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The Playlist

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.

The Essentials: The 5 Best Johnny Depp Performances

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • June 9, 2012 3:01 PM
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  • 20 Comments
Despite the relative disappointment of "Dark Shadows" (and the film's closing on $200 million worldwide, which is nothing to be sniffed at), Johnny Depp is still one of the biggest stars in the world, something sure to only be further cemented by next year's "The Lone Ranger." And the actor must have had one of the most curious career paths of the top-tier actors: from horror movie fodder in "Nightmare on Elm Street" to war movie bit-parter in "Platoon" to TV hearthrob in "21 Jump Street" to freakish leading man in "Edward Scissorhands" to leading man in indie-minded films like "Benny & Joon" and "What's Eating Gilbert Grape" to would-be mainstream leading man in "Chocolat" and "From Hell."

The Films Of Ridley Scott: A Retrospective

  • By The Playlist Staff
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  • June 7, 2012 12:00 PM
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  • 22 Comments
Ridley Scott is, in some circles anyhow, a god. Practically treated as royalty with laudatory genuflection from certain film enthusiasts — generally genre fetishists — he has turned in two unimpeachable cinema touchstones, "Blade Runner" and "Alien," plus a few other arguable modern semi-classics including "Black Hawk Down" and "Gladiator." But his track record overall? Scott's batting average isn't exactly amazing across the board, and while he has major peaks, his work can be frustratingly uneven for someone who is clearly and masterfully talented. While a craftsman of technically marvelous and grand spectacle cinema, his films can also be inordinately soulless and have become increasingly so with each film (Sigourney Weaver famously said that Scott paid more attention to the props and extraterrestrials than the actors on "Alien," but somehow that picture still worked).

The Essentials: 5 Great Howard Hawks Films

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • May 30, 2012 10:56 AM
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  • 2 Comments
We love a chamelonic director here at The Playlist, and Howard Hawks was one of the first, and one of the best. Across a 55-year career that spanned silents and talkies, black-and-white and color, Hawks tackled virtually every genre under the sun, often turning out films that still stand as among the best in that style. Romantic comedy? Two of the finest ever. War? "To Have And Have Not" and "Sergeant York," the latter of which won him his only Best Director Academy Award nomination (though he did win an Honorary Award in 1975, two years before his death). Science-fiction? The much ripped-off "The Thing From Another World." Gangster movies? "Scarface," which practically invented a whole genre. From film noir and melodrama to Westerns and musicals, Hawks took them all in his stride.

The 10 Best Dennis Hopper Performances

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • May 17, 2012 1:45 PM
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  • 9 Comments
It's almost two years since the passing of one of cinema's true wild men, Dennis Hopper. The actor, writer and director was a maverick titan of cinema, a man who starred in some of the most pictures of American cinema, from "Rebel Without A Cause" to "Blue Velvet," while also writing and directing a film that arguably changed the movies forever, "Easy Rider," while maintaining a personal life that was decidedly colorful (for full details, read Peter Biskind's modern classic "Easy Riders, Raging Bulls."

The Essentials: Tim Burton's 5 Best Films

  • By The Playlist Staff
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  • May 10, 2012 3:10 PM
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  • 35 Comments
Tomorrow sees "Dark Shadows" will hit theaters, the latest gothic entertainment from director Tim Burton and his muse Johnny Depp. And, as per our review, and many others, it's sadly an another disappointment, another wonderful-looking, empty picture that seems to have been derived from the filmmaker and his star taking on the kind of picture that's expected of them, rather than something to push or challenge them.

The Films Of Richard Linklater: A Retrospective

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • May 2, 2012 12:37 PM
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  • 8 Comments
Given that he's one of the more diverse and prolific filmmakers out there, it's been a disappointingly long four years without a new movie from Richard Linklater ("Me And Orson Welles" premiered at TIFF in 2008). Fortunately, the Austin, Texas-based filmmaker is back with "Bernie," a dark comedy which reunites him two of his most memorable leads, Jack Black and Matthew McConaughey, and it has picked up strong reviews and, opening in limited release last Friday, has been performing surprisingly well at the box office.

The Essentials: The Films Of Don Siegel

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • April 20, 2012 12:04 PM
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  • 6 Comments
In the credits to his masterpiece "Unforgiven," Clint Eastwood included a dedication: "for Don Siegel and Sergio Leone." Leone was a no-brainer, one of the great filmmakers, but Siegel was less beloved of cinephiles: a cosmopolitan Chicago native who studied at Jesus College, Cambridge, he started directing montages at Warner Bros (including the opening scene of "Casablanca"), before breaking into features, with a string of B-movies with everyone from Robert Mitchum to Elvis Presley (the latter on 1960's "Flaming Star"), but became most notable for his work with Eastwood on five pictures from 1968's "Coogan's Bluff" to 1979's "Escape From Alcatraz."

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