Just us, the cameras, and those wonderful people out there in the dark...

Friday, April 18, 2014

Friday's Top 5... Cinematographers Turned Directors

#5: Ronald Neame

As a cinematographer, Ronald Neame helped bring to life such films as Blithe Spirit, In Which We Serve and Major Barbara. As a director, he would be responsible for such films as I Could Go On Singing, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Scrooge, The Poseidon Adventure and The Odessa File.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Review: The Thin Blue Line (1988)

* * * *

Director: Errol Morris

It had probably been about 10 years since I last watched Errol Morris' The Thin Blue Line, and though I'd remembered that it was good, I'd forgotten just how good it is. I remembered some of the flashier elements, like the recreation of Robert Wood being shot multiple times and the shot of the milkshake flying through the air, but I'd forgotten just how chilling it is to listen to David Harris, whose relaxed and soft spoken demeanor only make him scarier. But it's not just Harris that makes the film so enduringly powerful, nor the fact the film actually had a measurable impact on the life of its subject by playing a role in Randall Adams' eventual release from prison. Rather, the film remains so powerful because of the craft of its construction and the fact that time and imitators have not in the least chipped away at that sense of craft.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

21st Century Essentials: A History of Violence (2005)

All eras have works of art that are fundamental to our understanding of not only the craft itself, but the culture from which it was created. The 21st century is still nascent, but it isn't too early to start creating a canon that demonstrates the heights to which film as an artform has reached since the year 2000. These are the essential films:

Director: David Cronenberg
Starring: Viggo Mortensen, William Hurt, Maria Bello, Ed Harris
Country: USA/Germany/Canada

On the surface, David Cronenberg’s A History of Violence is a film about a man whose past catches up with him, tearing his present-day life apart. Beneath the surface – and none too far – it is a film about our contradictory view of violence, how it is abhorred when used in the commission of a crime but glorified and celebrated when deployed in an act of self-defense. The film’s protagonist is at once a bad man who kills for bad reasons and a good man who kills for good reasons, and the question the film asks is not whether the man can be reconciled to these two sides of himself, but whether society can reconcile itself to the fact that the two sides can exist in one individual man and within the collective consciousness that makes up society itself.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Friday's Top 5... Voice Performances in Animated Films

#5: Kathleen Turner, Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

She's not bad, she's just drawn that way. Part Rita Hayworth, part Veronica Lake, but nothing without the sultry voice work by Kathleen Turner, which truly turns this animated character into a femme fatale who could compete with the best of the bad girls from film noir.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Review: Safety Last! (1923)

* * * 1/2

Director: Fred C. Newmeyer & Sam Taylor
Starring: Harold Lloyd

Everyone knows Charlie Chaplin. Most people know Buster Keaton. But outside of film geeks, few know Harold Lloyd, even though he was one of the most popular and influential comedians of the silent era. You can maybe chalk that up to the fact that his personal life was far less volatile than that of either Chaplin or Keaton, unmarred by the sex scandals that plagued the former or the tragic alcoholism of the latter - by not being notorious, Lloyd is doomed to the fringes of remembrance. You could also, however, chalk it up to the fact that Lloyd's films are as nonthreatening as his persona, films that are good, sometimes close to great, but ultimately lacking that extra edge that separates the best from the rest. That said, Lloyd's films are worth seeking out whether you're a film buff or simply someone curious about silent comedy, and Safety Last! is the best place to start, featuring as it does one of Lloyd's best known stunt pieces (arguably one of the best known stunt pieces in all silent comedy).