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The Playlist

The Essentials: Michelangelo Antonioni

  • By The Playlist Staff
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  • November 5, 2013 3:12 PM
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  • 16 Comments
The Essentials: Michelangelo Antonioni
While he had made five previous movies, 1957’s “Il Grido” being the most essential of the bunch, Italian filmmaker Michelangelo Antonioni’s career didn’t really begin in earnest until a May 1960 evening at the Cannes Film Festival where his latest film, “L'Avventura” was met with boos, exaggerated yawns, loud jeers, even derisive laughter. Antonioni had made a mysterious, sparse and opaque film that would define the rest of his career — an unusual movie, like many others that would follow, where “nothing happens,” at least in the estimation of his harshest critics.

The Essentials: 5 Great Cate Blanchett Performances

  • By The Playlist Staff
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  • July 23, 2013 2:01 PM
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  • 17 Comments
Cate Blanchett, essentials
There are very few actors, in these days of soundbites and tabloids and gossip blogs and 15-page colour spreads in which we are “invited into their beautiful home,” that we can truly say we don’t get enough of. And there are fewer still, who even in that glare of publicity that surrounds a new film’s release, do not end up somehow diminished by the process, dissected and dissassembled and repackaged and repurposed for use as a tiny cog in a big marketing machine. But Cate Blanchett is one of the rare few who manages that trick, again and again, retaining a cool, inviolate and perhaps slightly detached image, even as the performances she gives can be frightening in their engagement and commitment. And it’s another such that Blanchett reportedly gives in Woody Allen’s “Blue Jasmine” which opens this Friday, and for which she’s already garnering early awards buzz. We called it “ an outstanding firecracker turn … that has Oscar-worthy written all over it in flames” in our review.

From Best To Worst: Elmore Leonard Movie Adaptations

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • May 14, 2013 11:57 AM
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  • 23 Comments
Elmore Leonard feature
Today sees the release of a sparkling new Criterion version of "3:10 To Yuma," the perpetually-underrated 1957 Western that's somewhat overshadowed by the more recent 2007 remake. Even those who have seen the earlier version may not be entirely aware that it's based on a short story by a man that we consider not just one of America's finest crime novelists, but one of our finest writers full stop: Elmore Leonard.

The Essentials: Douglas Sirk

  • By The Playlist Staff
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  • April 26, 2013 2:33 PM
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  • 5 Comments
The films of Douglas Sirk, feature
German filmmaker Douglas Sirk (né Hans Detlef Sierck) directed almost 40 films in a career that spanned three decades. A late bloomer known for grand, gorgeously expressive and emotional melodramas in the 1950s, he took a third of his career to hit full stride. The early movies were comedies, glossy adventure stories and war dramas. During his days working in Germany the director was heavily censored and when he escaped to the United States in 1937 he found himself stifled once again, “A director in Hollywood in my time couldn't do what he wanted to do,” he once said. 1942’s vengeful, vehemently anti-Nazi “Hitler's Madman” only really existed because it was seen as patriotic, and films Sirk made as late as 1952, like “Has Anyone Seen My Gal?” featuring his broad-shouldered go-to male muse Rock Hudson, were insubstantial trifles compared to his mature work. That film, lightweight comedy though it is, does still possess hints of commentary on class, status, money and the sickening desire for it all -- themes Sirk would explore, and quietly explode, in his best work.

The 6 Least Inessential Steven Seagal Movies

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • April 10, 2013 12:04 PM
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  • 21 Comments
It is not hard to imagine a world without Steven Seagal movies. Video store bargain bins would be that bit emptier, late night TV schedules would be spotted with sad 90-minute bursts of white noise, and the on-board entertainment industry that services 3rd-class long-distance South American buses would be hard hit, but otherwise, life would probably go on as normal.

10 Robert Altman Films You May Not Know

  • By The Playlist Staff
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  • March 21, 2013 1:05 PM
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  • 30 Comments
It's easy to forget that Robert Altman didn't have his breakthrough until he was well into his 40s, with 1970's "M*A*S*H." The filmmaker proved to be so prolific -- and continued to be piled with acclaim and critical plaudits well into his '80s -- that it feels like his career in feature cinema lasted for much longer than the 35 years he's known for (Altman made a few features prior to "M*A*S*H," but mostly worked in TV during the 1950s and 1960s).

Michael Caine: The 10 Best Performances

  • By The Playlist Staff
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  • March 14, 2013 3:54 PM
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  • 23 Comments
When asked what he thought about "Jaws: The Revenge," Michael Caine (born Maurice Micklewhite in London on March 14, 1933) famously said, “I have never seen it, but by all accounts it is terrible. However, I have seen the house that it built, and it is terrific.” That would seem to give the impression that Michael Caine's career choices have often been driven by paychecks, but that would be a false one. While he's done his fair share of bill-paying, the prolific British actor has, across a fifty-year career, remained one of the best-loved and most enduring stars we have, as well as a wonderful -- and all too often underrated -- actor.

The Essentials: Krzysztof Kieslowski

  • By Rodrigo Perez
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  • March 13, 2013 5:34 PM
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  • 9 Comments
It’s perhaps comical to describe a filmmaker revered in some circles as underrated when they’ve been nominated for some of the biggest prizes in cinema -- the Palme d'Or, Venice’s Golden Lion, the Academy Awards, Berlin’s Golden Bear. But perhaps because Polish filmmaker Krzysztof Kieslowski never really took many of these major prizes home, and never gained global status until later in his career, we find that the filmmaker is not as revered as we’d like (though he tied for a Golden Lion in 1993). Perhaps this observation is very relative. Perhaps it’s because he didn’t enter the Criterion canon until 2006, perhaps because his career ended too abruptly just as it was truly ascending, or perhaps simply because he’s one of our most adored filmmakers: we routinely never give up an opportunity to celebrate Kieslowski’s work when we can.

The Essentials: 5 Elia Kazan Films You May Not Know

  • By The Playlist Staff
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  • February 22, 2013 2:02 PM
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  • 3 Comments
Elia Kazan famously once said, “The writer, when he is also an artist, is someone who admits what others don't dare reveal.” And one could easily argue Kazan’s raison d’être was to go to emotional and psychological places few men dared to tread. While Kazan’s films were often marked by social issues to the outsider, the filmmaker was much more drawn to the pathos of the human condition, the painfully vulnerable, complicated and emotional naked places of the human psyche. And he loved and nurtured the vanity-free actors who were willing and able to facilitate such ends and emotional complex truths. Marlon Brando, the ne plus ultra of tough but overly sensitive and vulnerable American male, was Kazan’s muse, and the filmmaker loved how he could arouse, cajole and release extraordinary feelings in the actor.

The Essentials: 5 Great Ernst Lubitsch Films

  • By The Playlist Staff
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  • November 30, 2012 2:20 PM
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  • 11 Comments
Sadly, the name Ernst Lubitsch isn't one that's batted around much by the hip young gunslingers of the movie world. Given that he passed away in the 1940s, there are many whose grandparents were barely out of short trousers the last time a Lubitsch picture was in theaters, and only a few filmmakers (Wes Anderson the most recent) mention him as a touchstone these days. But we're firmly of the belief that cinema would be much improved if every screenwriter and director sat down for a weekend with the films of the much-missed director.

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