Thursday, October 30, 2008
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
"My Daddy has two things; a questionable sense of humour and an FBI file!"
"I'm for State's Rights! And Slaves! Loads and loads of slaves!"
"You know who else hates sippy-cups? The Jews."
It's a trifecta of bad choices here. I'm not sure where to start. But I love how the dude on the right is all like, "Score! My costume is merely indecipherable! It's not wildly inappropriate for the office! Unless someone opens my purple furry robe..............Open it."
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Without further ado:
10 - The Jazz Singer - Directed by Alan Crosland - It's justly remembered as the first film with sychronized dialogue, or the first "talkie", even if it is largely a silent film. Still, it caused a sensation upon its release and pretty much slammed the coffin door on the silent era. Beyond that, there is much to love about this film. First off, it stars Al Jolson, one of the greatest popular entertainers ever. Second, it is a moving and quintessential story of American life, with Jolson's character struggling against the pulls of the American dream of fame and fortune vs. old world culture and tradition. It's entirely appropriate that this is an immigrant story, which is perhaps the most purely American type of story of them all. There are some dated qualities to the film of course, none more repugnantly outdated than the casual racism of the blackface routine, but if you can put that into its historical context, there is much to enjoy.
9 - The Big Parade -King Vidor - Vidor directed this moving and powerful war film about an idle young man who joins the army to fight in WWI, befriending men outside his class and falling in love with a French girl. It was a monumentally successful film upon its release, eventually become the highest grossing film of the silent era. It is also one of the first unflinching looks at modern war, and is amazing in how it succeeds in not having any agenda other than humanism.
8 - The Battleship Potemkin - Directed by Sergei Eisenstein - A nakedly overt propaganda film depicting a dramatised version of a bloody uprising by Russian sailors against Tsarist oppression, Eisenstein also created one of the most influential films of all time in terms of editing. His use of montage to create a specific emotional response literally changed the grammar of film forever, and Eisenstein, along with DW Griffith, is one of the men who actually created the stylistic tools of cinematography and editing that we still use to this day. The Odessa Steps sequence is one of the most admired, and most imitated, sequences ever filmed.
7 - Haxan - Directed by Benjamin Christensen - It's a brilliant example of how fluid the concepts of genre were in the early days of film; Haxan is part documentary, part horror film, part exploitation, part repudiation of superstition. During the silent years, the documentary form was seen as equal to the fictional form, and this film merged the best of both worlds into one strange, wholly original piece of entertainment. It can still creep you out and educate, even to this day, and indeed the intervening years have given its strangeness a more artistic sheen than ever.
6 - Nanook of the North - Directed by Robert J. Flaherty - It was long considered to be the first full-length documentary ever made, but now, after revelations regarding the staging of many of its scenarios, it has become tainted by deception. This only serves to make the film more fascinating and reinforces it as one heck of an engrossing tale. It depticts the life of an Inuit couple in the Canadian artic, and it does so with remarkable aplomb. The fact that it seems to give audiences what they want to see rather than the reality of the situation is yet another fascinating aspect.
5 - Sunrise : A Song of Two Humans - Directed by FW Murnau - The great expressionist director Murnau made his masterpiece with this stunningly stylized tale of the battle between pastoral life, with its simple morality, and urban living, with its modern temptations. Filled with beautifully stylized and expressive set pieces, design and camerawork, it's one of the little gems of film; a strange, operatic, non-realistic film that works from sheer virtuosity.
4 - Metropolis - Directed by Fritz Lang - Perhaps the most influential science fiction film until Blade Runner, Metropolis is seminal for its use of visual effects combined with the still fresh use of art deco design, and most impressively, for its prophetic vision of the future. It takes place in a huge city-state; an urban dystopia where the workers toil in dissatisfaction for a capitalist ruling class. Hugely critical of mechanization, capitalism and urbanism, the film is never less than astounding in its innovation and scope.
3 - The General - Directed by Buster Keaton - He was the superb craftsman of silent comedy. Chaplin may have been the more nakedly emotional genius, but Keaton was more interested in the medium of film itself. Pushing the limits of his body and the limits of stunts of the time, Keaton creates a sublimely funny and at times frankly astounding tour de force of physical comedy and slapstick sequences. Everything that is done in the film is done on the day, without the help of elaborate camera tricks, and the sheer audacity of Keaton's drive to find the funniest set piece is breathtaking to behold.
1 - The Gold Rush - Directed by Charles Chaplin - It's filled with so many classic Chaplin moments that they defy listing. Suffice to say, this may be his funniest film, and it is also the best in its balance of pathos, tenderness and sidesplitting comedy. There's not much more to say, except that Chaplin's legendary perfectionism pays off perfectly, creating a true classic.
Well, that's it. I hope you all found it somewhat fun, and not a colossal bore. Here's the earlier posts, for those who want to go through the decades:
Last night at Spike TV's Scream Awards, director Zak Snyder, along with stars Malin Akerman, Carla Gugino and Jeffrey Dean Morgan, presented the new trailer to the film. Here's the clip below:
Personally, I love how the audience is entirely appropriate for an event called the Scream Awards. I also love how the Hollywood people look slightly afraid.
Next, they released the new poster, which is very cool:
This amid rumours of an ending that has been changed, after a sneak peek showing of the partially completed film in Portland.
S P O I L E R S - BEWARE KIDS - DO NOT READ PAST HERE IF YOU WANT TO REMAIN SURPRISED
The rumour is that Ozymandias "saves the world" not by faking a hugely destructive encounter with an extra-dimensional alien squid-thing, but by framing Dr. Manhattan for several nuclear explosions.
To me, the squid thing was cool in a geeky sort of way, but I can picture people who have never read the graphic novel seeing that depicted on screen and thinking, "That's fucking retarded". While it does fit in with the whole deconstructionist angle of the genre, it's also undeniably nerdy. A more palatable resolution is not that bad for me, provided the thematic result is the same.
But, I'm psyched to see this, big time.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Friday, October 17, 2008
8 - M - Directed by Fritz Lang -Lang's first talkie, M is a masterpiece on all counts. It was the first major film to feature a leitmotif, and its use of sound was particularly revolutionary and innovative for its time. It is also a precursor to film noir, as it is one of the pinnacles of the German expressionistic films. Although it is not as surreal in its expressionist stylings as other German films of the day, its use of light and stylised sets is absolutely brilliant. The story concerns a child murderer, played by Peter Lorre in one of the great film performances. The man is hunted by police and the underworld alike, all while he attempts to hunt his own defenseless prey. Creepy, haunting and somehow tragic, M is one of the great treasures of film.
6 - Stagecoach - Directed by John Ford - There had been westerns that succeeded as both art and entertainment before Stagecoach, but none had been so seamless in their melding of art and western thrills. John Ford's first talkie was more expansive, more brilliantly structured and more entertaining than any seen before. John Wayne became a major star with his bold and confident portrayal of Johnny Ringo, one of the first outlaw anti-heroes of the genre. Stagecoach was the first western to stress character, commentary and moral complexity over the black and white themes of its predecessors. Also, the supporting cast is particularly amazing, with John Carradine and the always stellar Thomas Mitchell giving especially fine performances.
5 - City Lights - Directed by Charles Chaplin - It was one of Charlie Chaplin's greatest commerical and artistic successes, and it remained his personal favourite of all his films. Simply put, City Lights is one of the great screen comedies, and also a singularly moving film about human decency, love, acceptance, and the power of compassion. Having said that, it also contains some of the best comedy sequences ever, such as an hysterical boxing match. Chaplin resisted sound long after others embraced it, and thank god, because the power of his genius is now timeless and endlessly accesible across language, age and outlook. Simply put, everyone, from a toddler to a grandpda, can watch and enjoy City Lights. Its final scene may be the most moving shot ever put to film.
1 - Gone With the Wind - Directed by Victor Fleming - I'll be honest, I don't particularly like Gone With the Wind all that much. But, from an objective point of view, you cannot deny its greatness. The sheer spectacle of the film, its broad sweep and huge emotions, cause the viewer to sit there and marvel at its massive scale. Like few other films, Gone With the Wind exemplifies a tale that could only have been told the way it was in the movies. Even if it had been a novel, that hardly matters. It is joyful over-the-top excess on a huge canvass, with emotions and characters so big that only a massive screen could contain them. Love it or hate it, it's one of the great cinematic achievments.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
This hot on the heels of the announcement that the new trailer will be attached to showings of the new Bond flick Quantum of Solace, opening Nov. 14th.
Next came a whole slew of photos:
Here's the crew, from left to right: Chekov (anton Yelchin), Kirk (Chris Pine), Scotty (Simon Pegg), McCoy (Karl Urban), Sulu (John Cho) and Uhura (Zoe Saldana)
Spock gets physical with Kirk
Villain Nero (Eric Bana)
This is reportedly the bridge of the Enterprise.
So, what do you think? Personally, I love the whole kicky retro feel of the pics. I'm totally looking forward to how director JJ Abrams pulls this off. The cast all look perfectly suited to their roles, and the tone seems right. However, that bridge set looks a little cluttered. Still, is that a miniskirt I see? Awesome.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
So, now we can add "British literary icon" to roles Robert Downey Jr. looks good as, alongside super hero, silent movie legend, and....I guess......black guy?
Downey is starring as Sherlock Holmes in Guy Ritchie's new film adapation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's most famous creation. Here's the first pics of Downey and Jude Law, who portrays Dr. Watson.
Doyle, the third coolest person named Conan (after O'Brien, and the Barbarian) must be cool with his immortal detective being directed by a guy most famous for being the last man on Earth to figure out Madonna was cheating on him. Well, either that, or Doyle's spinning in his grave like a Dreidel. Seriously, Ritchie has made one and a half good films (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels was great, and Snatch had half a good movie there), so let's hope he can get back on track.
Looks like the two actors get along, although Downey is so weird he could just be laughing at a funny looking butterfly that just flew past.
Thursday, October 9, 2008
Today, we're embarking on a stellar decade for American film:
10 - His Girl Friday - Directed by Howard Hawks - The screwball comedy genre of the 1930s and 40s remains one of the most delightful and effervescent genres ever put to celluloid. Hawks was a master, and his particular speciality was speed. That was never more evident than in this perfect comedy, a whirlwind of hilarious patter, duplicitous schemes and cynical frivolity. Rosalind Russell plays what may be the definitive "Hawks woman"; a capable, tough, brilliant and above all, sexy woman who can do anything a man does, including being a wise-cracking city reporter. Cary Grant was never more charmingly rakish than as editor/con-man Walter Burns. There are countless classic routines and moments here that make the film hysterical, but it still has something to say about the integrity of the press, corruption, and the power the media has to shape public perception.
9 - It's a Wonderful Life - Directed by Frank Capra - There are reasons a classic becomes a classic, and often that reason is that it contains pure truth, simply and beautifully expressed. Such is the case with Capra's post-war triumph. Jimmy Stewart plays his archetypal role of George Bailey, a man who only ever wanted to do great things and see the world, and who is trapped by his own sense of duty and morality in the same small town running a "penny-ante" business for his entire life. While the film's resolution is a bloodbath of sentimentality, it is irresistibly affecting, as the audience has been treated to Bailey's entire life of frustrated hopes and dreams. The happy ending is what's most often remembered, but it's the film's dark centre that makes it all work.
8 - The Maltese Falcon - Directed by John Huston - It is the supreme private eye film, based on one of the great American pulp novels by Dashiell Hammet. It's a film that accomplished much; it is considered the first film noir, it launched the career of its young writer/director, it featured the film debut of Sydney Greenstreet, and it cemented Humphrey Bogart as a major movie star. It's an amazing story of greed and its power, as a myriad of characters that aren't as smart as they think they are all try to double-cross each other to obtain the titular item. Most importantly, it's a great example of the Bogart role; a tough, anti-authority, world-weary cynic, sacrificing his own desires for a higher code he must follow. Watching it is just as enjoyable now as it must have been when it first debuted, and its ending is just as stunning as it ever was.
7 - The Philadelphia Story - Directed by George Cukor - Based on a hit play by the great Philip Barry, The Philadelphia Story resurrected Katharine Hepburn's career after having been labeled "box office poison". It has one of the all-time great casts, Hepburn as cold socialite Tracy Lords, Cary Grant as her ex-husband CK Dexter Haven, and Jimmy Stewart as Macaulay Connor, cynical reporter in search of a scoop. They are all clearly delighted to be working together, and as a result, the film is one of the most fun experiences you'll have.
6 - The Best Years of Our Lives - Directed by William Wyler - Frederic March, Dana Andrews and Harold Russell star as three US servicemen returning home after WWII, and the film follows them and their families as they each have their own difficulties adjusting to civilian life. Decent, humane and moving, The Best Years of Our Lives was the first American film to honestly depict the struggles of veterans. It also features some absolutely stunning deep focus cinematography from genius Gregg Toland.
5 - Rome, Open City - Directed by Roberto Rossellini - An early classic of neorealism, the film is also a dichotomy. It follows some of the tenets of neorealism (use of mostly non-professional actors, wide use of location filming, etc.), but rejects the storytelling aspects of the discipline in its clear depiction of good vs. evil and its frequent embrace of melodrama. This dichotomy renders the film more than an intellectual exercise, it is a touching, disturbing film about occupation, collaboration and the different levels of heroism and resistance.
4 - The Bicycle Thieves - Directed by Vittorio De Sica - A masterpiece of neorealism, the film tells the story of Antonio, an unemployed labourer struggling to support his family in depressing poverty-stricken post WWII Italy. After getting a job posting flyers, he finds he needs a bicycle to perform the job, for which his wife sells the wedding sheets. The bicycle is subsequently stolen, and Antonio and his young son Bruno go on a desperate search to retrieve the bike and save his job. It's as shatteringly relevant today as it was then; a tale of the frustration and isolation of the little guy as he struggles simply to makes his way through life, which seems to conspire to grind him down and strip him of his dignity.
3 -The Treasure of the Sierra Madre - Directed by John Huston - If The Maltese Falcon was Huston's film about greed, then this film is about Greed with a capital G. It may the definitive film on the cancerous and corrupting influence of the American dream, namely, to get rich. Bogart plays his first non-heroic role since becoming a big star, though his Fred C. Dobbs is more of a tragic, weak figure than an out and out bad guy. Huston directed his father, Walter, to an Oscar as the sage but nuts old prospector. Together, they give two mesmerizing performances, Bogart slipping further and further into paranoia and madness as the gold piles up. A remarkable film, one of the best ever made in Hollywood.
2 - Casablanca - Directed by Michael Curtiz - Without a doubt, when people ask what the pinnacle of the Hollywood studio system was, I point them to Casablanca. It has perhaps the best cast of studio actors ever; added to leads Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman and Paul Henreid, we get Peter Lorre, Sydney Greenstreet, Conrad Veidt, Dooley Wilson and the incomparable Claude Rains. The story was assembled by the best writers in the Warner's stable almost be piecemeal. The bulk of the film was shot before they even had an ending. Somehow, it all comes together in this endlessly enjoyable romantic tale of nobility, cynicism vs. idealism, and sacrifice. One of the two or three absolutely perfect and immortal American films.
1 - Citizen Kane - Directed by Orson Welles - There was film before Citizen Kane and there was film after Citizen Kane. It's a baroque, bold, incredibly innovative, totally engrossing masterpiece like no other. It combined the style of the European masters with the commercial touch of Hollywood and the depth of a great novel. It brought attention to style itself in a way that American filmmakers had previously completely eschewed. It did things with a camera that are still revelations today. Welles' performance is one of the great ones, as we spend all this time with a man who slowly becomes a total bastard, and yet we still feel sympathy for him. It's beyond praise and impervious to cynics who now deride it. It's the work of a genius from start to finish, and the greatest American film ever made.
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
They're performing "Call it Off" from The Con, their latest album.
Look how short they are! It's adorable.
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
10 - All About Eve - Directed by Joseph Mankiewicz - Mankiewicz's script is one of the most celebrated examples of wit and quality in the history of film, and the film made from it positively drips with venom even as it sparkles. The film is the story of Margot Channing (Bette Davis in her greatest performance), a legendary Broadway diva whose behaviour is becoming more and more outrageous as she deals with upcoming middle-age. Matters are not helped when she come into contact with "her biggest fan", a duplicitous, unscrupulous young actress who insinuates herself into Margot's inner circle and schemes to get to the top by stealing everything Margot has. It's the quintessential depiction of boundless ambition and its costs.
7 - Rear Window - Directed by Alfred Hitchcock - This decade was perhaps Hitchock's most creatively and financially successful period, producing innumerable classic films, two of which appear on this list. Rear Window may be the best example of his more populist thrillers. While it lacks the innovation and thematic challenges of his darker and more risky films, it still is basically a film that turns the audience into peeping toms along with the main character. In effect, we overtly become what all audiences truly are; voyeurs. The story itself is thrilling and compelling, and never lags, which is amazing considering that the main character is completely immobilized for the entirety of the film. Jimmy Stewart gives one of his classic performances, and there might never have been a more beautiful actress than Grace Kelly. Thelma Ritter is also superb as Stewart's wise-cracking nurse.
Friday, October 3, 2008