The Playlist

The Essentials: 6 Great Warren Oates Films On The 30th Anniversary Of His Death

  • By The Playlist Staff
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  • April 6, 2012 10:01 AM
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  • 15 Comments
Tuesday marked thirty years since the untimely passing of Warren Oates. The great, grizzled actor's work has fallen somewhat out of fashion these days -- few, bar perhaps Quentin Tarantino, name Sam Peckinpah or Monte Hellman, Oates' closest and most frequent collaborators, as influences. If you're familiar with him at all, it's likely from his parts as outlaw Lyle Gorch in "The Wild Bunch" or as Sgt. Hulka in Bill Murray comedy "Stripes." But for a time in the 1970s, Oates was Hollywood's go-to-badass, a man who everyone from Norman Jewison and William Friedkin to Steven Spielberg and Terrence Malick wanted to work with.

King Of The World: The Films Of James Cameron

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • April 4, 2012 11:35 AM
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  • 19 Comments
James Cameron is, in case it has escaped your attention, the most successful filmmaker in history. The Canadian director hadn't exactly been starved for box-office smashes early in his career, but his last two films, "Titanic" and "Avatar," have taken nearly five billion dollars between them, the number one and two hits of all time. He's also the man behind the "Terminator" franchise, helmed one of the best-liked of the "Alien" series, has become a deep-sea explorer, and, uh, gave the world flying piranhas.

The Films Of Billy Wilder: A Retrospective

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • March 27, 2012 4:44 PM
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  • 12 Comments
"I want to thank three persons,” said Michel Hazanavicius, accepting the 2012 Best Picture Oscar for “The Artist.” “I want to thank Billy Wilder, I want to thank Billy Wilder and I want to thank Billy Wilder.” He wasn’t the first director to namecheck Wilder in an acceptance speech. A few years prior, Fernando Trueba, accepting the Foreign Language Film Oscar for "Belle Epoque" quipped atheistically "I would like to believe in God in order to thank him. But I just believe in Billy Wilder... so, thank you Mr. Wilder." Wilder reportedly called the next day "Fernando? It's God."

5 Great Eddie Murphy Performances

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • March 9, 2012 3:46 PM
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  • 7 Comments
You might not have noticed, but Eddie Murphy has a new movie in theaters today. That's a slightly loaded sentence: "A Thousand Words" was shot four years ago, has been barely screened for critics (those who have seen it have been vicious), and is being put into a mere 1900 theaters, nearly half as much as the week's biggest opening, "John Carter." And all this for a man who was once the biggest star on the planet.

The Films Of Hal Hartley: A Retrospective

  • By The Playlist
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  • February 29, 2012 3:00 PM
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  • 10 Comments
Imagine if Woody Allen, Whit Stillman, Kevin Smith and the Sundance Institute had a love child. This ungainly creature, speaking in witty, heightened, unnaturalistic sentences, and ambling, sometimes shambling between comedy, tragedy and pretension, might very well go on to make films that greatly resemble those of Hal Hartley.

The Essentials: The 5 Best Denzel Washington Performances

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • February 10, 2012 12:58 PM
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  • 17 Comments
Sometimes, winning an Oscar seems to change things for an actor. Look at Al Pacino, who's barely taken anything worth his time since he won for "Scent of a Woman" in 1992, or Kevin Spacey, who starred in a string of dull would-be-heartwarmers after picking up his gold for "American Beauty." And you could argue the same for Denzel Washington. He's irrefutably one of the most charismatic screen presences around, with even more gravitas than ever before as he closes on his 60s. But since he won Best Actor from the Academy for "Training Day," his film roles seem to have been a variation on a theme; thrillers that sometimes work, sometimes don't, but rarely leave you reeling the way his best work does, with his real energy seemingly reserved for directing work or stage performances like "Julius Caesar" and "Fences" (the latter of which won him a Tony).

The Films Of Steven Spielberg, Part Two: The Serious Fare

  • By The Playlist Staff
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  • December 23, 2011 12:00 PM
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  • 8 Comments
It's the classic dilemma of the entertainer, perhaps best embodied in Preston Sturges' "Sullivan's Travels." After a decade or so of delighting audiences with thrills and wonder, Steven Spielberg decided he wanted to be taken seriously.

The Essentials: The 5 Best Gary Oldman Performances

  • By The Playlist Staff
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  • December 8, 2011 1:02 PM
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  • 21 Comments
It's been a frequently repeated fact this year, but in case you didn't know, Gary Oldman has never been nominated for an Oscar. But in a way, why should he have been? The Academy Awards specialize, for the most part, in celebrating showy, look-at-me performances, impersonations of real people, or tear-jerking portrayals of crippling disease or disability. And Oldman has never been one of those actors. Oh, sure, he's capable of playing big and attention-grabbing -- "Bram Stoker's Dracula," say, or one of his villainous turns in the 1990s -- but even in the least of those films, he's always totally disappeared into the character with no sign of the man behind the curtain, no visible effort in the acting to be applauded. 

The Essentials: The 5 Best Tilda Swinton Performances

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • December 7, 2011 12:59 PM
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  • 4 Comments
Tilda Swinton is a pretty unconventional kind of movie star. The daughter of a Scottish Major-General, and one-time classmate of Princess Diana, she got her start in acting in experimental theater and the Royal Shakespeare Company, before going on to become a muse of British iconoclast Derek Jarman. Over time, she's featured in performance art (including sleeping in a glass box in the Serpentine Gallery in London for a week), worked with fashion designers, founded a traveling film festival in the Scottish Highlands, and even appeared on an album by pop eccentric Patrick Wolf. She's even become tabloid fodder in recent years, thanks to her unusual home life; she's married to painter John Byrne, but simultaneously maintains a relationship with a German artist named Sandro Kopp. Not exactly Julia Roberts, right?

Retrospective: The Films Of David Cronenberg

  • By The Playlist Staff
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  • November 22, 2011 11:50 AM
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  • 11 Comments
It’s been a long journey to “respectability” for David Cronenberg. In the early days of his career, the helmer was a favorite of the Fangoria crowd, crafting genre entertainment that relied heavily on nightmarish prosthetics to sugar (or rather, gore) -coat the elemental, sometimes philosophical ideas he was preoccupied with. Many of these ideas are captured succinctly in early-year masterpiece “Videodrome”: we are but slaves to our outer sheaths, mutation is the only real evolution and matters of the heart are merely an illusion, while the mind's fragility and propensity to conflate reality with dreams or hallucinations will always make it ultimately subservient to the desires of the flesh. Pit logic against the darker recesses of human nature, he suggests, and logic, control and intellectualism will always fail.

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