The Devils (Ken Russell, 1971)
production design by Derek Jarman (!)
Beetlejuice / Tim Burton / 1988
production design by bo welch
Can we just take a moment to appreciate the glorious days when Tim Burton actually had sets built physically and didn’t just computer generate every fucking thing in his movies that isn’t Johnny Depp or Helena Bonham Carter? I love you Tim, but fuck man.
164. Broken Flowers (2005) Dir. Jim Jarmusch
I’m loving Jim Jarmusch at the moment. In February I watched Mystery Train for the first time and flipped out over it and last week I watched Stranger Than Paradise for the first time in years and felt really inspired by it. I love Jarmusch’s voice. He has this beautifully understated and unfussy way of telling stories that are really stripped back and simple but still feel vibrant and stylish. This might just be Bill Murray’s best performance too. He’s a perfect match for Jarmusch, his dry delivery seems tailor-fitted for Jarmusch’s writing. Like most of his movies, Broken Flowers is very simple and straight forward as far as set-up goes but Jarmusch finds flourishes in his characters and their quirks. All the women Murray comes up against are great, Sharon Stone and Tilda Swinton being highlights. He has a great ear for music too and all the cuts on the soundtrack are perfect. This was another successful blending of mundane and the bizarre from Jarmusch and the latest of his works to really impress me this year. I can’t wait for the next one.
John Carpenter, Richard Linklater, Brian De Palma, Joe Dante, Steven Soderbergh, David Lynch, Bong Joon-ho, Jonathan Demme and recently Jim Jarmusch. And ofcourse the obvious people like Scorsese, Coens, Paul Thomas Anderson, Spielberg, Woody Allen, Fincher, Nolan…
by: Juan Barquin
There’s no denying that Bong Joon-ho is one of the three most popular South Korean directors, along with Park Chan-wook and Kim Jee-woon. Each recently made their first English-language films, which for Bong was the riveting Snowpiercer. While I hope many are going out of their way to watch that one, his four other features are just as, if not more, fascinating. Today, I’ll take a look back at his fourth feature, Madeo (Mother), one of the most enthralling mysteries I’ve seen in some time.
One of my favourite films from the past few years by one of my favourite directors. Go read!
163. Gimme Shelter (1970) Dir. David Maysles, Albert, Maysles & Charlotte Zwerin
"Why are we fighting?? Why are we fighting??!!" - Mick Jagger screams these words to a heated audience as violence repeatedly interrupts the Rolling Stones’ Altamont set on December 6th 1969, a night which would culminate in four deaths, including one murder. That fateful night forms the centerpiece for this incredible documentary that is easily one of the most vivid and immersive films I have ever seen. Gimme Shelter throws you right into the belly of the beast and you literally watch a fun-loving dream slowly descend into a nightmare that is all too real for everyone involved. A terrifying but mesmerising account of an unbelievable moment in rock history, the culmination of countless misjudged decisions.
It’s easy to see in hind-sight how stupid the entire idea was from the get-go - a free concert open to thousands policed by an unhinged gang of Hell’s Angels, but one of the most remarkable things in the film is seeing how oblivious everyone is to the pending disaster. Once things get underway you see the mood change immediatley. Mick Jagger is punched in the face seconds after arriving at the venue and the sprawling crowd seems to be a sea of bad trips and crazed delusion. The supporting bands, including Jefferson Airplane, are met with unpredictable crowds and even have their lead singer knocked unconscious. When the Stones finally take the stage, Jagger emerges as a cheeky mascot for rebellious Americana but his confidence slowly subsides as the concert escalate into terrifying bad vibes. You can see the reality dawn on him. This is not the freewheelin’ celebration they intended, they’re in the epicenter of a dangerous time bomb and all he has to do is try and get himself and everyone else out of it alive. The footage captured is just astonishing. You see drugged out members of the audience looking up at Jagger as if he were a God while he looks back scared for his life trying to keep up the facade. Countless fights erupt and Hell’s Angels piledrive audience members off the stage. As more beer is consumed things get even more heated with the Angels even turning on the bands themselves.
Everything is tainted by the tragedy that has since defined that evening, the murder of Meredith Hunter and the way the Maysles’ show Jagger reacting to the footage is nothing short of chilling. You’ve never seen rock gods look as vulnerable and human as they do in Gimme Shelter. It’s an amazing time capsule that seems to document the death of the 60s with devastating realism in one swift 90 minute blow. Totally riveting from beginning to end.
Quentin Tarantino + Restaurants
Taxi Driver (1976)
162. The Mirror (1975) Dir. Andrei Tarkovsky
The Mirror is a one of those movies that really makes you work hard but rewards you in the long run. Apparently Tarkovsky’s most personal film, it’s an extremely self-reflective mosaic of memory, dreams and time. Essentially a collection of vignettes spread across three timelines, they are connected by characters and moments which ripple throughout all of them. As with the other Tarkovsky movies I’ve seen (Stalker and The Sacrifice) it’s a film full of textures and elemental imagery. Fire and water plays a significant part in many of the episodes and Tarkovsky conjurers up moments of haunting and heartfelt power. It’s definitely a beautiful film and a moving one but occasionally bemusing in the best sense of the word. It’s nothing short of a cinematic wonder.
161. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014) Dir. Matt Reeves
As moviegoers, we’ve become slaves to the blockbuster. Whether you prefer your films intimate or grand, every year is defined by the success of Hollywood’s tentpole releases. What a strange and sad time we find ourselves in then that we go into these multi-million dollar movies hoping for surprise but expecting disappointment. While studios like Marvel and filmmakers like Christopher Nolan are churning out consistently challenging and entertaining work, the landscape is still dominated by the catastrophic disasters. 2014 hasn’t been all that bad with Captain America: The Winter Solider, Edge of Tomorrow, Godzilla and X-Men: Days of Future Past all providing solid entertainment to varying degrees but even those can’t make up for the bitter sting felt by muddled blunders like Transformers: Age of Extinction, Transcendence and The Amazing Spider-Man 2. More crucially, what 2014 has lacked so far, at least for me, is an element of surprise. So thank God for a movie like Dawn of the Planet of the Apes which has emerged not only as the best blockbuster of 2014 so far but as one of the best movies of the year full stop.
Dawn's predecessor Rise of the Planet of the Apes didn’t quite set my world on fire like it did a lot of people. I thought it was a perfectly solid movie that brilliantly brought a dying franchise back into relevance with technical innovation and simple, straight-forward storytelling. The sequel however, takes everything that was brilliant about that movie and elevates it to a whole other level. From the first image, you know director Matt Reeves and co. mean business.
Ten years have passed since Rise and the majority of the world’s human population has been eradicated by a mysterious virus, known as the simian flu leaving only a small band of immune survivors struggling to rebuild civilisation. Meanwhile, the chimp revolution led victoriously by Andy Serkis’ Ceaser in the previous movie have set up camp in the wilderness and have started a community that is thriving. When a select group of human survivors suddenly come stumble across Ceaser’s clan, tensions between the two communities start to bubble to the surface, resurrecting buried hostilities between man and ape manifested by Ceaser’s bitter lieutenant Koba (Toby Kebbell) and Gary Oldman’s human leader Dreyfus. Soon the threat of war looms large over both species unless a compromise can be met.
First off I’ll just talk about how incredibly well made Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is. From the script and direction right on through to the effects and performances, there’s a genuine weight to this movie, both emotionally and thematically. Unlike so many franchise sequels, it does not feel manufactured or aimless, it does not feel like the product of a committee, it feels like an organic and essential continuation of this story and these characters. Even more surprisingly, it’s a film so unlike it’s predecessor in terms of mood and palette that it could almost stand alone from what came before it. Like all the best sequels it finds seeds planted in previous movies but goes it’s own way with them. It follows in the tradition of great sequels like Aliens, The Godfather Part II, The Empire Strikes Back and The Dark Knight and it fully deserves to be among that company. It’s that good.
The bright yellows of Rise have been replaced by a haunting blue tint, full of shadows and loss. The film might begin ten years after the simian flu outbreak but the souls of those lost hang heavy in the silences. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is a film about families born out of tragedy. There are these families on both sides. Ceaser has a teenage son and a newborn with his ailing mate Cornelia while on the human side Jason Clarke’s Malcolm has built a new family with Ellie (Keri Russell) and Alexander (Kodi Smit-Mcphee). Both families are solid but dysfunctional and subtly frayed around the edges. This is only one of the many symmetries Reeves and his writers impressively weave between both threads throughout the course of the film. There’s a wonderful balance of theme and plot and the two interact like music. There’s not a misjudged beat to be found, the film is tense and threatening but also contains many scenes that are gentle and touching. The scenes involving Ceaser’s newborn son are especially poignant in the way they contrast fresh innocence with the dangers of this dark new age. The performances from both the humans and the apes go a long way to really make this resonance hit home.
When watching Dawn of the Planet of the Apes I felt like I was seeing something very fresh and revolutionary, at least as far as the motion-capture work was involved. This really is the game changer we’ve all been waiting for. You can see Serkis and Kebbell’s performances so vividly in their CGI enhanced counterparts that the effects are almost seamless. I have never felt a connection to an artificial creation as intesnely as I felt towards the apes in this film. This is the first movie I’ve seen in which the barrier between watching something computer generated and something real faded away completely. I never felt like I was watching anything other than incredible, physical performances. This ladies and gentlemen is genuine movie magic. To think that the millions of dollars poured into this movie have not been spent on hollow spectacle but on creating characters, world-building and enhancing performances to something once thought impossible. Andy Serkis delivers my favourite performance by an actor this year as Ceaser, it’s not impressive because it’s motion-captured but because it’s is a genuine masterclass of acting. As he did in Rise, he absolutely carries this movie. You can feel the age in Ceaser’s eyes, the weight of life experience in the way he carries himself. It’s astonishing what he achieves. It’s his performance that registers, not Weta’s computer monkey suit they’ve added around him. If the Academy was to ever start acknowledge motion-captured perfromances this is the movie to start with. Andy Serkis deserves all the awards for this movie, and to be honest they’re long overdue. For years he has quietly emerged as one of the most groundbreaking and unsung actors of his generation. One of the few genuinely capable of disappearing into an impossible role. Purists may moan that we are watching nothing more than glorified voice work but they are missing the big picture. This is the future of filmmaking. A future where we can see actors playing animals and creatures realistically without their performances or physique being compromised by shaky effects or cumbersome rubber suits. Excuse the pun but we’ve well and truly entered a new dawn of special effects and for the first time, that’s something I’m very excited by. In the hands of filmmakers like Reeves, the possibilities now seem endless.
Best known for his breakthrough with Cloverfield and the competent but unnecessary remake Let Me In, Matt Reeves has finally joined the big leagues as a real name to watch. His direction here is so confident and assured. He repeatedly manages to find one frame that defines his scenes and isn’t afraid to hold on it. Some scenes play out in long subtle takes while others unfold in masterfully edited montage. He has a discipline that’s rare in the scattershot chaos of today’s blockbuster filmmaking capable of both visceral cool and quiet control. He has taken a real leap forward as a filmmaker with this movie and with him on board for the next Apes installment, it’s clear that this franchise has never been in better shape.
For all it’s aesthetic bells and whistles perhaps the biggest compliment I can give a film like Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is that at heart, it’s just a fantastic story. This is a movie anyone will enjoy because it just works beautifully. It’s a great showcase for the long lost art of blockbuster storytelling. It’s a real contender for my favourite film of the year because it’s flat out the best story I’ve seen on the big screen in the past seven months. So many films these days become bogged down by rambling plots and unruly running times but at a tight 130 minutes Dawn keeps it’s story, themes and characters central and in focus. It’s intelligent and ambitious but never outreaches it’s grasp. It’s got big serious Shakespearian themes but somehow avoids feeling self-important. For a film that doesn’t rely on star power to attract an audience and contains an ensemble of computer generated apes who mostly speak in sign language, it’s amazing how natural and un-jarring it feels. It’s a much more daring and adventurous movie than many will give it credit for. The effects and performances will inspire genuine awe but it’s the story that keeps you in your seat and makes you think a lot more than you’d expect to. It’s easily the best blockbuster of the post-Nolan era. A soaring, thrilling achievement that fires on all cylinders and hits nothing but the bullseye. Hail Ceaser indeed.
"One of the things that was great for David Byrne when we did Stop Making Sense was that David really got to design the lighting for the show—and by extension for the movie. He hadn’t got to do everything he wanted to do lighting wise with the stage show because of the limitations of technology at that point. But David got a chance to work with Jordan Cronenweth who shot Blade Runner and was a great master of American cinematography, and he could do all the little tweakings and brushstrokes that he had dreamed of doing with the stage show. […] It’s great working with [Cronenweth] because he’s an absolute tight-ass perfectionist. You can’t get Jordan to back away from anything he’s doing until he’s got it perfect, and that can be exasperating because you’ve got one eye on the clock and you’re desperate to get moving. But then when you see the dailies and you see the extra level Jordan was taking it to when he was driving you nuts, you go, ‘Thank God he did it.’ He’s a painstaking artist.”
"I’d just as soon it didn’t occur to people that they’re watching a concert, but rather a band performing without the distancing factor of it being an event that happened once. That’s why there’s no audience in the film until the very end. I thought it was important if the film was to be as effective for filmgoers as it was for me watching the concert. I wanted to capture the energy and the flow and that unrelenting progression of music."
"We were minutely prepared. David had storyboarded the concert in a series of close shots. Not for the film, but for a tour. From this storyboard, I started to develop a model of the film, which by the way never stopped being modified. I worked closely with my visual advisor Sandy McLeod, who made sure I was in constant contact with the Talking Heads while they were on tour. I traveled with them myself for one week in Texas, then, before our concert, I followed all their performances on the West Coast. So on D-Day, I had a precise idea about the best camera placements. Having said that, 50 percent of the shots were conceived on the spot. […] This was the first multiple-camera situation I’d ever been in. The first night was pretty disastrous. Suddenly it was all happening, and all the preparation and planning was put up against the reality of the show. Cameras ran out of film, the band was real nervous and uptight having cameras stuck in their faces. We kept getting each other in the background of shots too much. It was a mess, but a superb camera rehearsal. The next three nights were spectacular." — Jonathan Demme on Stop Making Sense
160. Deathdream a.k.a Dead of Night (1972) Dir. Bob Clark
Before Porky’s, Bob Clark was mainly known a string of horror movies he made in the 70s culminating in the excellent Black Christmas. Deathdream or Dead of Night is his second film and it’s surprisingly strong. The central idea of a dead soldier returning home from Vietnam was an extremely timely one and there’s a chilling resonance to the whole thing. Clark doesn’t go for cheap splatter and exploitation instead he digs into your psyche with mystery and unease. Clark keeps some questions unanswered for most of the film which keeps you on your toes. The central performance by Richard Backus is great. I mean, how do you play a dead guy? It could have been laughable and random but he really makes it unsettling. This was a very interesting and underrated horror movie. The core idea is just too good to ignore.