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Tuesday, Oct 9, 2012
Some of our very best filmmakers got their start in front of the lens. Here are 10 terrific examples of those who've made the struggle for said recognition a success.

It’s a tricky subject…and it’s also an old cliche. Almost every sitcom and story about Hollywood to come out of the maudlin Me Decade of the ‘70s and the Greed is Good era of the ‘80s used the “but what I really want to do is direct” punchline as part of some preconceived preoccupation with the men and women who make/made movies their job. No one was happy unless they could dictate their own filmic fate. Yet as you will see, the notion of a performer taking the reins of their own onscreen showcases is nothing new. Sometimes it was done out of necessity. At other times, it was a question of financial convenience. At the heart of it all is a desire to express oneself, to move beyond playing pretend to actually craft the backdrop and its accompanying believability in which to set such sometimes amazing Method-ology.


Of course, coming up with a list like this is next to impossible. First, we have the question of the core concept. Is someone like Elaine May a worthy addition, considering her limited time onscreen and her equally uneven output as a director? What about Ron Howard, a commercial titan but a critical clown, for the most part? Do we look at confirmed outsiders like Sean Penn as viable inclusions, or is someone like Peter Berg or Jon Favreau too mainstream to make an appearance? Questions… questions. In any case, here are our choices for the 10 (or make that, 11) best actors turned directors in the 100-plus year history of film. Certainly we have forgotten a few important names, but for us, these individuals argue not only for a smooth transition between creative crafts, but the viability of making such a decision, beginning with a pioneer who fell into her future role quite by accident:


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Tuesday, Oct 2, 2012
Thirty-five years. Ten terrific movies. This is how we see the amazing creative canon of David Lynch and his superb, if sparse, output.

Thirty-five years ago, the American movie going public was put on notice that the artform they so desperately worshipped would never be the same again. Then, before a lengthy fun on the Midnight circuit, David Lynch’s first feature film, Eraserhead, premiered, and the concept of what could and could not become commercial cinema was forever challenged (note to the uninformed—celluloid lost). Since then, the eccentric writer/director has carved a niche within indie and arthouse genres, experimenting with type while letting his approach journey into hallowed, hallucinatory places. In celebration of his initial foray into filmmaking, we will take a look at the man’s output, and list them accordingly. This is not really a best to worst. Instead, it’s an overall assessment, a career consideration that should be longer, but frustratingly, and fascinatingly, is not.


Let’s start off by saying the following. At least three things that Lynch has been associated with—the TV shows Twin Peaks and On the Air, as well as the multimedia piece Industrial Symphony No. 1—cannot be considered. They just don’t meet our “movie” standard. We will also avoid his sensational short films, as well as the experiments on his DavidLynch.com website. So by sticking to his features, we end up with ten titles to rank and reevaluate. That makes things a bit simpler…if not easier. You see, for those devoted to all things Lynch, his waking nightmare fever dreams are nothing short of sensational. Rating one higher than another is almost an unthinkable task. Still, we will put our nose to the cinematic grindstone and come up with a way to compare/contrast The Elephant Man against Lost Highway for proposed placement. In fact, it’s safe to say that there is no greater collection of motion pictures as the one’s filling this man’s amazing oeuvre, beginning with his one considered failure (?!)…


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Tuesday, Sep 25, 2012
As Queen of '70s television, she was also Her Majesty of the Movie Spoof. Here are 10 great examples of Carol Burnett's lampoon brilliance.

She got her start as the “funny dame” on the old Gary Moore variety show. She had major success on Broadway in Once Upon a Mattress. Befriended by Julie Andrews and Lucille Ball, she rose rapidly, soon seeing herself cast in sitcoms and touring the talk show circuit. But it wasn’t until 1967 that Carol Burnett became a true household name. Surrounding herself with a cast that included Harvey Korman, Tim Conway, Lyle Waggoner, and Vicki Lawrence, the groundbreaking sketch comedy show lasted 11 years on CBS, garnering 23 Emmy Awards and a permanent place in the memory banks of millions of devoted fans. Few can forget her perky personality, the moments of misguided “laughter,” or characters such as Mrs. Wiggins, Eunice and the rest of her firebrand family, or the kind hearted cleaning lady. Today, she is a comic legend. Then, she was major league must-see TV.


With Time Life offering a new mammoth 22-disc, 50-episode collection handpicked by Burnett herself, perhaps it’s time to go back and pick the best moments from this memorable broadcast bonanza. Of course, in order to do that, we have to narrow the scope quite a bit—and what better way to do that than via the format we love to celebrate: film. Indeed, the Carol Burnett Show excelled at taking on the standard Tinseltown titles and turning them into memorable spoofs and lampoons. Along with Mel Brooks, and the amiable Zucker/Abrahams/Zucker group, no other entity did such a great job with such a tricky subject. While there are dozens of other entries to consider, here are the choices we’ve made. Looking over this collection of the 10 Best Movie Spoofs from The Carol Burnett Show, it’s clear while the star has had such a long career. She’s the First Lady of Laughter.


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Tuesday, Sep 18, 2012
From nurse to tiger, gentle giants to ferocious flesh eaters, here are our choices for the top examples of that often misunderstood creature, the cinematic shark.

Before the ‘70s, before such expose oriented shows as The Crocodile Hunter and channels like Animal Planet, natural evil had to settle for something a bit less…sensational. Efforts like Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom and individuals such as Jacques Cousteau loved the wild, both above and below the surface of the sea, and treated their potentially scary subjects with dignity and grace. All of that changed when a young upstart from the Universal talent pool was handed the bestselling novel by Peter Benchley entitled Jaws. Hoping to make a name for himself, Steven Spielberg struggled mightily against many odds to turn this potboiler page turner into a true fright flick. The results became a genre classic, and one of the first examples of the soon to be bragged over ‘blockbusters.’


Since then, sharks have gotten the short end of the cinematic stick. Usually reserved for slapdash schlock or SyFy mash-up originals, the finned fiend of the briny deep doesn’t get a lot of respect. So hot on the heels of the home video release for another, somewhat novel take on the razor-toothed reaper (Bait-3D is now available On Demand, and on Blu-ray and DVD) we offer this overview of the 10 Best Shark Films ever. That being said, there are a few critical caveats. First off, we are dealing with a subject that’s been featured in dozens of offerings. We couldn’t see every one, so these are our best selections among the movies we know. Second, we’ll argue that even a bad shark movie is “good” (if only in ways that will torment your personal taste). Finally, as we always say, this is not definitive. Instead, it’s an overview, a way of celebrating the maneater in all his gore glutton glory. Let’s begin with something we just mentioned a moment ago:


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Tuesday, Sep 11, 2012
Does your favorite vacation oasis contain a deep, dark, disturbing secret? According to these ten titles, there's more to a cabin than calm and relaxation...

Horror movies have certain cliches that must be met in order to appease the eager fan. Sometimes it’s a spooky castle on the edge of a forbidding cliff. In other instances, it’s a manor with a mysterious past. And then there is the rural American version of same—the cabin. Call it a cottage or a chalet, a bungalow or a hut, but this woodland oasis is often the setting for some sensational spook show fireworks…and it makes perfect sense. The location is isolated, the setting far away from the maddening crowds of civilization. Also, such secluded rendezvous often hide horrific secrets and scandal. So it makes sense that a family or collection of college kids would be best served not taking up that Craigslist ad for a “wonderful vacation lodge in the mountains/hills/woods/etc.”


A perfect example of this concept comes as one of 2012’s very best, the brilliant Joss Whedon/Drew Goddard deconstruction of macabre mandates, The Cabin in the Woods (currently a Digital Download, but available on On Demand, DVD, and Blu-ray come 18 September). For all intents and purposes, the place in question is like any other fright film locale. It’s dark. It’s disturbing. And it contains a collection of diabolical talismans in its cobwebbed and creepy basement. Once brought to life, all bets are off as the film takes off in directions both predictable and so original it boggles the brain. This got us thinking - what are some other great “Cabin” horror films (always aware of using the genre tag cautiously). The resulting list of 10 take us to settings both suspenseful and supernatural.


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