Stand by me (1986) – Directed by: Rob Reiner Written by: Raynold Gideon and Bruce A. Evans Starring: Will Wheaton, River Pheonix, Keither Sutherland, Corey Feldman, Jerry O’Connell OSCAR COUNT (0)
They are at the age of twelve placed in between the awkward phase of childhood and adoloscence. The film will show this to be the happiest time of their lives but also provides strong reminders of future conflicts and tensions. As they go on a journey looking for a dead body the mission becomes a metaphor for the end of their tight relationship as a group and also gives each individual a strong lesson in the harsh nature of mortality.
I think there are two key factors that make a film like Stand by Me still feel miles ahead of its imitators. The first is the perfect intertwining of plot and theme. The plot of course is about the four boys excitedly going on the trail of a dead body whilst the film’s theme deals with the transformation from one era to the next. What is really superb is how as the story develops we realise that whilst the boys are sneaking off for an adventure they are also thematically trying to run away from their various problems back at home. Gordy, the film’s protagonist feels both alienated and guilty in the aftermath of his favoured brother’s death, his friend Chris quite rightfully feels victimised because of his low social standing and his family’s reputation, Teddy has a father in the nuthouse and Vern is undoubtedly the most innocent of the four reminding us at all times of how young they all really are. Continue reading →
[After killing two men and severing the arm of another] Sanjuro: Cooper. Two coffins… No, maybe three.
Here we get supreme badass Toshiro Mifune playing ultimate badass Sanjuro. He’s a masterless samurai wandering a corrupt world just trying to stay alive. He’s like a gunslinger of the Old West. Interestingly enough, Yojimbo is an homage to American Westerns, as Akira Kurosawa was a huge fan of such films. Because of that, I count Yojimbo as a Western even if the proper term might be Eastern. It’s definitely one of the best Westerns ever made; this is Kurosawa we’re talking about here. In fact, Kurosawa does the Western better than almost everyone who has taken on one and it stands up to heavyweights like Unforgiven and Once Upon a Time in the West.
Sanjuro encounters a town plagued by two rival gangs. He sees these gangs are no good for the town so he decides to intervene. Playing against type of a stoic honor bound samurai, Sanjuro elects to use subterfuge and misdirection. He winds up playing the gangs against one another in a complicated, sometimes amusing, bait and switch shell game. Things get serious when one of the gang leader’s son arrives, a revolver in hand. Sanjuro, of course, is just armed with his sword. Even his incredible skill with the blade most likely cannot match the lethality of an accurate gun. Sanjuro is a deadly warrior no doubt, rightfully feared by all, but he can’t dodge bullets…or can he? Continue reading →
Le regle du jeu (Rules of the Game) – 1939 Directed by: Jean Renoir Written By: Renoir and Carl Koch Starring: Nora Gregor, Paulette Dubost, Julien Carette, and Jean Renoir. Oscar Count: 0
Jean Renoir ended his life being thought of as a sort of grandfatherly figure in cinema. People would go to him to seek his advice about films. Such a rotund figure was probably thought of as a relatively harmless man who was bristling with information.
But there was a time when Renoir was subversive enough to cause riots in theaters and have his films banned not once, but twice. The Rules of the Game is that time. Renoir made the most direct satire against French society ever made (probably for all time) and was treated as a pariah. If the French are not willing to laugh at one thing, it is themselves. Then the Nazis banned it (probably because the aristocratic character is Jewish) and was thought destroyed by the bombings. It is a miracle the film still exists at all (although one scene has been lost). Continue reading →
It was the decade that truly made good on the Andy Warhol quote that “everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes” with the influx of reality television bringing us several carbon-copy and heavily manufactured stars, the majority of which were in the limelight for about seven months before sizzling out and making way for the new batch. We heard more and more artists sounding the same and controversy creating cash but amongst all the trash there were some gems that standout from the noughties. Here are my ten favourite from the decade. Continue reading →
We’re halfway through our countdown celebrating the 100 greatest films ever made and to catch up on the list in the most convenient manner possible I have copied and pasted the first fifty entries into this one big mega-post. Enjoy! Continue reading →
The Graduate (1967) – Director: Mike Nichols Adapted Screenplay: Calder Willingham and Buck Henry Starring: Dustin Hoffman, Anne Bancroft, Katharine Ross OSCAR COUNT (1) – Best Director (Nichols)
“Benjamin: Mrs. Robinson, if you don’t mind my saying so, this conversation is getting a little strange.”
If the Graduate counts as a romantic comedy, then it is by far the greatest romantic comedy of all time. It Happened One Night is certainly the gold standard of romantic comedies, but The Graduate flips the concept. I’m also not so sure The Graduate fits into the pretty little picture that romantic comedies paint. Not to give away the ending, but there is an uncertainty that all will end happily ever after. At the very least the closing moments of the film are ambiguous. Mixed with elements of great drama, and filled with amusing awkward situations, The Graduate takes a look at fledgling adulthood in a realistic light, a light that casts stark shadow.
Benjamin Braddock has just finished college and it’s time to join the world. This is an unsure time in most American’s lives, as the transition from adolescent to adult is a strange time in one’s life. Of course, these are problems many would prefer to have over much more dire decisions, but to the unitiated, the young folk going through the trials, it can be hardest time of their lives. Ben’s got it pretty easy. He’s a member of a wealthy family. He’s gone to college, in the foothills of a successful career most likely. Yet something just isn’t quite right with Benjamin. Something is keeping him from soaring. It’s a cliché, but behind great men, there is a great woman. Continue reading →
Director: Billy Wilder Adapted Screenplay: Billy Wilder and Raymond Chandler (based on the novel by James M.Cain) Starring: Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck, Edward G.Robinson OSCAR COUNT (0) – 7 nominations including Best Picture and Best Director
Most people, when they hear the words “film noir” used, think of hard boiled detectives with a bottle of liquor in their desks, beautiful women who serve as MacGuffins to the plot, and vast conspiracies that show how corrupt society is. Those people are incorrect. Film noir is not about good versus evil, and the women are not meant to be plot points. Noir, which did not really become a viable genre until World War II, was about how good men were slowly becoming evil as they tried to make sense of a world gone wrong. Femme Fatales represented their own frustrated perception of their gender roles, and the best films had protagonists who were just as much a part of the conspiracy the antagonists were planning. These themes have stayed with cinema since, and can be seen in practically every postmodern protagonist.
Billy Wilder’s Double Indemnity defines the noir more than any other classic. It doesn’t even need to do so with detectives. No, it is not about the mystery – there is none to be solved. The main character, Walter Neff, is an insurance salesman, and the antagonist. He admits to his crimes at the beginning of the film. Audiences know the ending – but the film still manages to convey a sense of suspense. It also manages to shoot to the top of a genre that has many classics (The Maltese Falcon, Touch of Evil) but has never quite been equaled. Continue reading →