The Playlist

The Films Of Christopher Nolan: A Retrospective

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • July 19, 2012 2:04 PM
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  • 25 Comments
We can all agree at this point that a certain sub-set of Christopher Nolan's fans are out of hand, what with the death threats to critics and all. But even if we were one of those who didn't like "The Dark Knight Rises," or indeed the rest of Nolan's output, we suspect that we'd still be glad he existed. While some might find his movies humorless (though we'd disagree), or chilly (though we'd disagree), or overly rigid (we'd... mostly disagree), but no one else is making films like Christopher Nolan, taking nine figures of Warner Bros.' money, pairing it with big ideas and concepts, and making resoundingly entertaining and thought-provoking blockbusters.

The Films Of Jim Jarmusch: A Retrospective

  • By The Playlist Staff
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  • July 17, 2012 11:09 AM
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  • 6 Comments
There's no one in independent film quite like Jim Jarmusch, one of American cinema's most idiosyncratic filmmakers. Born to Episcopalian parents in Ohio in 1953, the director fell in love with B-movie double bills his mother left him in as a child, and fell into counter-culture arthouse movies in his teens. The director studied Journalism at Northwestern before dropping out and studying literature at Columbia, moving to Paris for ten months and then returning and applying to the film school at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts, where he worked under legendary "Rebel Without A Cause" director Nicholas Ray, who encouraged the filmmaker's unique, particular approach.

The Films Of Cameron Crowe: A Retrospective

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • July 13, 2012 2:11 PM
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  • 1 Comment
It may be hard to believe, but Cameron Crowe is 55 today. The eternally boyish journalist turned writer-director feels, perhaps because of his alter-ego in "Almost Famous," as though he'll always be seventeen. But for a certain generation, he's been a figurehead for his journalism (at Rolling Stone and elsewhere), his screenwriting (of seminal teen flick "Fast Times At Ridgemont High," most notably), and for his direction, starting with 1989's "Say Anything" through to last year's charming semi-return-to-form "We Bought A Zoo."

The Essentials: The 5 Best John Frankenheimer Films

  • By The Playlist Staff
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  • July 6, 2012 1:57 PM
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  • 6 Comments
Few filmmakers these days name John Frankenheimer as an influence. He was never particularly trendy, never embraced by the auteurists or overtly paid homage by those who came after. In part, it's because of some of his later projects; the commercial failure of thriller "Black Sunday" in 1977 drove him to alcoholism that lasted for several years (it was only when he was reduced to drinking on the set of martial arts actioner "The Challenge" in 1981 that he checked himself into rehab), and some of his later projects, including his final film, "Reindeer Games," and the famous disaster "The Island Of Doctor Moreau" (on which the helmer replaced Richard Stanley several weeks into production) meant his critical reputation took a hit.

The Essentials: The Films Of Rob Reiner (Before He Forgot How To Direct Movies)

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • July 5, 2012 1:09 PM
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  • 8 Comments
Maybe it's just a particular hang-up of this writer, but we find one of cinema's greatest mysteries to be the question of what happened to Rob Reiner. The sitcom star, and son of the great Carl Reiner ("Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid," "The Jerk"), became a film director in the early 1980s, and had an extraordinary, almost unmatched run across the next eight years, helming seven diverse and hugely-acclaimed films that have become enshrined as some of the finest of their era. Few filmmakers, at least within the mainstream, can make a claim to a consecutive string like it.

The Films Of Oliver Stone: A Retrospective

  • By The Playlist Staff
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  • July 5, 2012 11:05 AM
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  • 16 Comments
Oliver Stone loves his country, but he is also its loudest critic. Whether tackling history head-on in films like "Platoon" or "Born On The Fourth Of July," or profiling presidents in "JFK," "W." and "Nixon," and even in seemingly genre-centered material like "Natural Born Killers" or "Any Given Sunday," Stone views America in his own unique, if sometimes contradictory ways. His track record is certainly marked by tremendous highs, definite lows and curious middles (mostly with genre excursions like "U-Turn," "Any Given Sunday" and "The Doors") but he is never one to sit still. For evidence of Stone's constantly changing priorities one can look to his last few films — "World Trade Center," "W.," "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps" — and truly get a sense of a director driven both by passion and finance, and by a love for his country that is also pained by its failings.

The Essentials: The 5 Best Tom Cruise Performances

  • By The Playlist Staff
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  • July 3, 2012 11:00 AM
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  • 20 Comments
Tom Cruise turns 50 today, and he's probably had better birthdays. His latest film, "Rock Of Ages," was a box office disappointment, and on Friday, it emerged that Katie Holmes, his third wife, and mother of his daughter Suri, was filing for divorce. Just as things were seemingly starting to get back on track after a difficult half decade -- last year's "Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol" was his biggest hit ever -- it looks like the actor is hitting another rough patch.

The Essentials: 5 Key Nora Ephron Films

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • June 27, 2012 9:56 AM
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  • 7 Comments
It's been touching to see the outpouring of love for Nora Ephron since the journalist, novelist, screenwriter and director passed away last night. Ephron's films have never really been particularly trendy; you're not going to find many hip young filmmakers naming her as an influence. But it's clear from the last twelve hours or so that there are few cinephiles that don't hold a few of her films close to their hearts. Ephron wasn't just the writer, and sometimes director, behind as string of classics, but she was also one of the most important women in the film industry across the last twenty years, and one of the most insightful writers of female characters that Hollywood has ever had.

The Essentials: The 5 Best Nicole Kidman Performances

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • June 20, 2012 2:42 PM
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  • 24 Comments
Few actresses seem to make as diverse an array of choices as Nicole Kidman. The actress has spent the last decade or two as one of the few actresses who can truly call themselves A-list, but swings between incredibly bold, interesting choices with world-class filmmakers, and nearly irredeemable crap ("Bewtiched," "The Stepford Wives," "The Invasion," "Trespass"). She rarely gives a turn that's anything less than totally committed, but one always feels a little nervous settling in for a new Kidman flick.

The Essentials: 5 Great Films By Nicholas Ray

  • By The Playlist Staff
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  • June 15, 2012 1:51 PM
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  • 6 Comments
While adored by the French and the Cahiers Du Cinema coterie that went on to become the rebellious French New Wave -- which spawned the oft-quoted Jean-Luc Godard phrase "cinema is Nicholas Ray" -- the American filmmaker never really received his due outside of the one film of his that most moviegoers have seen (and even then, they’re possibly unaware that he directed it): “Rebel Without A Cause.” And while that iconic 1950s film, with its audacious, expressionistic colors, its passionate angst and anguish, its mix of quiet machismo and vulnerability, is perhaps the cornerstone of many of Nicholas Ray’s films -- vibrant melodrama on the surface, percolating emotional agony within -- it’s certainly just the tip of iceberg when it comes to the director’s career.

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