MNO Triple Bill

The 2015 Alphabet Film Project returns as promised, wherein I try to reduce the number of films recorded off the tellybox by watching them in alphabetical order. You know the drill by now - today's post brought to you by the number 3 and the letters M-N-O.

Previously on the Alphabet Film Project....

A-B-C
Atlantic City
Blood of Fu Manchu
Curse of Frankenstein

D-E-F
Django
Esio Trot
Festen

G-H-I
Gremlins 2: The New Batch
Hiroshima Mon Amour
Ils

J-K-L
Julius Caeser
Klute
Late Chrysanthemums

Here's a long, but not complete, list of things inspired by the silent classic sci-fi film Metropolis (Fritz Lang, 1927); Blade Runner, Dark City, The Matrix, Modern Times, Brazil, the lab in Frankenstein, Dr Strangelove's artificial hand, Star Wars' C3PO, Gotham City in Burton's Batman, Superman's hometown, Queen's Radio Ga Ga video, Madonna's Express Yourself video, various performances by Beyonce, Lady Gaga and Kylie. Thus, it's probably safe to consider Metropolis as one of the most influential films ever made, inspiring generations of artists across cinema, music and literature in the 90 years since its release. But is it any good?


Well, yes, as it happens. Primarily, it's still a visually stunning affair, bursting with imagination and invention as several how-did-they-do-that? sequences unfold. This was back in the old days, remember, before whole worlds could be created on your iPhone during a coffee break. A little bit of background reading reveals they did it with no small amount of technical ingenuity in some parts, and borderline abuse of the cast in other parts, as Lang bullied his leading actors and ~30,000 extras (including malnourished children) into performing many takes of dangerous and uncomfortable scenes. He got his shots, though, so it was worth it. Aside from the visuals, it tackles sci-fi staples of dystopia, man-vs-machine, artificial intelligence and mad scientists in stirring fashion, although ultimately the melodramatic storyline which suggests people in society should know their place and burn anyone looking to disrupt the natural class order didn't sit well with me. And as we approach 2026, the year the action is set in, Lang's vision of a dystopian world where many workers toil endlessly to support the comfy lifestyles of the privileged rich now seems ridiculous. Except.......wait a minute!......that's not ridiculous at all!!!........he was right all along!!........MOLOCH!!!!!!!!!! AGGHHHHHH!!!!


In Notorious (Alfred Hitchcock, 1946), suave spy Cary Grant recruits feisty Ingrid Bergman to help him spy on the Nazis, only to find himself falling for her in the process. I find the pacing of the film a little uneven, so I wouldn't rank it in the top-tier of Hitchcock, but it's still a classy romantic thriller which generates some good moments of suspense without ever resorting to anything as obvious as an action sequence or gunfight. And let's not forget this is a film in which the heroine is a slut and the hero is a passive-aggressive manipulator who coerces her into marrying the Nazi villain (Claude Rains), who subsequently turns out to be the most sympathetic character of all. Hitchcock sure did like to play with audience expectations.


Ohayo (Yasujirō Ozu, 1959) is set in surburban 50s Japan where two young boys decide to stop speaking until their parents agree to buy a TV. Their vow of silence contrasts with the banality of the adult conversation around them, which ranges from gossip to observations about the weather, but never seems to discuss anything important. But perhaps exchanging pleasantries like 'ohayo' (good morning) are more meaningful than you think? This has garnered much praise as a film where Ozu shows his lighter side in a gentle observational comedy about ordinary people, but he seems entirely reliant on fart jokes here to generate laughs. Now I bow to no man in my love for a good fart joke, but they're not really that funny here and the repetition gets a bit tiresome. In truth I found it all too uneventful and boring, although it was rather perceptive in showing how children are quite demanding and manipulative little beggars when they really want something. Of course, anyone with children will already know that. Why, just this morning I had to give mine money to buy their fags! Bloody spongers.






Kids Corner #1 - The Love Bug

Presenting the first entry in an occasional series wherein I select fondly remembered films from my childhood and make my kids watch them so they too can fondly remember them in the future. This will increase family bonding, build character and will hopefully not end in a screaming row, like the den-building incident. So when the notion takes me, they will be dragged away from their friends and games and homework and will sit obediently by my side and/or look pityingly upon me as I wallow in nostalgia. First up...



The Love Bug (Robert Stevenson, 1968) was the first appearance of Herbie, the lovable VW beetle with a mind of its own. Here, he turns around the fortunes of struggling race-car driver (Dean Jones) as he takes to the race-track, plays match-maker and gets drunk. I loved seeing this as a youngster. I particularly love the happy music that kicks in for those aerial shots and the splendidly mustachioed David Tomlinson as the pantomime villain, so I'm prepared to overlook Buddy Hackett's painful gurning, the borderline racism and the fact that Herbie is a clearly psychotic character who blatantly cheats his way to victory in the final race. Indeed, like some sort of unstoppable killer, he would return in 3 sequels and 2 remakes to enchant a new generation of viewers.

The Kids are All Right?
No.1 (9yo): That was good!
No.2 (6yo): Can Kerby talk? And what's wrong with that man's face?
No.3 (18mth): Left after 1 minute, dragging Peppa Pig toy. Unavailable for comment.

Fame & Fortune (Sort of)


Returned home form holiday to discover that the nice, but clearly drunk, people at Blog Awards Ireland, under new management, but still celebrating the best of Irish blogging, have long-listed The Fast Picture Show in their Entertainment category for the 2015 awards. Delight soon turned to guilt as I realized I had ignored the blog entirely whilst swanning round on my hols. So, now that I'm refreshed and without alcohol and chips in my hands, I'll not rest a single minute in my efforts to make this a fun, happening blog worthy of the long-list! Oh look! The Great British Bake Off's on, must see that.



JKL Triple Bill

After a brief hiatus because, well, I forgot about it, the 2015 Alphabet Film Project returns with a bang, today brought to you by the number 3 and the letters J-K-L.

Previously on the Alphabet Film Project....

A-B-C
Atlantic City
Blood of Fu Manchu
Curse of Frankenstein

D-E-F
Django
Esio Trot
Festen

G-H-I
Gremlins 2: The New Batch
Hiroshima Mon Amour
Ils



Having endured the play in 3rd year English class I can't claim much fondness for Shakespeare's Julius Caesar - the only tragedy was that we didn't get to study King Lear or Hamlet instead. Nevertheless the film adaptation Julius Caesar (Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 1953) is a handsomely staged affair, filled with good performances. The main interest at the time was to see how the mumbling method man Marlon Brando (playing Marc Antony) would cope with the delivery of Shakespeare's verse. I'm guessing it must have been pretty annoying for respected British thesps John Gielgud (Cassius) and James Mason (Brutus) that the new kid on the block not only cut a fine figure in a toga, but stole the film totally, not least by smashing the "Friends, Romans, countrymen...." speech out of the Forum, and netted a third Best Actor Oscar nomination in as many years in the process. All in all, this was a film well made.


Klute (Alan J, Pakula, 1971) is not up to the standards of The Parallax View and All The President's Men, the other two films in Pakula's 'Paranoia Trilogy', but if you ever wondered why Jane Fonda was famous, you could do worse than start here. Her layered performance as Bree, a New York prostitute struggling to break out of the game, is really terrific and won her a first Best Actress Oscar. She's the focus of the entire film, so it's somewhat unfair that the film title instead refers to the main male character (Donald Sutherland), a detective who requires Bree's help to track down his friend's killer. As a renowned feminist, that probably pissed Fonda off no end. Anyhow, it's a fairly slow-paced murder-mystery with some predictable plot developments, but see if for Fonda and then go out and burn your bra.

"Watch out lads! She's onto us!"
Late Chrysanthemums (Mikio Naruse, 1954) is a gentle social drama exploring the changing fortunes of four geisha in post-WWII Japan, as they lament how their lives in this modern society don't match up to the dreams and expectations of their youth. It's elegantly directed and contains nice performances (Haruko Sugimura as O-kin particularly good), but I was never particularly stirred by the memoirs of the geisha, so I found it a film to admire rather than love. After a lot of melancholy it does finish on a somewhat optimistic note, but still best avoided if you're in the middle of a mid-life crisis, although one character offers some good advice if you are; "Enjoy drinking while you can, forget your worries". Banzai!


So we're back on track. Like James Bond, the 2015 Alphabet Project will return in M-N-O! Book your tickets now!


Invasion of the Minions


"Listen! They're not human! Can't you see? Everyone! 
THEY'RE HERE ALREADY!!! YOU'RE NEXT!!!"

Full story of invasion here.