashion designers, founded a traveling film festival in the Scottish Highlands, and even appeared on an album by pop eccentric Patrick Wolf. She's even become tabloid fodder in recent years, thanks to her unusual home life; she's married to painter John Byrne, but simultaneously maintains a relationship with a German artist named Sandro Kopp. Not exactly Julia Roberts, right?

The Essentials: The 5 Best Marilyn Monroe Performances

  • By The Playlist Staff
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  • November 21, 2011 1:22 PM
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  • 54 Comments
Close to fifty years after to her premature passing at the age of 36, there are few stars, living or dead, who have the same effect that Marilyn Monroe continues to have. An icon the likes of which the starlets of today simply can't compete with, her legacy continues to loom large, despite a relatively brief time on top (less than fifteen years passed between her first speaking role and her final picture, "The Misfits") and aided in no small part by her tumultuous personal life -- three troubled marriages, including to playwright Arthur Miller and baseball legend Joe Di Maggio, and reported affairs with both President John F. Kennedy and his brother Bobby.

Quelle Horreur! 10 Foreign-Language Horrors To Freak You Out This Halloween

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • October 28, 2011 6:55 AM
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  • 8 Comments
There's a reason so many American horror films in the last couple of decades have largely been remakes of foreign language movies – because those films are really, really scary. The fact that the remakes are, by and large, completely awful, has to do with the specificity – there are details in culture and location that, when displaced, shuffled, or wholly removed, greatly impact the narrative and the power of the storytelling. Feudal Japan, with its cultural landscape of spirits intermingling with the living, can't be swapped for suburban Chicago, the home of Abe Froman, the Sausage King. In the age of the internet, it's been easier for keen-eyed genre enthusiasts to diagnose which foreign horror films are worth tracking down (and which, in the decades previous, you might have missed).

The Films Of Pedro Almodóvar: A Retrospective

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • October 14, 2011 5:50 AM
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  • 7 Comments
Pedro Almodovar, I'm So Excited
Pedro Almodóvar is one of the most respected filmmakers in the world, an Oscar winner whose films have become Cannes mainstays, and who's capable of attracting almost any talent that he'd like, despite having never made a film in the English language (although he says that one is on the one way soon). But his global reputation is all the more remarkable considering just how challenging his fare can be. His violent, sexual taboo-pushing early work is the most obvious example, but throughout his career his interest in gay issues, Sirk-ian melodrama, explicit sex and obsessive behavior has hardly been the kind of thing that usually makes the chattering classes line up around the block.

The 20 Best Movies About Politicians

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • October 7, 2011 4:09 AM
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  • 6 Comments
The Ides Of March,
To a degree, every film is political. Some are political with a small p -- the insidious militarism in Michael Bay's "Transformers" films might go over the heads of many audience members, but it's there. Some are Political with a big P, setting out from the start to campaign on a certain issue, with even silly comedies like "The Other Guys" getting in on the act. And some are specifically about politics, getting into the nitty-gritty of elections, of glad-handing, of delegate counts and filibusters and bills and speeches.

The Essentials: The Films Of Claude Chabrol

  • By The Playlist Staff
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  • September 22, 2011 5:04 AM
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  • 5 Comments
Claude Chabrol
Looking at the core French New Wave movement in broad strokes, you essentially get five Cahiers Du Cinéma critics-turned-filmmakers: Jean-Luc Godard, the all-you-need-is-a-gun-and-a-woman, pop-cinema deconstructionist turned oblique radical; François Truffaut, the humanist with an affinity for childhood; Eric Rohmer, the genial comedic moralist; opaque experimentalist Jacques Rivette; and then, over in the corner, Claude Chabrol. Considered by many to be the most mainstream of the group, with his sinister, provocative, Hitchockian impulses, the filmmaker was also appraised as a distant, sometimes aloof formalist, given his objectivist proclivity for eye-of-god morality tales that generally end in tragedy.

The Road To 'Drive': The Films Of Nicolas Winding Refn

  • By Erik McClanahan
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  • September 20, 2011 4:56 AM
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  • 13 Comments
After months of build-up, moviegoers finally got a look at "Drive," the much-acclaimed crime thriller by Nicolas Winding Refn, this weekend. With a C- Cinemascore (whatever that's worth), it's clearly a divisive picture, but there's been enough passion spent on the film, here and elsewhere, to suggest that plenty of discerning cinephiles have fallen for it in the way that several Playlist staffers have in recent weeks. And if you were one of them, Refn might have been a new face for you; the director has been active for fifteen years now, but only really started to come to attention of U.S. film fans in the last few years (or arguably, months), thanks to a pair of English-language pictures.

Post-Fall Film Festival Season: Five Movies We're Still Eagerly Awaiting

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • September 19, 2011 4:22 AM
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  • 20 Comments
And Five We're Worried About/DreadingWith the Toronto International Film Festival now over, the dust is beginning to settle on 2011 and we're moving into the final stage of the fall movie season. Many, if not most, of autumn's Oscar season big hitters have now been revealed, leaving principally commercial fare, and a few prestige-y films that are rushing towards completion. As ever, the benefits of opening your Christmas presents early is a mixed bag; it means that we're able to firmly recommend some big fall films, movies like "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy," "Shame" and "We Need To Talk About Kevin." It means we can also tell you to be wary of the likes of "W.E." and "Butter."

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