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The Playlist

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.

The Essentials: The Works Of Harris Savides

  • By The Playlist Staff
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  • October 11, 2012 2:03 PM
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  • 6 Comments
As you might have already heard, today brings the awfully sad news that Harris Savides, one of the great working American cinematographers, has passed away at the age of 55. Savides was a relatively late-starter in features (his first stint as DoP was Phil Joanou's "Heaven's Prisoners" in 1996), but over the next fifteen years managed to work with a laundry list of great filmmakers, from James Gray and Gus Van Sant to Ridley Scott and Sofia Coppola.

The Essentials: The 5 Best Christopher Walken Performances

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • October 9, 2012 12:56 PM
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  • 15 Comments
It's easy to caricature Christopher Walken. One of the most iconic character actors of his generation, he's also got one of the most imitated voices around (everyone has a Walken impression, even if it's as bad as this writer's...), and has become an indelible part of pop culture, thanks to everything from memorably hosting "Saturday Night Live," to popping up in Spike Jonze's Fatboy Slim video, to taking unlikely roles like the broad villain in "The Country Bears."

The Essentials: 5 Great Films Based On Stephen King Novels

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • September 21, 2012 10:55 AM
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  • 33 Comments
Stephen King is, all of a sudden, a hot property again. One of the major forces in popular literature of the past forty-odd years, it's been a few years since the last major King adaptation, but a wealth of projects from the director are on their way in the next few years.

The Essentials: The 5 Best Tony Scott Films

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • August 20, 2012 11:59 AM
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  • 11 Comments
Something we've come to appreciate since the terrible news of the passing of director Tony Scott came in this morning, is that there's an argument to be made that almost any one of his films saw him at the top of his game. From debut feature "The Hunger," one of the first movies of the MTV generation, and the era-defining "Top Gun," all the way to the bold formal experimentation of his last four films (some of which, especially the highly divisive "Domino," were derided by many, but have their fervent auteurist supporters as well), his films were always technically impeccable, thrilling and instantly recognizable as a Tony Scott picture. He was the action director as auteur.

30 Essential Films Missing From The Sight & Sound Top 100

  • By The Playlist Staff
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  • August 16, 2012 12:20 PM
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  • 26 Comments
The trouble with a list is that not everyone is going to agree. What's often offered as a personal selection of favorites can often be taken by a reader as a personal affront, a sign of snobbery or boorishness, even if a list is a compilation from multiple contributors. And as the fuss over the Sight & Sound Greatest Films Of All Time poll reminds us, that'll likely always be the case. After all, we know that it's all just a fun exercise, and yet looking over the full list (published today on the magazine's website along with the 800-odd submissions from critics all of the world), we still feel the pang of the absence of some of our own favorites.

The Essentials: The 5 Best Sam Fuller Films

  • By The Playlist Staff
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  • August 10, 2012 3:49 PM
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  • 8 Comments
The great Sam Fuller began life as a crime reporter at the age of 17, before writing pulp novels and doing mostly uncredited work on screenplays through the 1930s (his first credit was on 1936's "Hats Off"). He served in World War Two, seeing action in France, Italy and North Africa, as well as being present at (and filming) the liberation of the concentration camp at Sokolov. By the time he came to direct in 1939 -- having been inspired by his anger at what Douglas Sirk did to his screenplay "Shockproof" -- Fuller would infuse his work with his experience as both a journalist and a soldier.

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