2015 doesn’t have shit on 2014. A fantastic year for gaming didn’t translate to the silver screen by any means- yet I still found six movies well worth your time after this year is over and certainly worth mine when I saw them. Naturally I’ve also found another ‘Oh Dear’: The film of the year I despised the most for any number of stupid personal reasons… and it’s the movie everyone is putting at no.1 of their lists. Oh dear oh dear oh dear…
Wednesday, 30 December 2015
Following the rebellious Storm-trooper Finn, his junk-yard friend Rey and a whole host of returning Star Wars characters (original trilogy, that is)- Episode VII is a film I have to review for just how humongous of an event it is: Since 1977 they’ve been making these things and a third trilogy offers a new hope to a franchise that has spurted out so much cash-in garbage it wholly outweighs any of it’s worth in any medium. Despite divided opinions on announcement (to an alarmingly extreme degree)- people seem to be loving this movie. EVERYONE seems to love this movie.
…I’ve got a bad feeling about this.
Friday, 25 December 2015
Merry Christmas to all who celebrate it and a great day to all those who don’t. Below you’ll find a collection of Yuletide goodies celebrating the very best of Christmas in films that aren’t about Christmas (which in most cases here is probably for the best :/). So relax and enjoy- maybe even share your favourite Christmas moments and movies in the comments below- Tis the season of giving…
Wednesday, 23 December 2015
A beloved SNES classic I luckily got to beat this Winter break on a friend’s old system, Megaman X is as cherished as these old games come- running as the new poster-boy for the blue bomber long since grown stale after nearly 10 sequels in the original Megaman series on the NES. Released in mid-December 1993, this is certainly one of the best games on the system- but separating it’s worth as a game from how much fun I actually had with it is a gap not easily bridged.
Tuesday, 22 December 2015
Konami’s NES hit from way back in 1986 could easily be dismissed nowadays as a crappy looking mess of a game. Graphics have never bothered me and I actually prefer a little contrasting colour to the standard greyish-browns of modern gaming’s palette, but more importantly here is a game that is perhaps better fleshed out than any triple A release today. There is much less to Castlevania given when it was released (though is there much to *equip gun, move gun, click on guy so he dies*?)- but this limited field of activities available here allowed the development team to focus down on the specifics in such detail that they are all deeper than most games of the time as well as pitch-perfect in how they play. Here is why...
The story of a man’s three year search for his wife after he disappears at a rest station during their holiday down to France- George Sluzier’s original thriller (not his god-awful American re-make) recently made my top 10 of the 1980s list- and for a damn good reason: It’s as unique of a thriller as has ever been made.
Friday, 18 December 2015
To review Silent Hill 2 now might be a grave error. I love gaming. It’s an art form I cherish and enjoy almost as extensively as film- and yet I don’t really play games. The big ones driven by story and the legions of fans cutting down their naysayers have always held magnetism over me- a colossal urge to seek them out and play them- but I never have done. I was born in 1998- which means I grew up with the PS2- And yet only now, 17 years later, am I exploring the best of its line-up. Only now am I searching out Banjo Kazooie and Castlevania to fulfill my dreams of playing them held for as long as I can remember. This offers a problem because I am about to call Silent Hill 2 the greatest game I have ever played- It’s a masterpiece. Yet despite being exposed, if not directly, to all of these classic games- can I judge it fairly? I always get on at people for seeing The Dark Knight or Inception and calling them the greatest films in creation when they haven’t actually seen enough films to remotely make such a grand assertion and more importantly get so passionate and often violent defending their view. You are about to read a sparkling review of the greatest game I have ever played- but whether it will rest atop that peak for very long… only time, and experience, will tell.
Monday, 14 December 2015
Just for clarity. When I say “Silent Hill” I'm referring to the location in the second game, Silent Hill 2, not the first game on the PS1. This piece is strictly based on the world of Silent Hill 2 and does no incorporate anything from the following or prior installments in the franchise- Mostly because I haven’t played them yet.
So: Essentially I think that the nurse monsters in Silent Hill 2 are near concrete evidence to suggest that James did in fact have an affair whilst his wife was dying. Many have inferred this before, but it usually dismissed as a possibility rather than an absolute- the theming of the game suggesting an affair but never offering any real evidence to support the accusation. So what we have below are some reasons I think the nurses and other elements point to James actually having done this.
[I love Silent Hill 2 and am totally engrossed in the thematic ideas it presents, hence why I am posting this in what is a primarily film-based blog. I will be doing a few game reviews here or there but understand that the time investment is hugely different. Understand though that just beating Silent Hill 2 at a pretty good pace can take as long as watching War & Peace so these won’t be very frequent]
So now then: Shall we dance…?
Tuesday, 1 December 2015
The 80s are doubtlessly my least favorite decade in film. Even collectively counting the ‘Silver Age’ of 1902-1939 (as I always have done) It’s by far the ten years that have affected me the least and repulse me the most in terms of their style. Foreign movies were still great (as we shall see) but America pumped out more brat-pack box-office crap than I can count. Movies that are cherished today- but as someone who didn’t grow up with any of them (bar Episode V & VI) I gotta say I dislike the vast majority. Overblown, overrated and sadly a waste of that very precious ‘time’. That being said: Totally understand why people love Ghostbusters and Star Wars and to some extent Indiana Jones- and that’s fine, I’m not criticizing you- Just don’t expect to see any of them below :)
Friday, 20 November 2015
Following a girl and her beloved farm-boy, then a trio of bandits, then the girl as a princess with her love dead and marriage pending, then the trio capturing her- then the trio being chased by a mysterious man, who bests them and reveals the farm-boy isn’t actually dead- then… I’m not even sure anymore. I guess its time to soil another universally cherished Rob Reiner film, isn’t it?
Wednesday, 18 November 2015
Martin Scorsese’s second labor of love took near three decades to finally get made- and follows, quite literally, the Gangs of New York during the American Civil War. After a leader of the ‘Dead Rabbits’ is killed in a battle over who will dominate the Five Points of NYC, his son returns sixteen years later for revenge. At close to 180 minutes long, with an hour of previous footage cut, Scorsese and Di Cap forfeiting their salaries to keep the budget and finally thirty years of stunted production: was it worth it?
Wednesday, 11 November 2015
Following four young boys’ journey through the wilderness to recover a dead body one of them heard about, Stand By Me stands as essential viewing for kids everywhere and a solid adaptation of King’s classic novella. That being said- there is a very clear target audience in mind here. It’s a coming of age tale, a kids film directed by Rob Reiner (of whom my only previous run in with had been in Spinal Tap… oh dear) that specifically serves a younger audience. Now in recent years, Disney & Pixar animation has been able to transcend the age gap and deliver a delightful and in many cases thoughtful experience to both parents and children (a-la the astounding Wall-e, Up and Inside Out), but does Reiner’s vehicle do the same?
Monday, 9 November 2015
Memento and Irréversible are two of the finest films of the 2000s- as well as the greatest works of their respective directors. The latter was in fact spawned of the former, after the upcoming ‘Love’ was diverted in favor of a “less intimate” [yikes.] picture. Noe had just seen Nolan’s ingenious little gem and decided to cut in Craven style with a rape-revenge film turned upside-down. What we have here, ladies and gentlemen, are two works of peerless art. I am no fan of Nolan- but I also have no qualms with calling Memento an A and one of the 25 best films of its decade; and Irréversible rises, in my mind, far higher than even that zenith.
Thursday, 5 November 2015
Wes Craven’s second big hit (?) after spawning a less than stellar sub-genre with I Spit On Your Grave follows several teenagers who’se nightmares are plagued by Freddy Krueger, a monstrous man who can kill you in your dreams- and in real life. I have heard countless tales of this film from my mother, whom was from what I gather irreparably traumatised by the experience. Did I suffer the same fate?
Tuesday, 3 November 2015
John Carpenter’s sci-fi classic follows an American team of Artic researchers who come into contact with a murderous shape-shifting alien. Chaos ensues. Now don’t assume just because I use the term “classic” that I am fond of this film. Far from it. This is near universally hailed as a masterpiece of the horror and sci-fi genres- and a seminal work for anyone studying 80s cinema. Is it any good, though?
Wednesday, 28 October 2015
Yes I totally nicked this format off of someone else- But as soon as I discovered the structure of these such posts I knew I had to do my own. So to begin- here is a double whammy. Today I’ll be tracking through, frame by frame, all the things I loved about nearly every film I watched for this month’s Halloween Spotlight. Then tomorrow, I’ll finish the festivities with another of these posts on a certain movie we have heard all too much about already this month :P
To those unfamiliar if you didn’t take the chance to learn from the fantastic post linked above- this is just a big stream of images that represent moments- colossal or almost undetectably minute- that I loved during these films. Let’s crack on.
Tuesday, 27 October 2015
Monday, 26 October 2015
Set during the Nazi invasion of Russia in World War Two, The Ascent follows a pair of Russian rebels sent to search for food after their group is attacked by the Germans- but who are themselves then captured by the Gestapo. This is a very simple film. A story netted across several cheap locations- minimal sets and lesser still set-pieces. What sets The Ascent above every other film I saw this month- and indeed most of the movies of the 1970s- is what it does with so little. I have never, not even in Lumet’s masterful 12 Angry Men, witnessed such a potent exercise in minimalism. In fact this isn’t even an exercise: it’s an experience.
We begin in a tundric Winter- nature silenced by the crackling beat of war- shells zipping overhead as the group retreats into a wood. They all collapse, safe but exhausted. In any other film, I’d imagine that the director would have this as a vehicle for exposition- but Shepitko has them sit gasping for air, totally silent- for minutes. We see faces scarred with the marks of war- sunken eyes and battered spirits shining through their ashen skin. So too does the look of the film add to this moment- the people framed between endless wooden spires- stripped naked of any leaves or life. In these opening moments we don’t even hear our protagonist, Sotnikov, speak- yet we know him. Shepitko presents us his fear- his desperation and ingrowing pain plainly on screen- and yet doesn’t force us to empathize. This is presentation, not propaganda. She plays to the technique of Resnais or Franju with Night & Fog or Blood Of The Beasts respectively- painting horrific images but never injecting any bias or personality- never herding us onto either side of the fence. It would be like a documentary if not for the moments of tentative intimacy- handled like fragile gems trapped in a cavernous hell with no end and no merciful hints of colour.
Sunday, 25 October 2015
Each of these actors were known for one thing. They were cast again and again in the same roles as similar characters because they were that person- A profitable little comfort zone within their talents. Then they took a role that challenged all of that- not only utterly destroying people’s pre-conceptions of their careers, but also delivering some of the most viscerally effective performances yet seen on-screen.
Saturday, 24 October 2015
Dennis Hopper was the craziest son of a bitch in Hollywood. Notorious for troubles with frankly pretty frightening amounts of substance abuse and playing a cavalcade of carnivorous madmen- as well as a peppering of poor career choices sprinkled in- this guy was a mad-crazy genius enigma you wouldn’t want to piss off. Whilst his work isn’t all the pinnacle of cinematic art (to say the least) he delivered a fierce bolt of thunder into each role he played- and forged a committed, varied and unforgettable persona as a result. If there is any better actor to cover this Halloween- I don’t know them.
Friday, 23 October 2015
Up until this point, Shepitko’s film has explored the vast, empty expanses of the Russian tundra- save two short stops in cramped houses riddled with so many holes that the dense snowfall seeps in from every angle anyway. She has intimately woven a battle-born relationship between our two leads set against the icy bleakness of the Second World War. Then Shepitko changes everything. In one simple cut- we are shown a fire. Interior. Warmth and by extent life. Even the ‘colour’ palette, originally a cold shade almost drained of any colour is now drowned in delicious monochrome. Everything has become far less transparent. Shepitko has made her world opaque- even tangible… and yet something is off.
Thursday, 22 October 2015
Speaks for itself really. Great works of writing where we sit two characters in a room and have them verbally (and usually physically) joust for several minutes. I love these, and if you do- feel free to leave your picks in the comments. Enjoy :)
Wednesday, 21 October 2015
Now I have seen hundreds of movies over the past three or four years- and yet I can only find four from which I am forced to avert my eyes. Four films featuring scenes I cannot and will not ever watch a second or third time around. I don’t necessarily think that doing so will ruin the experience as I’ve already had it once- and that was sufficient- but for this list I decided to conquer each of these sequences for the last time and make sure they are so horrific I couldn’t bear them again...
Yea, this wasn’t fun.
Tuesday, 20 October 2015
Four drastically different city boys take a canoeing trip down the Cahulawassee River in the Southern Wilderness and let’s just say things go awry. Suffice to say Deliverance has received its share of critical praise- though unlike many I didn’t just appreciate the film- I adored it. I have done for years now. It’s one of the definitive American contributions to the medium and heads and shoulders above any non-horror movie ever made in terms of the insurmountable horror it evokes. To many who watch it- it isn’t impressive. Films today oft rely on colossal set pieces and smart enough storytelling to garner the word ‘epic’ and sway audiences easily into their favor (glad to see movies like Whiplash doing so much with very little). Deliverance cannot rely on scale to impress but rather: actual substance.
Monday, 19 October 2015
Following a young girl’s demonic possession and both religion and science’s battle to win what effectively becomes the war for her soul- The Exorcist, as you all know, is a classic of horror cinema- Hell- of all cinema. That being said I have put off watching it for quite a few years. It’s a seminal work of the genre- but I hate the genre and barley ever go near it- so naturally I used that as an excuse over abject terror to avoid it. Now, at 17 (after pretty much an aware lifetime of skirting the thing) I finally braved it.
Now: let’s have a little conversation…
Sunday, 18 October 2015
Movies nowadays really don’t get enough points for efficiency, y’now? It’s a well discussed topic in film circles but I have to stress how something being ‘epic’ generates such easy praise (granted very expensive praise). Films that are able to articulate their point without having to rely on big-budget set pieces are far more impressive- especially in the level of nuance they can attach to even the simplest actions or lines of dialogue. This list may contain a plethora of colossal epics, but also features some far smaller works that are equally admirable for their use of simplicity- those who respect the confines of their stories and do with them something far more remarkable than, say what ‘1900’ attempted to achieve with so very much. To cut this shit short: succinctity in movies just rubs me the right way. The 1960s are famous not only for their unimaginable boom in international cinema (evidently)- but for working something into everything. No matter how little something is, or how big the movie- each and every one of these indelible works of art (and perhaps a little something more) has something to say about it. Without further ado: let’s dive in.
Oh, and: 100th Post! Woooo!
Saturday, 17 October 2015
Sometimes it isn’t about the quantity of stand-out picture that a single year produces- but the quality. Each of these movies rank among the very best of their respective genres- and some even spawned their own. Suffice to say that these are some of the best movies of the 1940s. That so many indelible works of art them came out of just one year is nothing short of astonishing.
Friday, 16 October 2015
Director Tobe Hooper runs around with four horny teenagers and a wheel-chair bound guy missing out on all the fun for about 83 minutes- shit happens, blood is spilled, people die. After marathoning Halloween by day in light and The Exorcist by evening in less light- I witnessed The Texas Chainsaw Massacre in complete darkness, wrapped up in bed in the earliest hours of the morning. It was not as horrifically uncomfortable as the latter, nor as glacially impaling as the former- though what Tobe Hooper did with his debut film (!!!) quite literally warrants a trip to the psychiatric ward.
Thursday, 15 October 2015
A tragic tale following a British Policeman’s venture onto the Summerset isle investigating the disappearance of a girl there- where he finds a strange society of Pagans less than happy to accommodate his search. Yet again I am forced to mention a re-make- and sadly one that we all know far better than the original film. Nicolas Cage, having offered up one of the finest acting performances in history (see. Leaving Las Vegas)- took a trip down the lane and then straight down to hell. Just so you can get it out of your system before you read this review- here it is. Now let’s forget that ever happened and begin.
Wednesday, 14 October 2015
The story of a boy imbued with satanic powers after he basically turns out to be the spawn of the devil unwittingly rampages through his family’s life. This review is going to draw strong comparison to the modern re-make a-la Dawn Of The Dead, except this time in the right direction.
Tuesday, 13 October 2015
Suspiria (which is literally the hardest thing to spell right ever) chronicles an American girl’s arrival at a famous Ballet school in Europe- and her encounters with the vampiric ilk that stalk its halls. This was my first experience with Giallo Horror- and suffice to say I would love to see a little more, if only on mute.
Monday, 12 October 2015
Mad crazy master manipulator maniac David Lynch has opened the floodgates to four decades worth of insane cinematic evolution- and opened our eyes to just how accomplished ‘weird’ can get. I have never really viewed the majority of this man’s movies as masterful- and none as masterpieces- but I daren’t challenge their effect on the filmic landscape over the years. For better or for worse- here is the work of David Lynch.
Sunday, 11 October 2015
Jaws documents the feverous attacks on the tourist hot-spot of Amity Island by a colossal killer shark and several men’s attempt to rid the town from the scourge that now plagues them.
Oh dear. Oh dear oh dear.
Not making any friends with this one.
Saturday, 10 October 2015
Following escaped mental patient Michael Myers’ rampage through his home town on Halloween night and Jamie Lee Curtis’ (aka the fucking worst thing ever) frantic attempt at escaping his wrath- Halloween is a classic of horror cinema for all the right reasons. I hold a slightly altered view to many however, in that to me it defies genre. True Halloween is a clearly defined product of horror and the purpose it carries out so deliberately is to chill us to the bone- but it ascends beyond the sloppy smorgasbord of the mainstream and becomes something truly special. I am not a fan of horror- at all- but I loved Halloween.
Friday, 9 October 2015
Out of all of the movies this month I discovered, only one of them turned my stomach. Only one of them had me looking away- if only in all-consuming confusion. Only one of them did I have to stop and then come back to because I felt too physically sick to continue. David Lynch’s Eraserhead is not a good film, nor is it a scary one. It is, however, one of the most highly original works of film I have ever seen so that’s… something.
Thursday, 8 October 2015
Chronicling a man’s journey to negotiate selling a town house to Count Dracula and the mayhem that follows- Werner Herzog’s late re-imagining of Murnau’s untouchable original piece was, perhaps, more than almost any other film this month: The film I was most scared to go into. Not because I was too frightened to approach it (far from it- I almost knew it wouldn’t scare me)- but rather because of my history with its component parts. Sacrilege it may be- but I hated Aguirre, Wrath of God- the first and only Herzog I saw before this one. I keep watching it, wanting to like it- but the harsh truth is I despise it as a film and as the piece of totemic artwork people endlessly hail it as. Just my opinion. Perhaps an opinion even harder felt (if by a smaller sect of people) is that I despised Nosferatu: Symphony Of Fear (save its badass title) for the very same reasons. So yea: Not the best base on which to build my opinion. Did I like it though?
Wednesday, 7 October 2015
Carrie follows… Carrie. A quiet girl tortured by her peers in the last year of High School with a deadly power pulsing below her fragile frame. Brian De Palma’s Carrie is a true classic of 70s cinema. It is a film that will be remembered and revered for as long as film exists- though not as highly as many other movies- and rightfully so. I do not deny that it is wholly effective and portrays the ungodly ugliness of its themes to pitch-perfection. I do however question its validity elsewhere.
Tuesday, 6 October 2015
This. Is. Hilarious.
Now: Whose ready to read the word ‘zombie’ far too many times?
John Romero’s zombie 'classic' tracks a few survivors of a zombie outbreak taking desperate refuge in an American mall complex to survive the undead onslaught. Despite my previous lack of love for horror- I had already seen Zack Snyder’s re-make before I got around to Romero’s original. That being said: The main focus of this review really isn’t going to be on the source material- but rather how the sub-genre has evolved and what that does to it. I'm not going to deny that, back in the 70s, this film was the (still shallow) pinnacle of zombie horror- but I have to say that compared to the re-make it doesn’t hold up. In the slightest. Why?
Monday, 5 October 2015
Following the doomed passengers of the space vessel Nostromo after she brings aboard a mysterious alien life form perfectly engineered to kill. For years, I simply didn’t see it with Alien. Decent film, but nothing more. No-where near as remarkable as Scott’s nowadays rather polarizing follow-up Blade Runner. After re-watching the original release for this review (damn Scott and his director’s cuts) I’ve gotta say I kinda get it. Sorta.
Sunday, 4 October 2015
Movie chases are great, y’now? Either way: you’re about to.
[Links to the scenes are embedded in the titles]
I have often cited TNOTH as a masterpiece trapped in a sub-par picture. There are moments of unadulterated genius in its Caligari-esque photography and the destructive monstrosity that is its score- but the pictures placed in this flawless frame just don’t match for me. Mitchum is great- but other stuff seems off. Regardless, one scene I am always wholly impressed by is the chase. The kids rush to escape the psychotic preacher Powell and all of these things come together. The cinematography shines in the inky darkness of the night. The score physically assaults us through the wavering defence of the screen. The actors, young and old, portray abject terror and deadly wrath with respective sublimity. It’s all there. Shame about the rest of the movie.
Saturday, 3 October 2015
Today I realized that Ingmar Bergman’s ‘Fanny & Alexander’ was not something to be taken lightly. I relented on continuing it, preferring to wait for life to offer up the appropriate time to discover it in full. What I did see in my viewing was several seconds of death- not as myself, though, but as a child. Fanny & Alexander, for those unaware, follows in detail the childhood of the two eponymous characters under an opulent Uppsala roof in the early twentieth century. In the opening five minutes that act as the prologue- we see Alexander wander the abandoned halls of his spacious abode- searching for something. Then he stops and tinkers lazily with some toys most kids would kill for as if they meant nothing to him. Finally- he slips under a table, thoughts vacant of any real purpose- and through the legs of his new home glimpses death. Cold. Distant. Unnerving. The figure hides himself behind the ornate furnishings, gliding onscreen for the briefest flash of terror before whispering away- absent for the rest of the film (all five hours of it). What is this?
Now personally, the thought of death regularly crosses my mind. I myself wander aimlessly through the many thoughts of life and eventually end up pondering its end. The grand finale. I wonder, as someone who has devoted their entire being to working in film- if my work will be remembered. If I will be remembered. If I care if I will be remembered. Perhaps I am too young to be doing this- but so is Alexander. What I find so fascinating about this split-second moment is what lies behind it. The hidden amusement that cracks across the boy’s face- when faced with the anthropomorphic personification of his inevitable demise before he even hits his adolescence. There is a gleeful wonder in his reaction. It’s such a… childlike moment. Bergman so effortlessly explores the curiosity of youth here. He allows a boy’s thoughts to walk the long line down to the end of their life and then has them scoff at it. Alexander glances at death almost as he would an imaginary friend.
I was so utterly taken by this that I simply had to share it. I do not know what this means. I doubt I ever will. Do you?
Friday, 2 October 2015
Let’s talk about genre. When I was at the BFI, I was gifted with the idea that genre was a shackle, rather than a definition. It outlined the tropes, ideas and purposes a film incorporated and indeed those movies that defied or transcended genre were the greatest because they were able to break free from any simplification. They were sophisticated pieces of artwork that stood alone as singular pieces- rather than the ‘best of the genre’. There are probably less than ten films that I cannot assign a genre to- movies like Rashomon or Stalker whose ideas are so complex and have small stories and sets that say far more than any colossal production could that they simply become undefinable. I say this because Horror is, along with contemporary action, a genre heavily looked down upon- perhaps more so than its thrill-seeking peer. Action films, in their essence, are produced to excite. Their purpose is not to convey any higher message or theme (though again we look to Kurosawa for a man who has done this twice in Seven Samurai & Yojimbo)- but rather to entertain the audience. Horror is even more niche- and for its relative repulsion to those who don’t take to it gets a hell of a lot of hate from non-fans. It’s the bottom of the barrel. It’s low-budget starter project for students and amateurs. That’s what I used to think. That’s what every single person I know thinks. I mention horror or what I have been watching for this month and they recoil in unspoken disgust.
Thursday, 1 October 2015
I grew up with Doctor Who. It was my childhood. Sadly- I have missed the newest series and am going to keep pretending that I missed most of the prior one also (bar the excellent ‘Flatline’). The show is on a steady slope down to [sadly] death. Everything must end- but where my love for this show began there lie a plethora of exquisite episodes that I can’t help but adore. Here they are.
Wednesday, 30 September 2015
Recently re-visited Disney's excellent 'Gravity Falls' and discovered that it might just be my favorite show ever- and will certainly feature on here in the future. But am I "Too old" to have done so?
People (rightfully) worship 2001 A Space Odyssey and ignore the fact that is rated U. The Elephant Man is one of the best films of the 1980s. PG. Do we negatively mention that when we talk about it? Hell no. Neither were marketed to kids or launched on a platform aimed at a younger audience- but why have a double standard? Just a thought. Highly recommend you check this one out- no matter your age.
I have sadly been unable to get my hands on L'Avventura. The schedule is not stopping or anything like that- Just had a lot on my plate at the moment. Tomorrow Halloween month begins- and posts will be longer and probably released a little more frequently given all the content I want to cover. Stay tuned.
Thursday, 24 September 2015
Next month I am going to highlight the 'very best' horror movies of the 1970s. Its a decade that birthed many if not all of the genre's finest works- and trust me I think I've never had so many A reviews in so short of a time. I loathed horror. I despised it and saw nothing to love- only mindless pulpy crap. loathed. After working through the seminal works I've discovered some movies I absolutely adore and even more I admire to no end. Suffice to say: I had a lot more fun than I thought I would- So much so that I've expanded the length of my reviews to over double what little it used to be. So... a little taste of whats to come...
Don't Look Now
Nosferatu The Vampyre
Dawn Of The Dead
The Wicker Man
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
As well as...
Director Retrospectives: David Lynch
The Actors: Dennis Hopper
Essay: They live [and learn]
Top 5 Performances Against Type
And (a little) more!
I am only going to post once more this month- that being a review for L'Avventura- but come October it’s a special one every other day. One month only. Prepare to be marginally scared :)
Tuesday, 22 September 2015
The last great star of Hollywood (in fame, more than quality), Fonda was the leading man in practically every movie he was ever in and if not he made himself the leading man. Not through greed or egotism- but in just how compelling he is to watch. Stealing every single scene with even a brief look outside of silence- he dominates; with modesty. If that isn’t admirable in a huge Hollywood icon- I don’t know what is.
Tom Joad – The Grapes Of Wrath
Fonda’s turn as Joad may not be as beloved as his other great work in the 40s in as Wyatt Earp Ford’s superb My Darling Clementine- but to me it is vastly superior. Yong Henry Fonda proves from his very first scene that he has it. The fearless sting in his voice as he tells a man who just took him on as a hitchhiker that he killed a man is a perfect introduction to the role. Fonda puts up a front of toughness and cool wherein there lies only regret and creeping dread. Each step he takes is a step closer to landing back in a cold hard cell and unlike any other seemingly devil-may-care youth he takes each one with caution and reflection because of it. Ford offers us up a shallow introspective study of Joad’s mind- though its lack of depth is born of Fonda’s harshness. His exterior. He is trapped in a prison he can’t escape from with the walls steadily moving in- and we see every second of his silent torture. This was Fonda’s seventh on-screen performance, and at the age of 35, he had all but mastered his craft. On this note I must also commend his excellent work in Hitch’s criminally under seen The Wrong Man. Another reserved, restricted and quietly devastating turn, near two decades later.
Juror #8 – 12 Angry Men
With this, I assume we can all guess no.1. Fonda’s work in 12 Angry Men is literally biblical. He might just be the greatest hero I have yet seen on film. Juror #8 is the very epitome of cinematic heroism. Fonda’s work here is nothing short of masterful- and for 1957 he peppers his performance with such remarkable detail; particularly considering we only ever see him in one situation. He plays compassion with such a persistent desperation and yet is willing to back up his peaceful talk with power plays. I am a young lad of this generation- so perhaps my response was a little… unorthodox- but who didn’t leap out of their chair- all alone in the house- and yelled “OOOH SNAP” (having never uttered those words un-ironically before) when #8 tells #3 that he didn’t mean that he was going to kill him. Anyone? Anyone at all? Just me?
…Moving swiftly onward.
Frank – Once Upon A Time In The West
People probably know by now that Once Upon A Time In The West is one of my favorite movies. Like: My top 10 of all time. For those who don’t, allow me to gush at you for a while.
Henry Fonda, after a lifetime of playing the good guy or better yet the good guy framed as the bad guy- turned to villainy. There is a funny little interview in which Fonda talks about Leone’s casting and how he turned up on-set with brown contact lenses and a thick mustache and crooked teeth for the role. Leone hated this. He demanded it be cast off. When probed as to why, Fonda talked about the shot. That shot. Directly after the McBain massacre, the trench-coat clad killers stalk out of the bushes and Morricone’s electrifying score explodes itself to life. We see a man stand out in front of the others as the leader- the camera pans around and here we have Henry Fonda- the great American movie hero- having just decimated an innocent family. In the man himself’s words- the audiences of the time had only one thing to say…
“OH MY GOD ITS HENRY FONDA!”
And that is just the very beginning of the mayhem this man so cruelly inflicts. The way he relishes so devilishly his use of Jill- transforming from kind old man to lecherous, depraved mercenary in seconds. His wry grin as he finds a reason for his men to accept his killing of the child (oh my god it’s Henry Fonda)- masking his sick sadism with an excuse to save face. Above all though- take a look at the picture above. I literally don’t recognise the man. Moreover, it takes me a second to realise that’s the same guy from the mass murder we just witnessed a few scenes ago. It’s fucking frightening. Fonda took a colossal career swerve to bring Frank to life, and with him blessed (?) us with one of the most viciously vile baddies in cinema. When you think Henry Fonda, you immediately think hero. When you think Frank- you don’t think Henry Fonda. Exactly.
Saturday, 19 September 2015
A central motif of these ten years in film is power. A century’s worth of cinematic advancement had been achieved and now was the time to use it. To push the potential of the medium to its very furthest extent. Films of the 90s and before could be powerful but here each and every movie on this list rocks me to the very core, in so many different ways. The power to confuse, to enlighten, to dream, to dare, to make me sick (and not at what you’re thinking), to live, to electrify, to demolish, to love and finally not to love. People often ask me to qualify my love for old movies, assuming I hate new ones. Don’t get me wrong- people can make crap nowadays... but they always have (see. Basket-case) and they always will. The difference is there is 100 years of great movies before these “modern” and only 15 years’ worth of great movies now. Don’t make any mistakes: The films listed here are as worthy as any 10 best of any other decade- and damn are they good.
Thursday, 17 September 2015
A theme I hold very near and dear to myself (in that each of the films on this list cracks my top 40, and many more honorable mentions lie just above those), Regret is unique in its simple subtlety. I will mention several times in this post the unspoken nature of this feeling, and how this can corrupt a person from the inside, tendrilling through barriers and across bridges of our subconscious. We can become trapped in regret as much as any psychical prison- but addressing this feeling is vital to escaping it. Here are five films about five men whose attempt at escape was chronicled the best. Enjoy.
On The Waterfront
To feature such an untouchable film at the lowest place on this post does not reflect my admiration for it in the slightest. Elia Kazan’s very best film is, as always referenced, one of the best films of its decade- thanks in part to the presentation of its key theme. Malloy’s simple, sheer wall of anger and anguish that is built ever higher in each passing moment he spends fighting for the future of his life. He tries in futile desperation to cling to those around him, clutching at fragile straws many of whom are afraid to even go near him for his infamous reputation. Malloy cannot interact with the world he perceives as reality because of decisions he has made that seemed like nothing. Take a job for a little extra dough, get in with some guys who can set him straight- man is murdered, it haunts him for the entirety of the film. Malloy was exploited. He was taken for a bold, brutal and intellectually harmless ape. Cheap labor. On The Waterfront is as much a story of self-redemption as Kazan’s own life after the HUAC challenged his earlier works- and the believable tension of the situation is brought to ever more expressive life by the man’s own personal struggles.
When I think of sequences that are perfect in their simplicity, I usually think no further than Kanji drifting out of that hospital, empty silence sliced open by the sounds of the open road. It’s about five seconds- yet think about exactly what is going on there. His own private anguish engulfed by the blaring scream that the lives of others exude. The man is literally fading into his own grave, day by day. He doesn’t matter to the world anymore- just another old man getting old and passing on. By, not dissimilar to Wild Strawberries (which I wasn’t exactly going to have on a third list of these)- presenting to us the emptiness in Kanji’s life, as well as his capacity for knowledge and kindness even in the last, bitter throes of his existence allows us to fully know him as a human being, rather than a rich, decadent ghoul wandering the world snatching more and more money they will never spend. Among the finest achievements in one of the most impeccably constructed and diverse careers in film- Ikiru is getting a special recommendation here. The majority of the other films on this list are bearably recent, but who really watches a film from 1952 anymore? You. You need to.
The New World
On the face of it, Malick’s mid-2000s opus doesn’t seem like one of simple regret. Of course the man works with many themes, but to me this one shines through in an almost claustrophobic clarity here. Beneath each glance and action of these explorers lies a tortured regret. A painstaking state of indecision and strife clouds these men throughout the film and despite the fact we never see what they have left behind on their journey their stalwart resolve does little to mask its presence in their thoughts. Malick studies these men as a frightened colony of Europeans alone in a distant land, far from home and the warmth of the women they love. There is no ‘superior Christian race’ here, no defining racial hatred that would go on to see the destruction of the new world’s native culture as explorers became settlers and settlers became conquerors. So too do we know the future of these natives. These ‘primitive Indians’ whose art and way of live will decay and diminish as the pace of colonization accelerates to its alarming peak. Not all at once, not one single event that wipes it all out; a slow, maddening extermination that drives the magnitude of loss right into the souls of those dying out. Both sides of the war that wages in the very fabric of The New World are plagued by the agonizing inevitability of their demises: who they will never get to know, or love, or say they love, or pay or play with or even just talk to again. Regret is often unspoken, but here Malick screams it from the furthest depths of his lungs- without making any noise at all.
Spike Lee’s best film (an opinion of mine not often shared) brings regret to the very forefront of the fray. All of the other films on this list never openly speak of the theme. They avoid addressing it because regret occurs within ourselves. It is entirely personal, and only really resonates with the individual or those who have experienced similar pain. 25th Hour says fuck that (among other things). Spike Lee’s study of Monty Brogan is both intimately introspective and massive in its magnitude. Not only do we witness the final hours of a man who is about to lost 7 years of his life in the scariest place on his earth- everything he fears there and fears he will lose on the outside. Even the ending, which quite frankly has always soured the otherwise flawless experience, works to dissect Brogan’s deepest regrets in one last façade, a final fantasy for a life of the future. Along with this, Spike Lee responds to 9/11. One of the most tragic events in recent memory, Lee chose not like others to remove footage of the buildings or give the trauma a wide berth. He threw it right back at us and made us realise the importance of loss: That regret is the first step to acceptance. I was only four when the September eleventh attack occurred. I had no real physical knowledge of what was going on. Now, over a decade later, 25th Hour is still the very epitome of cinematic power. It is the pinnacle just how affecting the medium can become; and yet much of this stems from the politics it so defiantly pushes. How many films can you think of where the same is true?
Once Upon A Time In America
I can watch Sergio Leone’s masterpiece on repeat. For a film of near four hours (in the version I hold) that’s no easy feat. It’s no easy feat for anything- and it is the measure of this movie’s complexity that merits that endless immersion in its world. Noodles’ life is studied in intricate detail and yet with complete detachment. We observe these events rather than live them. We are being told a tale of whose very veins surge with the force of the regret that pulses through them. I could write forever about why I love this film, which is the precise reason I won’t go any further. All I can really say to explain its position as the best film about regret ever made is the fact that it take four hours to study the theme, covering 50 years of a man’s life and each horrific struggle and mortifying loss that punctuates it and, sadly, go on to define it. To miss Once Upon A Time In America is to miss a lifetime of learning, of a mixture of both melancholy and pure joy. Trust me: you’ll regret it.