Matthew McConaughey is finally starring in interesting movies

Matthew McConaughey has  just been announced as a Best Actor nominee for the Oscar because of his performance in "Dallas Buyers Club"
Matthew McConaughey has just been announced as a Best Actor nominee for the Oscar because of his performance in “Dallas Buyers Club”

Several years ago, I used to pile on the jokes about Matthew McConaughey.

Whether it was the Texan accent, his ubiquitous voice on commercials for energy companies (fellow Texans know what I mean), or his penchant for run-of-the-mill romantic comedies, it has always been easy to make fun of his often shirtless self.

Lately though, the humor has been harder to conjure. Ever since I saw his performance a year or two ago in William Friedkin’s Killer Joe, my thoughts on McConaughey began to change. It wasn’t exactly movie of the year in my mind, but Killer Joe displayed his range and ability to take on more intense roles, which in this instance meant a slick but deeply sinister cop moonlighting as a hit man with a moral code of little to none. It happens.

Unfortunately I haven’t seen the dark comedy Bernie or the mystery-drama Mud yet, but those are on my never-ending Netflix queue. The recently released Dallas Buyer’s Club, which is based on a true story, is a startling transformation for Matthew McConaughey.

His portrayal as a carefree, fast-living cowboy who discovers he has HIV and decides to smuggle in drugs to help others with HIV but also make a profit showed a riskier but yet more personal side to the actor that has rarely been seen.

It’s going to be interesting to see if his role in the new HBO series True Detective will be just as memorable, but considering it’s HBO I’m certain it will at least push boundaries.

Related Items

Mud [HD] on Amazon

Bernie [HD] on Amazon

Killer Joe Unrated Version [HD] on Amazon

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An Arthouse Halloween

Criterion Collection

Veer away from the normal.  Come to the wacky, weird, and downright disturbing side of horror and suspense for Halloween.

Instead of watching Halloween or Friday the 13th for the 15th time, try these independent and criminally overlooked films. Some are beautifully laid out, and some downright insane.

Eyes Without a Face (1960)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CEjrg-L8lvs

Some of my favorite French films were made in the late ’50s and early ’60s. It was when America was still producing relatively tame movies in comparison with France, mostly because of the ridiculous Production Code enacted at the time. Watching a movie like Eyes Without a Face might be shocking to those who think this era of movies as just a bunch of happy-go-lucky tales about girls and cars.

It’s basically about a surgeon whose daughter has become disfigured, and he attempts to amend the heartbreaking situation by taking the faces from other girls and transplanting them onto his daughter’s. Just like Gidget, right?

There’s one scene in particular that might even still make some people (including my mother) squeamish. Perhaps the most disturbing part of the movie is its relevance to today’s society- because there really are people getting face transplants.

House (1977)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WQ_Yo06kIIA

Where do I even start with this one…there’s people-eating pianos, floating heads, blood-spewing clocks, evil cats- everything you could want in a 1970s Japanese movie! There’s no doubt it was made with a tongue-in-cheek vibe. The animation is purposefully silly, and the acting is amateur and borderline annoying. However, it’s a lot of fun, and certainly memorable. Fans of David Cronenberg’s movies will love it.

There’s not really much to the plot: a girl and her friends go to a haunted, messed-up house, furniture attacks, and mayhem ensues, but the mayhem is unlike anything else.

Diabolique (1955)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BzbGtjtfZwA

Here we go with those French films again! It’s just so good I can’t help myself. One of my favorite French films ever, it blends suspense, eerie cinematography, and a twist ending into a mysterious and nail-biting ride. Simone Signoret stars and Henri-Georges Clouzot directs this mystery/suspense film, so that’s reason enough to see it.

If you’re looking for something immediately gratifying and fast-paced, this isn’t for you. The slow build to a shocking ending is the reason I love it in the first place.

The Shining (1980)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Guf3HqeF3Ck

Maybe I’m kind of cheating by allowing this one on the list, but it’s Stanley Kubrick, so why not? This will forever be one of my favorite horror movies because it’s so unlike anything else. There’s more than just a case of misguided cabin fever going on here.

The most enjoyable experience is right after the film- when everyone can discuss what the heck just happened, and argue aimlessly about the true meaning and explanation for the last few minutes, or really, the whole movie. All I know is Jack Nicholson is great at acting like a maddening, psychotic killer. What a compliment!

Have any other suggestions? Leave a comment below and let me know!

Favorite photos of 2011 (part 2)

(Part 1)

Here is the second (and final) post about my favorite photos that I took last year.

6. Through the Trees

It’s amazing what a simple 35mm film camera can do. This was taken with my dinky little Olympus Trip 200. I’ve had it since I was a kid (back in the ancient days of compact digital cameras being expensive and less popular).

The camera is only used when I feel its lower quality but charming film style fits the occasion- and the outdoors seems like the best fit. This shot was taken in my backyard. I was basically in the dirt getting poked by branches when I took it, but such are the occasional trials of a good photo. This photo was also in my second art show in Grand Prairie, Texas at a library. Hey, it’s a start!

7. Curiosity in the Sand

Stinson Beach, California was one of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen (besides Costa Rica). The roaring waves and the calming, vivid colors of sky’s reflection on the sand was breathtaking. When I saw a kid playing the sand, I knew it would give the image an emotional quality to the already aesthetically pleasing image of nature.

8. Shining Bright

This was one of the first instances in which I realized the great visual treat of bright colors against a black background, and that my bathroom is a great place for photo shoots (who needs a studio when you have a bathroom?). My fiber optic lamp was placed in the bathroom, and then it was simply a matter of patience. Since it rotates and turns colors, I stayed in one place and waited for my preferred colors. This picture is also one of my favorites from that day.

9. Hand Invasion

My Canon 35mm Elan 7NE has been a wonderful film camera. I bought it for my film photography class, and it doesn’t disappoint (plus it has the awesome eye control feature). This photo sparked my interest in silhouettes, and made me realize that even just some bricks in the backyard and sunlight can creating a striking image.

10. Life & Death of a Palm Tree

This image paved the way for the realization of composition being very important, my Discoveries collection of photos, and especially for the increased usage of film. The poor dead palm tree is still in the backyard, but without branches (if that’s what you call them). 

There are other photos that I’d like to share, so here are a few honorable mentions (links will lead to Flickr):

Linkin Park- American Airlines Center

Creepy Hallway

Soundgarden- Verizon Theatre

Looking Closely

Flowers in the Morning

I also made a short montage video of my northern California using my DSLR.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DAeQ7FvoKAI


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“Melancholia” and its infinite sadness

Melancholia

Photo Credit: Magnolia Pictures

Directed by: Lars von Trier

Starring: Kirsten Dunst, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Kiefer Sutherland, Alexander Skarsgård, John Hurt

For fans of: Moon, Martha Marcy May Marlene, Solaris (the non-crappy ’72 Russian version), Ingmar Bergman films

For most moviegoers, depression isn’t exactly an embraced subject for movies, but Lars von Trier has made a stunning film out of it.

Melancholia, is centered on the strained relationship between sisters Justine (Kirsten Dunst) and Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg) during the impending doom of a planet’s collision with Earth. Smiles all around, right?

It is implied that Justine has been plagued by bouts of depression, and it only worsens as the countdown to Earth’s death draws near. Claire’s worried nature (whether it is actually anxiety disorder is not clear) is also affected by that pesky blue planet Melancholia.

Instead of a suspenseful wait to discover what will happen to Earth, von Trier makes it clear in the beginning of the film that Earth does indeed clash with the planet. This allows, as he has explained, for viewers to focus more on the characters and the relationships between them rather than the outcome of Earth. The relationship to sci-fi that this movie has reminds me of Moon. Instead of space becoming the primary subject, it was more like another character to which others in the film reacted and emotions and mental states were exposed. This could make for some really interesting and experimental sci-fi/drama hybrids in the future.

Photo credit: Magnolia Pictures

However, Melancholia is primarily a drama. Kirsten Dunst’s portrayal of a woman trying to conceal her depression and appear all smiles is heartbreaking yet realistic. Dunst even won the Best Actress award at Cannes Film Festival this year. She has proven that with good material, her acting can really shine.

One aspect that makes Melancholia stand out is its focus on female characters. Von Trier has always had an affinity for brutally honest and upfront depictions of female protagonists, which is something cinema has been lacking for quite a long time.

The male depictions thankfully avoided the usual Lifetime style that often go with major characters being female. Alexander Skarsgård-who plays Justine’s new husband Michael- genuinely wants Justine to be happy and enjoy her wedding day. Thank goodness for Kiefer Sutherland. He provided some lighthearted chuckles early in the film as Claire’s husband and a man stuck in the middle of two sisters’ psychological problems. They’re just the guys stuck in the middle.

The signature von Trier shaky camerawork sometimes felt a little overdone and interfered with the movie, but the colors and especially the opening sequence was beautifully shot. Some audience members have even felt a bit nauseous because of the handheld feel. Over two hours is too long for such a slow-paced drama. At times I actually wanted some kind of otherworldly force to bring some action and wake everyone up. If you are expecting a multitude of cataclysmic explosions or special effects, please don’t watch this movie! You will be snoozing by the first half.

Photo credit: Magnolia Pictures

The first half of the movie could improve by not having the wedding reception sequences so drawn out and showing Justine moping about. During the second half, emotions turn and the roles Justine and Claire play in their familial bond morph. I don’t want to give too much away about the plot, but it is something that greatly affects how each sister reacts to the planet’s destruction.

A mix of depression, anxiety, the apocalypse, and strained relationships may not bring mainstream audiences to the arthouse theaters, but it indeed creates a compelling art film perspective on reactions toward the possibility of death and an honest look at the social and emotional effects of mental illness.


It’s film festival time in Fort Worth!

Because we can’t let Dallas have all of the fun, Fort Worth’s Lone Star Film Festival has arrived as a remedy to long Dallas drives all for the sake of watching an indie or foreign movie.

"Once Upon a Time in Anatolia" (Photo credit: Zeynofilm)

Possibly the best aspect of the festival is that there are only two venues (with additional programming at the Fort Worth Library), and they’re within a relatively close driving distance. Both the AMC Palace 9 and the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth will hold screenings, though most of them will be at the former. There’s going to be screenings everyday until the 13th. Just remember that the Modern’s screen is smaller than the average movie theater.  Below are just a few of the movies I’m thrilled about watching.

The Descendants, starring George Clooney, has already been screened, but there’s still a multitude of offerings . I’m personally interested in seeing We Need to Talk About Kevin after reading the book a few months ago. If the movie stays with me like the novel, there might be a few restless nights. Plus, the film stars Tilda Swinton, so that’s reason enough. The Turkish flick Once Upon a Time in Anatolia sure looks like an interesting prospect. It’s dark, atmospheric, and has a movie title derived from a Spaghetti Western- what’s not to love?

If you would like to read more about my top 5 picks for the festival and the picks of programming director Kelly Williams, click here.

Ticket info

 

Trailer for We Need to Talk About Kevin