The Playlist

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.

The Essentials: 5 Great Max Von Sydow Performances

  • By Peter Labuza
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  • November 27, 2012 11:10 AM
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  • 10 Comments
The most notable thing about Max von Sydow is that he has played them all. Strong heroes, existential figures, formidable villains—there are few actors in the history of film with the versatility of the Swedish star. With a career that began all the way back in the 1950s, von Sydow has continued to turn in unique performances throughout his career, working with celebrated auteurs like Woody Allen, Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg and, most notably, Ingmar Bergman. Sure, there are a handful of dud performances ("Dune," "What Dreams May Come"), but the strong performances still reign over all, and the range of the actor's work is simply astonishing. This week in Brooklyn, BAMcinematek begins a career retrospective of the formidable actor (all in 35mm!), and here we salute five of von Sydow's most powerful performances.

Retrospective: The Films Of Ang Lee

  • By The Playlist Staff
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  • November 19, 2012 12:01 PM
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  • 15 Comments
For a filmmaker who’s tackled a wide range of genres, from minor-key Chinese-language comedies to epic kung-fu action, from nuanced literary Americana to iconic CGI-driven superheroics, it’s actually relatively easy to spot an Ang Lee film if you know what you're looking for. Superficially, the Taiwanese-born, American-trained filmmaker has an deeply eclectic and diverse taste in subject matter, setting and even style (one could never imagine that “Sense & Sensibility” and “Hulk” came from the same director from the shooting techniques used alone), but all kinds of thematic links recur across the director’s work -- family, repression, duty, thwarted love or desire. Whether it’s 1940s Shanghai or Civil War-era Missouri, you can find the same humanistic concerns, even as the filmmaker finds new things to say about them.

Retrospective: The Films Of Alfred Hitchcock Pt. 2 (1940-1976, The Hollywood Years)

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • October 31, 2012 12:59 PM
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  • 6 Comments
In the late 1930s, with films like "The Man Who Knew Too Much," "The 39 Steps" and "The Lady Vanishes" having proven global hits, the New York Times wrote: "Three unique and valuable institutions the British have that we in America have not. Magna Carta, the Tower Bridge and Alfred Hitchcock, the greatest director of screen melodramas in the world." And unsurprisingly, he came to the attention of Hollywood, with David O. Selznick signing the filmmaker to an exclusive contract, and bringing him over to direct "Rebecca."

The Essentials: 5 Great Louis Malle Films

  • By The Playlist Staff
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  • October 30, 2012 1:22 PM
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  • 5 Comments
Driven by a fierce intellectual curiosity that would find the filmmaker hungrily roving from subject to subject, both in the narrative sense and the journalistic one (he shot around ten documentaries in his career), French filmmaker Louis Malle, who was born eighty years ago today, on October 30th, 1932, was a cinematic explorer who turned over many and various stones.

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