Five Movie Commentaries to Listen to in January


While Damien Chazelle‘s La La Land wears its fondness for old school Hollywood productions proudly on its sleeve, his portrayal of present-day Los Angeles is hardly unflattering. It’s a movie so appealing to the eye it’s almost impossible to see nothing except beauty in La La Land, but it captures a genuinely lovely part of the city: it’s a place a lot of driven and passionate people move to every day.

After seeing the film a second time, it made me want to revisit a few movies set in Los Angeles, including Boogie NightsThe GraduateKiss Kiss Bang Bang, and a few others, which all feature some commentary tracks worth listening to.

Below, check out this January’s movie commentary recommendations.

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American Masters Mike Nichols

Filmmaker and actress Elaine May was just cast alongside Miley Cyrus for Woody Allen’s forthcoming series set up at Amazon. But May also had some recent work behind the camera get some attention as well with this year’s debut installment of the long-running PBS documentary series American Masters.

The Graduate director Mike Nichols takes the spotlight for this episode of the series that runs through his life and career. For those who may not know, Nichols and May were actually a Grammy-winning improvisational comedy duo in the 1950s and 1960s, so there’s no better person to provide an intimate profile of the iconic filmmaker. Read More »

Mike Nichols, Director of ‘The Graduate’, Has Died

Mike Nichols directing Closer

Mike Nichols, the award-winning director of films such as The Graduate, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, and Working Girl, has died. No cause of death has been given. He was 83. He is survived by his wife, ABC News Anchor Diane Sawyer, as well as three children and four grandchildren.

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Zach Helm doesn’t have too many produced screenplays on his resume at this point, but the writer got off to an auspicious start with 2006’s flawed but charming Stranger Than Fiction before making his directorial debut with 2007’s Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium, which he also wrote. Although the latter wasn’t quite as well received as the former, he’s got a couple of projects on his upcoming slate that sound promising.

The first is Errol Morris’ Freezing People is Easy, an adaptation of Robert Nelson’s cryogenic preservation memoir We Froze the First Man, which cast Owen Wilson, Kristen Wiig, and Christopher Walken last week. Now he’s also been tapped to write Deep Water, a “dark, sexy comedy” based on the thriller by Patricia Highsmith.

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I don’t think there’s any argument that Jeff Bridges is great enough to warrant his own little update once in a while. So here you go: a new on-set photo from the Coen Brothers version of True Grit, for one. Sadly, the other update negates a previous bit of casting supposition, as it looks like Bridges won’t play alongside Meryl Streep in Great Hope Springs. Read More »


There’s a new matrimonial drama brewing at Mandate Pictures — Great Hope Springs is based on a script by Vanessa Taylor, and it’s the sort of film that, from a distance, might not seem too interesting. But with Meryl Streep and Jeff Bridges finalizing deals to star and Mike Nichols looking to direct, this might become a movie that you can’t ignore. Read More »

chris rock high and low

Chris Rock revealed his next project to Black Voices: writing the screenplay remake/adaptation of Akira Kurosawa‘s 1963 detective thriller High and Low for director Mike Nichols. If you were going to ask me who might replace David Mamet on this modern day remake/adaptation, Rock would certainly have been near the bottom of the list.

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Patricia Highsmith must surely be one of the most adapted authors in the history of cinema with her Ripley books alone giving us five theatrical features. Her novel Strangers on a Train has also been filmed a good few times, with varying degrees of success and fidelity. The most famous version, not to mention the most brilliant was Hitchcock’s film, and there is also a likely-redundant do-over currently in development. There really are some foolhardy folk in the movie industry, aren’t there?

As yet unfilmed, I believe, is her novel Deep Water, now over fifty years old without a single adaptation. This will change in the coming months, however, as Mike Nichols has been attached to realise it cinematically with Joe Penhall, writer of the upcoming adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, set to handle scripting duties for him. Nichols we can all vouch for, and Penhall’s certainly drawing some positive attentions.

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Mike Nichols (Closer, Charlie Wilson’s War) will direct a remake of Akira Kurosawa‘s High and Low.

Based loosely on Evan Hunter’s King’s Ransom, the original 1963 detective thriller that tells the story of an executive named Kingo Gondo, who learns that his son has been kidnapped. He is prepared to pay the ransom amount until he discovers that the kidnappers mistakenly abducted the child of his chauffeur. Gondo must decide between using the money he has saved up for a critical corporate buyout, or to use the cash to save his drivers son.

If the names involved thus far don’t get you excited, then read on. Originally commissioned by Martin Scorsese in 1999, the screenplay is written by David Mamet. The film has yet to begin casting, but it sounds like the ball is now rolling after years of being stalled due to rights issues. Scott Rudin will produce, and its likely that Scorsese will executive produce.

This is one of the few Kurosawa films that I have yet to see. But now it looks like I might have to order the new Criterion and clear out some time to watch it.

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Charlie Wilson’s War Movie Trailer

Charlie Wilson's War

Universal has released a new trailer for Charlie Wilson’s War, which is directed by Mike Nichols (Closer, The Graduate, The Birdcage) and stars Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, Om Puri, Jud Tylor and Nazanin Boniadi. Based on George Crile’s book about the CIA’s largest and most successful covert CIA operation, War follows a Texas congressman Charlie Wilson’s (Hanks) who teamed with a rogue CIA operative (Hoffman), to manipulate Congress, the CIA and a other foreign governments in order to assist the Afghan rebels in their fight against the Soviets in the 1980s.

I’ve heard that Phillip Seymour Hoffman will get a Best Supporting Actor nomination for this one. And it looks great, and has some big names, but the real question is: Will people buy tickets to another war film? Sure, this isn’t about the Iraq war, it’s set almost 30 years ago, but the box office (and buzz coming out of the Toronto Film Festival) suggests that people aren’t interesting in another war film.

Check out the new trailer after the jump.

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