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The Playlist

The Essentials: The Films Of John Milius

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • April 12, 2012 10:04 AM
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  • 17 Comments
All those who complain about the liberal domination of Hollywood have never come across John Milius. A film school pal of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, Milius had tried to join the Marine Corp, but was turned away due to his asthma. Instead, he channeled his frustrations into both a life-long obsession with firearms (he was paid for "Jeremiah Johnson" in antique weaponry, and has served on the NRA Board of Directors,) and making some of the most masculine, testosterone-filled movies of all time, both as an acclaimed writer and as a director. The basis for both Paul Le Mat's character in "American Graffiti" and Walter in "The Big Lebowski" -- the Coens are friends of Milius, and offered him the part of Jack Lipnick in "Barton Fink" -- he's one of film history's most singular, colorful characters.

The Essentials: 5 Of Michael Curtiz's Greatest Films

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • April 10, 2012 11:05 AM
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  • 6 Comments
The coming of the auteur theory has meant that filmmakers like Michael Curtiz no longer get much sway among current generations of directors. Curtiz (born Kertész Kaminer Manó in Hungary in 1886), was a workman, a man who flourished in the studio system after being picked out by Jack Warner for his Austrian Biblical epic "Moon of Israel" in 1924). He stayed at the studio for nearly 20 years, taking on whateer he was assigned at a terrifyingly prolific worklate - he made over 100 Hollywood movies up to "The Comancheros" in 1961. And some of them are terrible, as you might expect.

The Films Of Whit Stillman: A Retrospective

  • By The Playlist Staff
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  • April 6, 2012 12:04 PM
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  • 3 Comments
Famously dubbed the “the WASP Woody Allen” and the “Dickens of people with too much inner life” by reviewers and critics when his comedy-of-manners indie pictures arrived in the early 1990s, Whit Stillman’s ironic, clever and urbane examinations of upward and downward social mobility and the shallow concerns and preoccupations of the young, privileged and affluent won him a legion of adoring fans as soon as his first film premiered at Cannes. Evincing a polished sensibility through a send-up and celebration of the often ridiculous customs and etiquettes of upper-class social orders, Stillman is also a champion of the overlooked merits of conservative status quo conventions.

The Essentials: 6 Great Warren Oates Films

  • 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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  • 11 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.

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