Harry Dean Stanton: 1926 – 2017

Possibly the greatest character actor of the past 40 years, the cantankerous stalwart for the smoking, drinking working fellow, Harry Dean Stanton passed on at the venerable age of 91. The actor has approximately 200 film and television credits dating all the way back to the 1950s, so obviously you might fit into one or more of several camps of HDS. There is the dopey working class performances in Red Dawn, and Alien (Rieeeght). There is the creepy, creepy villain rolls in TV’s Big Love series, Seven Psychopaths, and Wild At Heart. The existential drifter, in Paris Texas, and his last major film to come out, 2017’s Lucky. The mentor and father figure, in Pretty in Pink, Repo Man. As a seedy sidekick in Escape From New York and Cockfighter. Or the witness to events in The Straight Story, The Green Mile, The Avengers, Twin Peaks Fire Walk With Me, and The Last Temptation of Christ. Or mood-setting troubadour strumming his six string in Cool Hand Luke, Access All Areas and recently in Twin Peaks: The Return.

His lanky frame and ‘I don’t give a fuck’ posture, which was meticulously achieved with committed performances in even the tiniest of parts, made him one of the recognizable faces in film, and he will deeply missed. Of course, Stanton worked right up to the moment of his death and can be seen acting alongside one of his regular collaborators, David Lynch (he is in the bulk of Lynch’s filmography), in John Carroll Lynch’s Lucky as well as in Michael Oblowitz’s Frank Sinatra, Ava Gardner picture, Frank & Ava.

Variety has more.

Friday One Sheet: The Shape of Charcoal

Fresh off its big Golden Lion win at Venice, its hot-ticket premiere at TIFF, and Opening Film slot announcement at the upcoming at Sitges, Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape Of Water gets this handsome charcoal-sketch poster that is a variant of sorts from the water-colour teaser design. Clearly articulating the ‘Creature From The Black Lagoon’-as-a-love-story angle of the film and wearing its festival laurels in the corner, this one will be an eye catcher when it is hung (hopefully on paper, not on a screen) in multiplex lobbies in December. Me, I will be standing in the rush line in Toronto (hey, I’ve been here all week!) at TIFF hoping to see if the film lives up to its praise, or I will be waiting until December like the rest of you.

Friday One Sheet: Valley of Shadows

The Toronto International Film Festival has gotten underway as of yesterday, and I would be remiss if I didn’t offer one of my favourite posters, for one of my favourite films playing the festival. Valley of Shadows is a gorgeous modern version of a classic fairy tale. The story is basically simple: A boy goes into the deep dark woods to look for his lost dog, but discovers unexpected things in his journey. But the construction is impressively formal in how it conveys its images and tone.

The poster emphasizes what much of the film-making language tries tries to impart. Namely, is the lead character dreaming or is this wandering quest a reality? The large moon, and the long winding river both converge on the sleeping form of the lead character, Aslak. The boy, the dog and a boat offer the beginning of the journey at the bottom of the poster. The colours and texture is all gloomy fog, and imposing wilderness. But what is the most eye-catching is how of a piece, the sleeping body of the boy integrates with the horizon. It’s evocative, and original, like the film.

The trailer for the film is tucked under the fold.

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Friday One Sheet: Minimalism and Text

Here is one way to stand out in a crowd. Take the imagery right out of the poster and go almost entirely with text. Looking like a paperback novel from the 1960s, the key art for Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut, Lady Bird only graphic elements are a small crow on a white cross and a series of warm colour bars along the sides. It’s bold in its own way for avoiding the usual faces of the stars of the film (Saoirse Ronan has a particular striking visage). I doubt you will ever see this as a trend – note the missing credit block, which makes this more of a teaser poster than the ‘real thing.’ Nevertheless, I applaud the restraint and taste here. It works.

Trailer: 78/52


Alexander O. Phillipe’s compulsively watchable documentary on the 3 minute show sequence from Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho is finally getting a commercial release from IFC. And here they have cut a wonderful ‘talking heads’ sans talking heads trailer using the re-staging moments from the film. It pulls you in. And as all the critics quotes (curiously mostly nerd sites over more prestigious outlets) say, it is indeed an excellent examination of cinemas most famous murder. 78 Shots, 52 cuts, aka 78/52 comes to theatres and VOD on Oct. 13, 2017.

Friday One Sheet: Orange ‘n Teal

As key art goes, this latest poster for Blade Runner 2029 is about as assembly line as one can get. I only post it here to beat the dead horse of Orange and Teal one final time. For years since the Digital Intermediate became standard in the editing/post-production process, action film directors and producers (ahem, Michael Bay, Joel Silver) have been colour grading their films towards orange skin tones and blue tints, because science (SCIENCE!) says we like it. But we also get tired of it, and it has been falling out of favour (with a few exceptions) since Die Hard 5’s overkill use of it.

This phenomena has worked its way into posters as well, because Photoshop is pretty easy, but I’ve never seen it as prevalent as this one, which literally puts the orange on one half, and the teal on the other. Now this kind of syncs with the art-design of images and scenes we have seen in the movie. Roger Deakins is not really behind the curve here, rather he is actively moving between entire scenes of warm orange, cold blue, and steely grey, much the same way he used Yellow and Blue filters as a guide to where Emily Blunt’s character’s awareness/control was in Sicario. It is more just putting the same two halves (I suspect) of the movie onto one kind of standard one sheet.

Clear as mud? Righto.

Trailer: Blade Runner 2029 – The ACTION Picture


 

The latest advert for Denis Villeneuve’s sequel to cult classic science-fiction-noir Blade Runner, is made for television. With that in mind, I never expected the tradition and history of this film to result in a generic shoot-em-up action picture, but hey, that is how one gets butts in seats. Of course, the trailer also gives more glimpses of the wonder post-urban world that cinematographer Roger Deakins and producer Ridley Scott magnificently deliver.

The internet is ‘freaking out’ and telling people not to watch this, as they embed it in the very-same ‘warning article.’ I am less caring about Spoilers, and more curious as to if this film will indeed be an action picture, and not an atmospheric, thoughtful science fiction film. Knowing Villeneuve (who recently made the nearly-gun-and-explosion-free Arrival, which brimmed with thoughtful sci-fi concepts and sophisticated film grammar, I am expecting the latter in spite of this bit of marketing.

 

Trailer: Five Fingers For Marseilles


 

The Western is alive and kicking. Having been adapted to Southern Europe in the 1960s with a flood gate of Italian and Spanish ‘Spaghetti’ entries, and more recently to northern Europe with 2005’s Belgian Vincent Cassel vehicle, Blueberry, and also this year, Let The Corpses Tan. Australia and New Zealand (The Proposition, Red Hill and Slow West) have gotten into the mix in the 21st century, as has Asia (South Korea’s Kimchi-Western The Good The Bad And The Weird, and the recent Japanese remake of Oscar winner, Unforgiven). Now it is time for the classic American genre to drop its saddle bags in Africa.

Near the colonial town of Marseilles in the rugged Eastern Cape of South Africa, a group of rebellious friends dubbed the Five Fingers use well-placed eggs and slingshots to drive off the oppressive police force. But when the cops seize quick-tempered Tau’s childhood love, Lerato, he goes from throwing eggs to shooting bullets. Scared of capture or worse, Tau flees, returning 20 years later to a town, and friends, transformed by the violence caused that day. With the crooked cops now replaced by a caustic gang, Tau must marshal what remains of the Fingers to once again defend their home.

South Africa’s Five Fingers for Marseilles is burning up with style and intensity. If I were attending TIFF this year (sadly, I am not) it would be high on my list of things to see. The trailer is below.

 

Friday One Sheet: Human Flow

World famous Chinese activist-artist Ai Wei Wei makes his film debut with Human Flow, and not surprisingly it is interesting from a visual point of view. My experience of Ai Wei Wei is limited to the pair of documentaries I’ve seen on the man, and the bicycle art installation he did in Toronto a couple years back, but one simple take-away, beyond the political, is that he like stacking, scattering or placing a lot of little things to make a big point. And that is exactly the design philosophy of this poster. The film itself is a documentary and has been selected for competition in the 2017 edition of the Venice Film Festival.

Review: Good Time


 

“Don’t be confused, it is just going to make it worse for me.”

This might be the line that best sums up Good Time, a high stress ultra-stylized sprint through the nether regions and institutions of New York City at night. The picture is shot in gloriously frenetic close-ups imbued with a unique pulse. A rhythm that builds its own kind of character-based mood. Kaleidoscopic colours, and film grain rendered via capture on analogue stock, hold up magnificently even when projected digitally. But sit close to the screen at your own risk.

With the exception of the opening and closing scenes, and a brief breather when two characters sit down on the couch and watch a few minutes of COPS on television, things are brilliantly dense in the handling of urgent and fucked up situations. There are layers upon layers (physically echoed in the wardrobe of the lead character) of things happening at any given moment in the frame. And these are happening at speed. Characters talk (and shout) over top of one another, and yet the exquisite sound design and superbly executed camera work never leave the audience behind.

The soul of the picture is the knotty relationship between two brothers. Constantine ‘Connie’ Nikas is wholly inhabited by Robert Pattinson; a performance brimming with surprises. Pattinson’s recent run of work has demonstrated many talents that have been set free after the actor was freed from the mopey shackles of the Twilight franchise.

Connie is a gifted and clever criminal, at in an improvisational sense, at the street level. With his bipolar girlfriend (a terrifyingly wonderful Jennifer Jason Leigh) or his special needs brother, he finds himself surrounded by people who simply cannot keep up with his penchant for being in the moment. His brother Nick is somewhere on the spectrum, mostly deaf, and clearly requires an empathy and structured environment that Connie in incapable of ever providing.

Nick, played wonderfully by Ben Safdie, one of the two directors, is introduced in extreme close-up (naturally) in the quiet opening minutes of the film. He is in the office of a social worker who is trying to provide said empathy and structure at the request of his grandmother, who has had it with her grandsons petty criminal activities.

Minutes into the assessment he is forcibly dragged from the corner office by Connie to participate in an ill advised bank robbery to finance a trip and possibly a life out of poverty in Queens. At this point Daniel Lopatin’s (Oneohtrix Point Never) propulsive score kicks in and the chaotic energy of the film really never lets up.

Good Time is the ultimate pop-arthouse show-don’t-tell drama cum thrill ride. Fifty years ago, nobody would be able to follow a movie with so much going on at the same time. Our media processing sensibilities have arrived to this moment when the Safdie Brothers are wrestling editing and film-grammar to the ground – building upon moments from their previous picture, Heaven Knows What). They do so for our viewing pleasure without ever leaving our hearts or minds behind.

Using a combination of actors and real cops, prison guards and even gangsters, Good Time ratchets up the stress over (more or less) an all night odyssey of bad choices. In the tradition of After Hours (or Tchoupitoulas or Night On Earth) the bulk of film takes place over a short span of time, where anything can and will happen. Indeed when you put Jennifer Jason Leigh and Pattinson in a scene sparks o’ crazy fly off the screen. There is a scene in a bail bond office that is destined to be studied for years for its sheer chutzpah and craft.

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Friday One Sheet: Logan Lucky And White Boxes

Usually reserved for thrillers, the ‘white border’ dividing photos design (See Heist, Triple Nine, Homefront, Red) a classic poster cliche. But as with many things Soderbergh, repurposing that cliche with a bit more care. For instance the borders here in some cases split a single image, rather than just lazily putting in on-set stills or head-shots of the movie stars (a major pet peeve of mine when it comes to poster design).

The black and white mix with sunset colours also really works, and is a stand out in a year of pink posters.

Further points for the side-mountain credit block to accomodate the race-car and drifting cash under the title.