Peter Bogdanovich on Alexander Payne:
“You’ll probably think I’m old-fashioned,” John Ford said to me, “but black-and-white is real photography.” On the same subject, Orson Welles referred to black-and-white as “the actor’s friend.” I asked him why. “Because every performance looks better in black-and-white!”
The latest proof: Alexander Payne’s excellent new movie, “Nebraska,” a mordant, deadpan comedy-drama shot in monochromatic black-and-white that beautifully underlines the bleakness of the family life the picture deals with, these “lives of quiet desperation.”
Actor’s friend? Black-and-white always helps to create a sense of harsh reality, and thus lends greater intensity to the actors’ performances: no color to distract from the painfully human emotions being displayed, so behavior and expressions are virtually naked.
Certainly this is true with the superb cast of “Nebraska,” led by Bruce Dern, whose portrayal is absolutely artless, simple in its unspoken complexity; it’s a tour-de-force with no frills whatsoever. As his most sympathetic son, Will Forte establishes himself as a fine serious actor, with a witty, subtle subtext of humor. The rest of the supporting players are every bit as good as these two.
This is a courageous film, a story of an “unimportant family” that is both typical and deeply individual. That’s not the kind of picture many people are making these days, and it is a very pleasant experience to be in the presence of a filmmaker who believes that no landscape is quite as compelling as the faces of people.
Michael Mann on Paul Greengrass:
One reason is that Paul locates us deep within his people. (And Tom Hanks is brilliant!) With Phillips — as well as with the Somalis and the grim circumstances of their situation — Paul creates an actuality that makes us feel the texture, the fabric of their lives. We’re at one with these characters inside the events and within the parallax between Captain Phillips’ deceptive intent, his subterfuge of the moment to protect his crew, and Muse’s X-ray intuition, trying to read Phillips’ real intention. At every moment, our awareness is of Phillips, having to play at the very top of his game and to sustain that. We’re experiencing his experience of unwavering tension.
John Singleton on Steve McQueen:
The thing that I’m most affected by is the picture’s juxtaposition of the pathos of the human experience, in terms of human beings being so horrible to other human beings, with all the terrific visions of nature. For example, when Solomon is hanging from the tree, and he’s only able to place one foot on the ground, and life just goes on around him — that’s what makes the film much more profound than what people might want to make out of it, because they’re shocked by it being probably one of the first pictures to actually show the truth of the brutality of slavery on film.
I realized that when I saw his first film, “Hunger” — Steve McQueen has always had scenes that have a juxtaposition of beauty and horror. Steve is an interesting filmmaker: The way in which he shoots, the way in which he edits, the way in which he directs does not conform to any accepted formula of how a contemporary narrative picture should go.
Julian Schnabel on Lee Daniels:
It is rare when life seems fair or justice occurs. It is one of the sui generis moments when hard work, uncompromising convictions and plain good storytelling can find its form in a film. “The Butler,” directed by Lee Daniels, is a civil-rights movie in a world that is not civil and almost never right.
Lee Daniels is my friend. I am so proud to know him and have watched him hone and perfect his filmic voice over the recent years. Intimate, brutal, heartbreaking and necessary. It’s a miracle to find out that there are actually good people out there who care and have gone to see this picture. He certainly told a tale of an America that has been so hard to recognize as the land of the free.
The point of view of “The Butler” is a lens that gives all of us a perspective that we desperately need. We’ve seen these atrocities filmed before, but now we look at them through a father’s eyes. Lee did that.