Five Great James Gandolfini Movie Roles

by Ethan Alter June 20, 2013 9:55 am
Five Great James Gandolfini Movie Roles

For obvious reasons, James Gandolfini's legacy will be forever tied to Tony Soprano. It's the role he played the longest and which left the deepest impact, both on viewers and within the industry at large. But the late actor, who died (too soon) of an apparent heart attack on Wednesday, had a gallery of memorable movie characters as well, particularly after The Sopranos transformed him from a struggling supporting player (he had small, but memorable turns in films like True Romance and Crimson Tide in the run-up to the 1999 debut of The Sopranos) into a sought-after character actor who appeared in a rich variety of films, from the sublime (Spike Jonze's lovely adaptation of Where the Wild Things Are) to the absurd (John Turturro's intriguing, but problematic musical Romance & Cigarettes). And even when the films themselves stank (Surviving Christmas anyone?) Gandolfini's mere presence made them less painful than they otherwise might have been. Here are five Gandolfini movie characters we'd place alongside his towering turn as a New Jersey don.

Enough Said: When Julia Met James

by Ethan Alter September 18, 2013 6:00 am
<i>Enough Said</i>: When Julia Met James

The term "B-movie" is generally associated with genre fare that involves vampires, serial killers or veteran cops (and sometimes all three!), but it's also an apt descriptor for the five features helmed by writer/director Nicole Holofcener, who has been seriocomically chronicling the professional and personal travails of characters who are well-off, white and predominantly women since 1996's Walking and Talking. All of her movies are stridently small-scale, tackling weighty subjects in a minor key, with plenty of humor on hand to keep the emotions from getting too intense. This makes each of them pleasant to watch, but too unassuming to really be all that memorable. (Funnily enough, some of the TV episodes she's directed -- most notably her two installments of HBO's Enlightened and the "Eagleton" half-hour from Season 3 of Parks and Recreation -- are more resonant than any of her films, including her best to date, 2010's Please Give.) Holofcener's latest, Enough Said, again fits squarely into B-movie tradition: it's engaging, unfussy and ultimately pretty slight.

Killing Them Softly: With His Song… Uh, Gun

by Ethan Alter November 30, 2012 6:00 am
<i>Killing Them Softly</i>: With His Song… Uh, Gun

Five years ago, New Zealand-born director Andrew Dominik sought to explode the myth of the noble outlaw in his admirable, but dramatically uneven Western The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. Now he's back to expose the seedy truth behind another figure of American legend: the noble gangster. Based on the novel Cogan's Trade by George V. Higgins, Dominik's new film Killing Them Softly relocates the 1974 Boston-set crime story to New Orleans circa September 2008, right after the historic financial meltdown that left the United States reeling. The effects of that crisis are heard -- via a steady stream of news reports that blare from TV screens and talk radio stations -- and felt throughout the movie, which presents depicts organized crime as a soulless racket, populated by profit-minded lowlifes who are only separated from the similarly unscrupulous Wall Street fat cats by their dressed-down wardrobe. Forget the old canard about "honor amongst thieves" -- for many of the men who populate Killing Them Softly, honor is a thing that can easily be sold for the right price.

Previewing the 50th New York Film Festival

by Ethan Alter September 28, 2012 5:58 am
Previewing the 50th New York Film Festival

The New York Film Festival turns 50 this year and is appropriately throwing itself one heck of a birthday bash. The golden anniversary celebration kicks off tonight with the world premiere of Ang Lee's Life of Pi, an adaptation of the best-selling novel that ranks among the fall season's big Oscar hopefuls. Over the next two weeks (the festival runs from September 28 to October 14) a plethora of big-ticket films and events will be unspooling at the festival's headquarters at Lincoln Center on New York's Upper West Side. You can visit the official NYFF website for the full schedule and ticket information. In the meantime, we've gone through the festival line-up (and have even seen a few of the movies) to highlight some of this year's key titles.

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