Hit Me With Your Best Shot: Jackie Brown (1997)


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This is my third time revisiting Jackie Brown within the past year and up until then I had only seen it once. When I saw that Jackie Brown was being showcased on “Hit Me With Your Best Shot”, I already knew which shot I would choose, and it’s one I expect to pop up on several posts. But before that, a few words on Quentin Tarantino’s third feature film, on his 50th birthday. His follow-up to the game-changing Pulp Fiction commonly gets the ‘overlooked’ label, so much so that it seems to be shedding some of its underrated skin. But then I look at the free-for-all praise heaped upon last year’s Django Unchained and I think to myself, Jackie Brown may be commonly considered a great film, but compared to the hyperbole generously thrown about in regards to his latest, I’d say ‘Jackie’ still goes wildly underappreciated, at least comparatively speaking. It’s the kind of filmmaking I’d like to see him get back to at some point. It’s the last time he’s made a non-revenge centric film. Think about that. But I digress.

Jackie Brown is wound-down intimate Tarantino through and through, a rare beast indeed compared to his now par-for-the-course hyper-kinetic ultra-violent pastiche. His patient table-setting, frequently attempting to break records for sustained tension, exists in its infancy here. Sure, there’s tension, but it’s all about the relaxed feel, a stealth mellowness that digs itself into his top-notch rhythms of character and beats of dialogue. He lets the whole film breathe, even casually repeating music cues with an uncommon ease. It’s filled with two-person scenes that juggle forward-motion and exploring developing idiosyncratic dynamics, vying for our favoritism. I can’t figure out whose scenes I look forward to more; Jackie and Max, Louis and Melanie, Ordell and Louis? The list goes on. The film stands out within his filmography. It’s one-of-a-kind, dealing in weathered average folks beaten down by life or dealing in low-level comparatively low-stakes crime. And it handles violence and romance with care and surprising maturity. There’s also a healthy dose of dark humor; the scene where Louis tells Ordell he shot Melanie might be the funniest scene he’s ever done. That scene momentarily turns the film into a fucked-up screwball comedy. Basically, there’s a lot to love in Jackie Brown and it’s one of my favorites from QT.

Chosen shot:

Jackie Brown 1 Jackie Brown 2 Jackie Brown 3

Of course, of course, I’m picking the opening moving walkway shot. At first, knowing others would write about it, and surely more observantly, I sought to find another shot. There are plenty of other choices, and I looked at shots that illustrated the way violence is handled, or that showcase my favorite performance in the film, Robert De Niro as clueless schlub Louis. But I just keep coming back to that opening dazzler. And I just can’t resist choosing it.

It’s almost as if Pam Grier is bringing those LAX walls to colorful life. As Bobby Womack’s “Across 110th Street” glides and struts into our ears, a sort of anthem for Jackie, enter Pam Grier. Jackie Brown is in essence a tribute to Grier, that female vigilante icon of Blaxploitation, and right off the bat we’re given an opportunity to bask in her presence. Profile shot, bold blue stewardess garb as iconic identifier, fixed expression, unmoving statuesque body language. Take a good look because we won’t see her again for another thirty minutes. In another minute, towards the end of the sequence, she’ll be running and rushing in a hurry to get to work on time. But in this moment, this shot, she is a noble representation of the everywoman just trying to get by.

Speaking of Blaxploitation, Tarantino uses this opening shot to establish his total reworking of the genre with his film. Tarantino does Blaxploitation?! Oh, the possibilities! Well, I’ve never seen this as his take on Blaxploitation, but rather a reworked homage, fusing the former, via exalting its reigning female icon, with a grubby crime noir tale. Take the opening of Foxy Brown as a direct contrast to the opening of Jackie Brown.

Foxy Brown 1 Foxy Brown 2 Foxy Brown 3 Foxy Brown 4

In the Foxy Brown intro, we focus on lips, eyes, breasts and silhouette, frozen and unfrozen in time, in space, in various contrasting colors. She faces the camera, winks at us and dances for us. She even multiplies! Like Roger Vadim objectifying Jane Fonda for Barbarella, the” Hit Me With Your Best Shot” pick from two weeks ago, so Jack Hill does for Pam Grier. With Jackie Brown, there’s an immediate subversion of expectations, a subdued but different minded celebration of Grier. Where the Foxy Brown opening was all about movement and close-ups, kaleidoscopic images upon kaleidoscopic images that repeat and enlarge and switch up every second, Jackie Brown’s credits are only a handful of shots, all of her going somewhere. She doesn’t have time to boogie down for us; she’s got to earn a living. Also, notice the yellow font Tarantino lifted.

But Jackie does have time to stand frozen on the moving sidewalk for us, if only momentarily, resembling that famous opening image from The Graduate. In each, the direction the characters face is not what we’re used to; right to left instead of left to right. It’s as if they’re drifting backwards while facing forward.

Where Foxy Brown celebrates Grier’s body, youth and spunk, Tarantino celebrates Grier as a rediscovered remnant, somehow more beautiful with age. I mean remnant only in the sense that she’s lived life and has some years under her belt. Isn’t it nice to see a  middle-aged black woman getting the lead in a major motion picture? It’s sad that in 2013, the 1997 Jackie Brown sticks out as a rare showcase for this, but it’s the sad truth. In its first moment, we see an African-American woman in full possession of herself appreciated and worshiped by the camera in this shot and throughout the film. No objectification here; it’s been replaced with the blind reverence of a deity. In case blind reverence also sounds like problematic gender-biased oversimplification, rest assured. Tarantino’s worship comes mainly in the form of a gift to Grier; the gift of a fully realized character like Jackie.

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For a final thought, Tarantino also couples this opening shot of Jackie’s coasting complacency and juxtaposes it with this one (pictured above) later in the film. Jackie is on her way to the drop-off point, once again with the camera moving right to left with Jackie on the right side of the screen. Except this time, she’s moving. She has determinative agency and things are looking up. Even the color on the wall matches her blue stewardess outfit.

Some runners-up:

Jackie Brown 5 Jackie Brown 6 Jackie Brown 7 Jackie Brown 8 Jackie Brown 9  Jackie Brown 12 Jackie Brown 13

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List: Top 30 Fall Films to See (September-December)


We are two weeks into the Fall Movie Season; that lovely time of year when theaters are crowded with anticipated releases big and small. I have to admit that there are not a ton of films I’m dying to see these last several months of the year. My Top 30 is a strong group indeed, but this is the first year in a long time where I didn’t have about 45 films clamming for a spot on the Top 30. To put it simply, several of the bigger fall releases I’m feeling ambivalent towards. These include Flight, Promised Land, The Impossible, Les Miserables, Life of Pi, Hyde Park on Hudson and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. I’m really looking forward to On the Road, Therese Raquin, Skyfall, Frankenweenie, Detropia, This is 40 and The Sessions but not enough to earn them a spot on the list.

If all of those highly anticipated films do not appear on this list, the question begs; what does? These are the 30 films I am most looking forward to. What are yours?

30. Barbara (Germany)
Synopsis: A doctor working in 1980s East Germany finds herself banished to a small country hospital.

Germany’s official submission for this year’s Oscars. I have yet to see a film directed by Christian Petzhold although I always meant to see Jerichow. I’m always going to be a sucker for films set in East Germany.

29. Lincoln
Synopsis:
As the Civil War nears its end, President Abraham Lincoln clashes with members of his cabinet over the issue of abolishing slavery.

The recently released trailer for Lincoln felt admittedly stuffy and anticlimactic. But I have faith in this film, despite the actors playing historical dress-up vibe and not caring about Spielberg’s 2011 one-two punch of War Horse and The Adventures of Tintin. But look at this cast! Look at it! Daniel Day-Lewis appears in one film every few years, so any opportunity to see him on screen must be seized immediately. Especially since his last film role was the start-to-finish miscalculation known as Nine.

28. Dredd 3D
Synopsis:
In a violent, futuristic city where the police have the authority to act as judge, jury and executioner, a cop teams with a trainee to take down a gang that deals the reality-altering drug, SLO-MO.

Out of nowhere, Dredd 3D is getting really solid notices. Like, ridiculously solid review. In a world where the film industry deals in remakes and comic book adaptations as a daily ritual, I don’t think anyone had this on their radar. For the countless middling forgettable release and anticipatory disappointments, there aren’t as many ‘where did this come from’ surprises. Alex Garland wrote the screenplay, whose credits include Never Let Me Go, Sunshine and 28 Days Later. Color me intrigued. But if the notices are to be believed, this is more than worth checking out.

Bonus: Olivia Thirlby sporting blonde hair while kicking ass and taking names.

27. Sister (France)
Synopsis: A drama set at a Swiss ski resort and centered on a boy who supports his sister by stealing from wealthy guests.

This sibling drama doesn’t seem to fit too comfortably into any easy box (outside of the aforementioned ‘sibling drama’) which is what draws me to it.  Lea Seydoux continues to stamp her presence as a French arthouse bombshell with her second release of the year after Farewell, My Queen.

26. Smashed
Synopsis: A married couple whose bond is built on a mutual love of alcohol gets their relationship put to the test when the wife decides to get sober.

I have had my eye on Mary Elizabeth Winstead for a while now. Forget Scott Pilgrim. We’re talking the days of Final Destination 3, Death Proof and Black Christmas. Yes that’s right; Black Christmas. Last year she got a starring role in the remake of The Thing, walking away with all of her dignity in a film as forgettable and rote as they come. I think what most people are excited about in regards to Smashed, is Winstead finally gets a chance to show us what she’s got. And by all accounts, it was worth the wait.

Bonus: Aaron Paul, people. Aaron Paul. Aaron Paul: that is all.

25. How to Survive a Plague
Synopsis: The story of two coalitions — ACT UP and TAG (Treatment Action Group) — whose activism and innovation turned AIDS from a death sentence into a manageable condition.

This documentary has the subject matter and the kind of upcoming exposure to really get some attention. It looks like the type of inspiring impassioned history lesson that I look for in this type of doc.

24. Killing Them Softly
Synopsis: Jackie Cogan is a professional enforcer who investigates a heist that went down during a mob-protected poker game.

I have to admit that the trailer for this left me really underwhelmed and relatively uninterested in the story. However, the pairing of director Andrew Dominik and Brad Pitt has me salivating for this. Considering that The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford is in my top 10 of the 2000’s, you best believe this earned a spot.

23. Argo
Synopsis: As the Iranian revolution reaches a boiling point, a CIA ‘exfiltration’ specialist concocts a risky plan to free six Americans who have found shelter at the home of the Canadian ambassador.

Ben Affleck’s first two films managed to impress me enough without bowling me over. But it’s clear the man’s got a sure and efficient directorial hand. The cast, the based on a true story concept and 70’s period detail are all promising, not to mention its warm reception on the festival circuit.

22. Zero Dark Thirty
Synopsis: A chronicle of the decade-long hunt for al-Qaeda terrorist leader Osams Bin Laden after the 9/11 attacks, and his death at the hands of the Navy SEAL Team 6 in May, 2011.

Kathryn Bigelow’s follow-up to The Hurt Locker, chronicling the hunt and kill of Osama Bin Laden. I can’t wait to see how the film depicts its subject matter and how functionally rooted in factual reconstruction it is.

21. The Other Dream Team
Synopsis: The incredible story of the 1992 Lithuanian basketball team, whose athletes struggled under Soviet rule, became symbols of Lithuania’s independence movement, and – with help from the Grateful Dead – triumphed at the Barcelona Olympics.

Been hearing a lot about this documentary (one of only 3 on this list since the majority of documentaries come out during the Spring and Summer months). This is a truly fascinating subject, ripe for potential exploration, and it looks genuinely educational and uplifting to boot.

20. Sleep Tight (Spain)
Synopsis: An embittered concierge at a Barcelona apartment building plots to make one happy-go-lucky resident completely miserable in this psychological thriller from [REC] and [REC 2] co-screenwriter/co-director Jaume Balaguero.

I feel pretty confident that this is going to be a reliable, solid slice of horror. It looks like the kind of low-key, suspense ratcheting creepfest that focuses on its antagonist over other characters. And Spanish directors certainly know how to deliver the scares: The Orphanage, The Devil’s Backbone, REC, The Others and last year’s The Last Circus to name a few obvious examples.

19. V/H/S (seen)
Synopsis: When a group of misfits is hired by an unknown third party to burglarize a desolate house and acquire a rare VHS tape, they discover more found footage than they bargained for.

I’ve already seen this one but this is where it would have been placed. Horror anthologies are always worth a watch and these directors take the stylistic experimentation that videotapes inherently offer, with its glitchy worn-down visuals and static white noise, and channel it through the possibilities of the genre. That alone makes this worth watching. For all the mediocrity of the stories themselves and the fevered gender-based discussion it has incited, V/H/S has a DIY aesthetic that makes its mark.

18. Keep the Lights On
Synopsis: In Manhattan, filmmaker Erik bonds with closeted lawyer Paul after a fling. As their relationship becomes one fueled by highs, lows, and dysfunctional patterns, Erik struggles to negotiate his own boundaries while being true to himself.

This looks emotional and moving with strong lead performances. It has been impressing audiences since Sundance.

17. Bachelorette (seen)
Synopsis: Three friends are asked to be bridesmaids at a wedding of a woman they used to ridicule back in high school.

Another film on the list I have already seen, this is where Leslye Headland’s self-adapted mean streak of a comedy would have been placed.

16. Sinister
Synopsis: Found footage helps a true-crime novelist realize how and why a family was murdered in his new home, though his discoveries put his entire family in the path of a supernatural entity.

Since premiering at SXSW in March, I have heard nothing but good things about this one. Good horror films that get wide releases are far and few between, but this looks like it will garner Insidious levels of attention with the buzz I’ve been hearing.

15. Silver Linings Playbook
Synopsis: After a stint in a mental institution, former teacher Pat Solitano moves back in with his parents and tries to reconcile with his ex-wife. Things get more challenging when Pat meets Tiffany, a mysterious girl with problems of her own.

Winning the Audience Award at Toronto today is a huge signifier as to how this film will be received. The trailer didn’t do much to impress, looking too by-the-book with empty quirk thrown in. But all signs point to David O. Russell having a huge hit on his hands post-The Fighter. Russell is one of my favorite directors working today so I cannot wait to see him working in the comedic realm again.

14. Girl Model
Synopsis: A documentary on the modeling industry’s ‘supply chain’ between Siberia, Japan, and the U.S., told through the experiences of the scouts, agencies, and a 13-year-old model.

The second of two documentaries on this list, Girl Model looks like a chilling and illuminating look at the international modeling industry.

13. Seven Psychopaths
Synopsis:
A struggling screenwriter inadvertently becomes entangled in the Los Angeles criminal underworld after his oddball friends kidnap a gangster’s beloved Shih Tzu.

Martin McDonagh’s follow-up to In Bruges reunites him with Colin Farrell as well as Christopher Walken and Sam Rockwell, both of whom starred in his play “A Beheading in Spokane”. McDonagh a master of the kind of dialogue that knows it’s clever, a Snatch-like trait that I usually veer towards not liking. Somehow he pulls this style off with aplomb and if it’s anywhere near as good as In Bruges, we are in for a treat. Oh, and Tom Waits people. Tom. Waits.

12. Wreck-It-Ralph
Summary: A video game villain wants to be a hero and sets out to fulfill his dream, but his quest brings havoc to the whole arcade where he lives.

This is the only children’s film I really can’t wait to see this Fall. The trailer had me full-on cracking up in a way no trailer has in ages and it has got a golden goose of a high concept. Add in the voice work of John C. Reilly at the helm and the smorgasbord of video game references and this looks like a guaranteed winner.

11. Looper
Synopsis: In 2072, when the mob wants to get rid of someone, the target is sent 30 years into the past, where a hired gun awaits. Someone like Joe, who one day learns the mob wants to ‘close the loop’ by transporting back Joe’s future self.

A brainy sci-fi headed by Rian Johnson? The amount of hype going into this one is considerable, but it looks like it will live up to expectations. I’m a huge fan of Brick and Johnson has directed two of the best “Breaking Bad” episodes in existence (“Fly” and “Fifty-One” respectively). So to see him get the opportunity to headline a considerably mounted genre film with its own world and rules is sure to impress. It is already well on its way to its own spot in the pantheon of great sci-fi flicks.

10. Wuthering Heights (Seen)
Synopsis: A poor boy of unknown origins is rescued from poverty and taken in by the Earnshaw family where he develops an intense relationship with his young foster sister, Cathy. Based on the classic novel by Emily Bronte.

I got the opportunity to see this at the Independent Film Festival of Boston and this is where Andrea Arnold’s adaptation would have been placed had I not seen it. It would have been one of my favorite 2012 films had the last hour not been entirely unbearable. Here is my review: https://cinenthusiast.wordpress.com/2012/05/01/review-wuthering-heights-2012-arnold-iffboston-2012/

9. Django Unchained
Synopsis: With the help of his mentor, a slave-turned-bounty hunter sets out to rescue his wife from a brutal Mississippi plantation owner.

I realize that it looks like Quentin Tarantino’s latest gets a pretty low spot. Surely this is Top 5 material, right? Well, while I’m sure this is going to be fantastic, I’m also feeling ready for the director to do something else besides revenge across different genres. But this promises memorable characters, references galore and the type of crackling two-person dialogue scenes we love from him. I think I’m most interested to see how Leonardo DiCaprio fares in one of the auteur’s films and as a villain at that. It’s a much-needed and refreshing step out of his comfort zone.

8. Perks of Being a Wallflower
Synopsis: An introvert freshman is taken under the wings of two seniors who welcome him to the real world.

I’ve had high hopes, really high hopes for this, for a long long time. A lot of us have been waiting forever to see if Stephen Chbosky seminal coming-of-age novel was ever going to be adapted, and lo and behold, the day is almost upon us. It has a remarkable trio of actors in the lead roles. I am particularly amped for Ezra Miller, who quickly climbed his way onto my list of favorite young actors. There hasn’t been a memorable high school flick in a while. And this soundtrack, which takes from the book, is to die for. To. Die. For. The fact that Galaxie 500’s “Tugboat” is going to be in this film is a fact that single-handedly earns ‘Perks’ a spot on the list.

7. A Royal Affair (Denmark)
Synopsis: A young queen, who is married to an insane king, falls secretly in love with her physician – and together they start a revolution that changes a nation forever.

This is shaping up to be a great year for Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen. He won Best Actor at Cannes for The Hunt (which will hopefully get a Spring release for 2013), he is set to star in a TV series as Hannibal Lecter and he received excellent notices in the very well-received historical drama A Royal Affair. This looks like an intriguing much better-than-average historical drama that is right up my alley. It also stars Alicia Vikander, a young actress to watch out for who also will appear in Anna Karenina.

6. Rust and Bone (France)
Synopsis: Put in charge of his young son, Ali leaves Belgium for Antibes to live with his sister and her husband as a family. Ali’s bond with Stephanie, a killer whale trainer, grows deeper after Stephanie suffers a horrible accident.

This being the latest from Jacques Audiard (A Prophet and Read My Lips) with a reportedly stellar lead performance by Marion Cotillard gives this a very high anticipatory spot. Cotillard has been relegated to pretty thankless roles since catapulting to the Hollywood A-List. It’ll be nice to see her in a meaty lead once again.

5. Holy Motors (France)
Synopsis: From dawn to dusk, a few hours in the life of Monsieur Oscar, a shadowy character who journeys from one life to the next. He is, in turn, captain of industry, assassin, beggar, monster, family man…

All I heard during this year’s Cannes coverage was Holy Motors, Holy Motors, Holy Motors (well, that and a certain other film to appear on this list shortly). By all accounts, this is a surreal whackadoo head trip in the best way possible. It seems well on its way to earning a cult status and I intend on checking it out the moment it comes near me.

4. Cloud Atlas
Synopsis: An exploration of how the actions of individual lives impact one another in the past, present and future, as one soul is shaped from a killer into a hero, and an act of kindness ripples across centuries to inspire a revolution.

What will likely be the most divisive film to come out this season, I for one am counting down the days until this film gets released. The 6-minute trailer is a thing of beauty, bringing tears to my hypersensitive eyes. We can attribute a lot of this to the inspired use of M83’s brilliant “Outro”.  And I am over halfway through David Mitchell’s novel as we speak.

The way I see it, whether the film turns out to be a disaster or a triumph (or both at the same time), these filmmakers are going for it. The Wackowski’s and Tom Tykwer have together tackled what is widely thought to be an unadaptable novel (more so than most novels given the unadaptable label). It’s weaving six stories in one film, all in different time periods, with the same actors with the tired old theme of interconnectedness. No matter what the outcome, the film will be discussed for years to come. Without having seen it and going on gut instinct, it feels like the type of film that will possibly be reassessed for the positive as decades pass. As you can see, I’m preparing myself for the bashing to come. I can already see that Cloud Atlas is going to bring out the worst in the blogosphere, Prometheus-style. But no matter what the outcome, this is going to be an ambitious, epic and challenging work that nobody can fully write off. It may end up becoming a flop, but it sure as hell will go down swinging.

Ridiculous Bonus: Bae Doona, one of my very favorite actresses working today is going to get some serious international exposure here as Sonmi-451.

3. Amour (Austria)
Synopsis: Georges and Anne are in their eighties. They are cultivated, retired music teachers. Their daughter, who is also a musician, lives abroad with her family. One day, Anne has an attack. The couple’s bond of love is severely tested.

New Micheal Haneke. That not enough for you? It won the Palme D’Or. That still not enough for you? Haneke regular, and my favorite actress, Isabelle Huppert appears. Want more? This is Haneke doing a tearjerker about the elderly with two lead performances that supposedly devastate. My common sense tells me that Amour is going to stomp out my soul. Part of me has been mentally preparing myself for this film since this year’s Cannes.

2. Anna Karenina
Synopsis: Set in late-19th-century Russia high-society, the aristocrat Anna Karenina enters into a life-changing affair with the affluent Count Vronsky.

Another film that is sure to divide. Joe Wright’s decision to set the Tolstoy adaptation on a stage and to use theatrical stylization is sure to distract some. But frankly, if all we are left with are the visuals evident in the trailer, this will still likely land a spot on my favorites for the year. The costumes, production design and overall look of the trailer is sickening. Joe Wright is one of my favorite directors working today. He pushes himself into challenging and creative directions that breathe new life into familiar tales. Wright reteaming with Keira Knightley, surely one of modern cinema’s most rewarding director/star collaborations, is always thrilling. The way his camera illuminates this woman (who is already stunning to begin with) is beyond my ability to comprehend. We’ve got a screenplay by the great Tom Stoppard, cinematography by the great Seamus McGarvey, music by the great Dario Marianelli and costume design by the great Jacqueline Durran. So basically what it comes down to is that lots of great people are involved in this. I plan on reading this monster of a novel before the film comes out. Now that’s anticipation for you.

1. The Master
Synopsis: A Naval veteran arrives home from war unsettled and uncertain of his future – until he is tantalized by The Cause and its charismatic leader.

I honestly feel like I don’t even need to put reasons here. It’s at the top of everyone’s list. Paul Thomas Anderson is my favorite working director. It’s been 5 years since his last film. This was very close to not getting financed. It’s a near miracle we even get to see this. His films engage me more than any other director. They make me feel things that are unrepeatable, unfamiliar and challenging. His films are dense, complex, elusive, pretentious and indefinably uncomfortable.  I live for his films. And on Friday I will finally be seeing his latest in 70mm. Oh, and welcome back to Joaquin Phoenix. It’s been too long. And if the trailers are any indication, this performance is one for the books.

Wish List: 15 Dream Director/Actor Collaborations


Do you ever think about which actor and director pairings would get you the most psyched? You wake up and go online to read confirmation that so-and-so signed on to star in so-and-so’s next production and you find yourself eagerly anticipating it more than most other projects solely because of the pairing? Well, here is a list of collaborations I would love to happen. These are not the pairings I want more than any other. Honestly, with all the actors and directors out there, grouping certain people above all others as definitive perfection is a little foolish. I am sure someone else could come up with a list like this and I would be just as excited about their picks. Hence the list being unordered. I would really love to hear what your dream collaborations would be. Be sure to comment and list some of yours!

Fatih Akin and Franka Potente – Sibel Kekilli’s role in 2004’s Head-On is my reference point for this. While Akin’s last film was the mediocre comedy Soul Kitchen, his Head-On and The Edge of Heaven are very heavy dramas that demand equally intense performances from all involved. Seeing Potente take on material involving his trademark exploration into German-Turkish relations would be so undoubtedly rewarding.

Woody Allen and Tom Hollander – Tom Hollander has been one of my favorite actors for several years now, and he got to show his comedic chops in 2009’s brilliant political satire In the Loop. Allen’s recent globe-trotting tendencies make it somewhat common for British actors to pop up in his films as of late. Hollander would fit in perfectly in a strong supporting role as part of an ensemble in an Allen film. He excels at villainous roles (Pirates of the Carribean 2 & 3, Hanna), but I hope he gets more opportunities to be as funny as he is in In the Loop. “A walrus? I’m not fat, I don’t even have a moustache. Fuck, they’ve given me tusks.”

Bong Joon-ho and Lee Byung-hun – This one is honestly bound to happen at some point. Lee is a superstar and Bong represents economic prosperity for South Korea’s film industry. It is just a matter of time. The reason this pairing would be exciting is because of what Bong could bring out of Lee. Lee is a fantastic actor and he has a strong ‘soap opera’ acting ability that works so well for him. Bong’s films are known for being so tonally distinct, often switching moods within the same scene or balancing many different varied genres at the same time. I have said it so many times, but again, he does something with his films that nobody else in cinema does. Seeing Lee function within this atmosphere would surely bring something different out of him. The potential here is endless.

Jane Campion and Claire Danes – While I kind of wish this collaboration had taken place in the 90’s as opposed to now, this would still be a pairing I would kill to see. Danes is exceptionally talented and seeing her in a Campion period piece would be a refreshing role for the actress to take. Additionally, she would be up to the challenges demanded of a lead actress in a Campion film.

The Coen Brothers and Peter Dinklage – How has this not happened yet? I kept having to double check and make sure this collaboration has yet to occur. Yes, Dinklage has been on my mind and in my dreams quite a lot lately what with “Game of Thrones” and all. Dinklage is commonly placed in roles that showcase his epically sardonic line delivery. His performance in his debut film Living in Oblivion really exemplifies how well he can be used in a comedy. The kind of humor the Coens excel at would be perfectly matched with how Dinklage fits into his comedic roles. In short; this needs to happen.

Sofia Coppola and Mia Wasikowska – It is not hard to see why I think this pairing would work. I am thinking mainly of the pose-heavy way Coppola frames and shoots her characters and how naturally Wasikowska would fit into the look of her films. My shallow reasoning is that the woman shoots beautiful people prettily. Pretty, pretty, pretty like a painting. While I want her to eventually focus on older actors (her work with Bill Murray is the best work she has gotten from anyone), for now, if this happened, I would be ecstatic.

David Cronenberg and Johnny Depp – Oh Johnny. My feelings about Depp have been a rocky roller coaster of the years. The man is a great actor, but the only performance of his I got excited about over the last decade is his Sweeney Todd. Cronenberg is at a place in his career where his films are rooted in harsh realism, largely leaving his mind-fuck days of body horror behind. Depp would do nicely in both eras of the director’s work. Cronenberg’s films fully maintain that edge and fascination with human psychology and I would love to see Depp in the kind of roles that Viggo Mortensen gets from his memorable collaborations with the director.

Michael Haneke and Tilda Swinton – This one is so obvious, it barely needs explanation. Haneke’s cold and distant works have gotten brilliant work out of actress powerhouses Juliette Binoche and Isabelle Huppert. Swinton would be a natural fit within a Haneke work as she is capable of performing the hell out of any role as well as her ability to exude the trademark Haneke coldness to a tee.

Lee Chang-dong and Bae Doona – Lee’s films deal with some ugly situations presented in a natural and honest light. His characters go on an extended journey, for better or worse, and he asks a lot from his performers. Jeon Do-yeon was justifiably praised for her exhausting performance in Secret Sunshine, and for not wearing any makeup in the film, which is a bigger deal than it is here in the States (most South Korean actresses are not likely to take a role with this requirement). Bae Doona, my favorite South Korean actress, has an inherent willingness to take the kind of stripped down roles others might be hesitant to. Her presence and talent in a Lee Chang-dong film would be a dream of mine.

Terrence Malick and John Hawkes – Malick’s obsession with nature and that earthy quality of Hawkes would be a perfect fit. Can’t you just see Hawkes taking on some of that heavy ‘why are we here?’ voiceover? It is really hard to expand on this one; it is the first one that came to my head when brainstorming for this list. It just feels right.

Christopher Nolan and Will Smith – When Smith almost signed on for Django Unchained, I found myself a lot more excited than I expected to be. Then that fell through. Smith always takes huge projects, and while he exacts a Nazi-like control over every aspect of the films he appears in, I still like the actor. While characters might not be Nolan’s strong point as a writer/director, seeing Smith in a big-budget Nolan flick would likely give Smith a chance to really shine in a project that would give him a chance to make the most of some strong material a la I Am Legend.

Alexander Payne and Leonardo DiCaprio – DiCaprio is the rare actor who has never taken a comedic role. Ever. Not even a remotely comedic one. The more serious the material, the more drawn to it he is. Which is fine; the man has given some incredible performances and I always look forward to seeing him on screen. Yet at this point, I am yearning for him to do something different. His upcoming role in the new Tarantino is exactly the kind of project I am intrigued to see him in (is that officially happening? I’m cautious about believing casting announcements these days). He would be pushing himself in a different way. Will we buy him as a villain? I wonder. But I am ecstatic to see him try. While I want to see DiCaprio in a comedy (seriously…how surreal would that be at this point?), even seeing him try a dramedy would be radically different and even jarring. The kinds of films Payne makes are the exact kind of project I want DiCaprio to align himself with, as his upcoming The Descendants illustrates.

Todd Solondz and Ben Stiller – I am a Ben Stiller fan despite his love for big paydays over meaningful projects. Looking at his writer/director projects, it is obvious that he is drawn to darkly comic material. Some of the stuff on “The Ben Stiller Show” and in addition, The Cable Guy and Tropic Thunder, go to some pretty dark places. Solondz’s desire to sincerely explore the dark side of humanity in a very matter-of-fact way somehow materializes itself as black comedy. Given the chance for a role in a Solondz film, I am overly confident that Stiller would absolutely shine.

Quentin Tarantino and Choi Min-sik – The director is arguably more influenced (and takes the most from) by Asian cinema than anything else. Yes, I am lumping together many different national cinemas there, but the point remains. With Kill Bill Volume 1, he created Go-Go Yubari specifically for Chiaki Kuriyama, and she remains among my very favorite characters in any film. I hope he can create other roles for Asian actors that he admires and/or idolizes from time to time, and Choi Min-sik would be my first pick. The man can play any type of role thrown at him and Tarantino’s obsession with Oldboy, and very likely other Choi performances, would make him a perfect candidate for a specially created character by the filmmaker.

Lars von Trier and Winona Ryder – Quite honestly, this is the kind of role Ryder needs right now, if she can get it. Something tells me she would be drawn to being Trier’s emotionally drained puppet and for someone trying to get her career back, she needs a game-changing project to push her into difficult places. I am sure kissing Channing Tatum is nice, but The Dilemma ain’t gonna cut it. In the end, neither are bit parts in Star Trek and Black Swan, although it’s a start. Ryder is an actress that has been a consistent presence in my life whose earlier performances will remain with me. I am seriously rooting for this woman, (for a 5th grade biographical project, others picked to write about Lincoln and Washington; I picked Ryder) and von Trier is the kind of director I want her to get a project with.