Deadpan filmmaker whose cult stock rose steadily in the decade between the expressionistic black and white fever-dream Eraserhead (1977) and Blue Velvet (1986). The latter film was a lush tour de force of warped sensuality that defined the Lynch style, rendering perverse the oppressive normality of the director’s Pacific Northwest childhood.
Intoxicated by the film’s almost unanimous acclaim, ABC network executives gave Lynch unheard-of latitude to create (with partner Mark Frost) a drama series, Twin Peaks, in 1990.
The show was a landmark in television history, but sustaining it overtaxed Lynch’s considerable talents. At the height of Twin Peaks mania, Lynch’s violent, disengaged road movie Wild At Heart (1990) was released, and taken as a portent that his obsessions might be growing tiresome.
The ill-conceived movie Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992) confirmed those suspicions (though Lynch had overcome setbacks before–including the 1984 sci-fi epic Dune).
Lynch’s output was… Continue reading
Delicate DiCaprio’s pre- and post-teen fans–who have been known to greet his image with squeals–insist that he’s more than a pin-up, and indeed his formidable performance as Johnny Depp’s slow-witted brother in the 1993 movie What’s Eating Gilbert Grape earned him a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination.
In 1994, DiCaprio’s conspicuous commitment to nightlife had Rolling Stone crying River Phoenix deja vu; as a corrective, DiCaprio’s PR issued counter-rumors replacing his reputation for dissipation with a healthier reputation for careerism. Whatever he’s doing, it’s getting him work.
Even appearing in a number of tepid non-hits–This Boy’s Life (1993), Basketball Diaries (1995), and Total Eclipse (1995)–DiCaprio has won praise for sensitive acting, as well as for channeling the newly androgynized zeitgesit. In 1996 the unsinkable It-boy starting shooting the James Cameron’s… Continue reading
Perpetually precocious sibling dyad responsible for the most feted and controversial American cinematic oeuvre of the last decade. Joel (b. 1955), an NYU film school graduate, is nominal director, while Ethan (b. 1958), a Princeton philosophy grad, is ostensible producer.
Nevertheless their six-feature-film output is a full-blown collaboration (originally using the joint pseudonym Roderick James), with the brothers’ collectively rampant obsessions providing the occasion for recasting the history of American film in a series of droll homages that blend arch parody and terminally black comedy.
Their 1984 debut, Blood Simple, for instance, was a studious replication of noir classics, while the 1987 follow-up Raising Arizona amped the classic screwball comedy with hyper-farcical conceits and Miller’s Crossing (1990) reworked 1930s gangster classics.
Critics have responded with anxiously searching comparisons to everyone from James M. Cain to Dostoevsky (though The New Republic’s Stanley Kauffman says simply “I think they’re pretentious, affected bores”).… Continue reading
Loopy, hangdog actor with an expansive range that can veer from buffoon to matinee idol to psychotic. A graduate of Beverly Hills High, and a nephew of director Francis Ford Coppola, Cage appeared under his given name with a bit part in the 1982 teen comedy Fast Times at Ridgemont High and in his uncle’s arty troubled-teen film Rumble Fish (1983); he switched to Cage (an homage to comic book hero Luke Cage and avant-garde composer John Cage) to play a Hollywood punk in love with a mall-roaming Valley Girl (1983).
Cage built his career playing quirky often dark characters in small films (Birdy, 1984; Raising Arizona, 1987; Wild at Heart, 1990), culminating in his Oscar-winning portrayal of an unrepentant alcoholic in Leaving Las Vegas (1995). Cage’s method acting is notorious (a tooth was pulled in Birdy and he ate a live cockroach in Vampire’s Kiss, 1989); and his interpretations… Continue reading
A former Long Island ice-cream-truck driver and New York City fireman, Buscemi first appeared as an angry HIV-positive rock musician in Parting Glances (1986).
He subsequently became a Joel and Ethan Coen regular, appearing variously as a gangster (Miller’s Crossing, 1990), quirky bellhop (Barton Fink, 1991), beatnik barkeep (The Hudsucker Proxy, 1994), and sallow hitman (Fargo, 1996).
Buscemi’s widest exposure came as the surly anti-waitstaff hustler Mr. Pink in Reservoir Dogs (1992), a role that triggered work in a panoply of pathology-chic films including Desperado (1992) and Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead (1995).
His familiarity with New York’s downtown film scene was put to use in his portrayal of a harried director in both Tom DeCillo’s Living… Continue reading
Resurgent African-American film genre of the early ’70s. Blaxploitation movies were low- budget, luridly stylized anti-establishment parables–in most cases, urban action flicks populated by pimps, pushers, and prostitutes. As such they were a marked departure from the type of ’60s films which had featured assimilationist black leads in the Sidney Poitier mold.
The blaxploitation genre offered a crowd-pleasing formula of outsize personae, preposterous costumes, self-consciously ridiculous dialogue, and state-of-the-art soul/funk soundtracks. Key films of the cycle include Melvin Van Peebles’s Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song (dedicated “to all the Brothers and Sisters who have had enough of The Man,” the 1971 movie grossed an impressive $10 million-plus); Gordon Parks’s 1971 Shaft; Parks’s son, Gordon Jr.’s 1972 Superfly.
The statuesque Pam Grier, star of Coffy (1973) and Foxy Brown (1974), was the undisputed queen of blaxploitation.
Reacting to the box-office success of the early blaxploitation films, white Hollywood producers and directors churned… Continue reading