The Graveyard

The Lair Of Gary James

Posts Tagged ‘film analysis’

Building The Best Library – Cinema

Posted by BigWords on September 20, 2009

Halliwell’s has long been a sore point for me. The reviews (as they are) don’t add up to much, being so brief, and the viewpoint that all horror films are shit niggles at me. I want to respect the views, but damn… The reviewers make it so hard to take the books seriously. I have a couple of editions, yet I don’t look at them very often. They are excellent for information on pre-1930s cinema, but for modern films are less than useless.

Not much more useful, though containing far more informative reviews, is Virgin’s Film Guide. I have an old edition, yet don’t feel the urge to upgrade to a more recent version, so that says something about the amount of times I really use it. Time Out on the other hand, is one of the guides that I feel the need to keep on buying. The books have changed and evolved over the years, and it is interesting to see what gets bumped and what gets expanded upon.

Good Movie Guide by David Parkinson falls between all those big guides, but has its own niche due to the indexing throughout the main body of the text. It has driven my direction to films I would never have thought of watching, and I thank Parkinson profusely for the publication. The cover is bland and uninteresting, but the contents within are well worth trying to track this sucker down. I don’t know if many people have really paid it much attention, but I really like the book.

Roger Ebert’s Video Companion (1997 Edition) doesn’t contain many reviews, but I kept a hold of it for the honest and excitable way in which some lesser films are extolled. There are more of his reviews online now, and looking for other (newer) editions doesn’t seem worth the hassle. I like Ebert, unlike some readers who have complained about his style, but the act of reviewing takes a personal touch. I kinda miss the video era, and this is a final hurrah for the format before the digital revolution stole away my grubby pre-’84 copies of horror films.

The Film Yearbook and Film Review books from the eighties which listed every release of the year are still kicking around, though I seem to look at them less as time goes by. I’ve gone off a lot of eighties product, though looking back I realize that the Buckaroo Banzai coverage was woefully inept. How could so many people ignore an instant classic? Roger Rabbit got endless coverage in some books, and this goes some way to explaining the success of The Matrix. People like innovation.

The how, why and where is unknown, but at some point in the last couple of decades I managed to get my hands on The International Film Guide 1968 (edited by Peter Cowie) which is filled to the brim with information on obscure European short films and actors who most people would be hard pressed to name. I really like dipping into this every now and again to remind myself that there have been more films made than I have ever even heard of. It is an immensely humbling experience reading this.

Ten geek points for anyone who has heard of Jerzy Skolimowski.

Film guides might seem to dominate my cinema book collection, if you have read this far, but they go hand in hand with the film scripts I seem to collect. And novelizations. Whenever I find a film that says something interesting and has an interesting character I try to learn more about the film, hence the increasingly eccentric books as I delve deeper into the stacks of books.

The Action Movie A-Z by Marshall Julius
The DVD Stack ed. Nick Bradshaw & Tim Robey
Film Facts by Patrick Robertson
Illuminating Shadows – The Mythic Power Of Film by Geoffrey Hill
Incredibly Strange Films edited by V. Vale & Andrea Juno
National Heroes – British Cinema In The Seventies And Eighties by Alexander Walker
That’s Sexploitation! – The Forbidden World Of Adults Only Cinema ed. Muller & Faris
The Ultimate DVD Guide ed. Andy McDermott

The Rough Guide To Cult Movies covers much the same ground as Incredibly Strange Film does, but in less detail with added films. It rattles through the twentieth centuries most offbeat and obscure directors and their output, with as much love for Herschell Gordon Lewis and Fellini alike. Nobody is pushed to the sideline as the bottom of the barrel (where some glittering gems have settled) is scraped with the intention of finding gold.

The BFI book Ultimate Film is a Top 100 book I actually don’t hate so much. I know that people are getting fed up with my twenty-minute-long rant when I’m asked on my opinion of the Top 100 television shows that run every so often, but this book serves a purpose, and it is filled with info on the films covered. The BFI Film Classics series (of which I have a couple) are focused on single films, so the coverage is much more in-depth than I get elsewhere. I really like these.

The Bonnie & Clyde Book ed. Sandra Wake & Nicola Hayden is one of the few books that I bought merely upon seeing the cover. I love the silvery quality of the cover, and – despite thinking the film was a bit overcooked – I have actually found the book informative and not as slanted in viewpoint as it could have been. Blockbuster, Tom Schone’s look at the summer hits and the people who make them, is a subject I find endlessly fascinating.

I’m gonna say it again and again, because people don’t understand my reaction to the large summer films – 99.99999% of blockbusters are unmitigated, totally-irredeemable shit. This includes a lot of films I actually own on DVD, so I completely understand if people want to disagree. The braindead, simplistic, brash spectacles with little (or no) sense of logic and plot are a viable commodity in Hollywood, and at least I have one book which covers that aspect of film.

One last mention, before I wrap this up, must go to The Making Of Taxi Driver by Geofrey McNab. I know there are a dozen or more similarly-themed books on the making of the film, but this is – for me at any rate – the best of the bunch. Feel free to disagree, complain, recommend and – I know this is coming – try to get me to pick up your books because y’all are a bunch of geniuses and I’m shockingly behind the times in not acknowledging you as such…

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I Hate Everything

Posted by BigWords on June 28, 2009

Apparently…
Having managed to piss off a fair proportion of folks with a sledgehammer approach to critical analysis of the Blockbuster film experience, I figured I would expand on what constitutes a shit film. In the process I will serve up some sacred cows as juicy steaks, so be warned that there will be a fair amount of pain and anguish. Just because you might think something is out of bounds doesn’t mean I’m gonna play nice. My slice ‘n’ dice of the first decade of  the “Blockbuster” (as summer ‘event’ films seem to be regarded) follows thus:

1977

Star Wars has a shitty script. Yeah, the first film. Sure, I’m talking about the one which inspired a religion. Yes, I know it is a cultural milestone. Doesn’t change the fact that there are plot holes so large that I could fly the Millennium Falcon through them. Blindfolded. With one hand tied behind my back. It doesn’t mean the film itself is worthless – it is brilliant in several regards, foremost of which is the appropriation of Lensman’s light-based weaponry. George Lucas ain’t no writer, as he has proven with the 1990s trilogy. It was also the 1990s films which showed up the fact that he ain’t much of a director either, but that is neither here nor there.

1978

Superman. Do you need me to explain why a musical interlude in the middle of a superhero film is a bad idea? The rest of the film is fine, but Margot Kidder singing? I would rather listen to Danny Boyle explain (for the millionth time) how Slumdog Millionaire is meant to be a ‘feelgood’ film.

Jaws 2. Two words: shit floats.

1979

The year that gave us Monty Python’s Life Of Brian and Alien also puked up Star Trek: The Motion Picture, in which nothing much happened. The film is so slow that I felt my fingernails grow as I was watching. I wouldn’t have minded so much, but the hideous costumes, abysmal acting (“The Shat” really earned his nickname with this film) and pornographic indulgence of the special effects were too much to bear.

1980

If anyone has the balls to defend Xanadu I’ll be amazed. Popeye was a mistake writ large, while The Empire Strikes Back didn’t so much end, as abruptly stop with the main characters looking out of a window. I thought there would have been a final scene filmed for Empire, but nobody else seems to notice the lack of emotional closure for the characters. Too busy imagining what a better director would have done with the material maybe…

1981

Superman II introduces arbritary powers for the main villains, ups the comedy and lowers the tone of the franchise – sowing the seeds for Quest For Peace, while The Cannonball Run manages to squander the talents of a host of brilliant actors.

1982

Rocky III signals the beginning of loud, obnoxious films which have no significant point to them, other than giving the viewer a headache and nausia. Star Trek II continues to plunder the Star Trek corpse, as Poltergeist shows that horror films don’t need to be scary… Wait. Uh… Yeah, that’s the whole point of horror movies. Add Poltergeist to the shit list as well.

1983

Not exactly a stellar year for good movies – Blue Thunder, Psycho 2, Superman III and Trading Places… The third Star Wars film seemed to be a good bet for entertaining space opera, but the best Return Of The Jedi could muster were fucking annoying Ewoks running around a jungle, Princess Leia reduced to a sexualised stereotypical damsel in distress (after a stronger presence in the second film) and poor comedy moments. It would have been better ending the franchise after the Holiday Specials. At the least, it would have been more merciful.

1984

Star Trek III. Proving that even overweight men get to captain starships isn’t adding realism to SF. Seriously. Fat Kirk? Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom manages to waste time on a romantic subplot which feels tacked-on, because – obviously – Harrison Ford doesn’t need questions raised about Indy’s friendship with a little boy. 1984 also gave us the wonder that is Police Academy, the longest running comedy movie series in which you will find no comedic elements whatsoever. The gags which did work (and were honestly funny) were better when they were filmed years earlier – in films which earned the label ‘comedy’.

1985

The producers of Rambo: First Blood Part II probably thought they were going to get some brains with their brawn, but Stallone (and the funniest accent since Kenneth Williams) is as monotone as he has ever played a character. The Rocky saga reached it’s fourth entry (incredibly, it was worse than Rambo), and had little in the way of deep insight. Raging Bull (released five years earlier) played on the same tropes as Rocky, yet managed to provide the audience with a complex main character rather than a cartoon figure masquerading as a human being. 1985 was also the year in which Cocoon served up stereotypes and character traits instead of real characters.

1986

Just a list: Top Gun, Crocodile Dundee, Raw Deal, The Delta Force, Highlander, Howard The Duck, Maximum Overdrive, Three Amigos… If you can still savour films after sitting through that lot, then you have a better constitution than I. “Wait,” you cry, “What is Highlander doing on the list?” Apart from the accents, the needless pyrotechnics, the cheesy lines, the jarring tonal shifts, the clumsy plot, the poor FX and the historical innacuracies, it is actually quite a good film.

1987

The Untouchables rewrites history, badly, and gives special appearances by the camera operators in-frame… Spaceballs. I don’t need to qualify that with any explanation. Even the Nightmare On Elm Street series had given up anything remotely resembling plot, character or setting in order to make the villain (a fucking child molestor!) into a comedy routine. If Lethal Weapon can be considered a film, then it also goes on the list, but I prefer to think of it as cruel and unusual punishment. Show that shit at Gitmo, and every motherfucker in the joint will be claiming they are Osama bin Laden, just to end the pain…

There you have it. Ten years of film distilled in one easy blog. If I can bear the memories of another ten years of awful films I may continue…

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