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Dissecting ‘Third Person,’ ‘Crash,’ and the Paul Haggis School of Melodrama

John Lopez dissects some of Paul Haggis’ techniques from his body of work including Third Person, and Crash.

Third Person

If you want to start a knife fight with a film nerd, casually suggest that Crash 100 percent deserved its Best Picture Oscar for its profound examination of contemporary race relations. (Personally, I think Avenue Q did a better job in a fraction of the time with “Everybody’s a Little Bit Racist.”) But the fact remains that Crash won, earning an oddly eternal notoriety and giving us the strange, frustrating filmography of Paul Haggis. As much as the word auteur means anything these days, like it or not, it applies to Haggis: Only Paul Haggis could make a Paul Haggis film.

You can tell them by the relentless heaviness of the hand tweaking your expectations: In the words of Spinal Tap’s Nigel Tufnel, Paul Haggis’s drama goes “to eleven.” It’s not that Haggis’s films are incompetent; it takes genuine skill to be that consistently blatant. He knows all the buttons and pushes them with reckless abandon, apparently guided by the belief that in excess veritas. Haggis briefly flirted with the thriller genre in The Next Three Days. But he’s back to his old tricks in Third Person, a meta-film that L.A. Weekly’s Amy Nicholson likened to “walking in on Laurence Olivier in the bathroom.” But what are those tricks? As a public service, we watched Third Person to deconstruct the multiple-Oscar-winning formula and discover what gives a Paul Haggis film that special Crash-y feel of firm, gleeful manipulation.

Write What You Know

Some people hear this ubiquitous writer’s maxim and try to interpret it so as to justify their script about time-traveling vampires. Paul Haggis doesn’t get hung up on such technicalities; he embraces it viscerally and literally. Crash famously came about because Haggis was carjacked, which caused his white-guilt circuits to overload. Third Person, which is centrally concerned with a prize-winning writer having an affair, came about (as Haggis candidly admits) because he is a prize-winning filmmaker who had an affair. See how easy it is? Stop fretting about making your heist movie as accurate as possible and go rob a bank. Or maybe you still believe that Paul Thomas Anderson didn’t beat someone to death with a bowling pin for There Will Be Blood.

Grantland | Read the Full Article

Dissecting Great Characters: Mr. White from Resevoir Dogs

Scott Myers analyses the character of Mr. White as played by Harvey Keitel in Quentin Tarantino’s Resevoir Dogs.

Mr White

It was back in 1992 when the heist thriller underwent a clever genre dissection with the application of a crime novel-style nonlinear narrative by screenwriter and director Quentin Tarantino with his debut feature film, Reservoir Dogs. Aside from his dynamic puzzle-pieced storytelling, other future Tarantino trademarks were also established with this crime caper: gritty violent scenes that are still talked about, snappy harsh dialogue, characters that kill for a living and beefy roles for movie stars of the 1970s. The soul sonic, disco dancing, karate kicking, mean street 70s cinema that Tarantino came-of-age in inspired his casting of Pam Grier in Jackie Brown, John Travolta in Pulp Fiction, David Carradine in Kill Bill: Vol. 1 & 2 and Harvey Keitel as thief-for-hire Mr. White in Reservoir Dogs.

After a simple jewelry heist goes terribly wrong, the surviving criminals begin to suspect that one of them is a police informant.

From the very first breakfast scene at that diner, Mr. White stands out as the only diamond heist conspirator of the rented six that has some seniority. Mr. White immediately has the guts and mutual respect to be an assertive ball-breaker while chatting up Joe Cabot (Lawrence Tierney) with the audacity that comes from being a trusted, long-time confidant. He not only snatches that repetitively reminiscing boss’s address book out of his scruffy palms, with the whole pack of hired hooligans watching on, but Mr. White also defends his unapologetic disposition against Joe Cabot’s hired guns that he is just getting to know.

MR. WHITE: You shoot me in a dream, you better wake up and apologize.

Go Into The Story | Read the Full Article

Cinematographer Adam Kimmel (Capote, Never Let Me Go) – Craft Truck

Craft Truck chats with the brilliant cinematographer  Adam Kimmel discussing making informed choices, selling Phillip Seymour Hoffman as the diminutive title character in Capote, what it was like to shoot Jesus’ Son with basically no resources and no time, why he favours films that relate to the human condition like Never Let Me Go, and working with Spike Jonze on the beautiful short film.

Capote

How Plan 9 From Outer Space Earned, and Lost, the Title of Worst Movie of All Time

Matt Patches discusses the history of of bad movies – the culture of discussion that has arisen around schadenfreude and how this Ed Wood production sits in the pantheon of camp.

Plan 9

After the publication of 1978’s The Fifty Worst Films Of All Time, 393 readers tore out a suggestion page provided in the back of the book and mailed it to authors Harry and Michael Medved to inform them of an egregious oversight: Ed Wood’s Plan 9 From Outer Space.

“People really took us to task for it,” Harry Medved said in an interview conducted for this piece. He was only 15 when he co-wrote the compendium with his brother and co-author Randy Dreyfuss. “We were shocked by the flood of fan mail—or, in this case, hate mail—saying, ‘We agree Robot Monster is one of the worst of all time, but how could you write a book called The Fifty Worst Films Of All Time and not include Plan 9 From Outer Space? What were you thinking?!’” In 1980, the snail-mail equivalent of a comments section was vindicated. The Medved brothers published a second tome, The Golden Turkey Awards. Based on the reader votes, they declared, damned, and exalted Wood’s chump-change science-fiction flick as “The Worst Film Of All Time.” The label stuck.

Bad movies aren’t made, they’re defined. Before Plan 9 nestled into the cultural consciousness as a notorious shlockfest—mainstream enough for Jerry, Elaine, and George to attempt to catch a midnight screening in the second season of Seinfeld—it was just another science-fiction B-movie filling the second slot of theatrical double bills. (The film unceremoniously premièred in January 1959 accompanied by Time Lock, the thrilling tale of a boy locked in a bank safe, known for costarring a young Sean Connery.) Today, broadband-enabled pop conversation races to new releases with scorching superlatives: “Flop! Disaster! The worst movie of the year/decade/century!” Adam Sandler movies arrive with one hand pre-nailed to the crucifix. But back in 1980, Plan 9 was dredged up from cult obscurity and thrust into the spotlight. It was still awful, but people reveled in its awfulness.

The Dissolve | Read the Full Article

New York Photographer Turning Perfect Strangers into Perfect Subjects

As part of our continuing series “On the Road,” Steve Hartman meets photographer Richard Renaldi, who started a project titled “Touching Strangers,” where he pairs strangers off the street in tender portraits. While the awkwardness between the subjects is apparent at first, Renaldi says that feeling changes dramatically as the shoot progresses. The story first aired on CBS News in August, 2013.

Touching Strangers

Why You Need to Pay Attention to the Video Game Industry (In Case You Weren’t Already)

Liz Shannon Miller explains how the gaming industry is starting to play a bigger and bigger role in entertainment and the film/television industries.

Gaming Industry

Here’s some friendly advice for anyone who’s passionate about film, television and media in general: If you don’t pay attention to the video game industry, now might be the time to start.

Not only is it a $21 billion (with a b) business, but games have become much bigger than “Mario Kart” and shoot-’em-ups: Not only are game-to-movie adaptations like “Assassin’s Creed” and “Metal Gear Solid” poised to define a new generation of action films, but consoles like Xbox and Playstation enable users to watch everything from Netflix to YouTube to original series on their televisions.

Gaming is only going to become more important to the media landscape in the future, and no week makes that more clear than the week of the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3). If video games aren’t your jam, all you need to know about E3 is that it’s the one of the biggest (and loudest) events of the gaming industry — a week of demos and product launches and big talk about what to expect next from the major studios and tiny indies.

Every year, E3 kicks off with a long day of press events put on by the industry’s biggest players; this time, most of them kept their focus on actual gaming, but there was still news that should be on the radar of anyone invested in the business of creating pop culture.

Coming soon to Playstation — a TV show

IndieWire | Read the Full Article

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