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Posts Tagged ‘Martin Scorsese’

When visiting my parents or talking to then on the telephone they often ask what movies I have seen, if I respond with the name of a film they haven’t heard of my mom, knowing I watch a lot of foreign language movies will ask “is it foreign”. On more than one occasion I have given the somewhat flippant and slightly rude response “yes, American”. It is funny that a movie made five thousand miles away in Hollywood is familiar and not foreign because it is in something similar to “The Queens English”, and yet something made across the channel in France, still on the same continent as England, is in some way foreign and exotic. Maybe we are two nations joined by a common language and not divided by it as George Bernard Shaw quipped. Whatever the reason, as we step below the surface of these idea we find an interesting thing, filmmaking does exist beyond the bright lights of Hollywood, both in Europe and in the rest of America.Mean Streets The Terminator Blood Simple Memento

When I talk about American independent cinema it isn’t just the obvious and seminal movies like Easy Rider (1969) (Dennis Hopper) or Two-Lane Blacktop (1971) (Monte Hellman) or the small no budget movies that you have never heard of. Think of some of the biggest name directors working today: Martin Scorsese, James Cameron, Ethan and Joel Coen, Christopher Nolan, then look at their independent films Mean Streets (1973), The Terminator (1984), Blood Simple (1984), Memento (2000) . Sam Raimi may be making money movies for Disney now but it all started with Evil Dead (1981) and Evil Dead II (1987). Would George Lucas have made Star Wars (1977), if he hadn’t already made THX-1138 (1971) or the hugely profitable American Graffiti (1973)? Then there are directors like David Lynch, Quentin Tarantino and Darren Aronofsky that are just more comfortable outside or on the edge of the system. There was a time before he started believing his own publicity that Kevin Smith was the darling of the indie scene thanks to the cult status of Clerks (1994), but before that came Richard Linklater’s Slacker (1991). A day in the life of various social outcasts and misfits held together by loose strands and an even looser narrative, the style and the realistic dialogue became a blueprint for a generation. Linklater wasn’t seduced by Hollywood instead he remained in Austin and two years later he came up with Dazed And Confused (1993).Dazed And Confused Clerks THX 1138 Evil Dead

The same can be said for foreign language cinema, it isn’t all about weird esoteric art house movies, there are many accessible movies not in the English language. Not that the weird esoteric art house movies are a bad thing, they are just not the best place to start. The test as to if a movie is accessible and worth seeing is simple, would you watch it if it were in English? If the answer is yes, it is worth a look. There were two movies that seemed to cross the language barrier that came out within a year of each other just over a decade ago: Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) and Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Amélie (2001). Many of the people who watched and enjoyed them wouldn’t normally have seen a movie in another language. There have been some interesting examples too; the French thriller Tell No One (2006) is very American in its style, no great surprise, it is based on an American novel (of the same name) by Harlan Coben. A Hollywood remake was supposed to have been made but it doesn’t appear to have materialised yet. The same can’t be said for Anything for Her (2008), it took just two years for the American remake The Next Three Days to hit cinema screens. Both Tell No One and Anything for Her benefited from the presence of actresses familiar to English speaking audiences Kristin Scott Thomas and Diane Kruger respectively. On the subject of remakes the terrible Queen Latifah movie Taxi (2004) is a remake of a great French movie also called Taxi (1998). It has spawned three sequels (the first of which is also really good) the movies are notable for lots of things including significant early roles for Marion Cotillard.Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon Amélie Tell No One Anything for Her

When I first saw Oldboy (2003) it immediately became one of my all time favourite films. I didn‘t expect it to have gained the following that it has, I also didn‘t think Hollywood would dare to touch it, but they have the American remake of Park Chan-wook’s vengeance movievis in production and is set for release later this year, it is directed by Spike Lee. The other movie that plays well to British and American audiences is Run Lola Run (1998). It put its German star Franka Potente and director and Tom Tykwer onto the international stage both have worked in American and their native Germany many times since. But I can trace my first experience of a foreign language movie back a little further than that. In 1990 I read a review of a film I really wanted to see Nikita (1990). At fourteen years old I didn’t have a chance of getting into see it at the cinema to see the eighteen certificate movie, but a couple of months later (when I was fifteen) renting the video was surprisingly easy. Its impact in America was such that it spawned a Hollywood remake and two television series. Its director Luc Besson’s next two films Léon (1994) and The Fifth Element (1997) were in English.Oldboy Run Lola Run Nikita Taxi

I have done little more than scratch the surface of independent and foreign langue movies, but I hope I have inspired at least one person to look below the tent-pole blockbuster and popcorn movie and towards the smaller films that don’t get all the publicity. Many of them will get limited runs in big multiplexes but others are harder to find, but if this means you are also helping to support your local independent cinema’s it’s an added bonus. As you grow to love them as much as I do you will look deeper and further back at older movies and a whole world of cinema will open up to you. I know that I am to a certain extent preaching to the converted as many readers are film fans and bloggers themselves and are far more cineliterate than me.

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As 2012 got underway I was looking forward to some well publicised movies like Skyfall, The Dark Knight Rises, The Avengers and The Hunger Games. I had heard good reports from across the Atlantic about The Artist, Young Adult and The Descendents. But, I had never heard of what turned out to be some of the best movies of the year: Moonrise Kingdom, Argo, Haywire, Rust and Bone, Café de Flore, End of Watch and Killer Joe. Hopefully there will be some pleasant surprises this year too, if not there is still a lot to look forward to:

Django Unchained
When Quentin Tarantino decides to make a western, he doesn’t just make a Weston, he makes a Blaxploitation Spaghetti Western. The cast includes Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz and Leonardo DiCaprio as well as a cameo from the original Django, Franco Nero. And did I mention Quentin Tarantino.Django Unchained

Zero Dark Thirty
I saw Near Dark when I was about 13, I have seen every other Kathryn Bigelow since (yes I am the person who saw The Weight of Water ) and would now watch anything she makes . It also stars Jessica Chastain who I had never heard of before The Tree of Life but is fast becoming one of my favourite actresses.Zero Dark Thirty

The Counselor
A Ridley Scott crime thriller based on a novel by Cormac McCarthy starring: Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender, Javier Bardem, Cameron Diaz and Penélope Cruz. Any one of these would be a reason to watch it.The Counselor

The Wolf Of Wall Street
Its Martin Scorsese what more do I need to say.The Wolf Of Wall Street

Cloud Atlas
Most readers probably know more about this than me as it was released three months ago in some countries. The story looks bonkers but Tom Tykwer and the Wachowski’s were responsible for two of my favourite movies of all time (Run Lola Run and The Matrix).Cloud Atlas

Star Trek Into Darkness
There have been a couple of great Star Trek movies, but the franchise had really run out of steam until the J.J. Abrams’ 2009 reboot that was far better than I ever expected it to be. Lets hope he can do it again.Star Trek Into Darkness

The Great Gatsby
As proved by previous adaptations The Great Gatsby (like all F. Scott Fitzgerald stories) is better on the page than the screen, however I am intrigued by what Baz Luhrmann will do with it.The Great Gatsby

The Last Voyage of Demeter
The Demeter was the Russian ship that carried Dracula from Transylvania to England in Bram Stoker’s novel. By the time it reached Whitby all the crew had disappeared presumed dead. Neil Marshall’s movie tells their story. One thing you can guarantee about Neil Marshall movies is that they are fun. (they don’t appear to have started shooting yet so I  Neil Marshall

Stoker
Chan-wook Park, the director of my favourite movie of the 00’s (Oldboy) finally makes an English language movie. It looks bonkers; and that’s a good think if you were wondering!Stoker

Pacific Rim
Guillermo del Toro’s giant robots v alien invaders movie. Enough said.Pacific Rim

And the next ten:
World War Z
Snowpiercer
A Field In England
The Paperboy
Machete Kills
Kick-Ass 2
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Iron Man 3
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
The Wolverine

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As film fans we all have our favourite directors. When talking about a movie I am going to see, if someone asks me the usual question “who’s in in it” I tend to tell them who directed it before answering the question that is actually asked. There are certain directors that I would go and see just about anything they make, top of my list has always been Martin Scorsese. Quentin Tarantino, Kathryn Bigelow (yes, I am the person who saw The Weight of Water) and Christopher Nolan would also be part of the exclusive club. When a new film is announced I will look it up online and check back from time to time to see what’s happening. Is it in pre production or have they started shooting, who is in it, who will be writing the script? I will watch the trailer online as soon as it hit’s the internet, then eventually the movie will open and I will go and see it within a few days of opening.Martin Scorsese Quentin Tarantino Kathryn Bigelow Christopher Nolan

But something strange has happened recently, I suddenly realised that I had a new must see director. Not that strange in itself, but it came out of nowhere in 2008 I went to see the feature début of an actor turned director that had sat on the shelf for over a year. The movie was Gone Baby Gone the director Ben Affleck. I loved the film and praised Affleck to have the sense and restraint to not cast himself. Two years later he cast himself in his next movie The Town. I went with a certain trepidation, this was unfounded. Although never a bad actor, he has never been a great actor and was still living in the shadow of Pearl Harbor, Jersey Girl and Gigli, however in The Town he was really good. Following these two movies I found myself really looking forward to Argo, going out of my may to see a preview screening two weeks before its release. My enthusiasm was rewarded with one of my favourite movies of the year.ben affleck directing argo

And so the anticipation begins. Until today I had heard nothing of Affleck’s next project when I followed a link from IMDB to the Entertainment Weekly. The short article was actually about Affleck dropping out of a movie called Focus about a con artist and his young female protégée (Kristen Stewart). The reason given clashes with future directing projects “including the thriller Tell No One and an adaptation of Dennis Lehane’s Live By Night”.

For those who don’t know Tell No One is a novel by Harlan Coben that was filmed (in French) in 2006 by actor turned director Guillaume Canet (best know in the English speaking world as Étienne in The Beach). Telling the story of a man who was prime suspect in his wife’s murder. Eight years later the case is reopened following two further murders. He then receives an email suggesting his wife is alive. In the great tradition of innocent men in movies, he goes on the run to clear his name and find is wife. Great performances from François Cluzet and Kristin Scott Thomas in the first of a series of French movies she has made. I have nothing to go on about the Affleck movie other than the title of the movie so am not sure if it is the same story but assume it will be. While I don’t see the point in a remake of such a recent and good movie but am sure Affleck would handle it well.tell no one

Dennis Lehane’s Live By Night only came out within the last few months and I know nothing about it. A quick look at the synopsis tells me it is about “A small-time thief in 1920s Boston”. More important than the plot, is what has gone before it, Dennis Lehane’s previous novels that have been adapted into films are: Mystic River, Gone, Baby, Gone and Shutter Island.Dennis Lehane’s Live By Night

It is interesting that at given Hollywood’s frequent failure to adapt novels that Affleck seems to not only favour them (his first two movies were based on novels and his third on an article in LA Weekly), but do such a good job of adapting them. Whatever his next movie is, and I hope both these projects get off the ground I am sure to see Ben Affleck’s next movie and given his performance in Argo and The Town I would be happy to see him appear in them.

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In the past I have been vocal about my hatred of 3D, but I may have come to accept its place in cinema. The reason I have seen it working twice in recent years.Jaws 3d

When I was a kid 3D meant red and green lensed glasses with cardboard frames. My first experience of what was then branded Real D was in 2007 with the motion capture Beowulf. To the best of my memory I didn’t see another 3D movie until the end of 2009, that was James Cameron’s giant Smurfs epic Avatar, this again was a largely animated movie. From there things went downhill fast. The biggest problem comes when movies are retrofitted with 3D purely for profit. Apologists for 3D will tell you it is immersive and gives depth to the image and that it has moved a long way from the pointy gimmick of 3D horror movies. The truth the gimmicks are what worked and 3D movies have no depth, just foreground, background and a void in the middle. The low points came with movies like Alice in Wonderland (2010) where the best thing I can say about them is that I forgot they were in 3D. Or Drive Angry (2011) and the last two Resident Evil movies (2010 and 2012) that did not have a 2D option. The odd example of 3D being effective involved a hatched, bucket and a bolt flying out of the screen towards the audience.Hugo

After boycotting 3D for a year, this time last year I went to see Hugo. Fully intending to go for the 2D option I had a last minute change of heart. I’m not sure exactly what my thought process was at the time but remember thinking that if Martin Scorsese had made a movie in 3D he had earned the right for me to see it in 3D. One of very few directors who have earned the right to do whatever the fuck they like, I’m glad I went on the journey with Scorsese. Not only was Hugo my favourite film of 2011 but also demonstrated that 3D can work. Many 3D movies, especially retrofitted ones have foreground and background split by a gaping void. Hugo has real depth.Life Of Pi

Since seeing Hugo I have seen a few more 3D movies, they have renewed my prejudice towards the medium. Until now! Life of Pi is not only stunning to look at but like Hugo it has real depth in its 3D images. It is also so bright and vibrant that I never thought about 30% light loss. I have come to accept 3D but not to love it. I accept that in exception circumstances in the hands of true artists and auteurs it can work and can add to the cinema experience. It doesn’t mean I will be rushing to see the next 3D movie but I will be less likely to dismiss it as a pointless gimmick.

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A few years ago I set out to write a list of my top ten sports movies. I rapidly came to the conclusion that my list was full of Baseball and Boxing movies and little else. I gave up on the idea and published lists of my favourite Baseball and Boxing movies. Returning to the same idea from a different direction, my favourite sports movies limited to one movie per sport:

Rugby (league): This Sporting Life (1963): A grim and often brutal tale of Rugby in northern England. I has its problems and hasn’t aged that well in places but is still a powerful film with some great moments.

Ice Hockey: Slap Shot (1977): To the uninitiated (like me) ice hock is a sport that breaks out occasionally when the fighting subsides. It is therefore fitting that the most iconic movie to depicts the sport portrays a team that resorts to violent play to gain popularity.

Surfing: Big Wednesday (1978): From the early 60’s through to the mid 70’s Big Wednesday chronicles the lives of three friends against the backdrop of the Vietnam War. Its also a great surf movie.

Cycling: Breaking Away (1979): Like so many other sports movies, Breaking Away is as much about growing up as it is about sport. It sits as well with Fandango or American Graffiti as it does with a sports movie and is all the better for it.

Boxing: Raging Bull (1980): Martin Scorsese’s tale of Boxer Jake LaMotta is so much more than a sports movie but along the way it manages to be the best sports movie ever made. The American Film Institute voted it the best film of the 80’s, its hard to argue with them.

Golf: Caddyshack (1980): originally well received and like so many 80’s comedies Caddyshack gained a cult status. It has more recently had a bit of a backlash as people suggest it isn’t as funny as they remember. Whatever your thoughts, its worth seeing for Bill Murray’s performance alone.

Athletics: Chariots of Fire (1981): I saw the reissue of this movie at the cinema earlier this year. Telling the true story of two athletes and what they did to get to the 1924 Paris Olympics, it has lost none of its impact in the thirty years since its release.

Horse Racing: Champions (1984): The true story of jockey Bob Champion who survived testicular cancer and went on to win the Grand National. His horse Aldaniti plays himself in the movie.

Pool: The Color of Money (1986): The Hustler (1961) is the obvious choice but I prefer Martin Scorsese’s sequel to the original. The greatest triumph and the reason the movie works so well is the brilliant way Newman and Cruise play off each other.

Skiing: The Blizzard of AAHHH’s (1988): Speed skiers often reach speeds in excess of 125mph, early in this seminal documentary we are told that Glen Plake gave it up because he found it boring. This movie tells of what he and others did instead and thus began the extreme skiing movement.

Baseball: Bull Durham (1988): There is something about baseball that makes it work particularly well in movies. My favourite of Kevin Costner’s three baseball movies is the sublime Bull Durham.

Basketball: White Men Can’t Jump (1992): Forget the NBA, basketball in movies is all about the streets and this story of a pair of hustlers is as good as it gets.

Football: Fever Pitch (1997): Football is near impossible to get right in movies, Fever Pitch gets it right by not actually showing football. Based around real events and telling what it is to be a fan.

Bowling: The Big Lebowski (1998): A film that contains bowling rather than a film about bowling but it is too good to leave off the list.

Skateboarding: Dogtown and Z-Boys (2001): Catherine Hardwicke’s 2005 movie Lords of Dogtown was told the story of the Zephyr skateboard team and was a pretty good movie. This documentary directed by original Z-Boy Stacy Peralta is even better.

Climbing/mountaineering: Touching the Void (2003): Two climbers successfully reach the summit of the previously unclimbed West Face of Siula Grande in Peru, things don’t go as smoothly on the way down. Using a lot of re-enactment the movie falls somewhere between a feature film and a traditional documentary.

American Football: Friday Night Lights (2004): High school and college sport means so much more in America than in England, that is one of the reasons it is the subject of so many movies. This one is so good, that I would place it above any movie about the NFL.

Tennis: Wimbledon (2004): The story of a journeyman English tennis player who SPOILER ALERT wins Wimbledon contains all the themes of underdog you would expect from a sports movie. A likable leading man help make this lightweight rom-com more enjoyable than it should be.

Wheelchair Rugby: Murderball (2005): Murderball is the name given to the brutal sport of wheelchair rugby. Told from the point of view of Team USA and Team Canada in the two years leading up to the 2004 Paralympics in Athens this documentary of the sport is gripping, exciting and rewarding.

Wrestling: The Wrestler (2008): Is professional wrestling a sport? Probably not, but with a movie this good I can’t leave it off the list. Darren Aronofsky has a way of making any subject interesting, he is aided by a great cast including the ever dependable Mickey Rourke and Marisa Tomei who are both at their best.

Mixed-Martial Arts: Redbelt (2008): Warrior (2011) is a better known movie about Mixed-Martial Arts, I prefer David Mamet’s film Redbelt. With all the complexity and nuance you would expect from Mamet but with an unfamiliar setting. 

Roller Derby: Whip It (2009): Going into this movie I had no idea what Roller Derby was, Drew Barrymore’s directorial debut is an enjoyable film in its own right but is also a great advert for the sport. 

Motor racing: Senna (2010): A fantastic and moving doc telling the story of Ayrton Senna, a man who was possibly the greatest racing driver of all time, the true greatness of the film is the number of none F1 fans who also enjoyed it. It featured in my top five movies from 2011.

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Levon Helm 1940 - 2012

Mark Lavon “Levon” Helm who died today was a talented multi-instrumentalists but will always be remembered as drummer and founder member of The Band. I stumbled across The Band in the mid 80’s when I caught Martin Scorsese’s concert documentary The Last Waltz (1978) on TV. The clip below is from that film and is probably their most famous song “The Weight,” its certainly my favourite

Also an actor, Helm made notable appearances in the Loretta Lynn Biography, Coal Miner’s Daughter (1980) and the epic story of the birth of the space program, The Right Stuff (1983).  His last appearance was in the Tommy Lee Jones (who was also in Coal Miner’s Daughter) film In the Electric Mist (2009). 

His passing was announced earlier today on his twitter account:

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Three years to the day after my first ever post (incidentally about the upcoming Oscars) I am here to announce the 1st Annual Groovers Movie Awards. No nominations, just winners. Ten categories, most of which are the same or similar to those in other awards. The award itself named the “Dom” is modelled after a Dom Pérignon bottle (you need to watch Fandango to understand the relevance) and will remain virtual unless Moët want to step in as a sponsor me.

Best Movie:

The Artist: A virtually silent black and white movie with a 1.37:1 aspect ratio about the end of the silent movie era doesn’t sound very exciting. The result is totally stunning, charming and funny. The overwhelming favourite for the pest picture Oscar. 

Best Director:

Martin Scorsese for Hugo: Martin Scorsese’s love letter to cinema is a stunning film beautifully made and even achieving the seemingly impossible task of making 3D work. 

Best Actress:

Tilda Swinton for We Need to Talk About Kevin: Missing out to Meryl Streep at the BAFTAs and completely overlooked by the Oscars, Tilda Swinton was my only contender for best actress.

Best Actor:

Brendan Gleeson for The Guard: Missing out to Jean Dujardin for The Artist in Golden Globes and pretty much overlooked by other awards, Brendan Gleeson reminded us what a great actor he is.

Best Screenplay:

Lynne Ramsay & Rory Kinnear for We Need to Talk About Kevin: Notable not only for how well written it is, but for what a tough job it must have been given the unusual structure of the source novel.

Best Foreign Language Film:

The Skin I live in: Winner of the BAFTA for Best Film Not in the English Language but not submitted for the equivalent Oscar (Spain chose to submit the as yet not released in the UK, Black Bread) sees Auteur Pedro Almodóvar at his bizarre best.

Best Documentary:

Senna: Not only the best documentary of the year, but the best documentary I have seen in many years.

Best Looking Movie:

Melancholia: An amalgam of many awards including Cinematography, Production Design and Art Direction. Melancholia wins the award for being the most beautiful looking movie of the year.

Movie Stars of the year:

Best actor and actress awards age given for the for individual outstanding performances but the movie star of the year award is given for an outstanding performances in multiple films in a year:

Jessica Chastain (The Help, The Tree of Life, The Debt, Take Shelter)

Michael Fassbender (Shame, X-Men: First Class, A Dangerous Method, Jane Eyre)

Fandango Award:

Fandango was writer/director Kevin Reynolds debut (and best) feature, and the first notable movie for star Kevin Costner. It gives its name to this award for the best breakout filmmakers of the year. The award is shared between two movies that interestingly were both co-written by their director and star:

Nick Damici and Jim Mickle for Stake Land

Mike Cahill and Brit Marling for Another Earth

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