The first time I ever saw 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die sitting on a shelf in a now defunct bookstore, I immediately seized it, plopped down on the the floor and began...counting. Yes, yes, I'm a tad obsessed. Still, to find out that there are so many worthy movies out there waiting to be viewed is so exciting. I saw the mighty tome as a map leading to vast amounts of buried treasure.
It won’t come as much of a shock to anyone in the Fredericksburg area since our last Blockbuster was closed years ago, but Blockbuster is now closing all remaining stores. The age of video rental as a for-profit business is officially over. It would seem to affect the library very little. After all, we still provide DVDs to our customers, don’t we? And, yes, we will continue to add new DVDs, but the decline of Blockbuster and video rental as a business does have an impact because it changes the very nature of the product Hollywood puts out.
Wes Anderson's eighth feature-length film, The Grand Budapest Hotel, is set to premiere early next year. A writer and director of comedies since the mid-nineties, Anderson has traveled from the open roads of Texas to the top of the Himalayas and back. I personally cannot wait to see where he takes us next.
For someone who loves independent movies, it sure took me a heck of a long time to watch anything directed by John Cassavetes.
Maybe that is because I had heard how emotionally intense his films were, tapping into a vein of real life and forgoing any sense of escapism that most movies offer. Despite that hesitation, I am deeply satisfied that I took the time to watch four great films by this stalwart of early independent film, who took many menial acting jobs so he could make something great.
Shadows, Cassevetes' first film, is a defiant statement against mainstream culture, both in terms of cinema and society. It follows three African American siblings living in New York City, two of whom are trying to pass as white. The film was shot without a script, and its black and white, 16-millimeter film stock lacks the gloss of Hollywood pictures of the same year (North by Northwest or Ben-Hur for example). With its jazz score by Charles Mingus and its focus on urban youth in 1950's, Shadows is a must see for any fans of Beat writers or early independent film.
"What is your greatest ambition in life?"
"To become immortal... and then die."
When I hear the name Terry Gilliam, the first thing that I see is a gigantic pink foot...crushing everything in its path.
That is because Gilliam was the animator for Monty Python's Flying Circus, the absurdist British comedy troupe of the 1970's that has influenced everyone from Neil Gaiman to the Simpsons. The lone American of the group did surreal collages combining Renaissance paintings, nature sketches, and meat grinders to make a strange world.
When Python's reign ended, Gilliam did not stop his creating. Instead, he launched himself from the animation desk to the director's chair where things became curiouser and curiouser.
With the success of the TV series The Walking Dead, zombies are now considered one of the most popular monsters in pop culture. People who just recently became interested in zombie-related works may be surprised to learn how long zombies have existed in the public’s imagination. The following films provide plenty of thrills and chills featuring the undead:
Superman is perhaps the longest lived of the classic Golden Age superhero characters to remain in the public imagination, and, in addition to a 75-year history of comic book publication, the character has also had a long career on the silver screen. Unlike many other superheroes, Superman has an extensive history of being utilized as a film character, and his film appearances have influenced his portrayal in comic books in many fascinating ways.
During the summer’s excitement over the massive, new blockbusters, many older and more unusual films are neglected and ignored. These older monster films, though they lack the digital effects and huge budgets of more modern releases, are classics of their genre, with clever performances and intriguing plots. One day this summer, you may feel compelled to take a trip back in time and see some of these legendary movies for yourself.
Taking Victor Hugo's novel, Les Misérables, and transforming it first into a play and then into a movie is like selecting from among the finest of crown jewels and crafting them into a beautiful brooch. Having seen the stage play many years ago and having read the book many, many years ago, I found the movie eminently satisfying, indeed beautifully done.
I had misgivings. They had, I thought, studded it with Hollywood stars just to draw the audiences. Nevertheless, it is very well cast. It was some time before I recognized Hugh Jackman since his first appearance was as the imprisoned Jean Valjean with grubby face and closely-cropped hair. It was not until he emerged as the respectable Mayor and beneficent factory owner that he was easily recognizable. Valjean's crimes had been the stealing of a loaf of bread and the subsequent breaking of his parole for which he is relentlessly pursued by the dogged Inspector Javert, played by Russell Crowe.