Thursday, 18 August 2011

Hollywood today needs film worthy of Apocalypse Now!

The original version of Francis Ford Coppolla's war classic 'Apocalypse Now' (1979) was went on limited released earlier this year and it is clearly now a film that you would wish Hollywood would have the nerve to make today. 'Apocalypse Now' (and 'Raging Bull' directed by Martin Scorsese and released a year later) marked the end of an era for mainstream Hollywood creativity. The second golden age of cinema had ended leaving a glorious run of great films which were mature and adult. Cinema has now since been dominated by infantile popcorn movies and although a few gems crop up from time to time such as 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' (1981), 'Back to the Future' (1985) and 'Toy Story' (1995), the target audience has become increasingly younger and the movies have become mostly poorly crafted CGI-laden nonsense with no cinematic flair or creativity. Film versions of comic books are the norm now and after watching the recent version of 'Thor', I have lost interest.

For those who still don't know, the story of 'Apocalypse Now' is based on the acclaimed novel 'Heart of Darkness' by Joseph Conrad and it is set during the Vietnam war. US Captain Willard (Martin Sheen) is sent by Colonel Lucas (Harrison Ford) and General Corman (GD Spradlin) to carry out a mission to seek out a mysterious Green Beret Colonel named Walter Kurtz (Marlon Brando), whose army has crossed the border into Cambodia and is conducting hit-and-run missions against the Viet Cong and NVA. The army believes Kurtz has gone insane and Willard's job is to kill him!

The making of 'Apocalypse Now' is now the stuff of legend with stories of Martin Sheen's heart attack, the director's suicide threat and Marlon Brando's size now belonging to Hollywood folklore. The sheer scale of the film, the performances, the direction and the screenplay (by John Milius) are simply components that make up this masterpiece. It is common knowledge that movie legends Billy Wilder and Akira Kurosawa adored the film during a test screening. If you have not seen 'Apocalypse Now' yet, get the DVD and watch it on a big screen! You will definitely admire the craftsmanship and the sheer madness of this project! A masterpiece! (Rating: ***** An enjoyable epic on a massive scale).

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

'Sweet Smell of Success' is still sweet after all these years!!!!

After watching the 1957 classic film 'Sweet Smell of Success', you will be even more amazed to learn that the initial reviews for the film were rather mixed. The film is one of those classics that has gained its impressive reputation over time!

The film tells the story of a powerful newspaper columnist who uses his connections to ruin his sister's relationship with a musician he considers inappropriate. Burt Lancaster plays JJ Hunsecker, the intimidating columnist who is expecting Eddie Falco (Tony Curtis) to produce the goods and save his sister (Susan Harrison) from marrying Steve Dallas (Martin Milner).

Hunsecker's obsessive protectiveness of his sister borders on incest and Falco's ability to grovel low to his every whim brings out two new types of cinematic protagonists - two characters whom we should detest with a whim but are fascinating to the core. The early critics got it wrong probably because they could not digest a film containing leads with no morals. However, 'Sweet Smell of Success' has gained stature over the years not just because of the superb performances by the leads, the perfect Clifford Odets/Ernest Lehman script, the taut direction by Alexander McKendrick (formerly of Ealing studios), the classy score by Elmer Bernstein and the stylish photography by James Wong Howe but that the film is simply terrific! Rating: ***** (Very entertaining and very stylish. A classic!)

It has been a while!

It has been a while since my last blog but better late than never! I have not lost my passion for classic films that Hollywood and film companies from various other countries have produced over the past century! I have watched many films, have met a wonderful star from the golden era and I have even taught film studies for five years. Although I often complain about the quality of movies today, some interesting films do get made from time to time. I wish that new films are worthy of the masters from the golden age of cinema but it is very difficult for creativity to exist in a film environment where the companies are more worried about losing money than making money! That aside, I hope that everyone can share my passion for cinema regardless of what age you are! Try to avoid watching films on a laptop or a handheld device if you can! There is really only one place to watch a big film - on the big screen!
With many regards, Paul B.

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