Ever since hitting the big time with his first film - the significantly more than torture porn treat Saw - James Wan has been slowly building a reputation as one of the premiere horror classicists working today. He’s more controlled that Eli Roth (who never met a boundary he couldn’t push, walk over, and then forget about instantly) and offers a more consistent set of scares than everyone’s favorite fright geek, Guillermo Del Toro (go back and look at his actual oeuvre and argue differently). From Dead Silence to Insidious, from this Summer’s smash The Conjuring to the next chapter in the Lambert family saga (opening today…Friday, September 13th), Wan has crafted a collection of fright films worthy of some of the genre maestros, and he’s done it in defiance of specific cyclical trends and industry desires.
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D.W. Griffith wanted to be a director. But when he showed up knocking at film studio Biograph’s doorsteps, all they could offer him was a role as an actor, something Griffith already had plenty of experience with on the stage. He was happy with the work, as he remembered the days when he had to shovel coal or pick hops to make a living all too well. While his ultimate dream was to become a playwright, his dire financial situation made him decide to have a go at film screenwriting and directing as well, and it was in this that he would achieve tremendous fame with The Birth of a Nation. Not that this came easily; it was only when a last-minute cancellation by house director Wallace McCutcheon left Biograph bosses scrambling for a replacement that Griffith got his break. In 1908, his first film titled The Adventures of Dollie made its New York debut. The twelve-minute film about a kidnapped young girl floating down the river in a barrel sold twenty five copies, and Biograph offered Griffith a contract. The rest is history.
One hundred years later, not all that much has changed. Aspiring actors and actresses wait tables or take on other odd jobs awaiting that one crucial callback. And once one has a foot in the door on screen, the established networks come in quite handy when thinking about a career behind the cameras. This week, Ryan Phillippe became the latest actor to express an interest in taking on a more active role behind the scenes. The appeal is obvious. Directing is more prestigious, it allows one express his or her creative vision in ways that acting never could, is interesting financially, plus it offers better long-term prospectives when looks start waning or when one is ready for a more private existence. Numerous blogs have been written about actors who have successfully (or not so) made the transition—the undisputed number one being Clint Eastwood, while Ben Affleck is turning out to be quite the talent as well—but notably absent from the lists are actresses who did the same. However, this certainly does not mean that there have been no actresses who have demonstrated considerable talent behind the cameras. I have chosen to focus on directors rather than producers, meaning that Mary Pickford is left out—even though she remains the most powerful woman behind the screens up until this day in her role as a producer and founder. Here are six actresses who have taken the leap:
It’s not the most visualized holiday in the motion picture canon. Perhaps it has something to do with the bifurcated nature of the celebration. On the one hand, you’ve got the solemn grace of the Christian conceit, a moving proclamation of faith and forgiveness as best illustrated by the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Then, for some perfectly pagan reason, this honorarium for the dead turned into a brightly colored pastel puke fest, as baskets laden with all manner of glucose grotesqueries became the annual endowment to dentists and dieticians everywhere. Even worse, the King of Kings was cast aside for some oversized animal with a tendency toward rapid preproduction and raisin pellet feces. Trying to explain this all to an impressionable youth has got to be one of the greatest challenges in all of parenting. No wonder they saddle their bratlings with all kinds of caffeine and caramels instead.
Hollywood’s been no help. They’ve treated Easter like a leper in the motion picture punchbowl, sticking with either the saintly (The Robe) or the silly (Easter Parade) to illustrate their interest. Of course, kids catch the brunt of it, with all manner of egg and eye candy creations used to keep their attention off the obvious death and dying subtext. Between standard animated offal (It’s the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown) and the unusual ersatz religious revamps (the Veggies Tales take on Dickens called An Easter Carol) it’s no wonder children choke down sweets. But here’s a way of avoiding all this conceptual contradiction. As part of our cinematic service to the planet’s populace, SE&L suggests tossing out the typical and trying a few new entertainment entries this holiday. While they probably won’t fill you with much spring spirit, they will definitely make the time period more tolerable. Divided into the recognizable symbols of the season, let’s begin with:
With his piercing blue eyes, blond hair, and chilling performances, Rutger Hauer is not an actor you will quickly forget. At 67, he is more prolific than ever, with around seven films (depending on which country you live in) in cinemas this year. With international successes such as Blade Runner and The Hitcher, Hauer is one of the very few Dutch actors who have forged a successful career in Hollywood, and in the process singlehandedly gave Dutch cinema a face. Hauer’s entire career is characterized by elusiveness; it is impossible to pinpoint him on genre, type of character, or the scale or format of the productions he stars in, and this is what makes his oeuvre so exciting. This Wednesday—on the first day of the Amsterdam Fantastic Film Festival—he was honored with a Career Achievement Award. With all these accolades coming his way and a whole host of new films coming our way, it is the perfect time for a guidebook to Rutger Hauer’s 2011.
The Netherlands and the United States are the two defining countries of his career. Ever since he catapulted into the limelight with the risqué Dutch Turkish Delight, Hauer has found himself going back and forth between the two. With a major starring role in Dario Argento’s Dracula 3D coming up and his recent appearance in the coldly received exorcism-thriller The Rite, Dutch journalists again confronted Hauer with the by-now completely superfluous question: what about The Netherlands? Hauer grasped the award ceremony as an opportunity to remind all those present that he hasn’t forgotten his “Dutch soul.” The grass, the water, the humor, and even the reserved attitude of the people, Hauer loves it all. He currently resides in the province of Friesland, a province all the way up north characterized by an abundance of lakes and natural beauty and the relative absence of people.
Get ready. It’s already happening. Hereafter, the latest ‘masterwork’ from prolific Hollywood icon Clint Eastwood is ready to make its general release bow this weekend and, already, pundits are lining up on both sides of the value verdict. On one side is the aging ‘legitimate’ press, the careerist old timers who are suggesting that the ‘nu media’ doesn’t understand the 80-yeaar-old legend’s latest endeavor. Centering, as it does, on the big picture questions of death, dying, and what happens after we leave this planet, the supposedly wise critical collective is already suggesting its somber genius and that any negative review is based solely on age, not anything inherent in the film or its form.
On the opposite side are the worthless whippersnappers, the young gun bloggers who defy studio embargoes and print gossip/proposed plagiarism as their own illegitimate babblings. According to the aging elite, anyone under the age of 40 fails to grasp what Eastwood is doing, denying him the artistic right to ponder the philosophical questions that come as mortality begins its final trip around the corral. The argument, as flawed as it is, suggests that a lack of pragmatic time on this planet somehow prevents one from seeing the subtle beauty in the director’s designs. If one were closer to retirement - or in an even more meaningless digression, had long standing familial and personal relationships of their own - they could see Hereafter‘s magic and majesty.