Monday, 30 January 2012

You May Have Missed This ...

As I write for a couple of blogs, there are the odd articles which are not re-published on this blog and rather than inundate you with retweets, a simple overview and a link to the relevant post should suffice. I am sure that you have had enough Top 10 Films of 2011 from me - but if you don't know, there are further details on Man I Love Films. I won't republish it here as I would assume you've listened to the podcast if you read this blog.

All my articles for Flickering Myth are exclusive to their site and, though they are time-specific (Commmenting on articles in the  [often UK-based] press from the previous week) they may initially seem out-of-date already but I think you may find some interesting talking points...

My latest post titled Cinema: The Noble Art Form tackles the attitude that literature is the "higher" form of art in comparison to Cinema. The week prior I wrote about Changing the Expectations of Cinema... - in response to the criticism regarding audience members who demanded their money-back after a screening of The Artist; They were not aware of the silent, black-and-white nature of the film. Finally, Kim Novak ridiculously claimed that she felt "raped" (!!!) by the use of Herrman's score in The Artist - why on earth would she say such a thing?

Large Association of Movie Blogs

Sunday, 29 January 2012

My Favourite Song at the moment is ...

Maroon 5 - Moves Like Jagger ft. Christian Aguilera

NB - I am not a new-music kind-of-guy, but this song is fantastic.

Large Association of Movie Blogs

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Paths of Glory (Stanley Kubrick, 1957)

"See that cockroach? Tomorrow morning, we'll be dead and it'll be alive. It'll have more contact with my wife and child than I will. I'll be nothing, and it'll be alive."


Paths of Glory in a double-bill with Dr Strangelove would be incredible. Whilst one deals with the politics of the Cold War and the atomic bomb, Paths of Glory deals with the complete injustice and unfair accountability of soldiers during war time. These two films, alongside Full Metal Jacket, clearly establish Stanley Kubrick's anti-war stance. Kubrick has said the following about politics - “The great nations have always acted like gangsters, and the small nations like prostitutes" and the muddy, messy nature of the fights depicted in Paths of Glory do not depict the 'Glory' of battle, but the horror. It is no surprise that Spielberg has noted how Paths of Glory is one of his favourite Kubrick films - and you can see the influence it has on Saving Private Ryan and, more recently, War Horse. Both War Horse and Paths of Glory are set during World War I and while War Horse plays down the injustice - clearly depicting the English as "Heroes" whilst the Germans are "Villains" - Paths of Glory portrays the French against the Germans and boths sides are as despicable as the other. Now that I mention it, the enemy of the German opposition is never seen!


Colonel Dax (Kirk Douglas) quotes Samuel Johnson early in the film to his superior General Mireau (George Macready) - " the last refuge of a scoundrel". Mireau is the scoundrel and his simplification about an attack on the Ant Hill - comfortably noting how "25%" of soldiers will die during the first wave of the attack - highlight this from the start. What begins as an attack crossing no-mans land in the first act changes dramatically after the plan fails as a whole regiment refuses to leave the trenches. It is clear that the soldiers would not survive if they got past the wire. General Mireau argues that the soldiers who did not leave the trenches (and the soldiers who retreated) showed "cowardice in the face of the enemy" and should be shot. Mireau believes that if the soldiers followed their commands they could have taken the Ant Hill whilst Colonel Dax believes that it was a completely flawed plan from the outset and it would be suicide for the soldiers if they followed the order. Mireau counter-argues that if that would have been the case, so be it. The soldiers should have followed the order. Three soldiers are chosen and placed on trial to set an example.

This is a fascinating conflict to discuss. In war, it is expected that all soldiers follow every order they are given. Even if the order is suicide. General Mireau, a man in a position of power, is responsible for the death of many men and this strikes a direct parrallel with General Jack Ripper (Sterling Hayden) in Dr Strangelove - as he attempts to start a nuclear war. Unlike Ripper, Mireau is not portrayed as a mad man - he is not locked away in a room pushing buttons. Mireau is a senior officer who defends his case and argues his views successfully - his superior General George Boulard (Adolphe Menjou) respects him. Boulard and Mireau are cut from the same cloth and understand the expectations of the senior ranks - whilst they both see how expendable the soldiers on the front line are. Colonel Dax on the other hand is between the two - he fights alongside the soldiers on the battle field and also takes orders and discusses strategies with the Generals. This perfect place in the ranks of the army is what makes him such a fascinating character; uncorrupted by the upper ranks and understanding enough to respect the soldiers and their duty to society. To top if off, he is a lawyer outside of the war and clearly understands the word justice.

Technical Skill

The way Kubrick shoots the trenches is incredibly atmospheric. The camera seems to be squeezed amongst the men and walks through the long, narrow gutters. You cannot help but consider the awful conditions these men were kept within. So many men are seen as Colonel Dax is walking through these trenches, we know that he is thinking the same: These are not merely pawns in a game of chess - these are men with wives and families. Ironically, it is General Mireau who asks the men about their families - "Do you have a wife?" and stating how "Your Mother would be proud". These are empty comments and when he approaches a man who is shell-shocked this pseudo-kindness changes as he calls him a coward and immediately removes him from his post arguing that his fearful attitude will "spread" amongst the men.

Furthermore, the use of lighting by cinematographer Georg Krause is haunting and moody. Especially within the sequences whereby the three accused are in prison. As the priest offers to give the soldiers their last rites, the lighting is sparse and creates a religious and classical atmosphere. Contrasting these sequences with the expansive and affluent mansions and dance-halls shows how divided the soldiers and their superiors are. General Boulard is never on the battlefield and even Mireau who is on site, is clearly at a safe distance. The soldiers on the other hand are only seen in small, cramp trenches, bars and cells. This only changes when the three men are on trial themselves. Hinting at the only access to these places is through illegal and corrupt acts.,

Relevant Today

It finishes as Colonel Dax is offered a promotion - his effort in supporting the soldiers and making Boulard aware of Mireau's actions to kill all Paths of Glory clearly establishes a context that highlights the ugliness in war and the injustice in the actions expected of others. Unlike reality, in Paths of Glory, Colonel Dax leaves the room without the promotion having made his stand -

General Broulard: Colonel Dax, you're a disappointment to me. You've spoiled the keenness of your mind by wallowing in sentimentality. You really did want to save those men, and you were not angling for Mireau's command. You are an idealist... and I pity you as I would the village idiot. We're fighting a war, Dax, a war that we've got to win. Those men didn't fight, so they were shot. You bring charges against General Mireau, so I insist that he answer them. Wherein have I done wrong?
Colonel Dax: Because you don't know the answer to that question. I pity you.

Dax leaves the room and watches the soldiers in a bar, blissfully ignorant, watching a German singer - for a moment - whisk the men away from the horrors of war. Horrors they should not see.

Large Association of Movie Blogs

Thursday, 26 January 2012

The Simon and Jo Show: Review of 2011/Mission Impossible

Yup, that's right! Over Christmas, Jo and I managed to record a new episode of The Simon and Jo Film Show to review 2011, revealing our Top 10, and watching all four Mission Impossible films to boot!

All the backing music is from the film we discuss and the same goes for each Mission Impossible film.

I know, I know, I released my Top 5 films already on Ryan's Matineecast, but hey - you haven't heard my Top 6 through 10 and, no one has heard Jo's Top 10 at all! As usual, both Jo and I didn't reveal our choices to each other so you hear our gasps and cheer as we hear what each other chose!

Without furtherado, have a listen and catch up with Simon and Jo!
Indeed - please spread the word! And, as usual, it is still conected on itunes and can be easily found on podomatic. But you can always just press play and listen to it on this site!

Large Association of Movie Blogs

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Should I Watch These? Oscars 2012

I remember a year when the nominees were announced I had seen all of the films except the one's which had yet to be released. This year, not so.

From whittiling out the films I have seen, I can see a list of films that - for the most part - I don't want to see. Tree of Life I have just purchased on Amazon, so its only a matter of time with that bad boy. The Descendants hasn't been released in the UK - and I will watch it when it is released. And I guess its inevitable that The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo will be viewed. But everything else, I could easily argue my reasons against.

But can you convince me? I have edited down all the nominee's to only the film's I haven't seen. So, according to my list, I only have four Best Picture nominations ...

If you scan down the list to the other categories - and it seems that for Original Score and Best Art Direction I am all over them - you will see the films and actor nominated which I know nothing about, as I have not seen the film.

Which of these should I be making a real effort to hunt down? Which of these are worth finding at a matinee, at a cinema on the other side of London, purely to 'tick-off' on the list of Films-to-see-in-2011? I have roughly one-month to make the effort!

Best Picture:

Best Director:
Alexander Payne, THE DESCENDANTS
 Terrence Malick, THE TREE OF LIFE

Best Actress:
Viola Davis, THE HELP
Meryl Streep, THE IRON LADY

Best Actor:
Demian Bichir, A BETTER LIFE

Best Supporting Actress:
Octavia Spencer, THE HELP
Jessica Chastain, THE HELP

Best Supporting Actor:
Christopher Plummer, BEGINNERS
Nick Nolte, WARRIOR

Best Original Screenplay:

Best Adapted Screenplay:

Best Animtaed Feature:

Best Foreign Language Feature:

Best Cinematography:

Best Editing:

Best Art Direction:
As an Art teacher, I am quite proud I watched all of these. Says something about what type of film I am attracted to!

Best Costume:
I told you W.E. would get something for this!

Best Make-Up:

Best Original Score:
I also love music and film scores - purchasing The Adventures of Tintin too! Again, I think this represents me a little.

Best Original Song:
“Man or a Muppet”, THE MUPPETS
“Real in Rio” RIO

Best Sound Mixing:

Best Sound Editing:

Best Visual Effects

Best Documentary Feature:

Best Documentary Short:

Best Animated Short:

Best Live Action Short:

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Bonnie and Clyde (Arthur Penn, 1967)

"This here's Miss Bonnie Parker. I'm Clyde Barrow. We rob banks"


In terms of the New Hollywood, Bonnie and Clyde and Easy Rider remain the two seminal films that slowly led to the rise of filmmakers such as Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola and William Friedkin. Both Bonnie and Clyde and Easy Rider were directed by filmmakers who wanted to make cinema more controversial and gratuitous in its use of violence, sex and drugs. Whilst Dennis Hopper directed a film about two lone bike-riders travelling across America to take part in a drug-fuelled binge at Mardi Gras, Arthur Penn directed a violent, gangster film with lead protagonist's that were cold-hearted murderers with their only intention to rob banks and keep on running from the cops. Killing as many cops in the process. These films were hugely successful and they ensured that producers gave more freedom to filmmakers. This led to The Deer Hunter and The Godfather, films that through their financial success, led to producers wholly trusting the directors. Catastrophes such as Heaven's Gate destroyed United Artists studio whilst Apocalypse Now became an infamous production that wasted millions of pounds and seemed to be 'in production' for an unnecessary and unplanned amount of time. Bonnie and Clyde, pre-dating Easy Rider, began this movement and today still stands as one of the most important films in American cinema.

Based on a True Story

Though we see two characters who existed, this is not an accurate account of the Barrow Gang. In the first instance, CW Moss (Michael J. Pollard) is a composite of two people - WD Jones and Henry Methin. Both Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, in reality, had been arrested and placed in jail many times during the course of their criminal run. The two people did not send photo's and their writing to the press to gain notoriety - these were items which were found and published by the police. In fact, the poem read in the final act of the film was only published in the press after Bonnie's Mum agreed to the publication after Bonnie and Clydes death. As a final example, the shoot-out at the end of the film depicting Bonnie and Clyde, shot-down, just as they were about to go 'straight' could not be farther from the truth. In reality, Bonnie and Clyde had in the back the car "over a dozen guns and several thousand rounds of ammo". There are so many deviations from the reality of Bonnie and Clyde, that it is a much better idea to simply see this as another interpretation of bank-robbers on the run.

The Symbolic Phallus

From the very first meeting between Bonnie (Faye Dunaway) and Clyde (Warren Beatty), we see a strange anti-climactic nature to their relationship. The first sequence shows Bonnie, naked, in her house. Her feminity and sexuality is clear - and yet, following the first robbery, the two fail to consumate their relationship. Indeed, Bonnie tries very hard to seduce Clyde but he pushes her away claiming he "ain't no lover boy". In reality, Clyde Barrow's first killing was in prison, whereby the victim sexually assualted him repeatedly before Barrow killed him with a length of pipe. In the film, it is clear that the gun - which Bonnie caresses gently in a sexual manner - clearly represents Clydes masculinity. He is depicted as impotent; it is this weapon that defines who he is.

Bonnie, on the other hand, seeks more solace and regularly attempts to whisk Clyde away so the two can be alone. When Buck (Gene Hackman) and his wife join the gang, you can see that Bonnie finds the company claustrophobic. She insults and despises Blanche (Estelle Parsons) and is angered by the prospect of paying her. It is only in the final act do we see Bonnie and Clyde make love and this seems to be what changes their relationship - they even discuss the future as Bonnie asks Clyde what he would do if they woke up the following morning free with "nobody chasing us".

Influence and Inspiration

Released in 1969, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid appears to have a very similar theme and story to Bonnie and Clyde. In fact, the opening credits of Bonnie and Clyde, whereby black-and-white pictures flash on screen between each credit, seems to be clearly the inspiration for the use of photographs in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. In fact, the use of photographs to depict the New York segment of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, seems like a natural progression from using the pictures in Bonnie and Clyde at the start to quickly show the upbringing of the lead characters. Not to mention how both films portray bank-robbers in rural America and their 'spree', the police chasing them and both finish with a historic death of the two characters. Both of which were shoot-outs.

Dean Tavoularis was hired by producer Arther Penn to be cinematographer on Bonnie and Clyde and this was his first major position that led to his work on The Godfather trilogy and Apocalypse Now. This film depicts wide-open landscapes and dusty roads but it does hint at Tavoularis' Caravaggio-esque shooting during the night scenes. Specifically, when the Barrow gang are found by police at a Motel, the use of sparse lighting from the front-headlights create this classical, baroque atmosphere. The sequence itself must have been a frame of reference for a similar sequence in Michael Mann's Public Enemies.

The Past Will Catch Up With You

The mocking and humiliating picture of the Texas Ranger (Frank Hamer) is our connection between two points in the film. The 5-person gang seem to be on a roll and are gaining notoriety across the land. Buck reads a newspaper highlighting comedic stories of mistaken identity. The Texas Ranger, slowly sneaks up on the gang and in a matter of seconds the tables are turned and he is photographed, mocked and laughed at by the gang. It is simply poetic how this is the man that shoots the two down in final scene. In another sequence, the gang pick up a couple - Velma (Evans Evans) and Eugene (Gene Wilder) - and the seven of them seem to be having a great time until Eugene reveals his profession: "I'm an undertaker" he casually mentions.

You cannot outrun your past and you cannot outrun the inevitable death of a carefree and destructive life. Bonnie knows this - as she immediately throws Eugene and Velma out the car upon realising who he really is - Death himself. Even Blanche is aware as she constantly shrieks and fears for her life. It seems our rogue Clyde Barrow is the only one who does not realise that the time is ticking and he cannot turn back time. He has no concept of the short-lived nature of the armed bank-robber.

Clyde answered Bonnie when she asked about his actions if they woke up with "nobody chasin'" them. His answer?
"First off, I wouldn't live in the same state where we pull our jobs. We'd live in another state. We'd stay clean there and then when we'd take a bank, we'd go into the other state..."
The horrific massacre at the end was inevitable - and Bonnie knew it, whilst Clyde did not...

Large Association of Movie Blogs

Sunday, 15 January 2012

W.E. (Madonna, 2012)

"The King who gave up his throne ... for the woman he loved"


Last year, during The King's Speech, we see a little exposure on the parallel storyline between Guy Pearce and Eve Best portraying the free-spirited Wallis Simpson (Best) and the abdicating King Edward VIII. As a criticism of The King's Speech, the characters remained quite 2D and ambiguous - the idea of abdicating and stepping down from such an important role in the monarchy for the love of a woman is a huge sacrifice. Furthermore, when the two left England after the King stepped down, Wallis only returned to England for the funeral of her husband in 1972. The production of W.E. began at least a decade ago in Madonna's eyes, as she began research into the topic. James D'Arcy compared her knowledge of the subject-matter to director Peter Weir in the screening I attended, organised by the great folks at LOVEFiLM. This is a personal project and the comparison between Madonna and Wallis is clear, but whether the story is effective is another story all together.

Multiple Narratives and Ghost Stories

In the first instance, this is not a normal biography. I only recently watched Chaplin and the one thing I disliked the most about the film was the cliche nature of the biopic that the story clung to. The more-recent The Iron Lady, I believe, has a similar set-up. The idea that an old-version of a historical-figure recounts their story whilst we, as viewers, see the flash backs and see the event's. The same structure is equally applied to fictional characters giving the story a sense of authority and truth - Saving Private Ryan and Titanic would be examples.

W.E. portrays three intertwining stories. We see the life of Wallis Simpson (Andrea Riseborough) and Edward (James D'Arcy) during the 20's, through the 40's. This runs parallel to a modern-day story of  upper-class Wally (Abbie Cornish) as she obsesses over Simpson's life and visits and re-visits a Sotheby's auction house which are auctioning-off property of the their estate. The direct connection between the two is strikingly similar a both characters are initially in marriages they do not want to stay within - Wallis Simpson and her first Husband Ernest (David Harbour) and Wally with her doctor-husband William (Richard Coyle). We see, in both cases, how the marriages fall apart and the new men in their lives. Throughout, Wallis Simpson visits Wally to offer advice and to discuss profound issues in relationships and truth.

Feminism and Characterisation

Due to the multiple characters and constant back-and-forth between stories, we have very little time to truly understand the characters. It is very clear that the story bends to a strong feminist message, dictating that people criticise Wallis Simpson without criticising King Edward VIII. Madonna makes reference to how we discuss how much King Edward VIII "gave up" for Wallis Simpson, without discussing what she gave up for him. The same connects to the modern-day story as, though wally lives in a stylish, modern apartment and her Husband is intelligent and at the top of his game within the medical profession, it is she who loses out more as she is aware of his infidelities. The argument about how, if you decide to marry into a successful partner, there is an automatic expectation to support them, opposed to an equal-footing within a relationship.

Unfortunately, our perspective is limited to thorough characterisation of Wally and Wallis, with very little to understand Edward, Ernest and William. These are merely summarised as Edward the "besotted man", Ernest the "abusive-but-regretful" ex and William the "cheating Husband". With this in mind, our love-interest for Wally is Evgeni (Oscar Isaac). He is likable but remains flat. An intelligent Russian "slumming it as a security guard" we are told. With this in mind, he seems to live in an expensive New York apartment, trained as a classical pianist, he even owns a piano. This complete inconsistency is where the film fails as we cannot relate to any of the characters. Even Wally's obsession with Wallis appears to be more a problem than a sensible interest. Not to mention, how can anyone condone spending $11,000 on gloves! If we understood the life of luxury, we may understand such an extravagant purchase, but we know so little. At one point, we see a speech whereby a character comments on being rich and shameless - as another pipes up "What's wrong with being rich and shameless?". Everyone laughs. Late into the film, we see how violent Wally's husband is and this changes our perspective a little - but it is too late as we have watched our rich-girl wander around the auctioneer's upset about how difficult her life is without any clear example about the challenges she faces. For one, she doesn't even have to work!

Trying Too Hard

Technically, Madonna is confident and clear. It is unfortunate that many sequences seem to have no clear purpose or reason as to the stylistic choice. In one instance, the camera follows D'Arcy and Simpson to a tree, whereby moments later, we move vertically and up the tree. Another music-video choice is used when wally first visits Evgeni's apartment. He plays the piano and the sequence continues as the music continues but the couple start dancing - all fair and well in a music-video, but within the film, who is paying the piano? what are they dancing to? Are they dancing in silence? Maybe these decisions would not be an issue if I was swept along with the story, but it seemed that time and time again, I witnessed an unnecessary flourish or transition that seemed to actively stop the smoothness of the story.

 Having said that, the costume-design is superb and I could easily imagine a nomination for Costume-Design alone. Every costume worn by our characters were perfectly styled around the actors and, specifically, without the use of technology or obvious signals to clarify which time period we were in, the costume served to establish the context.

Letters To End 

There are many strong and engaging aspects to the film that shows how Madonna should continue to make films and learn from the mistakes already made. Unfortunately, the flaws seem to highlight issues which may not be resolved so easily. To close the film, there is a sequence whereby Wally manages to read letters written to an aunt from Wallis - revealing a side to Wallis we never knew. This is shot exquisitely and the reveal is a fascinating issue to raise in the closing act - ensuring conversation post-screening. But the entire letter plot seemed tacked on at the end - as if it was an after-thought.

It is clear that Madonna found a fascinating story and thought in depth about how the film would look - without considering how the film would flow. Therefore the story seems to drag on towards the end, the characters are flat and 2D whilst the camera-moves without purpose or meaning. And its a shame, because it could have been brilliant.

Large Association of Movie Blogs

Thursday, 12 January 2012

If ... (Lindsay Anderson, 1968)

"Help the House ... and you'll be helped by the House"


The British Prime Minister, David Cameron, recently noted that one of his favourite films is Lindsay Anderson's 1968 counter-cultural-classic If.... By happy coincidence, LOVEFiLM actually sent the title to me this weekend ready for todays "Classic Columb". I must say, agreeing with this article in The Guardian, the choice seems highly ironic or proves how deeply deluded Mr Cameron actually is. Rebellious youth, destroying traditional values and archaic expectations - and crucially the values and expectations of the upper echelons of society. This is an important part of British Cinema. Thtough his performance in If..., Stanley Kubrick called on Malcolm McDowell for his seminal film-role in A Clockwork Orange. In terms of British Cinema, the film was named 16th Greatest British Film of all-time by Total Film and won the Palme D'Or in 1969. Lots of praise for a film that culminates in a graphic, horrific depiction of a high-school massacre.

Seniors and Juniors

The conventions and expectations of a public-boy school life is unique. Traditions often extend to centuries prior whilst the strange behaviour and attitudes are alien to the vast majority of society. The group-of-three rebels in the guise of Travis (McDowell), Wallace (Richard Warwick) and Johnny (David Wood) are non-conformist and their lack of respect for these traditions constantly place them in a position whereby sanctions are delivered. And in the sixties, this would be in the form of "lashings" - namely whipping the child on the buttocks a number of times. As an example of the ridiculous rules of this establishment, following 10 lashings, Travis (like all pupils) still has to shake hands and say "Thank you Rowntree" to the "whip" Rowntree (Robert Swann) for his excessive lashing.

Contradictions and ignorance is rife. The fact that we vaguely follow a group of junior pupils alongside our three protaganists in the seniors clearly associates the nature of influence and the example that we are setting for the future. The regular abuse of these traditions merely ensure that, though the traditions continue, the elitist and superior attitudes towards power and control continue too. Bullying in the form of "washing" others (tying a pupil by their legs high above a toilet so that their head is flushed in the toilet) and then other "role-model" students treat others unfairly by forcing boys to stand in cold-showers for a substantial amount of time. Traditions continue. The ossification of these upper-sections of society continue ... until someone breaks the norm.

Fitting into the Canon of 60's Cinema

It is strange to consider a connection between If...  - a surreal-take on conservative Britain - and Deliverance, John Boorman's attack on small-town life in the deep south of USA. But indeed Lindsay Anderson and John Boorman both belonged to a movement titled the British New Wave. In the vein as the French New Wave, the movement consisted of film critics and documentary filmmakers - John Boorman, prior to making Catch Us If You Can (A rehash of A Hard Days Night) was a documentary filmmaker whilst Lindsay Anderson was a film critic for Sequence magazine. The movement was all about depicting social realism and, by 1968, the movement had all but ended - largely due to the escapist and entertaining James Bond films amongst others. If... was one of the last of these social-realist films in Britain, depicting anti-establishment anti-heroes.

A Strange Trip

Whenever I think of 1969, I automatically think about Easy Rider. The drug-sequence towards the end of the film is a fascinating example of surrealist filmmaking. Only a year before Easy Rider, If... was approaching filmmaking in a similar surrealist style. The film, due to budget-reasons, is half filmmed in colour and the other half filmed in monochrome, presenting an almost dreamlike state as you watch each sequence. In one, stand-out sequence, Mrs Kemp appears to wander the hallways naked. It is a strange concept, the idea of a naked woman wandering the rooms and hallways of a public boys school. Almost as if the fantasies and obsessions of the boys becomes a reality. In another section, Travis first meets a girl (Christine Noonan) and, initially rejected by his advances, she then tells him how she likes to be 'tiger' sometimes and consequently the two start wresting and roaring like animals. As if to show the freedom and liberation Travis desperately seeked, it works wonderfully and the naked Mrs Kemp was additionally groundbreaking as it was the first full-frontal female nudity passed by the BBFC that was a prolonged scene (opposed to flashes of nudity). Alongside The Graduate and Easy Rider, it really is great to see such exciting and innovative uses of filmmaking at this point in cinema-history.

"We're all in this together!"

This is the last place to see a vicar in a drawer, but surrealism is the root of If... and to close this analysis, it is worth harking back to Mr Cameron's opening speech as Prime Minitser. Shortly after his election, the focus point remained that Britain must be "in this together" regarding the financial crisis that had recently hit the Western economy. Ironically, it seems this is the same sentiment the "whip" and Headmaster live by. The multiple lines that the public school stand by constantly reiterate how much we are expected to trust the powers-that-be - and I am positive a paraphrased version of the words "We're all in this together" was used by Rowntree at one point in the film.

At one point, Travis insults Rowntree by stating:
"The thing I hate about you, Rowntree, is the way you give Coca-Cola to your scum, and your best teddy bear to Oxfam, and expect us to lick your frigid fingers for the rest of your frigid life."
Rowntree treats the boys around him well, he gives the impression that he is doing what is right for society and treats the 'long-haired' rebels with contempt. He is clearly abusing the position he has been given but manages to stay in power by looking after those closest to him and giving-off the right image. The truth is not seen. I think we can draw many parrallel's in society today with that one summary. The reality is that clearly this complete abuse of power and inbred social divide is what needs to be destroyed. Because, at the end of the film, we are all with Travis on the rooftop ...

Large Association of Movie Blogs

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Who Score's on 007 Skyfall?

Germain Lussier writes for /Film about the replacement of David Arnold on the 23rd Bond film Skyfall:

"To be honest, I couldn’t pick one of Arnold’s Bond scores from the other (I’m more of fan of his Roland Emmerich collaborations) and, usually, most of the Bond music news is attached to the pop star who sings the opening credits song. Arnold’s a fine composer, but it almost feels lazy that he kept getting asked back when each director is so radically different."

Read the full article here:

As a huge fan of the James Bond franchise - and someone who truly enjoys the wide variety of scores to the 007 films, I couldn't diagree more!

David Arnold is the only composer who has comfortably succeeded John Barry. Many have tried - Eric Serra, Michael Kamen - but none have managed to balance new scores with traditional James Bond themes as successfully as Barry until David Arnold came along.

For example, Tomorrow Never Dies, manage to introduce a solid pace with modern electronic music without ignoring the iconic theme - Arnold even managed to get Moby involved to created his own version of the 007 theme. The World is not Enough and Die Another Day proceeded to get more electronic and technological. You simply have to compare the electronic percussion on the track 'Whiteout' for Die Another Day to the 'Hamburg Break Out' in Tomorrow Never Dies to see how, initially a contemporary use of technology then became more a excessive use of equipment.

Thank God, David Arnold completely changed his palette when working on Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace. The sound effects are no more and Arnold ensures that, in the same way as the films have 'gone back to their roots', the music has too. 'Night at the Opera' on the Quantum of Solace score harks right back to the track 'Capsule in Space' from You Only Live Twice showing the direct influence of John Barry.

More evidence? The Proms at The Royal Albert Hall this year had a performance whereby themes by Barry and Arnold were performed. You can see the direct influence and correlation between the two composers - my own post covering the Proms has a video included showing the memorable performance.

In closing, it is worth noting that I do love Thomas Newman. I often listen to his scores for American, Beauty (check out my Incredible Soundtracks post), Wall-E and Finding Nemo. And, in fairness, between From Russia with Love and John Barry's final score The Living Daylights, the odd film had a different composer, only for Barry to return to the franchise in the next film. Composers as diverse as Marvin Hamlisch on The Spy Who Loved Me, George Martin on Live and Let Die and Bill Conti on For Your Eyes Only.

I have a feeling that most composers want to "do" a James Bond film and this was Newman's chance. I doubt Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson are foolish enough to destroy their connection to David Arnold. If this Sam Mendes 'vision' doesn't wholly work, I'm sure David Arnold will be back on board for the 24th film. Or at least, I hope he is back.
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Thursday, 5 January 2012

The Last Picture Show (Peter Bogdanovich, 1971)

"Being crazy about a woman like her is always the right thing to do. Being an old decrepit bag of bones, that's what's ridiculous. Gettin' old"


"Anarene, Texas, 1951. Nothing much has changed..." is the tag line attached to the poster. The Last Picture Show, a story that could easily be summarised as a teenage-drama based in small-town America, is so much more than that. Like Saturday Night Fever is so much more than urban teenagers dancing and Rumble Fish is so much more than rebellious youth. This is a film that, by charting the changes of primarily two-characters, we see the challenges of life itself.

It is slightly unnerving when the better teenage-drama's in the last decade are Easy A and Mean Girls. I am sure their success and critical acclaim will attest to success on their own terms, but the difference is the use of the marketing term "target audience". Rather than merely targetting the teenage-audience members, The Last Picture Show is a profound and intelligent story. In black-and-white, it is shot almost as a Western. We see tragedy, sadness, loss and regret in the characters that surround our two teenage-leads. Though we visit, unlike teenage-dramas, we are not stuck in a high-school or restricted to the confines of bedrooms and house-parties. In The last Picture Show, we see the owners of the pool-club and the operators of the cinema projectors. We see the wife of the gym-teacher and we see the owner of the factory that employs half-the-neighbourhood. You could argue that Sonny (Timothy Bottoms) and Duane (Jeff Bridges) are possibly the most unimportant characters in the story - what we are restricted to, is small-town life.
An Exploration of Life - and not just the Teenage Years

What is brilliant about The Last Picture Show is how profound the story is. On the surface it is a love-triangle between Sonny, Duane and Jacy (Cybill Shepherd) but this bland summary does no justice to the scope of the film. Initially a case of unrequited love between one boy and his best friends girlfriend, it then becomes more complicated as Sonny is involved with Ruth Popper (Cloris Leachman) - the wife of his gym-teacher. We then see the social separation between Jacy and Duane and how, though initially an issue of sex, parties and high-school crushes (with an unforgettable Randy Quaid as Lester), it later becomes a tragic and definitive separation between economic circumstance. Jacy is a girl from money - and she will only find a man with money. Duane and Sonny have neither.

Many more issues are raised; The conflict between the boys friendship - and the dramatic shift between the two following Jacy's interference; The need for escape from the small town - and the one's who make it, whilst there are those who don't; The mourning and loss of a pillar in the community - and how his faith in the community is what ties many to the small town; High-school bullying dramatically changes as Joe Bob (Barc Doyle) is found attempting to molest a child - despite his upstanding position and assumed moral-highground as the Preacher's Son. The fact that Joe Bob was given $1000 prior to this may underpin an attitude to money - and how money can corrupt and destroy someone. Hardly the trials and tribulations of youth.

The Inevitable Class-Divide

I am beginning to see an emerging interest I have in the depiction of class in cinema (my opinion's on Home Alone, Great Expectation's and Sleuth are a testement to that) and so this dimension to The Last Picture Show, I shall explore further.

Jacy is initially the "girl everyone loves" but, over the course of the film, we see her tragic change in character (or maybe a reveal of who she really is). Though a child of affluence, her Mother is first generation - having "scared" Jacy's Dad into being rich. But her Mum does not see the same in Jacy - indeed, she is not "scary" enough. With or without this knowledge, her attitude towards Duane is hurtful and cruel - teasing him in the back seat of a car and pushing him off as he places his hand between her legs. Then, shortly afterwards, she joins Lester at the [naked] pool party of a wealthy neighbour. She has no problem in revealing everything to everyone. She see's the divide and is happy to consent and "join" them. This attitude appears again as she marries Sonny - only to reveal that she left a note for her Father to find. In true unresponsible fashion, she is inevitably "saved" from a poorer lifestyle and the marriage is annulled. Despite Jacy's unhappiness and her need to be accepted - she is too uncomfortable on her own and she needs someone to take care of her.


Like Martin Scorsese, Bogdanovich is obsessed with cinema - even today you will find him presenting many documentaries about Alfred Hitchcock, Marilyn Monroe and John Ford - so it is no suprise that technicially, Bogdanovich has created a work of Art. His use of soundtrack alone is haunting as radios and televisions are always playing in the background. I would assume this subtle choice of sound shows how life goes on around this community. It doesn't matter on the grand scale of things, because life just carries on regardless. The TV's will still be watched and the radio's will continue to be heard.

Even the opening and closing shots as the camera pans across the isolated village connects this film to the John Ford Westerns - the small community and the inhabitants we get to kow during the course of the film.

The Inevitable Reference

The Last Picture Show is in the 1001 Films to See Before You Die and upon releasing the remastered version in April 2011, it became a part of an extended run at the BFI Southbank in London. But neither of these are what brought me to this film. It was way back in 2000, watching an episode of Dawson's Creek whereby The Last Picture Show became one of the most important films in Dawson's life. The love-triangle between Dawson, Pacey and Joey clearly an echo of the triangle between Duane, Sonny and Jacy (notice how the names almost sound the same). Both groups of friends within small towns, both film and show include storylines of a high-school student engaging in a relationship with an older woman (Pacey/Tamara Jacobs - Sonny/Ruth Popper) and both created by film-fans - Kevin Williamson and Peter Bogdanovich.

Akin to Dawson and Pacey, Sonny and Duane are the centre-point of the story as both boys change dramatically due to their teenage experiences of sex and relationships. What is truly remarkable is how it shows characters who are young and desperate to get out of the situation they were born in. In one stand-out sequence, the boys leave town to visit Mexico (Bogdanovich doesn't show us their holiday, but teases us as they return, sombrero included and hangover to fend off) and when they return, the town has dramatically changed. The boys have seen the wide-world and tasted a little of what it is to be free ... but only one can take the jump and leave town ...
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Sunday, 1 January 2012

2011 Year in Review on The Matineecast!

A long time ago, in February I think, Ryan invited Sarah and I to guest on his Matineecast End of Year 2011. It seemed a very, very early invitation but I would never decline a guest-spot on the Matineecast!

Ryan hosts the episode on his site so I merely set up the link and direct you to his site at

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