There’s always a little bit of madness lurking behind Annette Bening’s eyes. Whether this is her character or the real woman is a mystery, one that viewers have been more than happy to be wrapped up in throughout her career. Bening is an expert at pealing back the layers of characters we would normally dismiss as arrogant, shallow or bitchy. She does this either with an objective approach to a distasteful character (American Beauty) or by putting herself completely into the role (The Kids Are All Right.) No matter what her approach, though, there’s always that little bit of madness below the surface, ready to snap.
Famous for: Shocking his audience, controversy, female lead performances, depressing idealism, anti-religious undercurrents, beautifully unique visuals, low budget hand-held camera angles, talking about his fears and emotions, and refusing to watch his own movies.
Hypothetical title: Heaven’s Highway
Hypothetical premise: After being set up for a misdemeanor and kicked out by her polygamist family, lonely widow Gretchen kills her abusive father and flees her small west-coast mountain town. Emerging from the mountains a completely new person, she begins rebuilding her life for herself, learning her sense of individuality and coming into her own. However, the past catches back up to her, and she is soon on the run from the law as well as her haunting, abusive past. She begins seeing delusional crimes committed in everyday life, mimicking both the ones her father did and the way she killed him. When the police catch her, there is no proof that her father was the patriarch of a repressive polygamist regime because nobody in it will talk but her. She is sentenced to life in prison, but commits suicide after reflecting on how good her life was for those few months.
Cross between: Thelma and Louise, Dancer in the Dark, Big Love, and Dogville.
When I heard that the venerable Martin Scorsese would be the executive producer and director of the new HBO show Boardwalk Empire this fall, it got me thinking. What would other directors do with the expanded storytelling capability of television? So I’ve decided to start a new segment dedicated to analyzing what an acclaimed film maker would do with a whole season (12-13 one hour episodes) on HBO or Showtime. I pick those networks because they are the only ones where you can be uncensored like the directors in their films.
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Notable Films: Pulp Fiction, Death Proof, Kill Bill Vol. 1 & 2, Reservoir Dogs, Jackie Brown, and Inglourious Basterds.
Famous For: Poetically vulgar dialogue, messing with structure, fetishized violence, sympathetic criminal characters, melding genres the average person doesn’t know exist.