12 Years a Slave Trailer

There may be no more personal, visceral, or artistic director currently circling the peripheries of mainstream pictures than Steve McQueen. While his newest, 12 Years a Slave, looks to be his most polished to date, his ascendance into this kind of high production value playing field seems just strange enough to be hopeful he will maintain much of what made Shame and Hunger indispensable. It’s easy to question Brad Pitt again in a role with perhaps too much room to work a little too hard, however, there’s no denying the emotional power Chiwetel Ejiofor is unleashing, in this trailer at least. Thankfully, Michael Fassbender returns to play with the director who has given him the most to chew on. Like his previous collaborations with McQueen, Fassbender has a meaty role here, this time as the heinous slave owner.

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Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity

It’s been a while. What better way to get back than with the trailer for Alfonso Cuaron’s long-awaited, bizarre, seemingly kick-ass Open Water meets Solaris trailer for Gravity. Cuaron’s established himself in the last few years as an “important” filmmaker, able to navigate mainstream and art house cinema. Interestingly, he’s made exactly zero films (save a handful of doc shorts) since the stunning 2006 turn, Children of Men. While the involvement of George Clooney and Sandra Bullock couldn’t help but ground some of my excitement for his newest, this trailer gives me renewed hope.

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Punch-Drunk Love, There Will Be Blood, The Master: A Trilogy?

I’m a bit unclear as to whether this video attempts to say that Paul Thomas Anderson was consciously making a trilogy out of these films or that they simply contain strong thematic links. I think it’s pretty obvious that the latter is at work as these themes are examples of Anderson’s thematic preoccupations throughout his movies. Still, relatively little ink has been spent on critically analyzing Anderson’s films, so every little bit is worth sharing.

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PTA on John Holmes Exhausted Doc

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This might be one of the best things I’ve come across on the internet in a while. And if you are a Paul Thomas Anderson fan you will agree. PTA does a commentary for the John C. Holmes documentary called Exhausted. In it, Anderson not only gives us his strangely astute knowledge of porn history but also points out specific portions that directly influenced Boogie Nights. The similarities are strikingly apparent. Anderson, like so many great filmmakers, isn’t shy about explaining the other films that he has ripped off for his work. Like Shakespeare said, “Good artists borrow, great artists steal.”  Apparently this commentary was originally recorded for the Criterion laser disc release of Boogie Nights, but was removed from the DVD version (and all subsequent versions).

This might be the all time low of my geekdom, but I really enjoyed listening to Paul Thomas Anderson’s passion on this.

NOTE: I didn’t find anything specifically crude or offensive in here, but this is about pornography, so proceed with caution if you are sensitive to this sort of thing.

More after the cut:

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Before Midnight Trailer

The first film featuring Jesse and Celine bowed almost 20 years ago with 1995’s Before Sunrise. These little films by Richard Linklater have struck a cord with people through now three generations, encapsulating a sense of love and classic romance that defies what might otherwise have been goopy or amateurish. It’s difficult to place just what makes these films so special, but they have a transcendence virtually unseen in love stories nowadays. Given the glowing reviews out of Sundance, the upcoming installment, Before Midnight, might be the best yet.

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Harold Lloyd’s Safety Last!

Ahead of the Criterion Collection’s restored Blu-ray release of Harold Lloyd’s massively influential masterpiece, Safety Last!, Janus films has released this pristine new trailer:

If you haven’t seen Lloyd’s film, here it is in its entire non-Criterion enhanced form:

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Room 237

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There’s a haunting simplicity to The Shining. Those words, combined with the director’s mysterious approach to discussing his films, makes this a work ripe for obsessives. The next gateway to obsession comes by way of accessibility. The Shining, dressed as a horror film, with an enormously recognizable leading man, adapted from a novel by one of the most adapted authors ever, allows many who might have otherwise kept away from Kubrick’s work to come to this one in particular. Additionally, in the horror genre, ambiguity can enhance rather than distance even the most prickly viewer. Unsurprisingly, The Shining has taken on many shapes, from the underwhelming initial response (that left even Stephen King with a sour taste in his mouth) to the long road into room237-3masterpiece status. Like all of Stanley Kubrick’s films The Shining begs to be analyzed and vetted. It’s watchability leaves it wide open for speculation, exposing details that the filmmaker must have of course been highly aware of. Or at least that’s what the mythos has us believe. Room 237 may seem like a documentary about a few quirky people who have long over-analyzed Kubrick’s fickle horror film, but really, Room 237 is a film about watching films and how works like these can touch us. Maybe most interestingly, Room 237 is about how we come to art and what we bring to the table as viewers. The film addresses the old adage of applying meaning and looking too deeply to see what you want to see. As such, Room 237 itself grows into an intoxicating experience that leaves you finding your own meanings, both about yourself as a general observer and about the film it puts under the microscope.

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Breaking the Fourth Wall

I generally dislike breaking the fourth wall, unless it’s in a first person documentary (I’m one of the few who still champions Michael Moore). The idea is ripe for lazy exposition and on-the-nose cuteness, which is the way I find it used more often than not. However, in theory and in short bursts it can be a refreshing bit of self-conscious reflection, from the filmmaker by way of his mouthpiece character or clever blocking. That, amongst other reasons, is why this video is a perfect dosage:

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Spring Breakers

James-Franco-in-Spring-Breakers

Spring Breakers appears as a refreshing change for Harmony Korine, if only because for the first time in his strange filmmaking career, his battle of conspicuous storytelling tropes and self-aware naturalism collides in a way that adds up to something symbolic. A Lynchian nightmare that turns the camera away from the dreams of small town America and trains it on the fun of naked beach romps, Spring Breakers must be consumed as a metaphor for a culture hooked on the drugs of now. These drugs, according to Korine, range from snorting coke off other humans to playing video games, an element that in Spring Breakers morphs into the reality of holding up a chicken shack only to morph back into a video game when the main characters are in the thick of partying. Elliptical in structure and often repetitive, the film is eager to probe at the moral core of a national epidemic of debauchery. Of course, to buy into what many will see as nonsense, is also to question whether the film might be memorable only because of it’s borderline pornography and graphic violence. To my mind, this very question only enhances precisely what Korine is attempting to express.

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Soderbergh Vision

Full disclosure, I’ve never been a huge Steven Soderbergh fan. His films always seem like useful watches, primarily because of their varied, always intriguing, premises. For the most part, I align with the filmmaker’s worldview and ideals, so there’s nothing necessarily grating or off-putting about the experience of watching his work. Sometimes there’s a standout, like The Girlfriend Experience, or a film with a few outstanding parts, like Magic Mike, but most often I find the films – notably Contagion or Haywire – to be less than the sum of their own compelling initial conceits.

For as chameleon-like as Soderbergh has been advertised to be, I’ve found his work to be held together by captivating, often static, sometimes sterile images. Since Traffic, Soderbergh has lenses all of his movies himself. While the content is varied and wide-ranging, the looks of these films are comparable, making him a unique auteur in Hollywood. Instead of returning to themes, or tones, or ideas, Soderbergh tends to come back to a literal way of seeing the worlds he captures.

Once again, this video was swiped from Press Play. Another of their wonderful video essays.

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