d. Mateo Gil / 2011 / Spain-USA-Bolivia-France / 102 mins
Even though critics have given it a lukewarm reception, you could do a lot worse than Blackthorn if you were on the hunt for a western in the vein of 2010’s True Grit. It’s got big boots armed with prickly spurs to fill however, as the plot offers the hypothesis that Butch Cassidy survived his encounter with the Bolivian military in 1908 and headed on one last adventure in the hopes of returning to the United States and finding Etta Place’s son (of questionable parentage).
The City of Lost Children
d. Marc Caro & Jean-Pierre Jeunet / 1995 / France-Germany-Spain / 112 mins
Besides its anachronistic, noirish aesthetic, there’s a lot about this film that reminds me of Dark City. Both are hugely intelligent, dark and mature movies that ape the tropes of their flashier and pulpy, blockbuster contemporaries. Produced on a relatively large budget for a niche, French film, The City of Lost Children is one of those rare occasions where cult cinema is given the legroom to be big, bold and beautiful.
Repo! The Genetic Opera
d. Darren Lynn Bousman / 2008 / USA / 97 mins
Based on an underground stage production, and in many ways a spiritual successor to The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Repo! The Genetic Opera feels as if it’s been hand-crafted for a cult following. Most of you reading this will already have decided whether a gothic-horror musical about organ repossession, set in America’s future, directed by the man responsible for three Saw sequels and co-starring (of all people) Paris Hilton, excites or horrifies by the time this sentence has finished. In my own case, Repo! immediately manages to take hold of my affections; I’m one of those poor suckers who enjoys musicals with absolutely no trace of irony. Continue reading
A Matter of Life and Death
d. Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger / 1946 / UK / 104 mins
Collectively known as The Archers, writing, directing and producing team Powell and Pressburger are well regarded as being two of the finest film-makers of the 1940s and 50s. Film historians normally credit A Matter of Life and Death as being intended to improve tense relations between Britain and American allied forces, but the resulting film has become much more, to the extent that in 2004 Total Film cited it as the second greatest British film ever made. Originally denounced by many British critics for being too “pro-American” (one could possibly argue therefore, that it didn’t complete it’s original task too competently), history would nevertheless reward it with later prestige.
The Hunger Games
d. Gary Ross / 2012 / USA / 142 mins
It seems that every studio is currently hunting for the latest and greatest teen-novel to adapt. Long gone is the era when companies solely marketed their products at a mature audience; in the 21st century, society’s biggest spender is its youth. In the last few years, with the splitting of books such as Breaking Dawn and The Deathly Hallows into multiple productions, it’s become clear that with the right marketing, and a fantastic (or at least popular) intellectual property, crafty producers can ensure that a franchise keeps generating profit for a remarkable length of time.
Britain in a Day
d. Morgan Matthews / 2012 / UK / 90 mins
Following on the heels of the Ridley Scott-produced Life in a Day (2011) is Britain in a Day, an attempt to distil over 10,000 videos of daily life in Britain into one cohesive whole. Morgan Matthews takes up the reins of director in place of Kevin Macdonald and whilst the programme has now been and gone on both BBC2 and BBC iPlayer, many of the films can be viewed in their entirety at http://www.youtube.com/user/britaininaday.
Lady and the Tramp
d. Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson & Hamilton Luske / 1955 / USA / 75 mins
The first of Disney’s animated features to be intended for wide-sceen, Lady and the Tramp sports an interesting aesthetic with its homely fifties charm and super-wide aspect ratio. Although it’s universally well known, it has come to rest somewhere in the middle of Disney’s “classics”, not perhaps as revered as Bambi or Pinocchio, but certainly more so than the now forgotten run of package films that were produced throughout the forties (Saludas Amigos, The Three Caballeros etc.), excepting of course, Fantasia.
The Breakfast Club
d. John Hughes / 1985 / USA / 97 mins
There’s something slightly hypocritical about the use of labelling in this, the flagship of the Brat Pack era. Whilst it’s made clear that our young protagonists all suffer from the identity crises forced upon them by their elders, John Hughes himself (as writer and director) exacerbates such antagonism with cookie cutter definitions and dramatic shorthand, characterising his players as “a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess and a criminal”. This infusion of easily identifiable archetypes with an emphasis on depth sometimes feels like an odd contradiction, but it is a trick that Hughes manages to pull of throughout most of the film, allowing such recognisable tropes to surprise and delight.
d. Michel Hazanavicius / 2011 / France / 100 mins
Those of you who’ve been reading these reviews may remember one I wrote, in which I lamented the lack of interest in contemporary silent film. Little did I know that in the next few months a film with such aspirations would become the most celebrated of the year, and quite possibly, the most critically praised French film of all time.
An American in Paris
d. Vincente Minnelli / 1951 / USA / 113 mins
It’s funny how films are remembered over time, An American in Paris won the 1951 Academy Award for best film (amongst others) whilst 1952’s Singin’ in the Rain would receive a great deal less recognition. I’ve read two articles recently that place An American in Paris as one of the most overrated films of all time and listed as one of the least worthy to receive an Oscar, whilst Singin’ in the Rain is now considered by many to be the greatest musical ever produced and the highpoint of MGM’s golden era.