To celebrate its 15th anniversary, Red Bull Music Academy invited award winning director Ralf Schmerberg to create a full-length feature film about the life and processes of the artists in the academy. At their base forms, music and film are incredibly artistic mediums, ones that have been known to enhance and reflect each other in certain situations. In that regard, it’s easy to see why Red Bull chose such an intimate film-maker like Ralf Schmerberg to make their film, one with such an attentive eye to detail that’ll be able to capture the subject in its most natural form.

In celebration of Ralf Schmerberg’s What Difference Does It Make? We had a chat with the film-maker himself in the interview below, about his processes, difficulties, inspirations and techniques used during the making of his film.

As I understand it, your task of making a film to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the Red Bull Music Academy, was a fairly open one. What were your specific processes, or aims on this project?  

My initial aim when I went abroad was to make a film completely unopposed. outside to inside, inside to outside, my first intention was to make a film that speaks about music and about life, one that applies to people that aren’t well versed in music. My own knowledge of music is so small, so when I visited these masters of music, I wanted to capture why they devoted their life to this cause, why they did what they do, everyday. I wanted to capture what different levels you have to go through to devote your life to music; fear, failure, success, what kind of routes and channels you’re forced to go through.

I wanted to know their fears, their aspirations, anything they could express about their life in music, something I could connect to on a human basis with. Yeah it’s related to music, but it’s also absolutely related to life, the processes of their life that they go through to make their music. I wanted to capture things like that.

Would you classify yourself as a documentary film-maker?

I’m not a documentary film-maker mainly, I come from a mixture of art, doing movies with no dialogue, I don’t really make objective documentaries. I like to approach things with a very simple naivety. I’m not a film-maker who extensively researches his topic, or only makes films about subjects I know. If I was to film an Eskimo, one of my very first questions would be why he wears so much fur? The questions are naïve, but those type of  questions often give everything I want to hear. So my approach is that I’m a guy who knows nothing and I can simply ask questions. Then in editing, I find the right things, put them in order, and the construction is simply that.

So, in that same regard, you wouldn’t classify your award-winning film Problema as a documentary?

No, no sometimes we artists struggle with what we are through all the classifications and labels. Usually documentaries come from the outside, looking inwards, informing the audience of the inner workings of a subject. Problema was our story, our film, our composition, so it wasn’t really a documentary, it was much more an art piece. I didn’t travel to a place, where a guy made a table, to make a documentary. That’s the problem being an artist, how do you classify that? Art is so vast as a topic, where as there are rules of documentary that we don’t follow, same with the fiction film, I’d personally define it as an installation.

Where there any particular artists or personalities at the Red Bull Music Academy who really influenced the direction of the film, or your perception of the life of musical artists?

Yeah, Lee Perry was an important one. He told me about music, his music, the type of music that he does. I sat with him, spoke to him, listened to him perform on the gig, he’s a man who could convert music into space, into music. It totally blew me away. When we were filming,  we had such a constricted time window, as you’re probably familiar with with the work you do. It’s very rare that you have a diamond in your collection, rarely do you have something truly great in the first few days of filming.  Brian was the second interview I did, and there were a lot of surprises there. Immediately we had a lot of crucial material that really defined the whole experience. But overall, I was really impressed about the qualities of the student, each of them, musically. I had this distinct feeling that I was surrounded by several people who could easily be the next big thing in music.

Did you encounter any particular challenges or difficulties whilst making What Difference Does It Make?

A project for me can be a very big challenge or a small one, with What Difference Does It Make? I had to develop my point of view, my perception, I had such an overwhelming injection of knowledge about music. I love music, but I really knew nothing about it until this point. A personal experience goes further than oneself, further than the aims of your goals. You have to live it, kind of. I just love walking around in the street, the public space, a lot of my images embody the public room, or space. My point of view is very much that of the general public, it’s not elite, it’s not informed, hence the naivete with which I approach all my projects.

We’d like to thank Ralf for taking some time to chat with us about his project. What Differences Does It Make goes live as of digital release February 18th. 

Moving On.

I‘m rather sad to say that unfortunately, I won’t be blogging on wordpress anymore. I’m moving on to other projects, in an attempt to get my writing out there. I’ve enjoyed my time blogging, and it’s certainly been useful in helping me hone my writing. I’d like to thank anyone who’s bothered to follow me, like a post, comment etc. Particularly those of you from the LAMB, you lovely helpful bunch you. Well yeah, that’s it for me. If you want to continue to follow my work, Add me on twitter @Sams_Reel_Views. You can also find my work on WhatCulture.com, and Filmoa.com. 

Sincere thanks. 

                               Sam. 

Exploration, and Fear of the Unknown. Europa Report (2013)

Europa-Report-posterSpace is a concept that’s always intrigued us, in our yearn to understand more of the universe than we currently know. Generally speaking we are a hungry race, hungry for knowledge, and understanding. Sebastian Cordero’s new film Europa Report (2013) asks the question, what if we discover something best left alone? Europa Report is a science fiction film, recently released on Itunes after it’s festival debut, with a cinematic release in August. It’s quite a conceptual mish-mash, a space drama like Moon (2009), burrowing the concept of found footage and horror most notably used in contemporary cult hit The Blair Witch Project (1999). In addition it also has touches of the documentary, in order to try and give it a realistic sheen. 

Six astronauts go on a mission to Europa, one of the moons of Jupiter in order to survey it for signs of sentient life. We the audience see the story unfold as ‘lost footage’ from the feed from mission control, to the Europa One. The mission goes swimmingly at first, as we see the crew first adapt to their surroundings in Europa one, inter-spliced with segments from those behind the mission talking about the general course and plan. An abrupt solarstorm knocks out the communication systems, leaving the crew essentially stranded with no choice to continue. The situation only gets more perilous as they set foot on Europa. 

A sample of new life.

A sample of new life.

Let’s start with negatives first, so we can finish on a positive note for a film I quite liked. Europa Report generally follows that typical horror formula, as our protagonists gradually are killed off one by one, as we’re left questioned who will survive. The thing is, throughout the whole film there’s clips from a crew member who’s clearly survived the mission, and we don’t hear from the others. This reliefs the narrative of a lot of needed tension. We never really get to know our 6 ambitious young astronauts either. This usually means the emotional impact is significantly weakened when we don’t identify, or feel empathy for a much loved character. A lot of this is down to the script, it only touches on the surface of each character, a few of them only having a few lines throughout the entire film. In addition the cinematography is very realistic, but for a horror film you need those close-ups, and dramatic shots to milk the drama, which mostly isn’t there.

Lost in space.

Lost in space.

Apart from the loss of drama, the way it’s shot is very elegant. The shots inside the ship are from multiple cameras in fixed positions like the genuine article, and it’s very convincing. It’s a hard trade-up either way really, realism, or drama. One thing I have nothing but praise for are the wonderful aesthetics. The sights and sounds of the moon Europa are breathtaking, and the shots following the engineers as they attempt to fix the ship are like nothing I’ve ever seen. It captures the true wonders of exploration, and why we yearn to see new things. The casting of lesser-known actors is always a good thing when reality is involved because it preserves that authentic feel, the idea that these people are astronauts, not actors portraying them. The main recognizable presence on board is that of Sharlto Copley, from District 9 fame who gives an impactful performance, however brief his screen-time may be.

Overall Europa Report is worth a watch simply for the stunning visuals, and refreshing concept. Admittedly as it develops into horror territory I wasn’t scared, shocked, or fearful. I don’t even know if I was supposed to be? It’s still a fantastic attempt, and a solid entry into the science-fiction genre that’s only a few details from being a classic. That’s all for now, and follow me @Sams_Reel_Views. 

 

Rebranding

Just a quick post. I’ve rebranded! I just felt the old name was a bit too jovial and vague. It didn’t really tell people what this blogs about, and I think this more suits my analytical style. Regardless, I hope you’ll still join me, as I still plan to write the same kind of content as ever. 

Cheers!

               Sam. 

IMDB Top 250 Review: #179: Twelve Monkeys (1995)

12Mon

For more reviews in my IMDB Top 250 series, click here.

What do I think of when people say the name Terry Gilliam? A man who is so full of good ideas, perhaps too many, that when revealed to others his imagination simply clogs his creations. Terry Gilliam  (Brazil, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas) is an ex-pythoneer who has a knack for flights of fancy, or anything bizarre, surreal, insane, or deranged. 12 Monkeys (1995) is probably his most well known film, and his main one accountable for his financial success in directing. Typically his films haven’t done financially well at the box office, and usually go on to become cult hits. I didn’t know what to expect from 12 Monkeys, but i rarely do when it’s a Gilliam film. I’m still fairly undecided if I loved it, or hated it. 

James Cole (Bruce Willis) is a convict living in a dystopian world where society now lives underground, due to a mass viral outbreak that killed roughly 5 billion of the population, leaving a small 1 percent behind. James is a convict guilty of several counts of violence, and ill-behavior. As penance, a ruling board of 5 scientists send James back to the past in order to find out more about this outbreak. They send him to 1990, instead of 1996 as chaos ensues, and he is arrested for gibbering about the future which police officers interpret as madness. He is locked away for his insanity, as psychologist Kathryn Railly (Madeleine Stowe) begins to feel sympathy for him.  James almost turns insane himself numbed by the intensity and quantity of drugs administered. He escapes the confines of the institution from the help of completely insane conspiracy nut Jeffrey Goins (Brad Pitt). James kidnaps the good doctor Railly, and takes her on a journey in order to alter the future he comes from.

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The ruling board of scientists.

The synopsis may seem messy, but it’s a very ‘busy’ film as you’d expect from Gilliam. Essentially it’s an apocalyptic future science-fiction drama, with elements of romance. James’ psyche is stretched between two worlds and we see his mind deteriorate as he attempts to identify what’s real and what isn’t, although seemingly all of it is. Conflicted by Railly’s words, and that of the scientists the whole thing is incredibly surreal. The goal to stop this ‘army of the twelve monkeys’ is a wild goose chase, and is based around the idea of the recollection of false memories, and how we our self alter our memories to the most logical or likely solution, though it can fool us. The state of dream is thought of in this way too. James has a recurring dream, which would turn out to be the closing moments of the film which he sees as a child (due to time travel) which he recollects differently each time. 

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While entertaining, and certainly original, Twelve Monkeys left me wanting. There’s just a bit too much going on, if it were more streamlined and the script were more solid I would have enjoyed it a lot more. Admittedly the performances went a long way in holding it together, particularly that of Willis, and Pitt. It’s an odd concoction of a film, artistic in it’s ideas and views, yet it plays out like an action film, with strong hints of romance? You could literally repackage the film again and again, in entirely different ways. For example: A psychologist falls in love with her patient who thinks he’s from the future, who sees himself die, only to dream about seeing himself die, incorrectly. Brad Pitt plays a maniac, while Bruce Willis thinks Brad Pitt will cause an apocalyptic plague, when in reality he just raids the zoo.

Bizarre, quirky and distinctly original. However original though, at points I found it rather tedious. I’d be surprised if this is exactly what Gilliam wanted it to be. Some elements certainly seem shoehorned in. I didn’t love Twelve Monkeys. But I was intrigued by it. At 179, it holds a solid, firm ranking. I’m tempted to say it deserves it’s place simply because there are films on the list that don’t bring anything new to the table, while this does. For now, I’ll stick with debatable.

Judgment – Debatable

A ribald portrait of Walter Liberace, Behind the Candelabra (2013)

behind-the-candelabra-posterLiberace was one of the world’s highest paid entertainers from the 50-70’s and was highly regarded as a tenement of American popular culture, and music culture during his time in the limelight. It wasn’t until many years later, that the truth was let out about his lover and former chauffeur Scott Thorson, the ultimate evidence being Liberace’s aids related death during the 1980’s. Behind the Candelabra is based on Scott Thorson’s memoir, Behind the Candelabra: My Life with Liberace (1988). It comes from Steven Soderberg, and as he claims is to be his last film for the time being, and it’s reported he’s recently become fed up with the means of production. Assuming that’s true, Behind the Candelabra (2013) is a good note to finish on, and it’s certainly a shame it wasn’t picked up by studios, and was relegated as a HBO TV Movie, regardless of it’s cinema release outside the states.

Taking up a more voyeuristic bio-pic style, the film focuses on one of Liberace’s lovers known as Scott Thorson (Matt Damon). Scott is an adopted kid, under two very traditional, yet liberal parents who own a ranch. Scott goes with a friend to see one of Liberace’s performances. Scott is blown away by his talent, and thrilled to meet the star in the flesh as his friend takes him backstage. Liberace (Michael Douglas) takes a liking to Scott, as he hires him. Their business relationship soon becomes sexual, as the two move in together and are essentially married. All of this occurs as Liberace maintains a public facade that he’s straight, in fear of damaging his audience appeal. The relationship gradually derails as Scott becomes to loathe Liberace and his promiscuous ways, and his fabulous career slowly comes to an end.

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Steven Soderberg’s steadily paced, and psychologically honed style is perfect for Behind the Candelabra, as an audience we slowly dissect the happyness, the glamour, and the opulence and see this ribald, and unseen side of Liberace. He’s crude, promiscuous, and clearly lures young men in with promises of riches, and security. An incredible touch is when we see Liberace’s protege Billy Leatherwood scornful, and regretful of his association with Liberace, and in his first meeting we see Scott wonder why Billy acts the way he does. Towards the end, we see a shot with Scott in the exact same position in the frame acting passively aggressively as Liberace grooms male members of a warm-up act. Soderberg has an incredible attention to detail, and excels at very subtle and effective mis-en-scene and shot compositions. 

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The performances are unmissable. Michael Douglas is a relatively type-cast actor, usually plays the villain or supporting character. Yet, he manages to play this center of attention, this contradictory egotistical and flamboyant star as well as anyone could. The speech, the psychology and body language of the character, even the fluidity of the movements are all clearly honed in order to make the performance convincing. Matt Damon was also fairly commendable. There are also notable cameos by Dan Aykroyd as manager Seymour Heller, and an amusing and also disturbing supporting role by Robe Lowe as the clearly inept Dr. Jack Startz.

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Soderberg’s apparent retirement has a lot to do with the general unwillingness to fund his often unorthodox and controversial films. Several producers were quoted on claiming Behind the Candelabra was ‘too gay’. How ironic, considering the film’s topic matter of Liberace’s hidden sexuality. I thought we’d already gotten to the point where sexuality in cinema was pretty much open turf? Especially considering lesbian drama Blue is the Warmest Colour (2013) just won the Palme D’or. The film presented some fantastic performances, offered a truly alternative function to the bio-pic, whilst being very entertaining. I’m a 19 year-old straight male, and I found the film interesting even though I don’t have a huge understanding of the cult following of Liberace, or an interest in gay culture, understandably.

Behind the Candelabra is a masterclass of direction, acting, and set-design and costuming. I’d highly recommend it. Thanks for reading, and follow me @Sams_Reel_Views 

 

IMDB Top 250 Review: #222 A Fistful of Dollars (1964)

fistful_of_dollarsContinuing the IMDB Reviews again today, as I look at #222 on the Top 250, Sergio Leone’s A Fistful of Dollars (1964). The film is referred to by Sergio Leone, as an attempt to recreate the western as American westerns had mostly become a way to mass-produce content, resulting in a series of stagnant and dull films. A Fistful of Dollars is notable for creating the incredibly popular character ‘The Man with no name’ who has appeared in popular culture ever since. The film also resulted in a successful lawsuit, as Toho sued United Artists as it apparently had an incredible likeness to Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo (1961), even though this was adapted from a noir film from the 1940’s. How bizarre.

Our story starts has our mysterious Yankee (Clint Eastwood) wanders into the Mexican border town of San Miguel. The locals warn him that he might gain unfathomable riches in San Miguel, but more likely he’ll just be killed. Almost immediately men from the local native Rojos family gang start to fire at The Man with no name, causing his horse to scurry away in the process. After dealing with them, he begins to understand the dichotomy of the town, and that two gangs are at constant war. The Rojos, and and the Baxters, those aligned with the town’s relatively ineffective Sheriff. The Yank begins to play the families against each other acting as a double agent. Things get complicated as the elder Rojos brother Ramon reveals he stole a man’s wife who he assumed cheated at cards. The Man with no name attempts to put this wrong right, his only reward being, a fistful of dollars.

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The film is a cultural landmark for many reasons. First of which, it’s the very first film to capture Leone’s very unique, and amalgamated style. He adheres to John Ford’s method of capturing the landscape, envisioning great and sublime open terrains. Leone himself is quoted in saying he wanted a touch of the operatic in his films, arguably burrowing from the Japanese style that he clearly is influenced by. In his use of close-ups and point of view shots, he managed to create tension and emotion, which was an element highly lacking in westerns up to this point. This marriage between the styles made Sergio’s own style, which in turn greatly influenced the spaghetti western which soon took off with great help from A Fistful of Dollars. In addition Ennio Morricone’s fantastic score that appears throughout Leone’s filmography would make the tone of Fistful even more palpable. 

In addition, The Man With No Name became an incredibly popular icon among the western iconography, and is still referred to one of the best film characters ever conceived. In production, Leone originally asked established actors like Henry Fonda to play the role, with no success. He then asked Richard Harrison who had recently starred in a spaghetti western, who also refused. However, when presented with a list of lesser-known actors Harrison chose Eastwood, and claimed Eastwood was a convincing cowboy. From that point on, Leone designed the character around Eastwood. Clint is quoted on saying that he deeply wanted to be the anti-hero, he was bored of being the white hat wearing symbol of justice he played in Rawhide. The mysterious nature of the character was ideal, completely contrasting to dull and traditional stock characters that had littered the western through the 50’s played by the likes of John Wayne, and Robert Mitchum. With the help of Sergio Leone, the film elevated Clint Eastwood to long lasting stardom, along with the film’s two sequels.

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However, about the film it’s self, I think it receives a lot of respect because of it’s influence, in a time of transition. Eastwood’s performance is fantastic, but Fistful doesn’t compare favorably to For a Few Dollars More, The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly, or even darker incarnation of Fistful, Django (1966). I guess what I’m saying is, I don’t think A Fistful of Dollars is so highly praised and on the IMDB Top 250 because it’s an outstanding film. I think it’s more about what it started, it’s cultural impact, it’s sequels, and the origin on this phenomenal character. However, I think it coasts by on it’s aesthetic, and cultural impact to deserve it’s place quite comfortably.

Judgment – Deserving

Top 250: #52 The Dark Knight Rises.

Bane

To see more reviews from my IMDB Top 250 series, click here.

The final installment in Christopher Nolan’s highly praised The Dark Knight trilogy comes in at #52 on the IMDB Top 250, below the Dark Knight, and far above Batman begins. I started with this primarily because I already had access to it, but also it’s such a good trilogy that splitting it up as opposed to reviewing it in succession has it’s merits. In my eyes, The Dark Knight Rises (2012) is an excellent example of how to progress a film through it’s sequels, and how to have a on-going story arch. While each entry has it’s fundamental villain and plot, overall the trilogy can be broke up into stages. Batman Begins (2005) establishes the character like you’d expect. The Dark Knight (2008) acts as the complication. While the threat of the Joker was never truly huge, the death of Rachel would haunt Bruce Wayne and leave him a weakened man. Then we arrive at Dark Knight which is the call to action in which Bruce Wayne must face his inner demons.

Eight years after the events of The Dark Knight, Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) barely leaves his mansion and is mostly known as a hermit. The loss of Rachel means Bruce Wayne was emotionally damaged, while the peacetime Harvey Dent and his death provided left the city no longer needing Batman. Alfred (Michael Caine) grows concerned as Bruce Wayne takes to the streets once again to protect Gotham from a powerful vigilante known as Bane (Tom Hardy). A stock-market attack leaves the coffers of Wayne Industries barren, leaving it susceptible to corporate takeover which would have grave repercussions. Batman attempts to face his foe Bane, to find him he calls upon Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway). Selina betrays him, leaving to fend for himself against Bane who easily dispatches him in combat. With his spirit and body broken, can the dark knight rise again? 

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DC and it’s characters function in a very certain way. DC’s flagship characters Batman, Superman, Green Lantern and so forth are traditionally quite dull in a very typical do-gooder sense. The main appeal is primarily the villain, and I think that’s why the Dark Knight Trilogy works so well. If you’ll notice the Dark Knight, and Rises are praised much more than Batman Begins. I think this due to the presence of potent villains who are bursting with character opposed to begins which is mainly focused on establishing Batman. The contrast is interesting when compared to Marvel and it’s films, characters that feel human and jump to life from the page, but their villains are hackneyed, cliche’ and hard to differentiate. 

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Knightfall

Seem familiar?

So let’s talk about Bane. Why Bane? Well, Bane carries a certain legacy about his character ever since the Knightfall arc in the Batman comics as he broke Batman’s back and is one of the only villains to ever be regarded as his physical superior. Fans were generally skeptical about Nolan’s huge redesigning of the character from his luchador, venom-addicted ways. Simply put, I think Nolan was trying to move away from the gimmicky nonsense of the comic books. This brutal, unflinching, highly trained and well organized disfigured man suits the ideology of Batman perfectly. The original costume, the whole venom power-origin story would have just gotten in the way. Bane was fantastic and highly entertaining, and this is obvious among fans because of the sour reaction of his demise, and I’m glad Tom Hardy left a very definitive mark on the franchise.

While I wouldn’t say the story’s inner workings are quite as well-strung as it’s predecessor, Rises is definitely the most emotive entry in the franchise. Alfred is mainly an afterthought in Batman, but Michael Caine brought so much emotion into his conflicts with Wayne in Rises.  It set the film rolling as we saw Bruce tumble in a downwards spiral into Bane’s trap until he finally found the confidence to best himself, and regain the vigor he once had. Also there was some nice, well-embedded symbolism with the concept of ‘rising’. 

The film is incredible as both a trilogy installment, and a stand-alone piece of cinema. I do think Rises deserves it’s place in the IMDB Top 250, however it’s to justify all three of them as essentially three of the best films ever made according to IMDB’s standards. Perhaps that’s going a bit far. However, Nolan is a talented auteur and i’m not really surprised to see this be the case, along with many of his other films. 

Judgment – Deserved

Until next time folks, before I rise again from a mysterious pit in the middle east, I’ll just leave this here.

IMDB Top 250 Project and Reviews 1-7.

IMDB

The Internet Movie Database, for those who live in a cave.

So, I’ve recently been looking for a project of some kind. The Greatest Director thing didn’t really pan out. Turns out it can be hard to follow one director in rapid succession, as it really dulls the pallet. Regardless, I’ll do the same, just not ‘as a series’, just out of loop. So I’d been looking for something since. Recently Tyson Carter of Headinavice.com who I’m sure many of you are already acquainted with, decided to end his IMDB Top 250 project. It’s a large, clunky, and hard to tackle project, but I’d like to give it a go. I tracked down the elusive Tyson, and he was nice enough to write a few words of perspective for this introduction, of which I’m very grateful. Here’s what the bastard had to say:

When Sam got in touch and did the polite thing of asking me if I would mind him taking over the IMDB Top 250 Project, I initially just assumed he wanted all the fame, fortune and girls that came with doing it. He assures me it’s not that, and he didn’t even want to steal the reviews I had already stolen, and simply wanted to start from scratch. Maybe he felt our work wasn’t good enough…
 
Anyway, the challenge outgrew my site, and I had to stop it. As tough as that decision was, I had to get my site back to what I wanted it to be. Since Sam has no objective or goals for his blog and is just coasting through, this project will be perfect for him and will get his lazy ass writing. So this is me, passing the proverbial torch. Please join me in wishing him all the best in reviewing 250 films, on his own. This will be a long old project and I hope he does better than me 🙂

 

As jovial as always. Yes it’s true, I’ve decided to take on this big mammoth of a project. I plan to review all 250 of the Internet Movie Database’s top rankings of user voted films. Why you ask? that’s simple. I don’t really like the IMDB ranking system. People always use it as a means to justify a film choice, or to assert it’s good. I mean sure, if something’s good by committee then most of the time there’s a defensible argument behind it. What I seek to prove by this basically is that a lot of the films here probably don’t deserve their place over different films. And obviously that’s up for debate, everything is. That’s the whole enjoyment of it, really. I may even be proven wrong (To be fair I have seen a large chunk of them in my own experience, but not recently and not the majority of them).

So, obviously this is a big project. But i’m fairly determined, and i’m relatively certain I’ll enjoy it too regardless of the commitment needed. As for how I’m handling it, I’ll generally do one as every other post, along with contemporary releases and older films as I always do. As for the rating, I always found Tyson’s system appropriate for this kind of thing, where as I don’t typically use one. So I’ve decided to judge these as follows, I’ll be using a fairly basic rating system with 3 essential judgments along with a conclusion of how I decided that. In addition I may comment on it’s ranking in the decimal system and whether I find it appropriate.

Deserving – Obviously self-explanatory, deserves its spot among the Top 250, or perhaps even higher along the ranking.

Debatable – A sound entry, but one that’s not necessarily spectacular and could be replaced by several better films, or films similar to it.

Undeserving – In no way does this film deserve to be crowned as one of the elite, nor is it notably unique.

As well as announcing the project, this’ll stand as a starting point essentially. Since the start of my blog, I’ve reviewed the following films among the Top 250:

#51: Django Unchained. (2012)

#100: Raging Bull (1980)

#143: The Sixth Sense (1999)

#141: Casino (1995)

#158: Annie Hall (1977)

#191: The Graduate (1966)

#203: Life of Pi (2012)

However, obviously they’re all missing some relevant discussion about their place in the rankings, why they are there, and the fundamental verdict in the system I just explained. So, In addition to announcing my intent, I’ll add an addendum here to each of my reviews that can be found above. Let’s start with Django.

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Django Unchained (2012) is a fairly notable film. It’s fantastically crafted by Tarantino into a sensationalist tale of exploitation, whilst being a very exhilarating, culturally relevant experience. The screenplay and script are excellent, and they are only elevated by the fantastic cast and performances within Django, particularly that of Jamie Foxx, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Cristoph Waltz.  The score is also pretty fantastic, a mass of homage to the original Django (1966) along with elements of modern music. Particularly that of black music culture, such as recording artists James Brown, and 2Pac Shakur which fleshes out the exploitation motif. Django Unchained is an original, action-packed, cultural and nostalgic experience all in one and truly deserves it’s spot. I’d say 51 is a fair number.

Judgment – Deserving.

Raging Bull (1980) is a brutal, and immersive look into the past of real-life boxer Jake LaMotta from RagingBull (1)the ever-talented Martin Scorsese. For me it really defined the biographical picture, and is one of the only films to really capture the true grit and tragedy involved in Boxing. Featuring unforgettable performances from Robert Deniro, and the debuting Joe Pesci, the film boasts some timeless star power even now. The direction is raw, intense, and truly powerful as we follow Jake to his unobtainable highs as middleweight champ, to debilitating lows as a lonely, bloated bum. For me there’s no real question if Raging Bull is deserving of it’s place among the Top 250. It’s number 100, is probably a bit low. For me, Raging Bull will always be among my top 10 and I’m honestly quite surprised to not see it further up.

Judgment – Deserving

Sixth Sense (1999) is a twist-based supernatural thriller from generally mixed director M.Night Shyamalan. The film toys with ideas of voyeurism as a little boy is haunted by visions of ghosts. A shamed and now distant psychologist tries to cure and guide the boy through his journey of discovery. The problem is, the film is entirely dull once you know about it’s twist and has little replay value in my opinion. In addition it’s twist is generally known, and is a running joke in popular culture. For me I felt the pacing was quite bland, and I didn’t really connect with the films storyline, and the major twist (as many Shyamalan films have) was spoiled for me years ago. I don’t feel Sixth Sense is a notable film, or that great in any sense though not by a lack of trying from Bruce Willis.

Judgment – Undeserved. 

vlcsnap-2013-06-22-15h58m31s239Casino (1995) is a gritty gambling epic also from the mind of Martin Scorsese. Similarly it also stars Joe Pesci and Robert Deniro. Like Raging Bull it has elements of the biographical, but focuses more highly on the drama of gang corruption and elements of a seedy nature within the world of casinos and high life in Vegas. Casino doesn’t pack the brutal punch of Raging Bull, but instead it has a highly stylized and textured feel to it’s very suiting aesthetics and surroundings. It’s a masterclass of building the epic, with it’s use of long winding, yet still intriguing plot-lines and ensemble cast with crucial supporting characters. Casino and it’s gripping tale of dice, drugs, and power easily earns it’s spot among IMDb’s Top 250.

Judgment – Deserved  

Annie Hall (1977) is a satirical romantic comedy from witty auteur Woody Allen. The film feels like a last hurrah in some ways, given his filmography and the very artistic direction he took following the success of Annie Hall. The film follows a comedian who recalls one of the greatest loves of his life, and how he fears he may never be able to forget her. Woody Allen stars as his comedic persona once again, alongside long time collaborator Diane Keaton. The story is told in a very vivid, and complex way as to make it feel a lot more fluid and snappy as opposed to melodramatic. I’m not so certain about Annie Hall’s conclusion in the Top 250. I can see it’s appeal, and how it it’s kind of the pinnacle of the rom-com.  However I feel mostly opposed to it, just because some of Allen’s other work has so much more soul. I suppose that’s just personal bias.

Judgment – Debatable

The Graduate (1966) is a coming of age (kind of?) drama from Mike Nichols. It features Ben, a fairly lost graduate who comes home from college and questions the path he should take next. He is seduced by Mrs.Robinson, whilst also taking a liking to her daughter Elaine. It questions why we live, and why we make the decisions we do. The story sounds relatively unspectacular, but the finished product is incredibly entertaining. It’s a much more unforgiving and remorseful look at life than most Hollywood pictures. It’s also the mainstream debut of Dustin Hoffman. A particular element I found notable in the Graduate, was it’s use of sound. Simon and Garfunkle’s ‘The Sound of Silence’ haunts the films meaning, and lingers around the film’s bittersweet tones. The Graduate is perhaps not the most original film, but it’s certainly finely honed.

Judgment – Deserved

Life of Pi (2012) is a fantasy drama from visual master Ang Lee. In my eyes it’s one of the most aesthetically beautiful films there probably ever will be, and certainly has been so far. It’s story details a man known as Pi Patel, who tells a story of his untraditional childhood to a writer who’s lacking in inspiration. Pi’s father owned a zoo, and he sought to move from India, and to do so he would have to cross the sea with his animals. The story unfolds as a freak tidal storm would strand Pi, making his future uncertain. It’s a stunning visual spectacle, supported by a story, about storytelling. The visuals mesh together so well with the inner workings of the story, and ultimately calls back upon the imagination and storytelling that led to cinema’s birth in the first place.

Judgment – Deserved

So that’s my first 7 I guess. It feels marginally Lazy, but my analysis of the film’s would be the same, and this addendum gives some context, and gets the ball rolling at least. The next will be regular sized reviews. I think I’ll probably start with Terry Gilliam’s 12 Monkeys. But i’m not certain. Anyway. I’d like to thank Tyson for writing a few words again, and hope many of you’ll join me as I trudge through this ambitious project. Thanks for stopping by, and follow my exploits at Sams_Reel_Views. 

Psst, this film is Mediocre, Snitch (2013)

Snitch (2013)Snitch (2013) is just another entry is a long line of films from this year that have failed to impress when it comes to mainstream releases. I chose to see it mainly to up my quota of films I’ve seen from this year as opposed to any other reason. It’s an american crime drama from Ric Roman Waugh (Felon, In the Shadows). It stars Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson who’s been all over the place in leading roles recently. However, casting an actor like him as a lead, whilst trying to lure audiences in with the old catch-all ‘based on true events’ is a somewhat contradictory plan. That’s definitely who I’d choose in a cautionary drama about drugs and parenting, The Rock. Yep, nothing wrong with that choice. At all.

The film starts as Jason Collins (Rafi Gavron) is told by his friend he’s sending another shipment of MDMA to his house, as he can’t fly with it, as he’s a drug dealer. In true cautionary fashion, Jason refuses, but Craig sends them anyway. The package arrives, as Jason accepts it, he opens the box to find the pills, with a tracking device underneath. The door is knocked down as agents from the DEA burst in and arrest Jason. Jason could be facing up to 10 years, as his friend Craig sold him out in order to reduce his sentence even though Jason was just a carrier, and had no intention to sell. Jason’s father John Matthews (Dwayne Johnson) feels guilty for his son as he was never there for him after he left his mother. He plans to reduce his son’s sentence himself as he arranges a plan with Agent Cooper (Barry Pepper), after getting permission from local U.S attorney Joanne Keeghan (Susan Sarandon). With the help of one of his employees with 2 former convictions Daniel James (Joe Bernthal), John Matthews plans to go undercover headfirst into the seedy underworld of narcotics.

This is not the Wii U I ordered!

This is not the Wii U I ordered!

The concept was fine, but the message it clearly was trying to convey was bizarre. The film tries to bestow blame upon Jason even though he refused to Craig in the first place, though he didn’t listen. John cleaned up his son’s mess almost getting killed several times in the process. Daniel who was just trying to help his boss and protect his family, was forced out of his home and forced to go on the run, regardless of the fresh clean start he originally embarked on. While the film seemingly tries to be an indictment of the system that falsely imprisoned Jason, yet the same system was lenient enough to allow his father to intervene. Thus the film harbors an odd mish-mash of ideologies that don’t really glue. When there’s not much emotional context or ideological, you peel back the layers and you’re left with an okay action film, albeit slightly generic.

Susan. <3

Susan. ❤

Dwayne is vaguely okay as John Matthews, but the actor didn’t really matter, there wasn’t much to work with in terms of script. I see why you would want to attach The Rock to something as an attempt to feign star power, but when trying to make a touching story based on real events, a sensationalist actor like Dwayne from the dramatic land of Pro Wrestling no less seems vastly inappropriate. It just immediately eliminates any realism maintained in the very cliche script, and projects the qualities you expect from Dwayne’s movies. However Joe Bernthal (usually known as Shane from The Walking Dead) added some much needed drama into the film. Overall, I’d probably say give Snitch a miss. There’s nothing immediately bad, or unwatchable about it, it just struggled to maintain my attention and bring anything new or interesting to the table. Adios amigos, and follow me @Sams_Reel_Views.