Historical Blockbuster Done Right

It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed a movie from the 1930s for the AFI challenge so I’d thought I’d take it way back to 1935 for the iconic ‘Mutiny on the Bounty’ based on a true story (1935: AFI 1998 #86) staring the George Clooney of the Golden Era Clarke Gable (because the Cary Grant comparisons are absurd – there will never be another actor as effortlessly charming as Grant) playing Fletcher Christian and British theatre star Charles Laughton as villainous Captain William Bligh (yup, they again chose a Brit to play the most hated man in the movie). I actually think that this maybe (correct me if I’m wrong) but the oldest film I have reviewed so far – although I managed to catch Buster Keaton’s silent farcical classic ‘The General’ (1926: AFI 2007 #18) a while back but haven’t managed to write about it because I hope to compare it to Chaplin’s ‘Modern Times’ (1936 AFI 1998 #81, 2007#78) which I’ve yet to see.

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Clarke Gable and Tahitian love interest Mamo Clarke

‘Mutiny’ is a legendary story of how Lieutenant Fletcher of HMS Bounty stages a revolt after witnessing Captain Bligh’s cruel and brutal treatment of his officers and crew on the long voyage to Tahiti in 1787. As a history minor graduate I had heard of this infamous tale, but I decided to take elective’s on the History of Sport and The French Revolution so it never made my syllabus, so I’m not sure if it is historically accurate. However, the fact that central character Roger Byam (played by Franchot Tone) who faces a moral dilemma of obeying his tyrant Captain or following his friend Fletcher into the mutiny was not a real character but based on midshipman Peter Haywood suggests that those wanting to use the flick as a point of reference before their history exam on the event may find that their grade is not as high as they’d hope. And although Captain Bligh has a reputation of being a tormenter he did not flog any of his crew to their death as the film depicts.

‘The Mutiny on the Bounty’ 1935 trailer

The historic event has had such a huge interest over the years that it has been made into a major movie five times – twice before the Gable version and twice after. There has always been a fascination with how or why the revolt took place- was Bligh a sadistic control freak like the 1935 movie depicts? Or was Fletcher and the crew so engulfed in the freedom and sexual liberation they experienced in Tahiti the thought of going back on board to a disciplinary Captain dreaded them so much that they took a huge gamble and staged a revolt as many contemporary historians suggest was the real cause of the mutiny.

Documentary on facts vs fiction on ‘The Mutiny on the Bounty’

We may not know the real cause of the conflict or what really happened when the crew landed in Tahiti (which is now a Honeymooner’s paradise and where the Real Housewives of Beverley Hills spend their summer vacations) but this film does a good job of trying to fill in the gaps. And although it maybe historically inaccurate in some parts – the film is bloody entertaining – I was not expecting to like it so much. It has the suspense of a modern blockbuster and you become so invested in the characters that you are desperate for Bligh (who was voted AFI’s 19th best villain) to have a piece of his own medicine. Charles Laughton who looks like a cross between Boris Johnson and Oscar Wilde is terrific as the ruthless captain who lacks a drop of compassion and Gable comes across as endearing and idealistic that he almost seems like an early prototype of Paul Newman’s character in Cool Hand Luke (1967). I haven’t seen the other versions of this story, but this is the only one that made it into the prestigious AFI top 100 list that it is probably the best version. Even Marlon Brando couldn’t save the 1962 version from it being a huge critical and financial disaster. But it would be interesting to see how Mel Gibson tackles the protagonist and Anthony Hopkins the villain in ‘The Bounty’ (1984).

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Hopkins and Gibson in ‘The Bounty’ (1984)

For Bligh’s and moustacheless Gable’s near perfect performance, the cameo from James Cagney and the jam packed action that inspires blockbuster films to this day – I give ‘Mutiny on the Bounty’ a perfect score 5 out 5.

 

The Biggest Romantic Movie of All Time That No One Had Faith In

It’s been a while since I made my last post, but don’t worry I haven’t given up on my AFI Challenge which looks set to take longer than I thought. The truth is I’ve been pretty lazy over the last few months being a man of leisure. But I have managed to catch the ultimate classic movie whilst on my way to Kenya on my first African visit.

The best thing about flying (other than the beaming obvious trip to a destination that is guaranteed to be at least five degrees warmer than London) is I get to catch up on movies I haven’t watched yet as there is pretty much nothing else to do. Despite being a big classic movie fan (who would have thought it) the idea of sitting through more than three hours of Charlton Heston’s overacting in ‘Ben Hur’ doesn’t always fill me with the most excitement. With plane TV screens you feel obliged to watch a movie from start to finish to feel like you are making most of your time in the air. I kind of feel like Malcolm McDowell in ‘A Clockwork Orange’ when his eyes were clamped open when watching the small screen on aircrafts, but with less agony.

I managed to catch some new releases that I wouldn’t dream of watching in the cinema like ‘Southpaw’ which although had an extremely cliché and predictable storyline it had a heartfelt performance from Jake Gyllenhaal. Kenya Airways had a questionable classic movie category in their inflight entertainment, which included masterpieces like the intellectually simulating ‘The Hangover’, but I think they used the term loosely to describe anything that wasn’t released within last twelve months. They got it right with two movies – ‘Northby Northwest’ (1959, AFI 1998 #40, 2007 #55) and ‘Casablanca’ (1942, AFI: 1998 #2, 2007 #3) – I’ve seen these bonafide classic movies before, but as I’ve already reviewed the Hitchcock masterpiece I thought I’d re-familiarise regularly with the most famous romantic movie of all time.

7oth Anniversary trailer for ‘Casablanca’

It’s hard to believe that the most iconic on screen romance all time was considered a side project for movie executives at Warner Bros – despite the flick having two of the biggest stars at the time Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman insiders thought it wouldn’t be a hit – there were even rumours that the script was incomplete when filming and so at times the actors had to improvise – with the huge budgets Hollywood films have nowadays this would simply be unheard of.  So why did this film with a relatively straight forward storyline, which was filmed mostly in a bar and one that people that little expectations of become the greatest love story of all time?

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Bogart must choose between his former lover and helping her husband

The movie which was directed by Michael Curtiz tells the story of American expatriate (Rick Blaine played by Bogart) who runs a successful casino and nightclub in Casablanca during World War Two. His world turns upside down when his former lover Ilsa Lund (Bergman) comes back into his life after abandoning him without explanation, but this time she is with her husband Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid) who is a notorious Czech-resistance leader on the run from the Nazis. Blaine must decide whether to help this man escape or to be with the woman he loves.

For me it’s pretty hard to pinpoint what made this black and white classic such a timeless piece that people of all ages flock to see when played at the outdoor cinema at Somerset House every summer over other romantic masterpieces such as ‘It Happened in One Night’ (1934, AFI 1998 #35, 2007 #46)? Bogart’s cool portrayal of selfless Rick Blaine is so memorable and the character is so likable that the AFI voted him as the fourth greatest hero on the big screen – which definitely separates this movie from other romances over the years. The movie is far from cheesy or soppy and although I’m not a huge fan of Bergman (who looks like she is about to burst into tears in every scene) you can’t deny the chemistry between the who main leads. This along with the beautiful theme song ‘As time goes by’ and the famous, sharp and witty one liners (“Here’s looking a you kid”, “Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship”, “We will always have Paris” (is this were the silly American romantic obsession with Paris began?),  “Of all the Gin Joints..”) makes ‘Casablanca’ pretty much a perfect movie – the blueprint for all romances that followed over the last 70 years.

The most famous lines from ‘Casablanca’

The movie which is a concise 108 minutes makes this classic pretty easy viewing compared to ‘Gone with The Wind” (1939, AFI 1998 #4, 2007 #6) or ‘Giant” (1956, AFI 1998 #82) where you have to invest your whole afternoon watching is perhaps another reason why people revisit this romance year after year. I give this culturally significant and iconic movie a 5 out of 5.

 

 

 

 

The Best Festive Movie

I know this post is about thirty-days too late, but screw it – it’s still (barely) January and I’ve just got back to my day to day routine (Plus it’s my god damn blog – I’ll write about Christmas movies in July if I wanted to!)  So it’s the perfect time to reflect on the classic movies that I came across in December which was only a few short weeks ago.  

During that weird period between Christmas and New Year when you struggle to remember what date it is but strangely know exactly what day Boxing Day and New Year’s Eve falls on there are quite a lot of quality movies on the box – particularly classic flicks that are featured in the American Film Institute Top 100 Films of All Time. So I pretty much had a field day going through my list this festive season – although it seemed like every time I switched on the TV ‘Elf’ (2003) or ‘Home Alone’ (1990) was playing for the umpteenth time (but Will Ferrell giving James Cann lingerie as a gift never gets old).

‘Elf’ Buddy gives his Dad an inappropriate gift 

Unfortunately these movies are not deemed to be classic by the AFI; but what was shown on the Sky Christmas Channel and is worthy to be featured in The Top 100 Movies of all time list twice was the ultimate Christmas move – ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ (1946: AFI 1998 #11, 2007 #20) staring the remarkable James Stewart and Donna Reed. The movie centres around banker George Bailey, a hardworking man who can’t seem to catch a break – he is financially unstable, but his good willed nature, enthusiasm and hope gets him through tough times. That is until he reaches boiling point and contemplates suicide, but before he decides to end his life a guardian angel shows him what life would be like if he was never born. So it’s kind of like flipped version of ‘A Christmas Carol’ (1843) by Dickens with the obvious differences that Scrooge was rich and disliked whilst Bailey was poor but loved.

The fact that the film lifted themes from Dickens’s masterpiece doesn’t take away how influential it is to the wholesome family movie genre. Ever since its release Hollywood producers have tried to create a Christmas flick as well written, acted and magical as ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ but have so failed to deliver something that the whole family can enjoy and watch Christmas after Christmas.

The unmistakable Stewart speaks about how he got involved in his most iconic role

It’s pretty remarkable that children are still fond of this black and white movie, usually when I tell my family (who are all well over thirty) that I want to watch a film on my list, they tell me “It better be in colour”- but ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ gets a free pass. It proves that the strong storytelling and the message of thankfulness and belief in the kindness of human nature far outweighs any 3D or CGI special effects that has been regurgitated by movie execs in the last ten or so years. There were talks that the movie was to be colourised, but legendary director Frank Capra and Stewart were against it the final product. I must admit I would be curious to see if the movie would still be as perfect if in colour, but I guess if it isn’t broke why fix it?

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‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ gets the colour treatment

One of the reasons why this masterpiece which is 70 years old this year still resinates with viewers is that it touches on themes that are more relevant than ever. Many of us plan to travel the world when we leave school, but our dreams are put on hold by our guilt to help the family business or get a ‘proper’ job – I know I can relate to that. And almost all of us during the festive season reflect on our careers and financial position which can make us unsatisfied. This movie reminds us what is important – ‘Elf’ and ‘Bad Santa'(2003) may give us laughs, but will that be enough to sustain their legacy in years to come?

For the fact that this movie is not only the best festive movie of all time, but best movie period I give it 5 our 5.

Introducing Your Partner of a Different Background to Your Parents? Prepare Them With This

Sometimes I get lucky when attempting my challenge of watching all films featured in the American Film Institute’s top 100 movies of all time like this weekend when just as I was wondering how I’m going to spend a rainy Saturday afternoon I came across a film which needed to be ticked off my list. Actually my brother came across it after trying to give a Danny Dyer and Martin Kemp flick a shot, but only lasting ten minutes before changing the channel (what did he expect it to be? A masterpiece?). ‘Guess who’s coming to dinner? (1967: AFI, 1998 #99) couldn’t be further away from a British gangster film set in the noughties. Firstly there is hardly any action and most of the movie takes place in one location, the house of Mr and Mrs Drayton played by arguably the greatest screen couple to have ever graced the silver screen; Spencer Tracy and the most successful female Oscar winner of all time (yup, even more successful than Meryl Streep, would you believe?) Katherine Hepburn.

Trailer for the 1967 Oscar winning movie ‘Guess who’s coming to Dinner?

Set in an affluent  white upper middle class neighbourhood  in San Francisco in the 1960s the story centres around the Drayton’s whose liberal tolerance gets tested when their daughter introduces them to her black fiancé played by Sidney Poitier – who is the first black actor to win an Oscar (although not for this role, but ‘Lilies in the Field). The plot is simple and hardly shocking by today’s standards, but for the time when racial tension in North America was at an all time high it was perhaps a surprise that Stanley Kramer’s movie was a critical and commercial success. Even more startling is that it was well received in the notoriously racist Southern States and released just a year before Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. There is even a scene where the family’s black maid Tillie who is clearly the most offended by the presence of Poitier sarcastically asks if “The Reverend Martin Luther King” is coming to dinner too?

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Maid Tillie interrogates Poitier

The movie definitely deserves its spot on the AFI’s top 100 films of all time list – it highlights the deep rooted racial prejudices even the most tolerant people have. Kramer wanted to make Poitier’s character Dr. John Wayde Prentice Jr. flawless – he is well educated, respectful and does not believe in sex before marriage – he is a perfect suitor for Joey. The only that is preventing her parents from jumping for joy is that he is black.

The subject matter of this blockbuster is sadly relevant in today’s society. Even though interracial relationships are more common than ever there is a still a stigma attached to them. But naively I was under the impression that in the UK non-black ethnic minorities were the only group who still found it difficult introducing their families to their partner from a different background and that black and white people were better integrated. But after watching the British comedy ‘Chewing Gum (2015)’ I realised some black people found it hard tell their parents they were dating a white person as protagonist Tracey (no relation to Spencer) does throughout the first series. Perhaps roles are reversed and ethnic minorities are now the ones who seem to find it hard to accept other races into their families rather than just white people.

Although ‘Guess who’s coming to Dinner’ had the happy ending we liberal people of the Twenty-First Century hoped for I couldn’t help but feel sad knowing that this was Spencer Tracy’s last movie before his death – he died only two weeks after completing the film. So his heartfelt speech where he declares that he accepts the relationship is even more poignant as it feels this is farewell to his onscreen and real life lover Hepburn and to the world as he knew his time was drawing an end.

Spencer Tracy gives his memorable speech weeks before his death

Nevertheless the legacy of Tracy and his unforgettable character Mr Drayton still lives on; not only was his last role considered one of his finest he was also the inspiration for lovable Carl Fredricksen in Pixar’s classic animated ‘Up! (2009). For the exceptional characters and acting from the crème a La crème of Hollywood as well as the topic that is still a subject of conversation today  – I give this flick 4.5 out of 5.

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Lead character in ‘Up’ is inspired by Spencer Tracy

The movie can also be a useful tool to show to your parents before bringing someone home they may not approve off as suggested by my brother – I wonder who he’s planning on bringing home to meet the folks

 

Why Are Horror Movies Never Critically Praised?

I was flicking through the movie channels yesterday when I came across the classic cult ‘Carrie’ (1976) starring a very young and terrifyingly terrific Sissy Spacek as well as John Travolta pre Saturday Night Fever fame. The flick is not only a perfect horror movie, but it ticks all the boxes for the American Film Institute criteria on what films should be selected for the prestigious Top 100 Films Of All Time List. It was a critical and box office hit, but most importantly it has lasting influence – there is not a Halloween that goes by when someone doesn’t dress up as a blood covered Carrie and most movie enthusiasts are aware of the iconic scene where she gets covered by pigs blood when accepting her prom queen win. So why did this AFI top 100 nominated movie fail to make the list?

Spacek gets her revenge in ‘Carrie’ 1976

Generally movie critics (who I assume make a large proportion of the American Film institute voting body) have a distaste for horror movies – well when you have crass films like Piranha 3DD (2012) or unimaginative flicks like Freddy VS Jason (2003) it’s not hard to understand why the genre has a bad rep. So unsurprisingly horror films get little representation on the 1998 and 2007 AFI Top 100 Movie List. Can Hitchcock’s greatest masterpiece Psycho (1960: AFI 1998#18, 2007#14) or the epitome of the classic gothic story Wuthering Heights (1939: AFI 1998# 73) be considered horror? ‘Psycho’ has a strong case as does ‘Silence of the Lambs’ (1991: AFI 1998#74, 2007 #65).

The nineties sleeper hit may technically be a thriller/ crime movie, but there are so many elements of horror that I think it can be lumped in that category plus I was shit scared for the most of it. It’s also one of those pictures where you think you’ve seen it before because you remember all the iconic scenes like when Dr Hannibal Lecter, played by Anthony Hopkins creepily tells Clarice how he ate one of his victims. But I thought I must completely watch it from start to finish because there are some parts I can’t piece together.

After viewing the first ten minutes I was pretty sure I hadn’t seen it from the beginning. I didn’t realise that Clarice, played by the ever versatile and Oscar-winning Jodie Foster, was a rookie FBI agent who had reluctantly been persuaded by her superior to get in the mind of cannibal Dr Hannibal Lecter to help solve a case of serial killer Buffalo Bill. I’m not sure if in realty the FBI would seek help from a psychopath, it seems pretty far-fetched to me, but then again so are most horror films.

Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins in their Oscar-winning roles 

Over the years Hannibal Lecter has a comical and somewhat camp persona, I first introduced to him when I watched the prequel Hannibal (2001) in the cinema and vividly recall the audience laughing when he murdered is victims, especially when he ate the brains off Ray Liotta whilst he will still conscious and at the dining table – so to say his character gave me a sleepless night in this 1991 Best Picture Winner is perhaps an over-exaggeration, but then again he was truly frightening when he escapes his incarceration, which suggests why he was voted the Top Villain Of All Time 

‘Silence Of The Lambs’ trailer 

Perhaps the supporting character Buffalo Bill terrified me more, not only was he truly disturbed for killing woman for their skin in order for him to make a body suit, but he was loosely based from real murderers –  Jerry Brudos, Ted Bundy and Ed Gein – with the latter also inspiring Norman Bates in ‘Pyscho’ (1960) and Leatherface in ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre'(1974). Nothing thrills a horror geek more than believing some of the plot is based on true events – although that term is used so loosely in almost all movies of this genre that I wouldn’t be surprised if a scary movie about a giant people eating dinosaur would have a ‘based on true events’ disclaimer.

Hopkins gets into character on the set of ‘Silence ff The Lambs’

‘Silence of the Lambs’ may not be a traditional horror movie, in fact it combined traces of horror, thriller and crime to create its own genre which inspired movies like ‘Kiss the girls’ (1997) and even television programmes such as CSI (2000 – 2015). For inspiring a string of thoughtful and psychological thrillers that came after I give it a 3.5 out of 5.

Ted Levine plays the disturbed ‘Buffalo Bill’

Perhaps in the Twentieth Edition of the Top 100 Films of all time the AFI committee could consider more classic and traditional horror movies like ‘The Shining’ (1980), ‘The Exorcist’ (1973) or the amazing and perhaps my personal favourite ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ (1968) to feature in the coveted list.

Hoffman Blows Childhood Favourite Creation Out of The Water

Long before the late Robin Williams did his best drag impression in ‘Mrs Doubtfire’(1993) Dustin Hoffman arguably played it more convincingly in ‘Tootsie’ (1982: AFI 1996 #62, 2007 #69). Sure Williams had the advantage of superior make-up to effectively disguise his identity, but Hoffman’s character was better developed and it always bugged me that Mrs Doubtfire introduced herself as English rather than Scottish (those darn Americans!) in the 1993 film set in San Francisco based on a book by British author Anne Fine (those darn Americans!).

When I sat down to watch the 1982 Oscar Winning movie for my AFI 100 movie challenge I definitely had my favourite childhood film to compare it to, but to be honest the only similarities are that the protagonists dress up as women to deceive people close to them with hilarious consequences. That’s where the comparison ends.

In ‘Tootsie’ Hoffman plays Michael Dorsey an out of work actor who has a reputation of being difficult so no one in the industry wants to work with him. He hears of a upcoming role in a soap opera and auditions for the part of ‘Dorothy Michaels’ disguised as a woman and wins the part.  Much to Dorsey’s shock his creation becomes an overnight sensation because of ‘her’ feisty and no nonsense attitude. But things get a bit awkward when Dorsey falls for his co-star Julie Nichols played by innocent and timid Jessica Lange. There is even a really cringy scene where Michaels who is meant to be a middle-aged feminist tries to kiss Lange.

Lange and Hoffman get cosy

Although the movie is entertaining and Hoffman is brilliant as the eccentric Michael Dorsey and equally nuts Dorothy Michaels I wondered if the flick was good enough to make it on AFIs list of 100 movies of all time. What separates it from all the other comedies where the main character cross-dresses to trick people? Firstly the script is sharp and punchy and unlike family friendly ‘Mrs Doubtfire’ this film is for the adults. The supporting cast is terrific, Teri Garr (Phoebe’s mum in Friends) plays the ditsy and hopeless romantic acting student of Hoffman and I think she should have taken the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress rather than wooden Jessica Lange.  Bill Murry brings in his typical dry wit dry humour as Hoffman’s roommate in his pre-Ghostbuster superstardom days.

Dustin Hoffman, Terri Garr & Sydney Pollack on the set of ‘Tootsie’

But most importantly Michael Dorsey /Dorothy Michaels is believable and more likable than William’s creation in this Sydney Pollack classic. There are a few flaws in ‘Mrs Doubtfire’ that I’ve come to realise as I’ve grown older. Firstly Robin Williams character is pretty much a loser, he lives off his wife, behaves likes a big kid and we are supposed to feel empathy for him when she throws him out? In real life a character like that wouldn’t have the intelligence or guts to pull of Mrs Doubtfire. In fact he would probably break down in tears the moment he steps into his old family home again. Hoffman’s character is a go-getter, a perfectionist who knows what he wants and is ruthless in his pursuit which makes the movie more realistic than the similar plots made before and after the 1982 classic flick. Although one can argue Williams complete and utter dedication towards his children gives him the courage and determination to succeed in his trickery.

Robin Williams On Dustin Hoffman’s ‘Tootsie’ Performance

Dustin Hoffman is perhaps the most underrated performer of his generation. In the 1970s only he and Jack Nicholson were able to immerse themselves in completely different roles in a believable manner. So it’s sometimes frustrating that De Niro and Pacino gets all the praise when most of the time they often played one dimensional characters (but brilliantly nevertheless). For the shear genius of Hoffman who despite having a stellar supporting cast can carry this movie by himself I give ‘Tootsie’ a 4.5 out 5.

Kubrick Asks Can You Cure An Psychopath ?

I thought I’d probably seen every episode of ‘The Simpsons’ to date, so I pleasantly surprised when I came across a Halloween Special that I’d never watched before. In my opinion the show is the king of parodies and they have put their yellow magic on some of the prominent films featured in the American Film Institute’s top 100 films of all time – from ‘Rear Window’(1954: AFI 1998 #42, 2007 #48) to ‘Citizen Kane’ (1941: AFI 1998 #1, 2007 #1). This time they took their spin on classic horror ‘A Clockwork Orange’ (1971: 1998 #46, 2007 #70)  with the programme’s darkest character Moe befittingly playing disturbed Alex DeLarge in Stanley Kubrick’s terrifying British (but partly funded by an American studio which explains why it is eligible for the AFI list) masterpiece.

For the American Film Institute to consider a movie for their 1998 and 2007 coveted list it has to have significant and lasting cultural impact – ‘A Clockwork Orange’ definitely fits into this category with artists like Kylie Minogue (yup, it doesn’t get more commercial than that), My Chemical Romance and Blur paying homage to the terrifying villain played so well by Malcolm McDowell. The film which is set in a futuristic London centers around lead character Alex and his group of thugs called ‘ Droogs’ who perform violent crimes including rape whilst high on drugs. When his luck runs out and he gets caught for murdering a woman the sociopath is sent to prison where he is a participant of an experiment to cure his bad behaviour. This involves him being subjected to hours of violent footage and images whilst having his eyes clamped open.

‘A Clockwork Orange’ movie trailer from 1971

Unsurprisingly the film was surrounded by controversy when it was released and it’s still pretty shocking by today’s standards – the rape scene is pretty gruesome, only Kubrick can take an innocent and cheery song like ‘Singing in the rain’ that is beloved by millions of people including me and totally change the mood of the song as McDowell eerily sings it whilst torturing his female victims. Apparently Gene Kelly was so disgusted by Alex DeLarge’s rendition of the classic musical number he ignored MacDowell when he approached him at some showbiz event they both attended.

Alex DeLarge and his ‘Droogs’

But violence is key to explaining the plot of the movie, without it you will never get a sense of how twisted the lead character is. We are in an age where films are brutal for the thrill or shock factor without adding anything particularly to a piece – take for example ‘American Psycho’(2000). For years my friend told me the film was a masterpiece and it was a must see (although he did use to show me some disturbing violent videos on his computer when I went around to his for tea after school – the film must have been pretty tame by his twisted standards) so this weekend me and my brother, Sati decided to watch it. It was highly entertaining and Christian Bale did a fine job playing disturbed Patrick Bateman but the ending of  the movie left us feeling unsatisfied. Did he or did he not really kill those people in the over the top, unrealistic fashion or was it in his imagination? If it was the latter than the gory violence seems pointless and the film appears to be lazy because there are so many things left unexplained – it all seems rather pointless.

Malcolm McDowell speaks on the genius of Stanley Kubrick

With ‘American Psycho’ you begin to question whether the villain is in fact a victim of capitalist society, but in ‘A Clockwork Orange’ the answer more definite especially with Alex’s final words. The movie feels more complete, there are no loose ends and hence the piece has more purpose than a majority of the bloodstained and brutal flicks that have been released in recent years. For the gripping plot and Kubrick’s attempt to answer the ever relevant question ‘can someone be cured of evil?’ I give this movie a 5 out 5.

The Funny Side Of The Korean War

As I spend most of my spare time trying to complete the American Film Institute’s list of 100 movies of all time I find that I am out of touch with the latest movie releases – in fact the only time I get to catch a feature that is not in black and white or Technicolor is when I’m on a plane. A few weeks back I went to Canada and to pass the time on the flight (that did not offer me any food for the whole duration, which has to be illegal) I watched ‘American Sniper’ (2014) directed by Dad’s idol Clint Eastwood

War films about recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan like ‘American Sniper’ and ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ (2012) don’t have the same thrill as movies made about World War Two or the Vietnam War. There is nothing more exiting watching Guerrilla warfare taking place in an exotic but terrifying jungle in films like ‘Full Metal Jacket’ (1987) and ‘Apocalypse Now’ (1979: AFI 1998 #28 2007#30) rather than a dusty and concrete setting of a modern conflict. And although there were several moments of suspense in blockbuster staring Bradley Cooper I felt underwhelmed just as I did when I watched M*A*S*H* (1970: AFI 1998 #56, 2007 #54) which takes a more humorous approach when looking at The Korean War.

To be honest I didn’t have high expectations before I viewed the movie, I remember I often got annoyed when The Paramount Channel played marathons of the TV version (1972- 1983) of the hit film when all I wanted to watch was ‘Everybody Loves Raymond’ (1996 – 2005). So I had a pretty biased view of the franchise before I got to see the full length feature which starts Donald Sutherland and Tom Skerritt as doctors Hawkeye and Duke who are stationed at an Army Surgical Hospital in Korea during US conflict.

Classic War Movie – M*A*S*H*

The mischievous and womanising behaviour of the two talented surgeons brings light relief to a subject matter that is often tackled in more serious manner, but at times I thought I was watching a ‘Carry on’ Movie and I half expecting Sutherland to shout out ‘Oh Matron!’ I even saw aspects of the Police Academy movies when the two characters play childish pranks on the rival Frank Burns.

Although the movie takes a satirical approach to the Korean conflict there is a serious undertone throughout the picture; despite Hawkeye’s and Duke’s reckless and childish behaviour they are excellent surgeons who care about their wounded patients. But I feel their arrogance overshadows this and so I didn’t warm to the characters and for that reason I give the movie 2 out 5 stars

George Lucas Gives A Glimpse On How Teenagers Pulled Before Tinder

Four long years before George Lucas became a household name with every sci-fi and fantasy fan across the world, he was known for directing ‘American Graffiti’ (1973: AFI 1998 77# 2007 #62) – a coming of age drama starring a very young (and very odd choice for leading man, probably because I only associate him with the uptight Dr Leo Marvin in ‘What about Bob’) Richard Dreyfuss and Ron Howard.

Although I have yet to see Lucas’s most accomplished movie ‘Star Wars’ (1977: 1998 #15, 2007 #13), it doesn’t take a Star Woidz (which is apparently the official name given to avid Star Wars fans) to work out that the two films couldn’t be more different. Firstly ‘American Graffiti’ is set in this galaxy and the characters are far more relatable than the iconic but distant and cold characters of the sci-fi classic.

Richard Dreyfuss, Charles Martin Smith & Ron Howard in the coming of age classic

To be honest I didn’t really know what to expect when I came across the movie on Netflix, in fact before scrolling through the American Film Institute of top 100 films of all time I had never heard of it let alone knew the legendary George Lucas directed it. So it was quite a surprise to learn the man I associated with family friendly viewing directed a film about cruising in the 1960’s – although I think the term has taken a more sleazy meaning in recent years. The story follows the antics of a group of four high school graduates on the night before an undecided Curt Henderson (Dreyfuss) leaves his friends and the small town to start college with best buddy Steve Bolander (Howard). Whilst Curt goes on a self-discovery journey during the film his mates hunt for girls by driving up and down the streets in their classic chevys, which seems to be the way adolescents got acquainted before Tinder took away the thrill and excitement of courting.

The movie which is inspired by Lucas’s experiences of growing up in post-World War Two America gives an interesting insight of how teenagers perceived the world before major incidents such as the JFK shooting and Vietnam War changed attitudes. I was particularly fascinated by the predatory way guys hunted for girls in a carefree and somewhat liberal era, which couldn’t be more different from the social media tools used for pulling the opposite sex that has become the norm in today’s society.

Iconic diner set in the movie

Perhaps it’s because I didn’t know what exactly to expect when I selected the play button on Netflix or maybe it’s because I watched the movie at twelve in morning without mentally preparing myself, (which is what I have to do with each movie I watch on the AFI top 100 countdown) but I felt my mind wonder throughout the movie and nearly nodded off a few times. Although the movie had some humorous moments mostly from Paul Le Mat and the teenybopper who is fascinated by him, the film at times felt like a long car journey that wouldn’t end soon enough and for that reason I give it a 2 out 5.

Spike Lee has us asking the same question more than 25 years later

I’ve been pretty troubled with some of the news I’ve been reading from across the pond – it seems like attitudes to race hasn’t changed much in some areas of States since the Civil Rights Movement. Despite there being a black President it appears that deep rooted prejudice is more prevalent than ever and with the rise of citizen journalism on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook people in authoritative positions have been exposed for abusing their power.

Depressingly Hollywood has a history of excluding black actors in their movies or casting them in roles which were stereotypical. There was a huge uproar when Hattie McDaniel, who played a maid in ‘Gone with the Wind’, was forbidden from attending the première of her own movie in 1939. Although she was able to collect her Best Supporting Actress accolade at the Academy Awards (the first ever won by a black actor) she was unable to sit with the cast at the front and was placed at the back of the theatre on her own with an escort. You’d think racism would have been completely erased from modern day American cinema, but leaked racist emails of top Hollywood producers mocking Obama earlier in the year revealed the problem still exists.

Hattie McDaniel accepts her Oscar in 1940

So it’s not surprising that the 1998 and 2007 list of the American Film Institute’s top 100 films of all time only has one ‘black’ film – ‘Do the right thing’ (1989: AFI 2007, #96), directed and starring Spike Lee. The movie set in a black neighbourhood in Brooklyn centres around Mookie who works as a Pizza delivery man for an Italian-American family. Although he gets along with the owner, his son Pino dislikes blacks and often clashes with Mookie. Racial tension between the Italians and African Americans in the neighbourhood steadily rise over the course of the film until it reaches boiling point. This is when the audience ask themselves ‘Did Mookie do the right thing?’ I don’t want to give away the plot too much, so will not say exactly what he did, but what makes the film so unique is that it is extremely difficult to answer and it has people questioning whether or not they hold the same prejudices depicted by some of the characters in the film.

Spike Lee, Danny Aiello, Richard Edson & John Turturro

I’m guilty of initially having the opinion of most non-blacks by believing the main character was wrong for his actions, but in an recent interview Lee stated that he had not come across one black person who thought the protagonist was wrong and they all believe that Mookie was  justified for his actions because he reached boiling point. What people also fail to realise is his actions in the penultimate scene of the movie indirectly prevented more serious casualties – nothing in more precious than a life. How could I have missed that?

Spike Lee speaks about his landmark movie 25 years later 

The movie rightly deserves its place in the list; it terrifically depicts urban life in New York in the late 80’s. The stylish freestyle dance sequence done by a then unknown Rosie Perez in the opening credits highlights that Spike Lee not only hoped to create a movie that was socially conscious but wanted to showcase all the positive things black culture has brought into the mainstream. Although this movie is blueprint for films that explored similar themes in the 1990s, I feel that ‘Boyz in the Hood’ (1991) and ‘Menace II Society’ (1993) were more gripping and for this reason I give this movie a 3 out of 5.