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RE: Top 250 British Films as chosen by Empire posters - 18/8/2010 5:35:04 PM   
elab49


Posts: 54599
Joined: 1/10/2005
59
 

 
24 Hour Party People (Michael Winterbottom, 2002)
 
Tony Wilson: "You know, I think that Shaun Ryder is on a par with W.B. Yeats as a poet."
Yvette: "Really?"
Tony Wilson: "Absolutely. Totally."
Yvette: "Well, that is amazing, considering everyone else thinks he's a fucking idiot."

 Highbrow literary references and obscenities litter the script of this exuberant, freewheeling take on the Madchester scene of the 1980s. Steve Coogan is Tony Wilson who, according to the movie, was the slightly twattish Svengali behind seminal musical acts Joy Division, New Order and The Happy Mondays. And A Certain Ratio, who I have literally never heard of. It's a complete mess, with Winterbottom throwing in everything from dream sequences and drug trips to novelistic pastiches and sitcom scenarios, but in this context, it largely works. He's helped by Coogan, who – to borrow from a review of George Sanders' turn in All About Eve – inhabits the role as snugly as a banana does its skin. Alternately all-seeing and a know-nothing blinkered shambles, Coogan's Wilson provides a running commentary on goings-on, offering post-modern direct-to-camera addresses, including one on the post-modernism of what he's doing. That might sound smug and wearying, but when dealing with the maelstrom of bullshit surrounding musical celebrity (much of it generated by people like Wilson), it seems legit. The pitching is slightly more troublesome, with a dearth of information for the uninitiated and some distractingly artificial characterisations of supporting characters (particularly members of the bands) for those in the know. Happily, though, when one recalls the frankly risible depiction of Johnny Rotten in Alex Cox's Sid and Nancy, the incomparable Sex Pistols are shown only in archive footage, as they blow the scales from Wilson's eyes and set him on the path to enlightenment.

There's a great bit of whimsy detailing Happy Mondays lyricist Shaun Ryder's excursion to Barbados ('The Adventures of Ryderson Crusoe') that packs a killer punchline, and it's fun on a personal level to see the beloved, detested haunts of my teenage years (The Ritz, Jilly's Rockworld) cropping up, undisguised, as various incarnations of Wilson's clubs. As a history lesson, 24 Hour Party People is gleefully unreliable and the bitty structure throws up its fair share of dead-ends, but it's often gloriously entertaining, from the self-mocking opening metaphor and shuddering, woozy credits, past a hysterically uncomfortable sex scene and some low-rent extortion, to the climactic appearance of God "Tony, you did a good job,” he tells Wilson. "Basically, you were right. Shaun [Ryder] is the greatest poet since Yeats ... It's a pity you didn't sign The Smiths, but you were right about Mick Hucknall, his music's rubbish and he's a ginger.”

Rick 7


< Message edited by elab49 -- 18/8/2010 5:37:52 PM >


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Deviation] LIKE AMERICA'S SWEETHEARTS TOO. IT MADE ME LAUGH A LOT AND THOUGHT IT WAS WITTY. ALSO I FEEL SLOWLY DYING INSIDE. I KEEP AGREEING WITH ELAB.


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Post #: 121
RE: Top 250 British Films as chosen by Empire posters - 18/8/2010 5:35:10 PM   
elab49


Posts: 54599
Joined: 1/10/2005
58
 

 
The Railway Children (Lionel Jeffries, 1970)
 
is a modern British classic, capable of reducing 25-year-old journalists with curly hair to tears. And real men too. Jenny Agutter is Bobbie, the oldest of three siblings who move to the country after their dad is accused of espionage and become "the railway children" – solving problems big and small with the aid of the station master and the passing passengers. It's colourful, dreadfully moving and very British, with appealing performances across the board and fine location shooting.

Favourite bit: "Daddy! My daddy!"

See also: Agutter's next film: Walkabout. No discussion of visually sumptuous movies is complete without a nod to Nicolas Roeg's spellbinding ramble through the Australian outback. Agutter and Luke Roeg (the director's son) are siblings forced to fend for themselves after their father's suicide. They meet David Gulpilil, an Aborigine midway through a ritual estrangement from his tribe, who they hope will guide them to safety. There's little plot, but striking cinematography and a subtext of burgeoning sexuality make it like nothing else in cinema.

Rick 7


< Message edited by elab49 -- 18/8/2010 5:38:06 PM >


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Deviation] LIKE AMERICA'S SWEETHEARTS TOO. IT MADE ME LAUGH A LOT AND THOUGHT IT WAS WITTY. ALSO I FEEL SLOWLY DYING INSIDE. I KEEP AGREEING WITH ELAB.


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Post #: 122
RE: Top 250 British Films as chosen by Empire posters - 18/8/2010 5:35:15 PM   
elab49


Posts: 54599
Joined: 1/10/2005
57
 

 
A Room for Romeo Brass (Meadows, 1999)
 
While Twentyfour Seven showed Shane Meadows to be a promising young director, it was A Room for Romeo Brass that really showed what an exciting talent he was. The rougher edges of Twentyfour Seven aren't smoothed out exactly, Meadows' films always feel rough, it's more that he finds his voice here, so that roughness feels more authentic. The film is the story of Romeo, Gavin and Morell. Romeo and Gavin are 12 year old boys, next door neighbours, and best friends. Romeo's absentee father is trying to make a fresh connection with him at around the same time as Romeo and Gavin get in a fight with some older boys. They're saved by Morell, a man in his early to mid 20s who quickly becomes both friend and father figure to Romeo. Morell also finds himself attracted to Romeo's sister, Ladine. When Gavin plays a trick on Morell to make him look foolish in front of Ladine, Morell's dark side comes out. He sets about a campaign of psychological bullying on Gavin, that includes driving a wedge between him and Romeo. Juvenile father-figures loom large in this film, as indeed they do in lots of Shane Meadows films. Romeo's father Joe has a history of violence and infidelity, Gavin's father Bill gets into immature fights with local children and has the attention span of a hyperactive toddler. When Morell lets the mask slip he turns out to be the worst of the lot, Joe and Bill stand by their families when it comes down to it, Morell is simply psychotic. The child actors, Andrew Shim and Ben Marshall do fine work and the adults (especially Frank Harper's Joe) are equally strong. The film's greatest contribution to British cinema has to be Morell, the debut performance of the versatile Paddy Considine. Considine slips between a mysterious man-child and something far more disturbing with the skill of the greats, and Morell remains one of his finest performances. 
Rawlinson


< Message edited by elab49 -- 18/8/2010 5:38:09 PM >


_____________________________

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quote:

ORIGINAL: Deviation] LIKE AMERICA'S SWEETHEARTS TOO. IT MADE ME LAUGH A LOT AND THOUGHT IT WAS WITTY. ALSO I FEEL SLOWLY DYING INSIDE. I KEEP AGREEING WITH ELAB.


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Post #: 123
RE: Top 250 British Films as chosen by Empire posters - 18/8/2010 5:35:19 PM   
elab49


Posts: 54599
Joined: 1/10/2005
56
 

 
The Snowman (Jackson, 1982)
 
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PeVaj4zkWy0
Bowie introduction

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qnQ64qU60zI&feature=related
Santa introduction

Synopsis: On a snowy Christmas Eve, a young boy finds his snowman has come to life.

I think The Snowman is a victim of its own success. It's difficult to find anyone in the UK who is unfamiliar with the film, even if they haven't seen it all the way through. It's a part of Christmas here, shown every year on C4 on Christmas Day. Everyone knows the famous theme song and it's entered the public consciousness to the extent that it can get spoofed, out of context,  in a horrible television commercial and most people will get the joke. The sheer ubiquity of the film seems to have had the odd effect of making it slightly underrated. Most people I know seem to dismiss it with 'oh, I loved that when I was little' but they haven't bothered to revisit it as an adult.

Let's get the plot out of the way, a young boy makes a snowman on Christmas Eve. The snowman comes to life, the boy shows him his house. In the second half the snowman and the boy fly far North until they reach a snoman's party and the boy gets to meet Father Christmas. The film could have fallen into the same traps as the similar themed Polar Express and have become sickly sentimental at times.

What works strongly in The Snowman's favour is the fact there is no dialogue. The wonder and awe is evoked through the breathtaking animation, faithfully adapted from Raymond Brigg's picture book. The scenes where the snowman and the boy take a motorbike ride and when they take flight over the countryside, towns and ocean contain some of the most beautiful animation ever set to film. Even 'Walking In The Air' works in the context of the film, all memories of Aled Jones fade away and the song becomes a haunting piece of music.

While the film is incredibly heart-warming, it also contains a rare depth and poignancy. The end of the film also provides an interesting look at loss and the importance of memory, all evoked by a simple image. One of the most beautiful and magical short films ever made. It would have been a top 100 entry if it didn't make me cry so damn much.
Rawlinson

 
 


< Message edited by elab49 -- 18/8/2010 5:38:26 PM >


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Deviation] LIKE AMERICA'S SWEETHEARTS TOO. IT MADE ME LAUGH A LOT AND THOUGHT IT WAS WITTY. ALSO I FEEL SLOWLY DYING INSIDE. I KEEP AGREEING WITH ELAB.


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Post #: 124
RE: Top 250 British Films as chosen by Empire posters - 18/8/2010 5:35:23 PM   
elab49


Posts: 54599
Joined: 1/10/2005
55
 

 
Zulu (Endfield, 1964)
 
Zulu makes neither excuses nor judgements about why the British are in Zulu territory in the first place, because it isn't a film about the high command or politics, it's a film about the courage of ordinary soldiers and it's a marvellous one. Its main strength is the actors, who manage to fit seamlessly into the time they are portraying – not for one second do you ever doubt that they are Victorians living at the turn of the century. This realism pays off tremendously during the long build up to the battle, the slowly-growing tension becomes deliciously unbearable and the battle scenes are some of the most exciting on film. And then of course, there's Michael Caine, outstanding in his least mannered role to date as the privileged young lieutenant trying to keep the men together under ever increasing pressure. Overall, a beautifully-crafted old war horse that isn't afraid to spend a long time developing interesting characters if it means making the end product all the more involving. Best scene: The regiment sings 'Men of Harlech' in the face of the enemy advance. Just a fantastic, powerful, uplifting sequence that carries you away. Ties with Casablanca for Most Spine-Tingling Movie Sing-Off.TheDudeAbides


< Message edited by elab49 -- 18/8/2010 5:38:19 PM >


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Deviation] LIKE AMERICA'S SWEETHEARTS TOO. IT MADE ME LAUGH A LOT AND THOUGHT IT WAS WITTY. ALSO I FEEL SLOWLY DYING INSIDE. I KEEP AGREEING WITH ELAB.


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Post #: 125
RE: Top 250 British Films as chosen by Empire posters - 18/8/2010 5:35:56 PM   
elab49


Posts: 54599
Joined: 1/10/2005
54
 

 
Listen to Britain (Jennings, 1942)
 
"the only real poet the British cinema has yet produced” Lindsay Anderson, 1950s

Humphrey Jennings, one of the UK's most important filmmakers, died at sadly quite a young age, shortly after WWII. This means that most of his important and best-known work served to combine art with the propaganda needs of the country at war – key works include London Can Take It, Fires Were Started, A Diary For Timothy and A Silent Village (transferring the story of the Nazi massacre in Lidice in Czechoslovakia to a Welsh village). Although others involved in the GPO Unit are included here, Jennings is sadly only going to appear with this short – although this 20 minute masterpiece is probably the best of 1400 MOI shorts made during WWII and it was certainly one of the most effective in terms of propaganda.

This is a short documentary that examines how civilians are handling the impact of war, both in terms of the destruction they are seeing at home and the impact of resource reduction. Images of children playing are followed by army vehicles driving
through country villages – mills and factories and a deliberate mix of high and low culture cutting from Flanagan and Allen to Mozart. Jennings had a variety of influences, particularly the Surrealist movement and the juxtaposition of incongruous images is key to his work – but as one of the key members of the movement for documentary realism within the GPO he also wanted to put real life on screen (and, indeed, one of this other significant contributions included the co-founding of the Mass Observation Project) and with Listen to Britain this was achieved triumphantly – the "distillation and magnification of …experience… on the home front”. This abstract meditation on how Briton was surviving the war (a particularly pointed snapshot filmed over 1941/42 when, although the threat of invasion had receded, Britain had just gone through the worst of the blitz and victory wasn't exactly inevitable) kept to his familiar themes – a sense of the English nation, its history and culture, and an admiration for the working man. In short, a perfect encapsulation of the idea of the "Peoples' War”.

The background to the film shouldn't distract from the beauty of the composition – although Jennings did write a script, his very painterly approach meant that when they got back to the editing booth there were reams of other scenes shot on spec to be incorporated in the story to be told. While none of this is to diminish the contribution of editor Stewart McAllister, I tend to think the fact that the work Jennings did without McAllister shared the same look and themes, i.e., A Diary for Timothy where, especially, the contrast of high/low culture also appears.

Unfortunately we can only access clips on youtube, etc. but I'd very much recommend you try and seek Listen to Britain and other works by Jennings out by other means – many appear on the BFI GPO releases (where you'll also find works by McLaren, Lye and Reiniger amongst others), e.g.
Elab49 .

 
 


< Message edited by elab49 -- 19/8/2010 8:40:19 AM >


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Deviation] LIKE AMERICA'S SWEETHEARTS TOO. IT MADE ME LAUGH A LOT AND THOUGHT IT WAS WITTY. ALSO I FEEL SLOWLY DYING INSIDE. I KEEP AGREEING WITH ELAB.


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Post #: 126
RE: Top 250 British Films as chosen by Empire posters - 18/8/2010 5:36:02 PM   
elab49


Posts: 54599
Joined: 1/10/2005
52 =
 

 
A Grand Day Out (Park, 1989)
 
A Grand Day Out introduced the world to the legendary pairing of Wallace and Gromit. Wallace is an eccentric Yorkshire inventor who lives with his far more intelligent dog, Gromit. Both master and dog love cheese and when they discover they've run out one night they do the only logical thing. They build a rocket to spend a day trip at the Moon, because everyone knows the moon is made of cheese. When setting up their picnic on the moon they discover a strange robotic creature who looks like a vending machine. They put a coin in the machine but nothing happens, but when they leave it springs to life. It gets agitated by the mess left by Wallace & Gromit, but displays longing when it discovers a skiing magazine. The machine then hatches a plan to get to earth to learn how to ski.

While it may seem slightly amateurish compared to later Wallace & Gromit efforts, A Grand Day Out is an effortlessly charming introduction to our beloved heroes. It may lack a little something by having a more sympathetic villain than later outings (you can't even call him a villain really, Wallace & Gromit do mess up his home, and all he really wants is to learn to ski) but it has the same laid-back dry wit and superb observation of details (such as the design of their rocket, complete with arm chairs) and it uses the same warped but understandable logic as the likes of Tex Avery. Top it all off with voice work from the excellent as ever Peter Sallis and you have a classic cartoon that started the greatest animation series ever to come from Britain.
Rawlinson

 

 

 
Watership Down (Rosen, 1978)
 
Ah the joy of childhood traumas. Those wonderful moments where a parent unsuspectingly plops you down in front of the t.v., thinking that Watership Down is a harmless animated film about cute ickle bunny rabbits. I'd wager that half the children from the 80s who grew up bitter, depressed and/or suicidal could trace the beginning of the destruction of their fragile psyches to inattentive parents and Richard Adams adaptations. They'll claim they meant well, but every good fascist regime had propaganda. So what is Watership Down actually about? It's about a community of rabbits where one of the weakest members, Fiver, a sickly bunny with some psychic abilities forsees great destruction and death of rabbits. After having their claims dismissed by the heads of their warren, Fiver, his older brother Hazel, and several other bunnies (including the magnificent Bigwig) escape from the group to find a new warren. Rabbits are snatched by hawks, caught in snares and meet with a psychotic bunch of rabbits led by the terrifying General Woundwort. A remarkable cast of British actors provide voice work for this classic film, including Ralph Richardson, Nigel Hawthorne, John Hurt, Richard Briers, Denholm Elliott, and, best of all, as the Rabbit God Frith, Michael Hordern. Watership Down combines  thrilling adventure, beautiful animation and haunting fable to make not just one of the all-time great animated films, but a film you've all deservingly recognised as one of the greatest British films ever made. 
Rawlinson
 
 


< Message edited by elab49 -- 18/8/2010 5:38:35 PM >


_____________________________

Lips Together and Blow - blogtasticness and Glasgow Film Festival GFF13!

quote:

ORIGINAL: Deviation] LIKE AMERICA'S SWEETHEARTS TOO. IT MADE ME LAUGH A LOT AND THOUGHT IT WAS WITTY. ALSO I FEEL SLOWLY DYING INSIDE. I KEEP AGREEING WITH ELAB.


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Post #: 127
RE: Top 250 British Films as chosen by Empire posters - 18/8/2010 5:36:47 PM   
elab49


Posts: 54599
Joined: 1/10/2005
51
 

 
Goldfinger (Hamilton, 1964)
 
Two Line Synopsis: A man wants to blow up Fort Knox to increase the value of his own gold stock. James Bond, 007, licence to kill, is sent to stop him.

"Star Trek” had one entry. Star Wars had one entry. That other series of films has one entry – Goldfinger. But what an entry. While elements of the film have dated ("man talk!”) this remains the most solid entry in a franchise that has had as many lows as highs. I had the opportunity to watch this at the cinema last year, and it really holds up to that big screen experience. While later Bond films would become more about the gadgets and the girls, the earlier entries to the canon are more about style and class, but also have girls and gadgets. Speaking of which, Goldfinger has the best examples of all the different components of a Bond film. Now, pay attention…

The girl: With a name like Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman), you know you're on to a winner. However, the name is not everything, and Pussy is a wilful little cat that more than holds her own against Bond. In fact, it is that strength that so challenges him, and leads to some memorable exchanges. Naturally, this being Bond, he doesn't limit himself to just one girl, and so Pussy Galore isn't the only memorable female companion for the film. Indeed, much of Bond's personal motivation comes from the fate of a previous tryst that gives one of the film's most iconic moments as Jill Masterson (Shirley Eaton)'s body is discovered, covered from head to toe in gold paint.

The gadget: When I finally make my millions (ha!) I want an Aston Martin DB5. I suspect much of that is down to this film. I don't think I want an ejector seat, or machine guns, or oil slicks, or rotating number plates, but they'd be fun. Of course, Bond would always be in a situation where he'd be able to use the exact gadgets that Q would supply, but in these earlier Bonds it seems more natural and less engineered. Would Bond know he would be forced to drive at gunpoint? Still, Aston Martins would become Bond's trademark car, using a DB7, and a Vanquish before 2006's Casino Royale gave him another DB5 to destroy. (Seriously, that scene was nearly as sad for me as the ending to On Her Majesty's Secret Service, just because of the destruction of the car. I almost hope it was CGI.)

The villain: Many would credit Donald Pleasance (or Telly Savalas) as Blofeld as the epitome of a Bond villain, but I find him too prissy. Auric Goldfinger, despite the typically questionable moniker, is the best villain there is. He has a realistic plan, with a logical outcome. He doesn't want to "take over the world” – whatever that means - nor does he want to steal lots of money. He wants to destroy lots of gold so the value of his own rockets up in price. Of course, the fact that he is willing to kill (or at least knock unconscious on one of the film's more unintentionally hilarious scenes) anyone who gets in his way is neither here not there. He has the best henchman in Oddjob. However, what really marks him out as a vessel of pure evil – he cheats at golf.

Of course, Goldfinger is much more than the sum of its parts. It's a classy action film that balances the line between overblown spectacle, and well-drawn characters to produce a film that may have dated a little, can still produce thrills. (It does contain perhaps the line with the least foresight – "My dear girl, there are some things that just aren't done, such as drinking Dom Perignon '53 above the temperature of 38 degrees Fahrenheit. That's just as bad as listening to the Beatles without earmuffs! Ouch.) Interestingly, I grew up watching the Roger Moore Bond films and onwards, which means that I can thoroughly enjoy almost every Bond film made – the Moore and beyond for retro charm and nostalgic reasons, and the Connery ones for the superb films they are. Of course, there are excellent non-Connery Bonds – my favourites include The Spy Who Loved Me, On Her Majesty's Secret Service, Licence To Kill, GoldenEye, and Casino Royale, which neatly takes one film for each Bond actor. Nevertheless, there hasn't been a Bond film that beats the first three ever made. And Goldfinger sits neatly at the top of the pile, in all its golden glory.

HomerSimpsonEsq
 
I am happy to say that, this evening, I took my Dad to see Goldfinger at the cinema for father's day. As one of his favourite films and one I like very much too, it was a pleasure to see it on the big screen in glorious high definition. The Lighthouse cinema in Wolverhampton is definitely worth a visit for anybody who lives nearby, because it's a pleasant, intimate setting for film-viewing, and the fact that it shows the more obscure releases – interspersed with some classics like this – only adds to its allure. Funny side note; my Dad said before the screening that the last film he saw at the cinema was "the Full Monty", released in 1997. Now, the last film he saw in the cinema was released thirty three years before that. So anyway, it's needless to say that the film lived up to my high expectations. As one of the best Bonds (third best, in my opinion), this is the kind of stuff that Ian Fleming would have been proud of. The plot is secondary to a string of now-iconic sequences, but here's an obligatory re-counting for systematic sake. Bond (played by the ever-brilliant Sean Connery) is on holiday when CIA agent Felix Leiter (Cec Linder) informs him that his vacation is cancelled. Introduced to Goldfinger (Gert Frobe) and told to find out what he's up to, Bond begins to unravel a plot that centres around Fort Knox, gold, and a pilot called Pussy Galore and her all-female flying circus. As I said, the plot matters little, and instead the set-pieces are what makes this film so enjoyable. Although it remains of a high standard throughout, the first hour is particularly impressive. There isn't a scene in it (well, perhaps except the mundane and obligatory meetings with M, Q, and Moneypenny) that isn't now well-known; from the card game to the gold woman to the golf match to that car chase, every bit of it seems so familiar yet still so entertaining. The second half, however, does flounder a little, and that's particularly true for the climax. Goldfinger is perhaps Bond's best opposition. Throughout the entire film, the villain is one step ahead of our hero, and only by chance does 007 make the one breakthrough that he actually does make. Making both Bond and Goldfinger look strong is the film's best virtue (most 007 films, especially nowadays, make the villain look like a little boy that Bond is there to school), but it's kind of wasted by the poorly executed and, really, weak final confrontation. But that doesn't really taint this great film too much. Sean Connery is the obvious choice for the best Bond, and just watching this film you can see why. He's the most charming, and isn't cheesy whilst being so, but also looks like he could pack a good punch. As said before, Auric Goldfinger is the best villain, and even if he's accompanied by an utterly ridiculous henchman he is still infinitely menacing. And then there's that Bond girl, that car, and that painted lady. Just iconic in every way imaginable.
Piles.
 
 


< Message edited by elab49 -- 18/8/2010 5:38:00 PM >


_____________________________

Lips Together and Blow - blogtasticness and Glasgow Film Festival GFF13!

quote:

ORIGINAL: Deviation] LIKE AMERICA'S SWEETHEARTS TOO. IT MADE ME LAUGH A LOT AND THOUGHT IT WAS WITTY. ALSO I FEEL SLOWLY DYING INSIDE. I KEEP AGREEING WITH ELAB.


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Post #: 128
RE: Top 250 British Films as chosen by Empire posters - 21/8/2010 1:54:53 PM   
elab49


Posts: 54599
Joined: 1/10/2005
50
 

 
Great Expectations (Lean, 1946)
 
I'm not going to lie and say that I'm a huge Charles Dickens fan, because I'm not. That's not to say I don't like his books either, I just haven't really got an opinion either way. I've read three or four of his books, and only one of them really lives up to the hype, and that's Great Expectations. It's the story of Pip (Wager as a boy, Mills as a man), a humble and naive orphan who becomes the inheritor of a large fortune from an unknown source. He leaves the shack where he has been raised and heads to London to learn how to be a proper gentleman, receiving help from Alec Guinness along the way. But the true heart of the story is Miss Havisham (Martita Hunt) and Estella (Valerie Hobson and Jean Simmons at various stages of age), the latter of which Pip is desperately in love with. With an anti-Lean short running time of 118 minutes, Great Expectations is different to most of the director's oeuvre in one major way. I've always thought that Lean was great at doing two things; complex storytelling and complex settings. Unlike most of Lean's later work (Bridge of the River Kwai, Ryan's Daughter, A Passage to India and – of course – Laurence of Arabia), here Lean seems to put the emphasis on the former rather than the latter. And that works well within the context of the source novel. Dickens' book, and subsequently Leans' film, does have its moments of grandeur (including a most memorable scene on a boat), it's mostly a straight-forward biopic of its fictional protagonist. This is the story of Pip, not the landscape around Pip. Like in most Lean films, the landscape does become a character, and London plays the part of the evil upper-class snobbery that Pip fears he is falling into. But here, the lead character is never overwhelmed by the terrain that is threatening his place in the film. I think that's also why Lawrence of Arabia is so good (the desert, although important, is never more important than Larry himself) and Ryan's Daughter (where scenery is so much more important than Robert Mitchum or Sarah Miles) is so average. Here, Pip is the heart of the story, and London provides enough of a challenge to him to be taken into account but not enough to overwhelm him and knock the balance of the movie. The performances here are great too, with Mills putting in the performance of a lifetime as the naive but stiff-upper-lipped Pip, and Guinness supplying excellent support in a somewhat limited and unchallenging role
Piles


< Message edited by elab49 -- 21/8/2010 1:57:09 PM >


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Deviation] LIKE AMERICA'S SWEETHEARTS TOO. IT MADE ME LAUGH A LOT AND THOUGHT IT WAS WITTY. ALSO I FEEL SLOWLY DYING INSIDE. I KEEP AGREEING WITH ELAB.


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Post #: 129
RE: Top 250 British Films as chosen by Empire posters - 21/8/2010 1:55:15 PM   
elab49


Posts: 54599
Joined: 1/10/2005
49
 

 
Secrets and Lies (Leigh, 1996)
 
It's hard to believe that Secrets and Lies was made nearly fifteen years ago, because its themes of social diversity and family are just as relevant now as they were then, and will remain relevant into the foreseeable future. Mike Leigh's sprawling epic (as much as a film by Leigh could be sprawling or epic) is about a young, black, successful woman named Hortence (Marriane Jean-Baptiste) who searches for her birth mother (Brenda Blethyn), who happens to be white and lower class. It's a very good film, with a heavy emotional punch and - dare I say - gritty take on life and its pitfalls. It may verge upon the melodramatic every now and again (especially the performance of Blethyn, who - whilst good most of the time - often strays into the unfortunate category of ham), but for the most part Leigh restrains his film and gives it a sense of realism. As ever, the director observes the difference between the classes well, but here he makes his upper class just as likeable as the lower. He blames circumstance for the difference between mother and daughter, not pompousness, prejudice, or pretentiousness. The best moments come at the end, with the climactic scene at the BBQ being a just about perfect blend of melodrama, drama, tragedy and comedy. It's when all of the 'secrets and lies' that the title speaks about come to surface, and although some of them (not all of them) are obvious, there are still enough shocks here to shake a stick at. Leigh may succumb to a forced happy ending, but the question of 'what happens next?' is one that will be on every viewer's lips, and one that won't be easy to answer. It's true tragedy comes in that, although things seem to have sorted themselves out, they will end up becoming tangled and hard to deal with again. There's also an array of fantastic performances. Jean-Baptiste does well, playing one of the most normal characters in the film; a woman who is successful and likeable at the same time, and just wants to find out where she comes from even if that throws up a bunch of new questions. Brenda Blethyn, as mentioned before, may tend towards the melodrama every now and again, but she flutters between laughter and tears for the majority of the film, leading to a heartbreaking performance that verges on pantomime every now and again but always manages to keep to the right side of the line. The true star, though, is Timothy Spall, playing the brother of Blethyn's Cynthia. Oppressed from every which angle by a nagging wife and a dependant sister, he keeps all of his feelings bottled up, leading to an explosive finale that begs the question; why isn't Spall in more films just as good as this one?.
Piles.


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ORIGINAL: Deviation] LIKE AMERICA'S SWEETHEARTS TOO. IT MADE ME LAUGH A LOT AND THOUGHT IT WAS WITTY. ALSO I FEEL SLOWLY DYING INSIDE. I KEEP AGREEING WITH ELAB.


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RE: Top 250 British Films as chosen by Empire posters - 21/8/2010 1:55:39 PM   
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Gregorys GIrl (Forsyth, 1981)

SPOILERS AHEAD

Synopsis: Young Scottish boy is replaced on the school football team by a girl who he then falls in love with.

This wonderfully charming comedy takes place in a Scottish secondary school. Gregory (John Gordon Sinclair) is the gangly centre forward for the school football team. When new girl Dorothy tries out for the team she turns out to be so good that she takes Gregory's place, relegating him to the dreaded goalkeeper spot. In a lesser film, the plot would then revolve around Gregory's plans to get her thrown off the team before he falls in love with her and realises she deserves her spot. Forsyth is far too clever for that, instead Gregory falls in love with her on the spot and treats his losing his spot with the same affable good nature that he displays in all areas of his life. Gregory is one of the most likeable leads in a teen comedy ever, but never to the extent that he becomes unrealistic, he's the friend everyone wishes they had in school.

Uncertain of how to approach Dorothy, Gregory asks his wise beyond her years ten-year-old sister for advice. Despite being awkward in every way, she accepts, only the date doesn't go quite as expected. He ends up not with the girl he wanted, but with Susan, the girl who wants him. They go to park and do some joyous horizontal dancing (no, that's not a euphemism) Again, Gregory takes this with good nature and realises he's actually happier with Susan than he would have been with Dorothy. And that's pretty much it plot wise.

If you think this sounds dull then you couldn't be more wrong. I've already described Gregory's Girl as being charming and that really is the best description for it. It's sweet-natured, funny, wise, tender, quirky and lovable. There's none of the stereotypes of American teen movies, no bullying jock, no intelligent nerd, it feels real. All this and I haven't even mentioned the penguin. Writing this review only one question springs to mind, why the hell is this film so low on my list?

Rawlinson


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RE: Top 250 British Films as chosen by Empire posters - 21/8/2010 1:56:04 PM   
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In Bruges (McDonagh, 2008)
 
Ray and Ken are Irish hitmen, sent to Bruges (it's in Belgium) after Ray cocks up his first job. This is the set-up for what is possibly one of the funniest films of the last ten years, possessing a script that is almost poetic in its profane, un-PC glory. McDonagh weaves an uneasy chemistry between the placid Ken and the uncouth Ray, and their banter is intoxicatingly barbed and hilarious. It's a friendship-of-convenience that feels human and likable, partly because of McDonagh's witty dialogue and partly because of the two lead actors. Colin Farrell is on fantastic form as Ray, playing him like a petulant child on the surface, but possessing a cleverly-hidden depth that is revealed slowly and effectively as the film goes on. Giving the best performance of the film is Brendan Gleeson as Ken, and while Ken is the kind of character Gleeson could nail in his sleep, here he puts everything into it and creates an immediately sympathetic character despite his profession. As a third wheel who enters stage left later in the film, Ralph Fiennes is also excellent, giving a hilarious performance as a crime boss with a common muck accent and principles to betray it. McDonagh's direction captures the archaic beauty of Bruges without losing sight of the film's dark undertones, and scenes like Ken's final scene in the bell-tower and the final sequence on the film set present a director with visual style to burn. In Bruges is a gem that will probably never get old, and is layered and brilliant.
Pigeon Army.

The debut feature film from Martin McDonagh (director of Oscar winning short, Six Shooter), In Bruges is a wild ride through the streets of the most well preserved medieval town in Belgium. Colin Farrell is on career best form, and Brendan Gleeson and Ralph Fiennes give excellent support. Truly a surprise, with a plot I couldn't guess, and a script that had me laughing all the way through. Brilliant stuff from start to finish. If you have to watch one bit, watch the dwarf on coke scene.

Epiphany Demon.


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RE: Top 250 British Films as chosen by Empire posters - 21/8/2010 1:56:22 PM   
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The Lavender Hill Mob (Crichton, 1951)
 
An old and apparently loyal employee, Henry Holland dreams of schemes to hijack his employer's bullion transfer. Apart from the difficult mechanics of the robbery itself, the problem of getting the gold out of the country defeats him until he meets artist and businessman Alfred Pendlebury and a plot is hatched.
 
This film often seems to be seen as The Ladykillers somewhat lesser cousin. Another heist film with a motley crew, Guinness in charge and even an elderly landlady in the mix. That is quite unfair though – Lavender Hill is a fantasy of sorts, a lighter comedy than Ladykillers where a sense of menace is so key to the story being played out. Using a similar structure to many other Ealing films – an introduction then flashback to the story before returning to the present – Guinness's fabulously drawn bank clerk is the equal of any performance in the later film. His and Holloway's often gleeful enjoyment of their plan is a delight to watch, in particular, not knowing any actual criminals themselves, their attempts to fish for a member of the criminal fraternity to use their expertise, or their silent comedy on the stairs after the heist itself.
 
Director Crichton and writer Clarke were Ealing regulars and had worked together previously on Hue and Cry, a film I rank even higher than this. Clarke's research for the film included consulting the Bank of England on how to commit the crime itself! Crichton does some of his best work on Lavender Hill, ably assisted by Ealing's regular cinematographer Douglas Slocombe – the best scenes include a car chase across London (not entirely dissimilar to Blue Lamps the year before), the very first robbery to catch the crooks in Pendlebury's yard, with the looming shadows and the farce being played out as Sid James settles down to wait, and the delirious camerawork as the pair rush down the Eiffel Tower to catch a group of schoolgirls who'd inadvertently gotten hold of some of the loot.
Elab49


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RE: Top 250 British Films as chosen by Empire posters - 22/8/2010 1:39:41 PM   
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28 Days Later (Boyle, 2002)
 
One of the most enjoyable horror films of recent years, Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later harks back to the classic Day of the Triffids as Jim (Cillian Murphy) wakes from a coma to a deserted hospital and, in some of the film's most stunning scenes, an apparently deserted London. Encountering 2 other survivors just in time after he runs into the reason for the desolation – an infection spread almost instantaneously through blood that has resulted in the quarantining of the whole of Great Britain by the outside world. Joining up with a father and daughter, who had been holed up in a tower block, they head off to find the source of a military transmission seeming to promise a cure.
 
The key to the scares in the film is the speed of the infected, brilliantly shot by Dod Mantle as if they were some rabid, surging, unstoppable tide (oddly a description of the speed of cholera), seen to particular effect in the tunnel on the way out of London. That and the vicious (and sometimes dreamlike) scenes in the mansion as Jim goes all primitive simply look stunning. With the scenes of the deserted city mentioned earlier, it's arguable that 28 Days Later is one of the best shot of all horror films.
 
And for a horror the film features some impressive acting talent. Naomie Harris spent quite some time as the 'next big thing' and is solid as the tough survivor Jim encounters first. Across town taxi driver Brendan Gleeson is living to protect his daughter and the supposed military saviours are led by Christopher Eccleston, with Murphy strong in the lead.
 
It's not a zombie movie though.
Elab49


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RE: Top 250 British Films as chosen by Empire posters - 22/8/2010 1:39:46 PM   
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Kes (Loach, 1968)
 
Kes is the story of a boy named Billy Caspar (David Bradley) and his pet kestrel. He's oppressed and looked down upon by his peers, his family, and his teachers. He's down and out, but he finds a little bit of hope in his new pet, which he trains to do an array of trick. He's only happy when he's around the bird, but when that gets taken away from him he has nothing. To see his brother Jud (Freddie Fletcher) kill the bird – an act that, out of context, doesn't exactly seem too evil – is one of the most heartbreaking moments in film, and boosts this film up to classic status. Sure, the end may be brutal, but "Kes” is also uplifting in turns. To see the boy become more and more confident in his own shoes, gain a mentor, and teach this bird to do an array of humorous and impressive tricks is a touching stretch of celluloid, and it's played out with realism by a director who is clearly understanding of emotion and of people. It's possible Ken Loach's best film to date, a poetic love letter to the working class families of northern England. Billy's oppression wears us down, and the finale is the ultimate knockout punch. It's not just about the death of a bird; it's about the crushing of a boy's feelings and the dashing of his last hope for inclusion. Although his peers and family control him – telling him what to do and how to do it – he is in charge when he's with the bird. He's the one who gets to say what and how and where, and when he's alone with it it's the only time he can feel himself. Without the bird, his confidence will plummet further, and Loach's crowning achievement is cutting away from the film just before this further loss of confidence happens... as if it's too painful for even him
Piles


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RE: Top 250 British Films as chosen by Empire posters - 22/8/2010 1:39:48 PM   
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Wallace and Gromit and the Curse of the Were-Rabbit (Park, 2005)

In the first feature-length Wallace & Gromit film, Tottington Hall are holding their annual giant vegetable competition with the winner getting the Golden Carrot award. The fear of losing the veg' to some pesky rabbits is high and Wallace & Gromit have started Anti-Pesto, a humane pest-control company. The captured rabbits take over the house so Wallace comes up with a plan to brainwash them to stop stealing from people's gardens using his Mind Manipulation-O-Matic machine. Something goes wrong during the procedure and one of the rabbits seems to have taken on some of Wallace's personality, and slowly starts to act more and more like him. Soon the town has an even bigger problem in the form of the Were-Rabbit, a monster who eats any vegetables it can. Wallace & Gromit soon go on the hunt for the rabbit, only to find out that he's closer to home than they expected. In the meantime, rich snob Victor, Wallace's love rival also sets out to find the were-rabbit, leading to a thrilling biplane battle and a host of horror movie homages from Curse of the Werewolf to King Kong.

As befits the nature of a feature-length production, Curse had the largest scope of any of the Wallace & Gromit productions. It featured a large scale voice cast and you saw far more of the village than in any of the other works. Luckily Aardman didn't sacrifice a good script to ambition and it didn't lose any of the charm or wit associated with the characters , despite what must have been infuriating production notes from Dreamworks.

Rawlinson


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RE: Top 250 British Films as chosen by Empire posters - 22/8/2010 1:39:52 PM   
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Local Hero (Forsyth, 1983)
 
One of the reasons why I think Bill Forsyth's early 80s films are so popular is they manage to capture a simple and pure joy in living. People find their happiness in strange and unusual, and sometimes mundane, places and the films are better for that.  Local Hero sees Burt Lancaster take a supporting role as a Texas oil millionaire, Felix Happer. Happer wants to buy a small village on the coast of Scotland to build a new oil refinery. He sends one of his execs, "Mac" MacIntyre (Peter Riegert) to close the deal, with special instructions to watch the sky for unusual astronomical activity (Happer is also an astronomy nut). Mac meets with local rep Danny (a young and geeky Peter Capaldi). During his weeks there, Mac begins to develop a deep love for the small community and an appreciation for its way of life. What he doesn't realise is that the villagers would love to sell up, but they don't want to seem too keen in the hopes of increasing any offer. The sale hits a snag when it's realised that the beach is actually owned by a hermit-like Beachcomber. What could have been sentimental and silly becomes heartfelt, moving and filled with quirky charm. The performances are fantastic (especially Fulton Mackay) and Chris Menges' astonishing cinematography makes great use of the Scottish coast. 
Rawlinson


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RE: Top 250 British Films as chosen by Empire posters - 22/8/2010 1:39:56 PM   
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Saturday Night, Sunday Morning (Reisz,1960)
This was the recently deceased northern Realist Alan Silitoe's first foray into cinema – an adaptation of his own novel for Woodfall films, which kicked off the New Wave with Look Back in Anger.

Arthur Seaton is a bright young lad out for a good time. He has no time for the ground down older generation and makes fun of his dad sitting around at home. He's not overly interested in conventional morality, playing around with a married woman and trying to get the result aborted. Law doesn't interest him – coming across a desperate man being held by a crowd for breaking a window he encourages him to ignore the citizens' arrest and run.

Set around the Nottingham factories this was supposed to present the real working class in Britain, not the arch fore-lock tuggers that 'cosy' British comedy tended to put on screen. Even though the films of the 'People's War' has brought the working classes into leading roles (possibly starting with the likes of The Foreman Want to France, where the worker gets things sorted in the face of useless management and higher-ups), post-war fell back for the most part onto the old split classes with the working class pushed back down. It was particularly notable in war films – during the war they emphasised the co-operation between the classes, but the highly successful war film cycle of the 50s went back to the old school officer hero – something viewers had little problem with because, People's War or not, the officer being in charge was the reality they remembered.

Or at least this is what the New Wave relies on being thought to preserve how special these new young writers thought they were. But the real world had crept in both over and under the wire in a lot of post-war films. My current film for May, Dearden's The Blue Lamp, is a perfect example. And there is an interesting political and real world subtext to a lot of even Ealing comedies (I've rather fond of the placard about Stafford Cripps in Passport to Pimlico).

Irrespective of which cycle it was in, however, this is a bloody good film with a very impressive performance from Finney. Even though it ends up with the normal New Wave belief that working class was often a proxy for writing about abortion (which clearly wore the public and censors down because while the BBFC spent a long time with Woodfall over the script for this, Alfie's abortion scenes barely got a mention 6 years later), it is well-played by Finney (Seaton finding it more an annoyance than anything else, particularly now he'd found a 'good' girl) and Roberts. The creation of Arthur's home life and the community his parents live in is believable and unforced, and the central character well and convincingly drawn, consistent in his bolshiness at work and in his attitude at home (and even to his beating). Unlike some in the New Wave, you never feel you're watching caricatures – Silitoe did his work well.

Elab49
 
"Don't let the bastards grind you down!”… thus starts "Saturday Night and Sunday Morning”, Karel Reisz's 1960 kitchen sink realism film based on the novel (and indeed screenplay) of Alan Sillitoe. It tells the story of Arthur Seaton (Albert Finney), a hard-working and hard-living factory worker who is juggling a couple of women. The problem is that he's got one of them, who happens to be married, pregnant, and now he has to face up to it. Like all of the best kitchen sink dramas, "Saturday Night and Sunday Morning” takes its angry young man protagonist and uses him to comment on everything that was wrong and right in early 60s Britain. I guess this specific time and place is the film's only notable flaw, in that it's difficult to feel quite the effect that the film must have had fifty years ago. All that's left is to respect it as a piece of cinematic history, and imagine the effect that it would have had when it was first shown. Some of the aspects of its social commentary does in fact transfer to a modern audience; the feel of working for the weekend, the complications that lie ahead of frivolous sexual adventures… but a lot of the film's themes are a little dated and – even if they are impressive – fail to be quite so impacting. However, I think Reisz's film is one of the more narrative based of the social realism films, dwelling more in plotting and characters than social or political commentary than, say, "The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner”. Its central figure, Arthur Seaton, is a brilliant envisioning of the angry young man persona, with a sort of vile charm that makes him equally easy to revere as it is to revile. Finney's performance is equally as breathtaking, with the final moments being quite indicative of both life in the 60s and life now, his ability to accept defeat and conform being the true source of heartbreak in this tragic tale.
Piles


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RE: Top 250 British Films as chosen by Empire posters - 23/8/2010 8:19:52 PM   
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Red Shoes (Powell/Pressburger, 1948)
 
The Archers' epic, sprawling opus about love and dance stars Moira Shearer as Victoria Page, a young dancer who manages to score lessons with Boris Lermontov's (Anton Wallbrook) dance school. She's an instant hit, and eventually dances to world wide acclaim, particularly in the ballet 'the Red Shoes'. But when she falls for the company's composer Julian Crastner (Marius Goring), things begin to go wrong. I really enjoyed the Red Shoes, especially its sprawling scope. It gives a sense of grandeur to the subject of ballet, something that wouldn't usually get such a treatment. It's a beautiful film, and perhaps P+P's most visually arresting film that I've seen. The dance sequence, in particular, where the young Page finally gets up on stage and dances the Red Shoes, is visually breathtaking. An explosion of colour and art, all played out with an awe-inspiring technicality and physical precision, the sequence is the film's best. The characters are all well drawn too, particularly Wallbrook's Lermontov, who goes a long way in matching his performance in my personal Powell and Pressburger favourite, the Life and Death of Colonel Blimp. But the star is Moira Shearer as Page, a girl forced to choose between her two loves; dancing and her husband, Crastner. Beautifully written with a downbeat ending that suggests if she can't have both she would prefer neither, P+P's sprawling dance epic is a joy to watch. It's only downfall is the sheer length, and the luvvy attitude of some of the characters, which sometimes annoyed me, but other than that I was riveted from start to finish.
Piles.


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RE: Top 250 British Films as chosen by Empire posters - 23/8/2010 8:20:42 PM   
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The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (Richardson, 1962)

Recycled review from last year. "The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner” is a film about Colin Smith (Tom Courtenay), a young man who robs a bakery and gets sent to boy's reformatory for it. Told in a non-linear chronology, Richardson's film sees Smith entered into a forthcoming long distance race being organized by the head of the reformatory (Michael Redgrave), which also includes the boys from the local grammar school. "The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner” is accredited as part of the British New Wave, and the film does indeed typify many of the stylistic characteristics associated with the movement. It is indeed documentary-esque in its realism, with working class characters going through internal struggles as well as external ones. However, it's fair to say that Robinson's film owes as much to the work of Godard as it does, say, Anderson or Loach. The jazz infused sequences are the best of the film, with the freewheeling sprit of our cross-channel counterparts, and - when coupled with the superbly managed montage sequences – they create a real feel of spontaneity. The themes of the film are best examined through the lead character, Colin, who is a finely sculpted and honed figure. He has not had the upbringing, the education, or the inclination to fully get a grasp of the social and political problems of his time, but he knows that something isn't right, and wants to do something about it. Rather than the coolly orchestrated revolution that we see amongst the French youths in "La Chinoise”, Colin's response is to lash out in any and every direction. It may indeed be less pretty, but it's just as effective, and the finale is one of the most quietly and subtly inspiring moments I've seen in film. Tom Courtenay's performance is indeed worthy of the plaudits, perfectly imagining and portraying the teenage angst of a boy who could never hope to make a difference with his limited means, and Richardson's direction is a step up from even the excellent "A Taste of Honey”. In short, this could be one of the top ten British films I've been fortunate to see.
Piles


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RE: Top 250 British Films as chosen by Empire posters - 23/8/2010 8:21:30 PM   
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Billy Liar (Schlesinger, 1963)

If there's is one singular reason to commend and indeed recommend John Schlesinger's kitchen sink realism film, its Tom Courtenay. Granted, he was a little better in "The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner” (in, I might add, a completely different role), but here he has a ball, playing the titular fibber with all the fresh-faced glee and youthful mischievousness that you would expect. It's a fantastic performance, brimming with both naivety and a slightly unsettling edge of mythomania; his compulsive lying could be because of his desire to make everybody happy or to get exactly what he wants. But it's not as serious as all that (although there is more than enough social commentary, with Billy's revolutionist fantasies being really quite startling), because first and foremost "Billy Liar” is a comedy. Definitely more light-hearted than the other kitchen sink films I've seen, Schlesinger's movie is a forefather of very British quirk, setting a template that would be used in years to come by everyone from Wes Anderson to Morrissey. It builds a series of situations around its lead character's compulsions before bringing everything down around him, leaving Billy as a slightly contemptible but tragic figure. You can't help feel sorry for the fellow - even though he leaves multiple women devastated and those around him generally infuriated - simply because of Courtenay's performance, which instils upon the audience a subconscious feeling that, deep down, Billy just wants to impress people. It's nice to see this slightly lighter take on the sub-genre, even if – at its climax – "Billy Liar” outs itself as a tragically sad tale of underachievement, as well as a biting look at 60s England, which – I guess – is what the sub-genre is all about. Piles


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Post #: 141
RE: Top 250 British Films as chosen by Empire posters - 23/8/2010 8:21:57 PM   
elab49


Posts: 54599
Joined: 1/10/2005
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Brighton Rock (Boulting, 1947)
 
In Brighton Rock, Richard Attenborough plays Pinkie Brown, a vicious, psychotic gangster. Ok, now that sentence may throw some of you who only know Dickie from Gandhi, the Baftas and Jurassic Park, but back in the day the boy could act. Of course Pinkie Brown isn't the most fearsome name for a gangster anyway and Pinkie Brown sounds more like a sexual invitation than a gang leader, but it was the 30s, times were hard and you could call yourself Fluffy McStuffington and still terrify people. The film is set in a late 30s Brighton, pre-war, but where the spiv culture that developed in the black market is beginning to rule. This is a Brighton where gangs rule the area and Pinkie rules one of he most violent gangs of them all. Pinkie kills a man at a fairground and finds himself in desperate need of an alibi. When he discovers there's a witness, he plans to marry her in order to silence her. Attenborough's performance is extraordinary, intense and still shocking in its inner violence, partly because that menace  is in sharp contrast with the ordinary locations and the Englishness of the piece. It's a remarkable achievement, Brighton Rock is one of the archetypal British gangster films and you can find traces of Pinkie in all that follow. 
Rawlinson


< Message edited by elab49 -- 23/8/2010 8:24:28 PM >


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(in reply to elab49)
Post #: 142
RE: Top 250 British Films as chosen by Empire posters - 23/8/2010 8:22:02 PM   
elab49


Posts: 54599
Joined: 1/10/2005
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A Canterbury Tale (Powell/Pressburger, 1944)
 
The late 14th century was a turbulent time as the church headed into breakdown. A form of protest was the simple use of your own language – and doing so, Chaucer created a masterpiece written in the vernacular, rather than scholarly Latin. A series of bawdy stories, the key was the teller not the tale.
 
In a time just as turbulent, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger returned to Chaucer's work and produced their take on it – my personal favourite of their films, A Canterbury Tale. Following 3 modern pilgrims on their individual routes to Canterbury, to their blessings and revelations, the film effortlessly combines multiple genres – comedy, mystery and adventure – with a beautiful and lyrical tribute to Kent and to England by extension. The whole served to somewhat confound the critics – Colpepper's obsession with helping other's appreciate what they are fighting to defend on top of the mystery of the glueman, with, e.g., Bob Johnson joining the war game of a large group of children and discussing lend lease with them or getting to know the local carpenter proved too much for them, sadly. And they were wrong – very wrong. You don't need to know Chaucer to appreciate the film, just know that a variety of different tales will appear on the screen before you. Watch and a masterpiece will unfold before your eyes.
 
Much credit must go to Erwin Hillier – a German cinematographer who also worked with the Archer crew on I Know Where I'm Going. And he's the equal of the style shifts – from that justifiably famous shot as the falcon soars and cuts to a spitfire to Alison's noirish appearance in the dark of the station, the chase into the grass that Guy Green clearly looked at carefully before working on Great Expectations to that swooping shot introducing Colpepper (the whole sequence clearly referencing Universal Horror). There's the stunningly lit room Bob sleeps in, the reverence of the countryside, bombed out Canterbury as you twist and turn down the side streets with the cathedral dominating everything at the centre, and the cathedral and the general sense of the spiritual, even the lighting trick of the halo. You could turn down the sound and just watch the film – it's a thing of great beauty. 
 
Amateur actor Sgt Bob Johnson plays our American everyman, exclaiming at the differences between our countries and being told it's the tea drinkers that have held out so far. The film never underplays his own love of home, but shows his growing appreciation for the land of his ancestors. Dennis Price has one of his more sympathetic roles as British soldier Peter Gibbs, an organist who displays a slightly chippy attitude about his current well-paid job in a cinema until he meets the man he'd love to be – and I love his very sweet response to playing the organ proper, almost like a little boy. Sheila Sim is Alison Smith, the rejected landgirl and 11th victim of the glueman – and here the film gets quite clever, because it doesn't fully endorse the methods of the perpetrator, a quick reminder that it isn't just the men who love their country. But it is in Portman's wonderful sense of reverence that the film is centred, bringing to life a complex and passionate character. A nod also to narrator Esmond Knight, whose appearances in the film often feel the most Chauceresque. Blinded in the war, you'd never know it from his very eccentric village idiot or in one of the most amusing interchanges before Colpepper's lecture.
 
You don't need to be English to be affected by this heartfelt declaration of love for England. Not the Albion of myth, but the blood and soil of the real country and its people. There has never been a better tribute to love of this country made before or since. Both Powell and Pressburger have named this as the favourite of their films. Bright lads – good taste. Brilliant films.
 
NB Avoid the US version. Adding a Massey voiceover and Kim Hunter as the girlfriend (they were making A Matter of Life and Death when they did it); it just serves to demonstrate the US distributor didn't have a clue what the point of the film was.
Elab49


< Message edited by elab49 -- 23/8/2010 8:24:20 PM >


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Deviation] LIKE AMERICA'S SWEETHEARTS TOO. IT MADE ME LAUGH A LOT AND THOUGHT IT WAS WITTY. ALSO I FEEL SLOWLY DYING INSIDE. I KEEP AGREEING WITH ELAB.


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(in reply to elab49)
Post #: 143
RE: Top 250 British Films as chosen by Empire posters - 24/8/2010 12:52:02 PM   
elab49


Posts: 54599
Joined: 1/10/2005
35
 

 
When the Wind Blows (Jimmy T. Murakami, 1986)
In 1982 people were getting nervous about the possibility of nuclear war. As well as Dimbleby documentaries, Young Ones episodes, the TV series Whoops Apocalypse, we had multiple nuclear themed dramas - Threads, the British one, had events coming to head in the Middle East and the world fell apart in only a month. In the real world? Events seemed to be coming to a head in the Middle East.

It was also the year that Raymond Briggs, known only for his books aimed at children, produced this, his first real adult themed work. Instead of going for the worthy soap of dramas like Threads, he went the other way and produced a damning view of the impact of nuclear escalation that bears better comparison to Peter Watkins's deservedly lauded The War Game.

Voiced by the wonderful John Mills (a regular in the type of war film that typified the world the Bloggs were used to) and Peggy Ashcroft, Jim and Hilda Bloggs are a retired couple who live out in the country. Worrying about the 'international situation' Jim tries to follow the official and conflicting advice from the government and the county council on how to protect his family. I still have HMSO booklets from the time - Domestic Nuclear Shelters and the one Jim has in the film - Protect and Survive. Simultaneously frightening and hilariously useless they were too.

Keeping relatively close to the source, the characters work on multiple levels. At face value they represent a generation whose experience of war and hardship was fundamentally different to those living through the Thatcher years. Facing a situation they are not prepared for and don't understand they fall back on the values they've grown old by and their reliance that right will prevail. The culture of deference hadn't disappeared at that point. Even for us it was a different world. Although the original has them as simpler (but, importantly, not stupid), the screenplay is tweaked to also emphasise the generational differences. The humour is also very very black - e.g. the Sunday lunch comment!

But this is also a story of the betrayal of trust and innocence (the characters have this odd look of being both old people but also looking a little like children) by the great and the good, the corruption of the values we were all supposed to live by. The ridiculous suggestion that anyone 'survived' an all-out nuclear war and the absurd contradictions in the advice given at all levels of government were just as bad as Watkins had highlighted 2 decades earlier. Fundamentally it demonstrated that no-one wins a nuclear war demonstrating that MAD was indeed mad.

The film came out of George Dunning's TVA studio, and the interest in different animation techniques comes though. Director Murakami et al hark back to Fleischer, developing processes to film cells in front of 3-D backgrounds to create a convincing environment for the Bloggs to live in (just watch the camera moving through the house), enhancing the picture presented to us of this little house being cannibalised to protect its occupants. Live action and dream sequences were mixed and matched throughout the film as well as news footage. The red/green of the original work is strengthened here and perhaps deliberately reminiscent, again, of the old 2 colour Technicolor. The most memorable addition to the original source is the representation of the bomb and its effects. Where Briggs only leaves blank pages, Murakami can use the advantage of the different media to show us the devastating impact, the world falling apart as mother earth weeps.

This is an important and heartbreaking film - yet here, in its home country, it often seems sadly forgotten. Unlike other, lesser, films it stands as a triumph not only of animation technique but also a convincing and infuriating political statement. (Made by the man who made Battle Beyond the Stars).

Elab49.
 
I'm so glad that this was nominated for the hall of fame. If it hadn't been, I would probably – nay, I'll go out on a limb and say that I would never – have seen this great little film. It's the tale of Hilda (Peggy Ashcroft) and Jim (John Mills) Bloggs, a couple living through the cold war. Jim, a former soldier, fears about the nuclear threat whilst Hilda gets by on positive thinking and Brittish sensibilities. When the bomb drops and they appear to be the only survivors in an x number of mile radius, they come face to face with the horrifying dangers of nuclear war. What starts out as a wonderfully witty story about, well, old people and their little nuances (granddad wants to follow the rule book, grandma is more worried about cleaning her plates than surviving the nuclear threat). There's moments of genius here... the script is absolutely fantastic, written by the writer of the book it's based on, Raymond Briggs. Although it's placed in a situation that I obviously can't say I've been through, the characters themselves are true to life, playing off stereotypes that we've all come to know and love thanks to our own grandparents. It really gets you embroiled before it delivers its knockout punch; the last half hour. Saying it's harrowing is redundant, because I don't think I've seen a more heartbreaking half hour in film. I think it's talking about the pigheaded nature of the British, because although their skin is peeling off, they are still the same people that they've always been. The film only loses points for the pretentious final moments (I'm talking about the prayer and journey to heaven), but for the most part it's a beautifully written and expertly animated film that I'll be certain to revisit over the years.Piles.


< Message edited by elab49 -- 24/8/2010 12:53:15 PM >


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Deviation] LIKE AMERICA'S SWEETHEARTS TOO. IT MADE ME LAUGH A LOT AND THOUGHT IT WAS WITTY. ALSO I FEEL SLOWLY DYING INSIDE. I KEEP AGREEING WITH ELAB.


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(in reply to elab49)
Post #: 144
RE: Top 250 British Films as chosen by Empire posters - 24/8/2010 12:52:05 PM   
elab49


Posts: 54599
Joined: 1/10/2005
34
 

 
Atonement (Wright, 2007)
 
In the 1930s, a young girl witnesses a love scene and mistakes it for an attack. Her misreading of the events ruins both love and lives.
 
Christopher Hampton, who has done some interesting work including the big screen adaptation Dangerous Liasons, adapts Ian MacEwan's novel. The score won an Oscar and Ebert is a fan.
 The positives of the film include good work from a chunk of the cast -  James McAvoy, Benedict Cumberbatch, Daniel Mays, Vanessa Redgrave and the extraordinary Saoirse Ronan are all on good form


_____________________________

Lips Together and Blow - blogtasticness and Glasgow Film Festival GFF13!

quote:

ORIGINAL: Deviation] LIKE AMERICA'S SWEETHEARTS TOO. IT MADE ME LAUGH A LOT AND THOUGHT IT WAS WITTY. ALSO I FEEL SLOWLY DYING INSIDE. I KEEP AGREEING WITH ELAB.


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(in reply to elab49)
Post #: 145
RE: Top 250 British Films as chosen by Empire posters - 24/8/2010 12:52:08 PM   
elab49


Posts: 54599
Joined: 1/10/2005
33
 

 
This is England (Meadows, 2006)
 
The director's most personal film to date focuses on a young boy, Shaun, in early 80s England. Shaun's father has died during the Falklands war and he finds himself drifting into the skinhead subculture. At first he meets a group of mixed-race skinheads, people solely interested in the music, led by Woody, an easy-going and sympathetic character. Shaun finds acceptance and a father-figure for the first time, he even finds himself a girlfriend. Then Combo is released from prison, Combo is an older skinhead who has fallen in with the NF during his time inside. Combo splits the group by wanting them to embrace his new racist philosophy, Woody and the non-racist skins go in one direction, with Shaun siding with Combo and becoming more involved in racist hostilities. It's a semi-autobiographical story and it's unflinching in its presentation of how a young boy can slide into hate. Thomas Turgoose makes an enthralling debut and gives one of the great performances by a child actor. Even better is Stephen Graham as the fearsome Combo. It's a powerful and energetic drama and shows Meadows had become a director of great skill and sensitivity. This Is England is second only to Dead Man's Shoes in this talented film-maker's career.
Rawlinson
 
Shane Meadows creates a brilliant depiction of Thatcher-era England, rife with racism and nationalism. Youngster Thomas Turgoose is excellent in the lead role, and Stephen Graham gives a phenomenal performance as the skinhead Combo. Humour, drama and a few home truths all packed into one film, and Meadows doesn't shy away from controversy. Brilliant performances, a stunning soundtrack and great direction mark this as one of the best British films of the last few years.
Epiphany Demon.
 


_____________________________

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quote:

ORIGINAL: Deviation] LIKE AMERICA'S SWEETHEARTS TOO. IT MADE ME LAUGH A LOT AND THOUGHT IT WAS WITTY. ALSO I FEEL SLOWLY DYING INSIDE. I KEEP AGREEING WITH ELAB.


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(in reply to elab49)
Post #: 146
RE: Top 250 British Films as chosen by Empire posters - 24/8/2010 12:52:13 PM   
elab49


Posts: 54599
Joined: 1/10/2005
32
 

 
Distant Voices Still Lives (Davies, 1988)
 
"because my family told stories so vividly, they became sort of my memories"

In the 1980s the UK saw a mini-run on films recalling the WWII and post-war childhoods of artists come of age – e.g., David Leland revisited the life of Cynthia Payne in Wish You Were Here and John Boorman recalled his life as a boy during the war in Hope and Glory. But Terence Davies astonishing full-length feature debut turned the nature of autobiography on its head – a family album comes to life on screen illuminating "memory and the mosaic of memory".

Filmed in 2 parts and focussing on a working class family in the 1940s/1950s the film presents a very familiar picture of working class life – for me in particular it is remembering my gran hanging out the window without a care in the world as recently as the 1980s, just like Freda Dowie whose pinched, pained face dominates the film.

Here we get a memoir of domestic violence and the fall-out on the family. The film is split in two by father's death and the inexplicable need for one daughter to miss him – to rewrite history as the favoured child, in the face of the unspoken hate from her sister, forced to scrub in the basement for her treats.

On first watch the film might seem disjointed. Remembering our pasts isn't a linear process – one thought leads to another, reminding us of yet another scene and Davies captures this perfectly on screen. The strongest most potent memories flit across the screen - the fear and fallout from Father's violence, the falling of the bombs. And the need for music to take the family away from everything and forget the pain. At times the pub singing comes across as if people are sticking their fingers in their ears and pretending the world isn't there – trying to keep out the bad memories by determinedly singing. Contrary to memories of mothers ruling the roost Davies's world gives us women carving out what moments of joy and solidarity they can under patriarchal authority and I think looking at these scenes and remembering the violence at home it changes how you view them. There are astonishing visuals, e.g., rain bouncing off a sea of brollies (think Hitchcock without the assassin) as the camera pans up to the churchlike stone arch announcing not times for mass but films now playing or quieter scenes with Dowie quietly scrubbing and scrubbing after yet another beating. The sense of place and music recalls the work of people like Humphrey Jennings – this is a film of great beauty in tableaux and sound.

Although possibly not as accessible as its later 'sequel' A Long Day Closes I'd argue this is the greater film and no less autobiographical. In Distant Voices we get the cut-off point to the past – the yoke of the abusive father should lift, his terror and abuse in the past. But – Still Lives – how far from it can we get? Do we break the cycle of domestic control? Or can we never really break free from the past, and are doomed to repeat it in future relationships?

Distant Voice, Still Lives is a masterpiece of fractured memory and visual poetry from one of our least acknowledged great directors, Terence Davies. Considered by many as one of the greatest British films ever made.

Elab49.


Film is often used as a vehicle for autobiography, just as novels and music are. But few approach the experience with as much poetry as Davies did here. Distant Voices, Still Lives is a series of snapshots of working-class family life in Liverpool in the 40s and 50s. Based upon aspect of Davies' own childhood, Davies fractures the story so the film is actually two films made over the period of two years. Davies isn't only bringing forward his memories of what it was like to be a child post WW2, but also those of family ghosts and the demons that haunted his abusive father.

The first half, Distant Voices, sees the family trapped under the brutal and domineering regime of Tommy Davies. Still Lives sees Freda Dowie's mother as a widow and happier for it. But her daughters are starting to suffer in their own marriages and appear to be going the same way her own did. Davies shows the facade the family put on for the public, especially through Dowie's stoicism, compared to the violent beatings received at home. Memories, good and bad, are sparked by funerals and weddings. In many ways the film is about memory itself, so many of the scenes resemble still photos, things that can provide powerful links to the past, as can the all-important songs on the soundtrack. Even the broken narrative resembles the way our memories work. A powerful memory can be triggered by something small, for Proust it was the taste of Madeleine cake, for Davies it can be something equally simple, like a song.

Davies realises the value of music as a soundtrack to our memories in a way that few directors do. Music should be used in cinema to evoke moods and memories, not just as a way to promote your favourite band. Davies understands perfectly the connection between music and emotion. Distant Voices is infused with the music of the era and the songs are vital for helping us understand a way of life, a sense of place, and a means of escape. I'd say Davies's use of music has a lot of similarities to that of Dennis Potter, but Potter was more satirical in his use of songs. For Davies, music helps his characters bond and gives them a voice. Songs are vital to these people, something that lifts them out of the misery of their everyday life.

The casting is superb, even the more familiar faces like Pete Postlethwaite seem to sink into their characters until they seem like they are these people forever captured in that moment in time thanks to Davies' camera. Postlethwaite and Freda Dowie deserve the lion's share of the acclaim but Angela Walsh is superb as Eileen, the daughter who looks set to follow the same path as her mother.

It's a heartbreakingly poignant film, there's a dark centre to this film that feels honest and that can only have come from someone who survived brutality. There is redemption, but it's an everyday kind of redemption found in small moments and good memories, not a feel-good Hollywood kind where a magic wand is waved and everything is happy and sparkly. I structured this top 100 before the recent HoF selections, and before that I hadn't seen this film in three years or so. The recent re-watch brought the power and the depth of this great film back to me. If I was to re-rank the film today, it'd probably be in my top 40

Rawlinson.


DVSL was the British arthouse director's first real feature - and quite unlike anything cinema had seen before. Set in the '30s and '40s, the film is like a family photo-album brought to life, with all the misery slung back in. It shows Davies' eldest siblings united by group sing-alongs but terrorised by their abusive father (Pete Postlethwaite). A savage memoir of domestic violence, it evokes an uneasy nostalgia, reinforced by snippets of archive song. A spellbinding opening sequence sets the tone. "All the music, every track(ing shot] and every dissolve – everything – goes into the script," Davies said, when I interviewed him in 2007. "I wrote the opening of Distant Voices, Still Lives and I knew there was something wrong. The shipping forecast was in there, and my mother's song, 'I Get the Blues', because she always sang that song. But there was something missing. I was listening to the radio and on Radio 3 one lunchtime the concert finished early and they played Jessye Norman singing 'There's a Man Goin' Round Takin' Names' and I knew that was the missing element. That part of filmmaking has got to be instinctive. Sometimes you hear something and think: 'Yes, that's what it needs.'" Based on family stories told by Davies' elder siblings, the movie has the structure of memory, its vivid vignettes linked not by time but by theme. That meandering narrative gives the film a slow-burning power that's bolstered by the cruel jolts and moments of transcendent joy so typical of the director's work. It's harsher than Davies' follow-up, The Long Day Closes (which is coming up later), but similarly poetic, with only a slight over-reliance on pub-based sing-alongs in the second half tempering its spell.

Favourite bit: The 'Love Is a Many Splendoured Thing' sequence: from a sea of umbrellas during a rainstorm, the camera travels into the theatre, where two of the family are blubbing at the film. Then, with the music still running, we cut to a new scene: two figures moving away from the camera. For a second you're not sure what you're seeing, then the men crash through a plate-glass roof. Davies, notoriously critical of his own work, picked it out as being among his favourite scenes from his films in the 2007 interview.

Rick_7.
 


< Message edited by elab49 -- 24/8/2010 12:53:08 PM >


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Deviation] LIKE AMERICA'S SWEETHEARTS TOO. IT MADE ME LAUGH A LOT AND THOUGHT IT WAS WITTY. ALSO I FEEL SLOWLY DYING INSIDE. I KEEP AGREEING WITH ELAB.


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(in reply to elab49)
Post #: 147
RE: Top 250 British Films as chosen by Empire posters - 24/8/2010 12:52:15 PM   
elab49


Posts: 54599
Joined: 1/10/2005
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Peeping Tom (Powell, 1960)
 
"In the three and a half months since my name last appeared at the head of this page I have carted my travel-stained carcase to (among other places) some of the filthiest and most festering slums in Asia. But nothing, nothing, nothing - neither the hopeless leper colonies of East Pakistan, the back streets of Bombay nor the gutters of Calcutta - has left me with such a feeling of nausea and depression as I got this week while sitting through a new British film called Peeping Tom." Wow. That's the Express review that greeted Michael Powell's career-killing masterwork in 1960. Viewed almost 50 years on, Peeping Tom looks suspiciously like the best horror movie ever made. Carl Boehm is the photographer whose childhood traumas cause him to murder, with even kind-hearted girlfriend (Anna Massey) not safe from his urges. Powell created numerous great films and this is one of them: innovative, arresting and with a beating heart beneath the blank-eyed terror.

Favourite bit: Boehm climbs onto some rafters to watch the police investigate one of his slayings. Then things start falling out of his coat. A masterclass in suspense, especially since we should really want him to get caught.

Rick_7.
 


< Message edited by elab49 -- 24/8/2010 12:53:21 PM >


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Lips Together and Blow - blogtasticness and Glasgow Film Festival GFF13!

quote:

ORIGINAL: Deviation] LIKE AMERICA'S SWEETHEARTS TOO. IT MADE ME LAUGH A LOT AND THOUGHT IT WAS WITTY. ALSO I FEEL SLOWLY DYING INSIDE. I KEEP AGREEING WITH ELAB.


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(in reply to elab49)
Post #: 148
RE: Top 250 British Films as chosen by Empire posters - 25/8/2010 11:43:04 AM   
elab49


Posts: 54599
Joined: 1/10/2005
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Brief Encounter (Lean, 1945)
 
Romance in Hollywood is something that far supercedes romance in everyday life. And no, I'm not talking about modern day movie romance, where Julia Roberts (or someone of the ilk) and Richard Gere (or someone of the ilk) fall in and out of love three or four times before finally bumping uglies at the end, I'm talking about classic Hollywood. "Brief Encounter” is a prime example of that, even though it didn't really come out of Hollywood at all, but from British shores, and from the minds of two of our foremost romantics of the twentieth century; Noel Coward and David Lean. It stars Celia Johnson as a married woman who meets the proverbial man of her dreams, Trevor Howard, at a train station. She must decide whether this holiday romance is worth sacrificing her happy but uninspiring marriage for, and what results is one of the sweetest and most heart-rending films ever made. The beginning, which is repeated twice but from different perspectives, is both inventive and tragic, and although we don't realize exactly the full impact of it on first looks, when it comes around for the encore it's a beautifully written and utterly heart breaking scene. The film is full of such scenes, even those which show Johnson and Howard coming together in love are tinged with the bitter sweet knowledge of what they are doing being wrong and immoral. The performances are fantastic, particularly Howard, who delivers a romantic and heartfelt performance of a man falling for the forbidden fruit.
Piles
 
Brief Encounter is a tale of repressed love as Trevor Howard and Celia Johnson seek to escape their married lives by meeting secretly at a train station every week. It is typically British – restrained and lacking any impulsive behaviour – but it is all the better for it. By eschewing a whirlwind Hollywood romance and by preventing the central pair from even committing adultery, David Lean and scriptwriter Noel Coward created a brilliantly realistic and tragic love story. It has aged, in no way would a film like this be made today without the couple at least sharing a kiss, but that's what makes it great. It is a guilty love they share, they are both so internally confused that they cannot even function as proper lovers. If they had given in to each, or had the chance to give in, Brief Encounter would be like so many other forbidden love films. Instead we get a restrained but deep rooted love affair conducted solely through conversations that dominates the screen with its tragedy and puts all other films of this type to shame.
Rinc.
 


< Message edited by elab49 -- 25/8/2010 11:44:49 AM >


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Deviation] LIKE AMERICA'S SWEETHEARTS TOO. IT MADE ME LAUGH A LOT AND THOUGHT IT WAS WITTY. ALSO I FEEL SLOWLY DYING INSIDE. I KEEP AGREEING WITH ELAB.


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(in reply to elab49)
Post #: 149
RE: Top 250 British Films as chosen by Empire posters - 25/8/2010 11:43:06 AM   
elab49


Posts: 54599
Joined: 1/10/2005
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Get Carter (Hodges, 1971)
 
One of the best British gangster films ever made, Get Carter sees Michael Caine's small time gangster, Jack Carter, returning from London to his native Newcastle following the death of his brother. Suspecting murder, Carter begins investigating the death by questioning Newcastle's gangsters. Carter encounters a hostile bunch of people who want him out of Newcastle as soon as possible. When Carter uncovers the truth, he sets out for revenge on the men who destroyed his family.

Get Carter is a film that owes a debt to American noir while maintain a uniquely British sensibility. Newcastle is painted as a grim world of crumbling houses and smoke-stained pubs, filled with violence and despair, it should be the perfect place for a brute like Carter. But the attempts at urban renewal suggest a city looking to the future, and Carter can't move into the future. The presence of Caine would make most people expect the typical cheeky Cockney stereotype he so often trades in. But Carter is possibly his best work, he plays a man so dead inside that when he gets upset and actually shows emotions, it's like being slapped in the face. It's a cruel performance, harsh and unforgiving, a British equivalent to Lee Marvin's performance in Point Blank. This is British cinema at it's finest, a hard-boiled gangster thriller to rival anything coming out of America, or even the French films of Melville. Simply put it's one of the essential films of the 1970s.  

Rawlinson


< Message edited by elab49 -- 25/8/2010 11:44:45 AM >


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