THE 100 GREATEST FILMS OF ALL TIME – 57: PSYCHO

by Laurent Kelly


Psycho (1960) – Director: Alfred  Hitchcock   Adapted Screenplay: Joseph Stefano  Starring: Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh, Vera Miles OSCAR COUNT (0) – 4 Nominations – Best Director, Best Supporting Actress (Janet Leigh), Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction.

This is Alfred Hitchcock’s third entry on this countdown. See also:
91: STRANGERS ON A TRAIN
67: REAR WINDOW

 

There is something very admirable about Hitchcock’s unwillingness to conform to traditional movie narratives. He set films in single rooms, thought up unusual camera techniques, turned histrailers into mini stories and subvertedaudience expectations as he pleased. Because of his unique vision, a lot of his films possess a certain cool edge lacking in a number of other golden oldies. His pictures are still striking and vital for their daring and innovative approach to handling drama.

Psycho is perhaps the prime example of Hitchcock as a cinematic rebel. Here the great man did something unthinkable and killed off the lead protagonist not even halfway through the picture. Just killing her off at all would have taken balls but Hitchcock didn’t even let her see the second hour. This is still remarkable by today’s standards. I mean can you imagine following Nicole Kidman on what appears to be a road movie only to see her brutally murdered out of nowhere. With this analogy in place it is easy to see why the famous shower sequence had so many tongues waggling. Continue reading

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THE 100 GREATEST FILMS OF ALL TIME – 58: METROPOLIS

by Daniel Suddes


Metropolis (1927) – Director: Fritz Lang   Adapted Screenplay: Thea Von Harbou and Fritz Lang Starring: Briggette Helm, Alfred Abel, Gustav Frohlich  OSCAR COUNT (0)

There are many silent films that are still looked upon as important without actually being relevant to society. To many, Metropolis is seen as one such film. Being the official “first science fiction film” lends it the air of respectability. But most view those old films as just that – antiquated pieces that are of no interest to anyone except those stodgy professor types that go on and on about how the death of silent film meant the death of cinema itself. This is unfair toMetropolis. In many ways, this film is just as relevant now as the day it premiered. It does not look at the late 1920s Germany that spawned it. Metropolisexamines all of human history in its running time, showing us exactly what has happened (and what will still happen) as our civilization grows. It is one of those films that will still be remembered hundreds of years from now.

The story has become relatively simple (in a nutshell: the working class lives in the slums, the upper class lives in the highest echelons of the skyscrapers, the son of a wealthy industrialist becomes infatuated with a revolutionary lower class girl, and a mad scientist is hired to quell a potential uprising using a robotic double of the same revolutionary). However, it is told so profoundly that it reaches the level of a myth. Think about your favorite painting. Many of them are easy to describe. However, those paintings affect us based on the layers that they have created and the ultimate message they convey. Metropolis is one of the few films that operates in the same manner. It wants to explore its themes by gradually revealing to the audience what it has to say, rather than taking the modern approach of explaining everything repeatedly.  Metropolis is dedicated to treating itself like a traditional work of art rather than a film (which was still in its infancy at the time) and is incredible because it succeeded so well. Continue reading

THE GOOD FELLA’S PODCAST #1 – BEST PICTURE STATISTICS

Mosaic

This is my first crack at a podcast as I look at how various Oscar statistics both favour and hinder this year’s Best Picture contenders. Unfortunately I ended up breaking the world for uuming and ahhing and will try to speak more clearly and make my points more sound in future editions. I also wanted to incorporate a number of film themes into the show but forgot to leave a gap to do so which means there is just an opening and closing track instead. Next week I promise to include more classic tunes so that the dialogue doesn’t become so monotonous. Anyway have a listen if you like and let me know what you think.

PART 1:

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THE 100 GREATEST FILMS OF ALL TIME – 59: THE DEER HUNTER

by Laurent Kelly

The Deer Hunter (1978) – Director: Michael Cimino   Original Screenplay: Deric Washburn  Starring: Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken, Meryl Streep, John Savage, John Cazale  OSCAR COUNT (5) – Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor (Christopher Walken), Best Film Editing, Best Sound

The Deer Hunter is a compelling character study about the changing nature of relationships before and after the Vietnam war. In the first hour we are painted a portrait of a closely knit community with friends who work,  drink and socialise together. It is brave for a film to spend such a significant amount of time building up its characters and whilst it may be a little indulgent in places it helps to demonstrate some key mirroring incidents that occur later. The key one is of course is of the hunting of deer. Protagonist Michael has no problem with his rifle before Vietnam but when he comes back post-war on a hunting trip he is reminded of his exploits in Vietnam and develops a guilty conscience. The deer is prey as were his victims and as was his closest friend who he realises he has to go back and rescue.

Some of the smaller moments are the most rewarding such as Michael returning home to a hotel and feeling utterly deflated as he leans back against the wall. He has been through emotional and physical toil and just wants to crawl up into a ball and forget that it all ever happened. What is impressive about the film is that the characters are authentically portrayed within their inability to verbalize their true emotions.  This is arguably De Niro’s greatest strength as a character actor and in this film his eyes are allowed to tell the majority of the story. There is pain reflected in them as he returns to a town which is trying to pretend that everything is still okay even though there are severe cracks under the surface. Scenes also effectively highlight the disorientated mindset of someone who has been through the hell of a war surrounded by old friends who have an appreciation but can’t really understand what this must feel like. This is best demonstrated in the following sequence at the bowling alley where Jon Cazale’s character tries to engage him in lively banter when asking for his advice about a woman. Michael responds to him warmly but there is a sadness in his face which speaks volumes. The sort of comical situations that would have been the highlight of weekend nights have now been clouded by visions of pain and sorrow: Continue reading

THE 100 GREATEST FILMS OF ALL TIME – 60: IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE

by Daniel Suddes

It’s a Wonderful Life (1933) – Director: Frank Capra  Original Screenplay: Frank Capra, Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett  Starring: James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore  OSCAR COUNT (0) – 5 nominations including Best Picture

It’s a Wonderful Life has become a quintessential piece of American art. Like Washington Crosses the Delaware, it is widely recognized, but seems to be examined less as time goes on.  It’s a classic, the mindset seems to go – any further mindset is beyond the point.

But people do forget that the film took decades to find its audience. When it came out, immediately after the end of World War II, people did not embrace the pessimism of small town American life. People wanted optimism – It’s A Wonderful Life, with discussions of suicide and trauma, is rather downbeat.

But the film also contains hope in what was a very downbeat time. It is not as though, immediately following World War II, that the U.S. became a sort of utopia.  There were still many residual effects, not only from the War, but also from the Great Depression. There were (and still are) plenty of Mr. Potters and George Baileys in existence today, even though each is always trying to claim to be the other. It’s also amazing how we pretty much are living in the world that had been previously outlined in this film – where individual existence is not seen as important on the surface and where people are re-evaluating their own priorities based on their loss of money. Continue reading

THE 100 GREATEST FILMS OF ALL TIME – 61: FANNY AND ALEXANDER

by Daniel Suddes


Fanny and Alexander (1982) – Director: Ingmar Bergman  Original Screenplay: Ingmar Bergman   Starring Pernillia Allwin, Bertil Guve  Oscar Count (4) – Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Foreign Language Film.

In his penultimate film, Ingmar Bergman uses his youngest characters in order to examine his broadest themes. Most of Bergman’s films have a fantastical element, with characters facing the literal embodiment of death and eternity. Fanny and Alexander is a different work because it is the most human of all of  Bergman’s film.

The film is an autobiographical look at Bergman’s childhood, in which the titular children and their mother move in with an ultraconservative bishop, after the sudden death of the childrens’ father. The man is psychologically cruel, and tries to prevent the children from enjoying their lives. They are kept as virtual prisoners in a dilapidated home, while the bishop attempts to break their wills. Yes, it comes across as a fairy tale, with Alexander acting as a sort of male Cinderella. But, more importantly, it was a chance for Bergman to finally reflect on his own muse. Bergman grew up in the sort of environment that Alexander does, in which he was punished for wetting the bed by being locked in a closet. He was surrounded by religious icons and punishment, and constantly told that these were all that was good in the world. His only retreat, which he discovered at a young age, was art. But surely, those childhood questions nagged him until his death. After all, how could something considered to be the savior of mankind lead people to act so bizarrely?

Bergman has attempted to find an answer with all of his films. Yet he is the most frank about his search in this film. By the end, I am not sure if Fanny and especially Alexander (who is pretty much the Bergmann stand in – Fanny is not introduced for almost an hour into the film’s running time in the theatrical version) have found the answers they seek. In fact, the ending is somewhat negative, as Alexander must deal with the fact that he will also have the negative experiences in his past following him. But then, that is what makes us human – how we come to terms with such experiences. Continue reading

FILM HISTORY AS A LIST AWARDS 2011 – BEST FILM: INCEPTION


Despite being absent from two of the five board members lists Inception’s otherwise favourable placings gifted the film its fourth and most important win of this online ceremony.  The film is a visual marvel and I am glad that it inflamed the imagination of so many fans. For me I struggled to connect with the film emotionally and as such I  could only appreciate Inception from a technical perspective. Anyway this isn’t a platform for me to bring a negative vibe to this category so instead I suggest three cheers for our winner – the ambitious, thinking man’s blockbuster extravaganza – INCEPTION!

For this category there were ten points awarded to first placed votes, eight points for second, six points for third, four points for fourth and finally two points for fifth.

 

1.) INCEPTION – 28 POINTS

2 x 1st place, 1 x 2nd place 

2.) BLACK SWAN – 26 POINTS

– 2 x 1st place, 1 x 3rd place


3.) THE SOCIAL NETWORK – 22 POINTS

– 2 x 2nd place, 3 x 5th place 

4.) THE KING’S SPEECH – 14 POINTS

– 1 x 1st place, 1 x 4th place


5.) TRUE GRIT  – 14 POINTS


– 1 x 2nd place, 1 x 3rd place