The Playlist

The Essentials: The 5 Best Marilyn Monroe Performances

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • November 21, 2011 1:22 PM
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  • 53 Comments

The Essentials: The Five Best George Clooney Performances

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • November 17, 2011 1:44 PM
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  • 12 Comments
When you're as offhandedly handsome as George Clooney, you could breeze through your career, doing easy, big-budget stuff that probably takes as much concentration and actorly skill as one of those Japanese soda commercials that movie stars used to sneak off and do over a long weekend. Instead, this star, who broke out two decades ago in the TV hospital drama smash "E.R," seems to constantly challenge himself, as both an actor and a director, repeatedly engaging with the kind of risky material that other actors (much less movie stars with his kind of planetary clout) might shy away from. Clooney frequently goes out on a limb, most often partnering with creative powerhouses like Steven Soderbergh, The Coens and Wes Anderson on projects that might not get the green light without his involvement. So, yes, he’s already a megastar, and we suspect he always will be, but while that level of stardom can and has led to increasing conservatism in the career choices of some other big names we could mention, Clooney's going in the opposite direction. As he recently told Rolling Stone, about his latest and excellent directorial effort “The Ides of March,” “It’s not designed for everybody to see, but I don’t give a shit. I don’t need to be more famous and we shot it for $12 million, so anything we do is nice.”

Quelle Horreur! 10 Foreign-Language Horrors To Freak You Out This Halloween

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • October 28, 2011 6:55 AM
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  • 8 Comments
There's a reason so many American horror films in the last couple of decades have largely been remakes of foreign language movies – because those films are really, really scary. The fact that the remakes are, by and large, completely awful, has to do with the specificity – there are details in culture and location that, when displaced, shuffled, or wholly removed, greatly impact the narrative and the power of the storytelling. Feudal Japan, with its cultural landscape of spirits intermingling with the living, can't be swapped for suburban Chicago, the home of Abe Froman, the Sausage King. In the age of the internet, it's been easier for keen-eyed genre enthusiasts to diagnose which foreign horror films are worth tracking down (and which, in the decades previous, you might have missed).

The Films Of Pedro Almodóvar: A Retrospective

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • October 14, 2011 5:50 AM
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  • 7 Comments
Pedro Almodovar, I'm So Excited
Pedro Almodóvar is one of the most respected filmmakers in the world, an Oscar winner whose films have become Cannes mainstays, and who's capable of attracting almost any talent that he'd like, despite having never made a film in the English language (although he says that one is on the one way soon). But his global reputation is all the more remarkable considering just how challenging his fare can be. His violent, sexual taboo-pushing early work is the most obvious example, but throughout his career his interest in gay issues, Sirk-ian melodrama, explicit sex and obsessive behavior has hardly been the kind of thing that usually makes the chattering classes line up around the block.

The Films Of Rainer Werner Fassbinder: A Retrospective

  • By The Playlist Staff
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  • July 29, 2011 5:39 AM
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  • 12 Comments
"I'd like to be for cinema what Shakespeare was for theatre, Marx for politics and Freud for psychology: someone after whom nothing is as it used to be,” German director Rainer Werner Fassbinder once declared, likely half-seriously, half facetiously.

The Essentials: The 5 Best Harrison Ford Performances

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • July 28, 2011 4:03 AM
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  • 8 Comments
For a time in the 1980s and 1990s, Harrison Ford was untouchable, and basically the biggest movie star in the world. He'd cropped up in bits and pieces in the 1970s (most notably small roles in "American Graffiti" and "The Conversation,") but Han Solo turned him into an instant matinee screen idol: he was the beating human heart in George Lucas' "Star Wars," cynical and vulnerable at once, the figure that made all the cosmic silliness fly with audiences, and appropriately became the franchise's biggest break-out star. Only a few years later, lightning struck again, when he was made the last minute replacement for Tom Selleck in Lucas and Steven Spielberg's "Raiders of the Lost Ark," a hall-of-fame action-adventure that would spawn three sequels.

The Films Of Otto Preminger: A Retrospective

  • By The Playlist Staff
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  • July 14, 2011 4:57 AM
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  • 5 Comments
Otto Preminger:
As Europe imploded, the 1930s saw an extraordinary exodus of filmmaking talent to the United States, with Jewish directors like Fritz Lang, Billy Wilder, Max Ophuls, Anatole Litvak, Fred Zinnemann and many more escaping persecution and following in the footsteps of Ernst Lubitsch to go to a new promised land, and the effect that they had can't be underestimated.

The Essentials: 6 Kevin Spacey Performances

  • By The Playlist Staff
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  • July 7, 2011 5:55 AM
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  • 8 Comments
On entering adolescence, and discovering that cinema had more to offer than Roland Emmerich and Jackie Chan, this writer's favorite working actor swiftly became Kevin Spacey. The actor had been working for over a decade, converting his theater cred into supporting roles in the likes of "Working Girl," "Henry & June" and "Consenting Adults," but the middle of the 1990s saw him take pivotal roles in a number of the decade's biggest and best cult successes, becoming a by-word for a certain kind of morally ambivalent figure, even while creeping towards stardom in commercial hits like "Outbreak" and "A Time To Kill."

The Films Of Andrei Tarkovsky: A Retrospective

  • By The Playlist Staff
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  • July 6, 2011 5:24 AM
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  • 4 Comments
The great Swedish director Ingmar Bergman famously intoned in his 1987 autobiography, “The Magic Lantern,” that discovering Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky’s work was, “A miracle. Tarkovsky for me is the greatest [director], the one who invented a new language, true to the nature of film, as it captures life as a reflection, life as a dream.”

The Essentials: 5 Tom Hanks Performances

  • By The Playlist Staff
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  • June 30, 2011 5:53 AM
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  • 15 Comments
For comedians aspiring to be dramatic actors, there is no better model than Tom Hanks. A two-time Academy Award winner and five-time nominee, this unflashy, modern-day Jimmy Stewart or Henry Fonda has also shown every struggling actor on earth that if you persevere you can actually make people forget you started out as a comedian and then simply a romantic comedy lead (remember the dreaded "You've Got Mail" and "Sleepless in Seattle" years). Hell, if you endure long enough you can even wipe out the memory of TV movies like "Mazes and Monsters" and sitcoms like "Bosom Buddies" (where's that other dude now?).The first man to win back-to-back Best Actor Oscars since Spencer Tracy, he embodies a kind of fundamental decency like few others, but to stereotype him in that way does the star a disservice: like Stewart and Fonda, some of his most engaging performances come when he subverts that persona.

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