Top 10 performances of Bill Paxton

About a year or so ago I saw Bill Paxton in Nightcrawler, a rather excellent film starring Jake Gyllenhaal. It got me thinking that Paxton is a funny actor, in that he’s been around a long time (since the start of the ’80s), turns up fairly frequently, often delivering performances which elevate a scene or the entire thing – yet he’s not really got the plaudits he perhaps deserves.

And he’s 60 now (if you can believe it) which, given his body of work, means he’s approaching legend status in my book. Add to that his distinctive Texan drawl that’s perhaps only matched by Matthew McConaughey and you’ve got someone that should really be given more roles. C’mon Hollywood, you can do it.

And on that note, it makes picking ten of his best a tall order (his filmography turns up some gems, ‘Punk Leader’ in The Terminator anyone?) but here are my choices, in random order:

Private Hudson, Aliens (1986)
Morgan Earp, Tombstone (1993)
Simon, True Lies (1994)
John Garrett, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D (2014)
Bill Harding, Twister (1996)
Master Sergeant Farell, Edge of Tomorrow (2014)
Joe Loder, Nightcrawler (2014)
Fred Haise, Apollo 13 (1995)
Jerry Lambert, Predator 2 (1990)
Chet Donnelly, Weird Science (1985)

From his slimy and sleazy used car salesman seducing Jamie Lee Curtis in True Lies to his gung-ho soldier immortalising lines like ‘Game over, man!’ and making them gold, Paxton has had a varied and compelling career. And in recent years he’s kept his output high, popping up as the bad guy in season 2 of Marvel’s blossoming Avengers spin-off, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D and the good guy opposite Gyllenhaal’s sociopathic baddie in Nightcrawler. That’s range.

So hurrah for Mr Paxton. Keep on acting, you’re a legend and we love you.

Game over? Never!

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Best films of 2014: Haiku reviews

So here we go again. Will I never learn? As I did last year and the year before, here are my top films of the year in Haiku form. So, traditionally, that’s three lines. First with five syllables, then seven, then five. If you were convincing a studio to make your film, think of this as your elevator pitch.

It’s worth noting that, due to the tricky nature of these little things, they can occasionally head into spoiler territory.

Nightcrawler-Jake-Gyllenhaal-850x560Nightcrawler
An entrepreneur
with delusional issues
and a camcorder

The Wolf of Wall Street
After Wall Street crash
One guy rises to the top
Then loses it all

LIBRARY IMAGE OF GONE GIRLGone Girl
Amazing Amy
Frames her husband for murder
Gets away with it

Guardians of the Galaxy
Guy with a Walkman
Forms team of wacky heroes
to protect an orb

Herbensch
An oddball loner
Gets feelings for computer
She evolves, leaves him

Pride
Gays support miners
And build unlikely friendships
During strikes, AIDS, riotsTHE GUEST

The Imitation Game
Allies losing war
Turing cracks enigma code
Is gay and suffers

The Guest
Grieving family
welcome handsome stranger infilmz.ru
who then goes crazy

Interstellar
Earth almost ruined
Wormhole last chance to survive
Space and time confuse

Dallas Buyers Club
A cowboy gets AIDs
Sells drugs to fellow patients
A heartbreaking tale

Top 10 films of 2014

It’s starting to feel like these lists come round unsettlingly fast. Too darn often for my liking. However, it’s been a good year for those that love cinema. Some great stuff has hit the silver (or, increasingly, digital) screen over the last twelve months. Here’s my pick, from my top ten (you have to be ruthless) to ones on my ‘to watch’ list.

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THE TOP TEN
1. Nightcrawler
2. The Wolf of Wall Street
3. Gone Girl
4. Guardians of the Galaxy
5. Her
6. Pride
7. The Imitation Game
8. The Guest
9. Interstellar
10. Dallas Buyers Club

MY ‘TO WATCH’ LIST
Maps To The Stars
Two Faces of January
Chef
Cold In July
The Babadook
How To Train Your Dragon 2
The Raid 2
Starred Up
Only Lovers Left Alive
22 Jump Street
’71
Locke
12 Years a Slave
Under The Skin
Calvary
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Edge of Tomorrow
What We Do In The Shadows

under-the-skin

So there we have it.

What’s your favourite film of the year? And what’s on your ‘to watch’ list?

Nightcrawler: the ultimate entrepreneur?

Dr. Robert Hare, one of the foremost researchers on sociopathy, believes that a sociopath is four times more likely to be at the top of the corporate ladder than in the janitor’s closet, due to the close match between the personality traits of sociopaths and the unusual demands of high-powered jobs.
M.E. Thomas, Confessions of a Sociopath: A Life Spent Hiding in Plain Sight

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Jake Gyllenhaal has had an interesting career so far. He’s made good choices and played interesting parts. But then, you could argue he started out in Donnie Darko, so he hit the ground running.

With Nightcrawler he’s gone up another level. Some critics have compared his performance to De Niro’s Travis Bickle. In terms of his character’s detachment from society it probably is on that level, but in other ways it’s far more compelling (and brought right up to date for modern-day society).

Gyllenhaal plays Lou Bloom who, when we first meet him, is a bit of a thief and a hustler. He is clearly a driven and articulate individual, but he has no purpose. Then one night he sees a car wreck on the highway and, as the police help the victim, he watches with fascination as a couple of guys race up in a van and film the whole thing. He’s instantly hooked and has found his calling.

Nightcrawler

Like all good predators they lure you into a false sense of security and allow you to get close, but by the time you realise what their game is it’s too late. This is when Lou is at his scariest. For the most part he seems normal, albeit a bit odd, until he needs something from you. He’ll then persuade, reason and negotiate until, when all else fails, he threatens. And he means it.

At one point he says ‘I like to think that when people meet me they’re having the worst day of their lives.’ This applies not only to victims of crime that he films, but almost anyone he meets. If you’ve just met Lou, your day is about to get a hell of a lot worse. This is none more evident than the manner in which he treats his assistant Rick (Riz Ahmed), who gets a seriously rough ride throughout, to put it mildly.

Writer and director Dan Gilroy (making his directorial debut) has, in Lou Bloom, created a chillingly realistic portrayal of a man that will do whatever it takes to achieve his goals. He spends much of his time talking about his company and business strategy, spouting corporate jargon as if he vehemently believes it.

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However, the situations in which he finds himself – in an effort to capture the perfect shot – are ludicrous and highly disturbing to anyone who has even a questionable moral compass and ounce of humanity. For Lou, he is a predator in the purest sense. Duran Duran’s Hungry Like The Wolf would be the perfect theme song to this film.

Indeed, Gyllenhaal’s attention to character detail is masterful – from his cautious, fight-or-flight body language as he approaches a crime scene to the way his eyes seem to get bigger and light up in the darkness of the LA night if he senses a story is at hand.

Nightcrawler is the sort of film you go into with little expectation. At times it’s horrific and thrilling, but most of all it’s captivating. Much like the car wrecks and violent crime that Lou films, we can’t take our eyes off him as a character.

You can see where the film is largely going, but the inexorable, creeping sense of dread that it instils in you on the journey is something from which you cannot escape. And nor do you want to, in a twisted sort of way.