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14 actors I really dig

There’s a bit of a meme going on in Swedish film blogging circles. The idea is simple: list your seven favorite male and female actors. I’m participating too, although loosely. I’m not saying these are my very favorites, as that tends to change from day to day and I might have forgotten someone. These are, however, seven men and seven women whose work I really enjoy, either because they constantly deliver great performances, or because they possess some hard-to-define quality that makes my brain happily go “ding!” whenever I spot their names on a cast list.

First, some honorable mentions…

Kevin Spacey: Had I written this post 10 years ago, he’d be a shoo-in for sure. Alas, he hasn’t had many truly great roles lately.
Kirsten Dunst: She has been underrated ever since she lit up the screen in Interview with the Vampire in 1994, and only recently has she started getting the critical acclaim she deserves.
Al Pacino: Another one whose heyday is behind him, Pacino has tons of maniacally energetic performances on his CV.
Rosario Dawson: Effortlessly charming, possibly the hottest woman on this planet, and probably with her best work still ahead of her.
Jason Statham: The bona fide action star of the millennium.
Ellen Page: At 25 years of age, she has already amassed a number of impressive lead and supporting roles. What does the future hold for her?

On to the list proper. This is in randomly generated order.

MV5BMTMzODkzOTU4OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMzU0ODE5NA@@._V1._SX640_SY920_Catherine Keener

When I watch Keener play one of her evil characters, I can not imagine here ever being good. When I watch her play one of her good characters, I can not imagine her ever being evil. Her impressive range is perhaps her strongest quality and she has proven to only get better with age. When she got her first Oscar nomination for playing manipulative seductress Maxine in Being John Malkovich, she was already 40 years old. Since then – and before – she has kept putting in affecting performances no matter how small or large a part she plays.

3 great performances
Living in Oblivion – pulling off the difficult task of acting like you’re acting, both badly and well.
Being John Malkovich – toying with John Cusack with equal measures of bitchy and funny.
An American Crime – playing one of the most despicable abusive mothers in recent history.

Anthony_Hopkins_0001Anthony Hopkins

While there is a lot to be said for physical transformations and chameleon actors who are nigh-unrecognizable from one film to the next, perhaps even more impressive is someone like Hopkins. He always looks more or less the same, and yet he disappears into roles like few others. A master of mannerisms, body language, and voice, Hopkins portrays clearly defined characters utterly convincingly. Never one to turn down a paycheck, he appears in many films that might not make full use of his talents, but you will never see him slumming it or sleep-walking through a role. Hopkins always delivers.

3 great performances
The Silence of the Lambs – somehow making a mere 16 minutes of screen time into the one thing people associate the film with.
The Remains of the Day – redefining “emotionally restrained”.
The World’s Fastest Indian – completely inhabiting a man jovially dead-set on accomplishing his dream.

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Posted by on 18 January, 2013 in Misc.

 

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The Films I Watched In 2012 Awards

With 2012 drawing to an end, it’s time for my second annual year end awards. Just like last year, I have not had time to fully delve into all the films released this year to the degree I would like to, so I once again focus on what I saw this year, no matter when it was released.

Thus, I’m happy to present A Swede Talks Movies’ The Films I Watched In 2012 Awards!

I saw 204 movies this year (not counting rewatches), which is a slight step down from last year’s 229. This is fine, and expected. In matters not movie-related, this year was busier than the last one for me. I still got a lot of good watching done, knocking off some long-standing entries from my List of Shame, starting to explore new directors like Buster Keaton and Ingmar Bergman, venturing into Iranian cinema for the first time, and much more.

So without further ado, here are some random silly highly prestigious categories, and their respective victors!

Skärmavbild 2012-12-28 kl. 14.18.03Best Beatdown of a Puny God Award
Winner: The Avengers

I’m sure mine wasn’t the only theater in the world to erupt with laughter when Hulk went to town on Loki. I could hardly breathe myself due to laughing so hard. Unexpected, brutal, and hilarious. Surely one of the greatest moments in 2012 film.

Skärmavbild 2012-12-28 kl. 14.29.27Walken Award for Best Show-Stealing Performance In A Bad Film
Winner: Malcolm McDowell – Silent Night

Silent Night was quite the run-of-the-mill slasher flick, with nothing remarkable taking place throughout its running time. Nothing, that is, except for Malcolm McDowell as grumpy and in-charge Sheriff James Cooper. He is wildly off-key compared to the rest of the cast, chewing the scenery at every turn, and the writers seem to have expected this, as they’ve given him way funnier lines than anyone else in the film. “Big mistake: bringing a flamethrower to a gun fight!” If there is a reason to see the movie – and to be perfectly frank, there isn’t really – it’s McDowell.

GoodFellasBest Film That I Should Have Seen A Long Time Ago Award
Winner: Goodfellas
Runner-up: Jaws

I would say that Goodfellas and Jaws are the two movies I’ve gotten the most “You haven’t seen that one!?” comments about these last few years. It feels good to have finally gotten around to them, especially since both turned out to be pretty great films. Goodfellas is the richer of the two in my eyes, but it’s a close call. Prediction: If this category returns next year, I’d say Schindler’s List might be a potential frontrunner.

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Posted by on 30 December, 2012 in Year End Awards

 

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My backlog for 2012

It’s getting to that time of the year where people start constructing their Top 10 lists of the best films from the past twelve months. I will of course not be doing this. Hell, I still haven’t gotten around to doing my 2011 list yet. You might remember a list I made back in January where I named all the 2011 films I wanted to see before I finalized my Top 10. Well, I still have eight movies or so left on that one.

Still, that’s no reason to not look to the future, or present, or what have you. I’m fantastically behind in my 2012 watching as well, as you can imagine, due to a combination of delayed Swedish release dates, laziness, and an ongoing desire to catch up with not just the newest stuff, but also 100+ years of cinema. I don’t imagine I’ll ever be ahead of the pack, but I’ll continue doing what I can to keep up.

Without further ado, here are the films I want to see before I put out my Top 10 Favorite Movies of 2012 list. Maybe they won’t be great, and maybe there are others I’ll see that will be, but this is my current personal check list. It could change in the future, I should point out. In alphabetical order:

Amour – because I ought to watch more Michael Haneke anyway.

Argo – because there is no reason to abandon the Ben Affleck train yet, considering how great Gone Baby Gone and The Town were.

Bachelorette – because I like comedy.

Beasts of the Southern Wild - 6

Beasts of the Southern Wild – because of the image above.

The Campaign – because Will Ferrell is funny, and so is Zach Galifianakis.

Celeste and Jesse Forever – because it’s always interesting to see funny people branch out.

Cloud Atlas – because ambition should be rewarded.

Cockneys vs Zombies – because even if only a few people are talking about it, they all seem to love it.

Compliance – because the premise intrigues.

Cosmopolis – because a friend emphatically told me that it would be right up my alley.

Django Unchained – because it’s Quentin Tarantino. Duh.

end-of-watch-posterEnd of Watch – because it somehow seems unfair to watch Rampart without seeing this one too.

Flight – because it’s Robert Zemeckis doing live action.

For a Good Time Call – because, much to my perplexity, someone told me I might possibly love it.

Frankenweenie – because in the middle of working on this blog post, I took a break to listen to the Oscar Talk podcast, and they had a lot of compelling praise for this one.

Hitchcock – because The Remains of the Day recently reminded me of what an amazing actor Anthony Hopkins is.

Holy Motors – because I have no idea what to expect from it.

Hyde Park on Hudson – because no matter how mediocre critical and public response has been, it’s still Bill Murray.

Killer Joe – because everyone seems to dig it.

Les Misérables – because big musicals need to bounce back from some critical duds the last few years, and being a fan of the genre, I will gladly support this endeavor.

Life of Pi – because the religious aspects seem to be something everyone likes, which is quite frankly insane. When have people ever agreed on anything religion-related before?

Magic Mike – because it’s Steven Soderbergh. And because Kevin Nash is in it.

The Master – because I was only missing Hard Eight to complete Paul Thomas Anderson‘s filmography, and I won’t let this one ruin my percentage.

Nicole-Kidman-in-The-PaperboyThe Paperboy – because there has to be something to all these award nominations Nicole Kidman keeps scoring, no?

The Perks of Being a Wallflower – because I’ve been confusing it with On the Road for quite some time, and I’ve seen that one now.

Premium Rush – because someone made an off-hand comparison of it to Crank, which I fucking love.

Safety Not Guaranteed – because it’s time travel.

Savages – because it looks so vibrant and colorful.

Searching for Sugar Man – because it’s supposedly one of the best documentaries of the year, and I like good documentaries.

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World – because of the basic idea.

The Sessions – because the story sounds like something I’ve never seen before, and because it’s John Hawkes in a rare leading role.

Seven Psychopaths – because In Bruges was great, and the cast is promising indeed.

Silver Linings Playbook – because when awards bodies start paying attention to comedies, it’s usually a sign that I’ll love the movie in question.

Skyfall – because it’s Sam Mendes.

Take This Waltz – because 1) it’s Michelle Williams, and 2) see the note on Celeste and Jesse Forever.

This is 40 – because I’m not yet even remotely tired of Judd Apatow.

Wreck-It Ralph – because in addition to being a movie lover, I’m also a gamer.

wreck-it-ralph-banner

Is there anything else from 2012 that I really desperately absolutely ought to check out? What 2012 film do you still feel like you need to see?

 
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Posted by on 15 December, 2012 in Lists

 

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My Top 10 Favorite Movies of 1993

It has been a while since my last top 10 of a year list. The further back we get, the less strong movies I tend to have seenfrom a given year. I’ve made a conscious effort the last few months of checking out some 1993 offerings to fill out the ranks here. A few have made the cut, and the result is a list of ten films that seem fit to be called among the best of their year.

Before anyone asks: I haven’t seen Schindler’s List.

As usual, this is going by release year as listed on IMDB.

Honorable mentions: Demolition Man, Robin Hood: Men in Tights, Sunes sommar, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape

tumblr_mcu9mhn1eH1qlw6uko1_1280

10 – THREE COLORS: BLUE (TROIS COULEURS: BLEU, Krzysztof Kieslowski)

“Now I have only one thing left to do: nothing. I don’t want any belongings, any memories. No friends, no love. Those are all traps.”

The first installment of Kieslowski’s Three Colors Trilogy, this part focusing on the concept of liberty and how it applies to a woman who just lost her husband and daughter in a car accident. It’s thematically gripping, and Juliette Binoche is great in the lead, but what I most remember of the movie is the way it looks: the many ways the color blue is used, the shot of the sugar lump, and a whole lot else. I should get around to watching the rest of the trilogy one of these days.

the-piano-photo

9 – THE PIANO (Jane Campion)

” ‘Twere good he had God’s patience, for silence affects everyone in the end.”

Period romance dramas is not a genre I tend to flock towards (can a single person “flock”?), but this one I definitely enjoyed, chiefly thanks to the teriffic cast. The film also does a great job of bringing its environments to life, fully enveloping the viewer in its murky New Zealand locations. Strong stuff.

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Posted by on 4 December, 2012 in Lists, Top 10 of a year

 

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Monthly Report: October 2012

Hot diggity damn, what a movie month October turned out to be! With 28 new movies seen, it’s handily the most densely packed month since I started this series of blog posts. Netflix launching in Sweden certainly helped a bit, but it’s also a simple case of film once again rising above other pastimes of mine, as it tends to do sooner or later. Summer was a down-period; now I’m back into the swing of things again.

But it’s not just quantity that makes October a great month for film. The vast majority of what I watched these last 31 days has been good. Only three films failed to make my passing grade of 3/5, which is pretty impressive. It got to the point where I started second-guessing myself: “Can I really give another movie a positive mark? Shouldn’t I give out a low score to show some kind of… I don’t know.” In the end, I feel like I’ve been fair to every movie I’ve seen. Except the Bergman one, but we’ll get to that soon enough.

The Magdalene Sisters (Peter Mullan, 2002)
Structurally, this is familiar prison/asylum/escape stuff. It’s competently made for sure, and certainly not boring. That said, it doesn’t bring anything new to the table plot-wise. It is notable, however, for bringing cruelties performed by certain members of the Catholic church to the public consciousness. Young women were sent off to asylums to become, in effect, slave laborers indefinitely. Why? Because they sinned. They flirted with boys, or had children out of wedlock, or were raped. While being based on a true story is never a free pass for a movie to be considered important or anything, it does lend this one a certain weight it might not otherwise have had.
3/5

Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop (Rodman Flender, 2011)
A bit repetitive at times, and not a very revelatory look at Conan O’Brien, but it – and its subject – has enough energy and drive to make for a fun watch. I haven’t seen any of O’Brien’s work other than the occassional clip here and there online, and I’m not sure I learned much about him here other than what the title reveals.
3/5

Faster (George Tillman Jr., 2010)
I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who went into this one expecting a straight-forward frantic action flick. That’s not what Faster is. It’s a revenge thriller with only sporadic scenes of gunplay and driving antics. For what it is, it works quite well. I was particularly fond of the attempts at characterization of the main players, with all three getting some unexpected depth added to them. The ending kind of flies in the face of what led up to it though, which is a bit of a shame. Still, this is a decent movie, and I’m actually vaguely curious now to see what else the director has made.
3/5

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Posted by on 1 November, 2012 in Monthly Report

 

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50 MORE Things I Love About Films

Well over a year ago, I wrote a post called 100 Things I Love About Films on my old blog, which I later reposted here at A Swede Talks Movies. This is the sequel, adding 50 more things to the original 100. I’ve tried to avoid repeating movies and actors I mentioned in that first post, though a few have slipped through anyhow.

Credit for the original concept goes to Beau Kaelin. Thanks also to gentleman and scholar Travis McClain for bringing the idea to my attention. The original description:

Rather than posting your 100 favorite films (which has been done and overdone), you simply post your favorite things about movies.  I dig the concept, because instead of obsessing over whether the films you put on a list are “objectively good enough” to put on said list, you simply jot down 100 moments/lines/visuals that have made a lasting impression on you or sneak their way into running gags between you and your friends. Just read below and you’ll get the idea.

Why only 50 this time instead of 100? Because… quality over quantity? Yes. Let’s go with that.

1. Emily Watson in Breaking the Waves, the fear and agony on her face raw enough to make me gasp in sympathy.

2. The wonderfully trashy dialogue in Bitch Slap. I love the fact that someone actually put the words “Lube my boob, skank twat” to paper.

3. Natalie Portman‘s joy-stricken face when she phones her mother from the bathroom stall in Black Swan.

4. Michelle Williams‘ dorky dance in Blue Valentine.

5. When actors produce their own films, showing a real desire to have the movies made.

6. The brief cameo by Jason Statham reprising his role from The Transporter at the beginning of Collateral. Crossover stuff of that nature should happen more often.

7. The 20th Century Fox fanfare.

8. Robin Williams capping off his love declaration in The Fisher King with the words “But I still don’t drink coffee”.

9. The shot of the sugar lump in Three Colors: Blue.

10. Watching Casablanca for the first time and finally getting some context for all the well-quoted lines of dialogue. “Round up the usual suspects” put a big smile on my face.

11. Penelope Cruz performing A Call From the Vatican in Nine. I don’t mean to sound crass, but… hubba hubba.

12. The chase sequence through the construction site in the 2006 Casino Royale.

13. The Remains of the Day lunch box in Waiting for Guffman.

14. The whole sequence with the trunk in The Ice Harvest. Great mix of tension and humor.

15. Kat Dennings trying to pronounce Mjölnir in Thor. “What’s Myeh-myeh” indeed.

16. Danny DeVito trying to look scary to John Travolta in Get Shorty.

17. Sven Nykvist‘s gorgeous cinematography in Persona. I’ve never seen black & white look better.

18. Mark Ruffalo‘s “Why the fuck did I just say that?” grimace after stating that he loves lesbians in The Kids Are All Right.

19. Speaking of Ruffalo: The Hulk in The Avengers. Every awesome second of him.

20. When a movie just leaves me completely baffled about whether I like it or not, or whether it even matters. It’s annoying too in a way, but I love how it questions the very idea of why I watch films and what I take away from them. Funny Games would be a recent example of this kind of movie for me.

21. The ending of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Teriffic execution of a sequel hook.

22. Those performances that become so utterly convincing that my brain eventually has to break me out of the trance by going “Uh, Emil, you do know that this is an actor playing a character, right? It’s not a real person.” And then I go “Shut the fuck up, brain.” A recent example: Richard Farnsworth in The Straight Story.

23. Seeing an actor I’ve never heard of before in a film and immediately wanting to find out what else they have been in since they’re so good.

24. The climax of Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, a sequence that tops anything else in either of Guy Ritchie‘s Sherlock films.

25. Tippi Hedren waiting outside the schoolhouse in The Birds. Cue me gasping for breath and muttering “Oh shit…”

26. Kirsten Dunst looking stunning in the wedding dress in Melancholia.

27. Hugo reminding me that 3D can indeed be used to great effect. Thank you, Martin Scorsese.

28. Tom Cruise scaling the Burj Khalifa in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol. Absolutely jaw-dropping.

29. The scene in 50/50 where Joseph Gordon-Levitt goes in for surgery and suddenly realizes that he might never wake up again.

30. Michelle Duncan‘s adorable Scottish accent in Driving Lessons.

31. This exchange in The Fugitive: “I didn’t kill my wife!” “I don’t care!”

32. The opening of Grave of the Fireflies. It’s good on the first watch, but it’s heart-breaking on a rewatch.

33. The lone penguin wandering off towards the mountains and certain death in Werner Herzog‘s Encounters at the End of the World.

34. The dream-like atmosphere of Robert Altman‘s Images. The kind of stuff that makes you realize how inaccurately the term “dream-like” tends to get thrown around.

35. Ellen Page in Juno. And Jennifer Garner. And Jason Bateman. And Allison Janney. And J.K. Simmons. And everyone else.

36. ))<>(( from Me and You and Everyone We Know.

“What business is it of yours where I’m from… friendo?”

 

37. The tense scene in No Country for Old Men where Javier Bardem makes the gas station attendant call a coin flip.

38. Seeing a scene that for some reason doesn’t work for me, only to much later have a revelation on what it meant. Guaranteed to make me love the part next time I watch the film.

39. Everything about Catherine Keener in Being John Malkovich, but particularly her dismissive reactions to everything John Cusack says and does in the early goings.

40. Uggie playing dead in The Artist.

41. The meet-cute between Ewan McGregor and Melanie Laurent at the costume party in Beginners.

42. This poster for 127 Hours.

43. The entire showdown between Uma Thurman and David Carradine in Kill Bill: Vol. 2. Had me at the edge of my seat when I first watched it.

44. The very recognizable video game scene in Swingers.

45. Brad Pitt‘s ridiculous accent when speaking Italian in Inglourious Basterds.

46. The suffocating atmosphere of Seven.

47. The big fight on the rope bridge in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

48. George Clooney‘s fine-tuned and low-key performance in The American.

49. Robert Downey Jr. sucking at math in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.

50. Shea Whigham‘s brief part in Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, repeatedly uttering “Whoa!” in the funniest fashion.

 
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Posted by on 22 May, 2012 in Lists

 

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