Sunday, 31 July 2011

The Film Locker #9: Danny Boyle and 'Trainspotting'

I couldn't have M. Night Shyamalan - maybe next time? - so we set upon ripping apart Danny Boyle. I am a self-confessed fan. Fans of 'The Simon and Jo Film Show' may even recall a moment whereby I even approached him and he said to me "hello!". Unforgettable. And that was pre-127 Hours so, you could argue, I met him 'at his peak'.

Of course, it was inevitable (the only director Hatter and I broke our silence about prior to the episode) - and believe me, there will be much more reading material on The Film Locker blog ( itself. This will include, in depth analysis of Sunshine, Trainspotting and a review of 127 Hours. There will be some extensive back-catalogue reflection too.
This is the week to know your Danny Boyle.

All together now:

"Oh Danny Boyle, the pipes, the pipes are calling ... From glen to glen, and down the mountain side ... The 'Sunshine' is gone, and all the flowers are dying ... 'Tis you, 'tis you must go and I must bide ... But come ye back when summer's in the meadow ... Or when the valley's hushed and white with snow ... 'Tis I'll be here in sunshine or in shadow ... Oh Danny Boyle, oh Danny Boyle, I love you so..."

And, as usual, it is already on itunes and can be found easily on podomatic - so, please do try and write reviews and support us if you can! We have the ol' RSS feed and 2.0 RSS and, if you link in different ways, we also have it on Google and Yahoo
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A-Z #92: Hook

You can pick up hundreds of DVDs for a round-pound each - it doesn't matter. It's never about quantity, it's about quality. A-Z is my way of going through my collection, from A-Z, and understanding why I own the films ... or you can tell me why I should sell 'em

#92 - Hook 

Why did I buy it?

To complete my Spielberg collection. I remember I enjoyed it loads as a child but I haven't watched it since.
Why do I still own it?

Because I still haven't got round to watching it again. I bought it to rewatch it ... and I haven't watched it since I bought it. It would be a complete waste of money if I haven't even watched the film since I bought it ... but, having said that, there may be a reason I haven't rewatched it...
Large Association of Movie Blogs

Friday, 29 July 2011

The Shape of Things To Come: New Sculpture (The Saatchi Gallery 27th May - 16th October 2011)


I need to write about more Art galleries. I need to write about more Art galleries. As sporadic as it is (a post on Christian Marclay's 'The Clock', the Newspeak Exhibition). But, once again, an exhibition at The Saatchi Gallery in London has completely inspired me to write. I reiterate my point that the foundations of film and cinema is in Art - and through understanding the history of Art and keeping in the loop with contemporary Art you will enjoy film-watching moreso.

This exhibition focussed on sculpture and, in discussion with friend Jenkins, he stated how what is so successful about exhibitions at The Saatchi Gallery is the layout. The gallery is not afraid to put a single art piece into a room despite having quite small spaces to fit art pieces in. Even the layout is a little random - forcing you to walk up and down stairs, up and around in lifts if you are keen to visit each gallery before popping to the basement to see a room full of oil. It is still an incredible gallery with pieces that inspire and resonate.

Crashed Cars and Obscene Acts

My favourite artists work funnily enough coincide with my recent interest inn David Cronenberg. I spent a large portion of time wandering around and through the work by Dirk Skreber. His two pieces (strangely titled "Untitled (Crash)" - why not just "Crash") used a single metal pillar and physically wrapped (what appeared to be) fully functioning cars around the pillar. The cars stood tall, in the air almost, and appeared to show a specific moment in what would usually be a fast, chaotic state. On the one hand, I think about Michael Bay - and how parents should take their children to see this exhibition whereby they would literally stand in awe at these huge metal creatures rather than sit and be [metaphorically] punched in the face multiple times, wearing 3D glasses in a darkened room. An incredible experience to see his art work.

David Altmejd is another favourite who used figurative form and corrupted it. I recall two pieces - one whereby a single figure stood tall and winding around it and through it were multiple stairwells and mirrored surfaces, reflecting the different contortions and creations. It was as if M.C. Escher had been turned 3D and then stretched across the figure. Altmejd's larger scale piece, The Healers, was fascinating. It consisted of many, many figures all in sexual unison in a variety of forms - but the faces were often distorted and the figures were all joined up. They were often asexual and, in almost all cases, had further sculptured hands twisting and breaking free from the figures. It was obsecne, explicit and facsinating - you wanted to peer in to see more detail as if to ask how the whole sculpture was possible. On one leg, the knee was a combination of two hands connected, another showed a face completely removed as the penis of another figure protruded through. His work reminds me of Cronenberg's filmmaking whereby the physical form moulds and mixes with other shapes. Berlinde De Bruyckere equally showed a Cronenberg-esque style whereby horses almost looked like they had been melted down into an almost blob-like form. Both artists forced you to look close and carefully at what exactly you were looking at.

Finally, an artist who I truly enjoyed was the cubist inspired Thomas Houseago. His art pieces showed figures that combined oppostie approaches - figurative but abstract, complete but appears incomplete, etc. As a teacher, I speak to pupils about Picasso regularly - he is an artist who can fit so many forms and ideas. You can get any idea or object and, with Picasso's influence, distort and change it into a range of different ways. These pieces, as soon as you walked in, showed these multiple-angled but flat-surfaced 'creations'.  Great to see.

The Viewer chooses the Meaning

Now, a couple of artists failed to inspire me. Peter Buggenhout's potential-pieces-of-rubbish apparently challenge the viewer into considering what should and shouldn't be Art. The pieces, we are told, have been created - thye are not random or purposeless - but the artist has "carefully made" each one. Problem is, it is not clear what the purpose is. He questions the "strong influence of projection on the way art is perceived". Well, sorry Pete, I perceive very little and that gives me a question - do you truly believe your art is any good? Because I don't.

Oscar Tuazon's Bed equally seemed to be problematic too - originally his own bed and then converted into an art piece, this seems to have a lack of focus. I appreciate that it must have been interesting when within a flat/house and the extreme process of building this strange bed-shape, but in an Art gallery it seems out of place and out of context. Sometimes, art pieces should stay in bed.

A Great Show

I absolutely loved the exhibition - and there are many more artists who I enjoyed: Anselm Reyle, John Baldessari and Folkert de Jong  all presented work that I could've spent much longer looking at. I think, as film fans, we owe it to the Art form to appreciate these exhibitions because - as we know from directors like Steve McQueen, Sam Taylor-Wood and Tracy Emin - incresingly, artists are turning into filmmakers and these shows give us an indication as to what their films may be like. I'd like to see more filmmakers from teh Art world - rather than coming from the producing/business side of the industry (no offence to Matthew Vaughan).
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Thursday, 28 July 2011

Nosferatu (F.W. Murnau, 1922)

"It will cost you sweat and tears, and perhaps... a little blood"


My close friend Tom of Film Nitrate has a huge interest in silent films. I have never really got 'into' them - and I could probably count on one hand how many I have watched, though I do have every intention to know my Fritz Lang from my Robert Wiene. This shall hopefully put me in a strong position to plough through those Hitchcock silents (they have sat on my shelf for far too long) and get me hyped towards watching the remastered Metropolis ... though, I must say, should I have watched the incomplete one prior to watching the recently found-footage-version? Whatever the case, Tom put me in a privileged position when he bought two copies of Muranu's Nosferatu and sent me his spare copy. And I watched it.

A Classic Story Remixed

As I understand, at the time, Nosferatu was created to play out the story of Dracula without mentioning the name 'Dracula'. The set-up is this - the character Hutter is trying to sell his house to a Transylvanian Lord, but he has to visit the Lord far far away. Even before he leaves, we see sequences of werewolves and horses juxtaposed with Hutter getting ready to sleep before travelling. I have heard a theory that, before sound came along, silent filmmaking was coming to a point whereby it managed to become a perfect art form - having established a wide range of styles and effects within the restraints of silent and black/white filmmaking. Styles and effects had become accepted as processes for filmmakers - and then, five years after Nosferatu, sound comes along and changes the goal posts, demanding correlation between what was on the screen and what was heard. At the time, there is no indiaction that the filmmakers were aware of what was around the corner, but it is clear that this film came at the peak of silent filmmaking. The cross-cutting from the horror of the animals outside and Hutter, unaware, was one effect that was 'cutting edge' at the time ... and an effect that, when sound was to come along, filmmakers would have difficultly with - trying hard to compose sound that correlates with these various types of effects.

Fascinating Filmmaking

The range of effects include speeding-up footage to show pace and action, the use of inverted colours (or tones as it is black and white) and the unforgettable sequence as the shadow of Nosferatu moves slowly over the body of Hutter as he sleeps (which I found again, in homage, in Disney's Dumbo!). All these styles, its strange to imagine, were new and rarely seen at this time. It must have been fascinating enough to see live-action on the screen - but the use of a double-negative to create the 'ghost' of Nosferatu must have been exceptionally unnerving at a time whereby the process itself to merely capture something on screen was innovative.

Subtext, Influences and Expressionism

But this is not merely the telling of a story people already know. Murnau manages to sneak in multiple cross-references as the film plays out. We see multiple cut-aways to carnivarous plants (venus fly-traps) and spiders to constantly continue the theme of blood and natures-inevitable-consequence. The idea that these spiders and plants, much like Nosferatu, feast on others to remain alive creates an unnerving atmosphere that forces you to shuffle in your chair - maybe something small is eating at you while you watch the film?

My favourite film of last year, Shutter Island, included a sequence whereby Teddy Daniels (DiCaprio) began to see the overflow of rats on the side of the mountain. The very idea of rats creates fear - the germs and disease they spread, the huge amount that exist without us knowing, the constant growth and breeding of these animals and the practical problems. The list goes on - and it is no suprise to see that this analogy is brought up in Nosferatu. A subplot emerges in the second act whereby rats appear and the fear of a plague threatens the towns people - the very idea of evil slowly creeping into society alongside Lord Nosferatu gaining access to the towns people himself as he has smuggled himself to the town by boat.

A Collage of Creativity

Nosferatu is defeated by Ellen giving him her blood - as foretold by book. The idea of accepting the inevitable has only recently been a theme in cinema via Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 whereby to defeat Voldermort, Potter has to accept the inevitable and give him what he wants. I do not assume that Harry Potter has been directly influenced by Nosferatu, but there is some exceptionally clear similarities between Lord Voldermort and Lord Nosferatu - and this finale seems quite similar too. You can be the judge of the amount of influence Murnau's Nosferatu has had on Mike Newell (as Voldermort is first seen in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) and David Yates direction of the franchise.

But this film, though highly influential through the expressionist movement - released alongside the highly expressionist Cabinet of Dr Caligari also creates a collage of documents - books, letters, diary - to express the films message. Max Schreck portrays Nosferatu's by hsowing a hunched posture with long, sharp and thin hands with limited make-up accentuating the shadow andgaunt face he shows. This acting alone is rooted in the expressive movement of the time.

As I previously mentioned, though sound was a little way off, the live accompaniments would often include bells and clock-ticking to work alongside what was on screen. It is strange to think that following Nosferatu and the inclusion of sound in cinema, it forced filmmakers to take a few steps back and re-learn the skills of filmmaking. I know, when I watched this, with all the special effects and interesting story-telling techniques it used, it seemed that the filmmakers were at the top of the mountain. Who would've known that bigger mountains stood alongside - filmmakers would struggle for a few years to know how sound would work alongside such special effects. In the first instance, when sound arrived, the sound was recorded at the exact time the sequences were filmed - so these cross-cutting tehcniques and visual subtexts and themes, which Muranau managed to capture so effectively in Nosferatu, became much more challenging to include in 'talkie' films.
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Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Incredible Soundtrack #19: Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves (Kamen)

The music attached to a film creates the environment, I believe, moreso than the literal environment depicted through the visuals...

Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves was discussed only within the last year when Ridley Scotts versio of Robin Hood was released. One thing which Scott's version did not have - was a good soundtrack. Michael Kamen's score for Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves is immediately recognisable. Even now, prior to every Disney film, the theme rings over the Disney titles. Or at least all my Blu-Ray's start with this music.

1. Overture and a Prisoner of the Crusades - This is the song which is used in the Disney openings. In the film, it plays over a very slow pan across the Bayeux Tapestry. Wihtout music, it could appear boring and uninteresting ... but with this epic music it gives the 2D tapestry life and energy. As if history may appear flat and 2D, the reality is that it was filled with adventure and excitement. A brilliant start to the film.

7. Marian at the Waterfall - Back in 2002 I purchased a CD which included a broad range of tracks from Universal soundtracks. I vividly remember seeing this track 'from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves' and, as I didn't have the soundtrack at the time, I was keen to have tracks from the soundtrack. It was not the song I thought, but a sweeter, sensitive version of the love theme from the film. The more I listened the more I enjoyed the almot-tudor sound to the music.

9. Everything I Do (I Do It For You) (Bryan Adams) - How many weeks was this at the Number #1 spot for? It spent sixteen weeks at the number #1 spot in the UK and it has been covered by artists including Hank Marvin, Henry Mancini, Brandy and Faith Hill and Katherine Jenkins. And The Wombats. A great song and, the original, played during the credits remains strong... but, personally, for a long time I got Kevin Costner and Bryan Adams mixed up.

Large Association of Movie Blogs

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Incredible Soundtrack #18: Collateral (Newton Howard)

The music attached to a film creates the environment, I believe, moreso than the literal environment depicted through the visuals...

Now things get tricky. Though James Newton Howard composed the score to Collateral, from the soundtrack, I have not chosen a single track from the score itself. I am in no way saying how the score is flawed - far from it - but I do believe that the stand out tracks are not his.

In terms of 'setting the tone', Rothrocks additions add pace and adrenaline, whilst as Max (Jamie Foxx) flicks through the range of various radio stations we get excerpts from artists such as The Roots, Groove Armada and Calexico. Even Antonio Pinto, Bach and Paul Oakenfold make an appearance. Suffice to say, its a tough call when choosing which three tracks I will focus upon so - knowing that some tracks are good, I have tried to choose the tracks which best represent the film. (I will mention briefly how Paul Oakenfold's Ready Steady Go does not make an appearance, despite its fantastic use in 'the club' sequence, and it is due to fans of The Bourne Identity who would argue how we first heard the song as Matt Damon drove his mini through the streets of Paris way back in 2001 - a couple of years prior to Collateral)

1. Briefcase (Tom Rothrock) - A brilliant start to the film as, with one small exchange (Y'know Statham was originally going to play the role of 'Max'...) the equilibrium is disrupted and the lives of Vincent and max are changed forever. Pace, adrenaline and - at least for me - I was hooked...

8. Shadow on the Sun (Audioslave) - When Chris Cornell released You Know My Name I only knew him from this single track by Audioslave. It has a prominent use in the film as the parrallel between the wolves wandering LA is seen by Max and Vincent. The song continues as the two drive off further, but the recurring guitar motif continues to ring like an alarm bell - "Max, you need to do something..."

16. Requiem (Antonio Pinto) - I found a full version of this track and I would have used it had it not become so busy in the final section of the song. The version I found features on the soundtrack and slowly feeds the end of the film back to normality - though we have witnessed an unforgettable night for Max and Vincent, we also see the start of a new day. The workers beginning their daily routine and Max, hopefully, starting the day with a new outlook ...

Large Association of Movie Blogs

Monday, 25 July 2011

Incredible Soundtrack #17: Back to the Future (Silvestri)

The music attached to a film creates the environment, I believe, moreso than the literal environment depicted through the visuals...

This week I will try and release a few of these posts - but there will be a twist. In the first instance, the majority of the soundtracks will not rely on the scores to provide exposure or discussion on the film itself. Though Alan Silvestri composed the score for Back to the Future, it is the [easily accessible] soundtrack with some classic iconic 80's tracks.

1. The Power of Love (Huey Lewis and the News) - Interestingly, this song, through scoring the number one spot on the billboard charts marked the first worldwide success for Huey Lewis and the News. Even Huey Lewis himself managed to nab a cameo in the film - judging Marty McFly's band at the school when they play an instrumental 'rock' version of the song. Forever associated with the 80's, this song with never lose its ties with Back to the Future.

3. Back to the Future - There are only two tracks on the album from the score, this track and an 8-minute overture. I have chosen this one as it has no filler spot - throwing us straight into the theme and for 4-minutes filling us with heroic gusto. Alan Silvestri at his best and, dare I say it, creating a forever iconic theme to stand alongside John Williams unforgettable 80's themes such as E.T. and Indiana Jones.

10. Johnny B. Goode (Marty McFly and the Starlighters) - On the soundtrack, this song is credited to the ficiotnal characters of the film, when in fact the artists are Harry Waters Jr (as Marvin Berry), Mark Campbell (as Marty McFly) and Tim May (performing the guitar solo). Following on from the film, I can imagine many young teenagers finding a new love for 50's music. Unlike Mr Sandman (by The Four Aces), at least Johnny B Goode is on the soundtrack!

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Sunday, 24 July 2011

The Film Locker #8: Michael Mann and 'Heat'

There are only so many films that we can discuss on Michael Mann - but it doesn't stop Hatter and I praising a film director with a very unique style and energy.
Collateral, Heat and Ali are all films created by Chicago-born Michael Mann - and Hatter and I use this opportunity to rip his back-catalogue apart through, more specifically, Heat.

I am now off to see Bridesmaids. This is nothing to do with The Film Locker, merely a case of how constant good-word and positive-press ultimately leads to this cinema visit. I blame many people if this film is shit. One of which is my co-presenter Hatter ... who claims Bridesmaids is very good ...

Anyway - enough about that! Heat and Michael Mann ...

And, as usual, it is already up on itunes and can be found easily on podomatic - so, please do try and write reviews and support us if you can! We have the ol' RSS feed and 2.0 RSS and, if you link in different ways, we also have it on Google and Yahoo
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Saturday, 23 July 2011

A-Z #91: The Holiday

You can pick up hundreds of DVDs for a round-pound each - it doesn't matter. It's never about quantity, it's about quality. A-Z is my way of going through my collection, from A-Z, and understanding why I own the films ... or you can tell me why I should sell 'em

#91 - The Holiday

Why did I buy it?

I didn't. I take absolutely no responsibility in this purchase. This is 100% Sarah's choice. But, in fairness, I do like how coincidentally, this post is put up as I start my own summer holiday - and as a teacher, this is one of the major plus points about the profession.

Why do I still own it?

Sarah noticed that, though we have the two Bridget Jones films, and she has Pride and Prejudice, etc, there are very few really standard shit rom-coms. This is surely a shit rom-com. One Christmas in Ireland, it happened to be on TV, which is when I watched it and, god, it is pretty damn bad. I think what I despise about it the most is how simplified the vision is of England and America - these two brilliant countries simplified down to teeny-villages-and-warm-fires and cups of tea, in America, its just Hollywood and films. I hate how Jack Black, in reality, could never bag someone like Kate Winslet. Especially if he is a film geek. I hate how Jude law is trying so hard to be some 'regular' guy in England and comes across, I think, as creepy as hell. I reckon I will write a long post about this at some point because I remember scribbling down many notes at how X is ridiculous and Y is ludicrous. It really is a load of shit.
Large Association of Movie Blogs

Thursday, 21 July 2011

A-Z #90: A History of Violence

You can pick up hundreds of DVDs for a round-pound each - it doesn't matter. It's never about quantity, it's about quality. A-Z is my way of going through my collection, from A-Z, and understanding why I own the films ... or you can tell me why I should sell 'em

#97 - A History of Violence 

Why did I buy it?
This is one of those films that people told me I needed to get. The sleeve always looked very cool and, at the time, I had no real connection with Cronenberg except via Crash. So many people praised this film and, following Lord of the Rings, I was keen to see Viggo in another role. If I'm right, it was a bargain too. Badd-a-bing. 
Why do I still own it?

Well, its quite short. An hour an' 20 minutes - so it has always been an easy pick when choosing 'what to watch'. Secondly, its a brilliant film! Starting off with this loving couple and descending into horrific chaos when two fellas come into town - the whole small-town-disrupted-by-extreme-evil is always a brilliant starting point  - Shadow of a Doubt, Blue Velvet - and A History of Violence does not disappoint.
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Monday, 18 July 2011

Incredible Soundtrack #16: X-Men: First Class (Jackman)

The music attached to a film creates the environment, I believe, moreso than the literal environment depicted through the visuals...

This is one of my more recent soundtracks. Normally I choose soundtracks with a little bit more established credability and, with X-Men: First Class, it is new enough to have garnered a bit attention but I don't think that it will remain 'as important'. But, c'est la vie, I like it at the moment. It is worth noting that the composer, Henry Jackman is no relation to Hugh Jackman.

Henry Jackman has, on the other hand, worked with Hans Zimmer before - credited as 'music arranger' for Zimmers soundtrack to The Dark Knight. You can hear the repetetive string arrangement Zimmer has used before and, I believe, sounds a little too similar to the Tron: Legacy soundtrack which, though composed by Daft Punk, I believe was hugely influenced by Zimmers composing style.

1. First Class - It was this opening track that gained my attention in the first instance. It sounds freakishly like the opening track for Tron:Legacy, but I think it has a little more of an 'heroic' edge - which obviously suits X-Men:First Class...

11. X-Training - There are two memorable montage sequences in the film. The first one, whereby they recruit the mutants uses a Gnarls Barkley song ('an instrumental version of 'Run'), the second one is when they are training. Both of which are brilliant. This is the training one.

19./20. X-Men/Magneto - The 'Magneto' theme is brilliant - and there are multiple different versions of the theme in the soundtrack. These last two tracks are the most definitive - especially the second track that plays during the closing credits. These specific choices use some brilliant electronic sounds that signify the magnetic power Magneto has and it sounds great!

Large Association of Movie Blogs

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Al Pacino Impressions

After the Jeff Goldblum impressions I found a while back, in the effort to hunt out some clips from Heat, I found some Al Pacino impressions. Amazing stuff I had to share.

Large Association of Movie Blogs

Saturday, 16 July 2011

The Film Locker #7: David Fincher and 'Se7en'

Fincher. Good ol' Fincher. There is always time to discuss David Fincher. Hatter and I were aware that we didn't want to have shows about 'the obvious' directors - cancelling out Spielberg, Nolan and Hitchcock - in the hope that we would discuss them on a separate series. But Fincher was a must.

Obviously, email the filmlocker [at] to enter the competition because, now half-way through, there is indeed a tight race with many new folks taking part! You can also email in if you want to simply expand on stuff we're talking about - we will endeavour to email you back!

Finally, the blog itself is and it has access to lots more reading material on the directors we have discussed. This next week, keep your eyes peeled for in depth reviews of The Social Network from Hatter and a discussion on Finchers music video 'Who is it?' for Michael Jackson...

And, as usual, it is already up on itunes and can be found easily on podomatic - so, please do try and write reviews and support us if you can! We have the ol' RSS feed and 2.0 RSS and, if you link in different ways, we also have it on Google and Yahoo

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Thursday, 14 July 2011

Guys and Dolls (Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 1955)

"For two weeks I gambled in green pastures. The dice were my cousins and the dolls were agreeable with nice teeth and no last names."


I mentioned it a few times, but between 16 and 18, I was part of an Amateur Dramatics society, named TADLOP in Shropshire. This led me to gaining a bit of a better understanding of musicals - specifically South Pacific, My Fair Lady and Brigadoon. Outside of these I was a part of a Summer Youth Project whereby I even nabbed a lead role in West Side Story and Barnum. So, I knew of Guys and Dolls and, in some 'lots-of-songs' performance, I even was a part of a rendition of 'Luck Be A Lady Tonight'! One thing I always wished I was a part of was Bugsy Malone (Now, at the age of 27, I am too old) but, after watching Guys and Dolls, I now regret not being a part of a Guys and Dolls performance - because I would have loved to sing some of these brilliant songs!

A Gangster Musical - with The Godfather and Sinatra

In the first instance, the actors alone are a strange combination. Originally the broadway version cast a gruff-voiced singer in the role of Nathan Detroit ... which then went to Frank Sinatra and his silky voice. In fact, many songs were omitted from the stage version - whilst two songs were added to the film: namely 'Adelaide', written for Sinatra himself. Apparently, Sinatra's 'crooning' was critisized heavily by Frank Loesser - the composer - as it was not in keeping of the character he played, but Loesser was still expected (by Samuel Goldwyn and Mankiewicz) to write the three additional songs, including 'Adelaide'. Marlon Brando was also seen as bad casting - hired only because of his recent successes having come off On the Waterfront in 1954 and The Wild One in 1955. Interestingly, in The Wild One, Brando was pitted against Robert Keith who plays a similar law-abider in Guys and Dolls, playing Lt. Brannigan rather than the Sheriff he played in The Wild One.

The gambling narrative involved Nathan Detroit (Sinatra), in desperate need of $1000 to set up an illegal card game, he bets Sky Masterson (Brando) that he can't take a "doll" - Christian Mission girl Sarah Brown (Jean Simmons) - to Havana. Detroit is under the impression that Sky makes stupid bets and, this bet, will guarantee him the money to set up the card game. Funnily enough, Detroit finds out that Sky does indeed take Sarah Brown to Havana ... whereby they both fall in love...

Squeeze in Songs

Musicals often have a habit of making unneccessary songs and squeezing them into the story - and Guys and Dolls does seem to have a habit of doing this. One specific song stalls the story completely as we wait for Detroit to go to the Christian Mission and his 'doll' [of fourteen years] thinks he is lying and there is a whole song about how much she doesn't believe him and how Nathan is torn between convincing her he is telling the truth but additionally leaving to fulfill his part of the bet and go to the Mission... you want to hit him round the head and just tell him to get the hell out the door.

Having said that, they use Detroit's 'doll' exceptionally well as she is part of a dance group who perform in a local club and so all their songs fill in gaps in the story. For example, 'Pet Me Poppa', Adelaide (Detroits 'doll') sings about how - like a cat - she will roam if she is not married soon! She sings: "You know you've been mean to me/ And you know when you're mean to me/ How it always makes me wanna roam/ And you know there's a danger/ That some gentle stranger/ Might pick me up and make me feel at home". The whole song is clearly stating the same message as Beyonce's 'Single Ladies (Put a Ring on it)'... and when you watch the film, the leotards and high legs seem a little too similar ...

The Bet on Faith

There is a strange conflict at the centre of the story. Sky Masterson - a successful gambler - seems to 'win' Christian Missionary Sarah Brown through taking her out and getting her drunk. To make matters worse, he is content in getting her drunk without her knowing. I know this is all a joke, but it does nevertheless lead to the same Sarah Brown not only getting drunk and getting into fights but - when all the illegal gamblers reluctantly go to her Mission to fulfill Skys bet, she even lies to the police about the gamblers the previous night (whereby the group broke into the Missionary when it was unattended and conducted an illegal card game). Does this film condone lying to the police? I don't think any of the gangsters get a comeuppance either - and none of them actually turn to Christ having attended the Missionary. They are constantly begrudging the fact that they are even there at all! I think I would go so far in saying that the film actually takes the mickey out of Christian attitudes and morals - with the very clear intention of stating that Christians have a very prudish and unfulfilling life.

There is also a philosophical argument (and I'm sure people may hang me for bringing such psuedo-highbrow thoughts to a review on Guys and Dolls). Blaise Pascal created an argument aptley titled 'Pascals Wager' or 'Pascals Gambit'. The idea was that any rational person would believe in the existence of God - arguing that, if you were to bet on such a thing, it would make sense to bet on the existence of God because if you are right - you have everything to gain (post-death I presume) whereas, if you are wrong, it wouldn't matter anyway. Because you'd be dead in the ground. Take this argument and apply it to the sequence involving 'Luck be a Lady Tonight'. Sky bets everyone to merely attend the Mission for prayer that evening - otherwise he would give them $1000 each. For each of those 'sinners' they have nothing to lose - but everything to gain. Though this may be a tangible link, the idea of having faith at all is clearly central to the story - getting married has an element of risk and you have to have the faith to stand by her/him if you make the decision. Life is a game of luck, as they say.

The reality is that this is all very unclear - for example, despite Sky getting Sarah Brown drunk and involving her in a fight, he stops short of sleeping with her telling her it would be wrong... assuming his actions prior to this was right?
A Marriage Made in Heaven

The film ends with, what feels like, a random wedding. Both Sky and Sarah Brown get married after their whirlwind romance, whilst Detroit and Adelaide, after 14 years, get married in the same ceremony. Even Lt Brannigan walking Sarah Brown down the aisle. All the actors in the film make a little appearance - with the hint of the start of a relationship between different friends and families.

The casting of Brando and Sinatra, in hindsight, was great - I don't believe any other movie stars both actors. The fact that Brando and Simmons both sing simply shows how capable they are at holding a musical note. The shame is how Joseph L. Mankiewicz seems to bring to the table little considering his background. Mankiewicz is the man who directed All About Eve and he went on to direct Cleopatra and Sleuth! This film seems to play very much like the MGM musicals - bright colours, MGM dancers filling the screen, studio set, etc rather than anything more thought-provoking.

At any rate, like the best musicals, the success hunges on the songs and this film has indeed got some unforgettable songs. Specific songs about male and female attitudes to relationships, as sexist as they are, they are a lot of fun to watch. Adelaide sings about how scared of commitment Nathan - and men - can be in 'Adelaides Lament'. But then, against this, the guys follow this and sing 'Guys and Dolls' about how a guy can under the thumb. They are merely in jest and comedic in their nature but it is what holds this film together and makes it a fun watch rather than simply romantic melodies. Its strange to think that Sinatra was nearly cast as Johnny Fontaine in The Godfather, which would've marked Brando and Sinatra's second collaboration ...
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Monday, 11 July 2011

Top 5 Pixar Films

For my birthday last Thursday my fantastic girlfriend bought me Disney's Fantasia. I had put off comitting to purchasing the Disney DVD's/Blu-Rays for a long time. I had always planned on only buying them when I had my first child and, when the boy/girl was barely born, we would start to watch all the Disney 'Classic' Collection in chronological order. With this single present, it has started me off early and within days I have watched Fantasia, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves and Beauty and the Beast. I believe this has no replaced my James Bond marathon indefinately.

So, having noticed that Pixar are credited on Beauty and the Beast (responsible for the, now quite dated, 3D dance-hall Beauty and Beast dance within during the unforgettable song "Beauty and the Beast"...), what better time to reflect on my current favourite Pixar films (especially as their track-record seems to have been stalled by Cars 2 according to the US reviews)...

5. Ratatouille - I have only watched this once and I think it is at '5'. I need to watch it again if I'm honest as, I'm sure you'll see, I've cheated a little and films such as A Bugs Life, The Incredibles and Up shockingly don't get a look in. Bottom-line is that the whole idea of criticism is something very close to my heart and this seems to tackle it in such a way that art - and what is art - is the core of the story. This, in itself is huge, expansive story-telling ... but for kids.

4. Cars - This was the last Pixar film which I have watched and it has always come across as the lesser credible film in the Pixar canon. I have to tell ya' - I completely disagree. This film, like the best of Pixar, focusses on a bigger topic: Capitalism and destruction of small-town America. The fact that we currently see how print-press may be having an exceptional hit in the recent news, again, shows how the bigger fish ultimately eat the small fish in the capitalist business structure. I am a little worried that Cars 2 will tarnish the reputation of this brilliant first outing.

3. Toy Story Trilogy - I'm not going to split them up. They are all, very much, independent films but so many aspects cross-over. If I say how much I love the characters - thats in all three films. If I like the colours and the playful attitude, again, this is in all three. The only thing I could fundamentally separate the films by is the narratives in each film and they are so evenly match I think I can comfortably place them in a third-place tie.

2. Wall-E - I only recently told a pupil that I believed this is my favourite
film and, akin to Cars it is because of the profound themes it explores. Add to this some incredible sequences - most of which do not even require dialogue - and you have an accessible, deeply moving, highly intelligent, artistically-experimental mainstream film. Can you get anything more awesome?

1. Finding Nemo - But, when I think of the story, I look at Nemo. A film with so much heart. Two-characters on the road to discovery and what, I believe, will
bring a tear to my eye when I have my own child. I think, visually, it takes you to a place which, on one level you know and feel like you are a part of, but you are shown the ocean in a way you have never seen. In the same way that I believe Jurassic Park is my favourite film, I understand that it is a personal preference - opting for The Godfather as my 'professional' favourite film. Finding Nemo is my personal favourite whilst, Wall-E would reside as my 'professional favourite. But this is my blog... so personal wins out.
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A-Z #89: High Fidelity

You can pick up hundreds of DVDs for a round-pound each - it doesn't matter. It's never about quantity, it's about quality. A-Z is my way of going through my collection, from A-Z, and understanding why I own the films ... or you can tell me why I should sell 'em

#89 - High Fidelity 

Why did I buy it?

To be honest, I hadn't seen the film when I bought it but I could completely relate to the rating of films, music, memories - whatever. I could rate my top 5 items of cutlery (fork at number one, obviously) and the idea that a non-linear narrative flashbacked to show Top 5 Break-Up's and set this within the context of a music-lover, like me, completely got me hook line and sinker. And I wasn't disappointed - it has remained one of my personal favourite films.

Why do I still own it?

It is so rewatchable. I think it was more rewatchable when I was single, but it still stands that it is a great film. I think the fantasy of living such a relaxed life whereby the only worry is the organisation of a record collection (and also so vintage with collecting records) equally transports me to a place that is so cool. Also, the sequence whereby Tim Robbins tells John Cusack the same news ("so... shall we leave it at that then ...?") and we see Cusacks reaction in three different ways, at one point had me in complete hysterics. My best friend and I rewound the sequence about twenty times and were crying with laughter. A brilliant film and some real happy memories.
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Sunday, 10 July 2011

The Film Locker #6: Pedro Almodóvar and 'Talk to Her'

I think this is where we separate the men from the boys. The purpose of The Film Locker is to inform, educate and entertain. I know that for me, through discussions with Hatter, and through editing I hear information again and again and it all helps for me to build up a comprehansive knowledge of cinema.

Having spent five episodes discussing english-language directors, we now move to Spain whereby this international filmmaker creates film rooted in Spanish culture. When people claim they "can't watch" a film because it is not spoken in their language, I go back to what my Dad used to tell me: "Can't means won't".

International cinema influences Hollywood on so many levels and you don't have to look too far to understand how - Kurosawa's Hidden Fortress directly influencing Lucas' Star Wars, whilst only recently Matt Reeves practically remakes Alfredsons Let the Right One In by Hollywood-izing Let Me In.

If you haven't watched an Almodóvar before, now is your chance - watch Talk to Her and then listen to this episode... and then watch the rest of his films because, believe me, they are incredible.

And, as usual, it is already up on itunes and can be found easily on podomatic - so, please do try and write reviews and support us if you can! We have the ol' RSS feed and 2.0 RSS and, if you link in different ways, we also have it on Google and Yahoo

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Thursday, 7 July 2011

Midnight Cowboy (John Schlesinger, 1969)

"You know, in my own place, my name ain't Ratso. I mean, it just so happens that in my own place my name is Enrico Salvatore Rizzo"


Back in the early days of the DVD, my younger brother and I watched a free-DVD which was crammed with trailers. It had a trailer for Goldeneye and Tomorrow Never Dies ("sound the general alarm..."). It also had more Brosnan with a trailer for The Thomas Crown Affair too ("...and waltz straight out the front door"/"oh, thats good"). It also had a trailer for Midnight Cowboy. Clearly the free DVD was from MGM because that was the studio behind all these films, but as you can see by my quotations (and I didn't need to look them up ... and I could rattle off a few more...) I knew these trailers back to front - but alas, in the case of Midnight Cowboy, only a decade later have I managed to watch the film. And now I have watched it, it is possibly one of my favourite films...

The American Dream

The story revolves around young Joe Buck (Jon Voight). He decides to get out of his small-town community in Texas and make it big (in a male-prostitute kind-of way) in New York. Thats the basic set-up and, akin to Easy Rider of the same year, it shows how the idea of starting a-fresh and gaining a new perspective on the US is actually much more difficult, and much more corrupt, than it may appear. The entire opening shows Joe travelling by bus - he thinks back to his girlfriend and family at home and see a little hint at a horrendous rape comitted against Joe's girlfriend, (and we find out later against Joe himself too). This gritty realism is what puts this film head and shoulders above the rest as Joe's time in the Big Apple is not what he thought it would be, becoming more tragic as the film progresses. We see how 'prosperity and success' is not as easy to find as it might appear. You cannot just up-sticks and move out to the big city and expect everyone to simply pay you for sex - people want money from you and Joe finds this out the hard way. We see drugs, prostitution (heterosexual and homosexual), extreme poverty, disability and homelessness. We also see how society is reluctant to help this side of the urban city - instead we see see huge billboards claiming "everybody can eat at [insert diner name here]". The capitalist and consumer nature of the American dream has eaten up the morality and soul of the people.

Oscar Worthy Performances

The year Midnight Cowboy won Best Picture (the first X-rated film to win the award), both Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman were additionally nominated for Best Actor - losing out to John Wayne and his role in True Grit. Dustin Hoffman plays the disabled 'Ratso' - a name which he despises, clearly aware of the connotations and disgusting nature of the rat. Hoffman constantly berates Joe Buck demanding that he call him Rizzo or, at least in his own home, to be called Enrico. Ratso is disabled and a conman - the pickpocket and thief who takes advantage of Joe Buck when they first meet.

Jon Voights performance as Joe Buck is equally fascinating - naive and innocent, despite such tragedy in his home town, he aims to forget and move on. He is confident about his love-making 'skills' and, when down and out and desperate for money, even turns to male-prostitution himself. The clients, are of the time, and clearly have difficulty accepting who they are whilst Joe is simply trying to define himself - is he the cowboy? the New York gigolo? Schlesinger shows brilliant fluidity in showing the reality of the situation and juxtaposing this with cut-aways to what the characters want: a one-second shot of Joe Buck walking into a womans house disorientates you until it cuts back to Joe Buck watching the woman enter the house alone.

In one stand-out sequence, Ratso waits for Joe to build up the client-base for their male-escort business. Ratso see's himself on the beach with women surrounding him, Ratso serves up gourmet food and gambles with style and edge ... before we see the business fold in minutes as Joe Bucks forward-move in groping a womans ass backfires. We see how delusional the characters are - and how the American dream, in this way, does not exist.

Starting A-Fresh

The constant theme that repeats itself throughout the film is the idea of starting again. Joe Buck, following the trauma in Texas, hopes to start again. Ratso, continually aims to start again by being called Enrico - and desperately hoping to get to Florida and start again. In the huge space and land of the free, you can start again. The question is whether it is too late. On the surface, the story appears to be about Joe Buck - but as the film closes you realise it is Ratso who we need to think about. He is who has been let down - constantly involved in the recurring nature of poverty - a father who shined shoes so much he damaged his back, a resentment towards those with money and opportunity - as he has never had usch freedom and choice. Even Joe Buck has more opportunity than he. Ratso feels he is the lowest of the low - and no one will change that, as even Joe puts him in his place multiple times by continuing to refer to him as Ratso. He is 'beneath' everyone and that will not change. It is only in the final act that Joe Buck puts his selfish, business-mind to the side and thinks about Ratso. He does 'what he needs to do' to ensure that Ratso has his opportunity to realise his dream.

I think it is "hope" that we are discussing. Ratso never gives up hope about his Florida dream - but it seems that society has given up on Ratso. The quote from the film "I'm walkin' here! I'm walkin' here!" seems, on the one hand tongue-in-cheek as it is a character who physically has difficulty walking, but then has the subtext that, as he is part of the underbelly of NYC, he is not seen or considered. He is ignored and not helped. The health service requires money - which he does not have.

I could go on - the incredible music by John Barry with the unforgettable 'Everbody'sTalkin' by Harry Nilsson. The fact that Dustin Hoffman - fresh from starring in The Graduate - hails from LA but is playing a native New Yorker so perfectly. In fact, the newcomer Jon Voight, a native New Yorker is playing a Texan! So many facets of this film make it even stronger and I am well aware that, over the next few years, the more I watch the film, the better it will get.

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