Celebrating Great Films

Monday, November 11, 2013


#50 at the time of writing.

Went to see this film, about two astronauts that get stranded in space, at the IMAX yesterday. Totally worth shelling out the extra cash to see it 3D on the big screen. It's more like a theme park ride than a movie. And what a ride!

The first 15 or 20 minutes is presented as one long shot with no cuts, extremely impressive given that the actors are floating around in zero gravity fixing a space station module with the sun setting on Earth in the background.

Sandra Bullock may have seemed like an unlikely choice to play the main character (alongside George Clooney), but she does fantastically well, even making you believe some of the bits that could have seemed silly in lesser hands. A dream role for her, I imagine. (Angelina Jolie and Natalie Portman were previous choices.)

But I suspect that this would lose much of its impact on a small screen. Like I said, more of a ride than a film. The writing felt at best formulaic, and at worst slightly annoying. The end could have been immensely emotionally impactful, but it somehow missed the beat. The music was once or twice intrusive. And the science requires a bit of suspension of disbelief - like everybody knows that tears in space don't fall!

However, undeniably extremely suspenseful, tense and intense. A great achievement. Well done especially to Alfonso Cuarón for realising such an ambitious vision.

Definitely worth watching the companion piece, Aningaaq. And the other, unofficial companion piece...

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Toy Story

#112 at the time of writing.

The genre of digitally animated movies owes a huge debt to Toy Story - the first feature film to be entirely computer animated. If this film had been rubbish, the genre might have sputtered and struggled to get going. But with an unblushing emphasis on character and story, animation giant John Lasseter's Pixar (using Steve Jobs' computers) deservedly exploded onto the scene and never looked back.

The early Nineties: Terminator 2 had shown that digital trickery could be used to great effect; Lawnmower Man proved that digital effects were no substitute for a crappy story. After a couple of limp decades, Disney were experiencing a resurgence of success with musical animated features such as Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin. Enter a quirky non-musical feelgood film about toys that come to life, and boom - cartoons are cool again, for adults as well as children.

Re-watching this for maybe the tenth time recently, I continue to be struck by just how wonderful it is. The jokes! The characters! The phenomenal voice work from Tom Hanks! It hasn't aged at all. And it's hard to believe that such a high quality movie could possibly have been matched - perhaps even outdone - by its two sequels. (The best trilogy of all time?)

The story of Toy Story's production, and the hiccups along the way, makes fascinating reading.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

A Beautiful Mind

#190 at the time of writing.

I watched this film again today and found it compelling and ultimately very emotional. It's the story of genius mathematician John Nash's battle with schizophrenia - the Hollywood version rather than being comprehensively accurate, but the spirit of the tale rings true.

The way his delusions were handled in this film was particularly effective for me. I understood the helplessness he must have felt, the seductiveness of the mental trap he found himself in. And also the fear and frustration that his wife had to overcome to support him (Jennifer Connelly in an Oscar-winning performance; the movie also won Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay).

According to IMDb's trivia, this was named as one of "The 20 Most Overrated Movies Of All Time" by Premiere magazine. Which makes me think that Premiere don't know squat. (Looking at the rest of the list only confirms it.)

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Amores Perros

#187 at the time of writing.

My first experience of director Alejandro González Iñárritu was one of his more recent films, Biutiful, which captured a dark side of life in Mexico City, full of people trapped in vicious cycles of crime and abuse. This is similar, but done with more flair, more character.

Three interlocking (but very different) stories, centring around a car crash, with dogs as a running theme. Superbly acted all round, but especially noteworthy is the standout performance by Emilio Echevarria (playing El Chivo, a political dissident turned hitman), and Gael García Bernal (Octavia, the lovesick dog fighter) in his debut - or at least breakthrough - role.

This is the first of a trilogy, with 21 Grams and Babel following. I'm not in a rush to see the others in the trilogy. No doubt they're just as brilliant, but I bet they're also as depressing. I'm going to load me up a rom com or two first.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Roman Holiday

#220 at the time of writing.

What a delightful film. A rom com, technically, although it feels leagues more sophisticated than most. The story of a bored and sheltered princess who escapes her guardians for a day of adventure in Rome, this movie moves along at a jolly old clip, full of clever physical comedy without descending into slapstick (well, maybe a smidge), and refreshingly real human reactions. And to top it all off, a touching ending that leaves you thinking.

Props to director William Wyler (who seems to have been cursed with a lasting reputation as always being only the second best) for creating something that feels so fresh, and to Audrey Hepburn and Eddie Albert for wonderful acting. (Gregory Peck was just a little too straight down the line to stand out.)

Despite this being her first major film role, Audrey Hepburn deservedly won the Best Actress Oscar. An auspicious start to her career. Her character is sublime - spunky, vulnerable, noble, petulant, charming, tortured - and she captures it all.

The original writer, Dalton Trumbo, was blacklisted as one of the legendary Hollywood Ten, and therefore could not receive credit for the screenplay, even when it won the Academy Award for Best Screenplay. Instead, his friend, Ian McLellan Hunter, took credit for the story and accepted the Oscar. Trumbo's wife, Cleo, was finally presented with the award in 1993, long after his death in 1976.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Once Upon a Time in the West

#24 at the time of writing.

The fact that this is often lauded as the best Western movie ever made confirms to me that I'm not a fan of the genre. Pioneering and railroad building and strong characters (male and female) should be right up my street, but honestly I find it hard to have patience for the whole slow paced, lonely desert, angry men, badly dubbed thing.

Having said that, even if I wasn't at the edge of my seat, I appreciated the massive amount of artistry in this film. I suspect that, now I know what to expect, my enjoyment of it would only grow if I watched it again. (And I am prepared for the mindset I'll need to enjoy director Sergio Leone's Dollars trilogy whenever I get round to watching that.)

Mrs. McBain travels from New Orleans to move in with her new family in frontier Utah, only to find them murdered. But by whom? And why? The prime suspect befriends her and offers to go after the real killer, accompanied by the mysterious Harmonica man on his quest to get even.

I was fascinated to learn that (as well as Bernardo Bertolucci) horror master Dario Argento had a hand in creating the story. How much, I wonder, of the success of 1960s Italian-made "Spaghetti" Westerns in subverting and enriching the genre is down to the creative cleverness of these men, and how much is simply down to approaching the subject matter from a different, more detached cultural context?

Interesting that Clint Eastwood was offered a role, but turned it down. He was getting offered roles a grizzled gunman in 1968?! That guy must be SO OLD by now.

Ennio Morricone's score must also be mentioned as a highlight.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Movies that audiences loved but critics hated

I'm a sucker for statistics, so this article was fun reading...

Thursday, June 20, 2013


#89 at the time of writing.

A contemporary review of this film by H. G. Wells accused it of "foolishness, cliché, platitude, and muddlement about mechanical progress and progress in general." I wholeheartedly agree - but his damning criticism ignores all that is amazing in this movie.

With Yevgeny's Zamyatin's We having appeared a few years earlier, and Aldous Huxley's Brave New World just around the corner, this kind of dystopic vision was clearly all the rage in 1927. But never before had science fiction been brought to the silver screen so ambitiously.

Epic sets, a cast of thousands, the world's first cinematic humanoid robot, a plot that still resonates today, and all dripping with art deco style. Yes, the acting is hammier than a pigsty and the plot is often overtly silly, but it's a fascinating glimpse into the mindset of the past.

The hordes of German workers marching like machines presages Nazi displays of power. Indeed, it was one of Adolf Hitler's favourite films. Propagandist Joseph Goebbels also took the film's message to heart. In a 1928 speech, using some of the language from the film, he declared: "The political bourgeoisie is about to leave the stage of history. In its place advance the oppressed producers of the head and hand, the forces of Labor, to begin their historical mission."

Famously, due to some over-enthusiastic cuts by the studio after the film foundered at the box office, a quarter of this film was thought lost to the ages for nearly eighty years - until in 2008 the manager of a Buenos Aires cinema club discovered an uncut reel in the archives of his local Cinema Museum.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Third Man

#75 at the time of writing.

In 1999 the British Film Institute selected The Third Man as the best British film of the 20th century. Having finally seen it for the first time, I can understand that accolade.

Right in the first few minutes, with Anton Karas's jaunty zither theme setting the tone, and an opening scene that signals the seemingly effortless genius of Graham Greene's script, this film announces itself as something special.

The slower pacing of golden oldies in comparison to modern movies sometimes puts me off, but here the pace was just right. I was glued to the screen by the stylishly skewed camera angles (so-called Dutch angles), the angsty post-war historical backdrop, the cleverly twisty unravelling of the mystery, and the wonderful noir-ness - but above all I enjoyed spending time with the characters.

Without wishing to give anything away, I especially enjoyed the very last scene - I thought it perfectly fitting - and I was surprised to see that Graham Greene wanted the opposite to happen. I'm glad that director Carol Reed and producer David O Selznick got their way in the end.

Saturday, June 08, 2013

My Neighbour Totoro

#159 at the time of writing.

I enjoyed this the first time I watched it; it felt light on plot but very zen - the journey was atmospheric without there needing to be much of a destination. However since my two-year-old daughter fell in love with it and demanded to watch it with me every morning for a week, my appreciation has grown deeper and deeper.

The DVD box back does a good job of summing up my feelings towards this film: "Conceived as a family film without conflict and suffused with the carefree pleasures of the summertime... My Neighbour Totoro shows Japanese animation's famous Studio Ghibli at its very best, and is an elegy to two ever-fading miracles: the fairytale world of childhood and the disappearing countryside."

This was originally released as a double bill with Grave of the Fireflies - another film I'd love to watch (and also on IMDb's Top 250). The 25th anniversary edition is in cinemas now.

This was also one of Roger Ebert's favourite movies. He said: "...it would never have won its worldwide audience just because of its warm heart. It is also rich with human comedy in the way it observes the two remarkably convincing, lifelike little girls... It is a little sad, a little scary, a little surprising and a little informative, just like life itself. It depends on a situation instead of a plot, and suggests that the wonder of life and the resources of imagination supply all the adventure you need."

Totoro, the forest spirit, now features in Studio Ghibli's logo and even made a cameo appearance in another all-time great "children's" film, Toy Story 3.

(Whatever you do, don't click on this.)

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Star Trek Into Darkness

#184 at the time of writing.

J. J. Abrams set the bar high with his reboot of the Star Trek film franchise, and with this sequel he has delivered against high expectations. Again, he has produced a film that works independently as sci-fi thriller fare yet while remaining rooted in the Star Trek universe.

And it is thrilling indeed. I found myself at the edge of my sat so often that at one point I suspected the story was just a bunch of how-will-they-make-it-out-of-this-one set-pieces strung together. But of course the heroes prevail, without too many plot holes or deus ex machina.

Ultimately, this is thoroughly satisfying, and I'll be first in the queue to see number three in the series. (But oh no! Mr Abrams won't be at the helm! He'll be too busy directing Star Wars VII...)

I'm sure this film has yet to reach its peak on the IMDb ranking. However, I reckon that when the dust settles, this film's ranking will follow its predecessor's and plummet. Whether it clings on to the Top 250 or not remains to be seen.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Million Dollar Baby

#174 at time of writing.

This film, about an ageing boxing coach who reluctantly agrees to train a relentlessly determined and positive woman, does not end up going in the direction you expect, and is all the more powerful as a result.

Clint Eastwood plays almost the same character as in Gran Torino, which is ranked higher on IMDb, but in my opinion this is the superior film. And the Academy clearly agrees with me, having awarded this the Best Picture Oscar (and three others).

You have to admire Mr Eastwood for continuing to direct and act in such compelling and challenging films despite being older than sin - he was 74 when this was released and he's still going strong almost a decade later.

Even more respect to him for sticking with this difficult story, based on short stories by F.X. Toole, despite the typical narrow minded studio reaction to anything that doesn't fit the formula. Several studios refused to fund Million Dollar Baby until Tom Rosenberg stuck his neck out to provide half of the $30million budget. Box office receipts ended up exceeding $200million.

Hilary Swank puts in a stellar performance that would steal the show, except that Clint Eastwood and Morgan Freeman live up to their reputations as masters of gravitas while they compete to see who can be the gruffest old man.

A movie that can be hard to watch, but is full of heart.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Sixth Sense

#143 at time of writing.

To say that this is M. Night Shyamalan's best film would not be telling the whole truth. Far more accurate would be to say that this is his only remotely good film.

Yet it is a very good film. It has all the hallmarks of his worst stinkers - e.g. schmaltzy monsters, a tendency towards over-earnest cheesiness, an excess of focus on plot for the sake of the twist - yet somehow manages to dodge between the cracks and end up being a satisfying and very touching masterpiece.

Perhaps he should stick to being a writer, and let better directors realise his work - or the other way around. (This was a spec script of his, one twelve released films that he's written as of 2013, ten of which he directed. And one of which is any good. Did I say that already?)

The story is about a child who claims, "I see dead people" (the American Film Institute's #44 movie quote of all time), and the skeptical but kind child psychologist who tries to treat him. Despite trying to avoid spoilers, I heard a little about the twist ending, and for years I dismissed it as sounding too similar to The Others. When I finally got around to seeing it, I was pleasantly surprised. I got so into the film that I forgot about the twist, and when it came it had the full effect. Thrilling.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Terminator 2: Judgment Day

#36 at time of writing.

Terminator 2 left an indelible impression on my young teenage mind when I first saw it, and some 20 years later it's still very impressive. James Cameron really knows how to make a movie.

Arnold Schwarzenegger is at his best as the indomitable T-101, ultra cool right from the start. And, geniusly, even though he was such a terrifying bad guy in the first movie, by the end of this one you're rooting for him all the way.

But the film's antagonist, the T-1000, is one of the all-time greatest bad guys. Invincible, cunning, relentless - my heart races when I think of him clawing his way onto the back of the police car. And he makes thrilling use of his powers in the final battle. The special effects were mind-blowing at the time, and hold up well.

And despite these two epic rivals trying to steal the show, Linda Hamilton's Sarah Connor more than holds her own. She is a beautifully complex character, strong yet flawed, who's story is intrinsic to the film's excellent plot.

There is no fate but what we make.

(On a side note, according to IMDb trivia Arnold Schwarzenegger was given a slightly used Gulfstream III airplane, worth about $14 million, by producer Mario Kassar for accepting the role. I wonder what the Governator got for T3?!)

Monday, February 25, 2013

Snapshot III - IMDb's Top 250 Films Feb 2013

It's been well over two years since I last did a snapshot of IMDb Top 250...

Since I blogged about them, 25 films have gone up in the ranking:
  • Alien (up 3 places)
  • Gone with the Wind (+4)
  • Princess Mononoke (+5)
  • Batman Begins (+6)
  • How to Train Your Dragon (+6)
  • Life of Brian (+6)
  • Oldboy (+8)
  • Rocky (+9)
  • Forrest Gump (+10)
  • The Secret in Their Eyes (+10)
  • Full Metal Jacket (+13)
  • V for Vendetta (+17)
  • Fight Club (+22)
  • The Artist (+24)
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (+25)
  • Back to the Future (+26)
  • The Big Lebowski (+28)
  • The Thing (+29)
  • Howl's Moving Castle (+30)
  • Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (+32)
  • Life of Pi (+39)
  • Inception (+69)
  • Dial M for Murder (+75, maybe thanks to the release of Hitchcock?)
  • The Prestige (+119!)
  • The Dark Knight Rises (previously unranked)

2 films have stayed the same:
  • The Great Escape
  • The Lion King

And the rest have gone down. The biggest losers, including the 23 which have dropped out of the ranking altogether, are:
  • Black Swan (down 130 places)
  • Star Trek (-143)
  • Slumdog Millionaire (-161)
  • District 9 (-169)
  • The Wrestler (-181)
  • Frost/Nixon (was #243)
  • Star Wars: Episode III (was #243)
  • X-Men: First Class (was #234)
  • The Day the Earth Stood Still (was #228)
  • True Grit (was #223)
  • The Fighter (was #222)
  • 127 Hours (was #221)
  • Little Miss Sunshine (was #221) - at last!
  • Almost Famous (was #212)
  • Walk the Line (was #200)
  • In Bruges (was #193)
  • Let the Right One In (was #192)
  • Letters from Iwo Jima (was #187)
  • Zombieland (was #185)
  • Brief Encounter (was #158) - I wonder why this dropped off?
  • Duck Soup (was #147)
  • Hero (was #143)
  • the African Queen (was #136)
  • The Social Network (was #133) - deserves a place in the ranking, I think.
  • The Hangover (was #130)
  • Kill Bill 2 (was #116)
  • Drive (was #90)
  • The Incredibles (was #80) - such a huge and undeserved plummet!

My mission is 29% complete!

1.9.2The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
2.9.2The Godfather (1972)
3.9.0The Godfather: Part II (1974)
4.8.9Pulp Fiction (1994)
5.8.9The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)
6.8.912 Angry Men (1957)
7.8.9The Dark Knight (2008)Yes
8.8.9Schindler's List (1993)
9.8.8The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
10.8.8Fight Club (1999)Yes
11.8.8Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980)Yes
12.8.8The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
13.8.8One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975)
14.8.7Inception (2010)Yes
15.8.7Goodfellas (1990)
16.8.7Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977)Yes
17.8.7Seven Samurai (1954)Yes
18.8.7Forrest Gump (1994)Yes
19.8.7The Matrix (1999)
20.8.7The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)
21.8.7City of God (2002)Yes
22.8.6Se7en (1995)
23.8.6Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)
24.8.6The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
25.8.6Casablanca (1942)Yes
26.8.6The Usual Suspects (1995)
27.8.6Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)Yes
28.8.6Rear Window (1954)Yes
29.8.6It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
30.8.6Psycho (1960)
31.8.6Leon (1994)
32.8.5Sunset Boulevard (1950)
33.8.5Memento (2000)Yes
34.8.5American History X (1998)
35.8.5Apocalypse Now (1979)
36.8.5Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
37.8.5Saving Private Ryan (1998)
38.8.5Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)
39.8.5Alien (1979)Yes
40.8.5City Lights (1931)
41.8.5Django Unchained (2012)Yes
42.8.5North by Northwest (1959)
43.8.5Spirited Away (2001)
44.8.5Modern Times (1936)
45.8.5The Dark Knight Rises (2012)Yes
46.8.5Citizen Kane (1941)
47.8.5The Shining (1980)
48.8.5Back to the Future (1985)Yes
49.8.5The Pianist (2002)
50.8.4The Departed (2006)Yes
51.8.4Vertigo (1958)
52.8.4M (1931)
53.8.4Life Is Beautiful (1997)
54.8.4American Beauty (1999)
55.8.4Taxi Driver (1976)Yes
56.8.4Paths of Glory (1957)
57.8.4Double Indemnity (1944)
58.8.4Aliens (1986)
59.8.4Toy Story 3 (2010)Yes
60.8.4WALL·E (2008)Yes
61.8.4The Lives of Others (2006)Yes
62.8.4Untouchable (2011)
63.8.4Gladiator (2000)
64.8.4A Clockwork Orange (1971)
65.8.4The Green Mile (1999)
66.8.4Amelie (2001)
67.8.4The Great Dictator (1940)
68.8.4The Prestige (2006)Yes
69.8.4Lawrence of Arabia (1962)Yes
70.8.4To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
71.8.4Reservoir Dogs (1992)
72.8.4Das Boot (1981)Yes
73.8.4The Third Man (1949)
74.8.4Requiem for a Dream (2000)Yes
75.8.4The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)
76.8.3Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)Yes
77.8.3Cinema Paradiso (1988)
78.8.3Once Upon a Time in America (1984)
79.8.3The Lion King (1994)Yes
80.8.3Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983)Yes
81.8.3Full Metal Jacket (1987)Yes
82.8.3Chinatown (1974)Yes
83.8.3L.A. Confidential (1997)
84.8.3Braveheart (1995)
85.8.3Oldboy (2003)Yes
86.8.3Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
87.8.3Singin' in the Rain (1952)
88.8.3Some Like It Hot (1959)Yes
89.8.3Metropolis (1927)
90.8.3Amadeus (1984)
91.8.3Rashomon (1950)Yes
92.8.3Bicycle Thieves (1948)
93.8.32001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
94.8.3Princess Mononoke (1997)Yes
95.8.3Unforgiven (1992)
96.8.3All About Eve (1950)
97.8.3The Sting (1973)
98.8.3The Apartment (1960)
99.8.3Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
100.8.3Raging Bull (1980)
101.8.3The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
102.8.3Witness for the Prosecution (1957)
103.8.3Die Hard (1988)
104.8.3Grave of the Fireflies (1988)
105.8.3Batman Begins (2005)Yes
106.8.3A Separation (2011)
107.8.3Downfall (2004)Yes
108.8.3Yojimbo (1961)
109.8.3Pan's Labyrinth (2006)
110.8.3For a Few Dollars More (1965)
111.8.3Snatch. (2000)
112.8.3Inglourious Basterds (2009)
113.8.3The Great Escape (1963)Yes
114.8.3Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)
115.8.2Up (2009)Yes
116.8.2On the Waterfront (1954)
117.8.2Toy Story (1995)
118.8.2The Elephant Man (1980)
119.8.2The Seventh Seal (1957)Yes
120.8.2Heat (1995)
121.8.2The General (1926)
122.8.2The Maltese Falcon (1941)
123.8.2Blade Runner (1982)Yes
124.8.2Rebecca (1940)
125.8.2Gran Torino (2008)Yes
126.8.2Wild Strawberries (1957)
127.8.2The Kid (1921)
128.8.2Scarface (1983)
129.8.2Fargo (1996)
130.8.2The Big Lebowski (1998)Yes
131.8.2Touch of Evil (1958)
132.8.2Ran (1985)
133.8.2The Deer Hunter (1978)
134.8.2Cool Hand Luke (1967)
135.8.2The Gold Rush (1925)
136.8.2Sin City (2005)Yes
137.8.1Avengers Assemble (2012)Yes
138.8.1It Happened One Night (1934)
139.8.1Strangers on a Train (1951)
140.8.1Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998)
141.8.1No Country for Old Men (2007)Yes
142.8.1Jaws (1975)
143.8.1The Sixth Sense (1999)
144.8.1Platoon (1986)
145.8.1The Thing (1982)Yes
146.8.1Casino (1995)
147.8.1Hotel Rwanda (2004)Yes
148.8.1High Noon (1952)
149.8.1Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
150.8.1Trainspotting (1996)
151.8.1The Wizard of Oz (1939)Yes
152.8.1Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003)Yes
153.8.1Warrior (2011)
154.8.1Good Will Hunting (1997)
155.8.1Annie Hall (1977)
156.8.1The Secret in Their Eyes (2009)Yes
157.8.1Gone with the Wind (1939)Yes
158.8.1Notorious (1946)
159.8.1The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)Yes
160.8.1The Grapes of Wrath (1940)
161.8.1Into the Wild (2007)Yes
162.8.1Life of Brian (1979)Yes
163.8.1The King's Speech (2010)Yes
164.8.1V for Vendetta (2005)Yes
165.8.1My Neighbour Totoro (1988)
166.8.1Finding Nemo (2003)Yes
167.8.1How to Train Your Dragon (2010)Yes
168.8.1Dial M for Murder (1954)Yes
169.8.1The Big Sleep (1946)
170.8.1Network (1976)
171.8.1Ben-Hur (1959)
172.8.1The Terminator (1984)
173.8.1There Will Be Blood (2007)Yes
174.8.1The Night of the Hunter (1955)
175.8.1Million Dollar Baby (2004)
176.8.1Stand by Me (1986)
177.8.1Donnie Darko (2001)
178.8.1Groundhog Day (1993)
179.8.1Black Swan (2010)Yes
180.8.1Dog Day Afternoon (1975)
181.8.1Twelve Monkeys (1995)
182.8.1Amores Perros (2000)
183.8.1Mary and Max (2009)
184.8.1The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)Yes
185.8.1The 400 Blows (1959)
186.8.1Persona (1966)
187.8.1Gandhi (1982)Yes
188.8.1Life of Pi (2012)Yes
189.8.1Howl's Moving Castle (2004)Yes
190.8.1The Graduate (1967)
191.8.0The Killing (1956)
192.8.0The Princess Bride (1987)
193.8.0A Beautiful Mind (2001)
194.8.0 (1963)
195.8.0Slumdog Millionaire (2008)Yes
196.8.0The Hustler (1961)
197.8.0Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966)
198.8.0La strada (1954)
199.8.0The Manchurian Candidate (1962)
200.8.0The Artist (2011/I)Yes
201.8.0Rocky (1976)Yes
202.8.0Anatomy of a Murder (1959)
203.8.0The Wild Bunch (1969)
204.8.0The Exorcist (1973)
205.8.0Stalag 17 (1953)
206.8.0Rope (1948)
207.8.0Sleuth (1972)
208.8.0The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)
209.8.0Barry Lyndon (1975)
210.8.0Infernal Affairs (2002)
211.8.0Stalker (1979)
212.8.0Memories of Murder (2003)
213.8.0District 9 (2009)Yes
214.8.0Roman Holiday (1953)
215.8.0The Truman Show (1998)
216.8.0Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)Yes
217.8.0In the Name of the Father (1993)
218.8.0The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)
219.8.0The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007)
220.8.0Monsters, Inc. (2001)
221.8.0Ip Man (2008)
222.8.0Ratatouille (2007)
223.8.0A Fistful of Dollars (1964)
224.8.0Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011)Yes
225.8.0Star Trek (2009)Yes
226.8.0A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)
227.8.0Beauty and the Beast (1991)
228.8.0La Haine (1995)
229.8.0Rosemary's Baby (1968)
230.8.0Incendies (2010)
231.8.0Like Stars on Earth (2007)
232.8.0Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984)
233.8.0All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
234.8.0Harvey (1950)
235.8.0Shutter Island (2010)
236.8.0Rain Man (1988)
237.8.03 Idiots (2009)
238.8.0Mystic River (2003)
239.8.0The Wrestler (2008)Yes
240.8.0Manhattan (1979)
241.8.0Nosferatu (1922)
242.8.0Jurassic Park (1993)
243.8.0Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter... and Spring (2003)
244.8.0Papillon (1973)
245.8.0The Help (2011)
246.8.0Big Fish (2003)
247.8.0Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)
248.8.0The Untouchables (1987)
249.8.0Battleship Potemkin (1925)
250.8.0Castle in the Sky (1986)

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Django Unchained

#37 at time of writing.

...In which Quentin Tarantino tries to assuage the collective guilt of White America by dreaming up a black vigilante who cuts a swathe through scores of Confederate slave owners in a blood-soaked revenge fable. I'm not sure a single white character that spends more than about five minutes with Django makes it to the end of the film alive.

It slightly makes me worry for the mentality of Hollywood and America in general that so much racism, rape, hatred and gory murder can so easily be extruded into such a jaunty film. Tarantino knows instinctively what he can get away with, and thereby pushes the boundaries further than most would dare.

One of the things he does particularly well in this film is create tension - there's plenty of it, building up, and then getting periodically released with fountains of special sauce. And, this being a Tarantino Western (or Southern as he puts it), there are plenty of nods to other Westerns, not least Django.

The thing I've always admired most about Tarantino is that his status as filmmaking legend is entirely self-created. Not based on the quality of his films, although his early work surely helped, but because he just decided to spread his own rumours that he was a movie god. Only someone like that would make a movie like this. Totally amoral, utterly self-indulgent, and (*sigh*) brilliant.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Great Escape

#113 at time of writing.

This World War II action film manages to be relentlessly upbeat (largely thanks to Elmer Bernstein's classic catchy theme song); even when things go horribly wrong, the jokes roll on.

A gang of mostly British soldiers (plus Steve McQueen, inserted purely as a crowd-pleaser) organise an incredibly ambitious escape from a high-security "Stalag Luft III" prisoner-of-war camp. The true story on which this is based is so amazing that it begged to be told, and although this film deviates widely from the known facts the salient points remain.

There aren't many war films that will make you smile, get your feet tapping, or hold your attention for nearly three hours - but this manages all three with style.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

#119 at time of writing.

After the phenomenal success of the Lord of the Rings trilogy (and some legal wrangling with New Line cinema and the Tolkein estate), Peter Jackson gained enough trust from the studios and the fans to do whatever he liked with The Hobbit. Originally planned as a two-part film with Guillermo del Toro at the helm, Jackson took over and expanded Bilbo Baggins's tale with backstory from the Lord of the Rings books to end up with a behemoth three-parter.

And it shows. Part one, An Unexpected Journey, runs to nearly three hours (will the DVDs still have an extended edition?). It's certainly flabby and self-indulgent. But you know what? I was very happy to indulge it.

I sat enjoying the expansive story world, feeling at home as each scene lingered languidly. Like sitting by a fire with a glass of port on Christmas morning.

Much has been made of the fact that this is the first feature film to be shot and projected at 48 frames per second, twice as fast as the industry standard of 24 frames, the intention being to provide the smoother, more realistic motion, especially in 3D. Did it make much difference? Meh.

Interesting to note that the filmmakers did not have the requisite rights to use material from Silmarillion or Unfinished Tales - evident when Gandalf "forgets" the names of two of the five wizards, Alatar and Pallando, who only appear in the book Unfinished Tales. So, plenty of scope for yet more engorged trilogies in the future.