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The Playlist

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.

The Essentials: The 5 Best Marilyn Monroe Performances

  • By The Playlist Staff
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  • November 21, 2011 1:22 PM
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  • 54 Comments
Close to fifty years after to her premature passing at the age of 36, there are few stars, living or dead, who have the same effect that Marilyn Monroe continues to have. An icon the likes of which the starlets of today simply can't compete with, her legacy continues to loom large, despite a relatively brief time on top (less than fifteen years passed between her first speaking role and her final picture, "The Misfits") and aided in no small part by her tumultuous personal life -- three troubled marriages, including to playwright Arthur Miller and baseball legend Joe Di Maggio, and reported affairs with both President John F. Kennedy and his brother Bobby.

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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  • 14 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.

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