Archives for the month of: October, 2013

Image“He came home!”

Here’s the film which became a huge success for John Carpenter. Here’s the film which launched the career of Jamie Lee Curtis. Here’s the film which made the slasher genre a success. Here is one of the greatest horror films ever made!

The narrative is very simple. It tells the tale of Michael Myers, who on Halloween night in 1963 at a mere age of six, murdered his older sister with a kitchen knife. Fifteen years later, he escapes from a psychiatric hospital and returns home, stalking teenager Laurie Strode (Curtis) and her friends. Michael’s psychiatrist Dr. Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasence) suspects his intentions and follows him home to try prevent him from killing.

This is a very special film made with pure ambition and passion with a budget of $320,000 and ended up grossing $70 million worldwide. This is because of it’s originality and style and ended being copied in classics such as Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street, satirised in the Scream series and spoofed in the disastrous Scary Movie franchise. The chilling yet beautiful ‘Halloween Theme’, composed perfectly by Carpenter, sets the eerie mood at the beginning with a glowing jack-o-lantern which leads the audience to share Michael’s perspective when he stalks and kills his sister.

Halloween also introduced the cliqué of the morality play often used in slasher horror films. This means any teenager who is sexually active, smokes or who confidently states the AMAZING *sarcasm intended* “I’ll be right back” is at risk of meeting a very tall disturbing looking geezer wearing a William Shatner mask who breathes very very very heavily!

The cinematography by Dean Cundey is interestingly composed, creating fantastic use of the steadicam to make the camera lens appear as the stalker of the suburbs. The lack of gore is also very effective and instead, Carpenter uses cinematography, lighting and sound to create a frightening atmosphere rather than blood and guts everywhere.

The cast all deliver very naturalistic and charismatic performances. Donald Pleasence brings fear, control and dignity to his role. His character is someone who once cared for Michael but now lacks the ambition because he knows there is no way of getting through to a person who is “purely and simply evil”. Jamie Lee Curtis delivers a fantastic debut as an innocent teenager who tries to escape Michael’s deadly rampage whilst delivering it in a very realistic manner. No wonder why she earned her title and followed her mother’s (Janet Leigh from the classic Psycho) footsteps as a “Scream Queen”

Still frightening as it was 35 years ago, Halloween is a master of suspense, terror and fear in a peaceful appearing yet haunting setting. Simple, intimate and special. This was the film which single-handedly started and helped shape a new genre of horror! Now watch it on Halloween night, I dare you!

5/5

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“I don’t know if there is anything wrong because I don’t know how other people are.”

Paul Thomas Anderson has been called one of the greatest and unique filmmakers of his generation, especially after the releases of highly acclaimed Boogie Nights and Magnolia. Anderson stated after Magnolia’s release that he’d like to work with Adam Sandler in a film lasting only 90 minutes. Sandler is not exactly well loved by critics (especially by the late Roger Ebert) but boy oh boy! Both Sandler and Anderson have created a beautifully crafted piece of cinema portraying the realistic nature of finding love.

Sander portrays in the narrative Barry, a lonely small time business man who is constantly emotionally abused by his seven over-bearing sisters. Because of this, he goes through periods of enormous rage and has problems interacting with others. However, things appear more positive when Lena (Emily Watson) is introduced in his life. From there, Barry tries to find ultimate happiness through Lena and wants to change his life around for the better.

PTA’s script is fantastically written portraying the very unique relationship between Barry and Lena. What I think makes this film so much more special is how it deliberately avoids typical conventions of rom-coms and instead implies a very believable relationship because of the awkwardness of the developing romance. Besides that, the symbolism throughout the film is incredible and very clever such as colour connoting Barry’s psychological battle. Blue is frequently seen as the suit Barry wears, his workplace and his home. Red is used to serve as the colour to Barry’s ultimate happiness such as Lena wearing red on their first date. White is used to contrast red since Barry travels and works in white environments which are isolated such as his office.

The cinematography by Robert Elswit is outstanding. The use of lengthy long shots and close ups reinforce Barry’s loneliness and isolation to the outside world. My favourite shot from the film has to be the opening, I was amazed with how it instantly reflected on Barry’s emotional and physical state since he is so far away. Not only that, symbolism is used once again with Barry’s phone representing his connection to the outside world. The use of lens flares is also very effective (unlike J.J. Abrams’ overuse of it in Star Trek!) because it presents the genuine emotions Barry and Lena feel.

The score by Jon Brion is composed stunningly reflecting the relationship using frequent use of strings, accordions and the classic harmonium! What makes it distinct is that it sounds very much what you would expect from a rom-com score: lovely melody, no dissonance, perfect harmony, major key. These conventions all manage to fit in to this very authentic connection between Barry and Lena.

Besides all these unique features of cinema, it is also one of the funniest films I’ve ever seen. It’s definitely up there with Kevin Smith’s Clerks and Adam McKay’s Anchorman despite not having any hyperbolic uses of comedy. Instead, it feels like a very true representation of isolation whilst having realistic humour. The funniest scenes had to be between Sandler and Philip Seymour Hoffman who also portrays a business man with a massive temper who delivers in my mind the best ‘shut up’ line ever and the notorious ‘bathroom’ scene!

A joyful, dramatic and hilarious film. Punch-Drunk Love proves Sandler doesn’t always need to play the slapstick, over-the-top, goof-ball and PTA can write and direct a very interesting take on the comedy genre. This is a film with real heart and soul. Highly recommended!

5/5

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“People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people.”

This brilliant film based on the graphic novel by Alan Moore, carries its oppressive message that will certainly help us remember, remember, the fifth of November.

V for Vendetta is set in a dystopian London which has become a fascist regime led by Adam Sutler (John Hurt). He is faced against V (Hugo Weaving) a freedom fighter wanting revenge on those who disfigured him. A working class girl named Evey (Natalie Portman) becomes caught up in V’s mission for freedom whilst a detective (Stephen Rea) tries to stop V from igniting a revolution.

What I believe makes this film so special is the message, the message being a warning to the dangers of totalitarianism. The film features interesting aspects of a fascist state which would make George Orwell spin in his grave, like the regime listening to citizens conversations in their very own homes and people who are considered “undesirable” such as political prisoners and homosexuals being sent to concentration camps. Speaking of George Orwell, there’s also so many aspects of this film which remind me of my favourite book, Nineteen Eighty-Four, such as Sutler constantly appearing on large screens and as a cult of personality in citizen’s homes which is reminiscent to Big Brother’s image. Coincidently, John Hurt portrayed Winston Smith in the 1984 film adaptation of Nineteen Eighty-Four. V for Vendetta also features so many 21st century fears of a totalitarian state such as surveillance, torture, religious hypocrisy and media manipulation.

Apart from this deep message, the screenplay by the Wachowski’s is very well done, providing the audience with a balance of political philosophy and thrilling action. Weaving portrays V brilliantly, making the audience mesmerised by his character’s desperation for total freedom all whilst being a genius in explosives, sword fighting, literature, philosophy and his personal favourite: gardening. In addition, the performances by Portman, Hurt and Rea have a great balance between choice, power and detection.

My only criticism of this film is that I wish it was more like the original graphic novel in terms of its setting, even Alan Moore still refuses to see this film because it misses so much of the graphic novel. Although the film doesn’t explain the year, my guess is that it’s set in the 2020s whilst the original graphic novel is set in the late nineties. Now, I am ashamed to say I still haven’t read V for Vendetta, but I have done my research into why Alan Moore wrote the graphic novel, that being due to the rise of the Conservative party in the eighties. Quoting from his introduction to the graphic novel: “The new riot police wear black visors, as do their horses, and their vans have rotating video cameras mounted on top. The government has expressed a desire to eradicate homosexuality, even as an abstract concept, and one can only speculate as to which minority will be the next legislated against…I don’t like it here anymore.”

Apart from that mere opinion, this is a meaningful film with an important message that is worth watching. A excellent debut from James McTeigue which is touching, interesting and has a very clear warning.

4/5

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‘Who Is The Murderer?’

One of the more interesting early ‘talkies’ I’ve seen. Fritz Lang dramatically enters the sound era with a film that captures fear, paranoia and the future all in this one powerful expressionist thriller. launched the career of Peter Lorre, who stars as Hans Beckert, a child murderer who finds himself chased by all levels of society after his deeds cause Berlin to enter into a bizarre state of random accusation. The story interested me mostly because it showed various aspects of class desperate for justice, from the police to criminals.

Although the narrative is a very simple one, it was one of the first films that involved the hunting of a serial killer in its plot. The audience are not even introduced properly to Beckert until roughly half way through the film, but it doesn’t matter because what I loved most even before Beckert is ever seen is the obsession to hunt him down! More importantly, it was an interesting film about surveillance and how different levels of class use newly developed techniques, such as the police using handwriting analysis and criminals hiring beggars to look out for Berlin’s children. Lorre portrays Beckert very well, presenting to the audience a mentally ill man who can’t help his bloodshed due to his fear of his shadow, his pathological monster! Beckert’s whistling of In the Hall of the Mountain King (performed by Lang due to Lorre not being able to whistle) made me, and I assume the audience enthralled with fear on what was going to happen next.

As this was Lang’s first sound film, I noticed interesting forms of experimentation in contrast to other ‘talkies’ being released at the time, such as sounds occurring off camera and suspenseful moments throughout the film containing nothing but silence then adding a rush of sudden noise. Besides that, I loved the cinematography by Fritz Arno Wagner, it provides the audience with deep expression, especially with the use of glass and reflections which connote Beckert’s entrapment of self. The shots of him in daylight looking at his reflection specifically imply his perception not of a monster, but of a disturbed man. All in all, I highly recommend this as much as I recommend Lang’s Magnum Opus, the 1927 masterpiece Metropolis. A brilliant sound debut from Lang which maybe, just maybe foreshadows German society on the verge of Nazism.

5/5

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“Let me tell you the story of Right Hand, Left Hand. It’s a tale of good and evil”

Spike Lee has now officially moved me with his beautiful example of urban filmmaking. This is not just about race relations between blacks and whites, this is a film which explores all aspects of race. There was no favouritism, no ‘who was right and who was wrong’ message, no heroes, no villains, just a day of racial tension on the hot summers day in a Brooklyn neighbourhood.

Do The Right Thing follows Mookie (Spike Lee), a young African-American man delivering pizzas for his community under the watchful eye of Sal (Danny Aiello), the Italian-American owner, along with his sons, racist Pino (John Turturro) who detests the area “like a sickness” and the more calm Vito (Richard Edson). During the day, gossip spreads, characters bond and spew insults across various backgrounds (the racist stereotypes scene is a great example of this!). On the other hand, all the characters try to understand each other, such as Mookie wondering why Pino considers Prince, Michael Jordan and Eddie Murphy “not black” which connotes Tino as a bigot, believing stereotypical versions of blacks and arguably won’t change his views.

There are so many aspects of the film which make it so very special, the script for example by Lee offers very warm humour throughout which changes quite deeply in its tragic climax to a dark reality of racism. The cinematography by Ernest Dickerson provides a sense of the audience being there in Brooklyn, there is constant use of the forth wall being broken to provide, such as Radio Raheem’s (Bill Nunn) monologue about the meaning of ‘Love’ and ‘Hate’. The music is also well chosen, not only does the audience have the pleasure of having the radio host, Mister Señor Love Daddy (Samuel L. Jackson) playing contemporary genres such as jazz and reggae, there is also the great hip-hop song, that is Fight the Power by Public Enemy as the film’s leitmotif throughout, especially by the committed Raheem on his giant boom box! Besides that, the opening sequence featuring Mookie’s girlfriend Tina (Rosie Pérez) box bopping to Fight the Power greatly excites the audience to this unsettling piece of fiction which feels ever so real. To conclude, one of the best examples of a film exploring tension and certainly the best film I’ve seen by Spike Lee. Funny, courageous, challenging, moving and most of all, compelling.

“I think it is very important that films make people look at what they’ve forgotten.” – Spike Lee

5/5