by Daniel Suddes
Brazil (1985) Directed by: Terry Gilliam Written by: Gilliam, Tom Stoppard, and Charles McKeown Produced by Arnon Milchan and Patrick Cassavetti Starring: Johnathan Pryce, Kim Greist, Robert De Niro, Michael Palin, Ian Holm, Katherine Helmond, and Jim Broadbent Oscar Count: 0 (Nominated for Best Art Direction and Best Original Screenplay)
Terry Gilliam’s Brazil is a film that has had its reputation expand enormously since its release twenty seven years ago. When it was first released, this story of a lowly bureaucrat trapped in a vast, soulless world, who dreams of something more for himself was certainly acclaimed, but was not widely seen in the U.S. In part, this was due to a feud between the director and studio, which was almost as famous as the film itself. But it remained in the public consciousness, and is now recognized as the masterpiece that Gilliam set out for it to be. Continue reading
by Dan Suddes
Apocalypse Now (1979) Produced and Directed by: Francis Ford Coppola Written by: Coppola, John Milius and Michael Herr Based on the novel Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad Starring: Martin Sheen, Robert Duvall, Lawrence Fishburne, Dennis Hopper, and Marlon Brando. Oscar Count: 2 (Best Sound, Best Cinematography. Also Nominated for Best Supporting Actor (Duvall),Best Art Direction, Best Editing, Best Picture, and Best Adapted Screenplay)
Apocalypse Now, for all intents and purposes, should have been an outright disaster a la Heaven’s Gate. Indeed, that famous bomb’s shoot tried to emulate Now as much as possible. But Cimino’s flop turned into one of the most incomprehensible films ever made; a film that so recklessly tried to be the definitive statement of a shameful time in America that ended up feeling like a drugged teenager’s graffiti mural painted on the side of the National Museum of The American Indian. Continue reading
by Daniel Suddes
Pulp Fiction (1994) Directed by: Quentin Tarantino Produced by: Lawrence Bender Written by: Tarantino, Story By Roger Avary and Tarantino Starring: John Travolta, Samuel L Jackson, Uma Thurman, Bruce Willis, Ving Rhames, Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, and Christopher Walken Oscar Count: 1 (Best Original Screenplay. Also Nominated for Best Actor (Travolta), Best Actress (Thurman), Best Supporting Actor (Jackson), Best Director, Best Film Editing, and Best Picture).
Amongst everyone born in the 1980s (including myself), Pulp Fiction is the sort of landmark film that will never be repeated in their life time. It was the equivalent of dropping a fox in a chicken coop – an event that so violently and significantly changed the environment as a whole that not addressing its impact would be downright ignorant.
But why is that? As time goes on, Pulp Fiction does not seem as original as it did in 1994. But then, it was not original to begin with. The film was mainly the sort of combination of the French New Wave, Blaxploitation, and Hong Kong Action films as a geek who worked in a local video store (as Tarantino did) would make after staying awake for 100 hours watching Breathless and The Killer on a loop. In other words, Tarantino did not necessarily break new ground. But then, the techniques that Tarantino re-introduced to audiences were techniques that had been forgotten. I hope I do not need to remind readers which films were at the top of the box office before Pulp Fiction was released. The fact that this indie film managed to have such a wide impact is an important part in its mythology. Finally, masters Godard and Leone became an important part of everyone’s film going life. Continue reading
by Dan Suddes
Blade Runner (1982) Directed By: Ridley Scott Written By: Hampton Francher and David Peoples Based on the novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep By Phillip K Dick Produced by: Michael Deeley Starring Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Darryl Hannah, and Edward James Olmos Oscar Count: 0 (Nominated for Best Art Direction and Best Visual Effects)
At its release, Blade Runner was regulated to being a visually stunning but emotionally sparse downer that audience who were flocking to E.T. did not tolerate. A quarter of a century later, and the film is considered among the best science fiction films of all time.
Why? Maybe it’s because people finally realized that they could not attack a film’s lack of humanity when the central theme of the work is what humanity is. The replicants (artificial humans) act with more compassion and feeling than the human characters do. They love each other and are capable of affection towards humans. Deckard, in the meantime, barely reacts when he is asked to destroy the replicants and his attempts of love are as seemingly artificial as a robots should be. Watch the scene when he is directing Rachel what to say to express love. It is not for her benefit, but for his own. Continue reading
by Daniel Suddes
Star Wars (1977) Written and Directed by: George Lucas Produced by: Lucas and Gary Kurtz Starring: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Alec Guinness, Peter Cushing, and featuring the voice James Earl Jones. Oscar Count: 6 (Best Art Direction, Best Costuming, Best Visual Effects, Best Editing, Best Original Score, Best Sound. Also nominated for Best Supporting Actor (Guinness), Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay)
It’s time to state the obvious. The Star Wars saga is, in many ways, a mess of storytelling and filmmaking technique. The writing is terrible, the acting is weak, and the entire universe is some sort of far-fetched mess. Lucas has spent his entire career editing and changing his masterpiece, and then trying to pretend those edits did not happen. And this is not even getting into prequels (the first two of which are completely dead creatively). Also, Star Wars effectively ended the auteur period in Hollywood. Star Wars is an unusual film to critique and is a failure by many standards. Continue reading
by Daniel Suddes
L.A. Confidential (1997) Directed by: Curtis Hanson. Screenplay by: Brian Helgeland and Hanson. Based on the Novel by James Ellroy. Produced by: Arnon Milchan, Michael Nathanson, and Hanson. Starring: Russell Crowe, Kevin Spacey, Guy Pearce, James Cromwell, Danny DeVito, and Kim Basinger. Oscar Count: 2 (Best Supporting Actress and Best Adapted Screenplay. Also nominated for Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Director, Best Picture, Best Music, Best Editing, and Best Sound)
It was a tall order to adapt James Ellroy’s sprawling novel into a film. Much of the satire has been eliminated, which is the source of criticism amongst Ellory fans. But what is left is more than good enough for an examination of illusions in art and human nature. Each of the three main characters (Bud White, Ed Exley, and Jack Vincennes) each continuously cross the line between hero and villain. I am not really sure if the film wants certain characters to be one or the other. Maybe the point is that Hollywood constantly views life and authority in such blanket statements. But the characters are far too complex and morally bankrupt after years of committing violent acts that they cannot be considered heroes, even if their intentions are good. Continue reading
by Laurent Kelly
The Shawshank Redemption (1994) – Director and Adapted Screenplay: Frank Darabont Starring: Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman , Bob Gunton OSCAR COUNT (0) – 7 nominations including Best Picture, Adapted Screenplay and Lead Actor (Freeman)
The Shawshank Redemption remains such a popular modern classic because it prevailed as that rare thing; an unashamed Hollywood sentimental picture which became genuinely moving despite its overwhelming and transparent themes of optimism. Perhaps it shouldn’t have worked, After all the film lacks the subtle ambiguity of Robert Bresson’s slow moving but astoundingly well crafted prison drama A Man Escaped. It has a stirring voiceover used to pull on the heartstrings on the audience and it shies away from showing the real nitty gritty of life behind bars. On paper it doesn’t sound like much and the title certainly doesn’t give much hope that it is going to be worthwhile.
But not all movies have to be complex to be rewarding nor subtle to be powerful and The Shawshank Redemption is a true example of simple but perfect storytelling. Continue reading